Daily archives: September 8, 2005

Flying off the shelves

As suggested earlier, here is a list of the books and DVDs lited on Amazon so far. Links are to the product pages, if you want to buy my copies you’ll have to click through to the marketplace and search me out.

There follows the first part of a glance into my buying habits and perhaps my soul-

The Dilbert Principle, Dilbert: The Joy of Work, The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century

Life at The Gas was far too much like Dilbert. I bought these three as a set, but they’ve been treated with different levels of respect.

The Greatest Raid of All

Tells the tale of a daring commando raid on the biggest dry dock on occupied France’s Atlantic Coast. Putting it out of action reduced the effectiveness of Germany’s largest battle ships as they had nowhere to go to get repaired.

In the Beginning…Was the Command Line

A fascinating essay on operating systems by the author of Cryptonomicon.

Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and…

I’ll be honest, I never got round to reading this. As it’s been sitting on the bookshelf for about four years I guess I never will.

Dude, Where’s My Country?

Michael Moore at his acidic best. For those few of you who just don’t get it there’s always Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.

The Butcher

Literary smut from France. A young student falls for the animal charms of the butcher for whom she is working in the Summer vacation.

Executive Target [1997] [DVD]

Michael Madsen is the washed up stunt driver blackmailed into being the wheel man when the President is kidnapped. Cheese, but with some okay car chases.

The Gladiator

Directed by Abel Ferrara of Driller Killer fame, this is TV movie fodder about a man becoming a vigilante to avenge the death of his younger brother and becoming what he is trying to fight against.

Battleship “Tirpitz”

Dad got this from his book club by accident and passed it on to me. As I’m not about to do any ship modelling I thought I’d sell it.

And there’ll be more in the coming days. I’ll be updating as and when I feel like it.

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Reefer Madness

Three long essays, and an extensive notes and bibliography section, make up this book that looks at the US’ illegal and semi-legal economy. Eric Schlosser studies the politics and economics of marijuana, the growing illegal immigrant worker army and one man’s domination of the porn industry.

For over a century American politicians and moralisers have demonised cannabis and all who smoke it. The emphasis has always been on the harmful effects of the demon weed could have on middle class white kids. Senences for handling, or aiding the handling of, marijuana have escalated to the point where you can get a smaller sentence for murdering someone than for dealing a little dope. Meanwhile the system of paying informants and seizing assets has encouraged massive corruption.
As with any ill thought out, reactionary policy it’s the poor who suffer the mostwhilst the wealthy get away with their crimes and the powerful demonise those least able to fight back. The US prison system is underfunded and incapable of coping and the whole war on drugs is failing.

Per acre, strawberries are second only to marijuana. It is also one of the few cash crops that still cannot be effectively mechanically picked. So the strawberry farms of California rely on Mexican workers, many illegal, to harvest the berries and keep the costs down.

Conditions today are almost worse than thosefor the Okies in Grapes of Wrath. Unions have been broken up and pickers and sharecroppers exploited by unscrupulous farmers and combines.

The last essay traces the career of Reuben Sturman, a Cleveland comic salesman turned smut peddler who, at his peak, was the most powerful individual in the US porn industry. Consistently the obscenity cases brought against Sturman collapsed. In one ruling the jury produced a multi-page response berating the government for wasting time and money.

Such high profile embarrassments made Sturman a target for the authorities and in the end they got him for tax evasion. Not wanting to give money to the system that was trying to put him out of business, Sturman operated through increasingly complex series of shell companies and off shore accounts. Only by alleging, based on evidence it still won’t release, that Sturman had connections to the Mafia could the IRS get access to his Swiss accounts and make their case.

Throughout the essays it is clear that Schlosser is exasperated by successive governments’ inability to set the right priorities and hypocrisy in ignoring the behaviour of Enron et al. He seems to have warmed less to Sturman than his other subjects, but it is harder to feel for a tax cheat who resorted to strong arm tactics at the end than a man who could die in prison because he tried to supply somne medical marijuana.

Like Fast Food Nation, Schlosser’s look at junk food culture, this book makes you despair for the state of the US. However, unlike the expanding waistline, it looks like some of the problems aren’t going to exported, as other countries, including Britain, adopt more civilised drugs laws and others can manage to be grown up about sex.

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