Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Pop Culture Challenge, History and Science Excerpts and the Birth Date Thing..

I wish Clyde was here so I could pick on him, er.. play with him.
Two sad puppies today. Clyde is off to the vet to get his teeth cleaned and NOT HAPPY about it. Bonnie, for all she ignores him or picks on him, doesn't really seem to know what's going on and is a bit restless. It does seem quiet without the little fella around. In sympathy, I'm going to my dentist today to get a chipped tooth looked at. WE DON'T LIKE DISRUPTIONS!

Well, let's move on to the normal things.

(Update on Clyde. Two teeth pulled and he's doped up until I go get him this afternoon.. Poor little boy. He's had a few teeth removed the last couple of years.)

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Today, I'll look at Days 19 - 21.

Day 19 - TV Series You wish they would Rerun from the Beginning. I chose The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. It only ran for one year and was the sequel to the Man from U.N.C.L.E but I liked it so much. Stephanie Powers, as April Dancer, was lovely and Noel Harrison as her partner, was soooo cool! Jo chose Capital City, which I've watched with her, from her videos. :). Other selections included Ashes to Ashes, Lost in Space, L.A. Law, etc.

Day 20 - Who is your Favourite Actress. I chose Amy Adams, such a great actress. Jo chose Bette Davis. Other choices included Helen Mirren, Holly Hunter, Audrey Hepburn, Reese Witherspoon. The options were pretty well endless, in my mind.

Day 21 - Favourite Television Series of the '80s. I picked Family Ties. It didn't hurt that it featured Meredith Baxter Birney and Justine Bateman. Of course, it also introduced Michael J. Fox to the world. Jo chose a show she still watches online, Howard's Way. Other choices included LA Law, Dynasty, Hill St. Blues, etc. All excellent.

Next category will be a film that made you cry. Too many to name in my case.. :)

Great Historical Events

Today's excerpt from Treasures of Use and Beauty cover 1782.

"First Steamboat

1782. First boat propelled by steam was placed upon the Potomac river, by James Rumsey, a Bohemian, which was seen and certified to by Washington.
Feb. 6. - Resolutions passed in the House of Commons in favor of peace.
April 17. - Holland acknowledges the independence of the United States, and a treaty of amity and commerce secured through negotiations of John Adams.

Last Battle of the Revolution

June 24. - Last battle of the Revolutionary War - a skirmish near Savannah, and some slight skirmishes in South Carolina, in one of which the gallant young Col. John Laurens lost his life.
July 11. - Savannah, Ga., evacuated by the British.
Aug. - War closed between the United States and Great Britain.
Nov. 13. - Preliminaries of peace between the United States and Great Britain signed in Paris.
Dec. 14. - Charleston, S.C. evacuated by the British."

Moving along to 1783 in my next entry.

Science of Common Things

Today's excerpt from Prof. L.G. Gorton discusses the sun and other things of interest.

"How far is the sun from the earth? Ninety - one million miles. (Ed. Note. According to Google it is 92.96 million miles) What is light? (Ed. Witty response. The opposite of dark?) Light is that mode of motion which is capable of affecting the optic nerve. It is the vibration of an infinitely rare, exceedingly elastic, and subtle medium known as ether, which fills all space and permeates every transparent substance. (Ed. Note. The good professor waxes quite eloquent on this idea.) How fast does light travel? One hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second."

In the next entry we'll discuss rays and beams of light and other things.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2004

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 2004

My Boo by Usher and Alicia Keys. My Boo was the 4th single released from American R&B artist, Usher's, album Confessions. It was co-written by Usher and Alicia Keys (and others).

UK #1 Single 10 November 2004.

Wonderful by Ja Rule. Ja Rule is an American rapper, singer, song writer and actor from Queen's New York. Wonderful was his first UK #1. The song featured American pop singers R. Kelly and Ashanti.

Moving along to the world of books and awards...

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 2004

Northern Lights by Nora Roberts. This is the second time since 2001 that Nora Roberts had the #1 on my birth day... and I've never read any of her books. I probably never will.

"Lunacy, Alaska - population 506 - is Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he had watched his partner die - and the guilt still haunts him. With nowhere else to go, he accepts a job as Chief of Police in this freezing, remote town, where darkness falls by mid-afternoon. It's a big change - maybe too big. But just as he's beginning to wonder if this has all been a terrible mistake, an unexpected kiss with feisty bush pilot Meg Galloway under the brilliant Northern Lights lifts his spirit and convinces him to stay a little longer.

However, when Nate uncovers an old unsolved crime, he discovers that Lunacy isn't quite the sleepy little backwater he imagined. And his discovery will threaten the new life - and the new love - he never dreamed he'd find . "

The book was turned into a made for TV movie starring Eddie Cibrian, LeAnn Rimes and Rosanna Arquette.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2004

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This was the 2nd book by American writer Jones.

"Set in Virginia during the antebellum era, it examines the issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by both white and black Americans."

