Book Report: South Park Conservatives by Brian C. Anderson (2005)

Book coverI got this book relatively recently and dived into it as I thought it would be a quick, episodic read. Well, it was quicker than I thought; of the book’s 190 page heft, only 165 of it are the book itself; the rest are footnotes, index, and whatnot.

The book expands upon an essay, and it shows. Separated into chapters covering conservativism’s rise in talk radio, the blogosphere, new publishers, and on college campuses, the book reads like a series of blog entries where footnotes replace hyperlinks. It’s audience is not the readers of blogs, per se, as most of the information within it is well known to people who have followed blogs for years. Instead, it’s geared to those who read books and newspapers.

In 2011, it’s an interesting time capsule. Its semi-triumphalist tone is kind of amusing given the events of the 2006 and 2008 elections which proved that conservative values were not as widely ascendent as they seemed. Also, the book provides a time capsule of the blogosphere in 2004-2005. Remember when Andrew Sullivan and Charles Johnson were conservative stalwarts? Good times, good times. Also, the book refers to a blog called “2blowhards” which I don’t think I’d heard of, but the author must have read it plenty. The book shows how much changes and how much has remained the same.

I dunno. It’s an okay book, I suppose. A bit stretched to fit book size and, as I said, a bit dated and a bit redundant if you read blogs.

Books mentioned in this review:

Public Dog Schooling: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

So I was reading that taxpayers in Chesterfield (or people who pay taxes in Chesterfield because they shop there) are funding a dog park:

Folks hounding Chesterfield officials over the years for a dog park finally have a reason to howl in celebration.

The $118,000, two-acre Eberwein Dog Park, the first dog park in the city, is set to open to Chesterfield residents on Sept. 1. The dog park is within the new 18-acre Eberwein Park.

And I got to thinking, how else could the few who own dogs further soak the taxpaying public? And then it hit me: Public, compulsory dog school.

Listen, when you argue with a liberal about public schooling, he will say that it’s best for a civilized society as a whole if its citizens are educated in a mass-produced Procrustean factory of leftist indoctrination (well, he will say all of it up to the prepositional phrase). Then, if you show him this chart:

He’ll say something about how the increased funding raises minorities scores or something, not caring that the math indicates that a whole lot of scores have to go down to make a flat average when the mythical increase of minority scores. But that’s neither here nor there.

By that reasoning, compulsory obedience school for dogs makes a better society. Better-behaved dogs don’t bite, increasing safety. Better-behaved dogs don’t run into traffic, increasing safety. Frisbee-trained dogs provide entertainment and exercise, getting children out of the house and away from the Wii, increasing fitness and combating childhood obesity. Ergo, the government should fund dog obedience schools to indirectly improve society.

And if the costs are astronomical and rising compared to the benefit? That’s what quantitative easing is for. QED.

Book Report: The World’s Great News Photos 1840-1980 Selected and Edited by Craig T. Norback and Melvin Gray (1980)

Book coverThis book collects a number of news photographs from the century and a half in question. Some were Pulitzer Prize winners, but there are quite a few that I don’t recognize, and more importantly, there are quite a few that I would recognize that are not included herein. So maybe it’s really the best news photos of the period to which the producers of a coffeetable book could get cheap reproduction rights.

That said, each photo has an accompanying couple of paragraphs to explain the context. As though we need context. I’m no history major, but I know what the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was and what the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was. Okay, I did not know who Billy Sunday was, and although I’ve missed the answer on at least one trivia night, I have to continue to repeat to myself to remember that Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to… to… dammit!

At any rate, it’s definitely worth a flip through during a football or baseball game.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Test I Failed

The latest mailer from Ducks Unlimited, of which I’m an off and on member, tested me. And I failed.


Do not detach!

There’s a dotted line and a perforation, but the instruction is Do not detach. Apparently, in addition to a renewal form, there’s a letter to my Congressman telling him not to cut federal funding for wetlands.

Come to think of it, that’s a test Ducks Unlimited failed. I’m all about sending my money of my own volition to them to pool money with like-minded people to conserve wetlands. Meanwhile, I guess its professionals have decided that the proper way to spend my membership dues is to lobby Congress to extract money from non-like-minded citizens to do the work Ducks Unlimited should do.

Come to think of it, this membership form is going in the trash.

