Book Report: Hawaiian Hellground by Don Pendleton (1975)

Book coverI missed a book in the series, as the last Executioner book I read was #20, New Orleans Knockout. However, when one misses a book in the series, it’s not like missing an episode in the serial. Although I might miss a couple references to prior characters, it doesn’t completely hang upon what happened then.

This book sends Mack Bolan to Hawaii, where he encounters some recurring characters and they get together to bust up not just a mob plot, but a plot from a Red Chinese general, possibly rogue, who is using a secret volcano lair for ill. Strangely, though, the hit on the lair doesn’t play out like a secret agent novel would; instead, it’s a pretty straightforward assault, and a bit anti-climactic as a climax for the novel. So it’s not one of the better ones in the series, or I wasn’t in a proper appreciative mood.

That said, the novel is noteworthy for the number of times it refers to a karate wraparound or a terrycloth karate wraparound. Kung fu movies were emerging in the culture, but I guess the word gi had not made it across the pacific just yet.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Little Overboard With Childproofing, Maybe

When we first moved into Nogglestead, I placed a child lock on the fireplace in our family room:

Childproofing the fireplace

That’s kind of funny, now that I think about it. I’ve only opened the fireplace once myself. The home inspector opened it when the chimney guy was evaluating it, and I peeked in at that time. Then I popped the child lock on it when we moved in.

The only time I opened it was last winter when we were under the threat of the Great Blizzard of 2010, which threatened the Ozarks with any combination of ice, snow, winds, and calamity that would turn off our heater and would make us rely on the fireplace.

To open it, you don’t pull it; you have to actually turn one of the handles ninety degrees, something that’s a little easier when the metal hasn’t mostly frozen in years of little use. That is, it wasn’t easy.

That being said, it took me almost a year from the time I opened the fireplace and put in the Duraflame log that I expected to keep my family warm for 10 days of subzero temperatures to actually remove the pointless child lock.

As my mother used to say, “I don’t like to rush into anything.”

Memories Set Early Are Set Eternally

Now that the Milwaukee Brewers are poised to make the run to their first world title and my fanmeleon colors are changing from Cardinals red to Brewers blue, I hearken back to the year 1982, when the Brew Crew reached the World Series for the first and only time (so far). I was a wee lad living in the Berryland housing project with a freshly divorced single parent from St. Louis, and the Brewers played the Cardinals. My mother had a plastic baseball bat that she used to beat on the walls of the townhome style apartment to let the neighbors on either side know when the Cardinals scored. A couple years later, and I was a freshly minted Cardinals fan thanks to relocation and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch re-education program where the paper gave out free tickets to Cardinals games to students who got As in school.

For some reason, today I got to thinking about the lineups for the 1982 World Series, and I can give almost a complete recounting of the position players for both teams. Check it out:

  Brewers Cardinals
Catcher: Simmons Porter
First Base: Cooper Hernandez
Second Base: Garner Herr
Shortstop: Molitor O. Smith
Third: Yount
Outfield: Thomas
Oglive
L. Smith
McGee
Pitchers: Vukovich
Caldwell
Haas
McClure
Fingers*
 

* did not play due to injury, sadly.

That’s off the top of my head. Not bad. Actually, it’s better than I could do remembering the 2006 Cardinals who won the World Series. I could also take stabs at the lineups to the 1985 and 1987 World Series Cardinals teams, but some of the years will blur and blend since I followed the Cardinals so well.

How did I do?

For the Brewers, I misspelled Jim Gantner’s name, although I could picture him in my head. I also forgot poor Charlie Moore and transposed Yount and Molitor’s positions.

For the Cardinals, I forgot Oberkfell and Hendrick; both were gone by the time I got to St. Louis. I couldn’t name for sure the pitchers, although many of them carried on into the years of my fandom.

I guess it stuck with me because it was such a snapshot moment. I’ve followed the Cardinals off and on for 25 years or so, so I have certain eras where the players overlap, come up, get traded, and so on. But 1982, because I was young, because it was a big deal, and because I would soon move and follow another team, is set pretty tightly in my memory.

And before you ask, of course I still have the baseball cards from the era, including the special ones given out by Milwaukee police officers to prove to urban youth that the cops aren’t scary. I am a 27th Level Pack Rat, after all.

UPDATE: What, you unbelievers ask me to prove it? Here’s the 1982 Team Card:

Milwaukee Police Department Salutes The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers team card

Brothers and Sisters, not only am I a Level 27 Pack Rat, but I’ve been a pack rat for more than two decades already. By the time you experience “Ultra Hoarders in 3-D” via Mynd.Net in 2021, I will be on its all-star list by age fifty.

Also, I gotta say, having a +2 House of Holding rocks. Not only can I keep all this worthless junk, but I can put my hands onto items within minutes.

Book Report: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Book coverGiven that the local school district has removed this book from its school library and curriculum and seeing as I’ve defended the school board’s right to do so and have taken issue with use of the word “ban” to describe the school board’s actions (see this and here). Since I already owned the book, it seemed a topical time to read it. And…. meh.

It’s a novel about a writer writing about his experiences in Dresden during the firebombing in World War II. That’s the frame story: a writer has produced this book and has dealt with his compatriot who was also there. Then, there’s the text of the novel, where a survivor of Dresden has come unstuck in time and goes back and forth between the past and the present and who was kidnapped by aliens and kept in a zoo for a number of years on their planet, where he copulated with a porn actress. This novel-inside-the-novel was a successful optometrist until he started expressing his belief in the extraterrestrials, who can see things in the fourth dimension and to whom all moments are equally present or some such, through newspaper letters to the editor and appearances on late-night radio. So maybe he’s going crazy instead of it being a science fiction book. Also, the writer of the novel inserts himself into the novel by pointing himself out when the narrator of the novel-inside-the-novel meets him.

Book coverSo I can see why this was popular on campuses: it’s a messed up novel that has the play-within-the-play thing going on, an anti-war message at the time of an unpopular war, and enough oblique things open to interpretation to make smooth sledding for students or tenure-track scholars who need to publish. That’s not to say it’s unentertaining and a lightweight read. It is. But I’m unsold on its presence on any list of serious literature. No doubt I did not enjoy it as its previous owner, Mr. J. Tobacco.

Books mentioned in this review:

Den Beste, Doubly Impressed

In a post on Chizumatic, Steven Den Beste is impressed with the MO-13 and Interstate 44 exchange he saw here.

The interchange is a diverging diamond:


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As I would have noted if I could comment on his site conveniently, Springfield actually has two of the crazy things. I’ve been through both of them (the aforementioned one is on the way to Bolivar, which strangely enough rhymes with Tolliver in Missoureese) and this one is on the south side of town nearer where I live:


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This second one has a particularly wicked jog before and after the crossover which easily leads the inattentive to veer into the rightmost lane.

What, we’re progressive trafficly speaking here in Southwest Missouri. We even have a roundabout:


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All roads leading into that roundabout have speed limits of 50 miles per hour.

Frankly, I think some traffic engineer in southwest Missouri is burnishing his portfolio so he can get a job doing some traffic engineering somewhere else.