The Forbidden Coin

Once upon a time, the ruler of a great civilization decreed that henceforth, he would no longer allow the citizenry to keep gold, including the previous rulers’ coins of the realm; all citizens must turn in all gold and receive the new currency. A wily worker at the mint secreted a number of new coins from the treasury, including one taken abroad by a foreign ruler as a curiosity piece and particularly rare trophy. The agents of the ruler sought the return of the secreted coins even beyond the death of the ruler because once they were unleashed, there was no containing them even in foreign lands.

Sound like something from a fantasy novel? It happened in the United States.

The story begins in 1933. To combat the Great Depression, newly elected President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 and required that all citizens surrender all gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates. In exchange, they received the government’s new paper currency. Henceforth, people could not use the coins as legal tender, including the popular $20 Double Eagles, put into circulation by his cousin Teddy Roosevelt.

With the inertia-driven efficiency expected of government, the Philadelphia Mint struck 445,500 of the 1933 gold Double Eagles after FDR issued his executive order banning gold coins. The mint never issued the coins, though, as Roosevelt’s order denied their use as legal tender. Instead, the mint would take the coins it had so meticulously produced and melt them back into bullion.

Before the mint could complete the onerous reversal of its effort, someone absquatulated with a small number of the coins. Fingers would later point to a mint cashier named George McCann, who might have swapped 20 or more 1933 Double Eagles with earlier years’ coins. The theft was discovered in 1944 when one of the coins was put into public auction. The Secret Service traced the coin to a Philadelphia jeweler named Switt and began tracking down other coin owners, but not before an export license was approved for one of the coins to Egypt—as property of Egyptian King Farouk.

In 1944, the world was at war, and Egypt was an ally in the North African campaign against the Germans. The Secret Service couldn’t bring much diplomatic pressure to bear. When King Farouk I was forced into exile, his possessions fell into the hands of the new Egyptian government, who planned to sell off the goods. When the United States government pressed for the gold coin, it disappeared.

In 1996, however, a British coin dealer named Stephen Fenton came to New York with a Double Eagle in his possession. He’d allegedly bought it from the family of an officer in the military coup that drove Farouk from power. But when Fenton came to New York, the long arm and memory of the law was waiting, and he was arrested.

Fenton’s lawyers argued that the Secret Service and the United States government ceded rights to the coin when the government approved the export license. In lieu of a drawn-out court battle, the two sides agreed to auction the coin and to split the proceeds. At Sotheby’s in 2002, the coin fetched a winning bid of $6.6 million dollars from an anonymous bidder. With a buyer’s premium of 15% and $20 to the United States mint to make the coin legal tender, the coin became the single most expensive coin in history. The forbidden coin became legal tender and legally owned at last.

In 2005, the family of the Switt, the Philadelphia coin dealer, sent 10 coins to the United States Mint for authentication. The United States government discovered the coins were indeed 1933 Double Eagles and seized them. This seizure, too, has spawned its lawsuits, but the government remains adamant that these coins are contraband and prohibited. This sudden rediscovery of this many illicit Double Eagles prompts one to wonder how many other specimens might reside in dark velveteen boxes or in forgotten attic chests, waiting for the heat to cool before they, too, are revealed.

Hitting the Tip Jar

Hey, if you like the content here at MfBJN, consider hitting the tip jar.

No, wait, I don’t have a tip jar.

Instead, why not crack out your old-timey checkbook and send some money to the Northern Michigan University James A. Igert Memorial Scholarship.

My beautiful wife and I endowed this scholarship a couple years back and structured it such that the more money it has in it and generates, the more money it gives out to students.

Don’t wait until December 31 to rack up all your charitable contribution deductions is all I’m saying.

Book Report: Missouri Trivia by Ernie Couch (1992)

Book coverThis book is a collection of questions and answers loosely grouped into categories where the questions are about people, places, and things in the state of Missouri. I browsed it during a couple of football games and in advance of our recent trivia night triumph. The book didn’t help in that regard, however, as there were no Missouri-centric questions at the trivia night.

Unfortunately, the format of the book as questions and answers grouped loosely at the chapter level means this book is better for, say, quizzing someone during a long drive rather than reading it straight through to pick up knowledge about the state of Missouri. I might retain a couple of nuggets, but the loose grouping and the format make for poor retention. For retention, organization by title, region, or something might have helped.

