Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book review - "Riding High" by Dale Chase



Dale Chase’s “Riding High” is an interesting love story set in Yuma, Arizona in 1889.  I enjoy historical fiction and I enjoyed this one but I’m amazed that it seems easier to hook up in late nineteenth century Arizona than in twentieth century Dallas.  I guess I was born 100 years too late.


Roy Shuster has just been released from serving a five-year prison sentence for murder.  Within minutes of getting his freedom, he hooks up with Abram, a big furry man with a heart of gold.  After a night of love-making, Abram helps Roy get back on his feet, helping him get a horse, clothes and money.  Instead of staying with a man who has shown he cares for him, Roy sets out for Tombstone.


Along the way, he is robbed of his horse and left on foot, but is soon rescued by Clay Bowman, who gives him a ride into Tombstone.  Roy hooks up with the second guy since his release two days prior.


I’m not familiar with life in the late 1880’s but I didn’t know people had a selection of restaurants to choose from when eating out. The anachronisms weren’t a distraction but Roy’s ease in finding sex seemed almost uncanny.  Perhaps it was easier in an area and time when women weren’t as abundant as men were for a booty call.

Book review - "The Cost of Doing Business" by Francis Gideon





Francis Gideon’s short story of two lonely men avoiding Christmas in an airport is a cozy albeit depressing tale with a lot of conversation followed by a little action.


Brad, a businessman, finds it preferable to spend Christmas Eve night in an airport rather than his empty apartment. Mickey is an actor/stuntman who would rather spend Christmas Even night in an airport than spend time with his homophobic family.  They meet at the ticket counter for the airline which they have booked to fly them from NYC to Toronto and strike up a conversation.  Soon they’re bonding over an expensive bottle of liquor and sharing their life stories.


Gideon takes his time to develop both characters but after a while the conversation begins to slow the story down. I began to wonder if they were going to hook up or not. Fortunately the story doesn’t end without a good sex scene and the reader is left with the feeling that Brad and Mickey are going to continue their relationship.


Although a good story overall, it does have a somber mood as both men talk about why an airport is a preferable place to spend Christmas.  “The Cost of Doing Business” is best read when one isn’t depressed.

"Rodan" released in 1956



Toho Company released "Rodan" December 26, 1956 in Japan but American audiences would have to wait almost 8 months to see it in theatres.  In Japan, the monster's name was Radon, short for Pteranodon but changed to Rodan for U.S. audiences since there was a soap by the same name (not because of a deadly gas).  George Takei was the first Japanese-American actor to do voice-overs for Toho, claiming in his autobiography this was his first professional gig.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Disney releases "20000 Leagues Under the Sea" in 1954




On December 23, 1954, Walt Disney Studios released its classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", recording the first ever video-bomb by a shark!



Monday, December 21, 2015

Book review - "A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips and Thou" by J. L. Merrow





Merrow’s short story is a fun tale of opposites attract and co-exist as well.  The main character, Liam, is a twenty-three year old punk with a Mohawk and piercings and plays saxophone for tips in the London Underground.  He’s cast his eye upon a silver fox, a commuter who passes by him every day without even looking in Liam’s direction.

Liam lives with his mother and two aunts, all witches.  A third aunt is an Anglican priest but all four sisters get along.  His aunts and mother are worried about his single status so they announce they will give him his Christmas presents early.  Liam is very afraid.  Although he is loathe to wear their hand-knitted, garishly-colored articles of clothing, the gifts seem to do the trick. 

Neil, who is older than Liam’s father, is as attracted to the punk as much as Liam is to him.  Neil finally gets the nerve to speak to him and Liam is happy to leave his post to have a coffee with Neil.  Thus begins the romance between two diametrically opposed opposites. 

What I liked about this story is the ease of the conversation between Neil and Liam. It’s a nice mix of getting-to-know-you with blatant innuendoes.  It’s no stretch of the imagination to hear two guys talking like that.  My favorite line:

“Neil,” he said.  Then he grinned.  “That’s my name, not an order.” 

This story will probably sit well with Dr. Who fans!  Just sayin'.

"Realm of the Polar Bear", my Stocking Stuffer from JMS Books released today!


"Realm of the Polar Bear", my latest bearotica short story, is available today as part of JMS Books' Stocking Stuffers, an e-book a day for December!

JMS gives is 4 flames which means it's hot hot hot hot!

Blurb:
Stranded by a blizzard on his way home for Christmas, Jarrod waits for death by freezing in his pickup, until a large, white-haired, bearded man steps out of the forest to rescue him. Jarrod is reluctant to follow the handsome man but decides his chances of survival aren’t good if he stays in his truck.

Caleb takes Jarrod to a warm, inviting cabin in the middle of the forest and offers him food and drink to warm him up. Jarrod’s apprehensions begin to dissipate as his attraction for the mysterious man increases.

Jarrod wonders what it would be like to live in the wild with the handsome Caleb, but he soon finds out the white bear is not what he appears to be.

EXCERPT:Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
    His beard and mustache dripped with condensation from his breath but the water soon froze, forming ice on the blond hair. He curled up on the seat with his head under the steering wheel, praying the end would come swiftly and painlessly.

    A soft knock on the driver’s window shocked him and he yelped in surprise. A small point of light glowed outside. Jarrod’s heart leapt for joy in his chest as he fumbled with the door handle, spilling out of the truck.

    “Hello! I’m so glad you found --” The words caught in his throat as he saw his visitor through the blowing snow. A large man with full white beard and mustache stood bundled up against the cold holding a kerosene lantern in one hand and an axe in the other. Jarrod recoiled in horror.

    “Aw, damn,” the man said, turning to toss the axe on a sled full of chopped wood he had been pulling. “Sorry ‘bout that, son. Didn’t mean to scare you. Thought you might be needin’ some help.”

    “Uh ... yeah,” Jarrod managed to utter, relieved the axe wasn’t so handy now. “I ran off the road a while back. Can you help me dig my truck out?”

    The white-haired man stepped toward the rear of Jarrod’s truck, holding the lantern close to the tires. He walked around the truck and examined the snowdrift which buried most of the vehicle.

    “That dog won’t hunt! I don’t think you’re going anywhere for a while.”

    The man pulled his right glove off with his teeth and extended his hand. “I’m Caleb. I live not far from here.”

    “I’m Jarrod. I’m on my way home for Christmas.”

    “Damn, son!” Caleb kept his warm hand clasped over Jarrod’s. “Feels like you’re frozen solid already. Come on up to the house and thaw out a bit. The way the snow’s coming down right now, we’d just be pissing in the wind if we tried to dig you out.” He placed the lantern on the ground and, removing the other glove, held the pair out for him.

    Jarrod cast a doubtful glance toward the sled with the chopped wood and axe. “Maybe I should stay with my truck. Perhaps you could send someone?”

    Caleb gave him a placating smile. “Son, no one’s going to be coming around tonight in this. And if you stay here you’ll freeze to death, and I can’t let that be on my conscience. If it’ll make you feel better, you can carry the axe.” He chuckled as he stepped to the sled, picked up the axe, and offered it to Jarrod.

    Still unsure but willing to risk anything to get warm, Jarrod pulled on the gloves and grabbed the axe. Caleb seemed to wield it without much effort. He had not expected it to be so heavy, and on his first attempt, he dropped the axe into the snow, nearly pulling his arm off. Worried that he looked wimpy, Jarrod reached down and clutched the handle with both hands. With a tremendous heave, he hoisted it to his shoulder and signaled for Caleb to lead the way

Disney releases "The Black Hole" in 1979



With the success of "Star Wars: A New Hope", lots of studios were jumping on the space exploration band wagon.  Disney released "The Black Hole" December 21, 1979.  Reviews were lackluster and it did have some problems but I enjoyed it.  I still watch it on occasion, even though the ending with Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) and the robot Maximilian bothers me way too much.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

"A Christmas Carol" published in 1843




Charles Dickens' timeless tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge being haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve was published December 19, 1843.  It's been adapted onto stage, movies, TV shows countless times. My favorites are the productions starring George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart.


Friday, December 18, 2015

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" premiered in 1966




One of the most beloved Christmas specials of all time, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", first aired December 18, 1966.




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review - "The Spell of Christmas" by Lisa Gray


 
Lisa Gray’s short story presents an interesting situation: a Christian and a Wiccan in a serious committed relationship.  I think it offers a good glimpse of how acceptance and love out to be.  Despite the differences in their beliefs, Marc and Owen are in love and devoted to each other.

Marc wants to introduce Owen to his family but Owen has his doubts and makes excuses to stay home during the holiday season.  Before Marc leaves to drive to his parents’ house, he secretly performs a Wiccan ceremony he hopes will bind him to Owen for good.

After Marc’s departure, Owen finds the gift and is surprised and touched by the gesture. Unknown to Owen, at the time he finds the gift, Marc runs into trouble on the slick snow-covered roads which make a high bridge extremely unsafe.

Cats play a small but important role in the story, as they become aware of Marc’s plight even though miles away in the house with Owen.  I like stories where the animals demonstrate they know more about the world than just what’s in front of their noses.  If I don’t want to drop any spoilers here but the outcome wasn’t necessarily what I expected.  I was pleasantly surprised at the gift of acceptance despite differences. 

And it’s a great story for cat lovers!

Book Review - "Silver and Gold" by William Holden




Unlike the main character, Joe, in William Holden’s short story, I’ve never been hit on by, much less seen, a sexy barista.  That’s how “Silver and Gold” opens.  Joe goes into a coffee shop and proceeds to receive thinly-veiled innuendoes from the handsome bearista Alan.  The attraction is mutual and they sneak off for a quickie but are interrupted. 

Joe returns to the coffee shop at the end of the business day, but Alan barely takes notice of him.  Dejected but not morose, Joe returns to his hotel room and discovers Alan has orchestrated an elaborate scavenger hunt for him.  Joe sets out enthusiastically across a snow-covered New York City to find his bearista. 

The reader may wonder how Alan was able to set up such a complex hunt in a relatively short amount of time, especially since he was working most of the day, but as an avid lover of puzzles and mysteries, I enjoyed reading Joe’s adventures.  Of course, it leads to an expected outcome (with a minor twist) but still fun.

I may have to start frequenting coffee shops more in the future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review - "The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet" by Neil DeGrasse Tyson




Since Pluto has recently become the hottest spot in the solar system with new information coming in weekly from the New Horizons spacecraft, I remembered I had this book in my library, unread.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson wrote this book with diagrams and letters from children on the demotion of Pluto from planet status.  The New Horizons probe was launched in January 2006, traveling 9 years to the ‘dwarf planet’ and made its closest approach in July 2015.

On August 24, 2006, just eight months after the launch, the 26th Triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union voted by a decisive margin (90% in favor) to redefine the word ‘planet’.  Thus, Pluto was demoted and the solar system was back to 8 planets, as it has been from 1841 to 1930.

Public reaction was swift, negative and fierce.  In his book, Tyson includes emails, letters and editorials from people who were incensed by this treatment of their favorite planet.  Although the IAU was responsible for Pluto’s fall from grace, Tyson was the face of the controversy being in charge of the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, which had already excluded Pluto from the other eight planets.

Tyson’s book is very entertaining as he recounts the general populace’s emotions and feelings about an ice-covered rock some 3 billion miles away.  Pioneers 10 and 11 are somewhere in interstellar space bearing a diagram of our solar system with nine planets, but Tyson says the illustration has so many other errors, aliens will be hard pressed to trace it back here.

Mannheim Steamroller releases "Fresh Aire IV" in 1981





Mannheim Steamroller released "Fresh Aire IV" December 15, 1981.  It was the first album I bought from them after hearing a selection from Fresh Aire III, "Mere Image", the previous fall at a fraternity keg party (it was a music fraternity!).  I couldn't find III so I settled for IV and consider it one of the best purchases I've ever made.  Despite the fact that I do not like the last two tracks after "Dancing Flames" my all-time favorite non-Christmas song. 


"Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" released in 2001




This one ranks down at the bottom of my list, just above "Godzilla's Revenge".  I mean, come on, guys!!  King Ghidorah as a good guy and the G-Man is evil?  How much sake had you been drinking that day?

Here's the trailer in Japanese.  Makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie.


Happy birthday, Ensign Harry Kim!





Garrett Wang, born today December 15, 1968, is affectionately known by Trekkies as Ensign Harry Kim on the series "Star Trek: Voyager".  I lost interest in the show after the second season but I always enjoyed scenes with Ensign Kim. 



Monday, December 14, 2015

"Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla" released in 2002




So this is, what, the fifth Mechagodzilla movie?  And still Japan hasn't figured out you can't beat the G-Man!  That absolute zero weapon isn't going to do any good.  Perhaps that's why Godzilla is a butthead in this one, destroying Tokyo just for grins, instead of being the anti-hero.



Friday, December 11, 2015

"Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II" released in 1993




I have no idea how good (or not) this movie is since I've never seen it, but "Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II" was released December 11, 1993.  I gotta find it because it looks much more kick ass than "Godzilla vs. Biollante"!



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review - "Love Lost, Love Found" by Rebecca James




I really enjoyed this short story although I was prepared not to.  In previous posts, I've mentioned several times my aversion to gay romance stories but Rebecca James surprised me.  "Love Lost, Love Found" moved at a good pace and the romance blossoms without getting bogged down in sentimentality or saccharine sweetness. 

There is a touching moment but it is vital to the story and helps the reader empathize with Dane.

Dane is a fire fighter, spending the holidays alone, since his wife passed away two years before on Christmas of a brain tumor.  On his way home from work, he picks up a homeless man seeking shelter from the weather under an overpass and takes him to his remote cabin.

Interestingly, the romance doesn't start right away.  James takes her time, letting the readers get to know the main characters and Dane and Sayer get to know each other first.

She alludes to an HEA ending but not enough that the reader feels everything may go smoothly in the future, but she leaves the reader hoping it does.  There is more than a little bit of fantasy here, i.e. how many of us would get this kind of lucky picking up the random homeless man, right?

"Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla" released in 1994



Toho released "Godzilla vs Space Godzilla" December 10, 1994, pitting the G-Man up against a clone of himself from outer space.  Godzilla also has to face Mogera, an odd-looking version of Mechagodzilla.  Fortunately, Godzilla and Mogera team up to defeat Space Godzilla.

Megumi Odaka, as telepath Miki Saegusa in several movies, exhibits telekinesis in this movie. 


Book Review - "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" by John Amory




This story could be named “It’s A Wonderful Gay Christmas Carol” because themes from these stories can be seen in Amory’s Stocking Stuffer from JMS Books.  The main character, Logan is a workaholic, never taking time off, even during the holidays to see his younger brother Dave, the only family he has left.

Dave calls him and begs him to come over for Christmas dinner and meet his new girlfriend.  Logan gives him a non-committal answer and hangs up.

A moment of inattention while driving leads to an unfortunate meeting between Logan’s car and a semi-tractor trailer on a slick, snowy road.  Logan wakes up in the house where he grew up when his parents were still alive.  He is greeted by a mysterious but handsome stranger, Michael.

Michael fills the roles of Clarence the angel from “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present from “A Christmas Carol”. 

I’ll let the reader discover how it all plays out but this was an easy, enjoyable read, although a little on the predictable side.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" premieres in 1965


One of the most beloved Christmas specials premiered December 9, 1965, just a mere 50 years ago.  I didn't know until today that when Linus recites the line: "Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy!" he drops his blanket. Very symbolic!

According to imdb.com:

Kathy Steinberg, who did the voice of Sally Brown, had not yet learned to read at the time of production, so she had to be fed her lines, often a word or syllable at a time, which explains the rather choppy delivery of the line "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share".



