Five Things On My Desk (VI)

I’ve cut my office hours, so my desk is starting to clutter again. Back when I was handling the children full time, I didn’t have a lot of time in my office(s), so I’d drop things onto the wings of the big corner desk I have, and the piles would get several inches high. When I had a full time contract a couple years back, the desk was pretty tidy. But the desk is starting to accumulate things on the margins, out of peripheral vision when I’m looking at my peripherals. So to shame myself I am pointing out some of them.

I could go with a list of five (or more) things I’ve already blogged about, including tickets and the playbill for Black Comedy, an Ideals, a couple copies of Battlestar Galactica and a drawing I got in Saint Charles, and even an Afghani currency I previously posted about in a Five Things on My Desk post from 2012 (although instead of a Trinidad and Tobago dollar, it’s partnered with a Somali bill that I don’t know where I got).

But, no, I won’t take the easy way out.

So here are five things currently on my desk:

  • A plaque with my hand print that I made in kindergarten.

    I kept it out while digging through a box of mementos because I thought about hanging it up, and I’ve yet to put a little loop of something to do so. As it’s been sitting on my desk, my children like to come put their hands in it, either to marvel at how much smaller than their hands their father’s hands once were or to free Mars.
     

  • A flier with support information for Windows 3.11.

    This has probably been carried along in a box for twenty some years; my mother had a Windows 3.11 machine that probably came to me when she upgraded, and I have a refurb laptop with Windows 3.11 on it even today. I think I have the installer somewhere around here if I ever get a crazy itch to install it again.
     

  • A Toys for Tots Foundation coin.

    It’s the strangest thing. This came in the mail with a fundraising appeal, and although I didn’t give them any money, I kept the coin. I dunno what I was thinking. The boys would play with it? Regardless, the boys are aging out of the part of their youth where they’ll happily play with some metal coin. Yet, I can’t throw it out. So it sits on my desk until the next cleaning frenzy, where I’ll put it in a box with other assorted tchotchkes.
     

  • A Paperboy handheld game.

    You hardly ever see hand held games at garage sales any more; certainly none of the electronic blip games from the 1980s. If any, you’ll find a little LCD screen game like this. I did, and I have yet to mount it on the wall. Sometime when I have a spare moment that I’m not wasting writing an inconsequential blog post, I’ll do just that.
     

  • Two Wii controllers.

    The children have brought these to my office because the battery terminals are corroded. “They have battery acid,” is how they put it. One of these days, I’ll get to it when I Set My Mind To It. Until then, they’ll rest easily underneath a pile of other junk.

Sadly, that only scratches the surface. But you can’t write much about a clean desk.

Modern Country Music: A Topical Analysis

As I mentioned a long time ago, I have a special set of headphones for lawn mowing that has a radio built in to them.

Well, the unit has a stubby little antenna that only pulls in two stations reliably from every corner of the yard: 92.9 and 105.1. Back in the early days of Nogglestead, 92.9 was a country station. As it had the strongest signal, I listened to it captively while mowing my acreage, which takes four or so hours per mowing. Then 92.9 changed formats and became The Beat and switched to a hiphoppish pop.

So I started listening to 105.1 which has a slightly lesser signal, but it was classicish country, with songs from the 1980s mixed with some more recent stuff.

But this last year, 105.1 has changed to all bro country music. Earlier this summer, I thought, Man, pop songs can’t be worse than bro country, so I switched to 92.9 for a couple of songs. Which were like bro country with less musical artistry, more autotune, and more celebration illegal drug use. And the topic matters were almost the same. So I switched back to 105.1.

Which lead me to conduct an academic study into the topic matter covered by modern popular country music as I rode in counterclockwise circles (just like NASCAR!). I present the findings below:

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Book Report: Starwolf #1: The Weapon from Beyond by Edmond Hamilton (1967)

Book coverThis book is the first of what would be a short series of science fiction novels akin to men’s adventure paperbacks: you have a single character, a tough guy, who gets into different missions. In this case, the Starwolf of the title is Morgan Chane, the son of missionaries who died shortly after reaching high-gravity Varna. Chane was raised there, an outsider amongst the pirates, but he grew to become an interstellar raider until a dispute over loot leads to a fight where Chane kills the leader of the space pirates. The book opens with him wounded and on the run from the other pilots. When he reaches a particular cluster, his ship is about to blow when he tries a desperate gambit to be picked up by a nearby ship. And he is. By a group of mercenaries who might need his talents. The leader knows who he is and gets Chane’s reluctant help by threatening to expose him–and Varnan spacewolves are killed on sight in most of the rest of the civilized galaxy.