Book Report: Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein (1973)

Book coverGiven that the Heinlein quotes are making their ways around the Internet courtesy Instapundit (see here and here), I thought I’d pick this book up. Well, I did.

It started out as a pretty good spacer yarn. It revolves around Lazarus Long, previously seen in Methuselah’s Children, which I read as part of The Past Through Tomorrow, as he gets “rejuvenated” 2000 years from now after he’s lived those 2000 years and has run out of things to do. As part of his therapy, he tells stories about his adventures. For about 200 pages, it was cool, but then it got to be a little tedious. There were allusions at a greater plot at work, but that was played out in dribs and drabs. Then, he gets rejuvenated and leads a group from the planet Secundus, the planet where he was rejuvenated and that is becoming a bit stale culturally and politically, to Tertius, where they build the Heinleinian free love commune.

Around that time, where the action switches to the free love commune, the book bogs way down. The first half of each chapter explains how awesome free love and polyamory are, and then we get a couple pages of plot development. Unfortunately, the plot develops that Long travels into the past and then falls in love with his own mother, so we then get about 50 pages of them trying to couple in 1917, and when the attempts at coupling fails, we get 50 pages of them talking dirty to each other. Hey, I’m not a prude, but this stuff made me squicky given 1)It’s a science fiction novel, and 2)It’s his mother.

So, frankly, the book doesn’t hold together very well. It meanders a lot, of course, since it’s kind of a collection of short stories with an overarching plot, sort of. When I was reading this book, I was comparing it a bit to Atlas Shrugged as maybe a collected statement of the author’s philosophy, and I was comparing Heinlein’s plotting skills unfavorably to Rand’s, for crying out loud. Then there are the explicit details of the philosophy, which include a lot of sex, lots of women asking for Long to impregnate them, approval of sex with your own clones, and twisting the head of a fully born baby if it had Down’s syndrome.

Um, yeah. The philosophy expressed within has its good points, as the Instapundit quotes capture and as the Notebooks of Lazarus Long (two sections in the book with bullet points and no narrative, later published independently). However, there’s more to Heinlein’s view of life than that, and it makes this conservative say, “Ew.”

But the man can write some interesting science fiction amid the unclothed rubdowns.

Other Heinlein reviews:

I do so prefer his rocket jockey stuff to the adult books, for what it’s worth.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Atlas of Ancient History: 1700BC to 565AD by Michael Grant (1971, 1985)

Book coverI said I was going to start reading comic books to make my quota this year. Almost. This is a book of maps and is a just a couple crayons short of being a coloring book.

The maps center on the Mediterranean and each map depicts, in chronological order, different elements and aspects of history, such as the extent of empires and whatnot. It’s a good reference to how the Assyrians rubbed against the Babylonians and whatnot. Emphasis is given to Greek and Roman historical concerns, so you get to see different parts of those periods, including things like where the mints where, what regions produced different products, and what part of the world select individuals hailed from. It’s interesting to me how many of the major writers and thinkers actually hailed from the region we now call Spain.

The other thing that struck me was how small the world was then, at least this portion of them. You know about the Greek city states kinda in your mind, but they’re just names and whatnot until you see them (again) on a map and realize that Athens and Sparta were about 100 miles apart, about the distance between Springfield, Missouri, and Rolla, Missouri, and that Athens and Thebes is half that. Fascinating. Sure, you can say, “Duh!” But it’s there in black and white which is a stark reminder of common knowledge you sometimes don’t acutely know.

So it’s a good reference book to have on my shelves for when I’m doing deep studies of history instead of ceaselessly scanning the Internet headlines for something to blog about. And something quick and easy to look at to make your quota.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Blip, Mounted

See, I post about my messy desktop, and I set to work cleaning it. You’re an inspiration to me, gentle reader.

The Blip, mounted:

The game strip

The Blip and the Parker Brothers Merlin join the previous wallhangings. All, of course, are mounted on Velcro so I can pull them down and play a quick game any time I want to, natch.

The cat thing, though, that’s still on my desk until I figure out what to do with it.

Book Report: Treasure Hunting for Fun and Profit by Charles Garrett (1997, 2006)

Book coverLast spring, I lost a part from my rototiller, so I went down to the sporting goods store and bought a metal detector to find it. And since I live on the edge of the Old Wire Road / Trail of Tears, I thought I might become a relic hunter–that’s what the people who use metal detectors call themselves. Or treasure hunters if they look for pure metal. So I ordered this book to get an idea of how to use my metal detector.

