Milwaukee Brewers Catcher Does Good

Scouting for art, not ballplayers: 833 works from Ted and Maryanne Simmons go to St. Louis Art Museum:

In some baseball cities, after Cardinal Ted Simmons took off his catcher’s mitt, he put on a pair of white gloves.

He became friends with a museum docent near Philadelphia, a curator in Houston. They’d let him wear gloves to examine fine pottery or open an antique desk or cabinet to see it up close. “I wanted to hold that Paul Revere tankard in my hand,” he said.

In exchange, Simmons left tickets at will call so his museum friends could go to the Phillies’ or Astros’ stadium for a game.

A fair trade for a guy who, off the field, scouted art, not hitters.

Back home in St. Louis, he and his wife, Maryanne Ellison Simmons, would discuss and research art they wanted to buy. A married team for 50 years, their passion meant a home filled with beloved furniture and artwork.

Not a framed jersey to be seen.

“Collecting art enabled me and Maryanne to have a life separate from baseball,” Simmons said. Sports memorabilia was kept in the attic.

Now they are sharing their art: The St. Louis Art Museum has acquired 833 works, mostly contemporary prints but including drawings, collages and photographs.

Read the whole thing.

Although Ted Simmons also played for the St. Louis Cardinals, or so I heard, and lives in St. Louis, c’mon, man, to a boy growing up in the housing projects in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, he was a Brewer and was on the one team (one!) that went to the World Series. And lost to the Cardinals. Oh, how a Milwaukee boy born to a woman from St. Louis suffered. As did the neighbors on either side of the apartment in which we lived, as she would bang on the walls with a plastic baseball bat to let them know the Cardinals had scored a run.

Book Report: The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly (2018)

Book coverMy wife spotted this book on my to-read shelves and brought it to my attention: I should read it soon, or it might disappear from my shelves. She has read other things by the author, a three-time cancer survivor, so that might be how she knows of him. So after I finished the Winter 2021 Reading Challenge, I picked it up.

It’s a contemporary Christian….self-help book? It’s in the vein of The Power of Positive Thinking or Eat the Cookie…Buy the Shoes with a bit of focus, I guess, on living as a Christian in the 21st century and helping to expand the Church’s reach/the power of the Church. The author is either first or also a business consultant, so it has a lot of focus on large-scale outcomes and uses the term continuous improvement referring to the experience of Christianity.

Spoiler alert: The biggest lie in the history of Christianity is that holiness, living a holy life, is impossible in the 21st century.

The book is a little bifurcated: He creates the concept of Holy Moments, essentially paying-it-forward by doing nice things for people to represent Christianity well, and then, rather unrelatedly, he then talks about The Church as if it’s some monolith that need Christians to band together to maximize its influence and whatnot. I am not sure that he leads from one to the other very well, and I’m not sure you can do that very well. I mean, Christianity is about one’s own relationship with Christ; once you start talking about the organization of the Church, especially as some ecumenical megalith, you start losing me.

He talks, briefly, about the Church doing a big thing, all Christians together:

Everybody knows the world needs changing. We may disagree with our non-Christian sisters and brothers about what changes are needed, but the need for change itself is indisputable. And so, the key to repositioning Christianity as an incredibly positive and powerful force in our culture is what I like to call a 100 percent issue. A 100 percent issue is one that no reasonable, rational man or woman of goodwill can disagree with. For example, I believe that no child in the United States should go to be hungry. That’s a 100 percent issue.

. . . .

If I said no American should go to bed hungry at night, it would no longer be a 100 percent issue. Some people would argue that many of the hungry and homeless are lazy, are voluntarily abusing substances, and have chosen the lifestyle they are living. They may be right. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter right now, because while some people may disagree about every American, everyone agrees that no American child should go hungry. This is a 100 percent issue, which means nobody can disagree with you without looking foolish at the very least.

Now, just one minute, Admiral. Before I, who might not be reasonable, rational, or of goodwill, will check those terms and conditions:

  • What is a “child”? Up to age 26 like a medical insurance dependent?
  • What is “hungry”? Hankering for a snack even though they’ve already had their necessary dietary needs met?
  • When, exactly, is going to bed going to occur? Must we guarantee that an eighteen-year-old who has been playing Far Cry for eighteen hours should have a banana at four o’clock in the morning?
  • Can parents opt out, or do reasonable, rational men or women of goodwill get to compel behavior?

The book and its conception of the Holy Moment can be useful as a frame of thinking of small acts of kindness that a Christian can perform every day to act more according to the teachings of the New Testament, but too often it kind of veers into the macro. Also, it really kind of goes from deontology–do good works because it’s the right thing to do or because it’s God’s will–to teleology–do good works to show everyone what good Christians do or to make the Church look good/broaden its power and influence. That is, do good with a worldly goal in mind.

So, yeah, not buying it.

At any rate, the book is only 114 pages, but it took a fair amount of themeatic repetition to get there. So I will mark this into my library database and annual reading total, but instead of onto the read shelves, I will probably pass it onto my wife. Perhaps she will enjoy it or get more from it than I.