So we’re off. The mercs are hired to find what weapon an opposing force in an interplanetary war is developing. They infiltrate the opposing force’s home planet, only to flee under suspicion right into the path of some starwolves searching for Chane.

It’s a pretty quick-paced action thriller kind of book; as I said, it’s akin to the men’s adventure paperbacks I tend to read, but the plot moves three-dimensionally–you never know what to expect. This book fits right into my wheelhouse–it alludes to a developed cosmological history where some group ‘seeded’ human like races in different systems, and eventually they start space travelling, albeit at different times. The warring worlds of this book, for example, have just discovered space flight, and most of their equipment is stuff they received from space traders looking for raw materials from the planets. There’s no Prime Directive here, no Terran Dominium or central government, apparently. And there are the mysteries of those who have come before (and might again).

At any rate, much like my other recent foray into science fiction (The Starcraft Archive, I enjoyed the book. The Starwolf series only ran three books, and I only have one of them. However, I have two books from the (four book) Agent of T.E.R.R.A. series also from Ace paperbacks, so I’ll probably jump onto them sometime soon.

Josh Hawley Favors Unsold Farms

I saw this ad on the television accidentally for some reason, probably when I couldn’t hit the fast forward button fast enough:

And I thought a couple things, being someone in rural Missouri:

  • Thousands of acres? That’s hardly a lot, especially to incite fears of an invasion. This ad must be written by someone in the city.
  • So someone is buying a farm. Which means someone is selling a farm. There are many reasons to sell acreage or your farm, but if you want to or need to sell it, you need someone to buy it. Apparently, the producer of the advertisement would prefer that the acreage remain unsold and that the seller continue to drown in mortgage payments, that the seller not capitalize for another opportunity, and that the land go underworked and/or unused.

It’s wrong to put this on Josh Hawley. Apparently, the ad was produced by Tea Party Patriots, which is not even a Missouri organization. But it does have “Tea Party” in the name, so I guess that means it’s Tea Party. Or it’s an organization named that way to capitalize on the sentiment in the country six years ago.

You know, I read a lot of stuff where people who disagree with the Tea Party call it racist or xenophobe, but that doesn’t track with my beliefs or the beliefs of the Tea Partyish people I’ve known. However, it does seem to track with what the consultants are selling.

Right on cue:

A coalition of Asian-American businesses and organizations in Missouri on Sunday criticized what they called racist and xenophobic political ads in the state attorney general race.

Good on ya, consultants! You’ve sold tar and feathers to people who would rather talk about this sort of thing instead of core issues.

Book Report: Fishin’, Huntin’, Travelin’ and Ozark Memories by L.B. Cook (1997)

Book coverThis book could have included Figurin’ in the title if only because someone did a quick calculation on the front of it. Clearly, someone did not think this was an heirloom quality book.

Since I’ve been reading 600- or 700-page books of late, I thought I’d take a little detour into this seventy-something book of local interest. Published at the end of the 20th century, it’s a collection of work of a local conservation-oriented fellow who previously had published a couple of the bits in newsletters and whatnot. As the actual title indicates, it’s a collection of two or three page recollections of trips taken over the course of decades by the author. Some of the shorter bits, particularly of trips to southern Texas, have the feel of a newspaper column and are the stronger of the writings in it. Advice as to how to find places to hunt in other states by mailing postmasters and conservation agents in the areas you’re interested in hasn’t held up. And some of the pieces are more like minutes to hunting trips or meetings, with a lot of name-dropping, than narratives.

Still, I laughed a couple times when the name-dropping happened. The only name I recognized was Ned Reynolds, a long-time fixture at the local television station. The stories and narratives are not often fixed into time, and putting Ned Reynolds’ name into it doesn’t help. Some of the stories were things like “Henry Schoolcraft, Teddy Roosevelt, Ned Reynolds, and I went turkey hunting….” Well, obviously not really, but the most enjoyment I got out of the book was from thinking this.

