Friday, October 24, 2014

East of Eden … Days and Clouds … SNHU MFA Progress Report … Cally's Monster hit ... revisiting a graduation speech (again? Oy vey) ... Mr. Tom Waits ...

Amici:

 

East of Eden, John Steinbeck … book critics either adored or hated, but make no mistake, I couldn’t stop reading it (and found it about 20,000 x’s more interesting than the book of Genesis, on which it is based). I started on the flight home from Tampa last week and finished it Wednesday morning between sets on the bench at the gym. Ignore the epic scale (and physical size) of the book. It is an intriguing read from start to finish. Steinbeck remains an enigma as far as his political and social views. He’d been firmly on the left and a member of a communist writers organization (the League of American Writers), yet he’d also offered his services to the CIA before traveling to Europe. He stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee in their witch hunt against Arthur Miller and other artists, but then become a close personal friend of Lyndon Johnson and supported the Vietnam War. Considering the fact that Steinbeck regarded East of Eden his most important novel, I find it difficult to believe that he was anything but firmly on the left socially, and perhaps an anarchist politically. The messages throughout East of Eden fall squarely with personal responsibility and freedom from any and all interference, especially governmental interference.
 
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
 
There are countless philosophical discussions throughout the novel, most often spewed by and/or between Samuel Hamilton and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant). Most of those quotes can be found by simply googling “East of Eden quotes” (or vice versa). I’d bought a used copy of the book, so it was already marked up (all over the place), and I only marked it myself in a few places (when I had a marker handy).
 
Without listing all the characters, plots and subplots, because it would take me a few weeks to do them justice, here’s what you’re facing once you begin reading. A Steinbeckian description of Eden (i.e., the Salinas County) … an introduction to an Irish-American inventor/philosopher named Samuel Hamilton (and his brood) … and then enter Adam and Charles Trask (brothers akin to Cain and Abel—and Charles is physically scarred (marked) the way Cain was). Adam is tricked into marrying a woman (a beautiful monster) named Cathy … and from there more subplots erupt (Cathy has twin sons named Aaron and Cal, another potential Cain and Abel).
 
So what happens when a son believes his father (or mother) doesn’t love him? What happens when he believes he is the spawn of something evil? Is he condemned to a similar fate? Those are the essential questions the novel asks (and answers). The following conversation between Samuel and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant) are quoted here, but the link provides the full discussion. I suggest reading the book, of course.
 
Ultimately, East of Eden is a novel about love; how and why we handle feelings of love and/or feelings of being unloved. I was moved by the following theme from the time it was introduced (about halfway in the novel). It is part of the quote from above. It has to do with the different perspectives of a quote from Genesis; whether it is fate or an absolute order that man would defeat evil.
 
“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”
 
Steinbeck decides against the idea of children being genetically fated to evil (through Aaron and Cal), but his Samuel Hamilton does hold our existence to a higher standard.
 
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
 
Another passage dealing with the same morality:
 
"We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”
 
Dealing with the emperors (parents) shedding their clothes before their subjects (kids) … there’s this consequence to consider (and amici, don’t I know it):
 
“When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”
 
 
Pragmatism and/or capitalism are also challenged throughout the novel. I found a naïve belief by the author in people being more than honorable once they’ve struck it rich. Steinbeck goes so far as defending arms contractors during World War I (defending their right to make a profit for what they deliver to the government), but I suspect the author believed WWI was a just war and not something we engaged in for the sake of private enterprise. In any event, I doubt he’d feel the same way about our recent wars with Iraq and Afghanistan.


 And, of course, East of Eden is Very Highly Recommended by Temporary Knucksline.


 DAYS AND CLOUDS ...
 


Days and Clouds … a fine Italian flick about a middleclass/middle-aged couple struggling with sudden (or maybe not so sudden) unemployment. There’s nothing in the job market that can begin to restore Michele’s (the husband) sense of worth. His wife, an art restorer, is forced to take on menial work and cut back on her art hours restoring a ceiling painting that has to do with confirming her professorial thesis. People under stress are apt to act abnormally … or maybe their actions can be considered normal given the circumstances. This one is often painful to watch (if you have a heart) … it takes place in Genoa (the city, not the salami) … and if the job concerns appear familiar, they aren’t much different from what’s going on here in the good old US and A.
 
If you can deal with the emotional strain of watching two wonderful characters ungluing before your eyes, it’s a wonderful movie.
 
 

SNHU MFA Progress Report … a bunch of my fellow classmates and/or graduates from Southern New Hampshire’s MFA program are published and/or have publishing deals in the works. A more detailed report will ensue as each new publication (book release) date approaches.
 


 Kelly Stone Gamble … “Burying your husband is difficult—especially when you’re using the same shovel you whacked him with in the first place.”  Visit Kelly’s webpage here:

 


 You can join her virtual book party here:

 
 

 Darren Rome Leo … You can visit the link here to learn about Darren’s debut novel, The Trees Beneath Us. It’s with Stark House Press and will be available in June 2015.  Visit Darren’s website here:

 
 

 James Marino … his debut novel, The Keepers of Mercia, will be available November 6.
Visit James’ website here:

 
 
Andrea Crossley Spencer has a short story in the Cumberland River Review … check it out here.

 
 




 Randi Sachs … Koehler Books will be publishing Randi’s novel, Indivisible, about twin brothers who lose their family in a car accident on the way to one of the brother’s college graduation. Only his twin survives, and he has Down syndrome. His brother is left as his legal guardian

 
 

John Vercher … will have his story, Discontent (a short story inspired by last year's seemingly interminable winter), published in VimFire Magazine.


