Monthly Archives: July 2013

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Night of the Comet’: Coming of Age, Midlife Crises Come Together During 1973 Comet Watch

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'Night of the Comet': Coming of Age, Midlife Crises Come Together During 1973 Comet Watch
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Walden & Civil Disobedience”

I don’t know why George Bishop’s books — including his latest novel “The Night of the Comet” (Ballantine Books, 336 pages, $25.00) — don’t seem to make any bestseller lists I’m familiar with. His debut short novel, “Letter to My Daughter” (see my review below) was outstanding and “Comet” combines the best writing I’ve seen in a long time of coming of age, midlife crises and the “quiet” — or not so quiet — desperation that Thoreau wrote of. Bishop’s prose is good writing, serious but liberally seasoned with a sense of humor. He’s a Louisiana native and they know seasoning in the state!
Maybe it’s because Bishop’s books are often classified as “literary” — the bookstore kiss of death. Both of Bishop’s novels could be called  literary, but they’re very accessible, too — the best of both worlds. 

I think most people can identify with Alan Broussard Sr.;  his 14-year-old son Alan Jr., AKA Junior;  his 17-year-old daughter Megan; his wife, Lydia; the Martellos: Frank, Barbara and Gabriella;  Junior’s best friend Pete and his dad, owner of the Conoco station  — the whole galaxy of characters in this wonderful book. If you’re not like these people, chances are you know someone like Alan Sr., the bespectacled uber-geek high school teacher who rides his bike to school, or the wannabe hippie rebellious daughter Megan.

 

The novel is narrated by the almost-40-year-old Alan Jr., now living in Baton Rouge, LA in the year 2000. It’s a look back at a year when Comet Kohoutek — a comet, perhaps infected with Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” — ended up disappointing almost everybody. The comet was discovered in March 1973 by Dr. Lobos Kohoutek, a Czech astronomer working at the Hamburg, Germany Observatory (comets are named after their discoverers), and was expected to be at its greatest viewing  around Christmastime or in early January 1974  in Terrebonne, Louisiana, the setting of the novel. 

(You won’t find it on the road map: There’s a Terrebonne parish, but no town of that name; other towns mentioned in the novel, Napoleonville and Thibodaux, are real places, as, of course are Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the young Lydia spoke briefly to actress Ava Gardner, in town to film a movie. The film is not identified in the novel, but it’s a 1951 release, “My Forbidden Past,” starring Gardner, Robert Mitchum and Melvyn Douglas. 

(More from a 2005 article on Kohoutek and comet research: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2005/comets1_prt.htm. The photo of Kohoutek in that article looks pretty impressive to me!) 

Alan Sr. is a science teacher in Terrebonne, Louisiana in 1973. He personifies Thoreau’s famous saying: a scientist manqué, teaching science to kids who would rather be doing something else, anything else. In 1973, he’s using the coming of Comet Kohoutek to try to ignite an interest in science to his students. 

Lydia Broussard, who met Alan when he arrived in Terrebonne to teach science and she was a teen-age clerk in the drugstore, is just as frustrated as her husband. She’s attracted to the Martellos and is envious of their lifestyle, with her basic Rambler sedan a pale shadow of their Cadillac. The culmination of this fascination is a Comet Party in the Martello home, organized by Lydia and Barbara, to raise money for the cash-starved science laboratories at the high school.

For his fourteenth birthday, Alan Broussard, Jr., receives an expensive Celestron telescope from his father, a gift Alan Sr. hopes will inspire his son to love the stars as much as he does. Instead, Junior, as everybody calls him, uses the high-powered scope to spy on his pretty new neighbor, Gabriella Martello, a high school classmate who’s just moved into a big house in the exclusive subdivision across the bayou. She’s the daughter of Frank, an oil company executive and his social-climbing wife Barbara, who resents being stuck in plain-as-dirt Terrebonne. 
At the beginning of the novel there’s a teaser, explained at the end. Everything is not what it seems in the novel — like life itself. “The Night of the Comet” is about disappointment, but it’s at heart an optimistic book that readers looking for something meatier than the latest formulaic best-seller will embrace. I hope so.
A personal note: I was kind of a geek myself in high school in the mid 1950s, playing trombone (all trombone players are geeks at heart!) and tuba in the concert and marching bands and orchestra, setting up audio-visual equipment for ham-handed teachers as a member of the Projectionist Club, being a socially inept bookworm like Junior. There was no problem injecting myself into the life of Terrebonne (“Good Earth” in French) set two decades after I began high school and feeling right at home.

