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Tag Archive: Abrams Books


This month Abrams Books released The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, an account of Fred (you know him as Mr.) Rogers, his show, and his lifetime of good works, written by Maxwell King, available now here at Amazon.  As part of the roll-out of the book, instructions to make a cardigan sweater like the famous one Mr. Rogers wore on his show is now available to download for a limited time.  From the publisher:  The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon.  Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development.  An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.

Abrams Books is releasing another book next month, Amy Herzog’s Ultimate Sweater Book, which ties nicely into the Mr. Rogers biography.  A big plus for Mr. Rogers’ fans:  It will include directions for a sweater like Rogers wore on his show.  You can pre-order Herzog’s book now here at Amazon, and we’ve included a preview of the book below.  He wore several sweaters and different colors on the show over the years, but has anyone counted the number of times he wore a sweater?

 

Knitters (and friends of knitters) should take note:  For a limited time you can download the complete pattern and instructions from Herzog’s book to make your own cardigan, just like the one Mr. Rogers had.  Who better to cosplay than America’s most beloved icon?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If the Scots abandoned Scotland to nature, it would be the birch that would be the first tree to seize its chance, and a birch forest would walk the streets of Edinburgh.

Thomas Pakenham was referring to a gigantic pioneer birch tree in Rothiemarchus, Scotland, but he may have well been writing about the Ents, the grand, wise, old leafed characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In his book Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Pakenham reproduces his real-life journey across continents meeting some of the oldest inhabitants of the planet, even if they never actually “walked” the Earth.  In beautiful photographs and stories, he introduces readers to the most noble of Earth’s elders, a chance to marvel in awe at their enormous height, or breadth, of their obvious beauty or strikingly twisted, meandering, slim, or expansive forms.  Pakenham, the 8th Earl of Longford, an Anglo-Irish writer, historian, and tree enthusiast, selected trees “mostly very large, and mainly very ancient, and all with a strong personality,” highlighting the unique qualities unique to each remarkable individual.  His folksy speech and storytelling is refreshingly regional, providing an herbivorous mirror to fellow Brit James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.

To visit these trees, to step beneath their domes and vaults, is to pay homage at a mysterious shrine.  But tread lightly.  Even these giants have delicate roots.  And be warned that this may be your farewell visit.  No one can say if this prodigious trunk will survive the next Atlantic storm–or outlive us all by centuries.

Thomas Pakenham’s photograph of the great Fredville oak, named “Majesty” at least as early as 1820 when it was sketched by artist Jacob Strutt.

And, indeed, even some of the trees pictured in Meetings with Remarkable Trees are no longer around, having succumbed to storm or man-made destruction.  Pakenham’s tome is something profoundly sacred or spiritual.  It’s peppered with historical references, literary allusions to specific trees, and including some very famous trees, whether a thousand years old or more than 200 feet tall.  It seems preposterous humans travel the globe to see manmade creations when we could be on pilgrimages to commune with these ancient living beings.  Sixty trees are grouped by personality: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies, and Survivors.  Once you’ve met Pakenham and his craggy acquaintances in this book, you’ll want to move on to accompany the champion of trees on a year in his life in his book, The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest.

A different approach to individual trees can be found in photographer Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s Wise Trees (you’ll find a 16-page preview below).  Some ancient and many not so ancient, the trees in this book include 50 selected from five continents and identified for their historic or inspirational stories.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

YouTube attempts to crack down on misinformation and conspiracy

Facebook officer reportedly leaving over misinformation dispute

The headlines this week speak for themselves–the time seems right for a new understanding of misinformation.  The subject has been written about before and from different angles, and author and journalist Rex Sorgatz includes dozens of references to those previous books that inspired his new treatise.  Part An Incomplete Education, part In Search Of…, part Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, a new book coming from Abrams Image is also a useful Guide to Living in the Modern World.  It’s The Encyclopedia of Misinformation: A Compendium of Imitations, Spoofs, Delusions, Simulations, Counterfeits, Impostors, Illusions, Confabulations, Skullduggery, Frauds, Pseudoscience, Propaganda, Hoaxes, Flimflam, Pranks, Hornswoggle, Conspiracies & Miscellaneous Fakery.  It’s a smart, compelling mix of information you would find in updates and appendices to college textbooks on advertising, public relations, psychology, criminology, politics, journalism, futurism, and current affairs, with a dose of pseudoscience and other quackery.

