Graffiti Grabbers

Executioner

I read about 250 books in the above series over the years. It started with a Special Forces soldier coming home from Viet Nam to avenge his family, murdered by ‘The Mob.’  Seeing the limitations of this story arc, after about 30 books, the hero ‘died’ and was reborn as an independent Government agent, fighting terrorists, although this was back in the ‘80s.  They weren’t called that, then.

In one book, the hero pursued an agent who was bombing American Federal Government buildings and installations, all the way to Detroit. He then crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, just in time to see a bomb blow up a blue, street mailbox.

Mailbox

I’m still not sure what value the author felt blowing up a Canadian mailbox had – a few pizza shop flyers destroyed and somebody’s unemployment cheque (check, for Americans) lost.  What caught my attention was the fact that the (American) author had described the Canadian mailbox as blue.  American mailboxes are blue, Canadian mailboxes have always been British Red.

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Graffiti taggers’ ill manners and lack of respect for the property of others started leaking north across the American border, like the Emerald Ash Borer, and deer ticks with Lyme disease. The more OCD at Canada Post began to be concerned about the look of their mailboxes.

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They began a program of refinishing them with a glass crystal surface like that applied to subway cars in the movie Turk 182. It’s so smooth that, if the paint doesn’t fall off on its own, it can be wiped off with a dry cloth.  The only problem is, taggers just hate an empty surface, and will keep tagging, no matter how many times it’s cleaned.

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Canada Post solved that problem by adding random, jumbled Postal Codes, so that the boxes look like they’ve already been pre-graffitied – so neat – so clean – so much better. Right….

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Apparently they were not eagerly accepted, so Canada Post has come up with something a little more artistic.

I recently pulled into the subdivision, and there was a van parked, and a man in a work uniform in front of the neighborhood cable TV junction box. I thought someone might be upgrading to the new fiber-optic service.  As I drove past, I saw that the worker had a small paint tray and roller.  The name on the van was ‘Graffiti Grabbers.’  He was painting over the taggers’ marks.

When I got home, a quick research revealed that graffiti ‘artists’ created enough vandalism to keep the above, and two more cover-up companies busy. I guess we can’t all be bloggers and only sully each others’ cell phones, tablets, and computer screens.

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Book Review #2

So, here it is only four months later, and my lazy, forgetful ass is finally getting around to doing another book review.  I bitched in another post about a book I was particularly disappointed with, but it wasn’t really a review.

After a considerable wait, I finally received, from the Library, the second in the Jack Reacher series, like the previous, 700 pages of large print.  It was the fourth book I was reading simultaneously, and took just over a week to get through.

The wife decided to do some research on the series, since I’ll want to work my way through it.  The library has an e-copy of the next one, which we reserved.  I’ll probably receive it quicker than this one.  After that, they don’t have any, till the latest in the series.  She checked with one of the e-book distributors, and they have them all, for $4/ea.  I may have to ask for my own Kobo for my upcoming birthday.

The Author – Lee Child

The Book – Die Trying

The Review

I’m still hoping that Child’s writing improves as the series advances.  Like the previous book, some portions of it are inspired.  Then other sections drone and drone.  He seems addicted to whipsawing.  In several passages, the story goes from, It is, to It isn’t, to Yes it is, back to No, it isn’t, finally to It provably is.  Once, or even twice, can be excitingly suspenseful.  Three or four times in one book quickly becomes disappointingly formulaic.

Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time when three guys kidnap a young female FBI agent off the streets of Chicago in broad daylight.  Child, through his Reacher character, still shows solid logic.  The fact that the three kidnappers were only gone from a militia compound for five days, means that there is a mole in the FBI office who studied her schedule, a plot twist that got past me.

SPOILER ALERT

The author builds the suspense through the usual process of elimination, and brings it down to just two possible candidates – and then plot twists it that they are both dirty, one for ideology, the other just for greed.

What I liked about the book:  The usual guy stuff.  Lots of things went bang and boom.  Bad guys got dead.  Good guys got saved, good logical thinking employed, lots of witty repartee.

What I didn’t like about the book:  A surprising number of minor details.  I watch a considerable amount of English telly, but things I accept without question on a British broadcast, grate when viewed in a book aimed largely at a North American market.

