Book Report: The Dakota Image text by Bill Schneider (1980)

Book coverThis is a picture book about North and South Dakota. There’s an introductory chapter about how awesome the Dakotas and the Dakotans are, a bit about how awesome their history is, and how awesome some of the famous historical people who lived in or visited Dakota are.

Then the photos, which show mostly landscapes more varied than one expects from the upper prairie, but the Dakotas have the Badlands, too. The landscapes are quite impressive, and I wouldn’t mind visiting the Dakotas at some time to see them, and Mount Rushmore, in person. One thing, though, about the photos: Given that they date from the late 1970s, whenever people appear in the majestic landscapes, it’s all brown cords and sideburns. Well, not that bad, but the timelessness of the natural surroundings are juxtaposed with a single moment in fashion time.

The last chapter frets that the book might succeed in drawing too much attention to the Dakotas, and the increased tourism and industry might make the Dakotas less Dakotan. Thirty years later, with the petroleum boom going on, I’d guess certain elements of Dakotans and natural environments partisans would lament that progress and human achievement are occurring, exactly as prophecied here.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting: April 17, 2012, the Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

Last evening, the family and I ventured down to Ozark for the Friends of the Christian County semi-annual book sale. It’s in a single room attached to the Ozark branch of the library, so it’s not overwhelming in size, and the boys can explore the books on their own in sight of the parents.

Single room or not, it took us almost an hour to stack these babies on the checkout table:

The proceeds from the Spring 2012 Friends of the Christian County Library book sale

I got:

  • Another copy of The Elements of Style to give to someone who might benefit from it.
  • Mr. Parker Pyne, Private Eye by Agatha Christie. When I see Parker on the spine of an old paperback, I think about the old Richard Stark novels about the Parker character. Not so much Robert B. Parker, but in the olden days, spines were white, and Robert B. Parker’s paperbacks did not have white spines. This book is neither, but it’s a Christie book, which I read from time to time.
  • The Official Polish Joke Book/The Official Italian Joke Book, a politically incorrect volume if there ever was one.
  • M*A*S*H in paperback. I have a couple of the follow up M*A*S*H paperbacks, so why not start at the beginning?
  • A three-in-one collection of Ed McBain novels, one of which is Doll, which I am not in a particular hurry to re-read.
  • Two volumes of tales about the Great Lakes by Dwight Boyer.
  • A couple old issues of Missouri Historical Review.
  • A number of reference guides headed for the workshop, including Machinists Library Basic Machine Shop and How to Repair Briggs and Stratton Engines 2nd Edition.
  • A list of picture books and art books to flip through while watching ball games, including The Dakota Image, Monuments, and St. Louis Visitor 1974 Edition (this is a copy of the visitor info book they’d have stuck in a hotel in the Nixon administration).
  • Ernest Borgnine’s autobiography.
  • A couple of gardening books, including Plant Propogation in Pictures and Vegetable Gardening Guide.
  • A collection of things kids say by Art Linkletter. Also good for browsing during ball games.
  • A three-in-one volume, The Starchild Trilogy, by Frederick Pohl and someone.
  • Et cetera.

My beautiful wife got a stack of old and newer magazines she can review for recipe purposes and some books of a theological bent. The lads got some reading books and a strategy guide to Mario Kart Wii that they will probably review for picture purposes mostly, but which Daddy will use to learn some tricks to trump the urchins in coin battles.

All in all, that’s 31 volumes and 2 films to clutter my shelves and my nights plus the stuff for the others in my family. The total cost: $40.

The cost of the new addition to our house we’re going to need to house the library: TBD.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Gil Elvgren by Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel (2008)

Book coverThis book collects the works of Gil Elvgren, commercial and calendar artist from the late 1930s through the 1970s. He did a large number of advertising calendar illustrations, the kind that the calendar company would put your company’s logo on and your company could send it out to automotive shops or whomever your client served. The industry still exists in some fashion, as I’ve gotten a promotional calendar from the local Chinese restaurant, but I don’t think they do pinups any more.

And he made a good living at it, too. He bought himself a nice house in the Chicago suburbs and built himself a studio in it and then moved down to Florida in the 1960s. He became successful right out of the gate and was so in demand that he had to turn away work. His basic contract was something like 24 paintings a year for the calendar company at good money, and then commercial illustrations on the side of that. He was a prolific painter, and one of the paintings in the book he did in a mere two hours.

The works are remarkably consistent in subject matter. Well, they are pin-ups from the middle part of the 20th century, which means they’re young women in playful poses. In many cases, some action has caused the young lady’s skirt or dress to come up, exposing the top of her stockings and a bit of thigh. Strangely enough, although it was risqué for the time, women in the 21st century wear more revealing clothing daily, but without the aplomb.

The women in Elvgren’s work also share certain traits that mark them as Elvgren Girls, and the traits are put into stark relief when the authors of this book put photos of the models used for the paintings beside the actual paintings. Many times the model’s face doesn’t match the painting, which has that Elvgren Girl look to it. There’s enough variation in the hair color and expression that, if you’re not looking for it, you won’t see the commonality, but if it’s drawn to your attention, you’ll see it. It was probably a trademark.

The authors of the text compare his work fittingly to that of Alberto Vargas. Vargas’s work looks more watercolorish, with lighter colors and more focus merely on the woman. Elvgren’s paintings are more complete, catching a moment in time within a setting. The authors are partisans who denigrate Vargas, but the artists are different and should be not compared completely directly.

That said, I enjoy the Vargas, but the Elvgren stuff has more depth, and Elvgren’s working for the calendar companies and advertising firms strikes me as more entrepreneural than Vargas’s work for the magazines.

A pretty cool book. Multilingual, too: The introductory chapters about why a monograph about Elvgren’s work was necessary and about Elvgren’s life are replicated after the art work in German and French, so this book could be marketed internationally.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Five Things on My Desk (IV)

I’ve been cleaning my office again, which means I’ve been dumping things on my desk. Actually, I don’t know what I’ve emptied onto my desk. Apparently, some bin of mementos, because I cleaned some old files off of my desk and found a number of things in the strata below, which includes:

  • A Commodore 128 function key.
    A Commodore 128 Function key
    When Triticale gave me his old Commodore 128 those many years ago, before he passed away, it was not in pristine condition. Its power supply needed a new fuse, and one of the function keys was detached. It’s still detached, obviously, but for some reason I tucked it into a catch-all box or bin sometime instead of packing it with the Commodore 128. Now that I’ve shamed myself on the Internet, I’ll see about that. Maybe.
  • A commemorative name plate recognizing my aunt’s 25 years of service with Ralston Purina / RalCorp.
    My Aunt Dale's 25th Anniversary plaque
    25 years with the same employer? Who does that any more except government employees? Of course, she didn’t do it now, she did it back then.
  • Some Logitech thing.
    I don’t know what that is. I’ve got so much Logitech junk around here that’s not plugged in. This has probably come out of a junk box where I threw miscellaneous cords when moving or something. It’s not vital to normal daily computer operations, obviously.
  • A DVD of the PBS series Gardens of the World.
    Gardens of the World on DVD
    I’d used this to test the DVD player of the media station here in the office. It works. I didn’t watch a complete episode, though. I have started the episode on roses, though, since I have that on videocassette, too. In the series, Audrey Hepburn wanders around spouting poetry and quotes about plants, and then they cut to slow moving video of gardens with the type of plants highlighted in the episode. PBS sure does these things slowly, doesn’t it? The pace of the episodes are far slower than similar programs on commercial stations.
  • The word CAR in Scrabble tiles and transparent tape.
    Scrabble tiles spelling the word CAR
    For my 26th birthday, my then-girlfriend Heather got me two bookcases to help store my growing collection of books in my mother’s basement. They marked my second and third bookcases. As they were too small to fit into her Ford Tempo, she (my then-girlfriend Heather, not my mother) ordered them to be delivered the Monday after my birthday. She taped the words, built from Scrabble tiles (we played a lot of Scrabble, that young lady and I), TWO BOOKCASES TOO BIG FOR HEATHER’S CAR onto a piece of cardboard and wrapped it for me. I still have those bookcases and at least one of the words from the wrapped gift. The then-girlfriend I transmogrified into a wife.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Working with Oils by Norman Battershill (1982, 1991)