Nobel Prize Laureate 2004

Elfriede Jelinek (Austria). Born in 1946, Jelinek is an Austrian playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."

Hugo Award Winner 2004

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. This was Bujold's 4th Hugo winner since 1991. I will have to try one of her books and see what I think of her writing. It is a fantasy novel, the sequel to The Curse of Chalion.

"In a land threatened by treacherous war and beset by demons, royal dowager Ista, released from the curse of madness and manipulated by an untrustworthy god, is plunged into a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm."

Edgar Award Winner 2004

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin. Resurrection Men is the 13th book in the excellent Inspector Rebus mysteries by Rankin. Conveniently it's also the last one I've read so far. Jo bought me most of the series for Xmas back when I was stationed in Victoria. This was one she couldn't find but I managed to get a copy at a local bookstore. It's a great series, well worth trying. The first book is Knots and Crosses if you want to start it. My review is below.

"Another excellent Rebus story. This book finds DI Rebus sent back to refinishing school (in a way) after an incident at his local police station. He throws a mug of tea at boss, Gill Templar, and finds himself sent for retraining with a group of other reprobates from other districts. But there is more to this assignment than meets the eye and I'll let you read the book to see what. In the meantime, DS Siobhan Clark, Rebus' protégé, is deeply involved with a team trying to solve the murder of an art dealer. This brings her into contact with an old adversary of Rebus, Big Ger McCaffrey. I have enjoyed the Rebus stories so much over the past two or three stories. Ian Rankin has really hit his stride over the past couple of stories. I do like how the other characters, especially Siobhan have come into their own and are well-developed personalities. Rebus is still Rebus, although he now has a lady friend (I hope it lasts). This story moved along very nicely, had some very suspenseful moments and was entertaining from beginning to end. If you haven't tried the Rebus series, you really need to do so." 

Man Booker Award Winner 2004

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. Hollinghurst is an English novelist, short story writer and poet, born in 1954, and has won various awards, the Somerset Maugham award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award and the Man Booker Prize. The Line of Beauty was his 4th novel.

"In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.

As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends."

Giller Prize Winner 2004

Runaway by Alice Munro. This was Munro's 2nd win since the inception of the award in 1994.

"The incomparable Alice Munro's bestselling and rapturously acclaimed Runaway is a book of extraordinary stories about love and its infinite betrayals and surprises, from the title story about a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband, to three stories about a woman named Juliet and the emotions that complicate the luster of her intimate relationships. In Munro's hands, the people she writes about women of all ages and circumstances, and their friends, lovers, parents, and children become as vivid as our own neighbors. It is her miraculous gift to make these stories as real and unforgettable as our own."

There you go. Maybe I'll get a picture of Clyde for my next entry. Have a great day!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Reading Update, the Pop Culture Challenge.. and we'll see what else I've time for..

Since my last entry, I've finished 3 books.

1. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"Tarzan of the Apes is the first book in the famed series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the first time I have tried the series; I had previously enjoyed his John Carter of Mars books (at least twice). I felt it was time to finally give the Tarzan books a try. I'm glad I did.
I had preconceived notions about the series, didn't actually know that Jane was American for one thing. The story starts as the movies and TV series have also generally done, with Tarzan's parents, Lord Greystoke and his wife Lady Alice, abandoned on the coast of wild Africa by mutineers who have taken over their ship. Young Tarzan is born and when he is but a babe, his parents are killed by giant apes. Tarzan is saved by a she-ape, Kala, who had recently lost her own baby. She leaves the body of her dead child in the crib that had previously been occupied by Tarzan.
The story follows the childhood and adulthood of Tarzan, his life amongst the apes, his battle with the tribe's leader, his encounters with a tribe of African warriors. Burroughs presents this story in an interesting and oddly believable fashion. I especially found it interesting how Tarzan teaches himself to read, from books left his parent's had brought with them on their journey to Africa.
Finally, Tarzan meets Jane Porter, a relative in Lord Greystoke, and Jane's father, Professor Porter, when they find themselves in similar straits to Tarzan's parents, they also have been abandoned on the coast by mutinous sailors. Burroughs also presents these first encounters in a very interesting fashion, with Tarzan saving their lives from wild animals and natives and his growing love for the beautiful Jane.
I found the ending most interesting as we find Tarzan following Jane to the US to plea for her hand, something I hadn't realised. Of course I won't tell you how it ends, but you do know that there are 25+ books in this series so much is left to be resolved. I wasn't sure I would be interested in this series but I was pleasantly surprised and I look forward to starting book 2, The Return of Tarzan. (3.5 stars)"