—Knucks

Holy cow … this speech again?



 
Cally’s monster hit knocks the camera off the wall … was this when he was injured?



 
Okay, okay … I know yous want music … here’s Mr. Waits from Nighthawks at the Diner …
 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lucy Crown: A Novel … Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth … A Very Special afternoon in Tampa Bay …

Amici:

 

Lucy Crown, by Irwin Shaw … I read this one about 2 weeks ago, but didn’t get the chance to review it before our mini vacation. In the summer of 1937, Lucy Crown, a wife and mother, has an affair with a college lad and is caught by her son (the college lad was hired by Lucy’s husband to watch after and insulate the boy from his overprotective mother). It’s a kind of coming of womanhood (for lack of better terminology) … Lucy has been a subservient, beautiful wife to her husband, Oliver, and a very devoted mother to her sickly son … Oliver isn’t a bad guy/husband. He’s doing what most men did back in the day (run things, including his wife’s life). Lucy ultimately becomes bored with her role in her own life … getting caught by the husband is one thing, but getting caught by their son is a nightmare that upends the applecart in more ways than one … although Lucy personally grows from her affair with the college boy, she rejects the scorn she knows she’ll have to endure from her husband and son (but it is her son’s scorn she most fears) … when she agrees to return to her husband after the affair is revealed and discussed, it is only under the caveat that their son isn’t in the mix (he’s to attend boarding school, etc.) … he’s to remain out of her life. It’s a pretty harsh condition, but the husband has been weakened by the surprise of the affair and he agrees to the terms. What follows, although the novel starts long after the incident (and we regress back to it) makes for very compelling reading.

Flash forward through the Second World War and, well … you know the deal here, amici … NO SPOILERS … it’s a wonderful read that TK VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS … and we’ll be reading a lot more of Irwin Shaw in the near future.


 
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan … a topical book (New York Times Bestsellers list for I don’t know how many weeks, but it was a pretty significant number) … let me start by saying I had (and have) absolutely nothing vested in the religious arguments surrounding this book and/or the topic (historic Jesus, the man), but it is what I found exceptionally interesting—the account of Jesus the man (not the messiah). The author uses a boatload of sources (see his endnotes and bibliography). Truth be told, I have no idea what is or isn’t valid. I take the author’s word (he’s a Ph.D in religious study and an expert on the New Testament). I wasn’t looking for proof of anything while reading. Having zero belief in gods of any kind, I found Aslan’s presentation interesting. (i.e., “Yeah, makes sense to me. And good for Jesus” … (because according to Aslan, Jesus the man was one righteous dude; the kind of revolutionary (and/or) radical I could support; he spoke for those in need and against those who would subjugate others)).

The Jesus presented in Zealot is a human with liberal thoughts about the age old problem of rule by oligarchy. In his time, that oligarchy would’ve been the Roman Empire and its Jewish lackies. Aslan goes on to explain and detail how and why the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman (Christian) Empire through neat tricks of the spin trade (what most of the New Testament appears to have been).

So it goes …

What I may find even more interesting is the reaction to the book by believers (those who will read the book) … I say “may find” because I know of only a few Christians (for example) that have read the book. Far too many, I fear, are put off by right wing (i.e., FOX NOISE) spin condemning the book as an attack on Jesus by a Muslim (see videos below). Even self-professed liberal, Bill Maher, takes issue with the religion of Islam … but Bill can and does get a bit hysterical at times, and he's often way too sure of his hypocritical self for me.

I borrowed the book from a Christian co-worker who is very open minded and hasn’t bought into the extremist Born Again version of Jesus (i.e., that the Bible is the word of God, no matter how contradictory and/or absurd its stories may be). I look forward to hearing what my wife thinks, if she reads it. She’s a cherry picking believer of Christian faith, and although she doesn’t accept the Catholic Church and/or its rulebook hypocrisy any longer, she likes the new Pope (because he’s not the same as the old Popes) and she does occasionally attend mass.

Another co-worker who is a Born Again Bible thumper, refuses to read the book and claims, upon reading the following paragraph (which is part of the last paragraph of the book), that the author “is just another Muslim looking to slam Jesus and Christians.”

Oy vey …

Lifted from the last paragraph: “… the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the man—is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in.”

It’s a shame my Born Again friends (and they are friends) refuse to accept the above as a possibly valid perspective of Jesus. To the blind faithers there is but one Jesus (the Christ) and all the tall tales in the Bible, no matter how contradictory and/or absurd, and/or factually wrong, are validations of an omnipotent being spun into eternity by the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.

TK recommends this book but ONLY if you have an open mind. TK respects your right to not have an open mind on this subject (or any other). We here certainly are certainly closed-minded about a few things ourselves (i.e., no more designated hitters, both major political parties in America, etc.) …


 

Tampa Bay … turned out to be a very exciting 4 days for the ugly Knuckster and his Principessa … Saturday night’s game vs. the Ottawa Sanitationals was a 2-1 loss in a dopey shootout (I’m closed minded about those too), but it was my first hockey game in 25+ years … and I saw lightning inside the building (I kid yous not) …



My wife knew what they were, but I was kind of dumbfounded. “How do they do that?” I said. “What are Tesla Coils for one-thousand, Alex,” she said, and then I said, “What the fuck are Tesla Coils, Alex?”

On day two we spotted Brian Boyle in a Champions sports bar … and then we watched my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills get waxed by the New England Cheatriots.
 
Day three we hooked up with Judy and Andy Pereiro. Judy and Ann Marie attended and graduated nursing school together and have remained great friends since. Andy drove us to their castle north of Tampa and I had a brief romance with their dogs (boxers) Buster and Milo (Milo couldn’t stop kissing me, but seriously, can yous blame him?) … Andy handed off a ton of cigars for me to enjoy back here in Jersey. After a quick dinner at our hotel restaurant, we all went to the revenge match-up from the playoffs a year ago (Bolts-Expos) … it’s a little bit different when our starting goalie is around … not to mention our new bolstered defense (Anton Stralman made an incredible save). Our Bolts scored a TD and kicked and extra point against the Expos of Montreal (7-1) … Steven Stamkos scored a hat trick … and our guy, Ryan Callahan, had an assist (from his knees—one of Stamkos’ goals) AND Cally scored his second goal of the season (in just 4 games).  Victor Hedman scored a goal and had 3 assists (4 total points) by game’s end. It was a classic blowout.
 

 

Day four we met up with Tony and Mike Liberti and toured Ybor (I keep mispronouncing the place, calling it Eye-bor rather than E-bor) City (but I’ve mentally started a new crime novel because of Ybor City). We ate and visited a cigar store where the woman rolled them (that's actually her above) on the scene … and I purchased some Cuban flag espresso cups … and later we enjoyed some very special company before heading off to watch the Bolts take on the New Jersey Deviled Eggs …

What special company yous ask?  Well, Tony Liberti is originally from Rochester, New York, and was neighbors for many years with the Callahan family.  Yes, THAT CALLAHAN FAMILY. It was a beautiful reunion between former neighbors (Tony, his son Mike, and the Callahan clan (Donna, Mike and their eldest son, Mike) … Ryan was preparing for the game later in the evening) … Both the Callahan and the Liberti clan were about as nice as people can be. Mr. Callahan (the big guy) had my wife and myself in stitches with tales from Rochester. Donna Callahan is a former literature major with a feisty 99 year old Mom (born in Milan, Italy). Very cool people and a very cool few hours were spent in terrific company. Tony and his son never mentioned anything about meeting up with the Callahan clan while we were in Ybor City, and when he wanted to cross the street to the restaurant near our hotel (in the rain), I kept thinking: This guy has more energy than most teenagers! We were in the restaurant talking and Tony kept looking at his watch (and then I’m thinking: this guy is gonna call his bookie for the lines tonight) … but then in walked the Callahan clan and it was a pleasure to watch their reunion with Tony and his son, Mike (who is a devout Bills fan).  Anyway, it was a great last day of the vacation topped off with that incredible reunion and the chance to meet the family of our favorite player.

Oh, the game … right. Well, we lost that one but Evgeni Nabokov really played well in goal (spotting Ben Bishop for the night). We hung out at our room afterward and enjoy Tony and Mike’s company for a few more minutes before saying goodbye (and encouraging Tony’s son to get back to writing a book he’d started before his computer broke down). My ongoing words to Mike Liberti are these: If a former window cleaner, street meatball like myself can pursue a dream and get it done, a young stud with a ton of energy can do it blindfolded. So, you go Mike Liberti!  Write that book!

And look what the Principessa and Nonno caught for Evelyn Amelia Stella ...


The Thunderbug ... Evelyn Amelia is the THUNDER!
 
—Knucks

Ben Afleck vs. Bill Maher & Sam Harris



The now infamous Fox-Aslan interview (could the woman doing the interview be any more dense?) …



Where comedian Bill Maher made an ass out of his arrogant self …



I know, I know … yous want music … so here (how could I resist this one?) ...


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hockey Season begins tomorrow: Can yous feel it? The Callahan factor …

Amici:

How does a 58 year old curmudgeon football fan wind up a hockey fan?




You watched that? Okay, keep it in mind, please: no stick, a blocked shot, a hit, dives to push the puck across the blue line, blocks another shot, and a hit on his way off the ice.
 
Listen to how they talk about Callahan in the video above. Listen to the crowd respond. Callahan’s play is an absolute adrenaline rush.


My first hockey game was about 48-50 years ago. Father Scavo took the altar boys from St. Jude to the old Madison Square Garden. Madonna mia, that was a long time ago. The Rangers played the St. Louis Blues and I’m not sure who won. Our seats were way high up, but none of us cared. I think we were all too excited about attending a professional sporting event to care about much else. None of us were really hockey fans. We were city kids brought up on stickball, wiffle ball, kick the can, ringolevio, baseball and football. I know I bought a puck and didn’t have a clue what to do with it once we were home.

If it had had icing on it, I probably would’ve eaten it.

Around age 13 or so, I played some roller hockey, but it wasn’t anything organized. We played in the streets and it didn’t last long because not everyone had skates. Very few of us knew how to skate, certainly not well enough to skate backwards (skating backwards usually occurred when we got knocked on our ass), and nobody could afford the equipment outside of sticks. Chances were, we used a roll of electrical tape for a puck.

I’m sure somebody eventually brought out a football and that was the end of our hockey careers.

Adam Graves on Callahan: "His work ethic is limitless ..."


 
Flash forward to about 1994 or so, to one of my father-sons days (there weren’t nearly enough and that was my fault), when I took my sons to see the Islanders play somebody. I had a ticket scalper in my pocket at the time, so we had great seats; on the glass, I guess they call it. I have no idea who won. There was a fight on the ice and I have no idea who won that either. I seem to remember some guy with an eye-talian last name (Pulillo or something). He had long (curly, I think) hair, if that helps.

