Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: I Heard You Paint Houses

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:23 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I finished I Heard You Paint Houses last week.
I meant to do a review over the weekend, but that thing with the birds rattled me and I forgot. Anyway, it was a good book. I read a fair amount of “true crime” sort of books and they vary widely in quality, but this was pretty well written. Of course, a lot of the book is actually taken directly from taped interviews with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who, before his death, claimed to be the guy who “took care” of Jimmy Hoffa.
In fact, that was one of the interesting things about this book. See, Sheeran was a long-time friend of Hoffa. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The book starts out with Sheeran recalling his rather rough childhood on the mean streets of Philadelphia. Coming from a home with a poor, alchoholic and abusive father made Frank Sheeran a tough Mick in an already tough neighborhood. That toughness would serve him well after he enlisted during World War II and served in the most active Army unit in the European theatre. Most of his friends didn’t make it through the first few weeks, much less make it through the whole war, so Frank learned to not get too attached. Well, not to anything but red wine and a “good time”. Mainly, though, he took after his old man and drank. After making it through the war, Frank came back to tough times. To make ends meet, he started stealing from the companies who hired him to drive trucks. It was through some of these crooked contacts that he met crime boss Russell Bufalino. Later, after doing way too many favors for Bufalino, Frank would find out, like the rest of the nation, that there was not only “organized crime”, but that his friend Russell was one of the top Godfathers.
Along the way to that discovery, Sheeran would get involved in the quickly growing Teamster’s Union. Remember, this was back in the days when things like unions might be all that stood in the way of gross abuses perpetrated against the American worker by big business. Many of the current government legislation to protect the working man simply didn’t exist and it was all out war between the Corporation and the Worker. And, that kind of bloody war was right where both Sheeran and Hoffa were at home.
I won’t spoil the whole book, but I will say that, if it’s all true, the “mystery” of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance, who was behind the assasination of JFK, and why the Bay of Pigs failed are all made clear. Sometimes, I wonder if any of it’s true, but, well, either way, it’s still a good read. Fast paced and informative, it’s some of the best writing and story-telling I’ve read in a long time.
Oh, the title comes from the first conversation Sheeran had with Hoffa. Introduced over the phone by Russell Bufalino, the first question Hoffa asked was “I heard you paint houses”, which is slang for “I hear you kill people for the mob” and comes from the fact that killing someone in a house “paints” it red with their blood. Sheeran’s reply was “Yeah, I do my own carpentry, too.” That’s slang for “I build the coffins to get rid of the bodies myself, too”, though, most of the time, there aren’t any actual coffins.
In any case, it’s a great book and I reccomend it highly to anyone who’s interested in either Jimmy Hoffa or the Mob.

I also read Tarnsman of Gor this week, because it was close to hand. I don’t reccomend it though, unless you’re an undersexed adolescent boy, that is. That’s the primary audience. Personally, I read it hoping with each page that it would get better, but it never did. And, still, that stinker sells like hotcakes. Go figure.

Currently, I’m reading Jesus in Blue Jeans, which is an interesting counter-point to the last two books! I’m not sure what I’ll pull out of the pile o’ books by my bed to read after that. With my eclectic taste, it could be anything!


Review: Junky

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:16 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I finished Junky by William S. Burroughs this week.
As always, Burroughs is an entertaining, if somewhat disturbing, read. He is, of course, infamous for his drug inspired literature and with a title like Junkycould you expect anything less? The book jacket says that the work is “semi-autobiographical”, but, from what I know about Burroughs’ life, it’s pretty much dead on. Oh, some of the characters and specific situations might be fictional, but the meat of the work is pretty much real. Or, as real as anything ever is in his work. Of course, he was often writing while under the influence of heroin, which is the main subject of Junky, actually. Heroin addiction. It is, unfortunately a timely subject as H is on the rise again, or was a few years back. Thankfully, I’m somewhat removed from that world and don’t know what the “drug of choice” is among today’s up and coming addict. I am not, however, all that far removed from being driven by personal demons. Sadly, I understand this all too well and, in that way, Burroughs’ writing always resonates with me. When the main character, Burrough’s first-person alter-ego, describes everything in life being “gray” when not on H, I know what he means. How everything seems bland in comparison, even lesser “kicks” or highs don’t do as much as H. I get it when he talks about abandoning all else just to get that next fix. I recognize this landscape of pain, though I may not have walked it myself.
Honestly, this is as close as I can imagine it coming to seeing inside a junky’s head. Seeing the world as they see it. Seeing their drives and needs and how that prioritizes their life. It’s a little frightening at times as it describes over and over the process of needing to score and the mechanics of scoring then shooting up, though the depictions are far from graphic or obscene. If you have a strong spirit and want to see the bleak world an addict inhabits, this is a great read for you.

Now, though, I’ve started I Heard You Paint Houses : Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Final Ride of Jimmy Hoffa, so it’s more crime drama coming soon!


Harry Potter Personality & Review

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It’s a quiz on Beliefnet of all places!
When I took the “What’s your Potter Personality“, I was, at my best Albus Dumbledore. Obviously, I was pleased with that result, since I often think of myself as the Old Wizard, who makes things happen that other people don’t quite get. Well, with computers, anyway. Unfortunately, at my worst, I’m closest to Luna Lovegood. Luckily, I don’t believe in crazy conspiracy theories, so I must be more Dumbledore than Lovegood. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it!
Well, either way, it was a fun quiz.

So, this is my roundabout way of saying I finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince yesterday. I liked it. Honestly, I’m surprised that this series grabbed me the way it did. Originally, I started reading it to give me more to talk to my step-daughter about, but then I got all caught up in the very complicated, multi-layered plot. It’s quite well done. Now, how do I talk about this without revealing any significant plot points…
I know it may have been too obvious, but I thought the Half-Blood Prince of the title was Voldemort right up until the real answer was revealed. It was, I have to admit, a bit of a surprise. And, frankly, with all the reading I’ve done over the years, I’m not often surprised by a plot twist. The other thing that seemed, well, a bit off to me was who Harry hooked up with in the book. Though, in a way, it does make sense, and I almost expect a wedding in the next book, if everyone involved survives. Speaking of survival, I’m not convinced that the character who died will remain dead in the final book. He’s too important. Personally, I think he’ll be reborn, in some way, into something that will be significant in killing Voldemort. And, I think Fudge will end up being the Minister of Magic again, after the dust clears.
Yeah, that’s about all I can say without giving anything away. It’s a good book and a good series. Of course, it is important to remember that this is really children’s literature that has wider appeal. For a kid’s series, it has a horribly complicated plot and mesh of sub-plots. Not to mention the unusually deep characterization and sophistication of the fantasy elements of this created world. I’ll have to reaquire the first five books and re-read the entire series before book seven comes out. (Yes, they’re that good!)

Now, I just have to pick the next book to read. Hmm, should it be The Napoleon of Crime : The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief or Linux Server Security, or I Heard You Paint Houses : Frank \”The Irishman\” Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Final Ride of Jimmy Hoffa, or Linux Firewalls (2nd Edition), or Jesus in Blue Jeans : A Practical Guide to Everyday Spirituality, or Cities of the Red Night : A Novel. So much to read and so little time.

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