Monthly Archives: May 2013

BOOK NOTES: Three ‘Essential Ten Percent Series’ Books By Philip Yaffe Now in Omnibus Edition

  • B y David M. Kinchen 
BOOK NOTES: Three ‘Essential Ten Percent Series’ Books By Philip Yaffe Now in Omnibus Edition

Three books in “The Essential Ten Percent”  Series by Philip Yaffe, covering logical thinking, college-level writing, and public speaking are now available in a single, integrated omnibus edition, “The Essential Ten Percent Omnibus: Logic, College-level Writing, Public Speaking”  (Kindle edition, from Amazon.com,  $8.40}

As explained by Yaffe: “The Essential Ten Percent Series was specifically conceived for lay readers. Its purpose is to present key ideas of ostensibly arcane subjects while stripping away all the unnecessary details that make essentially easy ideas and concepts appear unnecessarily difficult and complex.”

What was not intended was that, taken together, some of the books would form a progression, i.e. one book leading to the next. However, in the case of three of the books — Logical Thinking, College-level Writing, and Public Speaking —this is what has happened.

“Because it is an approach, not simply a label, the books in The Essential Ten Percent Series have the same basic format. Stripping away their redundancies means that these three books can be combined into a single omnibus edition in a clear, concise, and economical manner,”  Yaffe added.

“One cannot successfully achieve college-level writing or become an effective public speaker without logical thinking. Conversely, understanding the essentials of logical thinking naturally leads to better understanding and motivation to apply the fundamental concepts and principles to college-level writing and public speaking. In short, one subject reinforces another,”  Yaffe explains.

“Combining them into a single volume makes it possible to better illuminate the fundamental links among the treated subjects,” he said.

Not inconsequentially, the omnibus edition can be made available at about half the price of the three books purchased separately.

“Although interrelated, the three books in the omnibus edition are nevertheless self-contained,” Yaffe added. “Therefore, they can be read in any order as if the other two did not exist.”

To help readers choose the best individual order for them, the introduction The Essential Ten Percent Omnibus: Logical Thinking, College-level Writing, Public Speaking presents an abbreviated table of contents of each book to give a quick overview of how it is structured and what it contains. Additional, each book itself contains a complete table of contents which is almost like an index. After you have read the book, it will allow you to easily find information about any principles and techniques you may wish to review and practice.

The Essential Ten Percent series is based on the idea that readers of non-fiction books fall into two basic categories.

1.Casual Users — those who use a book’s information only occasionally, which is the vast majority of us.

2.Intensive Users — those who use it all day, every day for work or other professional pursuits.

“Unless we are professionals, we really need to know only about 10 percent of any given subject. Yet most books assume that we need to know virtually everything, and therefore produce tomes that can appear to be quite intimidating. Worse, they assume that we already know more about the subject than we actually do, and therefore produce tomes that are virtually incomprehensible,”  Yaffe explained.

Given this realization,  Yaffe decided to write books to help casual users get essentially what they need in essentially the easiest way possible. This was the origin of The Essential Ten Percent Series of books, three of which are contained in this omnibus volume.

The concept of the series is perhaps best expressed by one of author’s favorite anecdotes.

A little girl goes into a library and asks the librarian, “Do you have books about penguins?”  “About penguins? Oh yes, dear, we have lots of books about penguins,” the librarian answers and takes four or five off the shelf.

The little girl sits down at a table and starts reading. About 10 minutes later she returns to the librarian with the books in her hands.

“What’s the matter, honey, don’t you like our books about penguins?”  “Oh yes,” the little girl replies,” they are wonderful books, they are beautiful books, only . . .”  “Only?”  “Well, they tell me much more about penguins than I really want to know.”

About the author

Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles,  with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.

He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974.

 

Books by Philip Yaffe

 

·The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

 

·The Gettysburg Collection:

A comprehensive companion to The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

 

·Actual English: English grammar as native speakers really use it

 

·Gentle French: French grammar as native speakers really use it

 

·What’d You Say? / Que Dites-Vous?

Fun with homophones, proverbs, expressions, false friends, and other linguistic oddities in English and French

 

·Belief, Disbelief, Unbelief: A Thousand Thoughts before You Die

 

·Extraordinary Ordinary Things: How Did We Ever Live without Them?

 

·The Little Book of BIG Mistakes

 

·The Eighth Decade: Reflections on a Life

 

 

Books in “Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” Series

 

(at May 2013)

 

·Astronomy & Cosmology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists

·Human Biology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists

 

 

Books in “The Essential Ten Percent” Series

 

(at May 2013)

 

·College-level Writing: The Essential Ten Percent

·Human Psychology: The Essential Ten Percent

·Logical Thinking: The Essential Ten Percent

·Public Speaking: The Essential Ten Percent

·The Essential Ten Percent Omnibus: Logical Thinking, College-level Writing, Public Speaking

·The Human Body: The Essential Ten Percent

·Wise Humor: The Essential Ten Percent

·Word for Windows: The Essential Ten Percent

 

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Book Review: ‘Blue Bloods’: Graphic Novel About Vampires Who Are Much More Sophisticated than the ‘Twilight’ Bunch

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
Book Review: 'Blue Bloods': Graphic Novel About Vampires Who Are Much More Sophisticated than the 'Twilight' Bunch

 

Melissa De La Cruz is a wonderful fantasy writer, as I learned reading her “Serpent’s Kiss,”  the second entry in her “Witches of East End” series (link to my review:http://www.huntingtonnews.net/39228)  last July.