Unfortunately, it’s not a strong book in the narrative department and is probably only of interest to Cook, his family, perhaps the families of those whose name he dropped, and people like me who will read any book of local interest if it’s short enough.

Book Report: The Most of George Burns by George Burns (1991)

Book coverThis book is a collection of four of George Burns’ books: Living It Up, The Third Time Around, Dr. Burns’ Prescription for Happiness, and Dear George. As such, it’s 780 pages, most of which I heard in George Burns’ voice as I read.

My goodness, it has been twenty years since he passed away. I guess I’d better say something about who George Burns was for you damn kids. He started out in vaudeville, and he married Gracie Allen and hit the big time. They moved from vaudeville to radio to movies and then later to television. When Gracie retired, he started a nightclub act and after a number of years, he started making movies again, including his Oscar-winning turn in The Sunshine Boys. After that film, he had a bit of a renaissance, appearing in the Oh God films and on television programs. And, apparently, writing best-selling books. When he wrote the first of these books, in 1976, he was eighty years old.

As a child of the late 1970s and 1980s, I knew of George Burns because of his aforementioned renaissance. He was a little fresher than some of the other older comedians from the radio and early television days that I saw on television like Red Buttons and Milton Berle.

Living It Up is memoir in nature and talks about his family life, his going into vaudeville, his radio program, and his television program. The chapters relay anecdotes along with jokes and a voice that isn’t taking itself too seriously. It talks about some of those early comedians I didn’t know when I was young and gives me some perspective on them. It’s written about the same time as the film starting his renaissance comes out.

The Third Time Around is another memoir, this one after he has returned to movies and has several under his belt, including the hit Oh God. He focuses a bit more on his later career and his work in the movies in the 1930s, but it’s still an entertaining look back.

Dr. Burns’ Prescription for Happiness and Dear George are humor books written around the George Burns character after the renaissance. Both feature a lot of pictures with George Burns around attractive, eighties-styled women in various capacities and coalesce around a theme. In the first, Burns talks about what it is to be happy. Key: Get into a career, or at least work, you love. The second is a collection of ‘letters’ written to George Burns seeking advice, which he then gives in pithy one-liners. I was a bit disappointed with the last two books in the, er, book, because the first two had some weight, depth, and sense of George Burns as a person in them. These last two were George Burns, the character, instead. We never had this problem with Dave Barry, who was always Dave Barry the character (sometimes played by Harry Anderson, or Harry Stone, whichever was not the character).

The book missing within this book is How to Live to Be 100 – Or More which transits Burns from the memoirs to the humor. I’m pretty sure I have it here somewhere on the shelves. I also have the book that follows Dear George, Gracie: A Love Story. This thicker book I uncovered recently. It looks to be more memoirish, so I’m looking forward to reading it sometime. But not immediately.

I’m glad to have read this book and to have learned more about George Burns. As a product of the era of his renaissance, I have affection in my heart for the man, and I think he lived an interesting life spanning multiple eras in history–from vaudeville to radio to television to movies and to the semi-modern era (come on, at 120, Burns would be all on the Internet with help) but also through eras of personal life, from youth to time in vaudeville to the success with Gracie (across eras) to the renaissance and beyond. It’s inspiring to see that with the right attitude, sense of humor, and gag writers, one can perservere and thrive for a long time.

Hopefully, this lesson does not only apply to entertainers.

The Zerg Peaches of Nogglestead

As some of you might now, one of the reasons we moved to Nogglestead was because I wanted a big garden and an orchard. After all, at our house in Old Trees, we had a couple upstart fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and an awesome garden. Imagine what I could do with more land!

Well, we had a good first year, but the next couple of years were pretty dry and other things took precedence in other years so that our garden and our fruit trees never really produced. But this year, we’ve put in effort as a family and we’re having some luck with it.

But now that we’ve got produce, we’re learning what in nature will eat it.

Like Japanese beetles.