Child has a character stand on a queue.  Most Americans will join a line or line-up, but not a queue.  Those who do, speak of standing in a queue, not on one.  Standing on a queue, seems like I’m leaving footprints on unfortunate people.

The same with what a character did at the weekend.  “At the weekend” seems like someone drove up to it and parked outside.  Americans do things on the weekend, to enjoy the entire 60 hours

When Reacher first met the heroine, he did a cold read on her, and figured she owned twenty outfits, each worth $400 – an $8000 wardrobe.  While she is impressed with his observational skills and logic, she tells him that she worked at a Madison Avenue firm for three years before joining the FBI and bringing her clothes with her.  She has 35 outfits, and $400 is what she pays for a top when it’s on sale.  She has $8000 worth of shoes.  This is not a problem with the writing, but I have trouble rooting for any female who owns $8000 worth of shoes.

Child doesn’t seem to know the difference between a cave and a mine, and has Reacher fighting his claustrophobia by crawling through a tiny passage where the roof comes down almost to his head and the walls close in till he can hardly move his elbows.  Then he encounters the skeletons of five competitors the head bad guy had murdered.

This is a great psychological passage, showing the ruthless evil of the villain, and Reacher winning out over adversity.  I can ignore the question of, if it’s that tight in there, how did he crawl past five skeletons?  The question I can’t ignore is, how did they get there?  In a passage that small, they couldn’t be dragged in, and they couldn’t be pushed in.

This book is only a year newer than the first, and Child still doesn’t seem to have learned much about guns.  True, he doesn’t have anyone waving little .22 caliber pistols, but, at least five years after the FBI switched to semi-automatic pistols, he has them still carrying old .38 Special revolvers.  Everybody else in the book had auto-loaders, the Army, the Secret Service, even the bad guys.  How come the Bureau got stuck with the antiques?

He has the heroine come into possession of a “MAC 10” machine pistol, but she’s afraid to fire it because the noise will attract more bad guys.  I suppose I should cut Child a little slack on this one.  Even many knowledgeable gun dealers don’t know the difference between an Ingram M 10, and a MAC 10.  The M 10 does not become a MAC 10 until a Military Arms Construction (MAC) sound suppressor has been attached.

Salesmen used to meet potential buyers in hotel rooms.  The “silenced” gun was removed from a titanium briefcase, and the salesman would order a jug of ice water and glasses from room-service.  When the hotel employee knocked on the door, the salesman would toss a couple of cushions in front of the briefcase, to catch ricochets, and burn through a 30-round magazine of shells.  He would then turn the cushions over, jam the gun back into the briefcase, and answer the door.  Not one bellboy ever reported anything suspicious, but tons of sales were made.

Despite their minor flaws, these are good solid action books.  I look forward to the next.

Information Retrieval

This will not be a computer tutorial.  I started with a bitch about certain website set-ups, but, in my best shit-hit-the-fan tradition, I’m going to touch on a couple of other things that sour my milk, and attitude.

I have Loi Vo’s, Style and Home magazine….actually, probably his wife’s.  Last month, I had his Business Quarterly magazine.  The month before that, I got his bank statement.  Are you sensing a pattern here?  At least once a month I get mail for him.  In the meantime, I’m waiting for my knifemakers magazine.  Once it just didn’t show up in the mail at all, another time I received the next month’s issue two days before the late one showed up.

The central city gets door-to-door mail delivery.  To save money, out here in the ‘burbs, they put up Super Mailboxes every block or so.  Forty or fifty individual boxes, one for each house, and a couple of larger package boxes.  You walk, or drive to the box to get your mail.  I hear you ask, “Is Loi Vo’s box right beside yours?”  If only!  He lives 4 blocks, two super mailboxes and a postal code away….but his house number is the same as mine, so I can see how the nuclear physicist, who moonlights as my mailman, could make that mistake….over and over and over.

Instead of hand delivering to his house, I finally decided to complain to head office, and went online to CanadaPost.ca.  What a piece of milquetoast.  They already have answers to every question you might possibly ask….except mine.  Want to buy stamps online?  Need a postal code?  Want locations of Canada Post outlets?

