This Increases My Odds of Appearing 0%

Where war on Canada begins. What is ‘Jeopardy’?:

For reasons that have yet to be fully explained, the producers of the “Jeopardy!” game show last week banned Canadian contestants. As someone who spent two years as a resident of Canada and one year working on the radio with the late Art Fleming, the first and greatest host of “Jeopardy!” I feel uniquely qualified to over-analyze this.

Apparently, the reason for the ban on Canadians (except for Alex Trebek, the pride of Sudbury, Ontario, who usurped Art Fleming’s throne and whose name Art could barely bring himself to utter) has something to do with Canada’s new digital privacy laws.

The producers fear that the questionnaire that would-be contestants have to fill out might somehow violate the new law, possibly costing the show a $10 million fine. Even with the Canadian dollar (unfortunately named the “loonie” for the bird that graces the coin) now worth 72.6 cents U.S., a $7,260,000 fine is nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, this is part of fomenting the anti-Canadian sentiment we’ll want before the invasion.

Canadians are not like you and me. They eat poutine.

Lileks Hits Home Work

On Thursday, Lileks bleated about a label he found in an antique store:

Antique? I used to work at Drug Package, Inc. What does that make me?

Back in 1996, I after a string of retail jobs, I answered a blind box ad in a newspaper for a warehouse shipping/receiving guy in O’Fallon, Missouri. I went to what might have been a poke-him interview, where a blue collar job poster wants to know why some college puke applied for it. The guy asked what I hoped for in the future, and I said I’d hoped to be promoted to printer.

So he hired me as a printer, and after a couple of weeks I was operating a Didde-Glaser 175 two-color Web offset printing press with a turn-over bar for two-sided print and perf wheels.

I was printing prescription blanks and forms; the labels came from lithographic presses elsewhere on the floor.

I worked that job for two years because I’d told the guy hiring me that he didn’t have to worry about me taking the training and going elsewhere right away (I promised to stay a couple years, so I did). The job was fortuitously placed; although it was forty-five miles from where I lived in South St. Louis County, it was a little less than half way to Columbia, Missouri, where the girl I was dating at the time lived (it was an hour home or an hour and a half to see her, which I often did). And that relationship worked out even though the job was not the longterm thing for me that it was for the others there (one fellow had worked there since the War, and the war was not Viet Nam or Korea).

At any rate, it would be odd to see things related to one’s adulthood coming up in antique stores. Although, as a frequent visitor to antique malls, I realize that the stuff one finds in them is often thrift store items with higher prices. Also, Drug Package has been in business for over 130 years, and the label Lileks found bears the St. Louis location on it, and from what I understand, Drug Package moved to O’Fallon in the 1960s or 1970s. So perhaps I’m not that old after all.

Book Report: Doomsday Disciples by “Don Pendleton (1983)

Book coverThis book is the 49th in the Executioner series, and it came out when I was eleven years old. Its plot is topical of the 1970s, but because it was tropish in the 1970s, it seems fresher and more twisty because I’m used to twenty-first century tropes.

The Executioner is looking into a religious cult with ties to the Russians; the daughter of a Senator has joined this group, and in the first set piece, they’re about to take the young lady for the last ride before Mack Bolan intercedes and rescues her. He then proceeds to dismantle the operation of the cult which was founded by a Vietnamese Buddhist with the goal of warping the youth of America and sowing destruction in the American homeland.

So in the 21st century, when you hear about a religious cult, you’re expecting an extreme Christian sect (which, in the news, is pretty much all Christians except maybe Episcopalians). But this book capitalizes on the popularization of Buddhism in the 1970s, when it was a pretty new and fadish thing. So although a reader in 1983 would have found this to capitalize (and maybe exploit) contemporary trends and fads, in the 21st century those fads are mostly forgotten and we get something fresh.

I enjoyed the book pretty well for a post-Pendleton entry in the series.

Any time I enjoy them, I’m hopeful, because I have 61 Executioner books, 10 Stony Man, 17 Mack Bolan adventures, and 7 Able Team books from the mythos yet on my shelves. When I read one I don’t like, I think I’ll never get through them. When I read one I do, I have hope I’ll stomach it.

At least the number of them I see in the wild has tailed off so I’m not adding a bunch more to the shelves as I go (although the Spring book sales are a month away, and this assertion is subject to change).

Book Report: Toulouse-Lautrec: Painter of Paris by Horst Keller (1968)

Book coverI didn’t care for this book, but it did help me cement that I don’t care for this artist.

The book itself first: The book is written by someone who absolutely adores the artist, which I would like better if I liked the artist. The author spends a lot of time and florid prose discussing individual works, whether paintings or prints, from the Lautrec’s oeuvre, but the images he discusses are generally not close to the discussion, so if you want to look at what he’s talking about, you have to flip forwards or backwards. If the images appear at all. However, it’s definitely distracting and makes one–by “one,” I mean “me”–less likely to look at the images during the discussion. And the discussion is more complex and nuanced than the art itself.

Frankly, I have finally found a scapegoat that bridges the gap between art and comic book and such presented as art: Toulouse-Lautrec. The art is generally simple, easily changed to prints without too much loss of depth (and the prints and posters might have been why we might know of this fellow). He’s been heavily influenced by Oriental art, as was all the rage in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So although other artists of the period liked it, but he never really doesn’t mature much beyond that influence. Lautrec died young, and some of his later work started showing some depth and maturity. So maybe he would have been more of an artist that I would approve of if he’d lived longer.

So, to sum up: This is a poorly organized, overwritten art book about an artist I don’t particularly care about. Although I might pick up other books on Degas and Manet, and I’ll certainly pick up more general Impressionist and French art books and will glom onto any Renoir books I come across, I won’t bother with more Toulouse-Lautrec.

Book Report: Carolingian Chronicles translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz with Barbara Walters (1972)

Book coverThis book reads like a gritty ninth century reboot of The Gallic and Civil Wars by Julius Caesar. This volume comprises two separate primary documents contemporary to the events: The Royal Frankish Annals written by one or more unnamed sources during the reigns mostly of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious and then Nithard’s Histories which is about the civil wars amongs the Frank children of Louis the Pious.

Given that most of the Royal Frankish Annals deals with conquering Gaul and then repeatedly fighting, co-opting, and fighting some more the German tribes, you can see where I draw the parallel. The difference lies in the prose: This is official stuff written by someone other than the officials. We get a page or so of description of each year, with an outline of the campaigning against a single foe, a couple of meetings amongst the heads of the tribes either paying respect to or getting called out by the Holy Roman Emperor at annual meetings. Then the emperor goes back to Aachen. It happens mostly that way every year, so it’s repetitive, and the lack of detail for any campaign makes it all blur together.

Nithard served Charles the Bald in the civil war that followed the death of Louis the Pious, so his histories, like The Civil War of Caesar, tell a story for a contemporary audience that casts one side in a better light. Charles and Louis (not the dead one, obviously–his son) take on Lothair. Come on, with a guy named Lothair, we modern audiences would have picked him out as the bad guy even if Nithard had not chronicled how he kept breaking his promises. Spoiler alert: There aren’t many children named Lothair, so you can guess who wins.

The book is 174 pages plus end notes and index. Longer than The Life of Charlemagne, a work contemporary to it. And I’ll probably remember only a couple nuggets from it. Mostly that Lothair lost.

Now That’s A Dog Whistle I’ll Bark To

Apparently, Marco Rubio (and by Marco Rubio, I mean the twenty-somethings on his media team) “accidentally” included stock footage of Vancouver in a recent ad:

It’s morning again in America, eh?

At least Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio managed to find stock footage of North America while paying tribute to Ronald Reagan’s sanguine “Morning in America” television spot.

The Florida senator’s campaign used three seconds of video taken of British Columbia’s unmistakable waterfront in Vancouver for its depressing twist on Reagan’s iconic 1984 advertisement.

Or did they?

I think Marco is promising that, if he’s elected, we’ll invade Canada.

Of course, he can’t come right out and say that, but those of us who have advocated invading Canada for years know what he’s talking about.

And we vote!

Brian J. Kills Celebrities Dead

This morning, I saw the headline that Vanity died.

Vanity, a former protege of Prince’s and a member of Vanity 6, has died at age 57, TMZ reports.

According to the website, the singer — born Denise Katrina Matthews — had long suffered from kidney failure and recently battled abdominal illness.

The story mentions her in three films: The Last Dragon, 52 Pick-Up, and Action Jackson.

Late last year, I watched two of those films: Action Jackson and The Last Dragon. I even joked that I had to watch Chuck Norris in An Eye For An Eye because I’d seen as many Vanity movies as Chuck Norris movies last year, and I had to break the tie.

And now she’s dead.

It’s like when I started listening to Eydie Gorme, and she died.

Like when I watched Grizzly Mountain last year. Right before Dan Haggerty died.

Jeez, I’m sorry, folks. I don’t know how I’m doing this.

Actually, I suspect I do: It’s my brain seeing patterns when something comes to my awareness (aka the Jeopardy! nexus). I’m always fascinated by how my brain processes patterns.

TO BE CLEAR: I’ve thought about rewatching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but I have not. So Alan Rickman isn’t on me. Also, I’ve not been reading any legal theory or Supreme Court rulings nor have I suddenly liked David Bowie music. So DON’T LOOK AT ME THAT WAY.

Monetizing the Blog

I’ve been writing this blog for almost 14 years now, and I’m pretty sure my income from it has been about $150 total.

So I’m preparing to start the next year off by monetizing the blog properly by quickly whipping out listicle and life hack hints with clickbait headlines.

I hope you’ll enjoy the new format and will turn off the ad blocker and click some ads for gas relief products, gentle reader.

Book Report: GI Joe: The Story Behind The Legend by Don Levine with John Michleg (1996)

Book coverThis book describes the creating of the G.I. Joe action figure (the original, not the Real American Hero we grew up with in the 1980s) from its inspiration through design and the initial manufacture. It includes a number of pictures, but it’s not a picture book. It’s the story, told by the artistic director of Hasbro, along with accounts from other people in the process.

As such, it’s not so much about the stories and narratives that would become part of the comics or the television series. Instead, it’s a look inside the toy business and how something like this got built from the ground up in the middle 1960s, from pitching it to the company CEO to handling production overseas (which was a new step for Hasbro).

An interesting story, indeed. At 92 pages, it’s more of a written oral history than a scholarly work, so I read pretty quickly. I am quite disappointed, though: The book seems to indicate it was bundled with a commemorative GI Joe of some sort, and all I got was the book. For a buck, I guess I can’t ask for more.

Book Report: Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (2009)

Book coverThis book is apparently a children’s book by the cartoonist behind “Bloom County”, “Outland”, and “Opus”. I remember him from his Bloom County work (see Tales Too Ticklish To Tell and Billy and the Boingers Bootleg). I didn’t get much into Outland, and I missed Opus, apparently. But when I saw his name on the cover of this book, I bought it. Not realizing it was a children’s book.

Not that I’m above cutesy books about dogs; see also my report on The Shepherd, The Angel, And Walter the Miracle Dog which might also double as an entry in my cutesy Christmas books list. But I digress.

This book details the story of Sam the Lion, a bred-for-showing Dachshund with an extremely rare curl of hair who escapes his designed owner and befriends a lonely orphaned teenaged girl as she moves in with her former dog breeder and shower uncle. When he’s framed by the resident poodle for a crime he didn’t commit, Sam is shot and left for dead. After this incident, Sam moves onto a series of shelters, labs, and life as a freebooter until he regains a sense of purpose: To stop the poodle from winning the Westminster dog show.

It’s whimsical, although I don’t think it’s entirely cohesive. I thought the bit about being in an animal testing lab for years was only included to remind children that animal testing is bad. It veers from the cutesy to the cartoonish, which is acceptable, I suppose, since the author is a cartoonist.

Ultimately, it wasn’t my bag, baby.

Peyton, Graciously

I saw this when it happened, and I chortled so much my turkey-wattle neck swayed from side to side:

I knew what it meant: That young man was unhappy because his brother would continue to overshadow him.

Peyton Manning was gracious enough to try to cover for his little brother:

“Eli’s just like me. Eli is analyzing the game. He’s thinking about whether we were going to go for two. Whether it was going to be reviewed,” Manning told CBS News.

“Eli’s kinda like me,” Manning continued. “He wasn’t gonna to relax until that final second ticked off. I’ve had a great chance to celebrate with Eli. He’s very happy and proud of me just like I’ve always been of him.”

I doubt that.

To be frank, I’ve not been an Eli Manning fan since he refused to play in San Diego.

Here’s how he looked then:

Doesn’t that look familiar?

It’s always torqued me a bit that the entitled young man has more Super Bowl rings than Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre; I’m pleased to see he has only as many as his older brother now. And that’s only until Peyton gets one or more as a coach.

Book Report: Dead Street by Mickey Spillane (and Max Allan Collins) (2007)

Book coverThis book is a Spillane novel! From 2007! (Which mimics my reaction to Black Alley, which is a Mike Hammer book I read thirteen years ago, apparently the last Mickey Spillane novel I read).

Except this book is a Spillane book by way of Max Allan Collins. I’ve recently become acquainted with this author from his work on the DC comic book Ms. Tree Quarterly from the early 1990s, and I’d thought about reading a book of his. So it’s kind of kismet that I picked up this book and found it was a book that Mickey Spillane started or mapped out and that Collins finished.

Set in the early part of the 21st century, it deals with a police captain who retired after thirty years on the force. He gets a message that his fiance, believed to have been dead after a botched kidnapping twenty years ago, is alive and is living in a retirement community in Florida populated by former police and firemen from New York. Her savior from twenty years ago, who took her in and hid her, has recently died, so his last wish was that the police captain protect her. The kidnapping incident has left her blind and amnesiac, but when the police captain moves in next door, she starts to recognize him from his voice and his mannerisms, and along with the memories of their love comes the memories of the crime she was bringing to him when she was snatched: The theft of nuclear materials in the middle 1980s.

The books is a pretty good mash-up of modern paperbacks blended with comic book sensibility along with the old-school style of Spillane, but. It was weird to me to read about the cop retiring after 30 years on the force and how different the world was then. The difference between the 1940s and the 1970s would have been vast. Between the 1970s and 2000s a lot less vast (and me calculating 30 years from the present day takes us back to 1987, and the changes there are less vast still. Drop a mere 25 years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the world hasn’t changed that much, even with the Internet; however, I was an earlyish adopter and was on dial-up computer BBSes thirty years ago). So that motif didn’t ring as true. Also, the recurring motif of the Dead Street–where the captain and other principals of the story lived, but that is getting razed for redevelopment (the Dead Street of the title) motif was drummed a bit much, although it came to be important in the end. And all the interesting individual bits of the story didn’t completely fit together in the end–the plot might have been better treated with a different MacGuffin.

Still, I enjoyed reading it, and I’m interested to pick up a pure Max Allen Collins book somewhere along the line when I find one in the wild. And a pure Mickey Spillane–I can’t let another 13 years go by. The Mike Hammer books (boosted by the Mike Hammer television series) were a staple of my reading diet in the late 1980s. When the world was a vastly different place.