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2020 Election Has Begun- It's Not a Real Campaign, Until You Have Donors
johnny
bedsitter23
The time honored caucus season has its moments and none is a better indicator that things are off and running than a bunch of donors trying to encourage a candidate to run.

Lest you think, it's too early, Joe Biden already has courters. Two Quad City men lead a group called Time For Biden and expect to have a Headquarters up and running by March 2018.

Now, granted, way more candidates are losers than winners in Presidential Elections. Still, it seems the ones that are courted the most are the biggest failures.

Arguably, the heaviest courted candidate before caucus was Chris Christie in 2016. He eventually ended up with less than 2 percent of the vote that year.

Remember Scott Walker's Presidential run? No? He was also heavily courted but didn't even make it to the caucus.

You can probably line up several heavy hitters: Rick Perry, Fred Thompson, Jeb Bush, Wesley Clark. of course, you can probably find a list of reasons why these campaigns crashed on landing. Still, it's not easy as it sounds. Thompson and Clark probably waited too long to enter, so no worry there.

Still, the Ridin' with Biden movement is getting some noise from Iowa Democrats. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was named Ambassador to China by Trump, and although his Lieutenant Governor is now incumbent, it seems the state house is the most susceptible to a Democrat victory in almost a decade. We are barely into the Gubernatorial election of 2018, why do Democrats need to be focused on anything else.

For me, though, my biggest problem is the most obvious.

Time For Biden suggest that the best plan of victory is to get Biden a clear path to victory by scaring every one else away.

Not only is this not a good idea, this seems like a colossally bad idea.

I can quickly point out the years where there was no Presidential incumbent where there was a quick near anointing - 2000 Gore and 2016 Clinton.

On the other hand, when there's a crowd, it only brings all of the issues out and finds the best battle tested candidate. 1976 gave us 14 Democrats and a victory in the fall (and 2016's crowd of 15 GOP hopefuls only goes to further my point).

1992 was a year where the caucus and primary process found Bill Clinton.  Now, native son Tom Harkin won Iowa, but the process found a candidate who had the ability to win. 

Similarly, 2008, of course, made Barack Obama battle tested and ready.  Would John Edwards or Hillary Clinton been able to win in November?  certainly hindsight says Obama was the best candidate of the three.  I suspect Obama's campaign was also bolstered by competition from Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson, who forced him to earn the respect of their supporters. 

(To close out the modern day primaries that resulted in a White House residency- 1980 Reagan faced a battle from George Bush who won Iowa, a targeted candidacy from John Anderson and heavy hitters like John Connally and Howard Baker.  1988 and 2000 were less coronations for the respective Bushes than you remember.  The Senior had faced formidable competition  from not only Bob Dole but Pat Robertson.  The Junior had a crowd of candidates you have since forgot like Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, and Libby Dole, not to mention John McCain)

In any case, more candidates may be better for the Party than fewer.  I understand that's an argument Time for Biden is likely unwilling to hear.  Nor are they unlikely to realize that the Democrats are the party of fresh blood, which is why they have had success in unknowns like Clinton, Carter and Obama, and second efforts from Gephardt, Edwards, and Gary Hart have bombed out. 

We can only watch and wait and see.


Book Review: They Have Killed Papa Dead
johnny
bedsitter23
I read some other reader reviews of this book and saw some people were put off by the title, but the title was exactly why it caught my eye on the shelf of Half Price Books. I knew this wasn’t just any other book on Lincoln.

I have read plenty of Lincoln and probably wasn’t really excited about buying another one, but something real stuck out with this.

The truth is it is a pretty unique addition to the Lincoln canon. Pitch lived in Washington DC and spent 7 years going to the Library of Congress and National Archives. He had the unique position of living 20 miles away and was able to do a level of research that no one else could expect to, because of travel and time restrictions.

Because he had access to journals, letters and newspapers of the day, he was able to get as many angles as a modern day biography, but a feat that is rare for an event over 150 years old. I echo what another reader reviewer said, it creates a certain level of ‘worldbuilding’ that is impossible in most historical tomes.

Because of his research, we get observations from actual witnesses to the events. We get contemporary opinion. We get insight from the major players and those that are once or twice removed (friends, neighbors).

The book takes on the whole story of Lincoln’s assassination. There are the precautions of Lincolns inaugural to prevent assassination attempts. There’s the Booth conspiracy which is handled probably as much as in detail as anywhere, which starts as a plan to kidnap Lincoln and evolves. The cast are drifters, cowards, mentally challenged and the charismatic Booth leading them all. There is the escape from Ford Theater and the Manhunt. There are the desperate doctors trying to save the President. The trial and hanging of the conspirators. The escape and eventual capture of John Surratt who makes it all the way to the Vatican.

I consider myself very well versed in this story, but there is so much here to take in. I found so much of it fascinating. For me, it was all interesting, but I learned a lot I did not know- such as Samuel Mudd eventually making his way out of prison and into local politics, and how the Booth family reacted to the assassination. Also, the horrible treatment of the conspirators is pretty shocking. Even if this was a national incident where they were likely guilty, it has to be said they were treated inhumanely.

Each of these topics make for compelling reading. There's Seward and Stanton and Grant and Andrew Johnson. There's plenty of lesser known figures as well that you might be introduced to for the first time.

It is a fascinating book and adds so much to Lincoln’s story. It’s a huge undertaking and it’s a bit of a lot to take in (400 pages). For me, it flowed pretty well. I thought the pre-Booth assassination rumors were an interesting place to start, and sort of transitions weirdly into Booth’s involvement, but still fascinating. The Booth manhunt is bogged down in details. The only part for me that dragged. I suspect that particular event was action-driven and so was better served to be handled that way as in Swanson’s book. Still, Pitch’s angle is one that again is fascinating and little known. The reward offered for the capture of the conspirators probably created more infighting and negative consequences than its intended goal to get everyone working together. Pitch details how the reward eventually gets paid out, and the politics that went into the decision making.

This was a fascinating book as I suspected from the striking cover when I first saw it, but it really was an unique book on Lincoln. It covers a lot of territory that has been well worn but gives it fresh eyes. There is a quote on the book from a USA Today review which makes it sound like it only focuses on the sensationalist details, but that’s the wrong impression. Instead it gives it a level of detail that drops you down in to the 1860s. For all those reasons, I recommend this highly.

Book Review: How Music Works by David Byrne
johnny
bedsitter23
How Music WorksHow Music Works by David Byrne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love, love, love Byrne's books.

Whenever, I read negative reader reviews, it's usually because they are expecting something else. Indeed, there are people more qualified to write a book called "How Music Works"- music historians, sound engineers, social scientists, linguists, and so on.

Still, Byrne has such a keen insight, and takes what can be a dry university subject and make it really interesting.

The most cursory of looks at Byrne's career will remind you he's seen and done alot. Punk pioneer at CBGBs. Pop hero headlining stadiums. MTV artist who pioneered modern-day visuals with some of the most memorable pop music images of the last 50 years. World music hero who experimented with sounds (and Eno) and found audiences for artists largely undiscovered in America.


He looks at music from a lot of different angles. How the way we listen to music affected architecture (Wagner and modern day music hall). The history of recorded music and the days where recording music was frowned upon by the old guard (Recording is Killing Music must have been the late 19th Century mantra). Then taking that recorded music on the road. The time eternal argument of pop art vs high art.

How a scene comes about and why CBGBs was so magical, and how you can do it in your hometown (not the way you might think of trying to duplicate it exactly on purpose). How music sales in a post major-label world. Selling your record in the pre-Napster age and now, what it looks like to be a major label artist or an indie artist or a self-distributed artist. Cassettes and vinyl and CDs and MP3s.

The dynamics of music and what music can do, with references from the likes of Eno (naturally), John Cage, Tom Ze, and many other innovators. The visual possibilities, and what Byrne was trying to accomplish with those big suits. The science of sound from birds to drum circles.

Inspiring creativity and kids and the less fortunate. Patterns in music that correspond to math and recur in science including astronomy, geometry, and even into religion.

Even then, I am still leaving stuff out. Byrne is a smart student and has done his homework. He also brings a lot of unique experiences based on his individual career. You don't have to be a Talking Heads fan to enjoy the book (Wait, who's not a Talking Heads fan?), though as a fan, it has some keen insight.

It's a very smart, accessible, read. The type of book you could read over and over again, and the McSweenys book format is nicely illustrated but still has plenty of text. It's (for the right party, anyway) a cocktail party book. I am sure you can find plenty of reasons to hate the book-it's too simplistic, it's not "deep" enough, it's too personal to Byrne's experience, why does Byrne hate Classical music so much etc.. but for me this is one of those perfect books to pull off the shelf now and again.



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2020 Election Has Begun- It's Not a Real Campaign, Until You Have TV ads....
johnny
bedsitter23
The question is when is it not campaign season in Iowa.

Well, undoubtedly, there is talk right after the election. Even before that, people look 6-8 years out.

But a true barometer is the campaign ad, and sure enough, we got out first one.

So the answer must be 15 months. 15 months since November 2016.

As you might now, the Super Bowl is famous for its ads, but they also save some room for local ads. So, even with all the 5 million dollar ads, you have to make room for the local grocery store and car dealers (and this year, this wonderful Super Bull ad.)

In which case, Presidential candidate John Delaney (and at this point, he is the only candidate) went ahead and bought an ad to air during the Super Bowl.

Yes, 1008 days out.

The ad ran in most of the major Iowa television markets (Des Moines, Sioux City, Davenport, and Cedar Rapids) and cost $37,000 according to CNN, who also reported we are just barely closer to the 2020 caucuses than we are from the 2016 caucuses.

To Delaney's credit, it would seem logical to get his message out before anyone else for name recognition. If eh waits too long, he will be overshadowed by bigger names, and this being 2020, that may not only mean Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, but indeed Oprah Winfrey, Dwayne Johnson and Mark Cuban,

Delaney's ad's theme is one that seems a bit old-fashioned.



(Pic credit: Quad City Times)


Bi-partisianship.

Sounds old fashioned? Now I grew up in those golden Ronald Reagan-Tip O'Neil days, but I look at my social media feeds and that feels like it was 300 years ago, not 30. Bi-partisanship is no longer the buzzword that attracts like it used to. Liberals think of bipartisanship as Bill Clinton selling out a Democrat Agenda to appease Newt Gingrich. Conseervatives attack those who cross the aisle as RINOs.

Delaney indeed won't appeal to the left side of the Democrat party. His most often comparison is that of Joe Lieberman, and given that the caucus tends to pull from the bluest of the blue staters, it's unlikely that wll be considered a good thing.

On the other hand, if he can find an audience, he certainly is trying to play a Conservative Iowa theme that might have some appeal in this purple-ish of states. He's not Bernie. He's not even Hillary. But he does come across blue collar and traditional values.

We will see if his gamble pays off.

That said, there's possible downsides to starting so early. I remember Tim Pawlenty's failure to launch. Pawlenty, similarly had a feel-good approach, and started early to try to offset his uphill climb against established politicos like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. He just spent a lot of money and was otherwise ignored.

Iowa is just starting another campaign - the 2018 Gubernatorial race. It will be competitive as it is the first time it looks to be really competitive in years. Iowa is about to be besieged with tons of ads and even some candidates they aren't that familiar with.

This probably leaves even less room for Delaney, but we shall see what happens.

Book Review- Why do Men Have Nipples?
johnny
bedsitter23
Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third MartiniWhy Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini by Mark Leyner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read the sequel to this book, Why do Men Fall Asleep During Sex when it came out in 2006. I always meant to come back to this one (published in 2005) but never did. ..Asleep.. I bought as an airport book as both books had been huge smashes and I only at that time put together it was that Mark Leyner.

Leyner put out a couple of novels and some short story collections in the 90s which made it look like he was going to be one of the premier writers of his time (and I think it is still fair to say he is). It is interesting to see all the reader reviews of these books and the vitriol at Leyner. In retrospect, for whatever reason, Leyner took off a decade from fiction. He has only recently returned to it. Also, clearly I feel that Leyner should not be begrudged for making money to allow him to write whatever he likes later on.

Although this type of "bathroom reader" will always have an appeal, there was probably no better time for it than when it appeared to go straight to the top of the book charts. That period of roughly 2003-2007 was a heyday for a new kind of hypermasculinity. It was born out of metrosexuality, but pushed into a different direction. So we got it: Maxim, Mens Health, Crossfit, Tom Leykis, Axe Body Spray, Dr Drew Pinsky, UFC, Spike TV, Tucker Max, Joe Rogan, the Man Show, Muscle Milk, and Barney Stinson. You can guess where most of this stuff landed 10-15 years later and we won't go there, but the point is part of what came out of that was a concern for men and their health, which certainly feeds into the macho posturing of these books.

The other factor was the days of Web 2.0 and a search for knowledge inspired by the internet. Now, this wasn't always a noble pursuit, but certainly we were allowed to search out questions that we might be too embarrassed to ask You know like "Can you breastfeed with fake boobs?". It was reflected in the popularity of websites like The Smoking Gun, Snopes, the Straight Dope, HowStuffWorks, and ultimately of course, Wikipedia. Although these sites are still popular, their novelty has worn off abit. Still, they speak to some of the stuff that interests and sometimes titillates us. Now, of course, we have unlimited internet access and we have all spent hours upon hours jumping from one wikipedia article to the next and watching endless YouTube footage.

