Thursday, March 30, 2006

Liver Eating Johnson

Now here is another colorful character of the Old Wild West.

John Johnson (AKA John Garrison, AKA John Johnston) gained his nickname by eating the liver of each man he killed.

The movie Jeremiah Johnson (with Robert Redford) is supposedly based on the life of Liver Eating Johnson, but for some reason they omitted the liver eating from the movie.

Heh. Go figure.

When the remains of Liver Eating Johnson were reburied, Robert Redford was reported to have been one of the pallbearers.


Bomber (1970) by Len Deighton

Subtitle: Events relating to the last flight of a RAF bomber over Germany on the night of June 31, 1943

Excellent novel, note the fictional date.

Tells the story from multiple viewpoints: British bomber crews, German nightfighter crews, German rescue crews, and German civilians. Emphasis on dialogue and character development.

Due to technical failures and the fog of war, a sleepy little village is mistakenly attacked instead of the planned military target. British bombers are lost to antiaircraft fire and fighter aircraft. One British bomber is mistakenly destroyed by a British fighter as it returns to Britain after the mission. One German fighter is mistakenly destroyed by a German antiaircraft ship. German rescue personnel are killed while trying to rescue trapped civilians.

One German pilot is arrested and executed by the Gestapo because he tried to expose criminal Nazi experiments on humans.

Relates the chaos and horror of war. A large number of brave people died, but that is what war is.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle (1981)

This movie is a WWII spy thriller based on the Ken Follett novel with the same name.

I never read the novel, so I do not know how closely the film parallels the book.

Donald Sutherland is superb as the Nazi spy known as “The Needle” because he murders people with a stilletto.

Excellent movie with some interesting twists and turns in the plot.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tell Me A Story

Daughter: Dad, is The New York Times a conservative newspaper?

Father: No, it is certainly not.

Daughter: Dad, you must be wrong about that.

Father: Why is that?

Daughter: Because there is an article in The New York Times that features both sides of an arguament. All the quotes from conservatives sound perfectly logical and reasonable. All the quotes from liberals just sound stupid.

Father: Heh.

Russ at the bottom

It is odd that Al Gore’s name does not appear on the list. Heh.

(from the Sunday, March 26, 2006 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Feingold ranks at the bottom of one list of 2008 hopefuls

Posted: March 25, 2006

Washington - Russ Feingold is the longest of long shots to win his party's presidential nomination in 2008, according to ABC's The Note, a daily digest and commentary compiled by the network's political unit.

In what it calls its "Invisible Primary Ratings" - a first stab at handicapping the '08 field - ABC ranked Feingold 11th out of 11 possible Democratic candidates, trailing, in order: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mark Warner, John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Wesley Clark and Tom Daschle.

The Note says its rankings are "inherently subjective" but guided by conversations with a broad variety of sources: Washington savants of both parties, real-life activists in real states, interest group chieftains and strategists for the candidates.

Potential candidates were handicapped in 19 categories. Feingold was ranked last or next to last in several: television skills; perceived electability in November '08; national security credentials; name ID; prospects for winning endorsements of other politicians; a category called "biography and spouse" (Feingold is twice divorced); support among key Democratic constituencies; support among party officials; and backing from "big name" staff and consultants.

Al Gore as Andrew Jackson

(this article was partially reprinted in the Sunday, March 26, 2006 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Is history calling Gore back into White House politics?

By Scott Shepard
Cox News Service
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — Is history calling Al Gore back into the political fray? History says candidates who won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college have all gotten their revenge with wins in subsequent elections. And now, after years of calling himself a "recovering politician," Gore is flirting again with politics.

Or is he?

Even those who were part of his inner circle in 2000 when Gore lost the White House to George W. Bush in one of the closest and perhaps most controversial presidential elections in American history still don't have a clear idea what the former vice president is thinking in terms of a 2008 campaign.

"I do not know for sure if he's looking or flirting," Donna Brazile, his 2000 campaign manager, said in an interview Monday. "But, I have an opinion - Gore remains a headliner and can raise money and rally the base. (But) it's hard for Gore to rule out running again before looking at the landscape."

