Your Body Is Not My Kindle

I hope this tattoo fixation in our culture has just about run its course. It was bad enough when people put cutesy little pictures you could recognize, mostly, when they ordered them inked onto their bodies. A little butterfly on the shoulder, a little flower on the ankle, a little skull with a dagger through it on the forearm, I get it. I can catch it in a glance and get the drift of what your self-image is.

But now we’ve moved into text, heaven forfend. I feel self-conscious enough when my gaze lingers on a woman’s chest just so I can read her t-shirt, but now we’ve got people putting lines of text in fancy script on their bodies. Megan Fox, for example, has a couple samples of this upon her. Matt Holiday, the St. Louis Cardinal, has some line of text running up his left arm, aligned so it’s readable when he’s stretched his arm out horizontally, such as when he’s batting. I hope it’s a taunt to the opposing player, but word is it’s a bible verse, or so I read on the Internet. I cannot read it, since he’s always fidgeting or swinging the bat when it’s on camera.

Today, at the YMCA, some dude had finished his run outside and was cooling off at a bench as we came out. He had his shirt off, and on his right torso I swear to deity he had a freaking paragraph. Some five or six lines, probably, in an italicized or right-leaning font, justified no less to make a block of text that looked like it might wrap all the way around his side from his back to his front.

Are you kidding me? What is someone seeing that supposed to do? Stop to read it, maybe put on reading glasses to do so, perhaps ask him to turn a little as one follows the words? Come on. This is trying to make it look like you have a tattoo with a deeper meaning than a picture and less passé than an oriental character that probably means something other than you asked for anyway.

For Pete’s sake, if you find a saying you like that reflects your lifestyle and ambition, get a journal with a bound cover and a nice pen and keep it there, or if you’re feeling risqué (sorry, WordPress had a sale on the character é, and I bought a bunch), write it on a notecard and tape it onto a mirror. If you’re compelled to share it with everyone, put it on Facebook where we can read it without staring or feeling creepy. If you have trouble remembering things à la (buy two és, get an à free!) Momento, get a smartphone.

Because in 20 years, your skin is going to go to papyrus, and that tattoo’s going to look like a doctor’s handwriting.

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Steyn Award Winner, 2011

I hereby present the Steyn Award for Competitive Breeding as Means to Demographically Preserve Your Culture to this woman:

When Joanne Watson learned that her 15-year-old daughter was pregnant earlier this year, she confesses to feeling shock and disappointment — but not for the reasons you might expect.

Never mind the struggles that her daughter would face as a teenage single mum; Joanne was jealous that it was her daughter expecting a baby and not herself.

‘I’d just done a pregnancy test of my own and it was negative. I came downstairs and that’s when Mariah said she had something to tell me,’ Joanne says.

‘I somehow knew immediately that she was going to tell me she was expecting a baby, and it was the last thing I wanted to hear after doing my own test. I said: “I don’t want to know.” But there was no avoiding it. We went to the doctor’s and she was eight weeks gone.’

An astonishing response? Well, yes. But then Joanne, 40, is no ordinary mum. For including Mariah, she has 14 children, ranging in age from 22-year-old Natasha to two-year-old Indianna. Oh, and since her divorce three years ago, she’s a single mum, raising them all (you guessed it) on state benefits. Shocked? It gets worse. For Mariah is not the only one of the brood to have become a teenage mother. Her two elder sisters beat her to it.

Natasha got pregnant with her son Branford, now six, when she was 16, while Shanice, now 19, gave birth to a baby boy at 17 and recently had another son.

That’s really putting some effort into preserving modern British culture there. Sadly, the culture being preserved is modern British culture.

(Link seen on Hot Air.)

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Tips on Displaying, Caring For Books

I’m a couple months behind in my Wall Street Journal reading, so I just now got to this article: Books Start Conversation, Stay Dust-Free. New York bookseller Nancy Bass Wyden talks about how to care for books using her own personal collection and home display as a guide.

However, about that personal collection:

Any book lover knows that it can be easy to have your collection overwhelm your décor. Just ask Nancy Bass Wyden, co-owner of the Strand Bookstore in New York City, who has a personal collection that numbers more than 2,000.

More than 2,000? Come on.

Maybe that would be another good tip to keeping your books clean and tidy looking: try to keep the library at 2,000.

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Book Report: Dark Bahama by Peter Cheyney (1950)

Dark Bahama cover

I’m breaking with tradition here a little bit: although I read this book as part of a Detective Book Club volume, I’m breaking it out to review individually (but I don’t count it as a book I’ve read this year until I finish the volume, of course–my accounting rules are as esoteric as GAAP).

This book is part of a series, the “Johnny Vallon” series–although that’s rather strange, as “Johnny Vallon” only makes an appearance at the very beginning as he meets a couple of the characters that do most of the sleuthing and sets them into motion. Maybe he’s like Charlie in Charlie’s Angels throughout the series.

At any rate, the alternate title is I’ll Bring Her Back, and it centers on an old flame of Johnny Vallon who asks for help. She’s promised to retrieve from Dark Bahama the ne’er-do-well daughter of a widow. Vallon can’t go himself, so he sends a man named Isles, kind of a ne’er-do-well gumshoe sort. When Isles gets to the island, he finds a dead body and is suspected in the murder, and as he works to clear himself, he finds that the job entails more than he bargained for. Enter Guelvada, a Belgian/English espionage type who takes over the book and gets some papers from under the nose of the other side.

Well. I mean, it starts out a crime/hard-boiled detective thing and then it turns into an espionage thing, and the main character isn’t the main character halfway through the book. Instead, the guy we’d rooted for falls into a sort of gofer role to the hardened espionage agent. Well.

The style, strangely, is English pulp. I can see where it’s trying to have the paperback sensitivities of American fiction, but the style is very poor for it. I figured it out later: it’s the prepositional phrases that blunt the punch.

For example:

Once again, he had a vague sense of annoyance at the sight of the overturned chair.


In twenty minutes he arrived at the apex of the two roads. Immediately in front of him was the broad State highway. Twenty yards to his right, parked in the middle of the side road, was a State Trooper’s car. By the light of the dashboard Guelvada could see two men seated in the car…nearest to him the driver and on the right in the passenger seat a State Trooper with a submachine-gun on his knees.

Zzzzzzz….. Huh? What? Wrap it up?

It is an interesting artifact if nothing else, but I don’t think I’ll hunt down the rest of the series or the related Quayle series.

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PSA for Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Owners

Because your car does not make as much noise as an internal combustion engine automobile, your car presents an especial danger to those with impaired sight or to those who are merely inattentive in parking lots.

To alleviate this danger, it is important that you play music very loud, preferably with the bass turned to the maximum, with your windows down to improve safety.

A pedestrian cursing your choice in heavy metal is a safe pedestrian indeed.

Thank you, that is all.

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Book Report: The Treasury of Clean Jokes by Tal D. Bonham (1981)

I bought a copy of this book at one of the recent friends of some library book sales hoping to blot the karma stain I earned by reading The World’s Best Dirty Jokes way back in 2005.

This book comes from the same era–1981–and contains a number of gags that are dated and really not that funny. Some border on amusing. And, to be honest, I did refactor five of the jokes within into my own tweets and status updates, so the book was worth something. Also, consider that Tal D. Bonham has turned this into an entire series of Treasury of [topic] jokes and that the edition linked below is the second edition of the book published in 1997. Heck’s pecs, the guy has more titles in this series than I’ve sold of my first novel. Someone’s finding these books to be worthwhile.

But I get slightly more laughs from Reader’s Digest and The Saturday Evening Post, both of which are starting to recycle their own jokes. But sometimes I’m slightly humorless, and there are only a couple of talking animal jokes in this book (talking animal jokes very often get me).

I guess this explains why I read joke collections only once every six years or so.

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A Lesson Unlearned

The President spoke to calm the citizenry recently:

Sorry, did I say “calm the citizenry”? I meant to “rile those subjects receiving alms from his most beneficent largesse”.

It would be a good exercise in imagination for those who receive these giveaways to think about what they would do if those benefits actually stopped. And I don’t mean “stopped” in the sense of “went on furlough for a couple weeks or months, only to come back with additional sugar to make up the shortfall.” I mean, what if the Tea Party people are right and this rate of expenditure is unsustainable and eventually the huckster’s constant motion machine falls to a pile of gears and pistons. Then what will they do? Get some sort of job even with their chronic back pain? Perhaps pick up some craft they can barter? Attend a church that can help out? Maybe cultivate some family relationships and bear some children so they have someone to take care of them in their old age?

The rhetoricians–and I apologize to Cicero for calling them that–on one side of the debate seem to want to carve different channels for imaginations to run. Instead of self-reliance, some leaders preach that while some citizens don’t have it, someone (“the rich”) does have it, and someone must take it from the haves and give it to them. It’s a Mad Max mentality where the government is The Humungus, liberating gasoline for its followers. We don’t need deserts, leather, and collanders. We might already be there.

(Video conveniently seen on Real Debate Wisconsin as I was thinking about this post.)

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Tam. Hey, VFTP readers, you can get the trade paperback version of my novel John Donnelly’s Gold, which Roberta X. mentions here, for 20% off today (Friday, July 15, 2011) by entering the secret code BIG305 at checkout.

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Building the Next Generation of Internet Crackpots

“Dad, there’s a bug in my room!” my five-year-old asked.

“Was it the Soviets?” I asked.

“A Soviet?” he asked.

“The Soviets put a lot of bugs in a lot of rooms,” I said.

So now the child is not only concerned about bugs in his room, but about Soviets putting bugs in his room.

You really have to start them early if you want quality paranoia to dominate in their later years.

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Building An Empire

Remember when we used to have a republic, where elected officials at the lowest level of government handled the immediate needs of citizens? I almost do, too.

Which is why I find this development deeply disturbing:

The Obama administration is launching a pilot program designed to spark economic growth in urban America by partnering federal officials with local decision-makers in six cities, the U.S Housing and Urban Development secretary announced Monday.

The idea, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, is to create what he called Community Solutions Teams, which will include employees from several different federal agencies, and have them work directly with local officials in Detroit; Chester, Pa.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis; Cleveland and New Orleans.

The federal staffers will in effect be embedded in the cities, working on issues the mayors have identified as important, such as developing transportation infrastructure, improving job-training programs and the like. In Detroit, Donovan said, up to a dozen “federal folks” will be in town for a year or two.

Sure, a year or two.

And suddenly, the elected officials in these cities will do what the federal staffers want if the local officials want the money. The old way of doing it, where the feds offered dollars with lots of strings, was bad enough. Now they will be directly directing things at the local level.

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Style Note

Henceforth, we at MfBJN will refrain from using the overwrought term “nanny state” regarding the government that tells its “citizens” that they need to eat their peas and “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.

Many nannies provide excellent childcare for their charges and enjoy working with children. I do not think the current administration is very good at taking care of what it thinks are its children, and I don’t think they like citizens very much.

Henceforth, or at least until I forget this vow sometime tomorrow, MfBJN will use more appropriate epithets:

  • Resentful stepmother government who wanted power, but not the responsibility, and who dictates rules and regulations for her convenience, not to protect and educate those whom she must serve, or
  • Surly foreign au pair state, who wanted the benefits afforded her position but not the responsibility. Not only does her actual work interfere with the late-night parties she wants, but the damn brats are from an entirely different inferior culture anyway.

As a warning, you have a couple of hours to use them amongst yourselves before Disney applies to trademark them.

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I Am Only A Rat In A Maze, Like You, And Only The Dead Go Free

Speaking of John Sandford, within this Wall Street Journal article entitled The (Really) Long Goodbye (subhead: He’s got a gun, a badge—and rheumatoid arthritis. The iconic detectives of best-selling authors from Michael Connelly to Ruth Rendell are fighting a new foe: old age.), Mr. Sandford makes an appearance:

Best-selling crime writer John Sandford says he planned to end his popular “Prey” series, starring Minnesota investigator Lucas Davenport, by killing the protagonist. His editor, Neil Nyren, warned against it, arguing that Davenport’s death would destroy backlist sales of his earlier books. Mr. Sandford now feels trapped in the series, 21 books in. He’d like to write science fiction or nonfiction, but readers keep demanding more Davenport books.

“There’s enough money on the table that it’s difficult to quit, even though that would be the right thing to do,” Mr. Sandford says. “In a lot of ways, it’s just a successful product. If you’re making Band-Aids, you don’t want to stop making Band-Aids, because they’re selling well.”

Mr. Sandford slowed down time so that Davenport ages just two or three months a year. But after 22 years, Davenport is approaching 50. In his new best-selling novel, “Buried Prey,” Mr. Sanford flashes back to Davenport’s early years as a rookie cop. “It allowed me to put some sex back in the novels,” Mr. Sandford says.

On one hand, I can understand how, after 20 years, a popular series character might be a pair of golden handcuffs. However, I don’t think I can countenance complaining about not being able to write other things, especially given that “John Sandford” is a pseudonym and he could write and try to publish anything he wanted. He could even discontinue the (multiple) series for a while as he branched out.

But the Prey series are bankable for his publishing house and for his agent (if he has one). So the entirety of The System wants him to continue with the series he’s tired of. He doesn’t have a guaranteed publisher, perhaps, for his space operas or histories of the settlement of the northern plains (or whatever).

So if he were to write what he wanted, he might have to work to get it into print, and it might not sell to a level to keep John Sandford earning what he does for the Prey books and it might get him the acclaim that he gets for them. But there’s nothing stopping him from trying. Nothing but himself.

It’s unseemly to complain about one’s success.

And let’s be honest, there’s still sex in the novels. A bit much, really, for my evolving tastes. I’m almost afraid of how much there might be in a book where he’s not restricted to Lucas Davenport’s monogamy.

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Book Report: Storm Prey by John Sandford (2010)

This entry in the Lucas Davenport series details a robbery at the pharmacy of the hospital where Weather, Davenport’s wife, works. The first chapter describes the robbery, including the people within it and their relationships to the people within their criminal circle and to the inside man in the hospital who provides them with the pharmacy key. Weather sees him, of course, and sees one of the bad guys as she comes to the hospital for a rare spectacle of a surgery separating conjoined twins. So she becomes a target when the bad guys bring in a Psycho Killer, and they turn upon themselves in various ways.

I didn’t care for this book for many reasons. Here are some:

  • It’s 400+ pages. I mean, really, it’s almost as long as Dune. Is that really necessary? Maybe, these days, to justify a $25 hardcover price.
  • It spends a lot of those pages on Weather’s surgery. They go on and on about pediatric neurosurgery. That pads it and does not add to it.
  • By introducing the bad guys early and spending a large portion of the story dealing with their dealings with each other, the book becomes something of a collection of intrigues. Who will double-cross whom? How will it end? I came to these things expecting to read about good guys against bad guys, but so much of this book (and the previous, Wicked Prey) deals with subplots among the bad guys. I think part of this might have started with the books where Clara Rinker was the bad guy. Maybe not. But as time goes on, the books have evolved in a direction I don’t like.

It’s not a bad book, especially after page 125 where Lucas Davenport and the cops begin actually investigating, but as this series progresses, note that I’m checking them out from the library. Nevertheless, I have a link where you can order it below. BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY!

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What Was Wrong With Trial By Combat?

Bill could change how Supreme Court chooses chief justice:

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court would be given the power to elect its chief justice under a constitutional amendment that could be introduced to the state Legislature as early as next week.

The bill authored by Rep. Tyler August, R-Walworth, would end a longstanding rule that gives the court’s highest seat to the person with the most seniority. Instead, the seven justices would gather to choose their own chief following any Supreme Court election.

They go by seniority? I thought they selected the chief justice in a fight.

(Link seen on Boots and Sabers.)

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That’s A Damn Dirty Trick

Are your Google+ circle mates feeling a little out of place after escaping Facebook? You can help them feel at home like I did, by sharing an image like this:

A Google+ damn dirty trick

Of course, if you do, you might wonder like I do why you’re not in that many circles.

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Book Report: Dune by Frank Herbert (1965, 1990)

As part of my ongoing project to up my geek cred, I went ahead and read Dune, too (in addition to Lord of the Rings) this year. I’ve been exposed to the mythology before. The 1984 David Lynch film starring that guy who looks like a grown-up Matthew Broderick was in heavy rotation on Showtime back in the days when I was trapped in a trailer in Murphy, Missouri, for days on end, so I saw it a couple of times back then, but not in the last 20 years. Then, there was the time I bought a first edition of the book (not a first printing, mind, but definitely a hardback published by Chilton) for a buck and sold it on Ebay for $150. Granted, I did not read the book, but I was somewhat steeped in its publication history if nothing else.

When I first picked it up, I wondered if I was still reading the Lord of the Rings. I mean, it’s chock full of intrigue and every once and again it breaks into a verse of poetry or song. Also, it’s broken into books within the book. More subtle similarities that I’d go into if I were really that into it or if I were seeking and advanced degree.

Except this book is American in nature. The language is more accessible, and the writing is not as, erm, textured. Additionally, the main character is less of a cipher and the intrigues play out in real time instead of having a wizard show up every decade or so to tell you that intrigues are going on, and the cipher must do something to play his unknown role in it.

The story, of course, tells of Paul Atreides, son of a Duke whose father is double-crossed and killed by the Emperor and another royal house on the dismal outpost of Dune, the only place in the universe where one gets melange, the spice that extends men’s lives. Paul joins the natives, becomes a native leader, and plots his revenge.

So the book flowed better than the trilogy, and I got through it quicker. My greatest disappointment is that the third book-within-the-book starts really jump cutting. Whereas the first two portions of the story take place in a pretty limited time frame, the last third of it starts skipping whole years and starts telling of battles that happened instead of, you know, having battles happen.

So I enjoyed it enough to get through it. I also bothered to read the appendixes (which did not number in the hundreds of pages), but I skipped the glossary, though, having muddled through the language in the text.

I’ve like to think I’ve upped my geek cred slightly with the read, but I’m not going to hunt out the sequels any time soon. Besides, I’ve spent a lot of time this summer on four paperbacks, and I need to start making some little ding in my several thousand books of backlog here.

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I Wish Paul Ryan Were In My Township

Rep. Paul Ryan is getting a lot of undeserved heat for his recent purchase of $350 bottle of wine in a hotel restaurant. Apparently, when leftwing blog Talking Points Memo asked him about it, he said:

Yeah, I was like this is ridiculous. Who buys wine that expensive? It surprised me, and I think it’s stupid under any circumstance to pay anything close to 100 dollars for a bottle of wine.

James Joyner quips on the “parallel” to John Edwards’ $400 haircut:

Second, Edwards’ $400 haircut story had so much traction because it reinforced the image that he was less than the manliest of men and spent far to much time caring for his pretty hair. What’s the parallel here? Republicans like wine?

It’s true. Republicans do like wine if my old township is any example.

My old Township Republican Club in the St. Louis area had a wine tasting after its monthly meetings. Whoever provided the wine certainly espoused the Paul Ryan Theory of Wine Purchasing: They served Foxhorn wines, which cost like $8 for the 1.5L bottles. I know very well, because that’s the kind of wine I buy for myself. One thing about Foxhorn: it certainly is a wine tasting because unlike, say, $10 bottles of (750mL) wine, you sure can taste Foxhorn. Sometimes for quite some time after you’re done with a glass.

It certainly played against the stereotype of Republicans that elements of the left are trying to perpetuate with this non-story.

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Why Can’t Modern Football Players Act?

So someone help me out here: why don’t modern football players transition to acting careers as successfully as old timey football players did?

In the Olden Days, we have:

In the modern era, we have, what? Brett Favre in There’s Something About Mary? Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold?

Take a look at this list: 50 Football Players Who Acted in Movies and note that the ones who could be said to have made a successful transition to films and television played prior to the 1980s, and that most of the roles from then on are as “Self”? Is it a transition in football culture? Is it that older players were better-rounded and most professionals these days are football robots, funnelling all their energy into it from an early age?

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