My daughter Katie suggested that we watch a movie each week so we could talk about it when we Facebook PORTAL each Sunday. Since Katie came up with the idea, we decided she should make the first choice. Katie selected a Netflix documentary, 13TH (2016).
Director Ava Duvernay’s documentary explores the affects of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution on American society. Diane and I were shocked by the political strategy that used the 13th Amendment to cause mass incarceration of African-Americans to produce, in effect, slave labor.
Duvernay tells this story through a mixture of video news footage and commentary. Here’s the list of participants:
I’ve read several of Gerard de Villiers’ spy novels featuring Malko Linge, an Austrian spy. In Revenge of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin orders the assassination of one of his former oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky. But, the assassination needs to look like an “accident” so that British and Russian relations don’t get disturbed.
Soon afterward, Berezovsky is found dead in the bathroom of his London home, an apparent suicide. MI5 opens an investigation, but Prime Minister David Cameron orders the case closed. The CIA, suspicious of Russian operations in the UK, sends Malko to investigate Berezovsky’s death and the British cover-up.
Malko uncovers leads to the Russian plot, but almost dies of a deadly poison attack. After he recovers, Malko vows to get to the bottom of the Berezovsky case. Trips to Israel and Moscow uncover links in Russian involvement to several deaths.
If you’re a fan of spy novels, you’ll find Revenge of the Kremlin compelling and involving. De Villiers has sources that supply him with accurate information about Russian methods of poisoning which gives the whole Russian operation credibility and realism. Do you like spy novels? GRADE: B+
Wonderful Beth Fedyn sent me this DVD set of a Matchbox 20 concert in Georgia in 2004. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Matchbox 20 was a popular group whose songs frequently hit the Top 10.
As you might expect, Matchbox 20 plays their most popular songs. I’m fond of “Real World” which includes the line we can all relate to right now: “I wish the Real World would just stop hassling me!”
Rob Thomas, the lead singer of Matchbox 20, does a fine job on “If You’re Gone” and “3 AM.” The enthusiastic crowd roared their approval. However, I wonder when a scene like this–a crowded arena with no social distancing or masks–will become Normal again.
Beth, thanks again for this wonderful gift! I really enjoyed it!!! GRADE: A
Stark House, one of my favorite Small Presses, has been reprinting some of Barry N. Malzberg’s huge output. Malzberg is probably best known for his quirky Science Fiction, but he wrote fiction in several genres.
Screen was published in 1968 by Olympia Press. Malzberg’s afterward essay, “The Jewel and the Madonnas,” tells how he sold Screen to publisher Maurice Girodias who considered it a masterpiece. Malzberg’s troubled protagonist, Martin Miller, works for the Welfare Department, but is threatened with firing. Miller is not concerned because his passion is watching movies. He goes to theaters and while the movie is playing, fantasizes about the actresses on the screen: Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Cinema (aka, The Masochist and Everything Happened to Susan) features a young woman with Candy characteristics who attempts to become an actress by working in porno films. Malzberg skewers the film making industry with savage portraits of an “artistic” director and a controlling agent for the film’s producers. In the afterward essay, “The Commercial Culture,” Malzberg writes about the absurdity of the film industry then and now.
Both Screen and Cinema have been out-of-print for many years. Stark House restores them and Barry N. Malzberg provides the context and the history behind these novels. If you’re a Barry N. Malzberg fan, this is a must-buy! GRADE: B+ (for both)
Joni Mitchell was another marvelous singer that I had a crush on in the 1960s. I loved her voice and the evocative lyrics of her songs. My favorite Joni Mitchell albums are Blue and Court and Spark. Blue is a sad, sad album with many great songs. On Hits, “California” and “River” display the quality of Mitchell’s music from Blue.
I play Court and Spark the most of all the Joni Mitchell albums I own. I love the sound, the orchestral arrangements, and–for Mitchell–a lightness of her music.
Are you a Joni Mitchell fan? Do you have a favorite Joni Mitchell song? GRADE: A
All songs were written by Joni Mitchell, except “Unchained Melody” by Alex North and Hy Zaret.
“Urge for Going” – 5:05
Originally recorded by Tom Rush in 1967, Mitchell’s own version (recorded for Blue but left off the album at the last minute in favor of newer songs) was not released until 1972, as the B-side of the “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” single. First time available on a Joni Mitchell album.
I’m a fan of Carrie Vaughn’s work and I grew up watching Robin Hood on TV as a kid. So that combination led me to Vaughn’s new book, The Ghosts of Sherwood. Robin of Locksley and his wonderful wife, Marian, are married with three kids–Mary, John, and Eleanor. The events in The Ghosts of Sherwood take place 20 years after Robin and his band of Merry Men defeated the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Robin has plenty of enemies and one of them sends a group of thugs to kidnap Robin’s children. But, the thugs find out Robin’s children have the bravery and cleverness of their father and mother.
The Ghosts of Sherwood is another of TOR’s slim books: a mere 103 pages. The audience seems to be Young Adults. Next month, a “sequel”–The Heirs of Locksley–is scheduled for release.
My review of the 2010 movie version of Robin Hood can be found here. Are you a fan of Robin Hood? GRADE: B
I’m sure there will be some debate about which episodes of the original Star Trek are the “Best” but this DVD includes four episodes fans love.
The first episode is the Harlan Ellison episode: The City on the Edge of Forever. Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy travel back in Time to face a stark dilemma. The second episode is Maggie Mason’s favorite Star Trek episode: The Trouble With Tribbles. Klingons and cute little fur-balls!
I’ve always been fond of Balance of Terror which reminds me of classic submarine war movies. The Romulons have an advanced cloaking device that renders them invisible. The suspense builds as the duel between the Romulon ship and the Enterprise escalates. This disc ends with another fan favorite: Amok Time where Spock has to mate or die! In a surprising move, Spock’s intended Bride choses Kirk as her champion in the brutal Wedding ritual which sets up a fight to the death between Spock and Kirk. I was very taken with Spock’s Bride, the treacherous T’Pring (Arlene Martel).
Are you a fan of any of these Star Trek episodes? Do have a favorite? GRADE: A
Lisa Mosconi’s The XX Brain summarizes the latest research on women’s brains. I learned a lot from The XX Brain. I did not know women are four times more likely than men to have headaches and migraines. Women are way more likely to have a brain tumor. Women are more likely to die of a stroke when they suffer a stroke. Women battle anxiety and depression at higher rates than men do. And, most ominously, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That’s the Bad News.
But Mosconi also presents Good News about women’s brains: they allow women to multi-task far better than men. Women have better verbal memory than men. Mosconi explores the latest findings on how women can protect their brains. I found The XX Brain fascinating reading! GRADE: A TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: Reclaiming Women’s Health PART 1. TAKE IN: THE RESEARCH BEHIND THE PRACTICE
1. The Inner Workings of the Female Brain
2. Dispelling Myths Around Women’s Brain Health
3. Unique Risks to Women’s Brain Health
4. The Brain’s Journey from Pregnancy to Menopause PART 2: TAKE ACTION: GET TESTED
5. The Age of Precision Medicine
6. Medical History and Laboratory Tests
7. Fill Out the Questionnaires PART 3: TAKE CHARGE: OPTIMIZE YOUR BRAIN HEALTH,
MINIMIZE YOUR RISKS
8. Hormones, Antidepressants, and Other Meds: Do You Need Them?
9. Food Matters for Your Gray Matter
10. Eight Steps to a Well-Nourished Brain
11. Supplements for Women’s Brains
12. Women and Exercise: Could Less Be More?
13. Be Mindful: Stress, Sleep, and Balance
14. More Ways to Protect Your Brain
Conclusion: Arrivederci, for Now
Appendix A: Where to Find Help
Appendix B: Diet Plan and Recipes
In April, 23andMe launched a study of the millions of profiles in its DNA database to see if blood type had any effect on covid-19. The results are in and here’s what they found:
Of the over 750,000 participants, those with Type O blood were between 9% and 18% less likely than individuals with other blood types to have tested positive for the virus.
There was little difference in susceptibility among other blood types. After accounting for factors like age and pre-existing conditions, the findings were the same.
I’m Type O Negative so this sounds like Good News to me. But, I’m still wearing a mask and social distancing until a vaccine is available. With many states dealing with rising rates of coronavirus, danger abounds. Stay safe!