Book Report: The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories by Mark Twain (1992)

Book coverI have this collection in the Reader’s Digest World’s Best Reading edition, which is a series I pick up when I can find them cheap. They’re nicely put together, they often come with a little biographical pamphlet about the author, and they put the academic material where it belongs–at the end of the book, not ahead of the primary material.

This volume collects a number of Twain’s short stories, including:

  • “The Celebrated Jumping Frog”
  • “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg”
  • “A Fable”
  • “The Story of the Good Little Boy”
  • “The Story of the Bad Little Boy”
  • “The £1,000,000 Bank Note”
  • “Jim Baker’s Bluejay Yarn”
  • “A Medieval Romance”
  • “The $30,000 Bequest”
  • “The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm”
  • “Was It Heaven? Or Hell?”
  • “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit To Heaven”
  • “A Dog’s Tale”

Of the stories, I especially enjoyed “The £1,000,000 Bank Note” wherein a San Francisco trader is lost at sea, rescued, and delivered to London with nothing; there, two rich men give him a very large, uncashable bank check to see if he can make it a month with them to settle a bet between themselves. The trader does with elan. I thought the story was going to lead to a situation akin to the film Trading Places, but it was different. I thought “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit To Heaven” was clever as it grappled with some questions about what Heaven, God, and the Bible might mean galactically. I was startled by non-Disney endings to “Was It Heaven? Or Hell?” and “A Dog’s Tale”. And I might remember the stories, which is about the best that one can expect over the years.

I noted with interest that the bear in “A Fable” is named Baloo, but I cannot determine if it preceded or followed Kipling’s bear from The Jungle Books. I haven’t found a date on this story easily on the Internet, so I don’t know which came first, but it’s likely a bit of tribute between the writers one way or the other.

I’ve read the longer works of Twain’s (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and The Prince and the Pauper), and I think I like them more than short stories. Of course, I like novels more than short stories anyway, as one does not have to shift gears as often with them, which is why it takes me longer to read short stories in a book than it does a novel of the same length.

At any rate, good stuff, a bit of fun, and it counts as a classic in my internal virtuous reading signaling.

Good Book Hunting: Library Con 2018

I went to LibraryCon at the Springfield-Greene County Library Library Station branch this year as I did last year, and in reviewing that post, I see that I did pretty well in not buying a bunch last year (and reading one of the four books I bought, Obsidian Son, in the intervening year).

This time, I went with both of my children and a wallet full of money to splurge. This year’s Library Con had a smaller number of tables but a larger number of often-cosplaying attendees.

I bought more than last year.

I got:

  • Two books by Samuel Rikard, a non-fiction account of his being a father entitled Dammit Bre! and the start of a fantasy series called Order of the Trident (the series is An Eldarlands Tale).
  • The second Nate Temple book from Shayne Silvers, Blood Debts. I also chatted with the author about his martial arts belts since I’m purportedly going to test for my second degree black belt next month, and I learned from his bio somewhere that he holds a couple of his own.
  • Enter the Sandmen by William Schlichter, the start of a science fiction series. The author also has a number of horror books, but those ain’t my bag, baby, so I went with the science fiction series. Only the first, though, in case I don’t like them.
  • Waking the Weaver, the first book in an urban fantasy series by Aaron Conaway.
  • The #0 of the Spectral Void comic series; I was specifically looking for the third one, which the author assures me will be ready by Cave Con later this autumn.
  • #1 of the Star Beasts comic series.
  • A Minyen Yidn, a collection of short stories converted to a graphical novel format. The owner of a Winnipeg press called Bedside Press came all the way to Springfield for a day.

I felt like a bit of a sexist, though, as I went through author’s row. I stopped by the first couple of authors tables in the library–authors I knew from previous trips–and passed over the two tables with women behind them. The one looked like it had love stories and stuff, and the other looked like sparkly vampire love stories, neither of which was my bag. So when we came back into the library because we had to pick up some actual books in the library, I stopped at the above-mentioned Bedside Press table to pick something. As I browsed, I wondered about the books as several mentioned Indigenous authors and one of them was a collection of love stories about some creative couplings to say the least. So I picked the title that looked least likely to be too alphabetical soupy in outlook. I mean, it’s not like anything in the books would shock me conceptually, but it’s not the kinds of things I want to read.

