What Didn’t Need To Be Said

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out the obvious: Katrina dwarfs our Flood of ’93:

Water was the enemy in both disasters, but observers say the Midwest’s Great Flood of 1993 pales in comparison to what is unfolding now along the Gulf Coast.

It also pales in comparison to the disappointment I experienced when my lunch at the downtown Thai place was listed as two iconic flames’ worth of hot on the menu, but wasn’t very hot at all.

But I see how some local observers could mistake the scale of some upper middle class West County St. Louis being forced from their homes with the destruction of an entire city and devestation of parts of three states. Still, I’m sure the end result will be the same: hubristic and federally-funded reconstruction and further overdevelopment in disaster-susceptible areas.

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Now That’s Thorough

Relatives file wrongful death suits:

Relatives of five people killed July 28 in a fiery wreck on Interstate 44 in Eureka, near the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park, have filed wrongful death suits in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The suits were among 1,400 filed in the county last week, before a new law capping damage awards in civil cases took effect.

The situation:

A dump truck loaded with rock and driven by Thomas Miskel, of Imperial, smashed into the back of Huckaba’s 2000 Dodge Caravan, shoving the minivan into four vehicles and across a frontage road before the wreckage erupted in flames.

How many suits? Five: one for each victim of the single accident.

The plaintiffs?

  • The driver of the truck, natch.
  • Bourbeuse River Hauling, the company that owns the truck.
  • H & H Freight Services, which provided the contract driver for Bourbeuse.
  • Millstone Bangert Inc., the company that hired the truck to deliver the rock to its construction site.
  • Kenworth of St. Louis, the mechanics who worked on the truck and should have known it wouldn’t stop in time.
  • Six Flags, for apparently building a theme park nearby which people would look at or attend.
  • The state of Missouri for its poor design of the highway.
  • The city of Eureka, for not stopping traffic backup at the highway exit where the accident occurred.

Why not sue Dodge, for not making fourth, fifth, and sixth brake lights? The parents of the driver, for bringing a child capable of such evil into the world? The painting contractor who puts the lines on the highways and the makers of the asphalt for not providing enough traction for stopping?

Perhaps those are defendants for another day.

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Book Report: Hark! by Ed McBain (2004)

I bought this book at the Carondolet YMCA for $4.00, but it’s in almost new condition, and I hadn’t read this book, and Ed McBain died this summer. So again I set aside my normal reluctance to spend that much money on a book.

Hark! is a Deaf Man book. There’s no other way to put it. Normal crime goes out the window in this book, as the Deaf Man again taunts the boys (and girl) of the 87th Precinct with a set of clues about what he plans to do, knowing that they won’t be able to stop him. Or so he thinks.

As always, these books include a lot of details in the lives of the characters. McBain kept up a tight schedule on publishing these novels, particularly in the last couple of years, so we can forgive him for what might have been an increased serialization of the private lives–although the books always had some of that. Something else striking about this book is that it refers to actual contemporary political figures–Bush and Blair–, contemporary musicians–the John Pizarelli trio–, and contemporary events–the war in Iraq. His earlier books used common nouns or made-up details, which has preserved their longevity and readability into the present. For example, a veteran returning from “the war” proved a relatively malleable archetype: it could have been Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the current wars depending upon the decade in which the reader encounters the book. By naming specifics, McBain has limited the future reach of these books.

But one can become as morose as Travis McGee lamenting that not only is the concept of reading books becoming meaningless in man’s blithe march into media-mandated illiteracy and technologically-enabled idiocy, but with Ed McBain’s death, the potential number of 87th Precinct novels (or at least those for which Evan Hunter is responsible) has become finite and the actual number of books I have not read will now slowly tick down to zero, much like life itself.

Man, that’s depressing. I think I’ll while some of that time away mindlessly by playing Civilization.

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Book Report: The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald (1978)

I paid a whole $3.00 for this book at the Carondolet YMCA Book Fair last weekend. It’s a lot for me to pay for a book, I know, but this one is a stated first edition. So I threw it in my box. As you know, gentle reader, John D. MacDonald is one of my favorite authors, and to get one of his first editions for only three dollars, well, I’d make that purchase any day of the week. Because of my love for JDM, I didn’t evaluate the book coldly, rationally, like a true book collector, otherwise I would have noted the pen scribbling–hopefully by a child–inside the front and back cover and perhaps the slight molding on the spine. But since I’m thrilled to have this first edition for my collection and not for investment purposes, it will do.

An old seafaring acquaintance of Travis McGee commissions the salvage expert to find and return his good name. Captain Van Harder was found passed out aboard the ship he was piloting after its owner fell overboard. Although he battled and conquered drinking demons in his youth, no one believes him that he only had one drink on the job, and his license and livelihood are revoked. McGee travels to the gulf coast of Florida with his friend Meyer to investigate the disappearance of the owner. As his business was on the rocks, could the owner have slipped a mickey to his captain and friend to stage a disappearance to Mexico? It certainly looks that way.

I cannot really say anything bad about this novel without trying very hard, so I won’t bother. I paid $3.00 for a book I’d already ready and might already own and I read it the same week I bought it. Let that guide your thinking about my opinion of the book.

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Inappropriate Metaphor of the Day

From a fundraising plea junk mail from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program of the American Health Assistance Foundation, of whom I’ve never heard before and to whom I will never send any money whatsoever:

Major news in the research on Alzheimer’s:
Researchers funded by Alzheimer’s Disease Research including TWO Nobel prize winners–have made breakthrough discoveries that may signla the end of Alzheimer’s reign of terror!

Alzheimer’s reign of terror? Lord, love a duck, poorly written, poorly metaphored… I say we make it a trifecta by making it poorly funded, too.

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