I Got Nothing, So I Wreak Some Lost Havoc

You know what I think is funny? Making up Lost spoileresque questions and adding them to comment threads on Facebook and whatnot.

Questions and comments like:

  • The return of Walt and Michael was way overdue!
  • Who built the statue of Vincent the dog on the Island, and why does it have octagons in the base motif?
  • When Walt becomes the new Jacob, will Aaron be the new black smoke?

Come on, with the absurd turns of events throughout the run of the show, surely you can devise some spoilers that will anger your friends for tipping them off to things that never happen. Leave your best in the comments below. No actual spoilers, please, since that’s no fun at all.

Book Report: The Crime Encyclopedia by Marie J. MacNee (1998)

This book compendiates gangsters, murderers, conpeople, and terrorists from the modern era (20th century, roughly, but with some late 19th century Wild West outlaws). Each section covers a type of crime, such as robbers, and each chapter within the section covers individuals or gangs within it, such as Black Bart and Timothy McVeigh. Each chapter contains a couple of sidebars and some suggested further reading. Ergo, this is one heck of an idea book for historical essays and whatnot. Also, it really serves the Jeopardy! play, as I found man of the criminals in the book to be answers for Jeopardy! questions while I was reading it.

On distraction it offers, though, is parenthetical appositives throughout to define each and every crime in common terms. As though larceny, espionage, and extortion were too obscure for the average reader. Worse, it does it each and every time the term appears for the first time in a chapter so that it just pounds simple definitions into your head.

I recommend the book if you are into this sort of thing and if you’ve got room in your life for a book that you can pick up, read a chapter, put down and pick up again some days later.

Books mentioned in this review:

It’s Not Double Jeopardy, It’s Final Jeopardy

A cop demands a hummer from an underage girl and gets probation. Fortunately for the delicate sensitivities of your Federal government, there’s an alternate charge available.

On Friday, Steven Burgess was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison without parole for violating the girl’s civil rights. His attorney, John O’Connor, said Burgess agreed to the plea bargain because it was better than the life sentence federal prosecutors were prepared to recommend.

So how do you feel knowing that you can be put in an FCI for life for violating someone’s civil rights? Don’t you get the sense that that particular charge is rather elastic?

Book Report: Kipling: A Selection of His Stories and Poems (Volume I) by Rudyard Kipling, edited by John Beecroft (1956)

This book is the first part of a two-part set that was a Book of the Month Club selection in 1956, if I read my Internet correctly (and that Internet is correct). Funny, hey, how our grandparents actually bought classical literature for mass consumption? Funny and sad.

This book includes Kim, The Jungle Books, Just-So Stories, and Puck of Pook’s Hill, each a whole book in its own right. However, I don’t get to count them as individual books in my annual reckoning because I count physical books. So I’m going to have to read The Green Mile to balance things out.

Kim is the story of a young orphan, the son of an Irish soldier and a native woman, who joins a Buddhist holy man as the holy man seeks a location from Buddhist myths. Along the way, Kim plays upon his relationship with a Muslim horse trader and an English intelligence man to become a player in The Great Game. Kim’s experience as a beggar in India and his familiarity with the peoples there serve him well as does his native intelligence until he can become an active spy. When he does, he helps to thwart some Russian surveyors coming to measure for the curtains they’ll put up when they rule the region. The book dovetails with what I’ve read recently in Flashman, Sharpe’s Tiger, and Sharpe’s Triumph. Kipling is very respective of the different cultures within India and makes the reader appreciate them, too.

The Jungle Books mirrors a bit Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan with the whole child raised by animals motif, but in Mowgli’s case, it is wolves instead of apes. I cannot imagine how Disney turned this into a musical, but if they can take The Hunchback of Notre Dame and do it, they can do it to anything. The books follow similar story arcs as Mowgli learns some things and then defeats an enemy or an enemy of the wolf pack, including a razing of a human village. It’s interesting how the whole Avatar motif gets called a remake of Dances with Wolves and whatnot, but in The Jungle Books, a human gone natural/native sides with the animals against man, too. But Kipling presents the native village as savage and superstitious, not representative of the contemporary sensibilities of the civilized (Mowgli isn’t leveling London or anything). I guess that’s the main difference and why one can forgive Mowgli for it when one cannot forgive Cameron for it.

I’ll be honest; I skipped Just-So Stories because I read it in a stand alone volume in 2008.

Puck of Pook’s Hill is a neat little book about two children in England who meet Puck, the last of the People of the Hills, and he brings a couple of historic personages to tell them their stories and an ultimate lesson. A Norman knight from the era following the Battle of Hastings holds a manor with the help of the Anglo-Saxon former lord and the duo travel to Africa with Vikings; a Roman centurion guards Hadrian’s Wall against the Picts and Winged Helmets as the governor marches on Rome to unseat the emperor; and a Jewish moneylender thwarts King John’s source of funds, ensuring that the barons will make him sign the Great Charter. The main lesson of the book is that the Sword leads to Treasure which leads to Law. A secondary motif is that the present (the end of the 19th century) is so far more advanced than the past that the children are better educated than the knight (he can’t read and refers to a mystical needle, the compass, which the boy produces from his pocket). In the 19th century, the children are familiar with the lineage of the British monarchy that the succession following William the Conqueror is mentioned as though it should be common knowledge and whatnot. A sort of double-effect message comes to an American reader in the beginning of the 21st century, though. I’m familiar with the history of Britain enough to know a bit about Hadrian’s Wall and William Rufus’s unsuccessful reign, but that’s because I’m particularly well read. A hundred years ago, I would be on par with a schoolchild. So civilization, or at least its education, is receding. Finally, one cannot read the book without commenting on the final chapter with the Jewish moneylender, which speaks of a secret cabal of moneylenders who behind the scenes control the fate of kings and kingdoms with their pursestrings. You know what? It’s fiction. Now perhaps better than in Kipling’s day, we are equipped to recognize and dismiss the thing as a stereotype. However, we’re not trusted to do so. Another way civilization or its education are receding.

So that’s four Kipling novel in under a year and a half, and i’m going to read the next volume soon. I guess I’m going through my Kipling phase like I’ve gone through my Dickens phase and my Hardy phase. Still, these are easier to read because they’re children’s books, and I’ve already promised to read them to my children in a couple of years. I can’t wait.

Books mentioned in this review:

Top Movies of the 90s That I Have Seen

You know what I haven’t seen in a while? A list meme.

The International Cinephile something something has presented its list of the top 100 films of the 1990s. The ones in bold I’ve seen. The ones in italics I’ve seen parts of.

01. The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998)
02. Short Cuts (Altman, 1993)
03. Trois couleurs: Rouge (Kieslowski, 1994)
04. Breaking the Waves (von Trier, 1996)
05. The Age of Innocence (Scorsese, 1993)
06. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
07. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)
08. Trois couleurs: Bleu (Kieslowski, 1993)
09. The Ice Storm (Lee, 1997)
10. Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990)
11. Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
12. LA Confidential (Hanson, 1997)
13. Sense and Sensibility (Lee, 1995)
14. The Double Life of Véronique (Kieslowski, 1991)
15. Safe (Haynes, 1995)
16. All About My Mother (Almodóvar, 1999)
17. Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992)
18. The Remains of the Day (Ivory, 1993)
19. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
20. The English Patient (Minghella, 1996)
21. Chungking Express (Wong, 1994)
22. Close-Up (Kiarostami, 1990)
23. The Grifters (Frears, 1990)
24. Barton Fink (Coen & Coen, 1991)
25. The Piano (Campion, 1993)
26. Secrets & Lies (Leigh, 1996)
27. A Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, 1997)
28. Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
29. Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)
30. Happy Together (Wong, 1997)
31. Mother and Son (Sokurov, 1997)
32. Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)
33. Howards End (Ivory, 1992)
34. Les amants du Pont-Neuf (Carax, 1991)
35. The Long Day Closes (Davies, 1992)
36. The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)
37. Naked Lunch (Cronenberg, 1991)
38. Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)
39. Lone Star (Sayles, 1996)
40. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang, 1991)
41. Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990)
42. Naked (Leigh, 1993)
43. Fargo (Coen & Coen, 1996)
44. Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993)
45. Husbands and Wives (Allen, 1992)
46. Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale & Wise, 1991)
47. The Truman Show (Weir, 1998)
48. La belle noiseuse (Rivette, 1991)
49. Miller’s Crossing (Coen & Coen, 1990)
50. Sátántangó (Tarr, 1994)
51. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)
52. Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
53. Rosetta (Dardenne & Dardenne, 1999)
54. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)
55. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
56. Underground (Kusturica, 1995)
57. Flowers of Shanghai (Hou, 1998)
58. The Wind Will Carry Us (Kiarostami, 1999)
59. Starship Troopers (Verhoeven, 1997)
60. Thelma & Louise (Scott, 1991)
61. Wild at Heart (Lynch, 1990)
62. Days of Being Wild (Wong, 1990)
63. The Player (Altman, 1992)
64. La cérémonie (Chabrol, 1995)
65. Beau travail (Denis, 1999)
66. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella, 1999)
67. Fallen Angels (Wong, 1995)
68. The Big Lebowski (Coen & Coen, 1998)
69. Titus (Taymor, 1999)
70. Vanya on 42nd Street (Malle, 1994)
71. Crash (Cronenberg, 1996)
72. Ulysses’ Gaze (Angelopoulos, 1995)
73. Van Gogh (Pialat, 1991)
74. Babe (Noonan, 1995)
75. Before Sunrise (Linklater, 1995)
76. A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991)
77. Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997)
78. American Beauty (Mendes, 1999)
79. Dead Man Walking (Robbins, 1995)
80. Kundun (Scorsese, 1997)
81. Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992)
82. Smoking/No Smoking (Resnais, 1993)
83. The Crying Game (Jordan, 1992)
84. Gattaca (Niccol, 1997)
85. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993)
86. Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)
87. Trois couleurs: Blanc (Kieslowski, 1994)
88. Bullets Over Broadway (Allen, 1994)
89. Everyone Says I Love You (Allen, 1996)
90. Eve’s Bayou (Lemmons, 1997)
91. Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou, 1996)
92. Se7en (Fincher, 1995)
93. Carlito’s Way (De Palma, 1993)
94. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (Mirkin, 1997)
95. Un coeur en hiver (Sautet, 1992)
96. The Straight Story (Lynch, 1999)
97. Dong (Tsai, 1998)
98. JFK (Stone, 1991)
99. A Summer’s Tale (Rohmer, 1996)
100. Edward II (Jarman, 1991)

Strangely, I take pride in having seen so few.

Why Do The Rubes Fear The Terminal G?

By that, I mean why do they all drop the Gs at the end of their gerunds and present participles? Or is that just something that happens in newspaper stories like this one: Gun totin’ women teach firearm safety at church.

Note the first quote, too:

” Packin’ heat in the choir loft. I love it! “

So, by dropping those Gs and going with things like gun-totin’, I guess we’re supposed to not respect the women, The Other who carries guns for protection. Unfortunately, the tactic makes me respect the newspapermen less.

Tax Increase Shot Down Again

The Christian County library is already at work putting this on a ballot this fall, no doubt.

For the second time, and by a bigger margin, Christian County voters Tuesday rejected a library tax increase.

The measure — which would have raised the library tax levy from 8.7 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 25 cents to help build three new buildings — was defeated by a 59-41 percent margin. A similar effort failed 52-48 percent in November

You think I am just being snarky with the comment at top?

Will there be a third attempt at a levy increase?

That will be discussed in the coming weeks, officials said.

I forget where I read it, but I think I thought I saw on the Internet (I think that’s a disclaimer asterisk, dagger, and double dagger) that the Christian County libraries budgeted $50,000 to lobby for this tax increase. Just to be clear, that’s the salary of one to one and a half librarians. And maybe they’ll spend that again.

I think I’d like to get a ballot initiative going to make it illegal for government entities to spend money on lobbying for tax increases.

Book Report: Assignment Golden Girl by Edward S. Aarons (1971)

I bought this book because it’s a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback. It looks like a John D. MacDonald book from the era, and it’s part of a series featuring derring-do much like the other little pulps I like to read. However.

This book’s pace is too slow, really, for pulp goodness. It features a Cajun American agent named Durell who goes to a fictitious African nation to spirit out its prince after a neighboring nation, spurred on by the ChiComs’ need for a railroad right-of-way, overruns the small nation. Durell has one chance to get the prince, a former student radical during his studies at Yale, out: an old woodburning steam locomotive and a single track. Durell is distracted and aided by a beautiful woman–the golden girl of the title–who turns out to be the prince’s younger sister, whom the prince wants dead to cement his claim to the throne.

The book’s scenes are pretty stock bits of action spaced well among long descriptions of the terrain that only pad the book out. The final climactic battle isn’t really that climactic, and as I mentioned, the pacing of the book is pretty poor.

But it’s the thirty-somethingth in the series, so someone in publishing must have supported it. Maybe the first books in the series were good enough to build a following and the author coasted from there.

I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re an absolute glutton like me.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Noggleism

My humor is often obscure enough that only one person in the room gets the joke, but that person thinks it’s uproariously funny.

Here, try this one out and see if you’re that person:

I went into MacDonald’s and ordered a MacGuffin. They gave me a box with a gilded rhinoceros horn that an unscrupulous arms dealer wanted very badly.

Book Report: Street Fighter by Todd Strasser (1994)

You know, I wouldn’t read a comic book and put it on the list here, but somehow I can read a YA adaptation of a film based on a video game (which is not a first: see here where I’ve read the novelization of a sequel of a movie based on a video game).

That said, come on, it’s a book about a military operation that incorporates the characters from the side-by-side fighter game and somehow gets Jean-Claude Van Damme in front of them. The plot is about a mad warlord in a backwater country in Southeast Asia who is using science to tip the balance in his favor on his plan to rule the world. The good guys, the AN (Allied Nations, a proxy for the UN), need to infiltrate the hidden base to free some hostages, and several non-military players get into the base to seek vengeance on the warlord.

Meanwhile, in a stunning turn of events (and the fact this is not the film version of Heavy Barrel), everyone drops their weapons and starts fighting with martial arts. Someone fires a bazooka stolen from the military, presumably a military museum. The bad guy gets his comeuppance. The book ends.

It’s a straight forward story with some back story fleshed out to the depth you’d expect. Maybe the backstories scrolled on the video game itself. But this book, like other YA adventures including those of Heinlein, really could serve as a gateway to more in depth reading. But in 1994, it probably just was a gateway to Street Fighter II.

Books mentioned in this review:

How Many Hands Does This Guy Have?

Yesterday, I mentioned how President Obama took away more than he gave while chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”

And he keeps on taking:

The Environmental Protection Agency tightened water-quality standards that could severely limit future surface coal-mining operations throughout Appalachia, while mining-industry officials said the change was unfair and endangers jobs in the region.

The action is a significant step in the EPA’s push under the Obama administration to limit the practice of mountaintop coal mining and its environmental effects. For the first time, the agency is setting limits on the electrical conductivity, or salinity, of streams, which can be impacted by such mining.

Even without passing cap-and-trade, your Hope and Change Federal government is working hard to raise energy prices for you.