Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

So yeah, wasn’t that damn titanic really.

So some poor college dude got drunk and sent an ill-conceived message to his professor. Lucky for drunk dude his prof is awesome. Check it out:

Classic stuff.

Flashbulb Memory

Noun

  1. the clear recollections that a person may have of the circumstances associated with a dramatic event.

Flashbulb Memories. We all have them. Oh, you may not have known they had a name until right now, but I guarantee you’re thinking of a couple right now. Like the definition says, they’re those moments in your life that were so shocking, so mind-numbing that the moment they happened is burned into your brain forever. Obviously the older you are the more of these memories you’ll have, and what follows are my flashbulb memories. Yep, all 19 of them. And by the way, I excluded the deaths of close friends and relatives. That’s way too close to home, man. What I’ll do is this – I’ll tell you where I was, how I heard the news, and any other information that I feel may be pertinent.

Note: As much as I tried to come up with an even 20 I couldn’t do it. Sorry folks.

The John. F. Kennedy Assassination (November 22nd, 1963)

I can vividly recall that Friday in November, 1963 when a knock came on the door of my classroom in Twin Elementary in Bourneville, Ohio. I was in row 2, seat 2. My teacher, Mrs. Hughes, walked to the door and listened for a few seconds. For some reason, the classroom became completely quiet. Somehow we sensed something in the air. I distinctly remember Mrs. Hughes sort of toppling a bit and leaning against the door jamb upon receiving the news. Then she turned, deathly white, and walked to the front of the room . . .

“Kids, I have terrible news. Our president has been assassinated.”

I recall my friend Jeff, who was sitting in front of me, turning around and asking me what that meant. I have no idea how I knew for sure, but I told him that somebody had killed John F. Kennedy, our president. Our president was dead. I don’t remember the rest of the school day, but I do remember going home after school and being surprised that my dad was home, sitting on the couch watching the television. I also remember that for the first time in my life, I saw tears in my father’s eyes.

The Truth About Santa (December 22nd, 1963)

How do I know the exact date, you ask? Because I remember it was the Sunday before Christmas and a few weeks after the Kennedy assassination. My family had gone to my grandparent’s house east of Chillicothe, at a farm just off Route 35. All was well until the ride home. It was on that fateful trip back to Bourneville when we were all discussing Christmas and my older cousin Mike, who was riding with us, leaned over and delivered the earth-shattering news:

“Santa Claus isn’t real. Our parents buy the presents.”

Mind. Blown.

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (February 9th, 1964)

My sister Karen had played “Introducing the Beatles” for me a few weeks prior (it was released on January 10th) so I was already all-in on this new band from Liverpool. Still, when Ed Sullivan yelled, “Here they are! THE BEATLES!” and I actually saw and heard the boys playing, I knew my world would never be the same again.

Note: I know the video below seems simple and not at all earth-shattering for younger people, but trust me when I say it was like watching four aliens sing a strange new sound at the time.

The Moon Landing (July 21st, 1969)

1968 had been a terrible year for the Unites States, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Robert F. Kennedy, rocking our nation. Coming from a politically involved family I was dialed into the political and civil rights scenes more than most 12-year olds, so those two murders rocked me almost as much as the John F. Kennedy assassination. So, when the U.S.A. fulfilled a promise made by JFK and beat Russia to the moon in the summer of 1969 the entire world was watching, including my family. I recall watching the event on television, listening to Ohio native Neil Armstrong say the famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, and then Dad and I going outside and staring up at the moon in disbelief. It was simply unimaginable at the time that a man was standing on it.

The Death of Jim Croce (September 20th, 1973)

This one probably isn’t on most people’s lists, but I remember vividly when I heard about it. I was in my Dad’s Catalina Brougham, sitting at our mailbox reaching in to get our mail. It was in the morning and it was a Friday. I had the radio on, listening to the news, when I heard the report that one of my favorite singers had died in a plane crash the night before after performing at a concert in Louisiana. I couldn’t believe the guy who sang “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, and “Time in a Bottle” was dead.

President Richard Nixon Resigns (August 8th, 1974)

Again, because of my family’s involvement in politics I was tuned into the whole Watergate scandal from Day 1. I even made a bet with my History teacher that Nixon wouldn’t make it through the summer, that he’d be forced to resign. Needless to say, I won that one. I watched the resignation my sister Karen’s house, along with her husband Jigger.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Plane Crash (October 20th, 1977)

I was living just off The Ohio State University campus at the time, 178 West 8th Avenue, Apartment C to be precise, at the time. I’d purchased tickets for the Skynyrd show on Friday, October 28th, but when I awoke the morning of Friday, October 21st, I had the following conversation with my roommate Jed just as he was walking out the door:

Jed: “Hey, don’t you have tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd next week?”

