Monthly Archives: July 2011


With the U. S. Government teetering on default, Basic Economics is a book that could bring sanity to this bogus crisis.

I’m a firm believer that we would have a much better government and economy if we made one little change: require that any candidate for U.S. Congressman, Senator, or President prove they passed a basic economics course. So much of the political rhetoric today displays flagrant violations of basic economic principles. Cutting government spending (thus causing more unemployment) during a recession is current example. Or spending a billion dollars firing cruise missiles into Libya and enforcing a “no-fly” zone while closing schools and laying off teachers. Economics is not about solutions, it’s about trade-offs. If you’re going to spend money fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, you might not have enough money for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (and we don’t). Thomas Sowell’s latest edition of Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy doesn’t have any charts or graphs or equations. Reading Basic Economics is like reading a collection of enlightening essays. If you want to learn about unions and the effects of collective bargaining on the economy, it’s here. If you want to know about the impact of investing in the stock and bond markets, it’s detailed here, too. You can read Basic Economics cover to cover (like I did) or you can dip in and discover how globalization works. This book is the clearest introduction to economics I’ve read. GRADE: A


Cowboys & Aliens is one of those high concept movies Hollywood approves after five or six martinis. Somehow, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford signed on to this mishmash of elements. Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, brings the same special effects expertise to this western/SF hybrid. I found this movie lame, but for many movie fans this is the kind of mindless summer movie they crave. GRADE: C+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #127: PERFECT .38 By William Ard

William Ard wrote 32 books in a decade. Ard died in 1960 from cancer. He was 37. Ard’s private eye novels gained praise from Anthony Boucher and other critics. Ramble House is now embarking on an ambitious project to reprint all of William Ard’s crime novels. The first volume, Perfect .38 presents two Timothy Dane private eye novels: The Perfect Frame and .38 (aka, This is Murder/You Can’t Stop Me). Francis M. Nevins’ Introduction outlines Ard’s short, prolific career. If you haven’t read any of William Ard’s fine crime fiction, this book is the perfect place to start.

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #17: HEARTS OF STONE By Southside Johnny & The Ashbury Jukes

Southside Johnny & The Ashbury Jukes played a concert in Madison, Wisconsin in the mid-1970s and I’ve been a fan every since. Later, I figured out why I liked Southside Johnny’s music so much: Stevie Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen wrote most of songs! I like the heavy use of brass in these songs. It’s sound that didn’t survive into the 1980s when music went more towards synthesizers. Hearts of Stone is Southside Johnny’s third album. The sound is great on this remastered release. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band fan, you’ll love this music. I’m including my favorite Southside Johnny song (written with Bruce Springsteen), “Trapped Again,” below.
1 Got to Be a Better Way Home 3:23
2 This Time Baby’s Gone for Good 3:28
3 I Played the Fool 3:29
4 Hearts of Stone 4:30
5 Take It Inside 3:23
6 Talk to Me 4:01
7 Next to You 3:39
8 Trapped Again 4:21
9 Light Don’t Shine 4:35


John Donohue collects 21 essays and recipes from guys who cook for their families. A project like this would never work unless Donohue had some Big Names to carry the book. How about Stephen King? And Mark Bittman (from The Minimalist in the New York Times). And novelist Jim Harrison. After that, the Big Names shrink fast. The template of the essays is the author writes about their relationship with food. Some insights into cooking for the family involve comedy. Then the author provides a sure-fire recipe. Man With a Pan is a nice celebration of guys who like to cook. I found this book fun to read and I’ll be trying some of the recipes in the next few weeks. GRADE: B+


Masterpiece Theater broadcast these episodes a few years ago. I found this set of DVDs at BJ’s Warehouse for under $15. The cast is excellent: Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Dillon, Deborah Findlay, and Sir Michael Gambon. Set in 1842 in a small English town, Cranford captures the essence of small town life with its drama and secrets. Based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s three novels about Cranford, this mini-series presents the highlights of the books with deft accuracy. If you haven’t seen these episodes, they’re worth seeking out. And, if you’re interested in owning the DVDs, the price is right for nearly 300 minutes of excellent acting. GRADE: A


Nina Sankovitch decides to read a book a day for a year. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair tells Nina’s story of how 365 books helped her deal with a personal tragedy. When I first picked up this book, I thought it was a little thin to be an account of 365 books, but Nina weaves the books into her personal and family narrative. I liked Nina’s thoughts on reading John D. MacDonald while her parents preferred Ross Macdonald. If you want to see the entire list of the 365 books Nina read, you can go to her website at: GRADE: B


Cars 2 surprised me. I was expecting another adventure with Lightning McQueen and his car buddies similar to Cars 1. But those clever guys at Pixar decided to make a James Bond movie without James Bond and featuring animated cars. Yes, Cars 2 has as much action and thrills as a Bond movie. Its convoluted plot will lose most 6-year-olds, but adults will follow the tangled clues just fine. This is one of those rare occasions where the sequel is better than the initial movie. Don’t miss this one! GRADE: A


Captain America follows in the groove set by Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk. This isn’t much of a spoiler, but all of these movies have been prequels to The Avengers movie that should open May 2012 where all of these super-heroes will battle some sinister villain (or villains). I liked Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America. There are few surprises, but plenty of shooting. Rather than the grand, slick CGI effects of a movie like GREEN LANTERN, Captain America has a more gritty feel to it. Another perfect Summer Movie! If you’re interested in the Buffalo connection to CAPTAIN AMERICA, just click here. GRADE: A-


If you’re a fan of the ACE DOUBLE series of mystery novels published from 1952 to 1963, you’ll want a copy of Sheldon Jaffery’s Double Trouble. Although we’re only talking about 130 books published over 11 years, the ACE DOUBLE series featured some excellent writers like Harry Whittington and Robert Bloch. The D-Series ran from 1952 until 1961, the F-series ran from 1961 to 1963, and the short-lived G-series started and ended in 1963. Jaffery provides an annotated list of all the books in the series and provides bibliographic information about each title. My only quibble is that Double Trouble doesn’t reproduce any of the covers from those wonderful ACE DOUBLES. Perhaps there were copyright issues. But, even without any cover reproductions, Double Trouble documents a series of paperbacks that still have the power to charm mystery readers.