Friday, October 28, 2016

Two by Two

Reviews of two flicks and two books:

Café Society (2016)
To say that Café Society has the flavor one expects from a Woody Allen movie is enough to let most readers know whether or not they will like it. The minority who lean one way as often as the other, however, probably will lean toward this one. It is not one of his home runs, but it is a solid base hit. Much of the credit belongs to the actors Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. (The two had worked together before on the non-Woody dark action comedy American Ultra.) Not all Woody’s screen alter egos fit the role well, but Jesse wears it comfortably; Kristen Stewart is so appealing that we finally can forgive her for Twilight. Also, as a period piece Café Society is a good-looking film.

Basic plot (with a few *spoilers*): In the 1930s Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), son of an NYC jeweler, moves to Hollywood and gets a job running errands for his Uncle Phil, played by a surprisingly well-cast Steve Carrell. Phil is an agent with major film industry clout. Bobby becomes enamored of Uncle Phil’s secretary Veronica, aka “Vonnie” (Kristen Stewart), unaware she is Phil’s mistress. Vonnie returns affection but her heart belongs primarily to Phil. Bobby decides to move back to New York and manage a nightclub for his gangster brother Ben. Bobby becomes successful and marries another Veronica (Blake Lively). Bobby and Vonnie cross paths again when Phil and Vonnie, now married, show up in New York on business.

Many film reviewers have commented on a deep cynicism regarding romantic love that pervades movies made since the start of the new millennium. Something outlandish has to be introduced in order to sell the idea to a skeptical audience: he’s a vampire, she’s an alien princess, he’s a werewolf, one or the other is a time traveler, or (as in Silver Linings Playbook) they’re both crazy. “Ah, that accounts for it.” Even Disney is on board. The movie Maleficent never questions the contention that true love in the romantic sense doesn’t exist: Prince Philip fails miserably to wake Sleeping Beauty. Whatever the cause of this cynical audience mood and however commercially wise it may be to cater to it on screen, the underlying contention is in fact wrong. Love doesn’t often turn out well, but that’s not the same as saying it doesn’t exist.  Of course it exists: people will ruin their lives over it – I surely damaged a good part of mine. Percy Sledge had a 50 year career singing the same song because we know what he meant. Woody knows the cynicism is wrong, too, and isn’t reluctant to say so in his movies, but he also knows the likely outcome: “Unrequited love kills more people in the year than tuberculosis.” Even if it is requited, the odds are big that there will be other reasons why things won’t work out. (That things generally don’t work out is a separate point entirely: recognition of this is not cynicism but observation and experience.) So, Woody’s movies, including Café Society, tend to be bittersweet – thoughtful, too. As one character remarks, “Socrates said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' But the examined one is no bargain.”

Thumbs Up, but if you usually don’t like Woody, this one won’t change your mind.

**** ****

Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare
By Isaac Asimov – 1970
As mentioned a few blogs ago, I occasionally pluck a book at random from my home library for a re-read. This one is proving especially pleasurable the second time around. (I’m still in the midst of it.)

Though best known as a science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a polymath, a professor of biochemistry, and an author of more than 500 books. Besides his fiction, he wrote nonfiction on almost every imaginable subject. Few people were better at elucidating complex ideas for a popular readership. This 800 page guide to the plays of Shakespeare is both accessible and erudite. Let’s face it, William can be a bit daunting for modern audiences and most of the volumes of academic treatises written in professor-ese on his work only make matters worse. But Shakespeare wrote some pretty good stuff, and with a proper non-pedantic overview he can be great fun.

Asimov in his introduction comments on several of the advantages that native speakers of English have, largely due to the accidents of history. He then adds, “But most of all, we who speak English can read, in the original, the writings of William Shakespeare, a man who is certainly the supreme writer through all the history of English literature and who, in the opinion of many, is the greatest writer who ever lived – in any language.” Hyperbole? Maybe, but Asimov’s enthusiasm serves him and us well.

Highly recommended. In particular, if you are going to catch a performance of one of Will’s plays, first reading Asimov’s relevant chapter on the play is sure to enhance enjoyment.

Thumbs way Up.

**** ****

The Revenant (2015)
This is about as far away from a Woody Allen movie as it is possible to get: wilderness, survival, revenge, and brutish manly men in a harsh environment. 156 minutes of it.

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the film is based on a real event in 1823. Fur trappers in the Rockies have a problem when one of them, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), is badly mauled by a grizzly and is unable to travel. While the others go ahead, three of the team – Fitzgerald, Jim, and Glass’ half-Pawnee son Hawk – stay behind with instructions to wait until Glass either dies or can travel. Fitzgerald kills Hawk and convinces Jim to leave Glass for dead. Considering how badly Glass is mangled and how unforgiving the mountain winter is, his death seems surely imminent. Instead, motivated by revenge, Glass somehow survives and struggles to find his way out of the mountains and back to the trading post. The handful of people with whom he crosses paths along the way are as dangerous as the bear.

The Revenant is beautifully filmed amid spectacular scenery. The bear attack – though computer generated fx – is utterly convincing.

This is not the type of movie I commonly pick – and in fact I didn’t pick this one. It was the majority preference at a get-together. Yet, I have to give it a Thumbs Up simply for the quality of the filmmaking. As survival tales go, this is certainly well done.

**** ****

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves
By Benjamin K. Bergen -- 2016
For words and phrases that make up such a substantial proportion of everyday speech, remarkably few academic studies of profanity exist. Bergen endeavors to make up for that. He employs the modern usage of the word “profanity,” ditching the old distinction between blasphemy and mere vulgarity. The taboo words that constitute profanity come in four types: 1) blasphemy, 2) references to sex, 3) references to excretory functions, and 4) slurs, whether racial, sexual, ethnic, physical, or what-have-you. Slurs aren’t always included by definers of profanity, but I think Bergen is right to do so.

Bergen explores when, where, and how we use profane words and phrases, and how they are processed differently in the brain from other speech. He examines how usage varies among different social groups and classes. Though Bergen is primarily discussing English, he also details differences with other languages as to what is taboo and to what degree. (The title is the only place Bergen avoids using a particular explicit word, presumably so that the book will be displayed openly on bookstore shelves.) He explores how words change over time, becoming more or less acceptable. An example of a word drifting toward profanity is one with which I have personal experience. There are lots of Richards over age 50 who go by the name Dick. My dad did. My parents called me Dick. A few people who have known me since childhood still call me Dick, though nobody else does. Almost no one under 50 goes by that name: they are all Ricks and Riches. In a similar way “cock” is increasingly replaced in common speech by “rooster”; if one uses the former word to complain about being awakened by the chicken next door, one might be misunderstood.

All in all, What the F is a useful light on a much overlooked corner of linguistics. I’m also pleased to see a defense from Bergen of free expression – something on which one not always can count from contemporary academics, many of whom seem bent on ever-lengthening the list of taboo words and phrases. He has little patience for censorship; the damage done by taboo words is outweighed by damage done suppressing them. Bergen also argues that there is no evidence exposure to profanity harms kids.

Thumbs Up – not way up, but up.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It Was Night in the Lonesome October

October weather in these parts is variable, to put it gently. We might get a foot of snow (as in 2011), a hurricane (as in 2012), or a heat wave (as in 2014). We might get all three – or none. The past several days, after a chilly start to the month, we have been treated to sunny balmy 82 degree (28C) days. The nights have been pleasant, too. One doesn’t always appreciate shirtsleeve nights in August, but in October they are infrequent and therefore especially welcome.

Wednesday was just such a night. With all outside lights shut off, I sat outside in the dark for a while. I do that sometimes. The sky was clear, the stars were bright, and aircraft too high to hear crisscrossed overhead. Despite the peaceful scene, I soon was on primal alert – not by intent but by instinct. My home is surrounded by woods and crepitation beyond the tree line meant something large was moving about. The odds are that the sounds in the woods were made by deer, but I wasn’t going to walk over there to find out and I was keenly aware of the distance from where I sat to the back door. For most of human existence large predators have been a serious threat. We have been on their menu. Inside our cozy homes on land stripped of large predators (other than our own kind) by our forebears, we tend to forget that – but only intellectually, not emotionally. Predators still haunt our thoughts. Sounds and shadows in the dark still get our adrenaline pumping. Our bodies still react as though hyenas are stalking us.

Here in New Jersey’s suburban fringe, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will not be eaten by hyenas. Mountain lions, once native the state, no longer exist here. Coyotes and black bears do, but neither animal is much interested in people. Bear attacks do happen on rare occasion, but almost always as a result of a surprise encounter that startles both person and bear. Bears are quite capable of being dangerous: last year one killed a deer in my yard and left half of it for me to clean up. One could kill a person just as easily, but for whatever reason they don’t make any special effort to do it. So, I was safe and secure in the dark whatever my limbic system said to the contrary.

Makers of horror films try to tickle these same limbic structures with their fare – and we are treated to a lot of their fare in October. Back inside my house, having had enough of the real horror unfolding on TV (the final Presidential debate), I selected the flick The Cabin in the Woods, which takes place at another…well…cabin in the woods. Filmed in 2009 but not released until 2012 due to MGM’s bankruptcy, this movie got very disparate reviews when in theaters: for every enthusiastic “Wicked fun!” there was another “Disappointing.” Upon having seen it, this doesn’t surprise me. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who had worked together on Buffy, like to mix genres: in this case, horror with a kind of off-beat comedy – not outright satire, which is fairly common (e.g. Student Bodies), but something more idiosyncratic. I can see why hardcore horror fans were perplexed by it – even annoyed. But I’m with the crowd that found it fun.

 "athlete, scholar, whore, fool, virgin"
A stereotypical horror film involves a group of isolated young people whose lives are in peril from some attacker(s), be the attacker a beast, a supernatural entity, or just a plain criminal. The members of the group are predictable archetypes with predictable behaviors who meet predictable fates. What if there is a deeper reason for these archetypes than just “convention?” What if they are a half-conscious echo of something real? What if each year human youths are offered up as ritualistic sacrifice by a secret organization to placate Ancient Ones? What if the ritual is all important: that the youths must transgress and be punished in some defined way? All of that is the premise of The Cabin in the Woods. There are multiple sacrifices around the world and many cultural variations to the rituals, but in each case the attention to ritual matters; at least one of the sacrifices has to succeed each year or the Ancient Ones will be angry. What happens if, for some combination of reasons, one year all of the ritual sacrifices fail? In Cabin the isolated youths unwittingly risk this happening by not being true to their archetypes.

Many people wonder if there is more to the world than meets the eye. Some hope there is. Cabin once again warns to be careful what you wish for.

Thumbs Up, but not for everyone: in particular, not for pure slasher aficionados.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jerzey Derby Brigade vs Shore Points Roller Derby

In last night’s entertaining bout in Morristown, NJ, the Jerzey Derby Brigade (JDB) on its home track faced Shore Points Roller Derby visiting from south Jersey. Both teams deployed similar tactics, using the diamond formation blocking technique to good effect. Shore Points fields a strong team, and, despite animated skating on both sides, took an early lead and soon built it to 30 points. Shore Points skaters #17 Meggo and #25 Lemonade repeatedly proved hard to stop, occasionally sailing through dense blocking. Minutes before the end of the first half, however, the game took a dramatic turn. JDB jammer #3684 CaliforniKate closed part of the gap. Then in a power jam against Shore Point blockers thinned by penalties, #235 A Bomb lapped the pack 5 times thereby giving JDB a 1 point lead (90-89) at halftime.

It is October after all, so halftime was marked by a Halloween costume contest – also by congratulations to #33 Doom Hilda celebrating 10 years of derby.

In the second half, #17 Meggo immediately recaptured the lead for Shore Points – a lead narrowed by JDB #8 Lil MO Peep in the subsequent jam. Blocking grew fiercer with skaters repeatedly taken off their feet. Shore Points #85 Buns N Roses was taken down hard enough to leave the track temporarily, though she later returned to jam. Shore Points once again built up a lead as it had in the first half (until the last few minutes of it). Despite spirited jams right up to the end by CaliforniKate, A Bomb, and Lil Mo Peep, the point spread was too much to overcome in the last minutes of the second half. Sore Points prevailed with a Final Score of 162 – 220.

MVPs: #8 Lil MO Peep (jammer) and #93 Freudian Slap (blocker) for JDB; #17 Outbreak “St. Marie” Meggo (jammer) and #96 Curse Me Thirsty (blocker) for Shore points.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Another Fine Mess

Four short reviews of October reads:

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (copyright 2016) by Tim Harford

Harford, senior columnist at The Financial Times and author of The Undercover Economist, extolls the virtues of disorder. He is in good company. Asked Albert Einstein, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

There are places where neatness counts. On a factory assembly line you don’t want random parts strewn about where they can trip workers and jam machinery. But where a mess doesn’t represent a physical hazard it aids creativity and productivity. Not just physical messiness: the most productive brainstorming teams are those in which the members don’t get along very well. Members of those types of teams have the least fun, to be sure, but they outperform genial teams, which are prone to groupthink since members are reluctant to challenge each other’s assumptions in a way that could undermine friendliness. Working on multiple projects at once, as did author/screenwriter/producer Michael Crichton for example, doesn’t dilute focus so much as keep it fresh; we all weary of something we do day in and day out, so diverting ourselves with another project cam refresh us and promotes creative cross-fertilization of ideas.

Harford doesn’t merely make assertions. He walks us through numerous psychological and sociological experiments on how disorder and order in various physical and social environments affects individuals and groups. Regrettably, most of us find disorder uncomfortable – our messes are likely a result of laziness rather than disordered activity. We like things arranged neatly. Our relationships too: people tend to seek out like-minded people and comfortably narrow their perspectives accordingly.

We can benefit from less neatness. As the Joker advised in The Dark Knight, “Introduce a little anarchy.” OK, maybe he’s not the best example, but, one must admit, he was creative.

Thumbs Up – not way up, but up.

**** ****

The Last Days of Night (copyright 2016) by Graham Moore

Historical novels often center on political figures and statesmen if only because there is a fair chance the reader knows who they are. But most of the world’s interesting people are and always have been private citizens: inventors, businesspeople, artists, writers, entertainers, and thieves. In The Last Days of Night the backdrop is the epic patent battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to determine the future of electric power in the United States – Edison championing DC current and Westinghouse AC. The viewpoint of the novel is that of Paul Cravath, the 27-year-old attorney chosen by George Westinghouse in 1888 because pricier and more experienced lawyers didn’t want to damage their own practices by opposing the powerful and often vengeful Edison.

The major players in the novel are real including Edison’s henchmen and the opera house singer Agnes Huntington. The battle was not confined to courtrooms; it involved arson, corporate spying, and sabotage. Almost as a gruesome prank, Edison invented an AC-powered electric chair in order to demonstrate the dangers of AC power: this despite Edison’s public opposition to capital punishment. His aides greased enough palms to get the New York legislature to approve the device for executions. A key figure in all this drama was the brilliant but oddball inventor/scientist Nikola Tesla who technically worked for Westinghouse but cared for little outside his laboratory. Tesla’s quirks raised many eyebrows among those who worked with him. For example, Paul Cravath, sitting at a table with Tesla at Delmonico’s, observed him calculating the volume of his dinner. Paul asked him if he always did such calculations prior to eating. Tesla answered, “Well, of course not; do not mistake me for a crazy. I can only ingest a dinner the cubic volume of which adds to a number divisible by three.”

The novel is well-researched and well-written. Moore takes a complex web of events and delivers it as a concisely coherent narrative. Moore honed this skill as a screenwriter, notably of The Imitation Game. He also has written a script for a film version of The Last Days of Night, which is in pre-production.

Enjoyable and Informative. Thumbs Up.

**** ****

Sugarshock! (copyright 2007) by Joss Whedon & Fabio Moon

Back in the 20-naughts, in between the TV series Firefly and Dollhouse, writer/director Joss Whedon experimented with a variety of old and new media, releasing books, comic books, and film both the old-fashioned way and digitally. Sugarshock! is a one-off digital comic written by himself and illustrated by Fabio Moon. It was posted online in 2007 and won the Eisner award for Best Web Comic. It was popular enough that Dark Horse eventually released a paper-and-ink edition as well, which is the one I bought.

“Sugarshock!” is a rock band at some unspecified future date. It is fronted by the Viking-hating (“Don’t be a Viking!”) Dandelion Naizen. The bass player is a robot. Dandelion doesn’t explain her Viking prejudice, and she keeps letting Norse mythological references (“By Odin!”) “accidentally” slip into her speech. Dandelion, we suspect, can’t possibly be as flaky she likes to seem, but then again maybe she is. She accepts an invitation to an intergalactic battle of the bands only to discover that “battle” is not meant metaphorically.

Inventive, funny, and a good story. Thumbs Up.

**** ****

A Hell of a Woman (copyright 1954) by Jim Thompson

I plucked out this novel, one of several Jim Thompson books on my shelves, for a re-read a while back. Two blogs ago I predicted, “I’ll probably enjoy it again. I’ll let you know.” I did and I do. Few people write so well as Thompson about the lowlife dregs of society – not people who are poor in cash but instead poor in character.

“Dolly” (aka Frank Dillon) is a sleazy door-to-door salesman for Pay-E-Zee stores. He skims off his company’s books as much as he dares but still can’t get ahead. He is contemptuous of his wife Joyce who is just like all the previous women in his life: “Tramps, that’s all I got.” It doesn’t seem to occur to him that he is the one picking them. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that any part of his “rotten” life could be caused by anything but lousy luck and meanspirited bosses.

His life takes a turn when he meets the beautiful Mona whose unpleasant aunt is sitting on a $100,000 insurance settlement (close to $2,000,000 in today’s dollars). We already know that no turn in Dolly’s life can be for the better; he wouldn’t allow it. Intrigue, sex, betrayal, and murder ensue.

Marvelous noir novel. Thumbs Up.

**** ****

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Closing Time

The equinox has come and gone. I and some friends had a cookout at my house to celebrate it. Yet, the full internal sensation of the change of seasons came from a more prosaic event. A few days ago my pool closed and will not reopen until May. Open water is a sponge for falling leaves: leaves blow around randomly but stop and sink when they hit the water. By early October it is impossible to keep up with them, so the cover goes on. 

Artificial pools have a long history. Swimming for sport and pleasure is older than recorded history. In Classical times, learning to swim was a regular part of youth education in both Greece and Rome – it was, of course, a useful military skill. Julius Caesar remained a renowned swimmer throughout his life. Typically people swam in ponds and rivers including (yuck) the Tiber, but there were purpose-built swimming pools as well. Roman baths are much more famous and impressive than Roman pools. The difference between a public bath and a public swimming pool might seem to reside only in the intent of the user, but the Romans recognized a difference and sometimes built the two side by side. We know that in the first and second centuries CE men and women used the public baths together; the first century poet Juvenal was morally offended by this and railed against it while the more urbane poet Martial simply mentioned it in passing. There is every reason to suppose pools were unsegregated, too. Some wealthy Roman citizens had private swimming pools similar in dimensions to modern ones. There is a well preserved one at Pompeii about 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep that is flanked by small shallower bathing pools. Gaius Maecenas in Rome heated his pool, and it is likely others who could afford it did the same.

Pools (and, it must be said, bathing) fell out of fashion in the Middle Ages. They didn’t really catch on again until the 19th century; competitive swimming was popular enough by 1896 to be part of the first modern Olympics. It was not until the first decade of the 20th century, however, that rising incomes made it possible for private pools to start showing up in backyards in middle class neighborhoods. They were (and still are) a big enough expense that only a minority of those who could build them chose to do so, but by the 1920s they no longer counted as a true rarity. Today in the US there are nearly 5 million private in-ground pools and another 3 or 4 million above-ground pools.

The climate in my home state of New Jersey is such that an outdoor swimming pool is a foolish accessory.  It is generally useful for 3 months out of the year. (I keep mine open for 5, but – except for a bear a few weeks ago – I’m the only one who ever uses it in May or September.) It is ridiculously high maintenance. Heating it, which I didn’t bother to do at all this year, is grossly expensive. The elements constantly conspire against a pool’s structural integrity. Winter frost breaks tiles, cracks concrete, and disintegrates coping. Summer algae stubbornly fights efforts to keep it in check. Pumps, filters, and furnaces rust and give out and are hugely costly to replace. Covers tear. Yet, a pool adds nothing – truly zero – to the resale value of a home; the risks and expenses of a pool are such negatives that buyers will not pay extra for one. I have one only because this property was formerly owned by my parents, who wanted a pool and enjoyed it. It became mine in 2001.

Were I to build a home for myself I would not spring for the cost of installing a pool. But, while I wouldn’t pay for one, I do enjoy and make full use of the one that is here. I’m saddened to see it close and look forward to reopening it again in May, during which month I’ll have it to myself – except maybe for the bear.

Eegah! (1962) – Pool parties are all fun and games until a caveman shows up

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Stacking the Stacks

There are certain technologies that I resist using, not because they baffle me but because they are esthetically unappealing. I realize that makes me sound like someone in 1905 insisting that a car is less appealing than a horse. (Come to think of it, I wrote exactly that in a blog a few years ago.) Much of my clinginess is to paper: I prefer paper checks to e-checks, paper currency to payments by iPhone, and paper books to ebooks. I don’t actually refuse to read digitized literature. If I don’t own a physical copy, am too cheap to buy one, and am too lazy to run to the library (a common triad of occurrences), I will click on or some similar site. But given my druthers, I’ll opt for a physical book in hand. A paper text has texture. It provides employment to four of the five senses: one sees, touches, smells, and hears the turning pages. I don’t taste my books; one has to draw a line somewhere.
Limited shelf space inevitably becomes a problem for anyone with this preference; I will grant that electronic books have an advantage in this regard. Due to the peculiarities of my home’s main-level floor plan I use the finished part of my basement as a library. There are presently 13 bookcases – several of them homemade, including the three in the pic – with room for somewhat more than 2500 books. Due to a slow but constant influx of new titles, the shelves require regular weeding to keep from overflowing, especially since I like to allow a little space on each shelf in order to accept new titles within the existing organization. All weeding methods are idiosyncratic: mine is the “hypothetical re-read” standard. I’m not going to re-read all 2500 books. That’s just a fact. There is not enough time. However, if in principle I might re-read a particular book, I will deem it shelfworthy and keep it; if I know for a fact that I wouldn’t re-read it no matter how much time was available, the book goes. At this stage in my life a majority of those “in principle” keepers surely will remain un-reread, but I don’t know which ones.
I made the short one for oversize books
I test the success of the weeding process every now and then by plucking a book at random: any one of them should be re-readable if I’ve done the job right. One I plucked a few evenings ago while chilling out after a very good but most un-chill George Thorogood concert was fortuitous for the season: Election Day 2084. It meets the standard. Edited by Isaac Asimov, it is a collection published in 1984 (which might have been the last time I read it) of 17 classic science fiction stories in which elections are a significant part of the plot. The original publication dates of the short stories range from 1941 (“Beyond Doubt” by Robert Heinlein) to 1975 (“On the Campaign Trail” by Barry N. Malzberg). Science fiction always says more about when it was written than it does about the future, but the best of it transcends its time as well. Yes, I see the irony of enjoying futuristic stories on an obsolescent technology.
The tales are various and clever. Isaac Asimov’s “Franchise” postulates a kind of democracy in which the most average citizen is chosen by a computer that has access to all citizens’ records. The “elected” average citizen is then given a single intense interview (more psychological than political in nature), and the computer than uses this information as a basis for determining public policy. In Frederick Pohl’s “The Children of Night,” scientific propagandists are employed to sway a referendum that crucially will affect earth’s relations with aliens. In “Hail to the Chief” elections are just distractions; the real government is a shadow government by an unelected elite. (Actually a fair number of conspiracy theorists today believe this to be true: that the world is run not even by the 1% – who are just distractions for the wrath of populists – but by a 0.01% whose positions and assets are unassailable.) Politicians in Frank Herbert’s “Committee of the Whole” must deal with a world in which a new cheap laser device that can be assembled in basements makes private citizens as well armed as governments. Robert Heinlein’s fanciful tale explains Easter Island statuary as political campaign material for the ancient republic of Mu.
If there is a theme running through all of the stories, it is a fundamental distrust in democracy. One hears many such rumbles in 2016, but this collection reminds us they are nothing new. All the tales seem at least a little informed by the century-old remark by anarchist philosopher/activist Emma Goldman, "If voting changed anything, it would be made illegal." I suppose there are some who hope that is true.
Asimov went back on the shelf minutes before I started this blog. Another random pluck has delivered A Hell of a Woman, a 1954 noir novel by Jim Thompson. Not a bad pick: lowlifes, betrayal, crime, and gruff dialogue. I barely remember the plot, but I remember I enjoyed it the first time. I’ll probably enjoy it again. I’ll let you know.

Nothing to do with home libraries, scifi, or elections, but I did mention that the night with Isaac came after an evening with George: