Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dinner and a Movie

Turner Classic Movies: Movie Night Menus: dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films We Love – Tenaya Darlington and Andre Darlington (Running Press)

Take thirty classic movies from a variety of genres and pair them with food and drink combos that fit well with the movie’s story lines and you end up with the winning combo that is at the heart of Turner Classic Movies: Movie Night Menus: dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films We Love, from brother and sister writing duo, Tenaya Darlington and Andre Darlington.

The idea here is not to take food and drinks that were served in the movie per see, but to take inspiration from the film’s time period, setting or theme and create unique dishes and drinks that make a perfect match.

This makes for some interesting gastric concoctions and I think it will make for some equally interesting dinner/screening parties. Take the James Bond classic, Dr. No, with its exotic locales in Jamaica, curvy Bond girl Ursula Andress and the always cool British spy then it only makes sense that the menu features martinis and spicy jerk seasoned shrimp. Now you get the idea.

The movies are as carefully curated as the menus they are paired with including; Casablanca, Giant, Some Like It Hot, Moonstruck, the Big Chill among many classics. This one is a perfect slice of fun and will be a great reference for die hard film fans or those seeking to expand there horizons.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Steve Jones: Life Lived at 11

Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol – Steve Jones (DaCapo Press)

The memory is vivid. Cracking the shrink wrap on the bright album cover and the sense that I was somehow doing something illicit as I place the record on the turntable and drop the needle into the grooves and I am met with a sheer, raw, sonic intensity that has seldom been matched. The album was the one and only studio outing by the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols.

So much had been written and said about these four scraggly British punks that I didn’t know quite what to expect and yet they somehow managed to deliver a sledgehammer musical blow in these short, chainsaw styled songs. Much of the force behind those songs came from the slashing guitar of Steve Jones as he propelled the music forward that matched the vitriol spewed forth by frontman Johnny Rotten (Lydon).

Never before, and not since, had the world of rock ‘n’ roll been so influenced by such a flash in the pan group. The roots, the formation and the ultimate destruction of the Sex Pistols is front and center in Jones’ new biography Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol.

Lonely Boy, is everything you’d expect; a rocket propelled journey through Jones’ checkered past from his hardscrabble childhood, his obsessive and varied sexual exploits, his criminal past and the fireball existence of the band that made him famous. To say the Jones has not lead a “normal” life is a radical understatement, his approach to life has an X-Games quality, extreme to the max.

Lonely Boy, is a times confessional, at others profane, it is often laugh out loud funny and on more than one downright sad. There is an unexpected level of emotion and honesty I can’t say I was expecting from Jones. While at times it reads like a jumbled mess, Lonely Boy actually has a relatively coherent and steady chronology as it progresses. While it features everything you’d expect from a rock star bio, it avoids the pitfall of becoming a cliché.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

An Influential Life

Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield – Todd Mayfield and Travis Atria (Chicago Review Press)

Like clockwork, every year the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame announces their list of nominees for a place in their allegedly prestigious confines and each year fans try to make the case why their favorites are deserving of a place in the Cleveland based edifice, with some going away broken-hearted and downright mad.

It is with equal fervency that I argue that there are too many bands and many completely undeserving of a place in the Hall of Fame and that before more can be added, some must be removed. Those that deserve a place should have influence beyond just other bands, but should have a very real impact on society through their music.

The example I use as a yardstick by which all others should be measured is artist, producer, band member, record executive, and social conscience Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield’s son, Todd, details his father’s life story, from a hardscrabble beginning in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green housing projects to touring musician, member of the Impressions, songwriter, producer and later artistic voice of the Civil Rights movement in the new bio, Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield.

Traveling Soul, paints an intimate portrait of a multi-talented, yet seemingly introverted man who almost reluctantly embraced his role as a mover and shaker not only in the music community, but in society as a whole. Mayfield was a monster of a talent, influencing artists ranging from Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood to Bruce Springsteen and so many more.

If your world view of Mayfield extents only as far as Superfly and Freddie’s Dead do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper into the wide ranging discography that made up his career. Todd Mayfield offer unique insight and perspective into the life of this very private man, that will surely prove to have Traveling Soul, rank among the best music bios of all time.

Your Wake Up Calls

Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life – Agapi Stassinopoulos (Harmony Books)

If you wander into most decent sized book stores, online bookseller or library you’re likely to be confronted by at least a large shelf, if not an entire section of books that fall into the general category of self-help. At the end of the day that heading is a bit of a misnomer since it is the book you select that walks you through the process of helping you through whatever difficulty it is that you seek to address.

People spend an outsized amount of time, energy and money seeking out answers to their issues. Agapi Stassinopoulos, sister of Arianna Huffington, is one of the more prolific authors in this category and her latest effort is; Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life.

Most of the issues people are confronted with fall into a couple of basic categories; relationships, money childhood, self esteem and self-doubt. We all have a tendency to carry around an immense amount of weight; the stuff we have collected over time that we just quite seem to let go of. Stassinopolous offers some helpful guidance on how to drop some of that baggage and move forward with your life.

Set up in the form of a year’s worth of weekly, specific, meditations that are designed to help you over the hump. Some of these things may not fit what you are looking for help with, but you can generally move through the process at your own pace. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saddam and the Keystone Cops

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein – John Nixon (Blue Rider Press)

The United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was founded in 1947; since that time they have had a history dotted with major failures and misses. Things ranging from the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks are some of the highest profile fails.

So I guess I was wasn’t too surprised when reading former CIA analyst John Nixon’s account of his time questioning captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, that the CIA comes off like the Keystone Cops. Nixon details the internal squabbles, the ill-prepared nature of their questioning of Hussein and what amounts to an utter failure to gain much in the way of valuable insights from the tyrant.

Nixon spends much of his time point fingers at CIA director George Tenet, the George W. Bush administration and his take on ranging from the intel leading up to the war in Iraq, his belief the waterboarding and other stress based interrogation techniques don’t produce results and the high cost of the war. This from a so-called “Saddam expert” who was an analyst, not a field officer partaking in enhanced interrogations, who apparently didn’t have a prepared list of questions at the ready in the event of a Saddam capture.

An example of how unprepared Nixon and his cohorts where to interrogate Saddam was showcased when Nixon recounts how he was introduced by his boss (“Mr. Jack”) in Iraq as “Mr. Steve” but then during a later session Hussein spotted Nixon’s Coalition ID badge hanging around his neck and demanded “who are you?!” An amateur mistake at best.

Liberals will gravitate towards this book because in reinforces their beliefs about the wasted cost of the war and the George W Bush administration. Any clear headed examination however reveals this to be a jumbled mess of crossed timelines, ill-prepared career employees and a real indictment of how the Congress and it’s often ax grinding oversight has truly hamstrung and crippled the U.S. intelligence services since the mid-1970s when the so-called Church Committee, led by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) clamped down on the tools available to the CIA to actually do their job. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kitchen Consequential

32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line – Eric Ripert - Read by Peter Ganim (Random House Audio Books)

Aside from the occasional Julia Child, My Life in France, it is rare for even a so-called “celebrity chef” to become known for their biography. Traditionally chef’s sold collections of recipes dubbed cookbooks. Then along came Anthony Bourdain and his book Kitchen Confidential, a mix of tell all and inside stories from the kitchen and the celebrity chef world was set on its collective ear and soon everybody wanted to serve up a chef bio.

One that fits that mode is the multi-award winning, executive chef at the renowned New York restaurant Le Bernadine, Eric Ripert and his bio 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. Ripert delivers and emotional, tale of lonely childhood and memories of the role food played in his life to the transition to making food/cooking his life’s pursuit.

For this audiobook version of the book, read by Peter Ganim, the story remains and times raw and moving, but may lose a bit of its original impact by not being told in the author’s voice. In the like all great biographical books, it is the story that separates 32 Yolks from the rest of the chef bio pack; it is a truly engaging and entertaining tale that offers insight into not only the food world but into one it’s great masters

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Go To Guide to Life

Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers – Tim Ferriss (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

To put things in the proper perspective; while I am familiar with Tim Ferriss based on articles and reviews regarding his prior books and his podcast, I have not read his previous books and have never listened to the podcast. So you can say that I bring a different perspective to the table than the average raving fan or Ferriss-head when it comes to my thoughts on this book.

That being said and knowing I put a premium on usefulness when it comes to business and personal development books; I found Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers to be a highly engaging and useful toolbox of tactics and a collection of ideas that caused me to learn more about the people Ferriss interacts with on the podcast.

Folks familiar with Ferriss’ work may find this to be kind of like a greatest hits CD from a favorite band; familiar territory repackaged and re-released. I found it a great entry point for delving into his thoughts and it allowed me to wade into the podcast for areas that I was most interested in, rather than having to go at it in stops and starts, I could cut to the chase.

This is a true reference book; if you think by reading these brief segments that you will have all of the answers, or even some of the answers, you will be sadly disappointed. If you are looking for a starting point for a massive array of topics, this is a book for you; perfect to whet your appetite and build upon.

A great example is, I had read Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership, and garnered some knowledge and insight into his approach, but with a brief piece from Ferriss, I became engaged enough to seek out not on his podcast with Willink, but moved over to Jocko podcast to delve even deeper. This is very useful stuff.

Topping out at over 700 pages, some may find this book a bit overwhelming and the fluid approach to organization may throw some off, but I liked the ability to bounce around and be selective in what interested me most and then move on from there. Ferriss also does an nice job of trying to draw together similarities and ties between the thought processes of many of the folks profiled in the book. This one is HIGHLY useful and certainly can find a place on your go to shelf.