Month: January 2018

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There is a saying that a fine line exist between genius and insanity.   Some would argue that they are one in the same.  The greatest minds in history were possessed by those who could have been described as unorthodox to say the least.  But creativity needs a foundation, one that encourages and allows the creator to tap into all of their gifts.  Musicians tend to stick out the most when it we think about this for their industry is not only fiercely competitive but without creativity, you have no career.   Those who understand this concept and master it, go on to become great and in some cases, legendary.  When Rick James (1948-2004) died from a heart attack on August 6, 2004, a light was extinguished and a musical great was lost forever.  During his lifetime, he created a persona for himself and composed music that is still played to this day.  His hits Super Freak and Give It To Me Baby are dance classics that sound as good today as they did when they were released.  Prior to his death, he found himself in the spotlight when actor and comedian Dave Chappelle created a skit based on James’ life.  In the skit, Chappelle takes on the role of James as Charlie Murphy recalls his Hollywood stories.   In one of the skits, James remarks  “cocaine is a hell of a drug”.   It was a part of his life as was much more as can be learned in this brutally frank autobiography of one of the music industry’s most extreme characters.

But just who was James Ambrose Johnson who we came to know as Rick James?  And just how crazy was his life?  I can tell that you his life was a wild ride and once I started this book I could not put it down.   It was a miracle that he lived as long as he did.   His life was anything but boring and there is no point in the book where there is a calm moment.  His story is told with the help of David Ritz, whom some readers may recall, is the author of Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye.  The difference here is that this is James telling us his story whereas in Gaye’s case, Ritz is telling us about Marvin’s short life.  Regardless, both books are enjoyable and shocking to read but necessary in understanding the character behind the musical geniuses we came to love.  And no matter what we think about their lives, we can agree that they saw and accomplished things that many of us never will.   Tragically, both died before reaching sixty years of age.  As Rick tells it, he did not want to meet the same fate as Marvin, but ironically drugs would play a part in his demise.  And although he outlived Gay by a few decades, his lifestyle caught up to him.  The only difference is that Gaye was murdered by his father whereas Rick’s heart could not keep up.

His story is simply incredible and filled with names that we all know such as Steven Tyler, Carrie Fisher,  and gridiron great Jim Brown, among others.   And his feud with Prince is both hilarious and confusing.  Prison, the military and even assault make appearances in his recollections.  I warn readers that James holds nothing back and tells us what he went through in some gritty terms.   But as you read the book and come to know him, you will understand that it could only have been written that way.  He was not one to sugar coat things and be politically correct.  With Rick James, you either take him or leave him and fortunately for us, most of the world took him and his songs that have moved many dance floors.   This book is rough and at times he can be quite vulgar.  The incidents are shocking but the key is to remember that James and many artists. lived in a completely different world than the average person.  To be successful, it was  sometimes necessary to view the world through very different lenses.  The fast life becomes the norm with drugs, money, sex and power readily at your fingertips.  The seduction of that life is often too strong for many to resist and as James tells us himself, he could not escape his inner demons or what it is called in the book, the Me Monster.   In fact, at one point, Ray Charles flat-out states that he wrote some of his best material when he was high.   But the pull of the devil is stronger than gravity forcing the abuser to use all of their might to escape rock bottom.

I believe that it took an extraordinary amount of courage to write this book.   What I found striking is that for all of his antics, he never ceased to love his mother who figures prominently throughout his autobiography as the grounding force to Rick’s increasing erratic life. She and others would do their best to set him on the right path but in the end, he lived his life on his terms whether for better or worse.  He is long gone but left behind many great songs , interviews and television appearances.  This autobiography is a gift, allowing us to read his story as he wanted it told.  And when you have finished this book, you will understand what he meant by the glow.

ISBN-10: 1476764158
ISBN-13: 978-1476764153

Biographies

midnight in broadThe Second World War remains the most brutal conflict in history.   The number of those who perished is still up for debate and there are many secrets of the war that have been lost to history forever.  In the United States, foreign-born citizens with roots in any of the countries part of the Axis powers, found their selves under suspicion and in the case of the Japanese, placed into concentration camps.   Although not as inhumane and deadly as the camps in Germany and Poland, they resulted in the rise of resentment among Japanese-Americans toward the United States Government and the country they called home.  The dropping of the Atomic bombs further heightened the feeling of resentment and was the first and only time a nuclear weapon was used in warfare.  Survivors of the bomb attacks can still be found today, advanced in their years but tragically familiar with the barbarity of modern warfare.  Across the pacific, Japanese-American veterans of the war remember the tragedy that befell Japan, the nation to which their families trace their origins.  But what happens when half of a family is in Japan and the other half is in the United States?  Or what do you do when one son is part of the Japanese Imperial Army and the other is part of the United States Armed Forces?  And when the war is over, how do you come to terms with the effects war has had on your family and yourself?  This is the story of the Fukuhara family whose lives are the answer to those questions. Written by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto and containing snippets of interviews conducted with those relevant to the story, Midnight in Broad Daylight is a heart wrenching story of a family struggling to survive, having been affected by a war in more ways than one.

Following the death of the family patriarch, a widow is faced with the daunting challenge of raising several children on an almost non-existent budget.  Her plight is compounded by the social climate of strong prejudice against Asian-Americans.  Seeking a better quality of life, she makes the decision to relocate to her homeland of Japan where several other children reside.  There, they are briefly reunited and their situation forms the nexus for the remainder of the story as we follow Kino, her children Harry, Victory, Frank and Mary as they move through life and encounter war on a scale unlike anything ever seen before.  Harry (1925-2015) and Mary eventually move back to the United States leaving behind Kino, Victor and Frank.  Life moves along for each until December 7, 1941, the day that lives in infamy, when the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into the war.  From that point on, none of their lives would ever be the same again.  Harry became the most popular of the siblings, earning his induction in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1988.

The East and West still have much ground to cover in completely understanding each other.  Foreigners who move to the United States often face the challenge of enforcing native traditions on their American children.  Generational and cultural gaps are formed making the path to understanding and compromise seem as if it is completely out of reach.  But if we take the time to read the story of the Fukuhara’s, we can find solid footing allowing us to examine the fears and concerns about culture being lost.   Today, it is probably impossible for any of us to begin to understand the inner conflict a person must have had if they were Japanese during World War II.   The attacks at Pearl Harbor caught nearly all by surprise including Japanese-Americans.  But following the attack and the United States entry into the conflict, life became harder and the prejudices against Japanese far much stronger.  With hindsight we can easily find fault with government policy during that era but today we would be hard pressed to say if some of us would do otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a hawk or a dove, this story is moving and one that should be widely read.  As I made my way through the book, I found myself rooting for the Fukuhara’s, hoping that they all make it through the war and reunite with a happy ending.  This did not happen.  The book is not easy to read in some parts, in particular with regards to the concentration camps and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  We should never fail to comprehend the level of devastation caused by the devices known as Fat Man and Little Boy.   The effects of the blast and subsequent radiation sickness are on full display and reinforces my belief that Japan’s resurrection after the war was nothing short of miraculous.

I hope that the world never experiences a conflict on the scale of World War II.  If we do, it might be the world’s final war.  As the people of Japan were preparing for the Allied invasion, I am sure that they too thought that the war would be Japan’s total demise.  For their relatives here in the United States, there was only waiting and uneasiness as news of the atomic bombs spread across the globe.  The Fukuhara’s lives are a case study of what happens to those families caught on both sides of a conflict regardless of their personal beliefs or character.  For the rest of their lives, the events of the 1940s remained with them as reminders of a dark period in world history.  If you are a student of world history and/or a World War II buff, then this book a welcomed addition.

ISBN-10: 006235194X
ISBN-13: 978-0062351944

Biographies

NanceThe 2016 presidential election remains an event that bordered on the surreal and shocked not just American citizens but people around the globe. Donald J. Trump, the political outsider and least likely candidate to win, secured the Republican nomination and the electoral votes needed to become the 45th President of the United States of America.  As we begin 2018 we can look back on his first year and office and reach various conclusions depending on our political outlook and beliefs about the state of the nation.   What is certain, is that from the start, his administration has been plagued with allegations of collusion with nefarious figures hailing from Russia.  Prior to his election, he often showed admiration for Vladimir Putin and since taking office, has taken a passive stance on the country that is believed by intelligence experts to have interfered in the elections of several nations.  Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed Special Counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and as of today, the investigation is still ongoing. And while there is no fire yet, there is a lot of smoke.

Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer in Naval Cryptology with over thirty years in intelligence and counter-intelligence decided to put together a short book that puts the known pieces of the Russia hacking scandal together giving us a clear and concise picture of what did happen and when.   The book is not a smoking gun linking Trump directly to any Russian hackers and Nance does not imply such.    However, there is a lot of potentially incriminating evidence and we know today that at least four people of Trump’s inner circle have pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and money laundering.  The recent news of the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury in which he interviews former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon has added more fuel to the fire and has mad the future grim for the 45th Commander-In-Chief.  But what exactly did happen prior to November 8, 2016?  And what did authorities know for certain? Further, Nance reveals a lot of interesting information, but how much more is there that is still unknown?

Nance takes us back to the beginning when officials realized that the servers of the Democratic National Convention had been hacked.  Unlike Watergate, there were no intruders with flashlights who would later stand trial and attempt to extort the White House.  This was all done through cyber warfare and the fallout would be staggering. Some may even say there is still more to come.  As an IT Administrator (IT), I have experienced cyber threats on several fronts and can say with certainty that if the average person knew just how many cyber threats there are in existence, they would be scared nearly to death.   To read the book, you do not need a background in Information Technology, Nance presents each topic in an easy to read format for the layman to follow.  If you do have experience in IT, then you will nod your head at many of the things that he discusses.  Regardless of your technical aptitude, what is revealed in this book should open the eyes of every American that cares about our electoral process.

Supporters of President Trump may be quick to dismiss the book as fake news or left-wing smear tactics.  However, Nance does not take any sides politically and makes no direct accusations against Trump. What he does declare is that without a doubt, Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election and there is strong evidence that the orders came from Putin himself.  At first it sounds like a very bold statement but Nance supports his conclusions with sound evidence that is thoroughly explained.  And throughout the book, he reminds us that more investigations are needed to see if there was in fact direct collusion and/or espionage between Trump’s team and Russia operatives.  According to Bannon, the answer is yes. But before we accept the proclamations of an individual that is as cunning as they come, it is imperative that a full investigation is conducted.  We may not like what we find and the truth is rarely pleasant.   No matter which party you belong to or how you voted in the election, what transpired prior to November 8, 2016, should be of grave concern to you for if it happened once, there is the fear that it could happen again.  Nance gives us a dire warning imploring us not to make the same mistake again and to proactively fight cyber attacks in the future.  But with a Commander-In-Chief who doesn’t believe in cyber attacks or seek to understand them, how safe will we be?

The title of the book sounds like it could be a television special or motion picture. But I assure you it is not fiction, this is a real as it gets.  The United States and its democratic institutions were attacked and the depth of the crime is something that many people still do not fully understand.   But with books such as this one by Nance, a clear picture emerges that can be used as a reference guide in understanding what really was the plot to hack America.

ISBN-10: 1510723323
ISBN-13: 978-1510723320

Investigative Report