Book coverThis book is a short British painting project book that shows some quick things you can do to get started painting with oil paints. I believe it’s distributed by an art supply company. I remember back counting these out of boxes when I was a shipping receiving clerk at an art supply store. I read the book because I read anything, not because I’m taking up painting.

The book presents five paintings to try from a variety of painting types. There are a couple landscapes, an interior painting, and a still life. There are also samples for sketches made before drawing and basic information about equipment that you use and whatnot, which is typical for a hobby book like this.

The individual projects include five steps and then five pictures to illustrate the step, but for some reason, the book was laid out so that the steps are together and the pictures are together, but on different, often non-facing pages, so if you want to see the result of each step after you read the text, you’re going to do a lot of page flipping.

The artist’s style is somewhere between impressionism and realism, with blocky shape outlines. He works from the back to the front, which I guess is standard. It’s been a long time since I took an art class, but I watch a lot of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting, which I prefer and is much closer to inspiring me than this book is. I wonder how The Joy of Painting translated to print, as there are undoubtedly many books in the line.

Come to think of it, when I was in high school, The Joy of Painting did inspire me to try some painting using cheap watercolors from the department store and the cut-out tops of fresh doughnut boxes as canvases. It wasn’t half bad. It was more bad than that. Which is why I continued on my path to becoming a not half bad writer on the Internet.

At any rate, the book is a short primer on the art, so it shouldn’t be a major investment like a $30, 200 page hardback craft book would be. Especially if you buy it at a book fair bag day like I undoubtedly did.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Head of Fox News Uses St. Louis As Insult

Asked by the Hollywood Reporter if someone would hire fired Current TV commentator Keith Olbermann, Fox News head Roger Ailes said:

You talk about burning bridges. This guy really burns ‘em. Now, I feel sorry for anybody who’s out of work, so I don’t want to trash him or say anything negative about him. He was great at sports, I thought. And everybody has some redeeming quality, so people find a job again. But it’ll be, you know. A pet show in St. Louis, or something.

What, has Detroit fallen below the minimum threshold to be the punchline these days?

Frankly, I’ll talk down the city of St. Louis as a pit any day of the week, but when Ailes is speaking, he’s speaking as someone on the coast referring to a backwater, and the entirety of the St. Louis area is not that at all.

Alternate quip: If only St. Louis spent millions of dollars procuring/keeping a professional sports team of some sort. Then it would be considered a big league city by people who matter to people who think people on the coasts matter.

(Link via Hot Air. I wonder what Breitbart’s Dana Loesch thinks about Roger Ailes trashing her hometown.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

A Photojournalism Study of Urban Aurora

As we previously mentioned, the United State Census Bureau has declared 81% of Americans live in urban areas, and the Census Bureau considers for statistical inflation purposes any town greater than 2,500 to be “urban.”

So we recently sent a photojournalist, or at least some guy with a digital camera (not a smartphone–that’s what separates the photojournalist wannabes from mere consumers) to urban Aurora, Missouri, to document life in this hardcore urban enclave of Aurora, Missouri.

Warning: Viewer discretion is advised. Continue reading “A Photojournalism Study of Urban Aurora”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Hail, Caesar! Media Perpetuates the Story of the Omnipotent Executive

I forget where I saw this link, but the Business Insider’s story is entitled Wisconsin Republican: Women Are Paid Less Because ‘Money Is More Important For Men’, and it’s about how the state of Wisconsin no longer has an equal pay law.

According to the Business Insider, this is Scott Walker’s doing:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opened up a new front in the GOP’s war against women last week when he overturned his state’s equal pay law, which made it easier for workers to sue their employers for wage discrimination.

Business Insider links to its earlier piece, entitled The Governor Of Wisconsin May Have Just Blown The Election For Mitt Romney, which puts the repeal on the governor of Wisconsin again:

The Democrats “GOP War On Women” rallying cry got a major lift from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker today, with the news that the Republican darling repealed a Wisconsin law that made it easier for women to fight wage discrimination.

The Huffington Post reports that Walker quietly overturned Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act last night, bowing to pressure from the state’s Republican lawmakers. The equal pay law was designed to deter wage discrimination by making it easier for workers to press charges against their employers.

Got that? Walker overturned the law, and Walker quietly overturned the law. How did he do this? Fiat? Diktat? Executive order? We have to go to the Huffington Post story linked in the second story to learn how Walker acted unilaterally:

A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.

The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.

In November, the state Senate approved SB 202, which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.

SB 202 was sent to Walker on March 29. He had, according to the state constitution, six days to act on the bill. The deadline was 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The governor quietly signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and it is now called Act 219.

Wait a minute: The executive branch of government did not act unilaterally, but merely signed a bill passed by both houses of Wisconsin’s legislature? That is, the elected representatives of Wisconsin debated and passed a bill, Scott Walker unilaterally declared war on Women by performing his duty and signing it?

Although the body of the article gets it right, the Huffington Post still pins it on Scott Walker in the headline, “Scott Walker Quietly Repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay Law”.

I realize that, with a Federal executive who ignores the legislature and the courts, that is, the co-equal branches of government, the whole Constitutional civics thing gets purposefully murky.

But can’t “journalists” bother to know the difference between signing a bill and an executive acting like a lone wolf? Or would that threaten the new order, where executives are more than figureheads and have sweeping powers that they should only use for good, or what passes for good in Democrat minds?

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Doll by Ed McBain (1965, 1981)

Book coverI’ve probably read this book before, but it’s been twenty years since I ran through most of the old, pre-90s 87th Precinct series. They’re getting kind of hard to come by, the old ones, although you can generally find the 21st century hardbacks at book fairs. I found this one somewhere in a 1981 paperback.

The book only has one central mystery, unlike the later volumes. A model is murdered in her apartment while her five-year-old daughter in an adjoining bedroom reassures her dolly that everything will be all right. There’s some pre-existing friction on the squad, and the lieutenant is going to transfer Kling, but Carella speaks up for him and partners with him on the case. Carella goes missing and a body turns up in a fiery wreck in his automobile, and Kling gets suspended but continues to pursue the case. They find the model has a secret, and only when the detectives from the 87th can figure that out can they find the killer and rescue Carella.

It’s a hard-hitting plot, maybe, for the 1960s, but in the 21st century, it’s as deep as the episode of a television crime drama. Then again, one of the joys of the mass market paperback is that they really were fast moving, singular sorts of plots with good prose attached. Well, sometimes with good prose. McBain’s, though, is some of the best.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Living in a Materiel World

Here’s a good Wookiee Suit test. When you’re stopped by a train carrying things like this:

We're living in a materiel world.

And I am a materiel girl, except I'm a guy.

What do you think?

I admit my dark thoughts run toward the darker side, wherein I can imagine another civil war coming, but when I see a train of military equipment moving through Brookline, my immediate reaction is still Wow, I’m proud of my country and its military and not They’re moving into position to encircle the cities in the upcoming troubles.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: We Love You, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz (1962)

Book coverI know what you’re thinking: He’s really following up a book of jokes with a book of cartoons? No, even better: this book is actually a subset of Snoopy cartoons from a larger volume, Snoopy Come Home. So it’s like a Readers Digest Condensed Book of cartoons.

