Saturday, January 31, 2015
Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola by Mark Thomas - A friend who knows how much I love drinking Coca-Cola told me not to read this book. In the end it didn't really change how I feel about the stuff. I'm just too cynical; I think all multinational corporations are bastards. 4 stars
Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones by Bill Janovitz - This book kicked off a month-long Stones obsession for me. Janovitz offers a musician's perspective on classic Stones songs and puts them into the context of the band's history. 5 stars
50 Licks: Myths and Stories from Half a Century of the Rolling Stones by Peter Fornatale with Bernard M. Corbett - Like Rocks Off, this book tells a chronological story of the band, but former DJ Fontanelle focuses more on tales than songs. 4 stars
Life by Keith Richards with James Fox - I have read a lot of rock memoirs, and Life is one of the very best. Richards has so many great stories, and some are augmented by remembrances from others. 5 stars
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
“It’s been clear that there has been some inappropriate decisions, either it’s with appointments or re-classifying employees, what we’re going to do is across the board cancel all appointments, we are going to cancel all hires, cancel all, rescind all, the actions that the governor has taken since Nov. 1,” Rauner said during his first news conference since taking the oath of office Monday.I hate to break it to you, Bruce, but you did not become governor when you won the election in November. You became governor yesterday. Former Governor Pat Quinn had every right to govern as he did during the intervening two months, and I'm sure you will govern similarly when your term ends (which can't come soon enough).
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: A Slightly Tarnished Southern Belle's Words of Wisdom by Celia Rivenbark - This is a decent collection of humorous essays about family life, celebrities, and southern culture. For a long time I thought her last name was Riverbank. 3 stars
Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates - Here is yet another book based on a blog I haven't read. Yates makes snarky comments about cake decoration mistakes. 4 stars
Lab Fever: Living, Loving and Laughing with America's #1 Pet by Bruce Cochran - These single-frame cartoons provide a spot-on portrayal of life with a Labrador retriever. Funny stuff. 4 stars
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Kinky's Celebrity Files by Kinky Friedman - In this quick read, the legendary Friedman writes about famous friends and their pets. And there are pictures, too. 4 stars
The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse by David Owen - Owen makes a convincing argument that we cannot solve the global warming problem with technology. Along the way, he dispenses with stupid eco-fads like the locavore movement.* 4 stars
The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light - "Hallelujah" has taken on a life of its own. Light writes about songwriter Cohen, performer Buckley, and countless interpretations of the song by other artists. He also examines how this sort-of-religious song has become popular in an increasingly secular culture and how the emotions it evokes as a soundtrack have changed over the years. 5 stars
* The goal is to reduce energy use, but transportation is only a small portion of the energy cost of food. Therefore it is better to grow food in the most resource-efficient location rather than merely the closest. (Of course, some locavores may have other objectives, such as supporting the local economy.)
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars by Paul Ingrassia - I don't think the subtitle fits the book very well, but the car stories are really interesting. 4 stars
Deadlift Dynamite: How to Master the King of All Strength Exercises by Andy Bolton and Pavel Tsatsouline - Like most Dragon Door publications, Deadlift Dynamite is beautifully produced and informative. It would have been more useful a few years ago when I was really into barbell deadlifting (now I mostly do DVRT sandbag training), and its target audience is competitors who take this stuff way more seriously than I do, but it's top-notch as far as weightlifting books go. 5 stars
Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them by David H. Freedman - I got halfway through this book and realized it's similar to The Half-Life of Facts with a different perspective: instead of looking at how information "changes" over time, Freedman explains how much of it was never true in the first place. He also offers ways to sort the good from the bad, but after reading this I just find myself more skeptical of everything (which is saying something). 4 stars
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Today during a TV show there was a commercial break where every single advertisement was for politicians, one after another. Please, somebody try to sell me auto insurance instead! For the first time in my life, I wished I could see a Massengill commercial.
Why, yes, Illinois politics does make me feel, you know, not-so-fresh.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Peterson - Wow, this may be the best bicycling book I've ever read! American recreational bicycling has become unnecessarily complicated by companies drawing their primary inspiration from professional racing. Actually it's getting better; when I got back into riding in 2000 it was much worse. Anyway, Peterson cuts through a lot of the bullshit with great advice about everything bike-related. Had he written this 15 years ago, he could have saved me a lot of money. 5 stars
We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive by Laurie Notaro - I didn't enjoy this quite as much as her first two books, but it's still mostly funny. 4 stars
Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song by Ted Anthony - I didn't expect an entire book about "House of the Rising Sun" to be so riveting. I love the idea of how Anthony became obsessed with one song and spent years tracking down recordings and interviewing performers. It's a great case study of how folk music evolves. 5 stars
Monday, October 20, 2014
Visit Sunny Chernobyl and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell - Anybody can enjoy a lovely beach, a lush meadow, or a waterfall on a clear mountain stream, but fewer can find beauty in exploited tar sands, a clear-cut Amazon forest, or a river of human waste. Blackwell takes us to places I'd rather not go myself, which is the best kind of travel book. 5 stars
I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales by Todd Snider - Anyone familiar with Snider's music knows he is a great storyteller and a funny guy. This book doesn't disappoint. The backstories of his songs are as good as the songs themselves. 4 stars
Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles' Song Publishing Empire by Brian Southall with Rupert Perry - Had this book been about any other songwriter(s), it probably would have bored me to tears. Being about the Beatles makes it more interesting, but Northern Songs isn't something most people outside the music business would enjoy reading. Also it seems like the authors rushed the last few chapters, or maybe the copyeditor quit early. 4 stars
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Crashes, Crises, and Calamities: How We Can Use Science to Read the Early-Warning Signs by Len Fisher - To be honest it's been a few weeks since I finished it and I don't remember much, just that it's interesting and has an incredible notes-to-content ratio: 47 pages of endnotes supporting 170 pages of text. 3 stars*
An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town by David Farley - I learned more about holy relics, particularly Jesus' foreskin, in this book than I had learned in decades of being Catholic. You may think you don't want to know about the Holy Prepuce, but after reading this book, you'll realize you were wrong. Very entertaining and informative with a quirky cast of real-life characters. 5 stars
Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier by Dayton Duncan - Roughly 25 years ago I read Duncan's first book, Out West: An American Journey Along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The only thing I remember is that I liked it.** In this book, Duncan visits counties with fewer than two residents per square mile (all of which are west of the Mississippi River). By definition, this is a world most of us are unfamiliar with, and it's fascinating. My only regret is that the book is from 1993; I'm curious what impact the Internet has had there. 5 stars
* I had given it four stars at the time I read it, but I decided to take one away since it has faded from memory so quickly. I think a four- or five-star book should stay with you for a while.
** But I'd still give Out West five stars. It's okay to forget a book in a quarter of a century.
Monday, September 08, 2014
I saw this on the Casey Trail, a lovely addition to Lake County's multi-use path system that opened this year. Lake County does trails so well. The Milwaukee Avenue underpass even has lights, for goodness' sake. Lights! In Cook County you're lucky if a trail underpass doesn't have six inches of standing water, much less any kind of illumination (reflections off the water don't count). And like the Des Plaines River Trail, the Casey Trail has quarter-mile markers. They're overkill for bikers but great for runners and walkers.