Author Archives: george

NATIONAL THEATRE PLAYS: THE DEEP BLUE SEA By Terrance Rattigan

Patti Abbott, in a comment over this past weekend, mentioned how much she misses live theater. So do I. I read Terry Teachout’s theater column in the WALL STREET JOURNAL which praised the UK’s National Theatre web site that offers free plays for a limited time. I’m hoping Skylight shows up later this summer, but for now until July 16 you can watch The Deep Blue Sea.

TerenceRattigan‘s The Deep Blue Sea contains one of the greatest female roles in contemporary drama, played by Helen McCrory. Here’s the link:

Helen McCrory plays Hester Collyer and Tom Burke is Freddie Page, a couple dealing with Serious Problems. Yes, there are occasional laughs, but the core of The Deep Blue Sea centers around love and despair. The play is available for free through July 16. Then, another play will be made available. This isn’t ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers. GRADE: B+

THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM: RUSSIA, EUROPE, AMERICA By Timothy Snyder


Timothy Snyder claims Russia is a kleptocratic regime that seeks to export the politics of eternity: to demolish factuality, to preserve inequality, and to accelerate similar tendencies in Europe and the United States (p. 11). Snyder writes about “the politics of inevitability.” This is the idea that there are no ideas, only actions. And, the people selling this claim their actions are inevitable. “Winning” and “Success” are assured. Chapter by chapter, Snyder dissects the Russian strategies to undermine the European Union and the United States.  With the 2020 Presidential Election just a few months away, you can count on the Russians to be meddling just as they did in 2016.

If you’ve been wondering why Americans are so conflicted, The Road to Unfreedom explains why.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue p. 1
Chapter 1 Individualism or Totalitarianism p. 15
Chapter 2 Succession or Failure p. 37
Chapter 3 Integration or Empire p. 67
Chapter 4 Novelty or Eternity p. 111
Chapter 5 Truth or Lies p. 159
Chapter 6 Equality or Oligarchy p. 217
Epilogue p. 277
Acknowledgments p. 281
Endnotes p. 285
Index p. 347

DANCING WITH BEARS By Michael Swanwick

About a month ago I posted a review of Michael Swanwick’s The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus (you can read that review here). Darger and Surplus are con-artists who live in a future where technology is strictly controlled because Artificial Intelligences revolted and nearly destroyed humanity. The Danger and Surplus stories have a bit of a steampunk feel to them as a result.

Darger is a Brit who can fade into any crowd unnoticed. Surplus is a talking and walking dog who has been genetically modified. The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus collected Swanwick’s short stories about the duo. In Dancing With Bears (2011), Darger and Surplus are pretending to be part of an diplomatic mission from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy who rules what remains of Moscow. The mission is to deliver a “priceless gift” which is actually a harem of beautiful women.

But, of course, the mission is derailed by spies, Secret Police, and a sinister ploy by AIs who survived the War. Both Darger and Surplus contend with brushes with death as Moscow swirls out of control. If you’re looking for a Summer page-turner, Dancing With Bears will send you to Siberia. GRADE: A-

THE OLD GUARD [Netflix]

Charlize Theron plays Andy, an immortal who has fought for moral causes over the centuries. Andy leads a band of three other immortals who share the fighting on these missions. When Andy learns there is a new immortal–a female marine named Nile (KiKi Layne)–Andy travels to Afghanistan to “orient” her to the immortal life. The Old Guard is based on Greg Rucka’s graphic novel series. Rucka provides a compelling script for Gina Prince-Bythewood’s first sci-fi action-movie.

Prince-Bythewood allows the characters space to talk to Nile about living for centuries while everyone they love dies. Part of the team is kidnapped by a greedy pharmaceutical CEO and his heartless chief scientist who plan to analyze the immortals’ DNA and discover a way to sell an immortality serum. Andy sets out to rescue her captured teammates while Nile decides to follow a different path.

Plenty of fight scenes, explosions, and mayhem follow. I can’t wait for the sequel! If you’re looking for a Summer action-movie, The Old Guard checks all the boxes. GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #601: THE DARKLING HALLS OF IVY Edited by Lawrence Block

I’m a sucker for stories about Colleges. I worked in the groves of Academia for nearly 40 years so I’m very familiar with the life-style of students and professors and administrators. My favorite story in The Darkling Halls of Ivy is “Rounded with a Sleep” by A. J. Hartley (aka, Andrew Hart) who is the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The story revolves around the common dilemma of Senior Faculty who resist change and refuse to cater to academic fads. Hartley accurately portrays the pressures on administrators to make the College experience attractive to donors and student enrollment.

I also enjoyed David Morrell’s “Requiem for a Homecoming” where two friends meet and discuss a series of deadly events decades ago. Reed Farrel Coleman’s “An Even Three” delivers the powerful response of a professor to a student complaint. Ian Rankin’s “The Reasoners” explores an college group with a history of death associated with it.