For most, The Encyclopedia of Misinformation will get readers caught up on what everyone else has been talking about, or in some places, defining a thing you already know with a succinct word or phrase.  The author puts his own spin on nearly 300 concepts–some terms may be familiar, some newer ideas may be defined with more recent turns of phrase.  Sorgatz discusses many more concepts than the core defined terms as he fleshes out each alphabetized key word.  Happily for any reader, this book does not read like an actual encyclopedia.  Instead Sorgatz interconnects concepts with a series of visual hotlinks that aren’t really links (it’s a printed book, after all), including citations to words not specifically defined in the book.  But it’s very clear that were a reader to read the book cover to cover and actually look up all the linked terms he/she doesn’t know already, that reader would be pretty caught up with current affairs.  Although the author suggests bouncing around and reading whatever seems interesting, The Encyclopedia of Misinformation is one of those indispensable, unputdownable non-fiction books that easily can be read straight through in two or three sittings.

So this book’s for you if you don’t know alien space bats, that an auto-tune has nothing to do with the radio, that canned heat isn’t hot, the difference between modern catfish and Chilean sea bass, who was or still is Tony Clifton, if you can’t tell a cryptid from capgras, what’s a deep state and how you doublethink, that false flags and foreign branding are not the stuff of international relations, the difference between a honeypot and a honey trap, that lorem ipsem is not Latin, if you don’t know the Mandela effect and are concerned you haven’t visited the moirologist lately, what’s a noddy and what’s a nonce, what the heck is pareidolia, plandids, and retconning, sampuru and simulism, or why you should know Zardulu.  Do you want to know how a fake band beat Dylan, Aretha, Elvis, Jagger, Bowie, Iggy, Janis, McCartney, and Lennon for the biggest hit of 1969?  How can the author explain the inclusion of cyborgs and cosplay as misinformation terms?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new book takes a look behind the scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Abrams Books’ The Art of Star Wars: The Last JediAs with the prior entries in its series: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it reflects fascinating and interesting images from the film, plus commentary and interviews from director Rian Johnson and his staff of creative professionals.  Most of the concept art provides a look at ideas left behind, with some exceptions, like the exotic new animals and beasts that could be seen throughout the film, like the sea cow, the porgs, fathier horse-like animals, and the crystalline shard foxes.  Johnson notes in the book’s foreword the challenges and hopes of making his new movie “Star Wars-y.”  Browsing this new book, it will be up to each reader and moviegoer to determine if he was successful.

As with past books in the series, the book was created parallel with the final post-production and film release, so a few key spoiler scenes are not included in the film.  Handily, this edition includes a follow-up section including the death of Han Solo that was omitted from The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  So a few elements are not addressed in this book many fans will want to know about, but perhaps those areas will be included in the behind the scenes volume for Episode IX.  But you will find plenty here to interest any fan–plenty of ship designs and concept art for the film’s new environments and sets.

The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi tells two separate stories, one in the text explaining the decisions made by director Rian Johnson and the visual artists and staff, and the second via the concept artwork that was translated to the screen and the artwork left behind.  The book lists 77 creators behind the backgrounds, landscapes, sets, vehicles, props, and costume designs.  It will take the reader who has seen the film five minutes of flipping through the book to realize it is Jock’s final character rendering work that is seen in the final cut of the film that landed in theaters: Old Luke’s fantastic island garb, Rey’s updated costumes, Rose’s and the Resistance’s uniforms, DJ and Leia’s costumes.  Really all the great, final designs that made it to the screen for the main cast came from the pen and paint of Jock.  But for whatever reason Jock was not interviewed for the book.  What were his influences?  Why this or that design?  It’s unfortunate because it really looks like Jock’s designs for Oliver Queen in his Green Arrow: Year One series directly influenced his designs for Old Jedi Master Luke and that would have been great to learn.

