Monday, May 27, 2013

Sex, Drugs and Stretching the Truth

Stephen Pearcy- Sex, Drugs and Ratt and Roll: My Life In Rock (Gallery Books)

Ratt frontman Stephen Pearcy’s autobiography, Sex, Drugs and Ratt and Roll: My Life In Rock  follows the tried and true formula for rock bios; growing up, getting a guitar, starting a band, gigging hard, growing a following, getting a deal, touring non-stop with all the pre-requisite dangers and delights of life on the road, followed closely by success and excess and the inevitable belly flop into decline.

While the story is formulaic it is spiced with Pearcy’s seemingly endless fascination with his manhood and his generous nature as he tells tall tales of his desire to share it with as many interested parties as possible. While epic and legendary stories have been told about rock stars sexual appetites and excesses the Ratt-man’s seems to defy reality. For a guy who proudly details his appetites for chemical destruction, his near total recall of all things groupie seems to strain credulity. He certainly doesn’t leave me with the impression that he his free time journaling the history of his excesses to aid with later recall.

Pearcy does detail the early 80s Los Angeles music scene where hair and hairspray ruled and the newly launched MTV was proving to be a ripe for the picking way for even marginal bands to garner exposure beyond squeaky tight radio playlists. The proper mix of high hair, eyeliner, and screaming guitars captured on video, was a sure fire way to be beamed into the living rooms of America. From there it was a short hop to full on stardom and it was a leap Pearcy and Ratt made with their break through single Round and Round.

Always lemmings, music business types beat a path to places like the Whisky, looking to snap up a legion of White Rain laden posers during the peak period from 1983 to about 1987 when the next big thing were hard rockers with a dirty street edge, ala Guns and Roses. The final death knell for the early hair metal legion came in the form of angst ridden, flannel wearing grunge rockers from the great northwest. While they tried to hang on, and still do to a very limited mix and match extent Pearcy and company never quite made their way back to repeat the glory days.

Sex, Drugs and Ratt and Roll is the written word equivalent to cotton candy, it’s okay when you eat it in small doses, but after a while your teeth will start to hurt.

The Conservative Case for Food

Mika Brzezinski – Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction – and My Own (Weinstein Books)

Rip Esselstyn – My Beef With Meat – The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet (Grand Central Publishing)

Let me say upfront, just like so many other things in life; I don’t really care about what you choose to ingest. That goes for food, drink, heck even chemicals; from my point of view, it’s your right to choose and your consequences to deal with.

As I read these books I couldn’t quite figure out what it was that rubbed me the wrong way; it wasn’t that I didn’t think the content had some merit. The numbers are pretty clear that we have a very real obesity problem in the United States and that most if not all of us, myself included, could eat healthier.

Then as a re-read the jacket copy for My Beef With Meat; which included the line: “not only does Rip arm you with every fact you need to win any argument you could ever have with a meat eater” that it struck me. The problem with food police and vegan types is their holier than thou; I’m better than you are point of view.

The problem isn’t the message; the problem is often the smug asshole delivering it! Quite frankly I approach this story line like I do everything else, I acknowledge the problem, over-eating and realize that it is an individual issue, not a grand societal problem. And as with most problems, I think it’s up to the individual to solve it; not to force some societal program to “fix” it, because more often than not group think or government programs won’t solve it.

Only in a nation that has 47 million people on food stamps can we have an obesity problem. How much of the obesity problem we face can be traced directly to that government intervention. I think both of these books feature good information that can help the individual address the obesity problem and the inherent health risks. But when you couch it as trying to win an argument or come off as preachy, that is when they fall short of the mark.

I think that most people would willingly make lifestyle changes incrementally but, there is an all or nothing quality to the approaches of both books. For those campaigning for an attitude change on food, I can guarantee you will lose the argument every time unless you offer a segmented, gradual approach for folks looking to make the transition to a healthier choice. Slow and steady will win the race.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Nasty Bottom of Morning TV

Top of The Morning by Brian Stelter by Kate Johns, Guest Reviewer

When I saw the stories on Yahoo telling what horrid things Ann Curry went through after working for the NBC Today show for over fifteen years, I was more than intrigued by the story. That’s when I made haste to get a copy of Top of the Morning. After reading several chapters, I found I had woken from a fifteen minute nap when my head was doing that head bobbing thing, and my book had fallen to the floor.

Top of the Morning is overall a dull book. It reads like the writer does not know how to tell a story, and Gee, I thought that was what writers were supposed to do. The book was supposed to be about all the morning shows which would have made it more interesting if this had been the case, but it wasn’t. It was a hodgepodge of mismatched chapters that quite frankly didn’t make sense in their order.

Although it was interesting to get the inside scoop on what happened to Ann Curry after she was fired and replaced on the Today Show, this book wasn’t an interesting read. Even though Brian Stelter tried to make it sound like he was right there experiencing what was going on when The Today Show started moving Ann Curry out of the limelight, it still came off as the author was not right there, and for all we know, he could have made it all up. I’m also certain that Ann Curry isn’t allowed to talk about what really happened with the Today Show shoving her out of the uncomfortable nest. She has been retained with NBC as a foreign correspondent, and pops up from time to time. From what I read in Top of the Morning, Curry has a four year contract with NBC for five million a year.

This book did tell what happened to Curry and how the producers started planning on getting rid of her almost as soon as she started as Matt Lauer’s co-host. Stelter said they called the firing of Curry as, “Operation Bambi.” Then they proceeded to treat her like garbage until they essentially fired her.

After reading what happened to Ann Curry in Top of the Morning, this book became very boring. In fact it felt like I was suddenly thrust into reading a history book. The author starts telling the history of television’s morning shows with Dan Hartman and Joan Lunden. I was wrapped up in the story of what happened to Ann Curry and what was happening on the Today Show, that to suddenly switch gears like that became a bore fest. It’s like you are sitting in the backseat of an expensive limo, drinking fine wine, when suddenly the limo driver stops the vehicle with a squeal of the brakes. He jumps out, opens your door, tells you to get out of the limo and leaves you stranded there.

That’s how Top of The Morning reads: it goes along at an interesting fast pace, you are served decent reading fare, and suddenly you are stopped in your tracks. The best part of the story ends. Suddenly the author throws in a boring history lesson on morning TV, and then slightly entices readers again by talking about the absolutely idiotic morning TV show called, “Morning Joe.” I tried watching Morning Joe a year ago, and soon found staring at the only female anchor on the show became too boring. I was left wondering, ‘does this woman know how to talk or have any idea what is going on in the world?’ All I saw her do was say, “Coming up next and we need to do a commercial break.”

Top of the Morning became a dull read all too soon, and needed more information on what happened to Ann Curry. The main point here is when you are writing a book, you need to tell a story. When the story ends after 125 pages into the book and switches gears ending the story, which can lead to aggravating the reader. I also noticed besides changing gears midstream and ending the more interesting story, was the author lacked a real sense of what was going on. Most writers who are really good at their craft will write in a descriptive manner. Stephen King describes everything and he does it all in this scary, nasty way that makes a reader wanting that next move. Readers are waiting to be scared.

When a writer does not describe details of how the set looks on a morning talk show, or what the morning hosts are wearing, that says that the author really was not there witnessing what took place. That says the author lacks a magical sense of imagination. Top of the Morning also lacked an identifiable written voice. Most authors will tell a story in a certain voice. When I write most of my articles, stories, blog posts, I write in a certain voice, like I am talking to a friend. This book lacked a certain voice. Brian Stelter lacked a certain voice, imagination and it really seemed that he was not witnessing what really happened. Anyone can watch TV and analyze it. But the trick here should have been for Stelter to bring the audience in by writing in a certain voice, using more imagination, and perhaps doing more than just watching TV.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

From One Mom to Another

THE KEY IS LOVE BY MARIE OSMOND (NAL Books) by Kate Johns, Guest Reviewer

I read The Key is Love and found it overall to be a dull, confusing, but needed, clean read. If you are not a Marie Osmond fan, you may be lost in the beginning of this book. I didn’t know that Marie Osmond was still working so incredibly hard till this very day with numerous performing projects. According to Marie she has been working since she was three years old, and is still working today. And that’s while she raised eight children four of which she gave birth to and four of whom she adopted.

If you have not been following Marie Osmond’s life story you will be confused in the beginning of the book. This book must be Marie’s fifth or sixth book. A biography is not included. I looked it up online to find out how many kids she had, how many times she was married, and exactly what happened to her one adopted son who committed suicide.

I felt this book really needed a short bio of Marie’s life. We non-followers of Marie Osmond would have a clue as to what is going on. What would have been helpful would have been a synopsis in the beginning of the book of how many kids Marie had, their names, how old they all are currently, and a short bio. It also would have helped to add a bit of info in the beginning about her parents, and how old they were when they died. It would have helped if this book had included some information on what other books Marie wrote.

However, I did find it to be a fast, oftentimes good read. Marie gives parents many great tips on how to be great parents. She basically tells the story of how awesome, loving, caring, strict, and religious a mom her mother was and how she incorporates her mother’s wisdom into her own life every day. I have to say Marie glosses over many of the bad aspects of her life in this book, and she does not truly address some problems she has had in life; such as her one son committing suicide, and what led her to marrying her first husband again. “The Key is Love,” was actually too short in my humble opinion, talked a tad too much about religion and sounded a bit preachy at times. I also felt that Marie Osmond was sugar coating many bad aspects of her life. She struck me as a super positive person who pushes through everything. But passing out on the TV reality show, Dancing with the Stars was virtually sugar coated. This frightening scene was played out in front of millions to not really be explained.

However, I did see a woman who thinks of her children, and her family first, just as her mother did. Her mother obviously was a strong influence on Marie, and any reader can see that by reading this book. You could also hear Marie’s positive voice in this book. I found it interesting that, “The Key is Love.” was not filled with crass statements, blaming others for her problems, or any bitterness. It was awesome to read a book that was written by a strong, determined, fierce, as Tyra Banks would say, woman.

Marie brings her religious faith into the book, which was wonderful to read. It also was good to see that she is still here today after being a successful child star, and that she has not succumb to the hellish existence many other child stars often fall prey to. It was comforting and good to read that she has it together, and that Marie Osmond is a good mother. It was also good to see that she is not going to be the subject of some back stabbing, bitch fighting reality TV show.

Marie Osmond’s book, The Key is Love was a good read, kind of dull, but also a much needed read for every mother of teens everywhere!