Nevertheless, He Remained Married

StLToday.com has a quiz right in my wheelhouse. Well, it’s not a quiz; it’s a slide show of the worst Saturday Night Live skits turned into movies.

The quiz portion of it is: “How many of these has Brian J. seen in the theater?”

Here’s the list; I’ve bolded the ones I saw in the theatre.

  • It’s Pat: The Movie (but I did read the book which was not the movie book).
  • Stuart [Smiley] Saves His Family (I never found Al Franken funny, even after he started doing comedy playing that character in the Senate).
  • A Night at the Roxbury (but my friend Scott and I did not dress up for it, as we discussed).
  • The Ladies Man with my beautiful wife.
  • MacGruber with my beautiful wife. On our anniversary.

I thought one of the films in the slide show would be Superstar! as one of the slides alluded to Molly Shannon’s character, but no. Which is just as well, because I have not seen that at all.

I’m pleased to have gotten a 60% on this quiz because I have a special place in my heart for bad comedies, and most of the Saturday Night Live movies fall into this class.

The Bands Were Too Close Together In The Summerfest Schedule

As I mentioned, I bought a Spyro Gyra album on Friday after having heard a Spyro Gyra song on WSIE in the last couple of weeks.

I was surprised, actually, that it was a pleasant, smooth jazz song that I heard on the radio. The album is, too. Apparently, Spyro Gyra is a jazz fusion group, and that caught me by surprise.

You see, I thought Spyro Gyra did zydeco, the accordion-heavy Cajun music style.

Why, you ask? I sure did.

The best I can figure is that Spyro Gyra played Summerfest a lot in the early days and on the same stages as a band called Buckwheat Zydeco.

So I tainted Spyro Gyra by association.

Spyro Gyra:

Buckwheat Zydeco:

Different.

And one fits my record album tastes.

To be entirely honest, I was not that familiar with Zydeco. As a matter of fact, the only song I ever heard completely (to this day, even after finding a Buckwheat Zydeco video on YouTube and hearing a couple notes of the squeeze box in it, which was enough for me to stop it) was sung by Ernie on Sesame Street:

You know, there was a time when I was excited for the new season of Sesame Street because I was eager to see new material. But that was a long time ago. Not as long as Summerfest, though.

At any rate, I am pleased with my album pick up and will look for more Spyro Gyra in the future.

The Knotted Shoelace and the History Lesson

Well, all right, not necessarily a true history lesson, but certainly a history lesson steeped in legend.

My youngest has a problem with his shoes, namely the tying thereof. As he walks around with untied shoelaces, he pulls them out of the eyelets of the shoes so that he often has both ends of the lace on the same side of the tongue, which means he cannot effectively tie them anyway. Of course, the aglets have been worn away through misuse-namely, the not-tying.

So today in church, he asked me to help with his laces. One of them had a tight knot in it that precluded relacing, as the knot was bigger than the eyelets through which he would have had to thread it. So he enlisted my help with it: “Dad, can you get this knot out?”

I helpfully agreed, but the knot was too tight for me to quickly untangle without tweezers. So I decided on a history lesson instead.

“Do you know who Alexander the Great was? A Macedonian general who conquered a lot of the ancient world. He came to the Gordian Knot, which legend said the person who solved it would conquer Asia. And you know what he did?”

“What?” he asked.

He took out his sword and cut the knot,” I said, and I took out my pocket knife and cut the lace just below the knot.

He might actually remember this story then. But I hope the test on the famous almost-Greeks of the B.C. era comes soon in his fourth grade class. Because it’s entirely possible the only thing he’ll remember is that his father carries a pocket knife.

Because he’s certainly not going to remember to tie his shoes.

(For further reading, here’s further reading on the Gordian Knot.)

Brian J. and the Invasive Species of Kansas

So for a couple of weeks, we marveled at the beautiful spider webs woven between my truck’s driver-side mirror and the ground. Some spider was working overtime to rebuild it after windy days or days where I inconveniently drove my truck somewhere, tearing the delicate hunting ground.

