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, November 27, 2015

Finding Tambri (preview) ... Morons for Trump … Chicago … What Difference Does It Make?


I started reading Finding Tambri, by Sherry Meeks, the other day, and although interrupted by Thanksgiving, I’m back on it today. It’s a terrific read about a woman who has lost a child and herself in the tragedy life can sometimes become. Review next week, although I’ll finish reading tomorrow for sure. GREAT stuff, amici.

Morons for Trump … Although it isn’t a good segue, a terrific book to an ugly megalomaniac, I believe the time has finally come when we can safely say the phony billionaire has decided it’s time to leave center stage and return to stiffing small businesses and workers everywhere. The record the Trump organization doesn’t put out there is the one where he doesn’t pay contractors his organization hires, stiffing workers across the board.

So it goes.

But who really needs that bit of information when we’ve had The Donald all along? The guy is worse than an absurdity, he’s a national embarrassment. While those of us who knew better could point to the obviousness of his narcissism (that has been on display forever, including the over-exaggerations of everything from his wealth to crowd sizes at his KKK-like events), the recent flurry of his special brand of stupidity/evil is what we’ve been waiting for. Not because we care about whether or not he drops in the polls, but more so because we’re anxious to see how many of his die-hard supporters find the balls (they seem to admire in others) to abandon ship.

Let’s face it, either they do so (abandon Trump) or they grab those balls with both hands and clutch the flag of racism between their teeth while marching through the streets. Many of Trump’s supporters prefer bumper sticker nonsense speeches to actual policy, but now they’re required to defend the indefensible. It’s one thing to say racist shit about Mexican and African-Americans (especially when the same Trump supporters adamantly defy the institutional racism this country seems to take pride in), and Trump could even manage to incite a racial beating at his “for whites only” southern campaign rally, and/or the shootings like those in Minneapolis by white supremacists without dropping in the polls, but now that he’s made fun of a person with a physical disability, I believe even some of his supporters, at least those with functioning brain cells, will start to look elsewhere for someone to lead them to wars we can’t win and tax policies that will further the income gap.

Or I could be wrong and America is in a much more fucked up place than the cynic in me can imagine.

What I believe is that Trump has had his fun and seeks to exit the stage under the guise of media bias. He’s actually attempting to claim he didn’t mean what the media portrayed in the video above. Why shouldn’t he? The morons sticking with him saw stadiums that held 40,000 people at a full capacity level less than half-filled and were fine with the 40,000 plus he claimed were there.

Oy vey …

Chicago … well, here we go again, except this time the insidiousness of an obvious cover-up is almost equal to the crime itself. I’ll let Francesca Fiorentini and AJ+ handle the story, because retyping it just makes me angry.

My question remains (will always remain) … if the other cops on the scene filed false reports and/or corroborated a false report, why are they still on the job? This clown, Jason Van Dyck, had 20 prior civilian complaints filed against him and was NEVER even admonished.

What Difference Does It Make … well, loyal Democrats certainly don’t care. They’re all in with Hillary and yet another Oligarchic victory for those (like Donald Trump) who feel their wealth entitles them to tell us how to live, when to go to war, how to vote, and who to vote for.


AJ+ rocks TK … A Swedish lesson for our men in blue …

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Reviews: All the Major Constellations, by Pratima Cranse and Where Desert Rivers Die, by Michael Harris … AND, a Lesson from the Tea Party …

All the Major Constellations, by Pratima Cranse … it is 1995 and a trio of friends, Andrew, Marcia and Sara, are about to graduate and take big strides out of their homes into new social settings. Andrew has a crush on a member of a Christian sect, Laura. There’s a car accident that leaves Sara in a coma and Marcia, the class valedictorian, tending to her. Meanwhile, Andrew is consumed with feelings of guilt/resentment, and an overwhelming desire to be with the unobtainable Laura. At home, things aren’t cool; Andrew’s jock brother, Brian, seems to enjoy smacking Andrew around emotionally and physically, but when he’s accused of rape, their father, who is also a bit physical when drunk, can’t handle the embarrassment. Brian is clearly his favorite, and Andrew’s mother is a bit of a mess herself.
When Laura invites Andrew to join her evangelical group. Uh-oh … do the sparks fly? Is there more to it? Andrew befriends a guy who seems ashamed of his sexuality. Is he with the religious group to overcome it? Is he attempting to pray the gay away? No spoilers here, amici.
I’ll tell yous this much, you’ll want to keep turning the pages to find out how it all turns out for every wonderful character in this book. This terrific debut novel is definitely a must read.
Kirkus and Publishers Weekly both gave this novel *STARRED* reviews.

Where Desert Rivers Die, by Michael Harris … You punch out a guy at work and you pay the price by losing your job, but what if you already lost your job? What’s to stop you from pounding the S.O.B. then? It’s a question Warren Holt doesn’t bother to ask himself until it’s too late, and the punch has bigger consequences than he can imagine (although he does imagine a bunch of scenarios as he heads out of town toward the desert and ultimately Denver). Warren is a man down on his luck and on the wrong end of capitalism. He’s just bought his wife an American dream home but cutbacks at the paper lands him a ticket to the unemployment line. His stepson, Ray, is a good kid born to a Mexican mom. When Warren escapes to a small town, he takes Ray with him (yes, it’s kind of kidnaping when you think about it), and they stay at a motel with a restaurant where Ray meets a waitress, a Mexican girl/woman, Maria. He experiences what he believes might be love at first sight. Overwhelmed by his feelings of a possible first love, Ray can’t ignore Maria. But there’s a story behind her situation, and it isn’t pretty. Things fly out of control fast, until Ray makes a decision to escape. There’s a manhunt on for Warren and Ray wants out, but he wants to take Maria with him. It’s a fast paced novel with different perspectives guiding the way. Difficult to put down and fulfilling at every turn. Michael Harris is one hall of an author.
A Lesson from the Tea Party … consider this MY answer to all those Democrats who can’t stand to read my Facebook posts calling for the left to abandon the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential election. First of all, let’s get a few things straight and in perspective.
With the exception of ONE candidate from either party (Sanders), all the candidates are currently playing to their base and NOT stating what they’ll actually be able to do if elected.
No, I don't think Bernie can get one-eighth of what he wants to do, but he isn't stating something new. He's been stating his case for 40+ years now, and more importantly, it isn't about what he can or can't do. It's about a political revolution that rejects the corruption our current system protects. So there's more to his campaign than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, the GOP candidates are trying to sound tougher than they can act once in office, saying crazy shit (as those of us on the left perceive them) … they’ll build walls, they’ll keep refugees out, they’ll engage ISIS with boots on the ground, they’ll increase defense spending, they’ll give even more tax breaks to the rich and everybody else (while balancing the budget?), etc. The recent string of attacks by ISIS on innocent populations (in the air and on the ground) have shifted the political winds to the far right. Even on the democratic side of the spectrum, Hillary Clinton, who one week claimed she was “moderate and proud of it,” then a few weeks later claimed she was a “progressive who wants to get things done” (translation: establishment politician who will do what the political winds and/or what the money that bought her tell her to do), is now talking tougher than her usual hawkish self. But let’s face it, amici, both the GOP and DNC candidates are mostly talking shit to garner support from their bases. The single exception is Bernie Sanders.
While the blowhard on the right (who has a more liberal background than Hillary Clinton and switches positions about as often), The Donald, is talking nonsense and gathering most (although not all) of his support from those proud to never have attended college (the flag waivers who can’t (or refuse) to see the hypocrisy of wanting to go to war again while being terrified to take in refugees), nobody else takes him seriously (certainly not enough to elect him president).

So it goes.
By now, most of Bernie’s supporters (myself included), kind of know it’s a fruitless attempt to win this election. A) the DNC would duke their diapers if a candidate who refused corporate coin ever won their nomination (they are EQUALLY as corrupt in that regard as the GOP), and B) the attacks by ISIS have fomented more than enough fear for America to jump back into yet another war it can’t possibly win.
So, what does this all have to do with lessons from the Tea Party, yous ask? I’ll tell yous … first of all, no matter how crazy the tea party may sound to me and most liberals, they have been an effective force regarding the GOP. They continue to sway the GOP platform. We liberals may think it’s insane, but there’s no denying their power.
Secondly, if you live in a mostly democratic state (i.e., a blue state), chances are more than likely your single vote for Jill Stein and/or decision to stay home and watch a hockey game are not going to change the outcome of an election in your blue state. I, for instance, can only hope that my single vote (or my wife’s vote), is/are the deciding votes in New Jersey, where I had to register as a Democrat this election (which pisses me off no end) because it is a closed primary and I want to vote for Bernie Sanders … I can only HOPE my vote is the one that costs the DNC and Hillary Clinton the presidential election, no matter who is challenging her from the GOP.
Thirdly, and most importantly in my opinion, is the fact that not only is our election process a complete and utter sham that has very little to do with the democracy we’re supposed to be, but voting for either major party’s candidates is a reward to the same corrupt system. I don’t know how (or why) most people can agree to vote the so-called “lesser of two” evils and continue to keep the corruption in place for another 4-8 years. It baffles me the way my not caring who wins the election under the current system baffles loyal Dems.