Still, I think the two factors combined at a time to make sure these books sold well. I think they would do fine today, but certainly it was released at the right place and time.

So the book itself? The book has a lot more of Leyner's popularity than I remember the sequel having. Maybe it's because it' s the original. Still, you can't miss out on the Leynerisms. Both books have interludes that are Leyner and Goldberg instant messaging each other. i know some people find these asides annoying, but they are usually pretty funny. Again, you get some prime Leyner.

The questions are pretty good. Some are urban legends, others old wives tales, some prurient locker talk. Most of them things you want to know.

The answers are mostly good. Some will find them too short or frustratingly incomplete ("science hasn't concluded" or "it just is"). Not everyone has the same interests so it's probably smart to keep it snappy, though.

This is a very quick read and without a doubt, a total bathroom reader. I read this as an ebook after reading the sequel in paperback form. In any case, it very light reading and you will be finished in no time. The ebook really made me feel like it was pretty small, but the experience was much the same as the physical form. In any case, I doubt many people would finish it in an afternoon, though certainly they will finish it in two or three afternoons.

I am probably a sucker for this book for a variety of reasons. I suspect many people would feel the same. If you are in that group, then check it out.



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A lotta hockey
johnny
bedsitter23
I have made it to quite a few hockey games this year. I made it to another Des Moines Buccaneers game.

Despite a playoff appearance last year and somewhat hopeful look this year, they have not managed to perform and are near the bottom of the standings.

This game pitted them against Team USA. Team USA is made of two teams that include some of the best 16 and  17 year old hockey players in the country. Some big names started here. The Bucs are 18 and 19 year old, as are the rest of their USHL competitors. Team USA is an unique traveling team that is gaining experience by competing in the USHL.

Players like Cam Fowler and Patrick Kane played for the USA team at age 16 before eventually starring in the NHL.

Which is tough of course. It seems counter intuitive to boo the USA. "Omaha stinks!". Sure. "Suck it Youngstown". Yeah.


This one went to OT, and I got to see Des Moines's NHL-possibility touted goalie Jake Kucharski in the nets. Still, Team USA took it by a score of 3-2


Team USA sits atop their division (as of this post) 22-9 while Des Moines sits last in theirs at 13-18.

2017-8 Winter of our content mini-tour: Beer
johnny
bedsitter23
I was in Clinton County, Illinois so I saw this Stag Beer ad. (Not my pic)




Wow, okay.

I suppose this means that it's like a craft brew?  Not for beginners?  Hmmm...

Stag is the local brew.  It was a St Louis region beer and if you dig into archives you can even find Mr Magoo advertised it.

Anyway, they seem to embrace some weird irony in their ads.

If you dig deeper into the company history.  They were a big player in the St Louis beer market, and advertised with the St Louis Cardinals (and  announcer Harry Carrey) up until Busch bought the team (and subsequently renamed Sportsman Park as Busch Stadium).

The parent company Falstaff's height was in 1966, but fell afterwards, ending up being bought by Pabst until it was eventually phased out.

Stag is back but it's impact is generally these few counties where I grew up,


Book Review: A People's History of the United States
johnny
bedsitter23
A People's History of the United StatesA People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Zinn’s famous book hardly needs an introduction. But if you need one, it goes something like this: History books are written from the vantage point of those on top: wars won, elections won, lands conquered, business success, etc. History should be told by those on the bottom- the poor and the picked upon. Zinn’s book goes about righting that wrong. Almost four decades later, Zinn is surely the reason for the success of some of his goals- for example; Columbus is no longer universally revered. Also, we have seen (albeit a small number of) individuals from minority groups recognized for their role in history. It’s no longer all white men (just mostly all white men).

There are of course, certain people who hate Zinn. I am strongly aligned with him politically, but realize not everyone does, and some vehemently hate him. The irony of course is that my friends who identify strongly on the Right actually would get a lot out of this book. There’s plenty here for the “Love my Country, Fear my Government crowd, going back to Daniel Shays, of course, but on many contemporary issues – there’s not a lot of difference between Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul at times- so here it is – NAFTA, WTO, the War in Iraq, to name a few, and a healthy cynicism about those in DC.

Indeed, if there is a thread in the book, it’s that no matter who you vote for, the government wins. At the time the country made it’s boldest, most progressive moves (1880s, 1920s, the New Deal), were also the times the government worked hardest to pull back. Indeed, what would have been a breakthrough moment at Watergate, only served to solidify control. It is no surprise to me, but it is worth noting, that some of our most progressive politicians (Clinton, Carter) were controlled by business and military interests. In some case, trying to be ‘tough on crime’ or ‘tough on terror’ made them do the same things that we would expect from the GOP.

It’s a huge book and Zinn uses primary sources, so it can get a bit tedious, particularly in the early days of the country when the language is quite different. Also, as Zinn has revised and appended onto the ending, it occasionally seems like he is just doing a laundry list of public nonviolent demonstrations. It does become a bit of a slog. This version ends with the election of Dubya and the War in Afghanistan. It would be nice to have Zinn around to give us his take on Obama (who also sold out a great deal of the party platform on his way to social progress, bombed foreign countries, etc) the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bernie and HillRod and of course, Trump.

That said, although it is a slog at times, I am not denying the importance of the book. Others like James Loewen and Michael Moore have taken the similar ideas and made them more accessible for a modern audience. There is so much covered here, that I could expound on but the best idea is to pick it up.




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2017-8 Winter of our content mini-tour: Frying Pan
johnny
bedsitter23
We were in Northern Iowa, but as is quite possible in late December, snow storms were on the roll, so no stopping in Brandon, Iowa, even though I was right there.

So no stopping to see Iowa's Largest Frying Pan.



As roadside attractions go ,well it is what it is, but it shows up on my social media enough that it does seem like it must be working.

Facts:

The pan can cook at any one time 528 eggs or 88 pounds of bacon or 440 hamburgers

The sad fact of it was that when this 15 foot tall frying pan was built in 2004, the idea (obviously) was to be the World's largest.  well, it's about three inches shorter than one in Washington state, so...  they seem to be pretty content with being Iowa's biggest, and all truth be told, it seems to be good enough.


Book Review- The Year of Living Biblically
johnny
bedsitter23

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as PossibleThe Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You probably know this book. It went a bit viral when it came out (or at least as viral as any book does that isn't Harry Potter or Twilight). It's also about to get a boost as it becomes a (seemingly ill-advised) CBS comedy series in a month or two. That said, I was introduced to AJ Jacobs via the Know it All, so I was sold on that fact alone. That particular book put him in a company of pop culture writers (the term 'gadfly' was popular for a minute), the most famous probably being Joel Stein, who writes for Time. Jacobs is really smart and really funny, though.

The book seems problematic in that it will either be preachy and turn people off or blasphemous and turn people off, right? Joel is an agnostic Jew so it seems like it could be the latter.

It is strangely reassuring though (and of course, some might be offended, because people are offended by everything). Of course, the idea is that he follows the rules in the Bible including some of the most outrageous one. He seems to focus on them one-at-a time(ish) in order to organize the book, which works well in that aspect. He has the rules on his website- but there's the obvious- no work on the Sabbath, no gossip- and then gets tougher from there- smash idols, do not lay where a menstruating woman has laid, kill adulterers - and some that are a mix- always stand in presence of the elderly, do not trim your beard, do not wear clothes that mix wool and linen.

It works because Jacobs is a smart and funny commentator. He also strives to make it more than just a "look at these silly laws in the Bible' stunt. He finds a good mix of different religious factions who tend towards literalness. There's Ken Ham (of course) who built that big Ark park, the Amish, Jerry Falwell, snake handlers, Hasidic Jews and much more including gay Christians and Red Letter Christians who follow only Jesus's words. He is always respectful and the jokes are generally at his expense.

This also works well for the the readability of the book. Ironically, Jacobs (and the reader) will likely be more convinced by religion than turned off by it; or at the very least, draw the conclusion of Jacobs- that doing good things in the name of religion even if you don't believe it is still better than the alternative.

it also should bring to mind "Cafeteria Christians" and those that cherry pick passages that they believe in. There are many I see on social media who for example, seem to like the parts in the Old testament about homosexuals, but don't do a lot of loving their neighbor or be welcoming to the poor and immigrants. To me, it only strengthens the argument that if you are going to do that and be judgemental, you need to be all in, and you need the white garments and unkempt beard.

Again, I am a big Jacobs fan, and the topic is a pretty easy one in that it opens humorous possibilities, but that said, it is Jacobs's talent to pull this off and make it a pretty fun and smart book. Certainly in that tradition of Dave Barry humor, so your results may vary depending on tastes, though I think most everyone would at least enjoy it.



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