The Pox That Keeps On Scarring

The fence along the Mexican border shows how many bugaboos the left can fit into a single action: Not only is it bad for the poor people of color and other nationalities who would only come to this country for noble purposes, such as they can, but also, we should note, the fence along the Mexican border is actually strangling baby seals and clubbing baby spotted owls. Or something:

    But in the name of national security, the Department of Homeland Security wants to build 3.5 miles of fencing just south of this federally protected land — a project environmentalists say could spell disaster for the sensitive ecology of the region.

Coming soon, studies will no doubt show that steps taken in the name of border security also:

  • Dramatically reduce Social Security benefits for seniors.
  • Have been proven to cause cancer in laboratories. Not in laboritory animals, mind you, because opponents of the fence also oppose animal testing; however, somewhere, someone in a lab right now is getting news that he or she has cancer, and what, you’re going to attribute that to smoking two packs of unfiltered cigarettes for twenty years?
  • Are linked to childhood obesity, as children will no longer be able to run back and forth across the Mexican frontier unimpeded.
  • Will result in the loss of health coverage for 60,000 working Americans.

How evil are conservatives? So evil that everything they do makes the world worse in innumerable ways!

All About the Branding

I find it somewhat macabre that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has a service mark on the 65 Roses® description of the disease.

Because it doesn’t want the other Cystic Fibrosis fundraising machines to use it, I suppose. But still, one would hope that charitable organizations would not need to worry about it nor would not spend money and time on proper branding for the disease they’re supposed to be fighting, but I’ve always recognized the difference between charitable organizations and fundraising machines.

Book Report: The Wealthy Writer by Michael Meanwell (2004)

I got this book as part of the “You Get This Many Books and the Writers Market for $20 (plus shipping and handling” deal from Writer’s Digest Books, and since I’ve lost the receipt, I cannot amortize for you the exact cost of this book, but it probably wasn’t worth it to me.

The cover and blurb say it’s The Wealthy Writer: How to Earn a Six-Figure Income As a Freelance Writer (No Kidding!), but it’s really more How to Run a Successful Business Whose Product Happens to Be Writing Services. Its chapters cover the business aspects of becoming a successful business writer, providing marketing copy for corporations. While that is indeed a mechanism for making a living as a writer (and a comfortable living), it’s not really writing in the artistic sense.

Because, face it, I made a living as a technical writer at one time, and it wasn’t ultimately satisfying in the creation sense of the word. I’d hoped for some silver bullet of a book that would make me a disciplined writer who could sell stories and essays to magazines and books to publishers. Instead, it’s the same hustle to make a buck, build a clientele, and whatnot that I’ve read dozens of times over in any small business owner book, but it’s recursive in nature because you’re doing the normal promotional pitching and marketing not only for yourself, but as someone who will do the same for clients.

So perhaps it’s a good primer if you’ve not read this sort of thing before, but I have. Truth be told, I read a book in high school with a title like How to Make $17,000 a Year as a Freelance Writer ultimately geared to my particular jones which inspired me and encouraged me more than this book. I should note, however, that neither have overcome my inertia and addiction to Sid Meier video games and simply reading to turn me into a writer who earns anything a year.

Book Report: Under the Grammar Hammer by Douglas Cazort (1997)

I bought this book for $5.98 at the Barnes and Noble in Ladue around the turn of the year. You know how it goes; you’ve got a $25 gift card, so you try to stretch it on the bargain books and end up with $53 in a dozen books on the to-read shelves.

I picked this book because its title implies a certain ruthlessness which, as a reputed grammarian, I should appreciate. However, it just enumerates 25 common, obvious, and high-risk grammar errors and how to avoid them. I read the lists, read the supplemental material, scanned the cartoons, and mostly ignored the grammar examples. The rules I break I do so on my own account, not because I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s a thin little book, a read for one sitting much like Strunk and White, but it doesn’t have the depth of the masterwork. Also, it ends with an afterword that speaks of removing some of the rules of grammar, which sort of subverts the point of the book. I won’t disagree with the afterword, as I have my reasons as a writer for sometimes not putting in commas where they’re needed or sometimes leaving them outside of the quotation marks around the titles of short fiction and whatnot (see also my predilection for the European style here, as my beautiful grammarian wife has already noted).

Still, it’s a worthwhile read if you’re a mere mortal writer (like most of you) and even worthwhile as a reminder of your superiority (like some of us). Worth $6? Depends upon what sort of down payment you need upon your grammatical dominance.

Book Report: Collected Stories by Franz Kafka (1993)

My beautiful wife gave me this book for Christmas in 2004 because I’d admitted to not having read “The Metamorphosis”. Well, thanks to her intervention, I cannot claim that. I’ve also read 400+ pages of Kafka’s non-“Metamorphosis” work, and that’s no small price to pay for having missed a pivotal short story in the Czech canon.

As some of you might recall, I have some reservations about reading translations because I assume that I don’t get everything out of the language that the author put into it. For example, in the Kafka story “The Burrow”, I must doubt that the term for the smaller animals as “small fry” comes directly from the Czech.

Also, I’ll point out I’m not a fan of Eastern European literature or maybe any European literature from east of the English Channel. In addition to the language barrier, I don’t really groove on the bleak, bureaucracy-rules-all worldview that the books tend to embrace. Although, as a liberative, I think our society is trending in that direction, I don’t want to read about those things. I want to read a little about how life can be. Perhaps that’s too much the influence of Ayn Rand’s romanticism.

Some of the stories in the collection are engaging; “The Metamorphosis”, “In the Penal Colony”, “A Hunger Artist”, and maybe, to be charitable, “The Burrow”. However, with any roll-up volume, you get padding material, and most of the stuff in this volume seem like that. Many stories are five paragraphs or fewer, with no discernable character development or plotline. Slice of life material at best, but not really worth reading.
Of course, some of the stories really hammer home eurobleakism, so maybe they’re worthwhile to some people.

As I read this volume, I wondered if the twentieth century marked the point where high art became more and more inaccessible. I’ll be frank, some of the stories I had to muscle through (“Investigations of a Dog”) I had to muscle through, and I couldn’t even force myself through (“Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk”). Aside from the stories I read above, I didn’t really get into any of the stories and didn’t really get much out of them. I suspect I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the stories in their original language, if that’s what makes these stories worthwhile, but the plots nor characters don’t draw the reader in, so the greatness of Kafka lies in….something. But academics have told us he’s great, and they’ve spent their time and energy explaining how great he is. Perhaps his greatness, to their eyes, lies in the fact that normal people cannot recognize his greatness and his academic acolytes must interpret his greatness for the common man. Or perhaps I’m just keen on dinging the people who took the easy way out with their English degrees.

So the book made me better in that I can claim now to have read the complete works, or at least the collected “stories” of Franz Kafka, but it took a long time and some effort to reach those bragging rights. All reading is good and consumption of all ideas is good (note consumption of is not adherence to or acceptance of), but you might better serve yourself to reading only the heavily-anthologized stories of Kafka.

But thanks, honey. It’s a handsome edition.

Eureka, Missouri, Eminent Domains Neighboring Town

Contrary to claims of Kelo backlash, Missouri municipalities continue their plans for land seizure and redistribution unabashed. In the latest news, the city of Eureka has annexed Allenton and will raze it for commercial development:

    But most of that will be gone soon – not just Janet’s Barber Shop, but most of Main Street, as the core of this one-time farm and railroad community is bulldozed to make way for a 1,000 acre project that includes 1,200 houses and a shopping center. The $539 million Eureka South I-44 Redevelopment also would include parks and land for at least one school and a new Eureka recreation center. The city annexed the Allenton area, directly south of Interstate 44 from Six Flags, several years ago.

