Author Archives: george

THE PUNISHER [Netflix Series]


The latest MARVEL Netflix series, The Punisher, features Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal)–who uses lethal methods to fight criminals as the vigilante who calls himself “the Punisher.” This 13-episode series is a spin-off of MARVEL’s successful Netflix Daredevil series. Unlike Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Iron Fist–the other MARVEL Netflix superheroes–The Punisher doesn’t have any super powers. He’s just really good at violence.

Frank Castle served in the U.S. military and excelled at hand-to-hand combat and weapons. When Castle’s wife, daughter, and son are murdered, he goes on a rampage to avenge their deaths. In this new series, Castle discovers a deeper, darker conspiracy that led to his family’s execution. Steve Lightfoot is the series showrunner. Frank Castle takes a licking but keeps on ticking. If you’re in the mood for conspiracies and violence, The Punisher lights up the Bad Guys. GRADE: B+

WHY WE SLEEP: UNLOCKING THE POWER OF SLEEP AND DREAMS By Matthew Walker


Matthew Walker is a sleep researcher who shares his findings about sleep in Why We Sleep. Many sleep studies show sleep rejuvenates our immune system. One chapter in Why We Sleep begins: “Bad sleep, bad heart.” The connection between poor sleep and heart problems is strong. People with cancer find their disease metastasizes faster if they don’t get the necessary eight hours of sleep per day.

Walker also discusses sleep’s effects on mental health, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. The chapters on improving sleep present several suggestions for a better night in the Land of Nod. Why We Sleep is clearly written and full of timely information. Highly recommended! How is your sleep? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Part 1 This Thing Called Sleep

Chapter 1 To Sleep … 3

Chapter 2 Caffeine, Jet Lag, and Melatonin: Losing and Gaining Control of Your Sleep Rhythm 13

Chapter 3 Defining and Generating Sleep: Time Dilation and What We Learned from a Baby in 1952 38

Chapter 4 Ape Beds, Dinosaurs, and Napping with Half a Brain: Who Sleeps, How Do We Sleep, and How Much? 56

Chapter 5 Changes in Sleep Across the Life Span 78

Part 2 Why Should You Sleep?

Chapter 6 Your Mother and Shakespeare Knew: The Benefits of Sleep for the Brain 107

Chapter 7 Too Extreme for the Guinness Book of World Records: Sleep Deprivation and the Brain 133

Chapter 8 Cancer, Heart Attacks, and a Shorter Life: Sleep Deprivation and the Body 164

Part 3 How and Why We Dream

Chapter 9 Routinely Psychotic: REM-Sleep Dreaming 193

Chapter 10 Dreaming as Overnight Therapy 206

Chapter 11 Dream Creativity and Dream Control 219

Part 4 From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed

Chapter 12 Things That Go Bump in the Night: Sleep Disorders and Death Caused by No Sleep 237

Chapter 13 iPads, Factory Whistles, and Nightcaps: What’s Stopping You from Sleeping? 265

Chapter 14 Hurting and Helping Your Sleep: Pills vs. Therapy 282

Chapter 15 Sleep and Society: What Medicine and Education Are Doing Wrong; What Google and NASA Are Doing Right 296

Chapter 16 A New Vision for Sleep in the Twenty-First Century 324

Conclusion: To Sleep or Not to Sleep 340

Appendix: Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep 341

Illustration Permissions 343

BUFFALO BILLS VS. LA CHARGERS


Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott shocked fans (and just about everyone else) by benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor and announcing rookie QB Nate Peterman would start against the LA Chargers. The Bills are 4-point underdogs. Tyrod Taylor is taking a hit, but the Bills defense has given up 34 points to the Jets and 47 points to the Saints in the past two weeks. Clearly, Sean McDermott felt he “had to make a Change.” However, starting a rookie QB could go south in a hurry. Risky business! How will your favorite NFL team perform today?

JUSTICE LEAGUE


Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the best part of Justice League. An alien threat to Earth forces Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to recruit more help to fight the invaders. Besides Wonder Woman, Bruce Wayne manages to recruit the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). This is a far cry from The Avengers. Oodles of money was spent on Justice League while the results are so-so. Aquaman is mostly wasted. So is Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. There are a lot of missed chances in this movie that could have made it rival some of the better MARVEL movies. If you’re in the mood for a middling super-hero movie, you’ll find a little entertainment watching Justice League. GRADE: B-

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #450: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS Edited by Otto Penzler


I’m a fan of Otto Penzler’s anthologies. This latest tome, 911 pages, includes 72 short stories of every imaginable type. Penzler presents these stories in a rough chronological order. As usual, Penzler chooses some obscure stories by some even more obscure authors. I prefer the more modern stories, but almost every taste in crime fiction is represented here. I enjoyed Otto Penzler’s informative Introduction. If you’re looking for a big stocking stuffer, look no farther than The Big Book of Rogues and Villains. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction by Otto Penzler
THE VICTORIANS
At the Edge of the Crater by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace
The Episode of the Mexican Seer by Grant Allen
The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker
The Narrative of Mr. James Rigby by Arthur Morrison
The Ides of March by E. W. Hornung

