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September 06, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 09-06-2015: Drought Conditions [OregonMuse]


libary of congress.jpg
Library of Congress


Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The Sunday Morning Book Thread is the only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Also, assless chaps don't count. Serious you guys. Kilts are OK, though. But not tutus. Unless you're a girl.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all.
-Abraham Lincoln

TRIGGER WARNING this week for pointing out that flushing millions of gallons of water during an extended period of drought is evidence of severe governmental incompetence.

Health warning: reading the book thread excessively may cause your bank account to shrink alarmingly. Just read this sad testimonial from last week's thread:

395 I usually only buy something every now and then after reading the book thread. Most of it goes on my wish list.

But today, after following through on links and recommendations, I've spent over $300 and ignored all the stuff on my to-do list. At least I should be covered until Christmas.

* Next week, I shall lock away my debit card and set a kitchen timer or something.

( . . . Aw, who am I kidding . . . .)

Posted by: Elinor, Who Usually Looks Lurkily at August 30, 2015 02:54 PM (NqQAS)

Don't let this happen to you. Read responsibly.


All The Leaves Are Brown

California is currently in its third (or is it fourth?) year of drought, with no relief in site. Water has always been a problem in California, particularly the southern part of the state.

Los Angeles, California is a very unnatural city. There are probably two or three definitions of 'unnatural' that would fit here, and I think I mean them all. But what I primarily had in mind is water. Most large cities are built by large water supplies, i.e. rivers, oceans, and lakes. But Los Angeles has none of these natural sources nearby, it is just stuck out there in the desert, far away from anything. The original settlement was built along the Los Angeles River, but that was proving to be inadequate as early as 1900. That whole part of southern California is mostly semi-arid wasteland, that is, before irrigation.

L.A. may have started out small village, but it got big real fast. From the wikipedia entry:

By 1900, the population had grown to more than 102,000,[28] putting pressure on the city's water supply.[29] The completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, under the supervision of William Mulholland, assured the continued growth of the city.[30]

And therein lies a tale...

Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles by Les Standiford tells the story of Irish immigrant William Mulholland, who, beginning in 1907

conceived and built one of the greatest civil engineering feats in history: the aqueduct that carried water 223 miles from the Sierra Nevada mountains to Los Angeles - allowing this small, resource-challenged desert city to grow into a modern global metropolis. Drawing on new research, Les Standiford vividly captures the larger-then-life engineer and the breathtaking scope of his six-year, $23 million project that would transform a region, a state, and a nation at the dawn of its greatest century.

Mulholland was quite a man:

[A] penniless Dublin immigrant who made his way west as a stowaway on a passenger ship, personifies the American rags-to-riches tale, working from a position as a ditchdigger to become chief engineer of the Los Angeles Water Company. Confronted with a decade-long drought that threatened his adopted city's future, the self taught Mulholland found the answer in the rushing snow melt from the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, nearly 250 miles away. He proposed to build an aqueduct that would outdo any such ever conceived, one that would carry an entire river from its source to Los Angeles, through mountains, over chasms, and across an alternately freezing and blistering terra incognita, because he believed it was the city's only hope.

But what is good for the city of Los Angeles is not necessarily good for ranching and agriculture in the Owens Valley, from where the aqueduct was taking water. The ensuing conflicts between the City of Los Angeles and the farmers and ranchers of the Owens Valley whose livelihoods were threatened by the aquaduct project, and the political chicanery involved in securing water rights, dubbed The California Water Wars, are legendary. A historically inaccurate version of this formed the backstory of the 1974 movie Chinatown.

Mulholland's career ended in 1928 when the St. Francis Dam collapsed a mere 12 hours after he inspected it. The resulting flood killed an estimated 600 people, over 100 of whom were minors.

I was impressed by how he handled failure:

Mulholland took full responsibility for what has been called the worst U.S. civil engineering disaster of the 20th century and resigned at the end of 1929.[32] During the Los Angeles Coroner's Inquest he said, "this inquest is a very painful for me to have to attend but it is the occasion of that is painful. The only ones I envy about this whole thing are the ones who are dead."[33] In later testimony, after responding to a question he added, "Whether it is good or bad, don't blame anyone else, you just fasten it on me. If there was an error in human judgment, I was the human, I won't try to fasten it on anyone else."[34]

Even though the inquest exonerated him, Mulholland's career was finished. He quietly retired in 1929.

I suspect that if a civil disaster of that magnitude happened today, the man or men in Mulholland's position would be spending the rest of their lives in prison, or bankrupt, or both, regardless of whether or not they were actually culpable. The pressure to punish those in charge would be far greater than any court or politician could resist. And this doesn't take into consideration the sorry state of liability law, which would bring out swarms of class-action lawyers like maggots on roadkill.


Watchman Review - And A New Blog

"Cut. Jib. Newsletter". You see this a lot in the comments on this blog. For you n00bs who may not know what this means or where it came from, it is shorthand for the longer sentence "I like the cut of your jib, and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter", which a moron may post in response to a particularly pithy or trenchant comment by another. It is generally considered a compliment, assuming it's offered unironically.

Anyway, I did not know there was a conservative blog by this name. And not only that, the CJN cobs are well-known morons: CBD, J.J. Sefton, Jay Guevara, and tsrblke. They describe themselves as "opinionated", but:

...those opinions will almost always be informed by the US Constitution, by the concept of individual freedom and responsibility, and by a healthy suspicion of anyone who tells us that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

As I said, I never knew this blog existed. But then tsrblke e-mailed and told me he'd like me to mention the brief review of the new Harper Lee novel Go Set A Watchman that he wrote a few days ago and that the rest of you morons might like to read. I told him I'd be glad to.

So here it is.

And while you're over there, you should have a look around at some of the other articles written by these fine morons. For example, this piece by Jay Guevara exploring the origins of the "hyphenated-American" phenomenon is where I learned of the book School of Darkness, the autobiography of Bella Dodd, a remarkable woman who in her early years was an ardent communist and a "community organizer" on steroids. Not only was she an apparatchik in the Communist Party, Dodd was also for a time the head of New York State Teachers' Union, which Guevara notes was "pretty much the same thing." Later on, Dodd underwent a political and religious conversion. She became an equally ardent anti-communist, also joined the Roman Catholic Church. The subtitle of her autobiography is "the record of a life and of a conflict between two faiths", which makes her, in Guevara's words, "sort of a distaff version of Whitaker Chambers".

Her wikipedia entry notes:

The New York Times reported on March 8, 1954 that Bella Dodd "...warned yesterday that the 'materialistic philosophy,' [i.e., dialectical materialism] which she said was now guiding public education, would eventually demoralize the nation."[8]

So she was a prophet, too.

The Kindle version of School of Darkness is available for $2.99. Or you can read it for free online here.

[Update: The reason I had never heard of the CJN blog is because it's relatively new. In fact, it's only been around for a few weeks. Now I don't feel so bad.]


Serialization

I've mentioned the books of author Anne Cleeland before, notably her "New Scotland Yard Mystery Series", Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 are all available on Kindle. She's written a new book and has decided to serialize it and make it available on her blog as a freebie. The main character of The Bengal Bridegift is Juno Payne, a timid and shy girl who

has lived an uneventful life growing up in Calcutta--her father's home port during those rare times when he wasn't at sea, trading for the East India Company. But news of her father's death--and the cloud of scandal surrounding it--has suddenly made Juno the center of attention, as various factions attempt to seize her supposed bridegift--a fabulous cache of diamonds.

Miss Payne is forced to flee with an unlikely ally - a Barbary pirate, who may or may not also be after the diamonds himself.

Chapter 1 is already up, more chapters will follow periodically.


Poetry In Motion

I don't think any of you morons are going to be buying this book, and I'm not, either, but I'm just mentioning it because I thought the creative idea behind it was interesting. Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion takes the responses made by professional athletes during post-game interviews, the sad, the silly, the profound, and turns them into poetry.

Like this:

HOW BEAT UP ARE YOU?

Kevin Garnett

I’m beat up,
John. I’m beat up.
I’m beat up.
I’m—
I’m beat up.

I’m out there,
I suit up every night.
I suit up every night.
Banged up, hurt, whatever.

A hundred percent, thirty percent:
Ain’t no numbers.
It’s in my heart
And you can’t measure that.

I’m losing.
I’m losing.
I’m losing.
I’m losing.

Athletes do sometimes say goofy stuff during the post-game. They're mostly bone tired, high on endorphins, and maybe even injured, so I guess the authors of this book figure, hey, why not have a little fun at their expense?

Other examples of this new art form can be found here.

Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion will be released in October.


Fan Mail

I liked this response by author Edgar Rice Burroughs to a young fan who told him his teacher thought that most of Burroughs' books were garbage. It is yet another skirmish in the "popular culture vs. high-brow culture" wars.

Last year I followed the English course prescribed for my two sons, who are in college. The required reading seemed to have been selected for the sole purpose of turning the hearts of young people against books. That, however, seems to be a universal pedagogical complex: to make the acquiring of knowledge a punishment, rather than a pleasure.

The 14-year old fan who wrote to Burroughs was Forrest J Ackerman, who went on to become one of science fiction's staunchest spokesmen and promoters, as well as accumulating one of the most extraordinary science fiction book and movie memorabilia collections. The plaque on his grave simply reads, "Sci-Fi Was My High."


Books By Morons

Long-time moron commenter (and author, natch) Christopher Taylor has finished his latest novel. Life Unworthy is a supernatural thriller set in WW2 Poland:

When poison gas was delivered to a shower in Birkenau, the camp guards expected death, but what came out of that concrete chamber was far worse. Now the Fuhrer has demanded the monster be tracked down and destroyed, but a German scientist has other ideas for how it may be used for the third Reich. And the Werewolf has plans of his own.

Caught in the middle is the city of Krakow and its citizens striving to survive under the brutal, murderous Nazi regime. In that city is Aniela Wisniewski, a 'pianist' feeding snippets of information to the British. As events unfold, terror spreads over the city with Aniela at its center, a terror racing to an inconceivable conclusion!

I've never heard that lycanthropy was a potential side-effect of exposure to Zyklon-B, but if the Nazis had discovered this, it's not like they would have told anyone, right?

Right?

Life Unworthy is available for pre-order on Amazon. The release date is September 21st. You can also read bits of the book in serialized form on Wattpad, added to twice a week until the release date. Just click here.


What I'm Reading

My church's men's group has started reading C.S. Lewis' book the Abolition of Man, which has been mentioned a number of times in the book thread comments as of late.

The backstory to Abolition is, as Lewis explains at the beginning, that some educational book publisher comped him a copy of one of their English textbooks for students in the "upper forms" (what we would call high school). The authors use an old anecdote involving the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge to attempt to show that nobody can ever really say anything except about his or her own feelings. Lewis brilliantly unpacks this attempt at decconstruction (he calls it 'debunking') to show that (a) what this amounts to, if carried out to its logical end, is the destruction of all values, but also (b) the authors always exempt their own values from the 'debunking' criticism they heartily dish out to everyone else, even though there is no rational reason for this exclusion.

TAOM was first published in 1947, and I think that what Lewis was detecting was the first whiff of the poison gas we now know as postmodernism, and its bastard stepchild, deconstructionism. Lewis spent almost his entire life in academia, where PM first germinated, so naturally he would see it first, like a canary in the coal mine of modern philosophy.

A good intro/synopsis of the book can be read here.

___________

A hard-boiled detective with unresolved issues from his past is drinking in a seedy Los Angeles bar when he is approached by a mysterious and beautiful woman who wants to hire him to prove that her brother's suicide was actually a murder. This is obviously not an original plot, but the year is 2063 and so it's not so much Mickey Spillane as it is Blade Runner. Well, perhaps it's fair to say that Dome City Blues by Jeff Edwards is a bit of both. If you're a fan of the 'noire' detective fiction genre, you'll probably like this book, even though it's set in the near future. Although the chapter where the main character had to track down a lead in a pedophile bar, although not explicit, was pretty creepy, I thought. So I'll issue a warning for that, and also for the R-rated sex scene in the following chapter.

As of today (Saturday), it is available for 99 cents on Kindle.


___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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