Kind of like sparkly vampire love stories.

I also made eye contact with Joshua Clark whose first three books I bought last year, but I haven’t read them, so I didn’t pick up the fourth which was available this year.

If I make it to the next Library Con, I’ll probably think I know everyone with a table, although they will likely not remember me.

A Real Life Game Show

My beautiful wife and I have never actually been on The Newlywed Game.

However, whenever I’m trying to log into an account that she initially opened, it’s often just like The Newlywed Game as I wrack my brains trying to answer the question often presented to verify her identity.

Dammit, what street did she grow up on?

Crikey, what was the best Christmas gift she ever got?

Et cetera.

I fear Bob Eubanks disapproval with every answer.

Give Or Take Twenty-Five Years

The +/- on this quiz must be a little wide: Pick Your Favorite Movie from Each Series, and We’ll Guess the Exact Year You Were Born.

I am a man out of cinematic time, apparently.

Of course I got that. The list included a number of series that I haven’t seen any films from (DC expanded universe, Harry Potter, The Fast and the Furious).

But the quiz did not ask me about my favorite from The Thin Man series, which is a shame. To be honest, it’s either The Thin Man or After the Thin Man, although my favorite Myrna Loy movie might be The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer which also happens to be my favorite Shirley Temple film.

But I digress.

As I comb through the archives, I can’t help but note how quizzes and quiz widgets were quite a bit of my blogging back in the old days, before social media companies took over to use them to mine for your personal information (to better serve you–on a platter!). I should find a way to make it so again to ensure I deliver to you, the valued reader, fresh content often even if it’s not content of the highest quality writing.

But perhaps it’s more engaging.

Book Report: Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald (1971, 1984)

Book coverI read the Great Brain books in elementary school, and when I had children, I started picking the volumes up for my boys. Apparently, I picked up two copies of this book as I found a duplicate copy on their bookshelves while helping them clean their room this summer. So I put it on my to-read shelves for nostalgia’s sake.

The copy I have is an ex-library copy in the heavy library binding, which is only appropriate. Apparently, the books are available in paperback, too, but I got them from the school or public library, so I only understand the book in library binding.

If you’re not familiar with the Great Brain series: These fictional stories tell about a Catholic family in a small town in Utah at the end of the ninteenth century. It starts as a family of five: Mama, Papa, and brothers Sweyn, Tom, and John. The middle son is a swindler who comes up with all kinds of crazy schemes to make money or trick his younger brother John (the first person narrator of the book) into doing his chores. The first books deal with this, but this particular volume details when Tom goes off to the Jesuit Academy in Salt Lake City for seventh grade. John hopes to take up Tom’s mantel and make a little coin using his own brain, but it doesn’t work out that way. The book basically has three story arcs: The first couple of chapters are John trying schemes and failing. The second deals with the family (which is just Papa, Mama, and John along with their hired woman Aunt Bertha at this point) taking in a traumatized four-year-old whose family was killed in a mudslide before his eyes. The third deals with an escaped outlaw who has come back to town to kill the men he holds accountable for his incarceration–which includes Papa.

Re-reading this as an adult, I still enjoyed it. The writing is perhaps a little simpler than you would expect for an adult book–but, honestly, the language in a lot of books these days, especially the genre stuff I tend to read, isn’t exactly Faulkner. When I compare this young adult literature to the stuff my kids favor, though, it’s quite heady literature. My boys said they’ve read them, but they’re not exactly clamoring for more, unlike the excitement they demonstrate when a new comic/novel hybrid by Jeff Kinney or Dav Pilkey appears. Which will probably make them into adults who read comic books, if at all (wait, what? I read other things besides comic books and young adult literature, but I’m in the very selective minority).

It also struck me as I researched John D. Fitzgerald after reading this book how contemporary to my childhood these books were. This particular book was first published in 1971, which means I read it when it was ten years old or less. That’s a crazy thought–they seemed so much older back then, partially because they depict life so long ago and probably partly by how worn the library books were–probably due to popularity and cheap paper more than actual age. After reading this book, I’ve thought about seeking out some of his other works, including his adult book Mamma’s Boarding House, which I tried to read at age eight or nine, but I could not because it opens immediately after Papa’s funeral, and it was too painful to imagine life without a father (spoiler alert, little me: in a year or two, you’ll get to experience it for real by parental decision instead of death). So expect me to be cruising eBay this autumn looking to fill out my personal collection (as opposed to my boys’ collection).

Also, check out the list of other books you will enjoy:

Analysis: TRUE. I did enjoy all of these books in my elementary school years along along with the Beverly Cleary books (although I thought Henry Huggins was the main character and didn’t understand until later why Beezus and Ramona got all the stories). They made me into the get-rich-quick grifter I am today.

Book Report: Emotional Memoirs and Short Stories by Lani Hall Alpert (2012)

Book coverI bought this book after I attended the Herb Alpert / Lani Hall concert last year. I didn’t have enough cash to buy it at the theatre, but I ordered it promptly after I got home.

It’s a collection of short memories from Ms. Hall-Alpert’s life growing up in Chicago interspersed with short stories inspired by some of those memories–or perhaps the recollections are prompted by the short stories.

Regardless, it’s a collection of ten short stories (“Come Rain or Come Shine”, “Standing Appointment”, “Mr. Belmont”, “Something in Common”, “The Professor”, “The Ringing Bells”, “The Cleaning Lady”, “Curiosity”, “Coonfrontation”, and “Inland”). They’re mostly mainstream, slice-of-life style fiction you used to find in women’s magazines or in Colliers and sometimes Short Story magazine. They’re not self-consciously literary, which is nice. They deal often with men’s and women’s relationships and/or a woman’s, particularly an artistic woman’s, self-doubt. They’re nice little stories, and I cannot pooh-pooh them even though I have an English Degree® because I’m not having a lot of luck in writing my own short stories these days even though I’m gathering a little box full of ideas.

So they’re worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of her music.

You’re probably more familiar with her singing “Mais Que Nada” with Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66, but she did the theme song for the Bond movie Never Say Never Again which my boys and I will watch after Octopussy which is next in our queue, so it seemed the thing to include in this book report.

Book Report: Rogue Warrior: Echo Platoon by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman (2000)

Book coverWhen I cracked open this book, I thought I’d read it before. It begins with a water-infiltration attack on an oil drilling platform. But as I went through the set piece, I thought, No, the other book included an assault on an oil platform in the North Sea, and this one is in the Caspian Sea. Completely different. So it’s like James Bond: Watching the movies rapidly in succession, one realizes how many of the set pieces are repeated, especially ski chases, SCUBA fighting, or the sudden large scale assaults of United States troops, astronauts, or ninja on the enemy compound.

At any rate, in this book, Marcinko is in Azerberjan to “train” the locals, but when his plane lands, he finds a hostage situation that requires the oil platform landing mentioned above. After the hostages are rescued, the convoy taking the hostages to safety is hit by tangos, resulting in the loss of all those the SEALs saved. So Marcinko investigates the connection between the Russians, the Iranians, and a questionable NGO and its billionaire founder. Which leads to a number of set pieces and assaults that you would expect, all told in the meta- and, erm, course style of the Rogue Warrior series.

How meta? Well, he talks about the editor telling him to move the story along, and he even admits

Now, this here book is pure fiction, but the sort of Warrior leadership I’m talking about can be found in real life, every now and then.

Like the example set by Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez. Master Sergeant Benavidez was attached to Fifth Special Forces back in Vietnam. Here, quoting from the citation for his Medal of Honor, is what he did–and how he led by example.

The book then relates the story of what he did.

So the book–and the series–blend the fiction with real actions and authentic government behavior effectively. I like the series overall.

However, this book comes at the end of the Clinton years, and Marcinko calls the former president out by name several times. I don’t like sucker punches from the left, so I rankle a bit about the ones I agree with, too. It not only can turn off half the audience–well, by then, the circles in the Venn diagram of Marcinko fans and liberals were probably far apart already–but it also dates the book. By just fuming about military cutbacks, you could imagine it in just about any Democratic administration instead of pegging it to something that kids these days won’t relate to.

At any rate, still a fun book to read while waiting for my thirst for Shakespeare to resume.

