Saturday, June 28, 2008


An Irene Kelly Novel
Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-7385-5
ISBN-10: 0-432-7385-0

Well, the new Laura Lippman was out at the local library so I put a reserve on it and I took a chance on this one, which I found while poking through the James Lee and Alafair Burke titles. Kidnapped is a pretty decent crime thriller except for the absolutely absurd premise, which makes it difficult to suspend disbelief. I suppose I shouldn't tell, in case someone wants to read the book after seeing this post. I'll just say that the motivation for the criminal conspiracy uncovered by the intrepid Irene Kelly is a bit far fetched.

Irene Kelly is the protagonist of a series of books written by Jan Burke. A newspaper reporter married to a police officer, she gets herself into a lot of trouble investigating crimes that she is not supposed to be writing about. This book also features forensic lab work and search and rescue dogs and a dog trainer hat I believe is a regular part of Burke's books. The forensics and SAR material seem to be well researched. Burke is involved in forensic science as a member of the California Forensic Science Institute.

I did get caught up in the hunt for the missing persons and the excitement of capturing the trained to kill with bare hands and crack shot ultra smart super villain, which Irene Kelly subdues with a non stick pan and a bottle of bleach. Oops, I just said too much.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Real Change

From the world that fails to the world that works.
Newt Gingrich
Regnery Publsihing
ISBN: 978-1-59698-053-2

Here's how the Newt starts his new book:

The media tell us America is a nation divided between conservative red states and liberal blue states. They tell us that red and blue are qqually divided - which is why elections are so close, why Congress seems gridlocked, and why nothing ever seems to get done in Washington.

But this is simply not true. The reality is the American people are united on almost every important issue facing our country. The real division is between red-white -and-blue America (about 85 percent of the country) and a fringe on the left (about 15 percent of the country).

Translation: I know that your, dear reader are a true patriotic American, not like those elitist lefties on your TV, telling you what to think. You are going to agree with me because I'm a true patriotic American, too. You and I know what's really going on, they can't fool us. Can I interest you in used car?

The Newt goes on to explain how a new less partisan politics is needed and how only the Republican party can bring this about because Republicans stand for truth, justice and the American way, unlike those evil Democrats, plotting their tax and spend takeover of the world by trial lawyers from Holywood. Real Change means more of the same in prettier packaging brought to you by the party of Exxon and Peabody Coal.

Real Change is a piece of excrement written by one of the architects of the current partisan, all or nothing, party loyalty before national interest, politics. Don't bother to read it. If you're a dittohead you can get the same stuff more entertainingly from that big mouth on your AM radio. If you're not it will be bad for your blood pressure. Newt is one of those politicians who is so crooked he has to screw his socks on in the morning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Homo Politicus

The Strange and Scary Tribes That Run Our Government
Dana Milbank

The premise of this tome is that Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist, is an anthropologist studying the primitive tries found along the banks of the Potomac and writing them up for publication, possibly achieving tenure in the process. It only works up to a point. After the fifth or sixth chapter the joke is pretty stale.

Politicians, lobbyists, journalists, staffers and various hangers on in Washington D.C. have their quirks and peccadilloes and Milbank is here to tell us all about them. Since it is on the eleven o'clock news every stinking night right after he drive by shootings, the carjackings and the baby alligators in the toilet, we are all pretty familiar already. If I hear one more blue dress joke I am going to scream.

The glossary of Potomac speak is useful and interesting, though. Here are a few examples:

You're doing a heck of a job.
You will be fired in ten days.

I don't pay attention to the polls.
My approval rating is 32 percent.

Frankly . . .
The following statement is false.

Since it's the quadrennial silly season I thought a bit of political reading might be in order. This is plenty, though. I'm going to return Newt's bogus diatribe and check out a nice Laura Lippman novel or something to cleanse my palate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Man Who Loved China

The fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the middle kingdom.
Simon Winchester
Harper Collins
ISBN 978-0-06-088459-8

Chances are that you have heard that the Chinese invented gunpowder, printing and spaghetti. The reason we know these things, along with a myriad of other facts about the contributions of China to science, technology and philosophy is that a British biochemist, a fellow of Caius College at Cambridge, went to China in 1943 on a diplomatic mission: to aid the various colleges and universities in China which had been displaced by the Japanese occupation of much of coastal eastern China.

Joseph Needham collected thousands of books, manuscripts letters, paintings and other artifacts related to the history of Chinese technological development over the course of centuries. He spent four years in China, traveling, visiting and interviewing Chinese scholars, ordering books and materials to be flown "over the hump" (over the Himalayas in U.S. Military aircraft) to aid their research, trying to learn what contributions China had made to civilization and asking what has become known as "Needham's question": why did it stop?

With China now on the verge of becoming the world's new economic engine it might seem silly to think that China's contributions to civilization had ever stopped, but at the time Needham visited China the general (western) understanding was that China had stagnated since about the fifteenth century. This may be entire illusory, an artifact of western hubris or it may be a temporary lull in the relentless ant hill march of Chinese progress.

Needham spent the rest of his life writing his magnum opus, the multi-volume "Science and Civilisation in China" in which he details all of the thousands of technological, scientific and philosophical firsts for which China is due credit.

But Needham was far from being just a grind. He dabbled in Bolshevism, nudism, polyamory and liberal Christianity. He was a fonding director of UNESCO. He became entangled in a genine communist plot: perpetrated by communist China during the Korean war, to falsy accuse the United States of sing biological warfare. He learned to read and to speak Manderin from his mistress, Lu Gwei-djen, who lived just a couple of doors up the street from Needham and his wife for decades, traveled to China to join Needham there during his mission and worked with Needham on his huge book project. Needham's wife, Dorothy did also. The two women got along together famously.

I think there's another book in that.