Although for the sheer quizzing of a companion, some of the answers are going to be marvelously trivial. What was the corn production in 1870? I don’t remember if that actual question is in there, but there are some looking for particularly specific numbers that you’d get from an old almanac and nowhere else.

Oh, and the final little asterisk? The answer given in this book to the question Who won the 1981 World Series? is The St. Louis Cardinals. So any answer you don’t know for sure is suspect anyway. Maybe it’s better if you not retain them.

Books mentioned in this review:

An Old Essay from the Hard Drive: The Daddy Watch

Here’s another old essay from the hard drives.

The Daddy Watch

A while ago, I dropped my old Timex, and the fall was apparently no mere lickin’. The watch stopped, so I guess this was the Bitin’ After Which There’s No Rightin’. I’d taken the watch off and stuffed it in my pocket before a rigorous game of office foosball. After delivering a vigorous thrashing to the ball if not our opponents, I reached into my pocket for the watch. It leapt from my grasp onto the floor and into the sweet thereafter. I was in the market for a new timepiece.

I’ve worn watches off and on since high school. I’d done some time before that with the obligatory Mickey Mouse watch whose hands worked almost long enough for me to learn how to tell time. Sometime the middle 1980s, when digital watches broke the barrier from technical marvel to status symbol for middle schoolers, I got my first watch as a gift. I wore a series of digital time pieces until college, where I got a real name brand watch for Christmas as a gift from my then-current sweetheart.

I remember that the watch had real hands on it; at some point in my midpoint generation, the anachronism of hands instead of LCD digits implied some status as a grown-up. This particular model offered an elapsed-time ring that fit around the edge of the watch. You could twist the ring so that the zero lined up with the big hand. Whenever you finished your activity, you could look to see where the big hand was to see how many minutes had elapsed. Unless, of course, the minutes exceeded a full hour, at which point the digital-dependents who didn’t know what the little hand was for would be lost. The elapsed time ring lasted only a few months, until a devastating encounter with a potato bin’s edge taught me to wear the watch on the inside of my wrist. I wore that watch longer than I remained with that particular soulmate. I can’t even remember the circumstances where that watch failed, nor can I remember what it looked like when I laced that band up onto my wrist. But those salad days of collegiate vigor end like inexpensive timepieces.

After college, I continued to wear the worn timepiece from those college days until a new novia wanted to help upgrade my wardrobe or lifestyle. She bought me a newer version of the same brand watch, also with hands. She was the daughter of an executive, I was a ne’er-do-well with an English degree and a retail job. Her parents didn’t care for me, but she liked me enough to get me watch for Christmas. The watch sported a Velcro-and-fabric band which I swapped out with a decent plastic band and buckle. The watch outlived the relationship (to the young lady’s parents’ relief) and a number of nothing jobs that transmogrified into an accidentally successful career.

Ten years after that relationship ended and a dozen years after the watch was new, it hit the floor at my workplace, a hip young marketing agency where I bore a pseudo-executive title of one of the unhip departments. I married a woman who will never buy me a watch, I’ve vowed, given the demise of the relationships in which I’ve received a watch. Also, I’ve become a father, starting a family with the aforementioned wife who cannot buy me a timepiece. I was in a different era within my life.

So although I fancied myself another watch along the lines of the preceding few, with dark bands and backgrounds, when I found myself at the counter at Target, I passed over the direct replacement for my old watch-—I could have replaced the fabric sport band with the band from my defunct watch—-and I passed over the other watches of similar styles. Of course, I wanted hands on the face so I could, in decades hence, use the knowledge on trivia nights. But I glanced over the watches on their display mounts and I lit upon a silver steel model with expansion bands.

I have never owned a watch with an expansion band before; I expected that the bands wouldn’t fit as securely or as comfortably. But my father wore expansion bands, with the steel spring-loaded links stretching over the thumb to allow him to snap it onto his wrist before going out to a day’s worth of construction and remodeling. On occasion, I would find the watch and play with it, stretching the expansion band to turn the watch inside out or rolling it over and over like a tank’s tread. I once found an extra band and imagined a metallic snake creeping along the sofa or the end table. Standing before the jewelry case, my previous preferences dissolved into a warm-and-fuzzy reminisce.

Needless to say, I bought the steel expansion band watch. Its shiny exterior proclaims that it is the watch of a man, not a boy. Unlike its Macy’s counterparts from Bvlgari or Hvngari or whatever former Soviet blocs provide the Citizens for sale beneath the red star, I won’t be afraid to wear this watch every day in case I bang it into a sawhorse or drop it after a foosball game. It’s shiny enough to proclaim some maturity and status. And maybe my own son will look on the band with his imagination and find something to remember.

A Shorter Checklist with Better Results

Somebody on the Internet posted a list of 8 Movies Every Geek Should Watch (And Love).

I’ve done a number of books-you’ve-read checklists and haven’t fared so well, so I thought I’d stack the deck and make this into a checklist since I’ve done well on it.

The list below includes the list at the post. Bold means I’ve seen the film, italics means I own the film and will get to it.

  1. Office Space
  2. Cube (I didn’t like it. Geek demerits for me.)
  3. WarGames
  4. Blade Runner
  5. THX 1138
  6. Dark City
  7. Moon
  8. They Live

So, how do you do?

And as a geek point of order, the poster of this list makes cranky noises about the changes Lucas made to THX 1138, but he doesn’t have anything to say about which version of Blade Runner is definitive. This, my dear friends, is a serious lapse in geekery and might reflect someone who can bash Lucas because it’s currently coolly demigeek to do so.

In a Word

Forbes has an article entitled How to Cheat at Golf — Without the Guilt which called into question today the definition for a word that I’ve used on occasion. That word? Par.

The Forbes article says:

2. PAR IS AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM.

Give it up. Of those golfers who register with the USGA for an official handicap (just one out of five players), a mere 0.7% can be considered “scratch” golfers, meaning they actually have a sporting chance of shooting par over 18 holes. You are not one of these superhumans. Instead try this psychological trick: Consider every hole on the course a par-5. Shoot a 5 on every hole and you’ll get a 90, which is great, all things considered.

So often we use par to mean, well, mean or median. Average. It’s from the Latin for equal, after all. But if you look at the golf leaderboard, you’ll see that half of the field is not above par, nor are the leaders so far above the rest of the field to set par at the mean statistical definition.

No, in golfing terms, par is set arbitrarily by the golf course designers or professionals, and it’s a standard that most golfers can’t meet.

Please update your preferred metaphors and clichés appropriately.

Today’s Non-Profit Yesterday

In 2010, I said:

I have a great new idea for a non-profit organization, and I’m going to get in on the ground floor and get rich. My stunning idea:

An Urban Chicken Rescue Organization.

Throughout Missouri and probably the nation, people are deciding that they want to raise chickens in their suburban and urban backyards (see stories in St. Louis and Springfield). These people are doing it as part of an environmental nutbar fad and they’re doing it with a bit of Internet research and without any experience in farming or treating livestock qua livestock instead of livestock qua food-providing-pet.

Yesterday’s New York Times says:

Hindus regard the chicken as a vessel for evil spirits. The Chinese cook them to honor village deities. But here, chickens are a symbol of urban nirvana, their coops backyard shrines to a locavore movement that has city dwellers moving ever closer to their food. And the increasingly intimate relationships have led some bird owners to make plans for their chickens’ unproductive years. Hence a budding phenomenon: urban chicken retirement.

While many Portlanders still pluck aging birds for the broiler, others seek a blissful, pastoral end for them. Because most chickens lay the majority of eggs early in life, and can live about 10 years, the quest for a place where chickens can live out their sunset years has brought a boom to at least two farm animal sanctuaries and led Pete Porath, a self-described chicken slinger, to expand the portion of his business that finds new homes for unwanted birds.

You want to know how I augured this two years ago? No, you don’t.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link again as two years ago, Ms. K.

Smart Apostrophe Pro Tip

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today talks about the use of the smart apostrophe, especially when used to start something like an abbreviated year:

When you shorten 2012 to just ’12, use an apostrophe. That versatile punctuation mark (a robust one being correctly used is pictured at left) fills in for the missing numbers, just like it fills in for missing letters in a contraction. Use it for decades, too! It can do it all, and here’s an example: Don’t forget that the ’80s was the height of fashion and music.

