A shower of passing thoughts and thunderous ruminations…
With apologies to Rodney, five jobs where you don’t get any respect:
Eagles football coach
Governor of a largely populated state
New host of Jeopardy
44th U.S. President
Summer is coming to a close. I won’t miss the heat, the humidity or the mosquitos. I will miss the early dawn sunrises and the late dusk sundowns.
On deeper reflection, I have lived through 70 summers, how many summers do I have left to enjoy?
The French showed more resistance in 1940 to the German invasion of their country than the anti-vaxxers have demonstrated to the invasion of covid in the United States.
Long running TV Talk Show in the 1960’s and 70’s that would not last 13 weeks today: Dick Cavett.(That’s no reflection on Cavett, it’s a reflection of our culture and the limited sophistication and education of today’s audiences).
RIP Markie Post. She was a beautiful distraction on one of my favorite comedies in the 1980s, Night Court.
Celebrity whose death affected me the most? John Lennon
Current Five Overrated Sports People and Events
The Process (not Embiid but the tanking by the 76ers)
Sports Talk Shows (worst show is Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp)
While I enjoyed the Gold medal victories of the U.S. Men and Women’s Basketball Teams in the Olympics, I became a fan of the 3 on 3 Women’s Basketball competition (also won by the U.S.)
Two late Summer 2021 Book Recommendations:
The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell
Another 1970 high school classmate passed away recently. My class had 481 students. Based on what I know, approximately 10% of my class has passed away in the 50 years since graduation. Given our stage in life now, it’s possible that 50% of us will die within the next 10 years.
Health, opportunity and time. The older we are, the less certain and smaller window to take advantage of them.
With possible apologies to W.C. Fields, I’d rather be living in Philadelphia than anywhere in Florida.
C-Span conducted a Presidential Historians Survey 2021. They judged Presidents based on the following criteria: 1. Public Persuasion, 2. Crisis Leadership, 3. Economic Management, 4. Moral Authority, 5. International Relations, 6. Administrative Skills, 7. Relations with Congress, 8. Vision, 9. Pursued Equal Justice for All, and 10. Performance within Context of Times.
My list is a small re-shuffling of the list. I am a huge admirer of FDR who pulled the U.S. from a depression, a world war and initiated a variety of badly needed social programs. My recent readings of books regarding the Truman presidency has moved him up from my previous lists.
Donald Trump is listed in the bottom four of the survey only ahead of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce. On my list, he would be our worst President just based on his actions of 1/6/2021.
Combining my interest in both politics and movies, I list the top 22 Political Themed Movies of my lifetime. The first seven on this list I would categorize as “classics.” Some movies are serious, some are satire, a few comedic.
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton) 1941
The Candidate (Robert Redford), Peter Boyle ) 1972
Nicholas and Alexandra ( Michael Jayson, Lawrence Olivier) 1971
The Best Man (Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson) 1964
All The Kings Men (Broderick Crawford) 1949
Advise and Consent (Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton) 1962
The Last Hurrah (Spenser Tracy) 1958
The Ides of March (George Clooney, Ryan Gosling) 2011
Downfall (Hitler’s last days) (Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz) 2004
Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) 1995
Game Change (Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson) 2012
The Contender (Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges) 2000
Seven Days in May (Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas) 1964
Failsafe (Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau) 1964
City Hall (Al Pacino, John Cusack) 1996
Primary Colors (John Travolta, Emma Thompson) 1998
The American President (Michael Douglas, Annette Bening) 1995
Duck Soup (Marx Brothers) 1933
V for Vendetta (Natalie Portman ) 2005
Frost/Nixon (Frank Langella, Michael Sheen) 2008
Vice (Christian Bale) 2018
The Seduction of Joe Tynan (Alan Alda, Meryl Streep) 1979
It’s March Madness time so I thought I would share a list of the top books that I have enjoyed about basketball. The first ten books represent my “top seeds” but let me offer at the outset that any basketball (or any other sport) books written by John Feinstein are Hall of Fame worthy.
A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein
The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball by John Feinstein
Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, Dan Klores
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
The Hoops Whisperer by Idan Ravin
Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman
To the Hoop: Seasons of a Basketball Life by Ira Berkow
A Sense Of Where You Are by John McPhee
Dream Team by Jack McCallum
A March to Madness: A View from the Floor in the Atlantic Coast Conference by John Feinstein
Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson
The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy by Bill Simmons
Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein
Unfinished Business: On and Off the Court With the 1990-91 Boston Celtics by Jack McCallum
The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season by John Feinstein
This year I focused on books that I enjoyed and that I think my friends and other readers will.
I have read 57 books so far in 2020. I am recommending eight books that I enjoyed. Four are novels, two are history related, one is a business tale and the other is a sports book about basketball. I also offer two honorable mention books that may be of interest.
The End of October by Lawrence Wright
This novel is about a global pandemic and other disasters and was written and published before the Covid 19 pandemic and what’s most surprising is how the author has eerily forecasted many of the events and issues that we are experiencing now. Surprising ending!
The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson
Instructive story on how the English people handled “the Blitz”, the bombing of their cities, homes and businesses by the Germans. Story focuses on the leadership skills of Winston Churchill in maintaining morale and discipline. This story makes an interesting comparison between the conduct of the British people and Churchill in 1940 in combatting the Germans to the conduct of the American people and our leadership today combatting Covid 19.
Fleishman in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
I saw this book listed on so many “Best of 2019” book lists that I wanted to read it. I am very glad that I did. It was a very entertaining story from the first page till the end. The story centered around a man recently separated with two kids trying to figure out the rest of his life. The story starts with his ex-wife literally disappearing and leaving him with the care of his two kids. He also has to balance his career as a doctor around the care of his children and his now burgeoning social life.
Talk To Me by John Kenney
Ted Grayson is a 59 year old network news anchor (think Tom Brokaw) who endures a string of catastrophic personal events: his wife has found a new love and is divorcing him, his daughter, Franny is estranged from him and he is losing his highly visible and well paid network job after suffering a verbal meltdown caught online at a woman employee. The meltdown exposes him to national public ridicule and drives him to deep depression. Great insights on managing aging, the media and trying to find public and personal redemption.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac
Well researched book. One of the best business management books available. Excellent storytelling by Mike Isaac. Plenty of business and personal lessons for would be and actual entrepreneurs. Fascinating look at how a business idea starts, gets funded, rolls out and tries to survive in a very competitive and regulated environment. Interesting background stories about the perks and peccadilloes of the executives and investors of the company.
The Fall of Japan by William Craig
Explores the defeat of Japan in World War II. I had liked to think I was an armchair expert on World War II but I learned a number of things that I had not read in previous history books. (e.g. Even after two atom bombs dropped on their homeland, there was intense resistance to surrendering by the Japanese military.)
Evil Geniuses : The Unmaking of America by Kurt Andersen
This book is not a page turner. You are stopped nearly every page to digest what information the author has presented or to consider his analysis and thinking. It’s an analysis about how the rich got richer in America. It started in earnest during the Reagan years and grew into an unstoppable force supported by willing politicians, CEOs, journalists, conservative think tanks, investors and right wing economists. Some of the evil geniuses include Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Donald Trump, John H. Sununu, Stephen Moore, Lewis Powell and more. Who suffers? The middle and lower classes…
Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan
I loved the book! If you are a basketball fan (and I am), you will find the opinions, nostalgia and recountings by just about every major figure in pro and college basketball to be fascinating. This book covers both men’s and women’s college and pro basketball. This book serves as the literary companion to the ESPN documentary.
Bonus Book Recommendations:
Bringing The Heat by Mark Bowden
This is one of the best books about the NFL I have read! What made it special was that it covered the 1992 season for the Philadelphia Eagles. A nostalgic journey as it covered a season that was 28 years ago. But I remember so many of the characters covered in this book including Buddy Ryan, Norman Braman, Seth Joyner, Jerome Brown, Randall Cunningham, Wes Hopkins, Reggie White etc. Lots of great anecdotes and candid insights into a very good Eagles team.
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer by Peter Elkind
Tragic story of a very promising politician and potential Presidential candidate. Smart guy with advanced family, education and financial pedigrees who became Governor of New York and loses it all after his involvement with a female prostitute. Tale reads like a political novel. Interesting to read the extent on how Spitzer tries to cover up his illicit activities.
