Word of the Day: Chautauqua

So I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this week, and the narrator keeps mentioning a Chautauqua, which is his lesson he’s trying to impart in a chapter. I kinda meant to look it up, but I didn’t.

The Green County Commonwealth, currently the only paper I subscribe to, has a throwback history article every week, and Wednesday, it talked about circuit Chautauquas in the Springfield area in the early part of the 20th century.

Apparently, a Chautauqua was a summer camp like thing for education, where common people could go listen to lectures and hear great music. Circuit Chautauquas were kinda like traveling carnival versions of the same. They were started by an organization that held the first on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York, and they got the nickname from that.

Man, I hope that’s a question in a forthcoming trivia night since it’s something I learned and will probably retain.

Un Homme Et Une Femme Et Un Homme Et Une Femme

It’s been a while since we had a “Who sang it better?” post here on MfBJN, and as I know I’m your most important source for old timey musical comparisons, I feel like I’ve been letting you down.

This morning, as I was spinning Rendezvous Mit Mireille, I heard Mireille Mathieu singing “Un Homme et Une Femme”:

Now, you might remember that Mireille is my favorite French singer.

Sacha Boutros covers the song on her album Simply Sacha:

Given the topic matter of the song, I prefer Boutros’ more intimate approach versus the European poppish rendition. It’s less performance and more confessional.

But what about Eydie? you long time reader (sadly, the singular is intentional–well, not intentional, but unfortunately accurate) might ask. Well, fortunately for Sacha, Eydie Gorme did not actually do this song (according to my thirty seconds of Internet research and years’ experience in playing Eydie Gorme records). She did do an English version with Steve Lawrence on the album A Man and a Woman, but, dude, it’s in English. Totally a different song. (Note this is not the only time I’ve invoked this technicality; see also Eydie vs. Herb: The Ultimate Head-to-Head Musical Throwdown.)

When You Get Your Statistics From Facebook Ads

Apparently written by thirteen-year-olds.

For the record, $100,000 in utility bills, specifically electric bills, would take, what, thirty years if solar reduced my bill to absolutely zero and. Of course, the cost of installation and maintenance of said unproven systems would extend that thirty years by a, what, decade or so? So I think this claim might be a little, erm, speculative.

Oh, and add more onto it for the interest if you go $0 down.

Brian J. Goes To The Comic Shop

Yesterday, I had a couple minutes before my guitar lesson, so I stopped by the comic shop nearby. The Comic Cave has a good selection of comics marked a buck, and I have had some luck in picking up titles recently with actual stories in them. So I rummaged through the dollar boxes for a bit and picked out five books.

I paid cash, and the guy asked me if I needed a bag.

“No,” I said, “I don’t have to hide them from my wife.” I paused. “But I’ll put the Gamora on the bottom.”

It was an amusing little quip, but in the interest of transparency, here is the salacious comic in question:

Not salacious at all.

The guy behind the counter smiled, and my beautiful wife chuckled when I recounted the story. So perhaps I should tag this post as Humor instead of merely Life. Also, perhaps I should create a category for comic books since I’ve started talking about them from time to time over the last year or so.

I know nothing about these new Guardians of the Galaxy aside from what I’ve seen in the movies. I’m used to the old team, mostly because I’m an old man.

Brian J.’s Interior Monologue At The Gym, As Read Dramatically By Professional Actors

Pretty much, it’s this for an hour or so:

I guess I’ll continue getting to old for it until I’m too dead for it.

I don’t know if the exercise will lengthen my life at all, but it will sure make blocs of it more painful.

In another note, I was at my martial arts class, complaining about my creaky hinges (elbows) which might have a slight strain and might prevent me from doing any upper body work for a couple of weeks (returning to upper body work after a couple weeks off is what caused the achy), and I referred to this moment from Lethal Weapon 4:

I’m only…. (distressed arithmetic….carry the one to the decades column….)

I came to exercise and athleticism late in life, and I often feeling like I’m bumping into a ceiling.

But maybe it’s only a drop ceiling, and I can break through it to do some chin ups on the plumbing and girders I expose.

I’m just kidding. I can’t do chin ups.

But I would totally rock the elementary school Presidential Fitness Medal test now.

At least the girl’s test, maybe.

There Are Blondes

Over at the Coffee House Memories site, I remember the blondes. From The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

I thought of this today after reading a post (“Caucasians are able to jump around, and it’s not a big deal for them to be blond, a redhead or brunet, whereas those same rules don’t apply to us”) over at Ann Althouse’s blog where she includes part of the quote, but not the last turn that made it more like a sonnet.

Musing on Shakespeare: Measure for Measure

I’ve started to read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and instead of writing one book report at the end, since this could take years, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on each play as I finish it. Of course, it will still only count as one book on my annual reading count in 2020 because I’m silly that way.

It took me quite some time to get through this play. Originally, I thought I would do a couple acts of a play a night, which would mean I could finish a play in a couple of days. This is not me at my peak Middle English consumption–that was in college, when I read five Ben Jonson plays in five nights to catch up on the semester’s reading ahead of the final. But it would mean I was progressing steadily through the collection. Then the reading tailed off to maybe an act a night. Then, maybe a scene. Then maybe a scene a week. Which is where we got to with this play.

The setup: The Duke places his second in command in charge of the town while he travels because he’s been lax in enforcing some of the laws, and he knows that the second will vigorously enforce them, cleaning up the city and allowing the Duke to return and lessen the hand of government. The Duke, though, stays in town in disguise of a friar. The second behaves as expected, and as part of his sweep catches up a young man who has impregnated his fiance before the marriage, which is punishable by death. The young man’s sister is just a couple vows short of becoming a nun, but she goes to implore the subduke to spare her brother, and he is taken with her and promises to release her brother if she will sleep with him (the subduke, not the brother). That is the crux of the play: Whether she will give in and save her brother through carnal means or not.

We get some good theorizing about mercy versus justice, but eventually the play breaks down a bit with a number of characters that don’t do much but keep sixteenth century actors busy and provide a bit of convenience to wrap the play up happily. It’s not as tight as some of the better-known plays, and it really has put me off a bit on reading more in the canon–although the next one is Much Ado About Nothing which I remember most as Keanu Reeves’ Shakespearean turn. So one of these days I’ll get into it.

Brian J. Finds The Loophole

We signed up for the Camp Barnabas Run this morning a couple months ago, anticipating that it would be warmer than our last run (The Christmas Run in December, where runtime temperature was 27 degrees). Hey, it’s April, right? It should be a nice day to start the running season off right.

Oh, but no.

Runners brave the cold, snow in Camp Barnabas half-marathon in Springfield:

Runners from around the Ozarks braved temperatures in the 20’s and snow to compete in the Camp Barnabas half-marathon Saturday.

When it started with the freezing rain last night, I decided I’d awaken at 5 am, the time we’d need to be up to get ready, and gauge whether to go or not. So I did, and I looked out the window. There was snow on the ground, and it was still snowing, so I called off our trip into town and went back to bed.

If I had been thinking, though, I would have exploited the loophole in the rules.

Although roller skates and inline skates are prohibited, ice skates are not.

Perhaps I can exploit this loophole next year. Or in any 5K we sign up for in May.

Book Report: Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein (1984)

Book coverThis is a later Heinlein novel. Published in 1984, it has a heft to it that the earlier rocket jockey stuff had, but it’s a bit boggy and ends less than well from my perspective.

The story: A fundraiser from a world where religious fundamentalism has its way is on vacation cruise when he bets fellow passengers that he could walk on fire like the south Pacific natives. After he does, he faints from the fumes, and when he awakens, he is not in his own world any more. Things have changed, from the underlying technologies to the name by which his fellow passengers recognize him. He discovers that his alter-ego in this world is carrying a million dollars in cash and has been having a (sinful!) fling with an attractive ship’s maid. After a while, he professes his love for her and suddenly, both of them find themselves shifting worlds with nothing but what they’re wearing and carrying. On each, they pick themselves up and make plans, only to be thwarted when worlds shift again.

It’s an interesting conceit, but it becomes a little unfocused toward the middle, and the last quarter or fifth of the book gets a little unwound as the book, as a wise man put it in a comment on the review of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:

…its final act falls apart when the story goes cosmic.

At the end, we have a relationship of Satan and Yahweh along with some other deities as subordinate to a still higher power (which might be subordinate to an even higher power, onto infinity). Of course, spoiler alert: They were testing this fellow, and the end takes place after Armageddon. Also, after Ragnarok. Where the world has not ended for the Norse gods somehow.

You know, trying to weave actual theological entities into fantasy novels is most often a real mess (see also Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, the for-a-while-last, but now penultimate, book dealing with God somehow–I’ve not made it through that particular volume).

Still, Job is a good read in spite of all of that. Heinlein keeps the story moving along rather well, which is a nice contrast to the other science fiction book I’ve read recently (Voyage From Yesteryear). I’m pleased to be getting to the end of the Heinlein later stuff, but I probably won’t reread it unlike some of the rocket jockey stuff.

Know Your Lutheran Countersigns

As you might know, gentle reader, I’ve attended a Lutheran church for about five or six years. I’m not a Lutheran, per se–I am half Catholic, being that my father was Catholic (but as my mother was not, the Catholic term for this is bastard), and I was baptised into a Church of Christ (I think–I was rather young).

But I’ve learned the Lutheran countersigns so when I walk amongst them, they don’t know that I’m a stranger. For your benefit, should you ever need to infiltrate a Lutheran church, I present this list of signs and countersigns so you know how to respond when challenged.

Sign: Countersign: Comment
The Lord be with you. And also with you.  
May the Force be with you. And also with you. Lutherans sometimes reply automatically even though this is not the traditional Star Wars response.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah! Especially prominent on Easter.

Join us next time when we discuss the proper identification tokens to present. Hint: At the potluck dinner, the answer is not Lutefisk in Missouri: You should, in fact, bring a dessert to ensure that the proper balance of four desserts for every meal item such, as meat or vegetables, is maintained.

The Story of the Easter Tie

Many people have Christmas ties with snow, snowmen, Santa, or other seasonal imagery on them. Some involve lights and music.

But, friends, I have an Easter tie.

It looks like it’s made from an old bed sheet, and it feels like cotton instead of a more silky tie material. I’ve only worn it a couple of times prior to before making it the official Easter tie, but now it’s an annual tradition.

I bought this tie, what, 26 years ago? I was at the university, and I worked at a grocery store on the northwest side of Milwaukee that required its baggers to wear shirts and ties–along with slacks and nice shoes– every day. Why, when I started, they also required a blue vest with your name tag on it, but a bagger rebellion and the cost of replacing them eventually led that to go by the wayside. So I needed ties when I was nineteen years old.

On Fridays, we could cash our paychecks right there in the store, and a friend and I would hop the 76th street bus (Route 67, which is weird because it was on 76th Street, but I am no mass transit expert) to the local mall (Northridge). Where, too often, we (and by “we,” I mean “I”) would blow a whole week’s pay (around $100 in the days of $3.65 minimum wage).

One day, we were in J.C. Penney’s. My aunt had given me a gift certificate (not a gift card), and I wanted to buy something inexpensive because the store gave refunds in cash in those days. And I was a poor college student prone to blowing his whole paycheck on music and movies and video games, so I always needed extra cash. So I found this tie marked down to $1.98, and I jumped on it.

As I was checking out, I told the cashier I was lucky because it was the last one. He didn’t realize I was joking.

Not to be confused with the Easter Chewbacca.

Wait Till Kim Du Toit Hears About Taylor Dayne

Kim has discovered Anastacia, and he likes her voice (and her looks) but not so much that she sings club/pop music.

As you know, gentle reader, I’m an Anastacia fan from way back, wherein “way back” means last year. Like Du Toit, I appreciate jazz and torch songbirds, but I don’t mind pop or dance that much as long as the singer has a good voice (see also Shakira.)

I heartily second his recommendation that she do a collection of torch/American songbook work. I actually said that somewhere once about Taylor Dayne, too, but apparently not within the search ability of this blog. So maybe it was on Facebook or something.

I mean, even Sinéad O’Connor released Am I Not Your Girl.

Poetry Tip

Be very, very careful when rhyming ermine and vermin in the sonnet to your lady love.

Because few people actually know what they mean, and she might think you’re a nerd.

Take it from me; I wrote the book on sonnets.

I Would Never Get A Jersey From Those Filthy Chicago Blackhawks, But If I Did

It would be #90, Scott Foster.

Emergency goalie Scott Foster shuts door for Blackhawks against Jets:

Scott Foster thought it was going to be just another night. Then the 36-year-old accountant signed a contract, put on his goaltender gear and waited in Chicago’s locker room. Then he got into the game.

Then, it was his night.

Foster was pressed into action when Chicago lost Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries, and the former college goalie stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory over the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

Foster is part of a crew of recreational goaltenders who staff Chicago’s home games in case of emergencies for either team. But it usually just means a nice dinner and a night in the press box watching the world’s best players compete at hockey’s highest level.

I’m surprised they actually had a jersey for him. I would have expected them to simply put him in the only numbered jersey in his size kind of like they do on my son’s middle school basketball team.

