Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Monster’s Wife … The NFL investigates itself … Pre-Order Dogfella now …

Amici:



The Monster’s Wife, by Kate Horsley … It struck me early on that Ms. Horsley’s novel is the third work of fiction by a British female author I’ve read and reviewed since July 19 (Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson and Obedience, by Jacqueline Yallop). What can I say, except it’s been a very good summer? The Monster’s Wife is yet another gem, so brava Ms. Horsley!

Oona is a sick girl destined to an early demise (a heart defect). Although she’s physically weak, Oona is no slouch. She’s tough and determined. Her best friend, May, also tough, has lived a more active life. May has also done things for Oona the latter can’t appreciate until it’s too late. They live on one of the tiny Orkney Islands (Quoy), where some strange and macabre things have begun to happen involving fish, frogs, hens and a female hand, all of which coincide with the recent arrival on the island of one Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Or could it be collateral refuse from the Napoleonic wars (he wants to rule the seas, after all)?

In the meantime, May has been working for the good (or is he?) doctor; cleaning up, cooking, etc., for extra coin for her upcoming wedding to a possessive fisherman (Stuart) … and when Oona grows tired of her friend’s absence from the ritual hangout times together at the Smokehouse, Oona visits May at the big house (where Dr. Frankenstein has taken residence).

Oona helps her friend dump some crates belonging to the doctor out on the sea, during which Oona can’t help but remember her Granny’s frightening tale about what can happen to young women on the water … a twist on the mythical tale of a Selkie (half seal/half woman), Granny says a Finnman may catch her and turn Oona into a Selkie if she’s not careful. After some more dead stuff floats up on the beach (mostly likely from the crates May and Oona dumped), it scares the bejesus out of the fisherman and town folk. Trouble is on the horizon for the doctor, as all become ever more suspicious of what he’s doing in the big house and how it relates to their recent “plague.”

Oona is also very suspicious of Victor Frankenstein (what with all the strange things occurring kind of parallel to his arrival), but before long, Oona is also working for him and almost (not quite) side-by-side with her best friend. Oona retains a desire for knowledge not so unlike Viktor’s desire when he was a lad, but there’s someone/something on a table covered with a sheet Oona is sure is the owner of the female hand she found … who it might’ve been keeps her focused on remaining at the big house. Back in town, jealousy (Stuart’s) abounds when May spends a bit too much time with the doctor … meanwhile, Oona witnesses what the doctor can do with dead things, including one of her favorite pets, but she’s still nervous about his best intentions.

Oona collapses (her heart is weak) and the doctor nurses her back to good health, at least temporarily, but she’s seen another man watching her; at times can feel him watching her … who is he? What is he?

No spoilers here, but Horsley’s tale kind of picks up from the original, Mary Shelley, version of Frankenstein (a.k.a. The Modern Prometheus), except Horsley’s tale is about the monster’s wife. In Shelley’s original, Dr. Frankenstein heads to Orkney to create a bride for his monster … Horsley deals with the bride’s version of the story, and … no spoilers.
 
 
The descriptive narrative is as good as it gets. Mr. Updike has nothing on Ms. Horsley (above), and you’ll learn a lot about these tiny islands off the coast of Scotland, including their island nomenclature. I sure did. Biblical references also abound … Jonah and the Whale … Lazarus … Adam and Eve …

Croft = A small rented farm …
Byre = a cowshed
Kirk = a church
Bairn = a child
Bonxie = sea bird predator
Escritoire = secretary/desk
CĂ©ilidh = Gaelic social gathering with Gealic folk music
 
 
Mary Shelley gave us Frankenstein. Kate Horsley, with brilliant descriptive prose, presents his bride. The Monster’s Wife is a wonderfully scripted tale about love between things that go bump in the night. Kate Horsley’s brilliant historical novel is more than an adjunct to the Shelley classic; it is a powerful statement about strong women and their ability to hold our interest on the page as well as in life.

Get The Monster’s Wife here:


Visit Kate’s webpage here:

As for the Orkney islands … you can even learn how to dress an Orkney crab! 

Of course I’ve started to reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein immediately after finishing The Monster’s Wife. How could I not? I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing it. We shall see. In the meantime, TK VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS Kate Horsley’s wonderful debut novel, The Monster’s Wife.

Another review of The Monster’s Wife can be found here:

And here:

Kate’s conversation with Spinetingler magazine prior to finishing her novel can be found here:



The NFL investigates itself … It certainly gets more amusing as each new day brings forth a new wrinkle to the mix. The NFL is going to hire former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, to perform an “independent” investigation of the Ray Rice fiasco. Not only that, two of the NFL team owners (Moonachie Blue’s, John Mara and the Steelers’ Art Rooney) will oversee the investigation.

Independent? Really?

That mean Mr. Mueller doesn’t know where his paycheck will be coming from?

Let’s draw some fun analogies here: Al Capone hires Frank Nitty to investigate the missing 24 cases of hooch from the back of Capone’s station wagon; the NYPD hires Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa to investigate the mob (oops, they actually did that and after being convicted of killing for the mob, are both serving life now) … or how about cross-dresser, Herbert Hoover? He was the original FBI director … anybody have a problem with this guy (i.e., his “dirty tricks” campaign against “subservise” students) investigating anything?

And just like the lie about the NFL never having seen the tape (or receiving it) was being somewhat digested by some ESPN analysts and others, Robert Mueller’s appointment (by the League itself) is already being defended by at least one ESPN analyst, Mike Greenberg, of the Mike & Mike show.

(sarcasm intended) How could anyone remotely tied to the government have their integrity questioned?

Greenberg stated the Mueller worked for two sitting presidents (George W. Bush and Barrack Obama). Maybe it’s me, but that isn’t much of an endorsement as regards credibility. Bush and Obama just don’t qualify as men who’ve never told a lie. Not unless you believe the Weapons of Mass Destruction argument for going to war with Iraq and/or that Mr. Obama’s declaration to “put on some comfortable shoes and join the picket lines” when collective bargaining was threatened was just an inside joke and he really didn’t mean it—see Wisconsin. Unless you believe that level of bullshit, it’s difficult to assume that politicians and/or those with skin in the game (i.e., the NFL) will appoint credible candidates to conduct their investigations).

