Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Oliver Sacks.

Monday, August 31st, 2015

NYT. Michiko Kakutani appreciation. LAT. WP. A/V Club.

“The Oliver Sacks Reading List” from The Atlantic.

I like what Kakutani says, and I don’t think I could say it any better:

The world has lost a writer of immense talent and heart, a writer who helped illuminate the wonders, losses and consolations of the human condition.

Dr. Sacks was a personal hero of mine. Unlike most of my personal heros, I actually did get to meet him once. He probably wouldn’t have remembered it, even if he wasn’t famously “face blind”…

(more…)

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#V of a series)

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

The question of the day is: will we get to “Z” in the series?

Austin police Chief Art Acevedo is a finalist for the police chief of San Antonio Police Department.

(As a side note, I’ve always wondered what Sue Grafton’s going to do with Kinsey Millhone after she gets to “Z”. Two books to go.)

Obit watch: August 5, 2015.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Noted historian and author Robert Conquest has passed away at 98.

The scope of Stalin’s purges was laid out: seven million people arrested in the peak years, 1937 and 1938; one million executed; two million dead in the concentration camps. Mr. Conquest estimated the death toll for the Stalin era at no less than 20 million.
“His historical intuition was astonishing,” said Norman M. Naimark, a professor of Eastern European history at Stanford University. “He saw things clearly without having access to archives or internal information from the Soviet government. We had a whole industry of Soviet historians who were exposed to a lot of the same material but did not come up with the same conclusions. This was groundbreaking, pioneering work.”

I expect Lawrence will have more to say later, but I do want to tell my favorite Conquest story. When his publisher was going to issue a new edition of The Great Terror: A Reassessment, they asked Conquest if he wanted to change the title. Conquest supposedly suggested a new title of I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.

Edited to add: Lawrence’s obit is now up.

Obit watch: July 28, 2015.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Noted true crime writer Ann Rule passed away on Sunday. LAT.

(Hattip: Mom.)

The Ann Rule origin story is well known to true crime buffs, but since I’m not sure how many of those read this blog, I’ll recap it here: in the 1970’s, she was working at a suicide hotline and writing under pseudonyms. She became interested in some Seattle area murders and started investigating them; ultimately, it turned out those murders were committed by a close friend who worked with her on the hotline…

…one Mr. Ted Bundy. The Stranger Beside Me made Rule’s reputation and career.

“I really care about the people I’m writing about,” said Rule, whose accounts focused as much on the anguish of the victims and their families as on the depravity of the killers. “I finally came to the knowledge I’m doing what I probably was meant to do in life.”

Edited to add: WP article which goes into more detail about Bundy and Rule.

Quickies.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

E. L. Doctorow. LAT. WP.

Inverted Jenny watch:

…the agency’s watchdog has called the instant, manufactured stamp rarity issued in 2013 a huge mistake that broke the agency’s own rules, which prohibit postal officials from intentionally creating a rare stamp just to make money.

More:

Postal officials gave 70 upright panes to post offices to distribute randomly to buyers. The 30 remaining panes were sent to the agency’s stamp fulfillment services office in Kansas City, Mo., to ship to customers who ordered the Jennies by mail.
But in Kansas City, officials “forgot” about their distribution plan for the newly created rare stamps, investigators found. They shipped just one pane between March 2014 and December 2014. As a result, 23 upright panes remain in Kansas City, where management has not decided what to do with the stamps, the report said.

(Previously. Previously.)

Random notes: July 16, 2015.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

The Birdman of Altiplano.

“There is already a significant problem every single weekend with widespread, out-of-control peeing,” Mr. Johnson, who represents much of Manhattan’s West Side, said.

(I love the “Citations for public urination” graphic that goes along with this article.)

I’m a little surprised this one hasn’t made FARK yet: local police find an unresponsive man in a car. He had bite marks on his wrist, and there was a non-venomous snake (and other animals) in the car. Man dies.

And it seems like his venomous cobra snake may be on the loose. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

(Huh. I didn’t realize that Frederick Forsyth won an Edgar for “There Are No Snakes in Ireland”. That’s not a bad story, but I like “The Emperor” from the same collection a little better.)

Edited to add:

Austin Animal Services is not actively searching for a missing monocle cobra that may have killed an 18-year-old Temple man on Tuesday.

You know what this means, folks. If Animal Services isn’t actively searching for it, it’s up to the rest of us to be on the lookout. Get that Taurus Judge out of the gun safe and load it up with snake shot! Fun for the whole family! At least, until someone gets bitten…

The monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand. Envenomation usually presents predominantly with extensive local necrosis and systemic manifestations to a lesser degree. Drowsiness, neurological and neuromuscular symptoms will usually manifest earliest; hypotension, flushing of the face, warm skin, and pain around bite site typically manifest within one to four hours following the bite; paralysis, ventilatory failure or death could ensue rapidly, possibly as early as 60 minutes in very severe cases of envenomation. However, the presence of fang marks does not always imply that envenomation actually occurred.

Edited to add 2:

Oh, thank God. They’re going to start an organized search. I was afraid they’d be engaging in a disorganized search.

(Hattp: the Austin Cobra Twitter. Hattip on the Austin Cobra Twitter to the great and good Joe D. in the comments.)

The Beams of New College, Oxford.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

You know this story, right? At least you do if you’re weird like me and used to read Whole Earth Review (I think they used to sell this on a poster) or if you’ve read How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built (a book I tremendously admire).

If you don’t know the story, the canonical version (minus Brand’s “That’s the way to run a culture”) is here. I always thought that was a nice story.

Turns out that story isn’t exactly 100% true. And the true version of the story is arguably even better, if you’re looking for tips on how to run a culture.

(I think I got this from TJIC on the Twitter.)

Obit watch: July 8, 2015.

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Author John Maxtone-Graham.

Safe Return Doubtful: The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration is the book that sparked my ongoing interest in polar exploration.

Noted:

Mr. Maxtone-Graham married Katrina Kanzler in 1955; they later divorced. Survivors include their daughters, Sarah Francois-Poncet and Emily Maxtone-Graham; their sons, Ian, a longtime writer and producer for “The Simpsons,” and Guy, also a television and film comedy writer who worked on “Beavis and Butt-head”; two grandchildren; and a twin brother, Michael.

And:

He also claimed a more unorthodox cultural credit: an appearance as a lecturer on the fictional Royal Valhalla in Episode 505 of “The Simpsons” in 2012.

After action report: Spokane, WA.

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

The Smith and Wesson Collector’s Association annual symposium was in Spokane this year.

(more…)

Quote of the day.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

I was proud of that first Sharps of mine…At first it used a 320-grain bullet, but I experimented with one a hundred grains heavier, and thereafter used the 420-grain projectile. It killed quicker. In making this change I didn’t sacrifice anything in velocity, because by then I had begun to use the English powder…and it added 10 to 30 percent efficiency to my shooting. After a year or two, having plenty of buffalo dollars in my jeans, I talked myself into believing I needed an extra rifle in reserve–so I bought two. [Emphasis added – DB] One was a .40-70-320–a light little gun for deer and antelope but too impotent for buff. The other was another .40-90-420. Both used bottle-necked cartridges; don’t ask me how I fell for that sort of thing after vowing I was off bottle-necks for life.

—buffalo hunter Frank Mayer, quoted in David Dary’s The Buffalo Book.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seriously, it just tickles me to see the “well, I had some money, and I thought I needed a second one” justification being used as far back as the 1870s. Also, I love that throwaway line, “So I bought two,” and the “don’t ask me how I fell for that sort of thing”. I’m pretty sure anyone and everyone who’s a serious gun person and been around for a while is familiar with all of those.

(Heck, you’re welcome to name your favorite “don’t ask me how I fell for that”, “so I bought two”, or “well, I had some money…” justification in the comments.)

Incidentally, I was curious about the reference to “the English powder”. A quick Google search turned up what looks like an interesting ebook, though I haven’t had time to go through all of it yet: “A memoir on gunpowder” by John Braddock, published in 1832. This looks to be one of the earliest extant books on methods for making and testing gunpowder, and falls squarely into “quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore” territory.

Obit watch: June 24, 2015.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

For the record: Don Featherstone.

Frances Kroll Ring has died at the age of 99. The significance of this is that she was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal secretary at the end of his life, while he was working on “The Last Tycoon”.

Quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore (#3 in a series).

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from Half-Price recently.

It wasn’t just that I was trying to save money for my trip, though that was part of it. (And I hope to have the report up in the next few days.) It was also that I kept going and not coming out with anything I wanted. The few things I did find that I wanted were somewhat overpriced in my opinion.

So I bided my time. Mom wanted to go last week to sell some books at the South Half-Price, so we went. And the drought broke: I picked up a stack of African hunting books (Peter Capstick’s Africa: A Return To The Long Grass, Robert Ruark’s Africa, and the Capstick library edition of Kill or Be Killed: The Rambling Reminiscences of an Amateur Hunter) for reasonable money.

(I miss Capstick. And yes, this does mean you will probably hear me ramble some more about Ruark. But not in this post.)

Emboldened by my recent success, I bopped over to the central Half-Price this afternoon. It isn’t a bad way to kill some time in an air-conditioned environment. And the latest entry in this series fell into my hands…

===

Back when I was taking “Modern Revolutions” at St. Ed’s (and if you’re out there somewhere, Dr. Sanchez, I hope you’re having a wonderful life), I noticed that Kermit Roosevelt Jr. seemed to pop up in a lot of places in the Middle East during the 1950s. I believe I made the observation in class that someone really needed to write a good biography of Kim, especially now that a lot of older material has been declassified.

I actually got that wish late in 2013 (though the book was a Christmas 2014 present from my beloved and indulgent sister) with the publication of Hugh Wilford’s excellent book, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. It isn’t exactly a biography of Kim, but it does contain a lot of biographical material about Kim, his cousin Archie, and Miles Copeland Jr. (another interesting guy, but I’ll come back to him).

I wasn’t really aware, until I read Wilford’s book, that Archie was almost as deeply involved with the CIA and the Middle East as Kim was. So when I saw this on the shelf at Half-Price today, I pulled it down for a closer look.

archie_cover

It isn’t a great copy: Lawrence would probably turn his nose up at it, as the dust jacket has a few small tears and some shelf wear. I wouldn’t call it much better than “Good”, and you can get copies on Amazon in “Very Good” condition for $2.50 or so (plus shipping). I paid $10 plus tax for this one; I do believe it is a first printing from 1988, two years before Archie died. Maybe I am a sucker, but it has one thing going for it that the other copies don’t:

lucky_signature

“For Douglas Brinkley–
With great admiration, a book I think you will enjoy – by someone I wish you could have met-
Fondly-
Lucky Roosevelt
Aug. 1997″

Lucky Roosevelt was Archie’s wife, to whom the book is dedicated.

It may not be much to other people, but it pushes a couple of my buttons. And I leave you with the quote of the day:

I have always found yogurt an excellent preventative against bacterial dysentery.

Now I’d like to find a copy of Kim’s book, Countercoup, at a reasonable price. And maybe copies of Copeland’s books, though Wilford states that they have something of a passing resemblance to the truth.