Reading is my addiction. It has been since I picked up a Hardy Boys book from the Pennsauken Library over 57 years ago. I estimate that I have read about 5500 books and that number continues to grow but at a slower pace from my youth. I try to limit my number of reading heavy books (over 350 pages) as I get older.
Reading is an intellectual diet. There are books that nourish one’s soul and brain. But there are also books that serve as junk food for the mind. They may not nourish one’s mind or soul but they do provide temporary substance or enjoyment.
Shown below is a brief profile of my reading tastes
I prefer reading non fiction books over fiction.
I generally do not read fiction books from women authors.
I have no interest in poetry, science fiction and religious books.
My favorite book topics are history, politics, philosophy, biographies, psychology, sports, business, economics, spy and detective novels.
I used to read self help books and books on how to improve business results in your career but I have outlived their usefulness.
I tend to avoid books authored by politicians and celebrities.
I read one book at at time.
I rarely re-read an entire book.
My favorite place to read is the sun porch on my house.
I don’t multi-task as I read. No TV or music.
Generally if a book does not hold my attention or interest in the first 20-30 pages, I will put it down.
My best sources of finding new reading material that I may have an interest include: The New York Times Sunday Book Review section, Kirkus reviews, Book TV and interviews with authors on news shows and television.
Generally when I target a book that I have interest, I look to borrow the book from my town library. If I can’t find it in my town library, I will probably buy it from Amazon Kindle. If I have a discount coupon from Barnes and Noble, I may purchase a hardcover or paperback, if it is cost efficient.
If I own a book, I may underline sentences and paragraphs that I may wish to reference or remember later.
I look up the defintion of words in a book that I do not know the meaning.
I use Goodreads to catalog and archive the books I read, when I read them and offer a brief review and rating.
Philadelphia Magazine usually publishes a “Best of list” of restaurants, bakeries, places to visit, celebrities etc. that focuses on Center City and the outlying Pennsylvania suburbs. My list is very provincial, mostly places in Camden and Burlington counties. It only reflects my tastes and I have very pedestrian tastes so buyer/reader beware! For amusement purposes only…
Best Breakfast Restaurants: 1. Amy’s Omelette House, Cherry Hill; 2. First Watch Cherry Hill; 3. Perkins, Moorestown NJ
Best Lunch Restaurants: 1. Tre Famiglia, Haddonfield 2. Dooneys, Voorhees; 3. Zoe’s Cherry Hill and Moorestown
Best Bar Food: Blue Monkey, Merchantville
Best Chain Restaurants: 1. Maggiano’s; 2. Brio’s; 3. Olive Garden
Best Diner: 1. Ponzio’s, Cherry Hill; 2. Silver Diner Cherry Hill
Best Buffalo Wings: Pronto, Merchantville
Best Milkshakes: 1. My wife’s; 2. Maple Shade Custard Stand
Best Pizza: 1. Tacconelli’s Maple Shade; 2. Manco and Manco, Ocean City; 3. Bertucci’s, Moorestown
Best Cheeseburger: 1. Habit Burger, Cherry Hill; 2. Five Guys, Cinnaminson
Best French Fries: 1. Five Guys, Cinnaminson; 2. McDonalds, Cinnaminson
Best Hoagies: 1. Jersey Mike’s, Cinnaminson 2. DiPascale’s at Meadowbrook, Pennsauken
Best Return on Investment: Purchase of Sunday New York Times on Kindle for $.99
Best Current Big 5 Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova
Best Big Five Coach Ever: Jay Wright, Villanova
Best Current Big Five Player Not Playing for Villanova: Ryan Daly, St Joseph’s
Best Current Philadelphia Sports Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Best Current Philadelphia 76er Player: Ben Simmons
Best Ever Philadelphia 76er Player: 1. Wilt Chamberlain; 2. Julius Erving
Best Philly Broadcaster All Time: 1. Harry Kalas; 2. Gene Hart; 3. Bill Campbell
Best Sports Event No Longer in Philadelphia: U.S. Pro Indoor Tennis Tournament
Current Sports Event that’s not like it use to be: Big 5 Palestra basketball games
Best Athletes from Willingboro NJ: 1. Carl Lewis; 2. Gino Marella (Gorilla Monsoon-WWE); 3. Ken Caldwell
Best Place to Play Pickleball: Anyplace where my friends are currently playing