On the other hand, a single opening quotation mark is limited in its abilities. It looks like an apostrophe turned upside down and flipped, or kind of like a tadpole being held by its slimy tail. Use it to introduce quoted material within a quote. Example: “I love it when the Bee Gees sing ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.’ ” Or:”I told those kids, ‘Get off my lawn,’ but they just laughed.”

The problem with a lot of software is the dreaded “smart quotes.” When you type a phrase such as “the ’80s,” you automatically get an opening quotation mark in front of that 8, not the correct apostrophe. Here at the P-D, you hit alt+shift+right bracket or hunt through a panel of special characters to get an apostrophe before the 8.

In Microsoft Word, you press CTRL+Z (shortcut for undo) after typing a quotation mark or apostrophe to turn it from a smart quote back into a straight quote. Additionally, you can cut and paste smart quotes and they won’t reorient themselves, so you can copy a smart apostrophe from within a contraction or possessive, for example, and paste it before your abbreviated year.

Book Report: The River of Used To Be by Jim Hamilton (1994)

Book coverThis is a collection of columns written by the editor of the Buffalo Reflex, a paper up in Dallas County. As such, it’s not a true memoir; instead, it’s a bit bland, driven by deadlines and the easy columns at some points.

There are some gems in it, such as his tale about cold weather camping or a couple of his imaginative tall tales regarding Christmas. Unfortunately, the really good things stand out so much from the common seasonal musings or the progress-is-destroying-what-I-remember templates.

The most poignant thing about the book is outside the text: it’s dedicated to his daughter who died her freshman year of college. The same as my freshman year of college. There’s a column about his daughters, there’s a column about her going to school, and then a column about moving out of his house where they all lived. I think it’s more striking because the book alludes to it and because she was born just two months before I was.

If you’re deeply into Ozarkania, it might be worth a browse.

Books mentioned in this review:

My Good Fortune Is Your Recycled, Sort Of, Content

I found a ten dollar bill in a shopping center parking lot today, and it reminded me of an essay I wrote a couple years ago called “A Penny Found Is An Ethical Dilemma”. Since it looks like I’ve never published it here, I guess I’ll do so now. Note that keeping the ten dollar bill did not violate the ethics outlined herein.

A Penny Saved Is An Ethical Dilemma


Some Internet denizens have calculated the second-by-second earnings of billionaire Bill Gates and say that, unless he found a Madison on the ground—that is, the obsolete $5,000 bill—he would lose money stooping to pick it up. I’m not a billionaire, and I was raised with a bit of thrift and appreciation for found money, so I still stoop to pick pennies and the occasional flash of silver on the pavement. Each penny, invested wisely, could well buy me a name brand tin of cat food in retirement instead of the less tasty store brand.

Unfortunately, I also put myself through college and earned a degree in philosophy with an emphasis on ethics. Therefore, I cannot simply rely on the adage, “See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck” nor my own thriftiness as a guide. Instead, I have built a complete system of morals involving the finding and keeping of pennies and other monies in the world at large.

Let’s face it, a bit of money on the sidewalk represents a piece of someone else’s property. A relatively insignificant piece, perhaps, but conceptually as much the property of someone else as an automobile. When someone cannot remember what row he or she parked in at the mall, we cannot simply take his or her car; that’s stealing, and it’s wrong. Pennies, on the other hand, have relatively low value. If we tried to turn found pennies into the local police for someone to claim, they would hold us for psychological evaluation. Besides, a person dropping a quarter while pulling out a cell phone might not miss the money or probably wouldn’t retrace the steps of the day to find it. Ergo, a single coin falls under the moral equivalent of maritime salvage flotsam. Greater denominations or collections of money—the significant thousands of dollars or whatnot—probably merit turning into the police, but negligent owners, for all intents and rationalizations, have abandoned their pennies when dropping them in public places.

But that blanket rule is too facile. As it merely supports the pick-it-up mantra, I needed something more complicated to guide my actions in other cases, to provide explanations for why I pick up coins in some places and not in others. A complex set of rules is a set of rules, not just arbitrary behavior.

For example, coins that I find on the sidewalk or in the street are fair game to fund my retirement, as these public spaces belong to everyone.

