Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pretty Quick: "Art and Architecture of Insects" by David M. Phillips

Pretty Quick: The Art and Architecture of Insects by David M. Phillips, 2014, 9781611685329.

I took this home in case my kids would read it.  Filled with big black and white photos of insects.  Phillips was a medical researcher until he retired but has been a lifelong bug collector.  He selected his best electron microscope photos - some bugs are too small for the naked eye - and shows us some bugs. All the insects are gross.

117 pages long and over half the space is photos. Phillips gives description and explanations of many insect parts: eyes, exoskeleton, head, antennae, that one gross bit, and that other gross bit.  You'll be reading about many things you already learned. That's okay, you relearn the old stuff and find out new stuff.

For instance, those disgusting antennae and hairs have many uses. The revolting compound eyes don't give an image like the simulations I've seen before where a single view is repeated 100 times in bug eye shape. No, each facet should be thought of as supplying a pixel of information. Eyes can also see UV light, it helps them to identify the plants they eat to grow even more repugnant.

One reason a squash-worthy bug's reaction time is so quick is the short distance for the nerve impulses to travel.  Teeny, tiny nauseau inducing bugs have such small bodies the nerve impulses are instantaneous compared to ours. The antennae and feet recognize vibrations and they bugs skip town, a small bug can jump the human equivalent of hundreds of feet and escape most predators.

Female insects can store sperm.  Sperm is stored in an abdominal chamber for life. Some male bugs "remove another male's sperm from the genital tract of a female who has previously mated before mating with her. The penis of dragonflies is specialized for this purpose."

Phillips collected his revolting specimens, stuck'em in ethyl alcohol, posed them on a platform, coated the corpses in an electrified and atomized gold, and then took the photos. All the photos are black and white. Phillips used film and "natural colors are difficult to represent accurately" so he kept the black and white.

Black and white is fine because you still may want to wash your hands after seeing so many yucky flies, wasps, bedbugs, earwigs, beetles, weevils, caterpillars, treehoppers, thrips, mosquitos, springtails, and termites.

I read some of the text to the nine-year-old Ian and he said, "That's interesting." He was angry about something at the time so the book was a good distraction.

Photos courtesy of ForeEdge Press via Slate at


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Done: "Slocum Along Corpse River" by Jake Logan

Done: Slocum Along Corpse River by Jake Logan, 2011, 9780515149906.

I started reading the Slocum series after Bill Crider mentioned them.  Most Slocum western stories alternate sex and violence throughout the novel. Corpse River has less sex than the rest. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Slocum is looking to cross the continental divide before winter hits. He's riding along a river and discovers a body in the shallows. Then another body floats past. And another. Slocum rides on to a high wall stretching across the mountain pass. Armed guards require a toll to pass. Slocum does not want to pay, returns at night, widens a crack in the wall, sneaks through, and is caught.

The town beyond the mountain pass's wall is called Top of the World and run by a cruel tyrant named Galligan.  Slocum survives a torture test in a pit ad impresses Galligan enough to be hired to work the wall's guard post.

Top of the World and a neighboring town are feuding. Galligan is looking to extort money from the coming railroad. Slocum is sexed up by a local woman looking to escape Galligan. Slocum and local woman make escape try but local woman is captured. Slocum want to get back into Top of the World and rescue her.

Slocum is not a bad guy but he's no Lone Ranger. He'll take the sex that's offered and kill when threatened.  He doesn't want to get involved with stopping ruthless and cruel Galligan but he wants to rescue the local gal. Slocum is more motivated when a deputy from the neighboring town is killed when helping Slocum.

Fast moving, shooting, horses, and plenty of obstacles for Slocum to overcome. The bad guys are cruel and nasty. The women are wanton and bosomy. Slocum is victorious.

1. Slocum would be dead from bullets, syphilis or dementia pugilistica after the first few novels.
2. Is there a listing of Slocum ghost authors? I cannot find one.
3. The sex scenes in this book were less detailed than others. The author focused more on Slocum's escapes and attacks.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Heard A While Ago: "Life Delux" by Jens Lapidus

Heard A While Ago: Life Delux by Jens Lapidus, 2014, Overdrive download.

Third and last of, as Kirkus says, sprawling novels of Stockholm crime.  Lapidus pulls together the main characters of the first two novels. Radovan the ruthless Serbian crime lord. JW the rich-boy wannabe money launderer, Jorge who stills pines for ghetto crime stardom, Mahmud stuck in low tier crime and legitimate business.

New characters include policeman Hagerstorm and debutante Natalie. Hagerstrom is a detective recruited by a legendary ranking police officer who wants Hagerstrom to go undercover as a prison guard and get close to JW. JW is close to release from prison and the cops know he his an underworld money guy.  Hagerstrom's new boss arranges Hagerstrom's "firing" and new hiring at JW's prison.

Natalie is Radovan's pampered daughter. She loves Facebook, clothes, shoes, European travel, snobbiness, and bored and aloof facial expressions. When he father dies after a bombing she wants to take over the crime business but faces trouble from her father's right hand man.

Things happen. Jorge has been leaving clean and running a cafe with Mahmud. But, Jorge has trouble with the straight life; Jorge loves ghetto flash and cash and hooks up with a guy who plans cash in transit robberies. The robbery goes off but the take is low and Jorge heads to Thailand.

Hagerstrom hangs out with JW after JW's prison release. Hagerstrom grew up uber-rich in a high class family. JW wants more than cash, he wants a place in the super-insular high society of Stockholm that runs the country.  JW sends Hagerstrom to Thailand to help out Jorge.

Plenty of things happen and I won't try to list them all. The characters are fun to follow and all of them have personal issues and most of them are nasty.
- Radovan held power over a crew responsible for sexual slavery, drugs, kneecapping, rape, murder, smuggling.
- Jorge thinks about how much he loves his sister and nephew but makes empty promises always leaves them in the lurch by going back to prison or fleeing the country. Jorge commits a violent abduction during an escape from the police and thinks, "Ah, that guy's okay, no harm."
- Hagerstrom only married his wife because they both wanted children. He's been hiding his homosexuality for years and hurting himself and those around him.
- Natalie turns a blind eye to her father's dealing easily rationalizes her entry to the family business.
- JW lies to everyone about his background. JW runs a massive money laundering scheme defrauding the government and has his partner murdered to take the blame when JW steals almost all the money from the crooks.

Swedish society is very stratified. The "Svens" are traditional blond Swedes. Arab, African and South American immigrants have trouble assimilating. The Serbs only trust each other. The high society Swedes only trust a few families that have intermarried and socialized for decades.

1. Many ways to launder cash and the crooked accountants are always moving the money from country to country as the laws change. I was thinking what a bunch of weasels, and then realized that the same thing is done here.
2. Gratuitous reference to past novels and film adaptations. I got the feeling Lapidus is also naming legal colleagues in the story, or obviously basing characters off his legal pals.
3. The armed robbery of an armored car depot reminded me of a TV story I saw a few years ago about cash-in-transit robberies in South Africa. The truck guards had revolvers and shotguns against crooks with automatic rifles.
EDIT 4. Social stratification. You cannot enter the high-class social circles with money. Money gets you the business contacts but to belong you need to grow up with everyone, marry into the family, have an uncle who went to school with someone else, a sister who is pals with another person. JW is invited to a moose hunt and he's just a little "off". He smiles too much, pushes a conversation too hard, wears the wrong color shirt, is nervous about table manners.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reprint I Read: "Outrage at Blanco" by Bill Crider

Reprint I Read: Outrage at Blanco by Bill Crider, 2014 reprint of the 1998 novel, 9781941298251.

No LOC CIP data on the verso. Only the 1999 copyright date is listed. 

Ellie Taine is headed back to her farm outside Blanco, TX.  Two men stop her and then rape her.  Both men are headed to Blanco to meet a confederate and rob the local bank.

Ellie heads home in a daze. Her husband discovers what happens he straps on his Navy model Colt and heads to town.  Mr. Taine gets into town right when the robbers are leaving the bank and Taine is shot dead off his horse.  The local minister and his wife collect Ellie, Ellie gets her husband buried, Ellie takes her shotgun to go after the raping murderers.

The bad guys, Ben and Jink, are bad dudes who've been raping and killing for years. They are also stupid and unable to plan much of anything beyond breakfast. They've teamed up with a former prison mate, O'Grady, to rob the bank. O'Grady is smarter and in Mexico he met a local rich rancher's no-good son who says the bank is filled with the Rich Rancher's cash. Gerald, the no-good son, has teamed with O'Grady to split the loot since his dying father won't give Gerald anything but the land and buildings.

The robbery is successful but the lack of cash in the bank makes bad guys suspicious and angry and they head to the ranch. The town's Marshal heads to the ranch when suspicious of Gerald. Gerald and the Marshal are killed, the bad guys leave. Ellie also hears about Gerald's actions during the robbery and is suspicious. She gets to the ranch and teams up with Gerald's dying father, Jonathan, to go after the men.

Things happen. Crider guides a third person trip back-and-forth from Ellie, Jonathan, Gerald, the bad guys, and other characters.  Ellie is out for revenge but realizes she's independent enough to heal on her own. Jonathan wishes his son did not turn into a shiftless bum, Jonathan sees a chance to leave his death bed and die in the saddle. The bad guys all want to double cross one another. The town's Deputy wants nothing of the manhunt.

1. There are several passages that just read like a Crider novel.  The way characters speak and act have Crider's style all over them.  The innate goodness of some people, Ellie and Jonathan, and their capacity to reject revenge and anger share a similarity with Sheriff Dan Rhodes.
2. Blanco Public Library has the Dell edition from 1998.
3. A revenge themed western? Unthinkable. In typical Crider-style there is always plenty of things going on. Characters are fat with character and motive; you understand who the characters are and why they act.  I liked the back-and-forth from character to character.
4. The second novel featuring Ellie, Texas Vigilante, is over on the new books shelf. I can see it from here. The book cover is face out on a display rack. I already have a few books waiting at home.
5. I used a semi-colon. Did you see that? Yeah, read the masthead and leave your grammar at home.

Something I read" The Dead Man, Volume 7" by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Something I read: Dead Man, Volume 7: crucible of fire; dark need; rising dead by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. Stories by Mel Odom, Stant Litore, Stella Green. 2014, 9781477823958.

I am glad I don't have to catalog these.  Multiple authors, multiple titles, copyright separate from publisher.

Recap: Matt Cahill was buried under an avalanche for several months. Matt died under the snow but woke up in the morgue and is now able to see the rotted and putrefying skin of people touched with evil.  Matt can also see and speak with an evil spirit - dressed as a clown - he calls Mr. Dark. Mr. Dark infects people with evil and Matt has been following Mr. Dark around the country trying to stop him. Matt has quick healing powers, finds brief employment when needed, and carries his grandfather's axe everywhere.

Crucible of Fire.  Matt headed into the Northwest after reading of suspicions forest fires.  Matt figures Mr Dark is at work.  Mr. Dark is at work, and a firebug with a homemade flamethrower is joyfully jetting flames around the forest.  Matt ended up working for a lumber outfit that pitches in during fires.  Matt sees a lot of people in town with corruption. Mr. Dark has been setting the fires to draw in Matt and ambush him in the fires. Matt punches, Matt runs, Matt axes, Matt escapes.

Dark Need. Matt is in Washington state.  He has seen a pattern of strange murders where the killer drains the blood of his victims. The victims seemingly have nothing in common.  Matt's research shows that when the killings are mapped they extend in a straight line, from town-to-town, into the mountains.  Matt tries to get ahead of the bad guy. Matt teams up with mysterious woman who is also tracking the killer. Matt is suspicious of her and her motives. Matt and woman fall through ice of frozen lake. Matt rescues her and then has sex with her. The woman is the killer's twin sister. The killer discovered an evil artifact in Iraq that gives him shape shifting power and allows him to drink blood and experience the donor's bad memories.  Matt catches the killer and nixes him.

Rising Dead. Matt goes looking for a teen who died and was revived. The teen starts seeing dead people and goes to mental hospital. Matt wants to chat. Matt arrives and boy is dead from suicide, Matt has a couple quick adventures before bad guys in the AZ/CA desert leave Matt stranded and hoping to rescue a kidnapped woman.  Matt meets a mysterious guy with a walking stick. Mysterious Guy also sees Mr. Dark. Mysterious Guy has been alive since the Revolutionary War and no longer tries to track Mr. Dark, Mysterious Guy has given up the effort. Matt convinces Mysterious Guy to help Matt out.

Rising was the most interesting of the three. Matt starts out on one path and is forced by circumstance and evil to take several turns. Previous stories had Matt meeting other died-and-revived people. Some of those people were like Matt and doing good. Some of those people took on Mr. Dark's side and just wanted to cause trouble and death.