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.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Mafia’s President: Nixon and the Mob – Don Fulsom – (Thomas Dunne Books)

Former United Press International (UPI) Washington Bureau chief and current American University adjunct professor Don Fulsom is more than a little bit of a Nixon-phile, having penned countless articles and now three books on the disgraced former President.

The latest, The Mafia’s President: Nixon and the Mob, is a comprehensive, compendium of Richard Nixon rumors, innuendo, hints, lies and allegations; with a focus on Nixon’s alleged connections to the Mob. Fulsom runs down a seemingly endless list of these connections and treats them as dead lock facts.

The problem, is that facts are often sticky things and while Fulsom tries to cite unimpeachable sources to back up is claims, they often walk the fine that could get very dicey and very quickly falls off into National Enquirer or Oliver Stone territory. Throughout the book he often takes inductive leaps or trust falls, without much in the way of a net.

Many of the claims are at the very least entertaining and if true they are downright damning to the former President’s already sullied reputation. There are certain claims Fulsom makes that don’t seem to bare up under scrutiny, while others certainly strike like a dagger. The thing that offers a shadow of doubt seems to be Fulsom’s personal bias that seeps into this storyline.

Fact Doodle

Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know - Mike Lowery (Workman Publishing)

Some my favorite books growing up was the series of list collections under the title of The Book of Lists which collected seemingly random list of a wide range of factoids. That could be the basis of why I found Mike Lowery’s collection Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know so entertaining.

Rather than doing things in list form, Lowery has created a series of fun facts that he illustrates with his own unique illustration style. Not an artist in a classical sense of that word, Lowery practices the magical craft of doodling with a clear cut sense of humor.

Humor is at the heart of this wonderful collection of did you know style facts. Lowery got started on this random facts path more for his own amusement than for entertaining an audience. After collecting dozens of these fact doodles in notebook after notebook, he started sharing them online and found there was a market for his artistic style.

Lowery injects a little organization into his randomness, breaking down Random Illustrated Facts into categories including: history, animals, food, science space, and the random, everyday things. This makes for the perfect break from the everyday or when you just need a little fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Firm Grip on Reality

The Build: Designing My Life of Choppers, Family and Faith – Paul Teutel Jr. (Waterbrook)

In a strange new world of “reality” celebrity where more often than not the celebrities in question are famous more so for the sake of being famous, than for displaying any semblance of talent, Paul Teutel Jr., the custom bike builder who became famous during the decade long run of the American Chopper program that made him and his father along with their shop Orange County Choppers household names actually has some design and building skills.

While I never watched the show and certainly wasn’t caught up in the contentious, brawling relationship between father and son that lead to Paul Jr. being fired by his old man, it did find his book The Build: Designing My Life of Choppers, Family and Faith to be an interesting summation of his journey since that auspicious departure.

Paul Jr. serves up a nice mix of his life story, his professional career the ups and downs, and his path to personal fulfillment and God. Fans of the program will eat this stuff up and may end up being surprised by the outcome.

Monday, November 20, 2017

All Rise

Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of the New York Yankees’ Home Run-Hitting Phenom – David Fischer (Sports Publishing)

Sports teams and for that matter sports leagues are ever-hopeful and always on the lookout for those rarest of big game trophies, those magical, one of kind athletes that come along only every so often.

In my life time as a sports fan I can think of probably less than a dozen of these special individuals that put their imprint on their chosen sport and by steps become the face of their league. Think the likes of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Tom Brady. These are the player who are transcendent, who not only dominate sport but become legends well beyond the narrow confines of sports stardom.

While some have come close to that lofty status when it comes to baseball, Alex Rodriguez comes to mind, but his questionable off field exploits and allegations of performance enhancing drugs probably move him of the mark. Major League Baseball has been out of that sports spotlight for some time.

Now comes the potential of a truly once in a generation talent who carries with him that magical potential to become the face of his sport, in the form of New York Yankee Aaron Judge. Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of the New York Yankees’ Home Run-Hitting Phenom, author David Fischer fleshes out the story of this incredible talent and backs up the claim that Judge could be destined for great things.

Fans have always had a special place in their hearts for home run hitters; it is one of the most exciting plays in the game, with its often thunderous explanation point of the crack of the bat. It is that jolting crack and the towering bombs into the bleacher that draws fans to this giant of a man, but it is the flash of a big grinning smile that keeps fans coming back for more. Fischer is a believer that Judge and his fellow Baby Bombers, are here to stay and have the potential to leave an indelible stamp on the game for years to come. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Constitution 101

The U.S. Constitution: Explained for Every American – Ray Raphael – (Vintage)

Historian and Constitutional scholar Ray Raphael is out with a fresh update of his book The U.S. Constitution: Explained for Every American. Raphael does a pretty straight forward job of breaking down the clauses and amendments to the Constitution.

While should be pretty basic stuff to anyone who is paying attention to what is going on in the law and politics in our country, the more you watch the way people, including many of our leaders act, this may be the the perfect book to offer a clue to the clueless. In fact there are times when I think copies should be sent to all 535 members of Congress and to follow up with a test to see if they ever bothered to read the Constitution.

Waffles with your Constitution?

Don’t expect Raphael to pick sides when it comes to the thornier, oft-debated parts of the Constitution, like the Second Amendment’s seemingly never ending debate over guns. Raphael simply doles out both sides and lets the chips fall where they may, even in instances where case law supports the right to gun ownership.

In the end, I would have to say that by-in-large Raphael is fair and balanced in his explanations and that make this handy little book a good resource for beginning students and more experienced followers of politics to have on their bookshelf.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Reality is a Dish Best Served Cold

On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power – Gene Simmons (Dey Street)

Gene Simmons is not your ordinary rock star. He was and is not content to be caught up in the trappings that come with being a mega-millions earning rock star; instead he takes the attitude of a laborer into his approach to life and business, always willing to put in the hard work.

It may be hard to comprehend in this day and age of no real talent, do nothing celebrity millionaire that a guy who has piled up as much cash as Simmons from his multitude of business ventures would work as hard as he does every single day. The difference is Simmons knows that nothing he has was handed to him, he did it the old fashioned way, he earned it.

Because of his unique, entrepreneurial approach to rock stardom, Simmons has also become a bit of a business guru who is sought out for his comment and thought on a wide range of business and political topics. In that vein Simmons has cranked out some business philosophy books, the latest being, On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power.

The old cliché that goes something to the effect of “revenge is a dish best served cold” should be retooled to “reality, is a dish best served cold” because Simmons serves up a cold, hard dish of reality in the pages of On Power. Along the way he provides not only his take on the reality of business, politics and power, but offers a depth of knowledge of philosophy and strategy that one would never expect from a guy made famous for his tongue waging onstage persona.

A copy of this book should be sent to every one of the 535 members of Congress from both parties, notably every one of the pantywaist liberals who ever uttered the stupid talking point about “tax cuts for the rich.” Simmons does a wonderful job of pointing out the fallacies of the cultural mindset that so many have gravitated towards that power and wealth somehow equate to evil. His line, “being afraid of power, shunning power, stunts your growth” belongs on a T-shirt. Moms and Dads need to pick up a copy of On Power, because this may be the best guide to proper parenting that I have ever read.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A True Renaissance Man

What Does This Button Do: An Autobiography – Bruce Dickinson (Dey Street)

When you run down the list you would be hard pressed not to be impressed shear magnitude of Bruce Dickinson’s accomplishments. Aside from being a long time member of Iron Maiden, easily one of the most popular heavy metal bands in the history of music, with worldwide records sales somewhere north of 100 million copies; Dickinson his laundry list of talents/accomplishments include: singer, poet/lyricist, writer, actor, screenwriter, radio host, television host, documentarian, competitive fencer and pilot with certifications ranging from small craft up to airline jumbo jets.

He is a true renaissance man in every sense of the term. Dickinson runs down his many lives and activities in the brand new autobiography, What Does This Button Do. While I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and completely entertaining, for some died in the wool Maiden fans looking for chapter and verse about the band from Dickinson’s perspective, you may come away disappointed. While he certainly spends a fair amount of time recounting his time with the band, just like his busy busy life, it is far from the totality of his story.

And to be completely honest with you, I think that is what I found most entertaining about his story. This guy has led a truly fearless life, tackling challenges that get thrown at him with a remarkable level of ease and aplomb. As he describes some of the flights into far flung places and dangerous sounding locales and runways, he does it with a comfort and good humor that most ordinary folks could not muster.

His storytelling style throughout What Does This Button Do is light hearted and downright funny. Here is a guy who had the wherewithal to do anything he every could dream and he chose to pursue his obsession with flying to the highest possible levels of the profession. You’ve got to wonder what ordinary an average Joe might have thought if he’d known that his plane was being piloted by the same crazy rocker who cavorted on stage with Maiden mascot Eddie in front of massive crowds upwards of 300,000 screaming fans strong?

If you are a crazed Maiden fan this may not be your cup of tea, but if you are looking for something out of the ordinary for a rocker bio, then this is just the ticket.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Contrary to Popular Belief

How To Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds – Alan Jacobs (Currency)

The author’s concept here is pretty straight forward; in today’s society, despite what we think of our own abilities when it comes to thinking, we aren’t nearly as skilled as we might think. In How To Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, Alan Jacobs, writer, cultural critic and Baylor University, honor professor tries mightily to make his case.

In the end, I can’t say with any certainty that he manages to hit the mark, but he does make some interesting suppositions along the way. One of my favorite points that he makes I will best boil down to advice that I share with my family and friends on a regular basis; don’t argue with idiots. That advice usually comes in the course of conversation involving a slight or perceived slight in the interplay that is part and parcel of either a Facebook post to which somebody takes offense or a Twitter war of 140 characters spewed over and over.

Jacobs downfall when it comes to this “contrarian treatise” is two-fold; first, I am not certain who his target audience is intended to be here? Is he trying to go for the students he teaches or making a vain attempt to get adults to act like adults. Either audience may struggle with the rather high minded nature of Jacobs’ approach. Second, as we have either evolved or devolved (take your pick) as a society, the expressed desire to have someone take the time, to pause, to consider, to, well…think; may be merely wishful thinking in the go for throat approach that has become the standard modus operandi.

I think the more beneficial route here would have been going back to plumb the depths of teaching critical thinking; how to go about utilizing knowledge either gained or accumulated to deliver a thoughtful point of view.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fade To Gray

I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street - Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau)

The pay for play book review site Kirkus Reviews (reviews start at $425) says of this book “[A] Searing expose...superb reporting and vivid writing.” In the way of a response, I can only describe the book as, a steaming pile of dog shit, chock full of so many questionable “journalistic” missteps and short falls it becomes downright painful.

Bestselling author and Rolling Stone contributing editor is out with his accounting of the death of Eric Garner, a bloated, small time criminal who died while NYPD officers tried to take him into custody, following his arrest for selling illegal, untaxed cigarettes. In I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, Taibbi runs down a never ending litany of liberal talking points about the police, the suspects, the criminals and the legal system.

To call this “superb reporting” is outright malpractice on the part of Kirkus. Taibbi falls back on the classic Rolling Stone/liberal style of trying to pass off unnamed sources and second and third hand quotes that are three or four times removed as cold, hard “fact”. He “quotes” an unnamed, female corrections officer as saying that the police department is “highly racist”. I’m sorry, but anyone who gives that kind of bullshit any journalistic credibility is highly, high; and yes you can quote me on that.

While clearly any group of people, including the NYPD is far from perfect and certainly has some racists in it’s ranks, Taibbi is a master of the dog whistle -  spying in every statement or comment from Mayors or police commissioners or unnamed officer hidden, secret and coded messages that to him clearly signify racism run amok.

Taibbi paints a portrait of Eric Garner family man - who sold crack cocaine, but only out of necessity, as a way to feed, clothe and house his family. In the process he misses out on the irony of the illegality of the drug dealing and not mention the damage done to other families by the product Garner was selling. He can’t quite seem to manage to wrap his head around the fact that the guy he was trying to in some way elevate was in reality a criminal.

Taibbi makes Garner  sound like a teddy bear, and claims he was “not a kingpin” because of his down right lazy approach to dope dealing. I wonder how many real family men would even know where to turn to find a pile of rock cocaine to sell? Which speaks volumes about the real Eric Garner. Taibbi goes on to label the illegal sale of tax free cigarettes as “pseudo-criminal”. There is nothing pseudo about it.

But that is typical of liberals who are in favor of nanny state laws when they are enacted to protect you from yourself, but when it becomes inconvenient as in Garner’s case, then it becomes “pseudo criminal”. Taibbi goes so far as to blame governors of low cigarette tax states for not raising their taxes and thereby creating the black market for lower priced smokes.

Based on a reading of  I Can’t Breathe, you would likely believe that the NYPD has NO officers of color and that cops who employed the so-called stop and frisk program were all racists and despite the documented impact the program had in dramatically reducing street crime, that it should have never been allowed to occur.

It still amazes me that Garner’s case, like so many other high profile cases that spawned the so-called “black lives matter” movement could have been easily avoided if those involve had simply done what an overwhelming majority of Americans would do; comply with a lawful request from a police officer. Things like “open the window” or “get on the ground” if you comply, you go home alive and well. Don’t comply, and all bets are off.

Based on  Rolling Stones’ “journalistic” history (see UVA “Rape” Case story) why let facts get in the way of a good story. I do give the book designers credit here, the cover title fading to gray is the perfect match for liberals who see nothing in black and white, just shades of gray.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

You Can’t Tell The Players Without a Scorecard

The Crown - The Official Companion - Volume 1 - Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen - Robert Lacey - (Crown Archetype)

My wife is a bit of an anglophile when it comes to things to do with the British royalty. So when Netflix announced plans the series The Crown she was all in; as for me, I was less enthusiastic. I must admit as we worked our way through the series first season, I became more and more intrigue with the story and some of it’s finer intricacies and relationships. The series was very well done.

Now with the second season of the series set for release, comes the publication of The Crown - The Official Companion - Volume 1 - Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen,  by Robert Lacey. The book is a tremendous companion to the TV series because it marries historical documents and photos to help with identifying and adding depth to the storyline of the TV series.

Lavishly and extensively illustrated with photos, the book really succeeds by providing insights and depth to the characters that can really only receive a cursory overview in the shows scripting. One of the more eye opening bits that get bigger play in the book is the working relationship between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the youthful Queen which was an interesting balance of royal and political leader, mentor and student and an overriding friendship.

For anyone interested in the historical storyline of this wonderful series, this will make a perfect companion to drill deeper into the historical nature of this series.