Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years By Robert Dean Lurie (Book)

There have been numerous books written about Athens-based R.E.M. dating back to the mid-1990s, but few seem as personal as the latest entry from former Athenian Robert Dean Lurie.

The book strength is also, at times, its biggest weakness. The author, who moved to Athens, GA in the ‘90s, in part thanks to its burgeoning music scene, inserts his own narrative into some of the book. And while it can be a little distracting at times, overall, it’s these personal anecdotes and detailed descriptions of living in that college town that allows it to stand out among all of the other R.E.M. bios that came before it.

Another big advantage, along with having the hindsight to be able to look back on the band almost a decade after they dissolved, is that Lurie focuses a bulk of the book on the band’s founding and first few albums. He ends the narrative in 1987, before the band leaves their indie label for Warner Bros on a track that would bring them global stardom. By focusing on the early years, he can hone in on what made the band so unique at the time. Through interviews with the band’s college friends, many who knew the members before R.E.M. came together, Lurie is able to piece together a detailed, insightful and thoroughly exhaustive narrative of the band at its founding and slightly before.

Begin The Begin may not be the first book on R.E.M., but it’s a crucial read for anyone looking to understand R.E.M. and how they were able to create such a massive impact on modern American music.

Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years By Robert Dean Lurie /Paperback, 288 pages/Verse Chorus Press/2019

Brandon Siegel – The Private Practice Survival Guide

One of the keys to making “self help” books, especially those of a decidedly professional nature, successful for readers is personalization. It is one thing to, essentially, consume a multi-hour lecture in text form, no matter how well composed, if there is no personal element present in the author’s presentation. It is quite another thing, however, to feel drawn into the life experiences that helped shape their philosophy and carried them to success in their chosen profession. Such experiences make us feel like we are part of something alongside the author and we connect with them in ways we cannot with otherwise dreary academics who approach the problem from an intellectual point of view alone. Brandon Seigel’s The Private Practice Survival Guide understands this quite well and, after only a few pages in, perceptive readers will possess a strong sense of the man behind this text.

ABOUT WELLNESS WORKS: https://www.wellnessworksmp.com/about/

The primary theme underlying the entirety of the book is the necessity of self-empowerment in achieving professional goals. The necessary change begins and ends with you alone. One of the earliest ideas in the book many readers may find compelling and thought-provoking is Seigel’s take on the idea of “exchange” – his insight into how this often constitutes much more than financial interaction is something many of us, myself included, often forget in our desire to accumulate, pay bills, plan ahead, and so on. Here, as elsewhere, Seigel lays out his concepts and ideas in a succinct yet conversational style that feels like a man truly invested in helping his readers reach their ambitions rather than a distant author enumerating ideas for his reading audience.

Seigel shares a number of stories along the way to help illustrate points he is trying to make but does so with brevity and style. These moments never threaten to overwhelm the book. The text likewise encourages self-anabasis at every turn via a variety of methods as a way of clarifying aspects of one’s self or defining attributes of your business in a concise, focused way. There is literally no part of this topic he fails to touch on. Seigel’s work explores why private practices often fail in great detail and through his own personal experiences, obstacles private practitioners face in establishing, maintaining, and growing their business, as well as other key subjects for consideration in setting up private practice – sexual harassment training, billing, and how to organize an effective and responsive Human Resources department.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Private-Practice-Survival-Guide-Journey/dp/1643399373

The Private Practice Survival Guide is a thoughtful and insight volume that, like many entries in this genre, has application to our everyday lives, not just the professional side of things. Brandon Seigel has incorporated a vast wealth of experience into a vision for how to set out on your own, fulfilling your professional ambitions, and reaching the multitude of goals such individuals often harbor inside. This well written book is a work readers can return to over and over as an invaluable reference for effective approaches to commonplace issues for entrepreneurs of all kinds.  

Kim Muncie

Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-Of-Age Comedies From Animal House to Zapped!

Given today’s current sensitivities around, well, just about everything, it’s hard to image even a third of the movies profiled in Mike McPadden’s fantastically entertaining encyclopedia of teen comedies, Teen Movie Hell, ever being made. But for those who grew up in the ‘80s trying to catch a glimpse of nudity via scrambled cable movies on channels you didn’t subscribe to, or their slightly more watered down cinematic siblings on basic cable shows like USA’s Up All Night, this book serves as the bible of raunchy comedies we never knew we needed until now.

McPadden and his contributors take an almost scholarly approach to dissecting the appeal of these mostly-low budget T&A filled comedies. Though they reach back to the 1960’s to start the evolution of these movies, the bulk were gifted to us via Ragan’s greedy Me, Me, Me era of the 1980s. The majority of Teen Movie Hell is made of an alphabetical listing and review of the most seminal and in some cases, under the radar also rans – of teen-focused ranch coms, from 1988’s After School (aka Private Tutor: Return to Eden) to 1978’s Zuma Beach.        

Sprinkled throughout are some positively impressive essays about the films from this era, specifically Kat Ellinger’s The Ellinger Code: Teen Sex Comedies in the Age of #MeToo and for All Eternity and the importance of abortion as a real topic being introduced to teens for the first time via Fast Times at Ridgemont High in Wendy McClure’s strong essay The Free Clinic Isn’t Free.

Teen Movie Hell is so much more than a guide to the golden era of teen movie raunch (although that’s definitely, thankfully a part of it). But it stands as a brilliant look at a different time from authors who were the prime targets of those movies, giving a part nostalgic, part cringe-worthy tour of a time period in cinematic history that will likely never be revived.      

Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-Of-Age Comedies From Animal House to Zapped! By Mike “McBeardo” McPadden/ Paperback, 360 pages/Bazillion Points/2019 / Facebook / Domain

Christina Reeves & Dimitrios Spanos – The Mind is the Map

Christina Reeves and Dimitrios Spanos, co-authors of The Mind is the Map: Awareness is the Compass and Emotional is the Key to Living Mindfully from the Heart, bring a personal touch and considerable intellectual firepower to the aforementioned work. It is a condensed and focused book, clocking in at less than three hundred pages, and their tight aim on promoting a system oriented approach to realizing human potential likely means the effects of this volume will resonate for years to come with its readers. Despite delving into their own experiences to help push their take on living mindfully and expanding the possibilities of human consciousness, The Mind is the Map avoids bathos or any self indulgence.

Some readers will take a hard pass on the book’s relentless optimism. Reeves and Spanos alike often make it sound like their proposed design for living is within the realm of possibility if an interested party puts their plan into action. The book lacks significant respect for the psychology barriers often obstructing us from “living mindfully”, though they do pay some lip service to this reality. Despite the inherent optimism present in this work, Reeves and Spanos do not shirk the difficult self-examination necessary for achieving the goals outlined in The Mind is the Map; any objections I have center on the idea they believe it is possible for everyone. I am not convinced. Nonetheless, one cannot help but admire how they explore their aims with such completeness. It is obvious from the first few pages Reeves and Spanos alike immerse themselves in their point of view and they make their case with the conviction of a zealot, yet never preach to or hector their target audience. Their style is best described as exhortative, but it isn’t strident.

Despite the obvious knowledge Spanos and Reeves bring to the table, derived from personal experience and reading, The Mind is the Map never bogs down with academic stiffness. The authors, instead, structure the book more as an exchange between them and invite the reader to listen in without ever resorting to direct address. The prose style of the work has a relaxed air, conversational without ever seeming blasé, and the language remains accessible throughout while still challenging readers. I do have some objection to their reliance on posing questions for the reader throughout the entirety of the work, but I realize this is an essential component in framing the book’s arguments and its importance in demonstrating the sort of approach they believe interested parties should take regarding self-investigation.

This is a worthwhile read for anyone, particularly those with pre-existing grounding in these ideas, but I concede it will not appeal to everyone. No matter. The Mind is the Map is a thorough dive into a topic central to human experience and doesn’t often fall back on cliché; instead, Spanos and Reeves engage with the subject in a realistic way from the outset and discerning readers will recognize that from the start. I believe, furthermore, that they will find a lot here if they stick with the work through its conclusion.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Map-Journey-Discovering-Treasure/dp/173220540X

Kim Muncie

Joan Kuhl – Dig Your Heels In

This is, unfortunately, a timeless book. I say unfortunately because there shouldn’t be a need for Joan Kuhl’s Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve in these presumably enlightened times. You would think that our modern age and society would have long since put out to pasture the workplace/professional inequality that has bedeviled women since time immemorial, but you would be wrong to believe so. Kuhl’s book and the personal experiences she shares between its covers makes clear how many of these issues are systemic and remain prevalent, though perhaps less overt than half a century ago thanks to an increased willingness from women to speak up and some laws and regulations in place to discourage such conduct. Kuhl’s book confronts these problems head on and offers solid advice for women on how to contend with these problems when they arise.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Dig-Your-Heels-Navigate-Corporate/dp/152309835X

