Book Review: Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound
Peter Clines
Crown Publishing Group
(c) 2017 by the author

If “Doctor Who” was American.

That’s about it.

Teenager Eli Teauge lives in Sanders, MA – basically “The Town That Time Forgot”. The town is stuck in the past. No cell phone towers, an actual video rental store…. After two encounters with a woman in a tricorn hat and a frock coat who is driving a modified Model A Ford, he winds up joining her at their third encounter. And they’re off on a rollicking ride through American history, searching for a magical McGuffin that’s supposed to allow its possessor the ability to change the destiny of the nation.

Yeah, pretty much an American “Doctor Who”. I did spot one direct reference to Doctor Who; there are probably more.

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Crimefighting Strategies for Bruce Wayne

I follow Hollywood news about as much as I follow what’s going on in the NFL (There was some sort important game this past weekend, wasn’t there?), so I have no clue on the ins and outs of studios and gossip. But I have seen headlines indicating that Ben Affleck no longer wishes to play Bruce Wayne / Batman.

So the studio controlling that particular franchise has to cast about looking for a replacement actor to wear the Batsuit. No doubt they will be considering the fees a new actor will demand, plus what the box office take can be expected to be given the new lead. Sure, some actors will be cheaper, but those are also likely to be the ones with less “pull” at the box office. It’s a standard thing called “return on investment”.

Speaking of which – and this is a really clumsy way to get to the main subject – what crimefighting results does Bruce Wayne get out of being Batman? How effective is being the Caped Crusader in reducing crime in Gotham?

How can he improve the return on his investment?

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To Be a Man

It’s hard not to notice that the news these days is filled with tales of Men (and Boys) Behaving Badly. Other items tell of Men being called out for having violated what is a current social norm some decades ago. Over the course a single lifetime (like my own), one sees that the entire social/cultural/legal relationship between the sexes has undergone a radical upheaval. Even the whole concept of “gender” has become fluid and variable.

I suspect that a lot of the problems with “Men These Days” is that they are having trouble coping with the new realities of their gender roles.

Most Men can handle it, naturally. But it still makes one wonder.

What is the role of Men in the 21st century?

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Unanimous

There isn’t as much blather about Mariano Rivera being the first player unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as I honestly expected. Partly because, I suppose, that it’s been expected for a few years that he’d at least be a “first ballot” nominee, and partly because, I hope, that there’s also been a growing realization that it’s not that big of a deal.

There’s always been some griping about the Hall’s voting procedures; and the Hall has tweaked them seemingly every five years or so. Not just recently, but throughout its history (the Hall’s own website covers the many changes in the voting rules for the BBWAA, and there’s a GREAT article on the various veterans committees here). In recent years, as the Hall has become more open in its election process, attention has been drawn to the fact that no one has ever been chosen unanimously in the standard ballot process. It’s been rightly believed that given all the popular pressure in the media that someone would eventually get the Magic 100%. The only question was who.

Now that it’s happened, Mariano Rivera will become the answer to another trivia question. Because it makes no difference how you get in to the Hall of Fame.

Rivera is just as much a Hall of Famer as Ralph Kiner (made it in by two votes in his last year of regular eligibility) and Ron Santo (selected by one of the Veteran’s Committees) and Roberto Clemente (special election) and Harold Baines (wtf?). There’s nothing on the plaques that indicates the player’s voting percentage; no special alcove for the “first ballot” selections. I suppose Rivera could add a little “100%” thing to the “HoF” that he now gets to put on his signature, but no one should care. It doesn’t make him any better or greater a player than any other Hall of Famer.

And we shouldn’t forget that three other players were chosen alongside him. Edgar Martinez, whose Double saved baseball in Seattle, Mike Mussina, whose excellence often went unacknowledged until we got to see the totality of his career; and Roy Halladay who threw a perfect game in 2010, and then no-hit the Reds in the NLDS that year on his way to his second Cy Young Award.

Rivera is still responsible for the Biggest Blown Save of All Time, though.

Book Review: Inseparable

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous With American History
by Yunte Huang

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Copyright 2018 by the author

I doubt there are many people who haven’t heard of Chang and Eng Bunker, the “archetype” of Siamese Twins. There have been a few biographies of the pair, but this is the first I’ve come across. They led a fascinating and complex life, that just happened to coincide with a fascinating and complex era of American history.

Huang, who previously wrote a “biography” of Charlie Chan (in which he covered the lives of Werner Oland, the actor who first portrayed the character in film, Earl Biggers, who wrote the novels, and Chang Apana, the Honolulu policeman who was the inspiration for the character), applies his considerable skills to a real person – or is it real people? He barely touches on the conundrum of whether Chang and Eng should be considered one person or two. To be fair, I don’t think that question has an answer….

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Fixing the Senate

I’ve been reading a bit lately about a general dissatisfaction with the construction of the Senate. Seems people aren’t happy with the rule that gives every state, regardless of population, two senators. Such an arrangement gives a drastically unequal representation to the citizens of the states. Why should Wyoming have the same number of senators as California (to use the example most frequently cited) when they only have about one seventeenth of the population?

This would be a very strong argument – if it weren’t for one thing.

The Senate isn’t the only part of Congress.

There’s also the House of Representatives, which *does* have proportional representation.

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2018 in Review

It’s been five years since I started this blog, and I have to say I really am a little surprised that I’ve been keeping it going for so long. I’ve managed to come up with over 300 posts along the way – a nice average, and what I hoped to achieve. One of these days I might go through and see exactly how many reviews I’ve posted or do a ‘tag cloud’….but not today.

By far and away my most-viewed post has been “Indiana Jones and the Top Men”. I can’t figure out why this essay where I propose that the government agents knew exactly what they were doing with the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark takes that spot. I haven’t been referring people to it at all, but when you put “Indiana Jones Top Men” into your favorite search engine, it shows up in the first few results (after the links to clips from the movie and the obligatory memes / reaction GIFs).

“The Hall of Fame and the Keltner List” from 2017 has gotten a lot of views, largely because I’ve been referring people to it when commenting in threads about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I still think it’s one of my better pieces.

Even though I posted it just two weeks ago, “Terry Gillam’s Christmas Card” turned out to be the most viewed of 2018’s posts. It even bubbled in to the #10 spot for all-time views! And to think I almost forgot to post it.

My personal favorite post for the year is probably “The Greatest World Series Ever” from back in March. I use someone else’s calculations to present the Ten Greatest (i.e. most important) Plays and Games (i.e. most exciting) in the World Series, and then the Ten Greatest (again, most “exciting”) World Series of All Time. It was fun doing the research.

I’ve got two followers who regularly “like” my posts. I’m stingy with my “likes”, rarely giving them out unless I actually do read an entire post, and like it. But Sheree of View from the Back and John Grant of Noirish are kind enough to press the “Like” button on seemingly every one of my posts. So I thought it would be fair to give them a shout out here.

Sheree lives in Europe and writes about travel and cooking and bicycling. She’s got some great photographs accompanying her posts.

John is an author whom I met at a nearby science fiction convention. He’s an award winning writer of SF, fantasy, and science, but is also an authority on film noir. His blog covers books and movies from around the world that don’t exactly fit into that genre – ones he had to leave out of his 2013 work: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide. I love the layout of his blog; he uses genre terms for the various tools. You don’t “search” the blog, you “Frisk the Suspect” and the “Previous Posts” lists is under the heading “Prior Offenses”.

Sheree and John are both cool people – check out their blogs, and tell them Pure Blather sent you!

Book Review: The Ends of the World

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions

Peter Brannen
HarperCollins
(c) 2017 by the author

When one reads essays in the right places, one finds mention of how we are in the sixth great “mass extinction”. Humans seem to be wiping out species left and right, through habitat destruction even in cases where we aren’t really trying. Brannen takes a look at the other five, and extracts lessons for today.

For the record, the “Big Five” are the Late Ordovician, Late Devonian, End Permian, Late Triassic, and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Event. In comparatively short time frames, the vast majority of species – both plant and animal, on land and in the water – were erased from the planet.

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Terry Gilliam’s Christmas Card

Made for the Christmas 1968 episode of the ‘children’s’ show Do Not Adjust Your Set.

Gilliam had moved to London in 1967, and was working as art director for London Life when his friend John Cleese (whom he had worked with in the US) introduced him to Humphrey Barclay, who was producing Do Not Adjust Your Set, which was written by and starred Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle. Barclay happened to be an amateur cartoonist, and loved what Gilliam was doing with his cut-out stop-motion animations. He pretty much forced the trio to include Gilliam’s works.

For the Christmas special, Do Not Adjust Your Stocking, Gilliam went to London’s Tate Gallery, and poked through their huge collection of Victorian era Christmas cards. He made copies, and just started playing around with them. “So the style just developed out of that rather than any planning being involved,” he would write in the Python’s ‘autobiography’. “I never analysed the stuff, I just did it the quickest, easiest way. And I could use images I really loved.”