Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Random notes: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Two more obits: we were waiting for the NYT to do a David Huddleston obit. Now they have. And it includes a great photo of him and Cleavon Little from “Blazing Saddles”, too.

The role he said he relished most was that of Benjamin Franklin, which he played in revivals of “1776” on Broadway in 1998 and at Ford’s Theater in Washington in 2003.

Yeah, we can see that.

Also among the dead: Chris Costner Sizemore. “Who?” The actual woman who the book (and movie) The Three Faces of Eve was based on.

Her new marriage turned out to be not an ending at all; she endured a fragmented identity until the mid-1970s, seeing several psychiatrists after Thigpen and Cleckley, until, in the care of a Virginia doctor, Tony Tsitos, her personalities — not three but more than 20, it turned out — were unified.

By most accounts, for the last four decades or so, Mrs. Sizemore lived a productive and relatively serene life as a mental health advocate and painter. She died on July 24 in Ocala, Fla. She was 89. Her son, Bobby Sizemore, said she had a heart attack.

The sunny narrative of Mrs. Sizemore’s triumphant second act was called into some question in 2012, when Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist specializing in dissociation, published a book, “The Rape of Eve,” in which he accused Dr. Thigpen of having exercised an unethical, Svengali-like influence over Mrs. Sizemore and manipulating her for nefarious purposes during and after his treatment of her ended. Dr. Thigpen died in 1999.

And by way of the Times, we learn of a new box set of “The Untouchables”.

From the Department of I Kid You Not (talking about the campaign against the show, which was considered excessively violent and anti-Italian by some):

One prominent defender was Ayn Rand, who, writing in The Los Angeles Times, characterized “The Untouchables” as “profoundly moral.” Ms. Rand was particularly taken with Mr. Stack. His “superlative portrayal of Eliot Ness” was, she declared, “the most inspiring image on today’s screen, the only image of a real hero.”

Yes, we are trying to work on the DEFCON updates.

Obit watch: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Joaquin Jackson passed away June 15 of this year. I did not learn of his death until I flipped through this month’s Texas Monthly at the grocery store today, and I’m not sure how I missed that. Brief tribute from TM. Statesman.

For those folks unfamiliar with Mr. Jackson, he served for 27 years as a Texas Ranger, from 1966 to 1993. His time as a Ranger spanned what I’d call the end of the old Texas and the beginning of the new Texas; the evolution from horses and cattle to technology. He retired in 1993, ostensibly because of his discomfort at changes taking place in the Rangers organization. (However, he states in one of his books that his reasons were actually more complex and personal than that.)

In 1994, he appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly as part of an article on the changes taking place in the Rangers. The cover made him an icon. He went on to do some private investigation work, and appeared in several movies.

Jackson was a member of the governing board of the National Rifle Association, once getting into hot water over remarks he made about assault weapons.
“I personally believe a weapon should never have over, as far as a civilian, a five-round capacity,” he told then-Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith in 2005. “If you’re a hunter, if you’re going to go hunting with a weapon, you shouldn’t need over but one round. So five rounds would be plenty. … Personally, I think assault weapons basically … need to be in the hands of the military and in the hands of the police.”
He later backpedaled from the remarks, claiming that he was talking only about fully automatic weapons and not about semiautomatic rifles.

I remember that controversy, and I’m convinced Jackson knew exactly what he was saying at the time and was covering his butt later. (If you doubt he knew the difference between fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons, read Chapter 6 of One Ranger and then try to tell me otherwise.)

He also wrote two books. One Ranger is a damn fine book. I try to snap up firsts of this every time I find them, as I am convinced this will be seen as an important Texas book in the coming years. The sequel, One Ranger Returns, had a different co-author and is not quite as good, in my humble opinion. (There are some interesting things in it; mostly background from his family.)

In spite of my disagreement with him, I would have enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand. I missed the chance, sadly: he appeared a few times as the Texas Book Festival, but I was never able to get down there on those weekends.

His passing leaves a hole that can’t be filled.

DEFCON 24: 0-day notes.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Another year observing DEFCON remotely. Maybe next year, if I get lucky, or the year after that.

The schedule is here. If I were going, what would I go to? What gets me excited? What do I think you should look for if you are lucky enough to go?

(As a side note, one of my cow-orkers was lucky enough to get a company paid trip to Black Hat this year. I’m hoping he’ll let me make archival copies of the handouts.)

(more…)

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

The first time I went to Boston was in 1989, for the Worldcon that year.

I clearly remember walking down Newbury Street and visiting a funky little mystery bookstore (and I remember Lawrence’s annoyance at me for purchasing mystery novels when we were attending a SF convention). I also remember walking into Avenue Victor Hugo Books and feeling like I was home. And I remember going up to the front counter and reading their mission statement for the first time. I don’t mind saying that it made me choke up a little bit.

Whenever I made it up to Boston after that (and I was lucky: I got up there several more times) I always visited Avenue Victor Hugo, mostly so I could pay homage to that mission statement. If they had made it available as a poster, I would have bought one and hung it in a prominent place in my home.

Sadly, they closed in 2004. I’ve tried in the intervening years to find the text of their mission statement, but didn’t have any luck until this weekend. Somehow, either I put in just the right combination of search terms for Google, or it indexed a previously un-indexed page, or something.

Anyway. Hattip on this to Confessions of a Mad Librarian.

This small outpost of civilization exists because a few people still believe in the essential freedoms guarded by the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Some people believe that government should define for us what we should be able to say, write, or read. Most people think there should be limits to such rights, but are unclear on who should have the power to dictate those limits. Most of our rights have already been traded away by those who prefer the safety of government control to the anarchy of individual freedom. Very few people understand the Faustian bargain they have made. This shop is dedicated to those who have rejected the bargain. It is open to those who might reconsider.

Obit watch: July 29, 2016.

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Jack Davis, noted Mad magazine illustrator. There are some nice examples of his work in the NYT and also in the A/V Club’s.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series of books. I actually have a copy of the first book in the series, but have not yet read it.

I’ve also never seen an episode of Babylon 5, but I keep hearing that it is above average for televised SF, and people who I do respect seem fond of it. So, for the historical record: Jerry “Michael Garibaldi” Doyle.

Easier for a teenager…

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Mike the Musicologist and I found ourselves at a Barnes and Noble the other day. (Criterion Collection 50% off sale through August 1st. You’re welcome.)

For various reasons, we were flipping through the new Dana Loesch book, Flyover Nation: You Can’t Run a Country You’ve Never Been To. The jacket contains this rather pithy line:

Coastals think they understand firearms because they watched a TV movie about Columbine. Fly- overs get a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday.

Both of us got a chuckle out of that, since we couldn’t think of anyone we knew who got a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday. (I think I was 13 when I got my .22, but it was for Christmas. And for my readers who are not people of the gun, a .22 is way underpowered for deer. I want to say my sister’s boys were 16 and 14 when they got a deer rifle, but I’m not sure that technically qualifies as “theirs” as much as it is “Dad paid for it and loaned it to them so they could go on a youth hunting trip.”)

Anyway, I thought of that when I read this Statesman story:

Dylan Owens got his first gun when he was 12. It was a .30-30 deer rifle that cost $200, and his father taught him to shoot it. He said all the sights were “canted,” meaning the piece used to aim at targets was bent out of alignment.

Mr. Owens is now a deputy with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s office. And he just won a gold medal in the precision/sniper rifle category at the 2016 Texas Police Games.

Owens said he drove to San Angelo on a Tuesday after work, with his Mark 12 special-purpose rifle and no air conditioning. He slept about two hours the night before his competition, when he went in and shot at 1-inch laser points on a human silhouette, in a timed, 20-shot course aimed at precision. He was positioned 100 to 200 meters from his targets.
On a regular day at his ranch in La Grange, he can hit from 600 meters.
Owens also took home a third place prize in patrol rifle, a five-hour course where he ran from bay to bay shooting enemy targets and avoiding friendly fire.

Cool story. Cool guy. I’d love to meet him somewhere with air conditioning and buy him a couple/three frosty beverages of his choice.

Dear Mr. President…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

I’ve never had to fill out a Form 4473 to purchase a book.

Even The Poor Man’s James Bond.

Come to think of it, I’ve also never had to show a permit to purchase a book. Nor has anyone ever called in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Books to get my purchase approved.

Questions. We’ve got questions.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Prompted by various things, including recent events and other people’s travels:

  1. Why did the FBI feel compelled to announce they’ve abandoned the search for D.B. Cooper?
    Is it possible they’re playing a long game here?
    “Olly olly oxen free. Come out, D.B. Cooper!”
    “Hi, I’m Dan Cooper.”
    “Hi, Dan. You’re under arrest.”
    “Hey, wait! That’s not fair! You called ‘olly olly oxen free’! No takebacks, you cheater!”
    (I would ask why they were still pursuing him after 45 years – I thought the statute of limitations would have run out long ago – but, per Wikipedia (I know, I know) there’s a John Doe indictment in absentia against Mr. Cooper.)
  2. More of a rhetorical question: I didn’t know there was a Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I don’t think I did, anyway: if I ever went, I was very young. I’ll have to make a point of going next time I’m up Cleveland way. (And it is my turn.)
  3. Speaking of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, why is Balto, the famous Alaskan sled dog who took the diptheria serum to Nome, in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?
    (I know what the more or less “official” answer is: Balto died in what’s now the Cleveland Zoo. And why was Balto in Cleveland in the first place? Because the children of Cleveland and the Plain Dealer collected pennies to purchase Balto and the other dogs, because they were allegedly badly treated after being sold to a “dime museum”. It just seems odd. If George Kimble had been a resident of Houston, or a graduate of UT, would Balto be in Texas now?)
  4. Have I linked to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History before?
  5. Why doesn’t the CMNH want to return Balto to Alaska? I kind of get the idea that Alaska may have forfeited rights to Balto, given the way that he was supposedly treated. But I’m not sure I blame the state, or Balto’s first owner, for what they did. Also, it was a long time ago in another country: wouldn’t it be nice to give Balto back?
  6. Another rhetorical question: I was unaware of the Balto/Togo controversy. It wasn’t covered in the children’s book I read about the serum run when I was a lad. (In case you were wondering: Togo’s skin is in Alaska, while his skeleton is at Yale.)
  7. What’s Balto’s Bacon Number? The Oracle says 3. But I’m not convinced: if you were voiced by Kevin Bacon in an animated movie based on your life, shouldn’t that lower your Bacon number?
  8. There were three Balto movies?
  9. What was the name of that children’s book about the serum run, anyway? I know it was non-fiction, and I swear it had a blueish cover, but I can’t remember the name. I’d kind of like to find a copy.

