Thursday, November 5, 2009

50 Must Read Books of the 20th Century - How Many Have You Read?

I just heard about this post and thought the list would be of interest to people who read this blog. I've read many of these books and some of my favorite books are included. How many have you read?

50 Must Read Novels of the 20th Century

Literature, as with all forms of creative expression, is a highly subjective art. The preferences of one individual may not necessarily overlap with those of another. However, many books nevertheless hold significant influence over both contemporaries and society as a whole. If not necessarily read for enjoyment, they ought to at least be acknowledged for their insight and impact. This list intends to blend highly recognized and celebrated works with those that may have gone overlooked by those outside the literary community and deserve more mainstream attention. Regardless of their status, each novel provides readers with something valuable, whether it be historical context, an intelligent exploration of some aspect of society, or some combination thereof.

    1. The Jungle (1906)

    Upton Sinclair

    A muckraking exploration of worker exploitation and inadequate food safety laws in America, this novel directly led President Teddy Roosevelt to pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

    2. The Metamorphosis (1915)

    Author: Franz Kafka

    One of the quintessential existentialist novels, Kafka’s story of a man who awakes one morning to discover himself transformed into a giant pest (often interpreted as some sort of insect) offers a disheartening glimpse into several societal ills.

    3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

    Author: James Joyce

    A journey of sexuality, exile, colonialism, and aesthetics, this semi-autobiographical novel mirrors many of Joyce’s own personal struggles with himself and his native land.

    4. Siddhartha (1922)

    Author: Hermann Hesse

    Although not a story of Siddhartha Gautama, recognized as the supreme Buddha, the protagonist who shares his name follows a similar path to enlightenment. Every one of his experiences and interactions contribute something valuable towards his journey.

    5. The Great Gatsby (1925)

    Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

    A celebrated allegory of the jazz age, this novel explores the degradation of the supposed “American Dream” and the depressingly desperate lengths one man resorts to in order to achieve it.

    6. As I Lay Dying (1930)

    Author: William Faulkner

    Slipping through hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness, the lives of several family members become further intertwined as they gather to bury their matriarch in this thick allegory of Southern decay.

    7. The Good Earth (1931)

    Author: Pearl S. Buck

    Buck’s empathic portrayal of a struggling farmer and his wife influenced Americans to accept the Chinese as their allies in the looming World War. Though tied inextricably with its setting, the narrative of a farmer and his family struggling to maintain control of their lives and their land transcends time and place.

    8. The Waves (1931)

    Author:Virginia Woolf

    A risky, edgy exploration of homosexuality and female desire in an era of alarmism and censorship, Woolf challenged her readers to consider concepts beyond the perceptions of decent society. As friends convene over a mutual tragedy, many of the ideas and philosophies foreshadowing the eventual feminist movement begin to crystallize.

    9. Of Mice and Men (1937)

    Author: John Steinbeck

    The dusty, tragic tale of two migrant workers battling oppression and poverty during the Great Depression, one of Steinbeck’s most renowned works explores his heroes’ relationship to one another as well as the desperation that surrounds them.

    10. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

    Author: Zora Neale Hurston

    Anthropologist Hurston drew from her research in both the Caribbean and the American South to shed light on the personal experiences of Americans from African or Caribbean descent.


    To discover the remaining 40 books - visit

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A No Holds Barred Look at the First Year of the Obama Presidency by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge
(Middle Passage Press, Los Angeles, January 2010)
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson takes a no-political holds barred look at Obama’s first year in office in his forthcoming How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He answers one compelling question: Did he fulfill the massive and sweeping promise he made to restore hope and effect change in America?

He examines the attacks and counterattacks from the GOP and the Democrats on Obama. He delineates the differences and similarities between Obama and Bush in waging the war on terrorism. He assesses the towering battles over health care, the economy, racial attacks, the GOP counterinsurgency, Afghanistan, and the Henry Louis Gates flap. He provides readers with a guide as to how Obama will continue to govern.

How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge offers a virtual political clinic on the crisis and challenges that the nation and its first African-American president faced his first year in the White House.

To book Earl Ofari Hutchinson for an interview and/or commentary on the promise and pitfalls of Obama’s first year in office. Call 1-323-383-6145 to schedule. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally acclaimed author and political analyst. Hutchinson is the author of ten books on race and politics in America.

His three most recent books are:

* How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge

* How Obama Won

* The Ethnic Presidency: How Race decides the Race to the White House

His featured interviews and comments on race and politics have appeared in: Time Newsweek New York Times ABC’s World News Tonight.

He has been a guest analyst on:

* Fox News John Gibson Show

* O’Reilly Show

* Hannity & Colmes

* Glenn Beck Show

* PBS Lehrer Report

* NPR’s Talk of the Nation

* CNN News Shows

He is the National Political Writer for New America Media and a regular contributor to: the Huffington Post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Barbara Bonfigli and Cafe Tempest are on Page Six of the New York Post

In July and August - Barbara Bonfigli, author of Cafe Tempest will tour cyber space with Promo 101 Virtual Tours and Promotional Services. But she has started to promote her book in a variety of places and a recent interview touched on a current event topic that has effected many people. This morning there was a mention of Barbara on Page Six of the New York Post.

Madoff Victims Cynthia Crane & Barbara Bonfigli Meet

June 8, 2009 --

TWO victims of swindler Bernie Madoff met for the first time last week. During Barry Z's show on CBS Digital radio, cabaret singer Cynthia Crane said that after Madoff ripped her off, she had to put her 19th-century Greenwich Village townhouse on the market. Her comment shocked fellow guest, author Barbara Bonfigli, who said, "One day I found out that my first book was being published and two days later that I'd lost all my money" to the Ponzi scammer. The host responded, "Two betrayed Madoff investors [on the same show]. What are the chances of this?"

Listen to the interview here -

For more information about Barbara Bonfigli and Cafe Tempest - visit her tour home page. We are planning her virtual tour and are looking for appropriate blogs to host her for a day - if you feel your blog would be right - contact nikki @

Tour home page for Cafe Tempest -

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Lack of Discipline in Public Schools in America

Long before the economic downturn, American teachers had begun to see a decrease in the resources that were allotted to them. Limits were placed on copies and ink toner cartridges; once given out as needed, they now were distributed once a year. Broken classroom fixtures were occasionally patched up but no longer replaced.

As a teacher, I find all of those situations tiresome, but none of those do I consider as detrimental to my effectiveness as a teacher than the lack of discipline. Rules and consequences are needed everywhere. What is quite ironic about the need for discipline in schools is that the students are aware of the need as well. In fact, they are the first ones to admit when there is a lack of discipline. Last year, I asked my students to come up with a theme for our classroom conflict meetings. The idea which won unanimously was “A school without rules is a zoo; a zoo with rules is a school.” The students’ choosing of this motto acknowledged their differences, yet at the same time, showed they understood the need for rules and consequences in order to avoid chaos.

The chaos in my middle school has nothing to do with the school’s diverse population. It has everything to do with the fact that when the students misbehave, the appropriate consequences are not given. As a result, the students are not afraid to misbehave. Last week, I told one of my students that if he did not stop throwing paper across the room, I would send him to the principal’s office. His response: “Go ahead cause I don’t want to be in here. Mrs. Thompson (our assistant principal) is cool anyway.” I sent him to Mrs. Thompson’s office. The student returned to class ten minutes later with a cookie in his hand.

Later that afternoon, I spoke to Mrs. Thompson about the student’s consequences. Mrs. Thompson first suggested that it was my fault because I wasn’t keeping my students engaged. Then she reminded me my student was doing much better than he had last year. He had only been in her office five times this year as compared to ten visits, during the same elapsed time, the previous year. I tried to interject how the student was not only throwing paper across the room, but also that he was throwing it at other students who were actively engaged in learning. My voice went unheard.

After that, I sat silently in Mrs. Thompson’s office because all I’ve ever wanted to be was a teacher, but still – it was all BS. None of this was my fault. It was her fault. It was also her fault the three-student fight had occurred in the cafeteria last week after she had decided it wasn’t necessary to suspend the student who kept threatening the other students. It was the fault of all the administrators that the students had pulled the fire alarm “just for laughs” four times in one week. One day’s suspension was like an extra sleep day for most of the students. After a day of forced rest, the students would come back and tell their friends how much fun they had on their off day.

That lack of discipline is not only my problem; it also hinders the efforts of many public school teachers in the United States. A lack of discipline encourages poor behavior. This behavior manifests a total disregard for authority because the students do not fear the consequences. Without fear, there is no white line that the students are not afraid to cross.

Not only does this lack of discipline make it hard for a teacher to manage his/her classroom, but it also poses safety issues. During a recent fire drill, I noticed a novice teacher attempting to get her class quiet so they could hear her instructions. In the event of a real fire, this could have been a very serious situation.

