Inauthentic Without Homeless People

From this recent column by Sylvester Brown, Jr., for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we get the following stunning insight:

His comment reminded me of a call I received from Erin Earley, 46, who had attended the recent Rib America Festival downtown.

“I’ve been going for eight years and have really enjoyed it. But this year, it took a real turn,” Earley, who described herself as Irish, told me.

“There were few people of color, no blues or R&B acts, just bad rock ‘n’ roll bands. They also charged a $3 cover for some unknown reason. I wondered if a white people’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ had been put in place,” Earley said, suggesting that event planners had sent subtle messages to keep the homeless and people of color away.

A priori assumptions:

  • Rib America is somehow less authentic without homeless people.
  • The same signals work on homeless people as on people of color.

Well, if that statement, with its set of a priori assumptions, doesn’t express what’s wrong with race relations today, I don’t know what does.

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Lord Stanley’s Cup Travels to Southeast For Summer, Again

Egads, for a second time in a row, the National Hockey League Stanley Cup is awarded to a team in the Southeastern United States (Tampa Bay then, North Carolina now) over a Canadian team (Calgary then, Edmonton now). It’s an affront to the sport that places that don’t care about it triumph over teams in places where kids actually play pick-up games of it.

Rankles me almost to the point that I’d run away and join the hockey, which is the nearest thing Canada has to a military these days. But like other chickenwingers, I’m just going to complain about it and not do anything. Because I cannot skate backwards.

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Emu Update: The Carbondale Police Have Reloaded

A new nugget of fact in this story about the Carbondale Emu:

Police are searching for the bird’s owner.

He or she had better not act aggessive or elusive–running up to 35 mph (in short bursts, as Grygrx pointed out)–otherwise it’s skybusting time on the ground.

Fortunately, though, the ultimate pet is the ultimate protector:

Bulletproof Emu

Well, honestly, he wasn’t exactly bulletproof. Just really, really hard to bring down.

(More on the Carbondale Emu here and here.)

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Book Report: Vespers by Ed McBain (1990)

As you know, I have glutted myself on cheap book club editions of Ed McBain books at book fairs throughout the St. Louis area this spring. I bought this one for a dollar at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, much like the others I’ve read recently Poison and Ice. As the 1990 entry, this book takes place two novels after Poison.

The main plot deals with the murder of a priest in a small, rundown church in a small, rundown neighborhood. Carella and Hawes have their hands full trying to decipher from among the myriad stories and possibilities. Was it a drug dealer who had hidden drugs in the church? Was it the neighborhood toughs? Was it the local Satanist church, or perhaps someone who was carnally involved with the priest?

Main subplot deals with Marilyn Hollis, introduced in Poison, who has to deal with her dark past as two men associated with her Argentinian pimp who’ve come back for money, for vengeance, for subplot reasons.

This book comes from the time where I started contemporaneously reading McBain; once I started reading his work, I started with some of the older books, of which there were plenty; after this point, I started reading them as they came out. I don’t recollect reading this one, but I remember how immediate the characters were and how they aged and evolved in realish time for me after this.

Of course it’s a good book, and I’d recommend it for some light suspense/mystery/police procedural reading. But you, gentle reader, know if the blog post title says “by Ed McBain” or “by John D. MacDonald,” you’re in for some sloppy kissing on my part. Consider this installment done, but for the gratuitous links to Amazon by which if you should click through and buy one of the titles, I can make pennies!

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Book Report: Existentialism and Human Emotions by Jean-Paul Sartre (1957)

I first read this book as an impressionable freshman in college, in one of those “I could be in Biology class, or I could be in the vast college library” moments. So when I saw a paperback copy at a book fair and had already paid for the bag, of course I picked it up again. Because let’s face it, like many Existential works, it’s thin and it’s deep.

I can see now (because I paid a little more attention to the copyright page and I’ve picked up a little more insight into Existentialism in the intervening 16 years) that this book is not a standalone work nor a mere collection of essays, but a union of a basic defense of Existentialism and freedom from Existentialism and a couple of shorter topical sections from Being and Nothingness.

Frankly, I find it odd that the thing is entitled Existentialism and Human Emotions, as I’m not really sure where the emotions come in. True, the first portion deals with the essential emotional descriptions of Existentialism as anguish, forlorness, and despair, and how these starting points for Existentialism don’t necessarily mean that Existentialism leads to a bleak person even if the starting point is bleak.

I can see how this book hooked me into Existentialism as I completed my first passes through the Ayn Rand canon. The definition of freedom and the concept of man continually inventing himself within the context of his available choices appealed to me. I think Sartre gets a little screwy when he starts saying that when you choose your action, you choose for all of mankind, and that the subjective experience really triumphs over objective reality. I agree with Ayn Rand that there’s a subjective consciousness perceiving an objective reality, and hence that some things do exceed outside of the subjective, and some of those things can include ethics and whatnot.