Goodell went on CBS (a network tied directly to the NFL), and he not only didn’t answer the question (Did the NFL really need to see the tape?), he also covered his ass by saying “to my knowledge” nobody in the NFL had seen the tape.

There’s no way the NFL investigators (reportedly former FBI and Homeland security retirees) didn’t see this tape and/or report it to league officials. For one thing, at the slightest chance that Janay Rice at the time of the elevator incident, either fell or slipped (see the Baltimore Raven’s feeble attempt to cover up their claim as to why they didn’t seek the elevator tape), and she wasn’t punched in the face by Ray Rice, the NFL and Baltimore Ravens would’ve had a mitigated circumstance that maybe justified a 2 game suspension. Neither the NFL nor the Baltimore Ravens were going to pass on that chance, not by a longshot. Once it was reported that a second video existed, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens either decided to maintain a blind eye or play a wait and see game; if it came out (which it did), then so long Ray Rice, you’ve sickened us and disgraced yourself—under the bus with you!

Mr. Goodell’s “good name” has now been championed by no less a hypocrite than Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Cheatriots (remember Spygate?). Kraft stated (also on CBS, an NFL contracted network) that he wouldn’t sign Ray Rice. Wow, what a humanitarian! Let’s just assume Kraft forgot his big hug and embrace of (twice convicted of domestic violence) Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in Kraft’s sky box at Choketriot stadium.


Thank you, Mr. Kraft, for all your heartfelt concerns … you remain a very wealthy asshole.

It’s all bullshit, amici. It’s all about NFL damage control, and that’s all it’ll ever be about. These are billionaires who could care less about Ray Rice, his wife, or any other individual they see as anything more than a commodity. When the commodity is too damaged to retain, they no longer serve their primary purpose, to feed the bottom line (i.e., profit).



As for Ray Rice: I don’t believe he should be forever banned from the NFL. If he can clean up his act, which he probably can’t do, give him a second shot after a year suspension. If he can’t get his act together, so be it.






—Knucks

Check out saxophonist, Fred Vigdor and The Average White Band … they’re coming to Hackensack, New Jersey on September 27, 2014 …

Oh, Maceo!



Me, Jimmy LaCugna and Rich Williams listened to the Average White Band our entire trip home from Minot, North Dakota one summer. I bought a car in Minot from a guy on the wrestling team, an Oldsmobile, F-85 (ZoSo) … and under the seat was an 8-track tape … the Average White Band … 17 hours later, we knew every note of every song on the album … it was our only music …
 
Pick up the Pieces …


Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review: The Winter of Our Discontent … Woodstock 1969 … Knucks defends Obama … Tampa Bay here we come …

Amici:


The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck … in taking on what the author perceived around 1960 as the moral decay of American values (not that morality belonged to America alone), this novel apparently didn’t receive the same level of critical success as his Nobel Prize Winning, The Grapes of Wrath … frankly, that’s a shame. The Grapes of Wrath was my second Steinbeck read at some point after college. Of Mice and Men came first back in high school, I’m thinking. The Grapes of Wrath was also the first piece of fiction that put some of my dormant brain cells to work, although even then I was way too young to appreciate the message for another dozen years or so, at least not until I was a working two jobs slob myself. I find the The Winter of Our Discontent, over several reads now, no less important or condemning (of what I’d call capitalism’s inevitable erosion of moral values). In any event, the dialogue is about as brilliant as it gets, especially the back and forth between Ethan and everybody … his wife Mary … Ethan and the potential femme fatale, Margie … Ethan and his boss (the Wop, guinea, greaseball, Marullo) … and Ethan and the banker, Mr. Baker … even with his kids (or just speaking to Mary about them), the dialogue is crisp and clever and loaded with literary quotations that keep a reader wanting to know all the background to this essentially honest man befuddled by his attempts to justify his sudden acts of corruption. It is an essential novel, I think, for both readers and writers alike, for when Ethan (Allen Hawley) sees corruption reflected by his own children … well, no spoilers here, except to say there’s irony in abundance throughout this classic tale of a man ultimately saved by … that’s the question, isn’t it?


Super highly recommended, especially during a time when corruption runs rampant in America (the greedy desire of the Benjamins, if you will). If politicians were required to wear NASCAR-like tags of their sponsors on their suits, at least the voting public would know for sure just who they represent. It is a time when the transformation has been completed (thank you, Citizens United) … whereby our form of government has gone from a somewhat workable democracy to a blatantly offensive oligarchy.




Woodstock, 1969 … the year before Woodstock (1968), I was 12 at the time, my parents bought the 3-piece drum kit I’d been renting while taking lessons for $5.00 an hour at Richie Russo’s house on Avenue N in Canarsie … they were blue sparkle Stewart Drums ($100.00) … I was still playing to records (actual record albums and 45’s) at the time (Cream, Led Zeppelin and the occasional big band 45’s I clipped from my parents collection—Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington) … Summers outdoors it was the Canarsie Little League/St. Jude’s Little League and the PAL … indoors and all through winters it was Strat-O-Matic baseball and my drums … I’d go down the stairs at night to the basement to play my kit to some record while making believe I was on stage at the Garden … it was a fun and harmless fantasy, but it kept me playing … shortly after Woodstock, I found two more performers I wanted to play along with … Joe Cocker and Jeff Beck … what a time it was!


The picture above is with Avi Wolfe and Pete Durso (I'm the hairy drummer), they were a year or so older than myself, and I think I’m about 14 or 15 in that picture. Whatever my age, it was just before I abandoned the drums for several years to bang heads with a football helmet. We were called, although I never knew it at the time, Arm and Hammer. I was just happy to be playing drums with actual musicians (and they were both terrific) rather than playing to records.


A few years back I got to play with Pete again in North Carolina at the Cape Fear Blues Festival (above).

Since returning to a drum kit (in my 50’s), I’ve been a part of about half a dozen bands, although none of them lasted very long … the demands of the day aren’t what they used to be when we were 14-16 … that plus, let’s face it, some guitarists are fuckin’ nuts (that’s a joke … I think). We had one very good blues guitarist not show up one day with two different bands … (i.e., we later learned {while waiting for his arrival} that he’d done the same thing to each of us at least once before when we had each played with different people). So it goes.