Additionally, let it be noted that one of the most stated reasons for teacher resignation is the lack of discipline. People may say it was all about the money, but it is never about the money. People leave teaching because they’re tired of the lack of discipline and the shortage of respect.

At the end of the day, when all excuses have been made, the decision boils down to the idea of not leaving children behind and making sure that the school’s discipline record is as clean as possible. Obviously, it’s okay for children to cause other children to fall behind in their learning, and if there is a zero written on the line next to disciplinary referrals, then that school must be the safest school in America. The first part of that statement is clearly wrong, and the second part is equally wrong. Just because you can’t see it or read about it, doesn’t mean it does not exist. Some of the greatest United States disasters were not seen until the very last minute.

Unless the United States educational policy is overhauled to include more teacher input, a tiered balance of responsibility where students and parents share the greatest level, and a stronger, more effective system of discipline, then there will be no hope for public education in the United States, and in the long run, no hope for the United States.

About No Teacher Left Behind

Explored through a series of poems, emails, and brief conversations, No Teachers Left Behind is a fictional yet realistic look at the frustrations of middle school staff.

About the Author

HBF Teacher has been a public school Middle grades teacher for three years. Before that, HBF substitute taught for two years. HBF has also worked as a live-in nanny and an accounts payable representative.

Today when not nurturing young minds, HBF enjoys travel, photography, culinary arts, and the cinema. The Cohen Brothers and Tyler Perry are among her favorite artistic contributors.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan Boyle, Whale Hunter by Barbara Weaver Smith

Saturday, April 18, 2009 by Barbara Weaver Smith

This was the week Susan Boyle captivated the world in her first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. She’s a great illustration of a whale hunter—going after the biggest deal she can imagine, despite being nervous and unsure of how she would be received. She’s a perfectly lovely woman, natural as can be, dressed in her Sunday best and ready to perform. But since she doesn't’t fit the mold of what we’ve come to think of as star quality, no one took her seriously until she sang.

I say Susan Boyle is a perfect whale hunter because when her opportunity finally came, she was ready! She has as beautiful a natural voice as I’ve ever heard. But when she took the stage, it was clear that she has practiced and honed her talent, as she said “since I was twelve.” Her delivery, elocution, timing, crescendo—all facets of her performance were impeccable. During all the years of her “ordinary” life—caring for her mother, doing charity, living with her cat—she was educating her voice and preparing for a day when she could land a whale with it.

We say that whale hunting is 90% process and 10% magic. There is no question that Susan Boyle had some magic—the magic of her voice, the magic of her simplicity, the magic of confounding people's expectations. But what really put her there was process, and what gave her the bravery to sing before an audience of 3000 people in Glasgow was the knowledge that she was prepared. Just before her appearance, she told the host “I’m going to make that audience rock!”

Susan Boyle is not a business woman or a professional speaker or an entrepreneur. She most likely did not think of her performance as a sale or the audience as a Buyers' Table.

She does prove that small fish can hunt whales with perseverance, preparation, and guts. More than 26 million views on YouTube last I checked. Every one waiting for her first recording!

Barbara Weaver Smith is touring cyber space in May and June to promote her book - Whale Hunting Women. Read Barbara's tips to be a successful whale hunter in business and in life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

An Avoidable Disaster

The financial meltdown was caused by millions of bad decisions made by millions of people who thought they were riding a wave of endless wealth creation. The temptation of easy, risk-free profits led to contagious, reckless greed.

It started with the government, which tried to promote home ownership by lowering lending standards and pressuring lenders to write mortgages to people who wouldn’t normally qualify for them. The push for lower standards was greased by contributions and favorable mortgage terms from lenders Fannie Mae and Countrywide Financial to key politicians. This was stunningly successful: our elected officials got money and great deals while the lending executives personally pocketed millions from the easy money they made handling subprime loans.

Given their marching orders, the financial industry leaped in and sold mortgages to people who were bad risks. And they loaned them up to 105% of the property value with no money down. The loans were often made affordable by charging low rates up front that would reset to higher rates in the future. The bet was that the value of the property would increase enough to enable refinancing before the reset.

The borrowers were thrilled. Many bought houses without spending a dime of their own money. And they expected the property values to rise and give them windfall profits with no risk on their part.

