Book Report: A Farewell to Football by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap (1969, 1979)

Book coverJerry Kramer wrote this book a little more than a year after Instant Replay. The year after that book, the first year after Lombardi (who retires from coaching at the end of Instant Replay), the Packers cratered and lost more games than they won. Kramer’s Instant Replay became a best seller and he was quite in demand as a speaker and television guest. So he decided to give up playing football and to be a businessman since he has quite a few irons in the fire already.

So this book is a bit musing along those lines and a bit more detailed biography than Instant Replay. It doesn’t hold together quite as well as the first book as it had a unifying theme, and this one does not as much. It also might have been rushed out to capitalize on the success of Instant Replay.

At any rate, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder if Kramer’s optimism in his post-football life and business dealings were a bit optimistic. I wondered whether a lot of deals and opportunities came his way simply because he was a champion professional football player. I was pleased to see toward the end of the book that Kramer himself acknowledged this doubt.

So it’s not as good as Instant Replay, but it’s a pretty quick and easy read.

The books might also explain why Jerry Kramer is not in the football Hall of Fame: both of these books have a perspective about playing football that the industry might not want expressed. Kramer sees football as a job that he knows will end someday and, honestly, might not be the job he focused on in his last years in football. That might have stung some of the league officialdom at the time who might have wanted more focus on football, if not exclusive focus on football. Oh, how they might wish nowadays that the outside life of football players merely included business deals and hunting instead of lawbreaking.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap (1968)

Book coverIt’s been eleven years since I read this book. I remember I took it with me over a long weekend that my beautiful bride and I took to Kansas City. Funny what happens in eleven years. Now I remember well the name of the book store in Springfield since I pass it several times a week. But I probably only go into it as frequently as I did back when it was a pilgrimage when we went to Springfield.

At any rate, this report is going to be a lot like the first one: Jerry Kramer was the left guard for the Packers in the 1960s, and the year captured in this book is the run up to the third consecutive NFL championship and second Super Bowl (although the coach, Vince Lombardi, is more concerned with the former than the latter). Kramer talks about his aging in the game, about the mechanics, techniques, and preparations involved in the game, and his outside interests and investments. It’s a pretty loose and readable style and it carries you along even if you don’t know football or the historical nature of the season. Actually, this report is going to be a lot shorter than the other because I’m just going to summarize the book and direct you to that earlier report for more depth.

I picked up this copy of the book because it had the dust jacket, unlike my other copy, and I got it with a couple of other Kramer books. So expect a couple other reviews of his works during football season interspersed among the picture books.

Books mentioned in this review:

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.

The Source of That Thing Daddy Always Says

I did something for a client recently where I isolated a bug that had afflicted them and caused them some grief and loss of face with their client, and I called myself Hero of the Beach.

That comes, of course, from the old Charles Atlas ad:

Comic book readers of a certain age would understand why becoming the Hero of the Beach would be the best thing ever.

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.