How To Tell What Song Just Came On Brian’s iPod At The Gym (III)

I’m old enough that I just don’t care how I look, so when I’m working out at the gym, I often lip sync the words with the songs that come on the radio. At least, I hope I’m not really singing the words. And sometimes I’ll smile when I hear a song I haven’t heard in a while but that I clearly think rocks or it wouldn’t be on the iPod Shuffle.

But sometimes, I’ll hear the opening of a song, and I’ll stop mouthing the words in case anyone at the gym can read lips and I’ll glance furtively about to see if there’s anyone close enough to hear any of the loud music leaking from my nostrils.

If you see me doing this, you know it’s probably…

Nickelback.

I know, I know. They’re like a Canadian rock version of the Gin Blossoms (the comparison is likely to get me into fights with actual Gin Blossoms fans if any), but a couple of their songs

“How You Remind Me”:

“Photograph”:

I’m not going write up an academic-level defense of Nickelback, but some of their songs are going to have staying power longer than their usage as a punchline amongst rock fans. Even if it’s just on my iPod.

Book Report: Ambush on Blood River by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book differs from the philosophy of other recent ones which rumble about Bolan going it alone again. Instead, this is a Phoenix Force book, essentially, as Bolan leads a team into the heart of Africa.

While visiting Canada, Bolan gets wind of an African job. Decades ago, a mercenary abandoned his post to rob a bank, and he hid the cache of diamonds and documents in a war-torn land. In the present day (of 1983), the Russians spring the mercenary from an Angola prison to recover the loot. The deposed leader of the African nation wants Bolan and his team to recover the loot from the mercenary and the Russians and to recover some sensitive documents that could embarrass America. So Mack gets the team together, they roll into Africa, and conduct a number of set-piece battles to recover the diamonds, incidentally kill the current deposing general, and kill the bad guys only to discover that the promised documents did not exist and were only a pretext to get the diamonds.

It’s more of a team book instead of an Executioner book; one has to wonder if it was moved over from another title to fit the publication schedule of the month’s Bolan book wasn’t ready. So it’s not really an Executioner book, and if you recognize that, perhaps you’ll enjoy it more.

This is the first I’ve seen in the line that recognizes the actual author of the book in the back in a little bit where “Don Pendleton” pens a note about the actual author. The recogniztion must have been gratifying. This book was written by Alan Bomack, who also wrote The Invisible Assassins. I enjoyed this book more than the earlier one.

I know I’ve read a bunch of these books this year. I promise I’m reading some headier work more slowly. Ask anyone.

Also, note this is an investment grade men’s adventure novel. Inside the back cover, there’s a price tag for $1, but on the back, the price tag from when my beautiful wife bought this for my birthday is $1.13. This book increased in value 13%. I mean, down from it’s original price of $2.25, but it’s rebounding, baby. I should buy a bunch of them!

The Headline Says It All, But The Article Explains

Much of Joplin has been rebuilt since 2011 — but not by the firm the city hired to do it.

Basically, the city of Joplin picked one company to spend a lot of government money, the company didn’t do much but spend the money, lawsuits ensued, and meanwhile, the people and businesses of Joplin lived their lives and livelihoods which involved building things without top-down direction and money-spending.

So the News-Leader is running a reflection on the phenomenon.

I didn’t read it. If you do, remember that the next time the city (any city, or any town) proposes a five-year-plan or other central planning device, the twenty-somethings at the News-Leader will laud it.

Reflections on Vegemite

On a lark, I ordered a small jar of Vegemite, the Australian sandwich spread. Come on, you know, the one mentioned in Men at Work’s “Men Down Under”:

So yesterday was the day to try it out. I made a sandwich for myself and a couple small quarters for my children to try, and….

I had one bite. Which I managed to chew and completely swallow. Although not in the time it took me to throw the rest of the sandwich out.

Never in my life have I had a hankering for a beer/sardine/salt/coffee sandwich.

Although my children started complaining about it before it was served in their normal resistance to something new, I came to agree with them, and they tried it themselves after I took my bite and reacted comically to it.

I mean, I grew up in poverty, but my family was not poor enough to serve this.

I’m blessed to have grown up in a bountiful land where one can go pick food from outdoors instead of a desert surrounded by twenty-foot-long crocodiles.

The wikihistory of Vegemite is that an entrepreneur wanted to make a food out of industrial by-products. And he did it.

God help me, I saw in the Wiki entry that they use it as a pastry filling. I suspect that the Australians do this to keep other people away from their doughnuts.

You know why Australian rules football is so vicious? The winners get a Vegemite sandwich. The losers get a year’s supply of Vegemite and a sixty-DVD Paul Hogan complete film set.

It does give me a couple insights into the Men At Work song, though. Now I know why Australian men chunder.

Needless to say, of the 220 grams of Vegemite shipped to Nogglestead from England, the total consumed was probably a gram before I dumped the jar in the garbage. Which I’m frankly afraid to admit on the Internet lest it’s a felony to dump Vegemite in an American landfill.

(For other Brian Tastes frivolity, see lingonberries and sesame seed bread.)

Book Report: The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family edited by Ray Richmond (1997)

Book coverI don’t know where I bought this book, but I know why I picked it up recently: because my soon-to-be ten-year-old has recently acquired a taste for all things Simpsons from a couple of books he’s gotten, and he wanted to read this one, but I wouldn’t let him until I’d read it. In a manner befitting Bart and Lisa, he asked me repeatedly, multiple times daily, whether I was reading the book yet and, if I was not doing anything, whether I could not better spend the time reading the book.

It’s an episode guide to the shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show and the first eight seasons of The Simpsons. Not to make you feel old, old man, but this is a twenty-year-old guide to The Simpsons. Apparently, there has been at least one additional book for completeness’ evolving sake. For each episode, there’s a synopsis, a character highlighted, a number of jokes you might have missed, some notable quotes, ties to other Simpsons episodes, and things to identify what movies or whatnot the episode lampooned. After each season, there’s a compendium listing of things like the times Homer says, “D’oh!” or “Mmmm….” That’s about it. Much to my child’s chagrin, it took me a number of weeks to go through the complete book, as I could only make it a couple of episodes at a sitting.

Of course, what’s a good book/episode guide without double-effect nostalgia. As I read the book, I see the air date at the top and remember what I was doing around that particular time. Watching The Adventures of Beans Baxter instead of the Simpsons on Fox; graduating high school; going to college; working in a grocery after college; receiving the email from the woman who would become my wife; and so on. Additionally, I started watching the Simpsons on DVD around 2004 (as mentioned here), so some of the episodes are familiar from my pre-parental, stay up until two o’clock work-from-home days (as opposed to my current parental stay up until nine o’clock work-from-home days). So I remember watching them on the eMac in my office as I worked or after I finished work or live-blogging the Republican National Convention of the era.

The jokes, the humor, and their relevance remain but change over time. Much of the stuff lampooned still holds true, although some of it might seem dated to kids from today. But not all of it. And sometimes you can apply the gags to your own life. For example, I read Bart saying Branson is like Las Vegas if Ned Flanders ran it. I read this in Branson on vacation this week. So it’s not quite Jeopardy!-esque as the nexus of all knowledge, but.

At any rate, interesting as a fill-in reader for moments when you don’t have a lot of time for Kierkegaard. Or to educate your children on late 20th century animation.

Book Report: The Greek and Roman World by W.G. Hardy (1960)

Book coverThis book is a sociological anthropological look at the Greek, particularly the Athenian, and Roman civilizations. It takes the point of view of an average citizen and describes what the world might have looked like to them, from going to the Forum or the market to participating in the democracy or republic of the time. As such, it’s not a history per se, as it does not recount historical dates and actions, but instead describes how people would have lived and how society, the government, and commerce would have looked.

The book is very brief–120 pages roughly–so it’s not a long read, and you might learn something. I learned how Athens divided itself into ten entities for the purposes of government, and that every entity was not a contiguous region but instead had land and citizens in each of the three topographies of the area so that the miners, the fishers, and the farmers would be equally represented. That’s interesting. But unlikely to show up as a question on trivia night.

But the book supplements some of the other reading I’ve done in ancient history and philosophy lately, so I’m glad to have read it.

Book Report: Take It Off, Take It All Off! by David Ritz (1993)

Book coverAs you can guess, I selected this book from amongst the thousands of others from some past book fair because its title is a cat call for a stripper to remove all of her clothing. Or it was. When I was a boy, my brother and I would occasionally say that to each other when changing clothes or something. Given that we hadn’t been to many strip clubs by the time we were ten, I would have to guess we picked it up from cartoons.

At any rate, this book is about a stripper. In the first chapter, she finds that a younger woman whom she’s been teaching the stripping world to has been brutally murdered, and the main character wants to find out who. So you think it’s a murder mystery, but that’s just a MacGuffin. Instead, it’s a book about a woman who fancies herself world-wise discovering she’s not so world wise at all.

Set in 1945, the book spends a lot of time on the stripper’s Jewish family whom she shocks with her profession. Her father lost his clothing store in the Depression and hopes to get it back; her mother likes the nice things she can buy with her daughter’s unsavorily acquired funds; and her brother is gay. Turns out the young, innocent girl from the small town who got murdered wasn’t so innocent at all–she was seeing a lot of men and hoping to take over the main character’s star slot. And she might have been going with one of the main character’s boy friends, a minor league ball player. To get insight into the murdered woman, the main character goes to the dead girl’s home town, talks to some people who knew her, falls in love with the drunken editor of the local paper, and is heart broken when the man dies in a drunken smash-up. Then she goes to sojourn in California with her uncle and his girlfriend, and they treat her nicely until they’re rubbed out in a mob hit when she’s not with them. So she returns to New York, briefly reunites with her family–she’s out of work as a stripper, you see, because of an, erm, over the top performance one night. But she can’t settle down, so she strips again and finds her baseball player boyfriend has been arrested for the murder, so she investigates and finds he has a twin brother rapist in Buffalo, so she leads police to him and they arrest the twin brother, but he was in Buffalo at the time of the murder. Then she takes up with the saxophone player in the band, who is black and a jazz maestro, and then he arrested for the murder, which leads her to suddenly discover that the boyfriend of the original murderee was killed in the same fashion, which leads her back to the home town to find the real murderer–the crossdresser who had been the inn keeper for 25 years. And the stripper and the jazz player move to Paris. The end.

You know, it works slightly better in the book, but the murder is just a pretext for the rest of the story which is a bit outlandish in its retconning of contemporary social mores and laxness into 1945, but it does pretty well at peeling the main character’s veneer of mistaken worldliness. I’ll be honest, as I read it, I wondered if it would end up with the same twist as Magic, but instead it’s a tacked on Psycho.

So would I recommend the book? Well, if it sounds interesting to you, I suppose. Billie Holiday makes multiple appearances and is a minor character in the book, so it’s got that going for it. But it’s not a murder mystery, and it’s not great literature.

Book Report: Island Deathtrap by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverI read this book right after Paradine’s Guantlet because the teaser in the back of the book made the plot look interesting and it looked like the books were going to take on a new direction with Mack Bolan operating more alone.

This book is definitely a more complicated plot: A remote island in Maine is being used as a delivery point for people and things being smuggled into the United States, and hard men have cowed and impressed locals into helping out. One man contacts Washington for help, and they send Bolan. When Bolan arrives, he finds his contact dead and a teen relative out for revenge. The teen’s girl has been kidnapped to compel her father’s help, and they together invade the island.

Instead of straight dot-to-dot connection of the set pieces, though, we have some people working at cross-purposes and some turns that add a bit of depth to the proceedings. So I enjoyed the book more than it its immediate predecessor, and I’ll eventually get used to the up-and-down nature of the series after Pendleton.

Book Report: The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfeld (2012)

Book coverI bought this book earlier this year when my children were expending Easter gifts at the local Barnes and Noble. This autographed copy was on the discount table way in the back, so I picked it up.

Written during the run-up to the 2012 election, the book talks about how ‘sensitive’ people are getting and how to not get caught up in it. Just kidding: It’s mostly pointing out and mocking people who have taken it upon themselves to monitor our thoughts and behavior, often with the coercive power of the state.

It’s only gotten worse in the interim, of course.

It’s a political book, so I don’t get much more out of it than I get out of my too-steady daily diet of political blogs except for an autograph which I’m practicing forging to complete my dead-on impersonation of Gutfeld. Once I do that, I can take over his life, which has been my lifelong dream since I just wrote that sentence three seconds ago.

However, the zany comic asides that mark Gutfeld’s on-screen persona carry over well into the written work, so it makes the book more enjoyable to read than more earnest commentators.

So if you’re jonesing for some sadly undated commentary on the modern left, you could do worse.

As I Predicted….

Some time ago, I predicted that Disney would someday buy Nintendo. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it on Facebook and have brought it up in conversation from time to time, but a quick search does not show any results on this here blog thingy. But I’ll go ahead and say it again.

There’s news today that proves it: Nintendo will start producing its own movies over the next few years:

After plummeting revenue, Nintendo is looking into new avenues to generate income, including expanding into producing its own feature films.

I got a better idea:

Disney.

Book Report: Paradine’s Guantlet by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is one of the underperformers in the series. In it, a planeful of diplomats is captured by a terrorist who wants Mack Bolan to deliver a briefcase full of diamonds as ransom. However, the kidnapping and ransom are merely a pretext to draw Bolan into a trap so a survivor of one of his earlier exploits can get revenge. However, news of the content of the suitcase leaks, which means that a number of European groups want it for themselves.

The book features the debut of a new RV with weaponry like the one immoliated at the end of the Pendleton-authored books and the return of April Rose to the field; when she gets wounded, I figured she was a goner as she does eventually die in the series, but it’s not this one.

You know, I’ve read five or six of these this year. On one hand, it seems like a waste of reading time. On the other hand, I do have the goal of reading all the ones I have before I die. So my continued efforts on this series will likely go in fits and starts for years to come with brief recaps like this one to keep the blog going.