2. The Happy Return by C.S. Forester.

"Chronologically, The Happy Return is the sixth book of the adventures of Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester. It was the first book of Hornblower adventures written by Forester, published in 1937. It's the eighth book I've read so far, so as you can see, I've not been following either sequence. LOL
With all that preamble, The Happy Return, like most of the Hornblower stories, was an excellent adventure. In this story, we find Horatio in a new location, in the Pacific, off the coast of Nicaragua. His secret mission is to provide arms and assistance to a colonial revolutionary, El Supremo, in his battle against the Spanish colonisers. It turns out that El Supremo is quite mad. Hornblower captures a Spanish two-decker and is ordered to turn it over to El Supremo and his crew. Hornblower then escorts El Supremo's army to Managua, or nearby, and then continues to Panama.
His orders are there changed as England and Spain are now allies in the war against Napoleon. Hornblower with a passenger on board, Lady Barbara Wellesley, must now go and try to keep El Natividad, the Spanish ship from capturing Spanish cargo ships headed to Panama. The battle with El Natividad is a fascinating story in its own right and so well described.
All in all it's a great adventure tale. You still have to deal with Hornblower's many moods; especially his self-criticism. This is compounded with the presence of Lady Barbara. However, his crew loves Hornblower, for his tactical flair and his sailing skills and his fairness (for the most part) to them. You take the good with the bad in a Hornblower tale. Well worth reading if you want to get a feel for the time period and also like a rollicking good adventure. (4 stars)"

3. Dagwood and Blondie's Secret Service by Chip Young.

"The Blondie comic strip created by Chic Young was one I remember reading in the paper as a youngster. It was also turned into comic books, TV series and even movies. I found two novelisations of Blondie stories in a collectibles / antique shop quite a few years ago and thought they looked interesting. Blondie and Dagwood's Secret Service is an interesting story, no classic by any means but a window into the Dagwood comics.
The story was published originally 1942 and is set during WWII, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Dagwood is taking aviation lessons from a Filipino instructor, as he feels he may need to offer his services to his country if it ever joins the war. He is suspicious of the instructor as he thinks he may, in fact, be a Japanese spy. Thus begins a spy caper with all the trademarks of a Blondie comic strip. We get Dagwood's famous sandwiches, Blondie's common sense vs. Dagwood's less than common sense. We get their kids Alexander and Cookie, Daisy the dog and her five pups and we get lots of action.
I was a bit surprised at the story. I mean it was humorous, but it also touched on the themes to be vigilant against spies, not to sit on your hands and pretend nothing is happening. There are twists and turns, moral concepts about not trusting someone just because they look different, etc. Ultimately, it was a fun, light read, but also kind of neat. (3 stars)"

Currently Reading

I've since started the following books -

1. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, the first book in the Joe Ledger horror / thriller series.
2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, and
3. The Island of Sheep by John Buchan, the 5th novel in the Richard Hannay thriller series.

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Taking a Look at Days 16 - 18 today.

Day 16 - The Worst Movie You've Ever Seen.

I chose The Mirror Crack'd, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak, the only movie I've ever fallen asleep at. Jo chose John Q, starring the great Denzel. I have to agree. Great cast, awful movie. Other selections included Suicide Squad, Mulholland Drive, Snakes on a Plane, etc.

Day 17. Who is your favourite ever Disc Jockey. I was going to choose myself, from my days at CHCL 1450 on your AM dial, but modesty precluded me from doing so. Instead I picked Sara Cox from BBC Radio 2. Jo chose Chris Tarrant from Capitol Radio and her sister, Sue, chose Tony Blackburn who hosted Pick of the Pops.

Day 18 - First film you remember seeing at the pictures. I had difficulty with this one as my memory isn't always that great. I'm sure I saw other movies before this one, but I seem to remember one of the earliest was The Mysterians, a Japanese SciFi movie. Jo chose The Aristocrats. Her sister Sue chose The Sound of Music. Other choices included Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, etc.

Great Historical Events

Finishing off 1781 today.

"Aug. 14. - American and French allied armies march from the Hudson, near New York, to Virginia. Cornwallis hemmed in at Yorktown.
Sept. 6. - Burning of New London by Benedict Arnold.
Massacre at Fort Griswold, Conn.
Sept. 8. - Battle of Eutaw Springs; a splendid victory under General Greene.
Oct. 6. - Bombardment of Yorktown.
Oct. 19. - Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Gen. Lincoln appointed by Washington to receive his sword.
Oct. 24. - Indian battle at Johnstown.
National thanksgiving proclaimed."

Next entry I'll move along to 1782 and steamships.. :)

Science of Common Things

The excerpt from Prof. L.G. Gorton's learned writings today covers such subjects as hail and sleet.

"What is the cause of hail? If the rain-drops in falling pass through a current of air of low temperature the drops become frozen and falls as hail. What is sleet? If snow, in falling, passes through a warm current of air, it is partially melted and becomes sleet."

Next entry I'll cover sunlight and such.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2003 (I've noticed that from now on the US #1 and British #1's are diverging; the US more rap/ R&B, with the British more Boy and Girl groups and X-Factor winners.) Interesting.

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 2003

Baby Boy by Beyoncé. Beyoncé was born and raised in Houston, Texas in 1981. (Sigh, I also notice that many of the artists featured in this birth date thing are getting younger than me.) She made her name as one of the members of Destiny's Child and then great success as a solo artist. Baby Boy was her second #1 from her album Dangerously in Love. Sean Paul, featured in the song, also was one of the writers.