If you’re looking for a solid anthology of mysteries with a College setting, The Darkling Halls of Ivy delivers. GRADE: B+

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • Foreword: Something to Skip — Lawrence Block – 1
  • Requiem for a Homecoming — David Morrell – 6
  • An Even Three — Reed Farrel Coleman – 17
  • Writing Maeve Dubinsky — Jane Hamilton – 30
  • Alt-AC — Warren Moore – 51
  • Einstein’s Sabbath — David Levien – 62
  • The Degree — Joe R. Lansdale – 79
  • Rounded with a Sleep — A. J. Hartley – 86
  • The Reasoners — Ian Rankin – 106
  • Noise Cancellation — Tom Straw – 131
  • Monkey in Residence — Xu Xi – 144
  • Bertie and the Boat Race — Peter Lovesey – 154
  • That Golden Way — Owen King – 169
  • With Footnotes and References — Gar Anthony Haywood – 192
  • Penelope McCoy — Nicholas Christopher – 205
  • Tess and Julie, Jule and Tess — Jill D. Block – 215
  • Why She Didn’t Tell — John Lescroart – 228
  • Foundational Education — Seanan McGuire – 238
  • Goon #4 — Tod Goldberg – 240
  • ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS – 274

FRAT ROCK: MORE OF THE ’70s

TRACK LIST:

With some of the other 1970s music compilations, there’s been criticism that much of the music was bland or middle-of-the-road. This CD collection has more of an edge. Who can forget the memorable line from Golden Earring’s “Radar Love”: “And the radio played that forgotten song/Brenda Lee’s comin’ on strong.” Some people love Grand Funk Railroad’s rendition of “The Loco-Motion” (and some hate it). They just don’t play songs like “Rambin’ Man” the way The Allman Brothers Band did. Are these songs from the 1970s more to your taste? GRADE: B+

1Joe WalshLife’s Been Good
2Deep PurpleSmoke On The Water
3Golden EarringRadar Love
4Nazareth (2)Hair Of The Dog
5Grand Funk RailroadThe Loco-Motion
6Gary GlitterRock And Roll Part 2
7Bad Company (3)Can’t Get Enough
8FoghatSlow Ride
9The Rockets (5)Oh Well
10The Allman Brothers BandRamblin Man
11The KinksSleepwalker
12Bonnie TylerIt’s A Heartache

DEAT BEAT By Jim Butcher

Dead Beat (2005) is the 7th book in the Harry Dresden (Wizard/Private Eye) series and one of my favorites. A group of necromancers gather in Chicago just before Halloween for a sinister purpose. A vengeful vampire blackmails Harry Dresden into finding a rare book of Magic called The Word of Kemmler which holds the secrets to almost infinite power.

The climatic battle in Dead Beat rises above all the battles Harry Dresden has fought in previous books. Fighting necromancers who can summon armies of zombies leads to fast and furious action! Yes, this is escapist reading at its most entertaining (if you like this kind of thing).

And, of course, the events in Dead Beat set up a series of conflicts which will have to be resolved in subsequent books. GRADE: A-

WARRIOR NUN [Netflix]

Warrior Nun is an original 10 episode Netflix series created by Simon Barry based on the comic book character Warrior Nun Areala by Ben Dunn. A teenage girl wakes up in a morgue with a glowing circle in her back. Alba Baptista stars in the role of Ava Silva, a girl who finds herself reborn with super powers.

Ava learns that the Order of the Cruciform Sword, an Order of ninja-like nuns, is led by a Warrior Nun who possesses the power to see Evil and demons. Through a series of misadventures, Ava finally confronts a demon and banishes it to Hell. She learns she has a Halo embedded in her back which not only brought her back to life but grants her the abilities to phase through solid objects and to heal rapidly. Ava’s helped by allies like Shotgun Mary and battle nuns Beatrice and Camilla.

In addition to the demon hunting, Warrior Nun presents a picture of division within the Catholic Church. The final episodes take place beneath the Vatican in the catacombs. Ava needs to pull of an incredible feat to finally discover the nature of the Halo and the conspiracies within the Church. If you’re looking for a quirky, unpredictable action series, you might give Warrior Nun a try. GRADE: B

HAMILTON [Disney+]

What better way to celebrate the 4th of July weekend than to watch Hamilton on Disney+. Diane and I had seen Hamilton in Boston (you can read my review here) and a month later saw Hamilton again when it arrived in Buffalo.

This Disney+ version was filmed in 2016 while most of the principal actors were still performing in this production. Lin-Manuel Miranda captures Alexander Hamilton’s drive and determination. Stage director Thomas Kail pulls double duty as director of this TV movie. One of my favorite characters, King George (Jonathan Groff), gets plenty of close-ups.

Leslie Odom Jr. dazzles as Aaron Burr. I loved Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton. This TV version varies from the stage productions we’ve seen in the perspectives the camera provides and the close-ups of the actors. Disney originally planned to broadcast Hamilton 15 months from now. But, with the coronavirus raging, Disney decided the time was right to offer it on Disney+ now. I’m glad they did! Have you seen Hamilton? GRADE: A