Which all leads to the following …




Joe Cocker … go figure, now 70-something, Joe Cocker makes me feel young again. Say what? Yeah, it’s true. I like to listen to music when I’m working (on my job, my real job as a word processor for a law firm in the great and corrupt state of New Joisey). I switch music genres all the time (Classic, Blues, Rock, Opera, Rap) … yous name it, depending on my needs/mood, I listen to it.

Anyway, I wanted to hear some Woodstock music from back in the day, found Joe Cocker’s wild and crazy version of the Beatles' classic, With a Little Help From My Friends … then I did a Joe Cocker search and bada-boom, bada-bing, I found a fairly recent Joe Cocker live concert from Koln, Deutschland, and immediately ordered it. Joe was 69 (I think when he performed in Germany) … as rough as it obviously was for him to target the outer reaches of his famous screams, the crowd seemed to love it when he tried. Anyway, now that I have some extra time on my hands, Joe got me to pick up the drumsticks again … and I gotta love him for that alone.



Defending Obama … most of yous know I have little to no use for either of the major political parties in this country, nor any in the cast of their characters … outside of Bernie Sanders (a social democrat from Vermont), you can have the lot of them, and for pennies on the dollar. On this latest Middle East disaster having to do with the latest brand of psychopathic murderers, ISIS (or ISLE), or whatever the fuck they’re called, I think America needs to take a big step back and realize just how much of this mess has wound up in our laps from past hair trigger reactions (two of which I’m guilty of supporting myself).

Ever hear of the Khmer Rouge? They were native Cambodians (Kampucheans) who were formed after the prolonged bombing of their neutral nation state by the United States military under the guise of striking so-called Vietcong hit and run sanctuaries along the Cambodian-South Vietnamese border. What had started as operation breakfast, bombing along the borders, quickly turned into operation menu, and bombing the entire country. We actually dropped more bomb tonnage on the neutral nation of Cambodia during the Vietnam War (or Vietnam “conflict,” if it eases your pain any) than we did on Japan in all of World War II. The ground fertile for revolution, the Khmer Rouge gained strength and initiated a Cultural Revolution that declared all forms of western civilization illegal (to the point of death). You wear glasses? Too bad, you’re dead. You like to read? So long, sucker? You’re a doctor? Enjoy the ant farm. Populations were horded out of the cities into the fields, which quickly turned into killing fields. Yep, that was the Khmer Rouge, compliments of the United States Government … read the NY Times review of the great non-fiction book, Sideshow, by William Shawcross (what I used as the primary source for a political science paper back in the day):

Here’s an excerpt (in case yous are too lazy to click on the link): “Cambodia was not a mistake; it was a crime.” This is what William Shawcross demonstrates in his careful, detailed, and incisive book. Sideshow is both masterly and horrifying. It lays bare the fallacies and the shame of the Vietnam war with so much evidence and force that recent attempts at rewriting this tragic story in order to vindicate American policy appear as ludicrous as the policy itself. For those who, ever since the debacle of 1975, keep worrying that American diplomacy’s resolve, will, or position in the world will be permanently impaired by the motto, “No more Vietnams,” Shawcross’s account of the pointless destruction of Cambodia should be compulsory reading. All those who, somehow, believe that the sufferings inflicted on the Cambodian people, first by the Pol Pot regime, and now by the Vietnamese, retrospectively justify America’s attempt to save Phnom Penh from the Reds must read this book, for it presents hard and irrefutable documentary evidence showing that the monsters who decimated the Cambodian people were brought to power by Washington’s policies.

The point being, we continue to create these monsters (whether they are used by misguided philosophy or religions) over and over again. Were the beheadings of the American journalists despicable acts of cowardice and barbarism? Of course they were. Should we now return to war and kill many thousands more innocents over it? Of course we shouldn’t. Why? Because the survivors of the innocents we kill in these wars become our enemies down the road. Will we go to war again? Well, I guess that depends on defense contractors and their shareholders’ needs for more Benjamins …

On this issue, no matter how incompetent Mr. Obama may have been in the past (and he’s been plenty incompetent across the board), let the man take his time and attempt to do something that doesn’t create yet another extremist movement that seeks to kill everything in its psychotic path. The Republicans haven’t offered anything resembling an alternative. The Democrats scared of Obama’s dwindling poll numbers are the same losers who voted to go to war in Iraq and to dismantle any hope for Single Payer Health Insurance.

Let the man take his time. Rushing to war yet again can’t be the right thing to do. Double check your history. According to our goals for engaging in them, we lost all of the wars we rushed into.
 
Every single one of them.



Tampa Bay here we come … so, we’re booked in a hotel 1/10th of a mile from the arena … we even have our tickets for Games 2 (Bolts-Senators), 3 (Bolts-Canadians) & 4 (Bolts-Devils) … we’ll be meeting up with some friends that have moved down there and some new friends we made at the Ryan Callahan Fan Appreciation Page … I’ll still be dieting (somewhat), but the good news is I’m thinking the minus 82 pounds will give me a comfortable fit inside my Cally home jersey … and I’ll get an away jersey at the arena.

The last time I was in Tampa, it was to witness the Moonachie Blue Team’s 1 point win over my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV (20-19) … not a good memory at all, but the world has completed a few more spins since then and the hockey Gods have aligned with the football Gods for both our Bills and Bolts. Fun times, amici … fun times, indeed.


The First of Many …





—Knucks


Speaking of Mr. Cocker … Unchain My Heart …




Feelin’ Alright …




You Can Leave Your Hat On …


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Reviews: Before, During, After … Riders on the Storm … Rick Perry … Uzi madness … NFL 2014 with Super Bowl Champion Pick …

Amici:



Before, During, After, by Richard Bausch … he’s simply one of the best writers of our time and he’s latest doesn’t disappoint. More than a dozen years after the attacks of 9-11, I guess it was safe to write about that day again. I skipped most of those that were published closer to the infamous date. Updike’s Terrorist was good, but I only read it because it was Updike. This one by Bausch I couldn’t wait for, mostly because I had already started rereading some of his works (I recently read Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. America and All the Ships at Sea a third time). Bausch could write about anything and I’d be anxious to read it, so I was extra anxious to see how this master would handle 9-11.

Natasha Barrett works for a U.S. Senator. She’s a painter at heart and a strong woman who has become unhappy with her life in Washington. Some part of her longs for France … and a relationship with a man she respected would be nice as well. When she meets a recently single via divorce Episcopal Priest (Michael Faulk) at a political affair, things change for both of them.

Faulk is a bit older than Natasha and his insecurity shows at every turn. He’s recently left the Church, although he still believes, much to his father’s dismay. He’s crazy in love with this wonderful woman … and Natasha has found her significant other in Faulk. He’s all the difference in her world and she has renewed his zest for life. Natasha’s parents were killed in a plane crash when she was young. She was raised by her grandmother, another strong woman, and Natasha has a special bond with her.

Shortly before they’re to get married, Natasha goes on a pre-planned vacation to the Island of Jamaica with a woman friend. In the meantime, Faulk will be attending the wedding of a very close and dear friend’s son, the ceremony to be held at Trinity Church, downtown Manhattan. Faulk also plans on having breakfast at the top of the Twin Towers on the day of the wedding, September 11, 2001.

There will be no spoilers here, but what happens before, during after the week of September 11 in this wonderful novel is so well crafted, there won’t be any chance the reader ignores the outcome. Broken into three sections (Before, During, After), the story unwinds in back and forth perspectives (Natasha/Faulk) with one very gritty scene I can still see, taste and smell; a scene not for the lighthearted, but so vivid it will stay with the reader for a long time to come.

There’s not a writer as smooth as Bausch. A wonderful read … Extremely, Highly, Forgetaboutit, Wonderfully Recommended … simply as good as it gets.

Get it here:



Riders on the Storm, Ed Gorman … his latest in the Sam McCain series has already earned the author another Starred Review (Booklist). It’s 1971, after McCain was drafted into the Vietnamese war but missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime (sarcasm intended) when he was nearly killed in a car accident off the base. A few months later he’s recovered, but confronted with a situation in his home town of Black River Falls, Iowa. Some things have changed during the interim … including his secretary gaining the necessary skills and backbone it requires to be a strong woman. One of the returned vets, Will Cullen, was changed by the war, and when he suffers a terrible beating by a rah-rah, vet (Steve Donovan), all fingers point to Cullen after Donovan turns up dead.

No spoilers here, ever, but the fun of reading Ed Gorman (much like reading Bill Crider and Elmore Leonard) is getting there. The characters are wonderfully sculpted and the times (1970’s) are well portrayed, with both sides of political arguments posed and left for the reader to decide for themselves.

Gorman has been a master writer for several decades now, and with a ton of previously published novels under Pseudonyms and his name … this one may be his best of the Sam McCain series. Riders on the Storm is wonderful read start to finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Get it here:





Rick Perry … Look, the guy is about as dumb as a pile of rocks, but this issue about his threatening a drunk D.A. is absurd. No doubt it’s politically motivated by Perry to get rid of this drunk, but Democrats flocking to her defense are equally politically motivated. Her video is more than enough to suggest she resign on her own. If she had any integrity, she’d do just that, but she doesn’t have integrity (outside of Bernie Sanders, what politician does?) Obviously, she’s a big fish in the Texas democratic machine, but all the Dems are doing now is making Perry more popular than he would’ve been without this issue.

On the other hand, maybe that’s the strategy, because if he wins the Republican Presidential nomination, the Democrats will have another cakewalk into the white house … with another Republican leading the way—Hillary Clinton.

Oy vey … vey iz mir …



Uzi Madness … blaming the trainer for the accident involving a 9-year old and an Uzi seems a bit out of whack to me. What is a 9-year old doing on the range in the first place? Okay, you need to have your 9-year old ready to shoot to kill, then what is she doing with an Uzi? Why not a bazooka? Did her New Jersey parents fear she’d need one at school some day?

This was a horrible tragedy that will no doubt leave scars on the kid for the rest of her life. It also ended the life of the trainer. For me the blame falls squarely on the parents (or whichever one thought this was a bright idea, to have their 9-year old daughter train with an Uzi). It’s not like this hasn’t happened before … there was a 2011 incident during which an 8-year old killed himself with an Uzi on a firing range.

The trainer: Shouldn’t have taken the job.
The parents; Dumb as fuckin’ rocks.
The kid: You have to feel for her.




Nostra-Stella and TK’s NFL Predictions … the rest of them.

Yous already got my AFC and NFC Beast and NFC Norse forecasts … so here’s the rest of it. Take my picks and go the other way … the quickest road to financial security in the open and free (to get burned) market.


San Fernando 49’ers … I still like them … still think they’re the best in the league, but unless they can keep their convicts out of the joint, they’ll flop again this season when it counts. I’m gonna go with my heart and the 2nd best defense in all of football. Prediction 11-5.

Seattle Sea Pigeons … listen to me: they’re a really good football team. Maybe even a great team, but you know what? I still don’t like Pete Carroll, so I’m betting against the best defense in all of football … mostly because I think it’s probably close to impossible to repeat. Prediction: 11-5.

Phoenix by way of St. Louis Cardinalettes … Great potential but as long as they have that stiff (Carson Palmer) throwing pitches, they’re not going anywhere. Interception city. Prediction: 7-9.

Los Angeles by way of St. Louis Ramettes … how snake-bit is this organization? Bradford goes down, Bradford goes down … one more season and he’s out for the count. I’m still hoping for Michael Sam to make it onto the final roster, but that’s about the only thing to be positive about now that they’ve lost their only chance to compete with the big boys. Prediction: 6-10.



Denver Broncettes … so this will be their easy year to get back to the dance, where they’ll get embarrassed again. No competition to speak of in the AFC. Just the Choketriots and they’re likely to choke, so it’ll be Denver setting all kinds of new records and breezing through the junior leagues. Prediction: 14-2.

San Diego Chargerless … Phillip Rivers is to QB’ing what Caron Palmer and Jay Cutler are to QB’ing … interceptions. I hope they enjoyed their little run last year. Prediction: 9-7.

Kansas City Chefs … I want them to do good again, but I don’t think they’re better than their schedule. Last year was a gift coming off a disastrous year. This year they return to earth, but I’ll be rooting for them and Smith. Prediction: 9-7.

The Oakland by way of Los Angeles Raiderettes … oy vey … Prediction: 5-11.




New Orleans Aints … love the city, hate the Ryan haircut, want to like the offense, but the throwing 40+ X’s a game is too much. They have the dome and that is a plus for a flag football offense, but then they have to come outside for the playoffs. Prediction: 9-7.

Carolina Rice Panthers … we like this team’s defense and we want to like their QB, but he lost a big weapon in Steve Smith and he won’t be easy to replace. Until we see what they can do without Cam Newton running for his life, we’re thinking they’ll have a tougher go this year. Prediction: 9-7.

Atlanta Falconless … they look good on HBO’s Hard Knocks, but that’s where it ends. Good offense that tends to throw too much as well (the curse of domes) … they’ll be lucky to finish with more than 3 wins, but we’re beneficent. Prediction: 5-11.

Tampa Bay the Buck Stops Here … oy vey X 2 … nothing to look forward to here. Prediction: 4-10.



The Indianapolis by way of the Baltimore Coltless … a cake walk, start to finish, although it’ll be their defense that lets them down when it counts again. Prediction: 11-5.

Texas Two Steppers … Clowney and Watt on the same line? Listen to me, they figure out how to score a few points and/or keep from scoring for the other team, and they’re back in the playoffs. Big improvement this season either way. Prediction: 9-7.

Tennessee Tuxedos … two words: Ryan Fitpatrick, says it all … Prediction: 4-12.

Jacksonville Jaguwires … two more words: Jacksonville Jaguwires … Prediction: 3-13.



Green Bay Packerless … the Pack is back … so long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, yes they are … but defense is the name of the game, except in the NFC Norse … Prediction: 10-6 (and then one, maybe two, and done).

Detroit Lionettes … well, now that they got rid of their numskull coach (he’s now in Buffalo, because who else would take him?) … the Lionettes may prove a winner … their future is bright once again. Prediction: 9-7.

Chicago Bearless … listen to me. Cutler is another stiff going on every single year now … so he’ll throw a few big passes and compliment them with an equal number of pick-sixes … this is the year they take a big-ass bow … Prediction: 6-10.

Minnesota Vikingless … Oy vey, vey iz mir … so long as they keep playing in a dome, the curse remains (I gave them the Malocchia for building a dome) … have a nice draft pick AGAIN next season, fellas … Prediction: 5-11.


TK’s Super Bowl Prediction … drumroll …




NFC: San Fernando 49’ers …

AFC: Denver Broncettes …

Super Bowl Champion (and score): San Fernando 34, Denver 24.

Take it to the bank and cash it in.

—Knucks


Friday, August 22, 2014

Lie Down in Darkness … AFC North … Joe Cocker!

Amici:


Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron … an amazing novel that at times frustrated me so much, I stopped to read another book when I left my kindle at the office over a weekend. That said, when I returned to the last half of the book, I was surprised at how quickly I was re-hooked and anxious to keep reading. It is close to an epic read, what one has to suspect the author was shooting for (as regards length), but the most amazing thing about this novel was learning the age of the author at the time of publication—William Styron was only 26 years old when Lie Down in Darkness was published. His insights into the human condition at age 26 make this novel all the more impressive.

I could do without much of the page length descriptive narrative and/or some of the introspection, but the characters are so compelling it is difficult to ignore them for more than a few hours. I am still thinking about them, seeing them in my head, two days after finishing the read. The novel revolves around the suicide of Peyton Loftis, daughter to Milton and Helen Loftis, and sister to Maudie. Peyton is the beautiful daughter with the brains and brash. Maudie is the daughter born with a birth defect (one of her legs) and is mentally challenged. She will die an early death (age 20 or so), but she is beloved by her mother and more or less ignored by her father. Peyton, at best, is daddy’s little girl (Milton, an alcoholic, seems to long for much more), but because of Peyton's hold on Daddy, her mother despises her. Dad has a significant other (the dull and shallow Dolly) … Peyton is married to Harry (a Jewish war veteran and artist) but she ruins the marriage in her seemingly heatless search for love and acceptance.

If you can tolerate the wordiness of the manuscript, you’re in for a genuine treat. I remain floored at Styron’s 26 year old insights to drama. It is more than amazing how much he understood at so young an age. This tragic southern story of a dysfunctional family that continues to come apart, even during the course of Peyton’s funeral, is riveting. Especially after there’s Nothing! Nothing! Nothing’s left!

Very Highly Recommended.

Get it here:



AFC Norse …

Cincinnati Bengaleez … How many more times does this team have to come so close, just to get blown back again? I don’t know. Yous tell me. I say they’re a good team. I’m not as sold on the red rifle as the rest of the world, but they do have talent elsewhere to support him. I see them running away with this division and then we’ll see what the real story is come the playoffs. Prediction: 11-5

Baltimore Wes Cravens … how does one ever bet against the Wes Cravens? With common sense, that’s how! This is a black and blue division and that usually means parity in spades. They have a lot to offer, but nothing will come easy for them this season. Prediction: 9-7 and then one and done.

Cleveland Brownies … you know, I actually enjoyed watching this team the other night in their preseason matchup with the Washingtonians … the goal line stand was wonderful to see … but they’ll still have QB problems too deep into the season to be anything other than a spoiler. Prediction: 6-10

Pittsburgh Steelerettes … Big Ben just doesn’t have what he’ll need to do much better than another dismal season. If you watched them get demolished in the first half last night by the Eaglettes, you know what I mean. Pot smoking, DUI running backs 2 hours before the team travels for a pre-season game? Really? Enough said. It’s a shame to see a team with so much history fall by the wayside, but right now it’s where they belong. I look forward to the Browns ripping them to pieces come opening day. Prediction: 6-10


—Knucks

Joe Cocker … you gotta love Joe! I used to love drumming to his music when I was a kid 2,000 years ago. Recently, a year or so ago, I told my wife that his spastic routine on stage was just that, a routine, and she became very angry. She’d thought Joe was suffering some form of muscular dystrophy. The truth is so did I until I was 30 years old and read an interview with him. I saw him perform with Mad Dogs & Englishman way back in the day … at Madison Square Garden … where I’ll never go again until Glen Sather is long gone … Go Bolts!

