Santa Is Coming To New Jersey by Steve Smallman – Review


Jolly old Saint Nick delivers presents all around the world. You already know about that though. And you’re aware that he’s so fast, that if you blink, you’ll miss him. Since you were a kid you knew that if you’ve been good all year, you’ll be left with a plate of half eaten cookies and a slew of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. But no one actually sees any of this happen. One way you can experience Santa’s trek, not fully around the world, but around the country, is to take a look at the children’s book series “Santa Is Coming To…” by Steve Smallman. In my case, he came to New Jersey, duh! The question is, was it worth the trip?

This book series is basically Christmas fluff. It’s perfect to read to your young children during Christmas time. It’s not bogged down in detail, but that’s where it fails. The book series squirts some local flavor into each installment, some of which are inspired by states, others by cities around the country.


In the book, *SPOILERS, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has aged quite a bit. There’s a new, young reindeer, who saves the night for Santa after a blizzard throws the sleigh off course around High Point, NJ. Sprinkled throughout are modern enhancements that the Santa I grew up with didn’t have, such as an On-Star type of talking navigation system.

Critiquing a children’s book feels pretty damn wrong, although, as with most things, I do have one little gripe with it.

My main criticism of the story is that the hero of the book never gets bestowed a name or much of a personality either. The poor little guy didn’t get any credit. He was simply referred to as “the youngest reindeer.” Was the author too nervous to rock the boat that floats around in the lake of Christmas lore? Smallman should’ve been bolder and created his own new reindeer name. We find out numerous times that this new reindeer is young, but we don’t find out much else. He really needed a gimmick. After Rudolph became the most “Hollywood” reindeer, it’s imperative that any subsequent reindeer ups their game. I can’t really figure out if the book was about Christmas in general or this new spry reindeer. There. BAM! I just named him. Spry. If that’s taken by a trademark, why not just call him Vigor or something along those lines? See, I’m an idea man. They should’ve consulted with me first.


Rudolph was so memorable that Santa’s other reindeer now seem so dull. Each one now needs to have a special characteristic to keep them from boring children. Maybe one of them is able to twirl a basketball on his hoof like a North Pole Globetrotter, another one might be a halfway decent break dancer who’s practicing his ass off to go to the neighborhood break dance tournament, then there could always be that one really smart reindeer who has a genius brain, but feels like he’s stagnating in a nine to five finance position, but his superior mind becomes a great advantage to Santa when he’s called up by the big man in red to help the rest of the reindeer on Christmas Eve. These are all valid suggestions.

Come to think of it, the need to keep this book series generic is where it fails. To plug in all the various locales that the series offers into the same story requires the plot to be very broad, but it’s the lack of details and character development that will hinder it from sitting on your shelf with the other yearly Christmas reads.


The New Jersey aspect of the book was adequate. It’s hard to expect it to be a “tour guide” of the state by any means, but it was certainly pretty cool for what it is. We get to see a couple of nicely done art splashes of recognizable buildings and points of interest in Newark and Atlantic City. The cover of the book is really the best part since it brings it all together, plus it includes Lucy the Elephant and what looks to me like the Loews Jersey City Theatre. Robert Dunn’s illustrations have a vintage quality that remind me of the ones I remember seeing in story books in the library when I was young.

Should you go out of your way to get this book? The story itself is light reading, and since it’s a kids book, you can read it to them in no time. Considering a hardcover copy is $4.99 on Amazon at this very second, I’d say it’s worth it if you are into Christmas and New Jersey or you think your kids will enjoy it. Otherwise, you’ve seen all you need to see in this post. Santa is Coming to New Jersey will entertain the kid with a low attention span in your life during Christmas time, but it will never take the place of children’s classics like The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

It Came From New Jersey! by Goosebumps Artist Tim Jacobus

Nostalgia for Goosebumps books and related collectibles is at a fever pitch. Halloween stores like Spirit still sell costumes like Slappy the dummy for kids 20 years after the book series debuted. During the past couple of months there’s been several blogs that have presented Goosebumps related posts as part of their Halloween Countdowns. Also, I recently saw a link from Bloody Disgusting to the If It Were Stine Tumblr account that presents what Goosebumps book covers would look like if they were based off popular horror movies. Now I too have a Goosebumps related offering for you, one that I’ve been sitting on for a while.