GN/BN, Comic Book Shop Edition

Yesterday at the comic book shop, the guy behind the counter gave me a discount because I was always in there buying comics (and by “buying comics,” undoubtedly he meant, “helping him clear the deadwood out by buying the dollar comics that no one else wanted”).

Good news, I got a discount.

Bad news, apparently at almost fifty years old, I’m the type of frequent comic book shop customer that warrants a discount.

I’ve had to start going to the comic book shop without my boys because whenever I take them by as a cover for my own comic book shopping, they’d complain even though I let them pick out something for themselves. “Ugh, not another new comic book, Dad.”

I think about, from time to time, talking about the newer (2014-2016) independent titles I find in the dollar bins from imprints like Dynamity, Boom, Black Juice, and whatnot (I mean, aside from the occasional tidbit, but I’m not sure how my regular readers (that’s you and you) would feel about it. I’m sure John Farrier would be all for it, but it’s been years since he’s been around.

Good Morning; Or, How Charity Silent Auctions Upset My Musical Balance

I go on and on about how my musical purchases tend to fall neatly into two camps: Heavy metal and jazz songbirds (or maybe three if you include “Pop Music Recommended By Mr. Hill. But the truth is much more complicated.

Okay, it’s not. I will also buy CDs of local artists when I find them in silent auctions, and sometimes I do not include them in my balance tallies simply because I use my Amazon order history to build those lists. Which is why I don’t mention the Liz Moriondo self-titled CD I bought at a trivia night silent auction last winter, although I did mention her parody “All About That Bass” (which is not on the album) here.

Well, friends, I confess: I did it again.

On Friday night, I went to the Republic Pregnancy Resource Center for its annual Bluegrass and BBQ fund raiser which features bluegrass music from local bands and a silent auction. I behaved myself this year and did not bid the face price on every gift card and buy a bunch of Branson shows and attraction gift cards since the summer is winding down, and we won’t be traveling an hour to the south much this year. But I did bid on two CD auctions.

The first was for a single CD from Lily Belle called The Sunshine Projects.

The has a video for the catchy song “Good Morning”, which would I guess be the first single from the album if anyone still thinks in those terms:

It’s a little poppier than what I listen to, but darn, if it doesn’t kind of make me want to smile. Which is about as close to smiling as I get.

I just assume that she’s local, so I’d like to think I recognize the park as Sequita Park, but I’m likely mistaken. My Springfield park knowledge is pretty limited, although I did visit Nathaniel Greene park yesterday.

The second auction I bid on was a lot featuring CDs from the two performers that played at the event, That Dalton Gang and Lonesome Road:

 

I’ve listened to the That Dalton Gang CD, but not yet the Lonesome Road album. Bluegrass. You know. I actually have a number of bluegrass CDs bought in this manner, but I don’t tend to listen to them a lot. It’s not my bag, but supporting the Republic Pregnancy Resource Center is.

So, yeah, I paid more than the asking price for these CDs.

Now, before you get to worrying about me, I also did get a No Grave But The Sea by Alestorm and From Birth to Burial by 10 Years on the heavy metal side (and I’m looking closely at Prequelle by Ghost to pick up when I next buy Christmas gifts on Amazon according to the One For You/One For Me protocol). I’ve also picked up another disc from Natsumi Kiyoura, Hodo Auko.

So on the whole, I’m still in balance, but the silent auctions throw me out of whack a bit.

Where Do I See Myself In Twenty Years?

Aside from somehow wasting vast amounts of time culling and curating thirty-five years of MfBJN archives, probably here:

A pair of elderly German men escaped from their nursing home to go to a heavy metal festival, it was reported.

After the home reported them missing, police found the two at 3 a.m. at Wacken Open Air, the world’s biggest heavy metal festival.

Explaining a Facebook Status

On Facebook, I said:

I’m not saying I got a little sun yesterday, but I am ready to infiltrate Helium to deliver a confidential message to Dejah Thoris from the Jeddara of Nogglestead.

Originally, I was going to say the Jeddak of Nogglestead, but thought the better of it because I did not want the beautifule Jeddara of Nogglestead to ask exactly what were the contents of that confidential message to the Princess of Mars, nor did I want to explain the joke to a wrathful John Carter.

In Milwaukee News This Morning

This could be my cousin:

A man stopped for driving 99 mph in a 55-mph zone said he was speeding because he was late to a soccer game.

The 26-year-old man was stopped on I-94 southbound in Oak Creek by a sheriff’s deputy working the speed saturation patrol shortly after 8 p.m. Monday.

The math and the sport works out right. I’ll have to ask him.

Fedora-wearing man charged in armed robbery of West Allis jeweler:

A man in a suit and a fedora who robbed more than $200,000 worth of jewelry from a West Allis store later pawned the goods for money to buy heroin, according to a criminal complaint.

Why is it everyone hears about a guy in a fedora, and they automatically think of me? I bet this guy left the feather in.

Flashback: Brian J. Noggle, Flip-Flopper

Way back in 2003, I pooh-pooh LASIK surgery.

Spoiler alert: A couple years later, I had LASIK surgery.

Perhaps it was when I corrected the misunderstanding:

Pardon me, but my family doesn’t have a generations-long tradition for opening the front of the eyeball like a can of french-cut green beans and firing a computer-guided thing-we-used-to-call-a-“laser” against the retina until it scorched enough of the cones and rods to make things better, as though it was a military expedition to win over the hearts and minds of my optic nerve with napalm. Oh, yeah, and then they close it back up, and it either works or you’re blind, oops.

The laser doesn’t work on the retina after all.

Also Not The Right Time: The Night Time

A hearing aid add asks, “Are you wanting to upgrade your current hearing aids?” and adds, “There’s no better time than now!”

Over a picture of a family on a speedboat.

I am no audiologist, but I think it might be a better time to upgrade your hearing aids when you’re at an audiologist’s office.

This is what happens when your low-budget ad shop has already purchased a piece of stock art and needs to use it.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t have hearing aids (yet) to upgrade, but I’m thinking about getting some so I can listen to heavy metal even louder.

Book Report: The Devil Wins by Reed Farrel Coleman (2015)

Book coverWell, well, well. This was a pleasant surprise. I was not pleased with Blind Spot, the first Jesse Stone book that Coleman took on after the Brandman Dynasty. I knocked it for its slow pacing, for its early revelation of the bad guys, and some thick prose of the sake of thick prose.

With this book, though, Coleman seems to find his footing. In it, the collapse of an industrial building in a winter nor’easter uncovers the bodies of two teen girls killed twenty-five years ago, and Stone has to uncover the unlikely group of killers. Paradise thinks this is its deep, dark shame from the past, and it threatens to hidden secrets from people Jesse has known for a long time. In series business, Jesse is still dealing with the aftermath of Suitcase Simpson’s shooting in the last book, starts visiting the shrink again, and meets the new ME who will become his friend and maybe more. The series business doesn’t overwhelm the story of this book, though.

So, overall, not bad, although the whole “in the deep past of 25 years ago” might ring a little truer if the first Jesse Stone novel hadn’t come out in 1997, 21 years ago. Also, deep, dark past doesn’t work for me since I can remember being an adult(ish) back then.

But good enough that I’ll look for other entries in this line at book sales.

Flashback To That Time I Interviewed A Dolphin

Well, not really, but I did dedicate a lot more time to the blog in the distant past, such as that one time I put together a pod cast to make fun of something John Kerry said extraneously a couple presidential elections ago: World Exclusive!

As with the photoshops, they’re fewer these days. Where did the time go? And I don’t mean the passage of the years: I mean all the time I had every day.

Oh, yes. Children. A better use of the time, surely.

Flashback

In 2004, coincidentally the last time we had a Republican president, we had violence in the streets and one particular party Democrasplaining it:

But the fact is that the reason the Republican Party is feigning righteous indignation is because they don’t want to talk about the 30,000 jobs lost and the 180,000 Oregonians who have lost health care,” said Neel Pender, executive director of the state Democratic Party.

I’m in the process of slowly going through the old posts here and ensuring that all quoted sections have the <blockquote> style and that all posts have categories and post titles (because I was blogging before Blogger had a field for the post title, werd). One thing I’ve discovered (again) is perspective in that all the contemporary news and noise has its roots in the past, and also that we’re still quibbling over the same damn things fifteen years later.

Of course, I first realized this when I caught up on old Wall Street Journal. In 2007. (And also when I caught up again several years later.)