Book Report: Weird But True by Leslie Gilbert Elman (2010)

Book coverMore interesting than the book itself is the way I ended up with it. I took my children to Barnes and Noble last week, as I was looking for a guided journal full of writing prompts to get me writing longer things again, and as a treat, I told them they could each spend $7. Which is enough for a magazine, but probably not enough for a great big Lego book with collectible mini figure or picture encyclopedia a la James Bond. So they looked for a while, which gave me time to scour the store for the thing I sought but whose genre I did not yet glean and then to choose amongst the various instances. And to browse the magazines. And to prod them. The youngest settled on an Archie comic digest, but the older dithered. We looked over the magazines. We looked over the discount books. We went through the kids’ section. Twice. He spotted a Mad magazine special edition, but it was $12, which is more than $7. So I went over to the discount books and picked up this item which was marked $6.98 because it’s kind of like the encyclopedia-type books he’s been filching from my shelves recently and stuck it under my stack to buy and present him as a fait accompli.

Well. I got into line and called them over. It turns out that he and his brother pooled their money to get the Mad magazine special edition (his younger brother rather goes out of the way to do nice things for his older brother). I didn’t have a chance to put it back, so I bought it. And I’ve read it.

It’s a listicle of a book: 200 pages with a fact presented in a sentence or paragraph, sometimes grouped with similar themes, but not always. Many of them were things I already knew, weird but true, and others were kinda yawners. I’m not sure I read anything I retained. But the giant plastic island of garbage I mentioned here appears in this book.

But it filled thirty minutes while the younger practiced basketball at a high school gym way up north, and it gives me a book to count against my anemic 2018 total.

Now it will appear on my read shelves amongst the encyclopedia-like books. From which my oldest will filch it, no doubt.

How Brian J. Ruined James Bond For His Children

You know how the first incarnation of the Doctor you see tends to be your favorite in Doctor Who? How the first album from an artist tends to be your favorite, no matter how long you listen to a singer or band or how many other albums he/she/they produce?

So it often is with James Bond.

Your favorite, if you’re of a certain age, is Sean Connery. If you’re a little younger, it’s Roger Moore. If you’re still a pup, it’s that Remington Steel guy. Generally, it tracks with the first James Bond you saw when it was fresh and new to you.

Well, my oldest picked up a James Bond encyclopedia and read everything in it, so he nows the characters and the stories as book knowledge backwards and forwards. Well, not book knowledge; as you might know, gentle reader, the movies are based on a series of books, some of which share the titles but not the plots of the movies.

On a recent excursion to the video store, my oldest tried to slip Dr. No into the mix of titles to rent, and I rejected it. After all, we have that DVD at home. But when it came time for their first James Bond on the screen experience, their father sabotaged them forever by presenting this guy as James Bond:

Sorry, that’s Jimmy Bond as portrayed by Barry Nelson. The first screen portrayal of the super spy was on a black and white television show called Climax!, but James Bond was turned into an American operative with help from his British intelligence counterpart Clarence Leiter. In a production of Casino Royale.

My children sat riveted as Jimmy Bond took on an aged Peter Lorre bad guy at Baccarat. The program ran only an hour, which meant it did not keep them up past their alloted bed time, and they went to bed knowing that they have seen a James Bond that none of their friends have.

And Barry Nelson just might be their favorite James Bond just as Dr. No is their favorite Doctor.

UPDATE: In a stunning turn of events, Dustbury talks about Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond today as well.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, March 24, 2018: Hooked on Books

I had a little time to kill in southwest Springfield yesterday afternoon, so I stopped by Hooked on Books to see what they had on their dollar book carts.

A couple things that looked interesting, anyway.

It includes:

  • A self help book called Busting Your Rut which is a pun on a slang phrase for achieving male orgasm, so it’s got that going for it.
  • The Long Good Boy, a Carol Lea Benjamin (the author) Rachel Alexander and Dash (the dog trainer detective and dog characters) mystery. I read an omnibus edition of the first two in the series, Dash, P.I. in 2009 and was not sure until I researched for this post whether the book I bought today was included in it (and even if I checked the book report first, it is not especially enlightening). This book was not in the earlier collection.
  • A Frederik Pohl novel called Narabedla Ltd.

Three books for three bucks. Not bad.

But when the bookseller tried to put the receipt in the cover of one of the books along with a bookmark, I asked for it so I could put it in my wallet. “Put it in there, and I might not see it for ten years,” I said. Which could well prove true.