Book Review: Deathstar Voyage by Ian Wallace

While researching for my last book review, a non-fiction book, I discovered some Amazon retailers were selling (I mean, trying to sell) the fiction book I was reading in tandem with the nonfiction book I reviewed for outlandish sums of money. This fact piqued my interest in the fiction book; also, I discovered it was the beginning of a series. So I paid more attention to it and chewed my way through the first couple of chapters.

Of course, the research reminded me of the subtitle and genre, so I could grasp it’s a mystery in space. A Galactic detective, the series character Claudine St. Cyr, is guarding a planetary monarch from assassins, when suddenly the ship’s in danger of going nova and then the captain and subsequent acting captains start dropping of hearts that are inverted en media chest.

Once I got through those first few chapters, I started recognizing that rabbits were going to come out of hats, caps, sweaters, suit jackets, and many other items of apparel, and a whole pantheon of deus ex maquinas were at work here. Understanding this, I could more easily read the book. It wasn’t as though I missed some information, it’s that it just wasn’t there before it was relevant. Subtle things, like psychokinesis would make a good a murder weapon.

But it’s a quick read, and a junk read, and an interesting time capsule of the female protagonist written by a male author in 1969. Claudine St. Cyr is beautiful, intelligent, dutiful, and somehow every named male character in this book wants to marry her, and most of the major characters propose marriage to her in the 170 pages. But she remains chaste, although tempted to kiss on several occasions. A sixties male character in this situation, say an interstellar Mike Hammer, would have Kirked every carbon-based female (or nongendered) life form, would have shot one or more of them later, and would have set the ship to supernova himself to make a point.

So what’s my point? I will read anything, I think.

Another Actor Succumbs to the Predator Curse

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the second actor to to succomb to the Predator Curse.

The Predator curse seems to be that actors who starred in the movie Predator, some years after the filming of the movie, become governors of states. Jesse Ventura was the first. Can Carl Weathers be far behind?

This brings to mind two considerations:

  1. I would vote for Kevin Peter Hall to replace B. Holden in Missouri;
  2. I hope this curse doesn’t extend to Predator 2, because that would mean Danny Glover is likely to get it and become governor of New York, and I wouldn’t wish that on any state, even New York.

Leave the Metaphors to the Professionals, Son

A post on TechRepublic.com, entitled “Job seekers beware: These five myths may derail your search efforts“, purportedly gives five myths about Internet job searching. But who can comprehend what the gestalt of the article when trying to reconcile the rapidly flashing discordant metaphors that almost sent me into an epileptic fit?

Let’s hit some of them in rapid succession:

  • Myth one: The Internet is a Mecca for finding jobs.
    The holiest city of Islam, to which Muslims should make one pilgrimmage in their lifetimes if they can.

  • Internet job boards can become a Delta Triangle for resumes to disappear into….
    Delta Triangle? Do you mean Devil’s Triangle, a superset of the Bermuda Triangle, into which nothing has mysteriously disappeared recently?

  • Debbie Harper, a veteran executive IT recruiter at Harper Hewes, Inc., likened posting your resume online to posting it on a sandwich board that reads “I need a job” and walking up and down Fifth Avenue with it hoisted over your shoulder.
    But you don’t hoist a sandwich board over your shoulder like a picket sign….you wear it over your torso.

  • soft skills—like communication—are also important.
    These “soft” skills seem to be too hard for many people in IT, including the employed ones.

Wow, that’s enough to leave a man comatose from metaphor overdose, except that those metaphors break down quicker than a high mileage 1983 Mustang GT you buy used.

Second Draft of History

In this story about warships that the Germans sunk in World War II to impede the advancing Russians, we find this gem of geographic history:

Fisherman Curovic said some of them were pulled out of the river when Romania and Serbia started building the nearby Djerdap dam 30 years ago.

Granted, I’m not old enough to remember it first hand, but wasn’t there another country abutting Romania at about that spot thirty years ago. This little country called Yugoslavia?

(Link seen on Fark.)

Spreading the Jackpot

A lottery winner who left more than half a million dollars in his car while he went into a strip club was surprised to find his car broken into. The thief made off with a briefcase containing $245,000 in cash and three $100,000 cashier’s checks.

Fortunately for the intrepid “hero” of this story, or at least its “victim,” that sort of money looks like mob or drug money to a common thief; whoever stole it ditched it pretty quick.

The Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon

This weekend at Adam’s House of Grillin’, certain acquaintances discussed the difference between bourbon and plain whiskey. These people consulted a bar guide for a definition, but certainly they didn’t think to do a qualitative analysis flame test.

Because everyone knows that bourbon burns differently than regular whiskey.

(Story spotted on Fark, although its link goes to a registration-only site.)

Book Report: Flappers 2 Rappers by Tom Dalzell

Book review number 2, friends, and this one’s another nonfiction title since the only junk fiction I have currently is Deathstar Voyage, a late 1960s piece of science fiction that has nothing to do with Star Wars. So, while hiding from the unattractive storyline in that piece of sci-fi, I read Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang by Tom Dalzell.

Personally, I like a bit of linguistics and loving Norma Loquendi every once in a while. So I delved into this piece, which I picked up in June at Powell’s in Chicago (which explains why the link above goes to Powell’s and not Amazon). Its chapters reflect decades from the 1920s to the 1990s, with some decades (1950s, 1960s) split to reflect different subcultures within those decades, and others (1970s-1980s) lumped into a single chapter. Each chapter begins with a short essay thing that captures the spirit of the times/subculture. After that, you’re treated to a list of words, like a glossary, and a couple of sidebars that collect synonyms for common concepts like “good,” “girlfriend/boyfriend,” “greeting,” and the like. At the end of each chapter, the author provides little article things that evaluate certain archetypal words from the period and trace their lineage. Good structure.

However, it’s obvious that the author slapped together this quick-read, coffee-table-linguistics book. The fact that glossary entries replicate themselves, unself-consciously, from chapter to chapter, as though “gasper” were a new term for a cigarette in the 1940s, when the preceding chapter called it the lingo of the soda jerk.

It was only when I got to the 1980s, my youth, that I realized all was not well. In the chapter that lumps the 1980s along with the 1970s, I spotted several errors:

  • animal” (p 168) attributed to the movie Animal House (1978) when The Muppet Show debuted, and popularized, the term earlier;
  • waldo,” (p 184) defined as “Out of it, as in ‘That new kid in Biology class is totally waldo–clueless to the max.’ Derived from the popular Where’s Waldo picture books of the 1980s….” Pardon me, sir, but Where’s Waldo seems to stem from 1987 whereas I distinctly remember the perjorative term applied to me in 1985 by the punks in middle school. Oh, and Waldo was a character in the video for “Hot for Teacher” from the Van Halen album 1984, which came out strangely enough in 1984;
  • Hasta” explained in a sidebar on p 185 as “from the Spanish ‘hasta luego’ or ‘hasta la vista,’ popularized by the movie The Terminator….” Um, no, “Hasta la vista, baby,” was from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991);
  • Misspelling of Eddie Murphy’s name as Eddy Murphy (p 195)

And these represent a sample of the incongruities and typographical mistakes I found in that single chapter.

Suddenly, the author’s research (regurgitation of others’ research+some faulty memories, perhaps) is at odds with known facts and my own memory. Suddenly, I couldn’t trust the author for the era I knew, which means I probably can’t trust him for the eras I don’t. Crap! This book was a waste of time. Sloppy research, fanciful assertions, and typographical errors are intolerable when they directly impact the veracity of the subject matter, which is the usage and spelling of words themselves.

Still, the book might illustrate how words never leave vogue, assuming that some of the words and phrases ascribed to the 1920s were really used then. Based on the fluid, evolutionary nature of slang, I don’t think any one of us would be completely out of touch if we stepped through a time-warp into a previous era, or vice versa.

Exploitive Child Labor in the Twenty-First Century

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune has uncovered (registration required) a shocking case of child labor in Chicago.

Fortunately, the Illinois Department of Labor has stepped in and used its Powers of Discretionary Persecution Prosecution to punish the grandmother who paid her grandchildren in token money or candy to wash the window of her resale shop.

Coming next: an all-out assault on parents who expect their offspring to do chores for their allowances. Undoubtedly, the parents, like the state, should just dish out money for nothing.

One More Reason to Disdain Microsoft

It made a lot of goofy left wing nutjobs insanely rich. Of course, if they hadn’t had stock options, they would have been insanely middle class, being left wing nut jobs and all.

You know, if my start-up company experience had left me with fifteen million dollars, do you think I would be talking to a grief counselor about it? Heck, no, I’d be refusing to let Bob Cratchit throw an extra log on the fire. You know why? Because I am a capitalist. I like making money with money.

Imagine, cutting your own children out of your legacy to better a foundation or a charity! Egads!

I can only hope we get to see some of these unhinged (I mean “enlightened and philanthropic”) stock option millionaires pulled naked from their pickup trucks someday.

It’s Guiliani Time in Chicago, Except for the Guiliani and the Time

A schizophrenic article in today’s Chicago Sun-Times describes the steps New York has taken to drastically cut its crime rate and how Chicago, which is now less safe than New York, can apply the same methods, just not so harsh.

We start with a success anecdote from New York:

BROOKLYN, N.Y.–Ric Curtis used to watch from his window as dogs fought to the death in an empty lot across from his apartment.

Now the cheering gamblers and snarling pit bulls are gone and the lot has become a tiny, gated park with trees and shrubs.

The shootings, robberies and drug dealing that plagued the corner are mostly gone, too.

“When we first moved here in 1991, we put the baby to sleep on a mattress on the floor,” Curtis said. “We worried about a bullet coming through the window. Now we have two daughters and they sleep in bunk beds.”

In this gritty Brooklyn neighborhood called Brownsville, crime rates have fallen at a stunning rate in the last 10 years. In 1993, 74 people were murdered here. Last year, only 16 people were killed.

Hooray! Kids in bunk beds. But wait! Not everyone is happy:

To New Yorkers like Curtis in the city’s toughest neighborhoods, the streets seemed to get safer overnight. To others, like developer Bill Webber of the tony Upper West Side, the change was more gradual, and in some ways not as welcome.

“Of course, it’s because of Giuliani,” Webber said. “Sure, with my long view over 30 years here, I think the neighborhoods have become more secure…. In Times Square, the seamier elements have been driven away, like the peep shows. But some of us in New York do not think this is progress. I miss some of the grunge. If you take some of the friction out of urban life, it becomes less interesting.”

That’s right, people who sell property in expensive neighborhoods miss the texture of the gritty life-and-death struggles in the city. Struggles that occur in other neighborhoods, which inflate the value of his holdings in safe neighborhoods. That’s the other side.

No, wait, there’s another side:

He [a criminologist] came across “Hamp,” a 62-year-old addict. Hamp told Curtis that NYPD’s zero-tolerance policy has hit the neighborhood hard.

“They’ll bust you for the least little thing,” he said, standing in a trash-strewn parking lot. “They used to come out and say, ‘Good morning, how you doing, Hamp?’ Now they look at you like a piece of s—.”

Addicts like Hamp scrape together enough money to buy their heroin through a variety of hustles. They work as prostitutes, sell small amounts of drugs, and even sell the needles they get free from needle exchange programs.

“It’s been driven underground,” Hamp said. “The police will no longer tolerate addicts shooting up outside in parking lots and on park benches…. Right after Giuliani initiated it, they started going after open cans of beer and loitering.”

Over the past decade, Curtis said, New Yorkers have become less tolerant of criminals and more likely to call the cops.

That’s right, zero tolerance hurts criminals. It’s a pretty discriminatory practice, wot?

Don’t worry, Chicago criminals, because the Chicago city government is only wasting tax payer dollars to study New York policing methods. It won’t actually implement them:

But Cline and Crowl came to believe the New York strategy was not a perfect fit for Chicago. It would have to be customized to target street gangs–a much bigger source of crime in Chicago than in New York–and to maintain a reservoir of goodwill between Chicago police and the public.

Remember, it’s all about the feelings. Furthermore, the academics from respected Loyola University intone:

Arthur Lurigio, head of the criminology department at Loyola University in Chicago, said Chicago would be wise not to simply copy New York’s strategy.

“Chicago would have to be very selective in choosing elements of the New York model,” he said. “It does not make sense to import models of policing. Order and maintenance policing–the kind they do in New York–is effective if it is not too heavy-handed and construed as harassment.”

Lurigio said he would like to research whether complaints against New York cops have skyrocketed during the crackdown on crime.

“That’s part of the ‘New York miracle’ that does not become public,” he said. “I have a feeling there is an interesting story there.”

Whew! For a minute there, it looked as though Chicago was going to become safer, but fortunately, the Chicago city police are apparently more interested in public relations and possibly listening to nattering academics who make a living out of finding “an interesting story there” whether “there” is a Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the interesting story is “homoeroticism among heterosexual minority women” or there is “This city where children are killed in murderous crossfire” and the interesting story is “the pigs are mean.”