UK #1 Single 10 November 2003

Be Faithful by Fatman Scoop. Fatman Scoop is an American hype man and hip hop promoter. Be Faithful was his only successful song and it was only really successful in the UK.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 2003

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. American writer, journalist, radio and TV broadcaster, etc, Albom is known for his inspirational stories, well, not by me particularly, but acquaintances in Goodreads have chosen some of his books for those that have had an effect on them.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven was his second novel. "It follows the life and death of a maintenance man named Eddie. In a heroic attempt to save a little girl from being killed by an amusement park ride that is about to fall, Eddie is killed and sent to heaven, where he encounters five people who had a significant impact upon him while he was alive."

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2003

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Eugenides is an American writer, also known for The Virgin Suicides and The Marriage Plot. Middlesex was his second novel. Its characters and events are loosely based on aspects of Eugenides' life and observations of his Greek heritage.

Nobel Prize Laureate 2003

J.M. Coetzee (South Africa). I have highlighted two of Coetzee's works under the Man Booker Prize heading. He was awarded the Nobel Prize as a writer who "in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider".

Hugo Award Winner 2003

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer. Hominids is the first book in a trilogy by Canadian writer, Robert J. Sawyer. The series, The Neanderthal Parallax, also features Humans and Hybrids.

"It depicts the effects of the opening of a connection between two versions of Earth in different parallel universes: the world familiar to the reader, and another where Neanderthals became the dominant intelligent hominid. The societal, spiritual and technological differences between the two worlds form the focus of the story."

Edgar Award Winner 2003

Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan. Winter and Night is the 8th book in New Yorker, S.J. Rozan's Smith and Chin's detective series.

"In the middle of the night, private investigator Bill Smith is awakened by a call from the NYPD. They’re holding a 15-year-old kid named Gary—a kid Bill knows.
But before Bill can find out what is going on, Gary escapes Bill’s custody into the dark night and unfamiliar streets. Bill, with the help of his partner Lydia Chin, tries to find the missing teen and uncover what it is that led him so far from home.
Tracking Gary’s family to a small town in New Jersey, Bill finds himself in a town where nothing matters but high school football, where the secrets of the past—both the town’s and Bill’s own—threaten to destroy the present. And if Bill is to have any chance of saving Gary and preventing a tragedy, he has to both unravel a long buried crime and confront the darkness of his own past."

Man Booker Prize Winner 2003

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. Vernon God Little is the first novel by Australian writer, DBC Pierre.

"It's a darkly comedic portrait of Martirio, Texas, a town reeling in the aftermath of a horrific school shooting. Fifteen-year-old Vernon Little narrates the first-person story with a cynical twang and a four-letter barb for each of his diet-obsessed townsfolk. His mother, endlessly awaiting the delivery of a new refrigerator, seems to exist only to twist an emotional knife in his back; her friend, Palmyra, structures her life around the next meal at the Bar-B-Chew Barn; officer Vaine Gurie has Vernon convicted of the crime before she's begun the investigation; reporter Eulalio Ledesma hovers between a comforting father-figure and a sadistic Bond villain; and Jesus, his best friend in the world, is dead--a victim of the killings. As his life explodes before him, Vernon flees his home in pursuit of a tropical fantasy: a cabin on a beach in Mexico he once saw in the movie Against All Odds. But the police--and TV crews--are in hot pursuit."

Giller Prize Winner 2003

The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji. And Strike 3, you're out. I've not heard of any of the books in today's entries. Even the songs, for the most part were unfamiliar. M.G. Vassanji was born in Kenya, raised in Tanzania and came to Canada in 1978.

"Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British. We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to the hope of the sixties, and through the corruption and fear of the seventies and eighties."

So there you go, a bit of catching up. Have a great week!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Just Finished, the Pop Culture Challenge, History/ Science and the Birth Date Thing

We've had a few hazy days over the past week, especially on Saturday. Last night Jo and I went for a drive and the sun was bright orange from the haze surrounding it. No chance of rain in the forecast until Saturday but it's supposed to be slightly cooler until then.

Just Finished

On Sunday I finished an interesting mystery from a new author for me, Julia Keller. It's the first in her Bell (short for Belfa) Elkins mystery series, A Killing in the Hills. I have the next book and look forward to reading it. I've started the 3rd Mary Russell mystery next, Laurie King's A Letter of Mary. My review for A Killing in the Hills is below.

"A Killing in the Hills is the first Bell Elkins mystery by Julia Keller. The story is set in rural West Virginia and Elkins is the local District Attorney. Something happened to Bell during her childhood in the town of Acker's Gap, which becomes apparent as you progress through the story. She married at a later date and moved to Washington DC with her husband, a new lawyer. Bell also got her law degree but wanted to return to Acker's Gap to help the people of that community; ending up with her going alone with her daughter, Carla.
The story starts with a triple murder in the town, 3 old men sitting having coffee at the local restaurant. Carla is one of the people who sees the shooting. Bell is also working on a case in which a mentally handicapped boy is charged with the murder of his friend. As well, Carla, a typical teenager?, is rebelling, anger issues, suspended driver's license. Bell's best friend, Ruthie, is suffering with cancer, and, oh yes, Bell's sister is coming up for a parole hearing for the murder of their father, many years ago. So, yes a lot is going on.
But Keller is able to tie this all together to make an interesting, tense story. It flows very nicely and there are characters, especially Bell (Belfa) and the sheriff, Nick Fogelsong, with long ties to Bell, who are developed nicely. The past and the present are tied together, the murderer is well-described and interesting/ somewhat scary, and the mysteries are nicely tied up. There are enough loose ends at the end of the book; especially re. Bell's daughter and Bell's sister, to make you want to find out more about this series. I enjoyed very much and look forward to trying the next, Bitter River. (4 stars)"

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Taking a look at Days 13 - 15 today.

Day 13 - Name a film you think every 15 year old should be forced to watch. I chose On the Beach, either watching the movie or reading the books should be a must, even for some adults (and I use the term loosely), such as the carrot - topped president and the guy in charge of North Korea. These people shouldn't be let near nuclear weapons. Some other choices were Shawshank Redemption, Sophie's Choice, Spotlight (Jo's selection), etc.

Day 14 - Favourite: literary, television of movie detective. One of my favourite categories as I love mysteries. Probably 75% of what I read and watch these days are mysteries. I chose Bruno, Chief of Police from Martin Walker's mystery series. It's set in France and everything about the series is excellent. Jo chose Bobby Goran from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Other choices included Inspectore Brunetti from Donna Leon's mystery series featuring this Italian police inspector, Chief Inspector Morse, Hercule Poirot, etc. So many to choose from and most people had more than one choice.

Day 15 - A Film you've seen once but will never watch again. What Jo meant was not a bad film, but one that had an effect on you, that you might have appreciated, but was a bit too much to want to watch again. I chose Schindler's List. She chose The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Other choices included Dances with Wolves, Sleepers, Minority Report, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, etc.

Today the category was the Worst Film you've ever seen. More next entry.

Great Historical Events

My excerpt today continues events of 1781.

"April 22. - Surrender of Fort Watson to Gens. Marion and Lee
April 25. - Battle of Hobkirk's Hill
May 9. - Surrender of Pensacola
May 10. - Camden evacuated
May 12. - Fort Schuyler (Utica) destroyed by fire
May 12. - Fort Mott taken
May 15. - British abandon Nelson's Ferry
June 6. - Augusta, Ga., capitulates
June 18 - 19. - Siege of Ninety-Six, S.C.
July 6. - Battle of Green Spring
Aug. 3. - Arrival of the French fleet under De Grasse."

A lot has happened in 1781. I'll finish the year with my next entry.

Science of Common Things

This excerpt from Prof. L.G. Gorton covers something I'm quite familiar with... *sigh*... SNOW!

"What is snow? Snow consists of the watery particles of the atmosphere frozen for the most part in a crystalline form. Why is snow white? (Ed. Note. I kind of thought that it had something to do with that fairy tale?) On account of the aggregate reflection of light from the sides of minute crystals. (Ah, that explains it) Why are the high mountain peaks covered with snow? Because the upper regions of the atmosphere are intensely cold."

Next we move on to other forms of snow, e.g. hail and sleet.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2002
(From initial look, I don't particular like the music choices, but here you go.)

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 2002

Lose Yourself by Eminem. I can think of one song of his that I 'liked', that being Stan, from 2000. Lose Yourself is a song from his movie, 8 Mile.

UK #1 Single 10 November 2002

Heaven  by DJ Sammy and Yanou. DJ Sammy is a Spanish DJ and Heaven is his dance cover of the Bryan Adams hit.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best-Seller 10 November 2002

Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton. I've read through S in this excellent detective series. Kinsey Milhone is one of my favourite Private Eyes. My review was short but sweet. This wasn't my favourite of her books, but I still enjoyed.

"Most enjoyable. I've enjoyed every one of the series to - date. I liked the characters in this one; the two old cops, Dolan and Stacey who involve Kinsey in their cold case. They are like a bickering old married couple. The cold case was interesting; I did think at times that there were great leaps in the solving of the case, but hey, it's a mystery story. Ms. Grafton also makes the peripheral characters interesting. Nobody is totally unlikeable, even the suspects. All in all, another good story from Sue Grafton."

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2002

Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I've not read but the story follows the life of Miles Roby in a fictional, small blue-collar town in Maine and the people, places, and the past surrounding him, as manager of the Empire Grill diner.

It was turned into a two part mini-series on HBO, starring Ed Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman and others. (I've not seen this either.)

Nobel Prize Laureate 2002

Imre Kertesz (Hungary). Kertesz was a Hungarian author who lived from 1929 - 2016. He was awarded the Nobel Prize "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."

Hugo Award Winner 2002

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I've only read one of Gaiman's books so far, that being Neverwhere, and I enjoyed it very much. I've got both Stardust and American Gods on my bookshelf awaiting my attention. I hope to read Gods before the TV series starts, but we'll have to see.

"The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them. Immigrants to the United States brought with them spirits and gods. The power of these mythological beings has diminished as people's beliefs waned. New gods have arisen, reflecting the American obsessions with media, celebrity, technology, and drugs, among other things."

Edgar Award Winner 2002

Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker. I've seen Parker's books but have yet to try one. I'll probably get around to it as I continue to explore the mystery genre.

"When his adoptive father, an Orange County politician, is murdered, Joe Trona sets out to find the killer. His investigation leads him to confront his own childhood abuse."

Man Booker Prize Winner 2002

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I've not read the book nor seen the movie. Not sure I will, probably because of the hype. I do sometimes miss out on good popular books because I find myself avoiding them. My loss of course.

"Life of Pi is a Canadian adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist is Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry who explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age."

Giller Prize Winner 2002

(Ed. Note - Jack Rabinovitch, the creator of the Giller Prize, which he named after his wife, died Sunday, 6 Aug. He was 87.)

The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke. This is a book I've been meaning to try. It's on my list of books I want to get.

"When Mary - Mathilda, one of the most respected women of the island of Bimshire (also known as Barbados) calls the police to confess to a crime, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the island's African past and the tragic legacy of colonialism in one epic sweep."

So there you go. Get any good ideas? Enjoy your week. Until my next entry. :)

Friday, 4 August 2017

New Books and the Pop Culture Challenge

Just a quick entry today. Another hot day ahead of us and I want to take the pups out before it gets too hot. We have spent most of the past week hiding indoors in front of fans... Big sucks, eh? So here you go..

New Books

Yesterday I dashed out to pick up a few things at Extra Foods and when I arrived everybody was standing out in the parking lot due to a fire alarm that had gone off. So instead of joining them, I wandered over to Nearly New Books to take a look around in their air conditioned shop before I went back to shopping. And, lo and behold I did find a couple of books worth trying.

1. The Siege Winter by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman. I enjoyed Franklin's historical mystery series about the Mistress of the Art of Death, about a female forensic scientist/ doctor, Adelia, set during the reign of Henry II. The four books were all excellent, great mystery, great characters and interesting stories. Franklin died before she finished The Siege Winter, set in 1141. Her daughter, Samantha Norman finished the book from her mother's notes.

" England, 1141. King Stephen and the Empress Matilda vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, a depraved monk kidnaps an eleven-year-old peasant and leaves her for dead. When Gwil finds Emma, she has no memory. An archer for hire, he dresses her as a boy, names her Penda, and teaches her to use a bow. Together they make their way to the small but strategic fortress of fifteen-year-old Maud, who has tempted fate by giving shelter to the empress."

2. The Guardians by Andrew Pyper. So far, I have read two books by Canadian writer, Andrew Pyper, Lost Girls and The Killing Circle (I preferred the latter). They fall into the mystery / thriller / horror genre, basically. Entertaining page turners. I was happy to find another of his books at the store.

"Trevor, Randy, Ben and Carl grew up together in the small town of Grimshaw as many boys do - playing hockey on the local team, the Guardians, and forging friendships that run deep. Twenty - four years later, Trevor, recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and faced with his own mortality, learns that his old friend Ben has committed suicide. He returns to Grimshaw to pay his respects and to reunite with Randy and Carl.
 But going home means going back to the memories of a sinister crime that occurred in the abandoned house at 321 Caledonia Street - a crime that claws its way into the present, leaving its indelible mark on everyone."

3. Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri. Italian writer, Camilleri, is a new writer for me. I have meant to try his Inspector Montalbano mystery series as I've heard many good things about it. For now I'll try this standalone historical mystery. It's described as a bawdy, historical mystery. You can always use a bit of bawdy in your life.. ;0)

"In 1880s Vigata, a stranger comes to town to open a pharmacy. Fofo turns out to be the son of a man legendary for having a magic garden stocked with plants, fruits and vegetables that could cure any ailment. - a man who was found murdered years ago. Fofo escaped, but now has reappeared looking to make his fortune and soon finds himself mixed up in the dealings of a philandering local marchese set on producing an heir, and surrounded by a string of highly suspicious deaths."

4. Blood Relatives by Ed McBain. I've enjoyed the first two books in McBain's 87th Precinct series very much. The Pusher is next on my list but I was pleased to find another of the series at the store. My search continues.

"Saturday night was party night on the Precinct. Hurrying home in the rain, two teenage girls sheltered in the hallway of an empty tenement.
The perfect backdrop for a knife - carrying sex attack. Seventeen year-old Muriel was stabbed to death and her cousin Patricia got away with a slashed cheek.
When she ran into the station house, Kling watched the bloody hand-prints appear on the glass-panel door.
A messy start to a case that got messier - every time Patricia changed her story."

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Today I'll continue with Day 11 and 12 of the challenge.

Day 11 - Favourite ever comedy program TV or Radio.  I picked my favourite from my earlier years, Get Smart, starring Don Adams as Agent 86, great, funny show. Since everybody was picking two or more shows, it being such a popular category and very wide-ranging, I also picked one a bit more current, Seinfeld, the show about nothing. Both excellent shows. Jo picked Dinner Ladies, a series she introduced me to, quite fantastic, the best in British humour. She also picked Modern Family, another show we both enjoy immensely. A few other picks included The Two Ronnies, Only Fools and Horses, Father Ted, Third Rock from the Sun, The Big Bang Theory, etc. As I said, a very popular category. Everybody likes a good laugh.

Day 12 - Favourite Animated Movie. I chose The Lego Movie, 'Everything is Awesome!!!'. Other picks included Wall-E, The Aristocrats, Despicable Me, Shrek, A Scanner Darkly, etc.

Today's was a bit of a thoughtful category, A film you think every 15 year old should be forced to watch. More about that next entry.

So have a great weekend and stay cool.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Pop Culture Challenge and my July 2017 Reading Summary

There was a bit of excitement around the old homestead last night as a little sparrow decided to fly into the family room to see what we were watching on TV. Bonnie and Clyde who spend half the day trying to chase any bird that dares settle on our backyard didn't even notice the fellow in the house. In fact it was on the shelf just above Bonnie's head at one point. We managed to get it out with not too much fuss and without hurting it. I did manage to break a few of Jo's fingernails as we were trying to remove the screen from the study window so the bird could fly out. Yes, I admit, I'm pretty clumsy at times.

The breeze is coming more from the mainland the past couple of days and it's gotten very hazy here. I think it's blowing some of the smoke from the forest fires across the Straits. More sunny, hot weather in the forecast for the next couple of weeks. It does cool down a reasonable amount overnight, but it's quite stuffy during the days. Ah well, that's summer for you.

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

The Challenge is going strong. Yesterday I looked at some of the inputs for Days 5 - 7. Today, let's explore Days 8 - 10.

Day 8 - Name your favourite ever soap character (Day or night time soap). Back in the days when I was stationed in Cold Lake, Alberta and watching TV on the little portable TV my brother gave me as a present, I remember following Dallas. I mean, who didn't want to know who shot JR. Well, Victoria Principal was also quite pleasing to the eye, hence my favourite soap character. Jo chose Donna Mills from Knot's Landing. Other choices included Hilda Ogden from Coronation Street, Joan Collins from Dynasty, etc.

Day 9 - Best Scary Movie. (Or more accurately, the scary movie that scared the pants off you). Most scary movies did that to me, but I chose the first movie in the Halloween franchise. Not too gory like most movies these days, just keeping you on the edge of your seat for the whole darn film.. Jo chose Aliens 2. I think they were all scary but this was probably the best of the franchise. Other selections included The Omen, Jaws, The Exorcist, etc. If you're interested, back in Nov 2010, I made a list of 10 horror movies that scared me a lot, my top ten list, if you will. Click on List if you would like to check it out.

Day 10 - First ever date movie. A difficult one for me as I don't recall ever going on too many date movies. Back in Grade 5, I invited a girl from my class, who I had a bit of a crush on, to go to a movie with me, but, heck, that was over 50 years ago. I don't remember at all what the movie was. I ended up picking Phantom of the Paradise from when I was at university. It was sort of a date. Can I pick them or what? Jo chose Quadrophenia for her first date movie. Other choices included Love Story (now that's more appropriate, I guess), Casino Royale (the David Niven version), Tess, etc.

Today we're on to Day 11.. More about that next entry.

July 2017 Reading Summary

OK, now we move on to my July 2017 Reading summary. Overall, a very successful month of reading and mostly an enjoyable selection of books. So here we go..

                                     July                Overall
Books Read                   10                      71       (I'm supposedly 3 books ahead of my planned total)
Pages Read                  3,250              18,950    (I do round this somewhat)

Pages Breakdown
       < 250                        2                      34
250 - 350                         5                      23
351 - 450                         2                      10
      > 450                         1                        4

5 - star                             1                        7
4 - star                             7                      39
3 - star                             2                      22
2 - star                             0                       3

Author Gender
Female                            1                       17
Male                                9                       54

Fiction                            3                       12
Mystery                          5                       36
SciFi                               2                       21
Non-Fic                          0                         1
Classics                          0                         1

Reading Group Challenges

12 + 4 (Books from 1900 - 1950)
I've completed 11 so far.

1. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (4 stars)
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (5 stars)
3. The Commodore by C.S. Forester (4 stars)

Canadian Literature
I've completed 3 of an anticipated 5

4. The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe (4 stars)

The Classics (Pre-1900)
(I've completed 1 of an anticipated 4)

None read in July

Mysteries (The Cops)
I've completed 14 of 25

5. Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter (4 stars)

Mysteries (The Sleuths)
I've completed 14 of 25.

6. The Archer Files by Ross MacDonald (4 stars)
7. The Guards by Ken Bruen

I've completed 2 of 5

8. Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris (4 stars)

I've completed 2 of 5

None read in July

I've completed 3 of 10

9. The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis (3.5 stars)

Science Fiction
I've completed 2 of 5

10. Cemetery World by Clifford D. Simak (3 stars)

Spies/ Thriller / War
I've completed 2 of 10

None read in July

I've completed 1 of 5

None read in July

Top Three of July

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle is one of those classic mysteries that should be on everybody's 'must-read' list. It's been made into many TV and movies, all of which have kept the story alive and fresh.
I don't know that I've read it previously; it's one of those books that I think I probably have, but maybe it's just that I've seen one or two of the adaptations. However, with all of that preamble, I'm pleased to say that I have now read and enjoyed immensely.
The story is familiar to so many people that I won't go into it in detail. Suffice it to say a family legend draws Holmes and Watson to the Dartmoor moors to try and help the heir to a family estate, one that might have been cursed by a supernatural hound. They work diligently to keep the heir alive as they try to solve the murder of the previous heir.
The nice thing about this particular Holmes' mystery is that the focus is Watson for a nice change. Holmes sends Watson ahead with Henry Baskerville, both to keep him safe and to investigate the neighbours and to try and find out more about the death / murder of Sir Charles Baskerville, Henry's uncle. Holmes stays behind to work on other cases.
It's a different way of telling a Holmes mystery, relying on Watson's correspondence to Holmes and also Watson's diary entries. But don't let that mean that there isn't lots of action because for a Holmes' mystery, there is a fair bit and the story moves along nicely and tensely. It's an interesting mystery with nice twists and turns and the ending is exciting and satisfying. One of the best Holmes' mysteries I've read so far. (5 stars)"

2. The Archer Files by Ross MacDonald.

"The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator by Ross MacDonald is my first exposure to MacDonald's writing. I have enjoyed quite a few books by his wife, fellow mystery writer, Margaret Millar and have wanted to explore the world of Lew Archer, as created by MacDonald.
The book is a series of short stories featuring PI Archer and also a number of unfinished stories showing some of the other cases that Archer might have been involved in.
I enjoyed MacDonald's writing, in the style of Dashiell Hammett and John D. MacDonald and enjoyed PI Archer. Archer takes on cases where he feels a responsibility to the person hiring him or the person being investigated. In a number of cases, he just falls into by accident and wants to correct a wrong or just help a person in need. He never overcharges; $50 a day plus expenses and he doesn't like helping the Mob or being bought. He's an ex-boxer and officer from WWII and knows how to handle himself in a bad situation. He works in California with a small office on Sunset Boulevard. The book starts off with a nice biography of Lew Archer, his past and what makes him tick.
People get killed in his cases, sometimes by him, sometimes by someone else. There are nice little twists in each one, some not complex. You can figure out who is responsible, but the explanations are always interesting. MacDonald's description of the people and the surroundings are always on point and he has a nice, tidy way of getting out the facts and the stories. I enjoyed very much and now look forward to trying one of Lew Archer's cases in novel format. (4 stars)"

3. Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris.

"Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is the first book in a new trilogy. The other books are Day Shift and Night Shift. It will soon be a TV series. From what I read it will start Jul 24th.
I loved the story. There were so many neat things about it. What I especially liked was that it featured characters from other series by Harris. We are introduced to Manfred Bernardo, who has appeared in a couple of the Harper Connelly books. We meet Bobo Winthrop who appeared in one of the Lily Bard, Shakespeare series. In fact, he refers to his friend, Lily.
Besides that, the remaining characters are all interesting and all have their secrets. Will their characters become clearer in the next two books? I hope so. Fiji Cavanaugh is a witch with a crush on Bobo and her cat is interesting. Lemuel, who works evenings in Bobo's pawn shop, is a vampire. What is Olivia? How about Joe or the Rev? What about them? Yup still lots to find out.
The story itself was interesting too. We have white nationalists stirring up trouble because of Bobo's past, his grandfather is supposed to have had a secret cache of weapons that they think Bobo now possesses and they seem desperate to find them.
There is murder, a bit of mayhem and just downright neighbourliness between the folks of Midnight, Texas. They stand by each other help each other. The story moves along nicely, some mysteries are solved and we get to know the characters better. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to getting into the other two books. (4 stars)" (Update - Jo and I have enjoyed the first two episodes of Midnight, Texas very much. It's been excellent)

Currently Reading

I'm starting off August (IT'S ALREADY AUGUST????) with the following books.

1. The Happy Return by C.S. Forester
2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
3. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
4. A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

There you go, folks. I'm hoping August is as successful a month as the past 7. Have a great August!
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