Background on George Bishop and how he came to write the book: http://www.wordsandmusic.org/George%20Bishop.html                                                                                                                 * * * 
My March 3, 2010 review of “Letter to My Daughter” 
BOOK REVIEW: ‘Letter to My Daughter’ Resonates: Male Reviewer Thinks Women Will Enjoy Male’s Debut Novel



Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Theoretically at least, I should be as unqualified  to review a book about mother-daughter relationships as George Bishop was to write one, “Letter to My Daughter” (Ballantine Books, 160 pages, $20.00).

I have no daughter and neither does Bishop. I’m a guy and so is Bishop, so where does he get off writing about a mother and her daughter, who goes missing — and what kind of nerve do I have reviewing it? As I write this, they’ve discovered the body of 17-year-old honor student and athlete Chelsea King in northern San Diego County, who went missing after a solo run. I can only imagine the grief her parents are going through.

Imagination is what fiction — good fiction like George Bishop’s debut novel — is all about. Anybody can  write about what they know firsthand; it takes imagination of a superior kind to put yourself into a different gender and push the imagination button.

Count Leo Tolstoy demonstrated a wonderful understanding of women in both “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace.”  So did Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in  plays like “Hedda Gabler” and “A Doll’s House”  and French novelist Balzac in “Madam Bovary.”  Similarly, Agatha Christie and other women writers created wonderful male characters. To pick just one contemporary writer, think about English novelist Ruth Rendell’s fully realized Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. Joyce Carol Oates’ characters — male and female alike — are wonderfully drawn.

As the novel opens, Laura tries to calm herself by writing a letter to her missing 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who stormed out of their Baton Rouge, Louisiana home after an argument. Laura writes, not knowing if and when Elizabeth will return: “Think of my letter as my birthday present to you. Something which my mother never told me, but which I’ll endeavor now with all my heart to tell you: the truth about how a girl grows up. The truth about life.”

Laura writes about growing up in a small town in Louisiana and falling in love with a poor Cajun boy who doesn’t meet the rigid requirements of a proper boyfriend to Laura’s upwardly mobile parents. Laura persists in the relationship and for her efforts is shipped off to a Catholic girls school in Baton Rouge. It’s really the female equivalent of a military academy, the kind where “problem” boys are sent to after everything else fails.

In the letter to her daughter, Laura unburdens herself, telling about things that she never revealed before. She obviously doesn’t want to become her own uncommunicative mother — an all-to-often “inevitable” result.

So, if you’re a woman, or a man, looking for insights into parenting by a man who isn’t a parent, pick up “Letter to My Daughter.”  You’ll be charmed by Bishop’s writing.

About the Author:

George Bishop holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He’s an actor and a world traveler, having lived ant taught in Slovakia, Turkey, India, Azerbaijan, India and Japan. His writing has appeared in The Oxford American, The Third Coast Press and American Writing. He lives in New Orleans.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms’: Straight-Talking Chronicle of Weapons That Are Part of American History

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms': Straight-Talking Chronicle of Weapons That Are Part of American History

“God, Guts & Guns Made U.S. Free” — Anonymous bumper sticker

  Surviving multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and a companion were tragically  killed by a fellow veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD at a shooting range in Glen Rose, Erath County, Texas last Feb. 2.
Probably the most famous Navy SEAL sniper, Kyle was nearing completion with his newest book, written with William Doyle, “American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms” (William Morrow, 320 pages, illustrations, index, appendix with descriptions of the ten firearms, $29.99).   Link to July 25 story about the alleged killer of Kyle and Chad Littlefield being indicted by a grand jury on capital murder charges: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Former-Marine-Indicted-in-Chris-Kyle-Slaying-216824161.html
With pungent prose that is as delightful to read as it is informative  Kyle, the #1 bestselling author of “American Sniper” tells stories from the American Revolution to the present day showing how ten legendary guns forever changed U.S. history.

“Perhaps more than any other nation in the world,” Kyle writes in a book that shows how guns have played a fascinating, indispensable, and often underappreciated role in our national story, “the history of the United States has been shaped by the gun. Firearms secured the first Europeans’ hold on the continent, opened the frontier, helped win our independence, settled the West, kept law and order, and defeated tyranny across the world.”

Drawing on his unmatched firearms knowledge and combat experience, Kyle  chose ten guns to help tell his story: the American long rifle, Spencer repeater, Colt .45 revolver, Winchester rifle, Springfield 1903 rifle, Thompson sub-machine gun, 1911 pistol, M1 Garand, .38 Special police revolver, and the M-16 rifle platform Kyle himself used as a SEAL.
Through them, he revisits thrilling turning points in American history, including the single sniper shot that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War, the firearms designs that proved decisive at Gettysburg, the “gun that won the West,” and the weapons that gave U.S. soldiers an edge in the world wars and beyond. This is also the story of how firearms innovation, creativity, and industrial genius has constantly pushed American history—and power—forward.

If I were a history teacher on the high school or college level, I would try to get this book placed on a list of required reading. Given the mindset of  the educational bureaucracy, almost as frozen in its mindset as the “Boob-ocracy” that approved and rejected military weapons during much of the nation’s history, according to Kyle, I’d probably fail. Talking about guns in an educational institution in the wake of recent school shootings is probably a third rail that few teachers want to approach.
If it were adopted, “American Gun,” with its accounts of Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba, the Marines at Belleau Wood in France in 1918, the gunfight at the OK Corral, the fate of the Dalton Gang of bank robbers in Coffeyville, Kansas, etc. would be a book that would be read, if kids do any reading today, that is!

Firearms hobbyists, target shooters like me and hunters will enjoy this book for its brief histories of the firearms, with unforgettable inventors like Samuel Colt, John Moses Browning, Christopher M. Spencer and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, Lincoln reveled in trying out new weapons in an improvised shooting range behind the White House, even suggesting improvements. Christopher Spencer, inventor of the Spencer repeating rifle, arrived at the White House on Aug. 18, 1863 and presented Lincoln with a rifle. The next day, the two men went to the target range and tried out the gun. Lincoln, a veteran of the Black Hawk War of 1832, shot well, writes Kyle, and Spencer shot even better.
 Having recently reviewed a book about the Glock pistol, I expected a chapter on this ground-breaking gun from Austria. It’s in there, in the chapter about the gun it replaced, the .38 Police Special revolver. For my Glock book review, click: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/44876 

About Chris Kyle 
SEAL Team 3 Chief Chris Kyle (1974-2013) served four combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere. For his bravery in battle, he was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation. Additionally, he received the Grateful Nation Award, given by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Following his combat deployments, he became chief instructor for training Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper teams, and he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual. Born in Odessa, Texas, Kyle served as president of Craft International (www.craftintl.com), a world-class leader in training and security, while devoting much of his spare time to helping disabled veterans. Chief Kyle is survived by his wife Taya Kyle, who wrote the book’s foreword,  and their two children.

About William Doyle 
William Doyle is an award-winning author based in New York City. His books include “A Mission from God” the memoir of civil rights leader James Meredith, and “A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq.”  He has also served as director of original programming and executive producer for HBO.

Details of Kyle’s death, From Wikipedia: “On Saturday, February 2, 2013, Kyle and a companion, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas  by 25-year-old fellow veteran Marine Eddie Ray Routh, whom Kyle and Littlefield had purportedly taken to the gun range in an effort to help him with what they were told by his mother was post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Local police captured Routh after a short freeway chase, which ended when Routh, who had left the scene of the shootings in Kyle’s Ford F-350 truck, crashed into a police cruiser. Routh was arrested just before 9 p.m. the same day in Lancaster, Texas.[25] Erath County sheriffs said the motive for the killing was unclear.[ Routh, from Lancaster [Texas], was arraigned February 2, 2013, on two counts of capital murder, according to Sgt. Lonny Haschel of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He was taken to the Erath County Jail for holding under a $3 million bond.[27]

A memorial service was held for Kyle at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on February 11, 2013. Kyle was buried on February 12, 2013, in Texas State CemeteryAustin, Texas, after a funeral procession from Midlothian, Texas, to Austin, stretching over 200 miles. Thousands of local residents lined Interstate 35 to view the procession and pay their final respects to Kyle.

American Muslim discovered to be wanted war criminal

  • By Jim Kouri 
A naturalized U.S. citizen living in Vermont taken into custody by special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday charging him for obtaining his American citizenship through fraudulent means, according to a federal indictment.
According to law enforcement officials, 54-year-old Edin Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, while undergoing the application process for legal immigrant status and subsequent citizen status hid his record of crimes committed during the war in Bosnia.According to the indictment filed in federal court, Sakoc of Burlington, Vt., committed the crime of naturalization fraud by giving false information about his commission of crimes and his participation in the persecution of Bosnian Serbs during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“While President Bill Clinton’s administration and his media sycophants painted the Serbian military as war criminals and supported the Croat and Muslim side in the conflict, we later discovered the Muslims were as brutal and merciless as — if not more brutal and merciless than — the Serbs”, said crime and terrorism analyst Bradley Schreiber.

The federal indictment alleges that in July 1992 Sakoc abducted, kidnapped, tortured and raped a Bosnian Serb woman and aided and abetted the brutal killing of the rape victim’s elderly mother and aunt.

The suspect also allegedly aided and abetted arsonists involved in torching the victims’ family home.

Sakoc was charged in a two-count indictment filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in the District of Vermont. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison as well as automatic revocation of his U.S. citizenship and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the Department of Justice.

The Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina assisted the federal investigators in locating and capturing a man they claim is a ruthless war criminal. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center also assisted the FBI in this investigation.

Jim Kouri, CPP, is founder and CEO of Kouri Associates, a homeland security, public safety and political consulting firm. He’s formerly Fifth Vice-President, now a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for ConservativeBase.com, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a contributor to KGAB radio news, a Fox News affiliate.

 

BOOK NOTES: Shelly Reuben’s ‘The Man With the Glass Heart’ Now Available in Wonderfully Read 3-Disc Audio Book from Blackstone Audio Books

  • By David M. Kinchen 
BOOK NOTES: Shelly Reuben's 'The Man With the Glass Heart' Now Available in Wonderfully Read 3-Disc Audio Book from Blackstone Audio Books

Shelly Reuben has just informed me that the audio book edition of The Man With The Glass Heart was published by Blackstone Audio Books on July 1, 2013. The 3-disc CD audio book — wonderfully read and realized by Carrington MacDuffie — has a list price of $13.95. Also available on Amazon.com, probably the most convenient way to buy. Ordering information from Blackstone: >Learn More

I marveled at MacDuffie’s numerous voices on this audio book. She’s simply wonderful, worthy of Shelly’s fable. She reads the narrator’a part, that of the road gypsy Panache, as well as Benjamin Pencil, the man with the glass heart in his wheelbarrow. Her rendition of The Woman with the Breeding is perfect, with just the right amount of menace,  and you’ll laugh along with the cackling voice of The Laughing Man. Her realization of Panache’s father is perfect, too. If you have the book, you’ll have to have the audio book! Blackstone has published four other titles by an author whose creativity and imagination has to be read — and heard — to be fully appreciated.

 I’m reprinting my review of the book version below:

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Man With The Glass Heart’: A Fable You Should Just Absorb: Don’t Try to Intellectualize It

December 16, 2012

Fable: A short narrative in prose or verse which points a moral. Non-human creatures or inanimate things are normally the characters — “The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4th Edition, 1998)

Normally, but not always: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a fantasy or fable and all the people in this story of a man who was born old but grew younger are humans. Perhaps the fable most people are familiar with — because they studied it in school — is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and of course, there’s “The Little Prince” by St. Exupery. O’Henry’s stories are often cast in the form of fables or fantasies and I know Shelly Reuben is a big fan of William Sydney Porter — O’Henry. William Faulkner won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for his 1954 World War I novel “A Fable”, viewed by many as a precursor to Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”.

Shelly Reuben’s “The Man With The Glass Heart” (Bernard Street Books, 218 pages, $12.00, also available in an eBook, from Amazon.com and other sites) is a book you should read with an open mind and no preconceptions. As T.S. Eliot advised in “The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’/ Let us go and make our visit”.

I’ll depart from my usual reviewer’s practice and use the description Shelly Reuben has written for the back cover:

Not since The Little Prince fell in love with a rose has a book captured the magic of a world where love longs for what it cannot have, recovers what it has lost, and the unimaginable flutters with luminescent wings out of crystal caves. Panache, an exuberant road gypsy, is on her way to the mountains. Benjamin Pencil, The Man With The Glass Heart, has no use for mountains. But their paths cross, their lives intertwine, and Benjamin follows her up, up, up, to where hills are smothered in poppies and a man can reach out and write his name in the sky. As they travel, they first encounter the beautiful but predatory Woman with the Breeding, a collector of hearts who tries to add Benjamin’s exquisite heart to her pitiable hoard; the malicious Man who Laughs, who lives only to create fear and kill dreams; and unpredictably Panache’s iconoclastic, unreliable, and utterly irresistible father. Papa plays his saxophone with the same wild abandon with which he lives his life, and cautions Panache that if the mountains are in a man, he will go there … and that mountains are in the man with the glass heart. It is in those mountains that they meet the melodious laughing bird. Melody, with her irresistible song and aquamarine eyes, lures Benjamin to an Arabian Nights world where hypnotizing creatures dance and sing late into the night. At what peril does Benjamin Pencil follow the melodious laughing bird? To what end? Can real hearts be broken? Is a shattered heart the end of all love? Or can it be a new beginning?

Link to my story about the audio book publication:http://www.huntingtonnews.net/66707

I just received this message from Shelly:

“I have just learned that The Man With The Glass Heart was nominated as the August selection for The Freedom Book Club.

“I don’t know which good angel recommended it, but I love the idea that if enough people vote for it, my book will get more exposure and, hopefully, more readers.

“So, with apologies for sending you this less-than-personal form letter …

“Would you consider clicking the link below and casting a vote my way…if you enjoyed “The Man With The Glass Heart”?

