Undoubtedly, The New Colors Will Be Silver And Black, And The New Logo Will Be A Deer Skull

The Milwaukee Bucks are getting a new owner a new look:

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry said Friday in a radio interview that he and co-owner Wesley Edens are strongly considering a change in the team’s traditional colors of red, green and silver.

Lasry did not say what a new color scheme would be but said, “We’re definitely looking at doing that (making a change). It does need a little bit of help.”

The most drastic change is how Milwaukee’s going to be spelled Seattle.

(The title refers to a grudge I hold for the owners of the Milwaukee Admirals who bollixed the team’s colors and logo eight years ago.)

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Book Report: Rogue Angel: Forbidden City by Alex Archer (2007)

Book coverI first learned about this series from an advertisement in the Mack Bolan book, and when I saw an entry in the series down in Clever, I bought it. I picked this book up to read because:

  1. I just read an entry in the Rogue Warrior series, so it segued into another Rogue something series nicely.
  2. It was on that shelf.

The Rogue Angel series centers on an archeologist, a Lara Croft sort of archeologist (or an Indiana Jones sort of archeologist with a laptop). By the time this entry in the series comes along, she has recreated Joan of Arc’s sword, which she wears invisibly and can draw and use when needed–at which time it becomes visible. Two centuries-old wanderers, former student and teacher but now rivals, help her sometimes, but leave her in the dark mostly.

The book starts with Annja helping a Chinese man find his ancestor’s remains in a mining town near San Francisco. Creed does some research and pinpoints the location and exhumes the remains carefully, at which point the Chinese man would kill Annja for the belt buckle with the remains–but for the timely arrival of three marijuana growers afraid the DEA is onto their operation. Creed flees with the belt buckle and begins researching it. It might be the key to finding a lost Chinese City of Thieves–but a second component, a child’s toy, is in the hands of a Chinese CIA-trained assassin whose father was killed for the item.

The book is rich and vivid in a way that some of these series books (see A Daughter’s Revenge) are not. A number of different storylines come together–the story of the Chinese assassin, a Chinese archeologist near the City of Thieves, and Annja Creed’s dealings with television producers, and her benefactors. Sadly, though, they end up in a bit of a dungeon crawl in the lost city that slightly disappointed me. Also, Creed, our proxy, is a catalyst for the story, but she doesn’t understand what’s ultimately at stake because the old men don’t keep it from her.

Still, it’s a pretty nifty little paperback thriller. I liked it well enough that I’m thinking of ordering the first couple in the series from Amazon. That I’m going to buy other works by the author or in the series at retail price, new is the best endorsement of a book I give.

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They Never Have This Problem With Scott Foresman Text Books

iPads worth $70,000 stolen from Chicago school:

Around 140 iPads worth more than $70,000 have been stolen from an elementary school on Chicago’s West Side.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that burglary happened around 1 a.m. Monday at Charles Hughes Elementary School in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

My school never had this problem with the two Apple IIs that it wheeled from classroom to classroom on carts. Or the thick, scarred hardback textbooks.

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Alternative Headline: Downtown Springfield About To Be Overbuilt

City Sees Private Investment Boom In Downtown Springfield:

The sights and sounds of construction are hard to miss across downtown Springfield, and city officials say that’s because private investment has hit a high.

The city’s Economic Development division put out a “Heat Map” that shows development in the Queen City of the Ozarks’ urban core has been red-hot — far more concentrated than any other part of town — since the beginning of last year.

“It does seem like ‘boomtown’ in downtown Springfield with all the construction going on everywhere,” Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith said. “This is probably the largest investment we’ve seen for maybe 100 years.”

More than $230 million dollars has been spent on downtown development. Smith said more than $125 million more is in the pipeline, as some of the city’s most iconic structures are getting complete renovations.

Hopefully, the supply for housing and retail downtown will not outstrip the demand, which could lead to boom and bust sorts of cycles that you see in St. Louis, which are not so much boom and bust as public financing and bust. That is, hopefully the people pouring private money into downtown won’t find that they’re completing projects simultaneously and are competing for the same limited number of tenants and retailers so that the prices decline, buildings go into foreclosure, and nice renovations start getting decrepit quickly.

What sometimes then happens is the government starts flinging tax dollars at developers, businesses, sports teams, and whatnot to get them to stay/build in downtown, and each major development is going to return the city to its glory days and the news stories are all positive (but the demand for housing and retail remains almost the same). When the public money dries up. the new structures fall into disrepair and disuse until such time as more public money flows….

Look, that’s the Story of St. Louis. That city has been on the verge of a major reawakening every decade or so when St. Louis Centre, the new convention center and football stadium, the renovation of Union Station, and so on. Every time the big public spending binge (including tax credit programs and advertising campaigns), there’s a blip, and then it returns to normal.

Because cities don’t grow because the capacity for growth is built. Cities grow because businesses grow there and because people move to be near those jobs. St. Louis has shed a lot of employers over the years, and cupcake shops are not going to make up form manufacturing or middle management cubicle farms. Employers in the St. Louis region have better places to go, including the county, where the cost of business is lower and the parking is free and plentiful.

Springfield is still a growing regional hub, with transportation networks centered in the city or just outside and growing medical facilities that draw people in from all over southwest Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. Additionally, lower labor costs (and no pesky income tax) There might, might be enough demand to keep it growing and to avoid the cycle St. Louis experiences. If Springfield can keep its government in check and not get in the way of the organic processes that create employment and grow cities.

But that’s a big if, and Springfield government (and Greene County government) are amusing themselves with various commissions and tax credit schemes that could very well tamp its growth in the middle and long term.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch Uncovers A Mystery

Number of veterans in Congress has fallen drastically since post-Vietnam years:

As the federal government struggles with problems at the Veterans Administration amid thousands returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it does so with a Congress that has only a fourth of the number of veterans it had after Vietnam.

It’s not a mystery, actually. Some seventeen paragraphs down, the article mentions the end of the draft.

The intervening paragraphs try to tie the declining number of veterans in Congress to the VA scandal. As though only veterans can represent veterans. You know, the same thinking that brings gender quotas to parliamentary systems and tribal counting to government.

No word in the article about the recent presidents who did not serve, which include Clinton and Obama. That’s a strange omission, ainna?

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They Laugh At Me For Having A Halberd In My Truck

But sometimes a wandering monster appears on your way to work:

The last thing the woman from Northeast Portland probably expected when she got up Tuesday morning was that she would be attacked by a sword-wielding elf.

But that’s what happened around 7 a.m. as she drove her red BMW by the intersection of Southeast 7th and Morrison.

I know, you purists are saying the halberd is not the right weapon for in-vehicle defense, but it’s a carbine halberd.

(Link via VodkaPundit, who did not add his customary, “You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?” Mainly because whether to attack commuters with bladed weapons is a case-by-case basis.)

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Book Report: Churchill: In Memoriam by the Staff of the New York Times (1965)

Book coverThe New York Times threw together this book after Churchill’s death. It rounds up reactions to his death, statements from other world figures, and includes a brief biography of his life.

The biography is a bit weird. The bulk of it, the first chapter, deals with his leadership in Britain before and during World War II. The second chapter of the bio deals with his family’s origin and his early years. The third chapter of it deals with his political life after he lost the Prime Minister position after World War II. A final short chapter includes some of his aphorisms.

I’ve got quite a stack of Churchillenalia, including some of his books, some bios, and letters he exchanged with his wife. So this little paperback might be a gateway into those books. It’s a bit stiff of a read, but it’s respectful. I wonder if the newspaper would be capable of this sort of thing now, but I doubt twenty-first century purchasers of death-commemorative books want prose. Probably just pictures.

But it was worth reading for the summary of his life if nothing else.

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Book Report: Rogue Warrior II: Red Cell by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman (1994)

Book coverI picked up this book after reading A Daughter’s Revenge as a palate cleanser. I’d tried to read it soon after I read Rogue Warrior, but I stalled out. This time, however, it was just what I needed.

This book is a fictional account wherein Marcinko–as a fictional character–uncovers a set of smuggled nuclear weapons parts at an airport in Japan. He uncovers connections with a former Secretary of Defense who might be smuggling banned technology to the North Koreans. The former SecDef says he was investigating the matter himself, and Marcinko is called back to active service to look into the matter. He gets to put a team of SEALs together as Red Cell to test some bases and to look for those who would help the North Korean nuclear program.

The first person narrator voice of the book is coarse and vulgar, full of bravado and bombast. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, it’s an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, some of that takes away from the suspense of the actions, as it seems like they’re just playing video games until they’re ambushed and take some casualties, at which point you realize how little characterization the other people get–they’re only extensions of the narrator. This is consistent, though, with the voice, so I don’t know how hard to knock the book for it.

