Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Maus Censorship, JAHA, My Book and Me


Maus by Art Spiegelman was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer prize.  It tells the story of the Holocaust with the Jews depicted as mice and the Nazis depicted as cats.  The news that a school board in Tennessee has banned the book  (summarized by David Corn in MotherJones) has made me think of my own book, Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers, being excluded from being sold in the bookstores of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) for similar reasons.

The reasons that the school board gave for banning Maus was that there is nudity and that there are the swear words "bitch" and "god damn" in the book.  They said that that was inappropriate for kids.  I was told that because I wrote in my book about the numbers surrounding the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and the crime statistics (including rape) was inappropriate for them because they had a children's museum.  

Ironically, JAHA had an exhibit on the holocaust three years ago with a survivor of these terrible events as a speaker.  Apparently, they thought that that was appropriate for children as well as a book about the mafia in Johnstown.  JAHA director Richard Burkert can be seen discussing the holocaust exhibit below.

Of course, JAHA is not a government entity whereas the school board in Tennessee is.  They are not accountable to voters but are to their stake holders.  According to Guidestar, JAHA has $7,603,010 in assets and $636,908 in gross receipts.  My book could have increased their gross receipts.

Sales of Maus have increased since the ban.  My book has sold around 118 copies without my raising a stink about JAHA's rejection.  There is no nudity in my book.  I did say in the book about how the area voting overwhelmingly for Trump, after it was reliably Democratic, was the equivalent of the area giving the rest of the world the middle finger.  

Censorship can work in many ways.  A business may have the right to sell or not sell anything that they want.  JAHA claims to represent the history of the area.  The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and crime in the area are just as real as the holocaust.

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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Pat, Lara, Kevin, Gabby and I: Working for Influence

On Tuesday, I went to a talk by local author Pat Farabaugh on his book Disastrous Floods and the Demise of Steel in Johnstown.  He gave a review of the 3 major floods in Johnstown's history and why the steel mills pulled out of Johnstown a few years after the 1977 flood.  In the interest of full disclosure, my mother's maiden name is also Farabaugh.  We are distant cousins.  We had a nice discussion about our books.  It's always nice to meet other authors.  Here is a link to his book on Amazon.

Also, the Out D' Coup podcast from Raging Chicken Press (I was interviewed by Kevin Mahoney in 2016) features Lara Putnam, professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.  Like me, she has written on political shifts in the rust belt.  You can hear her interview with Kevin Mahoney above.  

Finally, I will comment on Gabby Petito.  I confess to being fascinated with this case.  Occasionally, I am taken in by social media feeding frenzies. The news came out on Tuesday about her former fiancé committing suicide by gunshot which was no surprise.  His notebook may hold more interesting revelations about what happened between the two.  I have travelled to the Grand Teton national park as seen in the photo below.

Like Pat, Lara, Kevin, and I, she was an aspiring social media influencer.  She has received much more attention than she would have if she lived.  The case has given me great examples to use in my psychology class on how appearances can be deceiving.  The contrasts between her Instagram posts where her and her fiancé seemed happy and the way she appeared in the Moab Police video where she was eager to excuse his behavior.  He made no effort to excuse her behavior.  Her family appears to be sublimating their grief over her death by creating the Gabby Petito Foundation to assist missing persons and victims of domestic violence.

Me driving through the Tetons in 2016

Other youtubers have put there two cents in on the case.  I have little to add to their commentary.  In addition to making a statement, they are also looking for views and likes of their work.  The competition is omnipresent.  

I admit that the influencing the others and I do is different than what Gabby was planning on doing.  Next week I will be back to posting on COVID in the hopes influencing people to get the vaccine.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

100 Books Sold and Rosie's Bookapalooza on October 22-24

After a successful book signing at IUP's homecoming two weeks ago, I reached 100 sales of my book Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers.  This weekend coming up I will be selling my book at Rosie's Bookapalooza this weekend at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County.  It will run from Friday Oct. 22 from 10am-5pm to Sat, Oct 23 and Sun, Oct 24 from 10am-3pm.  Five other local authors will be there.

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Press Release for Festival of Books in the Alleghenies





Local Author Selected For Regional Festival

(Ebensburg, PA) This year, Ebensburg will be host to The Festival of Books in the Alleghenies which will be held on Saturday, September 18, 2021 from 9AM until 4PM in Historic Ebensburg. This 4th annual regional festival is free to attend and will feature about 50 authors, local music, a children's area, writing workshops and storytellers. Proceeds from the festival will benefit county literacy initiatives. The Festival is a fund under the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies.

Local author, Paul Ricci, has been selected to be one of the authors at this year’s event. Ricci is a statistician who was born and lives in Johnstown, PA. He tracks coronavirus numbers for Cambria County, loves bicycling, and teaches at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. He also blogs on statistics and a wide variety of issues at CSI without Dead Bodies ( The title is a pun on the TV Show CSI.