Speculation about Gore's intentions has intensified in recent weeks due to three events: his Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday speech in January lambasting the president for "breaking the law" with his warrantless domestic surveillance program; his message to Democratic donors in February soliciting funds for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; and his party fund-raising appearances this month in Florida, the scene of the controversial voter recount that led to a Supreme Court ruling that made Bush president in the 2000 election.

Gore's activities prompted pollster Lee Miringoff to include Gore in a recent poll on possible Democratic 2008 contenders. It found Gore was second only to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, suggesting his reputation with the party has improved significantly since his 2000 loss to Bush. Clinton was the favorite of 33 percent, Gore was the choice of 17 percent.

"The numbers suggest that a case could be made for Mr. Gore in 2008 ... though it's a little unclear what he may have in mind," Miringoff said in an interview. "Clearly, he is someone to be watched, especially as an alternative to Hillary Clinton."
Chris Lehane, who was Gore's chief spokesman in the vice presidential office and later in the presidential campaign, noted in an interview that "Gore has been pretty public that he does not intend to run in 2008" and, he added, "I do think that this is indeed where his head is right now."

But political analysts, in considering the prospect of a Gore comeback, cite the historic precedents of candidates who won the popular vote but lost the electoral college vote, only to win later: Andrew Jackson, losing in 1824 and winning in 1828, and Grover Cleveland, denied in 1888 but triumphant in 1892.

Gore "may be a man whose time has come in his party," Dick Morris, a political adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years, wrote recently in his column for The Hill newspaper. "Like a completely refurbished 'pre-owned vehicle,' Al Gore seems to be positioning himself to Hillary Clinton's left and greener than John Kerry ... His slogan might well read 're-elect Al Gore.'"

Longtime Republican operative Roger Stone Jr. made similar points in a column he wrote in February for the New York Observer, citing "uncanny parallels" in the careers of Gore and Richard Nixon, who narrowly lost the White House in 1960 but rebounded to win it in 1968. Nixon's "persistence, drive and shrewdness, coupled with a divisive war, drove the most remarkable political comeback in American history" in 1968 and could "do the same" in 2008, Stone wrote.

But Brazile acknowledged that while Gore "is a natural champion and can debate the best of them in both parties," there are "some voters (who) want a complete break from the past and may not look favorably on a return to the political fight" by the 2000 nominee.

Gore's office in Nashville did not respond to telephone inquiries Monday, but the former vice president has previously told The Associated Press that he has "no plans to seek the presidency in 2008."

There is no evidence he is assembling any kind of campaign organization. In a recent survey of Gore's friends and organizers in New Hampshire, James Pindell, managing editor of, found none had been contacted about 2008. "They seem to be convinced he is not running" and will not visit the state, which traditionally hosts the first presidential primary, Pindell said Monday.

Occasionally, in fact, Gore even seems like an anti-candidate. For example, he is scheduled to be in Seattle on Thursday to talk about global warming, but he has insisted on no press coverage, sparking some angry newspaper editorials.
However, "in the Internet age, there is the potential for someone with his profile to mount a non-conventional campaign," said Lehane, "someone with a high name identification, someone who could raise money online, someone with prime time experience and someone who could potentially attract support from the angry left."

Scott Shepard is a Washington correspondent for Cox Newspapers.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Vermin among us

Vermintide (2006) by Bruno Lee

This is yet another novel set in the world of Warhammer.

Bruno Lee is apparently another proud graduate of the Octavia Butler/Rosie Lyons School of Literature.

No protagonists here, only victims.

Almost every character in the book dies by the end.

Skaven and dwarves (I insist on using the alternate spelling, even though the author does not) are two of my favorite races in Warhammer. Absolutely criminal that the author could not do more with them.

Malus gets cursed

The Daemon’s Curse: A Tale of Malus Darkblade (2005) by Mike Lee

Malus is a very evil dark elf who lives in the world of Warhammer.

This book is written for people who really like to wallow in evil, people like Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and Steven Avery.