Our orchard has been slow to take off. We lost a year to deer destroying the first trees, and then a couple drought years and a late freeze kept us from fruit. But this year, the peach trees in the front had a bunch of peaches. And now they have additional bunches of bugs. So I guess next year we’ll spray insecticide on the trees.

The cherry trees had cherries. Then the deer or birds had cherries. Next year, I guess we’ll put netting on it.

Something is nibbling on our cantaloupe. Probably something small. We didn’t have an extensive problem with melon-munchers when we had outdoor cats. Perhaps we’ll have to see if we can lure some of the neighborhood outdoor cats into our vicinity again.

So I won’t be learning any peach cobbler recipes this summer. But we’re learning, slowly, through the “success” of this year what we need to look out for next year.

The Repressed Memories of My Beautiful Wife

So we’re sitting in the parking lot of a water park in southwest Missouri which features a water slide that starts where you’re standing on a trap door or something at then you drop into water thrills of some sort, but my mind is say “Nope” far before that. The attraction is called Kaupau or K’Pau (Heart and Slide) or something like that, and so I say to my beautiful wife, “It reminds me of Kung Pow: Legend of the Fist.” My poor, dear wife pleads cluelessness, as she sometimes does to my allusions or my digressions where I talk about George Burns improving my understanding of Kierkegaard, But, my dear, I made you watch that movie. She doesn’t remember. Then I show her the trailer on my phone.

Throughout which she laughs, and she says she remembers, although not as clearly as I do when we watched it in our house in Casinoport (you, gentle reader, might not remember the order of homes mentioned in this blog, but it’s Casinoport > Old Trees > Nogglestead). It was the sort of dumb comedy that I enjoyed but my sophisticated wife, erm, tolerates, sometimes, back in the day, because I like them.

But she laughs throughout the above trailer because now she has studied martial arts.

Because now she can appreciate the fighting style the cow uses?

Because now she can recognize the techniques the baby uses?

No, because now she can see all the funny bits from the movie which also appear in the trailer.

Which is how I got her to watch the film fifteen years ago.

But I’m going to seize this opportunity to review the entire film with her again.

P.S. Yes, I did get the title wrong in my conversation with my wife. But it’s been over a decade since I saw the film, so there you go.

Wherein George Burns Corrects My Understanding of Kierkegaard

So, in my book report on Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, I wrote:

One telling word choice that jarred me was vaudeville. Certainly Kierkegaard did not use a direct translation since he preceded the American theatre form by half a century or so.

A couple weeks later, and I’m reading a book by George Burns that includes some photos, including one of a playbill for one of his and Gracie Allen’s vaudeville bits:

Note that this 1926 play bill says that it is Vaudeville’s Centennial Year. Which would put vaudeville’s origin in 1826, which is about fifteen years before Fear and Trembling was written.

The Wikipedia entry is a bit closer to my original reckoning of the origins of vaudeville in the latter part of the 19th century, but given a playbill in a George Burns book and wikipedia, who are you gonna believe? Me, I’m going with the playbill.

So I’m sorry to have spread misinformation. I didn’t look it up; I assumed I knew what I was talking about regarding the origin of vaudeville, and as the old saying goes, “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS of UME,” and ume, as I seem to vaguely recall, is French for yourself. But I’m only a blogger on an untrafficked blog. I can’t be arsed to look it up.

On Ideals

Book coverThe title of the post makes it sound like I’m about to write an important philosophical treatise; however, I’m really going to talk about the magazine.

The magazine was published in Milwaukee, so when I was a kid in the 1970s, the world was awash in Ideals. As a matter of fact, I got a free copy for some reason when I was in elementary school. I want to say that it had a sailboat on it, but the 1952 Adventure Issue might be stuck in my brain because I bought it in my eBay sales days and have used the image for software testing in the last couple of years. I was kind of excited about the free copy of the magazine I got because I didn’t have many books in those housing project days, and anything free, especially a book, was a gift. But when little boy me tried to read it, I found it to be a collection of photos and poems. So although I carried that magazine forward a while, I’m pretty sure I never read it completely.

