Saturday, January 31, 2009

Be Like FDR

President Franklin D.Roosevelt's favorite cocktails are exactly the same as your favorites.

Okay, technically all I know is that they are exactly the same as mine, but perhaps you will agree with me and FDR. According to Slate, the President's number one cocktail was the Martini made with gin, of course, because it's not a Martini if it's not gin.

Vodka drinkers: Please do not ask for a vodka Martini. It is a drink that does not exist. If you are too embarrassed to say "I want a big glass of cold vodka, straight-up", then re-think you drink.

The President's number two choice in cocktails was the Old Fashioned. He enjoyed his Old Fashioned with bourbon. This is likely due to geography. FDR was from the East, where bourbon is the popular mixer. Wisconsin prefers brandy. In my opinion, bourbon is perfectly fine in an Old Fashioned, although asking for it deeply confuses Wisconsin bartenders. To expedite delivery of said drink - and delay in the delivery of cocktails is never desirable - I order the brandy version in the Dairy State.

This news settles matters: A biography of President Roosevelt is going to be added to my reading list. I seek recommendations on this topic.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Global Trash Talk: "Wen and Putin Lecture Western Leaders"

The Financial Times reports that Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, took time at the World Economic Forum to lecture Western nations. According to the FT, Mr. Putin "mocked" American delegates, and Mr. Wren made "scathing comments" about unnamed countries economic policies.

These comments are, if I may say, so "yesterday." Get with the times, boys.

Voters in the United States have been moving for the last two years away from old thinking and strategies, culminating with the election and inauguration of President Obama. And while our economy shakes-out, our culture has an arsenal of weapons for economic recovery that neither China or Russia can match: We have individual liberty, due process of law, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, public education for all people. We have a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship. We have Lou Reed.

Maybe Mr. Wen and Mr. Putin haven't heard Lou Reed's song "Foot of Pride." Well, when they are back home with their gangsters, gulags, and prisons, their censorship, their poison milk, poison children's toys, and poison dog food, they can listen to what Mr. Reed says about getting a bit too proud:

"You know what they say about bein' nice to the right people on the way up
sooner or later you gonna meet them comin' down
Oh, there ain't no comin' back when your foot of pride come down
ain't no comin' back"



T.G.I.F.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

RIP Washington Post Book World

A week ago we asked, "Is the Washington Post's Book World being eliminated?" This week we have the answer: Yes.

Food and Drink: Super Bowl Soiree

Next Sunday is the final, blow-out event of the year for professional football in America, the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Sunday is a day folks like to gather together with friends and family to visit, eat, and watch football on television - kind of like Thanksgiving, but without the 'holy day of obligation' feeling that sometimes develops around that holiday (the "but we always have turkey at 1 p.m. with my family and then see your mother later in the evening" type of thing). Super Bowl parties are popular even among those who don't give two hoots about football. Winter is cold and dark and under these conditions, a party sounds very appealing.

If you are hosting a party, or bringing a dish to one, the go-to web resource for recipe ideas remains Martha Stewart, who has over 70 suggestions for food to serve at a Super Bowl soiree. (Thanks Slashfood for the heads-up on this).

Another doyenne of dining, Ina Garten, lists 10 no-cook items to serve with drinks in her book Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. These are solid standards such as sliced salami on a plate with a row of cucumber slices, and hummus topped with a drizzle of olive oil and toasted pine nuts served with toasted pita triangles. Sounds good to me. I'll post more on this cookbook in a few weeks.



One easy, inexpensive, and relatively low calorie item (for those who are still nurturing their New Year's Resolution) to offer guests is popcorn. Fresh, hot, buttery, salty popcorn and a cold beer are perfect Super Bowl snacks. Inspired by a conversation I had recently with Michael Dixon about popcorn with white truffle oil, I popped a batch of corn in olive oil and seasoned it with butter and white truffle salt, an idea found at Chowhound. In another batch, also made in olive oil, I seasoned the hot popcorn with Parmesan cheese and paprika, following a recipe found at Gastronome. Both versions taste great.