Book Review - "All I Want for Christmas" by Paul Alan Fahey




One reason I don’t care for gay literature (although I write it) is because the romance oftentimes gets rather mushy, but this short story from Paul Alan Fahey doesn’t bog down in sappy, sugary dialogues or settings.  Most of the conversations take place between main character Professor Leland Hansen and co-workers with witty banter. But when Leland talks to his ex Cliff, the dialogue sounds real.  I didn’t feel I was reading an inexperienced someone’s version of what they think two gay men would say to each other.

For those of us who have had a great relationship end, this story may cut a little too close to home, but the reader can sympathize with Leland.  Five years after they broke up, Leland still pines for tall, handsome Cliff.  They were in love but Leland’s concerns about being outed at the university where he teaches drove them apart.

Now with Christmas coming, Leland is even more destitute.  To make matters worse, Cliff calls him out of the blue to let him know he’s getting married.  Their phone conversation ends badly and Leland has to overcome a paralyzing fear if he hopes to correct the biggest mistake he’s made.

The HEA ending is expected but at least it was presented in a manner the reader doesn’t need a shot of insulin.

Cassini spacecraft taking hi-resolution pics of Saturn's moons

Atlas
 
This small moon is only 30 kilometers, or 19 miles across.  Atlas orbits Saturn in a region called the Roche Division, between the planet's A and F rings, at the outer edge of the main ring system. The outer A ring is seen at the bottom of this view.
 
 
Epimetheus
 
A little larger than Atlas, Epimetheus is 116 kilometers, or 72 miles across.
 

Prometheus
 
Prometheus, 86 kilometers, or 53 miles across, orbits Saturn just inside the F ring, seen at the top of the picture.
 

Tethys
 
Tethys (531km or 319 miles) is dwarfed by Saturn and its rings.  A crescent view like this is impossible to see from Earth.  Reflected light from the rings illuminate Tethys' northern hemisphere.
 
nasa.gov
 
 
 


"Godzilla vs Destroyah" released in 1995



Toho Company released "Godzilla vs Destroyah" December 9, 1995.  December seems to be Toho's favorite month to release Godzilla movies since I've counted at least 11 movies released this month over the years.  Toho had to use the term 'Destroyah' because of copyright bureaucracy using the word 'destroyer'.  Megumi Odaka reprises her role as Miki Saegusa for the last time.  "Godzilla vs Destroyah" makes homage to the original "Godzilla" from 1954 referring to Dr. Yamane's work using 'micro-oxygen' to kill Godzilla. 



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy birthday, Phil Collen (Def Leppard)!




Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, born in 1957, celebrates his birthday today.  He joined Def Leppard when they were recording "Pyromania" in 1982.



Monday, December 7, 2015

The last Apollo mission launched in 1972

Cernan on the lunar surface.

Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo missions, was launched December 7, 1972.  On board were Commander Eugene A. Cernan, Command Module Pilot, Ronald E. Evans and Lunar Modular Pilot Harrison H. Schmitt.  It was the longest manned lunar landing flight (12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds), the longest lunar surface vehicular activities (22 hours total), largest sample return (110.52kg or 243.7 lb), and the longest time in lunar orbit (6 days).


Schmitt next to a large boulder.

They returned to Earth December 19, splashing down in the South Pacific Ocean.

Cernan in the Lunar Module


Book review - "Kinesis" by Ethan Spiers




The blurb for “Kinesis” by Ethan Spier certainly grabbed my attention, a novel with characters possessing telekinesis, the ability to move objects with one’s mind.  I thought there might be some similarities or inspiration but it became apparent quickly there are no similarities between our works.

In Spier's work, people with psychokinesis become dangers after they begin to exhibit the ‘ability’.  They progressively grow more and more irrational and violent until at last, they turn into babbling, drooling vegetables.  Because of this, they are locked away while they deteriorate.  The prison, Cove Rock, is equipped with magnetic field generators, which prevents the psychokinetics (PKs) from using their powers.

Another big difference, Spier opens his novel with an extremely violent home invasion.  Fortunately, the violence subsides for the most part, and subsequent scenes don’t quite match the horror of the first.

Clarissa Chapman, head of the Psychokinetic Investigation team, is called to the site of the home invasion, since the two intruders were killed by a PK.  As she searches for the rogue PK, events are taking place in Arkham…um, I mean Cove Rock.  One of the most vicious inmates has found a way to use his power despite the magnetic fields.  And he is hell-bent on escaping and exacting revenge on Clarissa, who put him there.

Spier speculates in his book that not all PKs are violent, murderous psychopaths but that some of them have the ability yet never experience the mental deterioration.  That notion begins to haunt Clarissa while she searches for the PK who killed the home intruders.

Her conclusion that some people can lead long, normal lives is confirmed while she is nearly killed in an all-out battle between to PKs.

I liked the novel but Spier has different stories going on at once and in the beginning it is cumbersome to follow along.  Once all the characters have been introduced, it is much easier, but many characters are peripheral and add to the confusion.

Also, “Kinesis” takes place in London, but I never got a feel of the setting.  This book could have taken place in just about any city in any country.

Overall, I enjoyed Spier’s viewpoint on a subject we both love.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review - "Tinsel and Yule" by Rob Rose

 
Tinsel and Yule
 
 
Award winning Rob Rosen offers up a fun tale of elf porn in "Tinsel and Yule", as  part of JMS Books Stocking Stuffers, an e-book a day during December.  Tinsel is a hard-working elf  in Santa's workshop toiling over toys right before Christmas.  Santa announces that a new elf, Yule, has come to join the minions.  Ginger-featured Tinsel is immediately attracted to the blond hair, blue-eyed Yule, who comes to sit next to him. 
 
Good elves get to work in Santa's workshop, but bad elves go everywhere.  And bad elf Yule sizes up Tinsel right away and they go outside for some elf sex.  Their tryst is interrupted when Santa sends out the alarm that Comet is missing, and must be found or Christmas will be ruined.  Tinsel and Yule are too caught up in each other to participate fully in the search.
 
The ending is, of course, a happy one  but Rosen does add a twist the reader doesn't see coming.  A nice surprise to a mostly erotic story.  This story is not for prudes since the sex scenes are graciously detailed and vivid, and frequent. 
 
It's a short story (about 5K words) so it's a quick, entertaining read.
 


"Godzilla: Final Wars" released 2004




The previous two or three Godzilla movies had been disappointments at the box office, and if you have seen "Godzilla, Mothra, King Gidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" and "Godzilla: Tokyo SOS" you understand. 

Toho Company produced "Final Wars" and declared that there wouldn't be another Godzilla movie for 10 years.  That held true when the American release of "Godzilla" came out in 2014.  "Final Wars" obviously draws on other movies such as "Aliens" and "The Matrix" but its plot is one that has been  used over and over: Aliens come to Earth and try to rid the planet of Godzilla by pitting their monsters against him.  If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always gotten.

Akira Takarada makes his 6th appearance in a Godzilla movie, since starring in the original movie in 1954. 

Here Godzilla battles Zilla, from the 1998 movie with Matthew Broderick.  It is referred to as Zilla because the producers felt the American version took "God"  out of "Godzilla".


Thursday, December 3, 2015

NASA loses communication with Mars Polar Lander 1999


Suspecting frozen water beneath the Martian landscape at the south pole, NASA sent the Mars Polar Lander to search for evidence of recent climate change and near-surface ground ice in the polar regions.

The Mars Polar Lander reached the Red Planet on December 3, 1999, and just prior to stage separation and atmospheric entry, signals from the spacecraft mysteriously stopped.  No explanation has been found as to the sudden cessation of communication.  It is assumed that the Mars Polar Lander has crashed onto the surface of Mars.  How many probes litter the surface of Mars now? 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Congress votes to block President Obama's climate change agenda




James Inhofe, the dumbest member of Congress, had this to say:

“The message could not be more clear that Republicans and Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House do not support the president’s climate agenda and the international community should take note,” Senator James Inhofe (R–OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

The international community has noted that the US Congress is as stupid as he is.  Who was the rocket scientist who made him chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee?  Here is a renowned hater of science in charge of environmental policy.  This past February, he brought a snow ball onto the Senate floor and threw it.  That was his way of proving there was no such thing as global warming. 

What an idiot.  Are NASA and NOAA lying to the public? Why?  Does he have any proof to the contrary?  A snowball.  In February in Washington, DC. 

http://news.sciencemag.org/policy/2015/12/symbolic-move-congress-votes-gut-obama-climate-plans

Mars 3 achieves the first soft landing on Mars 1971




Mars 3, a space probe from the Soviet space program, made a soft landing on Mars, December 2, 1971.  However, 14.5 seconds after touchdown, transmissions stopped mysteriously.  One possible cause of the failure could have been due to the enormous dust storm taking place on Mars at the time. 

The Mars 3 lander was sterilized so it would not contaminate the Martian environment.  So how many space probes litter the Martian surface now?  That ISN'T contamination?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy birthday, Treat Williams!




Treat Williams, born December 1, 1951, is one of the most versatile and handsomest actors of all time. I've loved him ever since "1941" and fell even deeper in love with him in "Hotel Ritz". 




Monday, November 30, 2015

June Pointer born in 1953



One of my favorite women of all time, June Pointer, born November 30, 1953, was the baby sister of the Pointer Sisters.  She and her sisters Ruth and Anita started singing in the late 1960's but enjoyed huge success in the 80's with albums such as Break Out and Hot Together

Unfortunately, June left us way too early.  She passed away at 52 from cancer on April 11, 2006.  Their album Break Out was released November 1983.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book review - "Third Eye" by Rick R. Reed




First, let me say I really liked this book. The paranormal aspect of the story is what caught my attention, of course, being an author of novels with similar themes.  In "Third Eye", Cayce (as in Edgar Cayce?) D’Amico, single gay father of Luke, gains strange abilities during a severe thunderstorm.  While looking for Luke, Cayce is struck by a falling branch when lightning strikes a tree next to him. 

Recovering in the hospital, Cayce begins to have ‘visions’. Two teenage girls have vanished from the small town of Fawcettville, Pennsylvania and the police are baffled.

Reluctantly, Cayce has to admit to himself the visions he sees in his heads are of the missing girls.  He contacts the local police detective with less than satisfactory results.  He decides to get in touch with one of the missing girls’ family with an even more disastrous outcome.  Not knowing what to do next, Cayce is surprised when the family of the second missing girl contacts him.

After much back and forth, Cayce leads the mother to the shallow grave of her daughter.  Soon after, Cayce’s son Luke is kidnapped and Cayce thinks he has to use his new-found abilities to save his son.

I found this to be the only downer of the story, (spoiler alert) Cayce’s clairvoyance did not lead him to his son.  It would have made for a more exciting climax to have him lead the police to Luke and become the hero to his son.

I’m not complaining about the final scene which the reader will find out for themselves, but the gay aspect seemed subdued and almost an afterthought.  However, one can easily empathize and relate Cayce and his current love situation.  We’ve all had those long dry spells and we’re afraid of losing our sanity.

The final scene also hints at a sequel.  I hope there is.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mariner 4, first spacecraft to Mars, launched in 1965




Mariner 4, launched November 28, 1965, was the first spacecraft to perform a flyby past Mars, answering the burning questions about life on the Red Planet.  Mariner performed the flyby July 14-15, 1965, passing within 9,846 km from the surface of Mars.  Communications were terminated with the spacecraft on December 21, 1967.


The first close-up picture of the surface of Mars, courtesy Mariner 4.

Book review - "The Clerk's Tale" by Margaret Frazer




After reading “The Squire’s Tale”, I was a little disappointed because it almost felt as if Margaret Frazer had given up.  The novel was slow and predictable.  Reluctantly, I read the next book in her Dame Frevisse series, set in the 1400’s during the reign of Henry VI.

“The Clerk’s Tale” restored my faith in Frazer.  The mystery is set within the first few pages and doesn’t slow down. The novel opens with the murder of Master Montfort, crowner and frequent thorn in Frevisse’s side.  He’s found stabbed in the cloister garden of St. Mary’s where Domina Elisabeth and Frevisse are visiting the prioress’ dying cousin.

Since Master Montfort and Frevisse butted heads every time they met (and she was always right), she finds it difficult to be sorrowful, but soon discovers no one else is, either.  To her big surprise, Montfort’s son Christopher, the new crowner, is nothing like his father.  He is more interested in finding the truth, rather than making a rash, simple decision.  His methodical, not greedy.  He and Frevisse quickly form an alliance to discover who killed his father.

At the heart of the problem is the legitimacy of Master Stephen, grandson of Lady Agnes.  His inheritance of her vast fortune is being brought into question by the boy’s aunt, who is convinced he is not her sister’s son.  There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the murdered crowner and the contentious family.

Frevisse, Christopher Montfort and the clerk John Gruesby persevere, questioning everybody and doing heavy footwork. Their tenacity pays off.  Unlike the previous novel which was rather predictable and slow, Frazer has some surprises for her readers.

“The Clerk’s Tale” is head and shoulders above “The Squire’s Tale”.  Frazer returns to the old school sleuthing that we’re used to.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" released in 1986



One of the best movies with the cast from the original Star Trek series was released November 26, 1986.  It contained a powerful message about protecting our indigenous wildlife, and only man would be arrogant enough to believe he was the only intelligent life on earth.




Charles M. Schulz, creator of "Peanuts" born in 1922



We miss you, Sparky!




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy birthday, Lois Lane!





Noel Neill, born November 25, 1920, is probably best known for her portrayal of Lois Lane in "The Adventures of Superman" which ran from 1952 to 1958.  She replaced Phyllis Coates who starred in the role from 1952-1953.  Both Neill and Coates starred in "Invasion USA", a wonderfully forgettable sci-fi movie about the Soviets invading the USA.  Joel and the bots conducted a battle of the Lois Lanes when they featured "Invasion" on "Mystery Science Theatre 3000".



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Andrews Sisters release "Bei Mir Bist Du Shein" in 1937





It was to become their first big hit.  "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon", released November 24, 1937, went to #1 in 1938 and put the Andrews Sisters on the map. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Book review - "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor


 
I’ve enjoyed reading the Adventures of Scot Harvath, super-spy, by Brad Thor, so the setting of his novel, The Athena Project, appeared to be interesting change from his main character.  Instead of one guy acting alone, this novel features a team of four women in pretty much the same role as Scot.  They are smart, beautiful and deadly.

The book basically sends out two messages: one, men have one track minds and two, a sexy woman in a little black dress can open any door.  ANY door, because of message number one.

Thor’s story has several humorous sections where the women, Megan Rhodes, Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson and Alex Cooper laugh at how easily they can manipulate men with a pretty smile, cleavage, a bottle of booze and the promise of a good time.

Their first adventure is sneaking into a private party in Venice, thrown by a known weapons dealer responsible for procuring the explosives that killed many Americans.  Their seduction of the dirty, old man is interrupted and they must shoot their way out.  Which they have to do several more times.  But they always get their man.

The main plot is that Nazi scientists were working on mind-blowing experiments when WWII ended.  The USSR worked to get those scientists into the Russia, but the US was more interested in their work.  In some cases, laboratories were destroyed but in other cases, they were flooded or booby-trapped and the entrances caved in. 

One experiment involved teleportation.  The Nazis experimented on Jewish people with disastrous results.  They never perfected it but the laboratory where the research was conducted had been rumored to be discovered.  The Athena team is sent in to ascertain if the technology was actually hidden in a cave in the Czech Republic.  If so, America’s enemies could teleport electromagnetic disrupting bombs all over the country, paralyzing it.

There is plenty of action to keep the book interesting without being overwhelmed by violence.  Thor gives his team plenty of seemingly impossible missions but never becoming so overtly incredible that they become unbelievable. 

The only downside to the book was the plot thread involving Denver International Airport.  It almost seemed an afterthought to lengthen the story but it just ended without much resolution. 

Despite that tangential thread, I hope Thor continues this series.