Me: “Yep.”

Jed: “Uh, pretty sure it’ll be cancelled. Their plane crashed last night. Six people were killed including Ronnie Van Zant.”

I just stood there speechless as he walked out the door.

The Who Tragedy (December 3rd, 1979)

Yep, my buddies Tom, Andy and I had tickets to Riverfront Coliseum the night of the tragedy where 11-people were crushed to death, and we were actually on the way to the concert. Fortunately, since it was my birthday we thought a party in Chillicothe would be more fun, and it might have saved our lives. And yes, I know about a million people claim to have had tickets to that show. We actually did. We went to the party, and we found out what happened when we returned to Andy’s house around 2:30 in the morning and found his wife sitting on the floor in front of the TV, crying. She thought we’d gone to the concert, and when she saw us walk in she leaped up, hugged us all, and told us the news. Chilling stuff.

USA Hockey Upsets The Russians (February 22nd, 1980)

Unless you were actually there you didn’t see this game live because it was played at 5:00pm and shown on tape delay at 8:00pm. This being 1980 and before the internet, nobody I knew had heard that the biggest upset in sports history had happened. Nobody, and I mean nobody, aside from American Coach Herb Brooks thought a bunch of collegiate hockey players could beat mighty Russia, who was essentially a professional team and undoubtedly the best hockey team in the world. Hell, the USA had been beaten by the Russians 10-0 just days before. So, when the US was winning 4-3, clock winding down to 0:00, and announcer Al Michaels screamed “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?” I leaped up and accidentally knocked my coffee table over in the process. Unbelievable night.

John Lennon Assassination (December 8th, 1980)

Lennon signing his assassin’s album the night he was shot.

I was home by myself that night. It was around 11:30 pm and I was relaxing on my couch, headphones on, listening to “Double Fantasy”, the new album by John Lennon that had been released a couple of weeks prior. Lennon hadn’t recorded in 5-years so the album was a big deal. A Monday Night Football game was on but I wasn’t really watching, I was just lounging with my eyes closed, listening to the music. The TV was actually across the room, sort of behind me, and I was facing the fireplace.

At some point I opened my eyes and glanced into the glass doors of the fireplace. There I saw the reflection of the TV, and for some reason John Lennon’s face was on it. I took the headphones off and turned to the television, and they were talking about Lennon being a former Beatle who had just released an album, just giving a brief bio of his life.

Uh-oh. This wasn’t good.

I soon learned that John Lennon had been murdered outside his New York City apartment. I was stunned. A few minutes later my phone started ringing as people were calling to share the news and talk about this unspeakable thing that had happened. Soon my friend Tom showed up and we spent the night just talking about it in disbelief.

John Lennon had been such an influential part of my life. For me, music would never be the same.

The Space Shuttle Explosion (January 28th, 1986)

I was in my second year teaching at Greenfield McClain and I was in the teacher’s lounge. It must have been the 4th period or thereabouts because it happened at 11:38am – the Space Shuttle exploded. This was close to my heart because for the first time a civilian was aboard and I had applied for the spot. Don’t get me wrong, over 11,000 teachers sent in applications so it wasn’t like I had a chance to go. Still, we all knew teacher Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire, was aboard. My principal at the time, John Miller, walked into the lounge and said simply to the 3-4 of us there, “The space shuttle just exploded. They’re all gone.” At the time? Inconceivable.

The Day My Son Was Born (June 3rd, 1988)

My wife and I had applied for an international adoption in 1985. We desperately wanted a child, had gone through an intensive interview process, and had been approved. In early June I was at Coach Billy Hahn’s Ohio University Basketball Camp, at a pay phone outside Grover Center where I’d just called home, when I was given the news – our baby had been born in Korea. Soon thereafter we were sent a photo, and in the fall we finally got to meet the baby that would come me be known as Kip Min-Soo Shoemaker. To this day, deciding to adopt was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Buster Douglas Upsets Mike Tyson (February 11th, 1990)

I was coaching at Paint Valley. It was my first year coaching varsity basketball. We were at a post-game victory party at an assistant coach’s house when we heard the news from ESPN – Columbus, Ohio’s own Buster Douglas had done the unthinkable. He’d knocked out the unbeatable “Iron” Mike Tyson. We were ecstatic and shocked. Unforgettable moment.

Magic Johnson’s Announcement That He Is HIV Positive (November 7th, 1991)

It was the Fall of 1991 and I was getting ready to coach a team that didn’t have a senior on the roster. That team ended up winning 14 games that year and 18 the next along with a league title, but on this evening none of that had happened yet. We were getting ready for an early season practice when junior Josh Anderson walked into the gym . . .

“Have you guys heard? Magic Johnson has AIDS.”