Oh, and other things I marked upon which to comment:

Check Your Theology

Other common lies today include: Christians hate all non-Christians; Christians think everyone else is going to hell; smart people are not Christian; Christianity isn’t dying and won’t be around for much longer.

I disclaim that I did not even complete my (Catholic) theology minor at the university (I dropped Philosophy and Theology because it was an 8am class, had used all my absences by midterms, and thought I was getting a worse grade in it than I was), but I am pretty sure that the the only way to the Father is through the Son is still taken pretty seriously if not stridently. Some denominations in the diverse monolith that is the Church emphasize it more than others, but I’m not sure that those who have eliminated it constitute a majority. So it’s not a lie told about Christians.

Endymion Rears Its Head

This is a thing of beauty. The first line of John Keats’ poem Endymion reads: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” A Holy Moment is a thing of beauty. The poem continues, “Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”

The author here is referring to a good deed or a single action as a thing of beauty; however, Keats himself is referring to actual things:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 5
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways 10
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 15
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 20
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Keats is talking about actual things, earthly things that one can enjoy, externally triggering joy, over and over again. Hey, I know the feeling. See also my preference for personal relics as physical triggers for memories I might not remember otherwise.

Also, this might be a good time to drop in a little design knock on this book. A lot of books have callouts, where they put little snippets of the text in a larger font on the page so you can remember it when you’re flipping back through the book or to emphasize a point. When I read books that use them, I skip the larger text because it’s generally a little aphorism out of context.

This book, however, puts whole paragraphs in larger font; text which does not otherwise appear, so they’re not callouts, they’re emphasized part of the text. The stuff the author would underline for you if he could, and it’s whole paragraphs.

I think that’s poor design. And you can take it to the bank since the closest thing I have to an official review of my last collection of poetry was the poetry sucks, but the design is awesome!

Take That, Pelagius

It is also important to note that we need God’s grace to create Holy Moments. We can’t do this alone. This is not self-empowerment.

I always feel smart when I can name the heresy.

Top-Down Approach

So, it is going to take a brilliant strategic effort to place Christianity back at the center of modern culture. But the most brilliant strategies are usually simple, and the simplicity at the center of whatever strategy we can all agree to adopt will be Holy Moments.

Again, this is the greatest dispute that I have with the book. It talks about doing good and being holy as part of a strategy with an earthly goal in mind. I think that any resurgence of Christianity and traditional morals must be a by-product of people just doing it, not the goal of a strategy.

Whoa, There, Joseph Smith

Kelly starts out a chapter called “Everyday Miracles” with a story that must be a parable, but:

A thousand years ago, a missionary was visiting a village on a small island deep in the Amazon, when he came upon three old friends talking, singing, and laughing.

I think the parable is about how the Church and its official emissaries cannot teach holiness to Christians who are already holy. I don’t think this squares with the Church having an official strategy. But I do know that missionaries weren’t visiting the Amazon a thousand years ago. The official Church wasn’t even going to retake the Holy Land in the Crusades yet, and Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire hadn’t fallen.

It’s a glaring mistake. But the book itself has a bit of a dashed-off quality.

It looks like the author dashes off a couple books like this every year. So that explains it.


So, a quick read. Not a lot of depth, just a couple of ideas repeated in various forms like motifs in a musical work. And little for me.

So That’s Why The Wards of Iasos II Is Still “Coming Soon”

My bike shop posted a bit about someone losing weight riding bikes:

Hey, I know that guy. It’s the author of The Wards of Iasos Book 1: The Leftovers which I read in 2017. When I bought his first book in September 2017, I said:

I saw him at LibraryCon 2017, but he was speaking in a panel when I passed by his table on the way out, so I didn’t buy his book. I saw him and caught a little of a talk he gave at the Ozark Mini Maker Faire the next week. When I saw him yesterday at a table in Hollister, his old home town, I told him if he was going to keep following me to fairs and festivals, I’d buy his book. Now, when I see him around, I’ll remind him of that.

I would think he was stalking me to buy his second book, but:

  1. It’s not out yet after four years. But, Brian J., you haven’t self published a novel in almost ten years. Shaddup, italics voice. Shaddup.
  2. I don’t do the Bicycle Outlet Monday Night Rides because we only have a three bike mount for the back of a car, which means one of our family would have to ride out to Bicycle Outlet to join in and then back some seven or eight miles in the dark. As a result, currently, the family does the Friday night rides in Battlefield, which is only a couple of miles away.

Of course, this means I’ll be looking for him when the Friday night rides start up again, and I’ll have to start seeing him at events and hounding him for the next book in the series.

Which, truth be told, I’d only buy and throw on the stack.

The only local author I can look in the eye at the next LibraryCon, someday, is Joshua Chase Dodge Merrin. Because I’m way behind on Shayne Silvers and William Schilcter.

What Is This ‘Dialing’ Of Which You Speak?

Many will need to dial all 10 digits before calling soon.

C’mon, man, it just means you’ll have to type an extra couple numbers when setting the contact in your phone, ainna? I mean, who dials any more?

By the way, as my cell phone number is still from the same area, I already have to dial ten for local 417 area calls placed from my cell phone. So the actual amount of change this represents for me is very negligible indeed.

Unlike when they split the St. Louis area into two area codes in 1996 which did have an impact on me. Because suddenly calling a lot of my friends was long distance. Ask your grandparents what “long distance” meant, you damn kids.

Great Mysteries Of The Universe

Gas prices have been steadily rising in Missouri. Here’s why.:

There are multiple factors that go into setting gasoline prices, making it hard to pinpoint a reason for an increase. However, a couple of contributors help explain the recent surge, AAA East Central spokesman Jim Garrity told the Louisville Courier Journal.

Snowstorms in the Gulf Coast shut down refineries, halting 40% of gasoline production last month. Prices of crude oil, which is what gasoline is made from, have also risen $15 since the beginning of the year, he said.

Gee, why are petroleum prices rising?

You know, policies of the new administration that stifle energy development in the United States and that de-stabilize this middle east? Nah, it’s just that petroleum prices are rising. Pay no attention to whatever’s behind the curtain.

I meant to take a picture of the local gas prices to pair with this image from October of last year:

However, I’m an old-school photographer and managed to get a finger over the relevant parts. Gas prices are a dollar higher here in the six months since I took the photo above. Because of a snow storm that lasted two weeks? Um, skeptical.

Perhaps the Neanderthal thinking of states opening up despite Federal SCIENCE!® Bureacracy will paper over how the new policies are going to impact employment. But only for a while. Maybe.

But She Hasn’t Gone Away

Now that the advertising wars have shifted, and advertisers are hopefully only temporarily outwitting my browser’s ad blockers, I get the chance to make mock of some ads I see.

Like this one:

Remember her? I remember that she was the geeky science girl on NCIS, although I never watched the show, and I had to look up her name. Pauley Perrette only left the cast of NCIS in 2018 under some controversy or dark cloud or something. After playing the character for fifteen years.

So Remember her? seems a bit premature since she’s already on another television show.

Of course, on NCIS, she’s made up to be manic pixie science girl with the high pigtails (are they still pigtails that high on the head?). However, she’s actually three years older than I am, which makes her fifty-something.

A more recent and natural photo accompanying the article circa 2018 shows her like this:

Still lovely, but definitely different.

So they could very well have used then and now pictures taken only a couple years apart. Or they could have taken a picture at the beginning of the series and compared it to the end of the series, and she probably would have aged, but that would have been mitigated by the makeup and hair styling.

Case in point: Here she is on her new show, made up:

Then and now and then again.

I didn’t click through on the clickbait. Someone else will have to let me know if they swapped in Myrna Loy for anyone.

We’re The Internet; We Know The Real Reason

Jennifer Aniston shares the meaning behind her ‘11 11’ wrist tattoo

I’ll be honest: I didn’t glean the “reason” from the article. Her birthday and the year her dog died?

C’mon, man. We’re the Internet. We know the real reason. If you draw a little line connecting the first and the second 1, and then the third and the fourth one, you know what you have? That’s right, two Hs. And what does that mean? You know what it means. Heil, Hitler! (I am not up on my German; what does ‘Heil’ actually mean? Should there be a comma between them or not?)

Oh, her friend has a matching tattoo, hey? Well, 1+1+1+1 plus 1+1+1+1 = 8. What’s the eighth letter of the alphabet? Aw, yeah, H. Times 2 friends. Don’t you see?

And the common stereotype is that people with English degrees are not good at math, but look how I solved this word problem!

The New Shows of 1982 Quiz

Ace posts again a link to a New Shows of 1980-something’s title credits, and again, I feel the need to watch the whole video and annotate which ones I remember or, heaven forbid, refer to in my daily life almost forty years later (I’m not stuck in amber–you’re loose in the aether).

Again, I’ve bolded the ones I remember and linked to any referred to on this blog.