To get into the damage Democratic Presidents have done vs. Republican Presidents only thickens the quagmire. It was a democrat who started the war in Vietnam, and another who escalated it. It was taken over by a Republican who took it even further and involved us in bombing a neutral state, Cambodia, and thus helped bring to power another evil force, the Khmer Rouge (i.e., the killing fields, so make no mistake, they were at least as brutal as ISIS). It was also a democrat, Bill Clinton, who repealed Glass-Steagall and set the stage for the 2007-8 financial crisis on Wall Street. Clinton also enacted NAFTA, no matter how much Republicans began the process, it was Clinton who enacted it (so quit lying to yourselves about that fact). And we all know about Iraq and how progressive Hillary Clinton was with that disaster. What we don’t seem to care about is her role in the Libyan disaster deposing Muammar Gaddafi.
And is there anyone from either party more comfortable with Wall Street than the Democrat, Hillary Clinton?
Outside of war, Supreme Court appointees are the most influential political decisions a president can make, but does anyone in the Democratic Party really believe Hillary Clinton won’t opt for a moderate appointee? Will her appointee vote to overturn Citizens United? We know what she says, but since when can Hillary Clinton be trusted? And let’s not forget that it was a GOP appointed majority court that just ruled in favor of the ACA (Obama care) twice, and also ruled in favor of gay marriages.
Once again, more important than any of the above, is the reform in our election process that is an absolute requirement for us to return to democracy (if we ever really were one). We need a third and fourth, and even a fifth political party. For the left to continue to accept being ignored by a political machine (the DNC) changes absolutely nothing under the “lesser of two evils” justification.
So, please don’t ask me again how I can vote for Jill Stein, once Bernie is defeated by the machine. While both Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders himself say it is best to support the lesser of two evils once the lines have been drawn, I couldn’t disagree with either more. Chomsky is one of the most brilliant minds of our lifetime, and he fears the noble campaign Bernie is running will quickly fade once the election is over, no matter who wins (he also doesn’t believe the DNC would allow a Sanders candidacy). He’s for a ground game, the likes of which Bernie is running, but it needs to last (and he’s right about that). Most likely it won’t because our economy and the government it owns has us all way more involved in survival than political movements. The problem is, the longer the corruption continues, the more burdened with survival we all remain.
And please don’t ask me how I can accept a Trump or Cruz or Rubio or another Bush, while you vote for another Clinton and reward a process that spits in your face.
You know what I tell yous who swear by the lesser of two evils justification? I says to you, I says, “Grow a fucking pair.”

AJ+ rocks TK …

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris …


Paris … it’s a horror story that has become all too familiar. An Islamic terrorist groups seek to inflict damage on innocents who reside in a country that provides military assistance to the war against Islamic Fundamentalism. Most of the world is shocked at what happened in Paris. Many here cry out for vengeance, pointing to the inevitability of a Muslim vs. Christian way of life coming to malls and theatres and stadiums near us ... and another ginning up for war has already begun. Presidential candidates use the news of the day to put more fear into a population anxious to do something about ISIS, et al. Many overanxious for war Americans react like a mob and want swift justice, suddenly forgetting all the insults they’ve hurled at the French; many forget calling them “cowards” at every opportunity for their failure to stop the Nazi invasion of France in WWII. The war drums are beating mightily today in the United States. The risk of a similar attack here and to every country with military in the Middle East is great, and it is no doubt enhanced by the success of the attack in Paris yesterday (success being defined by the number of innocents killed and the fear it has garnered).
Make no mistake, the Paris attacks are despicable acts of cowardice. Killing innocents so blatantly, without regard for anything other than their citizenship and/or where foreigners/other innocents were at the time of the attacks, is horrific. They killed them because they could. It’s is always so damn easy to take people unawares.
Now, imagine yourself an Arab living in the Middle East. You’re someone trying to raise a family in poverty. You have no regard for Sharia Law or a Caliphate or anything else. You’re just trying to survive. You’re trying to keep your two or three kids from starving to death. You’re trying to avoid the psycho band of religious fanatics ruining a religion you may or may not follow. You may or may not have faith yourself, but your immediate concerns have more to do with survival than what some prophet may or may not have said. And one day there’s a sound in the sky just a few seconds before your entire family is wiped out from an air strike. Everything you’ve lived for, like some of the people in Paris yesterday, is gone, just like that.
But you had a brother and sister, and they had kids, and when they learned that a United States or French or United Kingdom or now Russian bomb dropped from a drone or a fighter jet killed your brother and his family, they maybe start to think (especially the kids) that what the psycho religions preach (us against them), may have some merit. And new recruits who may one day visit Paris or London or New York or Moscow with bombs strapped to their chests or handguns hidden in their backpacks become the reality.
The moral to this story is try not to forget that what happened in Paris yesterday has been happening in the Middle East for a very long time. Foreign countries dropping bombs on innocent Muslims, no matter how well-intentioned those bombs may have been to kill bad guys and to minimize collateral damage, they have killed far more innocents, and those innocents killed remains the greatest recruiting tool this particular psycho religions has.
And today from fear and justifiable rage, we can’t wait to do more of it, except we need to think about what it will accomplish in the long run.
As horrible as what happened in Paris yesterday is, and it is extremely horrible, it isn’t hard to see (if one bothers to look) how the chickens are coming home to roost yet again. What is baffling to me is how the yahoos looking to go to war again today can refuse to see the other side of this conflict. I’m not talking about killing ISIS. I look forward to the day those religious psychopaths are gone, but I am talking about the innocents (just like those in Paris last night) who are killed regularly; how more Iraqi civilians were killed during our invasion there than were Iraqi soldiers: Counts of deaths reported in newspapers collated by projects like the Iraq Body Count project found 174,000 Iraqis reported killed between 2003 and 2013, with between 112,000-123,000 of those killed being civilian noncombatants.
And then there’s this statistic, something our government and media seem reluctant to deal with … not to mention all the flag waving super patriots rooting our volunteer army on to more war, because for many of the flag waivers, for all their American exceptionalism blather, they have ZERO skin in the game (i.e., their kids won’t be the ones going to war) … they all seem to ignore the picture and the stats show on it below.
This is not an attempt to minimize the horror and tragedy in Paris yesterday. Those poor Parisians and tourists, etc., suffered a horrific tragedy yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time, and we all fear and know that it won’t be the last time. Nor is this post a defense of what/why it happened. I have zero use for any religion, whether it is used as an excuse to kill or not. This is a wake-up post to anyone who would read this and accuse me of anti-Americanism. It is an attempt for people to see the bigger picture in these terrorist attacks and to think about what is going on in the Middle East; why so many there have turned their fear of the U.S. (and all the other foreign nations with militaries dropping bombs on the innocents there) into a hatred for them. Make NO mistake, to the innocents in the Middle East being killed regularly, the survivors view us along with all the other countries dropping bombs on them as the terrorists ... and can you really blame them?
And for those crying for us to “wipe them out already” … “kill them all” … “nuke them back to the stone age they came from,” etc., just remember that when we nuke them there, there’s a great likelihood nukes will be fired back at us in return … and when those chickens come home to roost … well, remember to duck your heads under your desks.
And there’s this inconvenient truth … please pay attention.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lombardi, Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay Lightning (and Bernie Sanders?) … and some Grocery Opera … and an AJ+ Replay ...


Okay, so what the hell is Knucks going on about now, yous ask? Well, he’ll tell yous …

I still consider myself a neophyte when it comes to NHL hockey. That said, I’m learning … and mostly I’ve come to the conclusion that much of Vince Lombardi’s world view, as much as I might disagree with some of it, is pretty much spot on when it comes to a few things: one of which is a sense of socialism that this world, certainly this country, can use more of.

But more on that later … for now I’m discussing last night’s Tampa Bay Lightning performance in a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabrettes (a.k.a. Sabres) … I’ve read a ton on Lombardi, and have reread the same materials more than a few times. I saw the entertaining play on Broadway a few years back and I must’ve watched the HBO documentary a dozen or so times, each time finding myself in tears at the end.

Lombardi was a supremely religious person. I’m not, but I have more respect for his following the words of his Jesus than I do for most clergy. Lombardi had a gay brother and never permitted gay bashing jokes in his locker. He was also an activist against the racism that permeated the early NFL years. Yous can read about that when/if you want. I’ll give a few suggested readings later on.

The thing I most respect about his coaching ability was the breakdown of wins vs. losses. Lombardi was a stickler for execution and graded his players’ performances after each game. If someone did their job, they received a C. The theory being: they did what they were supposed to (paid) to do. He was most often critical of his team after wins, rather than losses, pointing out mistakes that could have cost his team the win.

What’s this have to do with hockey, yous ask?

By the way, yous ask a lot of questions …

Last night my Bolts beat the Sabrettes 4-1, but it was an incredibly poor performance, including in the first period when we scored 3 goals. In that same period, the Sabrettes held the advantage in puck possession on our end of the ice. The second period, quite frankly, was the poorest play I’ve seen this year by our Bolts. They may well be suffering a finals loss hangover, but memo to Bolts: you don’t pick it up soon and you’ll be watching the playoffs this year.

Yes, it’s very early in the season and hockey doesn’t really get started until the new year, so I’m told, but stranger things have happened. Just ask the L.A. Kings …

Our third period last night wasn’t much better than the second; a little better, but not much. Last night’s game puck (if there is such a thing) belongs to our goalie, just back from blood clot surgery, Andrei Vasilevskiy (yes, I used the Lightning roster page to spell it correctly). Now, we’re a team loaded with talent, but for some reason, so far this season we’re just not playing with the same intensity as our foes, not through three periods. Our first period last night, when we had 9+ minutes of puck possession, we were awesome. Callahan set the pace very early on with 3 hits within the 30 seconds or so he was on the ice. We scored three goals in beautiful fashion, and then for much of the rest of the period, the 10+ minutes the Sabrettes maintained puck possession, we seemed to sit back on our laurels. The second period, as I stated above, was an embarrassment, the third period not much better. All hail our goalie. The boys should be buying him dinner for the rest of the month the way he played last night.

One can only hope our coach, who has been juggling lines like a Nervous Nellie of late, make the best of last night’s overall piss-poor performance and do a little Lombardi/Tortorella impersonation. Torts may have been crazy at times, but there’s no lack of respect for his coaching from what this neophyte can tell. Defense first is something I believed in as a football player and coach. You shut a team out, you can’t lose. You score 49 points, you can still lose. Just ask the Moonachie Blue team (a.k.a. Giants).

My advice to Cooper is: settle down coach. Let the lines get reacquainted with each other. Mixing and matching over and over does nothing good in the end (see Finals results from last year). On each line, this neophyte sees the need for a) one aggressive forechecker who will dig for pucks and fight for position in front of the net (Callahan/Palat/Killorn/Boyle/JT Brown/Paquette/Condra), b) forwards with speed and skill (Stamkos/Kucherov/Drouin) and c) a center who can win face-offs (Boyle/Johnson/Filppula) … and our entire team needs to hustle … we should always hustle. Our team is very talented and can fill rolls accordingly, but Stamkos should never be separated from Callahan, nor should Palat fill in the Drouin roll (thus, upsetting the triplets line).

But my beef with last night isn’t so much about scoring as it is about a lack of intensity. I can see how much luck plays a part in every NHL game; from pucks that find the back of the net because it bounced just right, or went off a defenseman’s skate, or another players butt … to penalties missed and/or non-penalties called … to saves a goalie makes blindly because his arms/legs are flailing at the exact right time. The bottom line is the harder you play, the more likely you are to catch some of those lucky breaks (i.e., pucks on net, etc.) … and sometimes you won’t and that’s part of the game, but last night’s performance, outside of the 9+ minutes in the first period, was an embarrassment for our team, and if not for Vasi we may well have lost that one 5 or 6 or 7-3.

And our power play last night … oh, man, I could smell it from Fords, New Jersey.

So maybe it’s time to light a fire under our Bolts, Coop. And guys, maybe it’s time to get over the hangover. Follow the play of your leaders … they NEVER take a shift off.

On to Vince.
I highly recommend the Dick Schapp/Jerry Kramer book, Instant Replay, from many moons ago. Although filled with some not necessarily gospel truth about what Vince may have said from time to time, it does feature many direct quotations from players and coaches alike.

Another fine read was First Season, by John Eisenberg, in which Eisenberg tells the tale of Lombardi’s ability to turn the worst team in the league into an NFL dynasty.

Get it here:

They didn't name the Super Bowl trophy after Lombardi for nothing.

A Lombardi HBO preview …

And here are some famous quotes by Lombardi: Teamwork (from which one could argue the man was a pure socialist) …Now, there are some Lombardi quotes (and philosophy) that I don’t happen to agree with, so make no mistake, these are cherry-picked.

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

“Success is based upon a spiritual quality, a power to inspire others.”

“There is no substitute for work.”

“Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body, his heart – what’s life worth to him?”

“Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”

“Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.”

“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.”

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. “

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

“Once you have established the goals you want and the price you’re willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure and the temporary failures.”

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.”

Amici, if you can’t find socialism in Lombardi’s words, you aren’t looking very hard.


The Grocery Opera … Compliments of Mr. Don Kirdendall … you gotta love it.


Replaying this one … because it’s important.