Category Archives: New York Times Bestseller List

Hot Air


So, yeah, I’ve taken the last few days off. Loyal Pencillistas have been wandering the streets in a daze, wondering what’s important in the world.

I needed a little time off because, frankly, I was tired of hearing my own voice. After nearly a week of sweet, sweet silence emanating from my normally clackety-clack keyboard, Pencillistas need fret no more; I’m back.

No. 1 No More

Dr. Ben Carson, who thinks this holy land is more than perfect except for all those Democrats and liberals running around in it, has occupied the No. 1 goddamned spot on the best selling hardcover nonfiction list the last few weeks. That is, at least according the New York York Times.

Only in the coming week will Carson be supplanted at the top of the list, by the guy who founded the XKCD website, Randall Munroe. The new No. 1 is Munroe’s What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. (We in the book selling racket get advance peeks at the list.)

Speaking of absurd, let’s ponder the former No. 1 placeholder.

Book Cover

Ben Carson, as you may or may not know, is a rah-rah speaker for the Right and is being touted in some quarters as a potential candidate for President in 2016.

He’s one of those guys who look out their front door and say “Everything looks great in my neighborhood,” and then conclude anybody who’s complaining about their lot either hates America or is a bum.

Carson was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He was a brilliant brain slicer (he retired in 2013) but he’s a tad ill-informed in certain other areas. For instance, he’s fairly certain Barack Obama is both a communist and a Nazi, he thinks America would have turned into Cuba were it not for Fox News and conservative talk radio, and he speaks loudly and forcefully about evolution despite not knowing much about it.

Here are a few Carson nuggets on evolution:

◆ [C]arbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time. (Right Wing Watch)

◆ (People who believe in evolution) might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from, (as opposed to) “Those of us who believe in God and derive our sense of right and wrong and ethics from God’s word” (and who) “have no difficulty whatsoever defining where our ethics come from.” (Media Matters for America)

◆ I certainly believe in the biblical account of creation…. I believe that God is all powerful. He can do anything. So, if he can create a man who was fully mature, he can also create an Earth that is fully mature. (Faith & Liberty)

He also buys into the idea the Christians are a persecuted class in America. He says of his fellow religionists: “They’ve been bludgeoned into silence.”

And that, babies, is one of the bestselling nonfiction author in America.

The Beat Goes On

NFL players, of course, make their living assaulting and battering each other for the joy and pleasure of tens of thousands in the stands and tens of millions sitting before their flat screens.

It follows, then, that many NFL players employ their brutal talents in the areas of give and take with their true loves as well as the disciplining of their small children.

Houston PD

Adrian Peterson Allegedly “Switched” His 4-Year-Old Son

The scarring of one’s child still is considered acceptable in some quarters of this holy land. Many citizens have commented on the interwebs that it’s a damned shame a fellow cannot even spank his child anymore without being hauled in for fingerprints and a portrait. Now, I was never made aware that “spanking” necessarily resulted in abrasions, contusions, and blood, but what do I know? I have no children. (You’re welcome.)

I always figured the drawing of blood was the red line, as it were, that separated good, clean, wholesome child-beating from sadism. A parent, I learned a ways back when, had a responsibility to belt the bejesus out of his or her kid now and again, if only to keep in practice. Marks, blood splatters, or any other identifiable evidence of conscientious brutality were frowned upon.

Still, Minnesota Vikings star running back has garnered a degree of support from the free swingers of America.

Similarly, some have expressed support for Ray Rice. The erstwhile Baltimore Ravens star running clocked his beloved fiancé with such gusto last winter that he was compelled to drag her inert body out of the elevator in which he delivered the KO. One commentator of note who has not joined the tsk-ing chorus is Rush Limbaugh; in fact, Limbaugh decried the “feminizing” of our holy war AKA football after Rice was fired for allowing his roundhouse to be recorded.

That’s no surprise. What was shocking this past Sunday afternoon, however, was the presence of numerous females at the Baltimore Ravens game actually wearing Ray Rice jerseys.

Ravens Fan

Supporting The Ravens, The USA, And Domestic Violence

I’ll listen to arguments that the psychology of the victim of spousal abuse is so fercockt that one can’t expect her to easily exit her situation. No argument on this good Earth, though, can convince me that any female — nor, for that matter, any male — has a justification for wearing a Ray Rice jersey. It is, de facto, an asshole move.

As if all that’s not hive-inducing enough, word came this weekend that San Francisco 49ers radio announcer Ted Robinson was suspended for two games for criticizing Janay Rice. Robinson came down on her for not speaking up about the pounding she received from her then-fiancé as well as her subsequent decision to marry the man who separated her, admittedly temporarily, from consciousness. “That, to me. is the saddest part of it,” Robinson said on air a week ago yesterday.

Given that piling on Janay Rice is viewed as a personal foul by scads of folks in this USA, it still must be conceded that whatever Robinson said did not and could not harm her as much as Ray Rice’s fist that February night. Nevertheless, Robinson’s two-game jugging is precisely the penalty initially assessed against Rice when his battering of Janay became known six mos. ago. (Keep in mind it wasn’t until the NFL’s brand was sullied by the release of the video of the incident that Rice was given the axe. Punching the lights out of your beloved is nothing compared to harming the league’s image.)

So, acc’d’g to the NFL, Robinson is as big a creep as Ray Rice.


If this puzzles you, let me explain. The powers that be in this great nation have little or no interest in improving the lot of any oppressed or persecuted minority. Any concessions to labor, blacks, Jews, Central American asylum seekers, battered women, Muslims, females in the workplace, or anyone else not endowed by god with power, privilege, a penis, and pale skin either have or will be made unwillingly and only after wrenching struggle. That, kiddies, is America.

What the Big Boys have given to the weak and wretched is control over language. So, if some slug on the assembly lines lets the N-bomb slip through his lips, he can expect to be punished within an inch of his professional life. But when corporate boardroom hoodlums make decisions to stymie the advance of any minority, well, by golly, how dare you want to interfere with their free market rights to run their outfits as they see fit?

Ray Rice knocked Janay Rice into brain trauma land. Ted Robinson said some words that may be offensive to someone, somewhere. To the NFL that’s as bad — correction, worse — than what Rice did.

And the NFL wants women to be happy about it.

Hot Air

Modern Problem

The Richeys — Derek and Jennifer Sommer-R. — have been tantalizing us with their nostalgic images of Bloomington for years now. Their book, Bloomington: Then & Now and their Facebook page, Bloomington Fading, hammer home the dizzying changes this town has undergone through the years.

People here still like to call Bloomington a small town but it hasn’t been for a long, long while. As long as Indiana University, like pretty much every higher ed factory in this holy land, feels the need to attract upwards of 20 million students per semester, this burgh will seem, for much of the year, like every other moderately-sized city anywhere in the USA.


Anywhere, USA

Bloomington’s architecture has changed commensurate with the corporatization and marketing of our hometown U. The look and feel of the place is nothing so much as Lincoln Park-lite or faux-Clifton. Only those big city hot ‘hoods have vibrant, colorful commercial strips. B-town’s central district merchants and eateries have yet to catch up with the flood of residential units surrounding the Courthouse. They probably never will, considering the fact that downtown Bloomington’s new residents, albeit beneficiaries of Mom & Pop’s largesse in terms of luxe housing, are too cash- and time-poor to support a bustling business district.

So we’re left with imposing walls of multi-story, soulless, faceless apartment structures along Walnut and College avenues. These anonymous buildings seem at times an unholy mix of the utilitarian and the totalitarian. Any pedestrian moseying along either of the town’s main north-south arteries will find little or nothing to catch her eye or cause him to drop into a little shop.

The Richeys have produced a video explaining what’s going on north of the Courthouse these days. Here it is:

It’s part of the overall Richey push to get people involved in Bloomington city planning discussions and decisions. And, BTW, the Richeys inform us those new ugly apt. bldgs. really weren’t built atop the rubble of quaint, historic homes or anything like that. That ship sailed, the Richeys tell us, decades ago. No, those new residential structures mostly replaced eyesore parking lots and empty lots.

Do You Read Me?

Yes, I sell books. Those quaint things made of paper and ink and certain plastic coatings and so forth. They can tear, fall, get soaked, burn or a dozen other things can happen to them that’ll make them, well, junk.

But people still love them.

I love them.

I also love reading online. And even though I read an old-school book every night before I go to sleep, most of my daily reading is done on an LED screen. That’s life today.

Online Reading

Even Old Birds Do It

Long, long ago, I swore I’d never give in to digital reading. Next thing I knew, I was reading New York Times and Chicago Tribune articles online. When some big news event happened somewhere in the world, I found myself immediately going to CNN online.

And then I wasn’t buying newspapers anymore. Paper newspapers. Before long, my bookmark list of online news sites had grown to what I’d have previously considered ludicrous proportions. Look:

MG News Bookmarks

When I was reading paper and ink, I’d never in a thousand years have enough time and money to amass such a reading list. Now, it’s nothing for me to skim through all of these in a day.

Ted Striphas is an assoc. prof. at Indian University. He’s written a book called The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. In it, he takes a look at the written word throughout history. My friends at WFHB’s Interchange had Striphas on the show last week.

Host Doug Storm picks apart the prof.’s brain in an effort to find out where all this reading business is headed. Check it out.

Funny Business

Speaking of the business of reading — and I do mean business — I caught a fascinating piece on a minister and his wife who tried to game the bestseller list and got caught at it.

Now, I’m not focusing on these characters simply because they’re a man and woman of the cloth. Too many people take a perverse pleasure in pointing out the foibles of preachers. Me, I figure priests, lamas, rabbis, imams, and all the rest are no better or worse than the rest of us. They are, after all, human beings. Who happen to believe in something I don’t. I find no reason to persecute them — that is, unless they’re trying to impose their myths upon me.

Okay, that caveat out of the way, let’s look at what Mark and Grace Driscoll did to get their book, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Wait, what’s that? You say the way to do it is write a really terrific and compelling book and then hope and pray for lightning to strike? Isn’t that the way books have hit it big since the beginning of time?

Well, sorta. Today, you can buy your way onto the bestseller list.

The Driscolls contracted with an outfit called ResultSource. In exchange for the couple’s $210,000, ResultSource promised them they’d move heaven and Earth to get their title listed among the chosen few. That is, the Driscolls’ congregation’s $210,000. But that’s a matter for those who fork their dough over to them to worry about. Let’s stick with Real Marriage and the New York Times Bestseller list.

A month and a half ago, Real Marriage suddenly appeared as the number one selling non-fiction, hardcover, advice or how-to book in this holy land. It was a miracle, considering that the Driscolls had never before published anything even remotely close to a bestseller.

NYT Bestsellers 20140122

Holy JK Rowling, right?

Wrong. Say what you will about the coffeeshop scribe who became the first billionaire author in history, the astronomical sales of her books were legit.

The Driscolls’ sales were not. See, Result Source used most of the $210,000 to purchase copies of the book in thousands of people’s names, in every state of the union, using upwards of a thousand different pay methods, to goose the sales of Real Marriage.

Now, folks had been gaming the NYT bestseller lists for years by making bulk purchases of books by preachers, moralists, business writers, hacks, self-help gurus, and other snake oil salespeople. Eventually, the NYT began marking such titles with a symbol meant to convey that the free market public wasn’t completely and innocently enthralled with said books.

But racketeers like ResultSource are a new game in town. Essentially, they’re hired killers. Rather than you, the author, or your pals and family doing the dirty work, ResultSource will take the sub-ethical, quasi-moral plunge for you.

So, how did people figure out the Driscoll scam? The week after Real Marriage had hit number one, it completely disappeared from the bestseller list. That’s unnatural. That means no one — or a scant few — had bought the book on the up and up.

Real Marriage? Real bullshit is more like it.

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