But I liked it, which is good, as I have others in the series.

As it is an early 1990s book (like The Day After Tomorrow and War in 2020), it takes place in a world I remember, but a world that is different from the one we live in now. The concerns then aren’t the same as the thriller concerns now, so worrying about the North Koreans getting nuclear weapons seems a little like chasing cattle who’ve escaped the barn. Or goats. I hear goats are worse.

But reading these books makes me feel like a reader in the 1950s and 1960s snapping up Alistair MacLean’s World War II thrillers. They were thrillers, sure, but they were safe thrillers set in a world where we know the good guys won. Of course, I read those same MacLean thrillers in the 1980s and 1990s. But I digress.

At any rate, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next.

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The Bed of Nails Tax Was Not On The Ballot

Hotel Motel Tax Builds Bed of Nails at Discovery Center:

Each year visitors to Springfield pay a small tax when they stay at a hotel or motel.

Some of those dollars are earmarked for the Wonders of Wildlife museum.

And even though museum doors have been closed since 2007, taxes are still collected.

The funds collected prior to 2011 have been donated back into the community, but the money collected since then is now being split up between nonprofits in Springfield.

Each year about 300,000 dollars will be available for projects that promote tourism and education.

In 2013, the first year for this program, four local organizations received funds, including the Discovery Center.

It’s not the most comfortable bed, but it’s more for education than rest.

The newest feature at the Discovery Center is called the Bed of Nails.

When these hospitality taxes are put on the ballot, as they often are, they’re often pitched as ways to get people to visit your fair municipality. They’re not often cast as ways to soak non-residents to subsidize a selected industry and to provide fungible funds for frivolity, but that’s what they are in truth.

Do you think you could get a Bed of Nails Tax on the ballot and to pass? Of course not.

Do you think you could get this sort of tax repealed? Of course not. After all, non-residents who pay this tax don’t get to vote, and the regional chamber of commerce and hospitality trade organizations and lobbyists will be present and loud in support of it.

This ratchet so often turns but one way.

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Dreams of Technical Writing

Tam K. says she’s no technical writer, but she dreamed of it:

Anyhow, how I wound up with this gig I don’t know, because technical writing really isn’t my bag, baby. And I was getting all bogged down in nomenclature arguments about everything from pistol parts to horse tack.

You can tell she’s not a real technical writer. Real technical writers don’t get bogged down in what technical terms to use; they just rearrange the sentences provided by the engineers without comprehending the content or terms.

No, real technical writers get bogged down in Times New Roman versus Garamond.

Take my word for it. I’ve sat in multi-hour meetings hashing it out.

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Book Report: A Daughter’s Revenge by J.R. Roberts (2008)

Book coverIf you have ever said to yourself, "Man, this Zane Grey western is okay, but it really needs some explicit sex scenes in a number of variations!", this book is for you.

This book is the 323 book in the Gunsmith series of westerns, and the first of the twenty-first century men’s adventure novels I’ve read and the first Western men’s adventure novel. I’m not sure which explains the fact that there are more male appendages waved about than pistols. This book is copyright to Robert J. Randisi, and I presume that means he wrote it under the pseudonym. I previously reviewed Randisi’s Blood on the Arch, and I didn’t care for that book, either.

This book is a Western, set in Denver, and aside from a bit of horseback riding in the beginning, there’s no real sense it’s a Western. Someone’s taking potshots at The Gunsmith, the titular hero. This person keeps missing him, and he’s not sure what the message is. When he gets to Denver, he meets the daughter of a man whose death was laid at The Gunsmith’s hands many years ago, and the woman explains that her crack-shot sister is hunting for him. The woman ends up dead, and her death is also laid at the hands of the Gunsmith by the unsavory characters that are trying to do the Gunsmith in and are using the crack-shot daughter as a cat’s paw.

Then, there’s a gunfight. Also, some sex. Pretty much all the characters in the book have things to confess on Sunday. Then, there’s a gunfight. The end.

As I said, it could be a modern detective novel except for the occasional mention of horses. People are always getting into and out of cabs, for crying out loud. That’s no Western.

Yeek. I bought four in this series in Clever last month, and the remaining three are on the collapsed shelf. Perhaps I’ll move them.

When I’m in the mood for another western, perhaps I’ll try the Longarm series, some of which I’ve picked up at Friends of the Christian County Library sales over the years. But I’m almost afraid Longarm is a euphemism now.

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The Governance Dilemma

The same-old, same-old budgetary woes: No easy choice in budget options to fund public safety:

To get more cops on the street, should Springfield leaders freeze raises for city employees? Should they cut funding to homeless shelters and other nonprofits?

Or should they slash a projected upgrade in insurance coverage — leaving the city open, city staffers say, to significant liability in the event of a multi-million dollar lawsuit?

Which is more important, the basic functions of government or doling out money to the politically active?

To be fair, the city manager did lay out some budgetary options that include cancelling travel for employees and stopping spending money on lobbyists who agitate on the city’s behalf in Jefferson city in addition to raising taxes and fees. Actual elected officials also proposed cutting things like the Mayor’s Commission for Children. So fiscal sanity and prioritization are not completely dead in this corner of the state.

But I’d expect the eventual solution will be another sales tax increase on the ballot to fund the core business of government while the Mayor’s Commission on Children and block grants to charities are never subject to direct voter approval.

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Book Report: The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell (2013)

Book coverI’ve blogged about Daniel Woodrell twice before reading a book of his. I remarked in 2006 that his works seemed to serve the underbelly as the main course; then, I posted a note about an appearance of his in St. Louis when a high school near-acquaintance contacted me to promote it. Remember, gentle reader, back in the old days, I was in the top thousand blogs in the country, and my mention was worth something. Well, maybe not, and certainly not by 2006. But still.

Now, almost a decade later, I live in the Ozarks, Woodrell’s books have been made into Oscar-worthy films, and I had a small Christmas gift card that turned into a large purchase at Barnes and Noble, including this book. Note for posterity’s sake that this was Christmas 2013, and it only took me a couple of months to read the book. That means something, if only that I have a weird sense of what to read next.

At any rate, this piece is literary fiction, something I’ve avoided of late. Well, not avoided; when it comes time to read, I’ve favored popcorn style fiction in a genre over Literature, which for the most part means classical literature. But, as I often am when I bother to read a good piece of literary fiction or classic literature, I’m taken aback by how engrossing and engaging it is.

This book centers on an actual event, a dance hall explosion in 1928. It has a more modern frame story, wherein a grandson gleans the story from his grandmother, the sister of a victim of the explosion. The story itself is told in flashback, where the sister of the grandmother has a fling with a rich man for whom the grandmother works (hence, her story is the maid’s version).

The book features the modern jump-cut scenes dealing with the maid, her grandson and children and how they fared, the love affair, the rich man who had then lost the daughter, a St. Louis gang member on the run/hiding out but discovered, and a bunch of characters who have chapters because they were affected by the explosion. Unfortunately, this last bit serves mostly as padding–I know, in creative writing classes, we call these “nice little moments,” but they’re a bit short and don’t move the story along. I guess that’s color that you get in literary fiction that you don’t get in pulp paperbacks.

It’s an engaging book, and the writing is florid without being Victorian wallpaper overwhelming the plot and characters. I enjoyed it. I’ll probably pick up Winter’s Bone the next time I see it at a book sale.

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Book Report: Real Women Don’t Pump Gas by Joyce Jillson (1982)

Book coverThis book comes from a whole series of books that came out shortly after Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche (which I read five years ago). Think of it as a 1980s response to the shifting in gender roles which has continued to this day. Reactionary–and I don’t mean that perjoratively, only they were reactions to the upcoming prevailing norms) responses like this, tongue-in-cheek but sort of true.

However, this book doesn’t resonate with me because I’m not a girl. I can’t understand, truly, the societal pressures upon women, especially women in the early part of the Reagan years.

The book rather has a bit of a dual nature of its satirical ideal of womanhood. It’s the uber-feminine princess and the hard-charging business woman. You know, fifty percent of this woman:

I didn’t find the book particularly amusing, but I didn’t find the original very funny, either.

I must have been conditioned by the matriarchy or something.

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That Frank Sinatra Album That Looks Like The Die Hard Poster

If someone ever refers to the Frank Sinatra Album that looks like the poster for the movie Die Hard, you know they’re talking about Only the Lonely:

Frank Sinatra Only the Lonely album


The Poster for Die Hard

Of course, if someone says, “That Frank Sinatra album where he’s singing songs about getting older and being lonely,” you’re not going to nail it down that quickly because that could mean any number of them.

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Book Report: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffith (1961)

Book coverI read this book back in college in those heady days twenty years ago when I’d skip my classes in the core requirements (did your humble narrator actually get a D in a university-level class? Yes, yes, he did) to read in the library. That is before this book came upon its fiftieth anniversary edition and back when I might have been a little less skeptical of the book.

This was a very big deal when it came out, and it details the author’s experiment where he darkened his skin with some drugs and UV treatments and passed as a black man in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia in the November and December of 1958 or 1959. This book collects a series of articles he wrote for the magazine Sepia and includes some material about reactions after he published the stories.

As I mentioned, I read this book in college. I then read a collection of Langston Hughes poetry because the title comes from a Hughes poem (“Dream Variation”). That’s what I did in those days when I should be attending a college class: reading a book my high school sociology teacher (Mrs. Hutson) referred to once, and then following the chain. I’d also memorize a Hughes poem ("Dreams") which I would not burst out with during a college class of The Church and Racial Justice when Rebecca W– asserted that whites never learned their culture even though I could. Let’s just say that as a young man, a product of the projects where I was the minority and whatnot, that I thought some about The Race Question when it was a question and not an answer to every political debate.

So, fifty some years after the book’s publication and a pile of years after the first time I read it, I was less impressed.

Not with what Griffith did and maybe not even what he intended, but how he presented it.

As I mentioned, he has included a frame around the actual journey, wherein he talks about his decision to undertake the transformation and the aftermath. In part of the intro, he announces that he’s an expert on race relations. And there’s no reason given. Perhaps, in certain quarters in 1961, people knew him and knew this to be true, but he really should have gone into that.

Additionally, so much of the book is his interior life, his reactions to events, and his moralizing and sermonizing on the Race Question along with telling us how the Negro thinks. Again, there’s no background or source for his expertise or why we should take his word for it–except that he’s darkened his skin and has gone to Louisiana.

The actual events and interactions he includes in the book are sparse and bare-boned. He details the first day pretty concretely, including his association with a shoeshine stand owner and his arrival in New Orleans, his taking of a room, and a political meeting. Then we get a lot of overview about how far he has to walk, the infrequency of places where he can use the facilities, and a bit of concrete interaction with the shoeshine guys. He talks broadly about looking for work, but the concrete details are lacking. Then he goes to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, takes a room, freaks out about being in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, calls up a newspaper friend who picks him up and drives him out of Mississippi. Then he goes to the coast of Mississippi and begins a whirlwind tour of the south in his last couple of weeks.

So he never really settles in anywhere but New Orleans (for about two weeks) at the onset. So overall, the book takes on the flavor of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickeled and Dimed or any of the modern journalistic escapades where a journalist parachutes into a different lifestyle for a short period of time and discovers that the experience conforms with his or her preconceived notions, but with a little touch of colorful flair that makes it interesting. It captures more the experience of being a white man passing as a black man in the south moreso than the experience of being a black man in the south.

Also, it could probably have done with a companion study of what his experience would have been travelling through New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and Bangor, Maine while his skin was darkened.

At any rate, it’s an interesting premise, and it’s an interesting book. It took Griffith some galls as big as church bells to do it. However, he could have presented the material more solidly, showing instead of so much telling.

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Good Book Hunting: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Spring 2014 Book Sale

This week, I stopped by the aforementioned book sale twice: The first time, I hit the LPs. The second time, I hit the dollar books.

I don’t have a picture of the 42 LPs I bought, but rest assured they include a lot of Frank Sinatra, a couple of Herb Alpert titles I did not have (and one, Rise, which I own on CD), a new Eydie Gorme (Don’t Go To Strangers), a collection of Shakespeare plays, a collection of poetry, and a lot of new things to try.

On Thursday, I hit the better books and I got these:

Three ex-library science fiction novels (James P. Hogan’s Moon Flower, John Varley’s Rolling Thunder, and Alan Dean Foster’s The Candle of Distant Earth) and two bundles of chapbooks and whatnot that were a buck each.

Unwrapping the bundles to see what they included was a little like Christmas. I got a number of poetry chapbooks and a couple little one story or essay booklets given away with other purchases.

I’ve often been pleasantly surprised when buying bundled remainders like this, whether it’s the ten-packs of old 45 records from jukeboxes or three-packs of old comic books at the drug store. Maybe I’ll discover something cool in these collections.

Note, gentle reader, the restraint evident in these trips. The restraint stems partially from the fact that I was sneaking out on a work day and didn’t want to spend too much time at the sale and partially from the ongoing collapse of my book shelves.

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