What? It turns out he didn’t have AIDS, but was instead HIV positive. Still, at the time that meant a death sentence. Since Magic was an NBA legend, the idea of watching him waste away like actor Rock Hudson was shocking. Like I said, at the time being HIV positive meant you were going to die a slow and agonizing death, and it was absolutely distressing to contemplate.

The OJ Car Chase (June 17th, 1994)

I was living in Bourneville (where I’m back living now) and my in-laws were in from Niles, Ohio for a visit. Of course everyone had heard about the murders, and there was a news bulletin and we found out that OJ had been scheduled to turn himself in at 11:00am but never showed up. Then, at 1:50pm LAPD Commander. David Gascon announced that Simpson has not surrendered for arraignment as scheduled and was a fugitive from the law. It was stunning. For you youngsters out there OJ Simpson was one of the most famous athletes in the world back in the 70s. He also starred in those Naked Gun movies. This led to a televised slow-speed car chase with most of the country glued to their screens. That evening I kept switching from the OJ coverage to the NBA Finals game between Houston and New York. Wild stuff.

The OJ Acquittal (October 3rd, 1995)

Fast forward to a little over year later, and I was sitting in my classroom at Paint Valley watching TV with my class. The jury had made a decision and the world was awaiting the verdict. When OJ was found innocent verdict we were stunned.

The Death of Lady Diana (August 31st, 1997)

I was sitting at the bar of a restaurant in German Village in Columbus, Ohio, waiting to be called for dinner. It was around 7:00pm. I was with my wife Marianne, my sister Karen and her husband Army. There was a TV above the bar with the sound off, and my sister suddenly said, “Oh my God.” We all looked up and the news was right there on the screen- Princess Di was dead. We soon learned she’d been killed in a car wreck in Paris, which due to the time difference was 6-hours ahead of us. The accident had happened at approximately 12:23am Paris time. I recall the bar got eerily quiet as everyone whispered to each other about the news.

The WTC/Pentagon Attacks (September 11th, 2001)

I was at good friend of mine’s house that morning. He’d been in an accident the evening before and had passed away earlier that day. I was with his wife, son and a couple other members of their family. Around 9:00am I left to get everyone breakfast and turned on the radio, where I learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At that time I assumed that it was a small plane that had gotten lost in the clouds or something. I then went and got breakfast and returned to the house. At about 10:45am I went into the living room, where the TV was on with the sound muted. I immediately saw all the smoke and dust where the WTC buildings had been and was absolutely dumbfounded as to what happened. I soon learned though. Tough, tough day that I’ll never forget.

The Block (June 19th, 2016)

I was in my house in Bourneville. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors. Series tied 3-3, game tied with 1:20 left. Cleveland had never won an NBA title. I was on my knees, perhaps 5-feet from my TV screen. The Warriors were on a fast break for a seemingly easy score when LeBron James made The Block. It was at this exact moment when I realized: “He’s not going to let them lose.”

Like I said, there are closer, more personal stories I could tell but they’re way to fresh in my mind, too raw, to recent and too fresh. Maybe one day.

But enough about me. What are you’re Flashbulb Memories?

 

I beseech you to watch this video. Riveting stuff by Professor Jonathan Haidt:

In the mid-’90s there was a sharp shift to overprotective parenting. In previous generations, kids were allowed to out of the house unsupervised from age 5-8, which has now become age 12-16. As a result, their independence, resilience, and problem-solving skills have suffered. We need to give childhood back to kids so that they do what they most need to do, which is develop the skills of being an independent adult. Remember that the job of a parent is to work him or herself out of a job.”

Professor Jonathan Haidt

Happy National Dog Day, Sparky!

Posted: August 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

As you can see, The Spark’s life has been well documented. If you want to read about Sparky, hit the link up top or type “Sparky” into the search box on the left!

No captions necessary really, but I added them anyway. Just sit back, take a gander and feel your blood begin its slow but steady boil.

[click and scroll for the annoyingness]

This happened to a high school golfer up in Michigan who reportedly came a little too close to a goose nest, after which hilarity ensued. I’m sure this dude was harassed mercilessly by his fellow golfers because that’s a bad look for any so-called athlete. Have some composure, man.

The man who had the original idea for G.I. Joe was given two offers by Hasbro – $50,000 and 1% of future earnings from the action figure or a flat fee of $100,000. He took the $100,000. Oops. Had he taken the $50,000 and 1% he’d be worth $40-million dollars today.

 

658B8464-3343-4023-BCBA-D8F1E6094FDBHow is Todd Rundgren not in the Rock Hall of Fame? HOW?

Todd Rundgren not only recorded what is in my opinion one of the greatest albums in history, Something/Anything?, he’s an amazing, ground-breaking producer as well. He produced the albums Straight Up by Badfinger, Stage Fright by The Band, We’re An American Band by Grand Funk Railroad, Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf, and New York Dolls by the New York Dolls among many, many others. Folks, those are some amazing, historical albums.

Todd was a forerunner in creating music videos, and his video for the song Time Heals was one of the first videos played on MTV.

In addition, his song Couldn’t I Just Tell You has had a major influence on artists in the power pop musical genre.

Oh, and in 1985 Todd recorded the incredible album A Cappella, which was recorded using his multi-tracked voice, accompanied by arrangements constructed entirely from programmed vocal samples. Again, no instruments, just his voice imitating instruments. I’d like to see Hall of Famer Robin Zander of Cheap Trick try that.

Rundgren has also played nearly every instrument on many of his albums, and he’s played them well.

If you want to read my blog about his greatest album, click this link:

Something/Anything?: Todd Rundgren’s Magnum Opus

Todd needs to be in The Hall, man.

Check out the Creatonotos Gangis Moth, man. Dude has white hindwings and brown forewings, each with a dark streak, and a wingspan of 1.6 inches. The abdomen is red and sometimes yellow. As you can see in the photo below, males have four large scent organs which can exceed the length of the abdomen when inflated. They’re also gross as all get out. Anywho, Creatonotos Gangis Moth.

Megabats are the biggest bats on earth. They’re so big that they’re known to locals as Flying Foxes, and that is just terrifying. The largest attain a wingspan of 5.6-feet and weigh as much as 3.5-pounds. Most fruit bats have large eyes, allowing them to orient themselves visually in twilight and inside caves and forests so they can carry off your infant child in the middle of the night. Fun Fact: Fruit bats have been found to act as reservoirs for Ebola Virus. Woot! Anywho, Megabat.

Note: When I first saw the photos below I wondered what the hell somebody did to those Chihuahuas.

[For all that is holy, click to enlarge]

The reason Mayberry was so peaceful and quiet was because nobody was married. Andy, Aunt Bea, Barney, Floyd, Howard, Goober, Gomer, Sam, Earnest T Bass, Helen, Thelma Lou, Clara and, of course, Opie were all single. The only married person was Otis, and he stayed drunk.

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Yep. Looks about right.

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Four years ago we went out to play in a big tournament in Morgantown, West Virginia. Our game was against Morgantown High School, whose enrollment of 1,700 was over 6-times larger than ours at Paint Valley. However, since the Bearcats aren’t the backing down types, we’d accepted the challenge and headed out there for the game. It was a great all-around experience for our kids, spending a couple days out of town, staying in a hotel and eating at nice restaurants, all paid for by the tourney organizers.

The game itself was a pretty good one, but in the end the eventual 2016 West Virginia State Champions wore us down and won by 20-points or so. The score, however, isn’t the point of this story. It’s something that happened in the last few minutes of the game . . .

We had a freshman on the bench that day who didn’t play much varsity, and it happened to be his birthday. As the clock wound down, I walked to the end of the bench where he sat. The following conversation then ensued:

“PJ, I’m putting you into the game now. You’re going to make a 3-pointer on your birthday.”

“OK, coach.”

Except he just sat there.

“PJ, go into the game.”

At that point it hit him that he was in fact entering the game to compete against the best D1 high school basketball team in West Virginia, so he stood up and ran to the scorer’s table.

He then checks into the game and we run a couple plays for him, trying to get him that big birthday 3-pointer. Of course, our bench knows what’s up so they’re standing up on each shot, disappointed when each one bounces off the rim.

Of course, our fans have caught onto what we’re trying to do so they’re into it as well, rising up with each of PJ’s high arching rainbows, only to let out a loud, “Awww . . .” when the shots wouldn’t connect.

And then an interesting and somewhat confusing thing happened – the other team and its fans started cheering for PJ too.

What the heck?

Now, PJ is a cool, likeable kid and all, but the other team and their fans didn’t know that. They had no idea it was his birthday. Why the hell were they cheering so loudly for him?

Anyway, on his last chance PJ launches one of his patented high-arching threes, and of course he drains it. Our crowd goes wild, their crowd goes wild, our bench goes crazy, their bench is waving towels, and PJ gets hugs from both teams. I also recall a kid in the Morgantown student section stepping out to give him a high-five.

Still, it seemed odd and didn’t really add up, and after both teams shook hands (PJ got a lot of hugs and head rubs), I brought it up in the locker room. That’s when PJ cleared it all up for me:

“Uh, coach, I’m pretty sure the other team thought I was a special needs kid or something.”

Ahhhhh. That explained a lot. PJ, being a skinny little freshman who everyone was clearly rooting for, was mistaken for one of those kids you see on YouTube videos or the news that get put into a game for their one big chance at glory. They thought he was, you know, mentally disabled or something. To them it was a heartwarming story of a young man who got his big chance and came through in the clutch, and not the simple story of a coach trying to get a freshman player a 3-pointer on his birthday.

In retrospect, hilarious. Those fans in Morgantown are probably still talking about it.

Bottom line, that shot is etched in the memories of all who attended, that high-arching rainbow that drained through the net as an entire gymnasium erupted, the shot that will be known forevermore as . . . The Morgantown Drainbow.

‘Twas special night indeed.

Note: Please save the messages ripping me for making fun of special needs students. I am not. Nor am I making fun of PJ. It was his birthday and the whole thing was completely misread. Hence, it’s funny. In addition, if you know PJ it’s twice as funny. 

Note 2: PJ is now a junior and just completed a good year for us.  He’s expected to be an even bigger contributor next season. 

A Dundalk man was taken into custody Sunday following an hours-long cheesesandstandoff with police that began when his wife took a bite from his grilled cheese sandwich, police said. The incident began around 5 p.m. in the 7100 block of E. Baltimore St. The man’s wife told police she had been making dinner in the kitchen when her husband fired a shot up through the floor while he was in the basement. The man, identified Monday as Daniel Brian Blackwell, 55, was angry at her because she had taken a bite from his grilled cheese sandwich, police said.

I think you know whose side I’m going to land on with this one, huh? Damn straight. Anyone who takes a bite of your grilled cheese sandwich deserves to be capped in the ass from the basement. Daniel Brian Blackwell? Not guilty!

So I perused the worldwide interweb and came up with several predictions 2017for 2017, which I then narrowed down to my Top 4. Oh, we had the usual “end of the world” prognostications, one of which I touch on below. That said, here are my favorites for the coming year. Happy New Year everyone!

Let us begin . . .

Donald Trump Will Never Take Office and the U.S. Will Collapse Into Civil War

A blind Bulgarian mystic named of Baba Vanga predicted this.  She’s big-time famous in Bulgaria, and was visited throughout her life by dignitaries seeking predictions.  She actually became more famous because she had predicted that the 44th president of the United States would be black. This gives her some credibility because Baba died in 1996, long before Barack Obama was well-known. Woot! Baba on a roll!

But hold up a sec. She also predicted that this black president would be the last US president, and that after this the US would collapse into a second civil war. Yikes.

Will it happen? Meh. Odds are slim to none. And by the way, she also got a ton of her predictions wrong. She incorrectly predicted that there would be a 3rd World War from 2010-2014. Negatory. Anyway, will Trump take office? More than likely. I’d give it a 89.3% chance, although there is a slim chance he’ll get a close look at The White House and say “Da Hell? No freakin’ way I’m living in this shithole.” Will there be a Civil War? There will not, so chillax.

2017 Will Be the Year of The Rapture

Hell, The Rapture is predicted every year, amirite?  Wait, that sounded sacrilegious. Let’s try it again. Hey, The Rapture is predicted every year, amirite? But for this blog’s sake let’s pick just one person and go with the Reverend Donna Larson. Her “Rapture and End Times” website claims that this coming year will at long last be the “Rapture” that Christians have been waiting for since the whole “Rapture” idea was invented by John Nelson Darby back in the late 1820’s. To be fair, some authors maintain that the Rapture doctrine originated in the eighteenth century, with the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather. Old Cotton, incidentally, is mostly famous for his vigorous support of that little unfortunate incident up in Salem, known as the Salem Witch Trials.

But yeah, sorry kids but The Rapture is not mentioned in the Bible. Not explicitly anyway. Oh, it’s arguable but most theologians believe it is not.*

*Please direct all hate mail to Dr. Foster P. Dalrymple, Shoe: Untied Director of Operations, Box 74, Buford, Wyoming, 82052.

Bottom line, Reverend Larson claims that her careful study of scripture reveals that the Earth will be precisely 6,000 years old in 2017, and for some reason that number signifies the end of times.

Will it happen? I’m guessing not likely. Let’s give it a 1% chance. I’m not saying it won’t because I have to cover my bases, but I’m not holding my breath. And as I said, The Rapture is a newer idea than the United States of  America. As a matter of fact, Lewis and Clark began their journey across the west before the Rapture was ever really mentioned anywhere. That said, it’s up to interpretation like everything else, so chill bro.

The Draft Will Return to the USA

This was predicted by some dude named Joseph Tittel, who also likes to go by the name of “Spiritman Joseph.” On a related note, if my name was Tittel I’d probably prefer Spiritman Joseph too. Tittel is another one of those shady  “mediums,” whose biggest claim to fame was appearing on a reality game show called America’s Psychic Challenge. Remember it? Me either. Anyway, this guy likes to make predictions about just about everything. He predicted, among other things, that in 2017 there will be political instability and a return to the military draft in the United States.

Will it happen? Well since this is a two-parter I’ll say this – yes, there will be some political instability in the USA. Hey, we did elect a reality TV show star as our president. I’ll give it a 79% chance of happening. Will there be a draft? Naw, I don’t think so. A draft doesn’t makes a lot of sense for the modern US military. I’ll give it a 3% chance of happening because, you know, Trump. By the way, literally weeks before this prediction Tittel had predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the US Election. He claimed she’d serve 2-terms and would suffer 3 assassination attempts. What sort of fool would have predicted a Clinton win? Wait. Never mind.

There Will be a Huge Scandal in the Mainstream Media

Who in the hell predicted This? Well, it’s actually in an article by CBS news about predictions for 2017. In the article, CBS News actually predicts that 2017 will have a “big scandal involving the press.” This cracks me up because it’s sort of like predicting a rapper will shoot somebody or a Kardashian will take their clothes off to get attention.

Well it happen? Uh, can I say a number higher than 100%? Because yes, it will happen. Der.

So there ya go, my thoughts on the probabilities that world predictions for 2017 will come true. I predict that 37.3% of Shoe: Untied readers will find this interesting. Thank you and good day.

 

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I’ve always love to read and, as many do, I learned from my parents. Mom and Dad were readers, my sisters were readers, and my son was reading books at a very young age. Hell, I remember many vacations where everybody was sitting around a beach house or on the beach with a book, just quietly reading.

I clearly recall reading books as I lay in bed as a kid. The Forest Fire Mystery and The Jinx of Payrock Canyon by Troy Nesbit, as well as The Call of the Wild by Jack London. I was absolutely mesmerized by The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and read it several times. With really good books it always seemed you could get more out of it the more you read it.

I even loved the smell of books, ya know? Still do to this day. For that reason I much prefer an actual book to a reading a book on my iPad or Kindle. I bet some of you feel the same way.

I always tried to pass my love of reading on to my students when I taught, especially when I actually taught Reading for a few years. So many kids hate to read and that’s a damn shame. They have no idea what they’re missing. I tried to tell them that the images your mind conjures up while reading a book is way cooler than anything you’ll ever see in a movie or TV show, and I believe that.

With all this in mind I decided to undertake the unenviable task of narrowing my favorite books down to my Top 20. Trust me, I had to eliminate some really cool books. Anyway, these are the books that have had the biggest effect on my life, in one way or the other. In many cases I’ve read these books up to 5-times or more.

I apologize for my brief descriptions of the books, which in no way do them justice. If you want more information, go to Wikipedia (never wrong, right?) or search it up on The Goggle. Bottom line, I highly recommend them all.

Here we go . . .

On the Road – Jack Kerouac (1951)

On the Road is based on Kerouac’s travels across America with his friends. It’s set in the post-1WWII United States, and it’s all about Kerouac’s anti-establishment and counter-culture ways and views of life. Oh, and if you don’t know what the Beat Generation is, this might be the place to start learning. I really believe my love of travel and being “On the Road” originated with this book. There are a couple other books with a similar theme on this list, but I think it all started with this one. Love this book.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

The Hobbit is a book that can be read as a kid or as an adult, and you can get something out of it depending on your age. My son read The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy before he turned 11 and loved them all. The Hobbit was all about the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and his trip with Gandalf and the dwarves to reclaim the gold (and much much more) from Smaug the Dragon. In reality, it’s all about finding what’s really inside of all of us, and what we’re actually capable of achieving. Exceptional book.

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger (1951)

What young man can’t identify with Holden Caulfield, a guy who feels alienated from the way of life that has been led by his parents? I read this when I was around 17 years of age, and I completely identified with the character. Caulfield is rebellious against society, and this was not a mainstream attitude (or at least not verbalized) among teenagers when the book was written in 1951. As the 60’s approached, however, all this was about to change. Bottom line? This book, as well as On the Road, helped me to see that questioning what you thought you already knew was O.K.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding (1954)

Even as a kid I understood this book. It’s about a group of school boys stuck on an uninhabited island where they’re left to govern themselves, with disastrous results. And after being a teacher for 30-years, I can see the exact same thing happening in 2014. As a matter of fact, in today’s day and age the situation would undoubtedly disintegrate even more quickly. Somehow, someway, I convinced the powers that be at Greenfield Middle School to let me teach this book to 8th graders back in the mid-80’s.

1Ball Four – Jim Bouton (1970)

I first read this book as a freshman in high school, and it affected me in more ways than you can ever imagine. On the surface the book is based on a simple premise – it’s the season-long account of Jim Bouton, a professional baseball player for the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros back in 1969. The book, however, is way more than that. Bouton was a liberal, anti-war and anti-establishment athlete who questioned authority at every turn. In the book he discusses everything from racial issues to the war in Vietnam, which influenced me tremendously. But you know what part of the book had the biggest impact on me? The part that would have an effect on me for the rest of my life? It was the part where he and his wife adopted a young son. It was an international adoption, and they got their little boy from Korea. Had I never read this book I may have never had the idea to do the same. Thanks Jim Bouton.

Travels With Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck (1960) 

Yep, another book about traveling. In this one, Steinbeck decides to take a trip with his dog Charley and a camper he named Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse. He basically does a tour of the US, keeping a diary as he goes, documenting the people he meets and the situations he encounters. I loved it. Just the thought of traveling, stopping in strange towns, little restaurants and diners, and meeting people from all around the country just intrigued the hell out of me. Steinbeck even visited the south during the height of integration and has some interesting observations. Good stuff.

Animal Farm – George Orwell (1945)

Who couldn’t love a book about animals leading a revolt and taking over their farm? Orwell was an outspoken critic of Stalinism and used this book as a tool to illustrate his views. He said it was his first book “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole”. I read this when I was really young and again in college, so it was fascinating to see it on two completely different levels. Make sense? No? Well, tough. It does to me.

Rant – Chuck Palahniuk (2007)

This is an awesome book that is virtually impossible to describe in one paragraph. There are 1twists and surprises at every turn. The setting goes from the future to the present to the past in various stages and it takes awhile to get used to, believe me. However, once you get into the rhythm of the writing it’s addictive as hell. Completely confused? I told you it was impossible to describe. Just read the damn book.

1776 – David McCullough (2005)

This is, in my opinion, the best book ever written about the Revolutionary War. It’s so good that at one point I was 99% certain we were going to lose. Not even kidding. As I used to tell my students, had George not decided to turn around and attack those damn Hessians on that morning of December 26th, 1776 we all might not be sitting here today. Anyway, ’tis a riveting book. History, folks! This stuff actually happened for realz!

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West  – Stephen E. Ambrose (1996)

Quite possibly my favorite book of all-time. Just an amazing account of Lewis & Clark’s journey to the Pacific Ocean and back. These guys were rock stars in their time. They encounter all sorts of strange and unknown animals, including grizzly bears, buffaloes and prairie dogs. At one point in the journal of Lewis, he writes that he’d love to capture a grizzly bear and take it back to President Jefferson. He changes his mind when they finally encounter one and it nearly kills them. At the time, the American West was like another planet to these guys. Yet despite the dangers they made it. Incredible story.

Outside Valentine – Liza Ward (2004)

This quirky, odd little book is a fictional account of the son of two of Charles Starkweather’s victims. Starkweather was an infamous spree killer back in the 50’s, and the book entails how the brutal murders still haunt him into adulthood. Ward, the author, is the granddaughter of two of Starkweather’s victims. So the book is fiction but it’s based on real life events. I love it because it just has a dark, surreal feel to it. Right up my alley.

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote (1966)

The first book I ever read that made me lose sleep. It really, really freaked me out. The book details the brutal 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter, a successful farmer from Kansas, his wife, and two of their four children. The murderers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, had hatched the plan in prison when they heard Clutter had money hidden in his house. They show up one night, invade the house, and all hell breaks loose. They are eventually caught and are hanged, which incidentally is a really creepy scene in a great movie made later that was based on the book. I read this when I was 12, and it was the reason I always made sure our doors were locked before bedtime. Spooky.

1Modoc – The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived – Ralph Helfer (1998)

I swear to God I cried at least 3-times while reading this book. It’s the story of a boy and an elephant and their fight to stay together across three continents. Modoc and his owner Bram have this almost psychic connection, and were in fact born on the same day at the same hour. They survive attacks by rebels, a shipwreck, a gunshot wound, an evil and abusive trainer and owner, and much, much more. This is simply one of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you love animals you will LOVE this book. Highly and eagerly recommended.

Sons of Mississippi: The Story of Race and its Legacy – Paul Hendrickson (2003)

In this book Hendrickson tracks down the sons of some of the most famous figures from both sides of the Civil Rights Movement of the late 50’s and early 60’s. It’s a fascinating insight into how people view the same set of circumstances through completely different perspectives. Intriguing, interesting and thought-provoking book.

Hemingway’s Hurricane – Phil Scott (2006)

This book tells the story of the 1935 hurricane that hit Key West, Florida, and the people whose deaths it caused. Those people included 600 war veterans that FDR had sent there to help build a highway from Florida to Key West. These men were living in flimsy shacks, and the two men responsible for getting them out before the storm hit didn’t act quickly enough. Earnest Hemingway was living in The Keys at the time and he was outraged. This book includes his efforts at getting to the awful truth.

Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe  – Laurence Bergreen (2003)

Just as the title says, this is the amazing story of Magellan’s trip around the world. He didn’t make it, and he wasn’t the only one. The voyage started with 237 men and finished with 18. That, my friends, is how difficult of a journey it really was. In fact, after this voyage nobody did it for another 60-years. Magellan and crew encountered hostile natives, icebergs, and even reported seeing giants. Better than any adventure a screenwriter could ever make up.

The Johnstown Flood – David McCullough (1968)

An absolutely stunning account of one of the greatest tragedies in American history. It tells the story of the 1889 flood that killed 2,209 people. Ninety-nine entire families died in the flood, including 396 children. One hundred twenty-four women and 198 men were widowed and 98 children were orphaned. One-third of the dead (777 people) were never identified. The flood was caused by the failure of The South Fork Damn, which was maintained by The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, whose members included many rich industrialists of the time. The club had been warned that the damn needed widened, but they refused to do so. When the damn broke due to heavy rainfall, the entire lake basically came down the valley and descended upon the town. I’ve been there, and there are still water lines high up on some of the old buildings. Just an incredibly tragic, compelling story.

Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation – Philip Norman (1981)1

Trust me, I’ve read about a zillion books on The Beatles, and this one is the best. It’s just a beautifully written account of their lives and the music they made. This book is must-reading for not only Beatle fans but fans of rock music in general. READ IT.

The Autobiography of Malcom X – Alex Haley (1965)

I first read this book in the late 60’s when I was 13-years old, and believe me when I say it blew all the stereotypes this southern Ohio youngster had heard out of the water. In addition, at the time I’d had no idea that Malcom X had completely changed his world views in the last months of his life. Hell, I’d be willing to bet that many people today aren’t aware of the cosmic shift he went through after his pilgrimage to Mecca. Incredible stuff, even when reading it today.

We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi – Seth Cagin & Philip Dray (1988)

This book should be required reading for every American. It’s an in-depth study of the Civil Rights Movement, with a detailed look at the killing of the three workers in 1964 and the trial of their murderers. It’s a chilling account, and you can’t read it without being impressed with the courage of those who went south to fight for the freedom of their fellow Americans. Interestingly, many of the Freedom Fighters were trained in Oxford, Ohio at Miami University. Bottom line? If you haven’t read this book you should put it on your list immediately.

Just missed the cut: Helter Skelter, A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Naked Lunch, Catch-22, Into Thin Air, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Fordlandia.

So there you go folks. The most influential and interesting books that I’ve read (so far) in my lifetime. In fact, some were life-changing for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good adventure or thriller as well. I enjoy authors like Stuart Woods and I particularly like John Sandford’s Prey series, it’s just that the above 20 books had a much deeper effect on me in one way or the other.

In addition, I’m fascinated by what others read. So let’s hear it. What books have had the biggest impact on your life?

Note: Let’s exclude The Bible. Too obvious a choice, folks.

There’s a difference between porpoises and dolphins, kids. Search it up on the Goggle.

unbelievable-moments-unbelievable-10611235-647-382

Amirite?

parade

Yowza.

mosquitoes

facts

Best map ever. Endlessly fascinating.

duckies

The stain glass window on the door is a nice touch.

Tool.

Tool.

Can somebody please explain to me why people put their phones on speaker when they’re out in public? Listen, I can understand when you’re home, doing something like cooking or other work around the house and you want to free up your hands. Speaker on while driving? Sure, I totally get it. On the other hand, there are other times when it simply makes no sense to me.

Take today for example.

I was getting gas when a young guy, perhaps in his early twenties, pulls into the other side of the pump. Then he gets out, yapping loudly all the while. And isn’t it interesting that people think they have to yell when on speakerphone? Blows my mind.

Anyway, I peeked around the pump and there he was, holding his phone a foot in front of his face and talking into it.

I ask you, what’s the benefit of this? Isn’t it just as easy to lift it an extra 8-inches and hold it to your ear? What the hell? Then at least I’d only have to hear one side of the conversation.

In the meantime, in a mere 5-7 minutes I find out the following about Speakerphone Boy:

  • He went out with Justin last night and got “totalled.”
  • He spilled wine on his carpet last Friday and doesn’t know how to get the stain out. He might just put a throw rug over it.
  • He’s worried about a job interview at JP Morgan on Monday and doesn’t think he’ll sleep a wink tonight. His dad “knows somebody” though so he thinks he’s “golden.”
  • He’s thinking getting a tattoo of his favorite pet as a kid but wonders if a goldfish would be too feminine.
  • He’s meeting Jade for drinks at The Dock at 4:00 pm.

In short, I learned w-a-y more about this kid than I ever wanted to know. And he wasn’t finished. He turned and walked into the gas station, still yammering on loudly in front of God and everybody.

Again, my question – why?

PS: Yes, a goldfish is too feminine.