Click here: freedombookclub.com – survey

About the Author

Shelly Reuben has written eight novels. Her first, Julian Solo, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award and by the Libertarian Futurist Society for a Prometheus Award. Her novel Origin & Cause was nominated for a Falcon Award by the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan. She also writes two newspaper columns and regularly contributes short stories to the Forensic Examiner. A Chicago native, she lives in New York City. The Man with the Glass Heart is her first fable. For David M. Kinchen’s reviews of her books, use the search engine at the upper right hand of www.huntingtonnews.net.

About the Reader

Carrington MacDuffie is a recording artist and spoken-word performer whose voice acting has been featured in several independent films. She has a background in vaudeville and spent many years singing, writing, and producing multimedia performances for her pop band. Her one-woman spoken-word show has been staged across the western United States.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Customer Service’: Rene Henry Demystifies Something That Is A Rare Commodity Today

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'Customer Service': Rene Henry Demystifies Something That Is A Rare Commodity Today

Rene A. Henry is a double-threat author: He’s at once entertaining and informative. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s  a devotee of legendary “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt, who achieved success by telling his reporters to “tell me a story.”

Rene Henry’s newest book, “Customer Service: The Cornerstone of Success” (Gollywobbler Productions, 118 pages,  $13.46 paperback and $4.95 Kindle Editions) is true to type: Both entertaining and informative.

Henry loses no time telling his readers why customer service is an oxymoron in many companies and may soon be a thing of the past except for a few companies and organizations that pride themselves on providing their customers with extraordinary service.

It’s no secret, writes Henry, that the U.S. is becoming a rude society.  Fewer people care about or expect good customer service. Too many companies are living on past reputations. A new generation of senior executives has no idea what customer service is all about. Henry attributes this to a society of people all thumbs about their pods, pads and  smart phones  and oblivious to the world around them.

Henry attributes this to a society of people all thumbs about their high-tech gadget and oblivious to the world around them. This book should be a must read by CEOs, senior managers and heads of PR and customer service at all companies, organizations and institutions as well as local, state and federal governments. Yes, he deals with governmental communication breakdowns.

“Customer Service” provides case studies of successful customer service in all its varieties, citing how poor customer service or lack of it has caused and exacerbates crises.

Henry provides chapters on basics, listening, responding, telephone etiquette, and the problem of gate guardians as well as separate chapters for a more comprehensive look at the success of several companies including Amica Mutual Insurance Co., Marriott and Crystal Cruise Lines.

Henry draws from the successful practices of CEOs who know extraordinary customer service to provide the reader with a menu of proven ideas that can be adapted for any type of business, product or service.

“Customer Service”  looks at how the Nordstrom family empowers its employees with ownership and entrepreneurialism. There must be something in the water, because this Seattle-based company is one of many firms in the city that have a deservedly outstanding reputation for customer service. Another company based in the city that the author singles out is Amazon. Henry describes how Amazon has profited from the customer-centric philosophy of founder Jeff Bezos.

The book explains why Amica Insurance has been honored time and again for 100 years for the way it treats its customers.

Henry writes how Carl Sewell became one of the nation s largest luxury car dealers by turning one-time buyers into a lifetime customers.   The importance Bill Marriott, Jr. places on management by walking around has made it the leader in the hotel business is another case study.

Ukrops Supermarkets in Richmond, VA  became a major regional chain with a contrarian strategy. Brad Tilden attributes the success of Alaska Airlines to the company’s culture and passion for customer service.

Crystal Cruise Lines is consistently ranked #1 in its category because Gregg L. Michel and his team listen and respond. Jim Cabela of Cabela’s spends time every week to personally read and answer mail in order to exceed customers expectations.

One aspect of the book that I particularly liked about the book is that Henry names  companies — including other cruise lines that have been in the news lately — with poor or non-existent customer service.

He also names professions where this failure seems to be endemic, including journalists, PR people — especially young ones– and gatekeepers and watchdogs who keep their bosses in a state of blissful ignorance. The immortal line uttered by actor Strother Martin to members of the chain gang in “Cool Hand Luke” comes to mind: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

A personal note: I’ve known Rene Henry since I joined the Los Angeles Times in 1976 as a reporter in the Real Estate section.  His public relations skills and all round helpfulness helped me negotiate my way around the maze of real estate development in Southern California and helped me become a better reporter. Now that’s what I call customer service!

I can’t  recommend “Customer Service” too highly; if I were a business owner, I’d order enough copies of this book so that every employee would have his/her own copy.  I might even have them pass tests on the principles he provides in this wonderful book!  (That’s the English teacher I never became coming to the fore!)

 

About the Author

Rene A. Henry, born in Charleston, WV in 1933, and educated at the College of William & Mary, has had diverse careers in public relations, sports marketing, housing and real estate, television and entertainment, politics, federal service, higher education and as a trade association executive.

He has created and produced award-winning videos and television documentaries and authored books on land investment, utility cogeneration, sports and public relations.

His two books on crisis: “Communicating In A Crisis; You’d Better Have a Hose If You Want to Put Out the Fire” and “Marketing Public Relations” are used by professionals, professors and students.

His sports book — “The Iron Indians” —  is about the remarkable 1953 William & Mary football team that lost only once in its first six games with only 24 players and 16 on scholarship. “Offsides!”, a book about officiating in the National Football League, was published in August 2001.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Obama’s Economic Message on the Right Track — Except for Pushing Homeownership

  • By David M. Kinchen 
 All in all I approved President Obama’s economic issues address Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at Knox College in Galesburg, IL (not “Galesville” as CNN had identified the city on a screen text), except for the point he made about homeownership being one of the  cornerstones of a middle class lifestyle.  I beg to disagree Mr. President: I think homeownership is great for those who qualify for the position, but there’s nothing wrong with renting — as we’ve done for the past five years after more than 30 years as homeowners.

  Here’s the text of the president’s address in Galesburg, birthplace of poet and author Carl Sandburg and one of the most attractive and historical cities in my home state of Illinois:  http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/read-obamas-economic-speech-in-illinois-as-prepared

Coincidentally, on the same day as the address, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a report on June new home sales, up sharply from the previous month and from June 2012 — and at the fastest pace in five years. Link:http://www.huntingtonnews.net/68164

Lest the casual observer believes all this good news presages the start of another bubble, the Irvine, CA-based housing analytic firm of CoreLogic insists the latest recovery is not another bubble. Link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/67528

My point — and I want to emphasize that  I’m not against homeownership per se for those who can afford it — is that the federal government has no business pushing homeownership, especially when the free market shows that those who want to buy a new or existing house are, in the classic real estate phrase: “Ready, willing and able.”

The numbers for both new and existing houses and how they’ve improved since the meltdown began more than five years ago speak for themselves. Homeownership has advantages for many people, but renting gives the family greater flexibility to go where the jobs are without being tied down to a house. For my story on existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors, which shows that despite a minor slip, sales have been sustaining an excellent pace for the past two years: Link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/68047

The  president mentioned reforms in housing finance, a subject that is currently under consideration by Congress. My preference would be to emphasize FHA and VA and sell off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but others have differing views on this subject. I think Fannie and Freddie are too dependent on taxpayer bailouts. With a healthy housing industry, both Fannie and Freddie are better off as heavily regulated private entities. I’m not a casual observer of the real estate scene: I’ve been covering real estate, housing and construction for daily newspapers — and this site — since 1970 and I’m past president (1984) of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

U.S.: New-Home Sales Jump 8.3 Percent in June to Fastest Pace in 5 Years

  • By David M. Kinchen 
U.S.: New-Home Sales Jump 8.3 Percent in June to Fastest Pace in 5 Years

 Sales of new single-family houses in June 2013 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 497,000, according to estimates released jointly Wednesday, July 24, 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 8.3 percent above the revised May rate of 459,000 and is 38.1 percent  above the June 2012 estimate of 360,000. The June sales pace is the highest in five years.

The median sales price of new houses sold in June 2013 was $249,700; the average sales price was $295,000. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of June was 161,000. This represents a supply of 3.9 months at the current sales rate.

“New-home buyers are returning to the market in larger numbers as firming prices, shrinking inventories of homes for sale and improving local economies convince them that now is the time to make their move,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “Meanwhile, the very low supply of new homes on the market is indicative of the difficulty that builders are having in keeping up with demand due to availability issues with regard to materials, credit, labor and lots for development.”

“The takeaway from this report is that the housing recovery is solidly on track and isn’t going to be derailed by slightly higher mortgage rates,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “After years of fence-sitting, buyers are back and are ready to move forward with an investment in homeownership.” Looking ahead, he said he anticipates further, though more incremental gains in sales through the end of this year.

Three out of four regions saw solid gains in new-home sales activity in June, with the Northeast, South and West posting increases of 18.5 percent, 10.9 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively. The Midwest posted an 11.8 percent decline following an above-trend bump in activity in May.

The inventory of new homes for sale declined to 161,000 units in June, marking a razor-thin, 3.9-month supply at the current sales pace. The months’ supply of homes for sale has not fallen below this level since March of 2004.

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance’: Comics Immortal Will Eisner’s Classic Guide to Temperamental Service Rifle

  • Reviewed by David  M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance': Comics Immortal Will Eisner's Classic Guide to Temperamental Service Rifle
The AR15 civilian rifle is often targeted by anti-gun people as an “assault weapon” but during the Vietnam war its military equivalent, the  M16, was often hated by grunts in the field because of its often balky action. It was a far cry from the AK47s used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. The Russian-designed AK47 and its variants fired a .30 caliber round and rarely if ever malfunctioned — even if covered with dirt, water and slime.
  To help solve the problem with the new rifle, the U.S. Army,  under Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland,  in 1969 brought comic book immortal Will Eisner (see the wikipedia entry on this genius of comics and graphic novels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Eisner) back to the drawing board to repeat the success he had as a WWII veteran in producing an instruction manual that works and is fun to use.  As gun expert Robert A. Sadowski points out in his introduction to “The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance” (Skyhorse Publishing, 53 pages, hardback, $12.95) Eisner used sex appeal with a curvy female narrator to get the attention of soldiers having problems with their M16 rifles.
I’ve talked to a number of Vietnam vets and to a man they hated this new weapon. They preferred the predecessor, the .30 caliber M14, which had replaced a number of weapons, including the Garand M1, the M1 Carbine, etc. Hampered by a wooden stock — later replaced with with a fiberglass one that withstood the tropic conditions of Southeast Asia better than the timber one — the M14 used a round — 7.62X51 mm NATO (.308 Winchester) — comparable to the AK. This round was deemed too powerful to be used on full automatic, so most of the rifles were locked on semi-automatic. Today the beloved M14 serves as the basis for the M21 and M25 sniper rifles.Comic books were something the troops in ‘Nam could understand, so the joint venture between Eisner and the Army was a marriage made in heaven. How immortal is William Erwin “Will” Eisner (1917-2005)? The comic book equivalent of the Oscars, Emmys, Grammies and Tonys is  called the “Eisner” award. 

The 32-page booklet was more than a simple manual and step-by-step guide:  this unconventional yet important military document tried to appeal to soldiers with suggestive chapter titles such as “How to Strip Your Baby,” “What to Do in a Jam,” “Sweet 16,” and “All the Way with Négligé.” A copy of the   booklet was issued to nearly every soldier serving in Vietnam. If manufacturers produced instruction books like this, they wouldn’t be tossed into a dark drawer corner: They’d be read.

 

In addition to the informative  Introduction, Sadowski supplies a history of the M16 and a timeline of the .223 caliber (NATO 5.56) rifle.

 

This is a great book for any Vietnam veteran, as well as any firearms collector and shooter. As an NRA member, a member of a Texas gun club and a member of the Texas State Rifle Association, I approve this book for anyone interested in firearms.
Publisher’s web site: www.skyhorsepublishing.com

OP-ED: J’Accuse: Cirque du Media: CNN Has Much to Answer For

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick
I sincerely hope the late and great French author Emile Zola will forgive me from his grave for plagiarizing  the title of his famous piece in which he accused the French military of bushwacking an Army officer because of his Jewish faith.  Both religious prejudice and hypocrisy played a major role in doing in the officer, Alfred Dreyfus — who was cleared only after years in Devil’s Island in South America.
The clear and shameful victor in the recent trial of George Zimmerman for the tragic death of Trayvon Martin was….the envelope please:  HYPOCRISY!  And the winning representative is none other than CNN…followed closely by the media industry generally and a few headline-hunting people who used to work for civil rights.

As a very young person, I was privileged to march in that million person demonstration that culminated in the unforgettable “Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.  Before then and since, I have worked not just for civil rights for some but for all people, only to find that too many have made a good living acting as if they believed in the universality of human rights.

If you only paid attention to the 24-hour circus of non-stop lawyers retained by CNN before, during and since the trial in Sanford, Florida, you could easily believe that the entire nation was on trial for the action of one  person…one person clearly directed  by law enforcement NOT to engage the young man .  Neither society at large or the nation caused that terrible event.  But you would not believe that if you simply listened to the resurgence of the old-time voices who once tagged along on the shirttails of Dr. King.

For the record no one wants to read or discuss, it was a jury of six carefully selected jurors who rendered the verdict after sitting for days and days in the courtroom.  There is no recorded evidence that either the prosecution or the defense teams saw this folks as racists who would acquit Mr. Zimmerman regardless of the evidence.

But while both sides worked hard to present their points, CNN helped to encourage media competitors to jump in with all cameras and recorders blazing, with lawyers from all over the place making sure they did a great job promoting themselves and probably future business.

Back up a bit now almost exactly 19 years ago as wealthy former football idol, O.J. Simpson, is charged with two counts of first degree murder of is ex-wife (white )Nicole Simpson and her male friend Ronald Goldman.  Not only was Simpson the prime police suspect for the crimes, he also, for reasons of his own, led the cops on a high speed  chase in a car driven by his friend A.C. Cowlings.  Finally caught, he was then taken into custody.

Unlike Zimmerman,  Simpson has plenty of money to hire expensive counsel like Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran.  Zimmerman’s defense team was paid by the public as the kind of promise given when the arrested are “Mirandized”  Also unlike the Zimmerman jury, the O.J.  jury panel approved by both sides was composed of eight blacks, one white, one Hispanic and two of mixed race….eight women and four men.

There were no demonstrations following the verdict except that the NAACP claimed at the time the media paid too much attention to black defendants.  Beyond that, the claims of many were that media(white media)were biased against Simpson.

In less than four hours after the case went to the jury, it returned a verdict of not guilty.

What followed, however, might be a clue to the future in the Martin-Zimmerman case.  The family of Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman took the case to Civil Court in October 1996 where it heard testimony of Simpson’s abuse of his late wife and other commentary. The jury in this instance, composed of nine whites, one black, one Hispanic and one person of mixed Asian/African ancestry.

On February 4, 1997, the jury finds Simpson liable and awards the plaintiffs $8.5 million in compensatory damages.  The court required the defendant to turn over all his assets, including his Heisman trophy, some expensive art.  His Brentwood estate and everything in it were auctioned off.

And now, with demonstration a daily reality around the country as if the American people had murdered the young Sanford, Florida, man, consider a key point of Dr. King’s instructions to his fellow black citizens to avoid actions against those who might have oppressed them.

Yet the President of the United States a day or two ago suggested Trayvon Martin could have been himself 35 years ago.  What Mr Obama failed to add was the massive progress since those days that included his own election to the presidency of the United States.  More than that, he, like so many others, failed to take note that the greatest increase of multi-millionaires in one race in those years have been outstanding black athletes in sports where whites are almost as hard to find as blacks were a few decades ago.  He could have noted the many men and women of color who have earned prominence  industry, the military, diplomacy, education and elsewhere.  Instead, Mr. Obama suggested young blacks needed more encouragement and direction, avoiding the realities of black progress .

In the end, the circus created by  a court that allowed mass media into this trial, CNN’s gaudy use of lawyers who must have had too much time on their hands to use the trial as great business promotion and the corresponding and excessive use of demonstrations that included some violence all contributed to the award of recognition for Hypocrisy.

If these are the lessons of those of any color who exploit race for whatever reasons, the entire path of progress has been set back half a century.

By the way, the night of Dr. King’s assassination by one person, my father’s business was assaulted and destroyed several nights in a row in the name of retaliation despite his long history of fighting for good, having seen anti-Semitism in his native Russia and right here in America.

* * *

Joseph J. Honick, Bainbridge Island, WA,  is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including huntingtonnews.net. Honick can be reached at joehonick@gmail.com

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebrated With Tours by Europeans, Americans

  • By David M. Kinchen 
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebrated With Tours by Europeans, Americans
National Public Radio’s web site currently has a very nice illustrated story about Europeans driving across the U.S. on the celebrated Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first east-west highway,  dedicated 100 years ago  in 1913. They’re driving a variety of cars, including a German microcar and a treasured BMW coupe, all shipped across the Atlantic especially for the New York City to San Francisco journey.   Link:  http://www.npr.org/2013/07/17/202702080/europeans-traverse-u-s-on-famous-lincoln-highway
Lincoln Highway, conceived by the flamboyant Indianapolis-based entrepreneur Carl Graham Fisher (he built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was a major developer of Miami Beach;  for a good brief discussion of his role in the development of  Miami Beach: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_Beach,_Florida) and named after his hero Abraham Lincoln, has an important place in my life.

   From about age 11 on  I grew up in Rochelle, Illinois, a major city on the highway. The main street of Rochelle is still called Lincoln Highway. Rochelle is called the Hub City because two railroads crossed in the town, forming what railroaders call a diamond crossing. In addition to the Lincoln Highway, Rochelle was on U.S. 51, the nation’s first north-south highway.

After graduating from Rochelle Township High School, I attended Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, another Lincoln Highway town about 18 miles east of Rochelle. I commuted to NIU for three years on the Lincoln Highway, living off campus for my senior year.       A few years ago I reviewed a book about the development of the nation’s highways, “The Big Roads,” which has a good discussion of the Lincoln Highway: Link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/11812. My review includes a mention of a book by Michael Wallis about the Lincoln Highway. Wallis wrote a biography of David Crockett a few years ago, and is one of the voices in the hit movie “Cars.”

Editor’s note: The photo of a plaque commemorating Emily Post’s stay in Rochelle in 1915 is from: http://www.lincolnhighwaynews.wordpress.com/tag/murals/