I didn’t care much for the second part from the book, which comes from Being and Nothingness. I’ve tried once or twice to read Sartre’s master work, but I think it’s a bit self-consciously and maybe even purposefully dense. It’s hard for me to get into the prose, much less to keep the relationship between the prose and relationships straight. Much of the excerpted that appears in this book deals with psychoanalysis, so I didn’t get too much into it, but I could tell that the difference between psychoanalysis and Existentialist psychoanalysis is the Existentialist rejection of the unknowable unconsciousness.

So there you have it; this gateway to Existentialism is half good and half Being and Nothingness, but worth a little time if you’re looking for something short ‘n’ deep to read.

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After Two Year Study, Government Consultants Come to Shocking Conclusion: New Fee

Hey, I could easily save the county government some time and money for any topic that it commissions committees or outside firms to study by cutting right to the answer: higher fees or taxes:

After studying the issue for more than two years, St. Louis County is finally ready to talk trash.

St. Louis County Health Department officials met this week with the County Council to begin discussing updates to the existing solid waste ordinance. The Health Department wants to increase recycling by requiring trash companies to include such services in their minimum bill.

By raising the trash rates to encourage recycling, the County hopes to…..what? Educate people? I guess they reason that, since they’re compelling residents to pay, unvisibly, monthly, that residents will change their daily behavior.

Let me help the county skip the next two year study, and get right to where they’re going to go anyway: criminal penalties and fines for throwing glass into the garbage can.

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Officers Feared For Their Lives!

Errant emu shot, killed by police in southern Illinois:

Police in this university town say they hadn’t dealt with an emu on the loose before. So when the big bird was found running rampant, officers pulled out the big firepower.

Cornered in a residential area Wednesday, the flightless cousin of the ostrich took five blasts from an officer’s shotgun before being finished off by three more rounds from a police rifle.

Police say they had no other recourse in dealing with a species known to be aggressive and elusive — they’re capable of moving up to 35 mph — with anyone who gets too close.

That might sound like a bit much, but when an emu comes to town in body armor, you know he’s only looking for trouble. He ain’t comin’ to drink, he ain’t comin’ to whore, he’s come to break an ostrich out of jail or something equally non-neighborly.

Uparmored Emu

Perhaps he backed up a little too quickly, and the police panicked to the tune of five shotgun shells and three rounds from a rifle, but let’s remember that these birds can weigh up to 130 pounds before the body armor and twenty-five pounds of M249 and ammo it likes to carry into college towns.

But today’s necessary harvesting of the excess southern Illinois emu population begs a couple of questions, particularly in light of the dedicated expenditure of ordnance used to bring the beast down:

  • Shouldn’t Carbondale have a SWAT team to handle emergency emu situations with automatic weapons?
  • The newspaper story says that there was a shotgun and a rifle, but what if there were two rifles? Who was the second sniper?
  • What did the emu know that the government had to kill him to keep him from squawking?
  • Five shotgun blasts and three rounds from a rifle? The police didn’t just leave the emu lying there while they turned around and radioed it in, because when they turned back, the undead emu would be gone, leaving room for the sequel.

Sure, you might be amused, but me, I am going to have emu nightmares tonight.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Foe of Industry

The St. Louis daily paper chortles over the city of St. Louis driving out one company, but it’s not yet satisfied:

If you are breathing a sigh of relief because Praxair is moving from a site adjacent to Lafayette Square to an industrial area of Cahokia, think again.

At least two companies remain in St. Louis that repackage and distribute the same kinds of flammable gases, such as acetylene and propylene, that Praxair did at its site on Chouteau Avenue, and both are dangerously close to homes, highways and pedestrians.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch WILL NOT REST until everyone in the city of St. Louis is safely employed flipping burgers and dishing out fries….until it discovers the perils of hot grease.

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City of St. Louis Now Safe From Fire

Now that the city of St. Louis has driven Praxair out of the state for its intolerable crime of having accidentally caught fire while in the city limits, the city and its residents can now rest easier that they will not be in danger of the hell of burning.

Or not:

St. Louis fire and police officials were investigating two suspicious blazes this morning that heavily damaged unfinished construction projects in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, south of downtown.

No doubt the revered leaders of the neighborhoods and of the city will now rise up to drive construction and residences out of town to prevent them, too, from catching fire. And how the city shall then rejoice when its employment base and its tax-draining resident base live elsewhere, and there’s no chance of fire.

Or at least of fire that will be shown live on the cable news.

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Allegedly, He Also Liked Dogs

You know what I find stunning about this article, entitled "Shrine to Hitler unnerves community"? Not that some nutty 87-year-old farmer who claims to have been SS has made a shrine in the first place. No, it’s this excessive display of journalistic objectivity:

It’s a beautiful location for a memorial to a man who most believe started World War II, in which 50 million people died, including more than 6 million Jewish people in the Holocaust – that’s all part of what Junker disputes as bunk. [Emphasis added]

So the softening of our collective memory continues; most believe that Hitler started World War II, but since it’s not unanimous, we have to temper our assertion. After all, it could have been Churchill, or Roosevelt, or Karl Rovinski who tricked the Germans into invading Poland, or the aliens who would later crash at Roswell.

Maybe our current leaders are like Hitler, because he apparently wasn’t so bad after all.

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Book Report: You Might Be A Redneck If…. by Jeff Foxworthy (1989, 1995)

I bought this book for like a quarter this weekend at a garage sale. Did I overpay? Probably. Although, I have to say, Jeff Foxworthy is pretty funny performing, although his country countdown radio program isn’t so exciting. I’ve got one of his comedy CDs and everything.

However, this book merely collects Foxworthy’s most famous one liners. That’s it. Just the one liners without Foxworthy’s expert comic timing or delivery. Some are amusing on their own, but in the aggregate, they’re not as funny collected in a book as, say, The Late Night With David Letterman’s Book of Top Ten Lists. The humor in these stands alone, aside from the performance.

Of course, you have my opinion here versus the opinion of buyers everywhere who kept this book in print for fifteen years. It’s a quick read though, worthy of a browse, I suppose, as you’re waiting for a hockey game to start, much like I did. Also, it’s good for boosting one’s annual books read rate.

So it’s probably a waste of time, but in the book’s defense, it doesn’t claim to be anything else and it’s not much time anyway.

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Book Report: Ice by Ed McBain (1983)

This 87th Precinct novel runs a weighty 317 pages and delves into character depth that many of the novels don’t. As a matter of fact, one of the great appeals of this particular series, over its 40 some years, is that the books vary not only in plot, but also stylistically. Some are quick epidodes at 150 pages with lots of reproduced police forms to pad them, and some, like this one, are denser prose.

The story details the murder of an actress in a hit play downtown. The 87th Precinct inherits the case as a small time drug pusher in their precinct died from the same lead poisoning days before. As they try to find a connection between the coke dealer and the actress, they have to deal with their own issues, particularly Kling’s failed marriage to model Augusta Blair.

I suppose it helps read these books in order….for example, the book I read previously, Poison, takes place after this books, so the personal relationships are advanced beyond where they are in this book. I already know how the romances and whatnot will turn out, but the books don’t hinge on the personal relationships alone. Instead, the plots and the basic familarity with the characters and the rotation of the characters and….blah blah blah.

You know I like ’em, and I’m going to keep reading them and picking them up whenever I can for a buck a crack at book fairs. I got this one, among others, at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair. So be warned, this won’t be the last book report of an Ed McBain book you ignore in the coming months.

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Book Report: California Roll by Roger L. Simon (1985, 2001)

As some of you know, I bought four of Roger L. Simon’s Moses Wine novels The Big Fix, Peking Duck, The Lost Coast, and this book) for $5 a throw at a remaindered book store in November, 2004. Oh, how the world has changed since then. Roger L. Simon is now an Internet mogul. Byron Preiss, the man behind the company that reissued the novels, has died and the iBooks has gone belly up. And I’m in no danger of becoming a Moses Wine fan.

This book deals with Moses Wine, ca. 1985, joining a computer company patterned after Apple as its director of security. Wine is given cryptic instructions by the Wiz (not Woz, get it?) that Wine’s not only to handle security, but to look into…something. It’s corporate espionage and it requires a trip to Japan (much like Peking Duck requires a trip to China). We get the obligatory action in Japan, wherein the first person narrator who’s never been to Japan and doesn’t know much about the country provides some excellent expository information. In the end, of course, it’s the government agent gone rogue that’s killing everyone. Except for the Russians, who are killing people too. Or someone.

Here are some quick bullet points that capture what bothers me about this book and the series:

  • Moses Wine has been on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a private detective becomes a celebrity, I don’t really relate to the character much. See also Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole.
  • The voice of the first time visitor to Japan laying on the expository information and Japanese terms rankles me. It’s the sound of an author who wants to show he’s done his research.
  • Although I didn’t work at a computer company in the 1980s, I’ve done my time in the 1990s and the 2000s. I found the characterization of the culture at Tulip facile.
  • The introductions by the author were a bit much. I guess that’s what they wanted with the reissues, but I found it self-indulgent.
  • Moses Wine reminds me less of Lew Archer and more of Dirk Gently, with drug use and nonchalant sex.

There you have it. I made it through the four books I read, and don’t plan to seek out the remaining in the series.

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Initially, I Agree With Him

Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind says:

A minor pet peeve of mine is being called only by my first name when I’m mentioned with my weblog….

I agree with Sean. Dammit, you people, I have a middle initial. J. It’s right there between The Brian and the Noggle in my name. How can I make my pretentiousness known if I don’t enforce proper branding, and how will people tell me apart from the other famous Brian Noggles of the world unless the J. is present?

If you cannot link me right, I insist you not link me at all. Which, I believe, is actually much of the blogosphere’s current policy.

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Cost Overruns Unexpected, Again

Capital projects might cost more than expected:

The county’s capital improvement projects, including the building of a new juvenile detention center and administration building, may cost more than county officials anticipated.

Although county commissioners hoped to complete the projects for less than $8 million, that objective looks grim. Executives at the Paric Corporation, the firm hired to manage construction, anticipate the cost of projects may exceed $10 million.

Isn’t it funny how the only people who tend to be caught off-guard by these unexpected cost overruns are the government officials in charge of authorizing the initial outlays? I mean, we taxpayers come to expect it and the companies who end up receiving the extra money no doubt count on it.

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