Monday, March 26, 2018

"American Politics" at the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book - #VaBook2018

Virginia Festival of the Book American politics
Despite its title, there was not much discussion of the left side of American politics by this panel of authors at the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville.

The March 24 program, held in the Charlottesville City Council Chambers, was entitled "American Politics: Left, Right & Center" and featured three authors of books about contemporary American politics who spoke on a panel moderated by University of Virginia political scientist Carah Ong Whaley.

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire (author of Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America, and What We Can Do About It), assistant professor in presidential studies at the Miller Center for Public Affairs Nicole Hemmer (Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics), and Irish journalist Caitriona Perry (In America: Tales from Trump Country) talked about the deep polarization in American politics, news and opinion media, and the country at large in a wide-ranging discussion prompted by questions from Whaley and members of the audience, who filled nearly every seat in the city hall auditorium.

Here is a video recording of the American politics panel:

Come back to this web site soon for more reports from this year's Virginia Festival of the Book, and watch out for the March 31 episode of The Score podcast on Bearing Drift for an exclusive interview with Jason Altmire that followed the panel discussion.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Report from the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book - Pot and Hemp

Virginia Festival of the Book cannabis hemp Charlottesville
In a Virginia Festival of the Book program titled "Growing Hemp in Virginia: Then & Now," authors Emily Dufton and Doug Fine discuss aspects of the debates over cannabis regulation and industrial hemp. The panel discussion was moderated by University of Virginia biology professor Michael Timko.

The panel is described on the web site of the Virginia Festival of the Book like this: "Emily Dufton (Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America) and Doug Fine (Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution) discuss the history, legality, and finer aspects of growing hemp, a crop farmed nearby by Thomas Jefferson."

There was not much "then" in the "then & now" discussion.  Dufton spoke about her research into grassroots activism on both sides of the marijuana legalization question.  She looked at parents' movements in the 1970s that sought stricter laws on marijuana possession (a number of states decriminalized cannabis between 1973 and 1978, only to reverse those laws in the 1980s).  She also traced the connection of HIV/AIDS activism to the medical marijuana movement that started in the early 1990s and resulted with 29 states and the District of Columbia legalizing use of pot for medicinal purposes.  Dufton brings the tale forward to the present, when the Trump Administration, voiced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, threatens to end the leniency in enforcing federal marijuana laws in states like Colorado and California, which have legalized recreational weed use by adults.

Doug Fine, also the author of  Too High to Fail and Farewell, My Subaru, is a regenerative goat rancher, hemp farmer, and homeschooling father. He has testified before the United Nations and appeared on CNN and "The Tonight Show," and he is a regular contributor to NPR.  His presentation focused on the benefits of industrial hemp farming but warned it is not a "get-rich-quiick" scheme.  He noted the recent discovery of how hemp fibers can be utilized in electrical batteries.

An interview with Fine conducted after the panel ended can be found on "The Score" podcast on, in the episode posted on March 24, 2018.

This panel discussion was moderated by Michael Timko, a professor of biology and the director of the undergraduate program in Human Biology at the University of Virginia.

The embedded video was recorded in the chambers of the Charlottesville City Council on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

More Books Unrecommended by Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show on NBC-TV, has once again offered a list of books people should not read.

The odd and quirky "Do Not Read List" has become a regular feature on The Tonight Show.  The list for January 22 was shorter than usual, with only four books mentioned -- one nature book, one children's book, one animal book, and one how-to book.

Tonight Show The Secret Life of Clams Anthony FredericksThe "nature book" was The Secret Life of Clams: The Mysteries and Magic of Our Favorite Shellfish, written by Anthony D. Fredericks and released in 2014. Fallon noted that the book reveals that "Elvis recorded a song called 'Do the Clam' in 1965" and that the author promises that, if "[you] invite me to your next cocktail party, I can assure you I will not discuss bovine insemination." Reacting to that, Fallon shook his head and said, "I can’t believe I shelled out money for that."

Fredericks, it turns out, is the prolific author of 153 books, including Ace Your Teacher Interview: 149 Fantastic Answers to Tough Interview Questions, Under One Rock: Bugs, Slugs, and Other Ughs, Horseshoe Crab: Biography of a Survivor, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching College.

Mr. Ding and Mrs. Dong Tonight Show do not read children's bookThe "children's book," described as for "kids just beginning to read," was The Love Affair of Mr. Ding and Mrs. Dong, written in 1991 by Lionel Koechlin and illustrated by Annette Tamarkin Hatwell. In one excerpt read aloud by Jimmy Fallon, "Mr. Ding and Mrs Dong listen to their two hearts beating together, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong."

Koechlin and Hatwell also collaborated on Apartment for Rent: A Lulu and Banana Story and Lulu and the Artist: A Lulu and Banana Story. In addition, Koechlin wrote the French-language Trois baleines bleues.

Dogs and Their Women Tonight Show Do Not ReadFallon's book for "animal lovers" was Dogs and Their Women, written by Louise Taylor and‎ Barbara E. Cohen and published in 1989. Fallon showed a couple of odd photos from the book, one featuring a huge dog (which he compared to Clifford, the big red dog) and another with a dog that looked like he had a "drinking problem."

Cohen and Taylor also collaborated on Woman's Best Friend: A Celebration of Dogs and Their Women (1996), Horses and Their Women (1993), and Cats and Their Women (1992). (A theme seems to emerge from this bibliography.)

Tonight Show Dancing for Busy People Do Not Read Jimmy FallonFinally, a "how-to" book called Dancing for Busy People, by Calvin Campbell, appears to be out of print, despite a publication date of 2003. Fallon was amused by the directions for a dance called "Ding-Dong Daddy," which go something like this:

"Wait eight counts, clap knees twice, clap hands twice… touch palm to right album … making swimming motion … make motion of twirling a lasso … hitchhike motion with left arm … swat the fly and blow it away."

Sadly, Campbell has no other books to his name.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Latest 'Do Not Read' List from Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show

During the episode first broadcast on November 29, with guests John Boyega (in advance of the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and promoting the re-release of Detroit) and Kevin Nealon (SNL veteran, Weeds, and more), Jimmy Fallon featured a few more books from his now-lengthy "Do Not Read List."

The list was eclectic, to say the least.

microwave cooking fallon tonight show do not readFallon's first listed item was the 1981 cookbook, Microwave Cooking - On a Diet, written by Barbara Methven with photographs by ‎ Michael Jensen,‎ Steven Smith,‎ and Ken Greer, described as "a collection of recipes for people on a diet and cooking with a microwave from Litton." The Tonight Show host pointed out that the cover photo -- rich chocolate pudding, it appears to be -- is one of the least likely things someone "on a diet" is likely to cook.

How to be a drug dealer Fallon do not read listThe second book on Fallon's newest list was somewhat more provocative: How to be a Drug Dealer, published in 2014 and written by 673126 (probably a pseudonym) and J. M.R. Rice. According to the Amazon description, "Are you tired of working all day and night without having anything to show for it? Would you like to be able to afford a vacation, or just be your own boss? This book will do just that by teaching you How to be a Drug Dealer! Are you already a drug dealer, but want to expand your business? Look no further than this book to help you increase your profits and grow your empire!"

Idiots guide to teaching college Fallon Tonight do not readNext on the "Do Not Read" list was an academic volume, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching College, published in 2007 by Anthony D. Fredericks. As Jimmy Fallon noted, if he saw that book on his college professor's book shelf, he would probably return to How to Be a Drug Dealer as a backup plan for a post-college career. The note on Amazon, however, seems to suggest a serious purpose: "Perfect for teaching assistants, graduate students, adjuncts, and anyone who might need a brush-up, this guide teaches everything from designing the best possible course and choosing a textbook to grading. It's also loaded with advice on giving effective lectures, leading discussions, and communicating well with students. Includes sample syllabi and lesson plans."