So, as I mentioned, I grew up in a world where you’d see the magazine in schools, in homes, and in shops. But somewhere that world ended. As late as the early 21st century, I saw them from time to time in book sales and garage sales, but even that diminished.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t even see this issue at a garage sale. I saw a box of vintage home magazines that I bought for my beautiful wife because she likes going through them for old recipes and whatnot. When she came to the Autumn 1962 Ideals in the stack, she gave it to me because I have a penchant for reading chapbooks of poetry and whatnot. So I read it.

This issue focuses on Autumn, harvest, and Thanksgiving themes, although some of the poems seem to remember harvest and Thanksgiving as coming together, but in most of the country the date was fixed to the end of November by the late 1870s (I looked it up). So maybe some of the memories in the poems were smeared, or perhaps they were variant dates.

Most of the memories of school starting were from one-room schoolhouse days. This wasn’t a conscious throwback–in Missouri, at least, the rural areas did not consolidate their schools into sprawling school districts until the late 1940s, so the writers of these poems would remember those days instead of the warehouses of children those of us from cities and reorganized districts would remember.

At any rate, I read the book in the evenings, on my glider overlooking the sunset and the rolling hills of Greene County, Missouri. I’m getting old enough that it’s easy to push my nostalgia buttons, even for a time where I didn’t live. So I enjoyed the publication more than the poems within it.

You know, the poems in it aren’t such that they’ll be studied in 400 years, but poems written 400 years ago aren’t studied today (the cranky old English major spat). These poems were written by amateur poets, graduates (sometimes) of those one room schoolhouses (but probably not high school) who went on to have families and then spend some idle time writing poetry. That rhymed. Using words that many adults of the (then) Future wouldn’t even know. This is what our great grandparents and grandparents often did instead of playing games on their smartphones.

Creative hobbies versus consumptive hobbies. It seemed like in the past people did a lot more creative things with their free time. Music. Woodworking. Working on cars. Writing little poems. Now, it’s television and video games. Maybe I’m just thinking along these lines because I’ve spent too much time recently (and when you say “recently” at my age, sonny, that can mean the last decade) just reading books and playing Civilization IV (because the new-fangled Civilizations are Not As Good as the old ones). But I don’t think it’s just me.

The borrowed nostalgia and the nostalgia for my youth where Ideals was available gave me the brief urge to start collecting the magazine or at least to pick it up when I see it in Ozark or Clever, but I’m fighting the urge, believe it or not. I have a lot of things already to read. But time, and the availability of the magazine, will ultimately guide how many of these find their way into the shelves at Nogglestead. It will probably be more than none, although it might take me a while to read them.

As I was reading the Autumn 1962 issue here, I was pleased to see some incarnation of the periodical is still in print. Sometimes I like to see the threads of memory from my youth carried forward into my middle age.

Book Report: Sold for Slaughter by Mike Newton(1983)

Book coverThis book breaks again from the terrorist angle and returns Mack Bolan to fighting organized crime, albeit with an international flavor. Mack Bolan goes looking for Smiley Dublin, one of the Ranger girls that played recurring parts in his original war with the mafia. She was investigating human trafficking, and Bolan finds her at a human flesh auction in Kansas run by a Mafioso. He frees her and then starts tracking the human trafficking (and more) back to its source in Algiers. The source is a triumvirate of stock bad guys, and Bolan works to disrupt their operations.

It’s not too bad of an entry–Bolan doesn’t smoke, so there’s that–but the books are getting to be of a stock type with name checking of currently trendy weapons, easy head shots, and action that borders on absurd, but cinematic. As I’ve said in my self-defense, the books are what they are: television episodes in paragraph form. Sometimes, they rise up to surprise you. This one only surprised me in a oh, come on fashion. The female character is treated very poorly: Although she’s supposed to be an elite secret agent, she tags along to Algiers for one reason: To defy Bolan’s orders to stay put and to get captured again transparently to be rescued again.

Ay de mi.

At any rate, if these books continue to lightly disappoint, I’ll probably slow down on them again. I’ve read about 50 of the titles in The Executioner series so far (not bad since this is #60), and I have 80 something to go in the assorted properties. To give you an idea of my pacing, I read #20 which also featured Smiley Dublin in 2011. As I’ve picked up the pace, it’s only taken me since since February to read the 1983 books in the series. So I was going for it. Now I’m going to taper off on them and work in some better books, I think.