Every decent site does much the same.  It saves you time, and them money and manpower.  However, most sites also include a spot where you can drop an email to cover concerns not listed.  Has the Post Office got one on their site?  Uh uh!  Probably to discourage irate customers like me from actually getting service.  Well then, I’ll just take Loi Vo’s magazine, go to the main office, and complain.

The main branch used to be right downtown, then they moved it way out to an industrial plaza, how wily.  I know where it is, within a block or so, but thought I’d use their Find-a-Branch service for an exact address.  I opened it up, and they list every pharmacy and corner store which contains a postal outlet – but don’t list the main office.  I think I’ll format a letter to take with me, to list my complaints, and that will be one of my bitches.

A movie based on one of author Lee Child’s books, has come out, and he has just released another in the series.  His character, a huge man who needs a Dolf Lundgren Viking to play him, is being portrayed, some fans say betrayed, by a Tom Cruise pipsqueak.  Books I might like, which are part of groups of 20 or more, interest me.  With the number of books I read, a series like that could keep me reading for several years, so I went online to do some research.

My orderly mind doesn’t want to start in the middle.  With character development, I want to begin at the beginning.  I went to the Chapters/Indigo site.  This is the big book purveyor in Canada.  Chapters merged with Indigo some years ago, and they bought up Coles Books.  Coles used to, and still may, provide Coles Notes.  These are like the American Cliff’s Notes.  They were banned at my highschool.  You were supposed to do your own learning.  That didn’t stop them from being used at home.

On the book site, I chose advanced search, and started to type in Lee Child’s name.  I got a prompt which read, “Lee Child books”, so I clicked it.  Now, I know he’s published about 20 books, but the top of the page read, 493 Items.  493??!  Okay, there will be hardcover and paperback and large print and audio books and trade-size softback, but 493?

This is Chapters own sorted listing.  They claim this is “Lee Child books”, so I started to scroll down.  The first listing is a Regency romance called The Agency, by Y.s. Lee.  I loved the, one capitalized/ one lower case, initials.  Is she a friend of k.d. lang?  Well, it does have an author named Lee.  A couple of books by Lee Child, then, Just Like Me, by Jan-Lee Music, then a couple more by Lee Child, then Quinlan B. Lee, then Robert Lee, (no middle E.), then John Lee, then Chris Higgins and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series.  Wait, what??  How did Higgins and John D. MacDonald get into this list?  McGee does rhyme with Lee.

I managed to sort out only Lee Child books.  Since I’m looking to start at the beginning, I sorted again for date of publication.  Yeah, that worked so well!  Since the movie just came out, that book, which is at least five novels old, is at the top of the list.  All the others were chronologically scrambled too.

I think I found the first in the series, a book titled Killing Floor.  I clicked on its image for more information, including cost.  Along with the hard cover, large print, and audio, I found two paperback editions, identical, as far as I could see.  One offered an online price of $12.95, or used from $15.65, the other online price was $10.44, and used from $10.80.

I am confused by all this.  Why is one online price $10.44, and the other $12.95?  Even if these are not exactly the same book, why would I pay half again, or better, to buy a used copy, when an original is available.  I’ve reserved a large-print copy at the library for free, with one person ahead of me.  I prefer the tactile sensation of print.  The library is only authorised to issue 6 E-books at a time, and there are 56 people on the waiting list.

Wikipedia dispenses comprehensive free information.  These other sites just hand out free question marks.

Published Author

 

That term has a nice feel to it.  I’m a Published Author.  Of course, in my case, it has about the same significance as being the greatest dog-catcher in Enid, Oklahoma.

It all came about because H.E.Ellis solicited (no, not like that), urged and supported me to write my little fractured fairy tale about the hare and the tortoise.  She deemed my short treatise worthy to present with others in the series, on her blog-site.  I am so honored, that I’ve been running around the neighborhood telling both people who will speak to me, all about it.

Truth be told, and I do occasionally, while this is the most auspicious occurrence, it is not the first, nor the only time I have been published.  In fact there have been many times I’ve had something printed at this same rate of remuneration.  The first time I had a piece of my prose published, I was almost 18.

