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.

Thoroughly Angus

High Voltage: The Life of Angus Young, AC/DCs Last Man Standing – Jeff Apter – (Chicago Review Press)

There has always been something working man, lunch bucket about the band AC/DC. This is a band of guys who pull on their work boots, one foot at a time and climb up on the rock ‘n’ roll assembly line to crack out raucous hard rocking fist pumping anthems.

Veteran music author Jeff Apter serves up a thorough, in depth portrait of the band’s hard working, affable leader and guitar slinger Angus Young and his band of brothers (literally) and merry men, AC/DC in his latest, High Voltage: The Life of Angus Young, AC/DCs Last Man Standing.

The stories Apter details in the book are at once familiar, but serves as great reminders of the highly charged tales about the band's rise, near fall following the death of original lead singer Bon Scott and the Phoenix-like resurrection to even greater heights with the addition of vocalist Brian Johnson. He strings together bits and pieces from the band’s evolution and that of Young’s development of his onstage, bad, schoolboy persona.

I had all but forgotten about the band being connected to the so-called Nightstalker serial murderer/rapist, Richard Ramirez because he claimed AC/DC was his favorite band and that he was somehow inspired by the band’s song Night Prowler. Naturally there was outrage on the part of the media, a rarity way back in 1979, and more than a bit of confusion on the part of Angus and company for being roped into a case they had absolutely nothing to do with.

While the writing is a little loose, to the point of being sloppy at times, High Voltage, serves as a perfect vehicle for the Angus Young/AC/DC story; just the right mix of raw, rough and rowdy.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Elegant History

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World – Simon Winchester (Harper)

When people ask me what I do for my day job, I have often used the line that I translate doctor to English or taking complex medical information and making it easier to understand for the average person. That is almost what I see historian and bestselling author Simon Winchester’s role as: taking often distant and arcane information from history and transforming it into relatable, sparkling writing.

In his latest outing, The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, Winchester speaks of finely machined gears as things of “beauty and utility.” While the goal of all writers is to tell a story, not all writers are storytellers; Winchester certainly clears that bar with ease as he crafts stories of contributions of often little-known innovators who have had a dramatic impact on our lives through their inventions.

While even history buffs may blanch at the thought of reading, let alone finding interesting, a book about precision engineers Winchester manages to make intriguing with vivid, detailed stories the tales of hydraulic presses, precision machine tools and the men of micrometers.

He writes of the simplicity and elegance of the problem solving that went into so many of these precision devices, who’s use has become so commonplace. These stories could not have been better placed, than in the hands of a master craftsman and wordsmith like Simon Winchester.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dog Whistle or Dose of Reality

Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News - Clint Watts (Harper)

Author Clint Watts serves up a dynamic book that is part autobiography, part call to arms, the makings of a high tech thriller and a bit of a political screed, in the form of Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News. This is all based on his real world interactions with dirtbag terrorists, hackers and his meandering career path that has included stints in the U.S. Army, the FBI as an agent (twice) and as a cyber security guru/expert/blogger.

When he writes about playing high tech cyber-tag with terrorists as he tracks them around the wild frontier of the world wide web he offers up close insight into how the evil doers have transformed their game; transitioning their recruitment efforts from dodgy audio and video pronouncements to a steady diet of social media outposts and content. He paints a truly chilling portrait of this almost wholly un-policed realm.

While he clearly has first hand knowledge of the nefarious dealings that are ongoing in this online world and he paints a detailed if albeit scarry portrait of the new global jihad, it is when he shifts to politics that the book devolves into a bitter liberal screed, bashing Fox News, conservative media and the President.

He questions the level of expertise to be found in the current administration, which leads me to wonder what exactly so-called “expertise” of prior Washington leaders has gotten us? Never-ending wars on poverty and drugs that clearly aren’t working. Add to that terrible and expensive government healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid/VA), not to mention failing schools and infrastructure. So much for expertise.

Watts should stick to what he knows best; sound the warning bell on the negative impact of social media and offer up some insight into how to address the problem.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

6 Albums, 103 Songs…The Clash Examined

The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs – Martin Popoff (Voyager Press)

It sometimes boils down to numbers.

Veteran, prolific rock writer Martin Popoff has dutifully cranked out over 7000 album reviews, somewhere well north of 50+ books and I am ballparking here, somewhere in the millions of words about rock ‘n’ roll.

Once again the master of the completist examinations has turned his microscope on the career span of a band; this time out he turns his focus onto the 6 studio albums, 103 songs and 2 live albums that mark the career span of the band that was once dubbed “the only band that matters” the Clash. Popoff’s latest outing The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs, delves into what really boils down to a thunderous, ten year starburst.

Image result for the clash all the albums all the songs

Popoff captures the incredible evolution in the band’s sound over the course of just six studio albums. While they never lost the biting edge to their sound, it truly evolved to include a mass array of influences and snippets of genres that songwriters Mick Jones and Joe Strummer gravitated towards.

The thing that truly sets Popoff’s books apart from just a mere writing machine, are the quality of the total package. Once again the visuals, photography, graphics and bits of Clash history make this book an outstanding collectible for both the Clash fan and the music lover alike. This collection will have you reaching for your vinyl or CDs to revisit one of the truly great bands in a generation.