Author Archives: george

STORM IN A TEACUP: THE PHYSICS OF EVERYDAY LIFE By Helen Czerski



Helen Czerski is a physicist at the University College London’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. In her spare time, she produces BBC science programs and writes books. Storm in a Teacup tells you why popcorn pops, why ducks don’t get cold feet, and how waves work. Helen Czerski’s writing style is engaging and clever. She uses a lot of personal examples (many of them humorous) to explain a scientific principle like the conservation of energy or gravity. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on nanotechnology and its promising future. If you’re a fan of science, Storm in a Teacup will brighten your day and expand your mind. GRADE: B+

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction
Popcorn and Rockets
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Small Is Beautiful
A Moment in Time
Making Waves
Why Dont Ducks Get Cold Feet?
Spoons Spirals and Sputnik
When Opposites Attract
A Sense of Perspective
References
Acknowledgments
Index

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO


Keanu Reeves returns to play a “retired” contract killer, John Wick, who keeps getting pulled back into his old profession. In John Wick (2014), Wick was grieving the death of his wife when the Russian mafia kill his dog and steal his car (why they didn’t just kill John Wick remains inexplicable). John Wick gathers some weapons and starts killing dozens of members of the Russian mob. In John Wick: Chapter Two, a blood contract that Wick made years ago is enforced on him. The target is in Rome and John Wick slays an impressive number of bodyguards. Much of the action is fast and furious (to coin a phrase) so you don’t want to think too much about the plot aspects. But if you’re looking for a stylish action movie, John Wick: Chapter Two will get your heart pumping. GRADE: B

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE


If you’re in the mood for silly fun and wacky humor, The LEGO Batman Movie supplies plenty of both. Commissioner James Gordon retires and his beautiful redheaded daughter, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), takes his place. Barbara is not a supporter of Batman’s vigilante justice. She wants to work as a “team.” Meanwhile, in a moment of distraction, Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett), agrees to adopt orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who soon turns into Robin. The Joker and a dozen DC villains, threaten to destroy Gotham. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, writers and directors of the original The LEGO Movie co-produced this film. Yes, there’s plenty of silliness and humor as Batman is forced to work with others to save his city against his loner inclinations. If you’re a fan of Batman and DC villains, you’re in for a treat with this movie. Be prepared to laugh! GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS#410: INTERGALACTIC EMPIRES Edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh


Back in 1983, Signet Books published the first volume in “Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction” series that produced 10 volumes and ended in 1990. These theme-based anthologies featured a variety of authors and story lengths. And each volume included a breezy “Introduction” by Isaac Asimov which explained the importance of each individual topic in the grander scheme of the Science Fiction genre. I had a handful of the volumes in this series, but not all of them. Now I have the remaining volumes on order (and you may be seeing some of them in future FFBs). If you’re looking for a well edited anthology with quality stories, Intergalactic Empires would be an excellent choice. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
“Introduction: Empires” (Isaac Asimov)
“Cycles”
“Chalice of Death” (Robert Silverberg)
“Orphan of the Void” (Lloyd Biggle, Jr.)
“Down to the Worlds of Men” (Alexei Panshin)
“Governance”
“Ministry of Disturbance” (H. Beam Piper)
“Blind Alley” (Isaac Asimov)
“A Planet Named Shayol” (Cordwainer Smith)
“Concerns”
“Diabologic” (Eric Frank Russell)
“Fighting Philosopher” (E. B. Cole )
“Honorable Enemies” (Poul Anderson)

ISAAC ASIMOV’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF SCIENCE FICTION SERIES
Intergalactic Empires (1983)
The Science Fictional Olympics (1984)
Supermen (1984)
Comets (1986)
Tin Stars (1986)
Neanderthals (1987)
Space Shuttles (1987)
Monsters (1988)
Robots (1989)
Invasions (1990)

ARTHUR AND SHERLOCK: CONAN DOYLE AND THE CREATION OF HOLMES By Michael Sims


I’m sure the Sherlockians reading this post know the story of how Arthur Conan Doyle changed the name of his famous character from “Sherrinford Holmes” to “Sherlock Holmes.” And you probably know how Sherlock’s companion morphed from “Ormond Sacker” to “John Watson.” Michael Sims presents a lively biographical tale of how Doyle invented Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Sim shows how Doyle modeled his detective on his favorite professor, Joseph Bell. Bell taught his students the power of observation when dealing with patients. Doyle added Bell’s methods to Sherlock’s. In addition, Michael Sims convincingly shows that Doyle’s admiration of the detective tales of Edgar Allan Poe had an enormous impact on his writing. Arthur and Sherlock enlightens as it entertains. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Overture: Remembering 1
Part 1: Dr Bell and Mr Doyle
A SuperMan 7
Your Powers of Deduction 12
Art in the Blood 20
Seven Weary Steps 25
Athens of the North 30
No Man of Flesh and Blood 35
Ode to Opium 40
Drinking Poison 45
Intemperance 51
Dr. Conan Doyle, Surgeon 58
A Wealth of Youth and Pluck 63
The Circular Tour 69
The Unseen World 74
Part 2: Prophets and Police
The Method of Zadig 83
The Footmarks of Poe 87
How Do You Know That? 95
Games of Chess Played with Live Pieces 99
Part 3: Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson
Dr Sacker and Mr Hope 111
Bohemians in Baker Street 119
A Little Too Scientific 125
The Book of Life 133
A Basilisk in the Desert 137
A Born Novelist 144
The Preternatural Sagacity of a Scientific Detective 151
Truth as Death 158
Watsons Brothers Watch 166
Dread of Madhouses 174
Adventures in the Strand 179
Deerstalker 184
To My Old Teacher 191
Acknowledgments 199
Notes 201
Bibliography and Further Reading 223
Index 235

THE WHITE MIRROR By Elsa Hart


I posted a review of Elsa Hart’s first mystery, Jade Dragon Mountain, here. Steve Oerkfitz commented that Elsa Hart had a sequel published, The White Mirror, so I ordered it, too. Like Jade Dragon Mountain, The White Mirror features travelling librarian, Li Du. His caravan is slowed by bad weather and it detours to a hidden valley. There, Li Du discovers a dead monk at an old wooden bridge. Someone has painted a white mirror on his body. While the caravan is stalled due to the worsening weather, Li Du investigates the monk’s death. Li Du concludes the monk was murdered…but why? Once again, Elsa Hart brings 18th Century China to life. If you’re a fan of Robert Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries, you’ll enjoy Li Du solving his puzzles. GRADE: B+

WOODSTOCK: 40TH ANNIVERSARY REVISITED [3-Blu-ray Set]


I have to thank Bill Crider for alerting me to this fabulous bargain: 40TH ANNIVERSARY REVISITED [3-Blu-ray Set] for merely $5.00! An amazing bargain! Now, AMAZON has raised the price back to $14,99 (still not a bad price). Some people consider Woodstock to be the best rock & roll documentary ever. Look at the list of performers: Joan Baez, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, Country Joe McDonald & Country Joe & The Fish, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, John Sebastian, Sha Na Na, Sly & The Family Stone, Ten Years After, and The Who.

And how about the songs: “Long Time Gone”, “Going Up the Country”, “Wooden Ships”, “Handsome Johnny”, “Freedom”, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”, “A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Joe Hill”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “See Me, Feel Me”, “Summertime Blues”, “At the Hop”, “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Crowd Rain Chant”, “Rock and Soul Music”, “Coming Into Los Angeles”, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, “I’m Going Home”, “Saturday Afternoon”, “Won’t You Try”, “Uncle Sam’s Blues”, “Younger Generation”, “The Fish Cheer/Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-to-Die-Rag”, “Soul Sacrifice”, “Dance to the Music”, “I Want to Take You Higher”, “Work Me, Lord”, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “Purple Haze”, “Woodstock Improvisation”, “Villanova Junction”, “Woodstock”, and “Find the Cost of Freedom.”

This classic documentary looks great in Blu-ray, too! What group or performer at Woodstock is a favorite of yours? GRADE: A

MOMENT OF BATTLE: THE TWENTY CLASHES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD By James Lacey and Williamson Murray


“Leon Trotsky, one of the more competent practitioners of the art of war, is reputed to have commented that ‘you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.'” So begins James Lacey and Williamson Murray clear, concise, and entertaining Moment of Battle. With uncertain times, I felt like reading a history of great battles would fit the era we’re living in. Steve Bannon, the Svengali to the truculent, irascible Donald Trump, has predicted a war in the Middle East. Bannon has also said that a war in the South China Sea is “inevitable.”

Given that kind of mind-set in the White House, war seems like a high probability event. James Lacy and Williamson Murray take a chronological approach, starting with the famous battle between the Athenians and the Persians at Marathon in 400 B.C. I enjoyed the attention to detail and the authors’s wit and cleverness in the analysis of these battles. And, I learned a lot. Who knew that Benedict Arnold was a military genius who turned traitor because his superiors wouldn’t acknowledge his battlefield accomplishments (they took the credit). And when I read about Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, I had tears in my eyes. Very moving.

Military history could be a very dry subject, but Lacey and Murray bring it alive in Moment of Battle. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
MARATHON Athens Saves Westerm Civilization (490 B.C.)
GAUGAMELA Alexander Creates a New World (311 B.C.)
ZAMA An Empire in the balance (202 B.C)
ADRIANOPLE The End of Roman Supremacy (AD 378)
YARMUK The Islamic Conquest Begins (636)
HASTINGS The Remaking of Europe (1066)
THE SPANISH ARMADA Miracle at sea (1588)
BREITENFELD The Creation of Modern War (1631)
ANNUS MIRABILUS This Rise of British Supremacy (1750)
SARATOGA The Victory of the Amateurs (1777)
TRAFALGAR Napoleons Plans Thwarted (1805)
VICKSURG Breaking the Confederacy (1863)
THE MARNE The End of Old Europe (1914)
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN The Nazis Stopped (1940)
MIDWAY Imperial Japan Stopped (1942)
KURSK The End of the Drang Nach Osten (1943)
NORMANDY The Death Knell for Nazi Germany (1944)
DIEN BIEN PHU Imperialism Defeated (1954)
OBJECTIVE PEACH The Drive for Baghdad (2003)
Acknowledgements
NOTES
INDEX

THE REVENGE OF ANALOG: REAL THINGS AND WHY THEY MATTER By David Sax


David Sax loves vinyl records. He loves clocks with hands. He’s convinced that analog is superior to digital. Sadly, we live in a digital world. My Casio watch is digital. Diane’s iPhone is digital, our Canon camera is digital. David Sax makes the argument we should be leery of our digital culture. He’s convinced analog is more authentic and more real. I have to agree with David Sax on real books. I much prefer a printed book to an ebook (although I read both). What do you think? Do you prefer digital or analog? GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Part 1: The Revenge of Analog Things
Chapter 1: The Revenge of Vinyl
Chapter 2: The Revenge of Paper
Chapter 3: The Revenge of Film
Chapter 4: The Revenge of Board Games

Part 2: The Revenge of Analog Ideas
Chapter 5: The Revenge of Print
Chapter 6: The Revenge of Retail
Chapter 7: The Revenge of Work
Chapter 8: The Revenge of School
Chapter 9: The Revenge of Analog, in Digital
Epilogue: The Revenge of Summer