I was not directly involved in the submission, so I tend to ignore and forget it.  For a Grade 12 Easter-term English exam I scratched out a little, thousand-word, post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece.  It centered on a bear waking from winter hibernation.  He stood up in his little cave and bumped his head and wondered how he’d managed that.  Then he marveled at the fact that he was thinking at all.  A rabbit hopped in, and greeted him with a non-verbal, “So, you’re finally up.”

It seems, while he slept the winter away, humans had engaged in a terrible war, nukes, biological, and maybe something else.  Every human on the planet was dead, and the animals had all achieved intelligence and telepathy.  I ignored the fact that, despite the sapience and communication, animals weren’t farmers.  Some of them would still have to eat others.  This was 1962.  The Cold War was chilly.

My friend read several sci-fi pulp mags, and urged me to send it in, as a filler.  It was just a school project.  Once done, it was soon forgotten, but not by him.  He believed so strongly that he sent it in under my name….and it got printed.  I had my first job, a hundred miles away, a car I couldn’t take with me, a now-long distance girlfriend.  I came home to visit one weekend, and he excitedly handed me a twenty dollar check.  Long before quick and easy photographic proof, I cashed the check and spent the badly need money.

The Toronto Sun distributes all across Southern Ontario, from Windsor in the west, almost to Montreal.  Years ago, they had a page titled Coffee Break.  This held the comics, the horoscopes, the word jumble, the crossword puzzle and a Poet’s Corner.  Usually just eight, ten, twelve line ditties, often in unrhymed blank verse, eventually they disappeared.  I guess all the poets ran out of themes.  I saw a short poem one day from a woman thinking of leaving her man, because he didn’t express his love often, or strongly enough.  It inspired me to submit the following rebuttal.

The Strong Silent Type

I really like you.
I’m sure that I’ve shown,
And also I love you.
I thought that you’ve known.

I have trouble with words
And what I should say
Is, “I want you!  I need you!
That’s why you should stay!”

Some men speak with their voices,
But it’s a real art.
For a man who cannot,
You must hear with your heart.

Not exactly Shakespeare, more like Edgar Allan Poe,

Quoth the Rave, “Nevermore!”
To his drunken girlfriend on the barroom floor.

I once had a one-third page Second Opinion column printed in the local paper.  So long ago, I don’t remember the theme.  Probably Christian intolerance, that seems to be what I get most, and most often, irked about.  I have trouble keeping my many op-ed submissions under the acceptable 300 word limit, so the editor suggested I expand one of my more insightful, but verbose ones a bit.

Here I am, writing about Christian intolerance and look down to see that my word count is 666!  Satan looked over my shoulder and said, Ah, don’t worry about it!  It don’t mean nothing.

I’ve had hundreds of letters to the Editor published over the years, when I can be concise, as well as informed.  They’ve been on a wide range of subjects, and printed, not only in the local newspaper, but in the Toronto Sun and even in a Knife Makers magazine I subscribe to.  I used to be an opinionated young whipper-snapper.  Now I’m an opinionated old coot.

The opinions Editor at the local paper is a religiously conservative (some kind of) Mennonite.  It’s tough to get a letter printed which is negatively judgemental of Christianity and its purveyors.  At least twice though, once by phone and once by email, I have been contacted by his young assistant to submit a con argument on a religious discussion, when there’s been a week of only pro letters of support published.  I think the kid likes to tweak the old man’s tail once in a while.

I’m confident of my vocabulary and word use, spelling (I’m right nine times to Spell-check’s one), construction and punctuation, even though I’m a little heavy on subordinate clauses and commas.  I just don’t seem to believe I have the creative spark to dream up scenarios.  H.E.Ellis is enthralled by the story-telling abilities of both SightsnBytes and me.  She has suggested that we compile our *Remember When* stories, and produce an autobiographical novel.

With my small but dedicated readership, I’m not sure how large an audience I might get, but I’m starting to think about the idea more seriously.  She must know something.  She’s very small, but a much bigger Published Author than I am.  She’s a trained professional.  Don’t try this at home kids!

One, Two, Three….Lovely

Oyez!  Oyez!  Oyez!

Attend, that ye may know that the ever-magnificent Archon, and his always-awesome, if slightly soporific blog-site, The Archon’s Den, have been the worthy and justified recipients of yet another iteration of the Lovely Blog Award.

