His Last Bow

The late Michael Crichton was a colossus among popular novelists, and spun off movies as quick as I make wisecracks:  The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park, etc.  He was also an insightful social commentator, with observations like his Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

Turns out he left a literary lagniappe in his papers, the historical western novel Dragon Teeth.  (Read the review for a skeptical take on posthumous novels.)

DragonTeeth

The Introduction:

As he appears in an early photograph, William Johnson is a handsome young man with a crooked smile and a naive grin.  A study in slouching indifference, he lounges against a Gothic building.  He is a tall fellow, but his height appears irrelevant to his presentation of himself.  The photograph is dated “New Haven, 1875,” and was apparently taken after he had left home to begin studies as an undergraduate at Yale College.

A later photograph, marked “Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1876,” shows Johnson quite differently.  His mouth is framed by a full mustache; his body is harder and enlarged by use; his jaw is set; he stands confidently with shoulders squared and feet wide–and ankle-deep in mud.  Clearly visible is a peculiar scar on his upper lip, which in later years he claimed was the result of an Indian attack.

It only gets better, as our hero gets embroiled in the famous Cope-Marsh dinosaur rivalry in a truly Wild West.   I found this one on the Barnes and Noble discount table, hardback cheaper than paperback.  Read it!

 

Advertisements

Pandas

I just learned about the Chinese craze for pandas from Albinotronix, a new blogfollower, whose blog, The Curious Guy, is even more wide-ranging than mine.  I was particularly struck by his pithy summary of panda evolutionary foolishness:

Take a moment to think about this magnificent species

  • For no reason they decided to turn herbivores
  • For no reason they decided to stop reproducing

panda-bamboo
So this makes pandas the vegan hipsters of the Animal Kingdom. I shall henceforth refer to such persons as “Pandas.”

Mrs Sherlock Holmes

Was the nickname given lawyer-detective Grace Humiston when she became prominent in New York’s 1917 Ruth Cruger murder case.  The fascinating story is told in Brad Ricca’s biography Mrs Sherlock Holmes, which is as gripping and surprising as any great detective novel.

MrsSherlockHolmes

In an interesting episode, the wife of  suspected murderer Alfredo Cocchi is being questioned

Wallstein kept his questions focused on the police activities in the case. … She [Maria Cocchi] silently stuck out her hand and produced a white card.  Wallstein took it and turned it over.  It read:

Take care of Alfredo Cocchi.  He’s O. K.  BILLY EYNON

When Wallstein read the tiny card out loud, the crowd nodded and the reporters wrote. Everyone knew that Billy Eynon was an active motorcycle cop.  Wallstein was very familiar with these types of cards, though he wished that he were not.  The holder of the card could show it to any motorcycle squad member who had pulled him over for speeding and walk away without a ticket.   (p. 221)

Sketchy stuff.  What’s more, 103 years later, the NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is still handing out cards like this.  Better yet, you, too, can get one on EBay!

Whether to ask the question invites an answer

The Justice Department and the Census Bureau are engaged in a kerfuffle over the 2020 Census.  It’s all about a question of citizenship: “What country are you a citizen of?”  With the inevitable congressional reapportionment that occurs based on the Census, this is a question that many states really don’t want to know the answer to.

My take:  the Census Bureau has been crying poor for years now.  The Trump Administration should jawbone Congress into increasing the Bureau’s funding, but only if they ASK THE QUESTION (and report the answers).

Update:  Now folks should really be worried.  Combine citizenship data with Google location data (“we have ways to make you opt in”), and some dedicated data miners could find every Android-using illegal alien in the country.

Tips from the Instapundit, where the signal-to-noise ratio seems to be increasing lately.

Update:  It has come to my attention that at least one other branch of the federal government already ASKS THE QUESTION, to wit, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives* E-Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record has Questions 12 and 13:

ATFE4473_AskTheQuestion

In other words, you cannot exercise your 2nd Amendment right to own a firearm unless you ANSWER THE QUESTION.

* Or what I call a Redneck Hedge Fund.