Today’s Top News

Ladies and gentlemen, the front page of today’s Springfield News-Leader, delivered to me by accident instead of the Barron’s I normally receive on Monday:

Headline: Cardinal Law, portrayed as protector of pedophile priests, once worked here

“Once” meaning 31 years ago.

Apparently, nothing happened in Springfield this weekend other than the paper’s columnist going to the movies.

Either that, or the newspaper’s editors somehow thought that their readers would best be served by rehashing a decades-old connection to a decade-old scandal. Or perhaps the paper just wanted to get “pedophile priests” in big print on their front page, with their columnist going through the morgue–no, sorry, it’s the newspaper archive these days, so going through the morgue isn’t as much work as spinning through microfiche, it’s running a computer search–and blatting up a column on it instead of doing any actual investigation.

This is why I no longer take the Springfield News-Leader; this is why I don’t accept one of the free copies they’re giving away at little tables in the grocery store and in the warehouse club store; and this is why I am very disappointed when I get one for free by mistake in my driveway.

Because all I’ll get out of it is a bit of fist-clenching ranting about it, and that frightens my cats.

In 1997, They Saw Me Coming

At the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale this fall, I bought this family looking film:

Dan Haggerty! A bear! Grizzly Mountain. It’s a Grizzly Adams movie.

Ha ha, sucker! It is not a Grizzly Adams movie.

Man, I’m the target audience for this film: parents who were, a long time ago, sort of fans of the Grizzly Adams television show because it was syndicated and played a couple times a week on the local stations before cable.

Instead, this a a fin-de-siècle environmental pageant about how developing natural areas is de rigueur. The plot features a family camping in an undeveloped Oregon forest whose 125 year lease to an Indian tribe is about to expire. The father is a state functionary of some sort, looking over the land as he plans to approve development of the land. So two of his children enter a cave on the land and are transported back to 1870, when a greedy railroad executive also plans to develop the land, and his cold, distant beau uses a fake gold scheme to swindle the townsfolk. So it’s up to Grizzly Adams Jeremiah, Gentle Ben Jack, some Indians, the children, and hijinks to stop the bad guys.

There’s definitely some fun in the naming. Haggerty’s character is Jeremiah; is this a nod to Jeremiah Johnson, a film about another mountain man that preceded the Grizzly Adams television series (which itself might have tried to capitalize on the success of that film)? The bear is named Jack; as you know, Jack was the name of another character in the television show. And the show unreservedly calls the natives “Indians,” which was already a no-no in 1997.

At any rate, it’s a low budget little affair; there are about five sets (six if you count “the woods”). Haggerty is older and suffers from breathing difficulties throughout. So it’s a direct-to-video style thing, and as I mentioned, it’s a parable about the evils of development. But it’s not that I wish I’d spent the time watching something else.

I did have a bit of a talk with my children after it though, as I so often do. This is a message movie, I remind them. It simplifies the lives of Indians, it softens the real nature of wildlife, and it takes out all possibility that development can also be a good and man can manage development in rural and natural areas without the default despoilment depicted by Hollywood.

In researching the film post-viewing, I found there’s actually a 2000 sequel, Escape to Grizzly Mountain, a fin-de-siècle animal rights pageant that also stars Jan-Michael Vincent of Airwolf. I almost want to see it.

Book Report: Worlds’ Finest, Volume 2: Hunt and Be Hunted (2013)

Book coverI’ve been reading DC comic books that I bought at the most recent Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. I was saddened to find that I spent more than a dollar each on the issues on half price day (because they were priced at over $2 each inside the front cover). So I read a disconnected set of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (by John Byrne no less). Which was kind of a good primer for this graphic novel which collects six issues of recent Worlds’ Finest comics with Huntress and Power Girl.

Well. For those of us NOT keeping up: In the middle 1980s, DC consolidated its comic book universes in a limited series called Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the net results of this was that some of the heroes from other versions of Earth were on our Earth. Or other Earths. Just not an infinite number now. Or something.

In this case, we have alternate Earth versions of The Huntress and Super Girl (Power Girl) who are looking for a way to return home. Within this set of comics, they investigate and fight the minions of a rival technology company who is supposed to be dead.

To be honest, it’s been a couple weeks since I finished this book, too, so that’s about all I remember. Except that the science minion of Darkseid makes an appearance from Apokolips. Who I recognized because I’ve been reading Fourth World.