However, when I am in a place of business such as a coffee shop or a store, coins found on the furniture or on the floor are not eligible for extraction; these belong to the business owner in my mind, although I do expect that another customer or some underpaid employee will come along and scoop up the money. I did when I was working my way through college in a grocery store, but I didn’t have a degree in philosophy then. Perhaps, because I was an employee and was in the store every day, the store was not a place-of-business but a public-space or at least a common-space (arbitrary distinctions in philosophical tracts are always in italics), this stripping of a penny from the linoleum surface of someone else’s property was morally acceptable.

The parking lots of private business, though, as well as the sidewalks immediately outside and the foyers between the outer doors and inner doors remain public spaces and good sources for the random coins.

Within residential areas, the sidewalk common spaces give way to the well-manicured lawns. Pennies on the sidewalks are fair game, but coins within the lawns themselves are difficult to spot, so they belong to the homeowner. The rare exception to this rule is a coin that lies on the boundary of the sidewalk and the lawn. By “boundary,” of course, I mean “I can see it.” This boundary area could prove troublesome, but for guidance, I turned to the teachings of the masters more knowledgeable than me. I don’t mean Rand, Hume, Aristotle, or Jesus; I defer to the National Football League: “When any part of the ball, legally in possession of a player inbounds, breaks the plane of the opponent’s goal line, provided it is not a touchback.” If there’s a glimmer of concrete or other paving material underneath any edge of the coin in question, visible from any angle, it’s eligible for retrieval. I have only recently clarified this rule when I encountered a coin in such a state last week.

One wouldn’t expect the choice of whether to pick up a penny to require this much consideration nor to bear upon its choice a moral decision. However, most ones don’t have a philosophy degree like I do. While most people would pick up more pennies with lax internal rule systems, they certainly don’t get as much entertainment or food for thought as I do.

Vistas of the Recently Urban: Rogersville

You might ask yourself, “Is Rogersville an actual urban area?” Well, the US Census Bureau says that an urban cluster–whose residents are part of the 80% of Americans who live in an urban area–contains 2,500 residents. Rogersville seems unsure of itself.

The city limits sign on westbound Highway 60 doesn’t offer an opinion:

Rogerville city limit sign

The city limits sign on southbound county highway B says no:

Rogerville city limit sign, population 1508

1508 is the population from 2000, though.

The city limit on Westbound Business Loop 60 says yes:

Rogerville city limit sign, population 3073

I think this population is closer to the mark. Rogersville is a growing community. Not so much because it’s Rogersville or because it offers a lot of good employment opportunities, although there are a number of industrial shops and other employers along US 60.

No, Rogersville is growing because it’s not too far outside of the city limits of Springfield. Many of the new residents are moving into suburban subdivision developments and driving into Springfield for work and probably entertainment.

Rogersville is an old railroad town along the Frisco line, the same as Aurora. As such, it has the obligatory caboose in the old part of town:

Rogerville caboose

The old part of town is really only a couple of small city blocks. Note that Rogersville does not have nose-in parking. It hardly has any parking in the old part of town, and the streets are very narrow. There’s not much in town; just a branch of the Webster County library and an eatery on Clinton street (which was closed when we visited early on a Saturday morning):

Clinton street in old Rogerville

One block south, Front street has the administrative offices for the Logan-Rogersville school district, a CPA, and a storefront whose signage I didn’t see or make out. It might not even be a storefront:

Front Street in Rogersville

As with Aurora, the city grew from that foothold on the train tracks southward toward the US highway and its business loop.

On the business loop, you can find a gas station that has been closed for quite some time:

An abandoned gas station

Sadly, one found a lot of small businesses and storefronts closed north of US 60 in the city of Rogersville, and I couldn’t find a restaurant that was open in which to eat lunch. We settled for a McDonalds on US 60.

The local residents have a number of banks, pharmacies, and other amenities. The grocery store is an Apple Market:

The Apple Market in Rogersville

It doesn’t look to be part of a chain, so if it’s an independent grocery, yay on that.

Driving around the town, I definitely got the sense that Rogersville is a transitional place. It was a small railroad stopping town (in the area described by John E. Hult in Growing Up in the Ozarks), but it didn’t have the advantage to grow on its own as Aurora did with its mining industry. Instead, it stayed pretty much the same until recently, when the new subdivisions moved in and the residents who moved in were just people who lived in Rogersville, not people from Rogersville. For example, the city brochure for Rogersville on the city Web site emphasizes that Rogersville is part of the Springfield metropolitan area.

An example our St. Louis-area readers might understand is the difference between Maryland Heights and Webster Groves. The former is a place to live with a city government, and the latter is a community.

Maybe I’m wrong. We didn’t get out and walk around the city environs as there are no sidewalks nor places to go really. We visited a couple of yard sales in the new subdivisions, and the pickings there were the detritus of younger families, outgrown clothes and whatnot.

It’s not a destination town given these factors. Maybe it could be if some smaller artisanal sorts of businesses moved into the copious amounts of available space, but that would require enough traffic to justify it. And so far there’s not enough to apparently sustain the formerly existing businesses there. Perhaps when they get a couple thousand more residents in subdivisions.

Is it urban? Not in any urban sense. It’s suburban surrounded by expanses of open land connected to an urban area by a US Highway. If Springfield grows out that way, perhaps it will grow into a seamless urban area.

This is the smallest of the urban enclaves I have visited. I might have to dial down my expectations of them as I go. I mean, when I get around to Murry, what will I have to say? At least the page load time will be quicker since it will only contain a single photo.

For Me, The Hardest Part Is Not Starting

Some people find the hardest part to doing something is starting:

The hardest part is often just starting. I’ve found that it’s especially hard for me to start when a task is difficult or complex. The more importance and weight a certain activity has in my life or business, the more I seem to put off starting.

However, if I can just get moving on it, even for a few minutes, it tends to get easier.

Because I know this about myself, rather than setting the intention to finish something, I resolve myself to start. The more often I start, the easier things get finished. Overcoming that first bit of inertia is the biggest challenge (just like getting started on a run, or the first push of getting a car moving).

Once things are moving, momentum is on your side.

If only starting projects were my problem. (Aside from either using the subjunctive incorrectly or knowing about the existence of the subjunctive to know enough to worry if I’ve used it wrong. But that’s another, lesser, problem.) Continue reading “For Me, The Hardest Part Is Not Starting”

Book Report: Penny Candy by Jean Kerr (1970)

Book coverThis book is Jean Kerr’s follow-up to Please Don’t Eat The Daisies–thirteen years later.

The book is a slightly less eclectic mix, with most of the essays dealing with managing a household. By this time, her five children are spaced out in ages so that she’s had milk in sippy cups for years. That resonated with me, although I only have two children, raising the second one seems a bit like a repeat at times. Haven’t we covered this already?

Kerr makes allusions, again, to Kipling, which I can appreciate having read Kipling recently. Remind me sometime to write a piece about the loss of allusion in modern writing, replaced with political sucker punches which serve a similar role for a different subset of the reading public.

Recommended. I’m just sad that there are so few Jean Kerr titles available. Looks like a couple more collections and a couple of plays. Not that I see any of them in the seedy book fairs I hang out in. I’ll have to go to Amazon to get them if I get that hankering.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Growing Up in the Ozarks by John E. Hult (2001)

Book coverI loved this book. It’s a collection of stories about growing up just southeast of Springfield, Missouri, in the 1930s. The author moves with his family to a small homestead called Bethany Homestead with his family of 7. His father’s a Lutheran minister and a frequent missionary to Africa who really wants to return, but he serves as pastor to a number of churches in the United States. This leaves the wife and her children (10 by the time the book ends) on the little farm, which has some crops and a large orchard not to mention some cattle to tend to. The second oldest boy, John takes an active role in the household.

It’s a strange other country, the past. While some of the landmarks are familiar, the culture is different. For example, the author took a year off between finishing school and deciding whether to pursue further education. Not between high school and college, not between his undergrad years and going onto medical school. Between 8th grade and high school. During this year, his father is preaching in Nebraska and his brother is in high school already, so the 13 year old boy is effectively the man of the house, working outside the home for some extra income and taking care of chores and helping his mother tend the 8 siblings at home. 13! He also recounts travelling to the upper peninsula of Michigan to visit his father (who’s preaching afar again) and, instead of riding in a single Packard laden with his 9 siblings and mother, stays over an extra couple of days in Michigan and hitchhikes home.

I wondered if this sort of collection of stories would fly were I or a peer try to write it about our youths in the 1970s and 1980s, whether they would be interesting enough to draw any attention from seekers of esoterica 50 years from now. You know what? They just might. Some of my stories sound outlandish among my cohort now, only 30 years beyond their occurence. Perhaps in another 30 years they will be exotic enjoyments for readers. If anyone reads in 2040.

At any rate, I liked the book so much I’ll keep my eyes out for the others written by Hult and his immediate family. Also, after reading the book, I returned to the used book store where I bought this book and bought six other memoirs in the same vein from different authors from the Ozarks.

Books mentioned in this review:

All Is Well; Good Times Are Here Again

The price of gas is down four cents after remaining at $3.59 a gallon here in Springfield for weeks.

The Associated Press and some scribe at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are thrilled with the happy days ahead:

The worst appears to be over. Gasoline prices are going down.

After a four-month surge pushed gasoline to nearly $4 per gallon in early April, drivers, politicians and economists worried that prices might soar past all-time highs, denting wallets, angering voters and dragging down an economy that is struggling to grow.

Instead, pump prices have dropped 6 cents over two weeks to a national average on Friday of $3.88. Experts say gasoline could fall another nickel or more next week.

Drivers might also get to say something they haven’t since October 2009 _ they’re paying less at the pump than they did a year ago.

“It’s nice, much more manageable,” said Mark Timko, who paid less than $4 per gallon Wednesday in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, Ill., for the first time since March. “I wasn’t sure how high they were going to go this year.”

On the other hand, gas prices are still over $3.50 a gallon (locally), which is about double what they were four years ago. Someone who says that $3.99 a gallon is more manageable than $4.05 a gallon is either not very smart or wants to see his name in the paper.

Book Report: Shock Wave by John Sandford (2011)

Book coverThis book will probably be the last of the Sandford novels I read for a while. I’m tired of them. To recap, the progression kind of followed that of Robert B. Parker’s later work: I bought them new until I couldn’t take the thematic material stretching between the books, then I got them from the library not too long after their release, and then I got to getting them from the library sometime, maybe.

My disillusionment comes from these factors:

  • The political overtones. These are cops and Republicans books. Let’s recap some of them: In Wicked Prey, the bad guys were conservatives; in Bad Blood, the bad guys are religious; in Shock Wave, the bad guy is an Iraq War I veteran who thinks the president is a clown. You can sort of get away with that since we’re not invoking a President by name (at least not until someone belittles George H.W. Bush), but there are needless exchanges and airing of political opinions through this book where the political opinion is a marker for the character. You know, I don’t have to read books that belittle political opponents or tut-tut reasoned-out philosophical stances. I have enough crime fiction from the middle part of the 20th century, where this crap didn’t happen, to satisfy my reading needs for some time, thanks.
     
  • The weaknesses of the Davenport novels are working their way in. So much of the Davenport novels is all about managing the bureaucracy and spinning the press to take pressure off or to manipulate the media during the investigation. The Virgil Flowers books have featured a lone detective in the hinterlands of Minnesota doing some detecting, but this book has an uptick in the bureaucratic crap. Also, the fixation with the tightness of women’s asses.
     
    Come to think of it, managing bureaucracy, spinning a narrative, and objectifying women tend to be hallmarks of modern liberal Democratic thought, aren’t they?
     
  • The reliance on series tropes. You know what? Flowers dresses casually. He wears rock band t-shirts. I get it. I’ve read the other books. Even if I hadn’t, I might have gotten it the first time it’s mentioned in the book. But on and on, Sandford has to throw shout-outs to bands he likes by plastering them on his main character. I get it. At least he’s only called “that fuckin’ Flowers” a couple of times in the book. I’m awfully tired of that.

But what does my disillusionment matter? I’m not the target audience. I’m not even going to be the audience going forward. Mr. Sandford, you can kill the series characters according to your whim now. Won’t bother me a bit.

The plot? Oh, someone’s trying to keep a Walmart-clone out of a small town. Of course, the right-thinkers in the book agree with the sentiment. Only mad bombers are mad and bombing. And the mad bombers aren’t ELF or ALF or, you know, actual terrorist organizations who commit violent acts when the environment is involved (in this case, the development might cause runoff damage to a local river). Oh, but no. It’s the aforementioned veteran committing the crime out of monetary greed.

Jeez, there are Robert Crais novels I haven’t even read yet. I think I’ll bother with those when I have a hankering for a modern bit of detective fiction.

Books mentioned in this review: