Book Report: Missouri Deathwatch A Mack Bolan/The Executioner Book (1985)

I found this book at my first book fair in the Springfield area. The Friends of the Christian County Library book sale was laden with series pulp like The Executioner, so how could I not grab one entitled Missouri Deathwatch and set in St. Louis.

Sort of. Aside from the title and the character mentioning that the action takes place in St. Louis, there’s no real sense of place. Descriptions of locations are stock. It could have been Philadelphia Deathwatch for all intents and purposes. On the other hand, it’s better than getting details wrong so that you get a sense of misplace (see Blood on the Arch).

This book is somewhere in the 80s in the Mack Bolan series, and with any series like this run through a set of different authors pounding out a wordcount for a paycheck. This book falls toward the bottom of the range. The author pads it out with musings about Mack Bolan’s purpose for the war on the Mob and repeating the arms he carries and whatnot. So it’s not the best in the series, and it’s not bad for what it is: a short pulp novel with some action and some explosions.

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Book Report: Lovelock by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn H. Kidd (1994)

I read this book after my experience with The Ruins, and I was pleased to remember how good fiction should roll. This is my first Orson Scott Card book (although it’s a collaboration), so I didn’t know what to expect. But it’s a well-paced science fiction bit. The main character is a mute enhanced monkey who acts as a “witness” for an important scientist as she and her family join a one-way expedition to the stars on an extremely large vessel called The Ark.

The monkey becomes sentient, starts breaking his bonds and conditioning, and outwits most of the people in the book. Additionally, the family breaks down under the strains of the preliminary steps to space travel. And then the book sort of ends without any real resolution or major plot arc settlement, as this is the first of a trilogy. Still, the book was fresh enough and paced well enough that I did not mind.

I might have to pick up the others in the series to see what happens next; however, the book ended without a cliffhanger or anything, so I’m not driven.

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Book Report: The Ruins by Scott Smith (2006)

This book puts Scott Smith into some mighty fine company. Along with the complete works of Algernon Blackwood, I put this book down with no intention of finishing it.

It is a slow mving, chapterless tale of some American students who go into the interior of Mexico and encounter something horrible. It’s a horror book, blurbed by Stephen King for crying out loud. I meandered through almost a hundred pages of it, not pulled by the plot and not liking the characters much. I turned to find out how many pages the book was, and I caught a sentence beginning the last section of the book: The Greeks arrived three days later. And I knew then how the book ended, with all the characters dead.

So I read the Wikipedia entry for the book to see if I would have liked it. And you know what? It didn’t get better from where I left off reading the book. The conceit behind the book doesn’t lend itself to much scrutiny, ultimately: a strange vine takes over people. It’s only at this one place, the ruins of the title. The local natives have salted a ring around a hilltop to keep the vine there, and they prevent anyone who crosses the threshold from leaving and carrying the eldritch vine with them.

Come on, that’s a conceit for a screenplay, which no doubt is what Smith had in mind. But if the freaking vine kills everyone who comes there, how come people keep saying they’re going there? How do the natives know to keep the vine at bay? I doubt the book answers anything; the plot on Wikipedia seems to be nothing but getting young, attractive Americans up to the Ruins to kill them.

I wasted a couple nights slogging through the first hundred pages. I’m glad I didn’t waste many more finishing the book.

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Because That’s Where The Money Is

The family of a slain family sues the murderer’s employer for not preventing the murders:

    The Joyce Meyer Ministries did too little to prevent its security manager, Christopher Coleman, from alledgedly murdering his wife and two sons, according to an addition filed Monday to a wrongful-death lawsuit.

    The suit, filed here on behalf of Sheri Coleman’s family, now seeks damages “in excess of $50,000” from the international television ministry as well as Coleman.

    It suggests the killings might not have occurred if the ministry had followed its own guidelines and better investigated anonymous threats against Coleman and his family.

How does that make you feel, employers? You’re now responsible for preventing murders.

Also, how do you think this will impact hiring of ex-convicts?

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The Meaning of Aid

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist discovers that government aid helps the irresponsible:

    Let’s consider two families with kids. The first mom and pop buy fancy cars, head off to Vegas, buy the biggest house they can afford. They take a lackadaisical attitude toward work and generally blow money.

    The next mom and pop work hard and advance in their careers. They drive clunkers, vacation in Porchville, live modestly and sock away savings.

    Guess which family is going to get the most financial aid when their kid heads off to college?

    Hedonism has rewards beyond a good suntan, and they come in the form of college financial aid. The federal financial aid formula punishes thrift and hard work.

The aid system for whatever need-based program offers the government money not only helps people who need it through bad circumstance, but also those who either game the system or who are irresponsible.

Then the column goes on to show parents how to game the system.


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A Brief Refresher On Human Rights

From Marko:

    In order for something to be a human right, it cannot and must not be something that requires a good or a service from someone else. If you make it so, then the person providing that good or service will become a slave to the community, because they no longer have the option to refuse. That’s why health care cannot ever be a human right: because health care is a commodity, just like flat-screen TVs and sliced bread at the grocery store. You can’t claim the right to force J.J. Nissen to make bread for you, whether it’s for compensation or for free, and you can’t force Best Buy to keep stocking flat-screen TVs, either. If you run out of people to provide that commodity, you have no way to claim that so-called human right.

    A human right only requires that people leave you alone to exercise it, not that they work for you, whether you give them money for their work or not. Freedom of speech is a human right. Freedom of association is a human right. Free exercise of religion is a human right. Free band-aids and vaccinations aren’t.

Whether it’s health care or broadband Internet access, the government cannot bestow human rights composed of goodie bags.

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Bryan Burwell’s Litmus Test for NFL Ownership

To own an NFL team, you should think like he does:

    I know how those words play out in Idiot America. They are embraced as gospel. But inside the locker rooms of the NFL, where the overwhelming majority of the players are descendants of slaves, Limbaugh’s ignorant ramblings resonate with entirely different emotions.

    His money might be green, but his words are colored with hate and intolerance.

Got that? According to Bryan Burwell, if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, you are an idiot-American. But it’s Rush Limbaugh whose intemperate words are colored with hate and intolerance.

Perhaps Burwell’s career in sportswriting has left him incapable of addressing Rush Limbaugh’s views instead of dumping on Rush Limbaugh as though he were a slumping left fielder. Or maybe he never had that intellectual acumen to begin with. However, make no mistake, trying to bar someone from a profession or from acquiring property based upon his views is not the American way.

Not the old American way, anyway.

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US Department of Fish and Wildlife Needs a Reality Show

You know what we need to see? How about a reality show about the tough guys in the US Department of Fish and Wildlife conducting their raids in defense of helpless orchids?

    “You don’t need to know. You can’t know.” That’s what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search.

    The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris’ longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor.

    The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with – get this- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.

    That’s right. Orchids.

    By March 2004, federal prosecutors were well on their way to turning 66-year-old retiree George Norris into an inmate in a federal penitentiary – based on his home-based business of cultivating, importing and selling orchids.

He failed to fill out the proper forms. He’s lucky not to get shot inadvertently resisting regulatory violations or not to get placed on an orchid offender registry.

After that reality show debuts on Animal Planet, maybe we can get one where people get thrown to the ground and beaten with batons for signing the wrong date on a form where they’ve said they’ve not knowingly entered fraudulent information. Because they know today is Tuesday, October 6, not Tuesday, October 5, dammit!

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