These Peanuts cartoons come from the late 1950s and 1960s and center on Snoopy, of course. They deal with his love for dinner and his relationships with Charlie and whatnot. No Red Baron at this time, and Woodstock does not look fully formed within the cartoons themselves (although he looks like we know him on the cover).

The Peanuts cartoons are timeless if you’re of a certain age who grew up with new ones in the paper and television specials frequently. But I can’t think what a younger crowd would think of them.

Worth it for a certain nostalgic value and some amusement, but no real laugh out loud things.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Cosa Nostra / The Hit by Peter McCurtin (1971)

Book coverThis book is a little pulp bit from the era of the early Don Pendleton “The Executioner” series. It’s not published by Gold Eagle or Pinnacle, though: it’s some off-brand called Modern Promotions/Unibook.

And it’s a pleasant surprise.

The main character of the book is a former NYPD detective now serving as a deputy in a small town in Maine after leaving New York in disgrace for having taken some money from some non-Mafia bookmakers. When the chief of police is in a coma and the main character acts as chief, a known mobster moves into town. The incapacitated chief of police, a good man by all accounts, looks to have taken some money. The chief’s wife, a sexpot, has designs on everyone in town, including the main character. As Maine becomes an open territory for mob homesteading, with the New York outfit hoping to beat the Montreal outfit to the new rackets, can one tarnished hero keep the mob out of his town at least?

A short pulp read, pretty dark and noir, but it moves well and keeps you rooting for the main character even as he admits some mistakes, pays for them in his own ways, and tries to do somewhat right.


Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Moontoons Jokes & Riddles Compiled by Robert Vitarelli / Cartoons by Marvin Townsend (1970)

Book coverThis book is the second book published by Xerox that I know I’ve read. It’s not the first photocopied book I’ve read; that would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which I pirated from the Marquette Memorial Library back before the Internet made it available for $10. What was I talking about before admitting I’m a book pirate? Oh, yes.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Xerox had a publishing arm that pumped out at least books for young adults. I read The Day The World Went Away some years ago when I bought the book during my Ebaying days. Spoiler alert: It was the hippies.

This book, Moontoons Jokes & Riddles, is a collection of jokes about landing on the moon and aliens and whatnot. This must have been rushed out pretty quickly after the moon landing to capitalize on it. Sadly, the schoolchildren who were of the age to read this book when it was fresh–me included–might have thought space exploration would continue apace. How wrong they would have been.

The book includes a number of cartoons and gags that kids find funny. I only laughed at one thing, but I forget what it was. A couple of things predicted the modern sensibilities better than the then-future of space travel: there’s a cartoon where moon creatures complain about air pollution from the lander’s retrorockets, and there’s a cartoon where a moon dweller tells astronauts he hopes they don’t treat them like the American Indian. These were jokes in 1970, but a way of life for some people in 2012.

I’ll have to try some of these jokes on my children. I suspect they, as the target audience, will enjoy them more than I do, even if they don’t tend to include the words “bananahead” or “diaper.” At least, not until my children retell them.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Modern Book Publishers Hate Freeloading Library Patrons

Well, probably not, but what other conclusion can I draw from this?

A James Patterson book.  But which one?

I get this whenever I run into the library to look for the new Sandford titles. Because the name is on the top, the catalog labels go over the titles:

A John Sandford book.  But which one?

So I’ve got to pull every last book out to find that the new title isn’t in yet, or I can’t tell the books apart based on title since they’re franchise titles with essentially meaningless words preceding the word Prey

This isn’t because the publishers hate us freeloaders. It’s because when your author becomes a franchise, it’s what people are looking for in the bookstore. Fans will buy it regardless of title. But when the authors are unknowns, you have to hope an interesting title hooks them in and makes them pick up the book.

No publisher has hung the franchise tag on me

No publisher has hanged the franchise tag on me. Yet.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories