Writing in the Winterlands

Tam encounters northern atmosphere:

When it’s sunny, I feel the urge to live deliberately, like Thoreau, but with dachshunds instead of ants. When the clouds and drizzle come, I instead feel the urge to write about shoggoths shambling about in pet semetaries.

Strangely, my most productive writing period meshes with the time I spent amongst my hearty northern clan, before I moved amongst the luxurious and decadent southern tribes and became soft.

A Conservative Argument Against Constitutional Amendment #2

The text of Missouri Constitutional Amendment #2 on the November ballot is:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require that all real property used as a homestead by Missouri citizens who are former prisoners of war and have a total service-connected disability be exempt from property taxes?

The number of qualified former prisoners of war and the amount of each exemption are unknown, however, because the number who meet the qualifications is expected to be small, the cost to local governmental entities should be minimal. Revenue to the state blind pension fund may be reduced by $1,200.

As a conservative, I both love lower taxes and respect veterans who have served the country. However, I don’t favor extending tax relief to special classes who are more beloved of the majority of voters, legislators, or petition signers.

What, exactly, is the principle involved here? The former POWs served the country, so they should not pay property taxes on their primary homes? What about other disabled veterans? Why are they not special enough? Or law enforcement and fire fighting personnel? And volunteer firefighters. And teachers! We all love and respect teachers. Clerks at the Revenue License Offices? And so on.

I favor lower taxes for everyone, not just limited subsets of people who behave according to government favor.

(Cross-posted at 24th State.)

Oh, I’m The Extremist?

Say you think the United States Department of Education, younger than I am and I’mnotthatolddammit, is worth reconsideration as a Federal level institution and drain of Chinese bond purchaser dollars makes me an EXTREMIST?

But, somehow, you think it’s worthwhile that those same dollars go to fund grants that do SUCH IMPORTANT WORK as billboards:

Ready to Spend grant
Click for fully funded Federal glory

You know what? I call defending the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement Ready to Learn Grant billboards that replace privately funded “Don’t Suck Out That Growth In Your Uterus” billboards EXTREMIST.

I mean, seriously. We’re spending Chinese dollars and bringing wrack upon our economy to innovatively put up billboards telling parents to read to their children? Palin have mercy.

Book Report: Borrowed Ideas and Famous Firsts: St. Louis Architecture by Marilynne Bradley and Ahme Quist (1984)

This is a very short booklet about some architectural landmarks in the St. Louis area. Short paragraphs about each landmark accompany a photograph or a drawing of the landmark in question. Ms. Bradley does the photos and drawings.

As some of you might remember, I bought Ms. Bradley’s book of watercolors in 2008. Given that the books are 24 years apart, she’s maintained her interest in the architecture of the St. Louis area for a long time.

It’s an interesting little book to browse (you can easily do it between football plays on television) if you have interest in the St. Louis area and its history or architecture at all.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall by Henry Bursill (1859, ?)

You’re thinking that I’ll pretty much count anything as a book I’ve read, especially when I look like I’m going to fall short of the 100 annual goal. After all, I could flipping through craft books. How much lower can I sink? How about a book that’s nothing but hand puppets and titles? You betcha.

That’s what this book is: a collection of hand puppets, including a two-dimensional representation of how you’re supposed to make them and the representation of what it looks like when you’ve done it successfully. It’s only one side of the page, too, as this volume recreates a book published in the middle of the nineteenth century. Back when they didn’t have electricity and wanted to entertain themselves at by candlelight or whale oil lantern, this is what they did.

I thought the book was starting out from a bad spot when it showed this:


The Goose, made with a broken finger

Click for full size

Look at that finger on the top hand. Is that the ring finger? Is it even attached to the hand? The book didn’t say anything about needing a knife to make any of the shapes.

Fortunately, the rest look easy to accomplish. With practice. Just what I need, another hobby. I’ll get right on it, once I figure out how to successfully operate a sewing machine and learn the harmonica.

A quick perusal, something you can do while watching the football game or, if you’re like me, trying to avoid watching the Packers play a good quarter and blow it in the second half. Which they did not do this week, I heard; I don’t know, I was breaking my own fingers trying to make hand shadows.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Trash to Treasure 6 by Leisure Arts, Inc. (2001)

I’ve read a couple in this series (Trash to Treasure 2 and Trash to Treasure 8), and I’ve dinged them for being kinda goofy and for making things out of junk that leads to crafts that look like they’re made from recycled things.

This book, though, elevates the game. Its opening section makes good looking furniture out of remnants of other furniture, and those good ideas build up some good will. Later, we get into fabric crafts that look like projects made simply because you’ve got a lot of scrap to waste (a man’s suit collage, a shirt pocket organizer, and sachets out the wazoo). But only a couple things made out of coffee cans or old aluminum cans, so the overall quality of the end result is way up.

Definitely the best in the series I’ve read so far, and it makes me look forward to others in the series. Sadly, 2 of 3 of them will probably be disappointing if the sample holds true.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: October 24, 2010 (Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Sale)

I waited until late on bag day to go to the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale, so I only got 31 books. Two bags, two bucks, but I threw in a little extra because I’m a greedy, heartless Republican who compulsively buys books.

The haul:


Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Book Sale, October 2010
Click for full size

Among the highlights:

  • James Lileks’ Fresh Lies, a 1994 collection of his columns. Lileks before the Internet? No way.
  • A bunch of Clifford Simak science fiction novels.
  • A bunch of Walter Mosley, although maybe only one of them is an Easy Rawlins novel.
  • Bookstore, which is apparently the story of a small bookstore. No doubt a small bookstore in NYC.
  • A Mike Shayne novel, This Is It, Michael Shayne, that looks to be part of the Mike Shayne book club. Like I need more book club editions to collect.

Et cetera.

I volunteered at this fair on Friday night and saw some interesting things come through. Someone bought a couple Classics Club editions, but they did not pay at my table, so I could not see what they bought. I’m so deep into those now that the titles have to be far into the series for me to lack them. A woman also got a copy of Philip K. Dick’s Through a Scanner Darkly, and I commented on how hard it is to find Philip K. Dick books at book fairs.

I notice as I post this that this represents the 68th photo of book fair purchases I’ve put up. You can see the others by searching for "Good Book Hunting".

James Lileks: Heretic, Again

In his Bleat yesterday, he said:

Me, I’d like to get rid of every single book I have, except for twenty or so. I would like them all scanned and digitized and accessible via iPad, thank you. Yes, yes, the argument about the love of books; I love them too. The love of being surrounded by your library? Yes yes. But. I would be more likely to dip into something if it was incorporeal. On the shelf, they all seem to reproach me: you don’t remember me, do you? All that time we spent together. But I remember the good times; isn’t that enough? Really: if I could, I’d reduce everything to a big desk in a white room with a shelf holding just a few books. The obligations of possessions, the accretion of things: it’s enough to make a Buddhist of me.

He said something similar in September of last year, so he’s obviously not that serious about it. But if he is, well, the more for me.

Of course, what kind of compulsive book acquirer am I these days? I spent several hours last night volunteering at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book fair and did not buy a single book. Because I’m waiting for bag day.

Book Report: You Look Nice Today by Stanley Bing (2003)

I read Bing’s earlier novel, Lloyd What Happened, in 2006. Wow, what a different world that would have been. It was one of the first books I read after my first son was born, so I no doubt read it while being on call early in the nights during that first week. I was also an executive of sorts with an interactive marketing agency, so I could have been on my first step into the world where Stanley Bing’s characters live. Except, f course, I never was one for that way of life. Four years later, I’m in a different city and my life has slowed from a work-focus to a home-and-family-focus.

This book focuses on the head of a corporate Quality program who has a great secretary whom he helps through some life crises and gives good reviews and raises to, but she goes a bit off her rocker and brings a sexual harassement lawsuit against him and the company. This happens at the same time as a recession, so the man’s career ends pretty abruptly and under a cloud.

Bing chooses an unreliable narrator, a first person account from someone familiar with the story but not the characters under scrutiny. The narrator is a high level HR executive, friends with the eventual defendant, and a solid satirical corporate drone.

A very good book. I picked this up last week and jumped right on it. I could see why the Christian County Library thought this book was expendable; the last patron to check it out left her due date strip in it, and the book had sat on the shelf since 2006 without attention. A shame.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Fatherhood by Bill Cosby (1986)

If you’re a long-time reader, you know I like Bill Cosby (see Cosbyology, Love and Marriage, and Time Flies). This book came out in the middle 1980s, so it includes some of the bits from the Bill Cosby: Himself film, but it also has a number of other essays and anecdotes about raising his children (and about being raised as a child).

One thing I still don’t get is the inclusion of the Forward and Afterward by Dr. Alvin Poussaint. Maybe Dr. Cosby hopes to make a meta statement about the themes within his book, add a dash of seriousness about them, through this device, but frankly, I found Dr. Poussaint’s advice to be trite. But maybe that’s not targeted to me.

One of the better in his line of books (I say having read Cosbyology most recently, so I’m working from that constraint).

Books mentioned in this review:

Wherein Brian’s Cultural Selections Again Intersect With Playmates Of The Year

Angela Dorian, PMOY 1968, is in custody for attempted murder.

She appeared in the original Star Trek episode “Assignment: Earth” as Isis, the cat/human companion of Gary Seven.

I just read Star Trek: The Eugenic Wars, which features the characters Gary Seven and Isis.

It’s getting harder and harder to explain these intersections to my wife, particularly after the whole Shannon Tweed/The Firing Line film selection. But therein lies another story.

UPDATE: Name changed to protect the presumed innocent as corrected by Charles Hill in the comments.

The Social Conservative Dog Whistle

When the Democrats and their like-minded brethren in the new and old media encountered a Republican that credibly challenged a Democrat for Senate in Massachusetts, they quickly promoted a story that Scott Brown was a pornography star. He did, after all, appear in a beefcake spread for Cosmopolitan magazine when he was a 22-year-old college student. After the news came out, one of my social conservative friends expressed disgust with the Republican Party and vowed not to support the party based on the salacious headlines until I soothed him with some context. Based solely on biased and sensational information provided by media whose interests and loyalties do not coincide with his, my friend would have not voted for Scott Brown.

Another year brings another election and another conservative candidate facing off against a Democrat in an eastern state and professionals in the journalism-industrial complex put the special social conservative dog whistle to their lips and blow. Christine O’Donnell, the longshot Tea Party candidate for the Senate from Delaware, admitted on television in 1999 that she participated in witchcraft when she was a child. According to the hopes of his likeminded televisia, the social conservatives will hear this sound and begin barking.

The damning video clip comes from an appearance on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in 1999, wherein O’Donnell claimed to have dabbled in witchcraft, to have hung out with people like that, and to have unwittingly eaten at a Satanic altar. The enthusiastic claim itself presented within the widely circulated clip seems geared to broaden the depth of her experience and to excite the audience. The clip itself does not provide the context of what the panel discussed when she made the claims, but the context might damage the Pavlovian call to disapproval.

Other attempts to portray Ms. O’Donnell as a SINNER! include alleging that, as a young person, Ms. O’Donnell drank alcohol and had premarital sex. Undoubtedly, rumors await creation that she also listened to heavy metal music, played Dungeons and Dragons, wrote poetry lamenting how she was not understood, and/or dressed like a vampire for a costume party. The very things that Democrats look for in a life partner somehow transubstantiate into disqualifiers when they find them in Republican youth. Especially the youth of dangerous Republican political opponents.

Ms. O’Donnell spoke at a Republican picnic this weekend and explained her dalliance with witchcraft took place when she was in high school. Her other pronouncements portray her as solidly Christian. So Christian, in fact, that other gotcha clips portray Ms. Donnell as a particularly strident Christian, but those revelations were meant to incite the less godly, not the more godly. The out-of-context witchcraft quote, though, is designed to control social conservatives and keep them from supporting this candidate with votes, money, and passion.

In the past, this tactic might have proven effective. As the last election cycles have proven, though, staying at home on election day to protest flaws in a candidate closer to your views tacitly works to help elect people whose views oppose yours, often expansively and expensively. These days, though, a concern for smaller government needs to trump other differences to get the country back onto a track that’s not federally funded, underused, but cool-to-the-leaders light rail.

Most importantly, I hope my friend recognizes the greater interest that he shares with fiscal conservatives and limited-government conservatives, regardless of their diverse religious views. The Republican Party should have enough room for the Christians and the pagans to sit together at the table, to quote Dar Williams. When the left comes up with attention-grabbing ways to cast aspersions on conservative candidates, we all need to seek the context and, frankly, the historical nature of the aspersions to determine if they reflect reality or just another trial by ordeal portion of a witch hunt, where the candidate who loses at the polls is innocent and any that survives is still guilty.

(Yeah, I know it’s not timely, but this started out as a real op-ed piece, but I’m so slow when I write them that they’re too old by the time I’m done. Although I don’t bother to send these to the papers, I have no trouble filling a WordPress database with them.)

Sadly, The Sources of Creativity Are 1984 and Brave New World

I cringe when law enforcement gets “creative“:

Creative law enforcement isn’t new to St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus.

. . . .

On Tuesday, his deputies lifted a plastic tarp to unveil his newest idea: an armored truck to park in problem neighborhoods as a vandal-proof platform to transmit live pictures.

