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The Many Deaths of Virginia Tech: Second Edition
The Many Deaths of Virginia Tech: Second Edition
Price: $2.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Author Ruins an Excellent Opportunity …, February 6, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As yet another tragedy involving Virginia Tech students makes national news, I find myself dumbfounded by the ongoing string of bizarre and tragic events associated with my alma mater and the town it defines. After reading a sample of THE MANY DEATHS OF VIRGINIA TECH, I was struck by the author’s bipolar approach to the issue and the somewhat rash and juvenile “reviews” from those who admittedly didn’t read the book. Regardless, I opted to view Chuck Marsh’s perspective with an open-mind and read the entire book. What I found was a thorough and thought-provoking history of events that are bracketed by lapses of rather ridiculous personal commentary and odd assertions from the author … ruining what could have been an excellent resource on the subject matter.

One obvious problem with THE MANY DEATHS OF VIRGINIA TECH (second edition) is that it is an example of a book being judged, not by its cover, but by the inflammatory first chapter (which can be read in book’s sample on Amazon). Quite simply, the introductory chapter is a turn-off; it willingly incites predictable rage from the generation of thin-skinned and oft-offended group that populates colleges across the country. It is replete with enough inflammatory generalizations and silly personal assumptions that one may think the book is simply a macabre parody of events when it is not. For example, Marsh considers the colloquial “Virginia Tech” as meaning the school isn’t real, but a place of fantasy, simply because no one wants to waste their breath saying Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University every time the school is mentioned. I assume our similarly named ACC brethren Georgia Tech gets a pass, as do the myriad of other colloquial named schools (does Marsh believe West Point and UCLA don’t exist?). This is just one example of a litany of ridiculous opinions Marsh heaps on VT, as if it is a solitary rogue entity tainting the US college system.

Why Marsh wrote this book is somewhat confusing. On one hand, he seems to be asking a sensible question (one that I ask myself): Why is Virginia Tech the source of ongoing tragedy? On the other hand, he thinks he is providing the obvious answer: Virginia Tech is a horrible institution where horrible instructors provide horrible students a horrible education that leads to an inevitable horrible outcome. As an alumnus, I’ll admit VT (like any large gathering of people) is a mixed bag of good and bad, but evil? Please. VT is a microcosm of college in the United States. What separates VT is the obsessive media attention that the April 2007 shooting garnered … the town and university have been under a microscope ever since. From that perspective, EVERY incident of negativity is reported and like clockwork, the events of April 2007 are referenced, automatically creating a connection (aftershocks from the big ‘quake) … even though there is none. For media types, since 2007, any violence at or near Virginia Tech is simply low-hanging fruit. As someone who came to Blacksburg for college 30 years ago and never left, I’ve been here through all the incidents that Marsh has reported and many more. Marsh misses the mark painting the entire picture of violent events that have occurred since I’ve been here, including:

- 1984 VT student Lewis Dowdy shoots and kills Veterinary School admin Rober Hogstett.

- Giles County native John David Lafon convicted of murdering VT students Meredith Mergler (1987) and Andrea Walnes (1991).

- In 1993, accused murderers Billie Joe Hottle and Craig Swick escape from prison and are reportedly spotted in Blacksburg and possibly blending in with the student population (the FBI, State and local law enforcement swamps the town and campus).

- In 1995, Blacksburg police try to issue arrest warrant on Maurice Taylor and Taylor responds by pulling out a pellet gun that looks like a Desert Eagle .50 cal. pistol … he is shot and killed.

- 1995, a group of young men on a crime spree carjack a student at convenience store (Hethwood Express) and eventually kill him in the McCoy section of Blacksburg.

- In 1997, twin brothers Terry and Kerry Scales pull out pistols at a local bar (Arnold’s) after one of the brothers causes a disturbance by flirting with a female guest who was part of a wedding party visiting the area … in the ensuing fight, both brothers shoot, with Kerry firing five rounds into the chest of Richard Bullard, killing him.

- In 2009, Hasan Nidal, a VT graduate, kills 13 and wounds 30 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood.

If Marsh had actually been concerned about presenting a clearer picture of the violence associated with Virginia Tech/Blacksburg, he shouldn’t have missed these events (and why not throw in Michael Vick’s transgressions as well … everyone else does). But, doing so wouldn’t allow the timeline to support Marsh’s preference of using the events surrounding the April shootings to showcase his point that something “evil” resides in Blacksburg … a deadly cancer. Bottom line, Virginia Tech and Blacksburg have both good and bad elements and yes, for the most part, college students are naïve, ignorant, immature, reckless and impulsive … most teenagers/young adults are. VT has had some bizarre incidents, no doubt, but a simple internet check wipes out Marsh’s claim of VT/Blacksburg being a violent/dangerous place … even the events of 2007 did not place the school in the top 25 on the Clery Act’s most dangerous colleges list (2007-2009) or Business Insider’s FBI list of most dangerous colleges (2008-2011). One reason is that law enforcement at VT and Blacksburg have exemplary crime solving records and there has always been a palpable sense of security associated with the area, in light of the negative news. Considering Blacksburg and VT are “one” (the student population is not separate from the town’s population), the crime rate for a town of 50,000 is remarkably low (and as expected, mostly alcohol-related). In 2015, Forbes ranked Blacksburg as one of the top 25 places in the country to retire. There are actually several recent rankings that defy Marsh’s take on Virginia Tech and Blacksburg:

- Glassdoor.com ranked Virginia Tech in the top 10 universities to work for in 2014.

- Movoto.com ranked the Town of Blacksburg No. 4 on a list of the "10 Happiest Small Places in America" in 2014.

- The Best Workplaces for Commuters program gave Virginia Tech a gold award for its commuter program in 2014, for the fifth consecutive year.

- The Active Times gave Virginia Tech the top spot its list of the "50 Fittest Colleges in America" in 2013.

- Homes.com ranked Blacksburg No. 1 on its “Top 10 Cities to Raise a Family” listing in 2012, citing Virginia Tech and numerous economic opportunities as reasons for the top designation.

- Bloomberg's Businessweek ranked Blacksburg the “Best Place in the U.S. to Raise Kids" in 2012.

- Forbes.com named the “Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford” area one of the best small cities to find employment in 2012 based on statistical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is safe to say that if the 2007 massacre had not occurred, Marsh probably wouldn’t have even considered writing this book.

Although Marsh’s apparent distaste for VT/Blacksburg is hard to ignore, there are moments where his book shines. The manner in which he documents the list of offenses (by chapter) is thorough, informative, interesting and fairly neutral. I actually felt I received a better synopsis of all events described (especially the beheading incident) than the bits and pieces provided by local media over the years. I certainly believe Marsh takes some liberty with incidents of suicide and hit-and-run (which are no more a problem in Blacksburg than any other similarly-sized town). But with April 2007 comprising the lion’s share of the book, Marsh presents material that I did not previously know. More specifically, sociology professor Kenneth Westhues’ analysis of the VT shooter being “mobbed” (bullied) by professors in English dept. at VT as well as another VT student’s similar experience in the same department. Marsh presents a series of almost identical incidents that seem quite plausible considering the elitist nature and arrogance that often exists in an academic environment. One student suffered, but moved on and the other student snapped. Marsh also cogently illustrates the bureaucratic “circling of the wagons” exhibited by VT to defend itself against claims of negligence or culpability. I now have a better understanding as to why families of the 2007 shooting victims have taken legal action against VT. Again, Marsh’s presentation and his general interpretation of the crimes covered are certainly commendable. At times, he even offers thought-provoking and logical assertions that enhance the storyline. I have not found anything that comes close to providing such detailed information on all the events described.

Bottom line, the incidents outlined in this book are certainly tragic and one has to wonder why Virginia Tech seems to produce negative news fodder on a regular basis. Had the events of April 2007 not occurred, most of the incidents in the book (William Morva, Morgan Harrington, the unsolved Caldwell Field murders etc.) would be nothing but singular tragedies, but Marsh uses April 2007 as the glue that holds them all together. I find this to be a bit of a stretch. Unfortunately, today’s media has forever anointed that one day in April almost 10 years ago as part of the conversation whenever Virginia Tech is mentioned. Instead of pointing out the obsessive and bloodthirsty manner in which the media interprets tragedies for mass consumption and ratings, Marsh appears to have joined the ensemble. Marsh uses these tragedies to define Virginia Tech, but nowhere does he mention other Universities that have encountered equally horrible events: University of Texas (Charles Whitman), Florida State (Ted Bundy) and the University of Florida (Danny Rolling). Marsh had an opportunity to educate, but his work is overshadowed by personal assumptions that not only have no basis, but ruin what would have been a valuable and substantive book on the subject matter.


Swingline Stapler, Quick Touch, Compact, 15 Sheets, Black/Red (S7064565)
Swingline Stapler, Quick Touch, Compact, 15 Sheets, Black/Red (S7064565)
Price: $14.50
3 used & new from $13.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Compact Stapler with a Punch …, February 4, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been using Swingline staplers exclusively at home and work (where my much beloved “Office Space” red Swingline resides). All the staplers I’ve ever used have been the “standard” model that are designed to remain sitting on a desk or table and are somewhat awkward to handle when holding the stapler and squeezing (especially when the paper stack is thick and more pressure is needed to push the staple through). The SWINGLINE QUICK TOUCH is designed to accommodate both table/desktop and single-handed stapling; it packs a powerful punch with little effort.

The QUICK TOUCH is 6” long. It is 3” tall in the front and tapers (curves) to 2” tall on the back end. The bottom is has a rubberized cover that not only keeps the stapler in place on a desk/table, but provides a griping surface when stapling by hand. I found the QUICK TOUCH’S ergonomic design particularly impressive:

- Aside from the metal staple holder and stapling plate everything is housed in plastic with curved/smoothed edges. This makes the stapler both lightweight and easy to grip … in other words, comfortable.

- The power of this little stapler is pretty impressive. There is an added tier between the staple holder and the top that gives this stapler the power to punch a staple through 15 sheets of paper with no effort (“stored energy system”). I felt the stapling power was akin to that of a staple-gun, but required much less effort. A light hand squeeze is all it takes, whether you’re stapling 2 sheets or 15 sheets. The resulting noise is a simple “click”.

This is, by far, the most comfortable stapler I’ve used and is perfect for household and office functions.

The only downside of the QUICK TOUCH is the staple capacity. A plastic button on the top slides the staple holder out when pushed. The issue I have isn’t with the push-button mechanism, but with the staple capacity as it only has ~2 ½“ of space and cannot hold a standard “sleeve” of staples designed for compact staplers. For my limited personal and work use, this is not a problem, but for those who use a stapler more frequently, having to portion sleeves of staples to fit in the small slot may be an annoyance.


The North Hollywood Shootout (Annotated) (Violent Crimes Book 1)
The North Hollywood Shootout (Annotated) (Violent Crimes Book 1)
Price: $2.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Wish I Would Have Explored a Google Search Instead …, January 26, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After seeing an episode of “Ground Zero” on the infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank shootout, I was compelled to take a deeper look at the incident and found this e-book. Generally, I’m somewhat averse to purchasing such “books”, but took a chance anyway. While the “book” gives readers a chicken wing’s worth of meat to understand the basics of the dramatic robbery/shootout, but you’d be better off exploring the internet. Any positives the book had were tanked by the shoddy editing.

The author offers about 25 pages of readable material that more or less outlines the background of two bank robbers and events that led up to the 1997 botched robbery that led to the dramatic 44 minute shootout with the LAPD. The details, while scant, are sufficient enough to give a person unfamiliar with the event a simple understanding of what it was all about. But, most of the information presented is simply an amalgamation of internet information (Wikipedia is sourced the most).

Editing is not something I usually gripe about, but my tolerance was severely tested reading this “book”. First of all, if a book is going to center on two individuals (the robbers), it helps to get the names right. Ironically, the author had no problem correctly spelling the robber with the Romanian name, Emil Mătăsăreanu (accents and all), but can’t get the name Larry Phillips right (Phillips, Philips, Philipps and Phillips are alternated from beginning to end). “Her” is used instead of “him” and at times, multiple words are merged into one big word. Irritating, to say the least.

The best source of information provided by this book is a website: www.hollywoodshootout.com. If you want a more thorough understanding about this crazy bank robbery, you’re better off sticking with the internet.


Simple Steps for Sixth Grade
Simple Steps for Sixth Grade
by Thinking Kids
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
38 used & new from $8.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid 6th Grade Supplement …, January 25, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
SIMPLE STEPS FOR SIXTH GRADE is the final volume of an excellent series of books aimed at providing step-by-step guides for math and language arts skills from grades 3 – 6.