Obit watch: July 3, 2016.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

I’ve been running flat out for the better part of the past two days, and haven’t been near a real computer, so I want to get these up before I crash.

I really don’t have anything profound to add to the flood of Elie Wiesel appreciations. I haven’t read Night, though I know I probably should at some point.

Michael Cimino. I also haven’t watched a single Cimino movie, though I do have the Criterion director’s cut edition of “Heaven’s Gate”. I do plan to watch that at some point, but we watched “Spartacus” (also the Criterion edition) recently and thought that was long: “Heaven’s Gate” in the director’s cut is about 30 minutes longer. A/V Club.

Finally, Robin Hardy, director of the “good” (or maybe just “not batshit insane”) version of “The Wicker Man”.

Happy 3rd of July.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Even though it is full of the usual anti-fireworks crapola we hear every year around this time – the same anti-fireworks propaganda that has been ruining the holiday and the country ever since I was in the single-digit age range – I wanted to note the NYT‘s “A History of Fireworks Mayhem on the Fourth of July” because:

Today in journalism fraud.

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Noted author Gay Talese (“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, The Kingdom and the Power) has a new book coming out.

The Voyeur’s Motel is allegedly based on the diaries of a man named Gerald Foos. Mr. Foos owned a motel in Colorado, and claims that he constructed special walkways above the ceilings of some of the rooms so he could secretly watch his guests having sex.

Except there are some problems with the Foos story:

Foos sold the motel, located in Aurora, Colo., in 1980 and didn’t reacquire it until eight years later, according to local property records. His absence from the motel raises doubt about some of the things Foos told Talese he saw — enough that the author himself now has deep reservations about the truth of some material he presents.

More:

Talese does note in “The Voyeur’s Motel” that he found discrepancies in Foos’s accounts. Foos’s earliest journal entries, for example, were dated 1966. But the author subsequently learned from county property records that Foos didn’t buy the Manor House Motel until 1969 — three years after he said he started watching his guests from the catwalk. “I cannot vouch for every detail that he recounts in his manuscript,” Talese writes in the book.

If you can’t vouch for details, why did you write the book? Shouldn’t this have sent up some warning flags?

In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.
“The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” Talese said. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable. . . . I know that. . . . I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

The odd thing is, nobody seems to be talking about pulling the book. Yet.

Edited to add: And now Talese is disavowing his disavowal:

In a statement from his publisher, Grove Atlantic, the 84-year-old author said, “Gerald Foos, as no one calls into question, was an epic voyeur, and, as I say very clearly in the text, he could also at times be an unreliable teller of his own peculiar story. When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the [1980s]. That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn’t, and don’t, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we’ll do that.”

If I were a betting man, I’d bet money that there’s going to be even more information coming out that throws doubt on Foos and his claims, and that this will end badly for Talese, the book, and Grove Atlantic.

Obit watch: June 29, 2016.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

So Cormac McCarthy isn’t dead.

However, Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler is.

“No serious futurist deals in ‘predictions,’” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “These are left for television oracles and newspaper astrologers.”
He advised readers to “concern themselves more and more with general theme, rather than detail.” That theme, he emphasized, was that “the rate of change has implications quite apart from, and sometimes more important than, the directions of change.”

(I’ve never actually read Future Shock. When it was first published, I was distracted by other things, like my binky: when I reached the age where I might have been able to appreciate it, it seemed…quaint. Perhaps I should fix this.)

I find this obit for Phil Parker oddly touching. Son of a Baptist preacher, drank for the first time in grad school at Harvard, ended up an alcoholic living on the streets of the Bowery, finally went to AA and got sober…

In 1974, just a few years after he stopped drinking, Mr. Parker founded a supported work program that over the next several decades would help countless other homeless alcoholics. And as the derelict population became disproportionately young and black, Mr. Parker, who was black, became a social worker himself, supervising the program at the city’s East Third Street Men’s Shelter just off the Bowery.

He stayed sober for 48 years. Cancer got him in the end.