A Christmas Mix For You – VI

Let me be honest. I’m getting tired of digging through and dredging up all the Christmas music out there. I’ve already shared the holiday tunes I thought were worthwhile, and had to dig around near the bottom of the proverbial barrel to fill up the last holiday mix (or two).

So the heck with it. This year, I’m just going to go through my collection, and without curating or even ordering the choices, just toss out every single version of “Jingle Bells” I have.

Take it or leave it. Continue reading

Now What?

So we’ve had two weeks and many hours of people giving their testimony on Trump’s “Aid for Dirt” bribery scandal. As could be expected, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asked pointed questions that strengthened their case for Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, while the Republicans responded with “La la la, I can’t hear you, Biden, corruption, Burisma, hearsay, la la la…..”

The media have gone over the testimony picking out highlights and wondering why the whole megillah hasn’t moved the proverbial needle on Impeachment. Personally, the high point of the many hearings was Chairman Schiff’s closing comments on the last day of the hearings. He made an impassioned defense of law and order, as well as our nation’s role on the world stage. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now:

And to think it was all ad-libbed!

Anyway, now that the hearings are done, what happens next?

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Book Review: Finder

FINDER
Suzanne Palmer
DAW Books, NY
Copyright 2019 by the author

Fergus Ferguson is what he calls a “Finder”. According to the book jacket copy, that means he’s a sort of interstellar repo man – with all the survival, “jack of all trades”, con man, and MacGyvering skills that entails.

His current job has him recovering a stolen spaceship of the latest design. He’s tracked it to the Cernekan (“Cernee”, for short) system, where before he can even settle in he survives being an incidental bystander to what turns out to be a politically-motivated murder. Which, by the way, turns out to be the opening salvo in a power grab by one of the local big shots in the system.

Now, he’s got to follow the book jacket copy and get caught up in the lives and politics of Cernee’s residents – and deal with the enigmatic aliens hanging around the place – if he wants to succeed.

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MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year

Once the World Series was over (congratulations to the Nationals, by the way), baseball fans immediately turned their attention to specualting on the awards. There’s plenty of prizes and trophies to be handed out, but most fans only worry about the “Big Three”: Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player.

The general consensus this year was that Pete Alonso of the Mets and Yordan Alvarez of the Astros would take home the Rookie of the Year awards, and their teammates Jacob deGrom and either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole would be honored with the Cy Young Award. The MVP “racesare a lot closer, with the Angel’s Mike Trout and the Astro’s Alex Bregman “battling” in the American League, and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Brewers as the leading candidates in the National League.

Well, we already know the Rookies of the Year and Cy Young winners – the general consensus was correct for both, with Verlander getting the Cy Young nod in the AL. The MVP award will be announced next week.

You’ll note that in each league, the same team collected the two prizes given so far. I wondered how often does it happen where the same team has more than one of the three major award winners. I went and looked – and naturally, you’re going to read about it (if you click on the “More” thing below).

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Halloween on Fremont Street – 2

Fremont Street is the “heart” of downtown Las Vegas. It’s actually in the city of Las Vegas; almost all of The Strip is south of the city line in the unincorporated community of Paradise. It’s where you’ll find a lot of the older, classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and El Cortez.

Some years ago, the city fathers saw that everyone was hanging out on The Strip, making the downtown area pretty much a ghost town. Something was needed to revive the area.

They closed off several blocks of Fremont Street in front of the casinos, turning it into a pedestrian mall. They covered it with a HUGE light display for hourly light and music shows, and set up three quasi-permanent performance stages (they look like they could be easily disassembled if the need arose). Street performers were allowed, within reasonable limits.

In effect, they turned it into the world’s largest open air nightclub.

So it’s the perfect place for public parties and festivities. Like Halloween.

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Halloween on Fremont Street – 1

So I found myself with some vacation time that I couldn’t carry over to next year. “Self,” I say. “You don’t want to be a schmuck and use it up in November when we’ve got lots of days off anyway, or in December when everyone else will be using up theirs. You need to pick some time in October.” Then I notice that Halloween would be on a Thursday this year. “You can take that week off! Travel out on Monday, do tourist things on Tuesday and Wednesday, party with the spooks on Thursday, recover on Friday, and return home on Saturday! That’s a cunning plan!”

But where to go? The last time I traveled for Halloween, it didn’t work out too well. And there wasn’t anything there that I particularly wanted to see….again. What about Las Vegas? I’d been there before – several times, actually. And it would be rocking for Halloween, right?

