THE NORDIC THEORY OF EVERYTHING: IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE By Ann Partanen

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Should we be more like Finland? Ann Partanem thinks we should. Partanen moved to the U.S. from Finland and went through cultural shock. In Finland, the government pays for all health care expenses. The government pays for College, too. Students also get a $600 per month stipend. Child care is subsidized. Crime rates are low. The elderly are supported by government aging programs. Poverty rates are very low. Ann Partanen makes a powerful argument for a better American lifestyle. I’d like to see some of the programs that obviously work in Finland tried out in the United States. What do you think? GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
In the land of the free: becoming American
The Nordic theory of love
Pippi Longstocking’s magic
Family values for real : strong individuals form a beautiful team
How children achieve : secrets for attaining educational success
Healthy body, healthy mind : how universal health care could set you free
Of us, by us, and for us : go ahead, ask what your country can do for you
The lands of opportunity : bringing back the American dream
Business as unusual : how to run a company in the twenty-first century
The pursuit of happiness : it’s time to rethink success.

IT’S ONLY A PLAY By Terrence McNally

IT'S ONLY A PLAY
Diane and I enjoy regional theater productions so we attended the performance of the Buffalo United Artists production at the Alleyway Theater in Buffalo. The play is set after the first performance of a new Broadway play, The Golden Egg. The characters include an leading actress with an ankle monitor, a director who is a kleptomaniac, a producer who knows more about stock options than drama, a Broadway actor who sold out to Hollywood, and a tormented playwright. As you can guess, there are a lot of comic situations with a sarcastic view of Broadway productions. Yet, despite all the mockery, Terrance McNally’s play does celebrate the love of theater and acting. If this funny play shows up in your neighborhood, I recommend you go see it and laugh. GRADE: A-

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. BUFFALO BILLS

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. BUFFALO BILLS
Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan pronounced, “We have won the Off-Season.” No one around here knows what that means. Many Bills fans want Rex Ryan drug-tested. The prospects for the Real Season do not look good. Running Back Karlos Williams is suspended for four games because of a failed drug test. Rookie Running Back Jonathan Williams was arrested for drunk driving and will probably face NFL disciplinary charges. That forced the Bills to sign frequently injured Reggie Bush. Not good. What are the prospects for your favorite NFL team?

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #384: SCI-FI CHRONICLES Edited by Guy Haley

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Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Ficiton is a visual feast! Every page of this 578-page tome is packed with book covers, magazine covers, still photos from movies, and illustrations galore! The book is roughly chronological and shows the development of the genre through a combination of visuals and mini-essays on various SF topics. Published in 2014, this book slipped by me. I don’t recall any reviews online or in LOCUS. But I stumbled across Sci-Fi Chronicles by accident recently. If you’re a fan of Science Fiction magazines, SF novels, SF movies, comic books, and popular culture in general, you’ll find plenty to like between these pages! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword by Stephen Baxter
Introduction
How to Use This Book
Chapter 1: 1818-1925
Early Science Fiction: The Birth of a Genre
Chapter 2: 1920-50
The Days of Pulp: The “Golden Age” of Science Fiction
Chapter 3: 1950-70
The Era of the Atom: The Marvels and Perils of Science
Chapter 4: 1970-90
Dark Futures: Apocalypses and the War in Space
Chapter 5: 1990-Present
The Adventure Continues: Modern Science Fiction
Famous Spaceships
The Science Fiction Chronology
Genre Definitions
Contributors
Index
Picture Credits
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RAIN DOGS By Adrian McKinty

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A woman’s body is found outside an Irish castle. It looks like she jumped to her death. But her shoes are on the wrong feet. Detective Inspector Sean Duffy investigates this “locked room” mystery and is confounded for most of Rain Dogs. I’ve read Adrain McKinty’s series about Ireland in the 1980s. You can read my reviews here, here and here. If you’re a fan of police procedurals and locked room mysteries, you’ll find a lot to like in Rain Dogs. GRADE: A-

YO, KATIE!

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Katie was visiting Patrick in New York City. Patrick is part of a 6-week conference at New York University on Privacy & Security. Katie took the train down from Boston and spent some time with her brother. They saw Cats on Broadway and did some sight-seeing. Here is one of the new NY sculptures. Very cool! Here’s an explanation of what you’re seeing:

“These days Deborah Kass is known for her giant, yellow — and very Instagrammable — OY/YO sculpture on the waterfront in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. About 8 feet tall and 17 feet long, the aluminum sculpture consists of two perfectly proportioned letters, “O” and “Y.” The piece reads as “OY” if you are viewing it from Brooklyn and as “YO” if you are looking across the river from Manhattan. It’s two simple letters, but packed into them is a commentary on linguistics, gentrification, and the power of social media. In a little over six months, it’s become part of the New York skyline.”
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THE KILLING JOKE [Blu-ray]

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The Killing Joke, a new animated feature, shows how the Joker became the Joker. I’m always interested in origin stories so seeing a failed stand-up comic transform into the Crown Prince of Crime fascinated me. Also of interest to some of you, The Killing Joke is rated “R” because of language and–believe it or not–sex. In addition to the animated film, this Blu-ray contains Special Features: The Many Faces of the Joker featurette, Madness Set to Music featurette, from the DC comics Vault–2 Bonus Cartoons, and a sneak peek at the next DC animated movie. If you’re a fan of Batman and the Joker, you’ll enjoy this new episode in their battle. GRADE: A

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD By John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is as much a Harry Potter book as The Importance of Being Earnest. Based on a J. K. Rowling “story,” this muddled play lacks all of the Sense of Wonder of the Harry Potter books. Very little magic. Very little mystery. Too much shouting and arguing. The play is set 19 years after the vanquishing of Voldemort. But all is not well in Harry Potter’s world. His son, Albus, could unsettle the Universe. I found the script limp and lifeless. A major disappointment! GRADE: F

NEW BED FOR THE GUEST ROOM!

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In our never-ending quest to stimulate the U.S. Economy, Diane and I went out and bought a new bed–Beautyrest mattress, box-spring, upgraded bed frame, and headboard–for the Guest Room. Diane has been busy over the past six months cleaning out her mother’s bedroom. We had that room painted, going from white to blue. New windows and window treatments were installed. We had the carpet cleaned. Diane got rid of some furniture, too. A curio hutch, her mother’s headboard and foot-board, and swivel rocker are all gone now. Are you contemplating home improvements?

SUICIDE SQUAD

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Suicide Squad works the genre of misfit missions made famous by The Dirty Dozen and The Expendables. Viola Davis plays a Government official who puts together this team of “meta-humans” who have “powers.” Will Smith plays Deadshot (an assassin who never misses). The Big Attraction in this movie is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn: the Joker’s psychopathic girl friend. There are assorted other characters but they’re just filler. The Suicide Squad is given an impossible rescue mission. Their opponent is a supremely powerful being from another dimension called “The Enchantress.” The Suicide Squad’s battle with the Enchantress is the most boring confrontation in recent memory. Dull and tedious. For example, the powerful Enchantress (who could just turn the Suicide Squad into stone) decides to fight them with swords. Not magic swords…just swords. The Suicide Squad bored me and I’ll bet it will bore you. Skip it. GRADE: C-