Let’s Go Get Stoned …





Feelin’ Alright …




With a Little Help from My Friends …




Whiter Shade of Pale …


Monday, August 18, 2014

The blog hop continues … the NFC East …

Amici:


I’m asked to answer 4 questions and keep the blog moving … it goes to authors Rick Ollerman and David Zeltserman  from here … and then they will pick 2 more writers to answer the same 4 questions next week … and so on … I was one of two writers Dana King picked … the 4 questions follow:
 
What am I working on?

Dogfella, a non-fiction memoir about James Head Guiliani, a former mob enforcer turned animal rescuer. Tommy Red, a crime novel follow-up to Ode to the O’s (a short story in the Baltimore Noir collection many years ago). A collection of so-called literary fiction with (right now) as many titles as there are stories …

 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure it does. I don’t spend much time describing furniture, wallpaper and/or landscapes. I don’t believe it’s always necessary to do so when providing the right atmosphere for a scene. Obviously, it’s dependent on what’s going on, but I believe that what people say, how they say it, etc., will most often get the job done. I just about finished reading Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron. Make no mistake, I love this book (the darkness especially), but I often gave myself a headache trying to follow the (as I saw it) totally unnecessary never-fucking-ending descriptive narrative (as well as some of the introspection). I’m sure Mr. Styron, a far better writer than I’ll ever be, felt he needed everything he included in the novel, but as a reader, it was more than frustrating getting through it all. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

 
Then again, I can’t wait to finish his book (for good reasons—Peyton’s suicide will keep me reading into the wee hours of the morning tonight).

Why do I write what I do?

Well, I’m trying to branch out. At first, crime writing was just the easiest to pursue, but I’m coming back to my original roots as a playwright … at least as regards what interests me more and more as I get closer to croaking, which is drama; affairs of the heart and the mind, and politics at its barest essential—survival. There’s a drama this life that continues to haunt me like a motherfucker …

 
How does my writing process work?

Monday: my most productive writing day, because I’m off from my real job as a word processor (writing can't be a job when you enjoy it, right?). I’m at it a good 10-12 hours; new stuff, editing, back and forth. Tue-Fri: Up early to write new stuff, then break and begin editing. During the day, when times allows (downtime/lunchtime at work, after my half our walk/read around our parking lot), either more editing or spewing new stuff, nights (when time allows, polishing). Saturday mornings are reserved for editing. Sunday mornings the same and/or research (with Dogfella, it required Sunday mornings into the afternoon interviewing the subject and immediately returning home to transcribe).

 
That’s it. Nothing fancy or profound, that’s for sure. You wanna’ write? See above: Sit your ass down and do it.


 
Now, for why you really came here … to see what Knucks is picking, so yous can bet the other way.

The NFC Beast …

It’s a much more tame division than it once was, mostly because it’s in a constant state of rebuilding.

Philadelphia Eaglettes … no longer the dog killers because they managed to dump Michael Vick on the Moonachie Dog Killers Green Team from New Jersey, they’re going for another run at high speed flag football. With the new impossible defensive holding rules, they should set new records for yards gained … maybe even points scored, but the results will be pretty much the same. Foles won’t be the dream he was last year … this year he’ll be picked off just like all the other QBs who throw the ball too damn often much to make it interesting (to me) … but so long as they have LeSean McCoy, they’ll be a threat … until the playoffs when they’re dropped like the high speed bad habit they (and the NFL) have established as the new brand of football. Prediction: 10-6; one and done.

Moonachie Blue Team … sorry to say it, but Eli may have owned Giselle’s husband, but those days are over. He’s just another bad QB without the right talent around him … they have a good nucleus, but I don’t see them doing much better than last season. Maybe 2 games better. He and brother Payton need to stop making videos … please. Prediction: 8-8 ... and sorry to say, goodbye, Tom Coughlin.

Washington (fuck Daniel Snyder) Native Americans … we’ll finally see if RGIII is for real. Actually, I suspect he is very much for real … and if he manages to keep himself healthy, his team would be a genuine threat … but, alas, he won’t stay healthy. The NFL ain’t college. He’ll run out of the pocket one too many times and that’ll be the end of their season … again. Prediction: 7-9.

Dallas Cowgirls … Jason Garrett won’t make it to the end of the season as the girls get their asses handed to them once again. They’re a bust … again … or did they really think letting DeMarcus Ware take off was a smart move? Prediction: 7-9

Tune in again next week for another TK NFL divisional prediction … but please don’t add them up (the wins and losses across the board), because we sure aren’t …

—Knucks


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Death/Suicide of Robin Williams …

Amici:


I was sitting in front of the television when CNN did their breaking news story about the death of Robin Williams. It was sad to learn of his death, but I was not surprised. Upset, yes, but not surprised. He was a major talent in both comedy and dramatic acting. He was also a manic personality, one I often found difficult to watch when he was being interviewed, but that was my hang-up, not his. I posted nothing on Facebook about his death because I knew so many others would. Mr. Williams will be missed for all his philanthropy and charity, as much as for his exceptional talents.

I posted nothing because I didn’t want to engage beyond a show of respect, which I had planned to do in my weekly TK post. I also knew that sooner or later the psychotics from the Westboro Baptist Church (and/or their ilk) would chirp in and piss off most of the civilized world. Frankly, I can laugh off nuts like the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s the lesser degrees of religious fanaticisms that upset me more. Inevitably, they did. Some people of a lesser degree of messianic faith spewed nonsense about Williams’ suicide being the act of a coward and/or how he’d cheated God of his/her powers over life and death, and/or how his taking his life was a selfish act.

Morons, I figure. Forgive them (the assholes), they know not what they do (or say).

This is not an attack on believers of any particular dogma. I think all religions are essentially silly, make no mistake, but I accept the fact that most (hopefully) believers (of whatever faiths) aren’t so rigid in their particular dogma as to ignore the science of depression and/or to suggest that suicide is a violation of their religious law and therefore subject to condemnation … or that homosexuality is a sin … or that disbelievers should be killed wherever you find them … or that non-believers (or those who believe in the “wrong” God) should be stoned to death.

Suicide statistics in the United States are overwhelming. As many as 108 people a day take their own lives in the so-called greatest country in the world. Many are veterans of wars we unilaterally chose to engage in in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bulk of suicides are people who suffered from depression so deep, it wasn’t worth enduring the pain it took for them to continue living.

None of us (NONE OF US) can ever know the pain and suffering someone goes through before deciding to take their own life. To assume we can know, and/or to make asinine statements about them being cowards  (Shepard Smith, FOX) is nothing short of (or beyond) stupid (i.e., STUPID). Equally as offensive and STUPID, is to condemn someone for taking their own life because of a belief in a God (or Gods). That particular condemnation is a form of ignorance that continues to poison the world we live in. You’re more than welcome to have your faith in a deity (if you must), but condemning those who take their life because it is against a “God’s or several Gods’” law(s) is no less ignorant (or STUPID) than what Mr. Smith from Fox said.

And it’s offensive to rational thinking beings everywhere.

It’s probably offensive to rocks.

Wouldn’t the people of faith rather believe in a merciful, loving God, one that doesn’t pass judgment? — Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7)

Can you say or believe in something stupid one day and eventually figure out it was a mistake—your mistake? Sure, of course. I originally supported the war in Iraq and the President who started it—a big mistake. In fact, they were two big mistakes … two HUGE mistakes, and both, as it turned out, downright stupid (i.e., STUPID). Fortunately, I was able to swallow my pride and learn from those mistakes. Hopefully, those mistakes chased me back to where I belong (firmly on the left of the left).

Hopefully, those who condemn Robin Williams today (for something they can know nothing about) will realize they were wrong tomorrow and perhaps rethink their hurtful statements and/or thoughts.

In the interim, however, Mr. Smith can shove his phony, network induced apology for being a moron up his tiny ass … behind a bread truck … parked sideways.

I’ve known a few people who took their own lives now. None of them were cowards and none of them were looking to usurp any one (or more) deity’s(ies’) powers over life and death (although if there was a deity and he/she was so fucking all powerful, you’d think that deity would put a stop to it, right?) Or is that too much logic to comprehend at one time?

A very dear friend had dinner with me and Ann Marie just a few nights before he took his own life a few years ago. He was a beautiful person. One of the most generous people I’ve yet to meet. My wife gets emotional every time she thinks of him and she thinks of him often. There’s never a holiday season we both don’t talk about him and what he meant to us. I knew that he was suffering from depression, and I very much feared for him the night he left our home. In fact, that night I mentioned to my wife how concerned I was for our friend.

Brian was neither a coward nor selfish. And he wasn’t cheating some God/deity/tooth fairy. He was in pain and he needed it to end.


Most of the Facebook posts about Robin Williams were supportive and/or shows of respect. Unfortunately, every once in a while I saw some of the most offensive bullshit spewed by so-called Christians; those offended for their magic man or woman in the sky. I read them and was instantly upset. It reminded me why I so abhor religion in general, because of the dangerous ignorance it enhances and spreads like a cancer. My wife is religious; a Catholic cherry picker because she can’t align herself to a church with so much inherent hypocrisy. She’s also intelligent enough to realize the taking of one’s own life doesn’t warrant a church condemnation. She understands how NONE of us can possibly know or understand what it takes to decide to leave life behind. She ignores the book of fairytales most believers call their Bible because she doesn’t believe it to be the actual word of her God (but rather what it is, the writings of a couple dozen or so guys who do a pretty good job of contradicting one another). My wife’s faith, bless her, is hers to do with as she pleases (rather than join the line of blind faith lemmings marching toward what they’ve accepted without question will be paradise).

It’s easy to get confused about this paradise place. One major religion (Qur’an 9:5) advises its followers to “Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them” (and if you call right now, you’ll get a bonus of 72 virgins), while the other major religion advises us to love thy neighbor unless he/she is homosexual orrrrrrrrrrrrrr, (Deuteronomy 17): And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded … then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

Like I said, this stuff is probably offensive to rocks.

I accept my wife’s faith because I know that hers is harmless to those around her; her faith is hers and hers alone. She doesn’t attempt to force it on anyone else, nor does she condemn others for having different forms of faith. She even accepts me (not very easy for any number of reasons) and my complete lack of faith in a deity. She’s a far better person than I’ll ever be. I’m not as gentle or kind. I am opposed to religions and beliefs in omnipotent beings in general, because although I can usually look the other way when someone tells me how “unworthy we all are”, when I see some of the bullshit mentioned about suicide on Facebook some believers have posted, arguments for intelligent design quickly become arguments for a fucking tooth fairy, except in the case of intelligent design, the tooth fairy is one mean and cruel motherfucker who enjoys spreading decay until all the teeth are gone.

At least two of the major religions, when taken literally by extremists (i.e., the Evangelical Born Again crowd or Islamic Fundamentalists) are tantamount to nation states, each one seeking its own power at the expense of the other (and/or whoever stands in their way). They are far more ruthless and rigid than they are compassionate and tolerant. I wish they’d both go away and stay away.

The world would be a far better place if they did.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams.


—Knucks
 
 
A couple of notes on suicide below ...
 


Military Suicides (from Wiki): A 2009 U.S. Army report indicates military veterans have double the suicide rate of non-veterans, and more active-duty soldiers are dying from suicide than in combat in the Iraq War (2003-2011) and War in Afghanistan (2001–present). Colonel Carl Castro, director of military operational medical research for the Army noted "there needs to be a cultural shift in the military to get people to focus more on mental health and fitness." In 2012, the US Army reported 185 suicides among active-duty troops, exceeding the number of combat deaths in that year (176). This figure has significantly increased since 2001, when the number of suicides was 52.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review … 2 Series Reviews … TK’s NFL Preview (Part I) … Amazon vs. Hatchette …

Amici:



Fallen, by Mike Hancock … SNHU MFA grads keep turning them out and this week I was fortunate enough to forget my kindle at work the night before I had a back spasm and had to take 2 days off to recover. Fortunate as regards what I had to read in the interim. I had been reading William Styron’s, Lie Down in Darkness, a very fine read overloaded with some of the wordiest passages I’ve yet to come across. I’m no fan of sentences that go on for 3 paragraphs, a page and sometimes two pages (okay, so I’m exaggerating a little, stay with me on this) … the story behind Styron’s book is a good one and I’ll review it next week, but once I picked up Fallen, I had simultaneous tales being told; one based on historical sources, the other a current piece of fiction.

The background to Fallen includes the Marias Massacre (from Wiki): a massacre of a friendly band of Piegan Blackfeet Indians on January 23, 1870 by the United States Army in Montana Territory during the Indian Wars. About 200 Indians were killed, mostly women and children, and elderly men. In Fallen, a Native American father and son, along with some of their tribe, survive the massacre and their story is told alongside (chapter by chapter) the current day coming of age of a boy dealing with an abusive father (and all the offshoots of that relationship as regards his mother and grandfather). I prefer historical fiction when it’s done well and this one sure is.

No spoilers here, but you’ll be surprised along the way. I sure was.

And wouldn’t it be nice if at least some of the knuckleheads in the Tea Party acknowledged the fact that “taking back their country” would actually involve giving it back to those who were here first … but that’d be like asking for the same knuckleheads to abandon their belief that America is an actual democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people ... rather than the oligarchy it has actually become (and that’s me being very kind to the founding fathers).

Anyway, Fallen is recommended reading. Get it here:



Masters of Sex ... I channel surfed on this Showtime series and was pretty stunned by the subject matter. No, I haven’t become a puritanical fire and brimstone, born again, psycho (those people are very scary). I simply didn’t like the title and kind of avoided it while watching The Killing and a few others. It was a season 2 episode I surfed into and I was intrigued with a 1956 discussion of homosexuality. “Wow,” I said. “This is good.”

And so we started watching from season 1/episode and we both came to this conclusion: “Wow, this is great.”

We’re all caught up now … and it’s interesting to see how the progression of the show and its characters move in time. Of course now that we’re caught up, we’ll have to deal with keeping our eyes open after the season ends, because we don’t like the week-to-week stuff. We prefer marathon sessions on days when we need to sit back and watch.

Bottom line: We think it’s an important show for any number of reasons: women’s rights, feminism, exposing the absurd attempts to “cure” homosexuality, and so on …



Generation War … one from Germany about friends and soldiers in (and out) of the German Wehrmacht during World War II … it’s difficult to ever feel sympathy toward soldiers in the German army, but this one tries … maybe too hard. I think it’s worth watching all 4 episodes just to decide for oneself. It was a huge hit in Germany and not so much in Poland (due to the anti-Semitism Polish partisans were portrayed as having). The NY Times had an interesting review (read it here:). I was glad I watched it and I’m still not sure how I felt about it, but the Principessa did not partake.



Temporary Knucksline’s NFL Preview …

Come on, admit it, this is what yous were all waiting for … to see what Knucks is picking and make a fortune going the other way!

Okay, so let’s start with the AFC Beast, where Robert Kraft continues his stranglehold on a conference in dire need of another contender for the ultimate pretender crown.

The New England Choketriots should have little problem repeating as Division Chumpions, but let’s face it, there isn’t much in the way of true competition. This year they have Gronk back and they’ve beefed up their defense (again) … but going 10-6 or 11-5 or 12-4 has proved more than fruitless the last several years. In fact, you’d have to go back to their cheating ways to find any success at all. They’ll probably win the division sometime in December again, but the Moonachie Dog Killers may well give them a surprise a time or two. Finish: 11-5 and then 1 and done … again.

The Moonachie Green Dog Killers … you hire Michael Vick, you’re a dog killer, end of story. They have a solid defense again … and this year Gino Smith will have some weapons to work with, but bringing Vick into the mix will ultimately prove another Woody Johnson disaster (remember Mr. Tebow?) … Yets fans aren’t very patient. And lord knows, they’re hungry for a winner again. Rex Ryan may save his job yet again, but unless they remain healthy and sane (i.e., let Gino continue to mature and develop), they’ll be another also ran. Finish: 9-7 and maybe 1 or 2 before they’re home watching on the couch.

My Beloved New York State Buffalo Bills … we have a defense … we always have a defense … even when we lose superstars like Jaris Byrd and Kiko Alonzo (one because we’re cheap, the other because he blew out his knee), but our offense should be considerably better this year. Everything depends on whether or not we allow E.J. Manuel to play and not keep sitting him every time he gets a hang nail. I think our usual 6-8 is a lock, but we may surprise and win 7 or 8 this season. We shall see. Finish: 7-9 … improvement before they move to London?

The Miami Dolphinations … there’s no way they recover from last year’s fiasco with allegations of abuse within their offensive line. Reggie Bush is still a bust, I don’t care what anybody says. They’ll take one giant step backward, even with a fine young QB in Tannehill, but they’ll be fortunate to win 7 games this season. Finish: 7-9 and then it's so long coach Philbin.

Next week one of the other AFC Divisions … I’ll let yous know.


—Knucks

As the publishing world goes to war (see Hachette vs. Amazon), authors should be remembering one thing. We’re the workers … and any battle between corporations isn’t exactly going to be in our best interests. In fact, we’re the last people in any equation that involves profit. As an author with books on both sides of the fight; one upcoming with Hachette and several with amazon, I have no interest in anything that increases corporate positions of power over workers (Citizens United did enough of that all on its own). To that end, right now Amazon does far more for the vast majority of authors out there, both traditionally published and those uploading whatever they write. They may well become the monster they are feared, and at that point they may well shit all over authors the way the big guys have in the past, but until we live in a society where workers are paid their actual worth versus manipulated markets (there’s no such thing as a free market), I’ll take what I can get from those who do the most for me while I’m alive (figure another dozen years at best).

And then who the hell will root for my London Bills?