For more information visit the event webpage at



Hope to see you all on Sept. 18

Sunday, November 29, 2020

A Tie for First Place in the Best Nonfiction Book of All Time Poll

I'll take another break from Coronavirus to talk about my book and the second anniversary of my Best Nonfiction Book of All Time poll.  Hopefully it's more inspiring this holiday season.  First my book.

Christmas tree created by Duane Webb showing books by local authors (myself included).  You can bid on it at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County's silent auction on Menoher Blvd

Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers now ranks tenth on the Made in Somerset County best seller list out of 46 books.  It is now listed as sold out so I will have to get them more copies for the holidays.

As a reminder I will be having a book signing at AT Merchant in the Galleria Mall in Johnstown this Saturday from noon to three.  Hope you can make it.  

My book is now available at Riek's of Brownstown in addition to the other bookstores:  Classic ElementsYoung Hearts Books and ToysChameleon BookstoreSecond Chapter Books in Ligonier, and the Bottle Works Ethnic arts Center.

This week marks the second anniversary of my poll for the best nonfiction book of all time.  This time last year, the poll had 45 responses.  This year it has 57 total responses.  The top 6 responses are in the table below.


Number (%)

1.    On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)

15 (26.3%)

1.    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

15 (26.3%)

2.    Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

13 (22.8%)

3.    Night by Elie Wiesel (1956)

11 (19.3%)

4.    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (2000)

9 (15.8%)

5.    Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

8 (14%)

As you can see, there is currently a tie for the top spot between the Origin of Species and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.  Last year, Darwin's book held the top spot while Anne Frank's diary was in the tie for second with the Silent SpringNight by Elie Wiesel moved up one spot.  Stephen King's book On Writing entered the top 5 while Henry David Thoreau's Walden moved down one spot.  

You are more than welcome to break the tie or create new ones by voting in the poll in by clicking on the tab at the top.  There is no finality to the poll but you can make your voice heard.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

The Kardashians of Cambria County


Ha ha ha!  Made you look.  There are no Kardashians in Cambria County that I know of.  Do you?

I could make this post about how mortality in Cambria County from COVID-19 has been skyrocketing this month (25 deaths since October 28).  However I thought I would comment on how I had to battle fluff in this county and what happens when what I post challenges the conventional wisdom.

Eleven days ago I posted on how Joe Biden won the city of Johnstown by 80 votes. I thought I would share some of the comments that I received on Facebook on that post.  The names are deleted out of respect.

"I can honestly believe that because the poll workers downtown were shady. They actually said who we were and what political party we were for." 

"PA and Arizona have just pulled the win from Joe and Michigan is right behind . Joe is as of now down to 259 electoral vote and NO LONGER THE PROJECTED WINNER."

"Well seeing there is a lot of freeloaders in Johnstown I’m not surprised." 

"Fake News."

"He won Philly by more than that . So what ?" 

"Bozo Joe didn’t win Johnstown Trump took Cambria County."

"82 out of 74 democrats voted for Biden."

"There ain't no way."

"(Name deleted)...excuse you read something watch the waters the democrats or about to go down in history as the most corrupt party joe biden has just become a suspect of treason in another country so like I said watch the water"

"Prolly had under age or dead people lol."

"I would think that is another johnstown, not pa."

I wonder how many of them actually read my post?

Also about my book, the Johnstown Area Heritage Association has refused to sell my book.  They said that because I discussed the statistics surrounding the abuse of children by Catholic Priests and crime statistics which include sexual assault that it was too explicit for children.  I would argue that their holocaust exhibit is more explicit.  I am waiting for an answer on whether the Johnstown National Flood Memorial will sell my book.  The book has been selling at other places such as Classic Elements, Young Hearts Books and Toys, Chameleon BookstoreSecond Chapter Books in Ligonier and at Made in Somerset County.  I will be having a book signing at AT Merchant on December 5 from noon to 3PM in the Galleria Mall in Johnstown.  Finally you can read an Our Town article on my book here.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

"Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers" Is Now Out and the PPF Medicaid March.

My book is now out in local bookstores and can be ordered at Made in Somerset County, PA.  It is now available to purchase at Classic Elements on Main Street, the Bottle Works in Cambria City, the Chameleon Bookstore next to Central Park in Johnstown, AT Merchant in the Galleria Mall, the Book Nook in Indiana, PA, and IUP's bookstore.  I am working on getting it into more book stores.  The book tells the story of Johnstown with numbers. It looks at trends in population, politics, health, education, social media, and in non-profits.

The book will not be available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble for order.  Jeff Bezos has enough money.  This blog already shows Amazon Books through their affiliate program. 

In addition to my work on the book, the group Put People First will have its annual Medicaid March in Downtown Johnstown on September 29.  The flyer is listed below.  Next week will be the tenth anniversary post for this blog.

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

My Book is at the Printing Press


After a year and a half of writing my book, Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers, has now gone to press and a release date will be set soon.  The book is being self published through the Somerset Daily American (Jeff Bezos has enough money).  Details to come.

It is a profile of the city of Johnstown as told by the numbers that are publicly available.  Some of it began with posts from this blog that relate to the city of Johnstown (some of which are in the related posts below).  The rest of it came from my sources such as the census bureau and other government sources and from other research projects.  Its release should come close to the tenth anniversary of this blog which is next month.  Further details to come.

Thanks to Eric Luden for the cover and back cover art, to The Johnstown Area Heritage Association, and to Nicholas Brisini, Michael Giazzoni, Jessica Maniccia Smith, and Lloyd Stires for their advice on editing.

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Ayn Rand

Steve Ditko is Johnstown, PAs most famous author and illustrator.  He co-created Spider Man with Stan Lee in the 1950s.  I admit I had never heard of him until I started my book.  According to his Wikipedia page he was born here in 1927 and died in 2018 in New York City at age 90 which was a few months before Stan Lee passed away.

His page says that he split with Lee in the 1960s and did not speak to him for years.  Ditko seldom did interviews but his page says he was influenced by Ayn Rand's objectivist ideas which he expressed in his comic Dr. A.  She was interviewed by Phil Donahue in 1979.

It seems to me that Spiderman is at odds with Ayn Rand's objectivism.  I confess I'm not an avid reader of Spider-Man but in the movie with Tobey Maguire, Peter Parker (Spider-Man's alter ego) is told that "with great power comes great responsibility" by his uncle.  Spider-man becomes very altruistic leaving a note after his escapades saying "from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."  

I don't know Stan Lee's philosophy but many of his other comic book heroes could be thought of as altruistic.  I never read Mr. A but Ditko's page says he embodies Rand's philosophy.  Is Ayn Rand the reason Ditko and Lee parted ways?  Neither of them really ever said or ever will.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Johnstown (PA) Books

It has been harder to find time to write on this blog between work, working on my book, and life in general.  Tonight I did have time to write about some of the books that have been helpful to me in writing my book.    

The first series of books I would like to discuss is Randy Whittle's two part series on Johnstown's History.  The first part covers the aftermath of the 1889 flood starting in 1895 up to the period right after the 1936 flood.  The second begins with the Johnstown steel strike in 1937 up to the aftermath of the 1977 flood.  Published in 2005 and 2007, both volumes are meticulously researched and engaging reading.

The second book I would like to discuss is For Bread with Butter: The Life-Worlds of East Central Europeans in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940 by Ewa Morawska.  The book chronicles the experiences and struggles of East Central Europeans in Johnstown.  It covers the conditions of Balkan Slavs, Austrians, Hungarians, Polish, Romanians, Russians, and Czechoslovakians in their home countries and here in Johnstown.  It is meticulously researched and very enlightening but it is very academic.

Johnstown: The Story of a Unique Valley is an edited book with different chapters written by different authors in their own specialties.  This book has been very helpful in researching Johnstown's past, its flora and fauna, and other issues relevant to the area.  It was written in 1985 along with Morawska's book.  

Of course no listing of books about Johnstown would be complete without David McCullogh's book about the Johnstown Flood.  There have been many other books on the topic including a recent one by Al Roker but his was the one that was able to interview some of the last survivors of the tragedy.  You can vote for this version or any other nonfiction book you want on my list of the greatest nonfiction books of all time.

Another book I found useful was Johnstown's Nineteenth Century African American History Primer by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.  It chronicles how the city was one of the stops on the underground railroad, how this group was settled by African Americans before 1850, and how it was changed by the Civil War and the great flood of 1889.  It is not available on

The last book I would like to discuss is not really a book.  It is a Master's Thesis titled A History of Homelessness- A Geography of Control: The Production of Order and Marginality in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Donald M. Mitchell.  It was written in 1989 and chronicles the housing issues in the city.  It is available in the Pennsylvania Room of the Cambria County Library in Johnstown.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Update on the Best Nonfiction Book Poll

It has been 4 and a half months since I launched my best nonfiction book poll.  I have added 16 books to the original 100 on the poll since it was launched on Dec 3 of last year as respondents have suggested new books.  Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is still leading with The Diary of Anne Frank now in second, The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson now in third, Walden by Henry David Thoreau in fourth and with Night by Elie Wiesel and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking tied for fifth.  Ninety of the books on the list have received at least one vote.

Of the 116 books on the list, thirteen were written by women or 11%.  Eight were written by  writers of African Descent (seven African American and one African) or 7%.  69 books were written in the 20th century or 59%.  Fifteen were published after the year 2000 or 13%.  Ten were Written in the 19th Century or 9%.  Eleven were written in the 18th Century or 9%.  Twelve were written before 1700 or 10%.  Robert Caro's series of books on Lyndon Johnson straddles the 20th and 21st centuries and was included in both.

Since the poll was launched three women and two black writers were added to the list.  You can vote in the poll and suggest your own books here.  The video above has some possible selections.

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