88 reasons rapture 1988 Fallon tonight show do not readThe fourth volume on Fallon's list was a book of prophecy by Edgar Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988, published in a Kindle edition in 2016. (Fallon had a hard copy of the book to display on TV.) According to its publisher on Amazon, "In this highly influential book, the date for the Rapture is predicted to be 1988. Read inside to find 88 reasons why this was once thought to be the case!" (Who did it influence? It doesn't say. But as a predictive book, it left something to be desired.) Whisenant is also the author of the 2017 book with a similar theme, On Borrowed Time: The Bible Dates of the 70th Week of Daniel, Armageddon, the Millennium, which is also touted as "highly influential."

How to catch crabs tonight show jimmy fallonA romance novel set in Australia was next on the list. Written by Demelza Carlton, the title is How To Catch Crabs. The description is compelling: "Love and babies: two things Lucy doesn't have time for in her life. It's 1926 and this young West Australian woman is happy as an accountant. And she intends to stay that way."  Then, "along comes Giorgio, an Italian migrant fisherman sent to Australia in disgrace. The moment their eyes meet across the fish market, he knows Lucy's the girl for him. If it weren't for those damn crabs and his reputation as a rake, he's certain he could catch more than just her eye – perhaps even her heart, too."

Fallon was taken by the tag line: "A tale of crabs, cricket bats and catching your heart's desire in Jazz Age Western Australia."

Notably, Demelza Carlton is the author of dozens of books, including the provocatively titled The Rock Star's Virginity and Melody Angel's Guide to Heaven and Hell.

Oddly, the last book Fallon displayed as part of his latest "Do Not Read" list is not available on  (They have always been easily found through an Amazon search in the past.)  He had a hard copy, so it must exist somewhere.  The title was "What If You Are a Horse in Human Form," allegedly written by Jason the Horse. If any reader can find this unusual book for sale anywhere on the Internet, please note it in the comments below.


Here's the "Do Not Read" video from The Tonight Show:


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another 'Do Not Read' List from Jimmy Fallon

Noting that it is beach reading season, host of The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon brought more books to the attention of his nationwide audience on August 16 -- with the admonition that these are books that they should not read. (Previous editions can be seen here and here, and even earlier here.)

Fallon has offered his "do not read" list several times over the past few seasons.  In this edition, he chose an academic book, a children's book, a craft book, and a mystery, among others.

The mystery was The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews (noted on the front cover as author of No Nest for the Wicket). The book's description begins:

Donna Andrews Jimmy Fallon Penguin mysteryDonna Andrews is taking us on another ride into the wonderful world of Meg Langslow, a world filled with laughter as well as the knotty problems Meg always seems to encounter and---somehow---solve.

Okay, maybe there are people in Antarctica with penguins in their basements, but in Virginia? Only Meg's dad could manage that one. A body down there---well, that's somewhat more likely.

It turns out that explaining the penguins' presence is easy---Meg's dad volunteered to take care of the birds until the future of the bankrupt local zoo could be determined. But identifying the body in the basement proves a harder task---could it be, as Meg fears, that of the vanished zoo owner?
Surprisingly -- or not -- The Penguin Who Knew Too Much is published by Minotaur Books, not by Penguin.

The academic book Fallon highlighted is called Mathematics for Engineers by Raymond W. Dull. Apparently a classic in its genre -- it was published in 1941 -- its plain gray cover represents its author's surname.

Bathroom Yoga Jimmy Fallon Do Not ReadAn exercise book was next on Jimmy Fallon's "do not read" list: Bathroom Yoga by Jerri Lincoln. In a pun-filled commentary, Fallon averred that the publisher was Little Brown but it's actually from Ralston Store Publishing. The cover suggests that the book is for "those who lack the time or space to do yoga anywhere else!" (Yes, including the exclamation point.) The cover photo looks like someone being held hostage in a 1970s private eye TV show.

