Book Report: Shticks and Stones edited by Miriam Levenson (2003)

Book coverThis book puts me in a moral panic. Should I like it? It’s Jewish humor. Should I feel bad in singling out Jewish humor in this way? The modern world is so very confusing.

At any rate, this little McNeel book is a collection of one liners from Jewish comedians sometimes about the Jewish experience in the United States. It was amusing and very short which is its raison d’être.

Which is a French saying in a book about Jewish humor. Should I have said something Yiddish instead? Shtick is right in the book title so it was used already.

At another rate, I bought this book at an estate sale for a couple of bits, and it’s worth that just for the simple pleasure of a couple of good one-liners whether you have a Jewish mother or just a mother.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Don’t You Dare Throw It Out! (2006)

Book coverThis book, a pamphlet, really, but it’s football season and I read pamphlets during football season, was published in 2006. However, it strikes me that most of these tips must come from the late twentieth century or indeed the middle part of the century. Instead of an upcycling set of tips for how you can cleverly reuse things, we get a list of ways to reuse product packaging because you can’t bother to go to the dollar store and pick up a Chinese molded plastic equivalent. I mean, there is a complete section on berry baskets for Pete’s sake. Have you seen berries sold in baskets in a long, long time? I have not.

So, instead of the 301 tips, let me boil it down for you. Got a piece of refuse and you can’t afford the garbage bill? You can use it for the following:

  • Use it to organize your car trunk.
  • Make a toy with it for your child or cats, although let’s be honest: your cats will be more impressed, briefly.
  • Use it to organize your desk drawers.
  • Make it into a planter.
  • Frame it and put it on your wall.
  • Make it a gift!

I think that pretty much covers it but with fewer exclamation points.

I’m not sure I got a single idea out of this book.

I did, however, get a blog post out of it.

Books mentioned in this review:

St. Charles Considering Plan To Require Tax Increase In A Couple Of Years

City might take over nonprofit St. Charles art center:

City leaders are considering a takeover of the nonprofit Foundry Art Centre to try to put the financially struggling facility on a more stable footing.

Assigning the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, a city agency, to run the 11-year-old facility is among three options submitted to the City Council this month.

Another is continuing the city’s $110,000-a-year subsidy for five more years, with operations overseen by the center’s existing board. The subsidy was regarded as a temporary stopgap when the council began it in 2013.

The third option is a combination: providing the $110,000 subsidy but earmarking some of it to the convention bureau for “branding and marketing” of the art center.

This plan differs from some city plans, where the city decides it needs to have its own water park/fitness center/whatever to compete with the neighboring suburb and then finds out that the venture does not break even as promised.

Instead, the city here (and the media and noisemakers who like art but cannot be arsed to support the art center enough) want to take over a struggling, under-supported and probably underappreciated and underused facility. Which will cost more than expected, natch, so the city will have to either reallocate funding for it or propose a tax increase and put it on a ballot in April where nobody but the people who love art when someone else pays for their love of art can come out and vote to increase everyone’s taxes so they can go to the local art museum once in a while. Or at least they’ll live in a better city than St. Peters.

So this cycle continues.

Hey, it’s not that I don’t support the local niceties like libraries and symphonies and whatnot. But I put my money, voluntarily, where my heart is (in addition to that money required by law). I am in the friends of three or four local libraries; I support the local historical societies in three counties; and I’ve even briefly attended a local Symphony Guild fundraiser (and there’s a sad story in that, gentle reader, that I might someday tell).

I don’t ask or demand other people subsidize my interests. And, somehow, some people would fault me for that.

Book Report: Christina’s World by Betsy James Wyeth (1982)

Book coverThis book, on the other hand, is what I’d hope from an art book. It’s got lots of paintings, studies for paintings, and not only the story of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World but the story about the artist’s friendship with his neighbors Christina and Alvaro Olson.

As I’ve mentioned, Christina’s World is one of three prints I had on my wall in my younger years. But I didn’t really know about Andrew Wyeth or the source material, and this book gives both. The painting depicts a scene in coastal Maine, for crying out loud, and I had always assumed Kansas.

At any rate, Wyeth spent a lot of time painting and sketching his neighbors, the Olsons, and their farmhouse. This book includes a lot of that material as well as photos from the time when Wyeth was painting. And allusions to how popular the images became in his–and Christina’s–lifetime.

A very nice book. This is also a former Christian County library book, but none of the images are missing. So, yay.

If I’m going to eat up two or three of these art books a week, I’m fortunate that the semi-annual library book sales are coming up in a month.

