Sylvester Brown Sees World In Black and White, Again

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown weighs in on the Scooter Libby thing by finding a racial angle:

I wonder how Kimberly Denise Jones reacted when she heard about President George W. Bush’s recent decision to wipe away the prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Jones, better known as the diminutive rapper “Lil’ Kim,” and Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, have something in common. The 4-foot-11 rap star was convicted in 2005 on three counts of perjury and one count of conspiracy. In March, Libby was convicted of four felony counts — perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI agents.

Let’s compare the whiteys to oranges. Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury for remembering a conversation differently than someone else did, and the testimony was in an investigation that revealed no crime occurred. Li’l Kim, on the other hand:

Lil’ Kim was convicted of lying about a shootout between her entourage and a rival rap group outside a Manhattan radio station. Security photos and witnesses contradicted Lil’ Kim’s claim that she saw nothing.

So the color of the convicted is the only difference in the cases?

I lack nuance, I guess.

Because Tourism Is Congress’s Problem, Too

Congress looks to boost US tourism:

The United States has lost billions of dollars and an immeasurable amount of good will since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks nearly six years ago because of a decline in foreign tourists. Several senators are now trying to get the government involved in bringing those visitors back.

The solution: DisneyNation!

Prepare yourselves for SB 555, which mandates that all attractive women wear short skirts and wings and carry fairy wands and all other women wear villainous stepmother/stepsister/witch apparel. All attractive men must wear pirate garbs (open vests only; no shirts allowed!) All other men will be issued Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, or other character costumes. It will be the happiest place on Earth; violation subject to up to fifteen years in prison and/or $250,000 fines.

Doubt it, gentle reader? I have three words for you: interstate commerce clause. There’s nothing that Congress cannot do once it sets its mindlessness to it.

Book Report: Kill City: The Enforcer #3 by Andrew Sugar (1973)

Wow, you know, I never thought to myself, “Why isn’t there any Objectivist pulp fiction?” Even if I had asked that or thought perhaps maybe I should write some, I probably would not equal the achievement of Andrew Sugar’s THE ENFORCER series.

I mean, imagine Atlas Shrugged if, instead of a cipher for Ayn Rand’s fantasies of the perfect man, John Galt was an author who died somehow and was now living in a series of cloned bodies that deteriorate in 90 days while he works for the John Anryn Institute using his wits, his special power over his own life force (ki), and judo to take on all the Tooheys of the world (sorry, wrong book). But it’s pulp fiction with a definite Objectivist theme.

In between bursts of violent action, we have Penthouse letters sex scenes, the most graphic I’ve seen depicted in any paperbacks I assume were sold at drug stores. I mean, in some pulp, you get the “they’re going to have sex” paragraph, “they’re having sex” paragraph, and then the “it was good” paragraph. In this book, you get the he did that and she did this to his that and it was good thing. It starts graphic to the N-degree and then goes into the metaphorical several paragraphs later. Conforming with Ayn Rand’s theory of sex, I reckon.

Also, we get the speechifying, but in small doses, where the protagonist and his Institute compatriots go on about the power mongers who would rule over men. Nothing comparable to Galt’s Speech, though, so the narrative is not impaired too badly.

It’s cheap, it’s tawdry, and it’s definitely a suspense/science fiction pot boiler worthy of its tawdry cover. However, the Objectivist slant adds a touch of camp to it. Maybe real Objectivists wouldn’t think so, but they have no sense of humor.

I might have to go find the rest of the series.

Books mentioned in this review:


A Sonnet Series: Wherein Brian Puts Up

In the book review for Sonnets of Eve, I mention being a fan of the sonnet series. Here’s one I wrote in the early 1990s when I was a laddie who fancied himself a poet:

    A Story

    A Prelude

    O air, o sweetest air, why flee you so?
    My tightened lungs can scarcely keep with you!
    A thief, she steals my breath and doesn’t know,
    this goddess sweet and yet a mortal too.
    O words, my wondrous words, where are you now?
    The longing songs, the wit I hope I own?
    What will I say, what voice, what face, and how?
    I must, or find myself again alone.
    O voice, my treacherous voice, o fail me not!
    Command you I to speak a flowered verse,
    or make a jest, I could, I ought!
    But what were she to laugh or something worse?
    Yet I resolve with steeled heart to try,
    I open up my mouth but walk on by.

    A Prelude

    My thundering youthful heart, beat not so hard,
    for volume’s strength can never measure love.
    Your maddening thuds may put her on her guard,
    and now she looks this way, o Lord above!
    My reddening cheeks, how dare you color so?
    The blood is needed somewhere else, I’m sure,
    so cheeks to normal hue, for no winds blow,
    and any tint is but a sign to her.
    My whitened hands, you tremble with no cause.
    No beasts with snarling fangs or bloody cries
    are here to threaten me, to give me pause:
    no thing to fear, except those sapphire eyes.
    To rest, I need to shirk or take the task;
    that means to flee, or worse, to simply ask.

    A Heartening

    But am I not a somewhat virtued man?
    No god, tis true, but somewhat more than beast.
    No Hercules, no Titan but I can,
    with passioned might, hold tightly her, at least.
    No Apollo I, but Phoebus has his chore.
    Around the earth he daily makes his way,
    and I, the mortal one, have less but more,
    for she would be the center of my day.
    No Zeus am I, no thunderbolts or such,
    no power or the wish to take a life,
    but then, I lust for but one woman’s touch,
    remaining true to she, my dreamed wife.
    No perfect god could I e’er try to be,
    perhaps there’s good within my modesty.

    A Resolution

    No god, but something more than beast am I
    and virtues must I have to make me so.
    Not swine that roots about his muddy sty,
    but I exhume my heart that way, I know.
    No sloth who loafs about his treetop bed
    and never ventures far from places known.
    I am a vigored youth with love unfed,
    I must then go the way my heart has shown.
    No mouse am I who fears to softly tread
    on ground too near to any human frame.
    I am a man of couraged heart and head,
    who’ll call, with hopes and fears aside, her name.
    And with a braced heart and hopeful eye
    and steady voice shall speak to her, and try.

    A Proposal

    “O sweetest light that ever graced my eyes,
    that made complete the painting of my world
    as does the sun when warming bluest skies
    or oysters when they’re found as lightly pearled,
    will you consent to let me warm your nights
    when you are cold of chill or cold of heart
    and let me salve with care your deepest frights
    with healing words which are my only art
    and sit with me before the snapping flames
    throughout the harsh and snowy winter days
    with cider and our talk and loving names
    to keep the tender fires within ablaze
    –oh, I digress, my question is but this:
    will you be mine and share in loving bliss?”

    A Rejection

    “You silly boy, you talk with dumb big words
    that make no sense to human ears like mine
    and tangle up your sentences like other nerds
    who think they’re talking smart and looking fine.
    Are words like that supposed to win my heart?
    An oyster with a pearl? A sunny sky?
    How strange you speak of me! It’s hardly art.
    I think you are a little out there, guy.
    And to propose a ‘loving bliss’ with you,
    well, bliss is not the word that comes to mind.
    I’d say a dreadful hell, eternal too,
    were I to think of it and be unkind.
    So boy, you go and build your cloudy castles,
    but I don’t need those silly poet hassles.”

In my defense, I wrote that when I was 21 years old and was under the influence of Millay, Spenser, Shakespeare, and whatnot. I got better, but not much.

Also, note that the preceding is copyright 1993 Brian J. Noggle and cannot be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the author. This means you, Harvey.

I remember in like January 1994 performing the piece at MoKaBe’s coffee house back when it was in Kirkwood, Missouri. I had spent the time before the poetry reading playing chess with Michael O’Brian, local poetry slam superstar, and he was falling prey to the Noggle blitz. That is, he thought perhaps there was method in my propensity for putting pieces in danger chasing his pieces; maybe that simple harvesting of my rooks and bishops was an intentional sacrifice in my long term plan. However, he became bored with the game when he probably suspected I didn’t know what I was doing and wandered off. That’s right, he RESIGNED in the face of the OVERWHELMING Noggle blitz.