One thing about this edition: Although the book bears no library markings, the inside of the back cover has some date stamps which would seem to indicate this was in a library of some sort at one time:

I wonder what that was all about.

Also, since “Don Pendleton” writes about the book’s author in an afterward in these new volumes, I’m starting to put the stated author’s name with the book. For completeness sake. Although for ease of searching, I should continue to mention “Don Pendleton” in each post.

Book Report: The Starcraft Archive by Jeff Grubb, Gabriel Mesta, Tracy Hickman, and Micky Neilson (2007)

Book coverThis book collects four novels set in the mythos of the Star Craft video games and novelizes elements of it but also expands on it. Apparently, Blizzard has a whole series of books based on the WarCraft and StarCraft worlds (not to mention a WarCraft movie. So they’re sure there are stories to be told in the universe, I reckon, and cross-pollinated dollars to make.

Full disclosure: Although my beautiful wife loves the StarCraft series, I only played it for a couple minutes when invited to a LAN party at my wife’s employer in 2000. It was supposed to be a StarCraft party, and I was to pick the game up in the couple of minutes while everyone got set up. I started a couple of random missions in the different campaigns but didn’t really get into it–I was steeped in turn-based games like Deadlock and Civilization. Fortunately, everyone never got set up, so we all went to dinner instead. But as I read the book, I got the StarCraft Battle Chest set out and started looking at what it would take to install it on a machine sixteen years later. A lot more hackery than I want to expend on installing it only to run it for a couple of minutes and abandon it (which is my wont for video games for the last decade). Oh, there I go, cross-platform musing. Back to this book.

The novels within run from okay to pretty good. They include:

  • Liberty’s Crusade by Mike Morhaime, which tells the StarCraft (1) story from the perspective of a news man. A rebel leader uses the arrival of the alien races of the Protoss and the Zerg to consolidate his power and overthrow the Terran Confederacy. Pretty good.
     
  • Shadow of the Xel’Naga by Gabriel Mesta, which tells the story of an ancient artifact found on a backwater human colony where substinence farming is the order of the day. The artifact beams a powerful message into space which attracts the Zerg and the Protoss who arrive even as the military of the Terran Dominion who respond to a request for help from the colonists. This is the weakest of the books, as it is the most likely to drop video game terms and units in as fan service, and the behaviour of the Terran commander is reckless and foolish, with tactics beneath me and I’m no space naval officer.
     
  • Speed of Darkness by Tracy Hickman, which takes the point of view of a confused, reconditioned Terran marine who struggles with memories and fitting into the military who is part of a sacrificial mission on Mar Sara and organizes a last stand against the Zerg. It’s a very good book, but you’d expect that from Tracy Hickman. My goodness, he co-wrote one of the geeksetting trilogies in the 1980s (Dragonlance, anyone), but he’s not George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien level famous in the 20th century. It must be the nature of the work-for-hire or a terminal lack of double R middle initials.
     
  • Uprising by Micky Neilson, which describes in detail some events in the uprising that would upend the Terran Confederacy and lead to the Terran Dominion.

Overall, the book was a pleasure to read. Although military in nature, it wasn’t so military as to exclude those of us who didn’t serve (which is the knock I have against some military sci-fi such as Drake or Frazetta–I just can’t get into them because they’re bogged in detail). It was fresh compared to all the Executioner books I’ve been reading lately, but I wonder if I read all the books in the line whether they’d all start to be formulaic, too.

Book Report: Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard (1985 edition)

Book coverI cannot remember whether I started this book or Søren Kierkegaard first. However, I sure finished the other Cliff Notes-esque summary of Kierkegaard’s thought first. Because, face it, Kierkegaard is not a quick read.

First, a note about the translation: As you know, any translated literature I find just a bit suspect because the translator makes some changes to try to illustrate the intent of the original in the second language or the translator does not and lets the idioms fall where they may. As I do not speak Danish, I have no idea what tack the translator did. It’s coupled with the almost two centuries of time that have passed. One telling word choice that jarred me was vaudeville. Certainly Kierkegaard did not use a direct translation since he preceded the American theatre form by half a century or so. Another, more important example: this book uses absurd an awful lot. I get that a lot in translations of Sartre and Camus, too. So was Kierkegaard the origin of the concept that the later Frenchmen picked up on, or was the translator aligning some word of Kierkegaard’s to the common Existentialist expression? I suppose if I had time or inclination, I could delve into it. But I don’t.

