Mostly Bob by Tom Corwin

Bob was a dog. Bob used to be Red, the neighbor's dog. Bob became Bob, the writer's dog. Bob is dead. Let's write a three page paean to Bob and publish with one sentence per page so it makes a 200 page book. That sums it up in a nutshell.

Rate this one 4 stars, with 3 of those for the sentimental aspect.

You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree by Rich Smith

The premise here is the absurd dumb laws that are actually on the books in some cities and states in the United States. You can access a listing here, which may not be the exact list the author used, but almost all of the laws he broke, or attempted to are listed.

The author and a friend head to California for a cross-country trip, all the while attempting to break some of the more ridiculous laws on the books in several states. At first he has only a smattering of successes, most of the time with rather boring results. It seems to me tide turns about midway through the book, when the unfortunate coincidence of their Cornish flag they are displaying (they are from Cornwall in the U.K.) has a resemblance to the flag that a local violent gang displays. They are briefly met with hostility by local police until the error is cleared up. It is at this point that the book started getting more interesting.

All in all, its not an entirely satisfying book as far as road trip books go that I've read. But if you are unfamiliar with the strange laws, or just like the idea of breaking laws just for a laugh, you probably can't go wrong with this one.

Rate it 6 stars.


The Grilled Cheese Madonna (and 99 Other of the Weirdest, Wackiest, Most Famous eBay Auctions Ever) by Christopher Cihlar

Some of the strangest things have turned up for sale on eBay. Sometimes the sale of these things garners a lot of media attention. This is the subject that the author covers in this book. From the attempted sale by a woman of her virginity, the guy who claimed "a piece of the shuttle Columbia broke my rake" and was trying to sell the broken rake, and the one young man who tried to sell his soul, all the most outrageous sales over the history of eBay are here.

They are divided into several sections, each covering a specific type of auctioned item. In many of the cases, eBay pulled the item from its website because it violated their policies. i.e. You can't sell body parts. as people become more ingenuitive, eBay's policies on what can be sold become more restrictive. The secondary aspect of the book is the author's half-hearted attempt to educate his readers on how to get a sensational type of item on the site (and probably in the process become fodder for the sequel).

Even if you know about every one of the notorious sales herein, you will still find the book enjoyable, even if only as a reminescence. And it is easily read in an hour or so.

Rate this one 7½ stars.

Busy bees

I haven't been here in so long, I almost forgot I even had a blog. I've been doing some reading over the past few months, but not near as much as I used to read. Over the next few days, I will try to dredge up memories of the books I read, and post them. After that, expect me to be more frequent. At least I'll try to be.


Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail by Christopher Dawes

Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail by Christopher Dawes

This is the ultimate in road trip books. The author, a music writer for several magazines, has a neighbor. That neighbor is the extremely eccentric former drummer for the punk rock band, The Damned, known to the worlds at Rat Scabies. Rat is a stoner and an obssesive even in his advancing years. One obsession that Scabies has is the Holy Grail, or more specifically the aspect of it that concerns Rennes-le-Chateau in France.

For those of you, who like me, have not ventured into the world of The DaVinci Code, this may or may not be a total mystery. Having caught History Channel programs on the subjects covered in Dan Brown's book, I have a little bit of a jump on it.

Although a thorough understanding of the details and the mysteries involved might come in handy, this is more or less really a road book. Think Hope and Crosby on drugs. Some of the passages in Dawes story are frankly more hilarious than anything Hope & Crosby did on the big screen.

I have to say that this book will likely leave you wanting more. If thats the case, I will frequently be tackling other books on the subject and will update you on the best and worst of the selection. As far as Dan Brown's book, I'm going to commit the ultimate sin of a fanatic for books....I'm going to wait for the movie.

I'll rate this one 7 stars. Enjoy.



The Flag, The Poet and The Song by Irvin Molotsky

The Flag, The Poet and The Song by Irvin Molotsky:

I found this book to be extremely irritating. As far as history books go, it is a far cry from the standard. The author, contrary to most historical texts I have read, frequently interjects personal opinions on the events he desribes. For instance, early in the book, he mentions, not once, not twice, but three times in the same paragraph the fact that Francis Scott Key, the writer of the Star-Spangled Banner, owned slaves. The point being that he, the author, was critical of someone whose words espoused freedom should have been a slaveholder. Molotsky does this personal interjection more than once throughout the book. In its strictest sense, a historian should be more objective when writing.

As a historical piece, it is quite fascinating, especially since he covers areas that are not that well-known to most American citizens, including the fact that the burning of Washington during the war of 1812 was instigated by a similar act taking by the U.S. Army in Canada just a few weeks earlier.