Writing coaches like to tell aspiring writers to make their readers care about the protagonist. Mike Lee obviously has a very different approach.

Every time Malus encountered a life threatening moment, I found myself thinking that it would be a great place to end the book.

When Malus finally got cursed (not until the end of the book), I thought, “Excellent. He deserved it.”

Inside Man

Inside Man (2006)

This movie takes “shamelessly manipulative” to a whole new level. It is a very cynical film, made for people who like to see criminals avoid being caught and punished. The film also appeals to viewers who like to see law enforcement officials portrayed as inept and corrupt.

Movie critics are slobbering all over themselves to give this film good reviews.

Intellectual lightweights like Duane Dudek (of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) must have seen a different version of the film than I did.

Denzel Washington does a very good job with the very poor script that he is given.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (who played the villain in Serenity) is outstanding as the assistant negotiator.

Jodie Foster is great as a very smart but morally bankrupt clone of Hillary Clinton.

Willem Dafoe (one of my favorites) has a very minor role.

Christopher Plummer (who stood up to the Nazis in Sound of Music) plays a Nazi collaborator, a villain that you can really love to hate.

The film leaves many of the plot elements unexplained. Maybe the deleted scenes on the DVD will rectify that oversight.

This film confirms my view that Spike Lee is a lot more concerned about getting the best shot that he is about telling a good story.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Me and Mr. Johnson

Me and Mr. Johnson

Eric Clapton (2004)

14 tracks, blues

First, let me say that I am a long time fan of Eric Clapton. He is a great guitar player. He has a good voice. He had done a lot of good music in his long career.


When I hear Son House or Robert Johnson do music like this, I can hear the blues like they lived the blues.

When I hear Eric Clapton do the blues, I hear a rich white guy pretending that he lived the blues. I know that Eric Clapton had some adversity in his life, but his version of the blues lacks the authenticity of people like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.

Game wanted

(This message was found pinned to an old-fashioned cork bulletin board in the basement of a game store)


Experienced (i.e., decrepit old bastard) AD&D player would like to join a campaign set in the Forgotten Realms (actually set in the Forgotten Realms rather than just saying that it is, and then having made-up places that don’t actually have any location).

I am NOT an equal opportunity player. I am willing to play with any age, race, creed, color, religious denomination, sexual or political preference, planet or plane of origin, etc., but am relatively intolerant of inarticulate whiners, Mortimers, prodigious windbreakers, those who do not bathe regularly, and those under the influence of the spell Macho’s Uncontrollable Hideous Belching.

I would prefer a group that meets on a weekday evening (prefer Thursday, but am willing to be flexible).

I would prefer an actual campaign that features some continuity (rather than a disjointed series of modules that don’t relate to each other), a balanced mix of role-playing, combat, puzzle solving, etc. and that features story-telling, with emphasis on character development and plot. Not interested in pure hack’n’slash or role-playing that doesn’t move the plot along.

If you need a player, please call Osmer at 555-5555.

If you are a player with similar desires and are not already in a group, call me. Maybe we can start our own campaign.

Shannon Curfman

Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions

Shannon Curfman (1999)

11 tracks, blues/rock

I checked this CD out of the library. I liked it almost enough to buy it.


The reviewers describe Curfman as an able guitarist. I would agree with that.

She has a nice voice. None of the reviewers made this comparison, but her voice reminds me of Janis Joplin.

Curfman co-wrote 7 of the 11 tracks.

The two tracks I liked best were True Friends and I Don’t Make Promises (I Can’t Break).

She does The Weight by The Band. The reviewers slobbered all over her version. Maybe my problem is that I have heard that song way too many times. I am so sick of it that no one could do a version that I liked.

16 Blocks

16 Blocks

This is yet another “bad cop” movie, a distant cousin to Dark Blue. Why are we picking on dirty cops all the time?

This movie has three outstanding performances: Bruce Willis as the wily old veteran, Mos Def as the young criminal, and David Morse as the villain.

A pleasant surprise is that the movie is remarkably clean by modern standards. There is some violence, but it tells a story without the egregious graphic violence and profanity that so many movies use as a substitute for plot and dialogue.

