I Should Be Dead By Now

The Book of the Week is “I Should Be Dead By Now, The Wild Life and Crazy Times of the NBA’s Greatest Rebounder of Modern Times” by Dennis Rodman With Jack Isenhour, originally published in 2005. Despite its sensationalist title, this slim volume somewhat repetitively, but in detail, gave good reasons for why the subject should be dead, in the form of an expletive-laden, extended reality-show monologue.

Rodman, a former professional basketball player, told a series of anecdotes about himself– the world’s biggest attention whore– that involved his professional and personal antics, love life, and his handlers– the people who tried to keep him safe.

Starting in the 1980’s, Rodman got the media’s attention with his dyed hair (various colors), cross-dressing, tattoos, piercings, makeup, etc. By the new millennium, thanks to his high-paying: athletic career, promotional gigs and celebrity appearances (notwithstanding his expensive on-off relationships), he owned a luxury apartment in Newport Beach, California. “Meanwhile, the parties grew bigger and bigger and the neighbors got madder and madder” about the noise.

In early 2003, Rodman did a reality show called “Rodman on the Rebound” on ESPN, but he wasn’t ready to return to the NBA. The show should have been called, “Rodman on the Rehab.” One reason why occurred in the autumn of 2003 shortly before the start of basketball season, when the Denver Nuggets had agreed to hire him after every team in the National Basketball Association had been scorning him for about three years.

One late night, as he did every night, at a strip club, Rodman consumed a vast quantity of alcohol; even for his six-foot, eight-inch frame. The members of his entourage had to pick their battles with him, as his risky behavior was constant but not always extreme or predictable. On a whim, in the wee hours of the morning, Rodman decided to fly to Las Vegas.

Once there, in the parking lot of another strip club, a stranger allowed Rodman, sans helmet, to ride a new motorcycle. Rodman attempted to do a wheelie. To his credit, he did not gloze over the unpleasant consequences. At the hospital, he claimed that he refused “Novocain.” Also, he hadn’t been wearing underwear, and his torn-up legs needed 70 stitches. There went his NBA-comeback opportunity. The media had initially given him his celebrity status, and had a field day highlighting his stupidity.

Rodman claimed that “… there are many things stats just don’t measure: … how well you can get in another guy’s head, and the number of Redheaded Sluts you can drink and still get it up– all categories in which Dennis Rodman excelled.”

Read the book to learn much more about guess who?

Fake

The Book of the Week is “Fake” by Kenneth Walton, published in 2006. This book’s author tells a suspenseful story about his 2003 eBay activities that were deemed a crime.

A friend who was well-versed in the business, sparked Walton’s passion for hunting for paintings at antique shops, thrift stores and flea markets, and reselling those paintings at a profit on the online auction site. However, as Walton honed his entrepreneurial skills, he got greedy and began to collude with his friend, using deception to make more money.

Read the book to learn of what happened when Walton found himself in serious trouble, and how he realized he could make money honestly through a different pursuit for which he had natural ability, and for which he developed a passion.

How to Castrate A Bull

The Book of the Week is “How to Castrate A Bull” by Dave Hitz with Pat Walsh, published in 2009. This ebook chronicles Hitz’s career, describes the ups and downs of the tech company he co-founded– NetApp, and imparts wisdom on management, leadership and interesting trivia. A flash drive can store a small amount of personal data of everyone on earth, a hard copy of which would represent 20 million pounds of paper.

NetApp was a start-up in the early 1990’s that built and sold business-to business, a “…network storage system in eighteen months with eight people and $1.5 million.” It went public in November 1995. A start-up has to sell something people are willing to pay for, such as a physical product, or advertising.

During the year 2000, NetApp’s share price tanked– as did that of many other tech stocks– plummeting from $150 to $6. The company delayed laying people off, and did not speak of it, as long as possible. “We announced layoffs one day and did them the next.” Hitz thinks taking care of such unpleasantness quickly is the best policy. Prolonged “palace intrigue” is bad for the work environment. Employees who know their last day is in the future are going to have less than optimal productivity, loyalty and a stable emotional state, to say the least.

When it came time to write the section on the NetApp’s philosophy in the company manual, Hitz says, “Company values only work if the leaders say, ‘These are things I really do believe. If I violate them, please call me on it… Values should remain constant, but appropriate behavior will change as a company grows.” When an employer provides “fun stuff” or free food to its employees, “that’s a symptom of good culture, not a cause of it.”

Read the book to learn Hitz’s explanation of how NetApp became a tremendously successful company, and how it fared after the dot-com crash.

A Funny Thing Happened… – Bonus Post

The short ebook “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future” by Michael J. Fox, published in 2010 is an inspiring commencement speech.  The author answers the question, “What constitutes an education?”

As a teenager, Fox himself sacrificed his formal education for his career. It was an alternate route that was not necessarily inferior to his staying in school. He had found his passion early in life and circumstances allowed him to pursue it. He does not necessarily recommend the method he fell into, but tells the reader to be on the lookout for and respect mentors, opportunities and lessons in life. Read the book to learn the details of the education Fox did receive.

Joseph Anton

The Book of the Week is “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” by Salman Rushdie, published in 2012. This ebook describes an author’s life, and the furor created by his controversial novel, “Satanic Verses.”

Rushdie grew up in India and England in the 1950’s and 60’s. His parents identified with Islam but did not provide him with a religious education. He became fascinated with the subject at university. In the late 1980’s, he wrote Satanic Verses, which was extremely critical of Islam. Some powerful people became offended by it; over the course of the next decade, serious repercussions– not hilarity– ensued.

Iran’s leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a “fatwa,” or death threat, against Rushdie. Scotland Yard learned that Muslim groups were plotting to kill the author. There were protests by Islamic fanatics. A price was put on his head.

Rushdie’s publisher, Viking Penguin received threatening phone calls, and over time, a few actual bombs exploded at bookstores that carried the book. In international incidents– injuries and sometimes death befell bombing victims, the book’s translators and a publishing executive. The government of the United Kingdom pressured Rushdie and his family to go into hiding, and endure 24/7 police protection. He changed his name to Joseph Anton.

India became the first nation in the world to prohibit importation of Rushdie’s book. For years, India also denied him a travel visa. However, “India was surrounded by unfree societies– Pakistan, China, Burma– but remained an open democracy; flawed, certainly, perhaps even deeply flawed, but free.” He was deeply hurt. Many other Muslim countries later followed suit.

At one point, he met with a political Muslim organization to negotiate an end to the fatwa. He ended up regretting signing a statement acknowledging that his book was offensive to some Muslims, and also saying that he himself was of Islamic persuasion.

“British Muslim attempts to indict him [Rushdie] for blasphemy and under the public order act were heard in court.” New York Times bestseller status bestowed upon Satanic Verses was probably not due to true likability by the public, but rather, due to all the hullabaloo. Rushdie wrote, “I conclude that my difficulties are not with You, God, but with Your servants and followers on Earth.”

For more than a decade, because the author’s life was thought to be endangered, his ability to live like the citizen of a modern nation was severely curtailed. Read the book to learn about the people who helped him through all of the unanticipated trouble stemming from his writings; the ideology behind his various literary works; and the difficult family situations unrelated to his career, of which he was admittedly the cause.

Double or Nothing

The Book of the Week is “Double or Nothing” by Tom Breitling with Cal Fussman, published in 2008. This short ebook describes the business partnerships between the author and Tim Poster.

Poster had a passion for gambling. In high school he and a friend acted as a bookie and made bets on professional sports, from which they won a lot of money, except for one particular boxing match. In the late 1980’s, while still in college, Poster started a hotel telephone reservation service called Travelscape. Breitling joined the business, and it kept growing in leaps and bounds. Travelscape was an early adopter of internet technology, launching an online reservation system in 1998, during which it made $20 million in sales. In 1997, it had made $12 million in sales.

Their partnership was based on trust symbolized by a handshake, rather than on legal documents. Their synergistic personalities made the business successful. Nevertheless, in 1999 when a competitor offered to buy their business, they were at a grave disadvantage due to their inexperience in multi-million dollar deal-making. The situation was extremely stressful for them.

The author describes what eventually happened, the mistakes they made and what they learned from the experience, and goes on to discuss their successes and failures in connection with another business venture– a casino.

About a year later, the partners were negotiating sale of the casino. The potential buyers consisted of two different suitors– a pair of humble, trustworthy brothers who were their close friends, and a narcissistic, petty owner of a collection of properties then worth $700 million (not Donald Trump).

The author relates that at that time, Fortune magazine had ranked the brothers’ company in the top twenty of its list of “Best Companies to Work For in America.” Job satisfaction among employees at the casino owned by the brothers was apparently so high, the employees saw no reason to unionize. That would actually be a problem if the casino was to merge with Poster’s and Breitling’s casino, as the latter was unionized.

Read the book to learn how Poster and Breitling fared with a reality TV show in their casino; how relaxing betting limits, and cheating or lucky gamblers can put a casino out of business; and the details of what transpired when they allowed their businesses to be bought.

Medium Raw

The Book of the Week is “Medium Raw” by Anthony Bourdain, published in 2010. This is somewhat of a sequel to the author’s first nonfiction book, “Kitchen Confidential” in that he provides an epilogue on some of the people depicted in his anecdotes; he also elaborates further on various aspects of being a chef, on his own personal life, waxes enthusiastic on the food he has eaten, and gives the reader a detailed bunch of reasons why the likelihood of becoming a full-fledged, successful chef would be low if he or she were to attend cooking school.

The job of most chefs involves a ton of physical activity that is tough on the joints in an environment of high heat and humidity. Paying one’s dues once meant “…burn marks, aching feet, beef fat under the nails, and blisters.” Nevertheless, the kitchen is a meritocracy, where the irresponsible, faint-of-heart cooks get weeded out quickly.

Bourdain’s life has consisted of “…mistakes, failures, crimes, betrayals large and small.” He wrote Kitchen Confidential at a time in his life when he was furious; “the angry, cynical, snarky guy who says mean things on  ‘Top Chef’… [on] hurried hungover early mornings, sitting at my desk with unbrushed teeth, a cigarette in my mouth, a bad attitude…”

Read the book to learn Bourdain’s take on people, places and fancy food in the restaurant industry.

Confessions of A Prairie Bitch

The Book of the Week is “Confessions of A Prairie Bitch” by Alison Arngrim, published in 2010.  This is the autobiography of the actress who played Nellie Oleson on the hit American TV show, “Little House on the Prairie” which aired from 1974 to 1983.

On the show which was set in a small town in the late 1800’s, Arngrim played the role of the spoiled, rich teenage daughter of the owners of a general store. She frequently got into fights with a goody-goody girl from another family in the neighborhood. Arngrim was twelve years old when she started the show.  Prior to that, her show-business parents had afforded her the chance to play some small parts in TV commercials and movies. Starting when she was six, she was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of her much older brother.

Read the book to learn how Arngrim was able to deal with the trauma from her early childhood in positive ways later in life through her acting career and social and political activism.