Fallon also brought up a hobby book by John P. Adams called Bottle Collecting in New England: A Guide to Digging, Identification, and Pricing. It was published in 1969 by the New Hampshire Publishing Company and I'd guess it's been out of print since 1970 -- though there was a sequel of sorts published by the same company in 1971, with the title Bottle Collecting in America. a Guide to Digging, Identification, and Pricing. a Companion Volume to Bottle Collecting in New England. Perhaps Adams' earlier volume was a minor hit in its genre.

Fallon also chose to demonstrate the 1998 craft book, Return of the Nose Masks by Rick Meyerowitz. From the description on
Nose masks Jimmy Fallon Do Not Read Rick MeyerowitzTruly nutty ideas never die. They just lie in wait to come back when you least expect it. Exactly twenty years ago, those two wacky books of nasal disguises, Nose Masks I and Nose Masks II, appeared and America seemed to inhale them. There were nose mask parties, celebrities wearing nose masks, nose masks in parades. Today, like the Beetle, the yo-yo, and aviator shades, they're back. Return of the Nose Masks is wackiness for a whole new generation of grown-ups, children, and grown-ups with an inner child. Created by the original nose mask auteur, Rick Meyerowitz, here are 150 original costumes for the nose. Printed in four-color and perforated, there is the Fat Cat, Cooool Cat, and Cocktail Cat. Lawrence and Lenore of Arabia. The Velvet Frog. Nefertootsie and the Tut Mask. The three freedoms--Freedom to Sing, Freedom to Dance, Freedom to Shop. Holiday nose masks, underwater nose masks, career noses masks, modern art nose masks. There are little square nose masks and big vertical nose masks. Mustache nose masks, nose ring nose masks, and the Big Tongue page. Even the Buddha, for that mood of spiritual longing. The nose masks come with instructions for any-size nose on any-age face.

Finally, Fallon showed us a children's book -- although the cover design and title suggest the contents may be inappropriate for younger ages. The book, by Jon Buller, is called Mike and the Magic Cookies. Published 25 years ago by Grosset & Dunlap, it comes with praise from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: "This is the kind of book that . . . kids will eat right up--which is exactly what you want in an easy-reader. Cartoon illustrations remininiscent [sic] of Syd Hoff join right in with the suburban lunacy."

I guess you'll have to judge for yourself.

Update: Here's a video of Jimmy Fallon's "Do Not Read" list from last night:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Author Interview: Ronald D. Lankford on 'Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights'

The idea for Virginia author Ronald D. Lankford's 2013 book, Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs, was sparked by his childhood memories.

“I grew up listening to Christmas songs in the 1960s – 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' Gene Autry, the Lennon Sisters,” he told me during an interview at this year's Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. “Christmas music was always there, so it was an important family ritual.”

The book looks mostly at holiday songs written since the 1930s, when the first secular, commercial Christmas tunes appeared, written by Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists and distributed through the still new medium of phonograph recordings. Citing music industry historians, the author places 1934 as the year that saw the launch of the first modern Christmas standards, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” (the latter of which never mentions Christmas).

Referencing Irving Berlin's “White Christmas,” recorded by Bing Crosby, and Mel Tormé and Robert Wells' “The Christmas Song,” recorded by Nat “King” Cole, Lankford writes that this kind of holiday song, “performed by a well-known singer, pressed on a 78rpm record, and sold on the mass market, would create a new category of popular music.”

Although Americans celebrate several holidays every year, from New Year's Day to Independence Day to Thanksgiving, only Christmas has a wide range of music associated with it.

One reason for that, Lankford surmises, “is that Christmas seems to last longer than most holidays. Every year we have four or five weeks after Thanksgiving” when Christmas is celebrated, not just one day on December 25.

Another reason, he added, is “that it probably just holds a bigger place in our hearts than other holidays. A lot of people that are religious love it for religious reasons and a lot of [people who] aren't involved in religious aspects of Christmas also love it.”

For his research, Lankford acknowledged that his sources included Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas and Jody Rosen's book-length study on the origins and influence of “White Christmas,” but he also relied on Penne Restad's 1995 book, Christmas in America: A History. These and other sources emphasized nostalgia as a theme of Christmas music and other holiday traditions.

“Mostly what I was looking at was source material in the United States. If you want to understand the songs coming out in the '40s and '50s, you need to see how Christmas was sort of invented in the 19th century by the American middle class. Over and over again we come back to family, home. Dickens was very popular in the United States in the 1840s,” he pointed out, “so I wanted to go back and be grounded in these sources.”

He writes that “the first theme to emerge in the modern Christmas song was nostalgia.” He notes that recordings like “White Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” (already mentioned), as well as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (from Meet Me in St. Louis) and “I'll Be Home for Christmas” – all from the early 1940s – were songs that “connected with listeners by offering wistful images of the American past.

Ronald D. Lankford
Starting in the late 1940s and continuing through the 1970s, however, novelty songs (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” for instance) began to push nostalgia to the side, and songs “focusing on the holiday blues and hard times” started to get radio play.

The counterintuitive holiday popularity of mournful songs like “Blue Christmas” and “Pretty Paper,” he told me, really took off in the 1960s, when “everything changes.”

John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, mere weeks before Christmas, he said.

Then, the next year, The Beatles arrived in America and “music changes quite a bit. Then we start having a variety of revolutions in the street and so the mood of the country changes.”

At the same time, he said, “what we think of as family begins to change. We tend to think of family as being a mother at home, father at work, and two children – or people used to think that [but] that started to change in the Sixties and, I think, it was a little disorienting.”

As a consequence, Lankford noted, “most of our classic songs end by 1963. [In] the Sixties and the Seventies, what we have instead are a lot of cartoons basically aimed at children,” such as Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Many popular singers, even rock stars, record at least one Christmas album during the course of their careers, yet creating a hit holiday song is elusive even for artists normally at the top of the charts.

“It's a really difficult trick to pull,” Lankford explained.

“In one way, most Christmas songs are traditional, so you're going back again to family and home, and so people don't want anything really 'out there.' Weird Al's Christmas songs,” for example, “have not become classics.”

On the other hand, he said, “if you want to be a classic, you need something that people will play year after year, so it has to have something distinctive enough that it's going to stand out from every other song.”

Those, he said, “are the two qualities they would have to have” – simultaneously conservative and distinctive – “to get played five weeks a year and not wear themselves out.”

The most unexpected thing Lankford found in his research was that Elvis Presley's first Christmas recordings met resistance and negative criticism.

“I was surprised,” he said, at “how controversial Elvis Presley's Christmas album and [his] Christmas music was in 1957.”

Today, he explained, it seems like Presley is an American icon: “baseball, apple pie, and Elvis.”

Yet in the late 1950s, “when he was touring, he was very controversial and his album was very controversial.”

Lankford recounted a “wonderful story” told to him by a dentist in his hometown of Appomattox.

The dentist's mother was an Elvis fan who "went downtown to buy the Christmas album when it came out. She brought it home, took it out of its sleeve, started to play it, and she didn't get finished with one cut when she said, 'This is the worst thing I have ever heard in my life.' She put it back in its sleeve, took it back to the drug store, and asked for her money back.”

It's easy to see why that controversy of 57 years ago seems puzzling today. This time of year, the tracks on Elvis Presley's Christmas album are played over and over on the radio. Reissued several times, that LP has sold more than 23 million copies and is now considered the best-selling Christmas album in recording industry history.

In addition to his most recent book, Ronald D. Lankford is the author of Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s (2009) and Folk Music USA: The Changing Voice of Protest (2005). He also edited Should the Voting Age Be Lowered? (2007).

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs, by Ronald D. Lankford.  University Press of Florida, October 2013. Hardcover, 264 pp., $21.95.  Kindle edition, $10.49.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Author Interview: Economist Adam Smith Describes How 'Bootleggers & Baptists' Cooperate

Just over three decades ago, economist Bruce Yandle, then working for the Federal Trade Commission, published an article in the journal Regulation headlined “Bootleggers & Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist,” which noted how groups presumably at odds with each other often collaborate, wittingly or unwittingly.

In 1999, in another piece for Regulation (PDF), Yandle described more fully the phenomenon after an additional 16 years of observation:

“Durable social regulation,” he said, “evolves when it is demanded by both of two distinctly different groups.” Those groups are the “Baptists,” a shorthand term for those who make a moral or ethical case for legislation or regulations, and the “bootleggers,” a term that applies to economic interests who benefit financially from legislation or regulations. (A synonym for “bootlegger” might be “rent-seeker.”)

“'Baptists' point to the moral high ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable public benefits promised by a desired regulation,” wrote Yandle, while “'Bootleggers' are much less visible but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists … are simply in it for the money.”

What Yandle did was to apply public-choice economic theory to regulatory politics and, in the process, create a colorful concept that has been cited thousands of times since 1983 in attempts to explain how government makes rules.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Yandle, now a retired dean at Clemson University, has collaborated with his grandson, economist Adam Smith of Johnson & Wales University. Their new book is called Bootleggers & Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics. The two authors spoke about it at a forum hosted by the Cato Institute in Washington on October 9, 2014.

'Aligned interests'
After the forum, I asked co-author Adam Smith a few questions about the book and his research.

Adam Smith speaks at the Cato Institute
Smith explained that the term “bootleggers and Baptists” originated during alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s, when “you had bootleggers and Baptists with aligned interests” even if they did not realize it.

Baptists, he explained, proclaimed “Down with legalized distribution of alcohol!” because they saw drinking as morally detrimental. Bootleggers, too, proclaimed “Down with legalized distribution of alcohol!” because Prohibition raised the price of illegal liquor and fed more profits to the bootleggers.

“It was a boon to the bootleggers,” Smith explained, “and the Baptists were kind of oblivious to that situation.”

Broadening the concept to include other kinds of regulations, Smith said, “what we see today in our modern political economy [are] many, many manifestations of the same kinds of strange bedfellows.”

More and more, he said, “we're seeing that those bedfellows are recognizing one another and coming together to form even more powerful would-be bootlegger/Baptist coalitions.”

There is also a relationship between “bootleggers and Baptists” and “crony capitalism,” when government grants preferential treatment to certain, well-connected businesses.

Smith said that, in the book “we call it 'bootlegger/Baptist' capitalism instead of crony capitalism.”

He added that “what I hope the book shows is that cronyism is more than just a bootlegger. That's the only thing that's usually recognized: There's just some special interest group.”

Yet, he explained, “a special interest group cannot move forward without moral cover, or at least can't get much out of the political domain without the Baptist” providing a beneficent reason for legislation, “and so we have to call attention the bad work Baptists are doing in creating opportunities for cronyism.”

Avenues for research
Both Smith and Yandle acknowledge that their book, while expanding upon the original thesis Yandle put forth in 1983, opens up new opportunities for further research by other economists and social scientists.

“There's obviously a lot of empirical work to be done,” Smith explained.

He pointed to “all these social regulations that people aren't looking at in terms of econometric work in the same way that they are [looking at] economic regulations, because we just don't think of it that way. We don't think of environmental policies and health-and-safety standards as giving money to anybody.”

Instead, he said, people “think of those as in the public interest. In other words, the Baptists have succeeded in convincing us of that fact but that's just not true. There are a lot of groups that benefit from that legislation and we need to put them under the microscope. We have to put those regulations under the microscope in the same way that we do economic regulations.”

Smith added that “this is a useful framework for recognizing groups” that may have self-serving (but hidden) economic interests in promoting new regulations.

“Never count a good bootlegger down,” he quipped. “A lot of times when we can't see the bootlegger, it doesn't mean they're not there. Seeing the Baptists can call attention to the fact that maybe there's a bootlegger standing in the shadows” during a debate about imposing new rules or restrictions on human action.

Bootleggers & Baptists, by Adam Smith and Bruce Yandle, was published by the Cato Institute on September 7, 2014.

(This interview appeared, in slightly different form, on on October 14, 2014.)

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Friday, September 12, 2014

Jimmy Fallon's New 'Do Not Read' List

Once again, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has sent viewers scurrying to to track down the odd and repulsive books he has added to his end-of-summer "Do Not Read" list.

In the episode that aired September 11, 2014, Fallon showed his audience six books, each of which leads one to ejaculate, "WTF?"

First on Fallon's list was The Complete Book of Exercise Walking, by Gary D. Yanker. The book has a 2013 publication date, but the edition that Jimmy Fallon showed on air seemed much older, perhaps dating to the 1970s.

Fallon introduced his second non-recommendation by saying it would be of special interest to the guys in the audience. It was The Joy of Uncircumcising by Jim Bigelow, Ph.D. Fallon joked that the book used to be longer but the end was cut off. It's intriguing that this book is in its second edition -- though even that is 20 years old, with a 1994 publication date.

Third on Fallon's list was the 25-year old Natural History of Vacant Lots, by Matthew F. Vessel and Herbert H. Wong. Amazon's summary notes: "Vacant lots aren't really vacant: a surprising number of plants and animals live in the left-over spaces in our cities. In this fascinating guide, authors Vessel and Wong provide a broad introduction to the unique ecosystems that can survive in the urban environment."

Fallon drew attention to the unappetizing cover photo on his fourth choice, a cookbook called Snacks & Sandwiches and attributed to by Time-Life Books Editors and photographer Aldo Tutino. Whatever it is on the cover, it does not seem to be either a snack or a sandwich.

Finally, with a book whose title is a punchline all by itself, Jimmy Fallon chose a 2007 volume aimed at readers "preschool and up," Let's Explore Uranus by Helen Orme and David Orme. (Could it be a follow-up to Everybody Poops?)

Jimmy Fallon's "Do Not Read" List is a regular feature on The Tonight Show on NBC-TV. Check out the July 9, 2014, edition here.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jimmy Fallon's 'Do Not Read' List of Strange Summer Books - July 9, 2014

Every once in a while, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon presents his audience with books that he does not recommend.  In fact, he calls it the "Tonight Show 'Do Not Read'" list.

Fallon showcased several odd books in the episode that aired on the evening of July 9, noting that during the summer, people are looking for "hot beaches, hot bods, and hot books."

The books Fallon found were not hot; instead, they were:
-- A "how-to" book for children, Playing with Puppets, by Lis Paludan (1974), which Fallon described as "definitely not creepy at all."

-- A reference book, List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts:  1780-1883 (published in 2012).  Out of 420 pages, he found two people to highlight --Nellie E. Freeman, who changed her name to Nellie Booby, and Louisa Andrews, who changed her name in 1879 to Lotta Hardon.

-- Another "how-to" book, this one about adultery:  How to Cheat and Not Get Caught, by Elizabeth Sylvince (2007).

-- A memoir, Granny's Old Hands:  What Has She Been Doing With Them?  Granny's Coming Out of the Closet, by Celestine Starks (2006).

-- A 1976 cookbook called Entertaining With Insects, Or: The Original Guide to Insect Cookery by Ronald L. Taylor, Barbara J. Carter and John Gregory Tweed, which includes recipes for Cricket Ramaki, Tillamook Tarts, Salted Garlic Mealworms, Cricket Crisps, and Sauteed Bacon-Pepper Bees.

-- The last book on Fallon's list was a history book, Bald Knobbers:  Vigilantes on the Ozarks Frontier, by Mary Hartmann and Elmo Ingenthron (1988).  I'm sure the term "bald knobbers" meant something different in 19th century Arkansas than it would today in, for instance, the adult cinema industry.
For another snippet from Jimmy Fallon's list of forbidden books, check out this post from May 2014.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Friday, June 13, 2014

Author Interview: Craig Shirley on 'December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World'

Memorial Day weekend seems an appropriate time to revisit Craig Shirley's 2011 book, December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World.