I mused that the spider must be living in the mirror assembly, as it was unlikely that the creature would climb up my tires, through my suspension and body, to the mirror every day. Instead, after building the spider would retreat to its lair and then emerge again to drop down its initial lines and crawl back up to spin the web.

On my recent trip to Kansas, this was confirmed as the spider started rebuilding its web in the parking lot of the restaurant where I’d had dinner.

I took a few snapshots, climbed in, and drove off, presumably with the spider still dangling from its line. Along the road to my hotel, it blew off somewhere into the wilds of Leavenworth. Last seen headed southwest, towards Chez Venom.

As I drove along, I wondered/hoped two things:

  1. The spider did actually blow off outside my vehicle and did not blow into the truck. Otherwise, every time I clamber into the vehicle in the coming months, I will sit in a spider web beneath a grudge-holding spider.
  2. That the spider’s species habitat already included Kansas. Otherwise, I might have introduced an invasive species into the habitat, which could bring some sort of ecological apocalypse on the Sunflower State. Worse, I might be subject to some sort of government sanction under some obscure administrative rule. A certain kind of person often thinks about government regulations that one can inadvertently break and ruin one’s life with. I’m special.

The restaurant was an Applebee’s (since it shares a parking lot with the used book store. Do you think the spider say that and thought, “Yayus! Bees that taste like apples!”?

Book Report: The Marriage of Bette and Boo by Christopher Durang (1985)

Book coverYou could probably have guessed after I bought a couple books while out of town for the night that I’d pick up the shortest book to read in my hotel. And you would be right.

As I mentioned, I saw this play in college. Ah, my senior year: I saw a large number of plays with a number of comely young ladies, none of whom was interested in me. Well, maybe a couple were and I was oblivious to it. I had to attend this play for one of my classes, and I sat next to a young lady who I knew from the writer’s club. After the play, we walked out together, and she straightened my tie. Did that indicate interest? I don’t know. When reading others’ emotions and acting upon them, I’m a chimp at the space shuttle controls: I know something’s happening, and I know I should do something, but I just press the wrong buttons.

At any rate, I remember the play not only because of the young lady but also because the play disturbed me a bit. It’s told from the point of view of an English student reminiscing about his family life and his parents’ marriage which ends while he’s at school. I, of course, had studied a bit of Thomas Hardy at the time (one of the devices of the play is that the narrator talks about analyzing Hardy’s works as he’s analyzing his parents and perhaps their influence upon him). As the child of a broken home (relatively fresh at that, what, with their marriage still longer than the period they’d been divorced), I felt for the kid. Who was older than I was at the time.

So I saw the book, and I remembered almost viscerally the reaction I had to the play at the time, so I bought it and read it again. As an adult (older than my parents when they divorced and almost as old as my father was when he died), I don’t get quite the poignancy that I did then when I identified with the lad, but I do still have a bit of sadness for the characters in the play. I think it’s billed as a comedy, but it’s more a tragedy than a comedy. Even though the moments from the play stuck with me–I’d forgotten a part where a priest imitates bacon, but when I got to it in the book, I immediately remembered the scene on stage.

So it’s a good play, all right.

The edition I have has a lot of end notes from the playwright (who played the main character in the big New York production of it in the middle 1980s) giving a lot of direction for the direction of the play, including some interpretations that he did not care for in some productions. I’ll be honest, that’s a bit of cheating: In my playwrighting class, the professor said to put all that in the words and stage directions, and to put only the bare minimum in to allow for as much interpretation as you can stand. So the end piece seems a little uncricket.

Also, this book is again a book club edition. Which means our parents or grandparents liked plays enough to buy them from a book club. I cannot even imagine that. There aren’t that many people who buy plays these days (or maybe it’s just me), but I don’t remember seeing many of them in the book stores or book sales I frequent–I know, as I buy them. That’s a shame, as they’re often nice, quick reads with impact beyond their word count.

Good Book/Album Hunting, Thursday, October 19, 2017: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

I managed to make it home safely from Leavenworth, and I had a moment to visit the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale way up north. And by “had a moment,” I meant that I passed the venue in the morning on the way home and I COULD NOT REST until I got a chance to return. So I suckered my beautiful wife into an afternoon excursion by dangling before her a lunch at her favorite Italian restaurant first.

So we went.

As you know, gentle reader, when it comes to the FSGCL book sale (I’ve got a government contract, a GC, so know everything is abbreviations, EIA), I like to visit the albums one day and then maybe the more expensive books on half price day.

Well, I visited the albums, and then I went to look for my beautiful wife in the better books section. Where a couple of books fell upon me and waylaid me and kidnapped me to the register.

As for books, I got:

  • The Foxfire Book 2 and The Foxfire Book 3–there were sets of the first three, and I picked the better copies of the last two. Which will come to bite me here in a couple of minutes when I discover I already own 2 and lack 1.
  • The Te of Piglet, which I have been looking for since I read The Tao of Pooh last year.
  • Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among The Amish which I expect to be more on that topic than Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish. I put down another Amish-themed book because it was a small press book called something like The Secrets of the X Amish and looked to be simple agitprop.

As for albums, I got:

  • Anthology of Renaissance Music
  • The Renaissance Clavichord II
  • Praetorius Christmas Music/Schein Two Suites from “Banchetto Musicale”–I pretty much buy anything in a Nonesuch sleeve.
  • Better Days/Happy Ending by Melissa Manchester. I’m not sure if I like her or not or will like her or will not. I’ll take a chance for a buck.
  • Born Late by Shaun Cassidy. Because I work with a project manager by that name, and I’m going to ask him to sign it for me.
  • Sentimental Journey by Boots Randolph.
  • A flute album by Tim Weisberg. Hey, it has “Nights in White Satin” on it. On the flute, presumably.
  • The Many-Splendored Guitars of Los Indios Tabajaras
  • Ellington Fantasy by the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra. The guys who did the music for Eastwood’s The Man With No Name movies and Hang ‘Em High.
  • Incognito by Spyro Gyra.
  • Make It Easy On Yourself by Burt Bacharach. Strangely, there were three copies of this album in the thin selection of LPs.
  • All Time Greatest Hits by the Commodores.
  • M.F. Horn Two by Maynard Ferguson because the cover is cherry, and the platter might be in better shape than the copy we already own.
  • Jackie Gleason Presents Aphrodosia. Which is what you put on after you play Jackie Gleason Presents Music To Changer Her Mind and before Jackie Gleason Presents Oooo!
  • Taking Off by David Sanborn
  • Homer Louis Randolph, III. Spoiler alert: It’s Boots.
  • Kenny G by, well, Kenner Louis Grandolph, III, perhaps.
  • Music for Daydreaming by The Melachrino Orchestra. I only buy the Music for series by this orchestra. So far.
  • Thats What Friends Are For by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams
  • By Request by Perro Como.
  • Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music. I already own a copy with the more common cover (review by yours truly in 2014).

I mean, I bought a variant cover and a duplicate LP with a better cover, but I’m still not a collector. Just an accumulator who likes prettier accumulations.

Also note that my beautiful wife bought a single LP, so when she mentions that we don’t have a good storage system for our records, IT’S HER FAULT.

Good Book Hunting, Wednesday, October 18, 2017: Half Price Books/The Book Exchange, Leavenworth, Kansas

So I had to drive up to Leavenworth on business yesterday (the actual drive time: 8 hours round trip; the actual time spent on the business: 15 minutes). Instead of turning around in the late afternoon and returning home right away, I booked a room for the night.

Which meant I had a little time to kill before hitting the bed. When alone in a strange town, what do you think I do?

