On Miss Congeniality (2000)

Book coverWow, this film is twenty years old, which makes it an old movie by now. Which means it’s about time for me to watch it. I mean, it’s not like a black and white film, which it might well have been if it had been a movie twenty years old when I was born. But its humor is that of another time, when you could make fun of stereotypes and whatnot.

At any rate, Sandra Bullock plays a tomboy FBI agent whose compassion during a raid leads to an FBI agent getting shot and puts her in the doghouse with her boss played by Ernie Hudson. When the team gets a tip that a serial bomber might target the Miss United States pageant, they decide to send someone undercover–and Agent Gracie Hart is the only one of the team who might look good in a swimsuit. So she goes undercover, getting a crash course in behaving like a lady from a pageant tutor played by Michael Caine, and she learns that the pretty women whom she’d mocked for performing in pageants have heart and intelligence and they’re all similar.

You know, the kind of lesson we used to get from movies and whatnot.

At any rate, a product of a different time, and a pleasant viewing experience. My beautiful wife, who had already seen the film, watched it with me, and that’s kind of rare these days as our taste in movies has diverged a bit as, strangely, she prefers more modern blockbuster sorts of films.

Also, it starred Sandra Bullock.

Continue reading “On Miss Congeniality (2000)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Breathe: You Are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh (1995)

Book coverIt’s been a year since Thich Nhat Hanh died; in researching how to say his name, I found a documentary made on the anniversary of his death where everyone was calling him by either his nickname or his birth name, so I’ve had to rely on the Wikipedia entry for pronunciation. Not that I’ll ever actually say his name aloud; mostly I just type it here in book reports (see also Thundering Silence and Peace of Mind: Becoming Fully Present).

This book slots into the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge‘s “Religious or Spiritual” category. Originally, I picked up the Joel Osteen book I bought five years ago(?!), but it was more of a self-help book akin to Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes or The Power of Positive Thinking–although they include Bible versus, they’re not religious in theme–they don’t talk about the nature of the divine or the doctrines of a church.

This book, like Thundering Silence, is commentary and history of a particular Buddhist sutra. This one is a lesson on breathing by Buddha, sixteen practices or things that you can think while breathing in and out to calm your body, calm your feelings, calm your mind, and lead you to enlightment or closer thereto. It’s basically thirty-two lines of teaching wrapped in the story of where and when Buddha taught it (the sutra itself) followed again by historical analysis of how the Sutra (or sutta) was passed down, history of the sutra’s setting, and then commentary and expansion on the practices.

Basically, again, it’s breathing, but with each exhalation and inhalation, repeating to yourself to calm your mind, calm your feelings, understand the object of your mind, and then progressing at the last quartet into understanding the non-dual nature of everything and whatnot. So one can take it through the first three quarters of it and get a good course on mindfulness, but the last quarter goes into the unified nature of self and non-self that underlies Buddhism.

That, and the mention of the cycle of rebirth, are really the only Buddhist cosmology in the book, and none of the later evolved cosmic Buddhas (like Amida Buddha and whatnot). So very core, very original to the tradition. But the text itself was passed down for generations, popping up in Vietnam based on an earlier Chinese translation (or perhaps I got this backwards). So an interesting read and an educational read, but it has not convinced me to be a Buddhist.

To breathe a little deeper and talk to myself as I do so, sure.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

You Want Conspiracy Theories? I Got Conspiracy Theories!

This thought occurred to me the other morning when I was trying to not wake up at 4:00 in the morning.

Borepatch, amongst others asks:

For the life of me, I can’t see what compelling interest the USA has in war with Russia. I can see what the US Military Industrial Complex has with a war like that. And as they say, “War is the health of the State”.

But I don’t see what’s in it for us.

You mean, what is in it for the United State in burning off war materiel by shipping it to Europe? By leaving, what, $7,000,000,000 worth of stuff abandoned in Afghanistan?

I’ve seen people speculate it’s the military industry looking for profits. Meh, I don’t think the military industrial complex has been hurting for money. But you know cui bono from diminished stocks in the United States?

