Wait Till Kim Du Toit Hears About Taylor Dayne

Kim has discovered Anastacia, and he likes her voice (and her looks) but not so much that she sings club/pop music.

As you know, gentle reader, I’m an Anastacia fan from way back, wherein “way back” means last year. Like Du Toit, I appreciate jazz and torch songbirds, but I don’t mind pop or dance that much as long as the singer has a good voice (see also Shakira.)

I heartily second his recommendation that she do a collection of torch/American songbook work. I actually said that somewhere once about Taylor Dayne, too, but apparently not within the search ability of this blog. So maybe it was on Facebook or something.

I mean, even Sinéad O’Connor released Am I Not Your Girl.

Poetry Tip

Be very, very careful when rhyming ermine and vermin in the sonnet to your lady love.

Because few people actually know what they mean, and she might think you’re a nerd.

Take it from me; I wrote the book on sonnets.

I Would Never Get A Jersey From Those Filthy Chicago Blackhawks, But If I Did

It would be #90, Scott Foster.

Emergency goalie Scott Foster shuts door for Blackhawks against Jets:

Scott Foster thought it was going to be just another night. Then the 36-year-old accountant signed a contract, put on his goaltender gear and waited in Chicago’s locker room. Then he got into the game.

Then, it was his night.

Foster was pressed into action when Chicago lost Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries, and the former college goalie stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory over the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

Foster is part of a crew of recreational goaltenders who staff Chicago’s home games in case of emergencies for either team. But it usually just means a nice dinner and a night in the press box watching the world’s best players compete at hockey’s highest level.

I’m surprised they actually had a jersey for him. I would have expected them to simply put him in the only numbered jersey in his size kind of like they do on my son’s middle school basketball team.

Book Report: Weird But True by Leslie Gilbert Elman (2010)

Book coverMore interesting than the book itself is the way I ended up with it. I took my children to Barnes and Noble last week, as I was looking for a guided journal full of writing prompts to get me writing longer things again, and as a treat, I told them they could each spend $7. Which is enough for a magazine, but probably not enough for a great big Lego book with collectible mini figure or picture encyclopedia a la James Bond. So they looked for a while, which gave me time to scour the store for the thing I sought but whose genre I did not yet glean and then to choose amongst the various instances. And to browse the magazines. And to prod them. The youngest settled on an Archie comic digest, but the older dithered. We looked over the magazines. We looked over the discount books. We went through the kids’ section. Twice. He spotted a Mad magazine special edition, but it was $12, which is more than $7. So I went over to the discount books and picked up this item which was marked $6.98 because it’s kind of like the encyclopedia-type books he’s been filching from my shelves recently and stuck it under my stack to buy and present him as a fait accompli.

Well. I got into line and called them over. It turns out that he and his brother pooled their money to get the Mad magazine special edition (his younger brother rather goes out of the way to do nice things for his older brother). I didn’t have a chance to put it back, so I bought it. And I’ve read it.

It’s a listicle of a book: 200 pages with a fact presented in a sentence or paragraph, sometimes grouped with similar themes, but not always. Many of them were things I already knew, weird but true, and others were kinda yawners. I’m not sure I read anything I retained. But the giant plastic island of garbage I mentioned here appears in this book.

But it filled thirty minutes while the younger practiced basketball at a high school gym way up north, and it gives me a book to count against my anemic 2018 total.

Now it will appear on my read shelves amongst the encyclopedia-like books. From which my oldest will filch it, no doubt.

How Brian J. Ruined James Bond For His Children

You know how the first incarnation of the Doctor you see tends to be your favorite in Doctor Who? How the first album from an artist tends to be your favorite, no matter how long you listen to a singer or band or how many other albums he/she/they produce?

So it often is with James Bond.

Your favorite, if you’re of a certain age, is Sean Connery. If you’re a little younger, it’s Roger Moore. If you’re still a pup, it’s that Remington Steel guy. Generally, it tracks with the first James Bond you saw when it was fresh and new to you.

Well, my oldest picked up a James Bond encyclopedia and read everything in it, so he nows the characters and the stories as book knowledge backwards and forwards. Well, not book knowledge; as you might know, gentle reader, the movies are based on a series of books, some of which share the titles but not the plots of the movies.