Bon appetit and Go Cardinals!



Note: If you are looking for a source for white truffle salt and other seasonings, check out The Spice House.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

National Book Critics Circle 2008 Awards Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its forthcoming book awards. Winners will be announced March 12.

The fiction finalists are:

Roberto BolaƱo, 2666: A Novel

Marilynne Robinson, Home: A Novel

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

M. Glenn Taylor, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge.






Monday, January 26, 2009

Bernard Madoff: The Fine Print

Drafting documents clearly and correctly is not the type of exciting legal action featured in books, movies, or on the news. That's why a recent story in the Financial Times caught my attention. The story discussed the warnings contained in some of the prospectuses of feeder funds that turned money over to Bernard Madoff.

The fine print in one hedge fund said, ""There is a risk the broker-dealer could abscond with those assets,"" according to the FT. Another fund told investors ""information supplied by the investment adviser may be inaccurate or even fraudulent."" A third said, in block capital letters and bold type: ""Participation by investors in the fund should be considered a high-risk investment.""

So there are those few folks out there who drafted these documents and are probably feeling good about that bit of work. And as noted in the FT story, investors are now probably wishing they had taken more seriously the words "abscond", "inaccurate", "fraudulent" and "high-risk".

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." - Oscar Wilde

I. The New York Times
Published January 23, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Marley & Me, John Grogan.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

II. Los Angeles Times
Published January 25, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.



III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending January 18, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Paperback (Mass Market): The Appeal, John Grisham.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending January 18, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.

Finally, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers once again comes in with interesting results: Their bestselling, nonfiction paperback is Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan. The book sells for about $10 at Amazon. It's confounding to me that people buy into budgeting advice that begins with requiring that they spend money on a product, here Ms. Orman's book. Whose budget benefits from that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ahead of the Curve: The Premature Anti-facist.

It's not often that the term "premature anti-facist" comes up in my day-to-day life. This week it has. Twice.

Wiktionary defines "premature anti-facist"as follows: "In U.S. usage, one who opposed fascism at a time when the United States government was still on relatively friendly terms with fascist Italy and (to a lesser extent) Nazi Germany. Especially a supporter of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Connotes Communist sympathies. Originally a term of abuse, but one that eventually came to be used more by its original targets as a self-description."

The term came up while reading Head Games, a novel by Craig McDonald, and while listening to a January 12 podcast of public radio host Diane Rehm interviewing the author of a biography about Charlie Chaplin.

The podcast featured Stephen Weissman talking with Ms. Rehm about his book Chaplin: A Life. One of Charlie Chaplin's most famous movies is The Great Dictator. This movie, filmed and released before the United States entered World War II, skewers Adolph Hitler and exposes the suffering of Jewish people trapped within Hitler's regime.



Weissman said on the podcast that this movie resulted in the U.S. government labeling Chaplin a premature anti-facist, and that Chaplin was subpoened to testify before Congress concerning his activities. The subpoena became moot when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war.

This story and many others make the podcast extremely interesting and I recommend giving it a listen. In an odd moment for the author, one caller to the program said that he was a huge Chaplin fan, had been at the bookstore and was prepared to purchase Chaplin: A Life, but decided against the purchase as the 315-page book might actually contain more information than the caller wanted to know.

Uff-da. Some days, you just can't win.



The second time 'premature anti-facist' popped up this week was in a fun, action-packed novel by Craig McDonald, Head Games. Set in 1957, the hero in Head Games is crime writer Hector Lassiter. Lassiter, along with his side-kick Bud Fiske, manage to get custody of the head of Pancho Villa. It turns out that a lot of people are after this head, including Senator Prescott Bush who wants it for the Skull & Bones Society of Yale University.

As a result of the Senator's interest in the skull, Lassiter gets a visit from an FBI agent. The two argue. "'Exactly whose stooge are you, dumbass?'" Lassiter asks the agent. The agent snarls back, "'I'm not going to f**k with you. You were prematurely anti-facist, and-" . . . "What's that make you Johnny-come-latelys? Tardily anti-facist?'" replies Lassiter. "'Can only be the term for it.'"

There is much more to Head Games than this small snippet, but it illustrates the work McDonald put into writing this recommend read. A lot of interesting history is woven into the wild plot, which includes murderous frat boys and other bandits, shoot-outs, and movie stars. McDonald so perfectly captures and carries through the atmosphere of the period in which this story is set that I had to keep looking at the copyright date (2007 and published by Bleak House Books) to convince myself that this was indeed a new book.



Check out Craig McDonald's Head Games.

And T.G.I.F.





Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Onion's Inauguration Coverage

Headlines from The Onion: Vice Presidential Handlers Lure Cheney Into Traveling Crate and Hillary Clinton Mouthing Along to Presidential Oath. Read the rest at this link.

Is the Washington Post's Book World Being Eliminated?

There is distressing speculation that the Washington Post's Book World will be eliminated. The paper, in response to the speculation, issued a statement so devoid of specifics that it would make a politician envious.

The Washington Post's book section is such great reading. It would be a shame if it is eliminated while gossip and sports coverage rolls on unaffected.

Food and Drink Part II: Pastry as Art

As someone who loves to bake, I took notice of the recent death of Gaston Lenotre. Lenotre, 88, died on January 8, 2009, at his home in France. He "was considered the best patissier of 20th century France, and therefore, arguably, the world" wrote Phil Davison in The Financial Times. Not only a leader in the art of pastry, Lenotre made his mark with restaurants, a cooking school, and in catering and retail.

The FT quotes Lenotre from one of his final interviews as saying, "I was born with a palate like the best parfumeurs [perfume creators] are born with a nose . . . I have never had [high] cholesterol despite all the desserts I have devoured . . . all my life I have loved hard work, women and cakes."

Inspired by this joie de vivre, I decided to bake savory gougeres. Gougeres, as you may know, are French cheese puffs. They are made from cream puff dough (pate a choux). While a sweet item, such as cream puffs, may have been more in the spirit of Gaston Lenotre, that project is being postponed a few weeks until some special house guests arrive for a visit. For today: gougeres.

Here they are:

I followed this linked recipe from Food and Wine by French chef Alain Ducasse. As with many delicious things, they are shockingly easy to make.

Give gougeres a try, and bon appetit!

Food and Drink Part I

From the January 19 Edmonton Sun via Slashfood: "A man who was stabbed at the York Hotel opted to return to the bar to finish his beer rather than seek medical attention."


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander's Inaugural Poem

To a day of wonderful, emotional, and historic events add hearing Elizabeth Alexander recite her poem this morning. Here, via CQ Politics, is the poem's text in full:

Praise Song for the Day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national.

Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.


Congratulations President Obama and Vice President Biden


This is it, folks. We win!


Please take a moment to send President Obama and Vice President Biden good thoughts and positive energy for successful terms in office.




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Monday, January 19, 2009

"Forced Out" by Stephen Frey

Forced Out, a novel by Stephen Frey, is an adequate airplane book. The plot features a character named Jack Barrett. In his 60s, broke, in poor health, and losing a battle with scotch, Barrett lives in Florida with his daughter after he was 'forced out' of his job as a scout for the New York Yankees.

Barrett identifies a minor league player with big potential, and starts plotting a return to the Yankees via this kid. The kid, Mikey Clemant, is talented but inconsistent and isolated. Barrett must find out why Clemant is resisting the idea of moving up to the major leagues.

Meanwhile, back in New York, hit man Johnny Bondano is told by his Mafia boss to find and kill the man who drove a car over and killed the boss's grandson. Johnny fears that this assignment will violate his code of ethics, but what is an assassin to do? Ultimately, Bondano's assignment leads him to Florida and into Jack Barrett's life. To counter the feeling of inevitability which exists for much of the book, Frey produces a number of surprises at the end.

The problem with Forced Out is not that it is a bad book, but that there are so many other books available that are much better. Still, you could do worse and, if it is all you have, Forced Out is a fine way to pass the time.



Tips on Watching the Inauguration

From Lifehacker: Resources for watching tomorrow's Presidential Inauguration on the web.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

NPR Live Streaming Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream"




Bruce Springsteen's new CD, Working on a Dream, will stream in its entirety on NPR starting at 11:59 p.m. ET on January 19.

Check out www.npr.org/music.




Saturday, January 17, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Biography lends to death a new terror." - Oscar Wilde.

I. The New York Times
Published January 16, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich.



Nonfiction Paperback: Marley & Me, John Grogan.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.


II. Los Angeles Times

Fiction Paperback: Twilight, Stephenie Meyer.
Fiction Hardcover: Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending January 11, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates.
Fiction Paperback (Mass Market): Betrayal, John Lescroart.



Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List (Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association)
For the week ending January 11, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Dewy, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron.

Now, if it was a bobcat in the library, then you'd have a story.

The George W. Bush Era: The End is Nigh

You know how it is when you are at the dentist: Stretched out in a chair with your head tilted backward, your jaw is propped open with some new age dental gizmo. Needles appear and disappear. Cotton is packed into your mouth, and there is drilling, water and suction. Then finally, after this has gone on for what seems like an eternity, the dentist says, 'we're just about done.' At that point, you relax a little bit, feel a little giddy. Well, with respect to George W. Bush serving as President of the United States, we're just about done.

The video, below, of our fearless leader is from the David Letterman Show, via Huffington Post.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Snow. Cold. January: The Longest Month

Did you memorize a version of this ditty as a child?:

Thirty days hath September, April, June and November.
All the rest have 31,
except for February alone,
which has four and 24,
and every leap year one day more.

We are about half way through the 31 days of January, a month that at times can feel like it will never end. Winter weather, the post-holiday return to reality, and a struggle to adhere to New Year's resolutions - rashly made only a few weeks ago - combine to make this month drag.

Of all the things that make January rough, it is the weather that is the most challenging. Ice, snow, and cold can kill a person. Even a pleasant winter day can be deadly if snow removal is required. There is evidence of an increase in fatal heart attacks after a heavy snow. Which is why it is time to consider the important contribution to our lives made by a Canadian named Arthur Sicard, inventor of the snowblower.

Mr. Sicard, of Montreal, invented this important machine in 1925 and sold the first snowblower two years later. The rest is history. We learned in school who is credited with inventing the light bulb, the telephone, even peanut butter. Mr. Sicard's name should be included with these luminaries. Schools should be named after him, at least in certain parts of the country.

Wisconsin is one of those places where Arthur Sicard's invention plays an important role. For example, a major snowblower manufacturer, Ariens Co., is located in Brillion, Wisconsin. And, of course, Wisconsin residents have ample opportunity to make use of the snowblower.

In Wisconsin, one of the most appreciated acts of generosity is when a neighbor, snowblower fired-up on an early winter morning, takes extra time to voluntarily clear your sidewalk and driveway. It is this type of small kindness that makes a community a good place to live. If you live in a place where a neighbor lends a hand with snow removal, or takes the garbage cans from the curb back to the garage for an elderly neighbor, or where the entire block turns out to search for a lost dog, then you have found a good home despite the weather, and despite the exceptionally long, long, days of January.

T.G.I.F.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For R. Crumb Fans

From Boing Boing: Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis, an adaptation of that book of the Bible, is expected to be published next fall.

Crumb fans can check out his web site here.


What will Crumb draw for lines such as, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"?

Food and Drink: Tips to Simplify Shopping for Wine

"How to Read a Wine Label" from the Wall Street Journal. This article has great tips on selecting a bottle of wine with no information to go on other than that which is provided on the label.

A few highlights:

Most wine at the store is to be consumed now, so you want to make sure the wine isn't too old.

Wines with too much alcohol taste unbalanced. When in doubt, select a wine with an alcohol content at about 14% and below.

On American wines, the word "reserve"doesn't mean anything, so ignore it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recommended: "The Private Patient" by P.D. James

For the past few weeks, it's been difficult to finish a book. Whether this is due to the weather, short days, the holiday rush, or just lousy reading material, I can't say for sure. I tried reading Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. While this book was initially interesting, about halfway through I put it down and never returned to it.

Next I started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland. The book began with the main character coping with being on the losing end of devastating a lawsuit. Not an appealing beginning for this reader. I put it down about 25 pages in, but intend to try again under more auspicious circumstances (such as in the shade on a beach, enjoying warm temps and cold pina coladas).

Finally, I turned to The Private Patient, An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery by P.D. James and hit my reading groove. Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard has appeared in 14 mystery novels by Ms. James. The first, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962. James is now 88 years old, and whether she will publish any further books featuring Dalgliesh is unknown. As a fan of P.D. James and this character, the thought that The Private Patient may be our final adventure together brought about feelings of sentimentality that colored the entire read.




P.D. James writes beautifully and excels at describing the places and people that populate The Private Patient. Occasionally, she makes an odd word choice, but having just worked my way through half of Sea of Poppies, which is heavily laden with odd and unusual words, this was not too remarkable.

The plot of The Private Patient concerns the murder of a woman staying at an old country house that has been converted into a private hospital. The woman, investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn, is in the care of a plastic surgeon who will remove Gradwyn's deep, disfiguring facial scar. In classic murder mystery style, Dalgliesh and his team focus their investigation on the small group of individuals staying at the house on the night of the murder. The story moves at an interesting, but leisurely, pace. The lives of the victim, the suspects, and the investigating officers are examined in turn until finally, in the last quarter of the book, matters are revealed and resolved at lightening speed.

If you are not already a fan of the Adam Dalgliesh series, then this is probably not the book with which to start. Instead, go to the beginning of the series and enjoy reading some great mysteries. If you have spent years enjoying reading about Adam Dalgliesh, then it is a very fine read. It may not turn out to be the best book of the series, but it fulfills an important roll in resolving matters for the main characters. For example, P.D. James closes The Private Patient with Dalgliesh entering a new stage in his life. If this turn out to be the last book in the series, then she wrapped up matters with a happy, hopeful future for her character.

Still, no matter how happy a future P.D. James has left for Adam Dalgliesh, reaching the end of this book made me terribly sad.





Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up


"Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered." - Oscar Wilde.

I. Washington Post
Washington area bestsellers for the week ending January 4, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Black Ops, W.E.B. Griffin.
Nonfiction Paperback: Marley & Me, John Grogan.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

The New York Times lists these same four books at the top of its best seller list, although it calls The Shack "Trade Fiction".



II. Los Angeles Times

Fiction Paperback: Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer
Nonfiction Paperback: The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers
For the week ending January 4, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
Fiction Paperback (Mass Market): The Appeal, John Grisham.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.



Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List (Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association)
For the week ending January 4, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

And finally, while folks on both the East Coast and West Coast are snapping up copies of Malcolm Gladwell's book and working at becoming successful, independent booksellers in the Midwest report that the best selling, nonfiction, hardcover book is:

Dewy,
The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Full Moon

A few shots of tonight's full moon. A bit of shake in the pictures due to lack of tripod.




Tonight: Biggest Full Moon of 2009

According to NASA, tonight will be a perigee Moon. A perigee Moon looks 14% wider and 30% brighter than the Moon typically appears. This happens because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is not circular, it is elliptical. Because of this elliptical orbit, its distance from the Earth varies. Tonight, the Moon will be at its closest point to the Earth, the perigee, and it will look huge.


Up-date: Photos.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Highly Recommended: Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is a beautiful, beautiful recreational area located in the Coronado National Forest at the edge of Tucson, Arizona. Upon entering this national forest, visitors are given a map and a tip sheet on how to avoid problems with mountain lions. ("Do NOT run. Maintain eye contact . . . NEVER look away. Make yourself appear larger and more aggressive." (emphasis in the original)). The only place in Arizona that I've seen a mountain lion was on a golf course; no tip sheet had been provided there.

If you have the opportunity to do so, a visit to Sabino Canyon is highly recommended.



Note: Double click the photos above to enlarge; when you get to the next page, click "slide show" in the upper left hand corner.

The George W. Bush Legacy

From Salon: A by-the-numbers examination of how eight years of the George W. Bush wrecked havoc on America.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just Who Is James Sokolove?

From Above the Law: Attorney James Sokolove. You've seen his ads on t.v.

"Sokolove has refined the chore of landing clients into a science, which he practices with the kind of marketing most of his peers regard as tacky, if not altogether abhorrent," writes Francis Storrs in Boston Magazine. "No lawyer in the country advertises more—or spends more doing it. In 2007 he paid over $20 million to promote his firm, twice as much as the next-biggest spender. Across the United States, on the radio and on cable networks like Lifetime, a Sokolove spot runs roughly every eight seconds. Which is another way of saying that, somewhere, a Sokolove ad is always running."

Who is this guy? Check out the full profile in Boston Magazine.

Covert Operations: Panetta as CIA Choice


This road runner, hidden in plain sight, is more experienced in covert operations than . . . many people.

Leon Panetta is the President-elect's choice as CIA director. The choice is controversial. Panetta comes to the job with little intelligence experience at a time when the position demands a savvy, smart, dynamic leader who can clean-up the mess left by the Bush Administration, design and implement new strategies for the future, gain the trust of diverse groups, and do this all while keeping America safe. For such an important and demanding position, Mr. Panetta seems, to put it mildly, a weak choice.

Not only is this a disappointing choice as a substantive matter, but procedurally the Obama team made another mistake by deciding to not consult the Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the appointment. Frankly, this was bush league play from people who typically operate at the highest professional levels. Now it will be interesting to watch how this confirmation process plays out.

In the confirmation proceedings Mr. Panetta, 70, will certainly be asked about his lack of intelligence experience. As one expert said yesterday in the New York Times, “This is intelligence, not tax or transportation policy. You can’t hit the ground running by reading briefing books and asking smart questions.”

In the same story, a Panetta supporter suggested Panetta could cure his lack of experience by surrounding himself with good people. This line of thinking is very disturbing because it is the exact thing that people said when George W. Bush was sworn into office as President in 2001. And we've seen how that worked out, haven't we.




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Food and Drink

Eric Asimov, wine critic at the New York Times, has "jumped the shark." In his column today, he recommends a beer that costs $35. a bottle. This is vintage beer, Mr. Asimov reports, "of the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, an unfiltered, unpasteurized, limited-edition ale brewed by Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes in Switzerland. " The bottle is 25.4 ounces, which makes it sound like a fancy, 40-ounce malt liquor experience.

Do we need this? I think not.

What I really want in beer is the return of Blatz Cream Ale on tap. Served in a tall glass at the neighborhood tavern, Blatz Cream Ale on tap was smooth, refreshing, and delicious. A few salty, crunchy pretzels complimented the beer. I have no real hope for its return, of course, because business in America is not typically concerned with providing good stuff that the consumer wants. What is instead marketed is a huge variety of garbage such as tasteless light beers and, one of the most ghastly beverages ever cooked-up, wine coolers.

Beer that costs $35 a bottle is not the answer to the problem of a marketplace full of bad products. Bring back Blatz Cream Ale on tap.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Jazz Listening



In addition to playing Ben Sidran's new CD, Cien Noches, we've been listening frequently to jazz on KPLU via the magic of the Internet. On iTunes, find this station under public radio, JAZZ24 from KPLU. Good stuff.



Monday, January 5, 2009

Recommended Listening: "Cien Noches" by The Ben Sidran Hammond Quartet

Warm up a winter day with some jazz.


Winter is a strangle. Layers of clothing knot and frustrate you. The weather pins you down and trips you up. It's dry. It's suffocating. You're trapped underneath it all. Panic is rising in your throat.

Don't panic. Instead, listen to Cien Noches by The Ben Sidran Hammand Quartet. The music on Cien Noches was recorded live at the Cafe Central in Madrid, Spain. The sound quality is superb: The brush of the drum from Leo Sidran, the guitar chasing the saxophone, and Ben Sidran's phenomenal play on the Hammond organ. It is pure pleasure and fun to listen to this collection of sophisticated, accessible jazz.

Forget winter. Listen to Cien Noches and be transported to a nightclub in Spain.

Note: To purchase a copy of Cien Noches, go to Ben's web site and scroll down to the link to CD BABY.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"Everything popular is wrong." - Oscar Wilde

The New York Times

1. Fiction Paperback (Mass Market): The Appeal by John Grisham.
2. Fiction Hardcover: Scarpetta, by Patricia Cornwell
3. Nonfiction Paperback: Marley & Me by John Grogan.
4. Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
5. Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack by William P. Young.

Note: Last Sunday, December 28, Marilyn Stasio wrote a short review of Scarpetta in TBR's Crime column.

The Los Angeles Times

1. Fiction Paperback: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
2. Fiction Hardcover: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
3. Nonfiction Paperback: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
4. Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

Norther California Independent Booksellers Bestsellers

1. Fiction Paperback (Mass Market): The Appeal by John Grisham.
2. Fiction Hardcover: A Mercy by Toni Morrison.
3. Nonfiction Paperback: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama.
4. Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
5. Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz.

Under Children's Titles, N. California Independent Booksellers has The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown. What a great book title!

San Francisco Chronicle
Bay area best sellers.
1. Fiction: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
2. Nonfiction: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

The Washington Post's on-line edition is still showing its best seller list from the week of December 14. I've sent an email to the paper inquiring as to why this is so.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Books in 2009



The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal highlights a number of forthcoming books that retailer's hope will generate buzz in 2009.

You will likely not be shocked to learn that one of these is by James Patterson. Mr. Patterson's name appears on such an overwhelming number of book jackets that I have completely stopped paying any attention at all to his work. You may not feel this way. If that's the case, then in September look for James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut, a nonfiction investigation into the death of that young pharaoh. Let me know if you like it.

The Wall Street Journal notes also that this January, a new book from John Grisham is being published, The Associate. Mr. Grisham, like Mr. Patterson, is an author whose work I typically skip. I blame this on the movie versions of The Firm and The Pelican Brief, which somehow soured the whole of Mr. Grisham's work for me. Que lastima!

A number of forthcoming books that do look intriguing include:

Ape House by Sara Gruen. Ms. Gruen wrote the wonderful Water for Elephants. Her new book is scheduled for release in June.

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. This March release, which won France's Prix Concourt in 2006, is a fictional memoir of a Nazi officer.

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler, which is scheduled for publication in September, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Tyler's work is always engaging and beautifully written.

Check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal for additional titles.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Start 2009 with a Laugh from Andy Borowitz

Via The Huffington Post: Andy Borowitz My Facebook Status Updates for 2009.

Andy can't believe that shoe almost hit Rick Warren.

Andy is somehow not surprised that Bush texted the Libby pardon during the Inauguration.

Andy will miss Chrysler.

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