Thursday, 19 January 2017 – Ian Hunter’s On the Road Again

Thursday night I read some more Ian Hunter – from page 28 to page 84. It was pretty good, but I think that it misses a bit. He captures the rhythms of his life on the road well, but his insights aren’t that penetrating. Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star is good, but it’s no Chronicles (by Bob Dylan).

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017 – Ian Hunter’s Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star

Right after I got off from work Wednesday, I ran by the library and picked up the Ian Hunter book.

At night, I was too tired to read much of it, but I managed 20 pages or so. Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star is Hunter’s account of a 5-week tour of the U.S. In late 1972. So far, I’m really enjoying what I’ve read.

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The part that I’ve read just covers a few days. Hunter and his band mates in Mott the Hoople fly over from the U.K. To Los Angeles, where they stay at the infamous Continental Hyatt (or “Riot”) House. In the diary, seeks to strip away the glamour of rock n’ roll. He does so, but his account still makes you wish that you were there.

So far, Hunter has marvelled at the mild L.A. Climate and talked about the money, groupies, and fame that (sometimes) go with being in rock n’ roll. The only wrong note he hit was a slam on the American middle class; to me, that sounded like old news – exactly what you’d expect from someone in show biz.

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But the Diary is still a terrific read.

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Tuesday, 17 January 2016 Books for All Ages

We went to library after T got home from work. The four of us walked down the big hill. C made it more difficult by insisting on wearing E’s cowboy boots.

Everyone got an armload of books and we headed back up the hill. The kids asked the librarian for a book of folk tales, but I’m not sure that they found a book.

***

The bedtime story, which I read, was one of the Girls’ new books from the library. It was Manners and Mischief (A Samantha book, Volume 1) by Susan S. Adler. It’s part of a series of books put out by American Girl. It was long, so there was just one story. C protested after the fact because the book was E’s choice @ the library.

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***

At the library, I got a couple of books –

Missoula by Jon Krakauer, which is about the violence and corruption surrounding athletics at the University of Montana &

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The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan I. Koerner about airplane hijacking

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The better news was that Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star by Ian Hunter finally came in on interlibrary loan (ILL). That’s going to be my next book.

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Monday, 16 January 2017 Apprehended

I finished reading Domingo Soto’s Apprehended – The Trials of Dickie Lynn. It’s a good book, but not great. The last hundred pages or so weren’t as strong as the first sixty. For $3.99, I don’t feel cheated, but the book could have been so much better with better organization.

***

The Girls have developed a keen interest in the Little Red Riding Hood story. They keep asking me to show them images of Little Red Riding Hood on my computer. I don’t know how that got started.

For bedtime story, we read the last three chapters of By the Shores of Silver Lake. T read the first chapter (“Where Violets Grow”) in E’s bedroom. It tells of Laura tracking down her little sister Grace, who had gotten lost in the slough. After Laura gives the good news, the Ingalls clan eats, plants a tree, sings, and plans for the future.

I read the last two chapters, which seemed a little anticlimactic. In Chapter 31, the Ingalls family fights of the mosquitoes that try to take over their home. In Chapter 32, all ends well.

E commented that now we can begin reading The Long Winter.

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Sunday, 15 January 2017 – “…Spielberg, like most of us, straddles two worlds, two views of the family: the child’s wish to escape and the grown-up’s yearning to go back to some idealized version of family.”

Sunday morning I rode down to Wal-Mart and picked up our online grocery order. It took them a while to bring them out to the car. So, I read the Wall Street Journal while I waited.

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They have a review of a new biography of Steven Spielberg by Molly Haskell. I’ve never been a big Spielberg fan, but the Wall Street Journal had a quote from the Haskell book that knocked my socks off –

“…Spielberg, like most of us, straddles two worlds, two views of the family: the child’s wish to escape and the grown-up’s yearning to go back to some idealized version of family.”

Yes, I thought, that’s exactly the way it is.

***

I needed another book, but couldn’t stomach the idea of heading over to the uni library. And Mobile Public is closed on Sundays. So, I downloaded the Domingo Soto’s book Apprehended – The Trials of Dickie Lynn (2013). Soto is a well-known criminal defense attorney here in Mobile. I was attracted by the local angle and by the complex smuggling ring @ the center of  the case.

Amazon.com has the electronic version of Apprehended for just $3.99. Also, you can read the first six (of thirty) chapters for free before buying. Once I read the preview, I was certain that it was worth taking a $3.99 chance to buy it.

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So far, the book is quite good. According to Soto, the smuggling ring involved a group of childhood friends from the Florida Keys, including Dickie Lynn and a former Miami Hurricanes football star. Apprehended goes on to state that the ring eventually pulled in many others, including a New Orleans attorney, and many different people in Colombia, the Bahamas, Belize, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – among other places.

While the raw material in Apprehended is great, the book could use some editing. There are so many different characters and events that it’s hard to keep track of all it. Also, Soto “doubles back” and covers the same event more than one time. Still, I’m enjoying the book and I’d give it 8/10 so far. I read the first 66 pages Sunday.

***

With the MLK holiday Monday, the kids chose to have a slumber party in C’s room Sunday night. T read them a couple of chapters from By the Shores of Silver Lake as their bedtime story.

In Chapter 28 (“Moving Day”), the Ingalls family moved to their homestead. They see Laura’s future husband, Almanzo on the way. In Chapter 29 (“Shanty on Claim”), Pa works on their house and gathers wood for cooking. At the end of the chapter, Laura’s sister, Grace, gets lost and they have to find her.

There are just two chapters left in the book. We’ll finish them tonight.

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Saturday, 14 January 2017 Lotsa Reading

Saturday I was tired from the week and spent most of the day reading.

On a down note, I finished reading Grady Baby, going from page 203 to the end. It was like pulling teeth. The book has good material, but it is a bunch of poorly-organized vignettes. I should have cut my losses and found something else to read. I give it 4/10.

***

I put in an ILL (interlibrary loan) request for Paul Talbot’s Mondo Mandingo. It’s self published & focuses on the franchise of Mandingo books and movies. I’ve wanted to read it for a long time, but I’m too cheap to buy it.

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There’s no word from the library on my ILL request for Ian Hunter’s Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star. However, I saw that it said “Request Sent” in the online record. Maybe that means I will get the book. Fingers are crossed.

***

Our reading to the kids was different. Saturday C had a lot of struggles with her temper. She fought with E (her sister) a lot and – when that got old – she went into the kitchen and picked on T (her mother). So, C lost both of her bedtime stories.

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At bedtime, I worked with C on her word ring while E had her story. The word ring is a metal circle like you’d see in a notebook; small cards are attached to the ring; each card has a word on it that C is supposed to learn to read. C did well on her word ring, but she struggled with a few words, such as “going.”

T read The Spotted Cow (1973) by Donald Nelsen to E for E’s bedtime story.

***

Just before bed, I encountered an article on GQ.com about an Iowa high school football player named Zac Easter. He committed suicide at age 27 after suffering severe cognitive problems. Easter requested that Dr. Bennet Omalu study his brain after his death. Omalu found that Easter had CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

The story held my attention and – as a football fan – it gave me a lot to ponder. I didn’t make it to bed until 11:30 p.m. Because I was engrossed in the article.

It is here –

http://www.gq.com/story/the-concussion-diaries-high-school-football-cte

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Book Review – Killing the Messenger by Thomas Peele

  • Killing the Messenger – A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and The Assasination of a Journalist
  • by Thomas Peele
  • Publisher – Crown
  • Copyright – 2012
  • 366 pages

Rating – 8/10

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Review – During the holidays, I was loafing at the Mobile Public Library. With quite a bit of down time, I decided to get several books and I was in the mood for true crime. Thomas Peele’s Killing the Messenger was the last of the four books that I found; it was the sort of oh-by-the-way, no-risk checkout that you can get from the library. I thought that the odds were – at best – fifty-fifty that I’d ever read it.

Killing was the last of the four checkouts that I read and I’m glad that I did. It’s the sort of terrific, you-wouldn’t-believe-it-if-it-didn’t-really-happen tale that makes true crime worthwhile.

The Black Muslims in Oakland

Back during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Muslim faith gained popularity. Two brothers from Santa Barbara, California, Joseph and Frank Stephens joined the Black Muslims. Later, they changed their names to Yusuf Ali Bey and Abdul Raab Muhammad and moved to Oakland. Muhammad soon left town, but Bey stayed in Oakland, where he dissociated himself from the Nation of Islam and built his own radical, Muslim organization.

Author Peele alleges that Bey managed to intimidate the Oakland police, which insulated Bey from prosecution for the many crimes in which the Black Muslims were involved. Bey recruited potential members from society’s forgotten, often finding new converts in prisons.

Bey also quickly began taking plural wives. His treatment of women was beyond harsh. He often raped pre-pubescent girls, many of whom would became pregnant as soon as they were able to conceive. One woman said that being female in the Black Muslims was just like being a slave.

Failure by Authorities

Peele is absolutely scathing toward the Oakland PD and its hands-off, bureaucratic response to Bey. What the public knew about the Muslims mainly came from an often-sympathetic press, that gave Bey and his followers some strokes for their efforts to employ felons, people other employers wouldn’t touch. However, Peele maintains that the Muslims’ businesses were largely a sham aimed at bilking government programs. Eventually, Bey became prominent enough to run for mayor of Oakland in 1994 and then to receive Jerry Brown as a visitor. Brown asked for Bey’s support when Brown was planning his successful run for mayor in 1998.

Authorities also failed to stop the rampant child abuse. The girls who gave birth to dozens of Bey’s children received many government benefits as a result. Bey kept all of the money. Moreover, social workers never investigated whether the girls were the victims of sexual abuse or if they were even attending school.

But by the time Bey died in September 2003, there was dawning awareness that things were rotten with the Black Muslims. Peele alleges that Bey was suffering from AIDS at the time of his death.

Bey IV Takes Over

Given Bey’s dozens of children, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a violent battle for succession. After murdering all of his rivals (including his brother), Bey’s son Yusuf Ali Bey IV gained control of Oakland’s Black Muslims. Bey IV’s leadership sealed the cult’s doom. He had all of his father’s anger, but even less restraint.

One would think that Killing the Messenger would lose momentum after the death of a figure as colorful as Bey. Instead, the plot thickens. Bey IV actually makes his father look somewhat restrained. Under Bey IV, the group engaged in a violent crime spree that included the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey.

Chauncey Bailey

One of the frustrations of reading Killing is that Bailey is still a mystery at book’s end. Peele recounts Bailey’s childhood in Hayward, California, and his rise in journalism as the profession opened to minorities following the 1960s. At the time of his murder, through a series of bad choices, the 57-year-old Bailey had been reduced to working for a small weekly paper (the Oakland Post) that served Oakland’s African-American community.

Peele clearly finds Bailey to be an ambivalent character. He has only minimal respect for Bailey’s work as a journalist. Given the unanswered questions about Bailey, it seems as though Peele may have gotten little cooperation from those who knew him. Killing the Messenger’s focal point is the Black Muslims, not Chauncey Bailey.

Bailey eventually became interested in Oakland’s Black Muslims and began asking questions. Bey IV became alarmed about what might come to light and ordered Bailey’s murder.

Too Much Peele

I like Killing the Messenger. It’s an amazing story that holds the reader from start to finish. Just when you think the book might lose momentum, there is another twist. Peele deserves much credit for his research into a complex, decades-long story. Another strength is that Peele spends very little time on the boring minutiae of the court proceedings.

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Thomas Peele

Unfortunately, there are a few issues. Peele inserts his opinions into the narrative far too many times. Every time he recounts something awful that the Black Muslims did, he feels obligated to mention something awful that white people have done to black people. Peele wants the reader to have absolutely no doubt that he “gets it” – America has been awful to its black citizens and Peele deplores it. Unfortunately, in the context of Killing, his comments detract from the story.

Final Words

To read Killing, you have accept Peele as your guide and he’s going to subject you to his politics. Despite that, I recommend the book. The power of the story overcomes the author’s digressions.

 

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