FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #574: THE BEST FROM ORBIT Edited by Damon Knight


I’ve read about a dozen of the 19 volumes of ORBIT that Damon Knight edited from 1966 to 1976. I prefer the early volumes that featured stories like “The Secret Place” by Richard McKenna (which won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for 1966). The Best From ORBIT (1975) collects stories Damon Knight considered “the Best” from Volumes 1-10. My favorite story in this anthology is Robert Silverberg’s “Passengers” (winner of a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for 1969). I’m a big Silverberg fan and “Passengers” is one of his best stories. I like Harlan Ellison’s “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” and Gene Wolfe’s “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories.”

I found Damon Knight preferred stories for ORBIT that were “different.” That strategy leads to a couple R. A. Lafferty stories (some people love them, others hate them), a couple Joanna Russ stories, and a couple stories by Damon Knight’s second wife, Kate Wilheim.

Instead of writing traditional introductions to these stories, Damon Knight included correspondence from various writers–Barry Malzberg, Ursula K. Le Guin, and “James Tiptree, Jr.” In a letter to Virginia Kidd (February 16, 1970), Knight writes, “If by magic I could make writers forget all the Thrilling Wondersthey ever read, I would do it. Nine out of ten writers in this field are still writing for Sam Merwin, & it is sad.” (p. 347) There you have it: Damon Knight’s view of traditional Science Fiction. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
A Sort of Introduction / Damon Knight — 1
The secret place / Richard McKenna — 3
The loolies are here / Allison Rice — 18
The doctor / Ted Thomas — 24
Baby, you were great / Kate Wilhelm — 31
The hole on the corner / R.A. Lafferty — 45
I gave her sack and sherry / Joanna Russ — 56
Mother to the world / Richard Wilson — 71
Don’t wash the carats / Philip José Farmer — 104
The planners / Kate Wilhelm — 109
The changeling / Gene Wolfe — 124
Passengers / Robert Silverberg — 135
Shattered like a glass goblin / Harlan Ellison — 147
The time machine / Langdon Jones — 156
Look, you think you’ve got troubles / Carol Carr — 176
The big flash / Norman Spinrad — 187
Jim and Mary G. / James Sallis — 206
The end / Ursula K. Le Guin — 212
Continued on next rock / R.A. Lafferty — 221
The island of Doctor Death and other stories / Gene Wolfe — 242
Horse of air / Gardner R. Dozois — 259
One life, furnished in early poverty / Harlan Ellison — 273
Rite of spring / Avram Davidson — 288
The bystander / Thom Lee Wharton — 295
The encounter / Kate Wilhelm — 313
Gleepsite / Joanna Russ — 334
Binaries / James Sallis — 339
Al / Carol Emshwiller — 350
Live, from Berchtesgaden / George Alec Effinger — 363

THE ECONOMISTS’ HOUR: FALSE PROPHETS, FREE MARKETS, AND THE FRACTURE OF SOCIETY By Binyamin Appelbaum


“In the four decades between 1969 and 2008, a period I call the ‘Economists’ Hour,’ borrowing a phrase from the historian Thomas McCraw, economists played a leading role in curbing taxation and public spending, deregulating large sectors of the economy, and clearing the way for globalization.” (p. 5)

The four decades Binyamin Appelbaum refers to featured colorful economists like Milton Friedman, Arthur Lafffer, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Alice Rivlin, Janet Yellen, and Ben Bernanke. Appelbaum puts economic ideas in context. For example, economics was behind Nixon’s decision to discontinue the military draft. Economics persuaded courts to abandon much of the regulation of corporations. Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer persuaded Congress and President Reagan to cut taxes (kicking off the start of the horrible debt we’re burdened with today). Of course, many of these economic ideas led to our present income inequality and class struggles. But in order to critique our present economic position, you need to understand how we got here. Appelbaum’s The Economists’ Hour describes the players and ideas and economic arguments that transformed our Economy. Scary stuff. What do you think of our Economy today? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION 3
PART I
1. Markets in Everything 21
2. Friedman v. Keynes 46
3. One Nation, Under Employed 67
PART II
5. In Corporations We Trust 131
6. Freedom from Regulation 161
7. The Value of Life 185
PART III
8. Money, Problems 217
9. Made in Chile 254
10. Paper Fish 285
Conclusion 315
Acknowledgements 333
Notes 337
Index 427

BLUE MOON by Lee Child


I skipped ahead in my project to read the Reacher series in order to Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel because I needed a quick read during the Holiday chaos. Reacher involves himself in a situation where an elderly couple find themselves deeply in debt to loan sharks. This morphs into a gang war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian criminals.