Books mentioned in this review:

Springfield Gets Federal Grant To Desperately Need Tax Increase In 2019

SGF gets grant to hire 11 police officers:

The grant, about $1.3 million over a three-year period, comes from the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS Hiring Program. The city must match 25 percent. After the three years, the city is expected to fund 100 percent of the added officers.

Of course, the city won’t have the money in three years, so it will need to raise taxes to cover the “free” money from the Federal government.

At which time, undoubtedly, the Federal government will have a different grant or program to add to local ongoing expenses.

Book Report: The Spirit of America by Thomas Kinkade with Calvin Miller (1998)

Book coverWhen you buy a book with an artist’s name on the cover, you might expect to get a collection of the artist’s work. This book is the exception that proves the rule in the old-fashioned meaning of the word prove, wherein it means “tests.” And in this particular case disproves the hypothesis.

Don’t get me wrong,there are a handful of Kinkade’s works in the book. But the bulk of it is about thirty small chapters wherein Pastor Calvin Miller has created the story of an American immigrant from Belgium who talks about his life coming to America at the turn of the twentieth century and the progress he sees as he lives with his father on a small town in the middle of America throughout the century. Ultimately, it’s late 1990s end-of-history pablum, and we here two decades into the future are a more feral bunch. Amid the copy, we generally get a single Kinkade painting with various closeups presented.

To make matters worse, this ex-library book has at least two of the images of the paintings missing. Someone cut them out of a library book. I hate to think that somewhere in Christian County, Missouri, there are framed Kinkade pictures from this book. Perhaps someone gave them out as Christmas gifts.

And before you get all Internet-snarky on it, I was interested in seeing more of his work. I think some of them are pleasant and nostalgic, not unlike Currier & Ives. I don’t have any Kinkade in the house, but I’ve got some Renoir, and the only thing that differentiates Renoir from Kinkade is Renoir is French and his paintings are blurry.

So I’m disappointed in the book, but not the artist.

Books mentioned in this review:

Creeped Out By The CAPTCHA

So while I was working today, I had to work through a CAPTCHA over and over again. And this appeared:

The center image is the intersection of Swon and Lockwood. In Webster Groves. It’s not the street on which I lived, but I passed through that intersection fairly often while walking a baby some eight years ago.

So, do you think this is a coincidence, or does the CAPTCHA know things about me?

I’m paranoid, so you know which one I think it is.

Cutting The Source of That Thing That Daddy Always Says

On Saturday mornings, I often remind my children, “Es Sábado Gigante!”

I must have seen a bit of it on Univision once in the early 1990s.

Well, all gigante things must come to an end:

Sábado Gigante, the quirky, iconic, 53-year-old variety show that has been a fixture for generations of U.S. Hispanics, will broadcast for the last time on Saturday night. As they prepared to say farewell, Sábado’s beloved host, Don Francisco, and his followers looked back on their time together with nostalgia and emotion.

“I started doing this when I was 22 years old, and since then, my whole adult life has transpired,” Mario Kreutzberger (Don Francisco’s real name), told El Nuevo Herald shortly before a taping for Saturday’s show. Kreutzberger, 74, married, raised three children (including a son named Francisco) and had nine grandchildren.

It’s not as though I’ll stop saying it, but there’s no chance my children will catch it while flipping through cable in college and think of me.

Book Report: The Saltville Massacre by Thomas D. Mays (1995)

Book coverThis book might make it look as though I have undergone the fundamental shift (mentioned here) about shifting my focus from reading about classical Greece and Rome to the American Civil War. However, although it might be a sign, it might also only be a sign that I was looking for something short and informative to read on the road. Which I did; I read this in a single sitting during one of my four hour nights at the dojo.

This book focuses on a single campaign/battle, the Saltville Massacre, and describes the events leading up to it, the battle itself including maps of all the major assaults, and the aftermath. It also includes numerous sidebars with short biographies of the officers on both sides. The book is a part of a series, of course.

The Saltville Massacre was an attack on Saltville, Virginia, by a Federal/Union army trying to wrest or destroy the saltworks there. The town and works were defended by a small group of Confederate soldiers and a small group of militia. The Union forces advanced and then stalled and tried to take some ridges but failed. After they withdrew, the Confederates took to the battlefield and killed any wounded black soldiers they found; additionally, a local irregular went into a hospital to settle a personal feud and to kill a couple more wounded blacks. The irregular, Champ Ferguson, was one of two Confederates hung for war crimes.