Most of the first few chapters tell the story of the war as it lead up to the British army's failed attempt to take Baltimore and Fort McHenry, from where, as a prisoner on a British ship, Key wrote the words to the American national anthem. Later chapters detail the rise in popularity and its official recognition as the national anthem.

All in all, it is well-written and were it not for the frequent interjections of opinion, I might have given it a higher rating.

Rate this one 5½ stars.


Uncle John's....by B.R.I.

The book in particular I will be referencing for this review is Uncle John's All-Purpose Extra Strenghth Bathroom Reader by the Bathroom Reader's Institute. But I have bought several of these over the years and although the specific subjects are different, this reveiw could easily be used to reccomend any of the B.R.I. titles.

Years ago, in the prehistorical era, one had to spend their time in the bathroom with only the newspaper or, in the case of public restrooms, the bathroom stalls, to read. But beginning in 1988, the Bathroom Reader's Institute (B.R.I.) began culling one to four page highly trivial articles and publishing them in book form. These were named Uncle John's Bathroom Readers. Later in history, the B.R.I. published combined volumes such as the one pictured here. In more recent years, they have expanded to publish collections with a particular theme, such as history or science.

Each collection has lots of little brief passages to help you while away the time spent on the porcelain throne. For instace, on page 291 of the volume here is an two page listing of some very humorous dumb crook stories, like the woman who thought her drug dealer had gypped her and went to the police to verify if the crack she bought was real. If you have more time, on page 251 is an article on how the Statue of Liberty came into existence and how it was acquired by the United States.

Nothing says you have to read this only in the bathroom however. I spent almost a week taking this volume with me wherever I was going and reading the articles while waiting in line at the post office, or at traffic lights, or during my lunch break at work. If people ask why you are reading a "Bathroom Reader" while you are not in the bathroom, you have my permission to be creative. See how many weird looks you get when you glance down at your pants and then look up and say in all innocence..."Whoops!"

Rate this volume 8 stars. Rate the overall series 7½ stars. (Only get the specific themed series if you are really interested in the subject as, if you aren't, it can be rather monotonous.



32 Third graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done

32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done

Years ago there was a novel by Bel Kauffman, Up the Down Staircase, about the trials and tribulations of a high school teacher throughout a school year. This was what I was reminded of while reading 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny. This book, however is about a real teacher, Phillip Done, and his experiences throughout a school year with a class of third graders.

It is a very touching book, funny at times, and while it does get a bit maudlin at times, it is very enjoyable. If you like kids, you will find it a fun read. The book is separated into one or two page vignettes, so it can be read without worrying about remembering what has gone on before.

If you were around in the early 60's like me, you might remember the books or the TV show featuring Art Linkletter "Kids Say the Darndest Things". A lot of the book is like this. I couldn't help but thinking of these kids growing up and being embarassed by their actions as recorded in Mr. Done's book.

The book is kind of a diary, covering Mr. Done's interaction with the children and with his co-workers, and his own experiences remembering his own days as a third-grader. You will find yourself laughing out loud many times, and maybe even crying over the maudlin bits.

Just a quick endnote: I read the book through most of it thinking the author's name was pronounced "dun", but late in the book I was given the impression that maybe it was supposed to be pronounced to rhyme with "bone". Not an important issue, but I thought it humorous that I may have been mistaken.



I have been working like a dog at work and haven't been reading much in the past few weeks. If there are people out there reading this blog, I will get back on schedule now. A new review will be posted post haste and more will be coming at more regular intervals.


Quincannon's Game by Bill Pronzini

Quincannon's Game by Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini is more famous for his "Nameless Detective" series, but he has published a few short stories and at least one novel using the character of John Quincannon, a detective in the late 19th century San Francisco. The four short stories featured here are entertaining, but, in my opinion, not nearly as satisfying as even the least of the Nameless series. The highlight of the book is the first story, which features and encounter with Sherlock Holmes (during the period after his "death" at Reichenbach Falls and his "reappearance" in England.) The Quincannon character has an ego a mile wide and believes Holmes to be something less than his equal. Suffice to say that Holmes turns out to be better at his craft than Quincannon thinks.

The other three stories are along the same lines as the first, with Quincannon and his partner in business, Sabina Carpenter, solving locked room mysteries with a flair, but they seem a little cliched to this reader. Maybe I should stick to my non-fiction (don't count on it though, there are several authors including Mr. Pronzini, that I can't resist when they publish something new.