On a recent excursion to the video store, my oldest tried to slip Dr. No into the mix of titles to rent, and I rejected it. After all, we have that DVD at home. But when it came time for their first James Bond on the screen experience, their father sabotaged them forever by presenting this guy as James Bond:

Sorry, that’s Jimmy Bond as portrayed by Barry Nelson. The first screen portrayal of the super spy was on a black and white television show called Climax!, but James Bond was turned into an American operative with help from his British intelligence counterpart Clarence Leiter. In a production of Casino Royale.

My children sat riveted as Jimmy Bond took on an aged Peter Lorre bad guy at Baccarat. The program ran only an hour, which meant it did not keep them up past their alloted bed time, and they went to bed knowing that they have seen a James Bond that none of their friends have.

And Barry Nelson just might be their favorite James Bond just as Dr. No is their favorite Doctor.

UPDATE: In a stunning turn of events, Dustbury talks about Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond today as well.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, March 24, 2018: Hooked on Books

I had a little time to kill in southwest Springfield yesterday afternoon, so I stopped by Hooked on Books to see what they had on their dollar book carts.

A couple things that looked interesting, anyway.

It includes:

  • A self help book called Busting Your Rut which is a pun on a slang phrase for achieving male orgasm, so it’s got that going for it.
  • The Long Good Boy, a Carol Lea Benjamin (the author) Rachel Alexander and Dash (the dog trainer detective and dog characters) mystery. I read an omnibus edition of the first two in the series, Dash, P.I. in 2009 and was not sure until I researched for this post whether the book I bought today was included in it (and even if I checked the book report first, it is not especially enlightening). This book was not in the earlier collection.
  • A Frederik Pohl novel called Narabedla Ltd.

Three books for three bucks. Not bad.

But when the bookseller tried to put the receipt in the cover of one of the books along with a bookmark, I asked for it so I could put it in my wallet. “Put it in there, and I might not see it for ten years,” I said. Which could well prove true.

Book Report: Stories of an Outstanding Cat by Fr. Michael Sequiera (2017)

Book coverI grabbed this from the free cart at church last Sunday, and I dived right into it because it’s a short, pleasant book written by a retired priest who adopts a stray cat.

The vignettes are small–a page or two–and the stories simple, but they’re amusing, especially if you’re familiar with cats. The priest anthromorphizes the cat a bit, having conversations with it in English. The cat’s a bit of a biter–the priest says it’s to punish the priest for not doing what the cat wants. I currently have a biter, so I empathize.

It was a quick read, upbeat and, yes, full of exclamation points. This is a signed copy, and I wonder how it got from Connecticut to a free book cart in Springfield so quickly. Even Five Themes of Today took years, but it started in the UK.

How’s Your Balance, Brian J.?

As you might recall, gentle reader, for the last part of a year, I’ve highlighted how my CD purchases tend to be balanced between heavy metal or hard rock bands and female jazz singers. (See here, here, and here.)

You might also wonder if the trend continues.

Indeed it does.

Here are the last ten CDs I got:

  • Everclear Ten Years Gone (Resulting in this parenting goal.)
  • Keiko Matsui The Ring
  • Keiko Matsui Sapphire (Who mentioned this artist? I don’t think she appeared on WSIE, but I’m not sure.)
  • 10 Years How To Live As Ghosts (The one bright spot on the Q102 playlist currently.)
  • Hard Loss Never Better (A St. Louis Blues loving group that an Internet friend likes–I got their EP.)
  • Testament New Order
  • Testament Brotherhood of the Snake (A middle school friend and member of the Legion of Metal Friends Facebook group posted some Testament; he was a little reluctant to post old stuff because he was sure we were already familiar with it. As I came to metal late, I was not, so I bought something old and something new.)
  • Sara Gazarek Yours
  • Sara Gazarek Blossom & Bee (WSIE played her, and she’s on the vocal spectrum near Sacha Boutros, so I picked up a couple of albums.)
  • New Noise #5 (I got this CD when I bought a copy of the new Metal Hammer magazine.

    You might be asking, “Did Brian J. buy the magazine for the CD because he is disappointed with what he’s hearing on the radio or because Floor Jansen is on the cover?” Yes.)

So I bought like ten CDs (well, nine the Hard Loss EP was a digital download) this quarter. You can tell when I’ve been working a full time contract for a couple of months as my CD expenditures go up. As do our trips to restaurants. Which, if I trim the latter expense, I can get more music. Depending upon the contents of the sampler CD and the new albums from Shaman’s Harvest and Pop Evil, I might need all the help I can get.

Modern Comics Are All About The Art, Unfortunately

As I said in my book report for Comic Art Now:

So that might explain why I take a little less out of books like Frik’in Hell and why I don’t do comic books as much as I did when I was younger; I’m more into the prose than into the art, and when that art takes precedence over the story, I’m not sold on it.

Sometime in the 1990s, comic books turned a corner. Where the classic stuff was stories with pictures, comic book artists started getting a lot of recognition, and suddenly the art–the pictures–assumed a primacy over the story and plot of the comics. Comic Cave, a local shop, has a number of relatively recent titles available for $1 each, so I’ve been reading some 21st century comics both from Marvel (the only major house that matters) and independent companies, and in all of them, the actual things going on are reduced so bigger panels with bigger pictures rather than smaller panels with words in them.

A glaring example of this comes from a series I just read called Mek. Strangely, I got all three issues of the limited series, which surprises me: usually only incomplete limited series runs appear in the dollar bins. Perhaps the pricer at Comic Cave thought there was an issue 4 and priced this trio of books accordingly. At any rate: 1) I feel like I got away with something with the pricing and 2) I get the whole arc of the comic, which ultimately isn’t much.

You can use the number of words in a comic book to determin how much the value of the story has declined. Consider all the dialog and setup you used to get in golden through, what, bronze-age comic books. Now, take a look at the first four pages of the second issue of Mek:

You’ve got four pages of the protagonist going through the city to her hotel, pouring a drink, and starting a flashback with only four words of text across four pages. This is not that much of an outlier to the books. There are many pages of panels without text, which only showcases the art and does not really add complexity to the story or to the characters.

When people talk about the decline of comic book sales over time, they talk a lot about the injection of politics into the storylines or the crazy gimmicks in changing the iconic character into someone else, but that’s been a part of comic books since almost the outset of comics–or at least the 1980s (see also Jim Rhodes as Captain America or the crazy Kane saga in the Spider-Man titles). But they don’t talk about the decline of the stories themselves into mere skeletons upon which to hang modern American pop art.

But look at kids and young adult books like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and the others like it that have stories and characters built around drawings. Very, very popular, and perhaps fitting in the light reading gap left by adult, art-driven modern comic books.

Book Report: The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin (2018)

Book coverI bought this book when I saw a conservative blog I read (I forget which, but I hope it’s not the hoity-toity Ace of Spades HQ Sunday Morning Book Thread since OregonMuse posts my books) mention it and say that it was anti-Trump or something. To be honest, it’s not particularly anti-Trump: It does not mention him by name, which is refreshing in a book you’ve been told is a sucker punch hit job. It does say that The Twilight Zone told uncomfortable truths/stories (which is kind of like the Resistance, amiwrong?), but you see that sort of thing in a lot of books touting shows, both current and historical. A couple of entries have phrases of dubious provenance but that are clearly meant to refer to These Dark Times, such as mentioning jackboots returning in the 21st century and whatnot. But overall, not something that Michael Moore or–what’s that guy that was a “comedian” and then “Senator” from the state that elected that wrestler who wore feathers as governor?–would have written.

But I got it because I remember a little of the show and thought it might be interesting.

I’ll be honest; at the outset of reading this book, I could only remember one episode of the show (“A Stop At Willoughby”, which I saw sometime in adulthood, I think). As I read it, I also remember seeing “The Shelter” at some point in my youth, probably in the 1980s when another Republican was in office, and the fear of nuclear war led to great art like The Day After and Testament (not the band) as well as a whole genre of post-apocalyptic movies.

But this book is a bit of nostalgia trip in taking me back to my youth, when this program was syndicated and available for watching (although apparently I didn’t watch or remember too much) along with a lot of other old black and white programs. The book itself is entries for individual actors, actresses, producers, directors, musical composers, and other people associated with the series along with the individual episodes, themes, lots, and other markers from the series. So when running through the actors who played in this program, it listed other things they appeared in, including series like Combat!, Black Sheep Squadron, and other things that hit syndication while I was coming of television watching age and beyond. Notable actors who played in epidodes of The Twilight Zone include William Shatner, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, and others that I know mostly from other works. Still, it was a varied bunch, and their connections to old television shows that I sort of remember remind me of a time. You know.

Secondly, the list of programs that I don’t recognize humbles me a bit. I mean, many of the anthology series (Playhouse this and sponsor Theatre that) were done live, so recordings do not exist. Other shows, like Peter Gunn and so on, I recognize the names but don’t think I’ve seen. I didn’t see them on television in the day, and I’m not sure they’re easy to find on television (or other media) today. There was a whole world of television that came on before I was self aware and that I’ve never seen. Likewise, the movie credits indicate a wide world of films, including war films and detective movies, that I’ve never heard of and have never seen.

So the book rather inspired me to look for some of these things to view. And, of course, to watch the television program itself which I see is available on Blu-ray for less than $60. So I might think about that, too.

I’d say “I hope I can get some use out of this on trivia nights,” but trivia nights’ trivia tends to be more recent than this program these days.

But I enjoyed the book. And I paid full price for it and don’t regret it, which says something.

Book Report: Virtue and Happiness by Epictetus / Calligraphy by Claude Mediavilla (2003)

Book coverAs you might recall, gentle reader, I bought this book at ABC Books last month because I thought it said Epicurus. I’ve already read Epictetus’s Discourses. This book is derived from a subset of the Discourses called the Manual or the Handbook or the Enchiridion (depending on who’s talking about it and the translation, I gather).

The producer of this book is a calligrapher living in Paris who presents epigrams from Epictetus, formatted like poems, with Greek versions of the same or derivatives calligraphied up on the facing page. As such, the author presents it more as a calligraphy/art book than anything else. His afterword section describes his life and technicque in greater detail than the preface described Epictetus.

Still, it was a quick breeze to read (and adding to my woefully behind annual reading count this year), and it does present some of the wisdom of Epictetus in a koan, Tao Te Ching kind of fashion.

But as to calligraphy as an art form in itself, I’m not sold.

Good Book Hunting, March 18, 2018: Redeemer Lutheran Free Book Cart

The church I attend has a cart near its library with cullings from the library that people can take home. Most of the time, this mostly includes devotionals and Bible translations, but last week I spotted a couple of more non-churchly titles on the cart, and I was interested.

I decided to wait a week to give everyone else a chance since I’m not exactly hurting for things to read. But since nobody else grabbed them, I took some.

I got:

  • Quantum Enigma, a small textbook about quantum physics. I’ve tried to read a couple of higher physics books in the last year, and each time, I follow along thinking, “Okay, that makes sense. I get it.” And then I come to a sentence or two where I’m all like, “Wuh?” and then I can’t understand any more and sometimes I lose the understanding of what I thought I got. I’m hoping that eventually repetition and different approaches from different sources will make it click permanently.
     
  • Stories of an Outstanding Cat, a collection of anecdotes by a retired Catholic priest about a cat that joined him at the rectory at his last church. I’ve picked it up, and it looks to be a quick read full of exclamation points.
     
  • 201 Great Questions, a book of questions that might make a better road trip conversation book. Better than Zobmondo!, anyway.

Of course, the owner of ABC Books came along while I had a free book, and I had to play cool, like I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I think he bought it. Unlike me and the book.

Book Report: Of Reading Books by John Livingston Lowes (1929)

Book coverWow, Brian J., you might ask. Didn’t you used to read books? I know I ask myself that question frequently. But my reading time was curtailed the first quarter of this year. First, I didn’t have a lot of time to read a small “carry” book that I took out with me to various locations where I’d have a half hour or hour to kill. I’ve not been going to martial arts classes enough this year so far, and when I do, it’s been on days where I’ve not had to get there for my children’s classes, where I would wait for mine to begin thirty or forty five minutes later. And instead of sitting on a bench in church on Sunday mornings during the Sunday School hour, I’ve been schlepping my laptop to a local coffee shop to try to bang out the beginnings of a novel. Also, as you might recall, I’ve been working my way through some Shakespeare, and the book that I’ve picked up in the middle of Measure for Measure is long, too. So I’ve not been adding to my annual to-read list very much this year.

