Just to Clarify

Police: Man used handgun as hammer at Missouri school:

A man has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment after police say he used a handgun as a hammer while working on a project at a southeast Missouri elementary school.

The unlawful use is not because he used his gun as a hammer; it’s because he had it at the school:

(10) Carries a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any school, onto any school bus, or onto the premises of any function or activity sponsored or sanctioned by school officials or the district school board; or

So it doesn’t look like a violation to use it as a hammer. Or a decoration, which is cool, because I have a couple flintlocks on display here at Nogglestead.

Of course, in looking up the statute, I read the first section:

(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or

Which means I’ll have to remember not to put my martial arts training weapons in my bag when conveying them to class. Otherwise, according to my reading of the law, I’d be breaking it.

When Max Allan Collins Comes Around

I noticed a couple days back in my referrer logs that someone from Muscatine, Iowa reading the book report for Dead Street.

Muscatine, Iowa, as I learned when I was researching the book report, is the current home of Max Allan Collins, the author of Dead Street. So I was pretty sure it was the man himself.

Given that he linked the report on his blog today, I’d say I was correct.

Collins joins Diane Duane, author of the Star Trek novel My Enemy, My Ally and Joe Clifford Faust, author of A Death of Honro as people whom I can honestly include in the plural “you, gentle reader” in my continuing posts. Although in most cases it’s an honorary title. Given my blog traffic these days, plural is an honorary title when referring to my readers.

Also, it’s why although I’m not at Nick Hornby levels in positivity (as his book Ten Years in the Tub indicates, his magazine editors prefer he only have nice things to say about books he reviews), I try to keep snark to the minimum: because the authors are people, too. Besides, all of these people have sold far more books than I have.

Also also (which is my blog equivalent of P.P.S., which nobody uses any more), this is why I’m thinking about ending my book reports with boilerplate “It’s not as good as MY NOVEL!” Just to see if I can get any self-Googling real author to spend a buck on it.

Book Report: Life in the Age of Charlemagne by Peter Munz (1971)

Book coverAs I just read The Carolingian Chronicles, when I saw this book on my shelves, I knew I had to read it next.

It seems almost magical that from my thousands of books, I can often find different books on the same topic if I get interested in it. However, that’s only because I tend to accumulate books in certain areas that I’m interested, and then when I get interested in them, I have a bunch to choose from. So it’s not magical, but I think it’s neat once I read a book and find a related book on the same topic.

This book, unlike Carolingian Chronicles and The Life of Charlemagne, is not a primary source; instead, it relies heavily on social anthropology to explain how these backwards people were. As such, you have to look at it as though it the prism of someone in the 1960s applying his or her own theories into the historical record. You get that with any history, of course, but in this case, the distance between then and then and then and now require a bit more distance.

Especially as this book is not narrative in nature; it does not tell the history from start-to-finish, year-to-year. Instead, the book takes different topical matters (The Rich, The Poor, Government, The Church, and so on) and then discusses that topic from a historical anthropological perspective about how they relate to one another. Here’s a hint: It was brutish for the poor and slightly less brutish for the rich. The book talks about the Christianity of the Franks, but repeatedly emphasizes that it was a cynical tool for controling the conquered people. It’s hard to get into the heads of contemporary people, and it’s probably impossible to get into the heads and hearts of people who lived over a thousand years ago, so contemporary–or fifty year old–attempts are suspect. Short of a handwritten diary, we really can’t know the interior motives.

Aside from that quibble, the book also has some repetitiveness that it should not. In a number of places, thoughts and even phrases are repeated to convey the same thing, sometimes mere paragraphs later.

So it was a quick read and reinforced some of the names and dates that I read earlier (I hope). I’ll have to sometime soon explore my stacks to see what else I have in this vein.

One side note about the book: The volume I have is an ex-library book from the Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis, Missouri. It still has a card in the back, but the mylar dust jacket had a barcode on it. The card has stamps from 1980 to 1991. So the book itself might have resided there from about the time of my birth through at least my college years; when I was in high school, several girls my age borrowed this book to write reports. And now I’ve read it for fun and for a simple blog book report.

Disposable Diapers A Fundamental Right

The White House wants to bridge the “diaper gap.”

A new plan announced Thursday aims to make diapers more affordable for low-income families. The initiative will give low-income families access to diapers that are up to 25% cheaper than the ones they currently buy. In a press call on Thursday, President Obama said the program was made possible through a collaboration with Jet.com, the makers of Cuties diapers and several non-profits.

You know what families without disposable income and, come to think of it, all families used to do? Use cloth diapers and wash them.