19TH CENTURY AMERICANS
The Story of a Young Robber by Washington Irving
Moon-Face by Jack London
The Shadow of Quong Lung by C. W. Doyle

THE EDWARDIANS
The Fire of London by Arnold Bennett
Madame Sara by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace
The Affair of the Man Who Called Himself Hamilton Cleek by Thomas W. Hanshew
The Mysterious Railway Passenger by Maurice Leblan
An Unposted Letter by Newton MacTavish
The Adventure of “The Brain” by Bertram Atkey
The Kailyard Novel by Clifford Ashdown
The Parole of Gevil-Hay by K. & Hesketh Prichard
The Hammerspond Park Burglary by H. G. Wells
The Zayat Kiss by Sax Rohmer

EARLY 20TH CENTURY AMERICANS
The Infallible Godahl by Frederick Irving Anderson
The Caballero’s Way by O. Henry
Conscience in Art by O. Henry
The Unpublishable Memoirs by A. S. W. Rosenbach
The Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company by George Randolph Chester
Boston Blackie’s Code by Jack Boyle
The Gray Seal by Frank L. Packard
The Dignity of Honest Labor by Percival Pollard
The Eyes of the Countess Gerda by May Edginton
The Willow Walk by Sinclair Lewis
A Retrieved Reformation by O. Henry

BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
The Burglar by John Russell
Portrait of a Murderer by Q. Patrick
Karmesin and the Big Flea by Gerald Kersh
The Very Raffles-Like Episode of Castor and Pollux, Diamonds De Luxe by Harry Stephen Keeler
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Four Square Jane by Edgar Wallace
A Fortune in Tin by Edgar Wallace
The Genuine Old Master by David Durham
The Colonel Gives a Party by Everett Rhodes Castle
Footsteps of Fear by Vincent Starrett
The Signed Masterpieces by Frederick Irving Anderson
The Hands of Mr. Ottermole by Thomas Burke
“His Lady” to the Rescue by Bruce Graeme
On Getting an Introduction by Edgar Wallace
The 15 Murderers by Ben Hecht
The Damsel in Distress by Leslie Charteris

THE PULP ERA
After-Dinner Story by William Irish
The Mystery of the Golden Skull by Donald E. Keyhoe
We Are All Dead by Bruno Fischer
Horror Insured by Paul Ernst
A Shock for the Countess by C. S. Montanye
A Shabby Millionaire by Christopher B. Booth
Crimson Shackles by Frederick C. Davis
The Adventure of the Voodoo Moon by Eugene Thomas
The Copper Bowl by George Fielding Eliot

POST-WORLD WAR 2
The Cat-Woman by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Kid Stacks a Deck by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Theft from the Empty Room by Edward D. Hoch
The Shill by Stephen Marlowe
The Dr. Sherrock Commission by Frank McAuliffe
In Round Figures by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Racket Buster by Erle Stanley Gardner
Sweet Music by Robert L. Fish

THE MODERNS
The Ehrengraf Experience by Lawrence Block
Quarry’s Luck by Max Allan Collins
The Partnership by David Morrell
Blackburn Sins by Bradley Denton
The Black Spot by Loren D. Estleman
Car Trouble by Jas A. Petrin
Keller on the Spot by Lawrence Block
Boudin Noir by R. T. Lawton
Like a Thief in the Night by Lawrence Block
Too Many Crooks by Donald E. Westlake

Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan. Volume One



I’ve been reading Caitlin Kiernan’s short stories for years. This Subterranean Press collection (552 pages!) from 2011 presents Kiernan’s work in chronological order. It’s fascinating to see how a writer develops and learns her craft. I think Kiernan hit her stride in “From Cabinet 34, Drawer 6” which is a harbinger of her later, better work. My favorite story in this collection is “Andromeda Among the Stones.” Kiernan’s best stories blend a sense of wonder with a sense of dread. I have Caitlin Kiernan’s Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume Two on order. If you’re interested in reading one of the better contemporary SF and fantasy writers, this is the place to start. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Author’s Introduction
Part One (1993-1999)
Emptiness Spoke Eloquent [1993]
Two Worlds; and In Between [1994]
To This Water (Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1889) [1994]
Tears Seven Times Salt [1994]
Breakfast in the House of the Rising Sun (Murder Ballad No. 1) [1995]
Estate [1996]
Rats Live on No Evil Star [1997]
Salmagundi (New York City, 1981) [1998]
Postcards from the King of Tides [1997]
Giants in the Earth [1995]
Zelda Fitzgerald in Ballet Attire [1995-1999]
Part Two (2000-2004)
Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956) [2000]
The Road of Pins [2001]
Onion [2001]
In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers [2001]
Night Story 1973 (with Poppy Z. Brite) [2001]
From Cabinet 34, Drawer 6 [2002]
Andromeda Among the Stones [2002]
La Peau Verte [2003]
Riding the White Bull [2003]
Waycross [2003]
The Dead and the Moonstruck [2004]
The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles [2004]
The Dry Salvages [2004]
The Worm in My Mind’s Eye [2004]
Houses Under the Sea [2004]
Publication History

BREVILLE SMART OVEN PRO (BOV845BSS)


We’re hosting Thanksgiving again and expect from six to 10 people at our table. Patrick, Katie, Diane, me, my brother and his wife are certainties. But, we always take in a few “strays” as well. The 16-lb Plainville turkey will take up most of the room in our GE oven. Diane plans to offer both white potatoes and sweet potatoes. And green beans. Plus, dinner rolls. We needed more oven space.

We’ve listened to friends rave about their Breville Smart Oven Pro. Diane had some great coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond so we checked out the Breville Smart Oven Pro and bought it. This unit features an interior oven light so we can keep an eye on what’s cooking.
10 pre-set cooking functions include: toast 6 slices, bagel, bake, roast, broil, pizza, cookies, reheat, Warm, slow cook. Capacity: 6-slice toaster, 13″ pizza. Convection powered: an inbuilt fan that circulates the hot air within the oven. It speeds the cooking process by stripping away the cold air that surrounds the food. Non-stick cavity coating: the walls on the inside of the oven feature a non-stick coating for easy cleaning.

If you’re looking for the ultimate toaster oven, check out the Breville Smart Oven Pro! GRADE: A

A FISH CALLED WANDA [Blu-ray]


Given the current political environment and the Buffalo Bills reverting to Normal (losing), I needed some laughs. This new Blu-ray edition of A Fish Called Wanda proved to be the perfect tonic! John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin make up the excellent cast. I first saw A Fish Called Wanda back in 1988 and its humor and cleverness stayed with me ever since. Kevin Kline won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the psychopathic Otto. If you’re looking for some diverting fun and frivolity, A Fish Called Wanda delivers. GRADE: A
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Commentary by writer and star John Cleese
Brand-new appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive
Brand-new interviews with composer John Du Prez, production designer Roger Murray-Leach, executive producer Steve Abbott and makeup supervisor Paul Engelen
John Cleese s Final Farewell Performance, a 1988 documentary on the making of A Fish Called Wanda featuring interviews with actors Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, Kevin Kline and director Charles Crichton
Something Fishy, a 15th anniversary retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Cleese, Curtis, Kline and Palin, executive producer Steve Abbott and director of photography Alan Hume
Fish You Were Here, a documentary on the film s locations hosted by Robert Powell
24 deleted/alternative scenes with introductions by Cleese
A Message from John Cleese, a tongue-in-cheek introduction recorded for the film’s original release
Gallery
Trivia track
Theatrical trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Sophie Monks Kaufman

THANKS, OBAMA: MY HOPEY, CHANGEY WHITE HOUSE YEARS By David Litt


David Litt’s story of going from his room at his parents’ house to working in the White House as a speech writer shows the power of persistence. Litt’s inspiring story tracks the Obama Administration, both the highs and the lows. I found Litt’s descriptions of how the Obama Administration worked fascinating reading. As twenty-somthing David Litt moves up the meritocracy, he finds himself writing important speeches for the President. I found the speech writing process interesting, too. There’s plenty of humor in Thanks, Obama. And a few moments when your eyes will tear up. If you’re fan of the former President, you’ll enjoy all the details of life in the White House. Do you miss Obama? GRADE: A
Table of Contents
A Note Regarding Facts ix
Introduction: Arugula on Air Force One 1
Part 1 Obamabot
1 The Rapture 11
2 How to Not Land a White House Job 27
3 Cleared to Work 47
4 The Corridors of Power 67
5 The Salmon in the Toilet 87
6 Is Obama Toast? 107
7 Going Eastwood 127
8 That First Real Taste of Blood 147
Part 2 Our (Teensy) Place in History
9 Hitler and Lips 167
10 Juice in Purgatory 187
11 The Holy War 207
12 In the Barrel 227
13 Bucket 247
14 The Big Rock Candy Mountain 269
15 The Finish Line 287
Epilogue: Squishing the Scorpion 297
Acks 309

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS VS. BUFFALO BILLS


The red-hot New Orleans Saints–the only NFL team with six straight wins this season–arrive to take on the Buffalo Bills in a chilly, windy New Era Stadium. Drew Brees has never thrown a touchdown pass in this stadium. This may change today. The Bills are still smarting from the wretched game they played on Thursday Night Football when the NY Jets dominated them. The Saints are the best team the Bills have faced this season. Will they be up for the challenge or will this game look a lot like the debacle against the Jets? We will find out within a few hours. How will your favorite NFL team do today?