I booked a hotel right on Fremont Street, so the party would be outside my front door. Can’t go wrong there! And a day trip to the Grand Canyon – why not?

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Movie Review: PAIRD (2019)

LEGO has been an amazing tool for amateur filmakers. The pieces are cheap, infinitely combineable, and the human figures are all at the same size and are easily posable. Anyone wanting to do a little stop-motion animation need only get a bucket of LEGOs and a camera, and they’re in business.

There’s a whole genre of these “brickfilms”, with its own support communities and festivals. Given the time-consuming nature of the technique, most of them qualify as “shorts”. (The LEGO Movie and its sequels were made using computer animation, but were careful to follow the brickfilm style.)

Back in 2011, Joseph DeRose started making one of these brickfilms. His 20 minute short quickly grew to the point where it got away from him, and became a full-length feature film. He worked on it with friends and family over the years, doing it in segments and uploading them to YouTube as each one was completed.

He finished it in August, and uploaded the entire thing to YouTube.

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Astros vs. Nationals

OK, this is it! World Series time! The best team in baseball facing the hottest team. And only the second time ever when both teams were expansion teams (the first was in 2015 when the Royals beat the Mets). The teams are loaded with talent, especially when it comes to starting pitching. Plan for a low-scoring series, but expect something unexpected to happen (naturally).

I’ve read some comments complaining that MLB would have preferred a New York – Los Angeles series, because those are the two biggest TV markets in the country. As it happens, Houston and DC are both in the top ten (at #7 and #6 respectively), so it’s not going to matter much. There are other gripes that starting the WS games at 8 pm means they will end after midnight, much too late for children. That claim betrays the commenter’s East Coast Bias. A game that ends at midnight in New York or DC will end at 11 pm in Chicago, St Louis, and Houston; at 10 pm in Denver and Phoenix; and 9 pm in Los Angeles and Seattle. I think the kids will be fine…

And as far as a “narrative” for FOX Sports to promote? The Astros are by far the best team in the game today; they are working on a dynasty. The Nationals are bringing the World Series to DC for the first time in seven decades. If your Promotions Dept. can’t do anything with that, fire them and get some new people in there.

I’m wondering who the Nationals will pick for “Ceremonial First Pitch” duties. The team doesn’t have enough history in DC to have some legendary players – yet. Perhaps they can hearken back to their Montreal Expo origins and call on Hall of Famer Tim Raines? It’s possible there just might still be someone alive who actually played for the original Washington Senators; if not, Walter Johnson’s grandson is around…. Whatever they do, please do NOT pick a political figure. Keep it baseball-related.

For the Houston Astros, I understand the temptation to ask Nolan Ryan if he’d like to do it. I would call on the “Killer B’s” – Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and Craig Biggio – their superstars from their good teams in the late 90s and early 00s. If they need a fourth, then ask Ryan.

Anyway, I’m going to go on record here as hoping that the Astros take it in five games – mostly because I’ll be on vacation next week, and won’t be able to watch Games 6 or 7…

Book Review: The Weird

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Tom Doherty Associates
(c) 2011 by the authors

It’s kind of tricky reviewing an anthology, especially one where multiple authors are involved. What are you reviewing? The individual stories? The editorial choices involved in their selection? The presentation? I’m just going to go with the overall principle of “Should you get this book?” Rather simple, but for an amateur reviewer like myself, it will do.

The Weird is a massive collection of – well, you can’t really call it “horror”, because the stories are generally more unsettling than outright scary. Think “Tales from the Darkside” rather than “Tales from the Crypt”. There are 110 stories in the book’s 1100+ pages, dating from 1908 to 2010. Included are authors you should have heard of (Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft), authors that horror buffs should know (Clark Ashton Smith, Daphne du Maurier, Algernon Blackwood), and authors that will be new to you (Augusto Monterroso, Stefan Grabinski, Haruki Murakami). There’s an amazing variety; only two authors get to have two stories. Many of the stories are translations; it’s great to see so many “non-English speaking” authors and other cultures being represented

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Blog Hop

I’m not sure what this is or how it works. Seems to be some sort of “blog sharing” thing, so I thought I’d try it:

What is a blog hop?

A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS.
When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the
exact same list appears on each blog.

Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list.
The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can “HOP” from blog
to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…