  • Square Pegs, the Freaks and Geeks for our parents’ generation. Ace calls it “a show that everyone remembers, but I’m not sure anyone actually watched it.” Which is true for me.
  • Gloria, a All in the Family spin-off. Not one of the successful ones.
  • Silver Spoons. Referred to in passing for the Jason Bateman connection; I am surprised that I did not refer to it on the blog as my inspiration for having full sized video games in my home. I know I’ve mentioned that on Facebook anyway.
  • Family Ties. I called Michael J. Fox Alex P. Keaton here; I have a tie-in children’s book somewhere on the shelves here. Perhaps I should read it among the movie paperbacks.
  • Star in the Family. Starring Brian Dennehy and Michael Dudikoff. In a sitcom.
  • It Takes Two. I want to say I remember it, but probably I remember the song (which is not the theme song for the show).
  • Cheers C’mon, man. Although I don’t see a reference to it on this blog, I did refer to it in real life recently as an example of how 80s sitcoms were crass and sexual at times because I remember Rhea Perlman’s character telling someone to announce that she has the thigh sweats for a man.
  • Newhart. I saw this a bunch for some reason back in the day. And although I don’t seem to have used the “I’m Larry. This is my brother Daryl. And this is my other brother Daryl.” bit on the blog, I have used it in real life within the last decade (or as I like to say now, “Recently.”).
  • The New Odd Couple. Ron Glass’s other show before Firefly. Although I think he had a couple back then, ainna?
  • Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!. C’mon, man. You can still hear Jack Palance saying, “Believe it. Or not,” can’t you?
  • St. Elsewhere. I can even remember the real name of the hospital without prompting. It was like E.R. for your parents, but with the voice of KITT. But it was a nine o’clock show, so I never saw it as it was past my bedtime.
  • Bring Em Back Alive. Which is apparently an 80s show based on the life of trapper Frank Buck, who played himself in Africa Screams.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey. I thought I had mentioned this somewhere, but a quick search says no. I wish I had seen this when I was younger.
  • Voyagers! I might remember this, but I never watched it. Basically, it’s like a Sliders for your grandparents. Because Sliders isn’t for kids today. Come to think of it, maybe Sliders is for your grandparents now. Time flies even without a portal.
  • The Powers of Matthew Star. You know, I would have been right in the target audience for this one. But I missed it.
  • Knight Rider. You know I saw this. I corrected trivia about it in the book report for Super Incredible Trivia.
  • Tucker’s Witch. Never heard of it.
  • Remington Steele. Mentioned here when I listed a set of television private investigators who were actually private investigators.
  • The Devlin Connection. Featuring computers and 80s tech fonts which look like Comic Sans to us in the 21st century. I missed it, though.
  • Matt Houston whose star Lee Horsley, as you might remember, made my aunt’s toes curl.
  • Gavilan. This was Robert Urich’s show before Spenser: For Hire and after Vega$. I never saw it, but I remember the bit from the promos, also in the titles, where he punches a guy in the face and shakes his hand because it hurt. I’m not saying I’m a Robert Urich fan, per se, but I did create a test user named Dan Tanna on my job just this week.
  • The Quest. What is that all about? But it illustrates that certain actors had their runs in different programs through the 1980s: Robert Urich, Perry King, Stephen Collins–these guys always seemed to be leading a television series, even though many of them were pretty short-lived.
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I didn’t watch it, though, as I was not into Westerns. Also, Richard Dean Anderson was one of those guys, although he hit it big with MacGyver.

I was thinking I did really well on this particular quiz, but it’s only 13 of 23. But I think that’s all of the ones that ran for more than one season and one or two others.

I guess that was a peak year for television for me: My parents were separated, we were on welfare, and my mother could not drive, so she could not take us to the library, so it lent itself to a lot of television.

Also, in 1982, look at the two Raiders of the Lost Ark tag-alongs: Tales of the Gold Monkey and Bring Em Back Alive. And a science fiction bit with Star Wars sound effects in the titles (The Powers of Matthew Star) and a Time Bandits tag-along (Voyagers!). Very derivative stuff, and the television-sized budgets didn’t hold anyone, apparently.

Still, better than I’ll do in another forty years. Or even this year looking back to 1990-something.

Missed It By That Much

In the JJ Sefton Morning Report at Ace of Spades HQ, the cob demonstrates an ignorance of fictional geography:

The second story is supposedly a scratch formation of the 1st SS Panzer Division along with the Ozark goobers who buggered Ned Beatty in Deliverance are planning to storm the Capitol tomorrow.

C’mon, man. Deliverance took place in Georgia.

Since I’m a long-time no-longer Wisconsin resident and a resident of the low hills of the aforementioned Ozarks, I feel the need to defend my new hometownregion.

The Who? Leads To My God, How Long?

Milwaukee radio veteran Karen Dalessandro leaving WKLH for a new gig at Phoenix classic rock station KSLX:

Longtime Milwaukee radio personality Karen Dalessandro is leaving town for a new gig in Phoenix.

Dalessandro, the former country music host who has been on the afternoon drive shift at WKLH-FM (96.5) for more than two years, will be taking over the same gig at another classic rock station, Phoenix’s KSLX-FM starting April 5, AllAccess.com reported Tuesday.

According to OnMilwaukee.com, her last day at WKLH will be March 26.

Dalessandro spent 20 years as a country radio host in Milwaukee at WMIL-FM (106.1). After briefly retiring in 2017 — she was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2015 — Dalessandro joined WKTI-FM (94.5), which had switched to a country-music format. After WKTI flipped to an all-sports format in 2018, she landed at WKLH as a part-time host, going full-time as the station’s host from 3 to 7 p.m. in 2019.

I guess I am coming up on 27 years since I last left Milwaukee.

The first time, of course, was at age 11; then I returned for the University, but when my prospects were uncertain (I had an English/Philosophy degree and a ton of grocery store experience), so I returned to the St. Louis area to live in my mother’s basement until I found myself (three years later, I landed a technical writing position because I was taking programming classes at night, not just because I had a writing degree).

So I have missed this veteran broadcaster’s entire career. She was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame, for crying out loud. And even if I would have been there at the very outset of her career, I was not listening to WMIL. I was listening to the AOR stations at the time. QFM and whatnot.

I listened to WKTI when I was in high school on summer trips to my father’s house and early in my college days, but they played pop music then (and ‘hits’ like Calloway’s “I Wanna Be Rich” pretty much hourly. Like, hourly.

Although WKTI did introduce me to the Triplets, so it’s got that going for me.

But apparently WKTI has gone through two complete format changes in the interim.