The book was written by Charles Garrett, President of the Garrett Metal Detectors company, so the book gives a lot of attention to the innovations in the latest Garrett detectors. It provides a broad overview, from looking for coins on the beach to using metal detectors to prospect for gold in the American West. It has a chapter on how good the hobby is for seniors and children. Ergo, it’s a little broader than I would have hoped.

I guess to get the knowledge I hope for, I’ll have to spend a little more time using the device rather than reading about it. Ain’t that the way?

Books mentioned in this review:

Perry Wooing Libertarians

Perry once invested in firm that profited from porn.

W00t! An early investor in Vivid Entertainment? Not so much:

A 16-year-old investment by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a firm that rented pornographic movies is drawing new scrutiny in light of his just-launched presidential campaign.

Liberal bloggers and a handful of news sites have been taking the Republican candidate to task for his 1995 investment in the now-defunct Movie Gallery, which at the time was an Alabama-based video store chain that attributed some of its profits from renting pornographic films.

What? He just invested in a movie rental chain? That’s a firm that profited from porn? Hang on, let me pause here to laugh outrageously again.

Book coverYou’ve got a Republican Christian running for president, so all of a sudden, it’s a bunch of gotcha journalism, wheels within wheels of HYPOCRISY! Journalists who kind of nod at national Democratic leaders’ churchgoing (it’s the pageant) and who ignore moral defects suddenly start thumping the bible like a drum to send a message to the savage natives that THIS MAN IS NOT A CHRISTIAN! (like you, rube.)

Let those amongst you who have not invested in Blockbuster or Johnson and Johnson (who profits from products that promote premarital and homosexual sex!!!! amongst other things) cast the first stone.

(Joke, and I hope this is really just a joke, seen via Hot Air’s headlines.)

Five Things On My Desk Right Now

An unsorted list that describes, really, why I need to clean off my desk:

  • One green binder containing hundreds of rejection letters for my writing efforts over the last 20 years.
  • One silver butter tray, tarnished.
  • One 36 Caliber Navy Model pistol, an expensive Italian import, I think.
  • One Blip the Digital Game awaiting cleaning and mounting on the wall.
  • One cute little 6″ by 6″ decoration depicting a kitten painted on what looks like window blinds and adorned by a little pink bow not awaiting mounting on my wall.

These things were deposited by me onto this desk months ago because I need to take a couple minutes to clean them or whatnot. Instead of doing that, I’ve posted on my blog, and soon enough a blizzard of paper to file and act upon will cover them again until the springtime.

Tax The Rich States

Courtesy of Instapundit, we have this story:

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced Thursday that Virginia has finished its fiscal year with a surplus of $544.8 million through higher-than-expected tax revenue and savings.

And suddenly, the idea comes to me: The Federal Government should tax the rich states!

I mean, why should the fiscally prudent legislators and governor in Virginia get to keep that surplus? I believe when you spread the wealth around states, it’s good for everyone, especially California, New York, Illinois, and other blue state fiscal disaster areas.

Plus, it punishes the mostly red states and encourages them to spill every drop of taxpayer sweat they can.

Damn, it’s a good thing I’m not a Democratic strategist. I’m awful devious.

Congratulations to Old Trees, Missouri

The town in which I lived prior to my moving to Southwest Missouri has been recognized in Money as one of the best 100 places to live in the US:

Nestled among tall oak trees planted 200 years ago, the neighborhoods in Webster Groves–named for 19th century statesman Daniel Webster–offer considerable economic diversity. Just two miles outside St. Louis city limits, the town has affordable housing that draws young families, plus much more expensive homes.

Funny, that. Actually, the story of the naming is a little more complicated. In the 19th century, there was a school named for Daniel Webster that got a train stop. The school closed, but the train stop remained, so when the townspeople wanted to incorporate to keep the demon liquor out, they applied for the name “Webster.” However, since there was already a Webster, Missouri, they had to append “Groves” on it to get the official town name. True story. You just read it on the Internet.

Was that college Webster University? No, of course not: Webster University 1) isn’t closed and 2) was named for Noah Webster, who donated land to the Sisters of Loretto who ran the then-named Loretto College but who needed a new name since there was already a, you guessed it, Loretto College. True story. You just read it on the Internet.

Hey, wait a minute: Why is Old Trees suddenly on this list after I moved away?

Scoring Myself Vis-à-Vis The NPR Top 100 Sci Fi Books/Series

Courtesy of Woody, we have the top 100 NPR Science Fiction and Fantasy Books and Series. What? A list of books! Of course we have to measure ourselves against it.

Gentle readers, remember this means I read the book, this means I own the book and haven’t read it yet, and this means I’ve read part of the series. Also, I’ve included a link to those books whose book reports I’ve published on MfBJN.

  • The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (1 / ?)
  • A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore
  • I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  • Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  • Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King (3 / 7)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Stand, by Stephen King
  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  • Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
  • A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  • Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
  • A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  • The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
  • Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  • The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
  • The Belgariad, by David Eddings
  • The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  • The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Contact, by Carl Sagan
  • The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  • Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  • World War Z, by Max Brooks
  • The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  • Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  • I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  • The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
  • The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
  • The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
  • The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  • A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
  • The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore (2 / 9 according to this definition of the series) – I know I’ve read some of them
  • Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
  • The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
  • Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
  • The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  • Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  • The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
  • The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
  • Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
  • The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
  • The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
  • The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
  • The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
  • The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
  • Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
  • A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  • The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
  • The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
  • The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
  • The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

It looks like 28 complete novels/series and 3 partials. On the other hand, I have read other books in series whose first book is mentioned (the Rama series, the Ringworld series, 3 of the 4 books in the Elijah Bailey series by Asimov, maybe an extra Foundation book or two beyond the Foundation trilogy, and so on.

Frankly, I’d rather the compiler of these lists include books in series as individual books if they’re going to include them at all, just for consistency sake.

Also, note that to catch up with Woody (who has read 44 of the list, somehow), I should to focus on individual novels on it instead of series, since reading the Lord of the Rings and Dune took me most of the summer, but only counts as one item on this list. Or I could read what I want and just let the list items embolden where they may.

I like the last. Also, when the world comes out with the best 100 best Gold Eagle Books, I’ll…. Well, considering that Gold Eagle has been publishing a large number of books for 30 years, I’d still have a hard time with meeting those list items unless the early Executioner series was overrepresented. Which it very well might be.

Also, I’d like to lament that only one of the authors on this list has said anything nice about my writing. It was Marion Zimmer Bradley after a submission to her eponymous magazine in the 1990s. At least I think it was complimentary: “Much like 200 others, but better written.” Hey, in those days as these, I’ll take what I can get.

Book Report: Ozark Tales and Superstitions by Phillip W. Steele (1983, 1998)

Book coverThis book is a short collection of tales from Ozarks lore, broken into categories such as “Tales of the Supernatural”, “Indian Tales”, “Treasure Tales”, “Outlaw Stories”, and so on. None of them are well-researched or well-documented, but they do give one interesting stories to tell the children and ideas for little essays and historical bits if one wants to put in the time to conduct real research.

The best bit about this book, though, is this written on the title page:

William Quantrill

As some of you assuredly know, the William Quantrill led a pro-Confederate band of guerrillas in the Civil War. The William Quantrill does not appear in this book, so it’s not a notation of a previous owner. I assume it was the name of the previous owner, perhaps a distant relation of The William Quantrill. So I can boast I own a book once owned by William Quantrill, but given that this is the 1998 reprinting of a book that first appeared in 1983, it’s not The William Quantrill. But those to whom I boast need not know.

Books mentioned in this review:


The Proper Response To Pediatrician Interrogation

Dustbury and Jennifer muse on the Gun question that appears on pediatrician forms. You know the one: Are there guns in the home?

Remember, if you refuse to answer that, you actually answer “Yes, and furthermore, I’m a politically sensitive gun owner, which means TERRORIST!”

However, there are some better answers:

  • No, they’re not in the home; we all have CCLs, and Junior has his .22 in his diaper.
  • No, they’re all buried in the backyard with the canned goods.
  • Of course not. When we need a gun, we steal one, and then we leave it at the scene.
  • Not today; Lil Rico needed it for something.
  • No, it’s locked in Robb’s car at the YMCA.

See, in all of those scenarios, Junior is safer.