In order to wreck maximum havoc, Reach enlists a feisty waitress, a former Marine, and a former tank commander (now a Security consultant) to bring down the Albanian HQ–a lumberyard–and the Ukrainian home base. The body count grows and grows in Blue Moon as Reacher and his team confront groups of Bad Guys. Of course, the police are nowhere to be found so it’s the Wild Wild West in an urban setting. Sure, this is silly but it was the exactly right book to get me through the tumultuous time between Christmas and New Year’s. GRADE: B

UNCUT GEMS


I’m not an Adam Sandler fan, but Sandler somehow conjures up the performance of his life in Uncut Gems. Sandler plays manic Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler. Howard is a compulsive gambler (he loves NBA games!) and his betting losses have landed him in trouble with loan sharks and the thugs they employ as “debt collectors.”

I have never seen a more exhausting movie! Howard is hyper and constantly wheeling-and-dealing. Directors Josh and Benny Safdie ratchet up the action and stress in every scene. I thought Idina Mensel (of “Let It Go” FROZEN fame) gave a convincing performance as Howard’s long-suffering wife who’s ready to let Howard go and end their marriage. I loved Julia Fox, Howard’s mistress, as she both excites Howard and drives him crazy. And Boston Celtic great, Kevin Garnett (who plays himself), delivers a slam-dunk performance. The New York City Diamond District sparkles in this film. As Patti Abbott has pointed out, Uncut Gems is violent–but it will leave you breathless! GRADE: B+

BETTING ON THE BILLS


Last week I did something I’ve never done before: I drove to the Seneca Niagara Casino’s new SPORTSBOOK and bet on the Buffalo Bills to defeat the Houston Texans. I got 2 1/2 points. Since sports gambling is legal now, I decided to experience the process. There were actually 83 different bets I could have made: total points (over/under), number of pass receptions, number of field goals, etc. But, I just went with a vanilla win/lose bet. It only took a minute.

During the Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans game, I was feeling really great about my bet on the Bills, especially when the Bills had a 16-0 Half-time lead. But, the Second Half was a different story. Mistakes, miscues, and mis-steps lead to a 19-19 score at the end of regulation. The Overtime quarter offered the Bills chances to win…but more mis-fires occurred. Congratulations to the Texans on playing hard from behind and winning a close Playoff game.

What did I learn? First, I probably shouldn’t have bet the Bills game. I should have bet the Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots game. Emotion skews judgment. If I bet again, I need to be more dispassionate and analytical. Do you bet on sports games? Now that it’s legal and available, will you make more sporting bets?

MINNESOTA VIKINGS VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (FOX 1:00 P.M) and SEATTLE SEAHAWKS VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (NBC 4:30 P.M.)



The Buffalo Bills lost to the Houston Texans 22-19 on an OT field goal. I’m bummed, but now I can’t wait until next year!

The Saints are favored by 8 points over the Vikings. The Vikings have been an up-and-down team all season. I think they’ll be down today. An easy win for the Saints!

The Seahawks are favored by 1 1/2 points in this game at Philly. The Eagles are by far the weakest team in the Playoffs. They are riddled with injuries. I think the Seahawks will put this game away early and move on in the Playoffs. And Russell Wilson has NEVER lost in Philadelphia! Who do you think will win today?

BUFFALO BILLS VS. HOUSTON TEXANS (ESPN/ABC 4:30 P.M) and TENNESSEE TITANS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (CBS 8:30 P.M.)



The Buffalo Bills take on the dangerous Houston Texans. The Bills are 3-point underdogs. The Texans can put up a lot of points with Deshaun Watson flinging the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. The Texans have also activated JJ Watt for this game. The last time the Bills played the Texans, they sacked Deshaun Watson 7 times…and still lost the game. I’ll be on the edge of my seat for this one!

In the late game, the New England Patriots face the surprising Tennessee Titans. The Patriots lost a rare Home Game last week to the Miami Dolphins so they’ll be fired up for this game. The Patriots are favored by 5 1/2 points. The Titans may make the final score close, but I think the Patriots will be moving on in the Playoffs after this game. Who do you think will win these games?

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #573: THE PLEASANT PROFESSION OF ROBERT A. HEINLEIN By Farah Mendlesohn


Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert A. Heinlein was my favorite Science Fiction writer. I read all of Heinlein’s “Juveniles” and many of his short stories. Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein sums up Heinlein and his work in a detailed, satisfying fashion. I enjoyed Mendlesohn’s analysis of Heinlein’s “Future History” stories. She provides information I wasn’t aware of in her discussions of Heinlein’s novels. Many people think that Heinlein’s “Juveniles” ended with Starship Troopers (1959) but the series really ended in 1963 with Orphans of the Sky (a fix-up novel) and Podkayne of Mars: Her Life and Times.

I confess: my reading relationship with Heinlein soured after I Will Fear No Evil (1970). It was on shaky ground after Glory Road (1963) (I disliked the Second Half). Farnham’s Freehold (1964) and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) posed political positions I was uncomfortable with. I never read the rest of Heinlein’s novels from the 1970s or 1980s despite the fact they were Bestsellers. I found The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein full of information and solid critical perspectives. If you’re a Heinlein fan, this is a must-read! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Biography; 13
Chapter 2: Heinlein’s Narrative Arc; 73
Short Stories 74
The Juvenile Novels 87
The Adult Novels 96
Concludsions 104
Chapter 3: Technique; 107
The Cinematic 108
The Sidekick 122
The Engineering Effect 128
Time Tales 136
Chapter 4: Rhetoric; 145
The Sentimental 145
The Rationalized Fantasy 160
The Picaresque 163
Chapter 5: Heinlein and Civic Society; 181
The Structure of Society 182
Family and Childrearing 201
The Making of Society 223
Chapter 6: Heinlein and the Civic Revolution; 229
Revolution 229
Guns: An Aside 237
Disability 258
Chapter 7: Racism, Anti-Racism and the Construction of Civic Society; 263
How Many Non-White Character Does Heinlein Have? 263
Statements of Anti-Racism 281
Farnham’s Freehold 286
Slavery 303
Chapter 8: The Right Ordering of Self; 315
Personal Honour 318
Sexual Integrity 325
Sex and Sexuality 340
Chapter 9: Heinlein’s Gendered Self; 357
Heinlein Masculine Self 357
Heinlein’s Interstitial Self 368
Heinlein’s Female Self 383
The Craving for Family 404
Epilogue: The Cat Who Walked Through Genres; 415
Appendix 1: The Pattern of Publication; 431
Appendix 2: Names from Starship Troopers 432
First Publications of Heinlein’s Fiction (In Chronological Order) 433
Selected Non-Fiction by Robert A. Heinlein; 439
Bibliography; 441
Acknowledgements; 451
A Note on the Author; 453
Index; 455
Supporters 465

THE NEW YORK TIMES LIST OF THE 10 MOST INFLUENTIAL MOVIES OF THE DECADE


The end of 2019 wasn’t just the end of a year, it also marked the end of a decade. The New York Times published a list of the most influential movies of the decade. Check out their list below in alphabetical order. What were your favorite movies of the past decade?
AMERICA SNIPER (2014)
THE AVENGERS (2012)
BLACKFISH (2013)
BRIDESMAIDS (2011)
FROZEN (2013)
GET OUT (2017)
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013)
MOONLIGHT (2016)
OKJA (2017)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)