This SIMPLE STEPS lesson book consists of 270 instructional pages divided equally, with 135 pages devoted each to math and language arts. The lesson book is well-organized with a comprehensive table of contest that makes finding specific topics quite easy.

MATH:

The math portion of the lesson book is divided into six specific math categories (chapters) that are broken down into sub-categories with simplified, but comprehensive lessons and practice questions for each and every sub-category:

1. Multiplication/Division
2. Ratios/Rates/Percentages
3. Number System/Integers
4. Expressions/Equations
5. Geometry
6. Statistics

The format for the series is the same as other SIMPLE STEPS grade-specific books: step-by-step instructions and examples illustrating each lesson using colors to identify key concepts and math terms. Following the introduction of each math concept, there are a series of practice questions to utilize/reinforce what is being taught. There is an answer key at the very back of the book that replicates each practice question page with the answers provided in red. The concepts are grade specific and the difficulty increases as the material covered in later chapters tend to build on knowledge learned from previous chapters. A review “test” that concludes each of the six chapters incorporates all the material covered in that particular chapter. The end of the math section offers a comprehensive/cumulative “test” that touches on every math concept covered in the book (all 6 math categories). I found the math section of the book to be challenging and an excellent supplement to my state’s 6th grade curriculum. The standard format of introducing and explaining concepts is easy for the parent/instructor to present, as well as easy for the student to understand. I like the book’s focus on traditional math methods that reinforce lessons taught in school. The practice questions do provide adequate space for the student to “show” his/her work.

LANGUAGE ARTS:

The 2nd part of the book is dedicated to language arts and, like the math portion, it is broken down into main categories (4) with sub-categories pertaining to each of the categories:
1. Parts of Speech
2. Sentences
3. Capitalization/Punctuation
4. Usage/Vocabulary/Spelling

The language arts lessons are presented in the same manner as the math lessons: key terms and concepts being assigned specific colors. The lessons are specific and easy to comprehend. I found this section of the lesson book to be quite informative as it touches on grammar rules that, if not understood early enough, can follow students through college and their professional lives (correct use of punctuation, capitalization, run-ons, fragmented sentences, etc.). Like the math section format, each of the four language arts chapters/categories offers a “test” and the language arts segment concludes with a comprehensive/cumulated “test” covering all language arts concepts covered in the book.

All pages in the book are perforated and can be pulled out (helpful considering your average 6th grader will have no problem locating the answer key in the back).

I am fortunate enough to have a wife who happens to be a middle school principal and she found SIMPLE STEPS FOR SIXTH GRADE to be an excellent supplemental resource for public school students. She specifically commented on the book’s thoroughness, its organization and how effective the lessons are presented. She considers this lesson book to be an excellent reinforcement tool.


Out of Control Confessions of an NFL Casualty
Out of Control Confessions of an NFL Casualty
by Thomas Henderson
Edition: Hardcover
65 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest Tale of Swagger Gone Astray …, January 25, 2016
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Having recently read a book that detailed the wild-and-wooly times of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, I thought those teams were the torch-bearers of decadence and mayhem among pro football players … they were simply the second chapter. Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson played hard on the field and harder off the field; his brief, but lively, career in the NFL makes players on those Jimmy Johnson led teams look like a bunch of wannabe hooligans. OUT OF CONTROL is a brutally honest personal account of someone who arguably become the NFL’s first ego-driven superstar casualty.

My desire to read about Thomas Henderson’s rather dated (1987) autobiography is twofold: First: While I dislike the Dallas Cowboys (a common sentiment where I live), I love (and miss) the NFL of the 1970s. That decade formed an indelible image in my aging mind as an era when pro football was still blue-collar and seemed to mesh perfectly with American culture; The blend of the gritty, blue-collar football world + the glitz of disco always seems to generate good stories. Second: Henderson’s commentary on NFL Network shows (A Football Life: Roger Staubach and America’s Game: 1977 Dallas Cowboys) was certainly tantalizing enough for me to look deeper at his time in the NFL.

As I read OUT OF CONTROL, I began to realize that it was more than a simple autobiography; the book seems to serve several purposes: catharsis, an apology, an explanation, self-reflection and a warning. Published almost 30 years ago (he has since released a follow-up, “In Control”, in 2004), I still found the book relevant and thoroughly entertaining. This book covers the story of Henderson’s life from his disaffected youth all the way to his release from prison (where he served 28 months for an incident involving drugs and two underage girls). Between the nightmarish bookends of childhood and prison is an action packed story that unfurls like a dream: accolades, wealth, women and fame blurred by a drug-fueled rampaging ego. When one hears the name “Hollywood” Henderson, it is easy to focus on the arrogance he frequently displayed or his infamous fall-from-grace. But, reading his story from the beginning certainly adds perspective and makes it easier to understand the inevitability of his downfall. What makes the book so enjoyable and interesting are the details and brutal honesty. I found myself cringing frequently as Henderson spills out not only his dirty deeds, but his personal feelings about others throughout the book. It takes a lot of guts to put a lot of what Henderson says in fine print.

Even reading it almost 30 years after it was written, Henderson’s recollections are refreshingly detailed snapshots of simple and exciting times … like hearing a grandfather’s old war stories. All of the stories that caught my interest on the NFL Network programs were completely fleshed-out in the book. I was eager to read about the incident between Henderson and Hall-of-Famer Randy White, as well as his shaky relationships with most all of his teammates and coach Tom Landry. Endless drug-fueled escapades (sexcapades) are chronicled throughout the book; making it likely that even the wildest 1990s Cowboy superstars couldn’t match Henderson’s lust for drugs and women. The stories read like they are being told: short, but descriptive sentences that give readers a view from every angle. This manner of story-telling made the book an easy, rolling read. The drug aspect builds gradually and eventually eclipses football and takes control of everything (Henderson even admits freebasing in his hospital room between doctor visits). Reading about escalating drug use is frustrating simply because you see it beginning to erode everything in his life, one thing after another to the point you find yourself rooting for him to quit … then he takes it up a notch. The rather casual attitude towards sex and drugs in the 1970s spilled into the world of professional football; while other players managed to separate the two worlds, Henderson could not (he played high on cocaine throughout his career). The book ends with Henderson’s rebirth (he claims the “Hollywood” persona died when he was arrested November 8, 1983); a starting point for rebuilding/repairing everything he previously destroyed.

OUT OF CONTROL is one of the best sports memoirs I’ve read. While I found it easy to dismiss Henderson and his ego in the beginning, it was even easier to become a fan of his the more I kept reading. The openness that bleeds throughout the book is uncomfortable at times (Henderson admits to many embarrassing moments), but quite sincere (a trait that seems to be missing in many pro athlete memoirs). I’m certainly glad I decided to read this book, even though it took three decades to do so.


MagnoGrip 002-757 Pro Fingerless Magnetic Glove, Large, Black
MagnoGrip 002-757 Pro Fingerless Magnetic Glove, Large, Black
Price: $16.97
7 used & new from $10.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Addition to the Toolbox …, January 19, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The only tool-related gloves I thought I’d ever need were the disposable latex/nitrile types and a decent pair of rawhides. Thoughtfully designed and practical, the MAGNOGRIP PRO FINGERLESS MAGNETIC GLOVES certainly proved to be a valuable addition to my home workshop.

WHAT THEY ARE:

A pair of fingerless neoprene gloves with a magnet on the back that is designed to be a handy holding spot for screws, nails and washers.

BREAKING DOWN THE GLOVE FEATURES:

- These fingerless gloves (cut off at the middle joint of my hands) use neoprene to cover the hands’ moving parts (knuckles and finger joints) to create a snug, yet flexible, fit.

- The palm and finger-base of each glove has three thin non-slip pads for a solid gripping surface. These pads are shaped and strategically placed in a manner that factors the hands’ contours and natural gripping movement without being obstructive.

- A 2” x 1.25” thin, flexible magnet is attached to the back of glove just below the knuckles. The magnet is covered by a 3” x 5”square of thin rubber padding that is securely stitched to the glove itself. The magnet, while thin, is pretty strong and capable of securely holding a number of nails, screws, washers, etc.

- The gloves are secured at the wrist by a Velcro strap and a rubber notch with the MagnoGrip logo resting on top of the inner wrist serves as a grip for pulling the gloves on and off.

- The outer thumb area of the gloves is made of terry-cloth serves as a sweat-wipe.

PERFORMANCE AND OPINION:

- I have large hands and found these gloves quite snug and extremely comfortable. I found the snug fit to be a plus because it gave me the ability to feel the tools with my entire hand, not just with my exposed fingers. I never thought of using gloves when using screwdrivers, but after using these gloves, it certainly makes sense. Using these gloves provided a much more assured grip of my tools that reduced hand-fatigue and slipping caused by sweat.

- The comfort of the gloves themselves almost overshadowed the gloves’ key element: the magnet. The addition of a magnetic surface for screws and nails is quite ingenious. I’ve always simply stuffed these items in my pocket and simply endured holes being punched into the pockets and getting my fingers occasionally punctured. The magnet is located in a convenient, yet unobtrusive location (back of hand) and can hold a descent amount of screws and nails considering the size of the magnet.

- Because of the snug fit, taking the gloves off required pulling on the each of the fingers; I did not find this problematic. Once the gloves are on, they don’t slide around, but stay put.

Overall, I found the MAGNOGRIP FINGERLESS MAGNETIC GLOVES extremely functional. While my use is limited to household projects (big and small), I was really impressed by their performance. The magnet proved to be convenient and the “second skin” feeling of these gloves provided a better grip when handling tools without being cumbersome.


X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking
X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking
by Jeff Gordinier
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.11
60 used & new from $0.13

2.0 out of 5 stars Much Ado About NOTHING …, January 14, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Good old Generation X, a mere pamphlet between the monstrous volumes that represent the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations. While Boomers and Millennials get most of the press and glory (good and bad), there are “Gen X’ers” like Jeff Gordinier who are not happy with his perception that Generation X is dismissed as being insignificant. In his book, X SAVES THE WORLD, Gordinier makes a semi-humorous attempt to hang a relevance label on Generation X that comes across more like a patented Jan Brady cry for attention.

As a fellow Gen X’er (who graduated high school the same year as the author), I found reading X SAVES THE WORLD as a source of eye-rolling amusement. While I was looking for a humorous perspective of my generation and its quirks/contributions, Gordinier seems to believe we’re a failed generation because no grandiose world-wide game-changing event can be credited to us (think of the Greatest Generation and World War II). Sure, the book is intended to be sarcastic, but I kept sensing the feeling that the author really believes that his generation is viewed as nothing more than a waste of DNA destined to be controlled by Boomers and stuck with catering to Millennial needs.

X SAVES THE WORLD is divided into three distinct chapters in which the author breaks down the rise, fall and possible rebirth of Generation X: “In Bloom” (1991-1999), “Idiots Rule” (2000-2006) and “I Will Dare (2006 to 2008 – the year of the book’s release). Ironically or intentionally, these periods seem to identify the standard snarky media driven political template identifying the Clinton, Bush and Obama terms in office. Reading it now (2016) reveals how premature Gordinier was in hoping America’s first Gen X President would be a positive game-changer (the author fell for the whole “hope and change” thing that never happened). Aside from all the political-themed characterization of my generation, the author believes the Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” is our grand offering to the world, ugh. Nirvana’s okay and the tune is catchy, but I never really understood the infatuation with the rather weak “grunge” genre and its lack of stamina (especially considering the flag-bearer, Kurt Cobain, didn’t want to live much longer). Gordinier might consider revising/updating the book and mark our generation’s rebirth with the release of “The Goldbergs” on TV (it sums-up Gen X better than anything else).

If the book represents an effort to convince people that Generation X does matter, it falls flat. Nirvana will NEVER match the Stones or Beatles and Cobain will never match Hendrix. As far as music goes, the Boomer generation has that segment locked down forever (this is amplified even more when one realizes that Woodstock was a miraculous accident that will never be replicated). Gordinier throws in creation of Google and a whole host of overrated comedians to bolster Gen X contributions … and it doesn’t help at all (the combined list of comedians fails to equal George Carlin or Richard Pryor). Even though the book is heaped with sarcasm, I really sensed the author pined over our generation’s apparent failure to make its mark in the world on some grand scale (and he was optimistic that Obama would do so). While Boomers can take a great deal of credit for a lot of things, they also squandered a lot of what the previous generation gave them: a period of security and lessons on how to save, not spend, money. Yes, Gen X may be marginalized and insignificant simply because we don’t possess the numbers, but at least we haven’t screwed things up too badly (I’m betting the Millennials will take that prize).

X SAVES THE WORLD simply tries too hard to be philosophical and cynical and comes across as phony hipster-speak. This isn’t a subject worth analyzing too deeply, if at all. Gen Xers have it made … some of us realize it.


Milk & Co. Men's Moisturizing Shave Milk, 5 Fluid Ounce
Milk & Co. Men's Moisturizing Shave Milk, 5 Fluid Ounce

4.0 out of 5 stars Invigorating but Thin …, January 13, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I first started shaving, the only readily available shaving cream choices were Edge and Barbasol; whichever one was chosen, you tended to stick with it for the long haul. Now that men’s skin care is a “niche”, the shaving cream/soap choices are endless … there’s something for everyone. I felt SHAVE MILK generated a nice, re-vitalizing shave, but did not provide the blade protection I need.

Almost two years ago, I opted-out of the disposable razor racket for a double-edged safety razor and I don’t ever plan on going back. With that being said, I need a shaving cream that is slick, builds a generous lather and offers a descent amount of “cushion” to keep the blade from peeling off layers of skin. While I liked the moisturizing nature and the soothing/invigorating menthol offered by SHAVE MILK, the layer of protection it offered was a little too thin for my taste.

My experience with the SHAVE MILK involved too days of moderate facial hair growth. Rather than using the product’s suggested method of applying a warm wet towel to my face, I shaved following a hot shower (which I find works best). I squirted a quarter-sized amount of SHAVE MILK in the palm of my hand and used a wet badger-haired brush to generate a lather. The first thing I noticed was that the SHAVE MILK was not as thick as I expected … it was a little runny. Regardless, it provided a decent lather for the first application. My first shaving pass was in the direction of my hair growth and my razor glided quite smoothly. After dabbing a little more water on my brush, I noticed a considerable drop-off in lather and the second application was quite thin. The second pass on my skin was “against the grain” and this was when I felt the lack of “cushion” and slickness that I generally get from my preferred shave soap … my razor dragged. To perform my third and final “touch-up” pass, I needed to apply more SHAVE MILK because squeezing a third application was not going to work without my razor seriously scraping my skin. Once I finished shaving and rinsed my face, I immediately felt the soothing menthol kicking-in and my skin felt great (soft) … no burn at all. The menthol scent was quite pleasant and not overwhelming.

If I were still using a disposable razor and only using one application of soap/cream, I would definitely consider using the SHAVE MILK exclusively. The thin, milky texture of the soap generates significantly less build-up on the blade, easily washes off and seems perfectly suited for the multi-blade disposables that generally include a gliding bumper or lubricated strip. Even though SHAVE MILK doesn’t cater to my specific shaving needs, I like spicing things up every once in a while and will gladly welcome SHAVE MILK to the lineup.


Ernie Ball Pick Buddy
Ernie Ball Pick Buddy
Price: $7.88
4 used & new from $5.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Guitar Gadget with Questionable Reliability …, January 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The ERNIE BALL PICK BUDDY sounds like a decent concept: a pick-holding device that sticks to your guitar without any damaging adhesive. While some may find this type of gadget appealing or even necessary, I found it to be somewhat unsightly and unreliable.

WHAT IT IS:

A small, curved slab of soft plastic with a suction cup on the bottom and a slit on the top that holds a single pick in place. The PICK BUDDY COMES with a medium gauge pick. Simply press the gadget to a smooth surface on your guitar and you’ll have a parking spot for your pick. The pick-holding slit does provide a solid grip and can accommodate most pick gauges/sizes (even the little bluegrass picks).

My problem with the PICK BUDDY is two-fold:

- Maybe it’s a personal aesthetic thing for me, but I don’t find things sticking to my guitar very appealing and it simply bothers me seeing something that looks like a leech stuck on my instrument.

- More importantly, I’ve never had much success with any suction devices, whether it be a shampoo holder in the shower or a GPS base that attaches to my car’s windshield. The PICK BUDDY can be added to my list of suction cup failures as it failed to adhere to my guitar for long periods of time. Aside from simply falling off on its own, the PICK BUDDY occasionally decided it wanted to accompany the pick en-route to the strings (the grip on the pick was significant enough to release the suction and not the pick).

The PICK BUDDY may come in handy for certain scenarios, but I found it to be more of a superfluous gadget than a ground-breaking, must-need accessory. While I’m sure there are methods/techniques to enhance the suction cup capability, I don’t feel it’s worth the trouble.


Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty
Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty
by Jeff Pearlman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.92
75 used & new from $5.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the Saddle Sores on the Cowboys Dynasty …, January 8, 2016
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I am NOT a Cowboys fan and I while I’d love to praise this book for lifting the veil of achievement and revealing the underlying filth, it’s not the reason I enjoyed reading BOYS WILL BE BOYS. No, I found Jeff Pearlman’s book an enjoyable read because it was entertaining, revealing and remarkably balanced even though it takes the veneer off the “America’s Team” dynasty of the 1990s.

Personally, my enjoyment of following professional football ended in the 1980s as the 90s ushered in the new (and ongoing) phase of big money, massive media attention and selfishness compounded by stratospheric egos; an era defined by individuals outshining teams. After reading BOYS WILL BE BOYS, I now clearly see that the seeds for this change were sown when Jerry Jones decided to purchase the Dallas Cowboys. There are plenty of examples of outrageousness associated with Super Bowl champions (the ’85 Bears come to mind), but the NFL “dynasties” associated with the 60s (the disciplined Packers), 70s (the blue collar Steelers) and 80s (the nice-guy 49ers) don’t hold a candle to the outrageous swagger associated with the Cowboys of the 90s.

While this is the first Pearlman book I’ve read, his other books reveal a penchant for tackling more controversial sports subjects (Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons, for example). I was wondering if this book on the Cowboys was going to be an opinionated hatchet job to discredit a team with a huge fan base (and a hate-base that is arguably even larger). Instead of providing raw meat to Cowboy-haters (a sure bet for a bestseller?), Pearlman offers a refreshingly fair analysis of the 90s Cowboys that heaps equal doses of praise and scorn. Looking at this team and all its parts (players, coaches and owner) was like opening-up and examining an overstuffed Chipotle burrito … a messy pile of meat, rice and beans neatly wrapped by a soft tortilla. Starting with Jerry Jones purchasing the Cowboys, readers are taken on an entertaining ride that accounts for a good amount of football (three Super Bowl wins) and a whole lot of drama and decadence … a “sports-opera”. Many may know the framework of this dynamic team; its foundation is comprised of household names and sports legends (Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, etc.). But, rather than simply telling a story of how these men contributed to Dallas’ success, Pearlman weaves mini-biographies of each individual added to the storyline … revealing and intimate, these background stories certainly add depth to the book and explain (not justify) so much of the headline-making behavior I always associated with this team. I had no idea how bad the childhoods were for so many players and especially coach Barry Switzer.

Pearlman pulls most of his material from a large number of former Cowboy players. But, there is a noticeable absence of certain names from his pool of sources, names that comprise a bulk of the book’s content: Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders and Charles Haley. With that being said, contributions from Michael Irvin and Barry Switzer certainly add a degree of credibility (which is important, considering the scandalous nature of so many off-field events being detailed often included them).

So what was so appealing about BOYS WILL BE BOYS? What I enjoyed so much about this book was that I received a better understanding of what those Cowboy teams were really all about … the good and the bad. While I remember snickering about the Cowboys 1-15 record in Johnson’s first season as coach, I appreciated reading how Johnson turned things around so quickly with his respected, but ill-received heavy-handed coaching style. Additionally, there is plenty of football discussed, including candid peer-commentary detailing the varying degrees of talent and work ethic of teammates. It is truly interesting how such a diverse group of players functioned so well (for a while) and how things started to unravel at the seams when Switzer replaced Johnson as the coach and an undisciplined team won a Super Bowl on sheer talent. Unlike other accounts of storied teams, those Cowboys seemed to celebrate their success, fame and wealth like no other and it eventually caught up with them (retribution). The mix of athletic achievement, big money, egos, drugs, alcohol, hookers, personality disorders and tension are the ingredients that make this book hard to put down. It is evident that the ego-driven Jerry Jones and the larger-than-life personas of “Prime Time”, Irvin and others are responsible for ushering in the materialistic, greedy and gaudy nature that constitutes the NFL we know today.

It really doesn’t matter if you love or hate the Cowboys to enjoy BOYS WILL BE BOYS … I don’t even think it matters whether or not you like football. This book is simply a well-written and entertaining group of stories that reveals what really lurks behind the façade of glory associated with winning big in (American) professional sports.


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