As we get ready for Thanksgiving, it should also be time to give thanks to the veterans who sacrifice for us. Yes, I know Veterans Day is supposed to cover that, but Thanksgiving is another opportunity to express our gratitude to our veterans. And, if you aren’t aware of what veterans face returning from Active Service to Civilian Life, David Finkel’s Thank You For Your Service shows the struggles our service men and women have to contend with.
He was shot in the head and the bullet ruined the part of his brain that regulates such things as emotions and impulse control. It also left him partially paralyzed… he has no sensation on his left side. He can’t easily stand. He can’t move his left foot or toes. He can’t straighten his left arm. He can’t wiggle his left fingers. He can’t wink his left eye. (p. 92)
The wives of veterans deal with husbands with emotional and mental problems. Widows deal with crushing losses. I have a heightened appreciation for military veterans after reading Thank You For Your Service. MSNBC’s MORNING JOE picked David Finkel’s book for their Book Club. GRADE: A
Catching Fire earned more than $161 million its Opening Weekend. I can’t say its success surprised me. When I watched Catching Fire last Friday, the theater was packed with teenagers. I suspect most read the enormously popular Hunger Games trilogy. The main attraction for me in these movies are Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen who’s handy with a bow and arrow, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta the guy who adores her, Liam Hemsworth as the guy Katniss really loves, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Game Master. For those of you not familiar with plot of this series, basically the future is a dystopia where once a year “volunteers” from the 12 Districts fight to the death in the Hunger Games. There is one winner (survivor) and they are showered with money, comforts, and fame. The old 1% vs. the 99% antagonism highlights almost every scene. The gladiatorial aspects of this 75th Anniversary of the Hunger Games comes with a switch. Former champions will fight in this special event. Although the movie is too long (2 hours and 20 minutes), most of the audience loved every minute of it. GRADE: B+
Katie just returned from a week visiting a friend in Singapore. She loved Singapore but the 88-degree days were not to her liking. I’ve encouraged both of my children to travel while they’re young. Patrick is headed to a conference in South Korea in February. In March, Patrick is attending a wedding in India (Art Scott is hoping it has elephants!). My traveling days are pretty much over, but I enjoy the travel stories my kids share. How do you consider travel? A blessing…or a curse?
The Mentalist: Red John–The Final Chapter airs tonight with Patrick Jane finally confronting the serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter. The Red John search has dominated the TV series from the beginning. I like the more humorous and whimsical episodes rather than the grim and murderous Red John episodes. Simon Baker, who plays police consultant Patrick Jane, stated in interviews that he’s “relieved” that this plotline is being resolved. I’m still skeptical that the eerily powerful and cunning serial killer can be brought down so easily. But I’ll be watching tonight to see how this story arc gets resolved…if it does. This may not rival the end of the search for the on-armed man on The Fugitive but it holds some drama for long-time fans of The Mentalist. The Buffalo Bills are on a bye this Sunday. How is your favorite NFL team going to do today?
At 2:50 P.M. EST The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special will be broadcast simultaneously world-wide. If you are a Doctor Who fan, I expect you’ll be watching. There have been plenty of rumors and hints about the story-line and which incarnations of the Doctor will be shown. We know the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) will be featured as well as the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith). Beyond that is anyone’s guess. I discovered Doctor Who when our local PBS station broadcasted it. The episodes starred Tom Baker. I loved his sly wit. I didn’t follow the other Doctors until I stumbled on BBC America a couple years ago and instantly clicked with Matt Smith and his lovely Companion played by the vivacious Karen Gillian (my favorite Companion ever!). I’ve gone back and watched many of the earlier Doctor Who episodes. They have a charm most American SF series lack. After today’s The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special Doctor Who fans can look forward to the Doctor Who Christmas Special which will be bittersweet as Matt Smith gives his last performance as The Doctor.
Bob Randisi commented on last week’s Black Money FFB post that he really liked Ross Macdonald’s The Doomsters from 1958. I figured I might as well complete the Lew Archer trifecta by doing three Ross Macdonald books in a row for FFB. Like most of Ross Macdonald’s mysteries, The Doomsters presents a dysfunctional family with plenty of secrets. Lew Archer has to explore the past in order to solve a murder in the present. Ross Macdonald sprinkles in some Oedipus references, but long-time readers of the Archer series know all about troubled father-son relationships. Along with The Chill, The Galton Case, and Black Money, The Doomsters is one of the best books in the series.
After 25 years of faithful service, I replaced our trusty Toro snowblower, Big Red, with a new snow blower, the Husqvarna Big Orange. The weather guessers are predicting a Bad Winter for Western NY so I figured we needed to be prepared. Plenty of our friends have snow plowing services but the truth be told, I actually enjoy going out and snowblowing. Of course, if the wind is blowing the Wrong Way I end up eating snow. The crispness of a snowy winter day lights up my life. And, of course, I’m built for snow and cold. I had a lump in my throat as my fix-it guy took Big Red away (he wanted Big Red for parts). Saying good-bye to a reliable, dependable machine isn’t easy. I’ll let you know how Big Orange deals with the first big snowfall.
I started ordering books from AMAZON.COM back in the 1990s. I loved the selection and the discounted prices. Later, I became an AMAZON Prime person to get the free 2-day shipping perks. Brad Stone’s The Everything Store tells how Jeff Bezos founded AMAZON and stayed true to his vision of a web site that would literally sell EVERYTHING! Of course at the beginning, Bezos started with selling books. Later, he branched out to music CDs and DVDs. Later, there were successes and failures selling toys, pet food, and jewelry. Stone takes the reader through the good times and the bad times as AMAZON struggles with Bezos mantra of “Grow, grow, grow.” The stories of how 1-CLICK ordering, Look-Inside-the-Book, and the Kindle fascinated me. I liked this book so much I’m having my students read it next semester. If you’re interested in how the premier Internet company came about, The Everything Store delivers a full account. GRADE: A
Almost Human, the new futuristic cop show on FOX, reminds me of Harlan Ellison’s “Brillo” and Robocop. Crime is running rampant in 2048 so cops are paired with “synthetics”–androids with artificial intelligence. Los Angles Police Dectective John Kennex (played by Karl Urban) wakes up from a coma after he’s shot in a botched police raid on a Syndicate stronghold. Kennex believes he and his partner (who dies in the raid) were abandoned by a synthetic. In order to return to duty, Kennex has to work with an android partner. His android partner, Dorian (played by Michael Ealy) have an initial antagonistic relationship. But, as with in most buddy stories, both human and android earn each other’s respect. There isn’t much SF on TV these days so Almost Human becomes the de facto standard…until The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special! GRADE: INCOMPLETE