I’d become a football fan during high school (about the time MLB instituted the designated hitter, for which I’ll never forgive it) … I and a few other guys from my high school managed to get football scholarships to play for a small school in North Dakota (Minot State) that sent 2 of our best players to the NFL. Jimmy LaCugna and I visited one of them, Terry Falcon (about 6’7”, 275), when he was with the Patriots. Falcon pancaked my ass in one of my first college nutcracker drills. I’m glad he made the NFL, because that continues to save some of my fragile self-esteem. Our QB, Randy Hedbgerg, tossed Tampa Bay’s first official TD (the two QB’s ahead of him were both injured during their pre-season).

Still, however, no hockey.

I was never a basketball fan, not really, although I did root for the Knicks when I was bored and/or when they were in the playoffs. I hadn’t even noticed the NBA and NHL kind of co-existed, at least on the calendar.

A Callahan loyal gives thanks after the infamous trade last year:

 
I stayed a football fan, loyal to the ONLY New York football team, the Buffalo Bills, but only after having been a Jets fan (and having really lousy season tickets at Shea Stadium—a few rows from the roof behind home plate/the uprights) back when the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets were actually from New York … before they became the Moonachie Green Team (and since they hired Michael Vick, they’ve become the Moonachie Green Dog Killers). Don’t bother arguing that one with me; you kill dogs, you lose me for life.

I was pretty much a psychotic Bills fan … flying and/or driving to Buffalo to watch my Bills … sometimes flying to away games as far as San Francisco. The frustrations of losing 4 straight super bowls, then turning into a consistently mediocre team since the late 90’s, I consider payback for past sins.

I can think of worse ways to pay for past sins.

A few years ago, when I first started working at a New Jersey law firm, I met a devoted Rangers fan—Sue Bennett … let’s just say Sue likes hockey and the Rangers the way I used to like football and the Bills. I still love the Bills, but I’ve lost a ton of respect for the way the game is played. I’m a dinosaur. I can’t deal with the never ending celebrations and the all too often neglect of team play by individual players (the chest beating, pointing to the back of the jersey – twice two weeks ago in the 49’ers-Eagles game that was televised). I know the younger generation likes the entertainment value of such nonsense, but I really have a hard time watching it. Just this past week, for instance, a Jets defensive lineman (in a game they were losing 21-0), made a tackle in the San Diego backfield immediately after a play in which the Chargers’ running back gained 50 yards on a similar running play. The Jet defensive lineman celebrated his astonishing play. Two plays later the Chargers scored another touchdown. One play after that, after the extra point, the score was 28-0.
 
Is there any humility on an NFL field anymore?

So, a few years ago, prompted by Sue and a couple of dear friends from south of the Jersey border, Dana and Corky King (Penguin fans from the Pittsburgh area—Dana is a terrific author), I started watching hockey. I even learned “some” of the rules. I’d send the three of them (Sue, Dana and Corky) Facebook messages with questions. Probably tired of my constant nudging, Dana sent me an NHL pocket A-Z guide book. I read it quite a bit. I’m still learning and very eager to learn more.
 



Aside from learning the rules when watching the Rangers play, I took notice of one guy, their captain, Ryan Callahan. I didn’t know anything more about him or the Rangers than I knew about chemistry (I know nothing about chemistry), but there was no way not to notice his hustle, desire and drive; the kid was giving himself up to block shots, diving to make passes, and mixing it up to defend fellow teammates.



 
Remember, I was clueless about the game, so after watching him block shots WITHOUT A STICK IN HIS HANDS (see first video up at the top of this post), then cleanly nail a player on his way to the bench, I yelled: “Holy shit, why are they taking him out of the game?”

Who knew what a hockey shift was?

I knew lobsters shifts. I’d worked midnights most of my life, usually while working 2 jobs, but they never let me take a break after just a minute or so.

Okay, so it took a few more games before I realized there were up to four lines and each line played a shift before coming off the ice, and that nobody could play the entire game without taking breathers.

Then I kept watching hockey and it all started to make sense. I was still looking for #24, because the play always seemed to pick up when he was on the ice. I started to learn the names of the Rangers players. I had favorites: Callahan, Girardi, Lundquist, Boyle, etc. They made the playoffs and I was excited for them and myself (something to root for during yet another dreadful Buffalo Bills football season). I even made my first bold statement after seeing Chris Kreider get sent up and down and back again his first year with the Rangers. “This kid is gonna be great someday. He’s got speed and size. He needs to learn to use his body more, but I bet that comes over the next few years.”



My wife was happy for me, because I wasn’t driving her crazy over another Bills defeat. And let’s face it, whenever she asked me a question about football, I’d spend the next half hour diagraming it for her (until her eyes rolled up into the back of her head). I didn’t know enough about hockey to teach her anything, except to say: Look at this Callahan kid. He doesn’t stop.

In a very short period of time, I was no longer concerned about who the Bills were playing, but I was always looking forward to the next Rangers game so I could watch their captain instead. When he scored, I’d yell it out loud (and usually wake my wife up). When he blocked a shot, I’d yell out (and usually wake my wife up). When he dove to make a pass that turned into an assist, I’d yell (and usually wake my wife up). I guess it was better than hearing me curse about the latest Bills debacle, or listening to a half hour lecture on why I HATE THE NO HUDDLE OFFENSE WHEN IT IS USED EXCLUSIVELY … but she was genuinely happy for me. And I still believe, no matter what the college geniuses proclaim, that DEFENSE AND A RUNNING GAME are essential to being a great team. You can still win championships without so-called ELITE QB’s. See Jeff Hostetler, Super Bowl XXV … I saw it. I was there. Outcoached was what happened to the Bills in that game ...
 
 


When the Callahan trade rumors began at the beginning of last season, I was nervous, but I couldn’t imagine somebody like Callahan being traded. The kid gave it his all, 100% of the time, and Ranger fans loved it. He was honored several years (4) in a row with the former Police Officer, Steven McDonald award for his extra effort (performance above and beyond the call of duty). Callahan was a true inspiration for fans and teammates alike. When Callahan blocked a shot, the roar from the crowd was electric, and the Rangers always seemed to respond. He led by example.



The definition of hard work.


I dropped the Rangers like a hot cake. It is very rare when I will side with an organization over a player. Add the fact that a player’s style of play (i.e., blocking shots) might be held against him in negotiations (because his blocking shots, etc., can lead to injuries, and thus maybe shorten his career, and/or force him to miss games with injuries), and my socialist temper goes into overdrive. You’re holding his work ethic against him? Nice trick … and it was nice knowing you.




Heart and Soul.

Enough said about that. March 5,, 2014 was the day I decided to go on my Callahan diet. I’m down 88 pounds since. My powerlifting days are over, but I will lose another 70 and one day run (or walk) a marathon with my sons. Shin splints from too many years of running may preclude my bucket list goal, but I’m pretty determined and I almost always get what I go after.

For me, Callahan is the Derek Jeter of hockey, a player who never takes a night off and is always thinking team first. He’s a relentless worker with the kind of intangible value that can NEVER be replaced.


This kid adorable or what? My granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia Stella … another big time Callahan fan.

The trade is forgotten. I’m a Tampa Bay Lightning fan now. I remain a Callahan loyal. The fact Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman joined Cally from the Rangers makes this season all the more exciting. And Saturday, October 11, the Principessa Ann Marie and I are flying down to Tampa to see games 2-4 of the Lightning season. I hope to memorize my new team’s roster (I’m such a rookie). I still butcher Fillpula’s name every time I try and pronounce it. We’ll meet some old friends who’ve moved there to retire (Andy and Judy Pereiro) and we’ll meet some new friends we’ve made through the Callahan Fan Appreciation page (Tony and Mike Liberti). We’ll wear our Cally jersies and t-shirts and pick up Boyle and Stralman jerseys. We’ll be rooting for Cally and the Bolts … and I may even have some room in my Cally jersey, a double X (down from a 4X since March).

So, how does a 58 year old former football faithful and present day curmudgeon find a new sport and a player to follow like he used to follow Joe Christopher of the Mets and Willie Mays of the Giants back in the mid-60’s, or the Bears’ Dick Butkus in the 70’s? I thank my friends for pushing me to start watching hockey, and I thank Callahan for proving there’s still something to admire about hard work and dedication.

The other thing I love about hockey is the respect each team shows the fans after home games and the respect they show one another after a playoff game. Imagine shaking hands after some tough competition? It’s a beautiful thing.

Life is good, amici. Life is very good.


Callahan's first for the Bolts ... the first of many, many, many more.




Score!



—Knucks






 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dogfella … Madame Bovary and Richard Yates … Ebola Suicide Bombers …

Amici:

/
Hey, yous can pre-order Dogfella right now …

Pre-Order it here:

James "Head" Guiliani is the fifth of six kids born to a religious, working-class Italian-American family. He turned to petty crime in high school and was the enforcer for mob boss John Gotti of the Gambino crime family by his mid-20s. After serving time both in prison and in odd jobs, he now spends his days caring for and rescuing animals with his wife, Lena.

thediamondcollar.com

Charlie Stella is a critically acclaimed author of numerous crime novels, short stories, a screenplay and three off-off Broadway plays. His third novel, Charlie Opera, was picked as a Publishers Weekly Mystery Book of the Year in 2003. He received an MFA in fiction from Southern New Hampshire University.


 
Madame Bovary … it took me a second try, but I was able to get through it and relatively easily … I’m not sure why I had such a problem last year, but I didn’t this go. I read this book because my favorite American author (there are a few), Richard Yates, claimed it was a novel that influenced him to a great deal. I didn’t understand why until I came across a few (two I distinctly recall) mentions of mediocrity in the Flaubert novel. Yates seemed consumed with mediocrity; the character trait by which so many of his protagonists were forced to deal with (whether their own, or in the case of Emma, having to deal with Charles’ professional mediocrity). He’s boring and she wants glitz … so it goes.

There’s a lot of overwriting (for me) in Bovary. I always wonder what kind of rejection letter some of the classics would receive from today’s big 5 (or is it 6) publishers. Madame Bovary was a better than average read, but not by much (for me). I did admire the heightened sense of Emma’s paranoia at times …

 



Ebola Suicide Bombers? … if I have a fear of terrorists doing crazy shit here in the good old US&A, it’s from a concern for loved ones. After being bulldozed into believe attacking Iraq would somehow help secure our situation in America, it’s unlikely I’ll ever believe anything this government says again, and after seeing how duplicitous a few of its agencies have been the last few days regarding Ebola and White House security, how can we believe anything anymore? The bureaucrats lie to one another!

Still, if there is something for us to concern ourselves with, it’s the ability of lunatics to figure out a way around out so-called security. Similar to how Native Americans were once devastated by small pox bio warfare, we’re now susceptible to suicide killers deciding to load up on the Ebola virus and find their way into our (and other world) populations. It’s a scary thought, but one I’m sure has been thought of … let’s hope it doesn’t happen.
 
--Knucks
 
It's almost hockey season ... in the meantime, take 5 ...
 



Friday, September 26, 2014

Rick Ollerman … Dopey celebrations … fighting in the NHL … No video no crime: a social issue …

Amici:


Rick Ollerman … he’s one of the nicest people IN THE WORLD (bar none) … he writes the best book intros and the funniest emails … he’s also a hell of a novel writer, and he’s got two books (in one) coming out at the same time (the show off) … check out Dana King’s interview with Rick here:


This guy handsome or what?

Get Turnabout and Shallow Secrets here:

Visit Rick’s website here:



What was he celebrating, yous ask? What else, a sack? He was mocking Aaron Rodgers' Discount Double Check commercials. And he WAS their starting middle linebacker and now he’s GONE for the season. And, yes, ESPN had a ball with this one. So am I.

How that mocking routine work out for him (and his team)?

Most of yous know about my beef with celebrations in sports today—they have ruined two sports for me (baseball and football). Yes, I’m a dinosaur. Yes, I’m old school. Yes, I’m (dare I say it) a progressive. I’m also laughing my ass off now that yet another moron in the NFL (but it can be any sport) has ended his season and put his career in danger by celebrating something that doesn’t include winning the Super Bowl.

"Detroit Lions linebacker, Stephen Tulloch, is out for the season after tearing his ACL during a celebration on Sunday."

The linked article starts by saying they are FUN AND NECESSARY. Well, that’s bullshit. They’re wrong. Sports have been played for many years before celebrations were introduced to us via Monday Night Football and then ESPN. Here’s a list of 10 morons from various sports who’ve injured themselves well short of the ultimate goal in team sports—a championship.



Fight Club (in the NHL) … it’s the ONLY thing I don’t like about the NHL … the reliance on fighting to promote the game. Dumb as rocks. It’s the 21st century. Outside of the goons each team employs to do their dirty work, players do not get compensated beyond the contract for injuries suffered from a fight (i.e., concussions that may result in ALS).



Here’s a fight I watched last year … the knockout artist did the right thing immediately after the knockout (called to the other team’s bench for help), but how necessary was this to the game? Did it make for a better game? Or did it fulfill some of your blood lust?




Did that give you wood? Here’s a bunch of them …




Again, what’s the point? A knockout is a concussion. A concussion is serious. Several concussions are deadly (i.e., lead to ALS) … and for what? Fan blood lust? It shows how macho hockey players are? I thought the fact most of them return to the ice missing teeth and sporting dozens of stitches did that. Will you be cheering your favorite hockey fighter when he’s breathing through a straw someday?

Let’s face it, the rules will change AFTER somebody is killed. The rules should be changed now. You need to see knockouts, watch boxing or MMA. You want to see constant contact (head banging way more severe than what takes place in the NHL?), watch the NFL. There’s no contest … in the NFL there is constant head banging, every single play, and by people who bench press 500+ pounds and can run sub 4.9 forties. And the BIG hits in the NFL are way more plentiful than in the NHL. And the NFL has the honor of leading in the number of its former players developing ALS … at least as far as what’s been reported thus far.

Hockey provides more than enough physicality as is, nobody needs to see the bullshit fights. To suggest eliminating fighting softens the sport is absurd. Any asshole can throw and/or catch a punch to the chops (never mind a helmet). I’ve thrown and caught a few myself (and I consider myself as big an asshole as anyone else). Blocking slap shots traveling at 90-100 miles per hours is far greater display of guts than a fight will ever be. It’s kind of like catching a big-ass rubber bullet.

Fighting in the NHL can be controlled (including eliminating most of the cheap shot artists) with just a few rule changes. Will it happen? Once again, not until somebody is killed or gets to spend the rest of their life in a coma and/or as a vegetable. But that’s just the owners having their way in a world where the players are chattel (and unfortunately, more than happy to put their lives and health at risk for the “privilege” of playing professional sports). It’s about time the unions in all major sports do their jobs and protect players with more than lip service.



No video no crime ... Let’s face it, without the video(s) of Ray Rice’s knockout of his fiancé in an Atlantic City casino elevator, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL would’ve conducted their “investigation” the way they always conducted investigations … and 2 games would’ve been considered too much.

Only the public viewing of the video changed things. A conviction in the Greg Hardy case may (or may not) stand, but that too wouldn’t have resulted in his missing playing time if not for the Ray Rice video. In fact, even with the video out there for 2 weeks, Hardy played the first game and was cancelled just before the 2nd game of the season (this after being convicted). As for Adrian Peterson’s child abuse charges, let’s face it: no pictures, no charges. And we all witnessed the back and forth debacle by Vikings management over that incident.

It’s no different with the police, except all too often with police, offenders (bad cops) somehow manage to skate the justice system. The latest tell all video appeared in yesterday’s news cycle. It happened in South Carolina and involves yet another white cop shooting a black unarmed man.




This isn’t an attack on police, so please spare me the righteous indignation. I have friends who are cops, and know of way too many good cops to generalize and condemn all cops. This is commentary on what SOME bad cops get away with far too often to ignore and/or defend. The number of these instances seems to have skyrocketed of late. Whether it’s the guy in Staten Island using an illegal choke hold to bring down an unarmed man (over selling loose cigarettes) or the cop in Ferguson, Missouri, shooting an unarmed man several times … to the video above and/or below. It appears to me that the power that corrupts (and thus, absolutely) requires punishments that fit the crimes (i.e., jail without protective custody).




Here’s the thing … in the above video, how aren’t all the cops in the video under arrest, fired, and then taken to trial on appropriate criminal charges?

Stop resisting? Stop going for my gun? That cop is the epitome of what we in Brooklyn used to call, and still call, a punk.

Now just imagine what happens without that video. That poor bastard was going to jail.


—Knucks

In reverse order … from Tosca …

The Big Guy … Pavarotti, E lucevan le stelle




Angela Gheorghiu … Vissi d'arte …


Friday, September 19, 2014

Cry Father … Frankenstein … Concrete Angel … This Week(’s Disaster(s)) in the NFL … The roots of some NFL problems …

Amici:


 Cry Father, by Benjamin Whitmer … his debut novel, Pike, was nominated in 2013 for Grand Prix de Littératurè Best Novel: New Voice … he’s also had a bestselling non-fiction book, Satan is Real, The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers. I thought Pike was the best book of the year back in 2010. Today I’m thinking Ben Whitmer has hit an exacta, as Cry Father has been the best book I’ve read thus far this year (and that includes Richard Bausch’s, Before, During, After). 

For this reader, amici, that’s very, very, very high praise. 

Then again, Cry Father is the best book I’ve read in a very, very, very, long time. 

Names like Larry Brown, Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy immediately come to mind, yet Whitmer’s voice is distinctive. The dialogue his characters speak is at times ferocious and at times outright hilarious. It is never pretentious. Profundity comes in all forms and from all directions. No matter the men in this novel are off the grid or drug addled or alcoholic, they speak from their core and without window dressing. Think Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men) … maybe a few of him. 

Some of the lines quoted from Cry Father in this review have justifiably been quoted in other reviews. Frankly, there’s no discounting their power. 

Cry Father begins with Patterson Wells stopping at a former co-workers house on his way to go fishing. What he finds is his friend (Chase) has become a meth dealer. Worse, Chase has become his own best customer—a certifiable tweaker. When Patterson goes to use the bathroom, he finds Chase’s woman tied and gagged and naked in the tub. It’s the introductory chapter to a world of chaos encased with drugs and booze and violence; people living as close to an anarchic state of nature as it gets. 

Patterson works disasters, cleaning up debris and bodies (i.e., Katrina, etc.). He’s also trimmed trees and worked alongside other hard men self-condemned to a hard life. Drinking and fighting is their common denominator. As Patterson explains in a letter to his dead son why it is he doesn’t write while he’s on a job: “The men I work with, they don’t grieve. They drink, then they erupt.” 

The letters are an exercise in futility Patterson can’t live without; the only way to keep his son alive. The boy was lost to a bad call by a doctor Patterson struggles against killing. The boy’s mother, Laney, also feels the loss, but not to the same degree as Patterson. Laney can’t because there’s another son she has to love. She’s suing the doctor and wants Patterson to be a part of her effort. Patterson wants nothing to do with it. He’s fighting too many of his own demons, fueling the internal brawl mostly with booze, and sometimes drugs and/or violence. His father was one such demon. Together his parents were “a pair of drunks” … but it was his father’s suicide that scarred him. We learn about the suicide in another of Patterson’s letters to his dead son.  

I tried to ask her about it. What there was that I didn’t know that would make him unhappy enough to do that … You don’t have to be particularly unhappy to shoot yourself, was what she said. Your average life will do it. 

Cry Father revolves around the relationships between fathers and sons (parents in general), and although the male characters in the book have a self-inflicted train wreck of a future awaiting them, their personas are often stripped bare in moments of revealing introspection and dialogue. In another letter to his son, Patterson writes: They put people in prison for taking drugs. They lock kids away for stealing money from gas stations, for joyriding in cars. But men who abandon their children, they float through life, as light as air. 

Patterson has a decent moral compass. He knows right from wrong, but like many of us, he too often gets in his own way. Also like many of us, he can let the past haunt him forever. 

Another father-son team, Henry and Junior, have their tragic issues as well. Junior is an off the charts wreck of a man hell bent on leaving mayhem in his wake, especially when it concerns his father (Henry). He delivers drugs for a pair of dealers with connections south of the border. He also does drugs … and drinks … and brawls. Brought up in a foster home after his mother passed and Henry dove into the bottle full time, Junior has a particular soft spot for his daughter, Casey (and another lost child he finds and protects along the way). 

Reflecting about his mother … Junior’s mother was a good mother. Broken and sad from having married a piece of shit, but a good mother. It was that goodness that made Junior feel guilty most of the time. He knew what Henry was, and even from a young age, he knew that he and Henry were partners in it, in making his mother cry. He knew because he could do it just as easy as Henry could. And did so, without even trying. 

Whitmer’s writing is superb; that of a master craftsman. I marked passages throughout as I read and reread, far too many to quote here, but all worth rereads, several more, I’m sure. 

In dialogue after Patterson implies a defense of the WACO Branch Davidians murdered by the FBI and ATF, Junior states: “My people, shit. I don’t even know what a Branch Davidian is. They’re about just as much my people as the people in the World Trade Center. You know how many Manhattan bankers I’ve met in my life? … None … not fucking one. I got more in common with an Afghan goatherder than I have with a Manhattan banker …” 

There’s no American dream in Patterson’s world. Any chance of one died with his son. Cry Father alerts us that the nihilist movement is alive and well on the Mesa. Rejecting the grid isn’t a divide between fathers and sons; the pairs of fathers and sons in Cry Father are proponents of life off the grid, and are more than anxious to reject government or any other type of authority. Patterson understands that there’s pain and then there’s more pain, and that it doesn’t have to end.

Unlike the shifting social and political tides in Turgenev’s classic novel about Fathers and Sons, Whitmer’s Cry Father speaks to the misconceptions of guilt and blame; that we can wrap ourselves in one and live for the other. 

I’ve never (ever) believed in awards of any kind, especially in the arts, but here’s a book that should shoot to the top of most Best OF lists (and already has). If there’s an award I’d point to for Cry Father, it would be one of the big ones: National Book Award, Pulitzer, etc., take your pick. The author well deserves at least one of those for this incredible novel of love and loss and the only way some men can deal with them. 

Cry Father comes with the ultimate TK recommendation. As stated above: Cry Father is a book you will read and read again. It is the best book I’ve read in a very, very, very, long time. 

 
 
 
 
 
Get Satan is Real here:  

I’ve haven’t read Satan is Real yet, but I will. How could I not now?
 



 

 
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley … wow, it had to have been a long time ago when I read the original Frankenstein (a.k.a., The Modern Prometheus) … and I was probably turned off by having seen the Boris Karloff movies … I know I couldn’t have understood the politics of the story or any of the other social themes as a kid … so, it was well worth the re-read (although I should consider it an original read since I barely recognized the bulk of the novel). Bottom line: I was with the Monster all the way until he killed Elizabeth (that was some cruel shit). On the other hand, I was NEVER with Viktor and if there was something I didn’t enjoy in the original (and I didn’t enjoy this part at all), it was the never ending whining of Dr. Frankenstein. 

Dude, I kept thinking, “Grow a pair already!” 

Rereading this one was the result of reading Kate Horsley’s The Monster’s Wife last week, a novel I enjoyed a bit more, although the original certainly was a good read. The cruelty of man, especially when he’s afraid of something, was a lesson some patriotic Americans would do well to digest, although I am curious as to what conservatives might think about the Monster, et al. 

 

 
Patti Abbott … has a new book out next year, Concrete Angel. Patti has written a ton of short stories in a ton of anthologies and next year her novel will be published by Polis books.  Visit her author’s page at amazon here:  

 
 

 
This Week(’s Disaster(s)) in the NFL … what can anyone say? The NFL (the owners and/or their flunky, Roger Goodell) didn’t learn what Richard Nixon tried to teach them … beware the lie! 

Or, in the case of the NFL, the lies. 

Is that why Roger Goodell’s eyes are closed up above? 

There’s been a lot of back peddling over the last two weeks, ultimately resulting in a few good choices (as far as anyone can tell). The headliners (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy) are all out for now, but let’s face it, amici, no pictures, no problems, and that is something the NFL can never take back. Even with the first Rice video of him dragging his unconscious wife out of the elevator (showing zero remorse or concern for her), the NFL was moved to suspend the running back for a grand total of 2 games. Once the public saw the knockout, Roger was back on his bike. The problem for him, of course, was doing his disappearing act a few weeks too late. He made the mistake of talking with friendly Norah O’Donnell at CBS. Even with zero follow up to direct question, he lied through his teeth when he stated what Ray Rice told him about what happened in the elevator was ambiguous.

What ultimately happens is anyone’s guess, but even the power of the purse in a capitalist society proves itself vulnerable to the lie (except none of the owners are facing any recriminations outside of having to fork over a few dollars, pennies compared to their profits, for players watching their teams on television. 

The roots of the NFL’s problems … congratulations, NCAA … especially schools like Miami and Florida State … where else could a punk like Jamieson Winston thrive when he should’ve been sitting out a season instead of half a game (this weekend). Read about it here:  

Actually, since the explosion of ESPN highlights, which goes back a ways now, the celebrations and chest beating antics of NFL players infected the Pee-Wee leagues more than a few years ago. I’ve watched one high school game since I stopped playing football some 38 years ago, and the kids in that game seemed perfectly content with beating their chests. It’s now part of our football culture and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Where athletes used to score a touchdown and toss the ball to the ref, they now have their own dance steps to prove it was them who scored (Victor Cruz—although you’ll never see dance when he drops balls) … you have a Moonachie Green Dog Killer Jet Defensive tackle, Mo Wilkerson, getting tossed from a close game (his team ultimately lost) and denying his fellow teammates his pass rushing ability … not only that, he smiled while leaving the field and egged the Packer fans on. I'm his boss, he's traded and/or fired, end of story.
 
The point being, one really DOESN’T need to perform a dance, or beat his chest, or spike a football, etc., after scoring. It’s a choice … and one that’s been accepted by fans and promoted by ESPN. It may’ve gained fans for the extra entertainment value (how most seem to regard the “look at me” antics), but it lost me forever. I haven’t attended an NFL football game since I almost got into a fight at a Jets-Bills game in Moonachie. I had my 11 year old son (at the time) with me and he jumped up in excitement after Thurman Thomas scored a TD … it annoyed the 3 drunks I was sitting alongside. That was almost 20 years ago. Fuck the NFL, their owners, and the douchebags who feel it’s a requirement (or right) to attend a game drunk.  I’ll watch it on TV on Sunday, but as soon as I’m pissed off enough, I’ll switch over to Netflix and watch a movie and/or start my editing process a day early. 

Frankly, as much as I love my Buffalo Bills, I can live just fine without the NFL (why I dropped the NFL ticket last year and switched to NHL Center Ice as soon as the Rangers traded my guy, Ryan Callahan (who we're going to see play for Tampa Bay early next month, so there, NFL). 

Below is Muhammed Wilkerson laughing it up after he’s just been tossed from a game against the Bears. Word is he apologized to his teammates after the game. Wow, why not give him a Nobel Peace Prize? I would’ve given him a compass and a flashlight and a reflective vest to wear while he parked cars for next game. 



So it goes …
 

—Knucks 

Tom Waits … Heartattack and Vine … 



 
My favorite Waits tune … On the Nickel … 



 
For my wife … Jersey Girl (did yous know it’s a Waits original?)