Monday, February 20, 2012

Listened: "Blood in the Cage" by L. Jon Wertheim

Listened: Blood in the Cage: mixed martial arts, Pat Miletich, and the furious rise of the UFC by L. Jon Wertheim, 2009, from

A history of MMA competition paired with a biography of fighter and trainer Miletich. The history closely matches my own knowledge and interest in the sport.

First starting with no-holds-barred fights the UFC's first owners played up the violence. Blood and knockouts were a big draw. Par-per-view purses were huge until government pressure came in with accusations of "human cockfighting". Gov pressure on cable companies dried up the PPV money. State licensing boards would refuse to allow fights. I too was turned off by the heavy violence that looked like a version of white trash, ex-con, gang member heaven.

The sport evolved from matching one martial arts discipline versus another to the current amalgamation of jiu jitsu/wrestling/boxing/etc. it is now. As skilled and disciplined fighters joined the competition the tough-guys and brawlers and bouncers were quickly weeded from the higher ranks. A key argument for MMA, and one I agree with, is that MMA is actually safer than many other sports like football and boxing.

One key ingredient to the safety level is a fighter's option to tap out. No shame is involved in a tap-out. Sure, some guys would tough it out and refuse to surrender even after a bone was broken. Matching fighters of equal skills avoids the knockouts and win-loss inflation of boxing. Fighters don't have massive padded gloves allowing endless punches to the brain box without breaking hands.

UFC was bought by the current owners and had some struggles. The Ultimate Fighter tv show and hard work by the owners led to an explosion in popularity. I was among the many who watched the incredible fight at the end of season one that boosted the UFC's success.

Pat Miletich's story is an impressive one. He was an angry bar brawler with athletic talent and a background as a high school wrestling and football star. He tried out a karate session one day and was hooked. Miletich's recreational life revolved around karate. He branched out into other disciplines and competed in smaller regional competitions. Miletich's drive and incredible training regime led to his fighting success and he started his own training gym.

1. Narrator Phil Gigante does his usual good work. Gigante does excellent work reading Landsale's Hap and Leonard series.
2. Wertheim is a fan but also a journalist. He does not overly gush as a fanboy and looks at things with an appropriately critical eye.
3. Wertheim mentions several times that the UFC has banned writers and journalists who are critical of the UFC and it's owners. I wounder if he had blowback from this.
4. I bought this in paper for work but do not know how well it 'circ'ed. I was never getting around to reading it so I'm glad I picked this audio version out.
fan but also jounralist who sees nonsense

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Viewed: "Once Upon An Island" by Richard Quinney

Viewed: Once Upon An Island by Richard Quinney, 2011, 9780981562063.

Photography book with two short sections of text. Quinney moved to New York City in the 1960s and took lots of photos. Quinney loved living in NYC after farm life in Wisconsin and took his camera everywhere.

After Quinney left the city his slides and negatives followed him to every new home. He looked through after the images after 9/11. Quinney had spent many weekends photographing the construction of the World Trade Center and was emotionally struck after seeing the photos. So, he published his work.

1. I'm not a photographer. The artistry in this kind of work goes right by me.
2. I do like nudes though.
3. Many photos have people carrying or reading newspapers. Were newspapers so prevalent in city life at that time or was this chance? Did Quinney like to take photos of people reading or carrying things? I suppose there were still several dailies published during that time.
4. The photos made me think how so many things never change.
4.a. People wear clothes, go to work, talk to one another, protest in parades.
4.b. People eat hot dogs, dump trucks are filthy, American flag decals are on car windows.
4.c. Buildings are demolished, buildings are built, people drink beer.
4.d. People go and look at the Trade Center site.
5. The color photos connected me to the place and people much more than the black and white ones.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Read: "Return to Perdition" by Max Allan Collins

Read: Return to Perdition by Max Allan Collins, art by Terry Beatty, 2011, 9781401223830.

Comic book novel. Third and presumably last in the series. Or so I thought. I just checked Collin's webpage and there are a few other tales packed in there. Now I have to find those.

Michael Satariano, Jr. is the son of Michael who was a kid in Road to Perdition. Michael joins the Army and goes to Vietnam. Michael is captured in 1973 and imprisoned in Laos. Michael and otehrs are rescued in a black op. Michael is kept isolated. Michael is told his father, mother, and sister were murdered by the mob after the dad turned evidence.

Michael is recruited to get back against the mob in a CIA black op. Michael trains at FBI academy and then starts assassinating mobsters. Michael's last hit is supposed to be mob hanger in Florida. Michael becomes his driver/bodyguard. Michael falls for his niece. Michael cannot kill mobster when niece around. Michael and niece flee when mobster catches her blowing him.

Michael gets one more assignment to kill a priest. Priest is Michael's father post-plastic surgery. Joyous reunion occurs. Joyous reunion interrupted by a hit team. Michael and dad team up. Michael and recently ordained dad are deadly. Things turn out just dandy for everyone but the dead guys.

1. This was more short story than novel and well done.
2. BBC 6 Music is playing Nick Lowe. So it goes.
3. Set in the '70s with lots of sideburns.
4. I liked this art better than the work in Perdition.
5. I saw some anachronisms. At least I think they were anachronisms. I was 8 years old in 1979.
6. Someone in France keeps returning to my blog comments on Perdition and Purgatory. I have no idea why. Maybe they will land here as well.
7. Michael, Jr. grew up as a mob kid but was well insulated from the crime. Michael, Jr. is not the mess that Michael, Sr. was as a younger man. Road to Paradise has Michael, Sr. and the sister on the road like in Perdition. I wonder how young the sister character was in that one and the effects on her.

Done Listening: "City of the Sun" by David Levien

Done Listening: City of the Sun by David Levien, 2008 (print), audio downloaded from Overdrive.

I was searching Overdrive and lucked out on seeing this one. I liked it. Levien's name is too difficult to spell. He should change it to Smith.

First of the Frank Behr novels of which Thirteen Million Dollar Pop was the third. I liked this one better than Pop.
This novel has more about Behr and his background. A farm kid from Oregon (Washington?), Behr graduated with a criminal justice degree and was hired by Indianapolis P.D. Behr was a real go-getter and made a name for himself. He got married and was going pretty until his son died and he went downhill. Behr's wife left him, he lost his job and and he became a private eye.

Behr is hired by Paul who is still trying to find the 12 year old son who disappeared about 14 months ago. Behr does not want a case reminding him of his dead son. Behr does not want a missing kid case when the kid is likely dead. He takes the case anyway when he reads the dad's file on the case.

Behr starts digging. Behr is gruff. Behr is big. Behr does Joe Pike runs up hills with a weighted backpack. Behr uses his old cop contacts. Behr does the digging the cops skipped and finds a lead.

Meanwhile Levien-Smith follows a couple guys responsible for the boy's abduction. Levien-Smith first person views Paul and Behr and bad guys. Bad guys are nasty, nasty people. One bad guy kills the other. Behr figures lots of things out. Behr figures out a broker for kidnapped kids was selling the kids. The broker is a vile piece of amoral crap who considers child abduction, child rape, and child murder a business transaction.

Behr and Paul chase broker. Broker dies right after revealing where kids taken. Behr and Paul head to Mexico. Behr and Paul dig around. Behr and Paul find remote compound where kids taken. Lo and behold Missing Kid alive and rescued. Behr is mauled by a Presa Canario.

1. Smith writes some really vile bad guys and makes them believable.
2. Treatment of rape. This was something that I thought about throughout the book. How the act of rape is often glazed over in drama and fiction. That a raped woman is ruined and ashamed. How a rescuer hopes to rescue a woman before she is defiled. How many flicks can you name where the hero arrives right just before the sexual assault? The same kind of treatment here with the missing kid. He is kept by a wealthy Mexican who is saving him. Missing Kid is not sexually assaulted. But, I was happy to have that. I didn't want the kid to be raped, abused, beaten, assaulted, [other words].
3. Greedy strippers. One bad guy worked in a strip club and was hot for a dancer. The dancer had no interest because he had no money. Behr gets her to talk by saying the bow dead guy was secretly wealthy. The stripper thinks back to the money she missed out on, how the guy was maybe not so bad.
4. BBC 6 Music is playing an acoustic tune by Martha Wainwright.
5. Charter Arms .44 Special love.
6. Punching technique love.