Corporations Expected To Sue At Government Request

In New York, the police are asking private companies to sue individuals because they hope that’s easier than policing or something. NYPD to Disney and Marvel: Get Minnie Mouse and Spider Man out of Times Square:

New York’s police chief is asking Disney and Marvel to crack down on the costumed hustlers of Times Square, but the companies aren’t responding.

Times Square is populated by a variety of rogue characters plying tourists for money. Some of these characters, like Minnie Mouse and Spider Man, are trademarks of Disney (DIS) or Marvel (which is owned by Disney.)

The NYPD confirmed to CNNMoney that Commissioner Bill Bratton asked Disney and Marvel to sue for copyright infringement. But according to the NYPD, the companies aren’t biting.

. . . .

Times Square has a long history of sordid behavior up until the 1990s, when it was overrun by peep shows, prostitutes and street corner crack dealers. But former Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg swept away much of the crime and turned it into a pedestrian haven for tourists and corporations like Toys R Us and Olive Garden.

More recently, Times Square has become the haunt of costumed characters and topless women who get their pictures taken with tourists for tips.

But thing started to go sour in 2013, when Cookie Monster got arrested for allegedly knocking over a toddler when his mother supposedly refused to pay.

There’s been a series of incidents and arrests since then, including accusations of groping by another Coookie Monster, and also Woody from “Toy Story” [sic, which is Latin for “The period at the end of this sentence is missing in the original, it’s not a cut and paste error on the part of the blogger]

So New York has a new administration that has made it harder for police to operate and to discourage malcreants, so the administration is turning to the other stock bad guy, corporations, to make them take action to stop public nuisances.

It’s asking corporations to spend their money (via legal fees and time in tracking down and suing two-bit operators in the public square. Of course, as with anything the government does, the request comes with the implied or else.

Book Report: The Book Of Useless Information by Noah Botham and the Useless Information Society (2006)

Book coverThis book is a collection of trivia one-liners such as you’d see in text overlaying images on some listicle sites. As such, it’s probably as trustworthy as the Internet.

I mean, there probably aren’t deliberate falsehoods to detect copyright infringement like you find in the old trivia books. But there are some contradictary trivium like “The leg bones of a bat are so thin that no bat can walk” followed a couple lines later by “Disc winged bats of Latin America have adhesive discs on both wings and feet that enable them to live in unfurling banana leaves (or even to walk up a window pane!).” Sure, that last can be interpreted in a fashion that’s not completely contrary to the former, but they’re not written clearly enough to be completely clear.

So if I’m ever asked the only bat that can walk, and I wrongly answer “The disc-winged bat,” you’ll know why.

But the book is a good enough way to pass the time on an airplane or something like that; you can pick it up, read a few things and go “Huh,” and put it down when needed. And just maybe you’ll have the right answer for a trivia night sometime. Or at least an answer that might be right, which is sometimes the best you can hope for.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: At The Hemingways by Marcelline Hemingway Sanford (1962)

Book coverLast year, I went to Orlando and got a book about Hemingway (The Private Hell of Hemingway). This year, on our second trip to Orlando, I brought my own volume of Hemingwayenalia.

This book was written by Ernest Hemingway’s older sister, and it’s about their lives growing up in the nice suburbs of Chicago. It starts with a bit of history about their grandparents, both sets of which became well-to-do, and runs through the Hemingways proper from the time they moved from the Hall (Mrs. Hemingway’s parents) home to their own home and through their childhoods and up, sort of, to 1962. It’s full of good period detail, discusses their interesting family history, describes the love of outdoors that the family shared and times at their home in Michigan. The book also carries forth beyond their childhood to some incidents in Hemingway’s life after he leaves home, their worrying about him when he goes to Italy in World War I and its aftermath and how he ends up writing. The book also goes on to describe the decline and suicide of Dr. Hemingway and what Mrs. Hemingway did after he did (which is develop another career as a painter and speaker). The book does not deal with Hemingway’s suicide because he probably hadn’t done so when the book was written.

Ernest Hemingway is a minor character in this book, so it’s not a biography of his except tangentally. I enjoyed it, though, but I am into turn-of-the-twentieth-century memoirs (I mean, I’ve read Clarence Day’s Life with Father twice). So I would have read it even if it wasn’t about Hemingway if it had come into my hands, but I expect it wouldn’t have been published–nor even written–if the woman had not been Hemingway’s sister.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (2004)

Book coverThis book is a neat little Barnes and Noble printing of the classic. It’s a hardback but it’s the size of a paperback, and the text size is not too small to be readable, so this fits in with my hardback snobbery but also suits my recent drive for portability and carry books. And, apparently, it’s from a series of classic titles in this format. So I might have another set to start collecting, but I don’t remember seeing many of them in the wild.

At any rate, this is the original story of Frankenstein and his monster. By original, I mean the original text; the introduction mentions that an edition in Shelley’s lifetime reduced some of the more radical elements of it; however, to a reader in the era of Obama, there’s nothing particularly radical in the text. Maybe an edition in my lifetime would remove some elements of Victor Frankenstein’s drive for knowledge and education. But I digress.

The story began as a tale Shelley told her companions while they were vacationing in Switzerland. She finished it as a book, and it was pretty popular. It’s set in the early years of the nineteenth century; that is, the early 1800s, within memory of the American Revolution and the French Revolution and the Romantic movement in literature. A frame story deals with a man writing letters to his sister in England. The man wanted to find a northern passage and to explore the Arctic, so he travelled to Scandinavia and found the heartiest travellers he could to man a ship. As they plow ahead into the northern ice fields and run into trouble, they see a guy go by on a dogsled. Then, later, another man comes along on a dogsled. This second is Frankenstein, and he’s pursuing the life he created to the ends of the earth. Frankenstein is weak, so they take him aboard the ship and he relates his story to the captain, who has longed for a companion who shares his drive for knowledge.

The tale of Frankenstein is related in the letters told in the first person as Victor Frankenstein discusses his education, his study of natural sciences, and he pursuit of lost knowledge of animating life through chemical and electrical processes. He grows haggard as he pursues his goal of creating life, and then one day in his rented rooms in a boarding house, he does so. He then becomes upset about what he’s done and swoons; when he awakens, the thing he created is gone. Frankenstein returns home to the murder of his young brother and the execution of a family ward for the deed–although Frankenstein suspects it was the monster.

The story switches to the first person account of the monster, which is bigger and stronger than a man, but ugly. When it encounters regular people, it is attacked and feared. It hides out at the farm of a down-on-their-luck family with a romantic political back story of its own. He learns language and quite a bit from watching this family and begins to help them out while hiding from their sight until he decides to approach the blind patriarch to befriend him and thus, hopefully, the family. As the monster befriends the old man, the other family members return home and immediately fall upon him. The monster flees and vows revenge upon all mankind.

The monster finds Frankenstein on one of the gentleman’s restorative hikes in the Alps and relates this story and offers to stay his hand if Frankenstein will create a mate for the creature. Frankenstein assents, and then starts his study and work to redo the processes, but at the last minute, at a remote outpost, he destroys all the work because he cannot be sure the monster will keep his word and out of fears that the monster and its mate might procreate.

So the monster takes his revenge by killing those close to Frankenstein, which leads to Frankenstein’s vow to kill the monster. And the pursuit in the Arctic.

The story is pretty interesting, although it moves at a pace slower than many modern readers would enjoy patiently. I know I looked a couple of times to see how far I was into the book and to see how much was left. The characters are pretty interesting and sympathetic–even the monster is until he starts killing people and seeking revenge for his life, but even then I could see why he was driven to it. So it offers a lot of depth to the story you don’t get on screen and in the comic books.

Recommended.

Books mentioned in this review:

Word for the Day

Recrudescence:

Recrudescence is the revival of material or behavior that had previously been stabilized, settled, or diminished. In medicine, it is the recurrence of symptoms in a patient whose blood stream infection has previously been at such a low level as not to be clinically demonstrable or cause symptoms, or the reappearance of a disease after it has been quiescent.

I’ve run across this word in a couple of books lately (the most latest is The Plague by Albert Camus, and the previous occasion might have been The Undiscovered Self by C.G. Jung).

So maybe I should remember it since it’s very popular in the middle of the 20th century amongst intellectuals.

Book Report: Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck (1962)

Book coverIt has been over a decade since I’ve been really in a John Steinbeck phase; about fifteen years ago, I read Tortilla Flat, Cup of Gold, The Winter of Our Discontent, and Of Mice and Men in quick succession. I’ve since read The Long Valley. And although there are a couple of Steinbeck books on my shelves (East of Eden and Cannery Row), it had been years since I picked up a Steinbeck, which is odd since he’s classic literature that I like to intersperse with the Executioner novels that are my normal fare. So I finally picked up this book.

This book is written twenty years after those prime novels listed above. By the early 1960s, John Steinbeck is John Steinbeck; instead of California, he lives in New York and is known about town and about the country. He decides to get into a camper and drive around the country with his dog Charley. This slender volume is the result of that effort.

On the one hand, as I read this book, I recognized the stylistic influence Steinbeck had on modern prose, including the literate pulp of the latter twentieth century. As I read, I could easily think that John D. MacDonald or Travis McGee was narrating the adventure.

On the other hand, the focus of the book and the theme are a bit underwhelming. I’ve mentioned before a couple of the things of note (Inside a Certain Mindset with John Steinbeck and Layers and Layers of Fact Checkers Circa 1962). The book has a couple of incidents where Steinbeck recounts his interaction with people–a family of French Canadian migrant harvesters in Maine, a New Englander he has into his camper for coffee; veterinarians who take care of Charley along the way. He also has a couple of places where he waxes on places he visits, including several pages of glowing on Wisconsin. However, the book itself dwells mostly on Steinbeck’s seemingly unrelated musings on Life and the Big Questions. The final segment of the journey, natch, is a journey through the South and musing on the Race Question, including a segment where Steinbeck talks to an older white man for a bit and then picks up a black man walking along the road to uncomfortably interrogate the reluctant sample of the Negro population.

So the book was an enjoyable read because of Steinbeck’s prose, but I found it head-shakingly fatuous at times. So it’s worth reading if you like Steinbeck, but it doesn’t really convey much in the sense of what America was like in the early 1960s. It’s more about what Steinbeck was like in the early 1960s.

Books mentioned in this review:

Politician Cackles, Rubs Hands Together, Explains How She Duped And Manipulated Her Constituents

Apparently, Claire McCaskill has a book coming out. In it, she gleefully explains how she duped voters in 2012:

It was early July in 2012 when Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her top campaign strategists launched “Operation Dog Whistle,” a secret scheme designed to help arch-conservative Todd Akin win that year’s GOP Senate primary.

McCaskill knew that Akin, then a St. Louis County congressman, would be her weakest opponent in the general election, someone easily portrayed as extreme and prone to controversial statements.

The centerpiece of McCaskill’s unconventional strategy? A TV ad blitz that appeared to attack Akin as a fringe candidate but also promoted him as a “true conservative.” She wanted the message “pitched in such a way that it would only be heard by a certain group of people” — conservative voters most likely to turn out for the GOP primary, hence the dog whistle reference.

Swell. I said as much at the time (probably because I read someone smarter than me on the Internet).

I suppose people who actually buy copies of this book will lurve how the savvy Senator tricks the Republican primary voters into doing her will. I wonder how often those who applaud the politicos’ and leaders’ gulling the unwary fail to think that the same people might be gulling them. Probably not a lot, because they think they’re on the same team as the elected officials, and they’re often not. The elected officials are on their own team.

I, on the other hand, find it a bit frightening how easily a Senator will reveal her tricks in deceiving some of the people she represents–although not her voters–and how pleased her voters will be with her advisors’ ploys.

It demonstrates an overt lack of respect for fellow citizens that might eventually lead to a bad, bad end.

Book Report: Easy-to-Make Tables and Chairs (1975)

Book coverI’m a little behind in my book reports. I read this book shortly after I read Sunset Woodworking Projects (in early July), but I’ve not yet written a book report on it. BECAUSE I’M LAZY. Or busy.

At any rate, this book dates from the middle 1970s instead of the late 1960s, and we can see the movement from the old time woodworking book to the more modern way of doing it (step by step, more pictures) fashion that you see in modern books and magazines. Unfortunately, the pictures and the projects also come from the middle 1970s.

As it indicates, the book focuses on tables and chairs. The easier projects are simple things, such as a temporary chair stuffed with balloons or backless seats that are fabric over inner tubes (sadly, no projects for tables made from wire spools covered with fabric, but I suspect they were so prevalent that the authors assumed everyone already had one). Some of the other projects include more elaborate pedestal tables and whatnot, so the book covers a variety of skill levels.

Most of the stuff is beyond my skill level, possibly including balloon chairs. But it would be a good idea book for woodworkers with some seasoning.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Don’t Want To Make You Feel Old, Old Man, But…

The baby that the poet-narrator of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” didn’t give up would turn 30 next year.

What a strange world we live in, professor. The film garnered some controversy in the 1980s by its frank portrayal of teenaged pregnancy. I remember, if my aged memory serves, much of the hubbub was because some said it promoted teenaged sex which, I’m told, occurred amongst some of the population when I was teenaged. However, in the twenty-first century, it might garner more controversy for the poet-narrator deciding to keep the baby instead of producing post-conception raw materials for profit.

Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane While Housecleaning

Here at Nogglestead, we do not dust and clean our varied myriad surfaces with the finest skins of virgin chamois from the Carpathian Mountains nor with the finest microfiber cloths from Price Cutter. Instead, we used cut-up t-shirts as dust rags.

Which makes every housecleaning chore akin to looking through an old album of photos in the triggering of memory.

To whit:

  • This Bleed Blue cloth was a free giveaway at a St. Louis Blues playoff hockey game around the turn of the century. Afterwards, it served as a burp cloth for one or more of my children. After the children stopped spitting up after a bottle, it went unaltered into the cabinet for dusting.

  • This cloth comes from a long sleeved t-shirt that was also a giveaway at a Blues game. Although both I and my beautiful wife received them, I gave mine to her as well as I didn’t wear long-sleeved t-shirts for a long time. This particular cloth is getting holed and worn, and I’ll probably toss it to make room for more t-shirts with structural integrity failures.
  • This black rag comes from the Queensrÿche Empire t-shirt I got for Christmas from Chris and/or Deb in 1990. I sometimes wore it under an open collared shirt as was not in style at the time, but was how I wore t-shirts.
  • This grey cloth comes from a sleeveless Marquette University shirt I bought in the middle 1990s, after I graduated and when I was on a return visit to Milwaukee. I wore a lot of sleeveless shirts at that time, which is odd, because I didn’t really have the physique to support it.
  • This t-shirt comes from one of my son’s Martial Arts USA t-shirts. He’d owned it for less than a year before getting caught in the crossfire of a gangland paintball/hamburger condiment fight accompanied by the explosion of an Italian restaurant kitchen. The only thing missing was grass stains from when he threw himself to the ground and slid down a hill into a muddy creek at the bottom, but there’s always his new white Orlando souvenir t-shirt for that. This particular memory does not very far back, but the memories of repeatedly trying to de-stain it remain.

I mean, sure, I’ve got a bin of worn old undershirts that I could use for this, but the old t-shirts provide me with something to think about when cleaning. Aside from wondering when the last time I’ll clean yogurt from the crown molding will come and how much I’ll miss it when it does.

Another Clue I Wouldn’t Do Well On Jeopardy!

So, last night, I’m inspired for a Tweet wherein I would say, “I’m the COTTON MATHER of Software Testing,” and then I think, what was Cotton Mather’s son’s name? It was another noun….

And I didn’t come up with it quickly. I might not have made it in the thirty seconds you get for Final Jeopardy, which seems like a long time when you know the answer immediately or a really short time if it’s on the tip of your tongue.

But then it came to me: Increase Mather.

Except you, gentle reader, know as well as I do, now that I looked it up to confirm my guess, that Increase Mather was Cotton Mather’s father, not his son.

I mean, what kind of intellectual lightweight screws up seventeenth century cleric lineage at ten o’clock on a Monday night? Certainly not someone who’s going deep in Jeopardy!

I guess it’s just as well that I didn’t get called into an audition this year.

I Had To Take Cats To The Vet Today

My beautiful wife helpfully recorded my attempts to get them into the pets carriers:

I’m just kidding, of course, but in all seriousness, the man who invents proton packs that can capture and hold cats (or pull them from deep from under furniture) will deserve to win the Nobel Prizes. All of them.

Layers and Layers of Fact Checkers circa 1962

From John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, p56:

     I had working for me a Filipino man, a hill man, short and dark and silent, of the Maori people perhaps. Once, thinking he must have come from a tribal system which recognizes the unseen as a part of reality, I asked this man if he was not afraid of the haunted place, particularly at night. He said he was not afraid because years before a witch doctor gave him a charm against evil spirits.
     “Let me see that charm,” I asked.
     “It’s words,” he said. “It’s a word charm.”
     “Can you say them to me?”
     “Sure,” he said and he droned, “In nomine Patris et Fillii et Spiritus Sancti.”
     “What does it mean?” I asked.
     “He raised his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a charm against evil spirits so I am not afraid of them.”
     I’ve dredged this conversation out of a strange-sounding Spanish but there is no doubt of his charm, and it worked for him.

Brothers and sisters, we with the modern science of the 21st Century recognize that Maori are not native to the Philippines (they’re native to New Zealand). Perhaps Steinbeck is thinking of the Moro, who are from the Philippines, but they’re Muslim. So I’m not sure whether witch doctors would teach them to say “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Is Steinbeck calling a Catholic priest a witchdoctor, or does he just not know? I don’t know.

The Spanish might have been strange sounding because, if the fellow in question is a hill man from the Philippines, Spanish might be his second language.

I’m having difficulty knowing whether some of the ignorance he displays in this book is for effect or not. I’m leaning toward not.

Inside a Certain Mindset with John Steinbeck

From Travels with Charley, page 25:

American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash–all of them–surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, id in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these thrown-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness–chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk into the sea.

From Travels with Charley, page 27:

There are so many modern designs for easy living. On my boat, I had discovered the aluminum, disposable coooking utensils, frying pans, and deep dishes. You fry a fish and throw the pan overboard. I was well equipped with these things.

In two pages, he goes from lamenting (in the standard lament) consumer packaging and waste to admitting, when confronted with a mess in his trailer of unsecured reusable goods, that he sort of prefers the disposable stuff on his boat.

I am not convinced he’s aware that he’s juxtaposed these things, and I don’t think he’s doing it to admit he’s as guilty as everyone else. Maybe it’s too subtle for me.

The Wisdom of Victor Frankenstein (I)

As a child, I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth, and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand: but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.

From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Related music:

Book Report: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (1962)

Book coverThis book collects a series of essays Lewis wrote for a local periodical. Perhaps essays is the wrong word, as they are letters from a superior demon in Hell’s bureaucracy writing to a nephew who’s a n00b field agent in the temptation service. Screwtape, the author of the letters, offer various advice on how Wormwood, the nephew, should proceed to better tempt the young British man of the World War II era into going to hell. Spoiler alert: It’s not Hitler or anything. Most of the temptations are not those to great crimes but rather to misdemeanors of self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, and disbelief.

The essays are chock full of good insight into the foibles of human nature, the lies we tell ourselves, and how we relate to one another, particularly the danger of factions in churches and in superiority derived from beliefs (even amongst Christians). The book also explicitly states that congregational churches lend themselves to this easier than parochial churches and why this is more appealing to casual, unreflective believers. Its something that follows, but something I hadn’t thought much about.

The second part of the book, “Screwtape Proposes A Toast”, covers the way modernism and modern education erode the structure of morality and civilization. Given that the book is fifty years old, Lewis saw some of the effects of then-new and partially obscured trends and drives and how they would play out in the future. And so they have. Sadly.

At any rate, even if you’re not a Christian, you can certainly unmask or be reminded of some bad habits you might engage in or some elevated thinking you should probably rein in. At only 172 pages, it’s a pretty easy, engageable read and worth your time.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Dragonslayer by Wayland Drew (1981)

Book coverThis book is the novelization of the 1981 film of the same name. In it, an unauthorized party from a land benighted by a dragon comes to the last remaining sorceror for help. Every six months, the kingdom sacrifices a young woman to the old dragon to keep it from rampaging. At the sorceror’s tower, though, a military group from the kingdom catch up with the unauthorized group and kill the sorceror. The sorceror’s apprentice and undertake the journey and catch up with the aid-seekers in their retreat.

And then go on to fight the dragon and win, eventually, of course.

The book has an interesting element in it: the rise of Christianity in Europe replacing the old magic systems. The book takes place in an unidentified region in Europe at the rise of European civilization, and the town nearest the dragon’s lair has a new Christian missionary in town who converts people as the dragon’s menace continues. The sorceror’s apprentice doesn’t decide to go onto becoming a sorceror–after the death of his master, there’s no one to teach him and he prefers the world rather than the books–so the book muses on the transition between the old ways and the new. It’s a pretty even-handed treatment of it; in the 21st century, there’d be a lot more handwringing about the loss of magic for the fairy tale lies of the church than you get from a book based on a film in 1981.

It’s a good enough read, once it gets going. It’s a slow starter, and of all genres in the world, fantasy is the one whose audience will allow slow, wordy starts. Which this one has.

Books mentioned in this review: