Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"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 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 …