Monday, October 30, 2006

Burnt Sugar

Boxing's Greatest Fighters (2006) by Bert Randolph Sugar

Would be more impressive if the author's mom had named him Burnt instead of Bert.

Describes the 100 greatest boxers of all time.

Includes many of my favorites such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas The Hit Man Hearns, and Roberto No Mas Duran.

The Other Sugar Ray, Sugar Ray Robinson.

Two Rockies, Graziano and Marciano.

Gentleman Jim Corbett.

The Boilermaker Jim Jeffries.

The Brown Bomber Joe Louis.

The Manassa Mauler Jack Dempsey. (also includes the other Jack Dempsey, there really were two)

The Raging Bull Jake LaMotta.

Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes.

The Real Deal Evander Holyfield.

Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins.

The author has a gift for understatement, describing Mike Tyson as a wasted talent.

Sonny Liston? How did he make the list?

The appendix lists the fighters that almost made the elite group, such as Lennox Lewis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (the latter listed twice).

Floyd Patterson did not make either list.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

the other John Ringo

East of the Sun, West of the Moon (2006) by John Ringo

Easily one of the worst novels I ever tried to read.

Neither the author nor his editor knows the difference between "lose" and "loose."

The novel consists of almost 100% dialogue, and almost all of that dialogue is inane.

I calculate the author does not have any descriptive ability, otherwise he would use it.

There is more action in the prologue than in the entire remainder of the book.

If Doc Holliday and the Earps had done a more thorough job against the original John Ringo in Arizona then maybe we would not be in this mess.

It is alleged that the original John Ringo eventually committed suicide. Maybe he had a premonition of what kind of novels his namesake was going to write.

Friday, October 27, 2006

George Appo

A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth Century New York (2006)

by Timothy J. Gilfoyle

This is the biography of George Appo, pickpocket and swindler.

More shameful chapters in American history.

The book documents "the environmental roots of crime, the horrors of prison life, the widespread corruption and criminal activity of public officials and the absence of genuine alternatives for criminals hoping to reform their behavior."

And in spite of it all, George Appo eventually did reform himself.

"No honor among thieves' did not apply to George Appo, who considered himself "a good fellow."


idm, never heard of it.

Makes me about 15 years behind the times.

It figures.


The No-Work Garden: Getting the Most Out of Your Garden for the Least Amount of Work

(2002) by Bob Flowerdew

First, there is no way I believe the author's real name is Flowerdew. A professional gardener named Flowerdew?

The author has some strong opinions on the subject of gardening. Hence, the book.

"While it is true that the more you put in the more you can get out, you must also ask: is it worth it?"

My own comment = Gardening is a journey. And sometimes it is a war.

"Who looks better? The lady with a few fine pieces of jewelry or the one with ten times as many trinkets?"

My own comment = Too few blooms impoverish the view.

"Few ornamental plants are better survivors as ground cover than lemon balm."

My own comment = Totally agree. One of my favorites. And right now, I have more lemon balm than anything else. Or anyone else.

"For the greatest ease of all and the very least pruning, dwarf trees or bushes standing in a well-mulched piece of ground are the best choice."

My own comment = Excellent advice. But only buy from reliable vendors, lest your dwarves turn out to be giants.

"The medlar is a culinary or dessert delight enjoyed by only a few people who like this weird fruit which must be bletted (rotted) before eating."

My own comment = Convinced me, I have to try one.

yet another one

Two geologists are working along the Michigan-Wisconsin border, looking for diamond pipes (no, I am not making that up, and this is not the x-files part of the story).

It is October and it is snowing (also not the x-files part of the story, it does occasionally snow in October in that part of the world).

They pitch a tent at a county park and spent a very cold night.

Early next morning, one of the geologists wakes up the other one with a tense whisper.

"There is someone moving around outside."

Ok, no big deal.

The two geologists go outside (already dressed, it was so cold they slept in their clothes).

No one in sight. Fresh tracking snow on the ground, but no tracks except their own.

Someone (or some thing?) had scraped the fresh snow off the picnic table and built a little snowperson on the picnic table, but no tracks on the ground.


another x-files case

I was driving north on Highway 100, pulled up to a red light at Oklahoma. It was winter, everyone's car is closed up tight. Engines running, heaters blowing, no way that you could hear what someone said in another car. Something drew my attention to the rear view mirror in the car in front of me. Maybe it was the shape of the driver's head reflected in the mirror.

I asked, somewhat rhetorically, "What is this? An alien or something?"

The driver's head immediately snaps up. The face looks at me in the mirror. Still something not right. Gives me a fangy inhuman grin.

The light turns green, the car in front of me pulls away.

I am stunned.

Still am.

x files

"It got weird there, toward the end."

- Yale undergraduate, commenting on The X-Files TV series

"It is an X-Files case."

