Christmas Gifts 2017 (I)

My mother-in-law is a bit of a genealogist. So this year, she spent seven months of hobby time working on the Noggle half of my family tree, and she created a four-volume compendium of her findings, culminating in a tenuous link to the English throne.

Behind the scenes, she informs me, she has been eliminating families and entire erroneous lines as she found them.

Which leads me, someone untrained in such matters, that she hopes to present me with the English throne in 2018.

I can’t wait!

UPDATE:It suddenly occurs to me that she might not be doing this for me, but for her oldest grandson. Once the other claimants, including me, are out of the way, someone in her line will become King, and her daughter will rule during the regency.

If anyone needs me, I’m going to binge-watch Game of Thrones for a primer on how to handle royal intrigue. Before it’s too late.

The Woodburnings of Christmas

As you might recall, gentle reader, I enjoy doing a bit of woodburning, which is essentially (at least in my case) tracing things with hot irons into wood. If you read any of the literature, it’s a time-honored art form, but essentially (at least in my case), it’s a bit of crafting that allows for some error and the result probably looks harder than the actual effort to do it. You can see some of my other handiwork in the Handicrafts category (along with book reports on crafting books.

Well, it’s been a couple years since I went bonkers on the woodburning for Christmas (although, the historical documents in the aforementioned Handicrafts category indicate I made something for Christmas last year for someone). This year, though I made two things (and gave three).

I’m rather proud of this piece:

My cousin is a huge Volbeat fan. Maybe matched only by the Kyoshi of the martial arts school where I take classes. I’ve often wondered if they should fight it out for the title of Best Volbeat Fan, but that would hardly be fair. He’s a seventh degree black belt, but she is crazy. At any rate, she posted a Volbeat song every day when she was on vacation, and I immediately thought of this slogan. I originally planned to try to woodburn the album covers, but I chickened out, so I printed them and découpaged glued them on. I added just a touch of brown pastel to the first part of the logo, but it’s very subtle.

Next, after my beautiful wife posted a cartoon on Facebook, I quickly turned it into a wallhanging for her:

It was a bit nerve-wracking, with the pattern being narrow lines for the most part, but I did okay.

She also got a recipe box:

I bought an old recipe box at a yard sale, and I put some cupcakes on the sides, a couple utensils on the top, and hearts on the back. I meant to give it to her for Christmas last year, but after all the gifts were opened in Christmas 2016 and it did not appear, I found it in the gift closet, unwrapped. So it was one of the first gifts wrapped for 2017.

I’m pleased with the things I’ve done, and I’m eager to try something else, but nothing in the last couple of weeks really inspired me. Sadly, I’m not a craftsman; I’m a dabbler, and I’ll probably only be such as I like the projects more than doing the projects. So I’m not driven to just sit and practice on scrap wood while waiting for inspiration to strike.

Which it will. Undoubtedly, the end of next November, as Christmas draws near.

Book Report: The Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1928, 1962)

Book coverTechnically, the copy of this book that I read is the third book in a three-novel omnibus edition called 3 Martian Novels; however, the other two are Thuvia, Maid of Mars and The Chessmen of Mars, both of which I read earlier this year when I read the omnibus John Carter of Mars. I know my book reading accounting system is arbitrary: In my annual tabulation, the five volume omnibus is a single book, but the one novel that I read in this collection is one book instead of a third of a book, which is why my annual reading is currently at 83 instead of 87.33. But I’m accountable to no governing authority on this enumeration, so I’ll do what I want.

Where was I? Oh, yes. In this book, we have another Earthman, a WWI soldier who dies in combat, transported to Mars. He ends up in the employ of a great scientist who has learned how to transplant just about anything–including brains from one body to another. The scientist, a supremely rational being, maps out a plan where he and the Earthman will swap each others’ brains into new bodies every thousand years or so, essentially conferring immortality upon each. The plan goes awry when the Earthman meets the mind of a sweet young Martian woman whose brain has been swapped with into the body of an aged despot, and the Earthman vows to put things aright.

It’s a pretty quick little yarn; John Carter makes the obligatory appearance at the end, but Burroughs has already learned by book 4 of the series that after elevating the main character to the pinnacle of power (John Carter became the jeddak of all jeddaks in the third book) that it would be wise to focus on other, more approachable characters whose struggles would still be acute and adventurous, in the series. So many series keep heaping power, fame, and whatnot on the series characters so that they’ve continually have to find ever more powerful struggles and villains to fight, and the characters end up caricatures or so powerful that the reader cannot identify with the protagonists.

Bully on Burroughs for avoiding this trap.

Also note that my estimation of this book is probably higher because I haven’t read five or six in the series in a row. Mixing the series books in with other books helps keep them fresh, hides some of the formula, and helps each stand alone instead of being instantly comparable to the last one read. So I should take that to heart, although I’ll probably still read omnibus editions as a single book. Except maybe the Detective Book Club books.

A Dickens Quiz Wherein Brian J. Scores 4 of 4

4 Dickens Christmas Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.

The stories are:

  • The Chimes
  • The Cricket on the Hearth
  • The Battle of Life
  • The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain

Of course I have heard of them. I have an English degree, for cryin’ out loud.

It helps that they were all collected in the Walter J. Black edition of A Christmas Carol that I read in 2008. Reading that book nine years ago around Christmas time might have kicked off my mostly annual tradition of reading a Christmas-themed book around this time of year.

We Already Know How Gimlet Is Going To Vote

As well as how would if I were to do such thing in the StLToday.com What St. Louis jingle do you LOVE to hate? poll.

As this post from 2008 (!) indicates, I favor (or disfavor) the Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center jingle, while Gimlet might prefer “Feld! The Red Hot Dealer!”

Although you can actually vote for Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center, but Feld is only mentioned in the teaser story for the poll and not in the poll itself.

Sorry, Gimlet, you’ll have to choose another, and Johnny Londoff is not available, either.

Although I would not be telling the whole story if I did not admit that I sang, “If you want TDs, say Hundley, and smile,” during the recent period when Green Bay Packers backup quarterback started games during Aaron Rodgers’ recent injury. It’s based on a jingle for Hautly Cheese. No doubt, this selection would be my children’s choice based on my revision.

We Misdeliver For You

It happens from time to time: The rural mail carrier puts an item from the next stop down the line in our box. Sometimes we get something from the next farm road over that somehow got caught in a machine or stuck to one of our pieces of mail in processing.

But never like this.

Lockwood, Missouri, is fifty miles from here.

Clearly, that got misfiled quite a bit upstream from our local post office.

via GIPHY

Something I Never Imagined Myself Saying

Overheard the other night at Nogglestead:

This is the best disco flute album I’ve ever heard!

I am referring to Herbie Mann’s Super Mann.

I’ve got a couple of Herbie Mann’s more straightforward jazz, but this disc, which I picked up for $.99 this weekend, is a singularity of sorts. It has attained an infinity of 1978 coolness.

Here’s a taste–“Jisco Dazz”:

I defy you to find anything better, or anything that does not appear on the soundtrack to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy that comes close.

Best of the Best Books of 2017

Someone has taken a several Best Books of 2017 lists and coallated the information into a single list that weights the books based on how many times they appeared on the best of lists.

You know me; any list of books, and I make it a quiz.

So here we go: Which of best books of 2017 have I read? I have put in bold the books I have read; I have put in red the books I own and have yet to read, and in underline books that I want to get someday.

For the fiction:

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey
  • What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
  • Ill Will by Dan Chaon
  • Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

For the nonfiction:

  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  • We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
  • The Future Is History by Masha Gessen
  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  • Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • What Happened by Hillary Clinton
  • The Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. Prum
  • Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan
  • Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr.
  • Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  • Grant by Ron Chernow
  • Behave by Robert M. Sapolsky
  • Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla

That’s right.

Not a damned one.

I’ll let you, gentle reader, be the judge of whether that more indicts books published in 2017 or the taste of people who publish Best Books Of lists. To be honest, more likely the latter.

Book Report: A Christmas Promise by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer (2004)

Book coverThis book represents my annual Christmas book, and it’s the one I bought most recently (http://brianjnoggle.com/blog/2017/10/14/good-book-hunting-friday-october-13-2017-friends-of-the-christian-county-library-book-sale/” target=”_new”>October, in fact). Although I’ve bought a couple more such books this year, they’ve hidden amongst my to-read shelves, whereas this book was still relatively front and center.

At any rate, apparently, this is the fifth of the Cape Light books; I read one from ten years later last year (All Is Bright from 2014), and I didn’t care for it. As a matter of fact, I said:

So although I undoubtedly have destiny that includes one or more Kinkade paintings, I doubt I’ll revisit this series.

Well, fortunately, I forgot that particular New Year’s Resolution, as this book was better.

A pastor visiting Cape Light while he recovers from malaria collides with a pregnant woman on the run and under an assumed name on a snowy evening. He helps her out, and they start to have feelings for each other, as she hides out in a boarding house and integrates into the friendly community until a private investigator hired by her vindictive ex-husband shows up. Side plots include one daughter of a wealthy widow wanting to marry and another daughter dealing with the lingering effects of a miscarriage and her husband’s attention paid to a needy boy at a local shelter.

Overall, a pleasant book to read. A nice bit of fiction without major crimes involved, but enough intrigue with the woman on the run story to keep a genre-fan like me engaged. Which might be what the other Cape Light book I read lacked. It has its unanswered questions: What, exactly, is the promise in the title? How did the detective find her? It rather quickly covers the whole holiday period with big gaps, and then it drills into conflicts that might have been resolved within those intervening weeks, but do not. That’s a flaw I see in some television programs, too.

Now, back to the genre fiction for me.

A Photoshop That Fans Of Eric Carle and John Godey Will Appreciate

Soon to be a major motion picture:

The Taking of Pelham 123 To The Zoo

Come on, it’s a mash-up of 1, 2, 3, to the Zoo, a children’s book by Eric Carle, and John Godey’s gritty thriller The Taking of Pelham 123.

Of course, I probably didn’t have to explain that to you, gentle reader. Certainly you are well-read, or at least used to my obscure sense of humor by now.

When it’s time to leave somewhere, I still say to my children, “1, 2, 3, to the zoo.” But they’ve started to doubt our destination is actually the zoo in these instances.

Balance Has Returned To The Music Library

Well, perhaps it’s not the music library and more the recent purchases.

As I’ve mentioned, my music purchases tend to fall into two camps: Heavy metal and female jazz vocalists.

However, the I recently noted that I’d bought a run of metal:

  • Danger Danger Return of the Great Guildersleeves
  • Fozzy Judas
  • Danger Danger Danger Danger
  • Disturbed Indestructible
  • Hellyeah Unden!able
  • Herb Alpert Music Volume 1
  • Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey Music from the Motion Picture
  • All That Remains A War You Cannot Win
  • Ozzy Osbourne No More Tears
  • Sacha Boutros Live from Hawaii

Well, I recently bought a run of jazz and pop:

  • Anna Danes, Find Your Wings

    She, like Sacha Boutros, is based in San Diego, which means clearly San Diego is a hotbed of jazz divas.

     

  • Lauren Meccia, In Your Eyes

    I have joined the 21st century and have installed Spotify to get introduced to a few more musicians akin to those I already like, so I’ve used it to discover the aforementioned Anna Danes and this artist.
     

  • Anastacia, Heavy Rotation

    I already had Freak of Nature based on a friend’s Facebook post. (Another good source of new music: Facebook. Also, old music, like the aforementioned Danger Danger.)

     

  • Rebecca Black, RE/BL

     
    Hey, this salesman won’t take no for an answer.
     

I also bought the new Imagine Dragons CD, Evolve, but it really doesn’t fit into the two categories listed above.

So clearly I am due to go on a tear and buy a number of new metal CDs. Perhaps the new Rudyard disc.

Is That The Name of the Song or the Name of the Band?

I’ve often asked this when presented with the written title of a song and a band I’ve not heard of. Mostly, I’m joking.

But when I learned that Fozzy has a song (and album) called "All That Remains", I thought that was funny because there is actually a band called All That Remains (whose album I bought before I bought Fozzy’s Judas this autumn).

So I got to thinking: What other bands have songs that are actually the names of other bands?

Now, to gamify this, we would want to establish some rules:

  • The song cannot be about the band or act. So Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” would not count.
  • The title of the song must be the complete name of the band and must not just include the band name (sort of) in it. So “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” would be out.
  • Scoring would have to be based on the number of words somehow; one word titles/band names are easy, so maybe a multiplier of some sort.

Here are a couple samples:

  • Montgomery Gentry, “Hell Yeah” (although Hellyeah presents it as one word–I’m not sure if that would be disqualified under the second rule how to score it–one word or two–if it’s allowed).
  • Prince, “Cream” (the band).
  • Prince, “Kiss” (the band in 1991–those old men back then look pretty young now).
  • Alice Cooper, “Poison” (band).
  • The Alternate Routes, “Nothing More“, (band).

Confession: I did an Internet search to get the last one, so I’ll leave it to those of you who want to play along to search for obvious choices like Breathe, Heart, and Jewel.

Book Report: Vietnam Fallout The Executioner #113 (1988)

Book coverIt’s been almost six months since I’ve read a Bolan book (Death Has A Name in July), and this book is 17 books later in the series. Thicker than the old Bolan books (a transition I noted in the previously mentioned review), this one might be a touch better, but it’s still a bit dissatisfying overall.

Within this volume, Bolan is in New York when an ambassador from Vietnam who is making back channel overtures for normalization of relations with the United States is assassinated. Bolan is riding with a cop who happened to be an old war buddy, and they pursue the assassins. The friend is cut down, which sends Bolan on a search for vengeance that leads him to Vietnam. Although this book kinda treats this like it’s a fresh return for Bolan, we who read the books instead of write them for hire recognize that he has already been back in a book entitled Return to Vietnam.

Once in Vietnam, Bolan engages in a rehash of Heart of Darkness–or maybe Apocalypse Now, the original rehash of Heart of Darkness set in Vietnam, albeit during the actual war. As he follows that plot line, he engages in some questionable decisions that seem to go against the marrow of the character for future plot twists. And then the book reaches its shoot-out climax, and Bolan wins.

The first part of the book, in New York, has a different feel from the second half. One wonders if two incomplete manuscripts were grafted together to make one longer book. Or, one fears, maybe the remainder of these books will be like this. Which would be awful, since one has a lot of these later books from scattered places in the 400 or 500 book canon.

A Couple Book Links

While I’m busy doing nothing, but different than the day before, here are some book links for your reading pleasure. They have pictures, though, if you don’t like to read.

  • Friar thinks this new library in China is cool:

    Well, that’s interesting, but I prefer a more traditional, dark, wood-paneled look to my libraries.
     

  • Now, this is more my speed:

    Surrounded by books has been a main circumstance of my long life. So it is now, near the end of my 94th year, when I am in my large library of perhaps 18,000 books in the western wing of my house in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

    I don’t know which part I liked best: large library, 18,000, or western wing of my house. If I had a library in a wing of my house, I doubt it would take me 40 more years to get there.

    Note that this gentleman is, in fact, a professor, which is the highest level of book accumulator, and I’m on my way to being an honorary professor.
     

  • I’ve seen a link to this Intellectual Takeout recap of a couple of surveys that indicate that 27% of Americans have not read a book in the last year and another survey that indicated that 20% of British adults could not name an author.

    I’d be a little more upset if I didn’t realize how easy it is to stump people with questions like this. Twenty-five years ago, I stumped fellow English majors by asking them if they could name two morals, and most could not.

That should hold you until I can think of something witty to say or get around to writing another book report for a piece of throwaway fiction. Except at Nogglestead, we don’t throw away any books.

Things to Do in Tampa While Traveling for Business

So this weekend, I spent some time in the Tampa area (well, not as far north as Tampa, but I landed and departed from St. Petersburg). As you know, I provided a handy guide to Florida fauna and flora for the Midwesterner. So I thought I’d provide a handy checklist of the things I’ve done (and you can, too).

Visit Missouri Comics.

Missouri Comics used to be up on Chestnut Expressway here in Springfield, and I used its Web site as a test location when testing for a company I was working for, so I eventually took my kids up to the physical shop, and I bought a number of Marvel Team-Ups in our infrequent visits.

Clearly, our three-times-a-year (probably three times, total) visits for dollar comics couldn’t support him, so he moved to Safety Harbor (I’m sure there’s a story there). He kept the name because he does brisk trade on the Internet and didn’t want to lose traffic by changing the domain name.

The first thing we did after landing and getting out of the airport was to visit his new location and buy Marvel Team-Up comics.

Attend a business meeting with native Floridians and be the only one wearing shoes.

They must put some Florida in the water, because I was not the only one visiting from Missouri, but I was the only one in shoes.

Do the AirBNB thing.

Apparently, you can rent a lot of condos in Florida whose owners live there part time (and live the rest of the time, they live at their other condos). When not in residence, they put their slightly used properties on AirBNB, and you can lease them for a night or two.

So we did, and we stayed in a rather nice little three bedroom house with one bedroom converted into a high quality home theater, which I didn’t get to use because I was a businessman, doing business. (Is that two Beverly Hill Cop II references in one checklist item? Yes, it is! You get the best allusion deals here at MfBJN!)

I haven’t even seen that movie in a while. I don’t know where its presence on my mind comes from.

At any rate, this was my first AirBNB experience, and it was weird for me. The house had lots of interesting things, a K-Cup maker, a full and elaborate bar, and I’m not sure what I was allowed to use if anything. I mean, in a hotel, I don’t tear the place up (or, at least I haven’t since the The Variation Machine 1993 tour), but I treated this house like I was a guest there.

Also, although the agreement said no pets, I am pretty sure the owners had a cat. Cat food under the sink (which I didn’t eat, because I didn’t know if I was allowed to), a scratching post in the garage–and a woman whom we surprised as she was going around back of the house. She explained there’s a cat in the shed that she feeds twice a day. So I don’t know if the owners lock their cat up in the shed on nights that they’re renting the place (or for the weeks when they’re away). I am pretty sure, though, we would have paid extra to have the cat in the house with us.

Ride a gator.

Well, it was a John Deere Gator, and given that I live in the country, I didn’t have to go to Florida for that. But I did see people driving around in golf carts, and not on a golf course.

See a Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Game.

Although they played on Saturday night, I had an early flight, and like the old man I am, I went to be early.

Fun fact: I was slated to go to a conference in Tampa around the turn of the century, and the Tampa Bay Lightning were playing at home over that week. As it stands, I left the job sending me to the conference, so I didn’t get to go to the conference nor the game. So the Tampa Bay Lightning are the team I could have seen most but never did.

Wander around Tampa, asking anyone if they’d seen Dave.

When we landed, I remembered that my old friend Dave, he of the famous Iron Maiden poster lived in Tampa. So I thought about going around Tampa, taking photos and asking if anyone had seen Dave.

Which they hadn’t–I knew from Facebook that he was on vacation himself.

Which is what would have made the photos, when shared with Dave, better.

Perhaps I’ll catch him, and maybe the Lightning, the next time I’m in town.

My goodness, I’ve been to Florida three times in the last, four years? I’ve been there more than Wisconsin.

Partly because of the business, partly because of family vacation destinations, and yes, partly because there are direct flights. I don’t like to fly. Which is down from “I hate to fly,” which is where I was four years ago.

Book Report: The Wards of Iasos Book 1: The Leftovers by J. Christopher Wilson (2016)

Book coverI mentioned in September that this local author was stalking me, appearing at different cons and festivals I attended until I bought his book (to recap: I saw his table at Library Con 2017, but didn’t buy the book because he was on a panel at the time–and I’d already bought a bunch there anyway; I saw him at the Mini Maker Faire; and I saw him at a street fair in Hollister, where I finally bought this book). Well, I hadn’t gotten to it, but I saw him at the First Lego League competition in his home element–the middle school in the system where he teaches. So he was stalking me to make sure I read his book. Although, to be honest, he is an inefficient, ineffective stalker, as he did not even notice me leaning against the wall in the corridor as he ushered teams into the auditorium.

Still, it prompted me to pick up his book. Also, note that I’ve been reading a bit of fantasy lately. See also Jules Verne (all right, not exactly fantasy, but bear with me), Obsidian Son, The Catswold Portal, and John Carter of Mars (which is an omnibus of five novels). Does back in late summer count as “lately”? I dunno. But there you go. What was I saying? Oh, yes, a book report.

You know what? This book is pretty good. I’ve lucked out with the self-published fiction this autumn. The aforementioned Obsidian Son was also pretty good.

But this book differs from that, so let’s talk about this book. It’s targeted to younger adults and is high fantasy. The book deals with a collection of outcast students at the mandatory academy for youth in the nation of Iasos. Each comes from a broken home or has been cast aside by his or her parents. We have a large half-Orc cleric type, a half-goat warrior maiden, a scarred magician who wears a hood, a young barbarian, and an empathetic thief. The house leader/teacher is a battle-weary dwarf who takes the group under his wing to teach them how to work as a team and whatnot.

The book starts running through some threads that will continue in later books, and the adventures in this book come to a head when the group travels outside the academy’s sanctuary. They encounter some mercenaries sent by a foreign power to destabilize the country, and the young charges want to fight to liberate a small, illegal community oppressed by the mercenaries. After the mercenaries kill one of the wards, a reckoning comes that sees the wards fight together for the first time.

The author’s bio says he’s a Dungeons and Dragons player, and you can see a little of that in the descriptions, particularly of the locations. The narrative stops, and we get a couple paragraphs or pages of descriptions of the building. One almost wants to check the east wall for secret doors. Also, I’m tempted to try to identify influences for the work–I remember the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons cartoon had the smallest, youngest kid be the Barbarian, although in the cartoon, the boy was not primitive. Looking at the cover, I can’t wonder if the artist was not influenced by the Teen Titans–one of the characters looks like Raven, and the Behemoth (the half-Orc knock off with the splotches of lighter color) kinda looks like Cyborg. But it’s unfair to the author that I’m looking for these influences where they might not exist.

At any rate, that’s two for two on the self-published books I’ve read this autumn. I expect I’ll get the next installment when it comes out because otherwise I’ll see this author at all the local cons and whatnot, and he’ll not let me rest until I do.

Good Book Hunting, November 25, 2017: ABC Books

On Saturday, we took a trip up to ABC Books because it was Small Business Saturday, and the books were 50 percent off. Which didn’t help us with the cost of the gift cards we bought for our children’s teachers, but it did give us an excuse to buy some books.

I bought a couple books from the Makers of the Modern Theological Mind Series (H. Richard Niebuhr, Teilhard de Chardin, and Martin Buber) and Don’t Know Much About The Bible.

It was a rare day, as my beautiful wife bought more than I did. She attributes it to the wine she had with lunch. I attribute it to the fact that I stop by the store every couple of months and drain it of the items I want regularly, leaving me less to gorge on the next time I come. Regardless, it was a fruitful trip, and I’ll get to these books someday.

Book Report: The Best of Jules Verne by Jules Verne (1978)

Book coverI picked up this book because I know the chicks dig Jules Verne.

Well, maybe it’s only one, and maybe she is fictional. But still.

I probably picked this up because I’ve been doing the omnibus thing this year. I’ve shortchanged my annual numbers by reading books containing multiple books all year long (Three Novels by Damon Knight; Selected Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe; John Carter of Mars). So why not another three-in-one? Besides, this book is sort of like picking up a split–I have a Reader’s Digest edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth which I can move over to the read shelves as this volume contains that novel.

At any rate, my dear Clara, this volume contains three of Verne’s works, and we could spend many evenings by candelight discussing whether they are, in fact, the best. Before I did so, I would have to read a bunch more of what he wrote to argue intelligently, as these are the three books I’ve read.

The three books contained with are:

  • Around the World in 80 Days, the story of a reclusive and mysterious Englishman, Phineas Fogg, who makes a bet at his gentleman’s club that he can travel around the world in 80 days. He takes his new valet along for the ride and rescues a beautiful young Pharisee from sacrifice in India. A bank robbery right before he leaves London puts a detective on his tail who’s out to thwart him until an arrest warrant catches up with him.

    Of the book, this is the best–its protagonist is aloof, but the new valet, Passepartoute, is accessible, so we are rooting for them to complete their adventure in spite of the setbacks and adventures they encounter along the way. We even feel sympathetic to the detective who’s only doing his job. And the adventures involve exotic places and peoples. The other two novels included falter in comparison.

  • The Clipper of the Clouds, also published as Robur the Conqueror, starts with a duel scene. A Yankee and an Englishman argue over whether mysterious trumpet sounds coming from the sky played “Yankee Doodle” or “Rule Britannia”. The rest of the first chapter details mysterious sounds and trumpets heard from the sky around the world and the arguments as to what it might be. Then, we’re at a meeting of the lighter than air travel society, proposing to build a giant blimp or dirgible, when a stranger says that heavier than air craft ar the way to go. A ruckus and riot ensues, and the two most powerful men in the society disappear–they’ve been kidnapped by Robur, who has essentially a boat with rotary wings on the masts in addition to sails. So it can fly! He then, for reasons of his own, take the two men around the world and to different locales. Their adventures are a bit underwhelming, and then they return. I guess Verne did a sequel to this book, but I’m certainly not compelled to read it.
     
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth details a professor who finds a several-hundred-year-old coded note from an explorer who was censured and considered a heretic. The note contains the location of a secret cave that leads to the center of the earth. So the scientist enlists his nephew for a trip to Iceland, they take on a stoic Icelandic guide, a load of food, and they descend. They spend months walking through caves and having dry misadventures–running low on water, getting lost–until they find a giant underworld sea, which they build a raft and ride on for weeks, and then they find dinosaurs and evidence of humanoids under the earth before they trigger a volcanic eruption and ride it to the surface.

The second and third books in the volume have a whiff of the hard science fiction about them, where the draw is the science and the speculation, but not so much the story. Which is not what I read books for–not fiction, anyway.

So I was not, ultimately, impressed with them. Not for their lack of imagination, but rather by the execution where the speculation drove the books more than the stories based on the speculation.

I’m not sure what Clara would think of that.

The book also contains an interview with Jules Verne from The Strand magazine called “Jules Verne at Home”. This is a very nice bit capturing Verne and his wife at their estate, giving some insight into the popular author at the tail end of his career.

Ozark Police Assault Some Deerde Who Wasn’t Doin’ Nothin’

As Ms. K. likes to say, gas stations and convenience stores are like watering holes on the Serengeti for criminals (or something like that).

On Wednesday, November 22, somebody called the police on a suspicious looking young deer loitering outside the Casey’s General Story (famous for pizza). Probably asking for money or for someone to buy some beer.

The police responded less brutally than the Carbondale police department handling an emu, but still, when the deer gave them a little lip, they brutally assaulted the innocent piece of Bambiana.



The question on my mind, though, is who called the police on a wayward deer?

The answer, I think, is the manager of the Casey’s, who wanted to get free publicity for the fact that he or she is currently hiring.

It’s only the Black Friday deals that have kept the protesters otherwise occupied than to organize marches in Ozark.