Most banks and mortgage companies didn’t keep the mortgages on their books: they were sold to security packagers. The lenders were happy: they made easy money writing the loans and avoided risk by passing it on to others.

The investment bankers, who created the securities and sold them to large investors, were happy because they earned large fees for doing the paperwork. They passed the risk on to investors.

The investors were happy, too: the investments were attractive because of the high rates charged to borrowers and, even better, they were “safe” because they were collateralized by real estate.

What a ride! Everybody was happy, from the borrowers to the investors. Until the autumn of 2008, when the gravy train derailed. That’s when AIG, the largest insurance company in the U.S., went broke. You see, AIG insured the big security investors against default. When mortgage rates reset to unaffordable levels, borrowers stopped making payments. Housing prices dropped and properties turned “upside down:” more was owed than the property was worth. Massive defaults occurred, AIG was on the hook for money it didn’t have, and it became insolvent.

Prudent observers warned about the dangers years before the fall, but everybody was having too good a time to break up the party. When it ended American taxpayers, most of whom weren’t even at the party, were left with the hangover.

Man’s tendency is to be selfish, greedy, and sometimes self-delusional. The Bible tells us this. It’s the root reason the government, banks, mortgage companies, investors, insurance companies and borrowers got caught up in the hubris and diligently worked together to ruin a perfectly good economy.

Those who acted with biblical wisdom dodged the catastrophe that visited others. While 401k’s may now be “201k’s” those who didn’t succumb to the temptation of easy money have avoided the stress, foreclosure, bankruptcy and humiliation that’s affecting others.

This isn’t a cheap “I told you so.” But it’s clear that man’s weaknesses can be countered by biblical teaching. The lessons aren’t impractical, ethereal or unrealistic and they make as much sense today as when they were first written. Man is advised to handle money prudently, guard against greed, use sound judgment and discernment, and avoid fraud.

We’ve got a modern world the ancients wouldn’t recognize, but our psyche and their sensibility are the same today as they ever were. But people shrug off timeless truths and fiascos like this are the result.

Finding Faith in a Skeptical World

Chet Galaska was an atheist who became a Christian in his early fifties. It took several years of learning about the faith for him to shed his skepticism and become a believer.

Finding Faith in a Skeptical World covers subjects that once stood between him and faith. As he searched, he found that his skepticism was based on shallow perceptions he’d accepted at face value. One by one, troublesome issues were explained and they became reasons for belief instead of doubt.

It was as though he had a scale, with reasons for skepticism on one side and reasons for belief on the other. When he started, there was far more weight on the “skeptical” side, but it gradually shifted and became counterweight on the “belief” side. Eventually, the evidence for faith far outweighed the arguments for disbelief, and the case for faith became overwhelming.

Some chapters deal with matters of faith such as prayer, redemption, salvation and sin. Others address issues like Christian hypocrisy, why bad things happen, miracles, Satan and the Christian view of war. Some are about the seemingly contradictory relationship between science and religion that are discussed in chapters on scientific perception, creation and evolution. Other subjects like the sometimes violent and cruel history of Christianity, “Born Agains” and the Christian view of the Jewish people don’t fit neatly into any category. The common denominator is that each addresses an issue that can be misunderstood and create a distorted, negative view of the faith.

The book was written with the intent of providing brief shortcuts for curious unbelievers, those seeking faith, those new to it, and for Christians who may not be familiar with some of the ideas covered. The author realized that a book like this would have been valuable in helping him come to faith. Since none was available, he wrote Finding Faith in a Skeptical World to share the things he learned in a reader-friendly, direct and concise way

Order your copy today on Amazon:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wall Street is a gamble we can no longer afford to make By: Stephen Edds

For millions of Americans, Wall Street is viewed as an odd curiosity, bordering on a cartoon. When we think of Wall Street, our minds conjure up images of “fat cats” with cigars, and movie characters, like Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street,” uttering the classic line “Greed is good”. Unless you are involved in the financial services industry, your involvement in Wall Street is likely limited to browsing your 401 k statement or checking out the business headlines.

But it’s this perception of Wall Street which is costing us our financial future.

While we weren’t paying attention, Wall Street acted like a teenager with a case of beer and the car keys. Approximately 95 million Americans are trusting over $15 TRILLION to a system that continually betrays that trust, with the help of a complicit Congress, regulatory agencies and select media outlets.