- Coast Guard official, commenting on why the Coast Guard could not locate the missing fishing boat Linda E

bad medicine

Kit Carson would never take a second shot at standing game if the first shot missed. He considered it to be "bad medicine."

Of course, this reminds me of the time the father and son were out driving around with loaded guns, looking for trouble. They spotted a large raptor in a distant tree.

The father had a sniper rifle, heavy barrel, large scope. The shot was about 200 yards.

The bird was huge. Not of mythical proportions, like a roc, but certainly larger than any hawk that the son had ever seen. It was the size of an eagle, a large eagle. All dark, no white head or tail. This was in Michigan, where bald eagles are the norm, no golden eagles.

The father gets out of the pickup, takes a good solid rest across the hood of the pickup, squeezes off a shot. The bird does not even flinch.

The father says, "He is dead and does not even know it."

The old sniper squeezes off another shot. Ditto.

Another shot. Ditto.

The old sniper says, "Something is not right here."

The father starts to pack up his equipment.

The son asks, "What is the plan?"

The father replies, "Out of bullets."

[This is another weird part of the story. Why carry so few rounds?]

The son says, "Let's go get more ammo."

The father gives a terse shake of his head.

They return home. The old sniper, convinced that it is the fault of the rifle/scope goes out to the shooting bench, test fires the rifle, dead on bullseye.

[I remain convinced to this day that it was no normal bird. It was a shaman in bird form, and the shaman's medicine was strong that day. And it was no coincidence that the incident with the snake occurred at that same exact spot on the road where the old sniper missed the shots.]

The son is driving home from work, alone, going maybe 45-50 mph. He sees what appears to be a fallen tree branch stretching across the entire width of the road. He slows, then realizes that is no tree branch, but is instead an enormous snake. He hits the accelerator, intending to kill the snake. The snake slides off the road with inches to spare. There are no snakes in Michigan that are even close to that size. Maybe someone released an exotic pet. More likely that the shaman was in snake form that day, and his medicine was still strong.

Kit Carson

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (2006) by Hampton Sides

Could have been subtitled "Kit Carson and the Navajo Nation"

"Blood and thunder" was the term used for the pulp fiction of the time, which made Kit Carson an even larger than life character than he already was.

More shameful chapters in American history, some of this is not for the sqeamish.

In the multi-way battle for the larger territory of New Mexico, plenty of atrocities were committed by the United States, Mexico, and various tribes (including, but not limited to Navajo, Commanche, Apache).

The book is a biography of Kit Carson with plenty of support material thrown in for good measure.

It is hard to fathom the amount of hardships and evil that people had to endure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (2006) by Neil Gaiman

An odd collection of stories and poems, many of them not even close to clean.

I cannot relate to most of the poetry. My fault, I am sure.

A Study in Emerald - this is a twisted variation on the Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet with more than a nod to Lovecraft.

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire - an author has trouble when unwelcome humor creeps into his stories.

Closing Time - what are the chances that if you started telling a story from long ago, a character from that long ago story would randomly appear and make it even creepier than it already was?

Bitter Grounds - a drifter impersonates an academic with dire consequences

Other People - a demon tortures a man until the victim becomes the demon

Keepsakes and Treasures - the most beautiful boy in the world and revenge served cold

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch - Miss Finch finds her future past with smilodons

The Problem of Susan - a perverted retelling of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

How Do You Think It Feels - pornographic deja vu

Diseasemaker's Croup - inaccessible, and therefore incomprehensible

Goliath - another version of The Matrix

How to Talk to Girls at Parties - reminds me of a Storm Constantine story, another cautionary tale, that girl you are so attracted to might not be a real girl

Sunbird - an alternative version of the mythology of The Phoenix, who rises from its own ashes, with gourmands added for flavor

The Monarch of the Glen - novella sequel to American Gods, where Shadow once again proves that he can handle whatever trouble comes his way


One of the many health benefits of eating cabbage is that it will defecalize the lining of your intestines.


Sounds pretty important to me.


My Darling Clementine (1946)

Set in an alternate universe where things happened very differently in Tombstone. The differences are too numerous to list in their entirety. In real life, Doc was a dentist, in this movie he is a surgeon. In this movie, Billy Clanton and Virgil Earp are killed before the street fight (in real life, Billy died at the street fight, Virgil survived the street fight). In this movie, Old Man, Ike and Doc all die in the street fight (none of them died at the street fight in real life). There are no McLaurys in this movie (the McLaury brothers played a prominent role in the real life story). And many more differences.

Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp.

Ward Bond as Morgan Earp.

Victor Mature as Doc Holliday.

Walter Brennan as the evil Old Man Clanton.

John Ireland as Billy Clanton (he was Ringo in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)


Stagecoach (1939)

John Wayne as The Ringo Kid (with no observable connection to the Ringo of Old Wild West fame). This is the movie that transmogrified Wayne into a star.

John Carradine as Hatfield, a character based on Doc Holliday.

Thomas Mitchell as a drunk (he also played a drunk in It's A Wonderful Life).

Andy Devine as a buffoon (he always played a buffoon).

Claire Trevor as a soiled dove with a heart of gold.

A movie of stereotypes, but still worth watching once.

Holliday movies

The following movies feature characters that are in some way related to Doc Holliday.

Law and Order (1932)

The Arizonian (1936)

Frontier Marshall (1939)

Stagecoach (1939) The character Hatfield (John Carradine) is based on Doc Holliday.

My Darling Clementine (1946) Victor Mature as Doc Holliday.

Masterson of Kansas (1954)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1956) Kirk Douglas as Doc Holiday.

Doc (1971)

Tombstone (1993) Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.

Wyatt Earp (1994)

Friday, October 20, 2006


"Heroes are inevitably flawed, because it is not their deeds that make them heroes so much as their capacity to act in spite of their flaws."

-Gary L. Roberts (2006), Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend


Stormy Monday Blues (2002 release) by T-Bone Walker

10 tracks/blues

This is described by some as "California-style" which is interesting because T-Bone's roots are in Texas.

T-Bone had a large influence on Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King.

The Allman Brothers borrowed Stormy Monday from T-Bone, to the point that many think it was originally an Allman Brothers song. Heh.

T-Bone may have been the originator of the modern electric blues guitar sound.


"Muslim women who wear the veil are not aliens."

- Aishah Azmi, teaching assistant

Yeah, interesting point, but in some cases, they might actually be illegal aliens, depending on the legal definitions of the country in which they are resident.


(from the 10-20-06 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Stingray attack in Florida

An 81-year-old man was in critical condition Thursday after a stingray flopped onto his boat and stung him, leaving a foot-long barb in his chest, similar to the accident that killed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. James Bertakis of Lighthouse Point was on the water with his granddaughter and a friend Wednesday when a stingray flopped onto the boat and stung Bertakis. Doctors were able to remove the barb during operations Wednesday and Thursday by eventually pulling it through his heart and closing the wound.


My own comment = Stingrays are obviously out of control, and there needs to be something done about them. Heh.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend (2006) by Gary L. Roberts

Exhaustive account.

Contains many details that I had not read before. For example, the reason that Doc left Georgia may have been his "indiscriminate killing of several negroes."

Doc and his mother died of tuberculosis, and the book shows what a terrible disease it is.

There remain many questions about Doc's life. A lot of the correspondence was destroyed, either intentionally or inadvertently. The author hopes that more letters will be found that fill in some of the blanks.

Doc was a larger than life character, and a very complicated individual.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Junior Wells

Hoodoo Man Blues (1965) by Junior Wells

14 tracks/blues

Junior Wells' Chicago Blues Band with Buddy Guy on guitar.

One of the first albums (as opposed to singles, or collections of previously released singles) featuring the Chicago blues style.

This is more of the music that influenced Eric Clapton.

"You Don't Love Me Baby" is my favorite track.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Silverheart: A Novel of the Multiverse (2005) by Michael Moorcock and Storm Constantine

This is a novel with impressive depth and breadth.

Max Silverskin and Rose Iron save the multiverse.

One of the best novels that I have ever read.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Good Time Tonight (1990 release) by Big Bill Broonzy

20 tracks/blues

Contains several previously unissued original mono recordings.

Interesting mix with some tracks being more into the big band/swing genre.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tell me a story

Elizabeth (around 5 years old) and her dad were at a science museum. There was an exhibit demonstrating progressive resistance. It was an old fashioned football blocking sled. The other dads (skinny handsome muscular guys) were hitting the sled, really making an effort, knocking the spring about halfway to the stop.

Elizabeth asked her dad, "Daddy, can you do that?"

Her dad replied, "Sure, Elizabeth, I can try it."

Elizabeth's dad was worried that he was going to get embarrassed. The skinny handsome muscular dads were hitting it pretty hard, and the spring was only compressed halfway. He knew that if he hit that sled and bounced off, it was going to look like he was a wimp.

Elizabeth's dad hit the sled as hard as he could. The spring compressed all the way to the stop with a loud crash, and every head in the museum snapped around to look.

Elizabeth got a stern look on her face and said, "Daddy, you should be careful. You could have broken that."


Shrubs and Small Trees (1985) by David Stuart

The author has some very interesting recommendations.

Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) evergreen shrub good for dry shade

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) shrub makes excellent large scale ground cover for sun/shade dry/moist

Eating Quince (Cydonia oblonga) small garden tree

Medlar (Mespilus germanica) small garden tree

Golden Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea') tree or shrub

Willow Leafed Pear (Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula) best of the small weeping trees

Chinese Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus henryana) vigorous climber

Russian Vine (Polygonum baldshuanicum) rampant climber


Pandora Internet Radio by the Music Genome Project

Of the millions of things I have found on the internet, this might just be the coolest of them all.

Set up your own internet radio stations.

Learn about music related to the music you like.

There are not enough words in my vocabulary to do justice to Pandora.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams 1944-1945 (1995) by Edward G. Miller

I need to stop reading books about Hurtgen. The more I read, the angrier I get.

Many of our best and bravest died in a battle that was criminally mismanaged. The senior commanders should have been court-martialed. If they had been in the pay of the Soviets, with the intent of stalling the American advance so that the Soviets could take over Europe, they could not have done much worse.

By concentrating on the dams and utilizing combined arms doctrine in the more open terrain around the forest, most of the Hurtgen quagmire could have been avoided.

This is not hindsight. Testimony from German commanders at the time showed that they were amazed bordering on stupification by the way that the Americans chose to fight the battle.

There were many acts of incredible heroism by soldiers and low-level commanders. Several Medals of Honor were awarded.

Meanwhile, cowards, shirkers, and malingerers survived, returned home and raised the worst elements of the baby boomers. It proves that, to some extent, cowardice is inherited.

The weather and the terrain greatly contributed to the problems. As a result, the battle devolved into a series of suicidal frontal attacks by unsupported infantry.

On several occasions, tank commanders refused to advance in support of infantry. The narrow muddy mined roads were certainly a factor. The qualitative superiority of German armor was another factor. However, to stand aside and watch your fellow soldiers die is cowardice. In the Soviet system, the first tank commander who refused to advance would have been executed by his commissar.

The chaotic close combat hindered artillery support. At times, American artillery was incredible effective. Other times, poor coordination resulted in a lack of support or friendly fire casualties.

Because of the weather and terrain, air support was almost non-existent.

Overall, one of the worst chapters in American military history.

Judging from what happened in Vietnam, not many lasting lessons were learned from Hurtgen.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Foley scandal

I am amazed bordering on stupification that the Republican leadership is so inept that it is willing to risk letting the entire future of the nation swirl down the drain over one misbehaving closet Democrat.


Grilled Beef with Red Potatoes and Parmesan

I could not taste the parmesan but I could see the grill lines on the beef. Very good flavor. Chunky.

Sausage, Leek, and Pasta

Very thick and creamy. Chunky. Good flavor.

Mexican Vegetable

Good flavor, but too thin.

Spicy Pork

Chunky. Good flavor.

Roasted Root Vegetable.

Too thin. Not enough flavor.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront (1954)

Cast includes Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Leif Erickson, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Balsam, Fred Gwynne, and Nehemiah Persoff.

An ex-boxer gets the snot beat out of him by union thugs.

Very preachy with a heavy dose of religion.


Tombs (1994) edited by Edward E. Kramer and Peter Crowther

A very uneven collection, with some excellent stories and some not worth reading.

The best stories are:

In Trust by Ben Bova (could have been called Never Trust a Catholic; a very cynical story about a priest who buys his way to be pope and betrays his brother)

No Ordinary Christian by Michael Moorcock (the red-eyed albino Von Bek wreaks a terrible vengeance against a caliph for the murder of a young woman)

White Lady's Grave by Lisa Tuttle (a creative twist on the buried alive theme with some interesting references to mythology)

Burial at Sea by Larry Bond and Chris Carlson (things go horribly wrong on a submarine's last mission and everyone dies)

The Land of the Reflected Ones by Nancy A. Collins (a collector of forbidden lore makes a fatal miscalculation, with more than a nod to Lovecraft)

Blue Flame of a Candle by Storm Constantine (an innocent young man encounters a monster in the guise of a beautiful woman, this is a truly haunting story)


A Grower's Guide to Herbs (1997) by Geoffrey Burnie & John Fenton-Smith

Detailed information on 60 herbs, including some of my favorites like angelica, bee balm, comfrey, lemon balm, and tansy.

Curious that costmary (bible leaf) and valerian are not included.


Fatso: Football When Men Were Really Men (1987) By Hall of Famer Arthur J. Donovan, Jr. and Bob Drury

A great book by one of the best players and one of the most interesting characters ever to have been a part of the NFL.

Donovan's father was a well known boxing referee.

Donovan was a member of the 1958 Baltimore Colts that won the championship in "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Donovan was one of the players who stopped Gifford on the key fourth down play. Gifford has been telling us for decades that he made the first down and the refs blew the call. According to Donovan, not ony did Gifford fail to make the first down, he was not even close. I will take Donovan's word over that of the smarmy Gifford any day.

The book is a fascinating look at th NFL in the 1950s.