Review: Chickens, Hawks and Grumpy Goats: Five Years on a Farm

Chickens, Hawks and Grumpy Goats: Five Years on a Farm
Chickens, Hawks and Grumpy Goats: Five Years on a Farm by S.A. Molteni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice little read from Sherry Molteni, who’s developed an easy-to-read style that doesn’t talk down to her readers; her narrative streams like someone telling a good story. Her poignant tales of farm life ring true to anyone who’s lived in the country, and should resound with you cityfolk as well.

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Review: 1000 Record Covers

1000 Record Covers
1000 Record Covers by Michael Ochs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting book, though this particular edition has text in three different languages, which is a tad annoying. There are some great pictures of a nearly-lost art form here … though quite a few iconic covers are NOT in the book. It also might’ve worked better as a full-sized coffee table book, rather than a near-digest sized format. Still worth a good paging through.

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Review: Big Secrets

Big Secrets
Big Secrets by William Poundstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first volume in William Poundstone’s fun series of Big Secrets is still a fun read, even after all this time. Some of the technology-associated “secrets” in all three books are somewhat like fossils now, since these were written long before cell phones and smartphones, but there are a lot of interesting tidbits and strangeness to be perused. This one’s great if you want to pull pranks on Masons, and has a lot of interesting info on secret radio stations and the like. An always interesting read.

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Review: Bigger Secrets: More Than 125 Things They Prayed You’d Never Find Out

Bigger Secrets: More Than 125 Things They Prayed You'd Never Find Out
Bigger Secrets: More Than 125 Things They Prayed You’d Never Find Out by William Poundstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic of the genre, though a tad outdated now, considering blue boxing and telephones are much like dinosaurs today. There’s a lot of cool secrets and explanations in this one, from Disney’s Haunted Mansion to Oysters Rockefeller.

A great book to read if you’re planning to join the Scientology cult, as this one tells you exactly what you’d be paying $12,000 (in 1986 dollars) to find out (hint: It’s a really crappy sci-fi novel).

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Review: Tenders And Turntables & Trouble In The Shed

Tenders And Turntables & Trouble In The Shed
Tenders And Turntables & Trouble In The Shed by Wilbert Awdry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I dunno. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I gotta say that even for a kid’s book, Thomas & Friends is really bloody dull. Maybe I’m too old to grasp what elementary concept they’re trying to teach, but it just seems that most of the characters are jerks, except for Thomas and his BFFs, of course.

The artwork is very intriguing, and there is a surreality to some parts of the stories that I liked. Not something I’d recommend. Of course, the TV show was just as surreal and rather dark most of the time, even with George Carlin and Ringo in the roundhouse.

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Review: Soupy Sez!: My Zany Life and Times

Soupy Sez!: My Zany Life and Times
Soupy Sez!: My Zany Life and Times by Soupy Sales
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the better entertainment memoirs that I’ve read in the past few years. It doesn’t hurt that it was written by a true American original like Soupy Sales. I suppose it’s hard for kids today to understand Soupy’s appeal, as it been nearly two generations since he was active on TV, but he was inventively funny…he did with improvisational humor what Frank Zappa and the Ramones did with music. And, most importantly, Soupy didn’t talk down to.his audience. Kids and adults got the same amazing wit.

This autobiography covers all the stages of Soupy’s long and successful career, from his early days in radio, his wonderful TV shows, his work on What’s My Line, and his return to radio (between Howard Stern and Don Imus of all people).

A rare tale of a rare individual and that unique combination of talent and courtesy. There’s also a pretty good listing of Soupy’s TV and movie appearances in the back, for the OCD in all of us.

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Review: Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’

Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'
Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ by David S. Wills
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting book that highlights some aspects of WSB that perhaps the mainstream readership wasn’t aware of, though anyone reading his books with the most basic understanding of Scientology can easily see the influence. In some ways it’s rather sad that someone of WSB’s status and intelligence got taken in by that cult of shysters, but it is also good to see that he managed to actually make his money back through his writing and using some of those weird concepts in that process.

Even with the Scientology tinge, this is a somewhat adequate biography of one of the last great American writers. Many of the interview quotes are very raw and emotional, coming from a man who had a lot of problems, but still managed to make a major mark on our culture. Excellent read!

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