Book Report: Message to Medellín The Executioner #151 (1991)

Book coverAs I mentioned when reviewing Evil Kingdom, this book is more of a typical Bolan novel than the first two in the trilogy–which makes it a kind of a sad conclusion to the trilogy since it stands in contrast with the other books, which had a little more going on than the typical Bolan set pieces strung together. Standing alone, it would just be one of the others; as part of three, though, it’s glaringly weak.

At any rate, in the book, Phoenix Force comes to Colombia to join up with Bolan and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commandoes to ratchet up the pressure on the lead cartel and to sow fear amid the other cartels. At the end of book one, Blood Rules, a member of Able Team is kidnapped by the lead bad guy’s female assassin in Miami for torture and interrogation; this situation is ignored completely in book two, but in the first part of this book, Able Team quickly rescues him and kills the assassin. And their portion of the book is done. It’s pretty clear that the people who plotted the trilogy out thought this might be an interesting thread, but two of the three authors did not.

At any rate, in Columbia, Bolan and the team assault the main bad guy’s heavily fortified ranch complete with private zoo (so you know the tigers will eat someone by act three; it’s Chekov’s Rule). As they do, the heads of competing cartels arrive in their own helicopters in their own planned assault, just in time to get shot down by Jack Grimaldi, and then A VOLCANO ERUPTS! threatening everyone.

I can see the outlined plot points, and I can see where they’re checked off. Which sometimes happens with Bolan novels, but really happens when you contrast better versus more common entries in the series (or especially in the bad entries in the series).

This isn’t a bad entry, but I’m disappointed nevertheless because the preceding volume was so much better.

Hopefully, the series will stick with the one-offs which the nature of the subscription book better supports.

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The Current Crop Of Young Journalists Missed The Prequels

No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public:

Despite Pentagon statements that it disbanded a once-covert program to investigate unidentified flying objects, the effort remains underway — renamed and tucked inside the Office of Naval Intelligence, where officials continue to study mystifying encounters between military pilots and unidentified aerial vehicles.

Pentagon officials will not discuss the program, which is not classified but deals with classified matters. Yet it appeared last month in a Senate committee report outlining spending on the nation’s intelligence agencies for the coming year. The report said the program, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, was “to standardize collection and reporting” on sightings of unexplained aerial vehicles, and was to report at least some of its findings to the public within 180 days after passage of the intelligence authorization act.

My oldest son brought the story up the other day.

Of course, I’m old enough to have read about Project Blue Book in paperbacks from the 1960s and to have downloaded Majestic-12 text files from BBSes in the 1990s. So I’ve seen stories like this before.

So I am skeptical, of course. I’m skeptical of everything I read on the Internet (even this blog) and most things I read in newspapers.

(Link via Glenn Reynolds’ USA Today column “In 2020, anything’s possible. New government intelligence might prove alien life is, too.“)

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Book Report: Evil Kingdom The Executioner #150 (1991)

Book coverAs I mentioned, this is the most expensive Executioner book I own. Or that I paid for, anyway. Blood Rules, the preceding book in the series, was the first in a “trilogy.” As I owned the first and the third, I had to order the middle one off of the Internet to get it, so I paid more than the fifty cents I usually spend on Executioner books. I spent like five whole dollars. So I will definitely put this in the book safe. Or maybe I mean I should buy a book safe for valuable tomes like this one.

It continues the story that teams Able Team, Phoenix Force, and Mack Bolan fighting against the Columbian drug cartels. The story focuses primarily on Bolan and Grimaldi as they work in Columbia, setting the cartels against each other and denting production and manufacturing facilities. They find help in an elite Royal Canadian Mounted Police (!) team, a dying priest, and a Justice Minister who wants to make a difference. Meanwhile, Phoenix Force starts closing in on the strongman in Panama only to be interrupted by a U.S. invasion. The book skips over Able Team in Miami for the most part, which tightens it up a bit even though the book contains a couple of smaller subplots that fit within the confines of the book and add a little bit of interesting asides.

So this is probably the best book in the trilogy; as you know, gentle reader, Bolan books and other subscription books of the type were farmed out to a team of writers with plot outlines and maybe some scenes to include. But the first included sex scenes atypical to the series; this one some depth found in better books; and the third, which I have started, is pretty straight forward Bolan. Compare and contrast: This volume is 350 pages, and the third a touch over 200. More typical Bolan length for the era.

The only quibble I have with the book is that he mentions the chain guns on an Apache helicopter, and if you had asked me in 1991, I could have told you that the AH-64 had a single 30mm gun. Not so much because my recently passed aunt worked logistics for the Army aviation back in the day, but more because I got Microprose’s Gunship in 1986 or 1987 and played it a lot.

Okay, another quibble: Each team member on the fire teams tends to have his own weapon in his own chambering. Come on, a little standardization would be very, very handy if you had to change weapons or share magazines in the heat of battle. Richard Marcinko doesn’t make those sorts of mistakes, anyway.

Still, this was a good entry in the series. After I finish the third, I’ll have to really reflect on the pace of my reading these books. If I only read 10 a year, I still have, what, five or six years to go? And I won’t be able to keep up that pace when we get to the thicker titles later in the series. Perhaps I should make it a goal to read them all before I die; however, when acutely fearing mortality, I tend to want to read better things. So I guess I’ll keep plugging at them as I feel like it.

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A Radical Idea

Check your couch cushions: One Chick-fil-A offers free food voucher if you exchange coins:

If you have at least $10 in spare change, a Chick-fil-A in Virginia will offer you free food for them.

Amid the nation’s coronavirus-caused coin shortage, franchise owners in the city of Lynchburg are running a special on Wednesday. The chicken restaurant is offering a free entree voucher to customers who exchange $10 of rolled coins for $10 in paper cash.

You know, if you exchange money for a food voucher, the food is not free.

Clearly, they are not teaching free-market economics to journalists these days.

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Sounds Like It’s Right Up My Alley

Every so often, I go to LP Cover Lover to glance at the record covers there. The blog focuses on older LP covers, so things from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s abound. Although the blog focuses a lot on foreign issues, I’m ever hopeful I’ll spot something I own there (I also feel hopeful I will eventually see something I own on Lileks’ Friday Bleature on vintage vinyl).

So I went through one of my periodic reviews of LP Cover Lover, and I saw this, and I thought, Man, that’s a metal album I should own!

(Image swiped from the aforementioned LP Cover Lover.)

We’re Going To Tear Your Kingdom Down by Satan. or Satan by the band We’re Going To Tear Your Kingdom Down. Sounds heavy, with a lot of down-tuned guitar work.

Wait a minute: “Satan” is supposed to be a noun of direct address here. The religious music artist is actually the Young Adult Choir from the First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church in Baltimore.

So more Teen Tones than Semblant.

At any rate, my perusing of LP Cover Lover not only misled me in that misled-for-hopefully-humorous-effect-on-the-blog way, but also cued me to an EP and/or album I really want to find now:

{Image swiped from the aforementioned LP Cover Lover.)

A Christmas album with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra (and Keely Smith)? Definitely something I would start spinning in November at Nogglestead.

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A New Amazon Dirty Trick Bug

I’ve noticed a couple of times over the last couple of weeks that, when I order something, the items remain in the cart. So if I was not paying attention, I might order the same thing again.

Such as these four CDs that I ordered the other day:

You see, I already ordered them.

Today, I decided to order a guitar strap online since I have two guitars in my office, but only one strap, and I forgot to pick one up when taking a baritone into the local music shop for repair.

So I added one to my cart, and:

As I said, I’ve seen this behavior before, and I’ve been fortunate enough to not mistakenly order the same thing twice, but come on. I’m just cynical enough to think, “Bugs resulting in more revenue get addressed last” even though I don’t quite believe it. Not quite.

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Book Report: The Legend of the Golden Huaca by Colleen Tucker (2011)

Book coverI got this book at a “book sale” last spring. A book sale, in the Before Times, was when a library organization sold books at fairly low prices as a way to raise money to help the library. I could tell looking at it where I got it; the first page inside has the price (from the Better Books section) and section. It’s different from the ABC Books markings, where I often also get books from local authors.

The book is the story of a group of fresh college graduates who go into the heart of deepest Arkansas to find out what happened to the missing father of one of the group. Late in the autumn, around Thanksgiving, the boy and his father were hunting and got a little lost when the boy falls and hurts his arm, which will end their trip. They find a rock which looks to have ancient carvings on it, and the father runs into the brush and up to a bluff and never returns. The boy gets help from some other hunters in the area, and they alert the authorities, and after a brief search, they all give up and the boy goes back to Springfield for college. He completes his finals and his final semester and gets his friends involved, including the daughter of a Real Archeologist who has a plane and for some reason decides to fly from Springfield to Northwest Arkansas. But that’s part of the problem I have with the book. So many of the parts require a suspension of disbelief.

You see, they find that the local hermit has found a cave containing treasure that Conquistadors were taking to New Orleans the long way when an Aztec prince and his retinue catch up with them, but the Conquistador Captain manages to hide the loot in a cave before they strike. A descendant of the noble (the book has a rather simplistic notion of the history of the Aztecs and lays out an easy Aztecs good/Conquistadors bad back story) lives nearby, seeking the loot of his ancestors. So when the kids come camping (elaborately) to look for the one fellow’s father (and maybe the loot), things kick into gear. The hermit sneaks into their camp; one of the kids gets greedy and wants the treasure for the treasure, not for the noble pursuit of archeology; and, eventually, they find the cave where the hermit has chained the father for six months (suspend your disbelief!) They liberate the father, who seems to have killed the hermit just that day, and an earthquake or volcano or Aztec magic destroys the treasure. But the kids have their memories. Except the greedy one, who died.

So. Although the biography of the author gives her creds in television and in law enforcement, she is an amateur. The pacing is a little off, the story makes you scratch your head a lot and need to suspend disbelief, and the ending disappoints. But as I was reading it, I felt a little deja vu–because I’m pretty sure that one could make the same sorts of critiques of my self-published novel, too.

And I couldn’t help but wonder, when thinking of this book and Murder at the Painted Lady, I had to wonder if not many older women were writing grandmother poetry these days because they were all writing novels.

At any rate, it was not the worst self-published book I’ve ever read, but you can probably pass on this one.

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The New Damascus Album

As I mentioned the other day, I pre-ordered the debut album by Damascus and got it on the first day it came out.

Damascus is the project of a guy I went to high school with who goes by Butch. I’m not sure if that’s his given name–it’s in the yearbook, so perhaps. He was one of the few long-haired kids who didn’t give me grief for being smart and bookish. Bullying, I think they call all of it now, although back in my day, bullying involved the threat of actual physical violence and not just making you feel bad because you didn’t smoke pot and didn’t like Iron Maiden (I’ve grown into the metal, as you know, gentle reader).

At any rate, I would be remiss in not sharing Butch’s current work with everyone who reads this blog, and by that I mean everyone searching for a viable book report on The Sire of Maletroit’s Door.

The whole album is cool, and it’s pretty long–17 songs including originals and covers of “Fade Into You” and “Nights In White Satin”. You can find the Web site with links to places you can buy it here. I initially tried on the iTunes store, but it crashed my PC iTunes, so I ended up buying it on Amazon discounting it with credits for slow delivery.

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Alert The Authorities

A black man has been spotted on consumer packaging!

One wonders why the change came at the big national brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s Rice before the smaller brands which don’t have brand equity or the brand diversity (that is, large corporations having lots of consumer brands, so smaller sales at one would not imperil the company’s survival).

Is it because the larger companies have more room in them for “enlightened” people in leadership roles instead of the family that started the product? Greater visibility, especially on the Twitmedia, which can amplify the voices upset with the branding or the brands hopefully will amplify their sigil of virtue?

Heaven only knows.

Jeez, I hope nobody comes for Stubb because I posted this.

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My Painting Hat Is Now Problematic

The Sierra Club denounces racism of founder John Muir.

My current painting-the-fence hat is a green hat that I picked up on my first trip to the Bay Area in the first part of this century and now marks me retconned as a white supremacist along with the old timey naturalist.

We went for a hike at Muir Woods, and I didn’t pack a ball cap, so I had to buy one in the gift shop before I would go into the woods because one wears a hat in the woods to keep the ticks out of one’s hair. Although “one” does not include my beautiful wife, as she is hatless in the photos.

It does explain why many of my ball caps actually have the name of places where we hiked, though. My current running cap says Big Cedar Lodge on it, and my newest and hence most Formal Dressing Cap says Dogwood Canyon Nature Park on it since I forgot to toss my Big Cedar cap in the truck when we went to Branson this summer.

Also, in twenty years, when the animal rights people have had their druthers for a decade or so, Dogwood Canyon will mark me as a Dog Supremcist even though I have owned cats for a long time, most likely.

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Four CDs I’ll Probably Never Play (and Recent Musical Balance)

Today, I received four CDs that I ordered at the beginning of May, but I don’t think I’ll be putting them in my computer to rip them.

Imperial Age is a symphonic metal band.

I ordered these CDs from the band’s Web site, signed, and then I got to thinking. Because Imperial Age is a Russian band, these are Russian CDs, so I’m not sure I want to put them into my computer. Or near it for that matter.

In May, I didn’t actually count these albums probably because I did not get them yet, but my balance was way out of alignment with 12 metal albums to 1 jazz songbird album.

So what have I gotten since?

  • The aforephotographed Imperial Age albums.
  • Alive and Spectrum by jazz pianist Hiromi. Not a song bird, per se, and more traditional jazz piano than Keiko Matsui.
  • For All We Know by Gloria Reuben.
  • A Woman Like Me by Lindsay Webster, whose “One Step Forward” I included in my May post.
  • Revolution by Damascus, the band of a guy I know from high school. I’ll probably do a whole post of it by and by.
  • “Yes, I Have Ghosts” by David Gilmour (as I mentioned.

So I haven’t gone crazy on the buying in the last two months, and it’s kind of even. Well, four jazz songbird to five metal band CDs.

I did preorder the new 10 Years album, and I see that Unleash The Archers and Amaranthe have new CDs dropping this fall. So it looks as though my balance might be out of whack the rest of the year as well. If only I could get to the gym.

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I Guess I’m Taking Another Paper

So I mentioned that I subscribed to four papers recently. Previously, I’ve been taking a couple of local weeklies, and I’ve let my oldest read them after I finished. He’s been a little unimpressed with them.

But he likes The Wall Street Journal. A lot. And I can see why: It’s a national paper with national and international news, business reports, and feature writing every day instead of a couple pages of news stories including little informal columns covering small towns and churches and perhaps a column to read every week (Jim Hamilton or Larry Dablemont). So he gets the paper off of the driveway and reads it before I do most days.

And it has inspired him to start his own paper.

He’s starting high school this fall. By this age, I had worked for two middle school papers and had put out at least on dot-matrix-printed newspaper, the fan letter for the official Cricket Fan Club that I mentioned here (with other Cricket pictures and memories here and here).

I already have the first copy of the South Street Journal on my desk. It has stories about Mixer, Microsoft’s game streaming service, closing down as well as some recycled jokes. Not a lot of news, though, as Nogglestead is pretty quiet of late. So it’s more of a Reader’s Digest than a Wall Street Journal.

And it’s better than spending all of his day on video games and YouTube compilations of YouTube videos. Although I am pretty sure some of the time he spends on the laptop working on his articles he’s really cruising Instagram. Just like a real journalist. Except I guess they use Twitter.

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Not Exactly Small Businesses

Airbnb was like a family, until the layoffs started:

On May 5, after almost two months of working alone in his San Francisco apartment, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, cried into his video camera.

It was a Tuesday, not that it mattered because the days had blurred together, and Chesky was addressing thousands of his employees. Looking into his webcam, he read from a script that he had written to tell them that the coronavirus had crushed the travel industry, including their home rental startup. Divisions would have to be cut and workers laid off.

“I have a deep feeling of love for all of you,” Chesky said, his voice cracking. “What we are about is belonging, and at the center of belonging is love.” Within a few hours, 1,900 employees — a quarter of Airbnb’s workforce — were told they were out. [Emphasis added.]

LinkedIn cuts 960 jobs as pandemic puts the brakes on corporate hiring

Microsoft’s professional networking site LinkedIn said on Tuesday it would cut about 960 jobs, or 6% of its global workforce, as the coronavirus pandemic is having a sustained impact on demand for its recruitment products. [Emphasis added.]

Wow, those are some huge tech companies. I can’t imagine how it would take that many people to do a tech company, but then again, I’m not a millionaire or billionaire, so it’s clear that the tech companies I’ve worked for never were that, erm, successful.

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It’s A “I Stabbed Myself With A Fork” Kind Of Monday

Really, I did; this morning, when emptying the dishwasher, I did the cutlery first (as always). In my haste, though, I started closing the drawer before the last fork fell into place, which meant that the drawer hit the bottom of the fork. As the fork was still in a non-horizontal position, its tines were caught my finger and rammed my finger into the counter above the drawer, and I ended up with a couple tines a couple millimeters in my left forefinger.

I tossed the fork in the sink and headed for the first aid, leaving a bloody trail behind me.

But I got it stopped all right–puncture wounds are easy!–and went back to the kitchen, where I found that the fork had gone into the sink and down into the garbage disposal, almost making the morning a two-fer of folly.

Although “Stabbing a man with a fork” was not really on my bucket list, I’ve done it. And you can bet I’ll use it to start conversations.

With strangers.

Because one thing on my bucket list is to get a reputation befitting Glen from Stan Makita’s Doughnuts.

So far, so good.

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The New N-Word

Roger Stone calls black radio host Mo’Kelly a racial slur during interview:

“I don’t really feel like arguing with this Negro,” Stone could be heard saying.

* * * * *

“Thirty years as an entertainment professional, twenty of them in radio. ‘Negro’ was the first pejorative uttered.”

So Negro is a pejorative now?

That’s going to retcon a whole bunch of racism, ainna? I mean, in the early part of the century, that’s how you referred to African Americans when talking about Race. Of course, then the preferred term was Black, capital B, then Afro-American, then African American (and Black with a capital B was kind of looked down on as an almost pejorative, and now we’re back to Black with a capital B. And if you use or ever used the wrong one (or, perhaps, if you are also part of a targeted minority like Trump supporters or conservatives) at the time when only one is right, you’re an instant Racist and/or White Supremicist.

Definitely a trick to attack the wrongthinkers. I wish I could say clearly a trick, but I’m afraid it’s not transparent to a lot of people.

Meanwhile, let’s examine some other New Racists who used the new bad word:

  • James Baldwin:

    To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

  • W.E.B. DuBois:

    The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.

    (Note that he also says American which doubles the thoughtcrime probably.)

  • Malcolm X:

    The liberal elements of whites are those who have perfected the art of selling themselves to the Negro as a friend of the Negro. Getting sympathy of the Negro, getting the allegiance of the Negro, and getting the mind of the Negro. Then the Negro sides with the white liberal, and the white liberal use the Negro against the white conservative. So that anything that the Negro does is never for his own good, never for his own advancement, never for his own progress, he’s only a pawn in the hands of the white liberal.

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

    But I mean as far as the average Negro today, he knows nothing about Africa. And I think he’s got to face the fact that he is an American, his culture is basically American, and one becomes adjusted to this when he realizes what, what he is.

  • George Washington Carver:

    We know nothing about Africa, although our roots are there in terms of our forbearers. But I mean as far as the average Negro today, he knows nothing about Africa. And I think he’s got to face the fact that he is an American, his culture is basically American, and one becomes adjusted to this when he realizes what, what he is.

  • Langton Hughes:

    If you want to honor me, give some young boy or girl who’s coming along trying to create arts and write and compose and sing and act and paint and dance and make something out of the beauties of the Negro race-give that child some help.

  • John Howard Griffin, author of Black Like Me:

    You place the white man in the ghetto, deprive him of educational advantages, arrange it so he has to struggle hard to fulfill his instinct for self-respect, give him little physical privacy and less leisure, and he would after a time assume the same characteristics you attach to the Negro.

  • Booker T. Washington:

    There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public.

Come see the inherent systemic racism, and by that, I mean the system of finding racism where it’s not.

Also, is colored people a racial slur when people of color is not?

It would is so hard to keep track and to keep in Right Thinking these days. Which, I suppose, is the whole point.

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Not Exactly A Valentine’s Gift

So someone thought “You Are My Sunshine” in a music box would make a romantic gift of some sort.

I suppose that’s really sweet if you’re only familiar with the first verse, which is the happy romantic one.

The rest, though:

I expect many people have only been exposed to the first verse in that French’s Mustard commercial from twenty thirty almost forty years ago.

And parents of a certain age who sang the first verse to their children.

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Book Report: Fully Empowered by Pablo Neruda (1962, 1995)

Book coverI picked this book up shortly after 100 Love Sonnets because I couldn’t think of another time where I’d be more primed to read more Neruda. As I have mentioned, I read a bit of a middle 1970s translation of Neruda that was, erm, not very literal–it inserted 1970s slang into the work where Neruda had not put it. 100 Love Sonnets, by my survey of the original Spanish on the left-facing pages, was very close. I hoped this volume would be, too.

Oh, but no.

It’s not as bad as the glimpse I had earlier (which is not this book; I looked for “I ain’t got no truck with death” specifically). This book does not throw slang into the mix, but it does use some synonyms for direct translations where I wonder how much license the translator took and why.

Also, the poems are longer, a little more free-flowing, and of varying topics, sometimes of a political nature, that makes the poetry more modern than 100 Love Sonnets. Which means I like it less to begin with.

At any rate, I probably did catch the book at the right time. I probably wouldn’t think anything that Neruda wrote would equal 100 Love Sonnets anyway, so it’s best to have read them almost back to back. Now, of course, undoubtedly two or three other volumes of Neruda’s work will catch me by surprise when I go looking for something to read. Or, worse, I’ll stumble across a second copy of this, translated with a different title, in a couple of years and will accidentally re-read these poems again without knowing it.

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