Book Report: The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison (1982)

Sometimes, I take a long time to select which book to read next after I complete a book. I look at my bookshelves bulging with choices and, quite frankly, am overwhelmed with the possible selections. Sometimes, though, the books leap off of the shelf in a meaningful segue. Of course, immediately after reading The Case Against Hillary Clinton, I picked up The Stainless Steel Rat for President.

Like The Case Against Hillary Clinton, I bought this book from the red dot, three for a dollar shelves outside Hooked on Books, but I didn’t buy the two on the same visit.

I’ve tried to read The Stainless Steel Rat for President on at least one other occasion, but its tour-de-farce tone didn’t draw me in, and I moved onto other things.

This time, though, the over-the-top voice and the story of how the intergalactic criminal and undercover operative known as the Stainless Steel Rat ventures to a banana republic of a planet whose thriving tourism industry funds a repressive dictatorship. Penned in 1982, it offers a fable of a criminal fixing an election to free a backward, galactically latino people. If I wanted to, I guess I could dig out some sort of political posturing of the time and a backlash or support of Reagan, but wow, it would take some effort. I vaguely remember when one could read politically-based fiction without trying to determine whose side the author is on.

Regardless, it’s an entertaining read, clocking in at the old school under 200 page mark. An entry into a series, but not a chronological or particularly serialized series, so you can enjoy it if it’s your first Stainless Steel Rat book or if you haven’t read a Stainless Steel Rat book in a decade. In short, it’s good old school science fiction. Well worth my thirty-three and a third cents.

Books mentioned in this review:


Words That Do Not Belong In Country Songs, Part III

Jimmy Buffett, as in &quotIt’s Five O’Clock Somewhere“:

    At a moment like this, I can’t help but wonder,
    What would Jimmy Buffett do?

Alan Jackson committed this particular travesty. For the love of Pete, Jackson, do you see Hank Williams or Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings or Johhny Cash drinking freaking hurricanes? You’re treading a fine line here trying to work into some beach cowboy territory. I know the kids are all into it these days, but come on. A country duet that involves Jimmy Buffett? What’s next, the Wiggles?

Exception to the Rule: You may refer to a Jimmy buffet if you’re eating in the back of your old GMC SUV.

Book Report: The Case Against Hillary Clinton by Peggy Noonan (2000)

I bought this book for $.33 at Hooked on Books in Springfield, Missouri, because I think I like Noonan (everyone else on the right side of the blogosphere does) and because it was on the three for a dollar rack. I expected a partisan book, and I got it.

Noonan wrote the book in 2000 to dissuade New Yorkers from voting Hillary Clinton into the Senate. We all know how that turned out, and it didn’t quite play out like Noonan feared it might–Hillary! never beat Giuliani, for example. Noonan spends a lot of the book bashing the Clintons for the crimes and malfeasance of the Clinton presidency, but I’ll be frank, I have sort of moved beyond my distaste for Clinton and that particular circus. So most of the book doesn’t work on me, particularly the parts where Noonan pads chapters with anecdotes about friends who are New York voters and who might be tempted to vote for Hillary or where Noonan pads the book with dream sequence chapters where Bobby didn’t die….I mean, where Hillary gives phantom speeches and takes Republicanish stands.

So I could almost walk away from the book without any particular additional dislike of Hillary, but for an chapter wherein Noonan accidentally provides actual evidence for why Hillary should scare us. It’s a chapter on Hillary’s views on the rights of children, wherein they should have the same rights as their parents in their upbringing, and where the state will further intrude on behalf of destroying actual families whenever the angelic little demons have temper tantrums. Scary stuff, reminding us that when it takes a villiage, HRC means it takes The State.

So I’ve made my commitment here. If the Democrats inadvertantly nominate Her Royal Clintoness to run for president, I will support and volunteer to elect anyone the Republicans nominate. Even, Heaven forfend, Mitt “RomneyCare Ain’t HillaryCare Because I Am A Republican, Sorta” Romney.

Very far afield from what Noonan intended, but in line for what she might have dreaded.

Interesting note about the particular book I bought: I think it was material for some course or another. A half sheet of paper contained a list of books in a political vein:

  • The Declaration of Independence
  • Letter from Birmingham Jail
  • On the Beginning of Political Societies
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848
  • The Fundamental Principle of a Republic
  • Civil Disobedience [sic]
  • Selected Poems from Song of Myself
  • The Case of Hillary Clinton [sic]

Quite a reading list there. Previous owner left the half sheet about half way through the final chapter of the book. Now that, my friends, is going through the motions: not bothering to finish the book when you’ve only got a few pages left. Even in my college days, I’d finish the book or I’d leave it on my to-read shelf for decades until I did actually finish it (or I will, honest). Of course, this reading list misspells or mistitles a couple of the works upon it, so I have to wonder about the class. I mean, the founding Fathers, Thoreau, King, and Whitman? And Noonan? That must have been some interesting inculcation.

Books mentioned in this review:

MfBJN Gets Fan Mail

A regular, long-time reader writes:

    Bonjour,

    Je suis le webmaster de PageStart.fr et de Marche.fr.
    Je souhaiterai faire un échange de liens, avec votre site http://stlbrianj.blogspot.com/.

    Si vous le souhaitez, vous pouvez faire un échange de liens avec nous,
    dès maintenant, en cliquant sur le lien ci-dessous :
    Faire un échange de liens avec PageStart.fr

    Si vous n’êtes pas le webmaster du site, merci de nous en informer :
    Je ne suis pas le webmaster de ce site

    Cordialement,
    Eric

Thanks, Eric.

I certainly hope that spam e-mail request was flattering in its native tongue.

Lileks: Totally Derivative of MfBJN

Musings from Brian J. Noggle, February 13, 2006:

    I don’t know what sort of Birkenstock-wearing Seattlite would shush the commercial-driven sugar-craving mewlings of its larvae with EnviroKidz Organic Koala CrispTM breakfast cereal (Gluten Free! Organic Cocoa!), but apparently somewhere, someone is making money providing the product.

James Lileks, today:

    Look. When you put a box of “Cinnamon Toast” cereal on the table, the kid knows what he’s getting. “Gorilla Munch” doesn’t really nail it down. Particularly if the Gorilla appears to be gazing at the person holding forth the bowl, sizing him up for a game of poker. And I don’t get the part about “1% of sales donated to wildlife” – makes it sound like they send someone into the forest and throw wadded-up fifties at random animals.

Great minds think alike. Or perhaps Enivro-Kidz cereal is just that mockable that everyone except the earnest types will make fun of it at some time.

Checking My Change Jar Right Now

A collector deliberately placed three valuable U.S. coins into circulation in New York in April 2006:

    To help introduce more people to “the magic of coin collecting,” Scott A. Travers, a 44-year-old former vice president of the American Numismatic Association and author of The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, decided to mark National Coin Week in mid-April 2006 by deliberately spending three valuable old pennies as he made routine purchases around Manhattan. “I’m planting a seed, and I hope that a new generation of people will come to appreciate the history that coins represent,” he
    said.

    The three coins Scott Travers planned to spend were all relatively low-mintage U.S. one-cent pieces nearly one hundred years old: a 1908-S Indian Head cent, and 1909-S VDB and 1914-D Lincoln cents.

Hey, it’s less than the Powerball but since I’m to stingy to drop change in the jar at Starbucks, I have a better chance at winning.

Book Report: Slightly Chipped by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone (1999) / Warmly Inscribed by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone (2001)

I bought these books, stated first editions both, at Hooked on Books for $11.50 each. Surely, the authors can appreciate that in an aesthetic sense, even if they cannot appreciate it in a royalty sense.

Both deal with collecting books, which is what I like to say that I do. More likely, I just accumulate books, but that’s okay by me, too.

The first, Slightly Chipped, details some of their book shopping in the nearby towns around their home in Connecticut. As they shop, they dine well and they slip into asides about the history of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury circle, the history of Bram Stoker and Dracula, or a British publishing house amid anecdotes and scenes that drew them into their asides. The pace is leisurely and loving as they dwell on the high-priced books and their pursuit thereof.

The second, Warmly Inscribed, collects a series of essays about book collecting. And although I could relate to parts of it–I’ve been in the Printer’s Row Book Shop in Chicago and wonder if I’ve been to the only decent used book store in West Palm Beach, Florida–more than I could traversing Connecticut and the northeast, I didn’t like the book as much. Perhaps I felt they were trying too hard or reporting more than simply revelling in the experience.

And although the authors are well-to-do northeastern former writers for those papers, I could easily shunt aside their soft liberal asides (did they really think the Chicago policeman at the Dearborn book fair wished for 1968 so he could club them for no reason?). Besides, although they’re talking about high priced books from authors I’m barely concerned about, I cannot get on my low horse kick and go all common-man to pooh-pooh the practice; although I get most of my books from the dollar table or by the three-dollar bagful, I’ve been known to pay top dollar for rare Robert B. Parkercana.

So if you’re into books and want to share in some experiences of serious collectors, you will probably enjoy these books. Let me repeat that so that I’m clear in my enjoyment of these books, as many of my book reports on books bought by the bagful knock said books. Coincidence, I’m sure.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Word Problem

I don’t know about you, but I am having difficulty solving the following word problem, found in this article:


    As recently as 1994, more than half of newspaper carriers 57 percent were under 18, often neighborhood kids, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

I blame my own English-degree-fueled mathematical incompetence.

What a 10 Year Old Knows

Pennsylvania girl, 10, charged with tossing crack during drug raid:


    A 10-year-old girl has been charged with evidence tampering after authorities say she tossed small bags of crack cocaine out of a window during a drug raid.

Kudos to the appropriate authorities for bringing this outlaw to justice! She was a dangerous villain, no doubt:

    District Attorney Andy Jarbola said the girl had a “bad attitude” during police questioning.

    “What’s so amazing about this investigation is how street-smart this 10-year-old child was,” he said. “She knew what she was doing.”

If she was a public school student, which might not be an easy assumption given the circumstances, I would have to commend her civics teacher for instilling the subtleties of evidence tampering and probably conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements criminal charges to the child.

However, I think this is just a district attorney out for prosecutions for their own sake or worse, for the sake of furthering his career. Because from what I remember of my fifth grade year, my parents were paramount to my moral upbringing, and although they instilled me with a solid enough foundation of if the police can prosecute you for it, don’t do it, other children within the projects probably missed that. Without some other a priori religious or philosophical framework in place, perhaps this child thought that keeping mommy out of jail was a value worth preserving and that she had a moral imperative to defend her family life against arbitrary outsiders.

Jarbola said, “She knew what she was doing.” Indeed, it’s hard not to know what one’s doing when one is undertaking an action. This ten-year-old child was apparently throwing crack out of the window. The thing mommy stored or sold. Because the police were coming. I am sure that this was all within the child’s mind unless the mother was also a hypnotist. However, whether the child knew this was wrong is another matter. But not to Jarbola. Jarbola has actus reus, which is all The Man needs these days.

Frankly, I would like Jarbola to explain to the child why it’s wrong that Mommy is selling a product that alters the brain chemistry to willing consumers. That it’s illegal because it’s bad, and it’s bad because it’s illegal, or whatever simplicities and banalities Jarbola would use to back it up. Does Jarbola have an ethical idea for what, exactly, the ten-year-old child was doing so that he could explain it to her, or is it enough that what she was doing was illegal and she knew she was at a window, tossing baggies out?

Because frankly, I couldn’t explain it to her without resorting to the simple if the police can prosecute you for it, don’t do it dictum that I’ve outgrown as far as moral precepts go. As a practical guide, it’s handy, but if a child doesn’t adhere to it and cannot understand why drugs are evil and drug sellers, especially Mommy, are evil, it’s hard to convince me that the child knew what she was doing.

Perhaps we should count our blessings that Jarbola isn’t trowelling on additional charges like he would were she an adult: armed criminal evidence tampering if they found a gun on the premises, corrupting a minor (herself), and so on.

Regardless, I think Jarbola’s decision to charge the child and his facile summation discredit him as a prosecutor and, ultimately, as a man.

Preparing For My Nyah-Nyah, 25 Years Early

So in the year 2030, when someone from the retrodivision of an immersive entertainment syndicate plumbs the depths of arcana and comes up with a re-imagining of Firefly wherein “Mal” Reynolds is actually Mallory Reynolds and both Mal and her assistant Zoo (a guy, of course) are actually mystical religionists whose uprising has been thwarted by the corporate mercenaries of a Big Nuclear puppet regime, I shall merrily taunt, “So now you know how it feels!” to Firefly partisans who think the new Battlestar Galactica is better than the original.

Hopefully, Lawrence will be the chair at SLU by then so he’ll be nearby for a good personal taunting. Or perhaps I shall take the sympathetic high road. But only if I can be patronizing about it.

Dirk Benedict is Starbuck FOREVAR!!!1!

The Male Conundrum, 2006

More proof it’s hard to be a man in the twenty-first century: these conflicting mandates:

59 Things a Man Should Never Do Past 30:

    6. Hang art with tape.

Hanging Pictures on Rock-Hard Plaster Walls:

    Back then, walls were finished with three coats of plaster — like the ones in your home — that dried like rock. Hooks with nails won’t go in easily. You might consider using hooks that attach with adhesive.

I guess one can avoid the conflict by only living in homes with drywall after 30 (or mud-walled hovels if that’s your personality), so it’s not a true conundrum.

Fortunately, I know men, real men, don’t check off items in these sorts of checklists of manly behavior and disobey all sorts of dicta. So I’ll just ignore both.

If the nail bends, I’m just not using a big enough hammer.