Author Archives: george

THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES, ROUND 2


Here we go again. After the faux pas of suggesting the elimination of private health insurance, of “open” borders, and free health care for illegal immigrants, the Democrats need to refocus on their message: health care, health care, health care.

Kamala Harris was the big winner in the first round of debates with her “food fight” line and her crushing critique of Sleepy Joe Biden. Biden needs to step up his game in this round of debates or his support will erode. The standards for participating in the Third Round of debates in September are higher so this is the last chance for some of the candidates to move up…or move out.

Frankly, I’m not seeing any of these candidates beating Trump. Despite his racist attacks, his cruelty to immigrants at the border, and his ridiculous (and costly!) trade war with China, Trump’s support from his base is unwavering. The Democratics look weak and confused. What do you think?

FIRST DATE: THE MUSICAL


First Date presents an actual first date in real time. Aaron, a nerdy guy who works in the financial district, and Casey, a troubled woman who works in an art gallery, meet in a restaurant for their first date. This odd couple interacts in an unpredictable fashion with flashbacks of other people they’ve dated and getting advice from imaginary characters. In Aaron’s case, Gabe–Aaron’s best friend–appears from time to time to give Aaron advice (and then disappears like imaginary characters do). Casey imagines her sister, Lauren–who is happily married–whenever the conversation comes to a boil. Lauren gives Casey advice which Casey frequently ignores.

First Date: The Musical lasts only 90 minutes. The first date proceeds in sometimes surprising directions until the ending. I liked the songs, which were mostly funny, and I liked the chemistry between the two main characters, Aaron and Casey. First Date: The Musical first showed up on Broadway in 2013, but now it’s making its way around the country in local and regional theaters. If you’re looking for a comic look at the dating scene, I recommend First Date: The Musical. Have you experienced a memorable First Date? GRADE: A-
SONG LIST:
“The One” – Company
“First Impressions” – Aaron, Casey
“Bailout Song #1” – Reggie
“The Girl For You” – Company
“The Awkward Pause” – Company
“Allison’s Theme #1” – Allison
“The World Wide Web Is Forever” – Company†
“Total Loser” – Company††
“That’s Why You Love Me” – Edgy Ex-Boyfriends
“Bailout Song #2” – Reggie
“Safer” – Casey
“I’d Order Love” – Waiter
“Allison’s Theme #2” – Aaron, Allison, Gabe
“The Things I Never Said” – Aaron, Aaron’s Mother
“Bailout Song #3” – Reggie
“In Love With You” – Aaron
“The Check!” – Company
“First Impressions (reprise)” – Reggie, Waiter††
“Something That Will Last” – Casey, Aaron, Company

THE CHIEF: THE LIFE AND TURBULENT TIMES OF CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS By Joan Biskupic


The Supreme Court just voted 5-4 to allow Trump to divert Defense Department funds to the construction of his Border Wall. Sneaky Mitch McConnell stole Obama’s Merrick Garland pick and we got conservative Neil Gorsuch instead. Then Trump stuck us with Brett Kavanaugh for the next 20+ years. When swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, it has fallen to Chief Justice John Roberts, a kid who grew up in Buffalo, NY, to keep the Supreme Court from completely becoming a Right-Wing extension of the Republican Party.

Joan Biskupic’s analysis of the life and times of John Roberts presents a compelling picture of a deeply conservative judge. Yet, Roberts’s career is rooted in traditional legal precedents. Roberts attempts to keep the Supreme Court somewhat balanced. But, what if Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires and Trump puts another arch conservative on the Court? What if the conservative wing of the Supreme Court repeals Roe v. Wade and the marriage-equality cases? If Trump wins another four years, he could pack the Supreme Court with right-wingers. Then, not even John Roberts could mitigate the damage. What do you think will happen to the Supreme Court? GRADE: B+

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD


Like Deb, I find Quentin Tarantino’s films “problematic.” Once Upon a Time in Hollywood celebrates TV programs and movie-making in the late 1960s. Leonardo DiCaprio brilliantly plays an actor on the downside of his career. DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, had a successful TV series called Bounty Law, but now Dalton can only manage “Guest Star” roles on other series, mostly playing the “Heavy.” Brad Pitt, who radiates Star Power, plays Rick Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Booth. Cliff is more than a stunt man: he’s Rick’s driver and fixer. Together, both men confront their changing life-styles. Margot Robbie plays a convincing Sharon Tate. The plot slowly brings the three characters together in an ending people will either love…or hate.

My favorite part of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood revolves around the scenes Rick Dalton shares with 8-year-old actress (Julia Butters) where Dalton reveals his greatest fears. My least favorite parts of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood center on all the driving scenes (which seem only there to provide a visual background to the song that’s being played on the car radio) and all the walking scenes. Walking around the Western soundstage, walking around George Spahn’s ranch in rural Chatsworth, walking around Benedict Canyon. Too much walking! At 161 minutes, this movie could be edited down to a 2-hour movie without losing much. I enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but I’m not in any hurry to watch it again. I hope Tarantino and SONY make back the $100 million it took to make this film. Do you remember these songs from the 1960s? GRADE: B-

SOUNDTRACK SONG LIST:
1. Treat Her Right – Roy Head & The Traits
2. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – The Bob Seger System
Boss Radio feat. Humble Harve:
3. Hush – Deep Purple
4. Mug Root Beer Advertisement
5. Hector – The Village Callers
6. Son of a Lovin’ Man – Buchanan Brothers
7. Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course (from the MGM film Three in the Attic) – Chad & Jeremy
8. Tanya Tanning Butter Advertisement
9. Good Thing – Paul Revere & The Raiders
10. Hungry – Paul Revere & the Raiders
11. Choo Choo Train – The Box Tops
12. Jenny Take a Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
13. Kentucky Woman – Deep Purple
14. The Circle Game – Buffy Sainte-Marie
Boss Radio feat. The Real Don Steele:
15. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
16. Numero Uno Advertisement
17. Bring a Little Lovin’ – Los Bravos
18. Suddenly / Heaven Sent Advertisement
19. Vagabond High School Reunion
20. KHJ Los Angeles Weather Report
21. The Illustrated Man Advertisement / Ready For Action
22. Hey Little Girl – Dee Clark
23. Summer Blonde Advertisement
24. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond
25. Don’t Chase Me Around (from the MGM film GAS-S-S-S) – Robert Corff
26. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – Paul Revere & the Raiders (feat. Mark Lindsay)
27. California Dreamin’ – Jose Feliciano
28. Dinamite Jim (English Version) – I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni
29. You Keep Me Hangin’ On (Quentin Tarantino Edit) – Vanilla Fudge
30. Miss Lily Langtry (cue from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean) – Maurice Jarre
31. KHJ Batman Promotion

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #539: THE GREAT SF STORIES #11 (1949) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg


I was born in 1949 so this volume of The Great SF Stories #11 was always special to me. “Private Eye” is one of my favorite Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore stories. I’m also a fan of Edmond Hamilton’s “Alien Earth.” Arthur C. Clarke’s “History Lesson” ends with one of the most iconic lines in Science Fiction. James H. Schmitz’s famous “The Witches of Karres” wraps up a volume of very good SF stories.

I’ve mentioned this before in previous reviews in this series, but I really enjoy the introductions to each story by Martin H. Greenberg and Isaac Asimov. They share details about the writers–even obscure ones like Peter Phillips–and the context of the stories. Great, entertaining information! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Red Queen’s Race” by Isaac Asimov (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, January 1949) 12
“Flaw” by John D. MacDonald (STARTLING STORIES, January 1949) 36
“Private Eye” by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore) (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, January 1949) 45
“Manna” by Peter Phillips (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1949) 73
“The Prisoner in the Skull” by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore) (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1949) 98
“Alien Earth” by Edmond Hamilton (THRILLING WONDER STOREIS, April 1949) 135
“History Lesson” by Arthur C. Clarke (STARLING STORIES, May 1949) 160
“Eternity Lost” by Clifford D. Simak (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, July 1949) 169
“The Only Thing We Learn” by C. M. Kornbluth (STARTLING STORIES, July 1949) 196
“Private—Keep Out!” by Philip MacDonald (MAGAZINE OF FANTASY, Fall 1949) 202
“The Hurkle is a Happy Beast” by Theodore Sturgeon (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, Fall 1949) 223
“Kaleidoscope” by Ray Bradbury (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, October 1949) 232
“Defense Mechanism” by Katherine MacLean (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1949) 242
“Cold War” by Henry Kuttner (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, October 1949) 251
“The Witches of Karres” by James H. Schmitz (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1949) 275

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #94: THE BEACH BOYS: 2O GOOD VIBRATIONS


I always associate Summer with The Beach Boys. When I was a kid, I listened to The Beach Boy songs on my transistor radio (remember them?) and loved their great harmony. This 20-song collection presents many of The Beach Boys hits. Even when The Beatles arrived in the U.S., The Beach Boys remained popular. Every Summer for the past decade, the remnants of The Beach Boys would play a concert here in Buffalo after our Triple-A baseball team, the Buffalo Bisons, finished a game. The event is always sold-out. Do you have a favorite song of The Beach Boys? GRADE: A
TRACK LIST:
1. Surfin’ Safari
2. 409
3. Surfin’ U.S.A.
4. Shut Down
5. Surfer Girl
6. Little Deuce Coupe
7. Catch A Wave
8. Be True To Your School
9. Fun, Fun, Fun
10. I Get Around
11. Dance, Dance, Dance
12. Do You Wanna Dance?
13. Help Me, Rhonda
14. California Girls
15. Barbara Ann
16. Sloop John B.
17. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
18. God Only Knows
19. Good Vibrations
20. Kokomo

THE LEVELLING: WHAT’S NEXT AFTER GLOBALIZATION By Michael O’Sullivan


Michael O’Sullivan argues that power is shifting with the impact of technology and the changing global economy. The World is a risky place and as the U.S. steps away from being the World’s Policeman, China is stepping in to fill the power vacuum. O’Sullivan writes about the rise of crypto-currencies which will change our banking system. There’s a recalibration of trade agreements, alliances, and influence in the world. O’Sullivan sees the U.S. slipping down from the top position.

Demographics also play a role in the shifting status of countries. Robots, manufacturing operations in space, and climate change all impact nations big or small. Yet few governments are planning for the future, most are still stuck in the Past. Falling U.S. birthrates, falling life-expectancy, increasing overdose deaths. Where do you think the U.S. is going? Are things getting better or worse? GRADE: A
Table of Contents:
1 The Levelling 1
Brexit, Trump, Noise, and Disruption
2 The Tide Goes Out 23
Running Out of Breath Economically, Losing Patience Politically
3 What’s Next? 57
Déjà Vu All Over Again
4 The Levellers 81
Agreements of the People
5 Can They Do It? 103
Equality, Accountability, Responsibility
6 Great Countries or Strong Countries? 133
Katherine Chidley’s Dilemma
7 A Westphalia for Finance 167
Learning to Live Without the Central Bank Comfort Blanket
8 A Multipolar World 211
As the World’s GDP Moves Eastward
9 A New World Order 243
Levellers or Leviathans?
10 The Hamilton Project 277
What Would Hamilton Do?
11 Looking Ahead 303
From Noise and Disruption to … What?
Acknowledgments 307
Notes 309
Bibliography 333
Index 343

JUSTICE LEAGUE: COSMIC CLASH [Blu-ray]


I’m fan of these LEGO animated adventures. In the Justice League: Cosmic Clash Brainiac, the super-intelligent robot–wants to shrink the Earth so he can add our planet to his collection of minimized worlds. The Justice League–Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, Batman, and Green Lantern–take on Brainiac’s invasion, but three of the members of the Justice League are thrown back in Time: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. Batman and The Flash have to go back in Time to rescue them and then stop Brainiac’s plan before the Earth is the size of a tennis ball!

These LEGO animated movies are pure escapism. If you’re a fan of the Justice League and DC super-heroes, you’ll enjoy the clever (and funny!) Cosmic Clash. GRADE: B+

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Justice League Caught on Camera (Gag Reel)

THE MAN WHO WROTE THE PERFECT NOVEL: JOHN WILLIAMS, STONER, AND THE WRITING LIFE By Charles J. Shields


About 20 years ago, Bill Crider recommended a novel to me. It was John Williams’s Stoner (1965), a novel I had heard of but didn’t own at the time. I found a copy of Stoner and read it. Stoner tells the story of a farmer’s son who goes to college initially to become a better farmer. But Stoner falls in love with Literature and switches to becoming an English Major. Needless to say, his parents are disappointed because they planned on having Stoner work on the farm and continue the operation when they got too old. Stoner’s transition to academic life and becoming a professor provides an appealing story to guys like Bill and me who followed the same career trajectory.

Charles J. Shields’s biography of John Williams covers Williams’s three marriages, his many affairs, and his feud with Yvor Winters. I was more interested in the parts that dealt with Williams’s novels. I had no idea that Western writer Nelson C. Nye panned William’s Butcher’s Crossing in The New York Times Book Review. Nye wrote: “It is practically plotless, an account of four men who go out to hunt buffalo, find them, slaughter them, and are caught by cold weather…. The story, however, contains little excitement and moves as though hauled by a snail through a pond of molasses.” (p. 121)

Stoner achieved modest success when it was first published. Yes, Stoner is far from a perfect novel. But, as the years went by, Stoner attracted more of an audience. Now, it’s considered one of the finest novels of academic life ever written. Have you read Stoner? GRADE: B
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction ix
Part 1. Nothing But the Night
1. He comes from Texas 3
2. “Ho, ho! wasn’t I the character then?” 15
3. Rough draft 28
4. Key West 39
5. Alan Swallow
6. Love 58
Part 2. Butcher’s Crossing
7. The Winters Circle 73
8. “Natural liars are the best writers” 85
9. Butcher’s Crossing 100
10. Fiasco 112
Part. 3. Stoner
11. “It was that kind of world” 137
12. “The Williams affair” 153
13. Stoner 163
Part 4. Augustus
14. Bread loaf and “up on the hill” 183
15, The good guys 192
16. “Long life to the emperor!” 208
Part 5. The Sleep of Reason
Poem : “An old actor to his audience” 221
17. “How can such a son of a bitch have such talent?” 2
18. In extremis 233
Epilogue. John Williams redux 249
Acknowledgements 256
Notes 259
Works Consulted 286
A John Williams Bibliography 289
Index 297