So it’s not selling me on DC over my preferred Marvel. Of course, I didn’t really get into the X-men titles or Fantastic Four when they got to fiddling with the timeline and alternate versions of comic book heroes. I prefer simpler stories, which is why I read paperback men’s adventure novels. So there you have it.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Source of My Sinophilia

Book coverAll right, so here’s the story:

A couple of months ago, the dojo where I study changed its policy and allowed students who attain a certain rank to wear a red gi and students who attain a higher rank a black gi (I already wear a black gi because I’m in a class that studies weapons and other forms of martial arts, so this policy doesn’t affect me). One of the other students mentioned to me that they reminded him of a film where a bunch of guys in red gis said, “Sho ’nuff” a lot. He wasn’t sure of the film, but I looked it up: The Last Dragon. When I looked it up, the videocassette was available on eBay for like $40. Now it looks like there’s a new 30th anniversary Blu-Ray and on Amazon Prime.

How topical is this? The film was grounds for a newscaster’s firing in St. Louis just a week and a half ago.

So although I didn’t see The Last Dragon, I started picking up old martial arts videocassettes at the local thrift stores and grocery stores. I got a bunch of Bruce Lee films and a couple of Jet Li films, including Romeo Must Die (which I keep calling Romeo Is Bleeding because I must have seen them relatively close together back in the day), Black Mask, and Hero.Book cover

So Hero is basically a Chinese propaganda film that reinforces the individual’s place under the government. In the film, Jet Li’s character tells the story of how he defeated three assassins who’d tried to kill the emperor, and he brings their weapons before the emperor. Because he fears assassins, the emperor does not allow strangers closer than a hundred paces to him, but as the Hero tells the story, the emperor bids him to advance until Li is close enough to attack him–he was an assassin all along! But he doesn’t attack the emperor. Instead, he allows himself to be killed because he realizes the emperor is trying to end the civil wars plaguing China by uniting “Our Land” (that’s the English translation; in the original Chinese, it is “Everything Under Heaven”). So there’s some revisioning of the story as the tale goes along. It’s an interesting movie, a bit heavy on the wire-work for my taste, but I learned it’s from an actual incident. The story of Jing Ke.

You see, at the end of the Warring States period, the leader of Qin, one of the aforementioned states, was on the march, conquering his neighbors to re-unite China, but he was under constant assassination attempts. Jing Ke knew he had to do something radical to get close to the future emperor (spoiler alert!), so he went to Fan Wuji, a Qin general who’d fallen out of favor, and convinced him that, in order for Jing to get close to the Qin king, he’d like Fan Wuji to commit suicide so Jing could bring the king Fan’s severed head. And Fan Wuji agreed. That’s some hard core hatred right there.

At any rate, the attempt failed, but as I clicked through on some Wikipedia entries, I realized I didn’t know very much about Chinese history at all. Not that I know much pre-Nation-State history of Europe, as I’m coming to learn, but nothing about China.

So I’ve borrowed a couple of books from the library, and I’ve started to listen to the Great Courses/Teaching Company history of China I bought a couple weeks ago.

Now, I can tell the Tang from the Zhou dynasties, the latter from the former Han, and how a former prisoner guard went on to topple the aforementioned Qin empire after some of his prisoners escaped while under his charge. It’s very interesting, and I’m telling the interesting stories I find to everyone.

As some of you longtime readers know, I go in spurts with the historical reading. The Chinese history has surpassed my recent readings into Roman history, and I’ve so far avoided stuffing my bookshelves with unread volumes on the subject, unlike when I got very interested in Aztec history after reading this book or Mongolian history after reading this book. Of course, that is subject to change.

But I’m enjoying this recent binge based loosely on a reference to a 30-year-old C movie. It’s funny how much of my reading and learning comes from something small like that.

Book Report: The Undiscovered Self by C. G. Jung (1958)

Book coverI picked up this trade paperback because I’m running out of good, smart-looking mass market paperbacks to be my carry book. As such, I could not stick it into my pocket for easy travel, but I guess I don’t need that as much as I thought, since most of my outside-the-home reading places have places for me to stow books when not in use.

I enjoyed this book, as you might guess by my posts quoting it (here and here). It’s styled as a psychology book, but Jung really gets more into philosophy than psychology. He discusses the role and experience of the individual relative to mass movements, both the State and the Church and discusses how the individual gets wrapped up in them and how they in turn enwrapture the individual to the individual’s detriment.

Of course, I agreed with the assessments of the individual versus the State. For people of a certain stripe, like me, trends have indicated the Federal government is creeping and sometimes bolting towards an omnipresent I didn’t agree with the assessment of the Church, though. Perhaps it’s because I attend a less centralized church than the Catholic church or because I’m up close and personal with the people who make up the church that I can see the atoms in the conceptual object, but I don’t see it as monolithic as the State. I guess one could say the State is likewise composed of well-meaning individuals who sometimes go astray in pursuit of well-meaning ends, but the State and the Church are different in that the Church has to operate through spiritual and moral suasion and the State has the military and law enforcement to compel its well-meaning urges. So they are very different indeed.

It’s been a while since I actually read this book (I finished it way back in July), but I’ve put off posting about it because I took a lot of notes on it and considered writing a really long, thoughtful post on it. In addition to the wisdom of posts linked above, I took some notes like this:

  • P46 Jung contra Objectivism; he says the world would not exist without consciousness. Jung says:

    Without consciousness, there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously experienced by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being.

    Anyone who knows his or her Objectivism (and a bit of Existentialism) knows these hold the existence of an external reality precedes the consciousness that perceives/experiences it.

  • P58 wisdom. I have no idea what I meant.
  • P81 individual slipping into purely conceptual world. Does it contradict p46 above? Jung writes:

    Nothing estranges man more from the ground-plan of his instincts than his learning capacity which turns out to be a genuine drive for progressive transformation of human modes of behaviour. It, more than anything else, is responsible for the altered conditions of his existence and the need for new adaptations which civilization brings. It is also the ultimate source of those numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties which are occasioned by man’s progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation, i.e., by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself, by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious. The result is that modern man knows himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself – a capacity largely dependent on environmental conditions, knowledge and control of which necessitated or suggested certain modifications of his original instinctive tendencies. His consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating the world around him, and it is to the latter’s peculiarities that he must adapt his psychic and technical resources. This task is so exacting, and its fulfilment so profitable, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious activity progressively take the place of reality.

    It highlights the dangers, but it does not contradict the assertion of consciousness preceding reality.

  • P84 reiterates the primacy of the psyche. Jung writes:

    All the same, nobody can deny that without the psyche there would be no world at all, and still less a human world.

    So he’s all in on the consciousness first.

  • P92 church attendance is an expression of faith, not the source. I think I was arguing against what he wrote on p91:

    In view of the general ignorance of and bias against psychology it must be accounted a misfortune that the one experience which makes sense of individual existence should seem to have its origin in a medium that is certain to catch everybody’s prejudices. Once more the doubt is heard: “What good can come out of Nazareth?” The unconscious, if not regarded. outright as a sort of refuse bin underneath the conscious mind, is at any rate supposed to be of “merely animal nature.” In reality, however, and by definition it is of uncertain extent and constitution, so that overvaluation or undervaluation of it is pointless and can be dismissed as mere prejudice. At all events, such judgments sound very queer in the mouths of Christians, whose Lord was himself born on the straw of a stable, among the domestic animals. It would have been more to the taste of the multitude if he had got himself born in a temple. In the same way, the worldly-minded mass man looks for the numinous experience in the mass meeting, which provides an infinitely more imposing background than the individual soul. Even Church Christians share this pernicious delusion.

    This doesn’t resonate with the experience I have in church attendance, where it’s more an expression of faith, a reinforcement of it, and a time for fellowship with others who believe similarly rather than a place for direct divine interjection. But I don’t go to a snake-handling or speaking-in-tongues church.

  • p93 The Psychological Advantage of Communism. I think I refer to this passage:

    Communism has not overlooked the enormous importance of the ideological element and the universality of basic principles. The nations of the Far East share our ideological weakness and in this respect are just as vulnerable as we are.

    Aside: I confess I’m swiping text from this translation which differs from my text; in my text, nations of the Far East appears. In the online version, it’s coloured races. A quick reminder that this is, in fact, translated text subject to all the attendant risks.

  • p107 defense of modern art. I have no idea what this means.

So where was I? Oh, yes, digressing and rambling. The notes are as far as I got into a thoughtful post.

At any rate, Jung comes at the questions as a psychologist, which means his entry point into the questions is the discrete experiences of individuals, and he conceptualizes and generalizes from their to his conclusions. So where I disagree with him on the greater meanings and movements of Modern Man, it’s from these faulty macro-level concepts and less on the experiences and recommendations made for individuals in the milieu. Well, I also reject a priori the idea that the whole of reality depends upon the psyche. No, the individual’s experience and the shared and transmitted experience relies on psyche, consciousness, and communication, but not the world itself.

So I feel smarter for having read the book even though I didn’t agree with some of it. What a difference between modern books; is it possible to read something written in the last twenty years that won’t insult people who disagree?

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Art of Manet by Nathaniel Harris (1982)

Book coverOkay, John, I read this book outside of a football game, and I didn’t get much more out of it than if I’d read it during a football game. Mostly, it’s about looking at the pictures. Even when given the opportunity, I didn’t linger on the pictures or particularly study them. I assessed whether I liked them or not and whether I thought they were good or not, and then I moved onto the next or the text describing the artist’s life and relationship with his peers.

The goal is to get a better familiarity with the artist, and I did. So I can speak intelligently about Manet and his relationship with the Impressionists and whatnot. And I can say I like Manet not quite as much as Renoir, but better than Monet and Degas.

At any rate, Manet is the old man of the Impressionists; he preceded the movement and dabbled with it, but his relationship with the formal French art structure of the end of the 19th century (I almost said “Last century” and then I realized how old I am) differed from the young ones. He wanted acceptance and commercial success (and got some degree of it), but he also alienated the academy with some of his work, subjects, and treatments. He also provided support for the young Impressionists who would eventually surpass him.

So it’s worth a browse whether during a football game or not. If nothing else, browsing the book helped me comprehensively identify my favorite Manet painting (The Bar at the Folies-Bergère).

Books mentioned in this review:

I Know The Feeling

Fillyjonk says:

And I realized: this is one way in which I am kind of useless in the brave new world* in which we live: I know poetry, and I can make jokes off of it. But I’m fairly useless at business or economics beyond balancing my own checkbook. And while I like that I know these things – I value that I had a prep school education**, still, it’s further evidence of how I don’t fit in in a lot of ways.

I know the feeling.

I make a lot of quips and allusions that require a bit of classical knowledge intersected with popular culture. They’re awfully funny to me. And once in a while, someone else gets the joke, and that is the best feeling in the world.

(Link via Dustbury.)

Book Report: Southern Words and Sayings by Fabia Rue Smith and Charles Rayford Smith (1976, 1988)

Book coverWell, hang my britches and slap my hound, but this book is listed on Amazon for between $30 and $55. Whether it sells for that is a rather different matter. Still, I got it as part of a pack of similar books (Boogar Hollow’s Scraps of Wisdom, How To Talk Pure Ozark, and How To Speak Southern) for a buck from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Book Sale this autumn for a buck. So I might be way out ahead here in the fictional money of Internet e-commerce.

At any rate, where the other books play it for laughs, this book plays it pretty straight. Its goal is not humor, but rather an actual account of the ways people speak. I guess it spoke to some people, as the copy I have is in the sixth printing from twelve years after the original.

So it’s a bit informative; I suppose it might be so if one has spent one’s life living in a semi-southern state. As I’ve discovered with the other books, some of these sayings are just part of my vernacular.

The book also includes some food-related words that identify some elements of Southern cooking, some portent-based sayings, and some general colorful sayings and idioms.

Not a bad thing to flip through; it’s a couple dozen pages of listicle in a chapbook form from an era when this is the way these cultural memes were transmitted. Well, as cultural memes. The actual content was conveyed orally amongst families, neighbors, and peers.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Annual Reminder

Growing up, I didn’t pay much attention to others’ birthdays. Perhaps I should put that in the present tense as I still don’t know my aunts’ birthdays.

But I always got a little helper as to my father’s birthday, as the Edmund Fitzgerald sank on his birthday, so on or right before his birthday, a radio station would play the song or a news source would recount the story.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reminds me that my father would be seventy years old tomorrow.

It Makes Up For The Lucky Beard Commercial

I see a lot of this while reading art books on Sunday afternoons:

This article redeems him:

When Andrew Luck looks like the best quarterback in the NFL—as he often has in previous seasons—the Indianapolis Colts are a playoff team. When Luck throws interceptions and takes sacks—as he often has this season—the Colts are mediocre.

It’s possible no group of players in the league is more dependent on one individual than the other 52 members of the Indianapolis roster.

They’ve even come to depend on Luck when choosing what books to read.

“He’s always saying ‘I read this great book,’ ” said backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. “He’s recommended books on concrete architecture, Rob Lowe’s autobiography or ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains,’” a 2003 account of a doctor working to fight tuberculosis.
More on the NFL

In the same way that Oprah Winfrey has become known for vaulting books she likes to popularity across the country, Luck can make his favorite reads become the talk of the Colts locker room. Some of the books he recommends are for inspiration, players say, if a teammate is going through a tough time. Others are passed on simply because Luck enjoyed leafing through them. “He’s a voracious reader and he likes talking about it,” said center Khaled Holmes, a beneficiary of Luck’s penchant for recommending his favorite titles.

Now, he has to overcome the DirecTV commercial.

Book Report: Boogar Hollow’s Scraps of Wisdom by Nick ‘n Willann Powers (1972)

Book coverThis book is a cross between the southern language dictionaries I’ve been reading of late How To Talk Pure Ozark and How To Speak Southern) and Poor Richard’s Almanack: Benjamin Franklin’s Best Sayings which I read earlier this year. As such, it’s a pithy collection of observations about life and advice.

A couple of the items made me chuckle, a couple made me want to quote them (minus the vernacular spelling), and one led indirectly to a tweet. So it was worth browsing for sure. It’s make a better gift than the aforementioned Southern dictionaries, although a Southern dictionary with a Southern variant of aforementioned might be interesting. For one definition.

The book itself is in chapbook form, which is what I think when I think cardstock cover over photocopied and saddle-stapled booklets. Instead of typewriting them or using Microsoft Word on them (which Dan Rather insists is truthy for the time period), someone hand-lettered the pages and hand-drew the graphics and images therein. That’s a lot more work than we have to go through in 2015 to do professional quality work, my friends.

Apparently, this was one of a series of Boogar Hollow books; the front material lists several titles in the series. I hope the couple that put these together about the time of my birth broke even at least on them. At the very least, I’ll bet they had fun.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: How to Talk Pure Ozark by Dale Freeman (1961)

Book coverThis book is very similar to How To Speak Southern. It was written by a newspaperman (in this instance, a Springfield newspaper editor) based on some columns or essays, and this one dates back to 1961. It did not get nationwide distribution, though: this is a chapbook and was probably only locally distributed and not for very long.

It also collects phonetically spelled Ozark accent words in a dictionary form; however, this one had thinner, less humorous definitions, so it was a bit less enjoyable to go through. It has a lot of overlap with the later collection (not directly–nobody’s plagiarizing here), but enough so that it was not fresh. Sometimes I had to read the words a couple of times because in some instances, instead of giving a definition, the word would include a sample of it in an Ozarks sentence. Which was full of other Ozarks words, so I had to read it a couple of times to figure out what word it was supposed to be. You know, having to work for the punch line doesn’t make humor more rewarding.

As in the previous book, this one includes something I didn’t think was a particular Southernism: The word mull meaning “to think over.” Of course, in this instance, it only identifies the definition of the word and not its etimology, so I have no idea why this is particularly Southern.

So I didn’t really learn anything from the book, and I’m not sure how true-to-life it is 50+ years after it was written. Much of the Pure Ozark sounds a lot like South City Hoosier. Of course, the line of my family that lived in Lemay a long time and pronounced the French invisible R in toilet and wash originated in the Ozarks anyway. So there I go.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Libya Connection by “Don Pendleton” (1982)

Book coverYou’re forgiven if you think I’ve read this book before–after all, the immediately post-Pendleton Executioner books have a single plot with different locations and, if you’ll pardon the pun, different execution by the different house authors. But, no, I was remembering that I’d read a book called The Libyan Contract. Which was written about eight years before this book (and I read it five years ago, if we’re really into historical records). It shares a certain element of plot that I’ll get to in a moment.

At any rate, it has a similar complaint to the others I’ve read this year: The plot is basically the same. Bolan has to go somewhere exotic to rescue someone and defeat some terrorist plot in the midst. In this case, he’s going to Libya to track down a Puerto Rican agent he’s worked with along with a military shipment of a biological weapon. As in The Libyan Connection, the American agent helps to preserve Khaddafi as the ruler as Bolan thwarts a Soviet-backed coup in the process.

As I read these forty-year-old thrillers, I can’t help but wonder: What if there’s a conspiracy amongst thriller writers to keep the world in an agitated state of turmoil which is why the same places keep boiling up time and again? It’s either that, or history marches at a pace of decades, which means it’s too long for myopic modern audiences to understand or to support when it comes to cultural and military conflict. But, sadly, that’s a very reality-centric view that gets no truck from modern American consumers.

Books mentioned in this review: