Book Report: The Brave Ones edited by Marvin Allen Karp (1965)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 23rd, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book continues my recent trend of military history paperbacks, almost. The trend began with The Battle Off Of Midway Island and continued with Sink the Bismarck!. I guess the trend is also from nonfiction to fiction, as this is not a book about the actual exploits of US GIs. Instead, it is a collection of six short stories set in World War II and the Korean War.

The Collaborator tells the story of an ex-GI living in China when the Japanese invade. He is forced to collaborate with them, culminating in them using him as an infiltrator during an American invasion of a small island. However, their hold on him is broken, and he can finally get revenge.

The Soldier Who Had No Gun shows the story of a chaplain who accompanies a tired, dispirited platoon on a dangerous mission to flank a German stronghold and how he rejuvenates the group.

In The Trap, a British guerrilla war expert is in a plane shot down over a jungle. Pursued by the Japanese, he and his two American airmen have to sneak to safety, and the Brit learns a little something about guerrilla warfare from a native American.

Set in Korea, Night Attack covers a ROK assault on a thinly stretched American position immediately after a platoon sargeant is promoted to lieutenant, and his new platoon sargeant is another man passed over for the job.

In The Raid, a team of specialists is sent to a Japanese prison camp to rescue a submarine commander with knowledge of an upcoming assault. They are to extract him if they can, and to kill him if he cannot.

Operation Christrose tells about a fresh lieutenant coming to a quiet part of the front and leading his platoon on a scouting trip across the river–and into the camp of a German army massing for a surprise break out.

These stories appeared in men’s magazines and The Saturday Evening Post between 1944 and 1963, so between Right Now and 20 years later. They’re pretty vivid accounts and better reading than the normal pulp paperbacks I read.

The one Korea story, and the Korean veterans I saw speak at a recent memorial dedication, have brought to mind how forgotten that war is. Whereas World War II continues to throw off films and culture and whereas the Vietnam War overserves as a metaphor, you don’t get a lot of fiction or film out of the Korean War. And what a brutal place it was to fight.

So I enjoyed this short collection and really see myself going on a 20th century war tear here for a bit.

Books mentioned in this review:

Instapundit Makes The Millennium Allusion

Posted in Blogging, Books on July 21st, 2014 by Brian

Instapundit alludes to Millennium:

JOHN VARLEY, CALL YOUR OFFICE! No, really, he should be demanding royalties from this guy: Ukraine rebel leader claims Flight MH17 was filled with already-dead bodies.

My review of the book here. And, yes, I’ve seen the movie. Three times.

Our Own Royko

Posted in News, Springfield on July 21st, 2014 by Brian

The Springfield News-Leader has a metro columnist now. His debut is entitled “Springfield as good a place as any“. Highlights:

Springfield, in my estimation, is as good a place as any. It’s got its own drama and history. It has highlights and faults.

It has culture and religion and art. And, if you’d prefer to avoid a 15-hour flight for comparisons, you can just take my word for it.

. . . .

I’m not saying I’ll never leave Springfield, but it’s got enough to continue my curiosity, for awhile.

This piece, by way of introduction, is to explain what I’m doing as the News-Leader’s metro columnist.

I am pretty sure he’s serious.

The newspaper, meanwhile, is almost to the point of its distributors taping it to rocks and throwing it through living room windows.

Book Report: The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard (2004)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 19th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is the third of the three in the Conan set by Robert E. Howard.

This volume includes:
“The Servants of Bit-Yakin” wherein Conan climbs into a hidden redoubt with a temple in it. Priests seek audience from an oracle within the temple, and a faction has brought along a woman to act as the oracle and to order the priests to put Conan to the death. Conan, of course, has other plans, including collecting the mythical jewels said to be in the temple or nearby.

“Beyond the Black River” which takes place in the wilderness at the Pictish frontier. A shaman of the Picts is getting ready to lead the clans against settlers in the area, and Conan and some others try to delay them enough for the settlers to escape.

“The Black Stranger” A nobleman has brought his retinue to a coast of the Pictish wilderness to escape someone pursuing him. One day, pirates show up looking for a treasure rumored to be nearby, and the nobleman might have to ally with two competing bands of buccaneers to escape his pursuer. Then Conan shows up with knowledge of the treasure, and he plays all ends to get a ship of his own.

“Man-Eaters of Zamboula” deals with an inn and a town with a deadly secret–at night, certain savages collect those out-of-doors and those unlucky enough to stay in a particular inn for a grisly feast. And Conan finds himself in that room.

“Red Nails” finds Conan pursuing a woman warrior who has fled from their mercenary crew after fending off an unwanted advance with deadly result. Conan and the woman find a strange city on a plain where a society has degenerated to two warring factions opposing each other from different sides of the large building that is the city.

So these plots, again, are more complicated and less repetitive.

It’s interesting that these, the last of the Conan stories, often take place on the frontier and Conan takes on a certain Natty Bumpo/the Deerslayer vibe to him. I wonder how much Howard wanted to do that. Of course, in the writing chronology this holds true, but in the chronology of Conan’s life, he is not relocating further and further from civilization, and certainly not for the same reasons.

So I was a bit sad to have finished the Conan stories. I mean, I’ve got the other Howard things to go through sometime (after I buy them), and there are some non-Howard Conan books to read. But not the original. Not the original.

And Howard did all this by the time he was 30. Sometimes, when I was young, I thought I’d like to live the pulp writer lifestyle, banging out these works for a couple hundred bucks a throw and living in a seedy apartment while I did so. I never did make many sales. As a matter of fact, by the time I was 30, I’d only sold a single short story for five bucks to a magazine made on a photocopier. Ah, well, I guess I still have a chance to make it as a pixulp writer if I turn my mind to it.

And good reads like these Conan stories are just the thing to inspire one to become a writer.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard (2004)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 18th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is the second in the three books that make up the complete set of stories that Howard wrote featuring Conan the Cimmerian. As you will remember, I read the first, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian in January.

This book features three tales:

“The People of the Black Circle” features Conan carrying off the queen of a country to use as ransom for some of his followers. She’s seeking revenge on a band of magicians for the death of her brother, and as Conan and she flee from a magician following them, they team up to defeat the magicians.

“The Hour of the Dragon” is the only Conan novel, and it tells the story of how Conan loses the kingdom of Aquilonia and works to get it back.

“A Witch Shall Be Born” talks about a female ruler deposed by her presumed dead twin sister who was left to die at birth because she had a witch’s mark upon her. Instead of dying, she goes onto become a witch and impersonates her sister, a benevolent ruler, until Conan puts a stop to it.

One of the knocks I had on the first book was that the stories were a little formulaic and repetitive at times; with this book and the three stories within it, Howard has concocted some more elaborate plots that are difficult to sum up in the single sentences above. Which is good.

Not only am I continuing to be impressed with this series, but I think I’ll pick up some of Howard’s non-Conan work. Maybe with Christmas’s gift cards.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Human Torch Is Passed

Posted in Life, Personal Relics on July 18th, 2014 by Brian

So as I was digging through boxes in the store room for this post, I came across a box of old comic books not in poly bags. As I glanced in the box, I saw many were without covers, and I thought they were the old Gold Key and Harvey comics from my Great Aunt Laura.

When my mother and her sisters were young, they’d go spend the night with Laura from time to time. Somehow, they ended up with a stack of comic books in the non-super hero genres, with a lot of Richie Rich, Caspar the Friendly Ghost, Hot Stuff the Little Devil, and Wendy the Friendly Witch series along with some Disney comics. When we ended up in the St. Louis area in the middle 1980s, as I was beginning what they call Middle School down here but Junior High in Milwaukee, my brother and I ended up with this well-worn collection, many of which were missing covers and whatnot. I thought I’d rediscovered them.