I really liked the movie, but a lot of the enjoyment comes from the little surprises and plot twists, so I fear that it does not have a lot of replay value.

Jakub Fik

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jakub Fik was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal damage to property after he went on a rampage in Chicago on March 15, 2006.

Fik cut off his own penis and threw it at police officers.

Shouldn’t the charge have been assault with a deadly weapon?

Smoking & Swimming

"Having a smoking area in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool."

-Thomas Pfeffer, of the American heart Association in Los Angeles, quoted in the March 27, 2006 issue of Newsweek

Monday, March 20, 2006


A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong (2005)

This book attempts, in only 149 pages, to not only trace the history of myth, but to explore it.

In my opinion, the book is remarkably successful.

The author does an excellent job of explaining why myth has always been important to humanity, and how we are poorer without it.

The author expresses hope that artists might fill the void in modern society.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

WoW as Golf

This story explores the possibility that WoW is Golf for techies.

Instead of going out on the greens for a few holes of golf, the tech-aware elite log onto World of Warcraft to schmooze.

pork shoulder

"This is a dish that will make your tongue jump out of your mouth, slap you in the face, and say 'Oh yeah'."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Claude Allen

(From: Revenge of the Queers by Ann Coulter, March 15, 2006)

This week at The New York Times, it was revenge of the queers. I'm sorry it took a tough period in Allen's life for The New York Times to feature him under a banner headline on its front page, but all in all, I'm glad to finally know about Claude Allen. I'm proud to have this great fellow sinner in our party.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Son House

Martin Scorsese Present the Blues: Son House

Sony (2003)

This CD features 14 tracks.

When you hear this Mississippi Delta musician singing the blues, you can tell that he lived the blues.

Generally regarded as one of the best who ever lived, with good reason.

Words like legendary or pioneer don’t even begin to describe this guy.

The Cassandra Crossing

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

This movie was made a long time ago, back when O.J. Simpson was still a hero in the eyes of the American public. I saw it in a theater when it was first released.

The film has an impressive cast including Burt Lancaster, Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, and Ava Gardner.

Three Swedish bio-terrorists try to blow up a health organization building in Geneva. During the botched attempt, one is killed outright by security guards. One is captured but soon dies. And one of them (infected with a terrible plague that was stored illegally at the building) sneaks aboard a train. The terrorist dies, but not before infecting people on the train.

In Geneva, a Swiss doctor (played by Ingrid Thulin, who turns in a very compelling performance) tries to solve the mystery of the plague.

American military intelligence, in attempt to avoid a larger disaster and cover up their own involvement, redirect the train to The Cassandra Crossing, an abandoned and unsafe bridge.

Passengers on the train make a heroic attempt to stop the train before it reaches the bridge. O.J. Simpson plays an Interpol agent (posing as a priest) who dies saving the life of a little girl. Martin Sheen plays a mountain climber/drug smuggler (posing as a gigolo) who dies trying to stop the train.

As the train reaches the crossing, the passengers decouple the train. The forward portion is destroyed (and many people are killed) in a horrific crash when the bridge collapses under the weight of the train. The rear portion stops before it reaches the unsafe portion of the bridge, and thus many people are saved.

Not realizing that some people survived, the colonel who engineered the disaster reports to his superiors that everyone on the train was killed.

The colonel’s subordinate then tries to lure the colonel to a quiet location. The viewer is encouraged to make the inference that the colonel would have been killed there to further conceal the involvement of the military.

This version of the DVD ends there, and does not include deleted scenes.

When I first saw the film at release, there was an additional scene where the colonel leaves the building and notices that he is being followed. Again, the audience was encouraged to make the inference that he was being followed by an assassin.

This is a very cynical film with an ambiguous ending. We never learn what happened to the people who escaped the wrecked train. Did they live happily ever after? Were they hunted down and killed by assassins? How did the Swiss doctor resolve her ethical dilemma? Was she murdered before she had to make the choice? Did the colonel, a wily old veteran, elude his pursuers?