The first entry in her young adult Blue Bloods series has been transformed into a graphic novel, “Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel” by Robert Venditti, with gorgeous illustrations by Alina Urusov (Disney Hyperion, 112 pages, $11.99). Venditti is an experienced, best-selling author and graphic novel adapter. Alina Urusov is a Canadian illustrator who illustrated and colored Marvel’s “X-Force” and “Young Avengers Presents.”

The sexy and secretive world of the Blue Bloods is a far cry from the rustic charms of the Pacific Northwest as portrayed in the “Twilight” books. The glitz and glamour of NYC comes alive in this   graphic novel adaptation of Book One in Melissa de la Cruz’s best-selling series.

Within New York City’s most elite families, there lurks a secret society of celebrated Americans whose ancestors sailed on the Mayflower. Its members are the powerful and the wealthy — and, in fact, they are not human.

They are the Blue Bloods, an ancient group of vampires.

Schuyler Van Alen is a loner and happy that way. But when she turns fifteen, her life takes a dramatic turn. She discovers a mosaic of blue veins on her arms and craves raw meat. The death of a girl at her school is surrounded by a mystery that haunts her.

And strangest of all, Jack Force, the most  popular boy in school, starts showing a sudden interest in her. Schuyler wants answers about the mysterious Blue Bloods, but is she putting herself in danger?

A visually stunning and intoxicating graphic novel set against the glitzy backdrop of New York City, Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel is sure to be devoured by fans, old and new.

Look for my upcoming review of another entry in the extensive Blue Bloods novel series, “Gates of Paradise.”  Both of these novels appeared in January, but — and I’m not making this up — they were hidden behind and under my bed! By some mysterious force who didn’t want me to review them? Or just an accident common to those who read in bed. I found them when I replaced my flat mattress bed with an adjustable one, which is much more suited to my reading habits. No kidding!

 

About the author

Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including “The Au Pairs” series, the “Blue Bloods” series, the “Ashleys” series, the “Angels on Sunset Boulevard” series and the semi-autobiographical novel “Fresh off the Boat.” Her books for adults include the novel “Cat’s Meow”, the anthology “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys} and “The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-inch heels” and “Faux-Pas”.
Melissa grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!). She and her husband and daughter live in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Her website: www.melissadelacruz.com

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Home Prices See Strong Gains in the First Quarter of 2013

  • By David M. Kinchen 
 S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Home Prices See Strong Gains in the First Quarter of 2013

 All three composites of S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices  through March 2013, released Tuesday, May 28, 2013   posted double-digit annual increases. The 10-City and 20-City Composites increased by 10.3% and 10.9% in the year to March with the national composite rising by 10.2% in the last four quarters. All 20 cities posted positive year-over-year growth.

In the first quarter of 2013, the national composite rose by 1.2%. On a monthly basis, the 10- and 20-City Composites both posted increases of 1.4%. Charlotte, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Tampa were the five MSAs to record their largest month-over-month gains in over seven years. Nationally, home prices are back to their mid-2003 levels.

“Home prices continued to climb,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Home prices in all 20 cities posted annual gains for the third month in a row. Twelve of the 20 saw prices rise at double-digit annual growth. The National Index and the 10- and 20-City Composites posted their highest annual returns since 2006.”

“Phoenix again had the largest annual increase at 22.5% followed by San Francisco with 22.2% and Las Vegas with 20.6%” Blitzer added. “Miami and Tampa, the eastern end of the Sunbelt, were softer with annual gains of 10.7% and 11.8%. The weakest annual price gains were seen in New York (+2.6%), Cleveland (+4.8%) and Boston (+6.7%); even these numbers are quite substantial.”

“Other housing market data reported in recent weeks confirm these strong trends: housing starts and permits, sales of new home and existing homes continue to trend higher,”Blitzer said. “At the same time, the larger than usual share of multi-family housing, a large number of homes still in some stage of foreclosure and buying-to-rent by investors suggest that the housing recovery is not complete.”

  As of the first quarter of 2013, average home prices across the United States are back at their mid-2003 levels. At the end of the first quarter of 2013, the National Index was up 1.2% over the fourth quarter of 2012 and 10.2% above the first quarter of 2012.

As of March 2013, average home prices across the United States are back to their late 2003 levels for both the 10-City and 20- City Composites. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline for both Composites is approximately 28-29%. The recovery from the March 2012 lows is 10.3% and 10.9% for the 10- and 20- City Composites, respectively.

The number of cities that showed monthly gains increased to 15. Denver, Charlotte, Seattle and Washington entered positive territory; Seattle and Charlotte were the most notable with returns of +3.0% and +2.4%. San Francisco posted the highest month-over-month return of 3.9%.

