Author Archives: george

CATFISHING ON CATNET By Naomi Kritzer

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer is a Young Adult novel that features a newly conscious Artificial Intelligence. The AI (who sometimes calls itself CheshireCat) runs an online social media web site named CatNet.

The narration of Catfishing on CatNet alternates between the AI and a smart 16-year-old high school student named Stephanie who deals with a difficulty forming friendships (and getting enough credits to graduate from High School) because her stressed mother moves her from small town to small town at almost random intervals to evade Stephanie’s father who is stalking them. 

Unlike the AI in The Terminator series, Kritzer’s AI is helpful and loves cats. Up to this time, the AI has just been supportive of the groups on her web site, but when Stephanie and her mother are threatened, the AI decides to take action.

In addition to dealing with her stalker father, Steph tries to make friends in the Real World. Her friends on CatNet are dispersed throughout the country. Yet, they play important roles when Steph is confronted by danger. Kritzer also provides comedy to break up the tension. Reprogramming the robot intended to teach SEX EDUCATION in a HEALTH class cracked me up!

Catfishing on CatNet presents several important issues within an exciting story. Kritzer captures the angst of teenage life and piles on more tension with an abusive father secretly lurking. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! GRADE: A

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

What’s worse than a coronavirus pandemic?

How about a a world devastated by giant, powerful monsters! My friend Glenn Morton gave me this Blu-ray edition of Godzilla: King of the Monsters after he realized he had inadvertently bought TWO copies (I’ve done that myself numerous times).

In this latest installment of Godzilla, a group of eco-terrorists seek to free the monsters (aka, Titans) to destroy our polluting and unworthy civilization. Once the monsters have done their deadly work, the eco-terrorists believe they can rebuild a clean, sustaining culture.

Meanwhile, another group called Monarch determines the Titans have been infiltrated by a creature not-of-Earth: Monster Zero. Monster Zero has three heads and flies. The other monsters like Rodan and Mothra fall under Monster Zero’s sway. Monarch is convinced on Godzilla can save us.

As you might suspect, there are plenty of battle scenes. Cities get crushed. I could have done without the lame family of dysfunction subplot. But, if you’re looking for action and excitement and thrills, Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers. Are you a Godzilla fan? GRADE: B

OUR NEW CORONAVIRUS MASKS!

Diane’s friend Sandie (who taught with Diane for years and is a member of Diane’s Book Club) is a master at sewing who offered to make us a pair of coronavirus masks. I chose the Super Hero theme and Diane chose a Blue theme (her favorite color). Do you have a coronavirus mask?

AIRPLANE: “DON’T CALL ME SHIRLEY!” EDITION [DVD]

Humor can be the best medicine. That’s why my viewing lately has been featuring funny movies that have delighted me over the decades.  Leslie Nielsen cracks me up every time I watch this film. In fact, Airplane (1980)  was listed at #10 on the American Film Institute’s best comedies of all time. 

With cameos by Rod Steiger, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul Jabar as well as the unforgettable Barbara Billingsley (aka, June Cleaver)–whose role as as a passenger who could “speak jive” makes me laugh every time I see it–Airplane produces more hilarity than most comedies.

Are you a fan of Airplane?

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #587: THE UNORTHODOX CORPSE/DEATH ON THE DOWNBEAT/THE BLONDE (Al Wheeler Mysteries #10-12)

Way back in the early 1960s, I started reading Carter Brown’s Al Wheeler series. I enjoyed the wacky plots and Wheeler’s skirt-chasing tendencies.

Stark House is reprinting the novels in Al Wheeler series. The latest omnibus volume includes The Unorthodox Corpse, Death on the Downbeat, and The Blonde, the 10th, 11th,  and 12th Al Wheeler mysteries.  The Unorthodox Corpse was first published in Australia by Horwitz Publications of Australia in 1957 and then revised for the U.S. market and published by Signet Books in 1961. Death on the Downbeat was published by Horwitz in 1958, then revised for the U.S. as The Corpse. Signet published The Corpse in 1958.  The Blonde was published by both Horwitz and Signet in 1958. Stark House reprints the original Australian versions in this omnibus edition.

The Unorthodox Corpse was one of the first Al Wheelers I read as a teenager back in the early 1960s. Wheeler gives a speech at an exclusive finishing school with a student body of 50 gorgeous girls. After Wheeler delivers his speech, a magician, The Great Mephisto, steps up to entertain the audience. The lights go out..and when the lights come on, one of the young girls is found with a knife in her back. I liken The Unorthodox Corpse to a screw-ball comedy. Wheeler play fast and loose to nail the killer.

Death on the Downbeat opens with Wheeler on a date at a jazz club with Annabelle Jackson, the constant object of his desire. But, a member of the audience takes the stage…and catches a bullet. The date turns into a murder investigation.

The Blonde features the most convoluted of these three mysteries. Wheeler is sent to protect two women who are getting death threats. And, of course, one of them is blown up with a bomb! Wheeler deals with TV people, mobsters, and constant deception before he finally reveal the cunning plot.

If you’re looking for humor, action, and wackiness you’ll find it in abundance in this wonderful Stark House omnibus! GRADE: A

You can read my reviews of the other Al Wheeler volumes here, here, and here.

PLAGUE LAND By S. D. Sykes

Sometimes, I get in the mood for a Medieval mystery. And, of course, with the coronavirus raging, S. D. Sykes’s Plague Land checked all the boxes. This is the first book in the Somershill Manor series. Oswald de Lacy, the youngest son of Lord Somershill, is called back home from the monastery where he was placed after his father and two older brothers die of the Black Death.

The 14th Century was a grim time and Sykes shows the lack of medical knowledge and the grip of superstition on the villagers of Somershill Manor. Oswald has to deal with his conniving Mother and scheming sister. Fortunately, Oswald has his Benedictine Brother, Peter, as an older and wiser companion. Oswald has no idea how to run an estate or how to deal with disgruntled villagers. But Peter does.

In addition to the post-plague problems, the politics of rural life, a murder committed has been committed. As Lord Sumershill, Oswald feels that he must solve the crime and prevent the murderer from striking again. All in all, Plague Land is an entertaining Medieval mystery. GRADE: B+

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

During dismal times, a funny movie can lift your spirits. One of my go-to funny movies is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I first saw it in 1975 when it first came out. Loved it! I used my University of Wisconsin Student ID to get a reduced rate at the local movie theater. I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail twelve times.

Then I bought the VHS version (remember them?). Later, I bought the DVD version. And finally, I bought the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray version. The constant among all these versions: silliness. I enjoy the silly jokes, the surreal storyline, and the wacky characters.

And, this Blu-ray Disc is full of funny features:

Terry Jones Introduces the Outtakes
Enlightening Commentaries by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, Plus General Complaints and Back-Biting by John Cleese, Eric Idle & Michael Palin
Join Michael Palin and Terry Jones in their Special Documentary: The Quest For The Holy Grail Locations
Monty Python And The Holy Grail In Lego!
Japanese Version
How To Use Your Coconuts (An Educational Film)
BBC Film Night
Terry Gilliam Introduces His Lost Animation Reel
Meanwhile, King Arthur & Sir Bedevere…
Elephant & Castle
Run Away!
The Tale of Sir Robin
The Tale of Sir Lancelot
Three Mindless Sing-Alongs
Henry 4th
Cast Directory Photo Gallery
Holy Grail Blu-ray Credits

Are you a Monty Python fan? GRADE: A

THE ENLIGHTENMENT THAT FAILED: IDEAS, REVOLUTION, AND DEMOCRATIC DEFEAT 1748-1830 By Jonathan I. Israel

At 1070 pages, Jonathan I. Israel’s The Enlightenment That Failed certainly qualifies as a Big Fat Book. Israel traces the history of the Enlightenment from the middle 1700s to the middle 1800s.

Along with the changes in philosophy, political changes followed. Monarchies began to evolve into democracies. Wars still happened but they were motivated by power grabs instead of religious differences. I was interested in the chapter on emancipating Women as marriage, equality and female citizenship movements produced change.

I’m a fan of history and this book goes deep into the weeds to explain how laws, governments, social institutions, and financial systems changed. It doesn’t get much better than this! Do you enjoy reading history books? GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1. Introduction: Radical Enlightenment and ‘Modernity’
Part I: The Origins of Democratic Modernity
2. The Rise of Democratic Republicanism
3. From Radical Renaissance to Radical Enlightenment
4. From Radical Reformation to the Cercle Spinoziste
5. English ‘Deism’ and its pre-1700 Roots
6. Great ‘Moderates’ and the Temptations of the Radical: Montesquieu and the Forbidden
7. D’Holbach against Voltaire and Rousseau: a triangular battle of Political Thought Systems
8. Revolution without Violence: The Nordic Model
Part II: Human Rights and Revolution (1770-1830)
9. Parallel Revolutions: America and France (1774-1793)
10. General Will’ and The Invention of Universal and Equal Human Rights (1750-1789)
11. Emancipating Women: Marriage, Equality, and Female Citizenship (1775-1815)
12. From Classical Economics to post-Classical redistributive Economics (1775-1820)
13. Reforming Europe’s Law Codes
14. Unity of Humanity: Race Theory and the Equality of Peoples
15. Unity of Humanity: Property, Class, and the Emancipation of Man
Part III: Revolution and Competing Revolutionary Ideologies (1789-1830)
16. Robespierre anti-philosophe, Or, the Battle of Ideologies during the French Revolution
17. The Swiss Revolution and the Hard Climb to Democratic Republicanism (1782-1848)
18. The Belgian Revolution (1787-1794)
19. Enlightening against Robespierre (and Napoleon): the Ecoles centrales (1792-1804)
20. Revolution and the Universities: Germany’s ‘Philosophy Wars’ (1780-1820)
21. Radicalism and Repression in the Anglo-American World (1775-1815)
22. The American Connection
23. The Spanish Revolution (1808-1823)
24. Black Emancipation, Universal Emancipation and the Haitian Revolution (1775-1825)
Part IV: The Enlightenment that Failed
25. Reaction and Radicalism: Germany and the Low Countries (1814-1830)
26. British Philosophical Radicalism (1814-1830)
27. Failed Restoration in France (1814-1830)
28. Bolivar and Spinoza
29. Karl Marx and the Left’s Turn from Radical Enlightenment to Socialism (1838-1848)
30. Conclusion: The ‘Radical Enlightenment Thesis’ and Its Critics

Bibliography

Index