Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Review of "Nemesis Rising Comic First Issue," created by Darren G. Davis

 Review of

Nemesis Rising Comic First Issue, created by Darren G. Davis

Four out of five stars

Four women super soldiers with quips as fast as their moves

 This comic stars four large-chested British women with well-rounded bodies and large attitudes. They go where few could lead or follow as they carry out their missions put forward by their male “controller.” When they are not engaged in battle against their adversaries, they are whacking away at each other in the heroine equivalent of a girl-style cat fight. At the end, they are being forced to accept the help of a woman that is even bigger in the chest and has the unpardonable characteristic of being an American.

 The comic is wild and is clearly influenced by the “Charlie’s Angels” genre of American entertainment. With dialog that is smart and obnoxious, this first issue demonstrates a lot of potential.


Review of "Best of Gallagher Volume 1," DVD

 Review of

Best of Gallagher Volume 1, DVD

Five out of five stars

Zany gags based on unusual props

 Gallagher was a wild comedian where the signature last segment of his act involved smashing watermelons. Messy, sloppy and quite funny, for he found many ways to do it. In this video, it is a high diving act. Like the best comedians, he parodies common situations that nearly all people face. For, if you cannot relate to it, a spoof of the action is incomprehensible.

 The best segment involves a human female with Gallagher where they are supposedly in bed. They are reading, she is reading a book about love and he is supposedly reading about sex. However, he is actually reading and talking about golf, yet they manage to double entendre their way through the entire sketch, where the conversation is about both golf and sex. It is quite good without slipping into the deep dirty.

 Gallagher was truly zany and high octane on the stage. He moves from one prop with gag to another at a speed that few can match. This is true comedy before the language descended into the brutal and repetitive.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Review of "F In Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers," by Richard Benson

 Review of

F In Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers, by Richard Benson ISBN 9780811878319

Five out of five stars

While all readers will find this book amusing, long-time teachers will enjoy it more and likely have memories triggered regarding some of the amusing answers that appeared on their exams. The questions are all common exam questions in the subject matter, what happened was that the student had no idea how to answer the question. Therefore, they raised the white flag after attaching a humorous and generally completely irrelevant note to it.

 For example, in the psychology section there is a stratified pyramid and the question is, “Fill in the sections of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” The answers from top to bottom were cake, ice cream, candy, chips and pizza. One found in the history and geography section is “Which artificial waterway runs between the Mediterranean and Red Seas?” The answer given is the sewage canal, wrong but a very good pun.

 All teachers have experienced students giving humorous and completely wrong answers and even perhaps given a point for humor rather than accuracy. From this collection, it is easy to understand the temptation.

Review of "Garfield: The Me Book," by Jim Davis and Jim Kraft

 Review of

Garfield: The Me Book, by Jim Davis and Jim Kraft ISBN 0-345-365453

Four out of five stars

Garfield “Me First” philosophy applied to business

 This book is designed to be amusing and should not be considered a guide to how to conduct yourself in the business world. For the extremely self-centered approach where all revolves around you will not work in the world outside the comics.

The premise is that “Garfield,” the comic strip cat that is fat, lazy and considered superior to all others is giving advice on how to acquire a job and move up the career ladder as fast as possible Treating others as mere cogs in a machine designed to advance your personal interests can be an amusing fantasy, but is useless as a principle of operation.

 Given that, this is a book that will appeal to the fantasies of most working people, for it reinforces the stereotypes that managers are of little value in the organizational scheme of things.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Review of "Great Baseball Pitchers," by Jim Brosnan

 Review of

Great Baseball Pitchers,  by Jim Brosnan

Five out of five stars

 The ten pitchers featured in this book span from the late nineteenth century to the time of publication in 1965. There are ten pitchers featured, with the first being Christy Mathewson, whose career began in 1880. Known as the “Big Six,” he was a true gentlemen and a scholar in a time when most players were ruffians and often illiterate. The last pitcher portrayed is Sandy Koufax, who had recently emerged as a dominant pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 It was pleasing to see the inclusion of LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, prevented from playing in the major leagues by the color ban until he was in his late forties. He was almost certainly the best pitcher of all time. Stars such as Joe DiMaggio openly stated that he was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. It is also possible that Satchel pitched more innings than anyone else. When his team played, the people came out in order to see Paige, so he had to pitch.

 As always, there is room for argument regarding the pitchers included in this list, for Sal Maglie, is in this book, but not in the Hall of Fame while others in the Hall are not in the book. Yet, it is a good, entertaining look at some of the best pitchers of all time.

Review of "Oh, Baby, I Love It!" By Tim McCarver and Ray Robinson

 Review of

Oh, Baby, I Love It! By Tim McCarver and Ray Robinson ISBN 0394556917

Five out of five stars

Reads like McCarver sounds

 All people that follow baseball to some extent are familiar with the announcing style of Tim McCarver. He has called over a dozen World Series, so his voice and style are well known. This book reads like he sounds on the air. McCarver was a catcher known primarily for his relationship with Hall Of Fame pitcher Steve Carleton and for having played for part of four decades. 50-80.

 This is not an autobiography that starts in his youth and progresses through his life, ending with the Mets victory in the 1986 World Series. McCarver provides many insights into the game as well as what it was like to break in as a broadcaster and be one for so many years. His talent at explaining the right and wrong of how to do things on and off the field are evident on every page.

 This is one of the better books about baseball that have appeared due to McCarver’s unique perspective. He played with and against some of the all-time greats such as Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Hank Aaron, Steve Carleton and Nolan Ryan. He then called and explained the actions of some of these players as well as other greats that came after them. He went from being a teammate and colleague to someone that had to point out what they were doing wrong.  A tough road to follow, yet he has done it well.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review of "Justice League Unlimited: Saving the World," DVD animated adventures

 Review of

Justice League Unlimited: Saving the World, DVD animated adventures ISBN 1419805029

Four out of five stars

 All the gang is present at some time

 This set of animated adventures at some point includes all the members of the expanded Justice League. There are three episodes, in the first members of the League battle a berserk giant nuclear powered robot. It is running amok in China and at first the leadership there denies that there is a problem despite the trail of massive devastation. The League members must navigate around the principles of national sovereignty while fighting a menace where it is clear that it will not be contained by local forces. It is unfortunate that Supergirl is portrayed as being dominated by emotions rather than the need to contain and control her powers.

 In the second episode the child wizard Mordred acquires extreme magical powers while being completely unable to control his whims and impulses. Adults, even the members of the Justice League, are powerless against him. With the aid of Mordred’s mother, the members of the League take extraordinary measures to modify themselves so that they can circumvent the power that Mordred has over adults.

 The final episode relies on Greek mythology, where Ares, the god of the violence of war is involved in a civil war. His goal is not to pick a side and see that it wins, but to simply keep the battles raging and the death count growing. Members of the League must take on a malevolent god doing what is in his fundamental nature. It is an interesting premise, one that is not well enough explained so that some viewers will not understand the antagonists.

 The animation is very good and the dialog superb. Many times, the dialog of superhero videos is weak, that is not the case here.

Review of "Curtis, Buoniconti, Butkus Lanier," by Bill Gutman

 Review of

Curtis, Buoniconti, Butkus Lanier, by Bill Gutman ISBN 0448057123

Four out of five stars

Profiles of four of the most prominent NFL enforcers

 In football, the middle linebacker is generally considered to be the player that needs to make their presence felt by punishing the opposition. While they don’t have to do it every time, they need to hit the opposing players hard enough on occasion so that they become skittish when in the area. Four of the players that are known for this attitude are profiled in this book.

 They are Mike Curtis, Nick Buoniconti, Dick Butkus and Willie Lanier. It is a common misconception that football players in general and linebackers in particular are not the brightest of people. That is dismissed by the descriptions of these players. Buoniconti earned a law degree, Lanier took graduate courses and served as vice-chairman of a securities firm, and Curtis was an academic All-American. It is also pointed out that while these men were vicious on the field, they were generally mild and soft spoken otherwise.

 The descriptions are laudatory in nature, what one would expect from such books published in 1974. It is an interesting look back at pro football to a time when many of the more brutal tackles were still legal hits.

Review of "The Rip Off Mad," edited by Albert B. Feldstein

 Review of

The Rip Off Mad, edited by Albert B. Feldstein

Five out of five stars

Nobody does social parody better than Mad

 One of the long-term weaknesses of the humor that appears in Mad Magazine is that it becomes dated. Political humor that is extremely funny at the time is lost on most people reading it fifty years later. For example, biting humor about President Richard Nixon and Watergate is generally not understood by the modern reader. There is little to none of that in this book.

 It contains the usual Spy vs Spy segments and parody of the American social mores. Nearly all of that is timeless and just as relevant now as it was in the late sixties. My favorite was the section on phone harassment. Landlines are now largely a thing of the past; the mobile cell phone has replaced them. Yet, the annoying phone calls are just as persistent and frustrating as they were fifty years ago.

 American society has changed a great deal, but the interactive components have not. People still are people with emotions, petty annoyances and common ways of interacting with each other. For those reasons, this remains a solid book of humor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review of "Christmas at Grandad’s Farm," by Rusty Berther

 Review of

Christmas at Grandad’s Farm, by Rusty Berther ISBN 9781743463789

Five out of five stars

 A modification of the classic “Jingle Bells” song

 If you do not read the preamble and are a resident of the American Midwest, this story is baffling. While the song, a take-off from “Jingle Bells,” is very good, the context of swimming outside in fine weather on Christmas Day makes no sense. However, upon reading the back cover, all is made clear. The location is in Australia, where of course it is summer during the Christmas season.

 The book contains a sing-along CD containing the words set to music. I found the book entertaining and the lyrics are well-suited to the season as celebrated in Australia. I recommend this book and would have read it to my daughter if it has existed when she was young. She would have loved it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Review of "Great Infielders of the Major Leagues," by Dave Klein

 Review of

Great Infielders of the Major Leagues, by Dave Klein ISBN 0394823834

Four out of five stars

A set of brief, laudatory biographies

 The author has self-selected twelve infielders from the time period from 1945 until the year of publication in 1972. Three players for each of the four infield positions are profiled.  They are Gil Hodges, Boog Powell and Willie McCovey at first, Jackie Robinson, Ken Hubbs and Glenn Beckert at second, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto and Luis Aparicio at short and Ken and Clete Boyer and Brooks Robinson at third.

 The biographies are generally laudatory, describing their early years in the sport, the circumstances of their signing their first pro contract and if applicable, the circumstances of their retirement from the sport. As such, there are no eye-popping revelations, most of the quotes are standard, generic  baseball talk.   

 While many of the players are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, some are not. Specifically, Hubbs, Powell, Clete Boyer, Beckert and Hodges. It is easy to play the “what about?” game with the selections. The most obvious ones are Hall-of-Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews over Clete Boyer and Hall-of-Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski over Hubbs. This is a good, but not great look back at some of the better players in this timeframe.

Review of "The Apaches," by Jason Hook

 Review of

The Apaches, by Jason Hook ISBN 0850457386

Five out of five stars

Solid primer on the broad term of Apache

 In the popular culture and most superficial study of the American Southwest, it is stated or inferred that the Apache Native Americans were largely a monolith. The most important point made in this book is to refute that position. There were many rather distinct tribal units that were placed under the Apache umbrella, and those differences were exploited by the invaders of European extraction.

 This book contains a brief overview of the Apache ethnic group, from their tribal organizations to rituals of pending adulthood to their religious beliefs. One of the most significant historical points is the statement that in an attempt to gain control over the area where the Apaches lived the Spaniards conducted raids into Apache territory in order to acquire slaves. Juan de Onate enacted a policy of having one foot cut off of all captured Apaches over the age of 25 and requiring them to serve 20 years as a slave. In 1825, the governor of Sonora offered a bounty of 100 pesos for the scalp of any Apache warrior over the age of fourteen. In Chihuahua province, this was extended to 50 pesos for the scalp of a woman and 25 for those of children. In popular culture, it was the Native Americans that scalped their victims for trophies, but in fact it was initiated as a means of bounty to reward those that killed Native Americans.

 This short book helps expose what the battles between the three sides of the wars in the American Southwest really were. It was a fight between the Spaniards/Mexicans, Apaches and the American settlers and army. It also is clear that it was the Apache scouts fighting on the side of the American forces that truly defeated the Apache  resistance.

Review of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," by Craig Fass, Brian Turtle & Mike Ginelli

 Review of

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, by Craig Fass, Brian Turtle & Mike Ginelli ISBN 0452278449

Five out of five stars

A connected graph with many other applications

 The Kevin Bacon project is a game for movie buffs, where the goal is to trace a “made-a-movie with” graph with connections between an actor or actress and the actor Kevin Bacon. For example, Marlon Brando was in “The Godfather” with Al Pacino, who was in “Sea of Love” with Ellen Barkin who was in “Diner” with Kevin Bacon. In most cases there is more than one way to connect an actor in this way to Kevin Bacon.

 As a math professional, I understand that all that is needed to make such connections is to have a base person that made many movies, which Bacon has done. In general, all that it needed to make such connections between any two people for any reason is to have at least one of them have many connections with most intermediates having a significant number.

 This project has created a lot of fun for movie buffs and has also spawned some copycat connections. For example, I have seen a project based on baseball players that have been on a team with someone that was on a team with Babe Ruth. There is also the Erdos project where a number is assigned to mathematicians based on the papers that have been coauthored by mathematicians that can be traced back to the legendary and prolific Paul Erdos.

 This was a fun book to read, for it has spawned more than what the creators of the original Kevin Bacon project envisioned.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review of "Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden," poetry collected by Karen Ackerman

 Review of

Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden, poetry collected by Karen Ackerman ISBN 0399214909

Five out of five stars

Snippets of the greatness of Dickinson

 Split into four segments based on the seasons of the year, these short poems are influential far beyond their length. There is a simplicity in the poetry of Dickinson, she makes a powerful point in only a few lines using strong mental imagery.

 The themes are about the outdoors, the differences across the seasons, and the cycles of death and renewal based on the weather. She manages to capture much of a year in a temperate climate in 23 short segments of verse. This book is an excellent primer on the poetic production of one of the best.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review of "Superman-Batman Absolute Power," by Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino

 Review of

Superman-Batman Absolute Power, by Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino ISBN 9781401207144

Five out of five stars

Things are not as they should be

 The trigger events in the life of Clark Kent (Superman) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) were when baby Kal-el landed on Earth and was found by the Kent’s and when Bruce’s parents were murdered in front of him. They were the triggers for their lives being devoted to the fight against crime and injustice. In this graphic novel, powerful people from the future travel back to those moments in time and dramatically alter the lives of Clark and Bruce. They grow up as brothers and in their roles as Superman and Batman become absolute rulers of Earth.

 They are ruthless, wiping out all opposition, including the heroes that were their friends and allies in their normal timeline. That included killing them, their motto is “Obey or die.” However, messing with the timeline is an uncertain science and unusual things happen. During the time-altering actions, other DC characters such as Sergeant Rock and Easy Company, the Haunted Tank, Jonah Hex and Tomahawk are part of the fight. It is an amusing addition to what is an expression of an alternate history.

 The story is very engaging, it is interesting to see the two greatest heroes of the DC line being depicted as the height of evil. There is a battle for the very future of Earth with the “normal” personalities of Clark and Bruce engaged in the struggle to return the world to the way it should be.

Review of "Baseball Mystery," by Charles Coombs

 Review of

Baseball Mystery, by Charles Coombs

Five out of five stars

 Steve Marshall plays on a youth baseball team and is the batboy for the Redbirds, a major league team. He is good at both tasks, but in the case of the youth league, he somehow manages to make enemies of his opposing players. As the batboy, he excels at the task of satisfying the players superstitions. For example, the catcher needs to always have a four-leaf clover in his mitt, satisfying this desire means that Steve has to be creative with a tube of glue.

 The situation turns dangerous when ruthless gamblers come to town and try to alter the course of events by kidnapping Steve. Fortunately, he discovers that he has more friends than he thought he had, and both the youth and adult players step up to support him when he needs it.

 This is a quality book of adolescent sports fiction, despite his skills Steve struggles and has to face significant adversity before he is able to succeed. While these are not necessarily difficulties adolescent boys commonly face, his perseverance is a good lesson for all children of that age.

Review of "Warsaw Pact Ground Forces," by Gordon L. Rottman

 Review of

Warsaw Pact Ground Forces, by Gordon L. Rottman ISBN 0850457300

Five out of five stars

A short intelligence briefing plus primer on uniforms

 The first part of this book reads like a succinct intelligence briefing on the strength, organization and positioning of the military forces of the Warsaw Pact countries other than the Soviet Union. There are a few times where questions are raised as to the reliability of those forces if a global war were to break out. Color plates of various soldiers in full military dress are included and the last section is a detailed description of those uniforms down to the headgear and patches worn.

 The author is clearly an expert in this area and the descriptions of the uniforms are strictly based on facts. If you have an interest in this historical niche, then you are interested in this book.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Review of "You Can’t Beat the Hours," by Mel Allen and Ed Fitzgerald

 Review of

You Can’t Beat the Hours, by Mel Allen and Ed Fitzgerald

Five out of five stars

 As the reader of countless books about sports in general and baseball in particular, I generally place them into two categories based on a specific dividing event. The pivotal book in the description of sports was “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. It was first published in 1970 and was a bestseller, for it chronicled the reality of the people that played major league baseball. Bouton exposed much of the dirty laundry of the game of baseball, before his book it was a rare occasion when an athlete’s human failings were exposed in print. After Bouton’s book was published, the subject matter of sports books became far more realistic and less sanitized.

 Published in 1964, Mel Allen was the voice of the New York Yankees baseball team. He started announcing Yankees’ games in 1940, so he knew all of the great Yankee players from Lou Gehrig to Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. There is no doubt that he knew much of what was going on, but very little of that appears in this book.

 The book provides insight into the Yankee players, but it is the sanitized version that was pre-Bouton. While modern readers will likely find it quaint, there is something endearing about reading about on-field accomplishments without the modern necessity of also hearing about their off-field and often embarrassing actions. Sometimes this seems to lack a sense of realism while in other cases, such as this one, it has a refreshing air.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Review of "Evy and the Hawkeyes," by Brian Chapman and Mike Chapman

 Review of

Evy and the Hawkeyes, by Brian Chapman and Mike Chapman ISBN 0880111860

Five out of five stars

Story of Iowa powerhouse football teams

 The University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team has been one that has periods of greatness in between periods of futility. They once went 20 seasons without posting a winning record. Yet, right before the start of this streak of futility, there was a five year period when the team was consistently a national powerhouse. Including one year where they were considered the national champion. These were the last years of coach Forest (Evy) Evashevski and this book is a history of his time as coach.

Before he arrived, the Hawkeye football team was in an era of relative mediocrity and his first years were a time of rebuilding. The book is also a biography of Evy, including his years as a quarterback for the University of Michigan and the Iowa Pre-flight Seahawks during World War II. My favorite story was when the opposing coach ran on the field screaming about a play and Evy quickly called the next play and ran it to where the coach was standing so that he would be run over and called for interference.

 The Iowa football history is one that demonstrates the reality that some coaches just have what it takes while others do not. Evy clearly did and this is a history of a glorious era of University of Iowa football.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Review of "Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe #5 First Appearance of Xander"

 Review of

Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe #5 First Appearance of Xander

Four out of five stars

  I found this comic when I was trolling through the clearance shelves at a local used bookstore. As a Star Trek fan, the name Gene Roddenberry has a special attraction, so I had to buy it. I was not disappointed; the story exhibits some creative science fiction aspects.

 The premise is that society has the capability to store an exact copy of a person’s DNA as well as a snapshot of their full memories and personality. Dr. Grange was placed in an alien stasis machine and his stay was to be for eight weeks. However, an asteroid came along and devastated the area, so that stay was altered to 500 years. Everything on the planet Malay has been offline for over 500 years.

 When a mission was to be launched, it was decided that the best person to lead the mission was the same Dr. Grange. Therefore, his stored DNA was used to create a clone and the stored memories implanted into his skull. When the clone reached adulthood and the original Dr. Grange was revived from stasis, there are two versions of the same person. Both have anger issues for different reasons, and there is still the ongoing mission to complete.

 The premises set up a great deal of room for future expansion of the story. I was so interested that I am now trolling online looking for the other issues in this series.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Review of "The Pro Quarterbacks," by John Devaney

 Review of

The Pro Quarterbacks, by John Devaney

Five out of five stars

 No player on the field of play has more influence on the outcome than the quarterback. Other than the center, he is the only player that will touch and control the ball on every offensive play. He is also the player that must have the most knowledge about the fundamentals of defenses and what offensive plays will work against those defenses.

 This book contains in-depth descriptions of 12 NFL quarterbacks, from Sammy Baugh in the late thirties to several that played in the seventies. The main theme is that you must pay a price for greatness. Components of the price start with a dedication to an understanding of the game as well as being willing to take the (legal) punishment that will be dished out by the defense. The descriptions are generally laudatory and avoid exposing any dirt on the players that does not involve actions on the field.

 A look back at some of the quarterbacks that were redefining the position as the game was changing to being more offensive oriented, this book is a basic history lesson on the great game of football.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review of "Bert Wilson Marathon Winner," by J. W. Duffield

 Review of

Bert Wilson Marathon Winner, by J. W. Duffield

Four out of five stars

 I did not check the publication date before I started reading this book about a long distance runner. When I reached a passage that praised the German Kaiser, there was an immediate flipping to the back of the title page, where I learned that it was published in 1914. Since World War I started in August of 1914 and it took some time for the anti-German sentiment to build in the United States, this was the last year where such a statement could be made in a book.

 This is one in a series of books about Bert Wilson and this is the first one that I have read. In that series, he exhibits a wide variety of skills, in and out of athletic competition. In this one, he is a long distance runner training for the marathon in the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Berlin, Germany in 1916. That event was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I.

 The action is what you would expect from a character portrayed as a humble superstar, facing intense difficulties, yet succeeding through skill and determination. The American Olympic team traveled by ship and there was an encounter with an iceberg that will remind all readers of the story of the doomed Titanic.

 The most interesting aspect of the book is the rendition of adolescent sports fiction in the second decade of the twentieth century. The boys lead very clean lives, there is minimal interaction with females and the group are determined to win while avoiding any possible hint of cheating. Idealistic and unrealistic to a fault to the modern reader accustomed to conflict, human imperfections and competitive fire.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Review of "Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV," by Joe Buck

 Review of

Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV, by Joe Buck ISBN 9781101984567

Five out of five stars

 Given his longevity and versatility in the sports broadcast business, it is safe to say that Joe Buck has made it on his own. However, it must be granted that he started with significant name recognition from his father, longtime broadcasting legend Jack Buck. This is his autobiography up to the year 2016.

Buck is very forthright about his father Jack and how he was the result of an extra-marital liaison between his father and another woman. When she became pregnant, Jack divorced his wife and married Joe’s mother. This created long-lasting hard feelings between Joe and his half-siblings.

 Joe acknowledges that his father Jack was a workaholic, taking nearly every broadcast gig that he could, even though that meant he was gone a lot. However, with Joe, Jack did what many working parents now do, they bring their child to work with them. Joe grew up in a broadcast booth, absorbing lessons that served him very well once it was clear that he also wanted to be a sports announcer. Joe grew up interacting with former and current players, so he learned much about the background of pro sports while still a child.

 Joe is also candid about his problems fighting baldness and the pain and suffering that he has gone through trying to maintain a credible head of hair for the cameras. He describes the difficulties when he divorced his first wife and how for some time, he struggled to regain an announcer’s voice.

This is a great book about a man that grew up in the shadow of his father yet started in the minor leagues and rose to broadcasting prominence on his own. Joe Buck paid his dues and is now half of the top broadcasting duo of the Fox Sports Network.

Review of "Mr. McBeevee," episode 1 of season 3 of the Andy Griffith Show

 Review of

Mr. McBeevee, episode 1 of season 3 of the Andy Griffith Show

Five out of five stars

When to believe in a child, even when it seems impossible

 This is easily one of the best of the episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, because it deals with a real life dilemma. There are some comedic moments, but the thrust of the show is whether a parent should continue to believe in their child when what they are saying seems impossible.

 When wandering through the forest, Opie encounters a man that is stringing power lines. He walks in the trees, wears a silver hat and has many tools that jingles. He calls those tools his extra hands. The man’s name is McBeevee and he gives Opies some small gifts.

 When Opie reports this to Andy and Barney, they are skeptical so Andy and Opie go out to where McBeevee was working. Not finding him there because McBeevee had to leave to pick up a co-worker, Andy is faced with a tough parental decision. Whether to believe in Opie or to punish him for lying. Frustrated and uncertain, Andy goes back out to the forest and suddenly encounters McBeevee in one of the most moving moments of the entire series.

 This episode is also a look back at what was considered the social norm of child discipline at the time the show aired. Andy openly talks about giving Opie “a whipping” for lying. While that does not happen, the fact that it was casually mentioned on a wholesome family show demonstrates that such punishment was standard practice.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Review of "Battle of Los Angeles," DVD

 Review of

Battle of Los Angeles, DVD

Two out of five stars

Poorly acted with  “borrowed” plot

 This movie is based very much on the blockbuster “Independence Day.” A large disc-shaped ship hovers over Los Angeles and fires a powerful weapon from the lower center. That weapon creates an expanding circle of destruction emanating outward from the center of the ship. It is an alien invasion of some kind, yet there is never any determination of the real reason why they are now on Earth.

 The center of initial resistance is a local military unit with a commander that takes the gruff, hard-nosed military leader persona more than a little over the top. There is an air squadron nearby that is scrambled to meet the alien threat, but they prove to be generally ineffectual.

 From this point, the action and direction is difficult to follow, there is a mini-Roswell type research structure in the Los Angeles area. Most of the weapons that the American soldiers have are standard issue rifles, handguns and grenades, there is a deviation from this that mimics what happens in the move “Men In Black.”

 I found the movie tedious and uninteresting with one moment of outright hilarity. That is when a tough woman with a samurai style sword jumps onto an alien fighter and destroys it by stabbing it. This is a spaceship capable of surviving the tough environment of space, the idea that it could be destroyed by penetrating the hull with a sword was one that I found hilarious.

 The special effects will also be interpreted as second-rate by viewers familiar to what appears in other science fiction movies. It would have been very helpful if we were to learn precisely why the aliens are on Earth and what their motives are.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Review of "The Howls of Ivy," edited by Henry Boltinoff

 Review of

The Howls of Ivy, edited by Henry Boltinoff

Five out of five stars

Clear evidence of rising talent

 This book is a collection of cartoons drawn for college and university newspapers by students and it is clear that there is a great deal of talent roaming the halls of higher learning. The humor is what was considered acceptable in a college paper in the early 1950’s, so while there are a few hints of a sexual nature, it is very understated.

 My favorite is from the University of Purdue and features two outhouses, one of which says
“Pointers” and the other says “Setters.” The images are of dogs, but the point is still clear. As was the case in many cartoons of that time, there are some that are quite sexist, the main point in most is a man aggressively pursuing a woman.

 Whatever you may think of humor of that era, these cartoons demonstrate some real artistic talent and cleverness.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Review of "The Diamond Cave Mystery," by Troy Nesbitt

 Review of

The Diamond Cave Mystery, by Troy Nesbitt

Four out of five stars

Lost mine premise, this time it is diamonds

 There are many legends of lost mines in the western states of the United States, some of which are no doubt true. The fact that there have been many gold and silver mines in those states adds credence to the stories. The plot of this book uses the premise of a lost mine, only in this case it contains diamonds, something that is less likely in the geological sense.

 The Bennett family lives in New Mexico close to Carlsbad, home to the famous massive underground caverns. Chuck is a teenage boy and his father owns a store, Hal is his best friend and his father works on an oil rig that is drilling nearby.  

 Lefty is a local newspaper reporter and he recalls an old story about a man named Abijah Jones that claimed to have found a diamond mine and extracted a significant number of diamonds. Jones arrived at the home of Chuck’s father and requested lodging as he was not feeling well and he talked about hiding the diamonds in a cave. Jones was an engraver and he was carrying a bible, shortly after he arrived, he died. Chuck’s grandfather tried to track down Jones’ relatives but never had any luck.

Chuck and Hal start their search by going through the bible looking for clues. There are many underlined passages and a coin with fine engraving on it. Their efforts are strenuous and become dangerous as the word gets out that it is likely there are missing diamonds to be found.

 The story moves along fairly well and stays within the bounds of what teenage boys would be capable of. Chuck and Hal can drive, but when they see no path forward, they do what boys that age are likely to do, they went swimming. There is a plausible and sensible conclusion, generally better than stories featuring other adolescent boys that has them doing things that are not as plausible or believable.

Review of "Green Lantern: First Flight," DC Universe DVD

 Review of

Green Lantern: First Flight, DC Universe DVD

Five out of five stars

Existence proof of the value of animation

 Technology has advanced to the point where actors can be completely integrated into electronically generated special effects to the point where it appears that the superheroes are really super. Many blockbuster movies have been created based on comic book characters coming to life. However, this movie is a demonstration that there is still a role for animation when it is done right. This one is done right.

 The story is about the interstellar Green Lantern corps and how one member crash lands on Earth. The power ring seeks out a worthy replacement and daring test pilot Hal Jordan is selected. Once the ring is on his finger, he is transformed into a Green Lantern and he is summoned to appear before the Guardians to argue for his inclusion in the corps.

 There is some significant resistance to his presence as well as a cancer within the corps. Green Lantern’s longtime prime adversary in the comics was the renegade Green Lantern known as Sinestro. In this story, Sinestro is a member of the Green Lantern corps, but is actively plotting against the Guardians. Hal Jordan becomes his apprentice, not knowing what Sinestro’s real motives are.

 This is a great action feature, the animation, writing and delivery of the audio are all first rate. The viewer is injected into the storyline to the point where they truly care about the consequences. Hal emerges as a bulwark against the overthrow of the Guardians and comes face-to-face with a very powerful Sinestro.

 One of the simplest determiners of the quality of a movie is that when it ends, you look forward to a potential sequel. That is the case here.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Review of "Journey Into Q-Space," by Brad Quentin ISBN 0061057215

 Review of

Journey Into Q-Space, by Brad Quentin ISBN 0061057215

Three out of five stars

 Virtual reality taken beyond the currently reasonable.

I have been a great fan of the Johnny Quest show since I was a child. Although he and his companion Hadji were younger than Tom Swift and his pal Bud, the two series shared an important characteristic. Although he was a teenager, Tom Swift was a superb scientist and technocrat, considered a peer and even superior by accomplished adults. Johnny and Hadji were always treated as equal members of the team headed by Benton Quest. So, in both cases, they appealed to adolescents that were interested in science and technology.

 This story fails to rise to a high level because the action is all based on virtual reality. All players, including those of the opposition, are plugged into virtual reality modules, which makes anything possible, including a transformation into alien creatures. In my opinion, this is a failing that I have found in sorcery novels. When the hero gets into a bind, they suddenly discover powers previously unknown. When everything is possible, it is hard to reach a point where the reader considers the hero at risk.

 While the original animated series did stretch science and technology, for the most part it did not extend beyond the plausible. The plot of this book does.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review of "Timeless Moments From the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson," Discs 1 & 2, DVD


Review of

Timeless Moments From the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, Discs 1 & 2, DVD

Five out of five stars

The master of situational improv

 Although the show was scripted, when Johnny Carson was delivering the monologue and interviewing guests, there was always something unpredictable happening. When it did, Carson demonstrated time and time again that he was the master of situational improvisation. That is clear in the clips in this two-disc collection.

 Some are from his monologue where he responds to the crowd reaction, playing off them as well as Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen. While some of the guests are stars, many are offbeat and unusual people. There is the man that makes jewelry from quail droppings, the queen of polka, a woman that set the record for cutting wood with a hatchet, two darling little girls that tell jokes and a weird segment where Johnny steps into a shower so that women can, “shower with a star.”

 My favorite was the woman that played flutes through her nostrils. She was wearing a dress and the show really went sideways when she stood on her head to play the flutes. Of course, her dress dropped down to near her chin. Carson was known for being willing to tolerate having animals on the show, knowing that they were completely unpredictable. There is one segment with Jim Fowler.

  Carson’s time has passed, and others have taken his place in the talk show format that he pioneered. Yet, none of them can match his ability to take an unusual or difficult situation and milk it for laughs. You can watch these clips several times and never fail to be amused.