I unfortunately missed out on Goosebumps when it was popular, but I was well aware of it at the time and I wished I was several years younger during it’s height of popularity so I’d be able to really get into them. The monstrous covers were so eye catching. The cover art captured the essence of the book line which was a mixture of Tales From The Crypt, The Twilight Zone, and Eerie Indiana, but geared toward young readers.

The spooky book line from author R.L Stine was so wildly popular that at one time it was the highest selling line of books in existence. The often macabre and mildly horrific storylines obviously left a big impression on the kids and teens who read them in their heyday which began in 1992. The vivid cover art created a starting point for kids imaginations before opening up the book. It’s no wonder why Goosebumps is still as recognized today as it was back in the ’90s.


A few years back, while perusing lists of Goosebumps books to see what I was missing, I noticed an offshoot book published in 1998 by the same publisher (Scholastic) called It Came From New Jersey: My Life As An Artist by Tim Jacobus. Clearly, this was one that I most definitely HAD to read. Although it isn’t an actual R.L Stine penned Goosebumps book, it’s a book all about Tim Jacobus, a guy who is every bit a part of Goosebumps as Stine is.

Who is Tim Jacobus? He’s the artist who’s responsible for basically convincing you to read the books in the first place. I would wager that when you walked around Barnes and Noble or B.Dalton in the mall, or the local library, your decision to read a certain installment of Goosebumps was based solely on the cool cover art. Hmm, would it be the pack of Pumpkin-Headed teenagers, the Haunted Mask, or the Living Dummy?

Jacobus is synonymous with Goosebumps cover art for all 62 issues of R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books from 1992 – 1997. If you’ve read those books or have merely seen any cover or advertisement for one of the books or related Goosebumps collectibles, the artist was most likely Jacobus. That said, an autobiography from Jacobus was right up my alley, but I was unsure if I’d be able to read a full book before the Halloween countdown was over. Luckily, as I thumbed through it, it was only a breezy 59 pages, so I dove right in!

If you grew up reading/watching Goosebumps, did any of the stories actually give you Goosebumps? If not, I’m sure those creepy covers did. Quite amazing too, considering they were conjured up from the mind of a guy who was afraid of horror movies as a kid and wasn’t a very good artist growing up.

If it weren’t for discovering It Came From New Jersey!, I would never have known of Jacobus, or the fact that he’s a Jersey guy. He grew up in Denville NJ and for a guy who came from a simple upbringing, it’s quite amazing that Jacobus’ art seems like it comes from a different universe. His unique approach to the characters created the foundation of the visual aspect of the Goosebumps world.


In one section of the book he gives us a peek into his studio where he painted all his Goosebumps covers. Tim then takes us through his day and his artistic process. I have little to no artistic ability as far as drawing and painting, so I find artist’s process to be fascinating. One aspect of his painting process that I found interesting was that he uses an airbrush for certain steps which is probably what makes his work so vibrant and outlandish.

Jacobus shares a few little fun facts for Goosebumps fans. He explains how he used to get asked often if he was personal friends with author R.L Stine or if they worked together to create the books. Surprisingly, Tim said he (up until that point) had only met R.L Stine once at a party and Stine didn’t even know who he was! Another fun bit for fans of the books is that he actually posed for the photo that he based the artwork on for the cover of The Horror at Camp Jellyjam.


I thoroughly enjoyed It Came From New Jersey!, it was a quick, fun read. Jacobus is relatable since he came from modest beginnings working odd jobs to drawing pictures of food for local grocery store circulars and eventually with a lot of perseverance he became the Goosebumps artist during it’s peak. Toward the end of the book he gives the reader advice on how they can become an artist too. As I mentioned, I’m no artist, but his tutorial in the back of the book inspired me to do some drawing of my own. Jacobus provides the reader with a short art lesson on how to draw Curly the Skeleton in six steps. At first, it seemed pretty simple so I wanted to give a stab at it. I emphasize that I am a horrible artist (for more on that go here.) For those unfamiliar with Curly, he’s basically the Goosebumps mascot, sort of like their version of The Cryptkeeper, and below you will never see him drawn worse that you see here. Poor Curly. No one should let me within ten feet of a pencil and markers.