However, this month I have determined that the schlepping of the laptop is a lot of work compared to the actual throughput I get in writing (currently, I’m on page two of the novel, as it takes me ten minutes to get to the coffee shop, a couple minutes to eat a pastry or several, and then I have to pack up twenty minutes later to return to church to pick up my family), so I decided to return to my perch at church to do some reading.

I started with this volume that I got in December. Because it’s short, and it’s about reading books. How meta.

At any rate, the author gave this particular speech at two separate commencements to the graduating class of 1929. It’s broken into three parts. The first talks about reading at the university, and how so much of the university is designed to teach the students marketable skills and not so much about the classics and the love of learning. The second talks about how it’s important to learn to love reading when you’re young, as the things you read then you will read with relish and zeal that you lose a bit as you get older. The habit, built then, will lead to a lifetime of reading which might lack the zeal of the young but brings its own pleasure. In III, he explains the benefit of being well read, where it will lead you to make synthetic connections between things that you might not otherwise get, and that only broad reading gives you this chance to make those connections between the things you read and encounter.

The book is very literate, chock full of allusions and quotations (without sourcing) that he expected a college graduate to get in 1929, many but not all of which I recognized in spite of a twenty-some year old degree in English and philosophy and continued reading since then (he quotes Miranda from The Tempest which is fresh in my mind).

But his address really just illustrates that what goes around comes around. You find contemporary thinkers worrying about the university not teaching young people to think or read the classics and only teaching them skills for commerce. Of course, William Wordsworth talked about too much getting and spending, too, even before Lowes.

The commencement addresses were given to college students of the late 1920s, which were more hoity toity than you get today after the GI Bill and government loan programs made it available to everyone. And they hit the workforce and the real world months before the stock market crash that launched the Great Depression. So history has made itself a double-effect narrator that makes us cringe a bit for those students.

So worth an hour or so of your time if you’re into books or history, I suppose. Or if you have to start furiously padding your annual list of books read.

Clearly, I Have Boy In Me Yet

So this surfaced in the automobile recently:

And I thought, Cool, one of the boys made a throwing star.

Then I noticed it had six points, and I thought Maybe it’s a Jewish throwing star.

Then I noticed it was made of Christmas cardstock and bears the initials of one of the boys, which might indicate it was a Christmas-themed throwing star.

That it might, in fact, be a wreath never entered my mind.

Because wreaths are not as cool as throwing stars.

And I’m sure no boys of mine would use that as decoration.

And as to it surfacing now, three months after Christmas, well, let’s just say that my children are not timely with the contents of their backpacks. They have delivered Christmas cards for their teachers in the following May on occasion. (The occasion being Christmas. Every year.)

Meanwhile, In The Doll House

Here at Nogglestead, we’re looking for some replacement ceiling fixtures for our kitchen, and I’m reluctantly browsing Amazon for possibles.

I say “reluctantly” because I’d rather touch the items and look over the boxes before buying, but when we hit the local big box hardware store this weekend, we found a couple of possible units, but our kitchen currently has six lights, and we’d like to replace them one for one. But Lowes only stocked three or four of each light type, and we were hoping to get this done soon. So I’m browsing Amazon.

Which is proving that you have to be very, very careful in reading all the mangled English. At least in the keyword-choked item names.

Like this one:

Clearly, someone learned Peter Jackson’s perspective tricks from filming The Lord of the Rings or someone is just photoshopping things in. Because that is the biggest 3.5 inch light I’ve ever seen, or the smallest bedroom.

The Noggle Library, Doing Right

My youngest son, who is not as young as he used to be, is reading Where The Red Fern Grows in fourth grade. His teacher is reading the book in class, but the youngster like the book and wants to read ahead, so he picked up a copy and will probably finish the book this weekend.

This morning, he said to me, “This is not Miss Cole’s. This is ours. Whatever book Miss Cole is reading, we already have.”

Well, yeah. And most of the books his English and Philosophy professors would have assigned him thirty years ago.

Now, not so much.

Confession: Being that I have yet to read either of them, I sometimes confuse Where The Red Fern Grows with The Red Badge of Courage.