At any rate, as I said, it was short and informative. If one chooses to study in depth, one becomes used to the conventions of military science books and reading them becomes easier. The battle reminds me a bit of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the local Civil War battle, but since I live within sight of that battlefield, I try to work it into a lot of conversations. Another thing that struck me was the bridge between classical warfare and modern mobile warfare. Although much of the fighting is assaults on defensive positions, the book does include one mention of offering battle–that is, lining up and trying to get the other army to come out and meet you. I haven’t studied that much military science, but that does seem to have fallen quite out of favor for obvious reasons.

I don’t remember where I got this book; however, I’ll keep my mind out for others in the series and others of the kind. They’re quick reads and informative, and cumulatively they’ll make me smarter on military science and history.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign by George N. Barnard (1866, 1977)

Book coverIt’s football season, so it means it’s time here at MfBJN to start writing book reports on art, photography, and poetry books that I can read during the commercials of football games. This book should have been the first of the series, but I didn’t actually get to it during the football game.

The book is a Dover reprint of a work by a nineteenth century photographer. Dover reprints a lot of stuff that goes out of copyright and priced it at a couple bucks. So it’s the same book as appeared soon after the Civil War that was the subject of many of the images.

The photographer followed Sherman as his army moved through Georgia in the latter part of the war. The early part of the book contains images from the campaign; the latter part depicts the battlefields and landscapes after the action occurred because the army was moving too fast for him to keep up with the elaborate processes of photography.

The reason I didn’t get to the book during the football game is that the first ten pages or so are the photographer’s notes from the campaign. They vary from high-level name checking of the numerous generals and officers in the campaign to very detailed troop movements, and they’re not smoothed out or edited to a consistent level of detail. Unfortunately, this makes it tedious to follow during or after a football game. But the fellow was a photographer, not a journalist.

And the images are images of the Civil War and thereabouts in Georgia. The photography makes the war slightly more real than the Roman Civil War under Caesar or Scipio’s chasing Hannibal from Italy.

Strangely, this is a former Christian County Library book, which means I bought it instead of inheriting it from my beautiful wife’s uncle; when he passed, he left many of his books to me, and he had a lot of detailed and scholarly work on the Civil War (including a first edition of Grant’s memoirs which I’ll eventually read and probably devalue with Cheetos dust). So when I veer from my current Ancient/Classical Greece and Rome kick, perhaps I can binge read on this topic.

Books mentioned in this review:

Ancient Philosophers Answer Pop Music Questions

Miss Ford asks:

If I close my eyes forever
Will it all remain unchanged?
If I close my eyes forever
Will it all remain the same?

We turn to members of the Eleatic School, Parmenides and Zeno, to answer.

Parmenides: Yes indeedly do (Μπορείτε να στοιχηματίσετε γάιδαρο σας). How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown.

Zeno: That counts quadruple for semi-forgotten 80s hair metal. Then it counts double. Then it counts once. Then one half. And so on into infinity. If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless.

Parmenides: [What exists] is now, all at once, one and continuous… Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike; nor is there any more or less of it in one place which might prevent it from holding together, but all is full of what is. So get over yourself.

A Risible Untruth

Every year for Christmas, my mother-in-law gives us calendars. Last year, she made personal calendars for each of us with custom collages for each month.

August, I rediscovered as I belatedly turned the calendar to the half-over new month, was books for me. She collected images from my blog of books I read last year, a couple images of my bookshelves, and one emasculating extraneous inclusion:

I have not read The Notebook. I am a man.

NOTE: It’s possible I bought the book sometime and she saw it among my Good Book Hunting posts. In which case, I might read it sometime and this feigned outrage may be ignored. Thank you, that is all.

Book Report: Rogue Warrior: Option Delta by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman (1999)

Book coverIt’s been not quite a year since I reviewed Rogue Warrior: Designation Gold, and if I hadn’t re-read the report on it, I would have repeated much of the same for this book. The first person narrator is brash and vulgar, and it works okay in some spots but does seem a little much at times. The technical and tactical briefings are broken into the narrative with a certain flair that beats Clancy. And the book has aged too well; written after the “end of history,” the narrator does not think much of the then-current Clinton administration and the military draw-down it performed.

In the book, Marcinko finds that someone has been digging up and selling small pocket tactical nukes that the US cached in West Germany for use by special forces in the event of a Soviet invasion. He’s supposed to find remaining caches, but he also decides to find who’s behind it. It’s an ultra-nationalist right-wing German bent on making Germany great again, of course, but Hitler’s frozen head does not make an appearance.

The book was written in 1999, so check out this lament:

The answer lies in the real quntessence of intelligence gathering: the concept that information is the raw material out of which political power can be produced. And because political power is something that budget-intensive organizations (which obviously include all the intelligence agencies) do not want to relinquish, forgo, or sacrifice, most of ’em treat their material as wholly proprietary.

Indeed, they’re like only children who won’t share their toys in kindergarten. The unhappy result is that most intel is stovepiped. It’s kinda like all those smokestacks you used to see in the old industrial zones before the tree-huggers outlawed smokestacks. Each existed parallel to the others. Each ventred its own hot air (Now that’s an apt image, since this is intel we’re talking about here, huh).

In a couple of years, we’d hear about that, wouldn’t we? Which makes me wonder: What is Jamie Gorelick doing now? It’s been a while since something she’s touched has gone to hell, hasn’t it?

Now, did I mention it’s aged too well? Check out these quotes and see if they don’t sound like 2015 instead of 1999:

Gentle reader, welcome to the real world, where DGAS is a way of life.

Whether it’s the White House memos, State Department cables, or the Pentagon’s most secret mission profiles, materials tend to be stored on computers sans safeguards. People don’t like to have to remember passwords. Indeed, they often write the passwords down and leave ’em in their desks. Or to make things easy for themselves (not to mention folks like me), they simply disable all the built-in security devices and make their computers user (and thief) friendly.


The nice thing about the EC is that once they check your passport, you can cross borders at will.

Maybe things will be different in 2030. Perhaps I hope so. Perhaps I hope not, given that different probably means worse.

At any rate, it’s a pretty good read. Of course, it represents the closest thing to 21st century thrillers that I read. Perhaps I should try more. Also, note that Marcinko is still alive and is about 74 now. I’ll be sad when he passes. Although his (and by “his” I mean he and his co-author’s works) aren’t bad reads. You could do worse. I often do.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Pythagoras by Dimitra Karamanides (2006)

Book cover

So I tweeted:

I was referring to this book, a children’s (or young adult) book in a series on ancient philosophers that includes volumes on Archimedes, Aristotle, Euclid, Plato, and Socrates. The volume istelf is an ex-library book, which means it got cashiered from the library in under 8 years. The book is in great shape; I wonder, and fear, what they made room for by putting it in the used book sale.

At any rate, as it is a young adult book, it’s chock full of large print, maps, graphics, and tangentally related photographs. But it gives a high-level overview of the (purported) life of Pythagoras and the thought and impact of the Pythagorean society’s research into mathematics and music. It dovetails nicely with Copleston’s History of Philosophy that I’m reading.

I’m glad I read the book and wouldn’t mind reading the others in the series, but I see this particular volume goes for $30 or more on Amazon. Heavens, I think I’ll just look for more of them at the Christian County Library book sale in the coming years. I have plenty of other things to read in the interim, including eight volumes of the Copleston work.

Books mentioned in this review:

Great Moments in 21st Century Journalism aka Reporting on Facebook Posts

The Springfield News-Leader went hot online with this salacious story over the weekend: Owner of Battlefield Mall phone repair kiosk responds to sex trafficking allegations that went viral on Facebook.

You go read it while you can. Basically, a young woman took her phone to the kiosk for repair and got it back; after she did, the claimed there was a sensor on it tracking her calls. She went back to complain and reports a nearby tattooed man was eavesdropping on her. Somehow the tattooed man knew which car was hers in the mall parking lot and was waiting for her near there; fortunately, she had a mall store employee walk her out because she was nervous. Her phone had some odd behavior that seemed indicative to her of….something. Then she was followed as she drove. Just like something on television. So she suspected it was a white slavery or sex trafficking thing.

The News-Leader reached out to her via Facebook, and she didn’t respond.

They got a hold of the owner of the mall kiosk, and he said she’s out of her mind. So the story, essentially, was reprinting a Facebook post from some unknown person along with denials from the person under suspicion.

And the News-Leader ran this as a news story.

The follow-up to the story: Police: Investigation into viral Facebook allegations stalled due to lack of cooperation.

The gist: The woman contacted police, but so did the owner of the kiosk. The woman didn’t respond to the police or the News-Leader and deleted her Facebook account with the viral post.

This, my friends, is 21st century journalism. Haven’t you noticed how many news articles, especially in small city newspapers, describe what the person of interest’s Facebook profile says? It’s as though the kids coming out of journalism schools don’t know how to talk to someone directly, whether via phone or in person, before publishing. This example is just an extreme example of the genre, but it’s definitely on the continuum.