THE MEDICI IRIS by Max Medford: Book Review

In my early 20s I went through a period of boredom. I was dying for something out of the ordinary to happen. Typically, college and dating would be enough to keep things exciting, but I’d been living in a nice little suburban bubble for my entire life. I was craving some intrigue…something unknown. Comic books, movies, and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories strove to stimulate what I convinced myself was a stagnant existence. Eventually, here and there, things started to happen. Nothing earth shattering, but occasionally, some random amusing shit went down and inspired me to write about it, although it was nothing quite as cool and bizarre as what happened to fellow Jersey guy Wes Barino in Max Medford’s first novel, The Medici Iris.

During the the time I spent with this book, I got a few “what are you reading?” inquiries. Thinking of how to sum this book up and provide an answer to that was a bit of a challenge, but all I had to do was look right there at the bottom of page one: “A tale of murder, sex, drugs…and horticulture.” If that’s not enough of a description, here’s a few key words for you:

Beer, bar trivia games, organized crime, drugs, mysterious monks, strippers, corrupt cops, and crimson colored flowers. More than enough to elicit your attention I gather.

The characters Medford embroils into these exploits feel familiar. From the get go, we become acquainted with Wes Barino, our chain smokin’, sub makin’ main character. Right away I put myself in his shoes and even though he’s supposed to be twenty-something, I pretended he was thirty-something. Wes drives an old Chrysler LeBaron, a detail that I got a kick out of since that was my first car. He’s also a master at the bar trivia game, Quiztouch, a diversion that he’s perfected at a nearby Houlihan’s while drinking with his best friend, Scott, who trolls the establishment for women.

To me, Scott wasn’t as likable as some classic best friends like Stiles from Teen Wolf for instance. I always use that comparison, even though Stiles was occasionally kind of a douche as well. I pictured Scott to be played by Kevin Connolly a.k.a “E” from HBO’s Entourage, sort of annoying, tries too hard, but a fiercely loyal friend. Scott, who drives an IROC, usually goes a little overboard and he’s clearly a bad influence on Wes, who usually keeps his nose clean, well, not always.

You’ll be able to relate to Medford’s real dialogue, especially between Wes and Scott. Their banter sounds like it might have been transcribed from a conversation you had while hanging out with your friend the other night.

It comes to Wes and Scott’s attention that the Quiztouch game is holding a grand competition to determine the national champion of the game in Texas. Before the big championship, they’ll hold a regional tournament to see who advances. Wes enters. It’s a chance for him to do something that he’s really good at while possibly winning a small jackpot. And as Clark Griswold once said “Getting there is half the fun, you know that!” Since I think of everything in film terms, the quest to get to the big game tournament reminded me of “Video Armageddon” in 1989’s The Wizard.

Before Wes and Scott embark on their quest, there’s a whole load of other drama going on. Wes has to deal with his on-again off-again girlfriend who’s made up of Italian stereotypes, Sam, but he can’t keep his mind off her. She thinks Wes needs to quit the sub shop and do something more worthwhile with his life. Then there’s also his sister who’s having issues of her own with her husband who’s a cop keeping tabs on Wes. As if that’s not enough, there’s mysterious messages forming on her fridge. Oh and one more, Wes has an enigmatic flower growing in his yard that is devouring his attention.

Wes can barely focus on all this stuff, but the Quiztouch competition requires ultimate mental sharpness. Piling on even more tension, Wes has been having weird blackouts which have him visiting the doctor. It can’t seem to get much crazier until Wes and Scott get appointed delivery boys. They are bestowed with the precarious task of making a drop-off of a mysterious, locked duffel bag on their journey.

Geographical details of The Medici Iris obviously provide a nice frame of reference if you’re from Jersey or even have a loose knowledge of it from seeing it on TV. Naturally, for a Jersey freak like me, the Garden State backdrop made me feel even more like I was right there with Wes and his buddy Scott in the book. The duo traverses New Jersey from Montclair and Newark all the way down to the Pine Barrens. The NJ newspaper, The Star Ledger, is also makes a few prominent appearances.

Also a regional thing, the usage of Sub/Hoagie in vernacular gets brought up. Personally, I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to a sub sandwich as a hoagie, but one of our convenience store chains, WaWa, which happens to be represented in the book, sells these sandwiches under the guise of Hoagies, NOT subs. I give them a pass because they make decent subs, even though they’re clearly weirdos. What’s weirder, one customer at the sub-shop in the book refers to a sub as a “grinder,” and is appropriately scolded for it.

I had no idea what to expect The Medici Iris, especially since the plot synopsis sounded all over the place. I found myself tearing through the book just to see how the hell it was going to come together. I wasn’t frustrated by all the twists, turns, and red herrings in the least, in fact, they enticed me even more.  Medford methodically builds a mondo amount of suspense as the story ascends to it’s rousing finale. All the while ancillary thrills and mini cliffhangers provide a lot fun along the way. Even after the first 50 pages I wasn’t entirely sure where the book was taking me, but all I knew was that it was amusing and I thoroughly enjoyed the story that’s constructed like a wild mouse roller coaster.

The Medici Iris satisfied my desire for “something cool to happen,” while allowing me to stay out of trouble altogether. If you read this book you might wind up asking yourself “why can’t this stuff happen to me?” Wes and Scott ran into a few of those surreal experiences – the kind of times where you feel like they may not really be happening, so you have to pinch yourself. Competently, Medford’s intertwining plot unfolds in a similar way to an Elmore Leonard crime novel or in films like 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1999’s Go, and even the slacker masterpiece Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

The style of the adventure incorporated stream of consciousness and it felt very cinematic. If you’re a fan of films like 1985’s After Hours and Into the Night, you’ll dig this. While I definitely recommend this book to my fellow New Jerseyans, I also say that if you have an insatiable desire for never-ending stories, fantastic voyages, and excellent adventures, I suggest you read The Medici Iris. It may change the way you look at stuff.

The New Jersey Oscar Contender that Could Have Been…by N.J Holden


Always on top of his game, our featured writer N.J Holden (@exiledinNJ) uncovers something you may not have known about Silver Linings Playbook.

When Matthew Quick’s debut novel Silver Linings Playbook was published in 2008, I’m sure few envisioned the multi-nominated film that would follow it in 2012. With a dynamite cast (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro) and a proven director (David O. Russell), it should have been a celebration of the Garden State since the book takes place there. But the film, like so many adaptations, deviated from the source material, most notably moving the characters and plot from New Jersey to Philadelphia. While audiences and the folks at the Academy Awards have applauded and nominated the film for five Oscars (including Best Picture of the Year), I think we should look at the book, a celebration of family, football, mental illness, and New Jersey.

Pat Peoples is a former history teacher who returns from an extended stay at a Baltimore mental hospital to his childhood home in Collingswood, New Jersey. With his wife, job, and home all gone, Pat is a broken man who believes in “silver linings”, or a series of positive beliefs that he holds true to in hopes of winning back his old life. Following a strenuous exercise regiment and reading his wife’s school reading list, Pat tries to rebuild his life while under the care of his emotionally drained mother and emotionally distant, Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father. In addition, Pat forms an odd relationship with Tiffany, a disturbed person in her own right who blackmails Pat into a dance competition with the hopes of reuniting him with his wife. Pat must also endure his precarious mental state which is always on the verge of snapping, especially by that wicked musician who haunts doctor and dental offices all over…Kenny G! The novel alternates between drama and comedy, with Pat’s humorous attempts at adjusting to life outside the hospital and his dark, growing obsession with finding out why he lost it all, something that he blocked from his mind. 
While the movie dealt with all of these issues in a more lighthearted, comedic way, Quick kept the focus on Pat and his quest for the happy ending that eluded him. In addition, the setting would make any native to NJ happy and proud, with its beautiful descriptions of towns and places that people south of Exit 130 on the GSP would recall. The book stays true to the spirit of the Garden State, embracing its quirkiness and tough attitude and love of food. Some have criticized the handling of mental illness; with Pat and Tiffany’s relationship being contrived since both of them are the only ones capable of understanding one another since they are disturbed. But the relationship is only a little bit of the novel, with a majority of it focused on Pat and his journey to a better life, however ludicrous or unrealistic it may seem. So before that day in February when we get to see who will take home a gold statue, be sure to give this book a read and remember that it could have been a celebrated New Jersey film…only if.

