Sing Street will delight fans of The Commitments. The story is set in Ireland in the mid-1980s. John Carney, who wrote and directed Sing Street, gave this summery of his movie: “Boy meets girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy starts band.” Connor (Ferdia Walson-Peelo) deals with a troubled family situation. Connor is sent to a crappy (but cheap) school where he gets beaten up and harassed by the priest running the cruel enterprise. But things change when Connor falls in love with Raphina (Lucy Boynton) who has aspirations to be a model. In a stunning maneuver, Connor invites Raphina to be part of his band’s music video. Amused, she agrees. The only problem is Connor doesn’t have a band. Life in Ireland in the Eighties isn’t much fun. Economic malaise stifles life. But Connor has a plan and you’re going to root for him to succeed. Carney also provides original music in the mode of Duran Duran, the Cure, and Joy Division. The soundtrack to Sing Street is worth a listen, too. GRADE: A-
1. Rock N Roll Is A Risk (Dialogue) – Jack Reynor
2. Stay Clean – Motorhead
3. The Riddle of the Model – Sing Street
4. Rio – Duran Duran
5. Up – Sing Street
6. To Find you – Sing Street
7. Town Called Malice – The Jam
8. In Between Days – The Cure
9. A Beautiful Sea – Sing Street
10. Maneater – Daryl Hall & John Oates
11. Steppin’ Out – Joe Jackson
12. Drive It Like You Stole It – Sing Street
13. Up (Bedroom Mix) – Sing Street
14. Pop Muzik – M
15. Girls – Sing Street
16. Brown Shoes – Sing Street
17. Go Now – Adam Levine
18. Up – The Score
19. Drive It Like You Stole It – Hudson Thames
Science Fiction of the 50s is part of a trilogy of anthologies; the other two volumes are Science Fiction of the 30s and Science Fiction of the 40s. You can read more about the AVON series here. Of the three volumes, I prefer Science Fiction of the 50s. Just glance at the stories in this volume. I started reading SF in the 1950s so many of these stories bring some fond memories with them. I recommend that you don’t read the informative introductions to the stories until you’ve finished reading the stories first. Sadly, those introductions contain spoilers but no warnings! If you’re as big a fan of 1950s Science Fiction as I am, you’ll really enjoy Science Fiction of the 50s.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface by Frederik Pohl
Spectator Sport by John D. MacDonald
Feedback by Katherine MacLean
DP by Jack Vance
The Liberation of Earth by William Tenn
A Work of Art by James Blish
The County of the Kind by Damon Knight
The Education of Tigress McCardle by C.M. Kornbluth
The Cage by A. Bertram Chandler
The Last of the Deliverers by Poul Anderson
A Bad Day for Sales by Fritz Leiber
Saucer of Loneliness by Theodore Sturgeon
Heirs Apparent by Robert Abernathy
Adrift on the Policy Level by Chan Davis
Short in the Chest by Margaret St Clair
5,271,009 by Alfred Bester
The Academy by Robert Sheckley
Nobody Bothers Gus by Algis Budrys
Happy Birthday Dear Jesus by Frederik Pohl
Bettyann by Kris Neville
Dark Interlude by Fredric Brown & Mack Reynolds
What Have I Done by Mark Clifton
Love O Careless Love by Barry N. Malzberg
I liked Meghan Trainor’s first CD, Title. My review of it is here. I liked Meghan Trainor’s doo-wop sound in songs like “My Selfish Heart.” This newly released CD, Thank You, is a hodgepodge of songs and styles. There’s some rap, some ballads, some pop songs. Diane listened to a few songs and remarked, “These songs all sound the same.” I did enjoy “NO,” “Kindly Calm Me Down,” “Friends,” and “Champagne Problems.” The best songs on this CD are the BONUS TRACKS: “Goosebumps” and “Throwback Love” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a transistor radio in the 1950s! But you can only get those tracks on the TARGET version of the CD. Let’s just says Meghan Trainor is having a slight “sophomore slump.” I’m sure her next CD will be much better. Check out Meghan singing “NO” in TARGET below. GRADE: B-
1 Watch Me Do 2:50
2 Me Too 3:01
3 NO 3:34
4 Better (feat. Yo Gotti) 2:48
5 Hopeless Romantic 4:05
6 I Love Me 2:48
7 Kindly Calm Me Down 3:59
8 Woman Up 3:29
9 Just a Friend to You 2:45
10 I Won’t Let You Down 3:20
11 Dance Like Yo Daddy 3:03
12 Champagne Problems 3:42
15. Thank You
17 Throwback Love
The Buffalo News has published another one of my articles. You can read the original here. Some of you may have read this article thanks to Bill Crider’s blog. Bill provided the link and some of you commented insightfully here.
Or you can read the text below:
“I’ve worked for General Motors for over 20 years. I’ve earned over $2 million … and I’m broke.”
I was hired by General Motors to teach “It’s Your Money,” a financial literacy course. About a dozen GM workers signed up for the course. I opened the first class by going around the table asking each worker why he decided to take the course. That’s when one of the participants admitted he had no savings despite earning millions of dollars.
The other workers jumped in with similar stories. These were hardworking assembly line employees. Frequently, they worked 10 hours a day, six days a week. Some admitted they had six-digit incomes. Yet almost every worker in my class said that he had zero savings.
In the latest issue of the Atlantic, writer and critic Neal Gabler appears with a paper bag over his head. Gabler confesses he could not come up with $400 cash if an emergency struck. And Gabler says 47 percent of working Americans couldn’t come up with the money, either.
How did we get to this point in America where people who work hard, have graduate degrees and own homes find themselves so cash poor?
I found most of my GM workers, despite making a lot of money, spent a lot of money. The worker who uttered that statement about making $2 million working for General Motors over the years admitted that he had an all-terrain vehicle, Jet Skis and a boat. One of my suggestions was that he divest himself of some of these “toys” and bank the savings.
Few schools offer courses in money management. Gabler confesses he knows very little about money matters, which explains a lot about his current insolvent monetary position. But if Gabler had a course in handling money back in high school or college, he probably wouldn’t be in the cash-strapped position that he and millions of Americans find themselves in today.
In America, the middle class is being squeezed. Technology transforms jobs. The old Little Rock needed 300 sailors to man the ship. The new Little Rock needs only 64 sailors to do the work because of all the new technology. You can see this same scenario being played out in industry, health care and agriculture.
At the same time technology changes the workplace, students discover they need more and more education to make themselves employable. A generation ago, a high school diploma could get you a pretty good job. Now, many jobs require a college degree. And in order to acquire that college degree, many students plunge into massive student loan debt.
The total of student loan debts exceeds credit card debt in America. But the two debts go hand in hand. The same people working two jobs to pay off their student loan debts frequently resort to using their credit cards to pay for necessities when they come up short.
Young Americans also find themselves stuck in a “gig economy.” Gone are the days where you would work for a company for 30 years and get a pension. Now, many jobs are short term “gigs” where the worker is hired as a private contractor with little or no benefits. Once the project is concluded, the job goes away. And the stressful job hunt begins again.
How can stressed-out members of the middle class survive in this new, transitory economy? I have three suggestions:
1.) Lower your expenses. Do you need a 2,500-square-foot house? Downsizing to a 1,500-square-foot home would save a lot of money in heating, cooling and taxes. Do you need two cars? Do you need 500 channels? Reduce your expenses and the result will be money you can save or invest.
2.) Have multiple revenue streams. Your job may pay for your day-to-day expenses, but you might need a second job to keep yourself financially secure. Investing in high-dividend stocks can also provide needed cash flow.
3.) Take a money management course.
These steps should ensure that you’ll have at least $400 if an emergency strikes.
George Kelley, of North Tonawanda, is a professor at Erie Community College City Campus.
Splash just appeared in Blu-ray format so of course I had to buy a copy. I really like this silly movie about Ton Hanks falling in love with a mermaid. Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, and John Candy fill out the talented cast. This was an early film (1984) in Ron Howard’s directing career so it bursts with energy and fun. Special features include an audio commentary and Making A Splash, a 24 minute interview that includes Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, Babaloo Mandel, Lowell Ganz, and Tom Hanks as they talk about the making of Splash. I really enjoyed the Audition Tapes with both Tom Hanks’s and Daryl Hannah’s original auditions for Ron Howard. Nice package!
After 15 wonderful years, our local remainder bookstore, The Book Outlet, is closing its doors. You won’t be surprised to learn I bought over 1000 books from The Book Outlet over those years. The books were organized by sections–Science Fiction, Mysteries, Large Print, Biographies, etc–so it was easy to find what you were looking for. New stock arrived weekly. The BARGAIN section (aka, Books for a Buck) was a favorite of mine. Over the years, the stock morphed several times. The owner tried to attract a younger audience by stocking comic books and graphic novels. Then there was the great doll experiment when dolls competed with books for shelf space. But in the end, The Book Outlet succumbed to changing times and the ever-increasing costs of its lease. Today is the last day The Book Outlet will be open. I intend to drive over and buy one last book. Western New York is down to just a handful of used bookstores now. It’s a sad day.
Our new Bassett kitchen table and chairs arrived last week. After living with the new furniture for a while, Diane pronounced the new set acceptable. The tulips are the arrangement Patrick and Katie sent Diane for Mother’s Day. Diane took this photo with her iPhone. The next planned acquisition: a new refrigerator for the kitchen. But that’s a month away at least.
I enjoyed this new movie version of The Jungle Book. We all grew up with the animated version that was a lot of fun. This CGI triumph brings the jungle and its inhabitants onto the big screen without any PETA problems. The characters are voiced by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken. Neel Sethi plays Mowgli, the child raised by wolves. Mowgli becomes the target of Shere Khan, the ferocious tiger. Directed by Jon Favreau (of IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2 fame), The Jungle Book delights adults and children alike. I read Kipling’s The Jungle Book and reviewed it here. There are plenty of adventures for Mowgli to take if Disney wants to make some sequels. GRADE: B+
This science fiction novel from 1959 blends several themes. At the heart of the novel is a First Contact encounter with aliens called The Others. The First Contact doesn’t go well (no surprise there). A band of super secret scientists work to manipulate Earth and its colony worlds (a lot like Asimov’s FOUNDATION). A rogue billionaire threatens the entire Galaxy (shades of Donald Trump!). That’s a lot to pack into 159 pages, but John Brunner handles all of these conflicts with aplomb. If you’re in the mood for a pulpy SF novel with Big Ideas, give the The World Swappers a try.
I’m a big fan of Matthew Hughes’s faux-Jack Vance stories. Devil Or Angel & Other Stories contains some of those fun Dying Earth tales, but Hughes shows he can write a wide range of stories. The title story, “Devil Or Angel,” is a wild romp about the Afterlife. Many of the stories explore comic themes. “The Devil You Don’t” shows that evil is more complicated than you would think. But my favorite stories in this collection all have a Jack Vance flavor: “Grolion of Almery,” and “From the Discourses and Edifications of Liw Osfeo.” If you’re looking for an entertaining and provocative short story collection, I’d recommend Matthew Hughes’s Devil Or Angel & Other Stories. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Devil or Angel
The Devil You Don’t
Not a Problem
Grolion of Almery
Timmy, Come Home
Go Tell the Phoenicians
The Hat Thing
Hell of a Fix
The Ugly Duckling
From the Discourses and Edifications of Liw Osfeo