All 20 cities showed increases on an annual basis for at least three consecutive months. Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa all posted double-digit annual returns. Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Francisco were the three MSAs to increase over 20% in March 2013 over March 2012.

On June 25, 2013 the current URL for the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Indices,www.homeprice.standardandpoors.com will be redirected to www.spdji.com. Associated data files can be found via the Additional Info tab. Please use the following link to view and bookmark the index page:http://www.spdji.com/index-family/real-estate/sp-case-shiller

BOOK REVIEW: ‘All the Great Prizes’: Splendid, Comprehensive Biography of Our Most Literary Secretary of State

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'All the Great Prizes': Splendid, Comprehensive Biography of Our Most Literary Secretary of State

John M. Hay, the man who coined the phrase “It has been a splendid little war” in an 1898 letter to Theodore Roosevelt summing up  the just concluded Spanish-American War, has  been granted a splendid big biography by John Taliaferro. “All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay from Lincoln to Roosevelt” (Simon & Schuster, 688 pages, photos, notes, bibliography, index,  $35.00).

The “Splendid little war” turned out to be a Vietnam-like bog in the Philippines, but Hay was untouched by the irony. Taliaferro crafts  a very readable examination of Hay (1838-1905), the product of rural Indiana and Illinois like his mentor Lincoln, who became a polished man of letters, undoubtedly the most literary of American secretaries of state. A graduate of Brown University in Rhode Island, Hay and John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s official private secretary, served the 16th president, sharing a room in the White House. They went on to write a popular 10-volume biography of Lincoln.

From unofficial secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. He married into great wealth when he wed Clara Stone, daughter of Amasa Stone of Cleveland, one of the richest men in the country, owner of steel mills, with investments in many other industries. It was a love match, Taliaferro writes, but in his heart Hay lusted after Elizabeth Sherman  “Lizzie” Cameron, his neighbor in the Lafayette Square area of Washington. Hay and his next door neighbor and best friend Henry Adams both had a thing for the beauteous Lizzie, the “Madame X” of D.C. The sumptuous houses designed by celebrity architect H.H. Richardson for Hay and Adams are long gone, demolished to make way for the Hay-Adams Hotel at 16th and H streets.

Hay’s peers dubbed him  “a perfectly cut stone” and “the greatest prime minister this republic has ever known.” But for all his poise and polish, he had his secrets. His marriage to one of the wealthiest women in the country did not prevent him from his pursuit — apparently unconsumated — of Lizzie Cameron.

“All the Great Prizes” is first full-scale biography of Hay since 1934  and reminds us that  much of what we know about Lincoln’s years in the White House is drawn from the writings of the young John Hay,  who was with Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address and at his bedside when he died. Taliaferro writes that the famous “Bixby Letter” written in November 1864 to console Lydia Bixby of Boston, who lost five sons in the Civil War, was written by Hay not Lincoln. Taliaferro discusses the Bixby letter exhaustively on Pages 94-96: it turns out the real Lydia Bixby was a Southern  sympathizer who lost two sons, not five!

A power broker who worked quietly, garnering little or no publicity, Hay successfully worked to elect fellow Ohioans James Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, and William McKinley for president. As McKinley’s Secretary of State, he plotted the nation’s emergence as a world power after the Spanish-American War. Hay arranged the annexation of the Philippines, the treaty for a canal across Panama, the Open Door policy for China.

After McKinley’s assassination, his vice president and successor Theodore Roosevelt persuaded the aging and increasingly ill Hay to stay on. Taliaferro shines in his examination of the relationship between Hay and Roosevelt: If Lincoln was a second father to Hay, Hay was a second father to  Roosevelt the bully wielder of the big stick. Hay the polished, urbane diplomat who walked softly, carried out TR’s policies, and helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize. At a time when anti-Semitism was rampant, Hay spoke out against murderous pogroms of Jews in Russia.

John Hay was both witness and author of many of the most significant chapters in American history — from the birth of the Republican Party, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the prelude to the First World War. Much of what we know about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt comes to us through the observations Hay made while private secretary to one and secretary of state to the other. With All the Great Prizes, the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years, Taliaferro has turned the lens around, rendering a rich and fascinating portrait of this brilliant American and his many worlds.

Hay’s friends are a Who’s Who of the era: Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Henry Adams, Henry James, and virtually every president, sovereign, author, artist, power broker, and robber baron of the Gilded Age. As an ambassador and statesman, he guided many of the country’s major diplomatic initiatives at the turn of the twentieth century: the Open Door with China, the creation of the Panama Canal, the establishment of America as a world leader. It’s obvious that we’ll never again see the like of men like John Milton Hay in office in the U.S. His poetic side wouldn’t fit our drably prosaic world.

I did spot one error by the author. In 1904, a year before his death, Hay delivered a speech at the Louisiana Purchase World’s Fair in St. Louis. Taliaferro says that the Olympic Games held in conjunction with the fair were the first of the modern era. This is incorrect: The Athens games of 1896 were the first.

