The Guardian blurb about Revenger says, “Swashbuckling! Pirates of the Caribbean meet Firefly.” I’m a big fan of Alastair Reynolds’s Space Operas. Revenger is a Young Adult SF novel featuring two feisty teenage sisters, Adrana and Fura Ness. Their father, hobbled by bad financial investments, is on the brink of bankruptcy. Anrana and Fura run away and join a starship as Bone Readers in an effort to restore the family fortune. Each starship has a “bone” or alien technology that allows instantaneous communication with other starships. But, in order for this system to work, Bone Readers are needed to make the connection. That’s why Bone Readers are the most valuable part of a starship’s crew.
The starship Adrana and Fura sign on to is called Monetta’s Mourn. Monetta’s Mourn is a scavenger ship that seeks “baubles” or sites where alien tech can be found and then sold for profit. After one of these missions, Monetta’s Mourn is attacked by a pirate ship, Nightjammer, led by Bosa Sennen. Bosa kills most of the crew of Monetta’s Mourn except for Adrana and another crew member who pretends to be Fura. Fura manages to hide on Monetta’s Mourn until she’s rescued. But the time waiting for rescue makes Fura determined to rescue her sister. Plenty of adventure and double-dealing result. If you’re in the mood for some old fashioned SF storytelling, Revenger delivers. GRADE: B+
This 2017 BBC movie starts out in 1940 as Catrin (Gemma Arterton) gets a job as a screenwriter for the English Ministry of Information. The Ministry wants a movie to inspire the population amid the German bombing. Catrin’s boss, Buckley (Sam Claflin), recognizes her raw talent. Catrin and Buckley work together to write a script that will highlight fading star, Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), since most of the other movie stars are unavailable. I enjoyed the old fashioned manner of making movies in the 1940s. Their Finest takes you behind the scenes of the production. Plenty of things go wrong. There are gaffs galore. But amid all the confusion, Catrin and Buckley work to produce a quality film. This is one of those movies where you’re going to laugh and cry. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
The New Orleans Saints are 3-point favorites over the LA Rams. I’m with Deb and her family on this one: Saints! The Kansas City Chiefs are favored by 3 points over the New England Patriots. I’m going with the Chiefs. Who do you think will win today?
The weather in Western New York this weekend is predicted to be frightful! A foot of snow, howling winds, and sub-zero temperatures! Big Orange is all gassed up and ready to snowblow! But after I clear the snow from my driveway and clean off my neighbors’ sidewalks, I love to return to the warmth of my home and enjoy a cup of yummy Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa. Sure, there are plenty of Hot Cocoa mixes out there, but I’ve come to enjoy the rich, creamy taste of Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa. What’s your favorite hot cocoa?
Serving Size tbsp 3 tbsp = 35g
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
2% Total Fat 1.5g
3% Saturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0g
0% Cholesterol 0mg
2% Sodium 50mg
10% Total Carbohydrate 30g
7% Dietary Fiber 2g
0% Vitamin A 0 IU
0% Vitamin C 0mg
2% Calcium 20mg
4% Iron 0.7mg
Three Rooms Press deserves praise for publishing this wonderful 16 story collection of Robert Silverberg’s best Time Travel tales. If you glance at the TABLE OF CONTENTS, you’ll see several familiar stories. I enjoyed rereading these stories. “Absolutely Inflexible” was published in 1955, “Against the Current” was published in 2009. Robert Silverberg’s inspiring “INTRODUCTION” tells how he became interested in Time Travel and the four books that transformed his Life. In addition, Silverberg writes introductions to each of the 16 stories and provides details about how each story came about. All of the stories were solicited by various editors for their magazines or anthologies. Silverberg tells some interesting stories about the publishing world that has vanished. Over fifty years of writing Science Fiction, Robert Silverberg’s science fiction stories broken new ground and pushed the limits of the genre.
I really enjoyed “Needle in a Timestack,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” and “Hawksbill Station” which capture the paradoxes of Time Travel. Do you have a favorite Robert Silverberg story? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION by Robert Silverberg i
Absolutely Inflexible 1
Needle in a Timestack 14
Many Mansions 70
What We Learned from This Morning’s Newspaper. 104
Hunters in the Forest 180
Jennifer’s Lover. 196
Sailing to Byzantium 215
Breckenridge and the Continuum 282
The Man Who Floated in Time 312
The Far Side of the Bell-Shaped Curve 346
Dancers in the Time-Flux. 369
Hawksbill Station 389
Against the Current 441
“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.” (p.186) Daniel J. Boorstin made that prophetic statement in his classic The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961). Ken Auletta, who wrote best sellers like Three Blind Mice (1991) and GOOGLED (2009), returns with Frenemies (2018). Auletta has followed the advertising industry for decades and delivers a nice history of ads along with an analysis of what today’s social media and technology are doing to us.
Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, invented public relations. Bernays wrote, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” (p. 28) So true!
Auletta shows how advertising and messaging changed from the Mad Men and Don Draper days to today’s data driven world. Auletta points out that AMAZON’s Alexa and GOOGLE’s Home monitor millions of people daily. FACEBOOK collects data from pharmacy records, store loyal cards, voter registration, mortgages, pay stubs, etc. (p. 159) GOOGLE collects data from its 3.5 billion daily searches, YouTube usage, and its About Me page offering advertisers your date of birth, phone number, where you work, mailing address, education level, where you’ve traveled, your nickname, photo, and email addresses (p. 159). AMAZON, of course, tracks everything you look at and buy on their web site.
Frenemies is a cautionary book. We’ve seen massive data breaches, stolen identities, and polling data shared with the Russians. More trouble ahead. Have you been hacked? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1 The “Perfect Storm” 7
2 “Change Sucks” 27
3 Good-bye, Don Draper 39
4 The Matchmaker 51
5 Anxious Clients 75
6 “Same Height as Napoleon” 99
7 Frenemies 119
8 The Rise of Media Agencies 139
9 The Privacy Time Bomb 155
10 The Consumer as Frenemy 171
11 Can Old Media Be New? 187
12 More Frenemies 205
13 Marketing Yak-Yaks and Mounting Fear 223
14 The Client Jury Reaches Its Verdict 239
15 Cannes Takes Center Stage 247
16 Mad Men to Math Men 261
17 Dinosaurs or Cockroaches? 279
18 Good-bye Old Advertising Axioms 293
19 “No Rearview Mirror” 317
Genevieve Cogman’s fifth novel in her Invisible Library series features a murder mystery. The dragons (who represent Order) and the Fae (who represent Chaos) are engaged in a peace conference. But, obviously, someone doesn’t want the treaty to be signed. A member of the dragon delegation is found stabbed to death and Librarian Irene Winters becomes part of the investigation team. The team includes Peregrine Vale (a Sherlock Homes clone), Mu Dan (representing the dragons), and Lord Silver (representing the Fae). Cogman’s plot provides plenty of red herrings, but none as spectacular as the Blood Countess, a deadly Fae with impressive powers.
These Invisible Library volumes are pure fluff pleasure reading. I enjoy the characters and the wild situations Cogman swirls around them. Fun reading! GRADE: B
Last week on the LIFETIME channel, a six-episode series on the sexual-abuse allegations against R&B singer R. Kelly caused a firestorm of debate on social media. LIFETIME, mostly known for melodramatic TV movies featuring women in peril, surprised everyone with this series that scrutinized R. Kelly’s past associations with women.
Usually, the average nightly audience for a LIFETIME program is 3.5 million viewers. The Surviving R. Kelly series reached 20 million viewers! According to the early episodes, R. Kelly lured young women, some minors, into abusive sexual relationships by promising the women “a start in the music business.” R. Kelly is a 3-time Grammy Award winner with more than 20 platinum records. But stories about R. Kelly’s relationships with woman have dogged the singer for years. Kelly married his musical protege, Aaliyah, in 1994–when Aaliyah was just 15 (Kelly was 27 at the time). Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001.
Steven Greenberg, Kelly’s attorney, calls the series as “a one-sided presentation featuring a bunch of disgruntled former lovers, groupies, and former friends…. It’s a hit piece strictly for ratings.”
Lady Gaga, Common, and Chance the Rapper have expressed support for the women protesting R. Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse. I found the series compelling. What do you think? GRADE: B+
One thing leads to another.
Diane noticed we didn’t have our furnace filter changed in 2018. So I called our Heating/Cooling guys and they sent Andrew out. Andrew is a eager and friendly thirty-something. He changed the furnace filter, cleaned the HEIL 10-year-old unit, and then said, “I think your furnace motor is dying.” Sure enough, I’d heard a growing whine from the furnace over the past couple of months. “Better install a new one,” I replied. And, while I had Andrew checking things out, I asked, “Could you check my hot water tank?”
Last week I spoke with Art Scott on his Birthday. He told me his three-month old hot water tank failed and he needed to buy another one. Andrew checked our hot water tank and said, “You had this installed in 1997! These A.O. Smith hot water tanks usually only last for 10 years. You’ve on Year 22!”
A quick consultation with Diane produced the decision: let’s get a new hot water tank before this one failed. Andrew returned the next day with a Bradford White hot water tank. I had labored mightily to clear a path amid the boxes of books for Andrew and the new hot water tank. Andrew commented, “You did a lot of work!” A couple hours later, the new Bradford White hot water tank was heating up and the old A.O. Smith hot water tank was gone. I asked Andrew why they switched from A.O. Scott to Bradford White. “We had nothing but problems with A.O, Smith’s Customer Service and their policies. It was hard to get them to honor their Warranties. Bradford White, on the other hand, is easy to work with.”
I checked consumer reviews of A. O. Smith’s products online and Andrew was right: Plenty of complaints! You can check those out here.
So we started out with just having a new furnace filter installed. That led to a new furnace motor. And a new hot water tank. We stimulated the Economy to the tune of about $1,500! Have you had any hot water tank problems?