I rate this one 6 stars, though. Entertaining for the characters, but not the best at the plot.



Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

I found this memoir a very hard book to read. Part of it stems from the fact that the book jacket claims that the story is told "without an ounce of malice". Yet, to me, it seems to seethe with a hidden rage. To be sure, the author has some reasons to harbor anger, given that her fundamentalist parents hardly exhibit any of the Christian love that the faith admonishes its adherents to show, and a racism only a little less overt than pre civil rights South that is exhibited to her adopted African-American brother.

The text of the first part of the book centers in the early 80's in Lafayette, Indiana. The two central characters being the author and her black sibling, David. Right off the bat they are harrassed by a group of racist boys while browsing a local cemetary. The story moves on from there as she describes how she approached the new surroundings attending a new school. She befriends a couple of outsiders like herself and gradually grows a little distant from her brother. Mostly to avoid the racism that accompanies her being known as "that black boy's sister."

What is, by the book jacket, referred to as candor, really forces itself into the open with the events that occur when her older brother, also an adopted African-American, shows up. He is pretty much portrayed as a malcontent and borderline, if not outright, hoodlum. Some of the scenes when Jerome is present are extremely straight-forward and hard to take in.

My real problems with the book concern the sexuality of this young girl. (She is 16 at the time of the events.) I'm far from a prude, (else I wouldn't have picked up the book in the first place), but it was here where I had to leave off completing the book. It is a good book as far as its merits on writing. The author does have an engaging style. But if you are squeamish at having descriptions of rape, attempted rape, and willing sex acts descibed to you, (although not pornographic)you might want to skip this one.

Rate this one 4½ stars



Two For the Price of One: A Movie A Day by Steve Uhler and Cult Flicks and Trash Pics by Carol Schwartz

I like movies, and both of these books are chock full of suggestions for an evening of entertainment. First we will take "A Movie A Day"

A Movie A Day by Steve Uhler:

The premise of this book is quite simple. For every day of the year from January 1 thru December 31, the author suggests at least one movie, with emphasis on how it relates o the day in question.

Sometimes a particular historical event happened that the movie covers. March 5, for example, you should watch Sweet Dreams because it's about the life and career of patsy Cline who died on this day.

Other times it has to do with the actor or actress playing in the movie, birthdays being the prominent theme. Dustin Hoffman was born on August 8, so you should watch a D. H. movie that day.

The style of Uhler's writing make this a very readable book, even if you choose to only read it a day at a time. i read the whole book in two sittings myself, because I found it fascinating, not only from a movie buff position, but also as a history buff. For instance, I didn't know that the Empire state Building was only a couple of years old when the original King Kong was filmed. Watch this movie on May 1 to celebrate the anniversary of its grand opening.

My image for the second book doesn't appear to be uploading, but you can find it on the book sites in the sidebar here.

Cult Flicks and Trash Pics by Carol Scwartz:

This book is a bit more esoteric than the first one. Here you will find an encyclopedia of movies that range from the wierd to the downright bizarre. It was published under the Invisible Ink Press company under the "Videohound" name. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Videohound publishes an annual book of movies, kind of like Leonard Maltin and others, which gives a short review and a rating of woof! to 5 bones (stars).

This book gives a review of the more bizarre movies out there, some of which you have heard of, like the Star Wars and Star Trek series, and some of which you may not even have known existed. Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, for example.

It's not a book for people whose usual fare is Brokeback Mountain or Walk the Line. The movies here are mostly sci-fi and horror, the kind that usually have a "cult" following.

Both books can be interesting on their own level, but I found both books to be very interesting just for the sheer joy of reading them.

Rate "A Movie A Day" 7 stars.

Rate "Cult Flicks and Trash Pics" 8½ stars


"Read free while you still can."


A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage

Tom Standage is one of those authors whose new works I will seek out when they are published. His best work to date is "The Turk" about the "automated" chess player from the 18th century. "A History of the World in Six Glasses" is up there, but not quite as good.

Essentially the book is divided into six sections of two chapters each, detailing how civilization evolved and changed due in some part to a particular popular new drink. These drinks are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Each section devotes some time to the deveopment and use of the drink in question.

By far, my favorite section is the one on beer. The basic idea of settling in one place for agricultyral reasons (to raise the grain to make beer) is not refuted, entirely, but Standage makes some facts known that this was not solely the case.

He continues with wine, which at first was the elixir of only the nobility, while the commoners still drank beer. But that changed as the production of wine became easier. Soceity evolves as well as does the industrial technology as the book goes on, as a result of each new drink's introduction into the world.

