John Kass: Not a Statist

John Kass might just be offering a nice eulogy for America courtesy of the Boomers:

On those nights when they were young, they smoked pot in the streets and listened to Dylan in the car and dreamed of the risks they’d take.

But now, as Baby Boomers grow old, they welcome those police surveillance cameras on the light poles outside their homes, thinking the cameras make them safe. And they rush toward the warm embrace of big government and promised security.

I don’t know why Kass isn’t a blogosphere favorite. He’s the best columnist in Chicago.

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Good Book Hunting: October 11, 2008 and October 18, 2008

On October 11, we went to St. Martin of Tour’s book fair in South County. I’d seen the signs, but they were not listed on, so we expected a small sale. Will we have enough money in hand with only $30? Probably.

Oh, but no.

It had more books than we anticipated, and soon more people than we would like for a two-year-old to run around mostly free. So I held onto the five books I’d picked up and watched the toddler, who discovered a stage at the end of the hall and loved to be upon it. As I watched to make sure he would not also discover stage-diving, Mrs. Noggle found a set of Sesame Street books. 25 in total. Which meant that my $30 was spent mostly on children’s books:

The children win the October 11 book fair race
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I managed to get:

  • The Circuit-Riding Combat Chaplain, a self-published book about being a chaplain in the Korean War.
  • Peter the Great, a biography.
  • Culture Warrior, a preening tome, no doubt, by Bill O’Reilly.
  • The Hundred Year Dash by George Burns.
  • The Death of Ethics in America, a book whose title indicates it was written during the process. A book written now would probably be Ethics Are Dead in America.

I spent the rest of the day expressing disappointment that I only got five books and that I only got to look over like four tables, but here’s a tip: remember the lower lip when pouting, otherwise you’ll just look sullen.

On October 18, we didn’t go to a book fair, but we found a listing on Craigslist for a book garage sale, so we loaded up and went there. I got more books:

A mother and daughter consolidated their household and shuffled some their library into our home.  Sure, this alt text makes little sense, but you're not even reading it, are you?
Click for full size

This haul includes:

  • The Handbook of Folklore.
  • The TV Theme Song Trivia Book. I flipped it open, and the first thing I saw were the first words of the voiceover for the original Battlestar Galactica theme. It’s a quiz book, and I’m sure I’ll do okay on the 1970s and 1980s and probably “I’ll Be There For You” from Friends.
  • The Human Brain by Isaac Asimov.
  • Grassroots Tyranny.
  • Quality without Tears. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like as much fun as Quality with Tears, Sobs, and Lamentations of Developers. But I’m open to new ideas I’ll discard.
  • Uppity Women in Medieval Times. An idea book.
  • The Crime Encyclopedia. Also an idea book.
  • Montezuma. No doubt a laudatory biography about that wretched monarch.
  • Imressionism, a right purty book about my favorite art style.

I know, it’s not a lot, but it should represent a quarter’s worth of reading spread among many years and bookshelves.

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Cognitive Dissonance: It Gets Some Voters Through The Day

Bookworm recounts a conversation with a liberal friend, who has a mantra when confronted with the liberal leaders’ plans as stated in the liberal leader’s own words:

    No, he’s not.

    No, they’re not.

    That’s just not true.

It’s sort of like this DJ friend I have, also a liberal coincidentally, who doesn’t know a lot about the lyrical content of the songs he plays. He only knows to play something up tempo and something slow for the people to dance. So he’s caught by surprise when the bride writes on his little information sheet, “Don’t play ‘Soldier Boy'” and he asks the groom, “Is that don’t play ‘Soldier Boy’ or should I play it?” and the groom says, “Play it,” and then the bride rushes off and the bride and groom withhold payment. You know, those words mean things.

I wonder how many voters of either stripe don’t actually listen to the words, but like the hip beats that the parties spin. I’d like to think that the subrational party does it more, but I imagine there are the subrational in our party, too.

But when a Congressman says he’s going to take 401(k) money for the slush fund, you’d better believe he means it. If a leader of a country threatens radioactive fire upon a democratic nation that happens to be mostly Jewish in population, you’d better hear more than the tone of the voice.

(Plus, free taunt: For someone who calls the blog “Bookworm Room”, I have to say, “You have some books? How cute!” Which reminds me, I need to get an update to the Noggle Library to account for the 3 or more new bookshelves.)

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Book Report: First Immortal by James L. Halperin (1998)

Well, this book is an interesting piece, very throught-provoking. In it, Ben Smith, a WWII veteran and Japanese prison camp survivor, opts for cryonic (aka cyrogenic) preservation. The first third of the book describes his life until suspension, his philosophical discussions with his peers in the medical field, his friends, and his family. The middle part describes the immediate after-effects, including the lawsuit among his heirs to split up his trust and to unfreeze him to kill him, essentially, to get the money in his trust, and then the direction of society. The third part deals with his revival and nano-repair to the age of 25 and his dealings with his extended and eternally young family, including an infant cloned from his dead wife who will grow to be his wife again.

The book is strongest in the beginning, where the reader can focus on the main character. After that, it gets a little epic and sagaish for pure enjoyment. As it’s not actually cut into chapters, one cannot find a “one more chapter” stopping point and it’s hard to chunk into digestible bits. Additionally, it starts in 1998 and projects history from the top of the dot-com era, full of optimism of eternal growth and whatnot. So when it intercuts news summaries from a year to ground you–which it does with every scene, since sometimes we’re skipping ahead decades, it starts out with corporate news, such as June 15, 2042: Scientists at Eastman Kodak, Compaq’s stock rises, Sun Microsystems this, or 2084, Chrysler introduces. These are already punchlines, as are the invention of “backlinks” by Netscape in something like 2006. Seems to me the trackback made it before then.

Once we get into the future, we’re into LiberalTechnoTopia, where no one lies because everyone has a lie detector implant, where contraceptive implants are mandatory at birth (the United States was the last holdout-yay us!), and where the good Democrats want to offer free cryonics as a human right, but the Republicans want to have a two-strikes and you’re dead law (which they get, and it cleans up society nicely, but that’s mentioned as an aside). Every new development is handled by society in just the perfect way–no human would use it for evil, because humans are inherently good!

So the book, which could have been a very interesting philosophical tome questioning the nature of humanity, the meaning of identity, and a host of other things, ultimately turns into a blended composite of L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach (the Demotopia) with The Metaphysics of Star Trek with a heaping topping from cryonics brochures. The author, a coin dealer of some repute, definitely wants to popularize cryonics. As a matter of fact, he’s willing to let you download this book for free to get the word out.

I think I’ll hold out, since Congress will seize the assets of anyone in suspension come 2010.

Books mentioned in this review:



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I Don’t Just Want To Cancel; I Want To Besmirch, Too

So I’ve mentioned that I’ve fallen back into the BOMC, buying a handful of the books so I could get some relatively recent titles for less than full price. Well, now. It required the commitment of buying one more book over the course of a year at regular club prices, and I ordered Robert Crais’s Chasing Darkness. Then I marked the next mailing “Cancel” because I’d completed my obligation, right?


The next mailing came yesterday and said I was still obliged to buy a book. So I called to see what was up, if maybe my payment for the Crais book hadn’t cleared. Oh, but no. The fellow politely explained that the book I bought was on a “promotion” price, not regular club price, so it did not count. I asked if this was all noted in the mailed catalog materials, and he said it was.

So I looked.

Oh, yeah, here’s where it says only books over $13.98 count:

The BOMC fine print
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It is right there. But the catalog could be a little more explicit, no? I mean, they call it “Member’s Edition” price regardless of whether it’s “Promotion” (doesn’t count) or regular (does count).

Here, let me illustrate some of the pages to identify for you what counts and doesn’t count. Since Book-of-the-Month Club does its bed to obfuscate it.

The new Spenser is out, and old ones are available, but do not count:

1 out of 3 ain't bad
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The new David Balducci is out, but again, if you want the old ones, they don’t count unless you spend $14 on them:

Balducci for suckers
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Poor Anne Perry; none of her books fulfill the members’ obligations:

Perry doesn't fulfill BOMC obligations
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And those books printed on the inside of the envelope? Good luck.

In case you're bored enough to actually look at what's inside the envelope
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Of course, outside the BOMC News flier, your odds are probably worse.

Meanwhile, today I got the chastising letter that I’m trying to slip out of my agreed to obligations:

You, sir, are a Welsher
Click for full size

Don’t worry. I will fulfill my obligation now that I understand it. Also, note that I will never, ever play this game again. Increased deception-lite, cheaper books (newsprint pages, almost), and the double-gotcha “Dual Selections”–you can just continue faltering. Your business model has always been based on taking advantage of your customers, but I hate to see how much further you’ll go before collapsing under your own negative brand management.

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Book Report: Invisible Prey by John Sandford (2007)

This book tops the scales at 388 pages, and, frankly, it made me miss the days of one hundred and fifty page pulp books. Because let’s face it, this book has more akin to those crime thrillers than to more sweeping classical literature that covers more of the human condition and clocks in at a hundred more pages or less.

It’s a disappointing entry in the Prey series. The main plot revolves around an old woman who gets killed and robbed of a few expensive antiques that won’t be missed. It’s a pair of antique dealers doing this, you see, carefully across different states and whatnot. But it unravels when a young black man recognizes that some pieces are missing. I didn’t hesitate to tell you who did it because Sandford tips it pretty early, too, and then you see, via the narrative equivalent of split screen, what the bad guys do while the good guys try to figure it out. Sometimes it works, but given the other evidence, it cumulatively just looks sloppy.

To pad it out, Sandford spends a lot of time on a subplot, a Republican politician who is accused of sleeping with an underage girl. This subplot doesn’t deal with solving the crime, but how, politically, to deal with it. The Prey books have always had an element of this, but the book really throws this in and then combines the two plots as the antiques dealers use this as a red herring to throw Davenport off. When that doesn’t work, many pages later, the subplot doesn’t get mentioned again.

In the review of Phantom Prey, I wondered if sometimes Sandford didn’t know what he was talking about. Another couple bits within this book often sound tinny, as though Sandford didn’t really get into the context of the subcultures he’s writing about. For example, the young black man (I mean, high school student) goes to a hip hop club’s under 18 night on the night of the murder. He’s there with a couple of friends. A hip hop club, you understand. He takes mass transit down, but:

At ten o’clock, the mother of one of the kids picked up the boys in her station wagon and hauled them all back to St. Paul.
“What kind of car?” Lucas asked.
“A Cadillac SUV–I don’t know exactly what they’re called,” Lash said. “It was a couple years old.”

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but the Cadillac SUV is the obscure Escalade which, as far as I know, a couple of people in the hip hop industry drive. Sure, Sandford intimates that it’s a station wagon, which could mean the vehicle he has in mind is the Cadillac SRX, but the narrator shouldn’t crop that up, and I really think the boy would relate to the Cadillac SUV as either the Escalade or not. Not “I don’t know exactly what they’re called.”

Sadly, I think the series is drooping. Sandford might be phoning these in, and talking for hours while doing so.

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Whither the Political Blogging, Noggle?

I know, some of you readers might be disappointed that I’m not daily dishing out snark about the election or mocking the mockery of a candidate thrown up by the Democrats for the position. However, let’s just say I’m feeling a little sanguine about the prospects for the future. So sanguine, I’m italicizing it even though it’s not a foreign word.

How sanguine? This describes my mood:

Listen to the words, children. Do not be confused by the pretty Starman like story. Remember Robert Hays for his excellent work in Airplane!.

If you want me, I’ll be in the back yard, burying copies of the Federalist Papers, Milton Friedman books, printed copies of Ace’s and Porch Girl’s blogs, and Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us From Evil, the last unwrapped and acting as fertilizer for my upcoming Wealth Spread Garden.

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50 at Normandy High face HIV risk:

The HIV threat at Normandy High School has widened to include up to 50 students, health officials said Tuesday.

Health officials last week said “some” students may have been exposed to the virus that causes AIDS but recently refined their estimate to 50.

The local news has been running this story pretty hard, with dramatic meetings between school administrators and whatnot. Of course, just using the words “exposed to” spices it up. One might think a cafeteria worked didn’t wash her hands before returning to work or a lab experiment went awry. Um, still, no.

The most likely scenario for HIV exposure among teenagers would be sexual relations, but health experts say sharing contaminated needles for steroids, tattoos or drugs could also be the source.

The story’s only commenter gets to the meat in the sandwich:

I would like to know how those children were exposed to the HIV virus. It would benefit all the schools, and for that matter, any gathering of people in one place, to know how this happened. Of course, if it was something like a gang bang, then I am not worried because my community does not practice those sort of behaviors.

Indeed, by not elucidating on the mechanism of exposure, the media is really trying to gin up the panic without reminding the public that these young men and women acted in a way to expose themselves.

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Book Report: The Silencers by Donald Hamilton (1962)

This book is another in the Matt Helm series, the fourth (I think).

In it, Helm travels to Mexico, gets some secret information, and then walks into a trap on purpose to get to an agent known as The Cowboy who might be sabotaging a nuclear test. When he gets caught, as planned, Helm turns the tables on his captors and on the woman who has double-crossed him–as planned–even as they’ve fallen in love.

It’s not very complicated, but it’s a 60s paperback adventure. You get a handful of scenes, a female love interest of potentially duplicitious motivation, and then you get a sudden climax with a big explosion. A hundred and fifty pages, and you’re done. Man, I love these paperbacks.

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Sign of the End Times

You know, that bumper sticker I made insinuating that Obama was a communist is one thing; another thing entirely are the line of official Barack Obama signs and whatnot with the freaking Soviet star on them:

Obama, the Soviet Star

What, you’re going to tell me that’s supposed to imply the Red Star Yeast logo because Obama is going to raise us all or the Macy’s logo because Obama wants to turn the government into the citizens’ department store, where they can get anything they want as long as it’s red.

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Book Report: Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel (2005)

This book takes on a number of media-promulgated myths and explains why most of them are false. As a reasonable, libertarian sort of fellow myself, I already knew most of them. The last chapter of myths covers parenting, and it’s the weakest one. Stossel is a consumer reporter, not necessarily a parenting reporter, so the book ends on a weak note.

Another book that goes along with what I believe, generally, so it didn’t challenge me much. Explaining common sense to someone with some common sense ain’t riveting reading. Sadly, like most political books, only people who agree with it will buy it/acquire it.

Speaking of which, since I just bought a hardback copy, I have a trade paperback to get rid of. Call it if you want it.

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Would They Call Regular Fraud "Fundraising Efforts"?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Washington “editor” weighs in on ACORN’s fraud problems by calling them something else: GOP attacking ACORN’s voter registration efforts:

Trailing badly in new-voter registration, Republicans are waging an aggressive campaign in Missouri and around the country against a group that claims to have added 1.3 million people to voter rolls since last year.

Let’s play a new game: whenever the Post-Dispatch identifies something as fraud, let’s see how they would spin it if it involved/indicted the Democratic Party.

Like this: GOP attacks Nevadan’s fundraising efforts

Or this: Republicans assail investor efforts.

I guess I am just naive; I didn’t think that Republicans were upset with voter registration efforts. I thought they were upset that ACORN people were systemically and nationally caught making things up out of whole cloth:

I guess that explains why I didn’t go into journalism; I don’t want to “help” people see the “truth” through my creative writing and pretending it was something other than a fictional narrative.

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Book Report: A Friend Forever edited by Susan Polis Schutz (1980, 1982)

This is a simple collection of “poems” and quotes about friendship from famous people taken from magazines. Think of Reader’s Digest‘s Quoted Quotables section, but with 70s pop art.

Again, it’s good to read some bad poetry to remind you what good poetry is like. And some of this is not very good.

The strangest thing, though, is that the copy I have is from the third printing. And the book cost 4.95. In 1982. And I guess someone was buying them.

And, on the other hand, the editor and author of many of the poems within founded the company that published this book and created, which they sold to Excite for $780 million. So she’s got that going for her. Me? I’ve published a couple of chapbooks and have a couple cool blogs.

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