Collapsing banks, bailouts to Wall Street firms; and scandals like those involving former NASDAQ Chairman Bernie Madoff, R. Allen Sanford are just the tip of the news iceberg. This recklessness is having a devastating effect on your 401 k and the economy, as companies downsize, millions are out of work, and our tax money is being spent to bail out firms with bad business practices and no accountability.

It is time we rethink our views of Wall Street.

The problem is that the perception we are being sold about Wall Street is vastly different than the reality. A system that was initially created to support growing businesses and manage risk has evolved into a complex, convoluted gambling scheme that takes as much money as possible from average Americans without producing anything tangible in return. Wall Street promotes the dream of turning a small amount of money into a large amount of money with little effort. But what you are doing is trying to predict an unpredictable, which is the very definition of gambling.

All of the books, seminars, or infomercials promoting ways to “beat the system” are a sham. The authors earn more money from the books and seminars than from following any market prediction system.

The truth is Wall Street is simply the worlds’ largest casino. The belief that you can take a little money and turn it into a lot of money quickly, without effort, is the same concept behind the lottery. But if your neighbor won the lottery, would you be more apt to spend all of your retirement money on lottery tickets?

One of the many striking similarities between casinos and Wall Street is that both need the money of the financial losers to support the winners. There is no money there to back the $15 trillion in stocks, so Wall Street needs new investors to pay those who are cashing out. Without an influx of new investors to pay off the old ones, the market would wither and die. That puts Wall Street’s business model suspiciously close to the definition of a ponzi scheme.

The reality of the market is that for one person to make money, one or more people have to lose money. This may be at the expense of a grandmother, a widow, or retiree trying to recoup their losses.

In most cases, you are simply buying a piece of paper from another person, and gambling on the hope that one day you can sell that paper for more than you paid for it. The paper itself has no actual value, and until you sell it, the value assigned to it is meaningless. At least in a casino, the chips retain their value.

If you are involved in the market, please understand one thing: Wall Street doesn’t care if you make money in the market, or if you lose money in the market, only that you keep your money in motion in the market. That motion creates fees and commissions for the brokers and exchanges. And your broker is not a trained economist, but a trained salesman. Their job is to get you to buy stocks, period.

And the regulatory agencies are largely incompetent. Bernard Madoff committed the greatest fraud in American history, not financial history, but American history.

Madoff was investigated eight times in 16 years by the Securities and Exchange

Commission, with no action taken. And, as Madoff himself said in a 2007 interview, “By and large, in today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules. And this is something that the public really doesn't understand.” Madoff isn’t the only scam artist, just the largest one.

And yet, Congress has pledged over $700 billion of your tax money to bailout banks and financial firms. So what happened to the trillion dollars that was lost before the bailout? What happened to the $365 billion already spent by Congress? The answer to both questions, according to Congressional hearings, is “no one knows.”

In order to regain control of our financial future, we must re-evaluate our perceptions of Wall Street. Despite their brilliant marketing, Americans must recognize that Wall Street’s business model is a complex gambling operation at the very least, and a legalized ponzi scheme at the worst. We must demand accountability and transparency from those in charge of our money. We must pressure President Obama and Congress into enacting real reforms, instead of empty rhetoric surrounded by sweetheart bailout deals. We must reject the notion that we can create something out of nothing by telling ourselves we’re “investing” instead of gambling, and invest in ourselves and reinvest in our communities. And finally, we must ask ourselves if Wall Street is really worth bailing out? What if those billions per day funneled into Wall Street, which produces nothing in return, was instead spread more effectively in our own communities? I believe it would build a stronger economy in the long run.

Only then can we emerge a stronger country on the other side of this financial crisis.

Stephen Edds, along with T.E. Scott are the authors of “The Losing Game: Why You Can’t Beat Wall Street

T.E. Scott founded and spent twenty-five years as CEO of Scott Pet Products,( building the enterprise into a multimillion-dollar company in Rockville, Indiana. Before starting that business, Scott spent thirty-two years working as a baggage handler for Eastern Airlines. When he lost most of his pension when the company went bankrupt in the 1980s, Scott started on the road to exposing the true nature of Wall Street. Scott is retired and resides in Veedersburg, Indiana.

Stephen Edds is a native of Owensboro, Kentucky and is a graduate of Hanover (Indiana) College. Edds spent fifteen years in corporate marketing communications before striking out on his own as a freelance writer and joining Scott as consumer watchdogs with a focus on exposing Wall Street. Edds moved to Indianapolis in 1996, where he still resides with his wife, Erin, and son Levi.

Order your copy today