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.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Inside Insight

All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump – Edward Klein (Regnery)

Bestselling investigative journalist Edward Klein has created a cottage industry out of gathering up sources that dole out insider insights from the most private of places within the Democrat party machine. That machine is comprised of vast array of folks from the realms of politics, the government, the entertainment industry, the media and big money donors.

In his latest outing All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump, Klein attempts to unravel the inner working of the seemingly ceaseless efforts to delegitimize the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. Klein makes compelling case that the gears of this concerted effort were well under way even before Trump was elected; dating back to the Obama administration and their efforts to try to derail and interfere with the Trump campaign and its supporters and team.

While the media continues to try to convince the American people that Trump and his campaign are guilty of “collusion”, which by the way does not exist in the U.S. Criminal Code, in reality the level of criminality and criminal behavior by Obama administration officials is staggering! Klein offers an insider’s take on any numbers of at the very least dubious behavior.

There are countless examples of how the media clearly knew that what they were reporting about Trump was either false or had been disproven, and yet they went ahead and reported it, only to later have it blow up in their face. Then they have the nerve to feign outrage over being labeled as FAKE news. The mainstream press has patently refused to understand that the game has changed and in an era of powerful tools in hands of citizen journalists they simply can’t get away with doling out bullshit and calling it news. The reaction to this load of hooey comes fast and furious to the point of giving them burns when they get called on the carpet.

Perhaps the most telling chapter is Klein’s run down of the establishment Republican’s who have gone out of their way to hinder so much of the Trump agenda. Sore loser clowns like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake and Mitch McConnell are almost worse than clueless asshat liberals like Maxine Waters, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Lieu.

Easily the most entertaining chapter involves the disengagement of Barack Obama. Since leaving office the Bamster seems more content to travel to high end vacation locales then he is interested in taking up the charge of leading the resistance to Trump. Perhaps in a throwback to his high school days leading the so-called “Choom Gang” a band of dope smoking teenagers Obama proudly led; Klein details Obama’s current favorite pastime of firing up a joint and playing video games in his man cave at the high end DC home in the Kalorama neighborhood that he purchased after finally(!) vacating the White House.   

More Proof…Liberals Are STUPID!

You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) – Alec Baldwin and Kurt Anderson (Penguin Press)

As a proud member, in good standing, of Middle America, you know those backwards bumpkins who have the nerve to live outside of New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, I continue to marvel that the high brow, cosmopolitan types just can’t quite grasp the concept of how the anointed Hilary Clinton could possibly have lost the election, let alone to Donald J. Trump.

Trump absolutely drives these whack-a-mole liberals to the brink of their sanity and their reaction comes more often than not in the form of some high profile celebrity in full on meltdown mode. Probably no greater example exists than that of actor Alec Baldwin in the form of his portrayals of Trump on Saturday Night Live. Baldwin is convinced that the American people just love his smirky, posturing, over the top Trump. And therein lies the problem for liberals like Baldwin and so many other, who just can’t quite grasp the concept that Middle America is tired of their horseshit being jammed down our throats and that they actually contributed to Trump’s victory.

Now Baldwin is trying to capitalize on his Trump by teaming with writer Kurt Anderson to serve up the book, You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody). You literally can’t make this stuff up; they included the line “A So-Called Parody,” in an attempt to be clever and somehow indicate that that this really isn’t a parody, that it is somehow a real accounting of the Trump Presidency. Parody is defined as a deliberate exaggeration for comic effect, the problem is there really is much of a parody here, or for that matter, much in the way of comedy.

What Baldwin and Anderson really end up doing is to run down a litany of misguided liberalism over the course of the long form. I can only guess that Baldwin and Anderson believe the polls that show Trump’s popularity numbers are sagging and that somehow they are hitting the right notes for the American people. If they don’t understand the negative consequences of believing polling, then maybe they need to have a chat with Hilary Clinton and her campaign team about how well buying into polls worked out for them.

For middle America it’s just more of the same from the elite liberals and I encourage them to keep on serving this stuff up because it will just help their folks to continue to lose election after election.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Not My Cup of Tea…

Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques – Kristen Kish (Clarkson Potter)

Growing up as a latch key kid, I taught myself how to cook out of necessity; if I wanted to eat something beyond peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwiches, I had to be able to cook. So at a very early age, I started to experiment in the kitchen and never looked back. To this day I cook almost all of our family meals and I am not afraid to use the gang as my taste testers.

That being said, when it comes to cookbooks, cooking shows and food based websites, I tend to stick to things that I would like to eat when it comes to trying new recipes. I fully admit, that I tend to not be a fan of the competition based cooking shows; the original English dubbed Iron Chef remains my favorite of these kinds of shows.

So when it came to Chef Kristen Kish’s debut cook book, Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques, I was totally unfamiliar with this former winner of the Top Chef and the co-host of the Travel Channel show 36 Hours. Flipping through the book’s pages it’s clear that Chef Kish has a wide range of skills and taste pallets. While the pictures belie the intricate skill that Kish brings to the table, when it comes to my pretty straight forward, pretty basic yard stick of “would I try/make this?” my answer more often than not is…No.

Clearly I am not a high end, high concept kind of guy who churns out what I consider tiny, delicate plates, which is Kish’s sweet spot. The book is clearly beautiful and features a nice design, but it simply in not my cup of tea.