Book Review: Eighty Days

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History Making Race Around the World
Matthew Goodman
Ballantine Books, New York
(c) 2013 by the author

You may have heard (at least I hope it’s somewhere in the dustier corners of your memory) that after the publication of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, people started seriously considering the possibility of such a circumnavigation. At the offices of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, crusading reporter Nellie Bly was put up to the task. She departed from Hoboken NJ on November 14, 1889, heading across the Atlantic.

What I did not know was that later the same day, Elizabeth Bisland, a reporter and columnist for the monthly magazine The Cosmopolitan boarded a train leaving Grand Central heading west, with the same goal in mind.

The two women were not just racing the calendar, hoping that the uncertainties of long-distance travel (weather delays, equipment failures, et al.) would be minimal, but also each other.

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Now That The Smoke Has Cleared

Well, almost cleared. Or at least cleared enough for us to see the lay of the land after the elections. Technically, there’s a Senate seat from Florida that’s heading for a recount, and in Georgia, Stacey Abrams isn’t going to concede until every single vote has been counted (seriously, why are we letting one of the candidates in *any* election be the person who sets the rules for that election?).

The Forces of Democracy did very well. Though they lost a few seats in the Senate (taking control of that house was a long shot), they did garner control of the House of Representatives. Of considerable importance as well, they won a goodly number of governorships and state offices. And several states also passed decidedly Democratic measures (like Florida, where over one million residents got their voting rights restored).

So, now what?

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Never Made the World Series

Seems that every time the World Series comes around, there’s always a little talk about the players that are appearing there for the first time. I got to thinking. Really great players are often on great teams; the kind that win pennants on a regular basis. And they have careers that are long enough so that even by chance, they might wind up in the World Series. We even take it as granted that being in a World Series – even if your team doesn’t win – is one of the key factors in being a “great” player.

So I got to wondering. What great players had the bad luck to never be on a pennant winning team, and therefore never appear in a Fall Classic? Heck, you could probably go through the Hall of Famers and put together a full nine-player team….

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Book Review: How to Invent Everything

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler
by Ryan North
Riverhead Books
(c) 2018 by the author

It’s a fun conceit. Your rental time travel machine broke down, leaving you stranded in the distant past. And your FC3000(tm) personal time machine has no user serviceable parts. What do you need to know in order to not just survive or thrive, but start things moving towards an advanced technological civilization?

The book assumes you can manage to make a fire and build some sort of shelter (if your time machine has been damaged to the point where it won’t serve in that capacity, that is). As far as food goes, it gives the standard technique for safely determining if a plant is inedible or poisonous, and the helpful information that virtually all mammals and birds are safe to eat once cooked.

But then what?

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Halloween: Then and Now

If, like me, you are “of a certain age”, you can readily remember how Halloween used to be very different.

And if you’re feeling cynical, you can easily come up with a list like this.

Mid September:

THEN: Go into the attic or basement, looking for the box that has the kids’ sweaters. Hope it doesn’t take long to find, and that the sweaters still fit. Wonder where you put the Halloween decorations.

NOW: Go online to find the this year’s fashion in Fall clothing for the kids. Pay extra for priority shipping, because your kids need them NOW. Check the return policy in case they screw up and you have to return them. Don’t order Halloween decorations; you don’t want to max out your credit cards right now.

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The Real Scream Queen

There’s a lot of press coverage this week about Jamie Lee Curtis and the remake/reboot of the classic horror film Halloween.

Now Curtis is indeed a fine actress, and her performance in the original Halloween did indeed contribute greatly to its success….

But her entire reputation as a “scream queen” rests only on that single role, in that movie and all its sequels and remakes and reboots and rehashings…. I hardly see a single character, no matter how many films you portrayed that character in, as sufficient justification to elevate one to the highest level in the Pantheon of Horror.

Especially when true horror aficionados know who their Empress is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the One and Only “Gothic Girl”:

Barbara Steele.

Book Review: The Field of Blood

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War
Joanne B. Freeman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
(c) 2018 by the author

You might recall from your American History classes in school that in the few decades before the Civil War, Congress was filled with great orators like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun. Continuing in the fine tradition of our Founding Fathers, they and other congressmen would passionately debate the issues of the day, letting their words carry the force of their arguments….

Well, maybe in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, it was another story.

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On the Kavanaugh Matter

NOTE: I strongly disagree with Judge Kavanaugh’s political views. But he is entitled to them, and they are not in themselves reason to keep him off the Supreme Court. His probable perjury before Congressional committees, questionable finances, and inability to give a straightforward answer to simple questions on his judicial philosophy are.

I think (at least I *hope*) we can all agree that the vast majority of men are not sexual predators, perverts, or even creeps. But “Distinguished Man Treats Women Properly” isn’t going to sell any papers, so we’re constantly bombarded with stories of Men Behaving Badly.

The latest one has to do with a successful jurist being accused of an attempted rape that he is said to have committed over thirty-five years ago.

Whatever you think of Judge Kavanaugh or statutes of limitations, it shouldn’t be hard to see why a lot of men are nervous.

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