Shirley spoke about his book at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville earlier this year. After his presentation, I asked the author about the genesis of the book and what he learned while researching the history of the early days of World War II in the United States.

Craig Shirley
The idea for writing the book came from his family, he said.

When he was growing up in upstate New York, around the dining room table he heard “the stories about all the things that were going on with the Victory Gardens and the oleo[margarine] and the fake coffee and food shortages and all the sacrifices the American civilians made” during the war.

Moreover, he explained, his uncle had enlisted and, “was shot down and killed in the Pacific.”

Shirley's family had a tradition of military service going back to the American Revolution.

Two of his ancestors fought at Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill in Boston. Another ancestor “was with Washington all the way from 1775 to 1783. He was at Valley Forge, he contracted small pox there and lost an eye.”

That same great-grandfather fought at Monmouth, Boston, and Trenton. “He was in a number of battles under Washington's command. He was just a militiaman, one of the regular army from Connecticut. I don't think he achieved any rank.”

While his family members served in the military, Shirley said, “I wanted to do something from the standpoint of the civilians and how they were affected by the events of December 7.”

Deep and broad research
To research the material that ended up in the book, Shirley explained he “cast as wide a net as possible. We went to all the Roosevelt materials and uncovered documents that hadn't been reported on previously. We went through [Secretary of War] Henry Stimson's papers at Yale, we went through [Secretary of State] Cordell Hull's papers.”

Shirley and his research team also explored “Eleanor Roosevelt's papers and diaries, all the White House documents we could get our hands on, all the War Department” documents that were available.

“On top of all that,” he said, he looked at memos, diaries, and “thousands and thousands of newspaper articles” as well as “shortwave dispatches because at the time, CBS and NBC both had shortwave commercial broadcast stations and so the transcripts of those shortwave broadcasts” are archived.

Newspapers were a particularly rich source of information.

“There were some reporters and columnists who were just terrific and I like to use their material. It's interesting that there probably wasn't a newspaper reporter in 1941 who wasn't an excellent writer. They were all very good writers.”

In 1941, there were about 2,000 daily newspapers across the country, Shirley explained, compared to about 500 today. New York City had nearly 20 daily newspapers, he said, “including ethnic papers, [like] Polish papers. Washington, I think, had seven daily newspapers at the time.”

'Great man theory'
What surprised Shirley in the course of his research was “coming to the conclusion that Franklin Roosevelt was a better man than I thought he was. I am a political conservative, but I am also a historian and I have to look at things objectively.”

The New Deal, he asserted, “in terms from the standpoint of turning the economy around, was a failure [but] it did help the morale of the American people, there's no doubt about that.”

There is also no doubt, he added that, “without Winston Churchill [and] without Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler and the empire of Japan would have ruled the known world.

Churchill and Roosevelt, he concluded, “really are part of what Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish historian, postulated as the great man theory of history, and these truly were great men.”

An earlier version of this interview appeared on, and see my comments on December 1941 on Where Are the Copy Editors?.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Odd Books: Alaska, Huge Ships, and DADT?

On The Tonight Show last night, host Jimmy Fallon did a comedy bit involving books with odd titles or subjects.

One of the books he featured was John B. Thompson's Alaska as It Used to Was, which was chosen, no doubt, for its grammatically-challenged title.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Alaska as It Used to Was on Nothing stood out until I scrolled down to "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed." That caught my eye because there were only two items listed, neither of which seems to have any connection to Alaska as It Used to Was, nor to each other.


The two books are How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer and Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement by Stephen Snyder-Hill.

Big boats?  Gay soldiers?  Alaska's past?  Two of these things are not like the others.

In the comments section below, I will entertain suggestions about what the relationship among these three books might be.  There must be some connection, but it escapes me.

Cross-posted from Rick Sincere News & Thoughts.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks