NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFFS

Cleveland Browns might be the Cinderella team of the 2020 season. Their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week was their first Playoff victory since January 1, 1995 when the Browns last won a playoff game, 20-13, over the New England Patriots. The Browns face last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the well rested Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are favored by 10 points. Go Browns!

Can the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the third straight time? Vegas thinks so because they’ve made the Saints 3-point favorites. The two oldest QBs in the Playoffs face each other. Can Tom Brady work his magic again in the Playoffs? Go Saints!

Who do you think will win these games?

BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. BUFFALO BILLS

The Baltimore Ravens flew into town today ready to take on the Buffalo Bills in a Divisional game. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, a gifted athlete, presents NFL defenses with migraine headaches with his running ability. Jackson can take over a game–and has several times this season. Just ask the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans.

The Bills will have to bring their “A” game if they have any hope of staying with the Ravens’ potent running attack. Vegas says the Bills are 2 1/2 point favorites, but the game might be closer than that.

In the early game, Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers, the Packers are 7-point favorites. I think Green Bay will win by more than that because the Rams have two injured quarterbacks. Who do you think will win today?

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #624: STAR KING by Jack Vance

Matthew Hughes, who writes faux-Jack Vance novels and short stories has completed a “sequel” to Vance’s famous Demon Princes series. Hughes’ sequel should be published later in 2021, so I decided to reread the Demon Princes series starting with the first volume, Star King (aka, The Star King) first published in 1963. Five criminals organize a raid on the city of Mount Pleasant. Many of the citizens are killed, the rest are sold into slavery. Kirth Gersen and his grandfather are among the few survivors. They migrate to Earth where Gersen’s grandfather trains Kirth to become a skilled assassin whose mission is to avenge the deaths of his family and friends.

Tales of vengeance are a dime a dozen, but Jack Vance’s series features the solving of mysteries which make his series unique. Kirth Gersen has to find each of the five villains before he can extract his revenge. So questions of identity and strategy play large roles in Gersen’s searches of hidden meanings and sinister patterns.

If you’re looking for a series of tales with clever twists and unexpected actions, Demon Princes displays some of Jack Vance’s best writing. GRADE: B+ (for Star King)

HITS OF THE 70s [3-CD Set]

Hits of the 70s comes in a nice hinged tin box with a booklet that provides some information on the songs and the artists. I did not know that Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” hit Number One in 1979. And, I did not know that Mark Lindsey, lead singer and sax player for Paul Revere and the Raiders, also hit Number One in 1970 with “Arizona.” Paul Revere and the Raiders also hit Number One in 1971 with “Indian Reservation.”

Rare Earth did not hit Number One with their rendition of “Get Ready” in 1970–their hit only reached Number Four despite heavy airplay on FM rock radio stations. Once again, there seems to be no rime or reason for the selections of these songs from the Seventies (unless you can discern some pattern). I like Edwin Starr’s “War” and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown.” I’m not so keen on Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue.” Another mixed-bag of songs. Do you see any favorites here? GRADE: B

Tracklist 

A1Edwin StarrWar
A2StoriesBrother Louie
A3BadfingerCome And Get It
A4The Chi-LitesOh Girl
A5Gallery (2)Nice To Be With You
A6Hamilton, Joe Frank & ReynoldsFallin’ In Love (Again)
A7The MiraclesTears Of A Clown
A8Rare EarthGet Ready
A9Paul Revere & The RaidersIndian Reservation
A10Harold Melvin And The Blue NotesIf You Don’t Know Me By Now
B1The SweetBallroom Blitz
B2BadfingerDay After Day
B3Brewer And ShipleyOne Toke Over The Line
B4The Grass RootsTemptation Eyes
B5Hamilton, Joe Frank & ReynoldsDon’t Pull Your Love
B6Mark LindsayArizona
B7The Ozark Mountain DaredevilsJackie Blue
B8Freda PayneBand Of Gold
B9PilotMagic
B10B.J. ThomasRaindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
C1Anita WardRing My Bell
C2Harold Melvin And The Blue NotesThe Love I Lost
C3Todd RundgrenHello It’s Me
C4Mickey Finn’s T. RexBang A Gong (Get It On)
C5HeatwaveBoogie Nights
C6Atlanta Rhythm SectionSo Into You
C7The Chi-LitesHave You Seen Her
C8Maxine NightingaleRight Back Where We Started From
C9Walter EganMagnet And Steel
C10The SweetFox On The Run

WEDNESDAY’S SHORT STORIES #12: BORN OF THE SUN Edited by Mike Ashley

I’ve been buying and reading Mike Ashley’s British Library anthologies the past few years. Ashley has always been a capable editor of Science Fiction anthologies for decades, but these British Library anthologies include more British SF writers than the usual collections. Born of the Sun includes a strong group of stories. Some are classics like Clifford Simak’s “Desertion” and Robert Silverberg’s “Sunrise on Mercury.”

I remember reading Larry Niven’s “Wait It Out” back in 1968 and marveling at Niven’s ingenious solution to a seemingly insolvable problem. Over the decades, I’ve read dozens of Poul Anderson’s stories but “Garden in the Void” was a new one for me. As usual, Anderson creates a unique world with clever plot twists. If you’re looking for a solid SF anthology, I recommend Born of the Sun. GRADE: B

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION: Solar Tour by Mike Ashley — 7

MERCURY: “Sunrise on Mercury” by Robert Silverberg (Science Fiction Stories, May 1957) — 19

VULCAN: “The Hell Planet” by Leslie F. Stone (Wonder Stories, June 1932) — 41

VENUS: “Foundling on Venus” by John and Dorothy De Courcy (Fantastic Universe, March 1954) — 97

MARS: “The Lonely Path” by John Ashcroft (Science Fiction Adventures, January 1961) — 117

ASTEROID BELT: “Garden in the Void” by Poul Anderson (Galaxy, May 1952) — 173

JUPITER: “Desertion” by Clifford D. Simak ( Astounding, November, 1944) — 221

SATURN: “How Beautiful With Banners” by James Blish (Orbit #1, 1966) — 245

URANUS: “Where No Man Walks” by E. R. James (New Worlds, November 1952) — 261

NEPTUNE: “A Baby on Neptune” by Clare Winger Harris & Miles J. Breuer (Amazing Stories, December 1929) — 287

PLUTO: “Wait It Out” by Larry Niven (The Future Unbounded, 1968) — 324

Story Sources — 335

ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENT CHECK

Last time around, the Government sent us an Economic Stimulus Debt Cart (you can read about it here). This time, we received a paper check like the one above. With the Stimulus Debt Card, we ended up buying a new Speed Queen washing machine to replace our 40-year-old Maytag washer (you can read about it here).

This time around, we plan on using the Stimulus Payment to pay for a walk-in shower in our first-floor bathroom. As we grow older, amenities like walk-in showers grow more appealing. We’ve enjoyed walk-in showers in many of the hotel rooms we stayed in back in 2019. How are you going to spend your Economic Stimulus Payment?

LOVE IN THE BLITZ By Eileen Alexander

Love in the Blitz: The Long Lost letters of a Brilliant Young Woman to Her Beloved on the Front came about from a lucky buy at an auction. These fascinating letters from Eileen Alexander to the man she loves, Gershon Ellenbogen (sadly, Gershon’s letters to Eileen are lost) give an intimate view of life in London during World War II. I found Eileen’s insights into the response of Londoners to the Luftwaffe bombing of their city very moving.

When the war starts, Gershon is sent to Cairo to work for the British Military Intelligence in the Royal Air Force. Eileen leaves her studies at Girton College, Cambridge to work for the Air Ministry to assist in the war effort.

Young love might be the purest. Eileen’s passionate letters show her love and her loneliness for the man she will eventually spend most of her life with. If you’re interested in World War II from the ground level, Love in the Blitz reveals plenty of surprising details. If you’re looking for a real romance between two youngsters dealing with a world war that keeps them apart, Love in the Blitz will move you, too. GRADE: A

Table of Contents

Foreword Oswyn Murray vii

Historical Introduction David Crane xv

1 Drumnadrochit, summer 1939 3

September 1939-April 1940 17

2 ‘No time to sit on brood’ 19

May-September 1940 55

3 My Young Fellow 59

September-December 1940 97

4 Blitz 101

January-March 1941 143

5 Intentions 145

March-September 1941 165

6 A Rill Civil Servant 167

September-December 1941 199

7 Your Intended 201

January-May 1942 229

8 Separation 231

May-December 1942 243

9 Limbo 245

January 1943-March 1944 315

10 The Long Wait 317

April 1944-March 1946 447

11 Twin Compasses 449

Postscript 465

Dramatis Personae 467

Illustration Credits 473

SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND, PART II

Ravens (11-5) at Titans (11-5), 1:05 p.m. ET at Nissan Stadium, Nashville; ESPN and ABC could be the most physical game of the Playoffs. Plenty of running and hard-nose football in this one. The Ravens are favored by 3 1/2 points and I hope they win.

Bears (8-8) at Saints (12-4), 4:40 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; CBS, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime Video should be a breeze (or Brees) for the Saints who are favored by 10 points. Go Saints!

Browns (11-5) at Steelers (12-4), 8:15 p.m. ET at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; NBC, looks like a laugher as the Browns struggle to field a team that’s Covid-19-free. The Steelers are favored by 6 points, but they should win by more. Who do you think will win these games?

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. BUFFALO BILLS

The Buffalo Bills (13-3) are hosting their first home Playoff Game in 25 years. The Bills’ opponent, the Indianapolis Colts (11-5), feature the rookie running phenom, Jonathan Taylor. The Colts are led by Philip Rivers who has enough in his tank to bring Indianapolis a Playoff berth. The Bills are 6 1/2 point favorites, but this could be a close game.

LA Rams vs. Settle Seahawks game looks like an easy pick with the Rams QB, Jared Goff, recovering from thumb surgery. I’m going with Rick and Cap’n Bob’s team, the Seahawks, despite being the 3 1/2 point favorite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington looks like another yawner with the Buccaneers favored by 8 points. Washington’s QB Alex Smith is injured, but projected to play. I think this will be an easy win for Tom Brady and the Bucs. Who do you think will win today?

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #623: MARVEL: THE FIRST 80 YEARS

I grew up reading DC comic books in the 1950s and 1960s. My favorites were The Flash, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, and Bat-man. Then I discovered Marvel Comics and I loved Iron Man and Doctor Strange. I also enjoyed Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and Spider-man. Reading Marvel: The First 80 Years was a walk down Memory Lane for me. Plenty of colorful paintings from the years comics meant the most to me. I knew a lot about the early Marvel years, but I knew very little about what happened to Marvel after I stopped reading comics around 1970.

I found the descriptions of the artists, inkers, and writers who produced such legendary super heroes insightful.

If you’re a fan of comics, you’ll love this book. If you’re a Marvel Comics fan, this is a must-buy. If you just like wonderful artwork, this book will delight you! GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

The 1930s and 1940s — 14
The 1950s — 30
The 1960s — 42
the 1970s — 70
The 1980s — 92
The 1990s — 110
The 2000s — 132
The 2010s — 150