The only section I really found boring was the one on tea, due in some part to the fact that I don't like, nor drink it, I'm sure. Otherwise it is a fascinating book, even for those who don't like history, I would wager.

Rate this on 7 stars.



Git-R-Done by Larry the Cable Guy

The first thing I thought when I saw this book on the shelf was "Larry wrote a book???"

Actually, the first thing I thought was "Larry can WRITE???" Then I thought about swatting the fly that was crawling on the copy of the book, but then I thought he probably knew what he was doing. Don't ask me how I knew the fly was a he... Thats when I really thought "Larry wrote a book???" (Lord, I apologize for that there...) So I got the book and I'm glad I did. I'm happier than a pig in Iraq during Ramadan!

If you don't know who Larry the Cable Guy is, my question is "Have you been in a mental ward or something?" Go rent the videos of "Blue Collar Comedy Tour and Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again". And maybe the stand-up solo Larry video "Git-R-Done"

The book is vintage Larry. It covers some of his life history as well as some great comic bits that have no cohesion to the whole other than they are bound in the same book. Reading Larry's comedy is almost as much fun as watching him perform it. Think of Larry as the redneck version of Robin Williams' early stand-up. And if you've never seen Robin Williams do impromptu comedy, get the hell out of here.

To give you even a piece of larry's stuff here would be a crime. It has to be read as it is written. The rambling style does not fit well in quotes, no matter what the other critics do with them. I wanted to, believe me, but if I started, I would end up quoting a whole chapter verbatim. OK, OK, one quote. The entire chapter 6:


If that isn't funny, you've got the wrong book. Put it down and go read "How To Cross-Pollenate Orchids in a Sub-Zero Climate" instead.

I give this one 8 ½ stars.


On the current reading

I have decided to give up telling what the next book in my queue is. There are several reasons for this. One, I am easily distracted, and find a book at the library that captures my interest enough to make me want to quit what I am reading at that moment. Two, I hate giving a bad reveiw simply because I found the author either boring or uncomprehendable. (RE: The next book in this sequence which I dropped after 20 pages "Slam Dunks...") This frees me up to just discard it rather than having to try to muddle through it in order to fulfill a promise to my readers. It may mean longer waits before a new review, after all I'm doing 50+ hours a week at work, and I gotta sleep. Fear not. I am making headway on the current book and should have a review up Sunday or Monday. In the meantime here is a list of classics from both fiction and non-fiction that I loved.

"Time and Again" and it's sequel "From Time to Time" by Jack Finney. Finney departed this world a few years back, but he gave us a wonderful legacy of time travel stories. This is the cream of the crop. I would also recommend "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the basis for the several movie versions by the same title.

If you're up for the long haul, the twelve book series of "Left Behind" about the after-rapture lives of several people who became Christians during the Tribulation of Biblical prophecy is good. Be forewarned it is extremely preachy, and time passes slowly in the series. (According to the Bible, the Tribulation will last only seven years, so it's pretty slow as you can tell.)

There are several books by David Feldman that might spark some interest. "Do Elephants Jump" and "When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth" are two of the books in what is called the Imponderables series. The author collects questions from readers and puts out his research in finding the answers to such strange questions. Even if you don't read every book all the way through, there are lots of questions answered in each book, most in a page or two. You could be sure to find several that interest you in each book. And there are currently 11 out there...

If you'd like to read a real-life mystery about hackers on the Internet, check out "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll. International intrigue galore.

Have fun. I'll be back soon.



Washington Goes To War by David Brinkley

Sometimes with books, even more with movies, I run across something that is so good, I wonder how I missed out on it before. David Brinkley's "Washington Goes To War" is one of these. Actually published in the late 80's, it covers the effects of pre-war, war and post-war as it affected what was essentially a sleepy little town prior to the events of WWII.

Brinkley covers the society, including how many of Washington's elite reacted to the New Deal workers invading their patrician circles. He also covers the political scene, much of which parralells to today's pro- and anti-war factions battling it out in Congress and on the street.

Some of the best parts are how the southern city in a segregated south, deals with the influx of blacks during the height of the depression. You may be appalled by what the living conditions were as described by the author, but this is definitely one of the areas where his writing shines.

I doubt that the city is even remotely the same as described here, since 65 years have insured that it at least move somewhat into the modern world, but as a cultural piece detailing a bygone era, Brinkley does it with great expertise.

I give this one 7½ stars. My next reading assignment is two books, so it may be a while before the next review. For the religious side I am going to read "Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow. And for the secular side I plan to read "Slam-Dunks and No-Brainers" by Leslie Savan.