But that’s too icky in the 21st century, I suppose, for a populace accustomed to more and more government programs.

Of course, I’m a hypocrite for opposing this because my mother benefited from government programs and used cloth diapers on me and/or because I use some of my non-tax income to voluntarily buy diapers and accoutrements for people who need them.

Book Report: Tuscany Terror by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is another post-Pendleton Mack Bolan volume. In it, Bolan has to go to Italy to rescue the wife and child of an Army officer from a terrorist group holding the hostages to get the officer to falsely confess to involvement with the Mafia.

Bolan goes and shoots up a bunch of stuff, and then he infiltrates some stuff. The book is a lesser entry than Vulture’s Vengeance, but it’s not bad.

Once or twice a year, I get the urge to plow through the unread books I have in this series (and there are 93 left on my to-read shelves according to this count) minus the two I’ve read since). Then I read a bunch of them in short order and realize how similar they are to each other. Apparently, three is my limit, so I’ll probably focus on reading other things for a bit.

And hope to live another thirty-some years to make it through my Mack Bolan library at this pace.

Book Report: Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby (2013)

Book coverI bought this book at Barnes and Noble via a gift card because I appreciated the topic matter: Hornby, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy, writes a magazine column discussing the books that he has read every month. This volume collects ten years’ worth of those columns.

Hey, for about the same period, I’ve been jotting down my thoughts into the blog here. Since I bought five ISBNs when I published John Donnelly’s Gold. I thought about collecting them into a volume and calling it The Last 1000 Books I Read or something like that (as you can see, there are well over 1000 book reports).

However, after reading this book, I have discarded that idea.

I mean, my book reports here are more about what I’m thinking about than substantive book discussions. Hornby’s columns are similar–he writes a bit about what’s going on in his life as he’s reading. His columns are monthly roll-ups of what he’s read and a bunch of banter about the magazine (The Believer). But. Reading one of the columns once a month or so in a magazine is one thing, but hundreds of pages of them is another. The columns became more repetitive than they would monthly. I can’t imagine reading 1000 of my book reports in a row would appeal to anyone.

At any rate, over the ten year period covered by the book, Hornby and I only read one book in common: Then We Came To The End. Our tastes do not run in common. Hornby favors biographies of sports and entertainment stars, literary fiction, and young adult books. Me, I read a bit of this and that with emphases on history and genre fiction.

The real gauge of a book review or column is whether one wants to go out and get the book(s) mentioned. I thought a couple might have sounded interesting, but before I bought them or even wrote them down, I was into the next column and set of books. The only one I considered getting from the library is the Motley Crue bio The Dirt, and that is because the book misspells Naugle’s (Tacos) as Noggle, and I wanted to see it for myself.

So I’m kinda glad I read the book (over the course of months or years). And as obsessive as I am, I compiled a list comparing what Hornby reports on in the ten years versus the books I’ve read in those ten years. You can review the comparative list here. Spoiler alert: I read three times as many books as he mentions in his columns. On the other hand, I’ve written and sold far fewer books and traveled to far fewer places than Hornby, so I guess we’re even.

A Tale of Two Bills

Missouri Democrats stall religious objections measure

Filibuster to block anti-gay wedding measure drags into 16th hour in Missouri Senate

No, just kidding. It’s the same thing but reported on by two different news outlets in two different cities.

At issue: Whether the state can compel you as an individual person who owns a business to serve members of a protected class.

People without shoes and shirts are not a protected class, so until they unite, you can continue to deny them service. Maybe.

Book Report: How to Live Like A Lord Without Really Trying by Shepherd Mead (1964)

Book coverThis book is the follow-up to Mead’s How to Succeed in Business Without Trying. You might have heard that title because it was turned into a Broadway show that was recently revived.

Based on that success, Mead was able to move to Europe. In this book, he talks about moving to post-war England for business and plays upon the differences between America and England. It’s much more amusing if you’re old enough to get mid-century jokes and concerns. I’m not sure you could just watch Mad Men and get it.

It’s an amusing book, but it’s from another time. Here’s a gag in the section about England’s quaint socialized medicine:

However, it is only fair to warn you that in England you will be living under socialized medicine, and every American knows how dangerous that can be.

Forty years later, every American is going to learn how dangerous that will be, and we won’t have to travel abroad to get it.

Here’s a gag that’s even funnier forty years later:

The “British language” you have been hearing on televsion in the States is not really spoken anywhere. This is a special tongue known as Mid-Atlantic, designed to “sound British” to Americans, and still be understood. The British can understand it, too. They think it is a kind of funny American, and wonder why Robin Hood should talk like a Yank.

Given Kevin Costner’s turn as Robin Hood, there are many Americans who think it’s funny that Robin Hood sounded American.

At any rate, it’s an amusing book. If you’re old enough, I suppose.

Book Report: Vulture’s Vengeance by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is a pretty good entry in the series. Perhaps I’m far enough away from reading a bunch of them in a row (Doomsday Disciples notwithstanding) that I’m not overwhelmed by the similarity of the plot (woman in distress, Bolan must penetrate hard sites).

In this particular case, Vietnam veterans are being–kidnapped? and used as forced labor/mercenaries by a Central American warlord who kills a popular ambassador and kidnaps the wife who is a popular spokesperson for human rights. The warlord rigs a plane and stages what looks to be an attack on the White House with an unpiloted plane carrying the woman, but after Bolan averts the crisis, it turns out that she’s still a captive in his Nicouraguan lair. Which Bolan must then attack to get the bad guys out.

The story is an eighties product all the way: The Uzi is an unstoppable killing machine, and the Harrier jump jet is all that. Funny thing is that one of the bits has Bolan downing a jet with an Uzi, and I would have thought that utterly preposterous–except that earlier in the week, I’d heard the story of Owen J. Baggett who purportedly shot down a Zero in World War II with his handgun while parachuting from a disabled bomber. So forty-three years after this book came out, I was primed to get the allusion / homage that the author of the Bolan book was making. And it made the Bolan action seem less preposterous than it could have.

Except then Bolan shoots down a couple of attack helicopters with a handgun. So.

At any rate, I’m mellowing on these post-Pendleton books because I’m starting to consider them the equivalent of episodic television. I mean, the plots are the same, the characters the same, and the bad guys just about interchangeable–but I’m enjoying them as light reading while I’m reading them.

Unfortunately, that’s going to mean my measuring stick for these things is going to be whether than they’re better or worse than the ones I read immediately preceding them. If you’re not into these kinds of books, this won’t be the one to make you a fan.

Book Report: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (2002)

Book coverThis book is Carl Hiaasen’s first YA book. And it shows. It’s like a Hiaasen story shrunken to kid-sized, and poorly.

First, the plot: A new kid from Montana moves to Florida and sees a barefoot kid running while riding on the bus is getting bullied. He clocks the bully and runs out to follow the kid. He discovers a semi-feral runaway who’s conducting a campaign of vandalism to protect a couple nests of owls from development of a pancake house.

I’ve flagged a bunch of things in the book that don’t ring true. For example, the protagonist reads an X-Man comic. The boy is fresh from Montana, but describes the trees and flora with exactitude unbefitting a middle schooler. Twenty-first century middle school bullies tormenting the new kid by calling him Roy Rogers-hardt (who past the Baby Boomers and a couple Gen Xers know who Roy Rogers is?) A friend says the bully called in sick to school. Kids riding on the handlebars of bikes–do they do this now? One middle schooler says “Why do you care about this kid?”–what kid calls another kid a kid to another kid? “The dead man was soaked with blood and twisted at odd angles, like a broken G.I. Joe doll.” GI Joe, as you might know, was never marketed as a doll, and the action figures from the 1980s and beyond were not as articulated as the GI Joes of Hiaasen’s youth, so I’m not sure if the metaphor makes us think of what he’s thinking of.

Coupled with the simplistic environmental message with caricatures for bad guys, I didn’t care for this book that much. I’m probably not going to hunt down more Hiaasen YA books, but I’m hopeful he gets back to writing adult books. But all the thriller writers, it seems, are deep in the YA market these days. I mean, my son reads a lot of James Patterson, for crying out loud.

As to this book, it’s take it or leave it, even if you’re a Hiaasen fan.

Book Report: Down the Wire Road by Fern Angus (2004)

Book coverI bought this book at the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield shop a couple years back. I generally go to the Battlefield, just a mile away, twice a year. Once to renew my annual pass, and then once more for some reason or another, generally on a day where you don’t need a pass. Since I’m in the gift shop anyway, I look to pick up a bit of a history book to read. So I did with this book.

Since I bought it at the Wilsons Creek National Battlefield, I’d expected more of a real history book rather than something assembled by a local historical society. Although this book is not from a local historical society, it’s more of that flavor than the former, so I was a bit disappointed.

The book starts off with chapters about the stage coach / postal line that ran down this way, the creation of the telegraph line from Jefferson Barracks to Arkansas, an the Trail of Tears which followed the same route. The chapter about the Trail of Tears gives a bit of a summary and then reprints excerpts from the journals of “conductors”–guides for the marches. After that, we devolve into collections of pictures and descriptions of cemetaries, some family histories recounted by family members, Ozark stories, sayings, and “Do You Remember?” things.

So I was a little disappointed, more because I expected a more scholarly treatment and more discussion of the Wire Road. Mostly because I have lived at both ends of it: In the St. Louis area, I lived in Lemay just a couple blocks from Telegraph Road and now at Nogglestead which sits either directly on the route or a couple hundred feet from it (depending upon whether it ran along the old train route that is my neighbor’s driveway (but which I own half of) or in his pasture.

At any rate, I flagged two bits in the book:

Manley was a small man in stature; he liked to read Cappers Weekly and his Bible. He belonged to the Marionville IOOF Lodge, Chapter 210.

I know what the IOOF is because I read Lileks.

From the “Do You Remember When?” section:

Telephone lines were maintained by the parties using the line? It was a common practice for anyone to listen in on the conversation if they wished to do so. News of anything unusual, as a fire or emergency of any kind, was spread rapidly by the user of the telephone.

As I’m fond of reminding you, gentle reader, I lived down an old gravel road in a valley back in the first Bush administration, and the phone was a party line until the cable company and the phone company shared the cost of running the lines out to our house and beyond. In 1988 or 1989.

Also from the “Do You Remember When?” section:

You canned vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and everything you could get your hands on? Sometimes these were not used during the summer months but were put aside for winter.

I’m fond of telling the story where, when we lived in the projects, we were friends with the girl across the street who lived in the farm house whose surrounding fields became our neighborhood some decades before. Her yard had several large pear and peach trees, and one year my mother got bitten by the canning bug, so we staged commando raids on her yard to purloin some of her fruit. I hope her family wasn’t planning to use it. My mother laid up those pears and peaches and crab apple butter and sauce made from the crab apple trees in the common back yard of our apartments, and we ate them for years. I guess it was only five, but we still had shelves full of that preserved fruit when we moved to the aforementioned house down the dusty gravel road. So we moved those jars from Milwaukee to our aunt’s suburban home in St. Charles to the trailer in Murphy and then to House Springs.

You know, perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed with the book after all. It did remind me of some stories from my relatively recent youth.

Book Report: Chandeog Palace (1975)

Book coverThis book is one of the many I bought in Spring 2014 and that I’ve been reading through since then (see also Bomun Temple in Seoul Korea and Wonderful Korea, New Pearl of the Orient Korea, and Art Treasures of Seoul).

The books themselves are tour guides or art coffee table books, but I’m picking up a smattering of Korean history from them. For example, I can put the Koriya, Silla, and Yi dynasties in order. So I’ve got that going for me, although I don’t have the exact dates nailed down yet.

This particular volume describes the various buildings in this particular palace with full color photos and text in I assume Korean and Chinese (although the Asian languages do not all look very similar to me, I am not yet able to distinguish between them) along with the English.

And, strangely enough, the end papers have a map of Seoul, a page for written notes, and, I kid you not, pages for names and addresses. You know, why leave blank pages at the end of the book when you don’t have further installments of a pulp subscription series to sell? This is very practical, although not so much for me: I’d write an address in it and then lose the book amongst its thousands of brethren in the Nogglestead library.

At any rate, worth a browse if you’re into Korean or Asian architecture, but I wouldn’t order it from Amazon or eBay unless you’re serious.

Headline Chasers Gotta Chase Headlines

Last week, a guy in a car hit several residential buildings including a garage. A Republic police officer apparently tried to talk to him, but the fellow put the car in gear and hit the officer. The officer shot the driver of the car, who died at the hospital. The fellow had a history of seizures and might have been out-of-it when he hit the officer.

It’s a tragedy all around: The guy might have been in the throes of epilepsy or something, but the officer had no way of knowing that.

Enter the sharp from the Big City:

A lawyer representing Meikle’s family told the News-Leader he wants Sgt. John Tinsley fired and charged with murder.

“We’re not talking involuntary manslaughter,” said Jermaine Wooten, a lawyer from St. Louis. “He went beyond negligence.”

Blah blah blah. He’s covering himself with glory when he says:

“This is a tragic loss, not only for the family but for the city of Springfield,” Wooten said. “They lost maybe one of their best citizens.”

Springfield, Republic. All the same to someone from the big city.

I have to wonder who reached out to whom here: Whether the attorney, who gained some media coverage for representing the families after a police shooting in St. Louis, reached out to the family or whether they called him.

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, here’s a story from this week where an actual Springfield police officer was dragged by a car 150 feet this week.

So the sharp won’t be angling for a local jury trial, then.