About the Author

John Taliaferro is the author of four books, most recently In a Far Country: The True Story of a Mission, A Marriage, A Murder, and the Remarkable Reindeer Rescue of 1898. He is a former senior editor atNewsweek and a graduate of Harvard University. He lives in Austin, Texas, and Pray, Montana.

OP-ED: While America Quibbles…the World Moves On Dangerously

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick

In 1938, Winston Churchill pleaded with Britain to recognize the growth of German power and the threat it implied to his country.   Thinking  only inward and arrogantly, the nation mostly ignored the man who would commit to “blood, sweat and tears” in England’s darkest  hour to rescue her and persuade the United States of the urgency to help.

 

Today, the United States presents a comic opera sans the humor to the rest of the world, with partisan quibbling, undefined foreign policy and threats  of involvement in Syria we cannot carry out while still struggling preposterously in Afghanistan after failing in Iraq.

Meanwhile, as President Obama intones something about “consequences” if Syria’s President Assad crosses something called the “red line”, both Russia and Iran quite casually not only assert their rights to sell the Syrian dictator whatever arms they want but keep on doing it.  The only nation taking on the Syrian boss is Israel who, in her own asserted defense,  justifiably struck key nuclear and other production areas near and in Damascus.

These realities are seeds of potentially much larger conflicts unless  we can recapture a semblance of world leadership that has been dwindling for some time in the face of partisan foolishness at home for all the rest of  the nations to see.

Russia  not only asserts its right to sell the Syrian government whatever arms it wants, she is planning to position ships of her fleet in  Syrian waters.  All this as our own president is moving to supply “rebels” whom we cannot identify with allegedly non-military aid…while defending an attack on our embassy in Libya some months ago by some other militants whom we also helped against another dictator….and wrestling with a Republican House of Representatives whose own leadership seems to think the Tea Party tax situation is more important because some boobs in the IRS played games with the TP’s application for tax deferred status.

Now, if you think that last paragraph is confusing, think of what Churchill was dealing with 75 years ago.  But, then, we here don’t consider the lessons of history very well, unless that “history” was either last week or media’s revelations of yesterday.

A few weeks ago, I charged that we were getting “snookered” in the Syrian mess and demanded to know why we had not pressured the Arab League to get involved instead of risking our own standing, power and leverage.  I also asked why on earth our own Congressional leadership from both parties has failed to get into this situation, not as partisans, but as Americans.

It is not boasting that five years ago, I wrote about a ”Death In The American Family:  Public Confidence.”  It is the realization of what we have not learned in that time and what our two biggest competitors, Russia and China,  have learned while the world watches and wonders about choosing sides should it be necessary.

We’ve made this mistake more than once before.  In 1981, when Israel believed herself threatened by Saddam Hussein’s nuclear development,  she took the operation out, only to be rapidly chastised by President Reagan and the hypocritical United Nations.  It was only a matter of time that we then deserted the Iraqi dictator to whom we had dealt billions in arms, intelligence and other support and decided to invade to take up what seems to be eternal residence there and in Afghanistan with no clear mission of national interest.

So back to Washington, where a group of Republicans have decided the world realities are less important than giving the shaft to a sitting president and the lady they fear most as a potential opponent in 2016.  No doubt these junior McCarthyites have some legitimate gripes with issues of Benghazi and the IRS. No doubt they will exact their pounds of political  flesh from the ways the President and his group have handled these matters. (Just imagine Harry Truman taking all this without storming right back to deal with big issues first and then politics.)

Leadership has been in fruitless demand for the past four consecutive terms, ever since President Bush decided we had to contend with weapons of mass destruction that eventually did not seem to exist.  Perhaps, had we confessed to that reality and stopped what has become the longest wars in our history, wars we can neither win nor negotiate to armistice, millions of lives and trillions of dollars might have been diverted to more constructive ends and our standing as world leaders reinforced.

We cannot resurrect Churchill or Truman to kick the current claque of politicians from both parties in their collective pants.  It is as Thomas Carlyle(I believe)said and could be said today about our bipartisan squabbling:  “I do  not believe in the collective genius of individual ignorance.”

Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices on Bainbridge Island, WA.  He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Guns Across the Border’: Firsthand Account of Gunrunning Operations in Bush, Obama Administrations

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
 BOOK REVIEW: 'Guns Across the Border': Firsthand Account of Gunrunning Operations in Bush, Obama Administrations
    After reading Katie Pavlich’s well-researched book about Operation Fast and Furious and its predecessors in the Bush Administration (link to my review of “Fast and Furious”: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/29022) I had no doubts that gunrunning and its aftermath represented yet another case of the Federal government’s habitual policy lying to us — just as the current IRS and the tracking of phone numbers of reporters Obama administration scandals are doing. Link to story about Justice Dept. secretly obtaining AP phone records: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/govt-obtains-wide-ap-phone-records-probe
 I’ve just read Mike Detty’s “Guns Across the Border: How and Why the U.S. Government Smuggled Guns into Mexico” (Skyhorse Publishing, 288 pages, color photos, index,  $24.95) and I’m even more convinced that betraying a confidential informant like Detty comes just as naturally to many ATF and government lawyers as taking the Fifth Amendment comes to an IRS official testifying before Congress. (Update on said IRS employee: Lois Lerner has been placed on administrative leave).

 

My apologies to all the good federal employees, but there seems to be a culture of incompetence and deceit for many, as Detty shows in his book. He’s backed up in his assessment by outstanding reporters like Sharyl Attkisson, the Emmy-award winning investigative reporter for CBS News, who contributed the foreword to Detty’s book, and William LaJeunesse of Fox News.

 

Detty sums it up toward the end of the book, on Page 233, with his description of people he worked for as a confidential informant for the Tucson, AZ office of the ATF:

“All my life I had nothing but the greatest respect for federal agents and those who worked in the Department of Justice. Now, for the first time I was seeing them for what they were — lazy, sloppy, self-protecting civil servants who cared more about self-preservation and collecting a paycheck than doing the right thing. The high regard I once had for these people has been replaced with contempt. I’d gone from someone who was extremely proud of my involvement in helping federal law enforcement to someone who was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt betrayed and was disgusted.”

Starting out with agents like Travis Lopez of Tucson ATF, in 2006, Detty developed a warm and fuzzy relationship with agents like Jack Hinkley, Bill Newell and many others — or so he thought — as he began his role in  an undercover smuggling operation that followed the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Detty sold most of his guns at gun shows, and he followed the law with buyers filling out the required form ATF # 4473. (As a gun owner and member of the NRA, the Texas State Rifle Association and the Bay Gun Club, I don’t recall the people manning the tables at gun shows asking me to fill out #4473. as I do at my gun store, when purchasing a firearm.)

The scheme — under the overall umbrella of Project Gunrunner — was  intended to stem the flow of firearms to Mexico, based on the flawed — as it turned out — idea that Mexican drug cartels couldn’t function without regular infusions of small arms from the U.S.  ATF —  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — ran a series of “gun walking” sting operations, including Operations Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious. The government allowed licensed gun dealers like Detty to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers so that they could continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels.

Motivated by a sense of patriotic duty,  Mike Detty, a Tucson gun dealer and free-lance author,  alerted the local ATF office when he was first approached by suspected cartel associates who wanted to buy lower receivers — a component of the popular AR-15 semi-automatic version of the military M16. The “lowers”, as they are commonly called,  required federal approval, while the “uppers” could be purchased on the Internet, Detty writes. Detty made the commitment and assumed the risks involved to help the feds make their case, often selling guns to these thugs from his home in the dead of night. The venue — his suburban home — surprised me. I wouldn’t think of using a residence as a gun store.  Originally informed that the investigation would last just weeks, Detty’s undercover involvement in Operation Wide Receiver, the precursor to Operation Fast and Furious, which was by far the largest “gun walking” probe, stretched on for an astonishing and dangerous three years.

From my review of Pavlich’s book:   “The White House continues to stonewall Congress and claims ignorance of the program — when it’s not saying it was a continuation of a similar program in the George W. Bush Administration, Operation Wide Receiver, launched by the Bush Administration in 2003 with close cooperation by the Mexican government. Pavlich presents what she — and introduction writer Dobyns, who infiltrated motorcycle gangs at great danger to himself — believes is incontestable proof that President Obama and Attorney General Holder willfully and knowingly sanctioned the program in order to advance their anti-Second Amendment agenda. Pavlich believes Obama and Holder wanted to demonize gun stores — and gun owners who legally buy guns for hunting, target shooting and protection — undermining the legitimate use of legal weapons.”

Detty comes to the same conclusion about the demonization of guns by Obama and Holder, noting that in the run-up to the general election in November 2008, gun sales increased to the point where it was almost impossible to keep many weapons in stock, as gun enthusiasts feared that the new administration would ban “assault” weapons, which were actually semi-automatic versions of real assault weapons.   Read the very entertaining (many of the characters would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino flick or even a Cheech and Chong one) “Guns Across the Border” along with Pavlich’s book and reportage by Attkisson, LaJeunesse and others if you really want understand the depth of deceit by federal officials.

About the Author

Mike Detty has been writing for consumer gun magazines and law enforcement journals for more than twenty years. He received a BS in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Arizona and later entered the officer ranks of the U.S. Marine Corps. His involvement in the firearms industry started with his own competitive shooting endeavors.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘A Dual Inheritance’: A Big Beach Read Novel — and A Whole Lot More

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'A Dual Inheritance': A Big Beach Read Novel -- and A Whole Lot More
Memorial Day is fast approaching, so it’s fitting that I’ve settled on  my “beach read” book for 2013: Joanna Hershon’s “A Dual Inheritance” (Ballantine Books, 496 pages, $26.00).
Hershon has written the kind of novel we’ve come to expect from Kurt Andersen, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Franzen (“Freedom’) and, of course Anne Tyler and Joyce Carol Oates: A sweeping, multigeneraltion book that explores class, job choices, love and marriage and what happens with the next generation. The kind of book Anthony Trollope was famous for in the 19th Century. My choice for a comparable Trollope novel: his 1875 masterpiece “The Way We Live Now” with its plot of financial skullduggery and the clash of classes — both essential elements of Hershon’s novel.It’s autumn 1962 and two unlikely Harvard students meet and find common ground.  Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet in their final year at Harvard. Ed, from the heavily Jewish Dorchester district of Boston, is far removed from Hugh’s privileged upbringing as a Boston Brahmin, yet his drive and ambition outpace Hugh’s ambivalence about his own life.

Ed and Hugh develop an unlikely friendship, reinforced by a  shared desire to transcend their circumstances, but complicated by their rivalry for the affections of Helen Ordway, whose parents have a home on Fishers Island, part of New York state but just offshore of Connecticut in the Long Island Sound. (The parents of “Mad Men” character Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser,  have a summer home on Fishers Island).       A few years after their “cute meet” at Harvard their paths diverge — Ed rising on Wall Street thanks to his friendship and mentorship with Helen’s financier dad, and Hugh becoming a  global humanitarian with medical clinics in Tanzania. The book’s title could just as well be “A Duel Inheritance,” because of their clash over the love of Helen, who ends up marrying Hugh after a brief affair with Ed.

“A Dual Inheritance” is sprawling in its scope, spanning from the Cuban Missile Crisis which begins as Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet  to the 2008 stock market collapse, with locations as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen, and Fishers Island. “A Dual Inheritance”   follows not only these two men, but the complicated women in their vastly different lives.   And nobody is more complicated than Ed’s and Jill’s daughter Rebecca, unless it’s Hugh and Helen’s daughter Vivi, who are best friends. Their friendship is the link between Ed and Hugh, however tenuous and frayed it is at various times up to the novel’s end on Fishers Island in 2010 when everybody meets to celebrate Vivi’s wedding.

Here’s what the author has to say about her novel:

I’ve always been fascinated by distinct places and periods of time in which unlikely friendships are possible. My last novel was about German settlers in the American Southwest during the mid-1800s. During the writing process, I realized that what compelled me most about this time and place was not just the historical details–so fascinating and unlike our modern existence–but what fertile ground it was for improbable relationships to blossom.

The protagonists of my new novel, A Dual Inheritance, meet in a more prosaic way–at college–than did those 19th century pioneers, but Harvard in the early 1960s had its own set of charms and challenges. Because of their wildly different backgrounds, issues of class and money beset best friends Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley, though more salient is how they both identify as outsiders. But what happens to such a bond over time? How much do their different backgrounds ultimately matter?

Their story takes the reader all over the globe (Dar es Salaam, Shenzhen, Haiti; the wilds of Wall Street) and spans two generations, encompassing a cast of characters to whom I hope you’ll grow just attached as I have. This is the story of two lives converging and—just as quickly—diverging; it’s the surprising, even shocking reverberations of one brief friendship.
It didn’t take me long to become absorbed by the characters in “A Dual Inheritance” and I think many readers looking for a big book to sink their literary teeth into will be similarly addicted. In addition to the authors mentioned above, think Nancy Thayer and Meg Wolitzer.  Enjoy, and Happy Memorial Day!
About the author

Joanna Hershon is the author of previous novels: “Swimming”, “The Outside of August” and “The German Bride.”  Her writing has appeared in (among other places) The New York Times, One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, the literary anthologies Brooklyn Was Mine and Freud’s Blind Spot, and (most recently) Berlin Stories– a multimedia journal for NPR Worldwide. She has taught in the Creative Writing department at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.
Hershon’s website:  www.joannahershon.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Time on Fire,’ ‘It’s Only Temporary’: Two Drop Dead, Stayin’ Alive Memoirs from Actor Evan Handler About His Battle with Leukemia and Life in General

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'Time on Fire,' 'It's Only Temporary': Two Drop Dead, Stayin' Alive Memoirs from Actor Evan Handler About His Battle with Leukemia and Life in General

You don’t need to have spent time in a hospital to enjoy and fully comprehend two memoirs by actor, playwright Evan Handler of “Calfornication” and “Sex and the City” fame but it helps. I was recently hospitalized — the second time this year — and when I read “Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors” (Argo-Navis, $25.99 paperback, $8.99 eBook) and “It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive” (Argo-Navis, $25.99 paperback, $8.99 eBook)  — both available on amazon.com and other sites —  I experienced more than a few instances of instant recognition.

For those concerned about my health and continued book reviews, have no fear or doubt: I feel great, much better than before, thanks to good Texas medical care, antibiotics that knocked out my pneumonia and more attention to improving and fine-tuning the diet and general living habits of a geezer in his mid 70s. That said, I don’t want to see the inside of a hospital any time soon.

Based on Handler’s hit off-Broadway play, “Time on Fire” is an eloquent account of illness and survival, love and hope — shot through with anger, humor, and piercing eloquence.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Time on Fire,' 'It's Only Temporary': Two Drop Dead, Stayin' Alive Memoirs from Actor Evan Handler About His Battle with Leukemia and Life in General

Handler — the guy with the full head of curly hair, not the shiny pated actor of today — was twenty-four and already an accomplished actor when he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and told that his chances for survival were slim. Resigning his role in Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues”, Handler checked into New York Memorial’s Cancer Center  — the famous Sloan-Kettering on First Avenue — and began a bizarre, sometimes uproarious five-year journey in and out of hospitals — “a raucous rump through Hell” — only to face an equally arduous return to the life he left behind.

“Time on Fire” is the story of Handler’s passage into a twilight world: the world of hospitals and nurses and doctors pledged not to tell you anything; a place of lonely, haunting despair lit by moments of exultation and hilarity; a world where the truly horrible and the hysterically funny not only coexist but seem to become the same thing. It often appeared to me like a 3 a.m. visit by a lab tech seeking my blood and always asking me my name and date of birth. If you’ve ever asked a doctor or other medical professional what the prognosis is and the result is nothingness or a pat answer, you’ll appreciate Handler’s experiences.

From the comic accounts of his trip to a Madison Avenue sperm bank (“Nothing but the best address for my progeny”) and his experimentation with psychic healing, including fire walking in California , to the portrayal of the unraveling effects of his illness on his family and girlfriend Patricia, Handler records with eloquent prose the full emotional range of his experience. The result is a bracing, achingly poignant account of his determination to steal time and reclaim life.  “Time on Fire” is a testament to the bravery and the endurance of the human spirit. It’s also a contrast between the often brutal medical treatment in New York City with the courtly, informative and soothing treatment Handler experienced undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. Sometimes stereotypes have more than a ring of truth. Just saying “bone marrow transplant” after reading Handler’s account of what’s really involved in this procedure sends shivers up my spine.

* * *
Fast forward ten years from  the events of “Time on Fire”: Handler picks up with his life after surviving leukemia in the second of two often hilarious memoirs, “It’s Only Temporary.” Handler is not only a survivor after his bout with leukemia, his career is thriving and he meets an Italian researcher named Elisa Atti who becomes the love of his life — and his wife. If it all sounds like a Hallmark or Lifetime move, hold your horses, Nellie!  We’re talking native New Yorker Evan Handler  here, a guy enfused with the kind of mordant wit that makes me want to pass to him the mantle of Oscar Levant or Dorothy Parker.

Like “Time on Fire,” “It’s Only Temporary” is a seamless collection of funny, offbeat, and poignant autobiographical essays. Handler moves beyond the supposedly “incurable” illness he triumphed over in his mid-twenties — only to tumble through his thirties and forties in search of ever elusive love and happiness.

From attempts to restart his acting career to hapless efforts to run faster around New York’s Central Park reservoir, from bizarre Internet dates to twenty-seven breakups (involving only ten women), Handler careens through his against-all-odds existence. Always searching for meaning in his unlikely survival, he shares stories of sadistic junior high school gym teachers, bullying wannabe Hollywood moguls, returned engagement rings, and Europeans’ fascination with American bathroom habits.


About the author

Evan Handler, born in 1961,  is an actor, author, screenwriter, and journalist. His work has been recognized internationally in four separate arenas. Add his mantles of survivor of a supposedly “incurable” illness (acute myeloid leukemia), health-care educator, activist, reformer, and motivational/inspirational public speaker, and Handler is revealed not only as a man who’s used his time well, but as a man who has helped to shape the time in which he’s lived.Handler first earned acclaim by playing leading roles in seven Broadway productions before his thirtieth birthday, including “Six Degrees of Separation”; “I Hate Hamlet”; “Brighton Beach Memoirs”; “Broadway Bound”; and “Master Harold…and the boys”. He has also appeared in the feature films TAPS, RANSOM, the television movie “The Three Stooges”, and starred in the series CALIFORNICATION, SEX AND THE CITY, IT’S LIKE, YOU KNOW and STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. Handler has also made memorable guest appearances on LOST, THE WEST WING, SIX FEET UNDER, and FRIENDS.

His website:  http://evanhandler.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘He’s Gone’: Complexities of Marriage, Divorce, Infidelities Examined in Debut Adult Novel

  • Reviewed by David M. KinchenBOOK REVIEW: 'He's Gone': Complexities of Marriage, Divorce, Infidelities Examined in Debut Adult Novel

My adventures in chick lit continue with a novel by Deb Caletti, “He’s Gone” (Bantam trade paperback, 352 pages, $15.00) that will inevitably be compared to Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel “Gone Girl.”

Instead of Flynn’s missing wife, Caletti deals with Seattle software executive Ian Keller, the missing husband of Dani Keller. The similarities between the two novels include a questioning, eventually dubious police officer and a piling on of people who believe Dani — the “other woman” widely believed to be responsible for the breakup of Ian’s marriage to Mary — has something to do with her husband  missing after a Saturday night party at his business.

The physical setting is one familiar to people who’ve seen the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” : the houseboats on Lake Union that don’t go anywhere.

I’m using the term “chick lit” in a humorous manner: “He’s Gone”, the adult novel debut of best-selling young adult author Caletti, should appeal to men as well as women. Should but probably won’t since more women will gravitate toward it than men. Women buy more books than men.

Dani Keller wakes on the Sunday morning after a party at    BetterWorks, Ian’s software company, that aside from Dani’s slight hangover, is like any other corporate function. The difference this time is no Ian Keller.  His black Jaguar is in its usual parking space, but there’s no sign of Ian.

Dani, who has a low tolerance toward alcohol, doesn’t remember much about the party, other than there was a minor argument.

She’s concerned, and this worsens as  Ian stays missing. The family organizes a search effort to supplement that of the police. I was surprised to see police moving in so quickly; usually they tell the husband or wife to wait a few days. This leads me to believe that Detective Vince Jackson intuits that Dani isn’t telling him everything she knows about the circumstances surrounding Ian’s disappearance.

Reality slams into Dani as she goes over in her mind her relationship with her often abusive former husband Mark Hastings and the attraction she developed toward Ian. Her daughter Abby, her mom, Ian’s daughters with  Mary Keller — his ex-wife who’s kept her married name — all contribute in various ways to Dani’s introspective look into her two marriages.  There’s guilt enough to go around  for everybody in this tale.

Caletti has done a beautiful job of examining relationships in “He’s Gone.” I’ll stop here and of course won’t reveal the outcome. If you like books by Jodi Picoult and Nancy Thayer — to name just two writers — I think you’ll love this book.

About the author
Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books—Honey, Baby, Sweetheart; The Queen of Everything; The Secret Life of Prince Charming—are published and translated worldwide. She lives with her family in Seattle. Read an excerpt from “He’s Gone” on Her website: www.debcaletti.com.

NAR: Rate Increases Ahead for Some National Flood Insurance Program Policyholders

  • By David M. Kinchen / Changes are coming to the critically important National Flood Insurance Program that could impact real estate transactions and property owners across the country. That’s the word from experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) , which manages the government’s flood insurance program, who spoke to Realtors® at this week’s  Flood Insurance 101 session during the Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

Kristin Robinson, senior advisor, summarized last year’s Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which reauthorized the critically important NFIP through 2017 so property owners could affordably access flood insurance.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR)  strongly supported the legislation and believes the government’s insurance program saves taxpayers property and money because it increases the number of self-insured properties and reduces the cost of post-flood disaster governmental assistance.

The NFIP is responsible for writing and renewing flood insurance policies for more than 5.6 million home and business owners in more than 21,000 communities nationwide where flood insurance is required for a mortgage. Before Congress passed the legislation, the program operated under short-term extensions. In the past five years, there were 18 extensions and several lapses in program coverage, delaying or cancelling thousands of real estate transactions daily according to NAR’s own research, wreaking havoc on real estate markets.

Robinson said the NFIP is $24 billion in debt following several disastrous storms in recent years since the costs and consequences of flooding continue to increase. “For decades the program has made flood insurance available at subsidized rates that did not reflect the true risk of flooding; artificially low rates and discounts are no longer sustainable,” she said.

Andy Neal, actuary, addressed the gradual phase-out of subsidized rates, which was included in last year’s legislation to preserve the flood insurance program and critically important property insurance coverage for the nation’s homeowners. Neal said rate subsidies are being phased out over the next several years to help increase the NFIP’s soundness and financial stability.

The majority of policyholders, more than 80 percent, are not subsidized and won’t be impacted by subsidized rate changes since they are already paying full actuarial rates, he said. However, these owners could see routine annual rate increases.

“Only about 20 percent of NFIP policies receive subsidies, mostly older structures built before the community’s first flood insurance rate map was issued, which are known as pre-FIRM properties. Some of these policyholders will be impacted by the gradual phase-out of subsidized rates; an even smaller number will see immediate changes to their insurance policy rates,” said Neal.

Rate changes are likely to affect owners of subsidized pre-FIRM non-primary residences, business properties, and properties that have experienced severe repetitive flood losses. Owners of some pre-FIRM condos and multi-family units will also see their rates gradually increase. Owners of pre-FIRM primary residences will retain their subsidies unless the policy lapses; it suffers a severe, repeated flood loss; or it’s sold to a new owner, which is retroactive to July 6, 2012, when the legislation was enacted. Some grandfathered principal residences will also lose their subsidies over a several year period, but not until the communities’ flood map is revised.

Neal recommended that home and property owners talk to their insurance agent to determine if their property is currently being subsidized. He said flood insurance rates vary based on a property’s location, elevation and flood risk and can be as low as a few hundred dollars up to $10,000 or more if the property is well below flood level and had severe repeated flood losses.

While higher rates may place a greater burden on families, there are investments homeowners can make to either reduce or better access their flood risk so they can continue to protect their families and possessions from damaging floods. According to Neal, homeowners can lower their risk by elevating their property and potentially reduce their flood insurance rates by having an elevation certificate completed to determine the property’s elevation relative to the base flood elevation. Elevation certificates can cost several hundred dollars to complete but could potentially lower homeowners’ flood insurance premiums.

Some homeowners with flood insurance policies have already received quotes for higher rates, which may be caused by several other factors such as improvements to mapping. As FEMA improves its mapping technology and draws more accurate flood maps, some homes may now be located in a flood zone, or a higher risk zone, where flood insurance is more expensive. Also, some insurance agents may adjust rates to correct previous mistakes made about the home’s features when they are re-evaluating an insurance policy at renewal.