Sunday, January 31, 2016

You Can’t Teach Passion

The Power of Broke – How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage – Daymond John (Crown Business)

The story has been told thousands of times. It comes in many shapes and forms and from a variety of backgrounds, but it goes something like this; an entrepreneur, an ordinary average John or Jane as an idea and wants to start a business because they think they have a product or service that people want or need. Said entrepreneur pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and scrimps, scrapes and does without, working countless hours and through hard work and perseverance they grow a successful business.

Nowadays the story goes more like this; someone thinks up an idea for a product or service and then they build a slide deck, gather a bunch of venture capitalists or angel investors in a conference room and make a pitch for cash. Once they get the cash they rent a slick office with cool office stuff and try to find ways to make it to an IPO so they can really cash in.

Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur Daymond John, who built his fortune the old fashioned way, by scrapping and scraping his way to success makes the case for dialing back the clock and telling current entrepreneurs that the hunger to succeed and hard work in not a bad thing. John makes the case in the form of his new book The Power of Broke – How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.

While everybody hopes for the rags to billions success, John says there is value to be gained from the struggle. When you grew up never hearing the word NO, it can be hard to take the first time you encounter it in the real world. Those who are accustomed to the no, work all that much harder to get to the yes. John points out that those who are in that boat, often come up with the most creative solutions to tackle those day to day business problems that most entrepreneurs face at one point or another.

By developing an early understanding of the value of hard work, many up from the bootstraps business people have a better understanding of value of success. It’s amazing how an intimate knowledge of how to do more with less can translate well to the business world. Fear is a great motivator and John makes the case that you should embrace the fear and continue to charge forward with passion.


The NFL: The Truth is Out There

NFL Confidential – True Confessions from the Gutter of Football – Johnny Anonymous (Dey Street Books)

Under the leadership of Commissioner Roger Goodell the National Football League has transformed into the NFL…the No Fun League; a tightly controlled, ridiculously choreographed spectacle of public relations spin. While most of the time it runs like a German train system, there have been a number of glaring and often epic fails; see Ray Rice for a prime example.

So what is it like to be in the NFL; the real story, not some public relations maven’s version of reality, but the real deal? Well fans and detractors alike may have a nose under the tent dose of reality in the form of NFL Confidential – True Confessions from the Gutter of Football by an author using the pen name Johnny Anonymous who claims to be a real, live NFL backup.

Not just any back up mind you, but a guy who lays claim to the desire to be The Best NFL Backup Ever a phase he claims to have trademarked; though I have my doubts. Anonymous claims he is among the tiny fraction of players who are in the NFL, the highest peak you can plant your flag in the sport of football, who actually hates the NFL and all the bullshit that goes along with it.

Along the way Anonymous serves up credible insight into the players and coaches, the mind games and the physical abuse these guys subject themselves just to be a part of their chosen profession. He pulls no punches when stripping away the carefully varnished image the NFL wants to project publicly about things like the Ray Rice video and what the players truly think about rainbow flag poster child Michael Sam.

Snarky, acerbic and often laugh out loud funny, who ever this guy is (not surprisingly there’s no shortage of speculation of the web on that subject) NFL Confidential is a truly entertaining read even if you’re not a football fan. So when his dream to be the Best NFL Backup Ever reaches its inevitable conclusion, he’s got a good head start on his next career path.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Terrorism Made Easy

Failures of Imagination – Michael McCaul (Crown Forum)

Rather than pointing a finger of blame at one political party or another for the events of 9-11-2001, members the 9-11 Commission placed the responsibility for the government’s failure to prevent the 9-11 attack on a “failure of imagination.” The intelligence services of this country, at all levels are charged with the primary task the safety of the country, and they failed to foresee the potential of this kind of attack.

As part of the response to 9-11 the newly created Department of Homeland Security created the Red Cell teams, which utilized a wide array of folks from a multitude of backgrounds, both within and outside government to imagine a variety of scenarios for potential future terrorist attacks and the response to prevent those attacks. Red Cell utilized the creative skills of thriller writers like Brad Thor and Brad Meltzer.
Now, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s policies for battling terrorism has collected a series of potential scenarios in the new book, Failures of Imagination, in an effort to illustrate how the lack of serious focus and leadership on these kinds of potential attacks puts us all at risk.  

Each of these deeply detailed scenarios ring with a plausible authenticity and range from attacks at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, to the Mall of America and a bit of “unfinished business” with a decapitation strike against the U.S. Capitol. The book reads like a how to guide to terror, with significant action steps that can easily be followed that is sure to make this an ISIS bestseller.

While the scenarios are disturbing, what makes them even more scary is the Obama Administration’s utter lack of competence when it comes to treating terrorism as a serious threat and the chilling stupidity of their policy to not treat radical Islamists as a viable threat to our national security.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Pile of Rock ‘n’ Roll…Part 2

The Record Store Book: Fifty Legendary and Iconic Places to Discover New and Used Vinyl – Mike Spitz and Rebecca Villaneda (Rare Bird Books)

True confession…when my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary we were basically broke but wanted to get away for a couple days, so our escape was to trek down I-90 in New York state from our home in Buffalo to spend a couple days in the sprawling metropolis of Rochester. While we had a nice time and stayed at a reasonably nice hotel, one of the stops I had in mind was a visit to the legendary House of Guitars, a massive old house converted into a multi-floored house of all things musical including a jam packed record section.

I am an admitted recovering record collector and if you’re wondering, no, I don’t think even all these years later my wife has forgiven me for that little side trip to the H.O.G. Even though I have parted ways with a MASSIVE record collection, I still have a warm spot in my heart of hearts for record stores. So it was only natural for me to gravitate towards The Record Store Book: Fifty Legendary and Iconic Places to Discover New and Used Vinyl by Mike Spitz and Rebecca Villaneda.

Spitz started out a few years back snapping photos of some of the most legendary record store in and around Los Angeles and included many of denizens who haunt these amazing joints. Villeneda added to the mix by interviewing folks and collecting stories about not only their history but also their current state.

Vinyl junkies will be caught up in the inherent mustiness of these stories. The mix includes familiar places and backwater haunts alike and if you lean towards the thin line between collector and hoarder, you may find yourself planning a road trip and using The Record Store Book as your travel guide. One helpful hint, don’t plan your trip around an anniversary and you may want to leave the wife at home.

Mr. Mojo – A Biography of Jim Morrison –Dylan Jones (Bloomsbury USA)-

After literally dozens of books have been churned out about Jim Morrison and Doors, including a few by surviving members of the band and those around the band, what more could possibly be left unsaid about the band’s legendary front man? Apparently not much. British journalist/editor Dylan Jones offers up Mr. Mojo – A Biography of Jim Morrison which will leave both hard core and casual fans of the Doors a little short.

Mr. Mojo, doesn’t real offer up any revelations about the man of the band and reads more like a synopsis of what’s already been said rather than a biography. The paperback checks in at 192 pages so it’s a quick read; if you’re a rock fans look for the Cliffnotes version of the story, this might do the trick. Those looking for more depth might want to check out drummer John Densmore’s, Riders on the Storm or manager Danny Sugerman’s, No One Here Gets Out Alive.

To Disco, With Love – The Records That Defined an Era – David Hamsley (Flatiron Books)

While I was a teenager when disco exploded and I readily admit to being a member in good standing of the “Disco Sucks” contingent, later, when I discovered there was good money to made if you knew how to string together records that got people out on the dance floor, I developed a new appreciation for the genre.

While To Disco, With Love – The Records That Defined an Era, by New York photographer David Hamsley brings a totally different perspective to the form. Hamsley focuses not on the sounds of disco by more on the sites. Inspired by his visit to a gallery showing of music/album related art, Hamsley compiled a striking collection of album images from the disco era.
Hamsley artfully collects these often iconic images into well defined sections and while I was familiar with many of the covers, it is oddly striking how many of the records bare a similar artistic look both in photographic and original art styles. Sex was a central theme of the disco scene and Hamsley clearly illustrates that the subject found its way boldly and almost never subtly into the cover art form. No innuendo here, sex was like a cold slap in the face.

Time Out of Mind – The Lives of Bob Dylan – Ian Bell (Pegasus Books)  

In a familiar theme of books about legendary performers the thought arises; what more could possibly be left unsaid about someone like Bob Dylan? UK writer, and author of the two part collection covering the Lives of Bob Dylan offers up a hearty response with this offering. In part two of the set, Time Out of Mind Bell explores what amounts to the second act of Dylan’s life and career.

Bell’s approach of dividing Dylan’s career and personal arc into two distinct sections/books is a brilliant approach, which breaks down these distinctively different lives into digestible chunks. While the opening salvo, Once Upon a Time focused on Dylan’s 60s heyday, Time Out of Mind focuses on the more difficult to tell story; the second act of Dylan’s career which finds him drifting, doubting and facing irrelevancy.

Bell delivers not only the difficult to tell story, but often interjects with relevant thoughts and his own personal insights. This is not a light weight recounting or fanboy treatise, Bell offers up keen insight into a legendary performer who has been under the biographers lens more often than most can count.

No Simple Highway – A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead – Peter Richardson – (St. Martin’s/Griffin)

Led by business writer Simon Sinek, who authored the book, Start with the Why, a legion of business writers have focused on raising that very basic question. It is the why, that is the starting point for Peter Richardson a university professor and think tank fellow launches his exploration of the cultural impact of the Grateful Dead, No Simple Highway – A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead.

Over the course of three decades, the Dead was one of the world’s most popular touring acts and it is the why the Richardson focuses in on. Far from a Deadhead, I have often wondered what it was/is that attracted so many fans to the band.

Richardson seems to point to the Dead’s enduring success being a product of the times of their founding and their place in the feeling of community they and their music engendered. It is a clearly logical conclusion when you ponder the prolific nature of the band’s ardent followers. The vagabonds who travel and follow the band from city to city display a clear sense of being part of something much bigger than just a band and its music.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Meaty Goodness

Olympia Provisions – Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson (Ten Speed Press)

If you take the feminist, tree hugger, hipster caricatures of Portlandia seriously; you may find it hard to believe that the great northwest city of Portland is the home of charcuterie masters of quality meat, Olympia Provisions. Charcuterie is the art of salting, smoking and curing of meats and have little doubt the vegetarians, health food nuts and PETA members scurrying from the exits if the accidently stumbled into shop.

Part cookbook, part travel log, and jam packed with mouthwatering recipes and photos, Olympia Provisions, serves up not only an insider’s view of the process of charcuterie, but also covers the journey of discovery that these folks undertook to visit the masters of the craft. Along the way they learn the secrets of the craft and bring it back to America.

The photos of the often far flung places they visited are spectacular and breathtaking. The shot of the Aescher, what they describe as a hut, but in reality is a large alpine house quite literally built into a curving notch in a mountain is stunning. A narrow spit of trail, leads those adventurers willing to make the trek up to what ends up being about more than just a journey, but a true culinary experience.

Then there are the recipes, a wondrous array of Gustatory delights. My plan formed early in the thumbing of pages to work my way through each one of the multitude of hot dog topping combinations. Be forewarned, it will be a marathon undertaking with 19! Yes 19! variations to choose from including combinations and ingredients from the four corners of the world and even a breakfast dog entry to start your day.