She writes with startling clarity and doesn’t mince or waste words when addressing the multiple ways workplace bias and inequality manifest themselves. Dig Your Heels In isn’t an extended work bloated with repetition or filler material and Kuhl’s presentation emphasizes an easily digestible format for her readers. This is the hallmark of an experienced writer – Kuhl has other publications to her credit and her authorial savvy is evident on each page. Despite the assertive title, the book doesn’t beat drums and call on women to storm boardrooms and offices across the land. Kuhl is never so crass. The book, essentially, promotes a simple message implied by the title – stand your ground and don’t be afraid of negative perception because dignity and professional respect is worth more than the opinion of those who do not value your efforts through no fault of your own.

As mentioned earlier, Kuhl relates her personal experiences dealing with this issue and the vulnerability of such a move further endeared me to the book. It also gives an added air of authority to her thoughts and instruction for readers – she has “been there” rather than offering a work based off research and others experiences alone. There is definitely a “how to” element defining this work, but it never undercuts its inherent quality. Instead, the instructional aspects of this book provides readers, particularly women, with an essentially step by step structure for approaching these problems in their own workplace while still exploring all of the potential pitfalls and misgivings they may experience and feel along the way.

ABOUT JOAN KUHL: http://joankuhl.com/

Perhaps one day future readers or societal observers may look back on a work like this as a relic from a more complicated and less open-minded era. I definitely would like to believe that day will come. Dig Your Heels In, for now however, is intensely relevant to challenges women continue to face in their careers and professional lives, but Kuhl never talks down to the reader, holds us above those experiences, and doesn’t allow her ideas and writing to turn into a broadside against the male gender. She has, instead, produced a work any intelligent and thoughtful reader will respond to.

Scottie Carlito

Ira Kaufman & Velimir Srića – The World is Broken, We Need to Fix It: Path to Strategic Harmony

The most notable facet of this book, for me, is its lack of a dogmatic or partisan point of view. Ira Kaufman and Velimir Srića’s The World is Broken, We Need to Fix It: Path to Strategic Harmony acknowledges and examines the many challenges humanity faces nearly twenty years into the 21st century, but it never latches onto a particular school of political thought, but rather takes a broad-based humanistic approach. The book’s introduction lays this out with a clearly written and authoritative tone, but there’s never a hint of hectoring or preaching in the book’s “voice”. Instead, they sketch out the work’s thesis and prepare readers for what is to come.

The authors do an exceptional job early on of fleshing out the book’s central idea of “strategic harmony”. Some may greet the idea that what we think, do, feel, and hope for is a simplistic framework for restructuring the world as we know it today and realizing genuine change, but the writers build their case convincingly without ever viewing the world and their ideas through “rose colored glasses”. Moreover, they often back up their argument with well-chosen research further buttressing their arguments. Again, it is a hallmark of this thoughtful work just how well delineated such moments are and it strengthens the book as a whole. Even those readers who either disagree or remain skeptical will acknowledge the passion and, above all else, the intelligence behind Kaufman and Srića’s presentation.

RELATED ARTICLE: https://thinkcatalytic.com/our-shattered-world-the-business-challenge-91bbda2577b2

I like how the writers preface each chapter with well chosen epigrams from a variety of source and how they systematically dismantle a series of what they deem to be “myths” in our modern society without ever taking on a sour tone. The main body of the work goes on to break down each of the author’s underlying ideas without ever immersing the reader in a wealth of needless detail. Some of the terminology they adopt, words like “catalytic” and “catalyzers”, are not inaccessible to the casual reader – rather they illustrate how the proposed values should be synthesized into a multi-threaded approach towards transforming every aspect of our modern world. They provide, at key points, illustrations further elaborating on their ideas and many readers will find those helpful.

They bring the book to a satisfying conclusion by decisively tying the aforementioned threads together. Everything matters – the economic, socio-political, political, technological, and they note how their ideas can and will, if pursued, reshape each of those elements. The same lack of hectoring or high-handedness present in the beginning of this work remains strong at its conclusion and demonstrates the overall balance characterizing Kaufman and Srića’s style. Despite being a relatively lengthy work, even readers with a cursory interest in the challenges faced by humanity today will find The World is Broken, We Need to Fix It: Path to Strategic Harmony an illuminating read, but those who are truly engaged with those challenges will take a step further – they will find this book to be essential reading and return to it again and again.

Mindy McCall

Greg Kieser discusses the ever growing, ever evolving presence of technology via new book – Dear Machine

The ever growing, ever evolving presence of technology in our lives means we will be seeing works like Greg Kieser’s Dear Machine: A Letter to a Super-Aware Intelligent Machine (SAIM) more. This slim tome, barely exceeding one hundred pages when you take out extraneous material like title pages and whatnot, nevertheless takes on an enormous mandate – Kieser structures the work as a “letter” composed to a future intelligent and “aware” machine he nicknames SAIM. It gives Kieser the platform to wonder, hypothesize, and examine the multitude of ways Kieser believes humanity and future advanced technology will interact and the possible benefits and pitfalls we may experience together. He places the work in the context of human history – not necessarily historical events, mind you, but rather juxtaposed against the frailties and failures of our species.

URL: https://www.supersystemic.ly/dear-machine  

His work here is born from over ten years of experience working on the front lines of this subject. Kieser leads a company named Supersystemic.ly based out of New York City who is among a vanguard trying to lead the way in determining proper approaches and responses to the growing impact of technology on all facets of human, particularly his fellow New Yorkers, lives. This gives him a point of view that allows Dear Machine to maintain a more spread out focus rather than honing in on the strictly scientific or technological. Instead, Kieser’s concern for human kind and how our species’ long and complicated history will influence our responses to the emergence of such technology. He doesn’t maintain a wholly optimistic point of view, but doesn’t run into the arms of despair either. His view on history and the future accepts how our nature and collective past will present enormous challenges for humanity with the advent of such super-intelligent machines, but likewise keeps hope alive by embracing the idea we possesses unique capabilities as well that may allow all of us, in a greater or lesser degree, to prosper from the introduction of these machines into our world.

He lays things out for you in a very linear fashion. There’s an obvious logic in the way Kieser delves into this subject, moving from an over-arching look at the topic before getting increasingly specific as he goes into studying the micro rather than macro of what the emergence of such machines will possibly mean to different facets of human experiences. He doesn’t come off as a cheerleader for the idea, per se – I don’t think Kieser has extensive scientific training, but he approaches the topic in the manner I imagine a scientist might – intensely logical, moving from one point to the next, avoiding digression. There is definitely a strong social theorist side to Kieser’s arguments, as well, and he makes his points there with the same dedication to intelligence and thoroughness.

These elements and other come together without any obvious flaw. You may find yourself, particularly depending on your schooling, coming down on his side of predicting future developments or you may disagree, but Kieser keeps you involved with his ideas and the force of his theorizing afloat with energetic writing presenting things in a polished, professional manner through the entirety of this work. Greg Kieser’s Dear Machine: A Letter to a Super-Aware Intelligent Machine (SAIM) is singular and an important contribution to this subject.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Machine-Letter-Super-Aware-Intelligent/dp/0578405962/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1550007569&sr=1-1&keywords=Greg+Kieser

Kim Muncie

World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story (RPM Series)

You’d be hard pressed to find a recent musical genre that’s been dissected more in the past two decades than Grunge. Countless books, articles, documentaries, and radio and TV interviews dig into the Seattle-based phenomenon and just about every single discussion on the topic eventually comes around to the ground-breaking indie label Sub Pop. So, it’s surprising there was any new material left to report about the label, let alone an entire book’s worth. But, Gillian G. Gaar manages to find plenty to cover in this latest book about the label. Continue reading “World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story (RPM Series)”

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5 & My Life of Impossibilities

Wayne Kramer and his bandmates in the MC5 helped put down the foundations of punk rock, alongside fellow Detroiters Iggy Pop and The Stooges, paving the way for everyone from The Ramones to The Clash to make careers out of their music. Unfortunately, Kramer was in a federal prison in Lexington, KY, serving time for a botched drug deal when punk was just taking off. And at the time, the term “punk,” inside the walls of a prison was not what you wanted to be known as. Continue reading “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5 & My Life of Impossibilities”

The Clash: All The Albums, All The Songs

The Clash’s record label once dubbed the group as “the only band that matters” in the promotional materials introducing them to the U.S. and while the phrase was certainly polarizing at the time, you can’t help but find their influence stronger today than ever before. Whether it was adding strong, sing-able melodies to punk rock – heard in bands like Green Day and every Green Day clone since; their strong political lyrics, since adopted by everyone from Bad Religion to the Manic Street Preachers; or their mix of ska and Reggae to punk rock on their second and third albums, pretty much handing Rancid their musical template, The Clash is just as relevant 30 years after their demise. Continue reading “The Clash: All The Albums, All The Songs”