THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY [HBO]


Alex Gibney, who impressed me with his Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2004) and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2014), scores with another “must-see” documentary: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019). The Inventor shows how Stanford University drop-out, Elizabeth Holmes, managed to fool Henry Kissinger, James “Mad Dog” Maddis, George Shultz, and Rupert Murdock and dozens of other wealthy men into investing millions into her company, Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes’s dream was to take a small sample of blood and having her machine, The Edison, run hundreds of blood tests on it. If The Edison had worked, it would have revolutionized medical testing.

But, The Edison never worked and Alex Gibney shows why it failed. Gibney also shows how Elizabeth Holmes built a company–at one time valued at $9 billion dollars (and she owned 50% of the stock!)–based on lies and fakery and phony science. Elizabeth Holmes conned savvy investors, politicians (Presidents Clinton and Obama are shown praising her), and the media (Holmes was on the cover of Fortune). People wanted to believe in her dream and bought into her vague promises. Gibney then exposes how the entire scheme started to unravel. Theranos went bankrupt. Holmes was indicted for fraud and is awaiting trial.

Last year, I chose John Carryrou’s book about Elizabeth Holmes, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, as one of my Favorite Books of 2018. The Inventor is sure to be one of my Favorite Films of 2019. Highly recommended! GRADE: A

HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!


Spring is supposed to be here in Western New York, but instead Mother Nature dropped a couple of inches of fresh, heavy wet snow on us. Here’s a picture of what it looks like outside my front door. This is a cold and slushy April Fool’s Day joke that everyone here will have do deal with today. How’s the Spring weather where you are? Any snow?

STARBUCKS BLONDE SUNRISE BLEND



Starbucks recently released a new Blonde coffee called Sunrise Blend. I’ve sampled several cups of Starbucks Blonde Sunrise Blend. Like the other Blonde coffees Starbucks features–Willow, Veranda, Bright Sky Blend, and Aria–this new Sunrise Blend is smooth and mild coffee. I detected hints of chocolate while drinking Sunrise Blend. If you don’t like the strong (and sometimes bitter) regular Starbucks coffees, I recommend these lighter roasted Blonde coffees. I like them all (Willow is my favorite), but I’m enjoying a cup of Sunrise Blend as I’m writing this post. Do you have a favorite coffee? Are you a Starbucks fan? GRADE: B+

US


Oscar winner Jordan Peele’s new scary movie, US, takes an average American family on a terrorizing thrill ride. The Wilsons–Gabe (Winston Duke), Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), and their children, Zora (Shadhadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex)–arrive at their family summer home in Santa Cruz, California. Although the children and the husband are ready for fun, Adelaide finds herself troubled by frightening memories from her childhood at the beach. When a family of creepy Wilson family doppelgängers show up one night, the movie ratchets up the fear factor and tension. It’s more than a home invasion. Something very weird (and deadly!) is going on.

Yes, some of US is silly. Jordan Peele juggles maybe too many themes for a scary movie to control, but the result produces a thought-provoking film you’ll be thinking about for weeks. GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #522: CHALLENGE THE IMPOSSIBLE: THE FINAL PROBLEMS OF DR. SAM HAWTHORNE By Edward D. Hoch


Crippen & Landru published this final collection of Edward D. Hoch’s Dr. Sam Hawthorne mystery stories in 2018, but I finally got around to reading it. Ed Hoch wrote a story per issue for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for decades. In all, Hoch published over 900 puzzle stories over his long career. He featured several characters: Simon Ark, a man who claims to be a 2,000 year old Coptic priest; Jeffery Rand, a British spy; Nick Velvet, a professional thief who only steals objects of no value; Captain Leopold, a policeman in a city that resembles Hoch’s native Rochester, New York; Michael Vlado, king of a small tribe of Romanian Gypsies; Ben Snow, a Mystery-Western detective; Alexander Swift, a trouble-shooting detective for George Washington; Susan Holt, who works in promotions for a department store and travels around the world making business deals while solving mysteries; and, of course, Dr. Sam Hawthorne, a country doctor with a skill set for solving impossible crimes.

