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ANT-MAN AND THE WASP


Paul Rudd returns as ex-convict Scott Lang (aka, Ant-Man). Scott is serving a sentence at home wearing an electronic ankle bracelet. Scott has a strange dream and contacts his former associates, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Pym believes his missing wife of 30 years, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), is communicating through Scott. She’s stuck in the Quantum Void. Pym has a plan to rescue his wife, but his plan is disrupted by another quantum casualty, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), and a group of gangsters who want the quantum technology. Plenty of micro and macro special effects power this funny and involving movie. If you’re looking for something better than the average super-hero movie, give Ant-Man and The Wasp a try. GRADE: A-

FRIDAY FORGOTTEN BOOKS #484: HOSTAGE FOR A HOOD/THE MERRIWEATHER FILE By Lionel White




I’m a fan of caper novels and Lionel White was one of the great practitioners of a “heist gone wrong.” Hostage for a Hood (1957) starts with a perfect crime: stealing $250,000 from an armored truck. The gang’s scheme goes awry when part of the crew crash into another car. The gang takes the woman and her little dog hostage. The clean escape blows up and the gang hunkers down while the police dragnet increases. The woman’s husband figures out his wife has been kidnapped and takes action. The suspense in Hostage for a Hood ratchets up until the explosive conclusion.

The Werriweather File (1959) centers around a wife who believes someone is trying to kill her. She hires a lawyer to protect her life (he’s skeptical about the death threat but agrees to represent her). But when a body shows up in the trunk of the family car, this twisty novel picks up speed and tension. Lionel White is a master of clever plotting and The Merriweather File puts unpredictable events on display. If you’re in the mood for fast-paced suspense both of these novels deliver. You can read my reviews of STARK HOUSE’s editions of Lionel White’s Marilyn K/The House Next Door here and The Snatchers/Clean Break here. GRADE: B+

THE DIME By Kathleen Kent



Kathleen Kent, best known for historical novels, shows some gritty chops in The Dime (2017) where Detective Betty Rhyzyk investigates the Mexican drug cartel. Rhyzyk grows up in New York City in a “cop” family. She moves to Dallas with her girl friend and finds a job on the Narcotics Squad. Rhyzyk’s lesbianism causes friction with her male colleagues. Shootouts with the cartel thugs, personal threats, and a surprising twist in the plot halfway into the book keep The Dame moving fast. My only quibble is the number of flashbacks Kathleen Kent uses to fill in Rhyzyk’s back story. GRADE: B

HEARTS BEAT LOUD


Nick Offerman plays a widowed father named Frank who was former musician who now owns a vinyl-only record store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Frank faces several problems. His record store is failing. His mother (Blythe Danner) shows signs of dementia. Frank’s daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is headed for UCLA to become a doctor and Frank doesn’t know where he’s going to find the tuition money. Frank’s bartender friend, Dave (Ted Danson), tries to help him. Leslie (Toni Collette), Frank’s landlady, offers some romantic opportunities. Sasha Lane provides some romantic opportunities for Sam. The gimmick in Hearts Beat Loud is that Frank and Sam write a song and record it in their home studio. Frank uploads the song to Spotify and it becomes a hit. That success gives Frank hope that music might save him from the disasters growing around him. My problems with Hearts Beat Loud center around the music and the plot. The music is bland. The plot is predictable. With a good cast like this, Director Brett Haley should have produced something special. Ted Danson and Toni Collette pretty much just stand around. Marc Basch’s script holds no surprises. GRADE: B-

IT’S BETTER THAN IT LOOKS: REASONS FOR OPTIMISM IN AN AGE OF FEAR By Gregg Easterbrook


Gregg Easterbrook, who admits from being from Buffalo, provides evidence (the Real Facts) to counteract the constant barrage of messages that America (and the world) is going down the tubes. In fact, people are living longer. More people are surviving diseases that used to be fatal. Food is plentiful. If people are starving, it’s because of logistics not food shortages. Equality world-wide is increasing as education and healthcare improve. Gregg Easterbrook also points out that our Economy is growing as unemployment shrinks. Technology improves with each generation and tends to be more safe to use.

Of course politicians love to claim the Past was better (it wasn’t) and today the world faces “carnage.” People tend to vote when they’re afraid. Yet most of the outlandish claims that American is going to Hell are false. Sure, the opioid epidemic is real. But conspiracies of “child actors” at the border, that the Wall will solve the immigration problem, and the Space Force will protect us gain traction because of technology. Facebook and Tweets and social media of all sorts create the illusion that these fantasies are facts. Many of our problems are self-created. If you’re looking for a book to counteract all the negativity and “Fake News” I highly recommend It’s Better Thank It Looks.GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface: Optimism Goes Out of Style xi
PART I: Why the World Refuses to End
One: Why don’t we starve? 3
Two: Why, despite all our bad habits, do we keep living longer? 23
Three: Will nature collapse? 41
Four: Will the economy collapse? 64
Five: Why is violence in decline? 104
Six: Why does technology become safer instead of more dangerous? 140
Seven: Why don’t the dictators win? 164
PART II: The Arrow of History
Eight: How declinism became chic 197
Nine: The “impossible” challenge of climate change 226
Ten: The “impossible” challenge of inequality 245
Eleven: We’ll never run out of challenges 266
Twelve: And it will never be too late 282
Acknowledgements 287
Notes 289
Index 319

NEW RESMED CPAP: AirSense 10


My old ResMed Model 9 CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine gave me an error message: MOTOR LIFE EXCEEDED. PLEASE CONTACT SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE. I called up Apnea Care and Rachel, my Service Representative, told me, “You qualify for a new CPAP.” I scheduled an appointment and a few days later the new ResMed AirSense 10 was mine. The AirSense 10 motor is super-quiet! It automatically adjusts if you need more or less pressure for comfortable and safe breathing during sleep. The AirSense 10 keeps track of sleeping patterns and notifies you if your mask is leaking air.

I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea back in 1995. I’ve had four CPAP machines since then and now the ResMed AirSense 10 is my fifth. My first CPAP looked like a Macintosh computer and weighed over 20 pounds. Diane said it sounded like a lawn mower. Each new CPAP got smaller, quieter, and smarter. This new ResMed AirSense 10 looks like a clock radio and weighs a couple of pounds. Without these CPAP machines, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?


My eyes misted up a couple times while watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This wonderful documentary captures the essence of Fred Roger’s magic in reaching out to children and helping them deal with Reality. When Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, Fred Rogers addressed the issue. Later, Rogers produced theme weeks on topics like divorce, war, violence, and death. He never talked down to kids. He never sugar-coated his messages. Fred Rogers was a visionary. And, back in 1969, Fred Rogers saved the Public Broadcasting System with a stellar performance at a Congressional hearing (another highlight of this documentary). Right-wing commentators attacked Fred Rogers and his philosophies. He was accused of being a homosexual (he wasn’t). His belief that all children are special became the “gateway” for creating “snowflakes” according to conservatives. Despite these savage assaults, Fred Rogers continued to help children and promote his message of love and kindness in a hostile world. If you go to Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, bring some Kleenex. GRADE: A

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #483: YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS: 1954 Edited By Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty


Imagine a planet where crime is encouraged and honesty is discouraged. That’s the premise of Kendell Foster Crossen’s “Assignment in Aldebaran.” I’ve read some of Crossen’s mystery novels under his “Richard Foster”, “M. E. Chaber,” and “Christopher Monig” pseudonyms. I also enjoyed Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” with its generational space ship setting. “The Enormous Room” by H. L. Gold and Robert Krepps tells the story of what happens to a group of people on a roller coaster that suddenly disappears. The most famous story of this volume has to be Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” which concerns machines in warfare. Murray Leinster’s “The Sentimentalists” concerns tampering by advanced aliens in human affairs. Another delightful collection of early novellas! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction, by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty
“The Enormous Room”, by H. L. Gold & Robert Krepps (Amazing Stories, October-November 1953)
“Assignment in Aldebaran”, by Kendell Foster Crossen (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1953)
“The Oceans Are Wide”, by Frank M. Robinson (Science Stories, April 1954)
“The Sentimentalists”, by Murray Leinster (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1953)
“Second Variety”, by Philip K. Dick (Space Science Fiction, May 1953)

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #82: JUST THE TWO OF US (SONY TVK 24157)


TRACK LIST:
1. DESTINY’S CHILD – Emotions
2. RICKY MARTIN – She’s All I Ever Had
3. MANDY MOORE – I Wanna Be With You
4. GEORGE MICHAEL & ELTON JOHN – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
5. MARVIN GAYE – Sexual Healing
6. MACY GRAY – I Try
7. CYNDI LAUPER – True Colors
8. BILLY JOEL – She’s Always a Woman
9. BANGLES – Eternal Flame
10. SADE – No Ordinary Love
11. BOB DYLAN – To Make You Feel My Love
12. BERLIN – Take My Breath Away
13. JESSICA SIMPSON – I Wanna Love You Forever
14. BAD ENGLISH – When I See You Smile
15. REO SPEEDWAGON – Can’t Fight This Feeling
16. JOURNEY – Open Arms
17. MEATLOAF – Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
18. GROVER WASHINGTON, JR. & BILL WITHERS Just the Two of Us