– N.J Holden

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell


Monsters spell trouble if you have young children. Whether they are wreaking havoc in their dreams, in their closets, or in a movie they watched, monsters will keep your kid awake and rob you of your sleep. Unless the monsters they are acquainted with are the more friendly kind featured in New Jersey native Patrick McDonnell’s newest children’s book The Monsters’ Monster.

“…like so many contemporary monster books for children, it riffs off horror classics past, ensuring that parents will like it equally well.” – The New York Times Sunday Book Review

McDonnell, an animal lover, is the creator and illustrator of the daily comic strip Mutts. He’s also written several children’s books within the last several years including South (2008) and Me…Jane (2011). In his most recent lighthearted book, his Frankenstein monster is far from a monster, and this book has a positive message for kids. It won’t scare your kids, and it also comes just in time for Halloween!

*McDonnell was born in Elizabeth NJ and grew up in Edison, NJ.

Batman Festival in Asbury Park


Producer, comic book writer, and Jersey guy Michael Uslan came to Asbury Park last fall to sign his book “The Boy Who Loved Batman” and greet bat-fans. Uslan was instrumental in bringing Batman to the big screen in 1989 and his work on Batman films continues ’til today with his involvement in the latest Nolan franchise. Obviously, I didn’t miss this event and I thought it was awesome that it was held right on one of my all time favorite places to be – the Asbury Park boardwalk. You can read about my experience HERE and also watch BatDave’s video chronicling the event posted above. Since I’m so backed up with my book reading I have yet to begin reading Uslan’s book. Shame on me! I’m hoping to get to it before the end of the summer. The book is available for a reasonable price via this link at Amazon.

Great Geek Gorge #1

Geeks need their gratification. Just as the wise men brought baby Jesus gifts, and ancient peeps sacrificed stuff up to the Gods, in the case of geeks the world over, they also need to be indulged or they get a little cranky. Here’s a little rundown of stuff that has satisfied my voracious geek appetite. In this first installment you’ll read about things I’ve added to my collection lately, things I’d like to add to my collection, things I’ve recently received as gifts, food I’ve chowed down on, and events I’m planning to attend.


1. My 2nd favorite film of the Marvel franchise is Thor. My future mom-in-law got me this awesome Thor Pez dispenser! I have a small collection of Pez dispensers and this one fits in nicely beside Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, and The Incredible Hulk.

2. For my birthday my Dad got me the entire collection of The Muppet Show on DVD! Watching these shows is going to bring back so many memories!


3. Who doesn’t like stuffing their face once in a while? The absolute BEST place to do that in New Jersey is at Harrah’s Resort Waterfront buffet in Atlantic City. That is where you will find The Absolute Greatest Brownies of All Time (among other delicious offerings.)

4. This might fall into the “why the hell did you buy that” category, but I’ve actually been following the production of The Witches of Oz for a long time. I tried watching it and it really isn’t that good, but as a fan of Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz, I thought I might like this. Until the upcoming 3-D production of Dorothy of Oz comes out in a few years, I’ll take what I can get. Clearly it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same paragraph as those previous films since it’s on the level of The Asylum productions, but alas, I took a chance on it anyway. If you’re thinking of checking this out, take into consideration that I saw Wicked on Broadway and didn’t enjoy that either.

5. The Batman Files. When this ultimate book of Batman first came out it was priced at upwards of $100 dollars at some book stores. I’ve splurged more cash on sillier things, but for some reason I was hesitant on picking this book up. It was wise to wait because, as always, there was a pretty hefty price drop on the book. I got the book at less than half price. If you’re interested – type it into Google shopping. Well worth it for hardcore Batman fans.


6. You know how people say “There’s no such thing as bad pizza?” Well, I feel the same way about Doritos. Even the lamest gimmick Doritos, like the mystery flavor a few years back, were fine by me. I can’t really get behind Doritos Jacked though. The whole idea behind them negates what Doritos are all about. They made these chips harder to create more of a crunch, but I’d rather not break my teeth, thank you. And even though they amped up the amount of Dorito dust on these suckers, the actual chip is twice the size of a normal Dorito chip. They are more like the size of a restaurant style Tortilla chip. You need to take a few bites of one chip rather than stuff a whole chip in your mouth. Bah. Whatever. If you’re going to try them, I suggest the Smoky Chipotle BBQ flavor if you’re into that type of thing.

7. Mighty Man and Yukk. One of my favorite cartoons of my childhood. The concept is completely insane. This dudes dog is so ugly that the dog has to wear a doghouse on his head and the the dude shrinks down to a super tiny size and becomes a superhero. Totally ridiculous, but I love it and have been looking for it literally forever. Found a collection of every episode on DVD taped off of Boomerang. I’ll take what I can get considering there hasn’t been an official release.

8. Finally my friends in one of my favorite bands The Dirty Pearls are celebrating the release of their debut full length album at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City on May 5th! The Dirty Pearls will be performing along with Star Killer and other special guests! If you don’t have plans for Cinco De Mayo or you are tired of the typically mobbed parties at the local Jose Tejas. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE:

Zakk Wylde: Guitar AND Word Slinger!


March is Metal Month, so how are you going to honor the almighty METAL? Instead of merely blasting your favorite band and banging your head, why not throw up your devil horns while doing something semi-educational?

Guitar God AND New Jersey native Zakk Wylde is releasing his own book called Bringing Metal To The Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide To World Tour Domination. The book was written with author and photographer Eric Hendrikx and includes stories from Zakk’s career, backstage madness, and tips on being a true berzerker. The review listing on Amazon says it all: “…deranged tales of onstage indecent exposure and booze fueled destruction…”

The book hits stores April 10th. Pre-order on Amazon and Kindle here.

Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker with Matt Diehl Review

PhotobucketMaybe the cover of Butch Walker’s new book should’ve depicted a name plate that reads BUTCH WALKER: ROCK AND  ROLL CHAMELEON. Who’s Butch Walker, you ask? Really? Do I still have to explain that one? One way or another, chances are you know Butch Walker. He’s reinvented himself more times than Madonna. He’s gone from hairband member in Southgang, lead singer and guitarist in late ’90s rock band Marvelous 3, an accomplished producer for the likes of Weezer, Katy Perry, Pink, and Avril Lavigne, to at the present moment, “just under the radar” indie rocker. If you’re becoming acquainted with Butch Walker now, it will only take reading the 253 page Drinking with Strangers Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt, a book he wrote with Matt Diehl, to feel like you’ve known him forever.

Butch Walker’s brief memoir does not recount explicitly epic rock star stories as printed in The Dirt or The Heroin Diaries. Perhaps Lifestyles of the Excessive and Eccentric is a more appropriate title for books about the lives of rock stars, but don’t expect to read about week long benders from Butch, unless they involve songwriting. Occasionally he recalls messing around with a couple of girls, or drinking way too much, but it’s not comparable to the exploits of Motley Crue. As much as he tries distancing himself from the hairband era, the best parts of the book turn out to be descriptions of random moments in his life, coincidentally with members of Motley Crue. For instance, the time he took a reckless helicopter excursion with his friend Tommy Lee. Walker even reveals a time he hung out with the Cruemaster himself, Nikki Sixx, and discovered just how over the top his lifestyle is. Walker’s obsessive desire to be a better musician, songwriter, and producer has, for the most part, kept him from falling into the usual rock and roll indulgences.

Throughout the book, Butch reveals a number of stories, some embarrassing, others frustrating. His anecdotes were very real and not embellished like you’d expect from a 40 year old rocker. He brings up his chance meeting with one of his favorites, Elvis Costello, how the band Creed opened for him before they were big and almost put the crowd to sleep, and he also reflects humorously on the time he accidentally smoked crack. If that sounds oddball enough for you then I’d pull up a stool and have a drink with Butch. Oh, and there was even that time he made a gay slur while working with songwriter Desmond Child. He felt terrible, but assumed that “…he’d heard the same stupid thing out of New Jersey knuckleheads like Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi, anyway.”

My one main annoyance in the book was Walker’s constant name dropping of Pink. We get it Butch, you’re friends with Pink! Walker and Pink are friends and have worked together on music, but he tells us more about his relationship with Pink than anything about his actual wife and mother of his child, Nora. The most we learned about Nora is that she is a heavy sleeper. He rarely, if ever, gushed about his young son, although he did express how overwhelming it would be if he had lost them in the devastating wildfire that took his home California a few years back.

Even if Butch’s career didn’t go exactly the way he planned it, he’s never given up. He’s now considered a true songwriter and musician and it’s taken over 20 years of hard work to gain that recognition. Aspiring musicians should use this book as a guide; it may change how they approach their career. Walker points out that if you can attain just enough success it will provide the ability to be creatively free, independent, and even financially secure enough to avoid kowtowing to major label bullshit. It seems to me that Butch should be more appreciative of his first taste of success – the hairband days, but he’s way too in love with the present moment to waste time looking back.

Harry Carson’s Captain For Life: My Story as a Hall of Fame Linebacker Review by Nick Holden


The game of football has, is, and always will be a violent spectacle of human bodies crashing into one another at high speeds, with teams of players vying for victory at all costs. For legendary New York Giants linebacker (and Franklin Lakes resident) Harry Carson, his thirteen year career remained relatively low-key, yet his impressive numbers and his toughness earned him accolades from his fellow players, coaches, and legions of fans all across the country. But it all came at a high price for Carson, who documents his professional and personal highs and lows as member of the Giants and beyond in his new book Captain for Life: My Story as a Hall of Fame Linebacker. Staying free from the controversy that plagued players such as fellow teammate Lawrence Taylor, Carson had his share of drama yet stayed true to himself, his family, and the game, all the while paying for it with his body, the effects he still feels to this day. 
Carson, in a simple prose, charts his journey that started in a small North Carolina town during the time of the segregated South. Despite being small and ill-coordinated, he slowly rose through high school and college as a fearsome defensive end and dedicated student, winning raves both on the field and in the classroom. Drafted by the Giants in 1976, Carson was switched to linebacker and played among such notable players as Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley. This defensive trio, dubbed “The Crunch Bunch”, was considered one of the best linebacker teams in history. Later, after the drafting of George Martin and Taylor, the Giants rose from a last place team and the joke of football, to winning Super Bowl XXI and securing a place in history. Carson was also elected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his career and later, after much frustration and near misses, he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
But while he was shutting down players and putting up impressive statistics, Carson’s body bore the brunt of his physical play as he suffered several injuries; blown knees, torn muscles, and the general grind of his position would take its toll, causing him to eventually retire in 1988. But to Carson, the worse was the repeated hits to his helmet that left its mark on his body; the brain doesn’t respond well to collision, and taking multiple hits over time would cause more damage than he would realize. Carson speaks at great length about his battles with Post Concussion Syndrome, an illness that is brought on by one or numerous concussions. Once thought to be a myth in football, it is slowly become more and more prevalent in past and present players. He talks about the subtle signs such as severe headaches and sensitivity to light and noise early in his career to the more serious effects, such as drastic mood swings, slurred speech, and problems with motor coordination, symptoms that continue to afflict him. Carson breaks down the machismo of football players and is honest about his condition, saying that the game is largely responsible and he fears that while only a handful of players have come forward, many are afflicted with PCS yet ignore the many symptoms. In recent years, an alarming number of past players have died, and studies have shown that many have had brain damage that contributed to their demise. Carson now speaks about the importance of recognizing the signs of PCS and travels around the country, speaking to players about the disease in the hopes of warning them before it is too late. He deals with the pain every day, knowing that one day his mental faculties might be fully gone, and is sure that if more people know about the risks, players will think about life beyond football instead of just making the plays.


One thing that sticks out about Carson is his frankness about everything, from his faults as a player early in his career to his bitterness about how his career ended. He also talks about the mystique of a football player, stripping away the glamour to tell it how it is; a game that swallows you mentally, physically, and emotionally. He shares his perspective of the game as a player, detailing what separates players from stars, and how he lasted so long (the average career span of a player is around four years; Carson stayed around for thirteen), competing with veteran players and winning over coaches and fans while staying away from many dangers that derail players; drugs, alcohol, and other scandals. His tell-it-like-it-is attitude and funny insight make Carson both down to earth and a likeable fellow, but his downbeat attitude toward the game that made him a name might turn off some football fans in addition to the lack of any type of photography; it would have been nice to see some pictures here and there. But if you’re a true Giants fan or a fan of Carson, Captain for Life is a must for the bookshelf.

– Nick Holden