If we stream all our movies and download all our books, what's left to ask for as a Christmas gift?

If we stream all our movies and download all our books, what's left to ask for as a Christmas gift?

Monday, August 29, 2011

This just in...


Results are now conclusive:

When you drink vodka over ice, you can develop kidney failure.

When you drink rum over ice, you can develop liver failure.

When you drink whiskey over ice, you can develop heart problems.

When you drink gin over ice, you can develop memory problems.

So, warn all your friends: Apparently, ice is really bad for you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuning in to history


Philadelphia Radio, by Alan Boris, relates in a serious, yet also fun and engaging manner, the sweep of Philadelphia's radio broadcasting industry. Through historical details, anecdotes, and- most importantly- hundreds of photographs and graphic images- readers will delight in both learning things they never knew and being reminded of a favorite late-night DJ or radio promotion from the listening years of their youth.

Arcadia Publishing's Images of America regional history volumes have the reputation of taking on a particular topic and covering that subject in a thorough but never tedious manner. Philadelphia Radio is no exception. Mr. Boris, a noted radio historian based in Philadelphia, scoured his own collection and the collections of various libraries and historical societies, for the wonderful images that are the main component of the book, then enhanced the images and linked them together with just the right amount of thoughtful, informative prose. The result is something that has the fun and breeziness of a photo album but also the intellectual feel of something substantial.

With all the great photographs, the book tempts one to just flip through it and read a caption here and there to learn more about the photographic subjects that catch one's eye. But do yourself a favor and do what I did: sit down over the course of a day or two and just enjoy the book from cover to cover. That way you won't miss anything and get a full appreciation of Mr. Boris' skillfully constructed and detail-rich timeline.

Hey, reading about our founding fathers and the birth of our nation is always fascinating, but kudos to Alan Boris for writing about an aspect of Philadelphia history not covered countless times before. Even if you're not a Philadelphian like me, you're in for a great read, as so many national trends and national performers got their start within the AM and FM bandwidths circling the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia Radio is available in softcover from Amazon, various other online retailers, and at your favorite bookstore.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yep

A bumper sticker I recently spotted:

Critical thinking: the other national deficit

Monday, August 22, 2011

Holy Budweiser


Two nuns were shopping at a convenience store. As they passed by the refrigerated beer, one nun said to the other, “Wouldn’t a nice cold bottle of beer or two taste wonderful on a hot summer evening like this one?”

The second nun answered, “Indeed it would, sister, but I would not feel comfortable buying beer, since I am certain it would cause a scene at the checkout counter.”

With a small smile, the other nun replied, “I can handle that without any problem,” and she picked up a six-pack and headed to the front of the store.

Predictably, the cashier had a surprised look on his face when the two nuns arrived with their six-pack of beer. Without missing a beat, however, the first nun said, "Wipe that smirk off your face, young man. We use beer for washing our hair. In fact, back at the convent, we call it Catholic shampoo.”

Without blinking an eye, the cashier reached under the counter, pulled out a package of pretzel sticks, and placed them in the bag with the six-pack. He then looked the nun straight in the eye and said, “In that case, sister, the curlers are on the house.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Listen up


On this lazy summer day, here are a few notable quotes you may not have heard before. Some of these are quite cute.

"Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself, Lillian, you should have remained a virgin."

Lillian Carter (mother of Jimmy Carter)

* * *

"I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: No good in a bed, but fine against a wall."

Eleanor Roosevelt

* * *

"Last week, I stated that a particular woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement."

Mark Twain

* * *

"The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending... and to have the two as close together as possible."

George Burns

* * *

"Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people only once a year."

Victor Borge

* * *

"Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."

Mark Twain

* * *

"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

Socrates

* * *

"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."

Groucho Marx

* * *

"My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe."

Jimmy Durante

* * *

"I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back."

Zsa Zsa Gabor

* * *

"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."

Alex Levine

* * *

"My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying."

Rodney Dangerfield

* * *

"Money can't buy you happiness. But it does buy you a more pleasant form of misery."

Spike Milligan

* * *

"Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was Shut Up!"

Joe Namath

* * *

"I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap."

Bob Hope

* * *

"I never drink water because of all the disgusting things that fish do in it."

W. C. Fields

* * *

"We could certainly slow the aging process down if we required it to work its way through Congress."

Will Rogers

* * *

"Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you."

Winston Churchill

* * *

"Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out."

Phyllis Diller

* * *

"By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he's too old to go anywhere."

- Billy Crystal

Moon over Houston


Sex on the Moon relates the story of NASA intern Thad Roberts, who tried to steal priceless moon rocks from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Well, he actually did steal them, but not for long.

I usually don't have a problem with stories about anti-heroes or people who make mistakes, but for some reason this book kind of annoyed me. First, Thad Roberts leaves his smart, supportive, pretty wife for a cute NASA intern, all because his wife had the temerity to want to talk about her job every once in a while, or wanted Thad to occasionally socialize with her friends and colleagues. Imagine! Oh, yes, I should also mention that Thad's wife was a successful fashion model. What a rough road he had, no wonder he left her!

Secondly, Thad totally dismisses the value of his gold-standard NASA internship to plan the heist of moon rocks securely stored at the NASA facility where he worked. Incidentally, these are the moon rocks that- in case people forget- were procured by selfless astronauts taking on impossibly dangerous odds to further mankind's knowledge of the universe. But Thad needed some extra cash and a few thrills, so what's the big deal, right?

Finally, on top of the above annoyances, the heist itself generates no suspense whatsoever, due to a parallel plotline- that unfolds right alongside Thad's scatterbrained operation- that reveals that the FBI was aware of Thad's plan almost from the beginning. So I knew that, despite any meager engagement I had with Thad's plan (I tried to be interested on at least a technical level, despite my disapproval), the FBI was just waiting for the right moment to crash the party. Which is what it did. What a shock!

Oh, the title of the book? It references a scene after the heist, when Thad seduces his naive girlfriend- yes, he drew her into his plan, too- on a hotel room bed, with several of the moon rocks placed beneath them under the mattress cover. "Sex on the Moon", get it? Anyway, her future at NASA was eventually ruined, too. But at least she had a romantic adventure with wonderful Thad first.

Did the book have any plusses? Sure. Author Ben Mezrich has a smooth, engaging storytelling style, and I enjoyed learning a little about all the behind-the-scenes activity at NASA. But learning about NASA only made me more annoyed at Thad Roberts' plan to hurt and embarrass the agency.

I should be fair and point out that the book doesn't promote what Thad did as harmless or right, or anything like that. But, as most of the book relates Thad's viewpoint on things, and Thad tends to go easy on himself, the book does somewhat romanticize and glamourize Thad's actions, and minimize the wrongness of what he did.

So, my own take is that if you can get past the generally unlikable central character and the lack of suspense in the heist plotline, you might get a modest bit of entertainment out of this book. Just don't hope for the moon and stars.

Sex on the Moon is available on Kindle for $12.99.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Strange


Something I've always wondered about:

Why does a slight tax increase cost me $200.00 and a substantial tax cut saves me $30.00?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spread 'em


Statistics just released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detail the variety of discoveries made by TSA airport screening personnel since the beginning of the year. Here's what these meticulously-trained professionals have identified:

Terrorist plots: 0

Transvestites: 133

Hernias: 1,485

Hemorrhoid cases: 3,172

Enlarged prostates: 8,249

Breast implants 59,350 (or 118,700 if counted as individual breasts)

Natural blondes: 3

Your tax dollars at work!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bond is back


Forget the action and the beautiful women. The real appeal of James Bond for most men is reading about a guy who, while on the job, spends most of his time in excellent hotels, enjoying top-notch food and drink, all while experiencing minimal contact with the home office. A dream come true for most guys!

Jeffery Deaver understands this, and gives readers plenty of the above in Carte Blanche, his new Bond novel. In fact, he follows this classic Bond scenario so closely that the reboot/updating-the-character aspects of the book (much touted in the press) don't really register all that much. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Mr. Deaver was hired to produce an entertaining James Bond novel, with all the familiar beats we love about James Bond, and that's what he did.

The other new things Mr. Deaver brings to the table? A detailed plot that requires some genuine unraveling and a central antagonist that isn't just another smart, cultured gentleman with an evil plan (in other words, a darker version of James Bond). Some may find Severan Hydt, with his fetishy enthusiasm for death and decay, to be uncomfortably creepy for a Bond novel (I sometimes did), but I nonetheless appreciated Mr. Deaver's effort at creating a villain we haven't seen many times before in Bond stories.

For my own taste, there was perhaps too much mystery and not enough action and confrontation in Carte Blanche (yes, good action is more important to me than suggested at the outset). Mr. Deaver's story is fueled by questions: What are the plan or plans that need to be found out? Who is really behind them? How does this tie into that? Myself, I like to plainly know who the adversary is and what his or her master plan entails while there's still a good bit of book left, so I can enjoy watching Bond confront the villain and his cronies, and take their plan apart. While there certainly is action and confrontation in the book, the mystery unraveling goes pretty much right up to the end. Again, this is a matter of taste. Other readers may find this aspect of the book refreshing.

In the end, this is a fairly solid addition to the James Bond canon, maybe not as satisfying as the best of the post-Fleming novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson (who, frankly, each had a string of Bond books to polish their approach), but absolutely engaging and entertaining. I'd look forward to another Bond novel by Mr. Deaver.

Carte Blanche is available on Kindle for $12.99.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Humor on the road

Three bumper stickers recently spotted out on the highway...

Watch out for the idiot behind me!

I support feminists. I think they're cute!

Your honor student deals the best drugs.

More on the way!