My Default Setting Is “Ass”

Monday night, I’m reading the auld laddie a book when the telephone rings. I’m uplifted a bit, since my wife was traveling on business, and both the boy and I thought it was her calling to wish him good night. But it’s not.

Me: This is Brian.
Woman’s slightly garbled voice: Mommy?
Me: This is not your mommy.
Woman: Mommy, where are you? We can’t find you.
Me: She’s not here.
Woman: We can’t find her.
Me: She’s not here.
Woman: Can you help me?
Me: No.

I hung up. At first, I didn’t know if the woman (not a girl) was on drugs or what, but I think she was distraught. The boy was agitated; he heard the whole exchange because I answered the phone on speaker as is my wont. When I didn’t hear the my wife’s voice, I immediately became curt and guarded. I didn’t know if this was some sort of prank or what. Maybe it was some distraught daughter calling her mother’s cell phone and distraughtedly reaching my home phone at 7:10. I dunno.

So I was an ass, I suppose. I don’t know how I could have helped her over the phone except to tell her to call the police. And maybe have been a little more polite. But I’m the suspicious sort and guarded, so my default setting is “ass.”

The whole thing confounded me. I feel like Clarence Day’s father, but with a fouler mouth.

Book Report: Might As Well Be Dead by Rex Stout (1956)

Book cover This book is the second of the two in the Three Aces omnibus edition I’m reading (remember, gentle reader, I have begun to break out the individual novels within omnibus editions for individual review, but when I’m done, this will still only count as a single volume for my annual book count).

At any rate, the plot: A businessman from the midwest comes to New York, seeking his son whom he drove off after the businessman thought the son had embezzled some money. Now that the real culprit has been identified, years later, the father wants to reconcile. Well, the mother wants to see the boy again. However, the police cannot find the son, so either he’s long gone or he’s changed his name. Wolfe guesses that the son will still retain his initials, so he has Goodwin place an ad in the paper that says, “P.H., we know you didn’t do it.” Strangely, that is the name of a recently convicted murderer who couldn’t be the guy, could he?

Of course he is. He’s taking the fall for killing his twue wuv’s husband, mostly because he thinks she’s done it. She thinks he’s done it. Since someone has begun to follow Goodwin, Wolfe suspects that the real culprit might still be out there. So he cogitates and Goodwin and the other bit players start running down leads. Other deaths during the investigation confirm Wolfe’s suspicion, so the book progresses until Wolfe unmasks the real killer in a sitdown in his (Wolfe’s) office.

It’s a good book for the genre. Those olden days mysteries, especially the good ones like this one, keep it moving, don’t get too detailed, and come in under 200 pages. Remember those days? Modern authors don’t, but I guess if you’re going to drop $30 on a hardback, the authors want to give you 140,000 words to make it worth your money. I think ebooks will change that for the better, make reading less of a daunting undertaking. Or so I hope.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Funniest Sentence I’ve Written All Day

I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, but if you’re from Wisconsin, you idolize Vince Lombardi, or you’re a heretic.

Followed closely by:

He coached the Green Bay Packers, the small-market blue collar National Football League (fútbol norteamericano, not soccer, you international readers) and led them to something like 14 annual championships in 8 years. He was that good.

Both from my other review of Run To Daylight, entitled "Management Lessons from Vince Lombardi".

Book Report: Run to Daylight by Vince Lombardi (1963)

Book coverThis book chronicles the week of preparation that the Green Bay Packers the week before the October 7, 1962 game against the (spoiler alert) Detroit Lions from the perspective of head coach Vince Lombardi. The book doesn’t name the opponent, but a little research will yield it. Although a Google search asking who the opponent was for this book apparently has not until now not yielded the result. Instead, I sussed it out by the final score and confirmed it by the mention of the UCLA upset of Ohio State. Look, ma, I’m a researcher!

At any rate, it discusses how much Lombardi studies films, how short that the actual practices are, and how long the meetings with the players are. It reminds those of us who have played the game a little for fun but never in an organized fashion how complex the games are, where each play in the playbook has variations upon variations not only upon where the players are supposed to line up, but also what shoulder they should block on their blocking assignment and whatnot. Even the rockheads on the line have to remember so much. Frankly, a detailed book like this makes me appreciate what they do weekly, and it also reminds me why I only want to dedicate six or nine hours of my life a week on it instead of 50 hours a week year-round.

If you’re a Packers fan, it’s definitely a worthwhile read to get a little behind the Lombardi legend. The book takes place five years before Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay, which I also recommend, and the time frames are different (Instant Replay is the story of a whole season, not just a week). Are modern football books this detailed, or are they personality-based? The ones I’ve read aren’t like this.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: America Alone by Mark Steyn (2006)

Book coverYes, I do realize that I’m a book behind on Steyn’s works. I run a little late on political books, since I can only take a couple of them annually. I read enough blogs to get my fix of this sort of material daily, and when you’re reading it daily, the book form seems to be a bit tiresome.

I actually picked this book as the first selection in a shared reading experience a friend of mine in Minnesota suggested. Sort of like a book club, but just the too of us, and over the phone. We were talking about demographics one day, and I remembered I own this book, so I recommended it. He borrowed a copy from the library, and when I called him again, he fumed a bit about it and said he couldn’t read it because… well, because Steyn is that way. Also, my Canadian friend in Minnesota is quite probably not that way, which is to say obnoxiously conservative.

So I read it with an eye toward what it would mean to my friend, who is not a conservative. The thrust of Steyn’s argument lies in three facets: 1) Demography is destiny, 2) Sclerotic, secular, non-reproductive societies have their roots in their cradle-to-grave welfare systems, and 3) A certain worldwide demographic wants to destroy the West and make the world submit to its religion, and its birthrate exceeds that of the West. If you’re reading this blog, you’re familiar with it. In Steyn’s thesis, Western Europe and possibly all of Europe will be overrun by Islamic citizens in the near term, which will destroy those countries as they’ve been known, and of all the West, only America will maintain its civilization since it is barely replenishing its citizenry through things done routinely in seventies science fiction in extraplanetary zoos by human captives on display.

Steyn weaves the three main thrusts of his arguments together instead of building them syllogistically to the conclusion, and he puts barbs into the text. Between those two things, it’s really not going to convince my friend and maybe not many who are yet unconvinced. However, I think the target audience of the book is those who are already convinced and want affirmation or restatement of their beliefs, hopefully so they can go forth thoughtfully and convince others.

Five years after the book, I’m not as gloomy as Steyn was (and is now, given the title of his latest book–After America for those of you who might not know). The sweep of history is broad and long, and its predictors are more often wrong than not. However, the book does crystallize, or should, that our Western traditions and heritage are better than all the others that have been tried and do require some conscious defense thereof. If you merely enjoy liberty without recognizing its sources, someone will quickly take it from you.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Super Incredible Trivia by Fred L. Worth (1984)

Book coverIs it super? Well, it’s over 4,850 entries spread over 506 pages, mostly on popular culture with heavy emphasis on films, so it’s big.

Is it trivia? Well, some of it is. A lot of it, though, depends upon phone numbers, house numbers, and license plate numbers of sets in films, sometimes the sort of thing you only glimpsed once. These researchers were thurough, and probably only working from videocassettes or laser discs when they compiled the book.

Is it incredible? Here’s the entry for KITT:

Michael Knight’s (David Hasselhoff) special black Pontiac Trans-Am in the TV series “Knight Rider.” KITT, which stands for Knight Institute Two Thousand, is voiced by William Danielson.

Incredible, as in you cannot believe any of it. Quick, what’s wrong with that entry?

Since it’s from 1984, all of the sports records have been broken since then except for Ivory Crockett’s 100-yard-dash record, which this book fails to mention. What it does rely on, though, is a very, very good knowledge of the author’s or the researchers’ favorite films, which explains why so many entries deal with Time Bandits or Somewhere in Time.

At any rate, it’s something that I kinda flipped through as I was winding down for bed or during sporting events over the course of months. I don’t know how much of it I’ll retain for Trivia Nights (the one item I’ve worked hard to retain is the name of the only singer to chart a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.) It also reminded me of how many interesting old movies I’ve not yet seen, and it assured me that Kate Mulgrew had done something else besides "Alien Lover" (which I have seen in its entirety) before Star Trek:Voyager.

Is it worth reading? If you’re a trivia masochist like I am.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Wayback Machine Is ON!

Apparently, Jason Bateman tweeted:

It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!

I responded:

Thank goodness! I was very distraught when “It’s Your Move” ended abruptly.

It’s Your Move, as you know, was Jason Bateman’s first sitcom. Well, he had been on Silver Spoons and Little House on the Prairie, but It’s Your Move was his first starring vehicle. It only lasted a season.

Sometimes, one might confuse Jason Bateman with Jerry O’Connell (or one might think someone else might). Jerry O’Connell’s big breakout was My Secret Identity, which ran several seasons in syndication.

Of course, my wife is not familiar with such things; her English teacher mother did not let her watch television. Whereas I was a latchkey kid living either in a trailer park or in a valley off of a dirt road, consigned to whatever snow-occluded broadcast television could reach me.

I hope this will become relevant sometime in a Jeopardy! taping.

NSFW, But Access For Children Is Mandatory

As some of you know, it’s Banned Books Week, which is a facile celebration of librarians and educators of how they, not parents nor citizen-accountable school boards, know what’s best for you and your children. I’ve written before on the subject of the Republic school board and its decision to implement a policy of not providing books that do not meet standards of age-propriety to its students (see Local School Board Makes Decision; Right-Thinking People Disagree, Condescend and “Ban” Does Not Mean “The Government Fails To Give It To You”).

I’ve recently read the book, as you might know, and I didn’t really see anything textual that would make it age-inappropriate. Sure, the narrator or the character of the narrator character admits to having a large wang. Sure, he has sex with a skin flick starlet in an alien zoo. Hey, who doesn’t? (I mean, when I was in high school, I read The Demu Trilogy, written a couple years after Slaughterhouse Five–what was it with the writers of that era and compulsory sex in alien zoos? Or have I now completed the entirety of the sub-sub genre?)

However, text aside, Vonnegut adds a couple of line drawings to the text because…. I dunno why he did it. The doodles don’t really add anything to the narrative, I think. Since the book was written to be argued by students by a creative writing professor, I’m sure entire theses and maybe even dissertations have covered them, though.

And on page 153, we get a line drawing of a heart-shaped pendant bearing the Serenity Prayer between a pair of boobies. If you want to see a picture, here it is. I realize that some of you are at work and might get into a spot of fired if you clicked that link and looked at the boobies, line-drawn as they are. I’d like to point out you might already be flagged since the content filter analysis has already run across the word boobies several times.

But isn’t that a pip? If you tacked that picture on your cubicle wall or the inside of your locker door, you would have done your part to make the workplace a hostile environment and made someone uncomfortable. The lawsuits would rain from the heavens or, at the very least, you would get a stern warning from HR.

Somehow, though, it’s unconscionable for some people to even discuss whether teenagers should have publicly sanctioned and funded access to something that I’ve had to mark NSFW on the Internet.