The Three Rs

Robbers Rogues and Ruffians: True Tales of the Wild West

By Howard Bryan (1991)

This book is filled with fascinating anecdotes of the Old Wild West.

Elfego Baca and Jesse Evans (two of my favorite characters in the Old Wild West) are mentioned but no stories are devoted to them.

Charles Kennedy was an innkeeper who murdered innocent travelers until he was lynched in 1870.

Coal Oil Jimmy was a stagecoach robber who was killed by bounty hunters in 1871.

Davy Crockett (grandson of the hero who died at the Alamo) was terrorizing the town of Cimarron, New Mexico in 1876. Deputy sheriff Holbrook confronted Crockett, who dared the deputy to shoot him. Holbrook killed Crockett with a shotgun blast.

Clay Allison was one of the most feared killers in the Old Wild West. He died from a head injury sustained in a wagon accident in 1887. His epitaph reads, “He never killed a man that did not need killing.”

Dutch Joe Hubert was a stagecoach robber. He was sent to prison in 1877 on the testimony of two convicted horse thieves. The two won their release by testifying against Hubert. One of the released men joined the notorious gang of rustlers led by Jesse Evans, the other was soon sent to prison for stealing government mules.

Marino Leyba (The Sandia Mountain Desperado) terrorized travelers for years before he was finally gunned down by deputy sheriffs in 1887.

Gus Mentzer was lynched in Raton, New Mexico in 1882 after he instigated a gunfight that left several men dead. The incident caused the citizens to expel from the town “all professional gamblers, footpads, thieves, cappers, dance hall men, bunk men, and all those who have no visible means of support.”

Joel Fowler was called “The Human Exterminator.” One of Fowler’s tricks was to ask someone for a chaw of tobacco, and then shoot them when they reached into their pocket for the tobacco, claiming that they were reaching for a gun. It was claimed that Fowler would murder his hired hands on payday so that he would not have to pay them. It was alleged that Fowler killed dozens of men. Finally, in 1883, he was found guilty in the murder of a clothing salesman and sentenced to hang. Fowler was lynched in 1884 before he could be legally hanged.

Milt Yarberry, a lawman himself, was hanged for murder because he shot an unarmed man in the back in front of numerous witnesses. The Albuquerque Morning Journal said of Yarberry, “Naturally a man of less than ordinary intelligence, Yarberry’s education has not tended to improve the work of nature.” Yarberry’s final words were, “Gentlemen, you are hanging an innocent man.”

The Gage Train Robbers consisted of George Cleveland, Frank Taggart, Mitch Lee, and Kit Joy. They robbed a train in New Mexico in 1883. During the robbery, Mitch Lee killed the engineer. By 1884, the outlaws were eventually captured. They soon broke out of the Silver City jail. A posse tracked them down and a gunfight ensued. George Cleveland was killed outright. Frank Taggart and Mitch Lee surrendered. Kit Joy killed a member of the posse. The posse was so enraged that they lynched Taggart and Lee. Kit Joy escaped. Kit Joy was later captured and convicted. Kit Joy only served part of a life sentence.

George Musgrave killed an unarmed man in front of witnesses. He walked up to the man as if to shake his hand, pulled his gun, and shot him dead. He was acquitted on grounds of self-defense.

This book is definitely worth reading, more than once.

Kenseth & Kane

Mr. Kane,

I enjoyed your column “Quiet wheels don’t get grease” in the Thursday March 16 2006 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It reminded me of one of my favorite jokes about two prominent Wisconsin entertainers.

Q: What is the difference between Nascar driver Matt Kenseth and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane?

A: Kenseth works race cars and Kane plays race cards.


William L. Petro
Hales Corners

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

bad behavior


Bad behavior

Elizabeth Petro
Published March 13, 2006

Chicago -- This is regarding "Avoid spring-break benders, women told" (News, March 8). Why does the Tribune warn women not to go wild during spring break, and it does not warn men? Are men's spring breaks less likely to result in "heavier-than-usual drinking" and "increased sexual activity," as the article reported about women? The article also stated, "Sizable numbers [of college women and graduates] reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner." Are women less likely than men to get "sick from drinking" and black out and engage "in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner"? Are men less likely than women to engage in "public nudity and dancing on tables" while intoxicated, as reported in the Tribune's online version of the story? How can "increased sexual activity" and "unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner" be a problem for women without being a problem for men?

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Monday, March 13, 2006

Great Lakes shipwrecks

Many a Midnight Ship: True Stories of Great Lakes Shipwrecks

(Riveting Stories of Maritime Tragedies on North America’s “Inland Seas”)

by Mark Bourrie (2005)

This book is a fascinating collection of stories, all of them terrible tragedies.

One of the worst events involving a single ship was when the Eastland capsized in the Chicago harbor in 1915. More passengers died on the Eastland than on the Titanic (the total loss on the Titanic was more because the Titanic had a larger crew).

Some of the disasters are mysteries. LaSalle’s ship Griffin disappeared with all hands in 1676 (?) after dropping LaSalle off along the shore of Lake Michigan. There is speculation that the ship sank in the Straights of Mackinac.

The worst storm in modern history was probably the hurricane of 1781. Hundreds of ships were lost in the Caribbean. The storm moved north, and unlike most hurricanes, actually hit the eastern Great Lakes. The British ship Ontario sailed into the path of this storm on Lake Ontario. The wreck has never been found.

The Great Storm of 1913 pounded the Great Lakes for four days in November. Some snow drifts in Detroit measured eight feet deep. Waves in the open lakes reached heights of sixty feet. Ships on Lake Superior disappeared with their crews. A boat towing a barge on Lake Michigan cut the barge loose, leaving the helpless men on the barge to die. A U.S. Marshall on the barge wrote a note damning those who abandoned him. The note washed up on shore in a bottle eleven days later.

The Armistice Day Storm of November 11, 1940 not only sank ships and killed sailors. 110 duck hunters froze to death in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Snow drifts twenty feet deep prevented them from returning home.

This book is a reminder of the awesome power of storms on the Great Lakes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight

by Paula Mitchell Marks (1989)

This book is an exhaustive study of the infamous gunfight.

I am amazed, bordering on stupification, at the detail provided by the author.

She examines the life of every character (major and minor) before, during, and after the gunfight.

The author also analyzes the events in Arizona in the larger context of what was going on in other areas of the Old Wild West.

This is a great book, worth reading more than once.

Wisconsin death penalty

(From “Election season brings a change of heart” by Spivak & Bice in the Sunday March 12, 2006 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

What better time to change your position to one more popular with voters than early in a election year?

Following a long tradition of Wisconsin pols, Milwaukee County executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker has decided to flip-flop on one of the hot topics of the day: the death penalty.

Long a foe of capital punishment, Walker put out a statement last week … saying he backs a referendum that would ask voters if they would support the death penalty….

Walker said he had been opposed to the death penalty because he feared the state might execute an innocent person.

Walker’s turnabout caught some of his friends by surprise because he had been an ardent death penalty foe….


There was an exciting finish in today’s Nascar race at Las Vegas.

Jimmie Johnson passed Matt Kenseth (from Cambridge, WI) to win in the last few yards of the race.

Kyle Busch finished third.

It was very satisfying that all of the top three finishers were good guys.

Meanwhile, Nascar villain Tony Stewart did not finish in the top 20. Excellent!

Always the sore loser, Tony Stewart left the racetrack without comment.

Tony Stewart, Nascar’s dirtiest racer, has no problem wrecking other people, but if anyone bumps him, he throws a juvenile temper tantrum.

Sometimes, not often enough, bad things happen to bad people.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ann Coulter

(From “It’s Hard Out Here For A Wimp “ by Ann Coulter, March 8, 2006)

“Jon Stewart, this year's host, was very funny — but not quite as funny as the fact that the audience didn't get the jokes. (There were a lot of actors in the audience.)”

