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AGENTS OF SHIELD, Series Finale

I’ve been watching AGENTS OF SHIELD for seven years. Each year, the series improved. The cast is great, the writing is filled with surprises, and the plot arcs dazzle the viewer.

But, sadly, all good things must come from to an end. Disney, who owns the MARVEL franchise, has pulled the plug on all of their shows on Network TV and cable. Hope springs eternal that a new Agents of Shield might show up on Disney+ but I’m not holding my breath.

Tomorrow night, ABC TV will broadcast a 2-hour finale to Agents of Shield. I’m prepared for the eventuality that some of the characters might not make it to the conclusion of the series alive (Joss Whedon is known for dispatching characters no matter how popular they are). And, I’ll have some tissues handy because I’m guessing my eyes might get a little misty. Are you a fan of Agents of Shield? Do you have a favorite episode? GRADE: A (for Season Seven)

DON’T FALL FOR IT: A SHORT HISTORY OF FINANCIAL SCAMS By Ben Carlson

Jude Devereux, best selling writer of 30+ books that hit the New York Times bestseller list, found herself in a Bad Place after her son died in an accident and Devereux went through a divorce. A psychic then told Devereux that money attracts Evil so Devereux gave this psychic $17 million (p. 81). Ben Carlson spends much of Don’t Fall For It relating stories of people who did fall for it and lost their money.

Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme cost many Big Name investors plenty of money: Steven Spielberg, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, John Malkovich, Larry King, and many average income people. Carlson explores the reasons why people–some very smart people–fall for financial scams. Not a day goes by without someone falling for the Nigerian Prince scam. You would think people would be more cautious with their money, but they aren’t.

We’re in the Golden Age of Financial Scams with unscrupulous people claiming they’re from Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the IRS and wrangling innocent people’s Social Security numbers and banking information. Carlson shows how to avoid these scams and to protect yourself from massive losses that could result. Have you ever been scammed? GRADE: B+

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 No One Sells Miracles 5

Goats as Viagra? 7

Radio 9

The Placebo Effect 10

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation 11

Same as It Ever Was 13

Chapter 2 How to Sell Anything 17

The Count 18

Selling the Eiffel Tower 20

Everyone is in Sales 22

Chapter 3 Fast Money 27

The Promise of Huge Returns with Minimal Effort 29

When Trust Goes too Far 32

Do Your Homework 33

Chapter 4 It’s the End of the World as We Know It 39

Cognitive Dissonance 41

The Man Who Walked on Water 43

No One Knows What’s Going to Happen 45

Why Pessimism Sells Better than Optimism 47

The Value of ‘I Don’t Know’ 48

Chapter 5 Sleight of Hand 51

Bad Brad 53

A Magician Reveals His Secrets 56

Chapter 6 When Success Doesn’t Translate 61

Defeated by Decency 62

Don’t Try to Get Rich Twice 66

Chapter 7 When Fraud Flourishes 71

When There’s an ‘Expert’ with a Good Story 71

When Greed is Abundant 73

When Capital Becomes Blind 74

When the Banking Industry Gets Involved 76

When Individuals Begin Taking Their Cues from the Crowd 77

When Markets are Rocking 79

When the Opportunity Presents Itself 80

When Human Beings are Involved 81

When Innovation Runs Rampant 82

Chapter 8 The Siren Song of New Technologies 85

The Railway Napoleon 87

The Media’s Role in a Bubble 90

The Other Side 93

The Silver Lining of a Market Crash 94

Chapter 9 The Seductive Power of FOMO 97

How to Create a Monopoly 98

The Roaring 20s 100

When the Tide Goes Out 102

Not a Ponzi but Close Enough 103

The Seductive Power of FOMO 104

Chapter 10 Type I Charlatan 109

John Law and the Mississippi Company 111

Speculation is a Hell of a Drug 113

Pop Goes the Bubble 115

Type I and Type II Charlatans 116

Chapter 11 Type II Charlatan 121

The South Sea Company 123

Type II Charlatan John Blunt 124

The Bubble Act 127

The Echo Bubble and Dunbar’s Number 128

Chapter 12 Fooled by Intelligence 131

Newton’s Mania 134

The Problem with Smartest People in the Room 135

Why Smart People Make Dumb Decisions 137

Fooling Yourself with Complexity 138

Chapter 13 How Gullible are You? 141

Ponzi versus Bernie 146

The Sacred Relationship 148

Chapter 14 The Easiest Person to Fool 153

Getting Rich versus Staying Rich 156

Shot out of a Cannon 157

The Biggest Fraud of All 158

Conclusion: Six Signs of Financial Fraud 163

1. The Money Manager Has Custody of Your Assets 163

2. There is an Aura of Exclusivity in the Pitch 164

3. When the Strategy is too Complicated to Understand 165

4. When the Story is too Good to Be True 166

5. When the Returns are Ridiculously Good 167

6. When They Tell You Exactly What You Want to Hear 168

Index 171

“If you told me I would only get one more pizza, then lights out, this would be the one.”

The Buffalo News food critic, Andrew Z. Galarneau, reviewed Jay’s Artisan Pizza and made this provocative statement: “If you told me I would only get one more pizza, then lights out, this would be the one. Specifically, Jay’s red top spicy Detroit Style ($15).” You can read Galarneau’s full review here.

As you might know, I love pizza in all its infinite forms. So after reading Galarneau’s pizza review, I had to try this pizza that was to die for. Diane wanted to try Jay’s Margarita Pizza and I wanted Galarneau’s favorite: the red top spicy Detroit Pizza. At this time Jay’s Artisan Pizza is Take-Out only so I went online and put in my order for a 4:00 P.M pick up.

Jay’s Artisan Pizza, a 15-minute drive from our house, had plenty of parking in front of its restaurant. Diane called to say we arrived and a masked woman brought out our pizzas and placed them in the trunk of our Nissan Rogue. Easy peasy!

As soon as we arrived home, we looked at the pizzas. They sure passed the Eye Test! They looked yummy. My red top spicy Detroit Style pizza featured sweet crushed tomato, Parmiagiano and hot cherry peppers with chile honey on a field of mozzarella. Then there’s the sharp cheddar around the rim for a unique flavor. Diane’s Margarita Pizza’s pillowy crust (somewhat like the texture of a cressant) held tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, and bits of kale. Both pizzas were delicious!

However, the question is: would these be our choices for our Last Pizza? Alas, no. As good as these pizzas are, I prefer the generous toppings and thicker crust of Good Guys Pizza (formerly, Pizza Junction which was featured on Drive-ins, Diners, & Dives).

What’s your favorite pizza?

WHY IS THE STOCK MARKET MASKING REALITY?

A couple days ago, 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment. Bad economic news! But, what did the Stock Market do? It went up! The United States leads the world in positive coronavirus cases and deaths (over 1000 per day!) Yet, stocks continue to rise (and gold, too!). The Stock Market masks the true situation in our country.

The worlds of Main Street and Wall Street live very different realities. Millions of Americans are unemployed and the Unemployment Rate is 10.2%. Their Federal Stimulus benefits have expired. Many millions–including children–will find themselves homeless in the days ahead. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ has hit new highs. The popular FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) group of stocks zoom upward. What’s going on here???

There’s a disconnect between the Economy for middle and lower class Americans, and the Economy for the 1%. The Rich can shift assets around and make money. Middle class and lower class Americans are stuck. While the Rich have options like “working” and living anywhere they want, everyone else doesn’t. The Coronavirus Pandemic is an inconvenience to the Rich. It’s devastating for the rest of us. And, it also helps that the Federal Reserve is spending trillions to keep the Stock Market propped up.

So, what to do? First, limit your spending. The Coronavirus Pandemic is already suppressing consumer spending. This is NOT the time to buy a Big Ticket Item. Prepare for the Worst: stockpile some bottled water, canned food, and your medications. Things could get Very Ugly when the Second Surge of the Coronavirus hits in October! Avoid taking risks. How are you doing during these dire times?

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #605: FANTASTIC PAINTINGS OF FRAZETTA

I first encountered Frank Frazetta’s artwork on the cover of some ACE editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs back in the 1960s. Later, the eye-popping Frazetta covers on the LANCER editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series created a sensation. Frazetta also illustrated albums covers for  Molly Hatchet‘s first three albums that feature “The Death Dealer“, “Dark Kingdom”, and “Berserker.” In 2009 Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist for Metallica, bought Mr. Frazetta’s cover artwork for the paperback reissue of Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Conqueror” for $1 million.

Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta was just published with more examples of Frazetta’s incredible artwork like this:

J. David Spurlock, the editor of this project, began this new Frazetta book by starting with the original million-selling 1970s mass market art book, Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta. Then Spurlock expanded and revised the format to include twice as many images and presents them at a much larger coffee-table book size of 10.5 x 14.625”! The collection presents both classic Frazetta artwork and previously unpublished works. If you’re a Frazetta fan, this is a must buy! Do have a favorite Frazetta cover? GRADE: A

MONSTER MADNESS [2-CD Set]

I’ll be very interested to see what Deb, Steve, and Jeff–our resident  musicologists–think of this compilation of “Hair Metal” bands from 1986-1992. Some of the bands are familiar: Quiet Riot, Dio, Poison, Black Sabbath, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Ratt, and Motley Crue. But there were a few groups I didn’t recognize–Vixen (an all-girl group from Minneapolis) and Nelson (a couple of long-haired blond brothers)–that I would like to hear more from.

I wasn’t really a Hair Metal fan, but these Glam Rock tunes dominated the radio air-waves for five or six years so I heard plenty of these songs. Were you into Big Hair and guitar riffs? Do you recognize these groups? Any favorites here? GRADE: B+ (well worth the $1 I paid for this 2–CD set)

Tracklist

1-1Mötley CrüeDr Feelgood4:49
1-2SlaughterUp All Night3:44
1-3Faith No MoreEpic4:51
1-4QueensrÿcheSilent Lucidity5:45
1-5Lita FordKiss Me Deadly4:00
1-6WingerEasy Come, Easy Go4:01
1-7WarrantI Saw Red3:57
1-8Twisted SisterI Wanna Rock3:03
1-9Mr. BigJust Take My Heart4:23
1-10Europe (2)Superstitious4:34
1-11Giant (4)I’ll See You In My Dreams4:45
1-12Vixen (2)Cryin3:32
1-13Firehouse (2)Don’t Treat Me Bad3:55
1-14White Trash (4)Apple Pie4:07
1-15Nelson (4)After The Rain4:05
1-16KrokusAmerican Woman3:35
1-17LoverboyTurn Me Loose3:29
1-18Black SabbathHeaven And Hell6:56
2-1Poison (3)Unskinny Bop3:47
2-2Skid RowI Remember You5:11
2-3DokkenIn My Dreams4:18
2-4Extreme (2)Hole Hearted3:37
2-5WhitesnakeThe Deeper The Love4:00
2-6White LionWait3:59
2-7Dio (2)Rainbow In The Dark4:14
2-8ForeignerSay You Will4:12
2-9Faster PussycatYou’re So Vain4:08
2-10Quiet RiotBang Your Head (Mental Health)5:16
2-11Bad EnglishPrice Of Love4:45
2-12RattWay Cool Jr4:27
2-13Enuff Z’nuffNew Thing4:20
2-14BonhamWait For You5:00
2-15Damn YankeesWhere You Going’ Now4:39
2-16Bullet BoysSmooth Up In Ya4:24
2-17VandenbergBurning Heart4:09

TURN COAT By Jim Butcher

Turn Coat is the 11th book in the Harry Dresden series. As a Wizard and Private Detective, Dresden’s life is never dull. This book opens with a surprise visitor to Dresden’s home. The events that flow from this incident lead Dresden into an investigation into a possible traitor in the White Council of Wizards.

As Dresden gets closer to the identity of the traitor, he’s attacked by a snakewalker (who also has the ability to be a shapeshifter). After one of Dresden’s allies is killed by the snakewalker, Dresden decides on setting a trap that will expose the traitor. But, the almost invincible snakewalker shows up in another ground-shaking battle at the book’s conclusion.

While the battle scenes are always impressive in the Harry Dresden books, Turn Coat focuses on Dresden’s investigatory skills in exposing the traitor and the Dark Forces manipulating the action. Great story-telling! GRADE: A

PALM SPRINGS [Hulu]

Palm Springs is being marketed as a romantic comedy. If your idea of a romantic comedy is serial suicides, then Palm Springs might appeal to you. Andy Sandberg plays Nyles, a lackadaisical member of a crowd at a wedding. Cristin Milioti plays Sarah, Maid of Honor, whose life involves drinking and sleeping around. Through a series of odd events (including dinosaurs!) Nyles and Sarah end up in a time-loop where they have to experience the wedding day over and over again, potentially to Infinity (think Groundhog Day). Nyles and Sarah attempt several strategies to escape from the time-loop.

I didn’t find Palm Springs funny or romantic. J. K. Simmons is wasted in a lame role. Director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Siara spin their cinema wheels for about 90 minutes before they come up with an unlikely con conclusion. GRADE: C

THE A.B.C. MURDERS By Agatha Christie (Audiobook)

Diane’s Book Club (now more of a virtual Book Club) chose Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders for their September book. Diane had never read it although she has read several Christie mysteries. I read The ABC Murders back in the 1960s when I went on an Agatha Christie binge and read a couple dozen of her mysteries in a row. It blew my mind!

When Diane tried to take out the LARGE PRINT edition of The ABC Murders from the Library, she discovered it was out (probably to one of her Book Club members). So Diane decided to take out the audiobook version. After listening to 38 CDs of GRANT listening to five CDs of The ABC Murders was a snap.

This audiobook version of The ABC Murders is “performed” by Hugh Frazer (the actor who plays Captain Hastings in the PBS Hercule Poirot series). Diane and I both liked Frazer’s narration and his gift to create a unique “voice” for each character.

This 1936 mystery involves a serial killer who kills in alphabetical order: A is for Mrs. Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bextill, C is for Sire Carmichael Clarke in Churston. An ABC Railway Guide is found near each dead body. And before each murder, the murderer sends Hercule Poirot a letter predicting (and gloating about) his crimes. If you haven’t read The ABC Murders you’re missing one of the more iconic mysteries in the Christie pantheon. Do you have a favorite Hercule Poirot mystery? GRADE: A

TURKEY HILL BELGIAN STYLE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

Diane was reading one of her favorite magazines, Real Simple, when she came across an article that recommended Turkey Hill Belgian Style Chocolate Ice Cream. The next time Diane was shopping at Wegmans, she checked out the ice cream section and found Turkey Hill Belgian Style Chocolate Ice Cream. She brought it home and we sampled it.

It you like smooth, creamy chocolate ice cream, you’ll love Turkey Hill Belgian Style Chocolate Ice Cream. Very yummy! Are you a fan of ice cream? What’s your favorite flavor? GRADE: A