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Charlie's Books
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"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Friday, September 26, 2014

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


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.


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 …


 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 …


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?)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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


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
Céilidh = 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.


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 …


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 …


Speaking of Mr. Cocker … Unchain My Heart …

Feelin’ Alright …

You Can Leave Your Hat On …