No Swendrowski

(From the Public Forum in the March 9, 2006 issue of the Hales Corners Village Hub)

Swendrowski isn’t right for board

Public Forum:

It was with great interest that I read the letter titled "Board candidate would be divisive" in the Public Forum of the March 2 issue of the Hales Corners Village Hub.

I share the author's concerns about the candidacy of Mr. Swendrowski for the Whitnall School Board.

I remember all too well Mr. Swendrowski's previous tenure on the board.

I feel that the author accurately and articulately described why Mr. Swendrowski would be the wrong choice for the Whitnall School Board.

William L. Petro
Hales Corners


Titan by Ben Bova (2006)

This novel is about a mission to Titan, a moon of Saturn.

Plausibility is not this novel’s strong point. I am not talking about plausible science here. This book is billed as science fiction, but there is precious little science in it, speculative or otherwise. I am talking about plausible politics.

Why would Earth spend years of gross planetary output to outfit a massive habitat and then spend more years to send it to Titan, and not expect to get any significant return on their investment?

Why would Earth, instead of sending their best and brightest on this mission, send the dregs of her prisons?

The obvious answers to both questions are, “They wouldn’t.”

The book is peopled with superficial stereotypes.

The plot is shamelessly manipulative.

Many reviewers do not agree with me. Most of the reviewers with close ties to, and vested interests in, the publishing business are slobbering all over themselves to describe this book as one of the greatest novels ever written.

Kayla Williams

Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams (2005)

This book is an autobiography by a soldier who served as an Arabic interpreter with military intelligence in Iraq.

This book reaffirms my faith in the American military. They took what was (by her own admission) a fairly useless dysfunctional person and transmogrified her into a soldier who served her country.

Cinnamon Kiss

Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley (2006)

Depending on which web site you believe, this is either the ninth or the tenth in a series of novels about Easy Rawlins.

I have read several of the Easy Rawlins books, and this was the least satisfying of the ones that I have read.

Walter Mosley must have attended some classes at the Rosie Lyons/Octavia Butler School of Literature.

Easy Rawlins has been transmogrified from a protagonist into a victim.

Brass Target

Brass Target (1978)

This movie is very loosely based on the novel The Algonquin Project by Frederick Nolan.

Both the movie and the novel are set in Germany in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

The central theme of the novel is that Patton is a loose cannon, and Eisenhower’s aides decide to have Patton assassinated so that he will not further embarrass Eisenhower.

The central theme of the movie is that Patton, after being repeatedly goaded by the Russians to do something, decides to solve the train heist where the German gold disappeared. Eisenhower’s aides decide to have Patton assassinated to prevent him from learning about the role of the aides in the robbery, during which many American soldiers were killed.

The plot differences between the movie and novel are too numerous to list. The novel was more logical and flowed more smoothly than the movie.

Java Tutorial

A java tutorial that shows you why Coding Java (or any other object-oriented programming) is just like writing a trashy Western novel.

Realms of Fantasy

I am a long time subscriber to Realms of Fantasy magazine.

A recent ad described the magazine:

“Think of things dark and things dangerous.
Of magical lands and mysterious creatures.
Of heroic quests, summoned spirits.
Sorcery and swordplay. Talismans and dragons…”

I really wish that the above was an accurate description of the magazine.

Unfortunately, the magazine is now something that could only have been produced by a proud graduate of the Rosie Lyons/Octavia Butler School of Literature.

The elements described in the ad comprise about 2% of the stories.

The stories no longer have protagonists, now they have victims.

Every story features a character suffering from a terminal illness, or who has recently lost a loved one to a terminal illness.

The central themes of the stories are race issues, gender issues, and humanity’s inhumanity.


Fledgling by Octavia Butler (2005)

This was the author’s last novel before her recent death.

In a very gushy obituary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the novel was described as a retelling of the Dracula tale.

That kind of mischaracterization has become a signature feature of the paper.

The book has absolutely no resemblance to Dracula other than that they both use the word “vampire.”

Like most of the author’s works, the book is mostly about race issues, gender issues, and humanity’s inhumanity.

A very disappointing read.

The Genesis Protocol

The Genesis Protocol by Dayton Ward (2006)

This novel is Jurassic Park on steroids.

Scientists create a rainforest in the middle of the Utah desert. And something goes horribly wrong. There is an impressive body count. The book ends with some of the creatures escaping into the desert, thereby setting up a sequel.

Very entertaining, well worth reading, but plausibility is never a strong point.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wisconsin death penalty

(From the March 8, 2006 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Senate advances death penalty referendum

By Meg Jones and Stacy Forster

If passed by both houses, a non-binding, advisory referendum question would go on the statewide ballot for the September elections to ask voters whether Wisconsin should punish certain violent offenders with the death penalty.

Wisconsin hasn’t had capital punishment since 1853, a fact noted by Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), who said legislators should resist the impulse to seek justice through the death penalty.

Sen. Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh) said she favored a referendum because advances in technology have improved law enforcement efforts and because defendants have a lengthy appeal process before executions are carried out.

“I believe there needs to be an end of the line for individuals who have committed vicious, violent, first-degree intentional homicides,” Roessler said.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

wildlife sightings

I saw my first robin of the season yesterday. It was taking a bath in the sump pool.

There were also chipmunks frolicking in the snow yesterday. Usually they avoid the snow, but I guess they are so happy that spring is approaching that they could not resist.

Two days ago, there was a deer in the backyard. The deer was scared off by a couple of dogs. The deer must have escaped, because a few minutes later I saw those same dogs wandering around like they were lost.

French National Anthem

I just got my new Lexus RX400h. I returned to the dealer the next day, complaining that I couldn't figure out how the radio worked. The salesman explained that the radio was voice activated.

"Watch this!" He said, "Nelson! The radio replied, "Ricky or Willie?" "Willie!" He continued...and On The Road Again came from the speakers. I drove away happy, and for the next few days, every time I'd say, "Beethoven!" I'd get beautiful classical music, and if I said, "Beatles!" I'd get one of their awesome songs.

One day, a couple ran a red light and nearly creamed my new car, but I swerved in time to avoid them.

"Anal Pores!" I yelled.

The French National Anthem began to play, sung by Jane Fonda and Michael Moore, backed up by John Kerry on guitar, Al Gore on drums and Bill Clinton on sax....

Man, I LOVE this car!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I missed one of the best parties of the year when I failed to attend Martinifest at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

For a $30 entrance fee, you got all the booze you could drink.

Some vendors ran out of martini mix, so they started pouring straight vodka.

There was public drunkenness, vomiting, people passing out, lewd behavior, and more.

The always-humorous Jim Stingl had some nice zingers in his column (from the 3-1-2006 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“I try to attend the museum during non-vomiting hours, so Martinifest was not for me. It’s disgusting to think of people creating their own regurgitation artwork on the floor, or, as I like to call it, the three-martini launch.”

“If we plan to have any more blasts like this, we might want to consider turning the management of our waterfront over to the United Arab Emirates.”

government for sale?

(from the 3-1-2006 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Police salary bill is arrested

As union lobbies, bid to halt pay of fired officers stalls

By John Diedrich

A bill that would cut off pay to fired Milwaukee police officers charged with crimes has been buried after a lobbying blitz by the politically connected Milwaukee police union.

Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo) said Tuesday that the bill would not come up for a vote unless both sides agree on a compromise.

City officials, bill supporters and a political observer said that by requiring a compromise, Gard is all but ensuring the bill dies.

Gard’s campaign received a $5,000 donation from the police union’s political action committee in June for his congressional campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Gard said the donation had no connection to the bill.

state constitutional amendment?

(from the 3-1-2006 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Same-sex marriage goes to voters

Measure to define marriage as being between man, woman will be on Nov. 7 ballot

By Stacy Forster

Under the proposal, the Wisconsin Constitution would be amended to read:

“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

Its author, Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin), and other backers of the amendment point to a November 2003 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that forced the recognition of same-sex marriages in that state.

“If we sit back and allow the activist judges to have their way, it will be legalized in the courts,” Gundrum said.

Gundrum said that his goal was to protect the sanctity of marriage.