Saturday, December 26, 2009

Year End Book Reviews

Remember writing book reports in 3rd grade? Actually, I recall writing book reports for as long as I was in school - college included. Needless to say, book reports may be the reason many children hate reading; because your reward for finishing a book is that you get to write a big paper at the end.

It's now 2009, and I still don't want to write book reports. Thus, rather than making a blog post after every book I read, I figured I'd do one mass year-end post. Here is a quick synopsis of the books I read in 2009 - maybe you'll pick up something new to read.

'The Devil We Know - Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower' - Robert Baer
I heard this author give an interview on XM Radio this spring, and was pretty intrigued. He is the ex-CIA operative that the movie Syriana is roughly based on. This book discusses Iran's rise to power, and lays out exactly what the USA needs to understand about Middle Eastern culture - and their struggle for power and recognition. Take home lesson: the Iranians aren't harden terrorists, but methodical and calculating in their grab for dominance in the Middle East. A bit of a heady read - but worth the time if you are into global politics or badass CIA guys.

'It's Not About The Bike - My Journey Back To Life' - Lance Armstrong
Probably the best book I read this year. Written in 2001, I just got around to it this year. This book documents Lance's diagnosis with cancer, his treatment, and eventual recovery. The book culminates with his return to the bike and first Tour de France victory. Definitely inspirational, and a great read if you're interested in what drives and motivates people.

'My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up' - Russell Brand
You'll remember this guy as the eccentric British rock star from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Turns out his real life isn't all that unlike the character he plays in the movie. I can't remember what inspired me to buy this book - other than I think he's mildly entertaining and could possibly offer me some tips on shagging women. It was a fairly entertaining biography, and reads exactly like the title suggests: sex, drugs, and stand-up.

'The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World' - Alan Greenspan
At 576 pages, this is no quick read. However, the man has led such a long and remarkable career - you can break the book up into smaller parts to make it more manageable. This was a particularly timely read early in 2009, when the world economies were still highly unstable. Greenspan explains many of the decisions he made during his 5 terms as Chairman of the Fed, and why those decisions were necessary. Greenspan presided over the US Economy for the last 20 years, so his insight into the financial world is second to none.

'American History in 100 Nutshells' - Thaddeus Tuleja
This book had been on my bookshelf for about a decade, and it finally got it's turn at the plate. Each 'nutshell' is a 2 page synopsis of a major event in US History. Forgot what the Teapot Dome Scandal was all about? It's here. I didn't sit down and bust this out in a week or two, but just gradually chewed on it over the fall. This book will not help you pick up chicks, but may come in handy for an appearance on Jeopardy!

'Angels and Demons' - Dan Brown
No synopsis needed here. However, I will brag that I finished this book in about 24 hours - because I wanted to go see the movie the next day...after having read the book first. I must say, this is a bad idea to power read a book - and then go see the movie 3 hours later. You need a little gap to forget some of the small details. As is, I really hated the movie because they changed so many things that I was keenly aware of. Still, a very solid and enjoyable page turner.

'The Old Man and The Sea' - Ernest Hemingway
A Classic. Quick read. This was another book I recall reading in high school, and this year it jumped off the table at me at the book store. Probably another poignant book to read in a year of a tough economy. A story about an old man battling it out, day after day, ...and well, I won't give away the ending. Hemingway wrote this in Cuba in 1951, and won him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

'In The President's Secret Service' - Ronald Kessler
I saw a piece on CNN about all the preparations going into Obama's inauguration, and it sparked my interest in this book. Turns out it wasn't all that interesting of a read. However, there was some insight into how over-stretched the Secret Service is, and how most agents just put in a few years until they can go get a much higher paying job in private security.

'1984' - George Orwell
Big Brother is watching you. The Obama Administration inspired me to read this one. The administration's lust for making government bigger and bigger, and sticking their hand into every aspect of our lives...well, Big Brother would be proud. One of my favorites this year, and I enjoyed it much better than the first time I read it (a decade ago). The themes here are probably too advanced for a high school student to fully appreciate. Give it another read.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' - Harper Lee
My Aunt sent me a first edition print of this book from 1960. I know I've read this before, but I couldn't remember much about the story other than the mysterious 'Boo Radley' and sturdy 'Atticus Finch'. The language is rather colorful, but has warm and comforting tones of family life in the South. I'm still working on this one, only about halfway through after having started it in mid-December.

'Going Rogue' - Sarah Palin
I haven't yet started this, but it's on my bookshelf waiting it's rightful turn in line - I'm hoping to get to it before the new year. McCain was never exactly my guy, but I did find Palin to be incredibly interesting, and she stands to be a major cog in the Republican process for the next several (8?) years. Mitt Romney is still my guy to be our next president, but Sarah Palin is far too well liked to simply disappear. We're here, we shoot deer, get used to it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Awesome 4 Year Old

I have a new role model. This may be my favorite story of the year - A heartwarming tale that will warm your soul during this joyful holiday season. Let's watch:

My favorite quote was the mother saying, "Kids do things like this."

Kids do things like this? Really? Drunken cross-dressing burglary? It really is the most awesome thing I've ever heard. Kid gets ripped, steals the presents, and THEN decides to put on the dress!

Some day, this kid is going to go to college - and he will play this video for all his frat buddies, and he will never pay for another drink at the bar ever again.

east coast mark salutes you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

George Clooney and Derek Jeter Cast Dissaproving Looks at Tiger Woods

George: Tiger, what the hell.

Derek: Seriously Tiger? Didn't we teach you anything?

George: You know how you see me in the tabloids dating a different cocktail waitress every week? Well let me tell you, it's awesome. And you know what else is awesome? Not marrying the first blonde chick I nailed and then having 2 kids and goofy looking dog.

Derek: Seriously Bro. What's with that dog. You have a Billion dollars, and you buy the ugliest dog ever created? It's gotta be retaahhded.

George: Tiger, take a look at Derek here. Let me show you just some of the hoodrats he's slayed in the last couple years:

George: Derek, that's good work not getting married. Keep it up.

Derek: Thanks George. It certainly is awesome being single and running around with different women. The awesome part is, the media celebrate my daliances. In fact, when they don't see me with a new woman every few months, they start to question if something is wrong.

George: Same with me. We're more celebrated and adored because we had the foresight not to settle down; and instead be millionaires who have hos in different area codes. Well Tiger, I hope you've learned your lesson. Cut this Elin chick loose - she's past her prime anyway. Had you come to us sooner, we could have brought in Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn - they might have been able to break up the wedding.

Derek: George, we've gotta be going. We've got pick up Leonardo DiCaprio and head over to the intervention for Tom Brady.

Yes Man

Today it was 66 degrees here on the East Coast - not exactly the weather one would expect in December with three weeks until Christmas. The Rockefeller Center Tree is lit, the Menorah's are out, and the Kwanzaa folks are...watching Shaft..or whatever they do.

Aside from gorging ourselves on fudge, candy canes, and egg nog - December is also a good time to catch up on one's charitable giving. Partially for tax write-off reasons, but mostly because it's a good time of year to give back in thanks for all you have - and all that Obama has borrowed to keep the bailouts coming.

I've started my own little way to give back, modeled after the Jim Carrey movie 'Yes Man'. Basically it goes like this: Anytime someone asks me to donate or give to a cause/charity in November or December, I say Yes. No questions, no hesitation.

The most common place you'll see this happening is at the cash register at a retail store. It seems more common these days; before the cashier gives you your total for whatever buying, they'll ask if you'd like to donate a dollar or three to the Leukemia Society, or whatever. "Absolutely." Want to purchase a children's book for a child in need? "Yes Ma'am."

It's kind of a Russian Roulette sort of game when I go out shopping now. I have to arm myself with a stack of $1 bills - who knows what I might be donating to. Makes it kind of fun knowing you can't say 'no', and to be honest - giving feels good.

I heard a story once about a woman who had been going to the same church for 50 years. One day there was a story in the paper about how this woman had donated $100,000 to a church on the other side of town, to help them with a renovation. When the pastor from her home church asked why she'd given to another church instead of her own; her answer was, "Because they asked."

So, join me and become a Yes Man this December.