Thursday, September 30, 2021

Review of "Great Sports Stories From Sports Illustrated," edited by Robert Vitarelli

 Review of

Great Sports Stories From Sports Illustrated, edited by Robert Vitarelli

Four out of five stars

Stories not great, but coverage is

 There are seventeen short stories in this book, none of which can be considered great. Three of the stories cover some of the all-time greats, Babe Ruth, Red Grange and Joe DiMaggio. Those stories are of average quality. What makes this book interesting is in the coverage of other people in sports that most people have never heard of.

 There is coverage of the day when journeyman golfer Lee Mackey Jr. shot a record 64 in a U.S. Open tournament round, his only major achievement in golf. There is the game in 1895 considered to be the birth of professional football, Madame Anderson, a female marathon walker, Annie Smith Peck, mountaineer extraordinaire, the first ever rodeo with prize money in 1883 and Frank Lockhart who died trying to set a new land speed record.

 Some people try to restrict the definition of sports to those that are popular. One of the best aspects of Sports Illustrated is that they cover many different sports as well as both genders. This book demonstrates that characteristic.

Review of "Pro Basketball Factbook 1972-1973," edited by Jack Orr

 Review of

Pro Basketball Factbook 1972-1973, edited by Jack Orr

Five out of five stars

An interesting look back to an earlier time

 Modern followers of sports are not aware of how pro basketball has changed since the early seventies. Pro basketball was not very popular at that time, arenas were rarely full and franchises moved rather frequently. The team now known as the Sacramento Kings was the Cincinnati Royals until 1972, when they relocated to being the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. Unable to survive financially there as well, the team moved again to their present location of Sacramento.

 The game has also changed with the arrival of showtime stars with a great deal of entertainment value and speed. When it was first introduced, the three-point shot made little difference, but now it is an integral part of nearly every team’s offense.

 This book is nothing more than statistics about the players. There are some very key points regarding many of the stars of the time. I paid particular attention to Wilt Chamberlain and Karem Abdul-Jabbar. Wilt Chamberlain’s field goal percentage in the 71-72 season was 0.649 while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s was 0.574. Two other powerful centers of that year, Willis Reed and Wes Unseld had field goal percentages of 0.438 and 0.498 respectively.

 There are other interesting nuggets that can be extracted from this book. I had a great deal of fun searching for other items of interest.

Review of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Visual Dictionary"

 Review of

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Visual Dictionary ISBN 9781465438164

Five out of five stars

Clear explanations of the characters and their backgrounds

 I loved episodes IV, V and VI of Star Wars and was extremely disappointed in episodes I, II and III. Episode VII was a bit of an improvement, but there was a far more complex context in the story. The Empire was defeated and the Emperor killed, leading to the rebirth of the Republic. A new dictatorial group known as the First Order has arisen and there is a man with powers emanating from the force that is a wanabee Darth Vader. The heroes of the middle three episodes have been relegated to secondary status in the new political order.

 Into all of this complex political and relationship mix there is a genocidal battle where a village is wiped out by troops that appear to be imperial Storm Troopers. There is a lot of action with the two new characters of Rey and Finn but very little is explained. This book does a great deal to answer the logical questions about what has happened.

 It also gives some essential background on many of the supporting characters and groups that the new round of heroes encounter. This is a book that one should read after seeing the movie and then once you finish it, view the movie again. The story will make a good deal more sense the second time.

Review of "Black Like Me," by John Howard Griffin

 Review of

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin

Five out of five stars

One of the most powerful novels ever written

 I read this book while I was in high school upon recommendation of one of my language arts teachers. After completing it, I thanked her for the recommendation. I firmly believe it should be required reading in American high schools. In approximately 160 pages, Griffin describes what it was like for black people in the Deep South before the Civil Rights Movement forced desegregation.

 Griffin used scientific methods and knowledge of the differences between the races to adopt the physical appearance of a black man. The change in his social standing was extreme. As a white male, he could go where he wanted, get a drink of water and speak to white women. Yet, once his skin was darkened, his movements were severely restricted, and he didn’t dare make the most generic of conversation with a white woman.

 No white person can ever truly understand what it is like to have dark skin in America and of course much has improved since this book was written in 1961. Yet, there is a great deal of racist residue in America and this book will raise your consciousness regarding the history of racism in America. Young blacks will benefit from the lesson on what it used to be like.

Review of "Laugh-In #2, Mod, Mod World," by Roy Doty

 Review of

Laugh-In #2, Mod, Mod World, by Roy Doty

Five out of five stars

Pop culture at it’s finest and most influential

 When the television show Laugh-In started, it was a sensation. Some of the phrases used on that show became instant popular phrases that all people were saying. Statements such as “Sock it to me,” “Here come the judge,” “Very interesting,” and “You bet your sweet bippy” were repeated often and by people in all walks of life. The jokes came fast and furious, with the joke wall being the signature event.

 This book captures the looniness of the show. The puns, the names that would result if two people were to marry or be crossed and the simple silliness are all revisited. It expressed many aspects of the counter-culture active at the time and pushed the lines of censorship with sexual innuendo and expressed a great deal of political satire.

 It was a show for the times, with roots solid in vaudeville and other forms of entertainment. The book reads easy and fast and is also a bit of a history lesson in humor before the censorship of profanity was lifted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Review of "Danish Proverbs," compiled by Julie Jensen McDonald

 Review of

Danish Proverbs, compiled by Julie Jensen McDonald ISBN 157216087x

Five out of five stars

Proverbs in the tradition of Hans Christian Andersen

 This collection of short, simple sayings from the Danish culture are generally similar to those in other cultures. The wisdom present in a short sentence is extensive and valuable, worthy of being repeated and being hung on the wall.

 Some examples are:

“Sow little, reap little.
“Speech is oft repented, silence seldom.”
“A meager compromise is better than a fat lawsuit.”

 This is a book that is very appropriate for a coffee table or bathroom, anywhere where one needs a few moments of simple amusement. The contents can be read and reread without boredom or redundancy.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Review of "A Holiday in Hitlerland: A War Journal," by James F. Stone

 Review of

A Holiday in Hitlerland: A War Journal, by James F. Stone

Four out of five stars

A memoir of being a POW in Germany

 The author was the member of an American bomber crew flying missions over Europe in World War II. In early April of 1944 Stone was on board a bomber that was badly shot up and managed to execute a controlled crash landing in northern Germany. The crew was easily captured, and this book is a chronicle of his experiences as a POW.

 Relative to many others, his experiences and those of his fellow prisoners were rather mild. Stone mentions several times how the German guards were rather friendly. There was an instance where they encountered some members of the SS that seemed determined to punish the POWs. That attempt was thwarted when their German guard drew his pistol and backed them off.

 Other than the fact that the author lived through these experiences, there is little that is completely unique about this history. One exception is that the men interrogating the POWS had often spent significant time in the United States. One POW even met a man that worked with his father, used to bounce him on his knee and occasionally give him treats.

 Another amusing point is about the Ukrainian woman that shoveled the raw sewage into a wagon for transport to the fields to be used as fertilizer. She was a cheerful woman and when asked why, she said that her job here was easier than what she had at home, and she received better food.

Review of "Here Come the Judge!," by “Pigmeat” Markham and Bill Levinson

 Review of

Here Come the Judge!, by “Pigmeat” Markham and Bill Levinson

Five out of five stars

Autobiography of a little-known black comedian

 Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham was a black entertainer that left home when he was in his early teens with almost nothing so that he could be part of a traveling entertainment group. Over the years, he was an integral part of many acts, he was best known as a comedian, but he also did some song and dance. His most famous act was based on his acting as a judge, the skit was opened with “heyeah come da judge."

While he was well known to black audiences, Markham was almost unknown to whites until Sammy Davis Junior used the line on the television show “Laugh In.” In an early example of something going viral, it was not long before people everywhere were using it. He is also credited with crafting the line, “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.”

 This book is an autobiography of Markham and the events of his life are not presented sequentially. While he struggled to make it in show business at a time when the audiences were largely segregated, he expresses no bitterness. He points out that at the time, the humor appreciated by blacks and whites was quite different. Markham states that most of his routines simply would not have been understood by white audiences.

 This is a good story of a man that should be an entertainment legend. He was active in entertainment for over 60 years and encountered nearly every black entertainer during that time as well as many of the white ones. Markham was the creator of some of the most widely used phrases of the sixties and his life in show business was challenging. It was very educational to learn about his adventures in touring the black circuit at a time when small towns were eager to get live entertainment.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Review of "Where’s Dan Quayle?," by Jim Becker, Andy Mayer and Bron Smith

 Review of

Where’s Dan Quayle?, by Jim Becker, Andy Mayer and Bron Smith, ISBN 002013021x

Five out of five stars

Fun book if you like the “Where’s Waldo?” format

The structure of this book is simple and is modeled after the “Where’s Waldo?” format. In this case, it is former Vice President Dan Quayle that you search for. The images follow the “Where’s Waldo?” model, images with extremely busy visual effects are presented and the reader is required to search through the clutter and find the given image of Dan Quayle.

 Some of them are easy to solve, yet for a few, I reached the point where I questioned whether he was even in the picture before finally finding the well-hidden image. The Quayle image has a tie with diagonal red and white stripes and there are many figures having that fashion characteristic. In one image, I counted 25 such ties.

 Meant to be fun and a way to relax while expending some mental effort, this is a book that sharpens the mind and eyes while entertaining.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Review of "The Wit & Wisdom of Archie Bunker," by Norman Lear

 Review of

The Wit & Wisdom of Archie Bunker, by Norman Lear

Five out of five stars

Cutting edge humor with a social bite

 It is impossible to overstate how revolutionary the television show “All In the Family” was when it debuted 1971. Until that time, families and their internal dynamics were portrayed as sweet and innocent, none of the darker aspects of the world ever appeared in pure form. Some shows, such as the “Star Trek” original series, dealt with topics such as racism, but only in a limited way.

 “All In the Family” took on the dirty aspects of the social strata of the United States, confronting them in a head-on manner. The two main antagonists were the reactionary Archie Bunker and his liberal son in law Michael Stivic,  they were constantly at odds over current and past events. Michael was a student and married to Archie’s daughter Gloria, the two of them lived with Archie and his wife Edith.

 Like all great sit-coms, the show was made by the very high quality of the writing, including the chopping up of the English language. As a working class man, Archie was not very well educated, so his speech can be infused with well-meaning blunders. That is the basis for most of this book.

 Some of the hardest material to write is the wrong thing said in the right way. Archie was constantly fracturing the English language, yet it was done in a way that was often hilarious. The lines in this book are classic in the art of quality writing for television. They demonstrate genius in action that appears to be the utterings of a man that has many nasty opinions about others and embodies many of the things that were wrong in the United States of the early seventies.

Review of "Games You Can’t Lose!", American Publishing Corporation

 Review of

Games You Can’t Lose!, American Publishing Corporation

Five out of five stars

Grant’s tomb questions based on common puzzles

 This book is a collection of similar jokes based on common puzzles solved by humans. For example, there is a word search puzzle where the reader is to find only one three-letter word that runs horizontally, is bolded and all other letters are Z’s. There are four pictures with the caption, “Which one is different?” Three are of a butterfly and the fourth is a pig.

 There is a scrambled word test where there are four words, three have only two letters and the fourth has only one. There is another word search for four words in a 4 x 4 grid. The four words are all the same and run horizontally.

 This is meant to be a gag gift and it is that. With no complexity and a simple point repeated 47 times, the gags are as obvious and unsubtle as the classic, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”

Friday, September 24, 2021

Review of "Talk to the Tail, ‘cause the Whiskers Ain’t Listenin’!," Hallmark

 Review of

Talk to the Tail, ‘cause the Whiskers Ain’t Listenin’!, Hallmark

Five out of five stars

Great cartoons about what pets really think

 This collection of cartoons gives humans a logical insight into what their pets really think and why they do what they do. They are funny, contain messages that all pet owners will identify with and make for simple conversation pieces. The book is an ideal one for bathroom reading or for placing on tables where people will have to wait for a few minutes and need simple material to pass the time.

 My favorite is one that is very familiar to this longtime cat owner. The caption is “The midnight rider” and the image is of a cat walking on a human buried under the covers. Dogs are also the subject of some of the cartoons and there are a few about more exotic pets.

 If you are an animal lover and enjoy spoofs about the mutual obsession between pets and their humans, this is a book you will enjoy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Review of "Tom Swift and His Great Search Light," by Victor Appleton

 Review of

Tom Swift and His Great Search Light, by Victor Appleton

Four out of five stars

Another original Tom Swift where he is a mechanic

 In this story starring the original Tom Swift, he is portrayed as an ace mechanic rather than an inventive genius. In the Tom Swift Junior stories, Tom’s inventions are more far-reaching, beyond what others have developed. In this one, Tom Swift simply improves on what others have done.

Chronologically, Tom has developed his airship and the powerful searchlight is attached. A gang of criminals is using an airship to smuggle goods between the United States and Canada and Tom, along with his sidekicks, is attempting to catch them in the act and break up the ring. He takes his airship up at night when the smugglers are active and attempts to apprehend them after shining his light on their aircraft and following them to their arrival point.

 The dialog is very much that of the original Tom Swift stories published in the second decade of the twentieth century. The powerful black giant Koku is one of Tom’s sidekicks, this may be the first use of such a character. Artist Lee Falk created the character Mandrake the Magician in 1934 and his sidekick was the mighty black man Lothar. Like Koku, the original Lothar spoke using poor English. The similarities are too great to be coincidental. Mandrake is considered by many to be the first comic superhero, with Lothar then being the first black superhero. As Picasso reportedly said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

 Compared to later YA adventure stories, there is very little violence in this one. Tom is still being portrayed as a talented technical tinkerer rather than a genius. While it is not a page turner of an adventure, this story is a valuable look back at the history of a franchise that has published over 100 volumes over the course of time now exceeding a century.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Review of "The Curious Case of the Jeweled Alicorn," by Michael Merriam

 Review of

The Curious Case of the Jeweled Alicorn, by Michael Merriam

Four out of five stars

Set in Victorian times with a bit of the occult

 The setting is a pseudo-Victorian environment with some advanced airships with a bit of magic. Arkady Bloom is the main character and he is a security agent for the Crown. The story opens with him acting like James Bond, his hands moving suggestively along the body of the Contessa Moretti. At first she seems to be accepting of his actions, right before she tries to stab him with the long, silver pin taken from her hair. Being the nimble sort, Bloom is able to avert injury.

 There is the almost obligatory sidekick to Bloom, he is Chillblood, a massive African man with two major scars on his face. This feature reminded me of the comic character Mandrake the Magician with his black sidekick Lothar. Loyal to the point of risking personal injury and death, the two of them make a formidable team when battling those on the evil side.

 The story is short, so there is not a great deal of opportunity to grow stale and repetitive. While the magic adds to the story, like all such opportunities, it must be used with caution. For if the magic can be used to solve everything, then there is no danger or tension. That aspect is handled rather well, the magic remains secondary rather than becoming the main plot device.

 A solid story that does not rise to the level of exceptional, this story is interesting. On a personal note, there was the additional point of interest that it was published in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I live.

Review of "LOL Sports: An All-star Collection of Jokes, Quotes & Anecdotes," by Jack Kreismer

 Review of

LOL Sports: An All-star Collection of Jokes, Quotes & Anecdotes, by Jack Kreismer ISBN 9781603870061

Five out of five stars

Mostly chuckles, but still pretty good

 This collection of short sports related tales will amuse all people, even those not dedicated to sports fandom. All types of sports are the subject of the stories, some of which are only incidentally related to a sport. For example, there is the story of a bank robber that disguised himself very well yet had a distinctive NASCAR-themed license plate on his getaway car. There is also the story that appeared featuring a pitcher that threw a fastball 168 mph. It was published on April 1.

 If you are a follower of sports, you will no doubt have heard some of these anecdotes.  For example, there is the classic about Babe Ruth asking for a higher salary than the President of the United States. For after all, “I had a better year than he did.” There is also a top 20 list of Chris Berman’s catchphrases and nicknames for sports stars.

 This is a book designed for those moments when you have a few seconds or perhaps minutes where you need to while away the time by taking your mind elsewhere. Therefore, a bathroom shelf is a good location.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Review of "Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life," by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos

Review of

Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life, by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos, ISBN 9781401222611

Five out of five stars

Antihero journalist navigates bizarre dystopia

 Spider Jerusalem is an extremely talented investigative journalist that finds and experiences some of the bizarre aspects of a society that would be a dystopia if even one-third of the current features were true. Fearless in pursuing his craft despite his claims to the contrary, Spider will go anywhere and do almost anything to learn the truth about the wackiness in his world.

 In the opening story, the “boyfriend” of Spider’s female assistant is going to have his consciousness transferred into some form of electronic form where he will live for a long time. As part of the process, his physical body will be completely deconstructed.

 A plot thread that runs through these stories is that the head of Spider’s ex-wife was frozen at the time of her death, and she was not to be revived until there was conclusive proof that Spider was dead. That head was lost/stolen and Spider is involved, even though he has legitimate claims of innocence.

 There is a great deal of creative bizarreness in this graphic novel. There is a sentient police dog that was emasculated by Spider, a two-headed cat that smokes two cigarettes at the same time, a headless child that claims to have been fathered by Spider, a banner that offers cloned human meat at a low price, and Spider seeking refuge for writing in a portable toilet on a city street. He is rousted by members of a sect that consider physical contact between humans to be vulgar.

 An unusual reading experience, Spider Jerusalem is a strange hero in a world where technology is advanced, but it has gone in many bizarre directions.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Review of "Strange Fruit, Number 1 of 4," Boom! comics

 Review of

Strange Fruit, Number 1 of 4, Boom! comics

Five out of five stars

Great first segment of what can be a classic story

 The location is Chatterlee, Mississippi and the year is 1927. At that time, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) was the real power in the area, the hooded night riders terrorized blacks and any whites that sympathized with them. It is April and the rain has fallen nonstop all the way along the Mississippi. Whole towns have been wiped out in the north and that crest is on the way to Chatterlee. There is a concerted effort to build a levee to hold back the water, but like all other aspects of southern society at that time, bigotry and segregation limit all attempts to have all work together for the common good.

 Even as the water rises and there is not enough people working to shore up the levee, the KKK carries out its’ vendetta. The federal government has sent a skilled engineer to give expert advice to the people, but he is black, and his advice is not welcomed. The white men simply will not take instruction from an educated black man despite his clear expertise in the area of flood control.

 Suddenly, there is a light in the clouded sky as a meteor comes down and crashes. It is actually a spaceship, and it contains a large and extremely powerful black man. He is clearly intelligent and when he encounters armed white men, there is a hint that he was also the victim of some form of imprisonment and torture.

 With all the backdrop of racial bigotry, the genuine desire of some to build the protective levee and the frustrations of blacks only a step above slavery, there are many different and concurrent paths that the plot can take. This first issue has whetted the reader’s appetite for learning what comes next. I read this comic at night and purchased the next installment the following day.

Review of "Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Special," by Harlan Ellison

 Review of

Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Special, by Harlan Ellison

Five out of five stars

Comic adaptations of Ellison’s work

 Narrated by Harlan Ellison himself, this comic features some of the most bizarre and macabre of Ellison’s short stories. He was known as the bad boy of science fiction, with an irascible personality that he freely acknowledged, Ellison wrote some of the most memorable short stories in the areas of horror and science fiction. His twisted imagination knew few bounds, one wonders where he managed to unearth some of his plots.

 Ellison freely admits that some of these are not what he considers his best stories. Yet, when rendered into the comic form, they pack an emotional punch that will raise and keep your attention. My favorite is “On the Slab,” a modern adaptation of the myth of Prometheus. It is a puzzling story until the giant bird appears. What comes later is a plot twist from a genius.

 As a lifelong fan of science fiction, it is my hope that many other classic short stories will be “translated” into comic form. The work of Harlan Ellison is one of the best places to start.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review of "Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens," by Bartosz Sztybor and Jakub Rebelka

 Review of

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens, by Bartosz Sztybor and Jakub Rebelka

Five out of five stars

Retelling of the story of looking elsewhere when you have it at home

 This tale takes place in the city of Gdansk on the sea. There is great wealth in the city and there is a substantial fishing fleet. One fisherman was never happy with the amount of his catch or what he received for it. He always wanted more, so he neglects his wife and daughter. One night when he is out in his boat alone he hears a very enchanting song.

 That song makes him very happy and it is sung by a mermaid. Going back to his home long enough to get some food, the fisherman imprisons the mermaid so that he can hear her singing all the time. When he loses his family, the fisherman embarks on worldwide travels of great danger. Yet, despite all of what he saw and did, he remains unhappy.

 Finally, he is passing an inn when he hears some incredible singing. Enchanted, he walks in to find that it his daughter that is capable of singing at a level equal to the mermaid. He is overwhelmed with sadness over what he has missed in his pursuit of dreams outside his family.

 There have been many variations of the basic story of looking far for what is in fact near. This version is very well done and is appropriate for all ages. It is a lesson that must often be relearned throughout life.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Review of "The Bear Who Wouldn’t Share," by Jonathan Allen

 Review of

The Bear Who Wouldn’t Share, by Jonathan Allen ISBN 0763567337

Five out of five stars

A lesson in sharing with friends

 It is Bear’s birthday and Granny Bear has baked a special cake for his birthday. She asks him to invite his friends for tea as she has made the cake for the express purpose of sharing. However, Bear does not want to share, his selfish nature makes him want to eat it all. In order to guarantee that he gets all the cake, he only invites the friends that cannot fit through the door. Bear then refuses to exit the house when they knock, he stays inside and eats until the cake is all gone. At the end, Bear suffers from the displeasure expressed by his friends.

 This book has flaps that can be moved like a door in response to knocking being expressed. This gives the young reader the opportunity to engage in some simple motor skills along with reading. The level is very early in the elementary school sequence, the act of holding and turning the pages of the oversize version could be challenging for some young readers. The book is ideal for one older person reading it to a group of young children, the large size means that the images can be seen for some distance. The lesson is also a very appropriate one for life at any age.

Review of "Payback Time," by Carl Deuker

 Review of

Payback Time, by Carl Deuker, ISBN 9780547577333

Five out of five stars

A YA sports novel with a different perspective

 The main character and his compatriot in this sports story are not players, they are journalists. Daniel True is in high school and wants to be a famous journalist. Extremely overweight, several years ago he was dubbed “the Michelin Man,” and that has been shortened to “Mitch.” He works on the newspaper of Lincoln High School and since it is his senior year, he thought that he would be the editor.

 That did not happen, but his assignment turned out to be a blessing. Mitch was given the job of covering the school sports and in the words of his editor, “That is the only thing that everyone reads.” Mitch is an excellent writer, and Horst Diamond, the star quarterback, is a solid major college prospect. There is the reasonable expectation that the Lincoln High football team will contend for the state title.

 Yet, there is a mystery man that has appeared on the team. He is Angel Marichal and he has a rifle arm, is very fast and has a solid, muscular body. However, when Mitch and his photographer Kimi try to give him the proper credit, the coach edits out any mention or image of Angel that is scheduled to go to press.

 There is a valid reason for this, and Mitch and Kimi get involved in dangers as they pursue the story. This unusual element makes this book an adventure story like few others. Mitch also becomes involved with girls for the first time, so a twist of the plot has him slimming down so that he is more attractive and can keep up with others. This is a great book, there is adolescent angst combined with great drive to succeed and dig out the truth.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Review of "The Frost Haint of ‘Possum Hollow and Other Ozark Tales," by Alan Lance Andersen

 Review of

The Frost Haint of ‘Possum Hollow and Other Ozark Tales, by Alan Lance Andersen

Five out of five stars

Great material for a local liars contest

 These tales are the kind that men with some adult refreshment inside them tell others of things designed to stretch your level of incredulity. More specifically an aged grandfather relating a wild story to enraptured children.

 While some of the stories could be considered on the edge of the “Believe it or not” range, many are far beyond that level. All are legends with their origin in the Ozark mountains and some feature writer Mark Twain and outlaw Jesse James.

 A frost haint is a spectre that causes objects that it breaths on to frost up and freeze. It frightened many people until it met its’ match in Uncle Elmer. His solution was to take a deep breath and blow hard on the frost haint.

 These stories represent some of the best traditions of storytelling in the Ozark mountain region. Andersen has preserved these legends for future generations to snicker at and maybe be a bit scared of.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Review of "Mickey Mouse In Color: 1930s Disney Comic Strip Classics," edited by Bruce Hamilton

 Review of

Mickey Mouse In Color: 1930s Disney Comic Strip Classics, edited by Bruce Hamilton ISBN 0394575199

Five out of five stars

The evolution of a mouse into a star on paper and screen

 Originally called Mortimer, the Mickey Mouse character was not fully formed when it first appeared. It took several iterations and some time as Mickey morphed into the widely popular character. His personality, attire and companions changed significantly over time. In some ways, he was a typical hero, battling mad scientists, crooks and evil doers. Other times, he was a fun-loving creature that enjoyed his journey through life.

 This book is a chronicle of the development of the Mickey Mouse character in the 1930s. The strips from that era appear in true color, showing how Mickey went through his life, braving danger in order to conquer the evil doers. There is also extensive text that explains the background of the character and some of the thought processes that went into the stories. The artists that created the strips are also featured in the textual explanations. The origins of the secondary characters such as Goofy are also explained.

 Like so many comic characters, Superman and Batman are two others, Mickey Mouse was created in the 1930’s, when the United States was in the depths of the devastating economic Depression. While some of the situations and language used then now appears quaint, the strips remain entertaining.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Review of "X-O Manowar Issue 1," Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello and Diego Rodriguez

 Review of

X-O Manowar Issue 1, Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello and Diego Rodriguez

Five out of five stars

Setting the context for super soldier adventures

Aric is an Earthman that has somehow been relocated to the planet Gorin. He works as a farmer and has a blue-skinned female companion. From the opening dialog, it is clear that he has known war while on Earth. Yet, Gorin is also a planet where war is common and even though he is missing his left hand, he is forcibly impressed into an army in revolt against the Cadmiums. When he shows his left arm and says that he is missing a sword hand, he is told that he can still serve as a target for the enemy soldiers. There is also the introduction of some form of magic sphere that gives him as yet unknown powers for battle.

 When the war action begins, Aric demonstrates that he is indeed a super soldier, mowing down the opposition and taking physical punishment that would have killed most others. A natural leader of men in battle, Aric presses forward, demonstrating that he is a very experienced combat veteran.

 The first issue in any series must provide a sufficient background to the upcoming story, yet not so much that there is no uncertainty. That is done well in this first issue of the series. While Aric is successful in his exploits, the reader is not completely exposed to precisely what is the extent of his powers. Once I completed this issue, I quickly acquired the next in the series. There can be no greater compliment than that.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Review of "Dork Tower #18 Understanding Gamers," Dork Storm comics

 Review of

Dork Tower #18 Understanding Gamers, Dork Storm comics

Five out of five stars

Parody of gamers with a lot of truth

 True hard-core gamers form a significant fraction of modern society. The games range from role-playing board games to online with wild graphic action. The desire for more graphics has been one of the driving forces behind the development of even faster and more efficient graphics engines. This new power has led to the development of the new form of challenging entertainment called esports. There are leagues with some professional players.

 This comic drops into the past a bit and lampoons gamers as creatures that find the world outside games to be difficult to cope with. Gamers are portrayed as nerds with limited skills outside gaming, the cliches about such people abound. Yet, it is humorous and all in good fun, most gamers admit their addiction to the challenges of faster and better games with against more skilled competition.

 While overstated most of the time, this is still a reasonably accurate portrayal of the gamers of years ago. When people played for fun and challenges before it became a billion-dollar business with a professional class.

Review of "The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," by George Saunders

 Review of

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, by George Saunders ISBN 9780812989632

Five out of five stars

Retelling of the help others to help yourself story

 This is a very creative rendition of the classic story of how you help yourself when you help others. Three families live in the tiny seaside village of Frip. All three of them have goats and they earn their living by selling their milk.

 Gappers are creatures that crawl out of the sea and attach themselves to the goats. When they do, milk productions drops. The “solution” for some time has been to remove the gappers from the goats, carry them to a cliff and drop them into the sea. Since this does not harm the gappers and they have memory, they crawl out of the sea and go back to attach to the goats. Therefore, the removal of the gappers is a daily event.

 When the gappers begin concentrating on the goats of Capable’s family and leaving the others alone, she asks the others for assistance, and they ignore her pleas. In desperation, Capable sells their goats and takes up the lost art of fishing. This causes the gappers to attach to the other goats and the others are now facing the loss of income. It becomes so bad that the others reach the point that they must sell their goats and they beg Capable for help in learning how to fish. Able to forgive their previous transgressions, Capable teaches them and now they can live on the fish they catch and ignore the gappers. All three families now live better than they ever did, they don’t have to fight the gappers, so they have more food and energy for living.

 This is another iteration of the classic story of self-centeredness being a long-term disaster and how helping others is a way to help yourself. The many creative and original aspects of the story make it a fun book to read.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Review of "The Mad Tea-Party and Other Festival Skits," by Alan Lance Andersen

 Review of

The Mad Tea-Party and Other Festival Skits, by Alan Lance Andersen ISBN 9780557040032

Four out of five stars

Three short humorous skits/plays

 Lewis Carroll, a.k.a. mathematician/logician Charles Dodgson, wrote the “Alice in Wonderland” books, arguably the best fiction books ever written in the English language. The title work in this collection of three dramatic works is based on the tea-party scene from “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.”

 Since modern readers are unfamiliar with some of the tenets of Victorian England, the Mad Tea-Party is narrated by Carroll. The play is humorous, the interjection of Carroll’s commentary lightens the heartedness of the skit. He is very much an active character in the action.

 The second skit is called “Oliver’s Birthday Picnic” and it is based on the famous comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The two comedians are having a picnic in an area where there is a sign stating, “Keep off the grass.” Ever resourceful, the two picnickers use the sign as a makeshift table. An office comes along to shoo them away and the actions becomes classic slapstick with a concluding pie in the face. The dialog and action is very much Laurel and Hardy with a hint of The Three Stooges.  

 The third skit is called “Barcelona” and is based on a nonsensical premise with very exaggerated pseudo-Italian dialog. An officer encounters a crying woman that claims that her husband Luigi was grabbed and carried off by a large dragon. Her first major lines are, “What’s dat-a you say? He ask-a me ifa dere’s-a somathin’ wrong?? Somathin’ wrong!!” While there are times when the dialog breaks into the normal, most of the lines by the female character have this form. There is some humor, but it is weak as the dialog is simply too exaggerated.

 Properly acted while not being taken too seriously, these plays will be entertaining and fun to produce. A list of the needed props for each play is given. They are few and easily obtained.

Review of "The Greatest of All: A Japanese Folktale," by Eric A. Kimmel

 Review of

The Greatest of All: A Japanese Folktale, by Eric A. Kimmel ISBN 0153073268

Five out of five stars

Classic tale of looking elsewhere for what is already there

 There are many stories of people searching for the prize elsewhere when it is already nearby. The classic “Wizard of OZ” is the best known. This book for children is another rendition of this tale, this time the main characters are rodents, and the location is Japan.

 A  family of mice live in a corner of the Emperor’s palace and one day pretty daughter Chuko came to her father and told him that a field mouse named Ko Nezumi has expressed a desire to marry her. Since he lives in the Emperor’s palace and eats crumbs for the royal plates, her father considers himself the mouse equivalent of royalty. Therefore, he forbids his daughter from marrying a commoner.

 In an attempt to find a much better husband, the father consults the Emperor and asks that the Emperor marry her, for he is the best possible match. The Emperor declines, saying that the sun is greater. This begins a chain of “better thans” that goes through the clouds, wind and a stone wall. The end result is that the father discovers that the common field mouse is the best match of all.

 This is a great story for children and is a lesson in multicultural studies as well. Although the plot is classic and has been used many times, it never ages or loses relevance.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Review of "Flash Gordon: Treachery on Mongo!" by Bill Pearson and Ric Estrada

 Review of

Flash Gordon: Treachery on Mongo! by Bill Pearson and Ric Estrada

Five out of five stars

 The original Flash Gordon of the 1930’s

 Two of my favorite serial comic strips since my youth are Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond and Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk. Even though they have been modernized, I still enjoy the original creations of the 1930’s. While the storylines are a bit corny to modern readers, they are a look back into the escapist comics of the Great Depression.

 As the title implies, Flash, Zarkov and Dale are on Mongo and are facing threats from the tyrant Ming the Merciless. Once thought dead, Ming still lives and is sending his proxy forces in an attempt to kill Flash. The first threat is from the Lizardmen, the second is from the massive Monolith and the third is the Beastmen.

 The comics provide creative people with a literal canvas to create creatures and situations far removed from reality. Which is the point, especially at a time when a large percentage of the country was destitute. This book of Flash Gordon adventures that mimics the strip of the thirties is both entertaining and was suitably escapist for the times.

Review of "303 Issue 1," comic by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows

 Review of

303 Issue 1, comic by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows

Five out of five stars

Search for downed prize hardware in Afghanistan

 This creators of this comic did a superb job of setting the context for an engaging story. A small group of what appear to be international mercenaries is being guided through the wilds of Afghanistan. They are being led a large Russian man carrying a Lee-Enfield rifle. Some of the history of that weapon is given, from the use in Europe in 1914 to the mountains of Afghanistan when is was used by the Afghans to chase out the Soviet army.

 At this time, the group are being guided by a local Afghan man and they are searching for a crashed American transport that contains very valuable cargo. They are not the only team searching, there is an American search effort as well as a British one. An unusual feature of the scenario is that the British offered to assist the Americans and that offer was rebuffed.

 The leader of the mercenary group is a very wise and experienced old soldier. He served in Afghanistan, so he knows the terrain as well as how the locals will react. It is a tactical game of military chess, as each side makes their decisions based on the cold calculations of the advantages of wounding one of the other side.

 This comic ends with a cliffhanger that injects a desire in the reader to read the subsequent issues. It is a great story that is a bit more topical, given the recent events in Afghanistan.