Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Lost Gospels: I Call Bullshit

Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen (DeCapo Press)

Go ahead and call it a guilty pleasure; as a lifelong music collector, fan, disc jockey and reviewer, I enjoy music books, bios and histories. I have trafficked; bought, sold, traded and collected literally thousands, of albums, 45s, CDs, cassettes, videos, books, magazines, and just about every form of music collectable known to man over the past 40 years. I have attended somewhere north of 600 concerts; met and interviewed legends, baby bands, wannabes and has-beens.

So it is from that perspective that I review Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, by Jourgensen, with Jon Weiderhorn. It is also from that perspective that I call BULLSHIT! One look at Jougensen’s visage on the cover and you automatically know that this is not a normal, average guy; but I’ve gotta tell you that if half of what he claims in the book is true, you’d have to wonder how he managed to live to tell the tale.

Granted, among those claims are some full on brushes and downright collisions with the grim reaper, but that being said, it’s still hard to believe a lot of Jourgensen’s tales of excess. I have always wondered how so many fabled rockers have penned biographies that detail their drug and alcohol fueled decline and yet seem to be able to rattle on in deep detail despite their self inflicted full on assault on brain cells.

While Jougensen’s high opinion of himself is not unique among rock stars, he displays an oddly twisted point of view about his fellow musicians labeling his non-inbibbing band mates “the book club” and his fellow addicts great guys and geniuses. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen has a disjointed, scattered narrative, bouncing around in both location, time frame and the characters involved that will leave your head spinning.


Monday, September 28, 2015

An All You Can Eat Comedy Buffet

Food: A Love Story – Jim Gaffigan (Three Rivers Press)

They say that for comedy to be truly funny it has to have elements of the truth. Jim Gaffigan tapped into the American psyche with his very relatable bits about Hot Pockets and bippity, boppity, bacon! So it seems like a natural extension for Gaffigan to go whole hog into an examination of food.

The old saying about writing goes something to the effect of “write about what you know” so Gaffigan goes deep with his with his scholarly treatise; Food: A Love Story.

It is in those parts of the book where Gaffigan plumbs the depths America’s love affair with food that will have you laughing out loud. I fully admit that I earned more than a handful of strange looks from my family following a retreat to the confines of my…shall we say…most personal of spaces and letting loose a volley of…guffaws…what did you think I was going to say?

The scary thing isn’t how many times you will find yourself laughing, It’s how many times you will find yourself agreeing with his assessment how we relate to food. Gaffigan taps into not only that relationship, but the unique quirks and traditions we have built around food.

I also found Food: A Love Story to be learning experience; like the fact that if you believed the old wives tale about not being able to swim until 30 minutes after eating would lead to Jim Gaffigan never ever being able to don a Speedo and hit the water.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Not Much of a Net

Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want - Tess Vigeland (Harmony Books)

In what can only be described as a changing workplace literally tens of thousands of people have gone through a dramatic change in their careers through no choice of their own as their jobs were eliminated. Many have transformed their former careers into new businesses, working as freelancers or starting their own company.

It may seem hard to believe, but there are folks who have made that choice, on their own. That’s where former NPR host Tess Vigeland, allegedly comes in with her book, Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want. Vigeland, apparently frustrated by her work situation and a career ceiling she was experiencing, decided to walk away from what she describes as a “dream job” and take the leap into an “uncertain” future.

If you are pondering taking a similar “leap” and you turn to Vigeland looking for advice in the pages of this book, you’re likely to end up deeply disappointed. You won’t find much in the way of actionable guidance or insight into steps you can take once you take the plunge. While the book alludes to such guidance, it reads more like part memoir and part journal, a pseudo-psychological run down of the thoughts and feelings Vigeland experienced post leap, and reads like so much self-indulgence.

Based on her own words, while Vigeland experienced a lifestyle change, she really never had to worry about the roof over her head or food on her table, given that her husband was there to play safety net for her leap. I think I would find greater value in a book written by someone who was displaced from a career and successfully reinvented themselves.

Call me a commercial radio snob, but I built a successful career behind a microphone, without the aid of a team of producers to do the heavy lifting or the relative security of having taxpayers to fund the operation of my broadcast company. Sorry, but Vigeland comes off like a whiner who couldn’t get what she wanted so she took her ball and bat a left. When the broadcast industry changed, I reinvented myself and changed careers without the luxury of a safety net to protect my family.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Big Shoes Filled

Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins – A Jesse Stone Novel – Reed Farrell Coleman (Putnam)

Not sure it was that started the publishing trend toward franchising, but has often times met with middling results. Franchising is when a beloved author or creator of a beloved character passes away and a hired gun writer is selected to pick up the reigns and either complete a partial manuscript or completely take over the character in an attempt to carry on the publishing franchise.

Such is the case with a variety of characters created by the late Robert B. Parker including Boston P.I., Spenser, the western series featuring Cole and Hitch and that of Paradise, MA police chief Jesse Stone. Parker was tapped to complete a manuscript started by the legendary Raymond Chandler, so he was an early progenitor of the form.

Many skilled practitioners have taken a swing at carrying on Parker’s timeless characters; some with greater success than others. While I have enjoyed many of these franchise outings, they all seemed to be missing a little something. Clearly then weren’t Bob Parker. With Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins, veteran author Reed Farrell Coleman comes closest to nailing down Parker’s Jesse Stone from beginning to end.

Once again Paradise gets rocked by a murder, but this one has ties leading straight back to this small town’s past; the discovery of a new murder victim also reveals a pair of older corpses that turn out to be two long missing and seemingly forgotten victims which shakes the town to foundation.

Coleman uses a practiced eye and a master’s skill to construct not only the crime, but to build in the backdrop of what could be Any Small Town, USA. While the cast of others have done Parker small justice, Coleman finds the right voice Jesse Stone and succeeds in making it his own. They are big shoes, properly filled.

The Stars Shine

The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction – Linda Gray – (Regan Arts)

WOW! Linda Gray is 75 years old! One look at those incredible legs sticking out from that fur coat that adorns the cover of her new memoir, The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction and you’ll find that hard to believe; but relax…it’s true…Gray is one of those rare women willing to not only admit her age, but share it with the world.

In fact that is the purpose of The Road to Happiness, she decided to celebrate her 75th birthday by sharing her story as they say, warts and all. Gray does it all with the requisite Hollywood style; gorgeous girl sets out to leave a difficult childhood behind  and head out for the adventure of a lifetime and a career in modeling only to find frustration despite her obvious good looks, somehow ends up married too young and trapped in an abusive marriage.

Later after a rebellion, she lands her “big break”  at 38 and the role of a lifetime on the night time soap opera set in the land of big oil and rich men, Dallas. Gray also couples the almost expected Hollywood side of the story with what has become the go to story for aging starlets, the how to road map for a happy, healthy life. Gray doesn’t pull any punches as she shines a light on the dark side of her life.

Raw – Pamela Anderson and Emma Dunlavey – (BenBella Books)

Playboy Playmate. Baywatch Babe. Modern day pinup. Actress. Porn star. Activist. Rock star groupie. Just about any one and/or all of these words/phases can be use to describe Pamela Anderson.

I’m not sure that her latest effort, a book entitled Raw put together with photographer Emma Dunlavey will add the term author to that list. Comprised largely of what are described as “fly on the wall” or backstage photos shot by Dunlavey over a period of years; you end up with a range of high gloss glamour shots, lingerie shots and a whole pile of photos of Anderson in various states of undress. Pretty much what you would expect.

Add to that a variety of poems(?), random thoughts, rants and raves that are scrawled, scratched and scribbled over, around and on top of the photos. Perhaps the most striking thing in the book are the early photos of Anderson, who was a staggeringly gorgeous young girl, before the endless enhancement surgeries that turned her into a caricature of what passes for beautiful.

There is no doubt that Anderson is sexy and her fans will eat this book up. The fact that proceeds from the sale of the book will be utilized to further her activist work for human, animal and environmental causes may or may not be a bonus.