Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dennis Leary Sucks

Why We Don’t Suck: And How All of Us Need to Stop Being Such Partisan Little Bitches – Dennis Leary (Crown Archetype)
Actor, commercial pitchman, comedian and bathroom philosopher Dennis Leary is out with his new book, Why We Don’t Suck: And How All of Us Need to Stop Being Such Partisan Little Bitches. Oh, I guess I forgot to add, full of himself, full of shit and thinks he knows it all blowhard.

Leary is typical of so many Hollywood types, and yes you can save the he’s not from Hollywood stuff, who thinks he knows more than anyone else in the room. This guy is full of more shit than a ten day old litterbox in a house with a dozen cats. His ridiculous comment about how he would vote for “great women like (CNN commentator) Ana Navaro (who’s dumb as a box of rocks) or (Senator) Susan Collins” (who is so moderate, she never met a stance she would actually take) should tell you all you need to know about this clown.

Leary is a dumbass who thinks that he’s taking a pragmatic world view and that if you’re not just like him then you’re dead wrong. So much for not being “partisan little bitches.” That’s the problem with liberals, they are so steeped in their own little world view that they don’t try to win based on ideas, they tell what they think and what you should think, or they call you names.

Why We Don’t Suck, is a rolling, non-stop stream of bullshit that Leary thinks is clever and funny…unfortunately…here’s a newsflash…it’s neither.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

As the clock winds down to Christmas, there are some go to gift ideas that I always turn to; this time out it’s the best music book choices for the rockers on your gift list and a roundup of some of the wide range of choices for all musical tastes.

Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC’s Back in Black – Jesse Fink (ECW Press)
There is a real fanboy quality to Jesse Fink’s Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC’s Back in Black, as he delves into the seemingly, ages old debate about the untimely death of original AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott and what if any contributions he made to the band’s breakthrough album Back in Black.

The is a no stone left unturned quality to the research and writing that went into this book and Fink isn’t afraid to rub elbows with the band’s earliest fans who became a part of the entourage and hangers on that were part and parcel of Scott’s life on the road.

So does Fink solve the case and give fans a definitive answer to the questions about Bon Scott’s contributions to Back in Black? If I am honest, I would have to say the answer is no, but he certainly sheds light on bits of information that propel the question forward and make it even more legendary. Perfect the AC/DC diehards among us.

AC/DC: Album By Album – Martin Popoff - (Voyager Press) –

Speaking of AC/DC diehards, the ultra-prolific music journalist Martin Popoff dishes out the dish on the Australian heavy metalists with a detailed breakdown of each of the band’s sixteen studio albums, in AC/DC: Album By Album

The book is chock full of great anecdotes and in depth conversations about the band’s evolution to become one of the most legendary outfits in the hard rock realm.

Popoff takes an interesting approach as he gathers and curates the thoughts of seventeen rock music artist, journalists and authors to give as diverse as possible a range of opinions and insights about the thunder from down under.

To cap off this comprehensive look at the band, the book features dozens and dozens of photographs culled from the studio, the stage and the life of the band. With the aging band dwindling and passing, this is a tremendous capstone on a prolific career.

Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs – Martin Popoff (Voyager Press)

As I said, there may be no other rock journalist who comes close to matching the prolific output of Martin Popoff. Just thinking about the daunting concept Popoff undertakes in Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs, a personal accounting of the nine albums and eighty-one songs that make up the Led Zeppelin discography can seem like a staggering task, but it turns out to be something he handles with his usual adroitness and economy of writing.

When you consider all of the diverse range of musical and cultural influences that comprise the musical swath that Led Zeppelin cut through the world of rock and roll, it takes someone uniquely armed with a vast knowledge of the ingredients that went into the making of the band’s sonic onslaught. Popoff matches up well with the task at hand has he pairs things down with a laser focus, cutting into the nuts and bolts of the band’s approach in the studio and the role their influencers played on their sound.

Add to that a group of stellar essays on the band’s album by album output, considering the sum of all of the parts before breaking things down to the more granular, song by song level. Again a vast collection of photos and art accompanies and adds the perfect spice to this wonderful collection. This one would find a comfortable place in any Zeppelin fan’s collection.

Hendrix: the Illustrated Story – Gillian G. Gaar (Voyager Press)

One of my first professional job experiences was working for a local concert promoter. One the early tasks that I was charged with was to gather a catalog of all of the shows that the company had booked, in preparation for their 25 anniversary in business. The archivist and music fan in me just gravitated to the task as a spent countless hours combing through file after file to pull together the chronological story of the business.

One of the early shows that jumped out at me from the dusty files was a booking at a large, local arena that featured TV pop rockers The Monkees. While the made for TV “group” was certainly an interesting story, it was the opening act that really jumped up and caught my attention. Slotted to warm up the crowd for the TV moppets, was the then relatively unknown, but soon to be guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix. Talk about and odd couple!

Hendrix career, short as it ended up being, was loaded with such oddities and they get recounted in Seattle music journalist, Gillian G. Gaar’s new book, Hendrix: the Illustrated Story. While Gaar recounts Hendrix’s life and career in finite detail, the focus here is clearly on the images and art that track guitar God, from his earliest entry into the music world.

The pictures not only tell the story they are the story throughout Hendrix: the Illustrated Story. While Gaar is a skilled practioner when it comes to music writing, the dominating reason to add this book to your shopping list is the comprehensive and varied collection of illustrations that tell the Hendrix story.

Experiencing the Beatles: A Listener’s Companion – Brooke Halpin (Rowman & Littlefield)

Experiencing Black Sabbath: A Listener’s Companion – Nolan Stolz (Rowman & Littlefield)

As a long time collector and voracious reader of music based books, there is a point at which you think that you have literally read it all and that there are no new concepts out there. When it comes to some bands; the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the like, you couldn’t possibly convince me that there is a stone that has been left unturned and firmly rooted in place.

One of the more interesting stabs at breaking new ground has been the Experiencing series from Rowman and Littlefield publishers. Two of the latest entries in the set are Experiencing the Beatles: A Listener’s Companion, by Brooke Halpin and Experiencing Black Sabbath: A Listener’s Companion, by Nolan Stolz.

Both books bring an almost text book quality depth and clearly illustrate the authors background as writers, musicians, professors and artists in their own right. They bring an in depth knowledge about the subjects they that offers the reader/listener often new insight into the musical works of the subjects they cover.

I found myself reaching for the vinyl or the compact discs from the Beatles and Sabbath as I worked my way through the books and the subject they were espousing. That alone made for an interesting new experience for much of the material I was VERY familiar with. While not for every fan, if you have one of those gung ho completeist types on your shopping list, these will make great additions to their collection.

Lou Reed: A Life – Anthony DeCurtis – (Little Brown)
As I worked my way through a lot of very familiar ground in the new bio, Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis, the thing that struck me the most about the tale of the true iconoclast was not the intimate detail of Reed’s life and career, but the fact that veteran writers with the skill, the depth of subject knowledge and the passion for the music like DeCurtis are an aging and dying breed.

While there are certainly are skilled practitioners of rock journalism still out there, to me none stack up against the like of legendary writers like DeCurtis, Dave Marsh or the late Lester Bangs. The snarky, low rent internet cabal can’t hold a candle to these giants of the form. That begs the question, who will deliver the retrospective look back at the likes of musical legends like Lou Reed.

DeCurtis clearly leans on his decades of interactions with Reed and those in his orbit to deliver a stellar accounting of one of the most interesting men in the rock world. It is that relationship and the trust built over the course of multiple interactions that give Lou Reed: A Life, the vibrancy and pulse that make this story tick.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Face It Head On

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel – Amy Engel (Broadway Books)
Amy Engel, the author of the young adult series The Book of Ivy, serves up her first stab at adult fiction with the disturbing The Roanoke Girls. There’s a bit of psychological thriller to this, mixed with physical element, so I guess you could dub it a psycho-physical thriller.

Set on a rural family farm in Kansas it tells the tale of Lane Roanoke, who unknowingly escaped not only the farm and the physical terror she faced there, but also her family’s hidden secret. It is a family secret she kept locked away, from even herself.

Now years later the tumultuous events of the summer after her mother’s passing coming roaring back and Lane has to face it head on when her cousin Allegra goes missing. The result is a twisted novel the edges dangerously close to the cheesy at times. There are points along the way where Engel loses her grip on the tautness that truly separategreat thrillers from the merely good. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Strategic Collection

The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy (Knickerbocker Classics) Sun Tzu, Nicolo Machiavelli, with An Introduction by Erik O. Ronningen - (Racepoint Publishing)

Over the course of time there have been shelves full of books written about strategic thinking and how to apply strategy to business. While many of these books have been touted as classics and have offered up nuggets of useful information most have not held up in the same fashion as the classic military strategy books that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

These military treatises have been interpreted and re-interpreted many times and have had variations that point to a way to utilize them in the world of business. Four of these truly classical takes on strategy are collected in a beautiful and extremely useful package dubbed, The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy.

Housed in a sturdy slip cover, this well designed collection includes; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Nicolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, General Carl von Clausewitz’s, On War, and Fredrick the Great’s, Instructions to His Generals. Military veteran Erik O. Ronningen provides an introduction to the collection that not only informs, but adds historical context for each of the individual books.

While many renditions and interpretations of Sun Tzu have come before; I have muddle through any number of variations, the version included in this set tracks very well and is among the most relatible versions I have encountered. The von Clausewitz is a book that I have recommended many times after an instructor at West Point passed along his recommendation to me. There is something quintessential about each of these pieces that translates to even modern situations.

Perfect for fans of military history or business strategy, it has allowed me to jettison the individual, often dog eared copies of the four books. There is something substantial about the heft of this book/case that tells me it will stand the test of time, much like the texts it contains. While I have gifted my son with some of these books individually, I plan to purchase an additional copy to pass along to him this holiday season. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pictures of Matchstick Men

Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con Man – David Howard (Crown)

I love con man movies; there’s just something about the adventure and the chase that makes these films jump off the screen and crackle with excitement. Films like Grifters, Matchstick Men, 21, and Focus will have you not only on the edge of your seat, but you may find yourself rooting for the bad guy.

When the movie is based on a true story such as the case of Catch Me If Your Can, where Leonardo DiCaprio plays the real-life con artist, Frank Abagnale, Jr., the story takes on a new life. It is that kind of real life adventure that David Howard, an award winning magazine writer/editor and author details in Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con Man.

The Phil in question is prolific con man Phil Kitzer, who some have dubbed the world’s greatest swindler. The con, in con man, is short for confidence man; someone who has the almost magical ability to instill confidence in the people that they are attempting to persuade or convince to hand over cash or other valuables in the end game.

In the end, that’s exactly what it amounts to, a game. Chasing Phil is the inside story of two neophyte Feds, FBI agents J.J. Wedick and Jack Brennan, working their first undercover case in the hopes of taking down the master swindler. Chasing Phil reads like a great caper screenplay, as the pair roll by the seat of their pants, trying to keep up on this great adventure.

The cast of characters and the situations they find themselves dropped into reads like great fiction, the fact that it is a true story makes it all the more amazing. While the story is real, it is also very familiar and I think it would make the great leap to the big screen and find it’s way to the list of great con artist flicks.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Amazing Gift Ideas: Cookbook Edition

A Baker’s Life: 100 Fantastic Recipes from childhood bakes to five-star excellence – Paul Hollywood (Bloomsbury)

Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius –with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs – Karen Page (Little Brown)

I think everybody has one of those people on their Christmas shopping list; you know those people who are impossible to shop for or impossible to please. Well here are a couple of great ideas to help you track down the right gift that will check all the boxes for those you know whos.

No Such Thing as too Many Cookbooks

Like most people who either tinker around the kitchen or love to try new things, I am a firm believer that you can never have too many cookbooks. If you’re like me, while abundance is not an issue, I like to own cookbooks that are just loaded with great recipes for things I actually like to eat or that offer up great ideas that will help you hone your skills and come up with new things to try.
Two great gifts for this holiday season that tick all the boxes are Paul Hollywood’s, A Baker’s Life and Karen Page’s new outing Kitchen Creativity. Both are brimming with great and tasty ideas and are chockfull of gorgeous photography to enhance the experience.

I admit, I never knew about the British fascination with baking shows/competitions until the Food Network and other cooking shows, started to import these kinds of show to our shores. One of the big heroes of this phenomenon across the pond is Paul Hollywood a stocky guy who caught the attention of British fans from his role as a judge on the Great British Bake Off program.

Hollywood recounts 100 fantastic recipes, including many that trace their roots back to his earliest attempts in the kitchen, that he has practiced and honed over the course of his life and career. The photography is eye popping good and will have your mouth watering. While I do fairly well when it comes to cooking, I have always felt that I come up a little short when it comes to the baking side of skills, but I always willing to go in and take a swing.

The thing I loved the most about A Baker’s Life is that Hollywood give a great mix of all thing baked; from the sweet to the savory and a multitude of carb-laden goodness in between. He gives clear and concise direction and offer little tidbits that will help you over the bumps. He takes classic things and gives them an interesting twist, literally in the case of the VERY tasty Baklava Spirals.

The Search for FLAVOR

When reading Karen Page’s new book, Kitchen Creativity I had the sense that I was snooping into the very personal journal of a master chef and getting a peek at the secrets they keep to themselves, the magic if you will, that they work to create amazing fountains of flavor.

And truth be told, that probably isn’t far off the mark, as Page taps into a bevy of brilliant, culinary masters and borrows some their insight into how to develop new flavor profiles and new dishes. It’s also like getting a free pass on having to do all of the legwork and all of the heavy lifting that they have done throughout their careers.

Combine all of this gathered insight with the brilliant photography of Andrew Dorneberg and you end up with, not to sound too much like a spiky-haired TV chef, a road map to flavor town. Kitchen Creativity feels a bit like a masters level course being taught by dozens of experts representing the creative process behind some of the highest profile eateries in the country.

If you have a person who takes the efforts in the kitchen seriously, this is a great choice. They will thank you again and again for gifting them with this wonderful book.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Higher Level

Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Freindship – Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins with Mark Tabb (Waterbrook)

When you take into account the mis-statements, falsehoods and outright lies that have been repeated over and over again in the high profiles cases like the death of Eric Garner in New York City, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that have spawned the Black Lives Matter movement and the pinhead Colin Kaepernick and his band of merry kneeling morons, the story of Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins and there unlikely friendship is all the more amazing.

In Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship, their story is an amazing mix of redemption, emotion and taking the ultimate higher road. In the small, coastal town of Benton Harbor, on Lake Michigan, Andrew Collins was an undercover drug officer, who apparently was unconcerned about living within the rules of the law.

Collins crossed paths with Jameel McGee and framed him for crack cocaine possession. Since Karma is a bitch, a few years later officer Collins found himself on the other side of the law. And this is where the story gets really interesting; McGee the innocent man crossed paths in the post prison system, and rather than seeking revenge he served up forgiveness.

It is a rare person who can put three years wrongfully behind bars aside and seek a higher power and inspire not only Collins redemption but form a friendship that moved well beyond what could have happened. McGee is truly the bigger man, something that has been absolutely unheard of in the high profile cases I mentioned.

Twist and Turns

End Game – David Baldacci – (Grand Central Publishing)

Seemingly right from the get go with his first novel Absolute Power bestselling author David Baldacci has been a master of the hard 180 turn, throwing unexpected curves at readers with a skill that is hard to match. So I guess I should not have been surprised after a couple of setup chapters that find Baldacci’s hero and heroine, Will Robie and Jessica Reel in harrowing and challenging far flung places; Robie in the tunnels under London and Reel in the desert of Iraq, both outnumbered and taking down bad guys, that Baldacci would make the hard shift and toss the pair into backwoods Colorado.

Their objective is to track down their mysterious agency handler, dubbed Blue Man, who’s gone missing while vacationing in his boyhood home of Grand Colorado. The list of possible evil doers who could have taken Blue Man and that is stacked up in front of Robie and Reel is legion, including: white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, druggies, in-laws and outlaws.

Baldacci is a master at conjuring up scenarios that seem insurmountable and yet offers believable escapes to the seemingly indestructible duo. Just when it looks like things are reaching the end game for the pair they manage to find a play that gets them out trouble and turns things around and onto the bad guys.

This is a perfect holiday read/gift for the thriller fan and the fact that Baldacci arms Robie and Reel with a no-holds-barred mindset, where the bad guys get what they deserve will have you cheering and hoping there are real-life versions of the pair out protecting us in the very real, very bad world.