General is right that US, China headed to war over Taiwan by 2025: congressman

Paranoid thoughts in the middle of the night? Or history in the making? Time will tell.

Also, as a disclaimer, I don’t think war is inevitable, nor do I think it is impossible. History is full of currents, trends, and proclivities that are only manifest in events, and then we can argue about why they occurred. So it’s never clear what is to come, and it’s only marginally clearer what just happened.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On A Perfect World (1993)

Book coverA couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs I read mentioned this film (not the Ace of Spade HQ movie thread which mentioned Clint Eastwood only this weekend). Sorry, but I read so many blogs that if I don’t post on something right away and instead, if it sticks a little nugget in my brain triggering a thought days later, it’s lost in the torrents of time. So sorry for no hat tip, other blogger. But when I saw you mention it, when it came time for a film at Nogglestead, I tried to tempt a young man to watch a film with me, offering Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Fast and Furious, but when the boy demurred, I settled on this film which I bought sometime in antiquity. I know that not because it’s a videocassette–I buy them all the time inexpensively–but because it was in the movie cabinet and not atop it.

So I watched it.

The story details how two convicts, Kevin Costner and the other guy, break out of a Texas prison and go on the run. They end up with a hostage, a boy whose home the other guy invades instead of stealing a car, and Costner prevents the fellow from raping the mother before they get away. The boy and the fugitive bond a bit as the boy’s family is strict and the fugitive was abandoned at a young age, and he grew up in bordellos but did not grow up to be Brahms. Clint Eastwood leads a Texas state team of law enforcement in pursuit in a new mobile command trailer that has all the latest gear–and steaks and tots in the freezer. So we see the fugitive and the boy bond, but although we get some sympathy for the fugitive, he eventually goes a bit off the rails and is stopped when the boy defends another father from the fugitive. Which leads to a long climax/denouement and ending. And a closing that matches the opening shot which frames the whole thing for some reason.

So I guess the deeper story is the fugitive bonding with the boy, making some of the same mistakes he would have expected his father to make (trysting with a waitress at a roadhouse, for example, telling the boy to wait in the car) to his trying to rectify his father’s sins (making a father tell his son that he loves him presumably before the fugitive before the he is setting up to kill the father). But it doesn’t work for me, maybe because I’m a father busy making different mistakes than my own father (he was the type to tryst with waitresses), and I don’t have to project or empathize with the fugitive as much as many men without fathers might.

At any rate, not a bad film, but probably not something I’ll rewatch unless I’m on a complete Clint Eastwood retrospective. Which might happen in the next thirty years.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Merchanter’s Luck: Rendezvous at Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh (1982)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a category entitled “Set in Space”, and this was the first space paperback that I set my hands on. It was a pretty fine DAW first edition when I started it, but it’s a read copy now, which is just as well.

I have not read a Cherryh book since middle school or high school, when I came across a copy of The Pride of Chanur at the library and recognized the title from the song “The Pride of Chanur” by Leslie Fish from a collection of filk music, Quarks and Quests, that I’d ordered basically for the cost of shipping from the back of an Analog or Asimov science fiction magazine.

Uh, spoiler alert: That is a good summary of the plot of The Pride of Chanur, which I also bought in….2007? Which is odd; I am pretty sure that I just came across a paperback copy of the book in the stacks, too, so maybe I have two.

At any rate, it has taken me this long (35 years) to read my second Cherryh book (probably–although I might have read another when I was younger that I do not remember).

Which is a lot of column inches to another book I’ve read by the author. What about this book?

The title on the spine is Merchanter’s Luck, but the cover also says Rendezvous at Downbelow Station which made me wonder if this book was the start of a series. Well, a moment’s research on the Internet indicates that this book followed Downbelow Station but was not so much a sequel as a book in the same part of space with some minor characters who were the major characters in the previous book.

In this book, a single owner/operator of a small merchant vessel, the sole remaining member of the family who’d owned it after they were slaughtered or taken prisoner by pirates and two other brothers died after, is down on his luck. He’s down to his last credits, he’s operating under an assumed identity and with a renamed ship, “borrowing” money from the margin account of a distant trade syndicate, and without a crew since his last hired man jumped ship, and with few prospects. In a dive bar, looking for a crewman, he encounters a beautiful woman, member of a powerful family running a ship with 1000 crew but with no prospects for young helmswomen to advance, and they spend the night together. He then vows to see her again at her ship’s next stop, several hops away. No problem for a ship crewed around the clock, but for a single man flying solo, a risky endeavor–as the hops are disorienting and the total time takes several weeks of flight time. He manages to get there and becomes a minor celebrity, but entangles himself embarrassingly with the woman’s family–which leads to the family bankrolling his operation so long as he takes five family members with him on an expedition to nigh-uncharted space where trading opportunities might be had. Or they might be bait for a trap.

The book runs 208 pages, and for the first quarter I was really enjoying the world-building and how it was worked in with the plot, and the captain of the small vessel and the woman were falling for each other. But it got a little too intriguey, with the limited omniscient narrator looking in on one then the other and the other family members and a lot of back and forth about how they could not trust each other and steps they took in their mutual distrust. I would have preferred a more straightforward narrative, but that would not have made book length without the long passages and sections where one character distrusts the other, they talk about it, and one or the other thinks about how he or she cannot trust the other. As you might know, gentle reader, I don’t really get off on intrigues, which is why I am not so fond of modern television.

At any rate, it was ultimately okay. I won’t dodge Cherryh books in the future, but I don’t know when I’ll find another on the shelves. I do have numerous other DAW books on the shelves here, including a boxed set of Andre Norton books, another author I read once or twice as a kid that led me to buy more later. I don’t know when I will get to them, but certainly not before the end of the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Citation Provided

I know I already covered the story about insurance companies not writing insurance for some easily stolen cars. That was based on something I saw on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Web site.

Well, the story has made it to Springfield media as we see on this KY3 story: Some insurers refusing to cover cars deemed easy to steal:

Two major auto insurers, State Farm and Progressive, will not be writing new policies on certain older Kia and Hyundai vehicles because they are so easy to steal.

Affected vehicles include those manufactured by Kia and Hyundai between 2015 and 2019 that don’t have immobilizers, which prevent the vehicle from starting if its key is not present. Most vehicles from other manufacturers with the push button start system include that technology.

Which is currently on the home page below this story: MSHP trooper struck by stolen vehicle, two suspects at large:

Three juveniles were taken into custody after a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper was struck by a stolen vehicle they were driving. Three of them were taken into custody and two remain at large.

On Saturday around 8:45 p.m., an MSHP trooper was asking for a license plate check while conducting a traffic stop for a Kia Optima on I-70 eastbound just west of Mid Rivers Mall Drive. All occupants were juveniles. Shortly after stopping the Kia, authorities say the vehicle struck the trooper and drove away, initiating a pursuit.

Not a Chevy Citation, either.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Brian J. Makes Every Maudlin Count

Well, I make almost every moment maudlin anyway.

This week, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, we had a pretty good snowstorm here at Nogglestead. Initial predictions were for 1 to 12 inches of snow, depending upon when the temperature dropped below freezing. Eventually, we got about four inches of wet, packable snow here.

A couple miles to the south of us and all along the Highway 60 corridor, the route I take to Poplar Bluff to see my brother, they got a foot of snow and have been out of school all week. As is happened, my boys only got one day off of school, although the school had prepared them to be off the rest of the week.

As the temperature had flirted with the freezing point, it was good, warm, packable snow. We rarely get measurable snowfall here–once or twice a year most years–and it tends to be of the colder, finer-flaked variety.

So I knew this might be my last chance to have a snowball fight with my boys.

I mean, I’ve had a couple of snowball fights with my children over the years. Intermittently, and probably not every year, as we have had years with little snow indeed.

I don’t remember having a snowball fight with my father, but we must have tossed a couple of snowballs each others’ way once, ainna? The late 1970s were pretty snowy in Wisconsin, but although I remember epic snow forts built on either side of the sidewalk leading to our apartment in the projects and a snowball fight between us and the kids from the next apartment, I don’t really remember much about my father from that era. He was working, drinking and philandering, or hunting most of the time. So the boys will remember me better, I hope.

As they’re teenagers now, the last times are becoming more prevalent (and my anticipation that this is the last time is even more prevalent–I mourn far more last times than we actually have experienced so far). I mean, the oldest has been applying for jobs now. When the boys have been called to dinner and they appear reluctantly, I’ve pointed out that the times we share nightly meals together are rapidly diminishing, but they don’t know. They’ve always had dinner with Mom and Dad in the evenings. In as little as a matter of days, my oldest might be working most nights during the dinner hour, and we will only be three around the table. For maybe another year.

I suppose I need to get some new in my life to freshen things up, or at least distract me from the things that are passing away. I mean, I’ve been doing martial arts classes for almost a decade and triathlons for five years. So they’re not new, they’re old–and are among things that will be passing out of my life too soon. I’ve taken back up with writing poetry intermittently–but I’ve not had much coffee shop time in recent months–and I’m thinking about attending a couple of open mic nights in the near future.

But, in the mean time, I will post this song again.

Probably not for the last time.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On Philosophy: Who Needs It? by Ayn Rand (1974)

Book coverI must have bought this cassette of of eBay around the turn of the century–or did I order it directly from Second Renaissance Books back in the day? In the 1990s, Second Renaissance published a lot of Ayn Randia, and maybe you could order stuff from its catalog or from the forms in the back of its books. I know I subscribed to The Intellectual Activist (wow, that was still a going concern as late as 2021, so maybe I saw ads in it (probably not). I even read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and The Ominous Parallels back in college. I was a pretty dedicated little-o objectivist back then.

I found this audiocassette in one of the bins in my desk cubby; I am not sure why it was up there or why it was floating around. Perhaps it had been in a desk drawer and I moved it to the cubby at some point. I got it out with the intention of relocating it to our other collection of music audiocassettes, but when I saw the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a “Listen to a Book” category, I thought maybe it was the text of the book of the same name, or maybe just the title essay. However, it’s a speech delivered at West Point in 1974 along with a little question and answer session. No doubt the title essay of the book comes from this speech and probably others she gave in the line, I could not in good conscience count it as listening to a book after all.

You can hear the speech on YouTube:

Now, thirty years have passed my first exposure to Objectivism (I read The Fountainhead the summer before college after the Swedish mechanic who lived next door to my father shamed me for not reading literature, and I remembered The Fountainhead from flyers advertising the Objectivist Institute’s scholarship contest that I’d missed out on). And you know what? I still agree with a lot of the premises and conclusions of Objectivism. The basics. So it was a pleasant listen, and it reminds me that I have not read The Fountainhead since 2005 which means it’s long overdue.

And during the question and answer period, listen to the seeds of modern wokeism–out of, what, five questions we get one about the United States’ guilt for slavery and native genocide? At West Point? Man, it’s amazing how far back the long march started, but that’s why it’s been a long march and why not many reacted to its slow approach.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Racing the Light by Robert Crais (2022)

Book coverI bought this book for my beautiful wife for Christmas, so I don’t get to put it onto my read shelves, although it would not surprise me if a secondhand copy does not end up over there. After all, I have a pretty complete set starting with The Monkey’s Raincoat, Crais’ first Elvis Cole novel dated 1987 which my wife gave me, along with Crais’ other books to date, for Christmas in 2005. I’d say that Crais books are a Christmas tradition at Nogglestead (and Honormoor, our house in Casinoport, and the untitled Old Trees house), but 1) Crais does not write one a year and 2) we’ve gotten them in between holidays when available.

So, in this book, an older woman with a retinue of bodyguards comes to Cole to find her son, a podcaster who has disappeared. Cole delves into it, finding an association between the podcaster and an adult movie star. And his folks worked on deep, deep black government projects back in the day, so perhaps someone took the boy to get to the parents. The adult movie star also goes missing, and Elvis Cole and Joe Pike and Jon Stone (a recent recurring character) find high-powered Chinese bugs in the podcaster’s home. So it could be anyone and for any reason, and eventually Cole narrows it down.

It’s a quick read–I slotted it into the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge in the Page Turner category–and I read it in a couple of nights (somehow, I have less time to read now than in the past, where a Crais or Parker book would only take an evening). Maybe I’m a slower, more distracted reader these days.

The book also brings Lucy Chenier and her son Ben back into Cole’s life, and I was afraid they were brought back into the book so they could be taken by the bad people, but that’s not the case. My wife speculates that Crais is planning to wrap up the series and is tying up loose ends. Maybe. I dunno. I mean, I hope not, as I have enjoyed all the books (they lack that post-2001 turn into making the bad guys Republicans and delivering Important Messages that many series did). But it’s not like I’m lacking for things to read here.

So consider this a recommendation, and remember the story of how I acquired copies of Crais’ first published work.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Once Again, I’ve Seen That Meme

I saw this at Kenny’s:

As with the aisle moving at Walmart, I had just seen that.

Like a commenter over there, I noticed the new lights on a forklift at Sam’s Club, and I thought that the lights were as much for the shoppers as for the forklift drivers to know what was a safe zone around it. But Sam’s employees still escorted the piloted forklift.

Which might be an indicator of what’s next: forklifts without drivers. Although I’m not sure that would work so well, as the layout and position of things on the shelves at Sam’s Club is in flux week-to-week and day-to-day, unlike a warehouse where an unmanned forklift might work better.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

It’s a Greedy Corporation Story, Not A Crime Story

Major insurance companies halt new policies for Kias, Hyundais amid St. Louis-area theft surge:

Greedy insurance companies:

Two major insurance companies have refused to issue new policies on some Kias and Hyundais in the St. Louis region as theft rates of those vehicles remain high following last year’s surge.

In a seemingly unprecedented move, insurance behemoths such as Progressive and State Farm are declining to open new policies on Kias and Hyundais altogether, while drivers with existing plans are stuck paying increasingly high premiums.

“I’ve been in this industry for 15-plus years. It’s hard to call a precedent for this,” said Michael Barry, spokesman for Insurance Information Institute, a consumer education organization.

Cheap automakers:

Rates of stolen Kias and Hyundais exploded last year — a trend also seen nationally because of a viral TikTok video that shows how to break into and drive off in many 2011-21 models of the South Korean-made vehicles using just a screwdriver and a USB charging cable. The method can be used on some models of those cars because manufacturers did not install engine immobilizers, an electric anti-theft security device.

However, it’s more likely attributable to post-2020 explosion in crime surges and Soros-back prosecutors like the one in St. Louis who “reimagine” prosecution:

Rates of stolen Kias and Hyundais exploded last year — a trend also seen nationally because of a viral TikTok video that shows how to break into and drive off in many 2011-21 models of the South Korean-made vehicles using just a screwdriver and a USB charging cable. The method can be used on some models of those cars because manufacturers did not install engine immobilizers, an electric anti-theft security device.

Thefts of Kias and Hyundais jumped 1,450% last year in the city, from 273 to 3,958. The same was true in St. Louis County, where a jump from 140 to 1,621 marked a 1,157% increase.

Four thousand Kias and Hyundais of this type were stolen last year in the city of St. Louis. Four thousand! In a city of under 300,000 people! I am not a statistician, but I am pretty sure that is a hella lot, although it’s possible it’s the same dozen cars stolen every day.

This is a problem with lawlessness, not greedy corporations. Don’t fall for the indictment of State Farm and Progressive here. They’re not in the business of unprofitably underwriting the failures of governance. That’s what the government expects its job is.

(More coverage on the nationwide story at The Drive as seen on the Ace of Spades HQ Overnight Thread.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On Legend of the Drunken Master (1994)

Book coverI ordered this a year or so back when I thought maybe the boys would enjoy Jackie Chan films. A year later, I have discovered that they really didn’t, or maybe they just aren’t interested in watching films with their father these days. So I watched this film, which I thought I’d seen before during the middle 1990s, when a member of my gaming group introduced us to Jackie Chan with some of his old films. But as I watched this film, it was very unfamiliar. I learned that the film I had seen when this film was fresh was Drunken Master from 1978, and this is The Legend of the Drunken Master, a sequel sixteen years later capitalizing on Jackie Chan’s new international fame.

This film starts with Wong (Jackie Chan, not named not Jackie in this film) is on the train with his father and brother, bringing ginseng back for a neighbor, when a fight breaks out, and Jackie battles with someone who he thinks is trying to steal the ginseng. When he successfully returns with an ornate box in which they were carrying the root, it turns out that another man was carrying the imperial seal in a similar box. Hijinks ensue when Wong uses a root from his father’s prized bonsai tree in the stead of the ginseng when it’s presented to the neighbor and when his stepmother takes out a loan on her jewels to try to buy real ginseng before the neighbor ingests the bonsai root. At the bottom, though, the plot is about the Westerners trying to steal the Imperial Seal (which was also the MacGuffin in Shanghai Knights–and as far as the plot of the film being the Westerners stealing China’s heritage, that’s awful prevalent).

So it’s fairly standard Jackie Chan fare, especially the post-popularity Jackie Chan fare, which all has a similar feel and vibe to it. Which is okay until you start thinking about why so many of these films have Westerners as the bad guys. The West is almost 100 years past the inscrutible Oriental as the stereotypical villain (well, all right, sixty years after Dr. No), and we’re the benighted culture according to, well, popular culture.

The film also has another common trope from Chinese films: The young wife. Wong’s father’s new wife is played by Anita Mui, who would have been Wong’s stepmother even though the actress was almost ten years younger than Jackie Chan.

Continue reading “On Legend of the Drunken Master (1994)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs by Susie King Taylor (1902, 2009)

Book coverI bought this book in 2018 (I just discovered thanks to an Internet searcher from China), and it was the first book by Author of Color that I grabbed for the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge.

Originally entitled Reminiscences of My Life in Camp when it was published, the publishing house who slapped a new introduction on it to get a fresh copyright re-titled it for the 21st century, knowing what would sell the book–the personal pronoun My does not target the niche audience of university folk, and in Camp is not specific enough for a population that (by my tests in the 1990s) could not date the Civil War to know where camp was or why it was important.

The book basically has two parts: The Civil War-era diary, which details her time after escaping slavery and attaching herself to a military unit as a laundress and teacher of the other freed blacks along with the raising of the first black regiments in the Union army and a couple of their expeditions. The second part comes after the war, a later couple of additions talking about the integration of the newly freed slaves into the society and includes a chapter where the author, a resident of the magical land of Massachussetts (according to the text, Massachussets, as one of the most abolitionist states and forward-thinking in its treatment of freedmen, was legendary amongst the former slaves) to Louisiana. Unfortunately, it was not pleasant (to say the least), and it would be no better sixty years later (as Black Like Me sort of simulates).

The book is very short–154 pages when padded with end notes, illustrations, and a introduction to pad it out. Given that it’s still in print, or it was fourteen years ago, one can assume that it was required reading in some courses or another, but one wonders about fourteen years on. After all, the author is a Christian, and she’s hopeful in the first part of the book that blacks will be treated equally after emancipation, and even in the second part, she’s disappointed, but still hopeful. Which is not what has been sold for the last thirty years and what has been beyond the pale in modern thought in the last decade. You know, after the country elected a bi-racial child of an African and an American. Oh, how I would weep were I not a stoic and/or cynic.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: For the Love of Benji by I.F. Love (1979)

Book coverThis year’s Winter Reading Challenge has a category called Kids’ Chapter Book–not so strange, as the 2021 edition had a Re-Read a Childhood Favorite category, and the 2022 edition had a Young Adult category. This category looks to be a gimme for serious readers. And I thought I might be in a world of hurt since I not only read Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates last winter, but I also read several other Doubleday Children’s Classics last year as well. But I found this book which I bought in the spring of 2009 after having seen it twice in two days, and I was set.

As you might know, gentle reader, I prefer Boomer of television’s Here’s Boomer to Benji. Probably because Benji was mostly a movie dog (and not that many, truth be told). This book is the novelization of his second movie, released in 1977.

In it, Benji’s family is on its way to Greece for a vacation when someone–tattoos? marks?–Benji at the airport, and the little scamp becomes an unwitting courier. When he arrives in Athens, he is accidentally set loose, and he evades numerous secret agent types as he looks for his family. Dog chases later, happy ending!

You know, it was probably hard to capture most of the charm of the film, which was undoubtedly a little dog doing amazing things and looking cute, in print like this. So take it for what it’s worth.

I’ve already alluded to it, but I was really surprised how few movies and appearances the various dogs playing Benji made. Two movies with his name in the title, the one with Chevy Chase which must have been excerpted in The Weekly Reader (how old am I? So old that there was a national newspaper for kids distributed free in school–and apparently it continued until 2012, so you might not have to be old old to remember it), and a couple of cameos in other films. And a television special or two. Man, he seemed ubiquitous at that point where the 70s turned into the 80s.

So I got my kids’ book for the reading challenge in, and that’s 2 of a minimum of 5. I am cruising, but I would like to hit most if not all of the 15 categories by the end of February. However, as my last year’s experience indicates, that might be too late for a mug–when I turned in my full sheet last January, I got the last mug, the display mug, in the Library Center branch of the library. Unless they ordered more, this year, I might end up with a librarian’s coffee-stained personal mug. Which is fine by me: Coffee is sterilizing, or so I tell myself when I reuse a mug for the fifth day.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Finding Lizzy Smith by Susan Keene (2017)

Book coverThis is the first book I’ve completed in the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge. I have applied it to the Female Detective category. The main character is a detective, a former police officer, and the action is more urban action than I think the Cozy category would allow. The two are kind of redundant, although from what I have read in the genre definition somewhere on the Internet, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series would be cozies. But we will see–Cozy might be the last category I read if I make it through all fifteen.

In the book, a former police officer turned private detective after her husband was murdered is scheduled to meet a college friend in Forest Park, but when she waits for the friend who does not show, a laser dot appears on her. Another friend saves her from gunshots, and so she has to wonder where her no-show friend, the Lizzy Smith of the title, is. She starts to investigate, and others in their close circle of college friends start to die–and her husband might have been the first. Eventually, she discovers that it might be tied to a dance club fire that killed several people and left a potential Olympian without legs. And Lizzy might be part of it.

It’s an okay book, paced well enough and well-written. As the book takes place in St. Louis and was written by someone from Southwest Missouri, I was watching for little gotchas. In one instance, the protagonist and another woman go to a strip club on the corner of Euclid and Kingshighway. When I lived in Old Trees, I remembered Euclid nearby–and I guess it’s in the Central West End, too, but running parallel with Kingshighway. It actually does intersect with Kingshighway far north of the Central West End–in an area where two small white women (the main character is 5′ 1″) would probably not go. The book has some misspellings and misnomers that spellchecking would have missed–Kingshighway appears as two words, for example–that a closer proofreading by a native would have caught. On the other hand, she talks about a 40-caliber Glock, and I thought that was a mistake–but I heard it a second time, so I double-checked, and the Glock 23 is chambered for that round, so it’s not wrong, but I’m not sure how common they are outside of women-generated detective fiction. Also, the rifle with the laser site is identified as chambered in .243, but I’ve always seen that as .243 Winchester. But that’s just from rifle magazines, not real conversations.

At any rate, I bought a number of her books in November (that long ago already?), and I don’t dread reading the next one. I can’t say when I’ll get to the others, though, as I do have this Winter Reading Challenge to tackle yet.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Please Reset the Counter

Please reset the counter for Days Since Someone at Nogglestead Made A Reference to Manimal to 0.

My oldest said if he had a superpower, he would like to be able to turn into a cat.

“What, like Manimal?” I said, knowing full well that Manimal turned into a panther, not just a house cat.

The Wikipedia article for the program mentions two other series from NBC 1983 that got axed, but which I remember acutely (as I previously mentioned): Jennifer Slept Here and We Got It Made.

Also, someone from Hollywood must read this blog, as I said when commenting on Jennifer Slept Here:

Jennifer Slept Here–really, I haven’t brought that up? It didn’t run very long, but I can still remember the theme song. Also, with this and the short run Eric Idle vehicle Nearly Departed makes me wonder why we don’t have reboots of ghosts-live-here sitcoms these days–but both of these were very short runs indeed, which perhaps answers my question.

Currently, CBS’s Ghosts is on its third season.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, January 14, 2023: ABC Books Gift Card Redemption

Friends, on Saturday, I went to ABC Books with gift cards in hand. I received a $50 card for Christmas, and I have $34 remaining on a Visa gift card, so I tucked three remaining $20 “You need a gift now?” gift cards (the “You need a gift now?” gifts previously had been bubble wands, inexpensive art kits, or Legos for the times when a child would announce he was invited to a birthday party the morning of the birthday party and produce a wrinkled invitation from somewhere in his school pack, but they’ve gotten too old for that–they might have outgrown getting invited to birthdays as well, as it has been years) into my pocket. That gave me roughly $150 in not real money to spend, and I knew I had a couple of more expensive books that I’d had my eyes on for the occasion when I was feeling flush, and although we are not flush right now with real money, I was ballin’ with gift cards.

So we got there, and I could not find anything.

The curse of the gift card. I can walk into ABC Books and find $100 worth of books when it’s my own money (and when an author is signing his or her books), but when I go there with a gift card, I cannot find anything to buy. I’ve had this problem at Barnes and Noble, Vintage Stock, you name it.

I mean, the nice copy of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell that I’ve been hankering for since I listened to The World of George Orwell before the COVID lockdowns is $199.95, and the Folio Society and Eaton editions are not 25% of currently (they often are). There’s a nice set of the complete works of James Whitcomb Riley–I enjoyed his Little Orphant Annie and Other Poems Dover collection in 2018–but, come on, am I going to read those 10 volumes? I’m certainly a little at a loss for room for a nice set of 10 in the Nogglestead library.

The martial arts section remains empty. I looked at the artist monographs down the aisle, and I spotted a couple of collections of photography that I could use to satisfy the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge‘s Pictorial category–a collection of photos of Big Sur, California, a collection of the Grand Canyon, or photos from Marilyn Monroe’s last session, but these collections were fifty dollars or more, and that’s a lot for an hour’s worth of browsing to tick off a category in the reading challenge.

So I almost came out empty handed.

But not quite.

I got:

  • The Book of Irish Limericks by Myler MacGrath, a 40 page collection of limericks that would have been good to browse during football games, but football season has ended for Nogglestead.
  • Those Who Love: Love Poems by Sara Teasdale by, well, Sara Teasdale, a 61 page collection by the early 20th century poet. Either of these books would fulfill the Under 200 Pages category of the Winter Reading Challenge.
  • Ridge-Runner: From the Big Piney to the Battle of the Bulge by Norten Dablemont as told to Larry Dablemont. As you know, I enjoy Larry Dablemont’s columns which appear in several of my adopted hometown papers.
  • The Complete Poesm of Marianne Moore. This is a nice book club edition with a copyright date of 1956. I have a copy of Goblin Market and Other Poems around here somewhere–perhaps unfinished as I do not see it in the record from the last 20 years. Oh, well. It’s only one volume, and it was only $7.95.

So it was $25.73 total, and I paid with a regular credit card. Because I want to save the gift cards for something special.

And I still have the “You need a gift now?” cards in case we need a gift suddenly. Which is nice.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories