Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock – Steven Hyden – (Dey St.)

The concept: the mortal demise of classic rock due to the steady, inexorable drip, drip, drip of the of the passing of aging classic rock artists. That is the focus of Steven Hyden in his latest outing, Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock.

Hyden writes with just the right amount of fanboy laced into his dynamic prose. The guy clearly has a love for classic rock and it shows. While the concept is certainly interesting and writing entertaining, I will posit that the bigger concern is not so much the death of classic rock, but maybe something even larger to consider; the death of rock…period.

Here’s the problem, everything that made classic rock great, the impact that it had on changing and inspiring folks lives is missing from most of today’s music. Music has moved from being utterly inspiring to become utterly disposable. Can anyone name even one band that in the future will live up to the moniker “classic rock!? Hyden talks lovingly about how fans flock to see these aging classic rock artists and pack huge arenas; could the real reason we as music gans cling to these classic rock legends be because there is nothing viable to take their place?

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I’m sorry, but music critics who heap praise on rap music are mostly full of shit. This stuff is pure noise and will never fill the void left by the demise of rock music. Critics who walk this path are like the fable of the emperor with no clothes; they lack the testicular fortitude to say this stuff flat out sucks.

There is also something to be said about the fans who cling to classic rock being a case of nostalgia over reality, because if you’re being honest the aging incarnation of the Rolling Stones are a shitty live band. If you saw Mick mince about in his 30s do you really need to see him again in his 70s? The fifty percent remaining of the Who are a shadow of their former selves, while Townsend can still be fiery, Roger Daltrey flat out cannot sing anymore. Hyden writes lovingly of Black Sabbath, but let’s face it Ozzy is utterly incoherent and decades of head banging has probably given him a case of CTE.

While we will certainly continue to experience the loss of more and more of our musical favorites as time continues to pass, be safe in the knowledge that we can continue to enjoy their music via vinyl, CD, digital file or whatever comes next. With technological advances maybe even the hologram live shows will become a little less creepy. 

Failure is not an option...

Fail Until You Don’t: Fight. Grind. Repeat. – Bobby Bones – (Dey St)

“Failure is not an option” – often credited to Gene Kranz, NASA, Apollo 13 flight director; although in reality he never uttered that famous phrase.

While that phrase is and should be doctrine at places like NASA where mission critical actions can mean the difference between life and death; a lot has changed when it comes to the world view of failing. It has reached the point where failure has been elevated to being a pre-requisite for success. It has even reached a point where some business gurus are pushing folks to fail quickly and often.

I for one think this positive spin on failure is a bit of a stretch. Not that failure should be viewed as something terminal that you can never recover from, but because it is often a misnomer. While the recovering former radio host side of me finds a bit of humor in the fact that radio guy Bobby Bones is out with a self-help book, Fail Until You Don’t: Fight. Grind. Repeat, there is something to be said about the message he imparts.

While it may be packaged as a book that makes failure a bit more acceptable, what I think the real message is; is one of grit, determination and getting after it to do what it takes to be successful. I don’t see this as a book on failing, but more one of having the drive to overcome roadblocks, and being side-railed and having the drive to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Bones details more than a handful of setbacks and hardships that he has overcome in the course of his lifetime, right from his childhood and on through his pursuit of the profession of radio personality. The message here flies in the face of participation trophy generation. While failure is not an option isn’t necessarily about life or death, for Bones it’s about climbing the mountain and not letting anyone or anything stand in your way. That is a message that we certainly need to hear more of.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Road Trip!: Memories from the Road

Don’t Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip – Richard Ratay – (Scribner)

My oldest cousin had just gotten married, and at 16 I had been an usher in her wedding party. Once the wedding festivities had wrapped up, I was going to be a participant in the ages old family tradition, at least in our family, of the mega-family road trip! Yep, not just Mom and Dad, it was the full on family rodeo; Aunts, Uncles, cousins, grandparents, the whole gang was piling into a caravan of big old, 1970s era land yachts and heading down the road to a far flung cabin in the woods for a glorious retreat to the wilds of Pennsylvania.

I remember it well, not because of the destination; a dilapidated old pile along a creek with stacks upon stacks of bunk beds to sardine the “kids” or the one redeeming feature, an ancient console stereo that we played the one album (Elton John’s live record Here and There) I managed to sneak into the luggage over and over again on the rainy days. No, what made it oddly memorable to this day, was folding my six foot plus sized frame into the back seat next to a couple of cousins who almost right on departure hunched straight forward over tattered pillows from some long disposed of, smelly sofa and were almost instantly asleep. At the time I suspected my straight-laced Aunt and Uncle of somehow slipping the pair some sort of mickey, that had put them out so they wouldn’t have to deal with the inevitable “are we there yet?” questions.

This slightly creepy memory was dredged up from my subconsciousness by Richard Ratay’s humorous and informative travelogue/memoir, Don’t Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip. Right from the start Ratay hit a home run for me conjuring up not only that bizarre trip, but nightmarish memories of fighting who would get stuck riding on the “hump” the ubiquitous Quonset hut style covering of the rear wheel driveshaft and the too numerous to mention road side attractions that my Dad never could resist making a pit stop at. My teeth still hurt at the memory of numerous stops at the coal mine tour gift shop (!) to pick up a box of “coal lump” licorice candy, each box coming with a nifty little sledge hammer to break up the chunks of black candy.

Ratay offers up more than just a recounting of the now, sadly, long lost family road trip, he garnishes this tale with some great road side trivia and history and factoids about this once great mode of vacationing. While we all grumbled about the biannual, seven hour road trips to visit my grandparents and various aunts, uncles, and cousins, Don’t Make Me Pull Over, serves as a reminder of simpler times without smartphones and tablets, when traveling families would play car games and actually talk to each other. It brought back cool memories of wood paneled cars, driving by the iconic Bob’s Big Boy mascot figure outside the burger joint and the home of the Little League World Series.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I Don’t Give a Sh*t, Do U?

Give A Sh*t: Do Good, Live Better, Save the Planet – Ashlee Piper (Running Press)

The signs were all there.

I really should have seen them.

The cover blurb from pasty musician Moby should have tipped me off.

The back-cover blurb from militant PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk should have sounded the alarms.

Darn it, the author choosing to self-describe as “eco-lifestyle journalist” should have been like waving a red sheet in front of a raging bull.

In all honesty, I missed them and delved into Give A Sh*t: Do Good, Live Better, Save the Planet by Ashlee (yep two Es) Piper. Dear God, just reading this stuff gives me a headache. Ms. Piper is someone who thinks that if you choose to live your life in a way different from hers, then you clearly don’t give a shit about the planet or people around you. What a load of holier than thou horse shit! Sorry but anyone who feels the need to use the ridiculous progressive phrase about being “woke” will get a resounding and not polite response of fuck you from me…sorry but I guess I see that as a microaggression…insert Smiley Face Here.

Ms. Piper offers her invaluable guidance on how to have an “ethical” wardrobe; sorry if a lean towards comfortable. She also dishes up some veg-head advice on how to whip up some “super-simple” (not just simple, super-simple) recipes from 15 ingredients or less! I can hardly wait to grab my hemp grocery bags and truck on down to the local Whole Foods and hump back with my 15 ingredients strapped to my back.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Piper consumes only tofu that is made from ethically sourced soy beans? Is she aware of exactly how her tofu is made? It must take a massive amount of water to soak the beans in preparation for the conversion to soy bean curd, not mention what is the source of the electricity that is used to run the conveyors, grinders and crushers to mash the soaked beans. Now let’s talk about the power needed to create the steam to cook the beans down to curds. The process to create the curds calls for adding magnesium chloride to the paste, to help with coagulation; does Ms. Piper know if the elements of that chemical compound are ethically mined? Are they mined from locations close to the tofu plant, sort of like farm to table only in this case ground to factory. Now we need to add yet more water in the pressing stage and more power for the cutting and packing, and who knows where the plastic packaging is coming from! Next the tofu is heat pasteurized…more water, more steam, more power. From that process the packaged tofu goes into a chilled vat of…you guessed it, more water! To me this whole tofu things seems a bit selfish and not at all eco-friendly. Maybe Ms. Piper should consider churning her own soy beans and hydrating with her own purified urine, which would add some kick to that recipe for Jamocha Silk Pie.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Piper, like most eco wingnuts seems more concerned about shelter dogs and Bessie the cow than she does about “littles”, her term for children. She advocates for population control, because of the negative impact more kids could have on the environment. Guess that makes kids a bit like tofu.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Best of Smerc

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right – Michael Smerconish – (Temple University Press)

Before making the shift to morning drive, when I was doing an afternoon talk show, I would spend some time dialing in Michael Smerconish’s show based out of Philadelphia; WPHT had a big enough stick (radio lingo for powerful enough signal) to reach Erie. I always liked his show because he proved that you could talk politics, have an opinion, but still talk about a whole world of other things. Smerconish also proved that with his newspaper columns where he covered a full range of things in and out of politics.

I also admired Smerconish for his steadfast take on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, the convicted murderer of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Falkner. Smerconish is out with a new book, Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right, which collects a diverse and interesting group of 100 of his columns. To pare down from a collection of more than 1000 columns over time had to be a difficult and daunting task, especially when most writers think of their words on paper as children.

Since I tend to like my talk show hosts/writers steeped in conservatism and hard to the core, I was puzzled by Smerconish’s flip flop to the mushy middle of things a few years back, because it seemed so self-serving, notably his endorsement of Barack Obama. I guess I can chalk it up to the knowledge that before law school and radio, Smerconish had his fingers in politics and actually ran the Philly portion of Arlen Specter’s 1987 re-election campaign, after all Specter was the ultimate self-server.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right is full of easily digestible, roughly 800 words each, columns that cover everything from politics, to family life and Smerconish’s oddly outsized obsession with the progressive rock band Yes. I give Smerconish big points for taking the author proceeds from this collection and donating them to the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, which serves children who are victims of trauma. This is not the first time Smerconish has donated the profits from his book sales to having donated his take from Murdered by Mumia to a charitable trust in Falkner’s name.

Re-Contract With America

Trump’s America – The Truth about Our Nation’s Great Comeback – (Center Street)

With his subject matter, Donald Trump, clearly being far and away at the top of the list of most hated politicians in our lifetime, author and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich is no slouch when it comes to generating liberal hatred.

Upon examination, this inordinate amount of hate from the unbalanced left could stem from the simple fact that both Trump and Gingrich are so effective and so successful at pushing through their agendas that it drives the do nothing left over the edge, because liberals have always been about having and exploiting problems rather than solving them.

While Trump is all bombast and bluster, Gingrich takes a more cerebral approach to tackling the big issues and challenges we face with a focused clarity that gets to the heart of the matter straight away and offers up concise solutions with actionable steps. In Trump’s America – The Truth about Our Nation’s Great Comeback, Gingrich serves up not only a full breadth examination of Trump’s plan, but offers a concise, but detailed look at a whole scope of issues we face. I look at this as a follow up to Gingrich’s wildly successful Contract with America; sort of an updated, Re-Contract with America.

Along the way he tackles immigration/sovereignty, cutting red tape, health care, taxes, employment, and many others. Most interestingly he also offers a direct solution for fighting addiction that flies in the face of how liberals would portray a conservative solution to the problem. Gingrich clearly has a handle on the ins and outs of the opioid issue and what is the scientifically proven most effective way to combat the issue. Take that all you liberal weasels who think conservatives are somehow anti-science.

Don’t mistake this as a Trump cheerleading book; it is truly a playbook for how to continue to Make America Great Again and tackle issues this country has been facing since well before Barack Obama was in the White House, plus a whole bunch of things he screwed up over eight years.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (Harper)

The set up is everything. To me, great novels are the ones that quickly grab me by the collar and drag me along for the ride.

Ms. Diana Cowper, an apparently wealthy mother of marginally famous actor, one fine spring day wanders into a funeral parlor and without an appointment sits down to plan her final services. A mere six hours later she is found dead in her home, strangled with a weapon of convenience, the cord from curtains in her home. The setting at this point could be current day or even jolly old England, it’s still a coin toss at this point.

So begins the latest novel from bestselling author Anthony Horowitz, The Word is Murder. Just when you think the set up in everything, along come what I can only dub, author-ception, as Horowitz cleverly inserts himself as a character in his own story, quite naturally playing the role of himself.

Oddly eccentric, almost annoyingly brilliant and just the right amount of Holmes-ian to keep things interesting, former police detective, turned investigative consultant Daniel Hawthorne is looking for a ghost writer to detail his story. Enter Horowitz, a not so willing participant who can’t seem to shake the intrigue of the good story the Hathorne as propositioned him with.

So commences the tale chalk full of crackling repartee between the odd couple-ish version of Holmes and Watson. Clearly Horowitz doesn’t take himself too seriously placing himself on the receiving end of lightly blunt-force humor scattered through the story. While Holmes purists may take offense at the regular points of reference and reverence, I found this to be the perfect entrĂ©e into the summer reading season.