“I thought about a lot of names … I thought ‘The Cockroach’ would’ve probably been appropriate, but we settled on ‘The Exterminator,'” Justus told reporters.

The donated and rebuilt armored truck, once used to carry cash, is fitted with cameras, digital recorders and gear to stream live video. Deputies will park it in front of the “dwellings of troublemakers” — for days at a time, if necessary — to reduce nuisance crimes.

“It sends a message,” Justus said. “We will not tolerate drug trafficking, littered lawns, loud noise and other neighborhood nuisances.” He said the cameras should keep criminals on the run and give residents peace of mind.

Those budgets aren’t going to spend themselves, and the newspaper pages won’t just spontaneously print images of the Chief unless the department takes creative action.

Will it be effective? It depends upon whether you believe its goals are to fight crime or the aforementioned budget/news pictures.

Book Report: The Executioner #37: Friday’s Feast by Don Pendleton (1979)

This book is five books ahead of Tennessee Smash and advances the overarching story quite a bit. Mack Bolan is going to lead a government team, the story goes, so he’s driving east and slaughtering a bunch of mafiosos on the way over the course of the week. This is the sixth book in that week. Bolan infiltrates a hard site in Baltimore, impersonates an independent Mafia hitman (the Ace of Spades gambit again), and finds a murdered capo whom none in his family mourn.

Bolan susses out the story, interdicts a forty million dollar shipment of gold, and returns to the hardsite to shoot a bunch of people with Italian names.

It’s a quick read, pretty good for pulp (as have been some of the others I’ve read in the series), and worth some change at a book fair.

Books mentioned in this review:

We Need A European System

Enlightened European socialism in action:

As authorities prepared for another national strike Tuesday, a larger swath of the population was already feeling the effect of nearly a week of continuous strikes by workers, especially in the energy sector, who were joined early Monday by truck drivers who blocked major roads around France, driving at a snail’s pace in “escargot operations.”

Despite government assurances, fears of gasoline shortages pushed drivers to fill up their tanks, causing more than 1,000 of France’s 12,500 gas stations to temporarily run dry.

“The most serious concern is fuel,” said Richard Laisne, 58, a Paris taxi driver. “Because if there’s a fuel problem, there’s no work for me.” He said he filled up his tank Sunday.

Government leaders continue to assure the public that there was no reason to fear a shortage, and Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Sunday, “I won’t let our country be blocked.”

A spokesman for the Energy Ministry said trucks were on their way to restock gas stations that ran out of fuel.

Flight cancellations and delays are expected Tuesday as airport and public transport workers plan to strike. The government again advised airlines to reduce the number of flights they have planned to Paris and to arrive with their fuel tanks as full as possible, despite insisting there was no risk of fuel shortages at France’s major airports.

With striking workers blocking roads, trains, gasoline depots and refineries, there could be a long delay before hard-hit gas stations are able to function normally.

Throw in some occasional riots of youths of unnamed ethnicity, and you’ve got a virtual Utopia. Why don’t we do that here?

Oh, yeah, we are.

Book Report: Three-dimensional Découpage by Hilda Stokes (2003)

Because I’ve given some thought to trying découpage (and have a half-completed bit of découpagery lying about, I picked up this book. It’s a guide for creating three-dimensional decoupage by layering multiple copies of the same image cut differently to add foreground and depth. It’s an interesting idea, but it might not be something for me to try any time soon, if ever.

The book focuses on a number of flower and fairy designs and includes a number of cutting guides which include the image and the portions of each image you’ll overlay to create the depth. So it’s just a bit of glue short of an actual kit instead of a guide.

Maybe I’m too plugged into political thought, but every time I type the author’s name, I find myself typing Hilda Solis. I cannot escape it even in my attempted hobbyism.

Books mentioned in this review:

Pushing the Back of the Envelope

With an annual deficit of $1,000,000,000,000, the government pretends that it will someday have 10 years of $100,000,000,000 surplus to pay the loan back. A government debt of $15,000,000,000,000 requires 150 years of $100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion dollars) of government surpluses to pay off the principles, and this does not include the interest on the debt.

In the Internet bubble years of the Clinton year and the first two years of the 21st century, we had 3 years of $100,000,000,000 surplus (and a fourth surplus less that $100,000,000,000).

The government knows at this time that it will never pay that money back, which is why the throttle is full open. It’s $1,000,000,000,000 in borrowing today, because sometime the rest of the world will change the revolving credit not in the United States’ favor.

(Data source.)