I still have my Best of Dave and Carole from WKLH cassette which I have not listened to for a long time. I see that show ended five years ago. I should pull that old comedy tape out whilst I still have a motor vehicle that supports it.

Ah, well, everything passes, and in the twenty-first century, radio stations and radio personalities tend to swap around a lot and disappear.

You can bet my boys, who are exposed to a lot of radio for their age, won’t have the same nostalgia for stations and personalities that a couple generations of their forefathers did.

Sarah Hoyt Does Not Help Me Decide

The other day, I was torn about the proper catchphrase for this portion of the 21st century:

The Springfield area had rolling blackouts during the winter storms a couple weeks ago. I have been trying to get the phrase They’re not going to like the nineteenth century they’re voting for, but it might as well be They’re not going to like the third world country they’re voting for.

In a post Teenage Mutant Ninja Idiots, it sounds like Sarah Hoyt might favor the former:

Look, it took me a while to figure out things were going to h*ll. Mostly because…. well. I was raised in the 19th century, and some parts of it were not quite that advanced. Take toilet flushing: you take the full bucket in with you. Well, that’s how I first learned. I don’t know when grandma’s toilet had a flush installed if before or after we moved to my parents’ newly-built house which, d*mn skippy had a flush installed.

So that’s a vote for the first one, which to be honest is the one I prefer, too. But she also says:

Except that even there, you know, it was an European flush. I honestly can’t tell if Europe is just more advanced than us on the war on things that work — my best friend growing up lived in a Victorian that had perfectly functional elevated flush tanks, with no problems — or if — since friend’s house was built by an English consul — most of Europe (and the world) just cosplays modernity without any clue how it should work. I do know that my parents’ flush was low water before low water was fashionable (in a region of the world that has problems rather with too much water and back then when our water came from a well and was therefore “free”.) So, you know, you still had a bucket standing by just in case.

Also, the dishwasher was high water (but low hot water, because that cost money) and got done as soon as I was done scrubbing and rinsing the last pan. Ditto for the washer. We had a tank outside. I actually love hand-washing clothes. At least in summer. In winter, when your hands become painful from going in the water and you find out what “instant arthritis” means, it’s not so fun.

So, anyway, you see, in the states any level of “this is easier” was an improvement. I remember a day in the late eighties, when I sat down and went “The dishwasher is going. The washer is going. And I have time to write.” It was like…. trumpets sounded, I swear.

Which sounds like it could also be a vote for the latter.

I’m still on the horns of a dilemma. Rest assured, though, gentle reader, that I shall overuse the “C’mon, man” formulation in posts for the near future. At least until the lights go out.

Truth, Unspoken

Disney CEO says there’s no ‘going back’ to old way of movie watching:

Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said the pandemic has likely permanently narrowed the window for movies to play only in theaters.

Pre-pandemic, cinemas depended on an exclusive 90-day window to screen films before they were made available to home distribution channels, such as pay TV and streaming services. But now, studios are tinkering with that timeframe, either shortening it or doing away with it altogether.

“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before, particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them,” Chapek said late Monday at a virtual conference hosted by Morgan Stanley.

Also, major media corporations are tired of having to split the ticket price with movie theaters and of selling movies on physical media which users can watch over and over again with no recurring revenue to the major media corporation.

C’mon, man. We know that the consumer isn’t jumping; he’s being pushed.

Full disclosure: I own some Disney stock, so I’m benefitting in some small way from modern day robbery barony. But I’m also going to have to start hitting yard sales this year for backup DVD players to store with my backup VHS players.

Book Report: Alien Nation by Alan Dean Foster (1988)

Book coverIn rummaging through my books last month to find a book by a native author, I went through the collpsed bookshelves and percolated a couple of movie novelization tie-ins to the top. So, gentle reader, you might look forward to reading book reports on a few of them here in the near future.

I told my boys about these movie books and how, before the home video revolution in the 1980s, if you wanted to experience your favorite movies outside of the cinema in a format you controlled, you had to go with the movie paperback. The novelization if you wanted the story in depth or the storybook if you wanted pictures from the movie (and, sometimes, things that were cut from the movie as in the Star Wars Storybook which shows pictures of Luke and Biggs on Tatooine). They, being of the Internet age, are pretty used to having any movie approved and licensed by big tech available at any time, although they will be the last amongst our people to remember going to an actual video store.

But I digress.

I must have seen the film at some time, but I am most familiar with the television series–enough to remember the star’s name even though he really hasn’t appeared in a leading role anywhere else. The television show lasted a season, my senior year in high school, when the fledgling Fox network didn’t have a full week’s worth of programming. According to the Wikipedia entry, Fox cancelled the series because it wasn’t making enough money at the time–but that its enduring popularity led to five television movies through the 1990s. Which is four movies past Firefly if you’re keeping score, brother.

Of course, by now, it’s a forgotten science fiction cult classic, maybe, so I should probably explain the setup. An automatically piloted alien ship appears out in California containing thousands of aliens that come to be called Newcomers (or Slags if you prefer the slur). These aliens were supposed to be slave delivered elsewhere, but inadvertently arrived at Earth. So the government has quarantined the aliens for a while but are helping to integrate them into human society. This has been ongoing for a bit–ghettos have formed where the Newcomers live, and some are starting to work alongside humans.

When human Detectives Sykes and Tuggle witness trouble brewing in the Newcomer area of Los Angeles, they witness and try to stop what appears to be a robbery in progress at a Newcomer-owned store. The robbers kill the storekeeper and then shoot their way out of the store, killing Tug. I think I’ve actually seen the movie and not the television show because I seem to recall this scene, with shotgun blasts punching completely though cars. But that might be a scene from another movie.

So one of the Newcomers on the police force is promoted to detective, and Sykes volunteers to partner with him. Although he’s not supposed to work on the case of his partner’s death, Sykes knows the Newcomer detetive, “George,” is working on a murder that might be related. So they navigate the hidden world of the Newcomers, finding a plot that deals with an alien drug ring and not the prevalence of super shotgun shells.

The book has a lot of good commentary on relating to The Other and integration, which means it’s certainly out-of-step for the 21st century. But they’re univeral themes, the alien in a host society, and the book explores some of these concerns without banging the race drum too much.

Foster handles the cinematic elements well, but the book’s pacing kind of matches some of the Executioner novels in that a larger part of early pages sets the tone and characterization, but then we get about three quarters through it and we have to cover the slam-bang finish and false endings in detail. Not on of Foster’s greatest works, but it’s still pretty good and kept him in kibble.

I don’t think anyone had actually read this paperback before. The spine was uncracked, and as I read it, the binding popped a couple of times and pages came loose. Which is okay, ultimately, as I suspect that once this book disappears into my paperback shelves, no one else will ever read it. Because, c’mon, man, I’m hoping to own the book for another couple of decades, after which I fully expect “reading” to be a lost art, and even if people still do it, most of it will be tech-approved content on tech-provided devices. But I digress.

I flagged a couple of things for comment as I’ve started doing, and I will risk the spine of this book further to provide this bit of commentary to you, gentle reader.

I Remember When

His hand reached out to automatically slap the rewind/playback switch on the answering machine. It whirred as he advanced on the kitchen. One time he’d put a funny greeting tape on the machine, a gag gift from a fellow officer. Only trouble was that his mother had called once and had been forced to suffer throught the tape’s bouncy barrage of four-letter words. All copspeech, unsuitable for mentally stable civillians. Now the machine requested its messages in a noncontroversial monotone.

When I finally moved out of her basement, my sainted mother bought me an answering machine so that she could leave me messages. In those days, although cell phones existed, they were still on the lower end of the adoption scale. I didn’t have one for a couple of years yet. I didn’t think I’d need an answering machine as I was not expecting a lot of calls. And, as I expected, she was the only one to leave messages. Well, mostly.

Also, note how much Foster has inserted here: In the movie, James Caan comes in the door and hits the button on the answering machine. But Foster adds depth with a little story about the protagonist’s mother. This separates the better novelizations from the lesser.

1 Out Of 2 Is Kinda Bad

“Wrap sheet shows one armed robbery conviction, a couple for sale of a controlled substance. He also beat a number of raps back East.”

Copyediting on paperbacks was not a big line item on even major books from major houses based on a major motion picture even in the 1980s.

The Other Water

There was muzak in the air and the cheesy aroma of canapes on trays. Waiters moved obsequiously through the crowd, dispensing Perrier and champagne and soaking up a month’s worth of gossip which the more astute among them would peddle a little at a time and for high fees to the city’s more prominent columnists.

Widows mentions Pelligrino water, which is my preferred sparkling water brand simply because I am not hoity-toity, and in the 80s, Perrier was pitched to the hoity-toity as it is a marker for a high class function here.

Also note how Foster here also injects a little characterization for some of the wait staff. The line in the script might be “A busy party scene.” Or, I suppose, the script could have included some of this in its description. But I prefer to attribute it to the seasoned pro (more on that in a bit).

Someone Has Kids

He tapped the picture. “That’s Kristin there. My daughter. It’s kinda an old picture, but you know how you get about old pictures. You always have this one special image of your kids, when they’re a certain age, when they look a certain age. When you’re seventy-five and they’re fifty, you’ll still see them the same way.”

Analysis: True.
I have a rotating set of pictures running on one of the monitors here in the lab, and since the Macintosh cannot recognize shortcuts nor include subfolders in its screensaver rotation, it mostly plays the root folder from one or more of my boys’ photo collections, which is disorganized photos from their extreme youth. And although they’re teenagers, about, now, they still have that toddler or little boy in them to me even though it was a lifetime ago to them. Not to me.

But Hasn’t Actually Scheduled a Wedding In A While
A paragraph later, talking about his aforementioned daughter’s wedding:

“When is the happy occasion?”
“Sunday. This Sunday.

In my experience, most weddings take place on a Saturday. Churches generally have other things scheduled on Sundays.

Of course, I’ve only been married once, and the wedding itself was long ago.

A Nice Line

They sat at the table and talked about small things suddenly becoming large, big things that no longer seemed half so important, and the debris of a person’s life called memories.

Definitely a noir coloration in the black and white text.

The Other Oprah Effect

His partner refused to be mollified. “She’s very progressive, I’m certain she’s considering it. She watches television all the time, and not just the Newcomer channel. She’s taken up flower arranging in her spare time. If she can pick up a human habit as bizarre as that, why not also divorce?”

I’ve heard that the other Oprah effect is that women who find themselves at home start watching programs like this and that they then find unhappiness in their marriages and the path to empowerment and fulfillment following a divorce. A friend pretty much attributed his divorce on Oprah.

Based on the screenplay by Rockne O’Bannon

I first became acquainted with the name Rockne O’Bannon from the episode of the middle 1980s Twilight Zone series. The segment was called “Personal Demons”, and it dealt with an older writer named Rockne O’Bannon who is plagued by destructive physical demons who damage his car and whatnot and, when he confronts them, they say they want him to write about them. When he does, they leave.

Because the character Rockne O’Bannon is older in the show, I thought O’Bannon himself was older. However, O’Bannon was at the beginning of his career in the middle 1980s. He did several stories for The Twilight Zone, one for Amazing Stories, and then this movie. He’s also responsible for Farscape (which I’ve never seen and would probably confuse with Lexx very easily since I didn’t see that program either).

I mention it because I think it’s funny that I thought that O’Bannon was a grizzled veteran in the 1980s, but he’s probably not that much older than I am.


So, to sum up, a good novelization of a mostly forgotten science fiction film. But it makes me want to go out and get the DVDs for the movie, the television series, The Twilight Zone 80s edition, and maybe Farscape and Lexx. Actually, I don’t have to go out to get them; I can simply conduct an Internet search online and be shocked that it’s so expensive and not buy any of them.

Which is just as well–I don’t carve out time for watching television, so they’d languish on the cabinet for years until I got around to them. Because I spend my time reading books based on movies and television programs instead.

I Noticed the New Neighbors Have Free Range Chickens

A mile or so up the farm road, a new family has bought one of the larger homes by Highway M. Yesterday, I saw that they had a chicken running around.

Hopefully, they have a coop where they put the chickens up at night. Otherwise, they won’t have chickens for very long.

I hope they see this: Tips to keep your pets safe during coyote mating season

I often hear the coyotes when I am taking the trash out around sunset. Perhaps they don’t range that far north over the creek. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Book Report: A Ginger on a Mission by Lynn Daake (2015)

Book coverI bought this book at an undocumented trip to ABC Books (sometimes, as I mentioned, if I only end up with one or two books, I don’t make a special Good Book Hunting post for it since the hunting, in those cases, wasn’t particularly good). I spotted it in the local author sets, and I asked Mrs. E., the proprietrix, if it was Mama Daake. We know the Daakes from church, and the younger Mr. Daake, whose children received our boys’ Mega Bloks collection and still receive odd Mega Bloks from time to time when they turn up at Nogglestead, is not married to Lynn. So I thought it might be his mother, but, no, it’s his sister or sister-in-law. So bear that in mind, gentle reader: I know the family, and younger Mr. Daake is very large; although very good natured, I would not want to give him offense by savaging his sister or sister-in-law’s book.

With that disclaimer out of the way: The book is what it says it is. The subtitle is My Trip to Egypt, so it’s essentially culled from her diary/journal of a two week mission trip to Egypt. Daake is not a professional writer, so really the text is a bit of a cleaned up version of a journal which focuses on the travel aspects of the trip and the siteseeing a bit with only a little description of the mission work (cleaning up a park in Hurghada). You get some detail about the work, but a lot more of the time is spent on where the group is going in their non-work time, the souvenirs they seek, what they’re eating (a lot of Western chain restaurants), and impressions of the city. Also, a quest for hairbraiding.

So. It was a fairly quick read, the first thing I finished since finishing the Winter 2021 Reading Challenge (this book could have fit into the In a Different Country and Memoir categories). It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, it’s not particularly spiritual (although it does cite scripture a couple of times). So it kind of fits into the normal person biographies that I tend to read, but this one is contemporary.

I do wonder, though, how much of mission tripping is mission tourism industry, though. I mean, they paid money to go to a tourist city on the Red Sea to work half days on a project not directly tied to a sister church–although they do an activity with a local Coptic church and attend a service or two with them. They’re not directly proselytizing but just setting an example. So whether they’ve brought anyone to Christ through their example is uncertain–the author would like to think so, but I’m from a wee bit more cynical world.

At any rate, it’s the second book recently I’ve read set in Egypt (the other being The Judgment of Caesar). Which might have been why I jumped on it so quickly.

I also flagged a couple of things for comment.

Local Cuisine

The final dish was a beef dish. It had beef made three different ways. One was an interesting site [sic]. They [sic] way that it is made is that the beef is ground into a hamburger consistency and seasoned. Then it is formed around a shish kabob skewer and grilled. When it comes off the skewer and served, it looks like a piece of dog dookie with a hole in the middle of it. I think I was the first one to try it because of its visual appeal, and it actually tasted pretty good.

Strangely, I have recently been thinking of the word dookie. When I was growing up in the projects, it was the slang term of choice for human scat, but it’s not one that my boys have been exposed to–certainly, I don’t tend to use it any more. Then, I was thinking perhaps it was the word duece pronounced incorrectly originally. Of course, I didn’t search for it on the Internet, because, c’mon, man, that will not be good for my appetite ahead of my next meal and for the kinds of ads I would see for the rest of my life.

But sometimes I spend perfectly good brain cycles during the day thinking of things outside of Philosophy.

Shared Mall Experience
While visiting a mall, she notes:

You can even drop your kids off at Magic Galaxy where they can ride a roller coaster, drive bumper cars, or play with over 90 video games while you spend your time shopping. On the 4th floor there is a little tram where you can drop off your kids to ride the tram while you are shopping.

Although the local mall’s arcade does not have that many video games, for a while, it did have a little train that would ride around one small segment of the mall. We used to have our car serviced at the shop by the mall, so I sometimes took my boys up there and we would walk around the mall while we were getting the cars’ oil changed. So we rode on the train a couple of times during its brief presence at the mall. Since we were the only ones who rode it that I ever saw, it did not last long.

I’ve Seen Photos From Other Angles

Seeing the signs meant, “yes, we’re really are going to be able to not only see the pyramids but touch them, and even go inside one”. Then, all of a sudden, there they were. We rounded a corner and the pyramids came into view. They were majestic and stood high above the city buildings.

A lot of photographs make it look like they’re out in the middle of the desert, but I have seen photos of the pyramids showing them in the middle of the city.

Related:

As we started to drive away from the Sphynx and pyramids, Rafik told us that we would be headed to lunch. I was expecting to drive into Cairo to the mall, but we didn’t. Instead we pulled over right across the street from the pyramids. We were eating lunch at a KFC/Pizza Hut in Giza.

Martial Artists Can Relate

Juju and I bonded over martial arts and kickboxing. He showed me some of the moves he knew, and then I taught him a few more. We were having a blast throwing kicks and punches in the middle of the mall while our friends were shopping.

This is true in life: When you find out someone studies martial arts, particularly another type, you ask to see something that you can try out on the people in your school. Or, if you’re like me, you read a pile of books on it to learn dirty tricks.

Sounds More and More Like America

Vanda called Mariette and told us that their block had no power. Ish! We all laughed and decided it was an Egyptian sendoff. We didn’t have electricity when we left Hurghada, and new we weren’t going to have electricity as we left Cairo.

The Springfield area had rolling blackouts during the winter storms a couple weeks ago. I have been trying to get the phrase They’re not going to like the nineteenth century they’re voting for, but it might as well be They’re not going to like the third world country they’re voting for. Either works, I suppose.


At any rate, again, an interesting book. I enjoyed it and learned something, but it’s not a professional work, and if you’re not used to that, you probably won’t enjoy it as much.

From The ‘Sod Off, Swampy’ Files

Gym-goers urged to wear masks when exercising under new CDC guidelines:

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new recommendations for gyms after two outbreaks of COVID-19 were linked to group exercise classes.

The new recommendations urge gym-goers to wear a mask even when exercising. Gyms are also asked to provide more ventilation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Two outbreaks so everyone must conform? C’mon, man. This is America. And I think the powers that wannabe are going to find out how America this country still is.

Note the video segment features my YMCA and interviews a fellow Ozarks Multisport Club member rocking a Drown and Pound shirt. Neither the Y nor the OMC member seems inclined to require or wear masks whilst exercising.

Me, either.

I Am Old Enough To Get The Allusion

The Low Spark of High-Speed Rail

Ha! An allusion to Traffic!

Alright, alright, alright, I am not old enough to remember that song contemporaneously–the album of the same title came out the year before I was born–but I do remember that album because of Dennis Cast, the assistant manager of the grocery store where I worked through college (one of many assistant managers–and even though it had a couple different names because it had a couple of different owners, but it was the same store to me). I listened to what they called Album Oriented Rock in those days–slightly older hard rock music–and he tried to broaden my horizons by loaning me a couple of cassettes, including The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. To be honest, the long-riffing lightly psychadelic sound of the middle 1970s didn’t do it for me. But I remember the song and have called it up once or twice since.

At any rate, I feel clever.

Also, I should note that I previously mentioned I remembered an episode of My Two Dads from The New Shows of 1987:

My Two Dads; I remember a single episode, where they give a party and try to engage the teens in conversation, and the daughter imagines them as really old.

In that episode, the B.J. and the Bear dad asks if the tween boys thought Steve Winwood did his best work with Traffic. That’s almost an exact quote, but not enough to put in actual quotation marks. Steve Winwood, at the time, had returned to the charts with his comeback songs like “Back in the High Life Again” and “Valerie”. However, it was not something the kids were listening to on their own–back in those days, I think adult attention figured into the charts.

At any rate, what is the article about? The usual highlighting the inefficiencies of light rail mass transit, I suppose. I already know the outlines of the argument, so plugging in this particular set of costs and overruns, which will prove less than the numbers plugged into the articles on this topic next year, doesn’t add much.

But the title took me back a bit. Not all the way back to 1971. Back to 1992, anyway.

And the time I spent on this post is about 12 minutes. The length of the song itself.

Thank you, that is all.