This security camera footage captured it:

I’m not actually sure what the book store’s name is. On the map, it’s Book Exchange, and as the photo indicates, there’s a little metal sign indicating the parking in front of the store. However, bigger signs say Half Priced Books. So the name is one or the other. It’s right next to a martial arts school, and while I was browsing the books, I could hear the classes going on. Not just the sensei; I heard the students’ responses.

At any rate, I picked up a couple things mostly to be polite.

I got:

  • Dead Six by Larry Correia and that other guy.
  • A play I saw in college, The Marriage of Bette and Boo.
  • Plato at the Googleplex, which I’ve seen in the library and thought about reading. Of course, with so many books on my to-read shelves, I couldn’t make time to read it as a library book. I HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM.
  • Searching for God in America by Hugh Hewitt. This looks to be a companion book to a television series. I already purchased a companion book to a television series about religion this fall (Charlton Heston Presents The Bible, which I bought last month). Hopefully, they will be good reads without the television series.

The other thing I do in when traveling for business: Retire to my room early to read. So which of the books above do you think I dived into first? Answer tomorrow.

Book Report: Obsidian Son by Shayne Silvers (2012)

Book coverAs you might remember, I bought this book in August at LibraryCon. You know, I like to support self-published authors whom I find sitting at tables at conventions and in the library from time to time, but when it comes time to reading the books, I tend to be a little reluctant. A couple of the self-published efforts I’ve tried have been a little lackluster (ahem), and I’ve put them back on the to-read shelves. And I picked up this one.

Well. This was pretty good.

It’s an urban fantasy book featuring a protagonist wizard, the child of great wizards who are also billionaire businesspeople. The book starts right after their murders, where the hero (Nate Temple, for whom the series is named) owns a book store but might have to take control of his parents’ company. He specializes in finding esoteric works, and he’s commissioned to find a book that is drawing a lot of interest all of a sudden. It’s tied to dragons, creatures who generally remain hidden from public view, and Temple finds himself, his friends, and a growing circle of other Freaks working to prevent a power-hungry dragon from seizing power during a solar eclipse.

It’s set in St. Louis, but it doesn’t ride that too hard (you won’t be able to, say, drive a cab based on the text). It has a couple of place names, but that’s mostly it. Not even as much as an Anita Blake novel. Well, an early one, anyway, as I abandoned that series, what, twenty years ago?

You know, I liked it better than the Jim Butcher book I read a couple years ago. Of course, as this is the first of the series, it’s fresh and setting up the urban fantasy world and the team I presume will appear in later books of the series. Which might get as bogged down in Series Business as any series does. But this is the first, so it is without that baggage. Perhaps I should stick with only the first book or two of a series to keep that freshness.

At any rate, worth a look if you’re into urban fantasy. I’ll probably pick a copy up for my nephew, so that will be two copies of this book I will have bought…. boughten? What verb tense is that?

Good Book Hunting, Friday, October 13, 2017: Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

So we took the semiannual pilgrimage to Ozark to pick out books from the side room of the Christian County Library. We got there at a little after six, but it was not crowded–dealers were not out in force scanning every book in the joint to find something profitable, which could well mean that the book market is cratering. How would I know? It is not for me.

At any rate, the boys found a stack of books and delighted everyone by continually proclaiming how many they found, and that the children’s books were only fifty cents. Their selections are not depicted in the image below, again, as they made off with them immediately.

I got:

  • Two history courses from The Teaching Company probably for three dollars each: A Brief History of the World and The African Experience: From “Lucy” to Mandela. My oldest son asked me why Africa had an experience instead of the history. Ah, the things one knows but cannot explain logically.
     
  • Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, a paperback based on the television series. I think I have another one around here somewhere for when I go on a kick. Or find them.
     
  • James Wesley, Rawles’ Founders, a novel. I was afraid I’d recently bought this, but I bought How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It in Hot Springs this summer. So when I go on a kick or can find them.
     
  • Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini as told by the woman who wrote Seabiscuit. This is a nice hardback copy, but I thought I’d recently bought this book. But I did not: instead, I picked up a paperback copy of The Devil At My Heels, Zamperini’s autobiography. So I can read them back to back if I go on a kick. Or can find them.
     
  • A copy of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs (and selected letters). Gentle reader, the most expensive books I own are probably the first edition two volume set of U.S. Grant’s memoirs that I inherited from my wife’s uncle. I was seriously just recently thinking I want a reading copy of these books so I don’t get Doritos dust in the first editions, and here they are. It’s crazy how you sometimes find what you’re looking for.
     
  • Lassie, Come Home. I might or might not have a copy of this already–I think I have a worn copy that fell to the children, not that they read any of the books about dogs or horses that I received but did not read in my youth. At any rate, I’ll read this juvenile classic at some point to pad my annual numbers.
     
  • A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer which I bought because I remember that I read Escape from Reason eleven years ago. Although until I read my own book report on it, I did not remember the actual content of the book. This volume’s title is probably more meaningful.
     
  • The Devil Wins, another crack at Jesse Stone by Reed Farrel Coleman. I almost put this down several times because I was not pleased with his first try.
     
  • A Thomas Kinkade Cape Light Christmas book whose title is so meaningful that it’s covered by the library sticker on the spine. The title is actually A Christmas Promise. I’ve already read a Cape Light Christmas book: All Is Bright by the co-author of this book. I’ve been stockpiling Christmas books this year, so perhaps I’ll read more than one at Christmas time.
     
  • Rabbit, Run by John Irving. I haven’t read any Irving that I recall (Well, Washington Irving, but that’s a way different guy. This is the first of the Rabbit series, so I might as well start here.
     
  • The Lost Books of the Bible which goes right into my recent reading on the same.
     
  • How to Restore a Farm Tractor. I’ve been thinking about doing this, maybe. I must be downwind from Republic’s annual old machine festival Steam-O-Rama or something. Of course, I don’t have the time to take care of needed maintenance on Nogglestead, so I don’t know when I’d fit working on this new hobby of my daydreams. I don’t even know how long it will be until I read the book.
     
  • Mysteries of the Bible, a Reader’s Digest book akin to Mysteries of the Unexplained. Probably short anecdotes that aren’t actual Bible scholarship, but starting points for inquiries.
     
  • Trash to Treasure. I’ve read a couple in this series (2, 6, and 8, but not in that order) back in my crafty days. Perhaps this will jump start me into doing projects again and clear some of the raw material from my garage. Or perhaps I’ll need to clean out my garage first so I can get to the raw material.

My beautiful wife almost got a stack as tall as mine, but not quite Try harder next time, my dear.

At any rate, it was a fun little jaunt, and you know, I rather enjoy writing these posts and wandering a bit down memory lane recalling books I’ve bought before and sometimes even read. So unfortunately, gentle reader, these self-indulgent posts will continue.

Book Report: Beijing China (ca. 2002)

Book coverI got this book at a later time than the Korea guide books (The New Pearl of the Orient, Bomun Temple in Seoul Korea, and Wonderful Korea, but I kind of thought of them as a genre and similar; however, this volume is relatively recent (post 2002). So it refers to the 2008 Olympics, which is jarring.

At any rate, it’s an interesting browse. The photos are good, with just a hint of lauding the State in some of the building selections, but it does not completely overlook the historical or religious sites of Beijing. As I just bought a book on Rococo style, I can’t help but compare Chinese/Oriental interior design principles to the couple of things I looked at in that book before I bought it. Were I Lileks or Driscoll, I could probably write intelligently about it. Maybe some day, after many Sunday afternoons watching football games with architecture and design books on my lap. Should the NFL last that long.

Worth the buck or two if you can find it.

Good Book Hunting, Friday, October 6, 2017: The Friends of the Lebanon-Laclede County Library Book Sale

I know you’re wondering, “Brian J., did you and your beautiful wife actually drive 58 miles to go to a book sale?” Yes, gentle reader, we did. She spotted the book sale somewhere, and we decided to make an afternoon date of it. So we ate some lunch at Da Vinci’s , which might be the best Italian restaurant in Lebanon, but we have no way of really knowing as we’ve only eaten at one place in Lebanon. And we found the back room of the Lebanon-Laclede County Library, where they hold the semi-annual sale.

It was weird: The books were on shelves, not on tables. Somehow, that just made it feel very odd for us. Browsing books on a table is kind of ergonomic; they’re generally the same height, and you can scan the titles quickly. When they’re on shelves, you have to stoop and reach and whatnot. “But, Brian J., isn’t that just like the used book stores you like to frequent?” Well, yes, but my browsing at used book stores tends to be a little more selective, and my purchases a little more limited.

As it was this Friday.

I got:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Wait, didn’t I already read that just this year? Can I have forgotten it already? No, this is the Reader’s Digest World’s Best Reading edition, and I collect those. So I had to spend the dollar to get it. As a bonus: I can put it with the others of its type on my read shelves automatically without having to read it again!
  • True at First Light by Hemingway.
  • The First Man by Camus.
  • Pop Art and Rococo: A Style of Fantasy, a couple of art books on styles I’m not overly familiar with. One day, some day, I might sound as smart as Lileks or Driscoll.
  • The Tao of Meow, which sounds like it might be a Taoist book about cats, but it looks to be a collection of humorous verse akin to I Could Pee On This And Other Poems By Cats.
  • History of China which looks to be less an in-depth history than a history and picture book like the Time-Life series.

My beautiful wife got a stack of magazines, a number of Daniel Silva suspense novels, and a cat puzzle that our nine-year-old has already halfway completed on the very table where I took the photo.

I also got four records:

  • 3 by Earth Wind and Fire.
  • Hooked on Classics II.
  • The Best of Dean Martin.
  • The Wiz original cast recording.

The record pickings were limited to two boxes. I suspect I’ll get more at the big Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale in a couple of weeks, but even then, the days of buying tens of records is probably at an end. I’m getting a little more selective in my purchases, as I’ve bought most of what I know I like by now. But then again, they might have a stack of pop records from Italy in the 1970s, and I’ll want them all.

Note, gentle reader, that this is not the furthest we’ve gone round trip for a book sale. Ten years ago, we went sixty-five miles round trip from Old Trees, Missouri, to Greenville, Illinois.

To think, I am still buying books.

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

If you see me walking or running on the track at the YMCA with one hand gripping an invisible stick and the other an invisible throttle, followed by salivation at the end, it can only be one thing on my iPod:

Queen, “One Vision”:

A funny story, that.

There was some confusion in at Nogglestead as the provenance of this song. My beautiful wife thought it was on the Highlander soundtrack. I knew it was on the Iron Eagle soundtrack because some almost thirty years ago, a friend of mine played the song to pump herself up for softball games. I thought perhaps Queen double-dipped and that it was on both soundtracks, but that is not the case. It is on the Iron Eagle soundtrack. But! It is on the Queen album A Kind of Magic which also features a number of songs from the Highlander soundtrack.

Another point of confusion: At the very end, Freddie Mercury says, “Gimmee fried chicken.” I have told Mrs. Noggle and the little Noggles that perhaps this was because in the movie Iron Eagle they called downed bogies “fried chicken.”

However, last night, I reviewed the source material:

But that is not the case. According to the Wikipedia entry for the song, Freddie was just goofing around.

Also, note: This is not the only Queen song on my gym playlist. But that is a post for another day if I remember it.

Book Report: Slave of the Warmonger by Alex Kilgore (1981)

Book coverI started this book, and I thought, “This is better than some of the Executioner books, surely.” The writing is a little thicker, a little richer than you get in the least of the Mack Bolan books. However, there was some foreshadowing that all was not right.

The first thing was misspelling a Browning Hi-Power as a Browning High Power. I pointed this out to my beautiful wife early on, and she didn’t ask me how I know so much about guns. Clearly, the answer is reading books like this, except for how much books get wrong about guns.

Then, in action, the lead character, who is not only called the mercenary but is, in fact, a mercenary, runs into a fire fight with an M16 in one hand and an M1911 in the other hand, shooting and hitting bad guys. So richer, thicker prose culminating in 80s movie action scenes and a couple of sex scenes. Did I say “movie”? I mean “direct-to-video.”

Still, it’s quick and readable and still better than the worst of the Executioner books.

The main character is a one-eyed mercenary who favors a black cap. I look at him and can’t help think he might have been the inspiration for G.I. Joe’s Major Bludd. Also, I used to know a guy with an eye patch and favoring slouch caps, and I know the challenges he faced with half of his peripheral vision and all of his depth perception gone. I don’t think I would pattern give a superhuman character a missing eye. Nor would I misspell Hi-Power (although I did once change a pistol from a semi-automatic to a revolver and put eight days in a week, but careful (and by careful, I mean repetitive) copywriting caught it).

Book Report: I Could Pee On This and Other Poems By Cats by Francesco Marciuliano (2012)

Book coverI, or someone else, must have given this book of poems purrportedly by cats to my beautiful wife. When she was culling her office books, she was looking to get rid of it (so I hope it was a gift from someone else, because I’d like to think she treasures things I give her beyond their actual worth). So I picked it up as something I could easily browse during football games.

Which means it has a lot in common with Henry Beard’s Poetry for Cats (and Advanced French for Exceptional Cats for that matter).

Unlike Beard’s book, this one does not have a lot of allusion to other poems, nor are they riffs on famous poems (or formerly famous poems). Instead, they’re a lot of free verse musings from a feline point of view. And, if you have a cat, you’re probably familiar with the sentiments expressed within as we (cat owners) tend to anthropomorphize our pets in the same ways.

So it was an amusing bit to browse, especially since the Packers are off to a pretty good start this year all things considered. Were they not, I might be a little harsher on this little novelty item.

Book Report: Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender (1989, 1991)

Book coverYou’re taking a look at my recent reading and note that I bought all of these books within the last two weeks, and you think, “Hey, Brian J., wouldn’t it be better to have only bought these three or four books, read them, and then buy a couple more instead of buying dozens at a crack, dozens of times a year ensuring you have a backlog of thousands of books that you don’t have lifetime enough left to read them all?” I supposed that would be one way to do it, gentle reader. But allow me to answer with a question of my own: Why do you have so little faith in medical science?

But we digress. As noted, I bought this particular book a week ago and jumped right into it. Its title indicates a journey to the Amish and a spiritual journey similar to what you might find in books on Eastern philosophy.

And, indeed, this one might be a little self-consciously similar to those sorts of mid-life coming to spirituality books. It refers a couple of times to Zen philosophy and quotes a Tibetan warrior. So you might think that the author had a spirtual journey book in mind when she started her this particular journey.

The author also comes from a pretty well-to-do background. She lives in New York, but she and her husband pack up to move to California. She starts doing art and whatnot. She has a couple of advanced degrees. She even mentions that the Amish she lived with thought she was rich because she was from the outside world and because she just spent five months in Italy. Um, ma’am, in your world, you might just be working class, but amongst the rest of the world, you are rich.

At any rate, she becomes enamored with Amish quilts that she finds in craft and antique stores and wants to live with them. Which she does. For three weeks. And then she comes back and thinks about it for a while and goes back for a couple of weeks. She doesn’t really want to become Amish nor does she have a particularly religious connection to them (they are a religious community, after all), but she just wants to find some neo-Buddhist mindfulness lessons from them, which she does, which is fortunate, since she has a book about it.

It resembles John Howard Griffith’s experiences recounted in Black Like Me as a bit of self-conscious social anthropology (with a bit of spiritual yearning for seasoning) that is ultimately not very satisfying. Perhaps I’m just particularly cynical.

However, I hope if the author was sincerely looking for something, she truly found it in her brief visits to Amish communities.