Josh Pashter’s excellent introduction gives a detailed history of the Dr. Sam Hawthorne stories and their evolution over the years. If you’re a fan of impossible crimes and wonderful writing, you need a copy of Challenge the Impossible. You can read my review of other Dr. Sam Hawthorne collection, Diagnosis: Impossible, here. And you can read my review of The Velvet Touch, a collection of Nick Velvet stories, here. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION By Josh Pachter 7
Problem of Annabel’s ark — 11
Problem of the potting shed — 27
Problem of the yellow wallpaper — 45
Problem of the haunted hospital — 61
Problem of the traveler’s tale — 77
Problem of Bailey’s buzzard — 93
Problem of the interrupted seance — 110
Problem of the candidate’s cabin — 128
Problem of the black cloiser — 147
Problem of the secret passage — 161
Problem of the devil’s orchard — 176
Problem of the shepherd’s ring — 191
Problem of the suicide cottage — 205
Problem of the summer snowman — 220
Problem of the secret patient — 233
Dr. Sam Hawthorne checklist — 249

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #90: BODY TALK, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE 1965-1995 (MAGIC MOMENTS, Volume 9)


TIME LIFE started the Body Talk series in 1996 and brought out 22 volumes before the series was discontinued in 2002. Each 2-CD set collected hit songs from 1965-1995. I can’t discern any rime or reason why these particular songs were chosen for Volume 9 Magic Moments. It all seems random to me. The aim seems to be to present what used to be called “Easy Listening Music” in a convenient, affordable package. Many of the older songs have been remastered for these sets. The sound is good to excellent. There’s a little something for just about everyone on these sets. Do you see any of your favorite songs here? GRADE: A-
BODY TALK: Vol. 9 – Magic Moments (1996) TRACK LIST:
DISC 1:
Lionel Richie / Truly – levels excellent
Manhattans / Shining Star – diff EQ than Rhino’s Smooth Grooves Vol. 1 (1995); clips a tiny bit
Bangles / Eternal Flame – diff EQ than Billboard Top Hits 1989 (1994); clips a lot
Champaign / Try Again – diff EQ than Billboard Hot R&B Hits 1983 (1996); levels excellent
REO Speedwagon / Can’t Fight This Feeling – levels excellent
Stylistics / Betcha By Golly Wow – levels excellent
Doobie Brothers / What A Fool Believes – diff EQ than Warner Bros.’ Sweet Freedom (1986); levels excellent
Friends Of Distinction / Going In Circles – levels excellent
Hollies / The Air That I Breathe – levels excellent
Deniece Williams / It’s Gonna Take A Miracle – levels excellent
Dan Fogelberg / Hard To Say – levels excellent
Dorothy Moore / Misty Blue – levels excellent
DISC 2:
Three Degrees / When Will I See You Again – levels excellent
James Taylor And J.D. Souther / Her Town Too – 0.5 dB, Early ’80s and diff EQ than Razor and Tie’s Forever ’80s (1994) levels excellent
Pointer Sisters / Fire – diff EQ than Billboard Top Hits 1979 (1991); levels excellent, have L/R channels reversed from original 45
A Taste Of Honey / Sukiyaki – 1.255 dB > Sounds Of the ’80s – the Early ’80s Take Two (1996) and diff EQ than Smooth Grooves Vol. 7 (1996); levels excellent
Jeff Healey Band / Angel Eyes – diff EQ than Priority’s 80’s Greatest Rock Hits Vol. 5 from the Heart (1992); clips severely around -3 dB
Art Garfunkel / All I Know – levels excellent
Fleetwood Mac / Over My Head – levels excellent
Bill Withers / Ain’t No Sunshine – levels excellent
Daryl Hall And John Oates / I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – diff EQ than Sounds Of The Eighties 1980-1982 (1995); levels excellent
Engelbert Humperdinck / After The Lovin’ – levels excellent
Dave Loggins / Please Come To Boston – levels excellent
Teddy Pendergrass / Close The Door – levels excellent

DARE TO LEAD By Brene Brown


Brene Brown believes that in these trying times, we all need to step things up and be leaders. Both at work and at home, Brene Brown shows how her techniques can improve work relations and personal relations. Brene Brown is a recovering alcoholic who owns her own business consulting firm. She travels the world spreading her message of strength and daring.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts is the result of Brene Brown’s 20 years of studying leadership and identifying what works in today’s competitive environments. I especially appreciated Brown’s analysis of leading spouses and children to achieve their goals. If you’re interested in a practical book about getting results, Dare to Lead will show you the way. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
a note from Brene xi
BRAVE LEADERS AND COURAGE CULTURES 3
PART ONE:
BUMBLING WITH VULNERABILITY 17
1. THE MOMENT AND THE MYTHS 19
2. THE CALL TO COURAGE 45
3. THE ARMORY 71
4. SHAME AND EMPATHY 119
5. CURIOSITY AND GROUNDED CONFIDENCE 155
PART TWO:
LIVING INTO OUR VALUES 183
PART THREE:
BRAVING TRUST 219
PART FOUR:
LEARNING TO RISE 239
Acknowledgements 273
Notes 277
Index 287

LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS [Netflix]


This Netflix anthology series of 18 animated features varies in quality. My favorite is “Beyond the Aquila Rift” based on a wonderful Alastair Reynolds story. I wasn’t that crazy about the loopy “When the Yogurt Took Over” based on a John Scalzi story. Some of these features were only five minutes long, others approached 20 minutes. Many are violent and gory like “Sucker of Souls” where an archeological dig wakes a hungry demon. You can guess the result. There is some humor in a few of these features. “Three Robots” is set in a post-Apocalypse Earth with the surviving robots acting like sight-seers to all the destruction. Grades would vary from a bunch of “C”s to a few “A’s.” Overall, GRADE: B

NUMBER TITLE DIRECTED BY SCREENWRITER BASED ON A STORY BY ANIMATION COMPANY RELEASE DATE

1 “Sonnie’s Edge” Dave Wilson Philip Gelatt Peter F. Hamilton Blur Studio March 15, 2019
A woman named Sonnie remotely controls a genetically-engineered monster in underground gladiatorial battles.
2 “Three Robots” Victor Maldonado & Alfredo Torres Philip Gelatt John Scalzi Blow Studio March 15, 2019
After the destruction of humanity, three robots start to wander in a seemingly abandoned city.
3 “The Witness” Alberto Mielgo Alberto Mielgo N/A Pinkman.TV March 15, 2019
A woman witnesses a murder in a building in front of the hotel where she is staying. Cat-and-mouse game begins when she comes eye to eye with the murderer.
4 “Suits” Franck Balson Philip Gelatt Steven Lewis Blur Studio March 15, 2019
A small community of farmers pilot mech suits to defend their land from an invading swarm of insectoid aliens.
5 “Sucker of Souls” Owen Sullivan Philip Gelatt Kirsten Cross Studio La Cachette March 15, 2019
Awakened by an archaeological excavation, a bloodthirsty demon fights a crew of mercenaries.
6 “When The Yogurt Took Over” Victor Maldonado & Alfredo Torres Janis Robertson John Scalzi Blow Studio March 15, 2019
Yogurt developed by scientists becomes sentient and takes over the world.
7 “Beyond the Aquila Rift” Léon Bérelle, Dominique Boidin, Rémi Kozyra, Maxime Luère Philip Gelatt Alastair Reynolds Unit Image March 15, 2019
Blue Goose’s crew—Thom, Suzy, and Ray—are on a mission to reach beyond the Aquila Rift, but an error in the routing plot causes unexpected events to happen.
8 “Good Hunting” Oliver Thomas Philip Gelatt Ken Liu Red Dog Culture House March 15, 2019
In early 20th century China, a boy becomes friends with a shape-shifting huli jing after his father kills the huli jing’s mother.
9 “The Dump” Javier Recio Gracia Philip Gelatt Joe Lansdale Able & Baker March 15, 2019
A city inspector tries to convince Ugly Dave to move out of his house which is located in a dump. However, Dave and his pet are not intent on doing so.
10 “Shape-Shifters” Gabriele Pennacchioli Philip Gelatt Marko Kloos Blur Studio March 15, 2019
Two close friends in the Marines with supernatural powers have to fight one of their own in Afghanistan.
11 “Helping Hand” Jon Yeo Philip Gelatt Claudine Griggs Axis Studios March 15, 2019
An astronaut faces a life or death situation.
12 “Fish Night” Damian Nenow Philip Gelatt Joe Lansdale Platige Image Studio March 15, 2019
Two salesmen get stuck in the desert, and discover that the desert is not what it seems at night.
13 “Lucky 13” Jerome Chen Philip Gelatt Marko Kloos Sony Pictures Imageworks March 15, 2019
A pilot recalls her missions aboard the dropship Lucky 13.
14 “Zima Blue” Robert Valley Philip Gelatt Alastair Reynolds Passion Animation Studios March 15, 2019
A reclusive artist gives a final interview after 100 years.
15 “Blindspot” Vitaliy Shushko Vitaliy Shushko N/A Elena Volk March 15, 2019
A cyborg crew attempts to rob a convoy.
16 “Ice Age” Tim Miller Philip Gelatt Michael Swanwick Digic Pictures / Blur Studio / Atomic Fiction March 15, 2019
A couple who just moved into the apartment finds a civilization inside an antique refrigerator.
17 “Alternate Histories” Victor Maldonado & Alfredo Torres Philip Gelatt John Scalzi Sun Creature Studio March 15, 2019
Multiversity, an alternative history research simulation app, shows the viewer the death of Adolf Hitler in 6 different timelines on their welcome demo.
18 “Secret War” István Zorkóczy Philip Gelatt David W. Amendola Digic Pictures March 15, 2019
A platoon of Red Army soldiers hunt down the undead in the forests of Siberia.

SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS: HOW MOVIES SHAPED DESIRE By David Thomson


David Thomson’s Sleeping With Strangers explores the evolution of sex in movies. He describes the approaches to sex in the movies of Peston Sturgers, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Ernst Lubitsch, and Alfred Hitchcock among others. Later, Thomson analyzes the on-screen and off-screen relationships of Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, John Wayne, and dozens of actors and actresses.

The result of all this entertaining knowledge is that I want to go back and rewatch a dozen or so films from the 1940s and 1950s that David Thomson admires. He claims His Girl Friday may be the best movie ever made. It’s been decades since I saw it so I can’t render an opinion. If you’re a movie fan, you’ll find Sleeping With Strangers provocative and stimulating! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: Naked at the window — 3
The iceman cometh — 15
A powder-puff? — 29
Is this allowed? — 46
Hideaway — 58
Codes and codebreakers — 76
The Goddamn monster — 91
Gable and Cukor — 102
Tracy and Hepburn — 122
Buddies and cowboys — 141
“The cat’s in the bag, the bag’s in the river” — 157
Dead attractive: Cary Grant — 185
Indecency, gross, or mass market? — 198
The male gaze — 218
Perverse — 340
Burning man — 255
Gigolo — 268
Doing it, saying it — 285
An open door — 301
Acknowledgments — 329
Index — 333

RESPIGHI: ROMAN TRILOGY By Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra


The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor JoAnn Falletta, recorded several CDs with NAXOS, the classical music company. The latest CD, Respighi: Roman Trilogy, sounds wonderful. I have a number of Respighi CDs, but this one zooms to the top of the list. I love Respighi’s tone poems about festivals, pines, and fountains. The lavish orchestration and lush rhythms, recorded with the excellent NAXOS sound engineers, turns this music into magic. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
TRACK LIST:
Feste romane (Roman Festivals), symphonic poem, P. 157 (1928) 23:59
Fontane di Roma (The Fountains of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 106 (1916) 15:55
Pini di Roma (The Pines of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 141 (1924) 22:01