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What many don’t realize about movie concept art books is that, from the best of them, you can learn more about the filmmaking design process from the accompanying text than from the images selected.  Make no mistake–The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is chock full of many stages of concept artwork.  But what unfolds over its more than 250 pages is a rare peek behind the scenes at director Gareth Edwards, Lucasfilm executives, and the art design team as they figured out what story to tell in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

We learned last year in Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien (reviewed here at borg.com), that George Lucas knew immediately he wanted to create the look of Star Wars as a sort of documentary, a historical account of a long ago event.  To that end he tapped Christian to create environments made from real world components.  As explained in The Art of Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards knew he needed to emulate that style of filmmaking and overall look, and his route was using a readily available team of concept artists to create the visuals of Rogue One from day one, even partnering with artists to create the ideas for the film’s story elements in advance of a completed story.  These elements included featuring a female lead, a rebel strike squad like that in Force 10 from Navarone, a key droid team member, a battle reflective of Vietnam, a battle reflective of Paris during World War II, and a dark planet for the home of Darth Vader.  Edwards wanted to create an echo of Luke Skywalker’s hero–who wished he could join the far away war–with Jyn Erso, a heroine raised in a life of war who only wished to escape it.  The proof of the efficacy of Edwards’ process is in the result.  Has Edwards begun a new way of making movies, and will future filmmakers take this tack?

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“I look at Star Wars as a real historical event that took place in the universe, and George Lucas was there with his crew to capture it.  And now we’re there with our cameras and our crew, filming as it passed through us,” Edwards says in Abrams Books’ latest film art book, The Art of Rogue One.  “When you look like you’ve come in with a plan, it can feel too prescribed and a bit false–but when it looks like you’re capturing the images, like you’re watching them unfold in real time, it just feels more real.  I’m always trying to find that little thing that knocks you off your path–the idea or the ingredient that we didn’t come in trying to create, the curveball that makes the story feel unique.” Edwards directive was similarly unique:  How the artists remembered the images of seeing Star Wars for the first time became a more important focus than copying the look of the environments exactly from the original Star Wars source material.

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Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the Best in Print and a bonus wrap-up of other year’s bests.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 here, and the Best in Television here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Print:

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Best Comic Book Series – Old Man Logan (Marvel).  With just enough backstory from prior series focused on the future world version of Logan/Wolverine, writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino took us through the struggle of the superhero that survived all his contemporaries, only to be plunged into a parallel world where everything is familiar but nothing is the same.

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Best Graphic NovelWonder Woman: The True Amazon, Jill Thompson (DC Comics).  Writer/artist Jill Thompson is probably the best creator in comics today.  Her origin story of Wonder Woman is vibrant, and she presents a flawed, complex, and ultimately strong and fearless heroine.  The best Wonder Woman book we’ve ever read.

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Best Comic Book Limited Series/Best Crossover Comic Book Series – Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (DC Comics/IDW).  James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II pulled together an impossible team-up of characters that ended up working great together.  An action-packed, nostalgic fun trip.

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Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Kindt, Dept.H (Dark Horse).  Kindt pulls together an incredibly nostalgic assemblage of the best action concepts: classic science fiction of the H.G. Wells variety, G.I. Joe Adventure Team-inspired characters, and a fun character study and whodunit that will have you searching out your old game of Sub Search.  We just hope he makes a prequel at some point so we get to see a similar quest with an old fashioned copper-helmeted deep sea diver.  A fun read month after month and the best writing comics have to offer.

After the cut we continue with the best in comics, books, and more from 2016:

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The latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released is now available.  Star Wars: Return of the Jedi–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Three reproduces–for the first time–all 220 cards and 55 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.  And like the first two volumes in the series, it includes the image of the classic bubble gum stick inside the classic wax pack style cover jacket.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, including both title cards for the two Return of the Jedi card series, and is similar in design to the previous trading card reference books Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards last December–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com, and this April we reviewed the second volume, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two, here.

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Star Wars insider and trading card editor Gary Gerani returns to give fascinating insight and a behind-the-scenes look at Topps as it coordinated with Lucasfilm to create and market these licensed images.  Gerani was the original editor of the three Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the card sets and wrote the card titles.

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Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

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We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

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What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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