From amalgamated morons to American icons.


Recently I was browsing my county library’s web site looking for a book to read on my Kindle when I came across The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons. Being the lifelong Stooge fan I am, I wasted no time checking it out.

This is actually the second book I have read on the Three Stooges. The first, The Three Stooges: The Triumphs And Tragedies Of The Most Popular Comedy Team Of All Time was a worthwhile read that detailed the evolution of the Three Stooges and exposed the struggle and suffering behind their brand of slapstick comedy.

This second book concentrates more on the history of the famed Three Stooges themselves, from their beginnings with Ted Healy, their rise to stardom and the struggle to keep the laughs going during their later years. Their legacy is also examined through interviews with famed actors and directors who were influenced by the Stooges and tried welding that influence into their own work. Finally, the book lists all 190 of the Stooge shorts along with plot summaries and tallies of slaps, head bonks, eye pokes and pies thrown. I can’t tell you how many times I smiled when I came across summaries of my favorite comedy shorts. Perhaps there are more favorites than I care to admit.

Overall I found this book a delightful read that gave me an even deeper appreciation for the Three Stooges. It should belong in the library of any Stooge fan.


Astronomy 101.

I love reading books on astronomy. There’s something very soothing about lying on the couch and reading about the stars and the planets that hover directly overhead. I get that sensation that we’re ultimately just a small spot in a vast universe. A perfect thought to fall asleep by.

Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe is one of the best books on astronomy I’ve read so far. It takes you on a tour of our solar system and beyond while covering some of the other interesting aspects of space, such as black holes and other galaxies besides our own. This is mind-blowing stuff.

The thing I like best about this book is its plain English approach to astronomy. I may be curious about space but I’m not a rocket scientist either and don’t need the incomprehensible scientific jargon. This book spares us that jargon and gives us the basics of astronomy in a clear, easy-to-read style of writing. The writing just flows and takes you along for the ride.

Astronomy 101 may not be a definitive guide to astronomy but it’s an excellent starting point to begin exploring this fascinating subject.

Face the Music: A Life Exposed.

Face the Music: A Life Exposed is an autobiography penned by Paul Stanley, frontman of the legendary rock band KISS. Here he opens up and shares his story of his quest for rock and roll glory, and it becomes clear that that quest has not been a smooth one.

He describes his traumatic childhood as a result of a birth defect that left him deaf in one ear. Here I had to stop reading for a minute to ponder this revelation. I’ve known Paul Stanley nearly all my life yet I never knew about his birth defect. Born deaf in one ear but he still went on to pursue his dream of becoming a rock star. Talk about chasing your dream to the fullest. My admiration for him went through the roof yet I was still on the first chapter.

The book goes on to detail Stanley’s early days of his music career before forming the band known as KISS. With each success came new challenges, onstage and off, that took him on a wild roller coaster ride of blissful highs and dreadful lows. Along the way he picked up some valuable lessons about finding your own happiness, and when I reached the last chapter I could sense he’s truly happy now and can now look back on his life with pride.

The biggest takeaway I got from the book was the line “It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself.” I will always remember that long after having finished this wonderful book. It truly touched me like no other book I’ve read.

Thomas Jefferson and the Software Pirates.

I just finished reading Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History, a thrilling true story about a forgotten war between the United States and the Barbary states during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. It is a triumph of diplomacy and military might that needs to be appreciated. I couldn’t help wonder how President Jefferson would handle a similar situation involving software pirates. Here’s my take.

The memo from the spy ring arrived at President Jefferson’s desk. Upon review his suspicions were confirmed. The software pirates were indeed in operation off the shores of Boston. By all accounts they appeared to be a flotilla of fishing boats complete with hundreds of fishing rods propped along the decks but the complete absence of fishing lines was the giveaway. The software pirates had finally been found.

Jefferson then dispatched the USS Diplomat in an attempt to negotiate with the software pirates. He promised them immunity from prosecution and steady jobs in exchange for cessation of their illegal operations. The pirates sent the Diplomat back to Washington with the single word reply, “LOL”.

Enraged, Jefferson dispatched the mighty warship USS FFFFUUUUUU to engage in combat with the software pirates. All it took was a single shot of the cannon to blow apart the pirate ship to tiny splinters and send the crew plunging into the sea to be transformed into shark poop.

Undeterred by the attack, the software pirates set up a hideout on a remote island they would call Pirate Bay for continuing their operations. Again it was detected by the Jefferson spy ring and the FFFFUUUUUU was sent to intervene. But this time the pirates were ready and had wrapped the island with giant rubber bands to deflect any flying cannon balls. To add insult to injury, they also sent a messenger to deliver the one-word taunt, “Problem?”

By now Jefferson could take no more. Assembling his staff of advisers and strategists, he utilized the last resort and proposed a raid of Pirate Bay. The soldiers came ashore disguised as palm trees and coconuts and took the pirates completely by surprise. Forced to surrender, the pirates were taken into custody and forced to operate the steam engine powered servers in use at the White House during Jefferson’s presidency, thus ending the early days of software piracy.

This early triumph of American military might was later immortalized in the famed Battle Hymn:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the troops going ashore
Dressed as palm trees and coconuts to fight a bloodless war
The pirates were surprised and couldn’t take it anymore
Our soldiers kicked their butts

The Manga Guide to the Universe.

The Manga Guide to the Universe is another worthwhile read that caught my eye while visiting the library. Just as the title suggests, it’s a crash course in astronomy presented as a manga comic book.

I’ve always been fascinated with the universe and love reading books on astronomy, but reading a manga comic book about the universe felt like a real treat. The information was nicely presented without using too much scientific jargon and left me appreciating the astronomical advances we’ve been making to better understand this mysterious place of ours in space. I also enjoyed the cartoon art as well.

I understand this book is part of a series of manga guides and I’m eager to check those out. The one on electricity sounds interesting.


Out of all the books on writing fiction I’ve read so far, I have not seen one like Wonderbook. In fact I don’t even think “read” is the right word. It’s more of an experience that draws you inside an otherworldly school with strange paintings on the wall and visits from equally strange characters such as Myster Odd, little aliens and even a disruption dragon. All these elements add up to serve one purpose: to help you write more imaginative fiction. Wonderbook serves that purpose well, covering the entire writing process from conception to polishing up the final revision in such detail that I had no idea so much was involved when it comes to piecing together a story. Also featured are essays from other authors who share some of their writing secrets and insights on writing I found especially illuminating.

Wonderbook left such a haunting impression on me that I’m going to remember what it taught me for a long time to come. I think it just gave my writing ambitions a huge boost.

The Art of X-ray Reading.

A word of warning. The Art of X-ray Reading: How The Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing will forever change how you read books and how they can serve as tools for improving your own writing.

In The Art of X-ray Reading, author Roy Peter Clark extracts memorable passages from 25 masterpieces of literature including The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird and Seabuscuit and analyzes them using a virtual pair of X-ray glasses to determine what makes those passages so effective. During the analyses, pointers for improving your own writing begin to emerge, such as using repetition, metaphors and creating unexpected suspense. When I was finished with the book, I was left with a craving to read the discussed books and truly appreciate them for the great works they are, but this time from a completely different approach.

All in all, a very lively, informative and illuminating book that belongs in your writing toolbox.