    The Eureka Board of Aldermen is expected to vote tonight to approve a redevelopment agreement that will allow the project to proceed. The agreement allows the use of eminent domain, if needed. Two weeks ago, complaints prompted the board to postpone a vote to give the residents more time to negotiate with the developers. At the time, Eureka officials estimated that only ten of the dozens of property owners had not signed sales contracts.

Ten of dozens. Which means possibly as many as 10 of 24 (42%) or maybe 10 of 36 (28%). But who cares about the right to private property, as long as the city of Eureka gets more tax revenue to feed its ever-growing gluttonous appetite.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

A Talent for Pork

One more reason I am not voting for Jim Talent next election: he brings home the bacon.

    Just north of St. Louis, the nation’s two largest rivers merge at a spot that few people visit.

    That may be about to change.

    On Monday, Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., announced plans to introduce a bill that would provide a special federal designation for the 200-square-mile area around the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers that would be known as the Confluence National Heritage Corridor.

    “This is an extraordinary natural landmark and this designation is long overdue,” said Talent, of suburban St. Louis.

    The designation seeks federal funding for several conservation, heritage and recreational attractions that are part of an organization called Confluence Greenway.

Talent’s legacy:

  • Turned the Arch pink.
  • That Sudafed Protection bill he co-sponsored with DiFi.
  • The Confluence National Heritage Boondoggle.

And I thought it made a difference when I helped unseat Jean Carnahan.

Municipalities Unworried About Groundswell of Citizen Pushback Against Eminient Domain

Another day, another future land seizure slipped into conversation all casual like. The story’s headline? Can Northwest Plaza rebound? The epic tale about whether a dying shopping mall can continue to provide needed revenue for a small St. Louis County municipality.

Even though it’s losing revenue from a failing commercial enterprise, the plucky local government will carry on by seizing homes from its citizens to roll into another commercial enterprise, even though its previous plan to seize the land drew no interest from the commercial community:

    The city plans to seek bids to redevelop 227 acres near Cypress Road and Interstate 70 into retail, hotel and office buildings. The project could force the buyout of more than 200 homes.

    The proposed development differs from a previously planned business park in the same area, which failed due to a lack of bids during the economic recession following the terrorist attacks of 2001.

I find the “If at first you don’t succeed, seize, seize again” attitude of the duly-elected land robber barons quite inspiring.

Unintended Lawsuits

Another high-speed criminal chase ends in an innocent death, and again certain segments of the population of St. Louis uproariously protest police who would try to capture dangerous people who might want to hurt innocent people and who then do actually hurt innocent people.

Fortunately, capitalism provides a liability-free solution: Tag-and track might slow car chases:

    Is there a solution to high-speed police chases?

    A company in Virginia is proposing one: a sticky dart with a homing device that police can fire at a fleeing car and track electronically at a distance.

    Instead of pursuing the getaway car at high speed, police can lay back and set a trap for the fleeing car up the road.

    The company believes its product, called StarChase, will save lives and reduce police liability by slowing some hot pursuits and stopping others altogether.

Yeah, liability-free, and the protestors will go home.

Until the police miss the bad guys’ car with the sticky dart and the sticky dart kills/injures/spoils the shirt of some bystander.

At which point the aggrievement machine will once again creak and grind into its public indignation over the dangers of sticky darts, etc.

Lovewrong

Lance Armstrong vs. Sheryl Crow: George W. Bush to Blame?:

    Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow have said all the right things so far as the speculation for their break shifts gears. One tabloid even examines that it may be President George W. Bush’s fault as Lance is a Bush fan while Sheryl is a Bush basher.

    The Star details that a friend of the singer said they knew the bust up was coming.

    “Sheryl said Lance didn’t just support Bush, – he’d go off and fight if the president asked him too.

Well, guys, we all know that those hot hippyesque chicks from the English department are kinda exciting, and they tend encouragingly toward the promiscuous, but ultimately, you’re going to want to settle down with a wife and mother….and if you’re cagey about it, you might end up with a hot bicyclist, too.

(Story seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

Memo to Lance Armstrong: Find your own, mister.