So I mentioned them to my oldest, who is eight years old and ready to begin reading comic books. And I cracked open the box last night to find that the box contained not my Aunt Laura’s old comics, but my comic books from my elementary school years.

My elementary school comics

Allow me to explain.

I have several boxes of comics neatly organized and in poly bags. These comics come from my high school and college years (and beyond), when I wanted to organize them and take care of them. I had thought I’d gone through and bagged my whole collection a decade ago, but….

This box contains books I bought at the drug store when I was living in the projects, when I could sometimes scratch together a buck to buy a comic. Or, more likely, I’d scratch up a buck and buy a poly bag with three remaindered comic books (you see, it’s not only my music collection that was built on grab bags). Because I was ten years old, and because some of the remaindered books already had their covers partially removed for the retailer refund, these books got read over and over and worn out.

So they now look like my Aunt Laura’s did then. Except these are older to my children than those comics were to me when I got them.

So I bagged up the ones with covers, and I’m considering letting my child(ren) read through the others.

It’s not easy, of course: Although they’re falling apart, they’re relics from my childhood that my children will, in all likelihood, destroy by sleeping on them, walking on them, fighting over them, and whatnot.

Even now as I glance through them, my eyes catch a panel or the title, and I remember the story clearly and even some of the other panels within them.

Of course, my aunts did not have these qualms in passing their childhood comics along. They were just comics, and my mother and her sisters were adults. But I’m a 21st century adult, which is closer to 20th century child than 20th century adult. So I’m going to give them to my children, but I’m going to have to read them again first.

Sure, I’m a pack rat, but some days that pays off in finding something treasured and only half-remembered amid the piles of clutter I can barely walk through.

I Scored .5 On This Quiz

Posted in Life on July 16th, 2014 by Brian

10 Things Americans Waste Money On:

Things I do in italics:

  1. Credit card interest (I pay them off monthly.)
  2. Deal websites (Meh, never interested in them.)
  3. Appetizers (Not often, anyway, but sometimes I’m hungry enough to eat the free bread, the appetizer, and the entree.)
  4. ATM fees (Not often, anyway. Once a year when I’m away from my bank? And not recently, since I’ve forgotten my PIN.)
  5. Overdraft fees (I have overdraft protection and pretty good cash flow these days.)
  6. Speedy shipping (Faster than Amazon Prime? Who needs it? Also, I buy most of my music with AutoRip, which is instant.)
  7. Designer baby clothes (No babies currently, and pretty much relied on Walmart and garage sales when I did.)
  8. Unused gym memberships (An underused YMCA membership currently, but I’m nursing a strained adductor just like Grandpa.)
  9. Premium cable packages (Here’s where the .5 comes in. I pay $10 a month for a sports package so I can see ball games. No movie channels or other tiers though.)
  10. Daily coffee trips (Although I used to be guilty of daily coffee runs when I worked in downtown St. Louis, I work from home now, and the coffee trip is to the counter. I do spend a lot on K-cups, though. And Gevalia premium coffees.)

If this quiz were 10 Things Brian J. Wastes Money On, it would be:

  1. A large garden that doesn’t yield more than it costs and that doesn’t really count much as a hobby because I don’t spend as much time as I’d like working in it.
  2. Instant music purchases that get lost in the existing library and get listened to once or twice or when I remember them.
  3. Buying new books when I have stacks of books to read. Also, buying (albeit cheaply) stacks of books when I have stacks of books to read.
  4. Adopting and pampering pretty much any stray cats that come along. Although it’s not as bad as that, we have acquired four in the last year and have taken them to the vet multiple times.
  5. New hats. I’ve spent $130 on Panama hats over the last year. I spent $40 on a fedora the year before. I am out of control.
  6. Subscriptions to periodicals that come faster than I can read them.
  7. Too frequent visits to Ziggie’s for breakfast.
  8. Supplies for hobbies I might take up one day, but don’t. Although this was more of a problem in years past, I still sometimes pick up supplies for a hobby right at the time I end up putting the hobby down for a while.
  9. A refined wine palatte. As the cash flow has improved, my taste in wines has gone from five dollar wines to ten dollar wines and beyond. I could curtail the wine ration and go back to the Yellow Tail now that the hideous 2012 vintage has passed from the retail scene.
  10. Expensive coffees with Chock Full O’Nuts. I go through cost-cutting phases where I cut the coffee budget to the core. This is often followed by a ‘Hey, we’re doing okay, why don’t I get better coffee?’ period. We’re in the better coffee period now.

So how do you do on wasting money like most Americans or like Brian J.?

In Comic Book News….

Posted in Culture on July 16th, 2014 by Brian

I understand Archie is going to be replaced with a female Archie.

Or something.

This is news for adults?

Book Report: Sink the Bismarck! by C.S. Forester (1959, 1979)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 15th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverSuddenly, I’m on a World War II naval battle kick, first with The Battle Off of Midway Island and now this book. What a contrast they make.

This book, originally titled The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck but retitled after the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! came out went through quite a number of printings; this paperback is still in print 20 years after the original and 38 years after the events depicted in it. What kept it alive? Past generations’ interest in actual history? The movie in heavy syndication on television that had not fragmented into a billion channels? Perhaps both, maybe neither. But I’m prone to idle speculation.

The difference in naval doctrine is stunning. Although I’m no naval military history expert, the book might capture a turning point in naval operations. The Bismarck is a big battleship with big guns that knocks out a British battleship (the Hood), and then goes around the Atlantic for a couple of days. Will it harry shipping? Although that might have been the idea, it does not engage shipping and starts making a beeline for France when it’s clear that the British aren’t cowed and are actively hunting it. This might represent the 19th century way of naval war.

The British, on the other hand, bring the house. They have a number of cruisers, a carrier, and whatnot working together to target the single battleship. This is more akin to what we’re used to in modern warfare and, indeed, reflects more of the strategy of the battle of Midway that will come only a couple years later.

I’m probably over simplifying it, but the claim seems valid to my layman’s eyes.

The book is a partially fictionalized retelling, as Forester recreates conversations that he can most assuredly not have access to. It does make this book approachable and readable, but not academic history. The book clocks in at only 118 pages, too. Remember the days when paperbacks were only 150 pages? Heck, I remember the days when hardbacks were only 180 pages. But then price inflation meant they had to make them fatter to justify higher prices–compare to portion sizes at restaurants–but there was something to be said for a quick, informative read like this. Back when people read.

It’s worth a read. I might even want to see the film now to see the movie-ized version of a fictionalized historical incident looks like.

Books mentioned in this review:

I’ll Take Misleading Headlines For $200, Alex

Posted in Headlines on July 15th, 2014 by Brian

Stealing canned corn could bring 10-year prison term

What is this? A story of a three-strikes-and-your-out mishap, where some starving miser steals a can of corn to feed his malnourished children and faces an inhumane sentence because he’s stolen two cans of corn previously? Not hardly.

The specific charge to which both Nunn and Sherley pleaded guilty involves a theft that occurred on May 11, 2013, at the Snappy Mart Truck Stop in West Plains. Nunn and Sherley stole a 2000 Wabash trailer (valued at $7,500), which contained a load of Green Giant canned corn (valued at $73,008).

The trailer, owned by Bryant Freight, was in transit from Minnesota to a food bank in Arkansas. Nunn and Sherley admitted they traveled through Missouri and Indiana with the stolen cargo before being apprehended in Michigan.

They stole a trailer full of corn. Bound for a food bank.

And they’d done this before.

Canned corn, indeed. Maybe the headline writer couldn’t spell trailer and load of cargo.

An Old Timey OS Throwdown

Posted in Life, Personal Relics on July 14th, 2014 by Brian

On Facebook, a friend posted a picture of a copy of Windows 98 Update in its original retail packaging. Not to be outdone by any poser who would pretend to be a hoarder, I proffered the following collection:

20 years of Windows

That’s Windows 95, Windows 98 SE, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 2000, Windows XP Home, and Windows XP Professional. All within easy reach.

So some other poser put up a picture of Solaris 2.6. Well, all right, then, if we’re defenestrating, have a look at this bad boy:

GEOS 2.0

That’s GEOS 2.0, a circa 1986 GUI for Commodore 64 users who wanted their C64s to look like a Macintosh. Although this was not in reach, I retrieved it from storage in about five minutes of digging through boxes, an exploration that showed me I have two copies of Bard’s Tale for the Commodore 64. But only two copies for five Commodore 64s and a Commodore 128. I must fix this balance by finding more copies of The Bard’s Tale.

I could not, however, find the copy of CP/M Plus from 1983 that came bundled with my first Commodore 128 for people who wanted their Commodores to look like a PC. I must have included it when I sold my first Commodore 128 (WHAT! You sold a computer? Well, I was young, and I needed the money).

So what’s the oldest operating system you’ve got, son?

Traveling Tip

Posted in Life on July 13th, 2014 by Brian

If you’re trying to give directions about a location in Branson, Missouri, if you say, “It’s on 76 by that tattoo parlor with the General Lee out front,” you’ll have to be a tad more specific.

Also note that it’s faster to travel down Highway 76 in Branson on Google Maps than it is to travel down Highway 76 in Branson itself. Unfortunately, both of the tattoo parlors with the General Lees we saw this weekend (which represents only 67% of the General Lees displayed on Highway 76 this weekend, which according to scientists is actually more General Lees than were present on the set of Dukes of Hazzard on any given day in 1981) did not have them out front when the Google Maps cars went by in 2013, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. And, hey, I’m some guy on the Internet. You can trust me.

Another Book Report Compare and Contrast

Posted in Books on July 11th, 2014 by Brian

Joe liked The Executioner #7: Nightmare in New York far better than I did when I read it last year.

On the other hand, I liked it a lot better than I liked Nightmare in Manhattan which I reported on ten years ago. Back when I put some thought and words into my book reports.

Book Report: The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 9th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI bought this book as part of a recent new book buying frenzy (see also The Curmudgeon’s Guide To Getting Ahead). I was eager to read this book after seeing it on the blogs and in the Wall Street Journal because it sort of tracked with an idea I had, oh, about twelve years ago.

I remember distinctly walking into the foosball room at the start-up where I worked and explaining that, before we send men to Mars, we need to start littering Mars with things that those men can use in case of trouble. It was right about the time the mission with the rovers Spirit and Opportunity were launched, and I was probably reading some science fiction at the time.

At any rate, this book details a single astronaut’s struggle to survive on Mars after a sudden sandstorm threatens the mission and his injury and apparent death cause his crew to leave him behind as they evacuate. He has only a habitat designed to house six people a limited number of days, two buggies, six potatoes, and his own ingenuity to make the best of his situation and hopefully hold out for some sort of rescue.

The book is a little heavy on the science and the engineering of his predicaments and solutions, but the voice of the fellow keeps it moving along pretty well. Eventually, NASA discovers he’s still alive, and they get to communicate with him when he drives to the Mars Pathfinder and reclaims its radio–see how it meshed with my pre-foosball musings?

So I really liked the book, although it could have been a touch shorter and some of the setbacks seem thrown in to lengthen the book or to pad it out. Of course, Mars is a hostile place–it’s not the kind of place to raise your kids–so I imagine the survival of the fellow is the improbable portion of the story. But it’s a good story.

Books mentioned in this review:

Five Things On My Desk (V)

Posted in Life on July 8th, 2014 by Brian

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, and although my desk is far cleaner in 2014 than in 2012, I still end up with an eclectic collection of odds and ends on it, including:

The April 28, 2011 edition of the New York Review of Books:

April 28, 2011 New York Review of Books

A number of years ago, when I was looking to publish my novel, I researched places that reviewed books and bought a number of magazines off the news stand for ideas where to send review copies of my book. Many of these languished in the magazine rack beside my reading chair for years because I don’t tend to read magazines in my reading chair. So when I recently came up with a job task that requires my computer’s full attention for a couple of snippets of minutes per hour, I brought this into the office for something to look at while my computer processed. Unfortunately, the essays are pretty in-depth, so it takes me a while to get through the ones I want to read.

A cape from a set of Superman pajamas, sized 4T::

A facsimile of Superman's cape

This came from a set of pajamas my children wore when they were younger; sometimes, we removed the capes and threw them into a separate drawer. This one got orphaned when the boys outgrew the pajamas and we passed them onto someone else. Of course, I can’t just throw it out because it’s a perfectly good tiny cape. I was going to write a post about it as a future personal relic, but now I think I’ll use it in a craft where you’ll have to tug on it to ring a bell or something.

An annual pass to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (expired):

A facsimile of Superman's cape

We live a mile outside this national battlefield (less, actually, but there’s no gate at the closest point). So I always want to think that I’ll go there fairly often for walks or to enjoy its amenities, so every year (almost), I go up and buy an annual pass for $20. At that time, I might or might not actually go past the visitor’s center and into the battlefield itself. And then I don’t end up going again for another year or year and a half. I took this pass out of my wallet because it expired (last November), which means it’s time for me to go spend the $20 again. And perhaps go twice in a year. Some day.

A broken wind chime:

An apple wind chime

I picked this up at some garage sale or another some day in the past, and the twine holding the wind chimes on broke. Eventually, this migrated from the work bench in the garage to my desk since it’s a little string project that I could do quickly as a work break or something. Yeah, about that: I didn’t. I’ve misplaced the missing chimes, and the heavy decorative relief at the top serves as a paperweight that keeps credit card receipts from blowing all over the desk and office when I have the window open. So don’t expect it to be fixed any time soon.

One bottle of kitty downers (inverted):

Kitty downers

We’ve found ourselves with yet another kitten, which means weeks sequestered in my office. The new kitten got a bottle of downers to calm him and keep him from jumping around madly while healing from the declaw operation. I’d put them in a cabinet, but taking something from the cabinet caused them to fall to the desktop upside down. I’m going to put them up again, but for now they’re on the desk.

Also often on my desk: Aforementioned sequestered kitten whose predations are rapidly shifting the items that can be classified as Things On My Desk and Things On My Floor.

Book Report: The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 7th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI bought this book because all the cool kids were reading it, and by that, I mean someone on some blogs mentioned it. It sounded like something that might interest me, so I got it.

It’s a book that aims at the Elements of Style for professional behavior and thoughts of millenials coming into the workplace without a sense of etiquette and how to work with others in adult jobs. At least, that’s the way blogs have pitched it to me. It has that, of course, as a bit of a sandwich among a big portion of how to write and think well. So I was taken a bit aback by how much of the book was about how to work at a think tank and less about how to behave in the workplace.

Because, brothers and sisters, that first part is something that was kinda lacking the last time my visage darkened a workplace lo those eight years ago. (Have I been a freelancer that long already? Yes, yes I have.) I can’t imagine they’ve gotten better as that next generation has come up.

But this book didn’t ultimately resonate with me because its focus is split like that: workplace rules and writing well. Murray says this came about as a collection of intranet postings of his at the think tank where he works, and that shows a bit.

I’d hoped I’d get a two-fer on this book and get to review it for my other blog, but meh. It didn’t impress me that much. And although you, gentle reader, get a couple of paragraphs blatted all over your monitor for every book I read, the professional blog only gets things that will fit and that impress me. So take that as my final word on it.

Books mentioned in this review:

An Unannounced Boycott?

Posted in Technology on July 7th, 2014 by Brian

Firefox falters, falls to record low in overall browser share:

Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has plunged in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Huh. Can you think of anything that might have happened about two months ago that might have angered a large number of its users and caused them to change browsers?

Firefox blocked image

Correlation is not causation, but a sudden shift might not come just from the release of the iPhone 5S.

An Ordinary Man, A Legend To Some

Posted in Life on July 7th, 2014 by Brian

To my cats, I’m a LEGENDARY HERO. When the eldritch and unholy vacuum cleaner, the chupagato, emerges from its primordial lair, I always meet it on the open plain of the floor to struggle and wrestle with the beast until it retreats again into the darkness of the hall closet.

Without me, surely they realize, the chupagato would suck them up.

Which is why they tolerate me.

Somehow, I Have Lost All Of My Son’s Respect

Posted in Life on July 6th, 2014 by Brian

As part of a Father’s Day craft, my six-year-old was asked a series of questions about his father which someone transcribed onto a piece of paper which my son decorated with stickers and his handwritten name.

He got the name and age right for me, and for my job, he answered “Office” which is a pretty fair description as I am not a professional hockey player.

However, when asked the question If my Dad was a superhero he would be[sic], my son replied Robin.

Now, it’s bad enough that my son did not choose a respectable Marvel superhero like Spider-Man, The Thing, Iron Man, Captain America, Quasar, or Speedball. No, he chose a DC superhero.

Worse, he chose a sidekick. A DC sidekick, I’d like to add. Not a respectable Marvel sidekick like Nomad, the Falcon, or Bucky.

But the unkindest cut of all: My children know who Nightwing is.

That’s right.

Not only am I a DC sidekick, albeit the best known sidekick in the entire DC galaxy (I refuse to call it a universe or mythos (which I call the Marvel milieu to put it on par with Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythologies, all of which the Marvel mythos has subsumed)).

But I’m not even the best Robin there is. I’m not the Dick Grayson Robin, I’m the Jason Todd Robin.

I don’t know what I’ve done to turn the child against me so.

Book Report: The Battle Off Midway Island by Theodore Taylor (1981)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 6th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is a young adult history book. About World War II. Whoa, we are looking at an artifact here, aren’t we? Nowadays, it seems from the news that all young adult books are sparkly vampire dystopian fantasy bestsellers because adults read them or gritty real-world-of-fevered-dreams fests of sex and drugs that teenagers really deal with in books that teenagers read because they’re told to and only become news stories when someone wants to remove them from a school reading list.

I mean, in 1981, someone expected young readers to read about American history? Like battles and stuff, not about how America sux? I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it. And this book is touted as the first in a series.

At any rate, I only remembered the basics of the battle before reading the book: Big deal, many Japanese carriers sunk, turned the tide of the war. Given that I know that much, it’s clear I’m not a 21st century young adult.

The books is short–135 pages–and it really only gives an overview of the events after the Coral Sea battle, where the Japanese hoped to lure out the remainder of the American fleet to destroy it, but the Americans had broken the Japanese code and managed to get the drop on them. Then, through (and sometimes in spite of) sacrifices and ill-fated bombing runs on the Japanese carriers, the Americans break the Japanese fleet.

It’s not a jingoistic book, and it’s not an academically detailed book, but it does blend striking moments with the ebb and flow of the engagement, so a (young adult) reader isn’t overwhelmed but does get a sense of warfare. Except when talking about the pilots, one does not realize how young these guys are.

So I enjoyed it and read it quickly, and I’ll be honest, I come out of it knowing only a little more than I had before–knowing which American carrier sank during the engagement and whatnot–but every little bit makes me a bit smarter, so I’ll take it. Combining this book with a recent viewing of The Karate Kid Part II sent me to the globe to relearn some of the topography of the Pacific Ocean, and I’d forgotten where Okinawa is in relation to Japan and where Midway Island(s) is relative to Hawaii. So the book has done me some good indeed.

I’m almost interested to the other books in this series.

Books mentioned in this review: