Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review of "The Panther" by Nelson De Mille

Nelson De Mille is one of the best suspense/espionage writers on the planet.  Bar none.  His work has focused on issues in the Viet Nam war (in which he served) and issues related to terrorism in the Middle East. and in the former Soviet Union.  I became addicted to him and his work with "Charm School".  Later he produced "The Lions Game" a greater than 600 page story about a terrorist who arrives in New York and goes around killing politicians.  I began reading "The Lion's Game" on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.   As the day wore on I could not put it down. because I had to know what was on the next page.  I stayed up all night reading, called in sick at work at 7:00 a.m. Monday morning and finally finished the book at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon.  I read the entire book in one 26 hour sitting.  That's how good it was.

I anticipated a similar experience with the release of his new book "The Panther" about efforts to capture / kill an American-born Islamic-terrorist.  I didn't finish the book and in fact made it only through 480 of its 600 some pages.  Mr. De Mille asked at the start of the book for comments about factual errors.  I emailed him two that I found plus a comment about the book.  That is contained in the following email sent to Mr De Mille.

Bottom line is that this would have been a great read had the principal character, Detective John Corey, not made ridiculous endless wise assed comments about everything all the time.  It became very old and very childish at the same time.   I hope De Mille's next book isn't as annoying as "The Panther."

February 20, 2013

Dear Nelson De Mille,

At the beginning of The Panther you requested that people contact you with errors in the text.  I found two factual errors in the 480 pages of the book that I survived reading. I want to point them out to you.   I also have one comment.

First early in the book you refer to military people returning to "Dover Air Force Base in Maryland."  Dover AFB is in Dover Delaware.

Secondly, while Chet and the others are tooling around in Aden harbor with Chet driving the boat he pulls out his gun and shoots at a bird that is described as "black and white" and which Chet refers to as a "masked booby gull."

As a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist I can assure you that Masked Booby's are not gulls.  Taxonomically gulls are in the family Laridae.  Ornithologically they are closely related to shorebirds (sandpipers etc), Jaegers (skuas) and terns.   Taxonomically Masked Booby is a member of the family Sulidae, the gannets and boobies.  Ornithologically they are most closely related to Frigatebirds, Cormorants and Pelicans.   These latter birds are much more primitive (ornithologically and genetically) than are gulls.

The only thing that any species of booby has in common with any species of gull is that 1) they both have feathers and 2) they both like to hang out around water.  After that all similarities end.  You can learn about Masked Booby at this link:

Finally the comment.  I really came to enjoy your work with Charm School.  That book had me hooked and I read "The Lions Game" in one single 26 hour nonstop setting.  Given how much I enjoyed your earlier works (every one of them) I want you to know that I was less than impressed with The Panther.  You have taken the wise-cracking persona of John Corey to an extreme. No human being is going to make smart assed comments about every thing on earth every sentence and every breath.  However that is what John Corey became in this book.  Of the 600 plus pages of the book my guess is you could have knocked down the volume of the book by 150 pages had you taken out half of Corey's unnecessary comments.  It rapidly became very old and very boring and to be honest I quit reading the book and placed it in the garbage after 480 pages.  Accordingly I do not know how the book ends and quite frankly I don't care.  I'll just pick up one of Bill Bryson's books and read it.  He makes wise cracks but at least only on occasion and when he does they are entertaining.

I sincerely hope that if John Corey survived the time in Yemen and you decide to use him in an subsequent books you produce that you cool down his smart assed view of everything.  It quit being entertaining about on page 50 of The Panther.

Craig Faanes
Sarasota Florida

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Benefits of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Every three months I pick up a 90-day supply (270 pills) of Propafanone. It is the drug I take 3 times a day every day for the rest of my life to ensure that my heart never ever again goes into atrial fibrilation. If you've ever had a bout of a. fib you know why you never want it again. 

In 2010 when the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) was enacted, my co-pay for 270 pills was $120 every three months. In 2011, the first full year after enactment my co-pay went down to $70 every three months. Last year the co-pay was $56 every three months. 

Last night I picked up my first 90-day supply of the drug in calendar year 2013. Guess what my co-pay was?? Its now down to $35 every three months! 

Thanks Barack for signing the bill. Its certainly providing the "affordable" care promised by the title. And its also knocking down prescription prices as promised. Mission Accomplished :)

Oh, and Congresswoman Michelle (Batshit Crazy Shelley) Bachmann (R-MN) you can shove your death squad scare tactics directly up pampered Federal-subsidy-loving ass. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Jimmy Buffett Birthplace National Historic Site

Jimmy Buffett's Birthplace at the Corner of Garfield and Roosevelt Streets, Pascagoula, Mississippi

Jimmy Buffett, the greatest singer, songwriter, and calypso poet ever to swim in the Caribbean (not to mention being the permanent mayor of Margaritaville) was born in a humble home in Pascagoula, Mississippi on December 25, 1946.  A few years later, while still in his infancy, this future mega star and environmental advocate moved with his family to near Mobile, Alabama where he was raised.  He never grew up so it can only be said that he was raised.

Now 66 years old his career has spanned all or parts of six decades and his impact on music and on people's outlooks has been almost impossible to quantify.  Despite having recorded more than 300 songs only three of them (Come Monday, Margaritaville, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere) have ever made the Top 10 and the only one to win an award was Five O'Clock and that was a joint award with Alan Jackson. Still despite the greatness of his music making it to the Top 10 only three times he has a following of Parrotheads that has to be the envy of every other singer and band out there.  

Who else but Jimmy Buffett could get people to dress up in coconut shell bras and feel secure in themselves at a concert?

Jimmy has said several times that with fans like Parrotheads who needs awards still the lack of recognition afforded him and his accomplishments borders on criminal.  Johnny Cash, who wouldn't know rock and roll music if it bought him another quaalude has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Jimmy Buffett has not.  The Everly Brothers, who wouldn't know rock and roll if it bit them on the ass have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but not Jimmy Buffett.  Even Bobby Darin has made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but Jimmy Buffett hasn't even been considered.

I think this is a national travesty and a national tragedy and I am determined to fix it and I an going to fix it by proposing that Congress establish the Jimmy Buffett Birthplace National Historic Site in Pascagoula, Mississippi and that they do it soon!  Right now if you stop by the Chamber of Commerce office in Pascagoula and ask for a map of the city bicycle path, the seventh place highlighted on the map is to stop by Jimmy Buffett's birthplace!  Eighth on the list is the former home of William Faulkner - Jimmy is surrounded by greatness in that city.  The city of Pascagoula recognizes his awesomness.  Its time Congress did as well.

Currently there are 79 sites across the United States that have been designated by Congress as a National Historic Site:  Among many others, these sites include Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace, in Kentucky Andrew Johnson's Birthplace in Tennessee, Carl Sandburg's Home in the mountains of North Carolina, and the home of twisted author Edgar Alan Poe in Philadelphia where he concocted the story "The Pit and the Pendulum."  

While I was in Mississippi this week I stopped by the Mary C O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education in Ocean Springs where I saw the "Senator Trent Lott Auditorium" on display.  Not far outside of Pascagoula I stopped at the "Trent Lott International Airport" that receives no commercial air traffic whatsoever let alone any from international locations.  It seems that every bridge and every stretch of US highway along the coast of Mississippi is named after some dead soldier or a state trooper killed in action.  Given all of that why can't this humble home in Pascagoula be established by Congress as a National Historic Site to the greatest singer to ever come out of the Mississippi Gulf Coast?  The entrance sign to Mississippi contains the slogan "Birthplace of America's Music"  Its high time Congress took action to codify that statement.

The last Congress that ended in 2012 passed something like 100 bills in two years and the bulk of them were for re-naming Post Office buildings.  Why can't the same thing be done in the current Congress and why can't they start with Jimmy Buffett?

I'm going to begin my letter writing campaign this week and I encourage you to do the same.  Start by contacting these two US Senators from Mississippi:

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
555 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: (202) 224-6253
Fax: (202) 228-0378

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
United States Senate
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2402

And the person most likely to benefit from the designation is the Congressman from Mississippi's Fourth Congressional District

Congressman Steve Palazzo (R-MS)
331 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5772
Fax: (202) 225-7074

Do it for people like this guy who got in touch with his inner child at a Buffett concert in Tampa and drove around on a bicycle that looks like a shark while carrying a shark fin on his back.  Not many people other than Jimmy Buffett has this affect on Americans and that alone qualifies for his humble beginnings to be forever immortalized in a National Historic Site designation.

Fins Up!