Category Archives: Uncategorized

GETTING MARRIED By George Bernard Shaw


Imagine a play where five women and seven men discuss marriage for a couple of hours. Sounds dull, right? Well, if you’re George Bernard Shaw, you turn the subject of marriage and divorce into comedy gold. And, this play first opened in 1908! The reasons to get married, to stay married, and when to leave a marriage haven’t changed much in a century. Of course, British law at that time harshly stripped women of most of their rights (including financial) when they entered into a marriage and provided many impediments to leaving a dysfunctional relationship. British law became more fair in 1969, but women still struggle for equal rights with men just as American women do.

I enjoyed the spirited (and funny) debates among the characters. My favorite is Lesbia Grantham who turns down many marriage proposals from General Bridgenorth because she refuses to give up her rights and freedom to a marriage. “Home life as we understand it is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.” The “cage” of course is marriage. The sold-out crowd at The Shaw Festival laughed at the one-liners and the slapstick comedic antics of the characters. But, beneath the humor, Shaw exposes the flaws of all long-term relationships. Brilliant! Do you have a favorite Shaw play? GRADE: A

AMY GRANT CONCERT


Diane and I listened to Amy Grant’s music back in the 1980s and enjoyed it. Diane still plays an Amy Grant Christmas CD during the Holidays. This Amy Grant concert took place 5 minutes from our house at the historic Rivera Theatre (1,100 seats) in downtown North Tonawanda. The concert sold out with mostly an aging audience. As most of you probably know, Amy Grant also released some Contemporary Christian CDs. She sang some religious songs and many in the audience chimed in. Amy Grant sang the songs we like most from her CDs: “Lucky One,” “That’s What Love Is For,” “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” and “I Will Remember You.” All in all, a pleasant concert in friendly surroundings. We drove home in 5 minutes after the concert ended. That doesn’t happen very often. Are you an Amy Grant fan? GRADE: A
SET LIST:
Anywhere With Jesus
Curious Thing
Takes a Little Time
Lucky One
Stay for Awhile
Saved by Love
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell cover)
Find a Way
Oh How the Years Go By (Simon Climie cover)
That’s What Love Is For
I Will Be Your Friend
Father’s Eyes
Better Than a Hallelujah
Thy Word
El-Shaddai
Sing Your Praise to the Lord (Rich Mullins cover)
Baby Baby
Every Heartbeat
Put a Little Love in Your Heart (Jackie DeShannon cover)
I Will Remember You

MIAMI DOLPHINS VS. BUFFALO BILLS


The well-rested 4-1 Buffalo Bills are 17-point favorites over the hapless 0-5 Miami Dolphins. The BYE WEEK refreshed the Bills and helped some of players with nagging injuries. Former Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the starter for today but we may see Josh Rosen before the day is done. How will your favorite NFL team perform today?

TOOTSIE: THE MUSICAL


Santino Fontana plays the irascible struggling actor, Michael Dorsey. Dorsey can’t resist telling directors and script writers how to do their jobs. This arrogant behavior causes Dorsey’s acting career to self-destruct. In desperation, Dorsey transforms himself into “Dorothy Michaels” and gets a role in a Broadway play, Juliet’s Nurse. Dorothy becomes the friend and confidant of Julie Nichols, the actress currently starring as Juliet in Juliet’s Nurse. But even as Dorothy, Michael Dorsey’s volatility and meddling tendencies cause problems in his love life and his role in Juliet’s Nurse.

This reboot of the 1982 comic movie adds some clever music and silly situations. I saw Tootsie: The Musical at the Marquis Theatre at the Mariott Marquis Hotel where I was staying. The musical was sold out and the audience loved all the wacky scenes on the stage. I’m sure there will be a touring company performing Tootsie: The Musical in a year or so.

As far as I’m concerned, Santino Fontana carries this play with his talent as both difficult Michael Dorsey and demur “Dorothy Michaels.” I also enjoyed Jeff Slater as Michael’s roommate, Jeff, an unsuccessful playwright with a snarky sense of humor. If you’re in the mood for a fun musical, I recommend Tootsie: The Musical. Are you a fan of the original Tootsie? GRADE: A-
Musical numbers:
Act I
Overture – Orchestra
“Opening Number” – Ensemble, Michael
“Whaddya Do” – Michael
“What’s Gonna Happen” – Sandy
“Whaddya Do” (Reprise) – Michael
“I Won’t Let You Down” – Dorothy
“I’m Alive” – Julie, Ron, Max, Dorothy, Ensemble
“There Was John” – Julie, Dorothy
“I Like What She’s Doing” – Rita, Julie, Stuart, Suzie, Ron, Max, Dorothy, Ensemble
“Who Are You?” – Michael, Julie
“What’s Gonna Happen” (Reprise) – Sandy
“Unstoppable” – Michael/Dorothy
Act II
Entr’acte – Orchestra
“Jeff Sums It Up” – Jeff, Michael
“Gone, Gone, Gone” – Julie, Female Trio
“Who Are You?” (Reprise) – Julie
“This Thing” – Max
“Whaddya Do” (Reprise) – Jeff, Michael
“The Most Important Night of My Life” – Max, Suzie, Stuart, Rita, Ron, Ensemble
“Talk to Me Dorothy” – Michael
“Arrivederci!” – Dorothy, Julie, Max, Ensemble
“What’s Gonna Happen” (Reprise) – Sandy
“Thank You” (“Talk to Me Dorothy” Reprise) – Michael

BRIGADOON: THE MUSICAL



I dimly remember seeing the movie version of Brigadoon (1954) as a kid. So when The Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada announced a musical version, I was intrigued. The story of two young American men getting lost in the Highlands of Scotland and stumbling upon the mystical town of Brigadoon retains the charm of the original. Tommy Albright is scheduled to be married after this bachelor trip and his best man, Jeff Douglas, intends to get Tommy back to New York City on time. But the magic of Brigadoon affects both men. Tommy falls in love with Fiona and Jeff has a fling with a hot redhead called Meg. But Brigadoon has its secrets and darkness.

Diane and I enjoyed all the singing and dancing in Brigadoon. Yes, the plot creaks like a production from 1947 (Brigadoon ran for 581 performances at the Ziegfeld Theatre with Broadway revivals in 1950, 1957, 1963, and 1980). But the fun and flair of the characters mixed with Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics and Frederick Loewe’s melodies create a vibrant experience. GRADE: A

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #551: THE GREAT SF STORIES #14 (1952) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg


In the Introduction to The Great SF Stories #13 (1951) , Martin H. Greenberg mentions that two novellas–“The Fireman” by Ray Bradbury and “Beyond Bedlam” by Wyman Guin–would have been included but their length made that impossible. In The Great SF Stories #14 (1952), Greenberg cites “Surface Tension” by James Blish, “Bring the Jubilee” by Ward Moore, and “Baby is Three” by Theodore Sturgeon as novellas worthy of inclusion, but barred because of their length. ThE stories that did make this volume are mostly first-rate. Ray Bradbury’s classic “The Pedestrian” sets the tone. My favorite story in this anthology is F. L. Wallace’s wonderful “Delay in Transit.” GALAXY dominates the selected stories the way ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION dominated The Great SF Stories volumes from the 1940s. Asimov and Greenberg’s choices for this book include veteran writers like Edmond Hamilton and new writers like Philip Jose Farmer. That’s one of the strengths of this series. GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION By Martin H. Greenberg 9
“The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury (THE REPORTER, August 1951). 13
“The Moon Is Green” by Fritz Leiber (GALAXY, April 1952) 19
“Lost Memory” by Peter Phillips (GALAXY, May 1952) 35
“What Have I Done?” by Mark Clifton (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1952) 48
“Fast Falls the Eventide” by Eric Frank Russell (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1952) 67
“The Business, as Usual” by Mack Reynolds (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, June 1952) 85
“A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury (COLLIER’S, June 1952) 90
“Hobson’s Choice” by Alfred Bester (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August 1952) 103
“Yesterday House” by Fritz Leiber (GALAXY, August 1952) 119
“The Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean (GALAXY, September 1952) 146
“Delay in Transit” by F. L. Wallace (GALAXY, September 1952) 160
“Game for Blondes” by John D. MacDonald (GALAXY, October 1952) 206
“The Altar at Midnight” by Cyril Kornbluth (GALAXY, November 1952) 217
“Command Performance” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (GALAXY, November 1952) 225
“The Martian Way” by Isaac Asimov (GALAXY, November 1952) 243
“The Impacted Man” by Robert Sheckley (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1952) 289
“What’s It Like Out There?” by Edmond Hamilton (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, December 1952) 308
“Sail On! Sail On!” by Philip José Farmer (STARTLING STORIES, December 1952) 331
“Cost of Living” by Robert Sheckley (GALAXY, December 1952) 342

RESUME SPEED By Lawrence Block


Lawrence Block’s Resume Speed was published by Subterranean Press back in 2016 but I only got around to reading it now. A man who calls himself “William Thompson” gets on a bus in  Galbraith, North Dakota and heads for Spokane, Washington. But when his bus stops in Cross Creek, Montana Thompson notices a HELP WANTED sign outside a diner. Thompson applies for the job and gets it. Lawrence Block carefully records Thompson’s steps in settling in to the community. Thompson gets a library card and ends up sleeping with the librarian. After a few months, Thompson has enough money to buy a used car. Life is good. But…Thompson’s past is always close behind which is why Thompson has to guzzle whiskey each night to chase his demons away. If you’re in the mood for a stark tale of naturalism, give Resume Speed a try. Are you a fan of Lawrence Block’s work? GRADE: B

STARBUCKS TRUE NORTH BLONDE COFFEE


When Diane and I visited Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada last week, I stopped into a Starbucks and what I saw shocked me! I’m a fan of the Starbucks Blonde coffees–Veranda, Blonde Espresso, Bright Sky blend, and Blonde Roast Plus–but this Canadian Starbucks offered a Starbucks Blonde coffee I didn’t know existed: Starbucks True North Blonde!

I immediately ordered a cup. Yum! Subtle flavors with delicate nuances of soft cocoa and lightly toasted nuts danced on my tongue. This is just the thing to make your day brighter! According to Starbucks advertising: “Roasting this blend of specially chosen Latin American beans for a shorter time allows the delicate nuances of soft cocoa and lightly toasted nuts to blossom. As enticing as the natural beauty of majestic Canada, this blend is dedicated to a country that’s been part of the Starbucks story since 1987. Mellow and easy-drinking.” I agree! Now I’ll have to make more trips to Canada! Do you have a favorite coffee? GRADE: A

SUPERIOR DONUTS By Tracy Letts



After reading Tracy Lett’s August: Osage County (and watching the movie), I decided to read more of Tracy Letts’s plays. To my surprise, I discovered Superior Donuts (2010). I’ve never watched the TV version starring Judd Hirsch and Jermaine Fowler. But after reading the play, I know the TV series has to be a very sugar-coated version of the original production. Then Superior Donuts was put on a local stage by a regional drama group so Diane and I got to see the play performed.

Aging hippy Arthur Przybyszewski arrives at his failing Uptown Chicago donut shop (a Starbucks has just opened across the street) and finds someone has broken his window and spray-painted PUSSY on the wall. Franco Wicks, an African-American college dropout, shows up and applies for a job. Arthur reluctantly agrees. Their relationship swirls around the problems and secrets each man hides. Issues of race, class, and personal decisions power this play.

Where August: Osage County explored a dysfunctional family, Superior Donuts explores the highs and lows of personal relationships with some humor thrown in. I enjoyed seeing a performance of Superior Donuts. GRADE: B+

I also read Tracy Letts’s Bug (2006), a story about paranoia and conspiracy. Not to my taste. Bug became a movie with Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, and Harry Connick, Jr. It was directed by William Friedkin. I haven’t seen it…nor want to. GRADE: C-

BLOWOUT By Rachel Maddow


In Blowout: Corrupted Democracies, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth, Rachel Maddow is convinced the United States is chaining itself to a corpse. The “corpse” in Maddow’s eyes is the oil industry. Chapter after chapter, Maddow builds her case against the oil industry around the globe. She shows how many oil rich countries send most of their inhabitants into poverty. I found the chapter “The Other 1 Percent” about the hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma both funny and sad.

If you’re in the mood for a well-written, cleverly crafted book that mixes humor with profound insights, give Blowout a try. Blowout is one of the year’s best books. Are you a Rachel Maddow fan? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: In a surrealist landscape ix
1. Splendor and fragrance — 3
2. The genie — 11
3. Stolen goods — 20
4. Charlie Hustle — 44
5. Thunder up! — 56
6. Rex shrugged — 69
7. A risk management problem — 81
8. Poster boy — 95
9. Practical realities — 107
10. Who does that? — 120
11. The other 1 percent — 134
12. Ultrahazardous activity — 152
13. A significant strategic step — 162
14. Trust — 166
15. The handsome hero — 175
16. This ain’t no disco — 184
17. Such a man is born once every few decades — 203
18. Putin zassal — 217
19. All hail the mercenaries — 226
20. His idea of America — 245
21. Because they could — 255
22. “We greatly value our relationship” — 269
23. Pobeda! — 280
24. “Yeah that was crazy” — 290
25. Active appreciation — 306
26. It all ties back — 316
27. “All they have is this” — 328
28. “Constituency trumps everything” — 341
29. Containment — 351
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS — 369
NOTES ON SOURCES — 371
INDEX — 391