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I’ve been a big fan of Anthony Tommasini’s reviews and articles in the New York Times for years. The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide provides a guided tour of the composers Tommasini loves and the music they created. Tommasini takes a chronological approach while putting the composer and his music into a larger context. I particularly enjoyed Tommasini’s chapters on Haydn and Mozart.

In addition, I found Tommasini’s “Recommended Recordings” list useful. I have some of the recordings Tommasini recommends, but I’ll have to buy several that I don’t own. If you’re a fan of classical music, there’s a lot in The Indispensable Composers you’ll find fascinating and enlightening. Tommasini’s writing is clear and lucid. Highly recommended! Do you have a favorite classical composer? GRADE: A
Introduction: The greatness complex 1
Creator of modern music : Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) 19
Music for use, devotion, and personal profit : Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) 39
“Vast effects with simple means” : George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) 65
The “Vienna Four” : an introduction 91
“I had to be original” : Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) 97
“Right here in my noodle” : Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) 113
The gift of inevitability : Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) 145
“When I wished to sing of love it turned to sorrow” : Franz Schubert (1797-1828) 175
An unforgettable day in 1836 : Fryderyk Franciszek (Frédéric François) Chopin (1810-1849), Robert Schumann (1810-1856) 205
The Italian reformer and the German futurist : Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Richard Wagner (1813-1883) 247
The synthesizer : Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) 307
The refined radical : Claude Debussy (1862-1918) 339
“The public will judge” : Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) 369
New languages for a new century : Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Bela Bartók (1881-1945) 397
Recommended recordings 441
Acknowledgements 447
Notes 449


Rio Bravo is almost my favorite Western movie. Sure, The Searchers, Lonesome Dove, High Noon, and The Magnificent Seven are also contenders. But John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, and Walter Brennan bring gravitas to Rio Bravo that the other Westerns don’t quite match. An army of gunmen plan on springing a murderer from jail. Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne), his deputy with a drinking problem (Dean Martin), and the hobbling Walter Brennan are the only ones ready to defend the jail.

Director Howard Hawks elevated the Western movie genre with Red River. Hawk delivers a lean, incendiary story filled with suspense and thrills in Rio Bravo. Oh, and by the way, my very favorite Western is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. What’s your favorite Western movie? GRADE: A


In November 2000, Jim DeRogatis, the pop music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, received a fax alleging R&B star R. Kelly had a problem with “young girls.” After conducting an investigation, DeRogatis published a story accusing R. Kelly of recruiting young girls, abusing them, and then paying them off for their silence. The result of these explosive findings…nothing.

No one seemed interested in these allegations. The music industry didn’t care as long as R. Kelly continued to churn out hits. The parents of the young girls took the payoffs and stayed quiet. But for 18 years, Jim DeRogatis stayed on the case and continued to collect more evidence. DeRogatis was sent a graphic video of R. Kelly that led to a 2008 child pornography trial. Just last week, R. Kelly was arrested on Federal charges that might finally stick. Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly lays out the facts about Kelly’s conduct with underage girls for years. People wonder how billionaire Jeffrey Epstein managed to sexually abuse underage girls for years, too. Jim DeRogatis shows how powerful men get away with their dark activities…until they don’t. Impressive reporting! GRADE: A
Prologue: Robert’s Problem Is Young Girls p. 1
Part I
Chapter 1 He Gonna Grow Up Being a Shooter p. 7
Chapter 2 I Promise You p. 31
Chapter 3 There Are Lots of People Who Know About This p. 41
Chapter 4 School Ain’t Gonna Make You a Millionaire p. 53
Chapter 5 Numerous p. 80
Chapter 6 Trophies p. 100
Part II
Chapter 7 Go to Your Mailbox p. 111
Chapter 8 Victory by Delay p. 139
Chapter 9 Recent Unpleasantness p. 152
Chapter 10 The State of Illinois v. Robert Sylvester Kelly p. 168
Chapter 11 The Defense and the Verdict p. 192
Part III
Chapter 12 “How Old Are We Talking?” p. 211
Chapter 13 “It’s Just Music” p. 225
Chapter 14 The Cult p. 238
Chapter 15 Reckoning p. 263
Afterword p. 297
Acknowledgments p. 303


Russell Crowe carries the load on SHOWTIME’s The Loudest Voice. Crowe channels Roger Ailes, the legendary TV Machievellian genius behind FOX NEWS. Based on Gabriel Sherman’s The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country, this 7-episode mini-series chronicles the rise of Ailes as he creates FOX NEWS and builds an audience. The two episodes aired so far shows how Roger Ailes leaves CNBC (and General Electric) and links up with Rupert Murdoch to form a unique new cable channel.

The FOX NEWS coverage of the 9/11 disaster boosted ratings and garnered an intensely loyal TV audience for the new cable channel. Russell Crowe should win an award for his role as the brilliant, but fatally flawed Ailes. Ailes’s treatment of women makes for uncomfortable viewing. His influence with the Bush Administration and the Republican Party grows. In the upcoming episodes, the sexual harassment accusations against Ailes grow despite the settlements Ailes and his lawyers negotiate. These sexual harassment actions bring Ailes’s FOX NEWS reign to an end in spectacular fashion. If you want to see the inside world of FOX NEWS and all the powerful characters, The Loudest Voice captures the creepiness of that world of sex and politics. GRADE: A
Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes
Seth MacFarlane as Brian Lewis
Sienna Miller as Beth Ailes
Simon McBurney as Rupert Murdoch
Annabelle Wallis as Laurie Luhn
Aleksa Palladino as Judy Laterza
Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson
Josh Stamberg as Bill Shine
Mackenzie Astin as John Moody
Barry Watson as Lachlan Murdoch
Guy Boyd as Chet Collier
Josh Charles as Casey Close
Emory Cohen as Joe Lindsley
Patch Darragh as Sean Hannity
Lucy Owen as Suzanne Scott
David Whalen as Steve Doocy
John Finn as Jack Welch


Today is Diane’s 70th Birthday. She is no longer the Younger Woman in my Life (I turned 70 in June). Patrick and Katie came home last week to celebrate our joint Birthdays over the Fourth of July weekend. Diane hosted her family mini-reunion and Birthday Bash on Friday and my family showed up on Saturday for more Birthday festivities. Katie, our resident baker, made a Birthday carrot cake for me and an apple pie for Diane. Yes, we reluctantly shared them with our families. Yummy!


In 2012, the University Press of Florida published the first edition of Redheads Die Quickly (you can read my review here), a collection of Gil Brewer’s short stories from the 1950s mostly set in Florida. Gil Brewer was a talented writer and produced wonderful novels and stories, but his many problems crippled his writing career. David Rachels’ excellent introduction provides the details of Brewer’s complicated life.

This new, expanded edition of Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories includes five stories not included in the original volume: “Sauce for the Goose” (Pursuit, January 1956), “They’ll Find Us” (Accused, January 1956), “Whiskey” (Pursuit, November 1956), “Kill Crazy” (Posse, April 1957), and “Meet Me in the Dark” (Manhunt, February 1958). If you’re looking for suspenseful noir, psychological thrills, and chilling tales, Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories Expanded Edition delivers 30 intense chronicles the terrors on the dark edges of life. GRADE: A
A Note on the Expanded Edition/Introduction to the First Edition 1
Bibliography of Gil Brewer’s Short Fiction 12
A Note on the Texts/About the Author 16
1. “With this Gun–” 17
2. “It’s Always Too Late” 25
3. “Moonshine” 33
4. “My Lady is a Tramp” 40
5. “Red Twilight” 50
6. “Don’t Do That” 53
7. “Die, Darling, Die” 59
8. “Sauce for the Goose” 75
9. “They’ll Find Us” 85
10. “The Black Suitcase” 93
11. “Shot” 104
12. “The Gesture”
13. “Home” 111
14. “Home Again Blues” 116
15. “Mow the Green Grass” 141
16. “Come Across” 136
17. “Cut Bait” 144
18. “Matinee” 150
19. “Whiskey” 157
20. “The Ax Is Ready” 169
21. “On a Sunday Afternoon” 177
22. “Kill Crazy” 188
23. “Prowler!” 195
24. “Bothered” 199
25. “Smelling Like a Rose” 204
26. “Meet Me in the Dark” 209
27. “Death of a Prowler” 227
28. “Getaway Money” 233
29. “Redheads Die Quickly” 238
30. “Harlot House” 245


I’ve read all the Alex Benedict novels by Jack McDevitt. My far and away favorite is Seeker, which won an Nebula Award for Best SF Novel of 2005. I sent a copy of Seeker to Bill Crider and his review can be found here. This new volume in the Alex Benedict series, Octavia Gone, involves the mysterious disappearance of a space station that was studying a black hole and looking for worm holes. Alex Benedict deals in finding artifacts and selling them. Benedict’s pilot and assistant, Chase Kopath, narrates the novel which is basically a Science Fiction mystery story. Benedict and Kopath follow the clues and discover a number of stunning facts.

If you’re in the mood for a twisty SF mystery novel, Octavia Gone will keep the pages turning while you’re enjoying the beach. If you want to read a terrific SF mystery novel, give Seeker a try. I like the earlier books in this series better than the later ones (which are still fun). You can
read my review of Echo here and Coming Home here. GRADE: B

Alex Benedict Series:
A Talent for War (1989) (also published as part of Hello Out There)
Polaris (2004), ISBN 0-441-01202-7
Seeker (2005) – winner of Nebula Award for Best Novel, ISBN 0-441-01329-5
The Devil’s Eye (2008), ISBN 0-441-01635-9
Echo (2010), ISBN 0-441-01924-2
Firebird (November 1, 2011), ISBN 0-441-02073-9
Coming Home (November 4, 2014), ISBN 0-425-26087-9
Octavia Gone (May 7, 2019), ISBN 0-481-49797-8


Okay, I didn’t actually get a snail mail Social Security check, Social Security direct-deposited my benefit amount in my bank account. Now that I’ve turned 70, my Spousal Benefits came to an end, but my Social Security benefits maxed out. Diane decided to collect her Social Security when she turned 66 (full benefit). Many of our friends started collecting Social Security as soon as they hit 62 (partial benefit). Since we didn’t need the money, I decided to wait until I was 70 to collect. Social Security offers an incentive to wait: an 8% per year increase in benefits. Do you know of many investments that GUARANTEE an 8% return on your money? I don’t. So I took advantage of the Social Security increases for four years and now the money rolls in! How are you and Social Security getting along?


Dan Stout’s SF police procedural Titanshade begins with the murder of a Squib, an alien envoy. He may have been entertaining a “candy” (aka, prostitute). But then a police Divination Officer shows up at the crime scene and uses the victim’s blood to get the Spirit of the murdered Squib to speak. Magic on top of this quirky world was a bridge too far for me. I finished reading Titanshade but my opinion of the novel didn’t change. Dan Stout shoved too many themes into this book instead of focusing on the actual crime. I knew whodunit within the first 50 pages. Then I had to slog through Titanshade’s 407 pages to learn I was right. Carter, the Dirty-Harry detective who narrates the novel, takes a lot of punishment. But, I’m guessing Dan Stout is busy writing a sequel. GRADE: C


Batman disappears and Gotham City panics with the absence of its hero. Bat-Woman decides to search for the Dark Knight and finds Nightwing and Robin on the same mission. Later, Batwing joins the search party. As you might suspect, I’m a fan of these DC animated movies. Batman: Bad Blood is one of the darker films in the series, but the action is lively and the plotting is intense. Just the adventure for a hot Summer night of TV watching! GRADE: B+