At any rate, the book is a long musing on the meaning of what it is to be truly religious. As we learned from Søren Kierkegaard, this book comes after Either/Or, and where that book identifies two spheres of man’s activity (the aesthetic and the ethical), this volume explores a yet higher sphere, the religious. It does so by musing at great length upon the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham, a good and faithful man, is told by God to sacrifice his only son. So Abraham bundles the boy up and heads to the designated spot, whereupon God stays Abraham’s hand. Abraham is beyond the ethical in this because he was going to do an unethical thing for his faith, and because he did he became the father of religions.

To make a long story short, to be religious requires one to live in the paradox, the absurd. You have to hold two things in mind and heart at the same time that cannot be true.

I was unconvinced by the arguments, and I didn’t really enjoy the book. Although there were some tweet-worthy aphorisms within it, the writing style was convoluted and wordy, perhaps on purpose. But the paragraphs were as long as a page at times, which hindered me, as I sometimes picked up the book after a couple of days away from it and then would read a couple preceding paragraphs to refresh me as to where I was. In many cases, I had to re-read several complete pages.

You know, Kierkegaard might have been a genius–he was certainly well-read, as the allusions in the book indicate. However, it’s not a fun read. It’s not a quick read. I had to gut out the last forty or fifty pages. I’ve started and gotten most of the way through too many theology and philosophy books over the last year, so I was determined to read it. And I did. But I’m not eager to delve into more Kierkegaard, which is unfortunate, because I got Either/Or for Father’s Day. And that book is twice the size of this one. Perhaps I’ll put it on the shelf, let it marinate a while, and then convince myself that the thicker volume won’t be like this one.

Now, onto finishing the Tillich perhaps.

A Burden That Will Never Be Compulsory

I saw this sticker on a gas pump in Republic, and I thought it was a capital idea:

It’s provided by an industry group, so to some people that makes it invalid even if it’s true.

You know how the government compels fast food restaurants to post calorie counts? Wouldn’t it be informative to display the tax burden on everything as well?

Of course, the government would never make this information mandatory. And to post sales tax information would be awfully troublesome for retailers, as overlapping tax districts make these rates vary street-to-street.

Ever since the government moved from coming hut-to-hut to collect chickens and crops, it has gotten better and better at hiding how it extracts money from the citizenry and how much.

The Top Three Bopping Songs

One of our new administration of cats is a largish orange tabby. Because he was the biggest of the three we got at the same time, I nicknamed him the Big Bopper. When we got another male in the new administration, I nicknamed him the Little Bopper. However, the kitten has grown bigger than the Big Bopper, but he is still the Little Bopper. It only makes sense in my mind, and perhaps “sense” is too strong of a word.

In honor of the Boppers, I present the three top Bopping songs in the history of mankind. Which is to say the three with “Bop” in the title that first came to me.

Dan Seals, “Bop”:

That song is 30 years old now. The video depicts some “teens” from the 1950s going dancing in the 1980s. The aged versions of the teens look far older than the late forties or early 1950s. I mean, I hope it’s for effect. I was a teen then and am thirty years older now and would like to think I look better than that. But I guess the styles of dress from teen to middle age doesn’t act as the marker that it used to.

Rick Springfield, “Bop Til You Drop”:

The song is older than “Bop” now and comes from Rick Springfield’s dystopian future video stage. I have it on 45 record and used it to pump myself up. I should get it onto my YMCA playlist so I can recycle this video in a How To Tell What Song Just Came On Brian’s iPod At The Gym post.

Cyndi Lauper, “She Bop”:

Yes, yes, I know, this is supposed to be a family blog, but the video features a book with the title The Big Bopper. Also, note the breaking of shackles theme carried over from the Rick Springfield video.

Sorry, no

And what would this post without “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper?

Worse.

Also, please note, no man put the bop in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. Thank you, that is all.