At any rate, it was one of my first open mic nights, so I read the pieces from printed sheets of paper. I did, however, enlist a young lady named Amy to perform the final piece in response to the first five sonnets, and she probably did better than I did.

I would later write my first piece geared specifically for performance, “Visions and Revisions: A Prelude for Amy”, for the young lady. I performed it for her while sitting in the lobby of the local theatre while we awaited Dancing at Lughnasa. She was so impressed she used me to get the attention of my best friend at the time. Ah, youth.

But I digress. That’s what I have to offer for a series of sonnets as a means of comparison to Flora May Johnson Pierce.

Book Report: Sonnets of Eve by Flora May (Mae) Johnson Pierce (1973)

As you may recall, gentle reader, I bought this book earlier this year at the Friends of the Webster Groves Library book fair.

It’s a collection of 82 sonnets that tell the arc of the Eve story. You know, Adam and Eve, but not limited to the Genesis account of it. Using that myth as a framework, the sonnets explore the archetypal experience of womanhood as each woman discovers good and evil, relates to her husband, and raises her children. All in the pursuit of knowledge and godliness after the fall.

It’s definitely a labor of love; the book was probably a short run and misspells the author’s name either on the dust jacket (Mae) or on the title page (May). Author has signed the book twice, once with an inscription, and has added some hand-written corrections to the credits on the dustjacket. A note tucked inside the book indicated that its going price on the Internet was $28.00, and that wasn’t even signed. Since that book is apparently still on the Internet for the same price, it’s probably best that the Friends of Webster Groves Library only priced it $5.00.

Now, what of the sonnets themselves? They were okay; author was certainly familiar with the form. However, I didn’t think that most of them stood alone nor offered individual quality that impressed me. As a fan of the sonnet and the sonnet series myself, I appreciate the effort, but not everyone can do Fatal Interview like Millay.

But the book was better than Suspension Bridge.

Books mentioned in this review:

 
 

I’m Steve Jobs, Bitch!

Apple issues battery program for iPhone: Replacements cost $79, $6.95 shipping, three business days:

The iPhone’s battery is apparently soldered on inside the device and cannot be swapped out by the owner like most other cell phones.

Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Hakes said Thursday the company posted the battery replacement details on its Web site last Friday after the product went on sale.

Users would have to submit their iPhone to Apple for battery service. The service will cost users $79, plus $6.95 for shipping, and will take three business days.

That’s rich. Kinda like their overlord, come to think of it.

Don’t people gather with pitchforks and torches and DoJ attorneys outside the walls of Castle Redmond for this sort of thing?

(More on Kim du Toit and Tamara K.)

Book Report: Armageddon 2419: The Seminal “Buck Rogers” Novel by Philip Francis Nowlan (1962, 1978)

In 2004, I read Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future, a Buck Rogers recasting that hyped TSR’s new roleplaying game of that name. It reprinted the first part of the two short stories that led to the Buck Rogers comic strip, which led to the film serials, which led to the Gil Gerard television series, and so on, and so on.

This book collects the first two short stories that led to the whole shebang in their almost pure 1928/1929 glory (Spider Robinson “updated” this edition, which explains why characters written before the Great Depression talk directly about nuclear weapons and television). As such, World War I veteran Anthony (not William or “Buck” in the stories themselves) Rogers falls into a cavern with suspension gases in them, and he’s awakened in 2419, when the wars involving Europe and America have left them spent and let the Asians, particularly the Mongolian Chinese known as the Han, take over the planet and send the natives running for cover. Five hundred years later, about the time Rogers wakes up, the Americans are rising up in clan-like units to stand up to the evil Hans, as they are known in this book.

Americans live in the woods, close to the land, and have communal property. The Hans rule the skies and use technologies to keep the natives scattered, but are decadent and cushy. So you could really read into it different sorts of characterizations and messages depending upon whether you think America works best when America says, “Communism, yes!” or whatnot.

Regardless, the book is a simple romp typical of magazine-based pulp fiction of the era and perhaps even of today. A quick read that was fun. Probably better than Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future.

Also, those Hans? Not really Chinese. Instead, an epilogue informs us that they were actually aliens who landed in China and adapted themselves to look like the Chinese. I have to wonder if this is more of Spider Robinson’s “updating,” since in 1928 it was still cool to publicly fear and malign the Other.

Books mentioned in this review:


 

No Stunning Revelations on Grocery Store Checkout Scales, Either

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gets its outrage on when it finds that sometimes complex weighing mechanisms falter and don’t weigh precisely, and when these fail between inspections, they deliver faulty measurements to the benefit or detriment of consumers. But the Journal-Sentinel goes nuts on it since it can get a WATCHDOG REPORT out of a hot-button contemporary issue like gas:

When it comes to buying gas in Wisconsin, you don’t always get what you pay for.

A Journal Sentinel [sic] analysis of nearly 60,000 gas pump inspections shows that more than 2,000 pumps delivered a different amount of fuel than the meter registered in the past two years.

Yeah, well. That’s about a 3.3% failure rate. Thanks, Journal-Sentinel, for your analysis that probably meant you read a department of weights and measures report.

The Journal-Sentinel piece is long on its own flabbergasted outrage, but doesn’t really have anything but that. What’s the solution? Twice a year inspections by the official standards keepers? Mandating the gas stations and their evil overlords Big Oil invent failure-proof pumps? No answer needed–only interviews with outraged consumers.

A more compelling story would be an indictment of how differences in air pressure and temperature affect the actual gas in a gallon. However, understanding Boyle’s Law and explaining it to daily newspaper readers is beyond the ken of contemporary journalists; reading summary tables in government reports and conducting man-on-the-street interviews, however, remains in the sweet spot of the modern journalist skill set.

No word yet on whether Journal-Sentinel WATCHDOGS will figure out that most times when you buy meat at the grocery store, you’re paying for the tray and the cellophane wrap if the meat clerk forgets to or out of haste omits to use the pricing scale’s tare feature. But that’s not an attack on BIG OIL, and those grocery stores still advertise with the local daily.

Deanna Vinson Rethinks Her Assertions

In their divorce proceedings, in which Deanna Vinson got custody of American Equity Mortgage and Ray Vinson retained rights to his, erm, unique radio voice (“Ninety-nine, ninety nine!”), the former Mrs. Vinson and her attorneys asserted that her stewardship of the company, not the, erm, uniqueness of the ubiquitous pitchman, were responsible for the company’s success and millions of dollars in income.

Maybe hindsight is 20/20:

American Equity Mortgage is closing its offices in seven markets due to a slowing in the home mortgage business, President Deanna Daughhetee confirmed Friday.

Meanwhile ex-husband Ray has set up shop with his own mortgage group and his curtain-of-fire radio commercials with a similar phone number that ends in 9999.

Maybe Ms. Daughhetee can halt the decline by snapping up Granny from Homestead Financial when she becomes an unrestricted free agent and putting her onto the air on American Equity Mortgage’s behalf. If Garth Snow doesn’t snap her up to shore up the Islanders’ blueline first.

Developers Lose Some, Lose Some

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is beside itself as land developers lose some in Centene’s giving up its attempt to build a new company headquarters by condemning properties in that slum of Clayton. In this case, the Post-Dispatch quotes those who worry about the impact the rule of law and right to private property will have on the region:

Jim Koman, president of Koman Properties, a Clayton-based development company, said developers are watching the situation closely “to figure out if Centene was still interested in Clayton or would pursue other markets.

“My personal hope and wish is that Centene stays within the metro area so at least the region will retain the jobs,” Koman said. “All businesses and developers look towards pro-development communities and municipalities, no matter where they are located.”

That implies that the region might lose jobs because the government wouldn’t let the company strongarm other property owners out of their rightful property at Centene’s behest.

On the other hand, the Post-Dispatch highlights a development setback for a property owner that acquired properties by buying them from their owners:

Only one developer would have qualified for the tax credit: Paul McKee, who has amassed large parcels of vacant property in north St. Louis.

Remember McKee? The Post-Dispatch apparently decided it couldn’t abide this Republican land accumulator in the city. Hey, I think Blunt did the right thing in vetoing tax credits for developers who probably have good enough cash flow and credit to start with (or they should be in another business).

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t have a consistent opinion on land development companies in their quest for government handouts; it seems as though it prefers those developers who forcibly seize lands through eminent domain “for the public good” over those developers who buy lands secretively for their own profit.

And that makes me see red, if you know what I’m saying.

Bringing Back Memories, Therapy Sessions

A short video from Summerfest shows people dancing; my goodness, I remember cutting a picnic table or two in my time. My friend Doug and I were unabashed in our appreciation of the music, much to the amusement of passersby and chagrin of those with whom we came. It probably also explains why we were unable to impress women we saw at Summerfest.

Why, I once went to Summerfest alone and danced on a table by myself. That shows the depths of….well, something.

I haven’t been to Summerfest in a decade, but watching the video takes me there again.

Prosecutors Decide Alleged Murdered Didn’t Kill Victims Twice

Good news of a sort for this fellow; prosecutors are dropping half of the charges:

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped four of eight first-degree murder counts against a suburban Chicago man accused of killing his wife and three children, saying they were focusing their case.

So now the first degree murder counts line up with the actual number of victims. Some common sense prevails at the D.A.’s office.

Book Report: Candyland by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain (2001)

Okay, it’s a gimmick book; the first half is written by Evan Hunter in a more literary, explore the character style, and the second half is a police procedural in the Ed McBain style. That’s the most notable thing about this book’s universe; the second most notable thing is that the book is set in New York in late July, 1999 (the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., places the dates exactly), so the book makes no reference to the events of two years later (and books set since make reference surely). Thirdly, the book is told in the present tense, a bit of a departure. There, the gimmicks and unusual things are noted duly early.

Of course, I don’t have to explain the first gimmick to you, gentle reader, because you know that Evan Hunter and Ed McBain are the same fellow. Regardless of the authors’ photograph on the back that depicts the two fellows standing side by side.

The first half of the book depicts a rather randy architect in New York who’s scheduled to return to a drab, sexless life with his long-term wife in Los Angeles in the morning. On his last night in New York, the, hem, gentleman tries to call an architecture student with whom he’s dallied and has had phone sex, tries to pick up a woman (an attempted recovering rape victim) in the hotel bar, tries to call a phone sex line, and then tries to achieve satisfaction at a “massage parlor” to ill results. Brothers and sisters, although certain people (my mother-in-law particularly, whom I impressed upon first meeting by reciting Eliot and not McBain) have called this author “smutty,” but I’ve disagreed–but after reading the Evan Hunter part of the book, I felt like I needed a shower. The only other Evan Hunter book I’ve read is Last Summer, which had me feeling for the protagonist until such time as I said, “Ew.”

But then the second half of the book starts with detectives in NYC investigating the homicide of a hooker, and I hoped it wouldn’t be the sad sack from the first half of the book. The second half follows a trio of detectives from Homicide, Vice, and the Special Victims unit looking into the murder. The main character is a woman on the Special Victims unit (the Rape squad), and the section follows her one day crusade to find this perp while she handles her divorce and relates to her co-workers. McBain takes a leap in using a female point-of-view, but he does well as far as I can tell (after all, I’m a male).

An interesting exercise; of course, we all bought it because it’s McBain. And not a bad departure from his norm (like Another Part of the City). McBain is like John D. MacDonald on my pantheon of writers; regardless of what they wrote, I will read it, for I expect it to be good.

Books mentioned in this review:


 

 

If I’d Known the Lieutenant Governor Was Coming, I Would Have Straightened Up

MfBJN is on the blogroll at Team Kinder, named for the Missouri Lieutenant Governor.

To be frank, I’ve never heard of him, which I assume means he’s a more efficient version of Dick Cheney, the older statesman who controls the diminutive, younger figurehead in the executive office.

Because modern commentary would have me know that government works in the hands of Republicans.