Author Archives: george

THE MUSIC SHOP By Rachel Joyce


If you’re fan of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and the John Cusack movie of the same name based on Hornby’s book, you’ll enjoy Rachel Joyce’s The Music Shop. This music shop is located in a shabby suburb of London in 1988. The eccentric owner, Frank, is in love with music and vinyl. In fact, Frank won’t sell cassette tapes or music CDs. Frank will sell only vinyl. Needless to say, Frank’s music shop is in financial trouble. In fact, the whole street faces “gentrification.” Maud the tattooist hasn’t had any business in weeks. Father Anthony with his shop devoted to religious iconography hasn’t sold a thing lately. Mr Novak the baker and the Williams brothers–who run the funeral parlor– struggle to keep their doors open.

Into this situation enters Ilse Brauchmann, a mysterious German woman, who faints outside Frank’s music shop. Much of the book then peels away the layers of Frank’s story and Ilse’s story. If you enjoy music and unusual romance, The Music Shop will provide you with hours of enjoyment. GRADE: B+

BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT [Blu-ray]


Imagine setting Batman in a 19th Century Victorian Gotham City on the eve of a World’s Fair when a Jack-the-Ripper-like killer starts to “purify” the streets. That’s the premise behind Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, the newest DC Animated Adventure. As you might imagine, this is a very low-tech Batman. He rides a horse. His Utility Belt is skimpy. But, this stripped-down Batman features his detective skills in tracking down this serial killer. If you’re a fan of Batman, you’ll enjoy this innovative movie. And, I really liked Selina Kyle (voiced by Jennifer Carpenter)! GRADE: B+

Special Features include: “Caped Fear: The First Elseworld” (Featurette) – Batman in the distant past of Gotham, at the crossroads of where the Gothic 19th century meets the modern age. Jack the Ripper, clashing with Gotham and its ruling elite. The documentary traces the influence of the comic book story, and why Gotham by Gaslight stands the test of time.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight Audio Commentary – Join Executive Producer Bruce Timm, Director Sam Liu and Writer Jim Krieg as they provide details about the scenes of Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and why this is a special project for each of them. Listen in for all things Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, and immerse once more into this dark and Gothic world.
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay: A behind-the-scenes look at the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies, featuring thoughts from the talented filmmakers.
From the DC Vault – “Showdown” episode from Batman: The Animated Series; “Trials of the Demon!” episode from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

WHEN: THE SCIENTIFIC SECRETS OF PERFECT TIMING By Daniel H. Pink


When should you have surgery? Answer: always in the morning! Daniel Pink cites studies that show medical procedures have a higher success rate in the morning than in the afternoon. When you wake up, you should take a drink of water because you dehydrate while you sleep. When you grow older, you narrow your circle of friends. Daniel Pink tells you when is the best time to take a nap (2:00pm-3:00pm) and when to get divorced. If you think that timing is everything, you’ll find When both informative and valuable. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: Captain Turner’s Decision 1
PART ONE: THE DAY
1. The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life 9
2. Afternoons and Coffee Spoons: The Power of Breaks, the Promise of Lunch, and the Case for a Modern Siesta 49
PART TWO: BEGINNINGS, ENDINGS, AND IN BETWEEN
3. Beginnings: Start Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together 87
4. Midpoints: What Hanukkah Candies and Midlife Malaise Can Teach Us About Motivation 115
5. Endings: Marathons, Chocolates, and the Power of Poignancy 145
PART THREE: SYNCHING AND THINKING
6. Synching Fast and Slow: The Secrets of Group Timing 177
7. Thinking in Tenses: A Few Final Words 211
Further Reading 219
Acknowledgments 221
Notes 225
Index 251

BOB’S RED MILL WHOLE GRAIN LOW-CARB BAKING MIX


A couple weeks ago Jeff Meyerson sent me a link to a site that listed THE BEST PANCAKES for each state. I recall the winner for New York was in NYC. We have some pretty good pancake places here in Western New York. But, as a diabetic, I have to monitor the carbohydrates in the pancake and in the maple syrup (usually over 50mg per serving). At home, I opt for BOB’S RED MILL WHOLE GRAIN LOW-CARB BAKING MIX and DiVinci Sugar-Free Pancake Syrup. Yummy and healthy! What are your favorite pancakes?
PANCAKE RECIPE:
1 cup Whole Grain Low-Carb Baking Mix
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 cup Milk or Cream
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Packet of your favorite low-carb Sweetner (I use Stiva)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Pre-heat griddle or pan. Lightly coat griddle or pan with oil or cooking spray.
Blend pancake mix, eggs, and oil. Add approximately 1 cup of milk or cream until desired thickness of batter is reached. Add remaining ingredients. Pour 1/2 cup batter onto griddle or skillet for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, turn and cook until done (about 1 minute per side). Makes 2-3 servings.

NUTRITION
Serving Size: 1.07 oz(s) – 30 g
Amount per Serving
Calories 100K cal6%
Calories from Fat 15K cal2%
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 115mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars 0g 0%
Added Sugars 0g 0%
Protein 14g 29%
Vitamin A 0IU 0%
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 1.44mg 8%

BLACK PANTHER


Chadwick Boseman (best known for playing Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall) stars as T’Challa, King of Wakanda. Wakanda is an African nation that hides its true identity by cloaking its modern city and high technology from the world. An evil arms merchant (is there any other kind?), Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis), stole vibranium, the most precious metal in the Universe (most of it is in Wakanda). T’Challa, his General Okoye (Danai Gurira), and his love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) head for South Korea where Klaue plans to sell the vibranium to a CIA agent (played by Martin Freeman). We learn that Klaue had help in his theft: Michael B. Jackson as Erik Killmonger (love these names!). But Killmonger has a deeper strategy than just selling arms.

I expect Black Panther to make oodles of money. The night we went all five AMC theaters were Sold-Out. My only quibble is with the Final Confrontation which I found tedious and its Aftermath which I found mawkish. If you’re looking for action, Black Panther delivers. GRADE: A-

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #462: OH, FOR THE LIFE OF AN AUTHOR’S WIFE By Elizabeth Charlier Brown


Chad Calkins edited this memoir from the 1950s which gives us a new picture of Science Fiction and Mystery writer Fredric Brown. Elizabeth Charlier Brown is Fredric Brown’s second wife. Fredric Brown paid alimony and child support to his first wife and his two sons. Elizabeth Charlier Brown’s memoir describes their nomadic life. Fredric Brown, in the words of his wife, was a “rolling stone.” He never wanted to stay in one place very long. So the couple moved to New York City, Albuquerque, Taos, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and Tucson over the years. My main interest was in Fredric Brown’s writing process. He played a harmonica when his writing dragged (later, Brown played a flute!). Fredric Brown would take long bus rides in order to concentrate his mind on a story problem or a plot twist.

Fredric and Elizabeth Brown had plenty of friends: Mack Reynolds, Walt Sheldon, Jack Williamson, Dorothy B. Hughes, Lenore Glen Offord, Reginald Bretnor, and Micky Spillane. If you’re a Fredric Brown fan, you’ll enjoy how Brown wrote his classic books like Madball and The Lights in the Sky Are Stars as well as The Lenient Beast, Rogue in Space, and Martians, Go Home.. Elizabeth Charlier Brown shares insights into the life of a wonderful writer. Jack Seabrook provides an informative “Introduction” to both Fredric and Elizabeth Brown. Don’t miss this one! GRADE: A

BILL CRIDER (JULY 28,1941-FEBRUARY 12, 2018)


On page 180 of This Is Me, Jack Vance (2009) where Vance is talking about the authors he likes, you’ll encounter this line: “Bill Crider, who writes about Sheriff Dan Rhodes in Clearview, Texas, is a pleasure to read.” The moment I finished reading that line I called Bill to tell him one of his favorite writers was a fan of his books. This incident led to some communication between Bill and Jack Vance, moments that Bill cherished.

Bill Crider also cherished his lovely wife, Judy. When Judy died after a long fight against cancer, Bill’s life and health took a big hit. When I saw Bill after Judy’s death, he had a lost look that wasn’t there before. Bill’s wonderful daughter, Angela, started accompanying Bill to BOUCHERCONs and other events. Angela’s presence allowed Bill precious time to visit with friends and fans.

In October 2017, Diane and I drove to Toronto to enjoy BOUCHERCON. Jeff and Jackie Meyerson, Patti and Phil Abbott (as well as Megan), Maggie Mason, and many other friends showed up. Bill and Angela were there. Bill looked and acted almost like his old self. He cracked jokes and entertained audiences who attended his panels. A few weeks later, I was able to hang out with Bill (and Scott Cupp and Joe Lansdale) in San Antonio at the World Fantasy Convention. Bill looked weaker and more wan than he did in Toronto. He tired easily. But it was obvious, Bill was enjoying every minute of time with his friends.

When Bill announced on his blog that he was entering hospice care, all of us who knew and loved Bill felt the growing sense of loss. Now it’s official and the world is a much sadder place. Rest in peace, Bill.

WAITRESS: THE MUSICAL


I saw the movie version of Waitress back in 2007 when it starred Keri Russell as the woman who could bake incredible pies. Of course, the waitress has problems: an abusive husband and a baby on the way. In 2013, Waitress was turned into a musical with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, and a book by Jessie Nelson. The musical opened on Broadway in 2015 (Diane and her friends saw it). Now, the touring company arrived in Buffalo and played to sold-out performances. I like Sara Bareilles’s songs, some more than others. My favorite songs in Waitress: The Musical are “Bad Idea” and “I Didn’t Plan It.” This is an amiable musical. Of course, you hate the waitress’s abusive husband and cheer for her to turn her life around. You’ll also enjoy her quirky friends. If Waitress: The Musical shows up in your neighborhood, I recommend you go to see it. And, you can also enjoy the movie! GRADE: A-
SONG LIST:
Act I
“What’s Inside” – Jenna and Company
“Opening Up” – Jenna, Becky, Dawn, Cal and Company
“The Negative” – Becky, Dawn and Jenna
“What Baking Can Do” – Jenna and Company
“Club Knocked Up” – Nurse Norma and Female Ensemble
“Pomatter Pie” – Band †
“When He Sees Me” – Dawn, Jenna, Becky and Company
“It Only Takes a Taste” – Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
“You Will Still Be Mine” – Earl and Jenna
“A Soft Place to Land” – Jenna, Becky and Dawn
“Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” – Ogie, Dawn and Company
“Bad Idea” – Jenna, Dr. Pomatter and Company
Act II
“I Didn’t Plan It” – Becky
“Bad Idea” (Reprise) – Jenna, Dr. Pomatter, Becky, Cal, Dawn, Ogie and Company
“You Matter to Me” – Dr. Pomatter and Jenna
“I Love You Like a Table” – Ogie, Dawn and Company
“Take It From an Old Man” – Joe and Company
“Dear Baby” – Jenna †
“She Used to Be Mine” – Jenna
“Contraction Ballet” – Jenna and Company †
“Everything Changes” – Jenna, Becky, Dawn and Company
“Opening Up” (Finale) – Company

HELP I AM BEING HELD PRISONER By Donald E. Westlake


I first read Help I Am Being Held Prisoner when it was first published in 1974. Now, HARD CASE CRIME has reprinted this Westlake classic and provided it with a great cover by Paul Mann. Harold Albert Chester Kunt finds himself in prison as a result of a practical joke that went awry. While in prision, Kunt falls in with a group of convicts who secretly have a tunnel that leads out of the prison. They leave the prison on a regular basis without the guards knowing it. But, of course, they return to prison to keep up appearances. With this comic setup, Westlake creates a cunning comic caper novel where Kunt’s convict “friends” want to rob a bank in a nearby town. And they plan to include Kunt in the heist.

Help I Am Being Held Prisoner ranks up there with Westlake’s more famous and hilarious Dortmunder series. The plot is clever and the comic situations just keep you laughing. It doesn’t get much better than this! Highly recommended. GRADE: A