This time I have Rick, over at www.roderickdavidson.wordpress.com to thank for this well-deserved honor.  Rick was born in Quebec, but later moved to the United States.  With two strikes like that against him, it’s a good thing that he’s a Hell of an author.  He provided me with training to be a proof-reader and editor.  It’s not that he planned to.  It’s just that I was fool enough to think I already knew how.

The fact that this award may have been hastily handed off, like a live hand-grenade, in no way reduces the grandeur of the awardee and his site.  Unless you just got here from BlogSpot, you probably know the rules of this game.  I’m supposed to thank the person who tossed this thing on my front porch.  In case you didn’t notice the wording above, Thanks, Rick, or as I say, Thanx.  I’m supposed to provide a link back to his website.  I took the technological shortcut but, Done, and Done!

I’m supposed to give five facts about me and forward the award to five more unsuspecting bloggers with better things to do than respond to my detritus.  My regular readers already know more about me than my proctologist….ew, ew, ew!  Let’s see what else I can reveal that won’t bring on police action or restraining orders.

  1. I am right-handed.  That may not seem like much of a revelation.  90% of the population is, but creative people, like many of my readers, tend toward being left-handed.  How about it, do you want to admit which way you swing?  No!  Not like that.
  2. I was a golf pro.  I knew shit about golf.  I gave no instruction, and I sure as Hell wasn’t paid like one, but for about four months, the summer I was 19, I was on the books at a Country Club as the pro.  It ruined my chances at a successful tour as an amateur.  No, it didn’t!  I’ll include a little more detail in a later post.
  3. The small town I was born and raised in had the widest main street in Canada.  Well, that’s what I was told when I was young.  I’ve since found a couple that are equal, but none wider.  Since the main street in my town wasn’t the highway, when it was laid out, instead of being 66 feet wide, it got to be 100.  There was room for angle parking on both sides, a lane of traffic in both directions, and still enough room to park transport trucks in the middle, for delivery to stores.  That was necessary because the alleys that ran behind them were barely wide enough for horse-drawn wagons.  It was nice to drive downtown, see a parking space on the other side, and just swing across and nose into it.
  4. A young man and his family moved to town just as I started high school.  We quickly became best friends, and thick as thieves, although we never got caught.  Despite my exposure to summer tourists from the big cities, he helped me become a bit more urbane, and less a dorky small-town kid.  After four years of school with him, my Dad revealed that his father and mine had discussed trading houses, and towns.  My Dad drove a half-hour to work at an RCA Victor plant, and felt he could cut out the commute.  It was well that they made the move before we actually traded.  Product lines and profitability changed, and Dad soon got another job in town.
  5. I used to love roller-skating.  I still would except for age, strength, balance and breakability, that, and the fact that it’s pretty much officially dead.  It used to cycle about every fifteen years.  It would be popular for five years, then it would die back again.  Inline skates seem to have driven the last nail in the coffin, at least in this area.  I just saw an advertisement on a Boston TV station for a roller rink.

There was one roller-rink in this city when I first arrived.  The city transit even had special buses from and to city hall, for skaters.  It was a bus driver who gave me my first E. E. “Doc” Smith science fiction book, and added his name to my roster.  Three more new rinks were built, and enjoyed the five-year frolic.  One of them is now a furniture store, one is a dance club, and the third is an auction warehouse.  Never a good skater, it was nonetheless my moves on the floor which helped convince my girlfriend to become my wife.

I don’t think that I’ll name five more bloggers to rope into this publishing Ponzi-scheme.  I’ve just about reached my saturation point for reading blogs.  Occasionally I try, and like, a blog I haven’t previously read, and add it to my list, but, at 30 to 40 posts a day to read, I’ve about run out of time and strength.

Pretty much any of the blog sites I frequent deserve a little recognition and pat on the back, I’m just not sure who wishes to be bothered with one.  If I’ve commented on your site, or even just *liked* you, and you’d like a pretty decoration for your wall, feel free to drop by and pick one up and spread the joy.

Last minute change of mind!  If anyone deserves this kind of recognition, it’s the erudite and entertaining John Erickson, over at his new blog www.windycitywonderer.wordpress.com   Welcome to the wolf pack John.  Feel free to howl!