Showing posts from March, 2009

Eat the Cheese

It used to be just a casual thing. I could take it or leave it. Days would go by, and I wouldn't think about it at all. That's all changed now. It's something I have to have every day. And what I'm really striving for now is self-acceptance. Acceptance of that fact that I'm obsessed with cheese.

Cheese. I'm talking about the good stuff, artisan cheese, and not that spongy orange glop. If you are similarly obsessed with fabulous cheese, you might want to request this traveler's guide to cheese in Wisconsin and this directory to Wisconsin artisan and farmstead dairies. In fact, I may schedule a cheese-centered summer road trip.

Perhaps a good story would come from such an excursion, a Fear and Loathing in Dairyland, if you will. An Internet search for references to cheese in literature led me to this post at Fromage du Mois discussing Tristan Jones’ Saga of a Wayward Sailor. In a chapter of the book, 200 pounds of stolen cheese sinks Tristan's bo…

Best Seller Round-Up

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." ~Groucho Marx

Malcolm Gladwell's book about success, Outliers, is still selling like hotcakes. Go figure. Also writing about success, Tara Stiles at Huffington Post sets forth 10 tips for success in what I have to assume is an unintentionally funny post. Drink water and get enough sleep, she writes. Do yoga. Smile. Ms. Stiles seems to have a low threshold for declaring success. Her tips read more like preparation for life as a dancing bear rather than say, director of the FBI.

That Outliers is indeed "selling like hotcakes" reminds me that if you are a word maven, there is a new book that may be of interest: I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech by Ralph Keyes. Check out a NPR interview of Keyes here.

Below is this week's best seller round-up:
I. The New York Times.…

Reading Slump

Over the last few weeks I've picked up and put down a lot of bad books. When I find a bad read, I feel no compunction to finish it. Time is a precious thing and I'm not willing to invest my time on a book that I don't like.

As a result, when this type of steak hits I start feeling jangly. My brain becomes littered with bits of silly plots and stupid characters, and I restlessly prowl around for something, somewhere, that is good to read. During this slump, my need-to-read has been satisfied only by spending a lot of time lingering over the three daily newspapers we subscribe to; while I am feeling terribly well-informed about toxic funds, French business executives, and NCAA basketball, this is no substitute for a good book.

Fortunately, I think this streak may be at an end. Last night I started reading People of the Book, a novel by Geraldine Brooks. So far, so good.

All this reminds me about why I get so excited about really good books, books that you don't want …

New Work from Walter Mosley

Author Walter Mosley has a new book featuring a new character. The L.A. Times has the story.

The New Yorker, Shouts and Murmurs: "Tails of Manhattan" by Woody Allen

Woody Allen, writing for The New Yorker: Bernie Madoff walks into a restaurant . . .

(Via Huffington Post)

Best Seller Round-Up

"Always read something that
will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."
P.J. O'Rourke.

In the top spot for paperback fiction on the Northern California Independent Booksellers list is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book that has been on my to-read list for months. This book has been a best seller outside the U.S. and appeared on numerous "best of 2008" lists, including the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor.

Speaking of the CSM, I've picked up many good book recommendations from that paper. In April, it is scheduled to move from print to a daily web publication. I hope its book coverage continues successfully.

I. The New York Times
Published March 20, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Handle With Care, Jodi Picoult.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover:Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

II.Los Angeles Times
Published March 22, 20…

"US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites" by Mark Danner

Mark Danner, writing in The New York Review of Books, examines a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concerning "black sites," a network of secret internment locations used for detention and interrogation of "high value detainees." The ICRC report describes the methods and “enhanced techniques” used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners in this “global internment system” established under the authority of President George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Link to Mr. Danner's article.
The New York Review of Bookspress release about the Danner article.
Mark Danner is also the author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

Welcome Spring!


"When March Went Mad" by Seth Davis

The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament starts today. In his new book, When March Went Mad, author Seth Davis looks back 30 years to when the madness began: The March 26, 1979 match-up between Earvin "Magic" Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans against Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores for the national college basketball championship title.

Check out NPR's interview with author Seth Davis, as well as an excerpt from the book, here.

More on Greta

When last we bothered to look at the career-doings of Fox News talking-head Greta Van Susteren, she was flailing around for phony ways to criticize President Obama. Now Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post reports that Greta's husband, Washington lawyer John Coale, is a close adviser to failed Vice Presidential candidate, current Alaskan Governor, and potential candidate for who-knows-what, Sarah Palin.

How charming.

(Via The Huffington Post)

Contenders Announced for the 2009 Man Booker International Prize

The contenders for the Man Booker International Prize have been announced. This prize, awarded every two years, "highlights one writer's continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage" according to the Man Booker Prize web site. Check out the list here.

My favorite author from this list? I'm (sort of) not telling.

(Via Huffington Post)

So, you wanna make some art, eh?

(Via Boing Boing)

Working artists, budding arts, wanna-be artists, and anyone else whose calling is associated with the word "starving": The new, hot venue for making art is Detroit, Michigan.

Why Detroit? According to Toby Barlow writing for The New York Times, property values in that city have sunk so low that a house can be bought for as little as $100, giving artists an affordable space to live and work. "A group of architects and city planners in Amsterdam started a project called the “Detroit Unreal Estate Agency” . . . The director of a Dutch museum, Van Abbemuseum, has called it 'a new way of shaping the urban environment.' He’s particularly intrigued by the luxury of artists having little to no housing costs."

Yes, this is the very same Detroit that has spent decades trying to stop rampant vandalism and arson each year around Halloween. According to Wikipedia, in Detroit during the 1980s some 500 to 800 fires were set around October 30, known as D…

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Corned beef and cabbage are on the menu for dinner tonight, and this morning I baked Irish Soda Bread, pictured below. All the elements of a festive St. Patrick's Day are coming together.

A tip of the hat to my Irish family and ancestors. To all of the Patricks and Patricias, Happy Patron Saint's Day.

And to everyone: May you be in heaven a full half hour before the Devil knows you're dead!

More Mysteries

Are you on the hunt for a mystery to read? Here are a few titles from my list of books to check out:

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear, from Winspear's popular Maisie Dobbs series. I have mixed feelings about this series. Some of the books I've enjoyed. Others, not so much. Nevertheless, I always check into each new book from Winspear.

Promises in Death by J.D. Robb. As of today, I'm on page 25 of Robb's book Salvation in Death

The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin. Last year I enjoyed reading Goodwin's The Janissary Tree: A Novel which is set in Istanbul in the mid-1800s and introduced Yashim, the eunuch detective. That story is full of entertaining and interesting information about Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, in addition to being a good mystery. In this new book, Yashin investigates a missing Bellini masterpiece.

The Empty Mirror by J. Sydney Jones, a murder mystery set in 1898 Vienna. This book received a nice review from the Washington Post.

What's green about the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament?

Looking at the brackets this morning for the 2009 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament it occurred to me that during this event there may be some wearing of the green, there will definitely be some spending of the green, but there sure doesn't seem to be any going green with respect to the environment.

My team, the Wisconsin Badgers, is playing Florida State on Friday in Boise, Idaho. Yes, Idaho. There does not appear to be any concern by the tournament's organizers about the carbon footprint generated when teams from Wisconsin and Florida are sent all the way to Boise, and back. I enjoy this event and am pleased that my team gets to participate, but so much chasing around across the country seems a bit too rich in this day and age.

When planning which teams will play at what location, tournament organizers should be encouraged to consider the environmental impact of travel. The colleges and universities that participate should demand steps be taken to reduce the…

"At Risk" by Stella Rimington

Looking for an airplane read? Try At Risk by Stella Rimington. The author, Dame Stella Rimington, was the Director-General of the British Security Service MI5 from 1992 to 1996. Appropriately, her 2004 book is a spy novel.

In At Risk, protagonist Liz Carlyle is an agent-runner in MI-5's Joint Counter-Terrorist Group. An Islamic terrorist group has deployed an "invisible", defined as "an ethnic native of the target country". This "invisible" is suspected to be assisting another militant operative that British security agencies believe was smuggled into the country. Liz leads the frantic effort to find these two security threats and figure out who is their target. At Risk is at its best when Rimington writes about her character's work within the security service, interactions between MI-5 and other agencies, and the pressure-filled investigation of the security threats. Less interesting are the little dramas in Liz Carlyle's personal lif…

Robert Reich on the AIG Bonus Scandal

From The Huffington Post: Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary and current professor at the University of California at Berkeley, writes about how executives at AIG plan to pay themselves $100 million in bonuses while the company itself is failing and required a $170 billion government bail-out. One explanation by AIG for paying the bonuses: AIG needed to be able to retain talent in these challenging times.

Oh, yeah; you want to retain those big-thinkers at AIG.

Writes Reich, "Had AIG gone into chapter 11 bankruptcy or been liquidated, as it would have without government aid, no bonuses would ever be paid; indeed, AIG's executives would have long ago been on the street. And any mention of the word "talent" in the same sentence as "AIG" or "credit default swaps" would be laughable if it laughing weren't already so expensive." (emphasis supplied).
Or as David Waldman at the Daily Kos wrote in a clear manner, which even an AIG executi…

Best Seller Round-Up

At The Heartland Indie Bestseller List, something called Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron has been knocked out of its number one spot in nonfiction, hardcovers and replaced with something called Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment by Steve Harvey.

Hmmmmm. If this is what sells, let's just brainstorm a few book ideas here. How about "The Cat Woman Diet: Eat Like a Feline and Lose Weight Fast." Or "You Only Hurt the One You Love: What Our Relationship with Cats Teaches Us about Handling Rejection and Manipulation." Perhaps I need a few more ideas. In the meanwhile, below are the bestsellers from a number of lists tracked here.

I.The New York Times
Published March 14, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack
,William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover:
Handle With Care, Jodi Picoult.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea
, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver…

Madoff Bail Revoked After Guilty Plea

According to the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,293,157 prisoners were held in federal or state prisons or in local jails on December 31, 2007. Add one more to this staggering number, Bernie Madoff. After Madoff entered a guilty plea yesterday, he is being detained in custody until sentencing. (Lawyers, see 18 U.S.C. sec. 3143).

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog has, at this link, an interesting post about what life in prison will be like for Madoff.

In this matter, the justice system seems to have worked thus far. Still, the victims' money is lost. Madoff has ruined his life. Wouldn't it have been better to have an effective regulatory system, run by competent people with a sense of public duty, to police the industry before things snowballed to this point?

Food and Drink: Pi? It's all Greek to me.

Although it's only Wednesday, it is none too soon to start planning to celebrate Pi Day this Saturday, March 14. Why is this mathematical constant feted on Saturday? That date is abbreviated 3/14, and pi is roughly 3.14.

How to celebrate this irrational number? You could memorize as many digits of pi that you can and astound your friends. The numerical value of pi truncated to 50 decimal places is, according to Wikipedia:

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510

However, since it's Saturday, a party may be a better route. Since this is pi, then serving pie seems a natural idea. Pizza pie would work, but when you're talking pi, Greek food seems more appropriate. Fortunately, the Greeks have a dish that fits perfectly, spanakopita. Recently I made this spinach and cheese pie pictured below. Delicious stuff. Round-out dinner with olives and hummus, and you find yourself enjoying both spinach and math at the same time, which for many of us is a stag…

Police Blotter: Wisconsin. Where Beer is a Serious Matter

From the City of Madison Police Incident Report:

"Early Saturday morning a 20-year old . . . man was dancing with a female acquaintance at a downtown nightclub, when the woman accidentally spilled some beer on the suspect's shoulder. He [the suspect] quickly became angry and confronted the victim [the 20-year old guy]. The victim did not want trouble, and offered to get the suspect a beer. He got him a Coors Light. This caused the suspect to get even angrier as he wanted a Bud Light. He - the suspect - held a sharp object to the victim's neck, and dragged it down the victim's body. He then used it to cut the victim's hand. Police were called." (emphasis supplied).

My theory is that if these folks had been drinking good beer, such as a Sprecher or a New Glarus Spotted Cow, none of this would have happened.

Note: The drinking age in Wisconsin is 21.

"Youth. (sigh)"

On Facebook

"So I'm not inflexible," writes Matt Labash for The Weekly Standard. "But there is one promise I've made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society."

Check out the rest of Mr. Labash's article, Down with Facebook, here.

Jon Stewart Looks at Televison Coverage of Financial News

Jon Stewart takes on television "news" coverage of the financial industry - this is really good.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c CNBC Gives Financial Advice Daily Show Full Episodes
Important Things With Demetri Martin Political Humor
Joke of the Day

Recommended Reading: "Buried Strangers" by Leighton Gage

Buried Strangers is the second book in Leighton Gage's Chief Inspector Mario Silva series. The lead character, Silva, is Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police of Brazil, based in Brasilia.

In Buried Strangers, police investigate a field of anonymous buried bodies, including some graves holding entire family groups, found in the rain forest outside Sao Paulo. Investigation of this grizzly crime is taken on by the local police, led by Delegado Yoshiro Tanaka, with Silva's federal team also looking into the matter. How these two teams proceed to investigate the crime is the means by which author Leighton Gage shows off what is fresh, lively and really interesting in this book: Brazil. As the mystery is unraveled, Gage expertly weaves in an enormous amount of information about the country, its politics and culture. Corruption, poverty, and desperation propel the plot forward.

I enjoyed this book a great deal and will definitely seek out Gage's first bo…

Food and Drink

Suddenly, it's Wednesday. The week is flying by. Not only was there more jaw-dropping economic news (AIG, for example), there was also news of a near collision of the Earth and an asteroid on Monday.

And if things aren't wild enough on Earth and from the heavens, there then came reports of the hilarious argument from Bernie Madoff that his wife, Ruth, should be allowed to keep $69 million in assets. This is the Ruth Madoff who withdrew $15.5 million from Bernie's brokerage firm right before he was arrested. Ruth took out $5.5 million on November 25, and $10 million on December 10 from Cohmad Securities. Bernie was arrested on December 11. Coincidence? Yeah. Sure.

Ruth Madoff is the co-author of a cook book. A search for her name on Amazon turned up Great Chefs of America Cook Kosher. (This is a post about Food and Drink).

Ruth Madoff. Cook book.

Bernie Madoff. Cooked books. Allegedly.

If all of this isn't hard enough to swallow, Eric Asimov writes about chardonn…

Blago Book Deal Confirmed

Impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a six-figure book deal, according to his publicist. The book purportedly will expose "' the dark side of politics.'''

Best Seller Round-Up

"Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Today is March 1st, the beginning of the end of winter. As the old saying goes, if March weather comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. Whether your weather today is ferocious or gentle, as Emerson's quote implies, if you wait a few minutes it will likely change.

Two new books appear in top spots today. First, from the Los Angeles Times best seller list, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney. Second, from the Northern California Booksellers list, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

I.The New York Times.
Published February 27, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack
,William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover:The Associate
,John Grisham.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea
, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover:The Yankee Years
, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.

II.Los Angeles Times.
Published March 1, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack
, William P…