Word of the Day: Chautauqua

So I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this week, and the narrator keeps mentioning a Chautauqua, which is his lesson he’s trying to impart in a chapter. I kinda meant to look it up, but I didn’t.

The Green County Commonwealth, currently the only paper I subscribe to, has a throwback history article every week, and Wednesday, it talked about circuit Chautauquas in the Springfield area in the early part of the 20th century.

Apparently, a Chautauqua was a summer camp like thing for education, where common people could go listen to lectures and hear great music. Circuit Chautauquas were kinda like traveling carnival versions of the same. They were started by an organization that held the first on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York, and they got the nickname from that.

Man, I hope that’s a question in a forthcoming trivia night since it’s something I learned and will probably retain.

When You Get Your Statistics From Facebook Ads

Apparently written by thirteen-year-olds.

For the record, $100,000 in utility bills, specifically electric bills, would take, what, thirty years if solar reduced my bill to absolutely zero and. Of course, the cost of installation and maintenance of said unproven systems would extend that thirty years by a, what, decade or so? So I think this claim might be a little, erm, speculative.

Oh, and add more onto it for the interest if you go $0 down.

Brian J. Goes To The Comic Shop

Yesterday, I had a couple minutes before my guitar lesson, so I stopped by the comic shop nearby. The Comic Cave has a good selection of comics marked a buck, and I have had some luck in picking up titles recently with actual stories in them. So I rummaged through the dollar boxes for a bit and picked out five books.

I paid cash, and the guy asked me if I needed a bag.

“No,” I said, “I don’t have to hide them from my wife.” I paused. “But I’ll put the Gamora on the bottom.”

It was an amusing little quip, but in the interest of transparency, here is the salacious comic in question:

Not salacious at all.

The guy behind the counter smiled, and my beautiful wife chuckled when I recounted the story. So perhaps I should tag this post as Humor instead of merely Life. Also, perhaps I should create a category for comic books since I’ve started talking about them from time to time over the last year or so.

I know nothing about these new Guardians of the Galaxy aside from what I’ve seen in the movies. I’m used to the old team, mostly because I’m an old man.

Brian J.’s Interior Monologue At The Gym, As Read Dramatically By Professional Actors

Pretty much, it’s this for an hour or so:

I guess I’ll continue getting to old for it until I’m too dead for it.

I don’t know if the exercise will lengthen my life at all, but it will sure make blocs of it more painful.

In another note, I was at my martial arts class, complaining about my creaky hinges (elbows) which might have a slight strain and might prevent me from doing any upper body work for a couple of weeks (returning to upper body work after a couple weeks off is what caused the achy), and I referred to this moment from Lethal Weapon 4:

I’m only…. (distressed arithmetic….carry the one to the decades column….)

I came to exercise and athleticism late in life, and I often feeling like I’m bumping into a ceiling.

But maybe it’s only a drop ceiling, and I can break through it to do some chin ups on the plumbing and girders I expose.

I’m just kidding. I can’t do chin ups.

But I would totally rock the elementary school Presidential Fitness Medal test now.

At least the girl’s test, maybe.

Brian J. Finds The Loophole

We signed up for the Camp Barnabas Run this morning a couple months ago, anticipating that it would be warmer than our last run (The Christmas Run in December, where runtime temperature was 27 degrees). Hey, it’s April, right? It should be a nice day to start the running season off right.

Oh, but no.

Runners brave the cold, snow in Camp Barnabas half-marathon in Springfield:

Runners from around the Ozarks braved temperatures in the 20’s and snow to compete in the Camp Barnabas half-marathon Saturday.

When it started with the freezing rain last night, I decided I’d awaken at 5 am, the time we’d need to be up to get ready, and gauge whether to go or not. So I did, and I looked out the window. There was snow on the ground, and it was still snowing, so I called off our trip into town and went back to bed.

If I had been thinking, though, I would have exploited the loophole in the rules.

Although roller skates and inline skates are prohibited, ice skates are not.

Perhaps I can exploit this loophole next year. Or in any 5K we sign up for in May.

Know Your Lutheran Countersigns

As you might know, gentle reader, I’ve attended a Lutheran church for about five or six years. I’m not a Lutheran, per se–I am half Catholic, being that my father was Catholic (but as my mother was not, the Catholic term for this is bastard), and I was baptised into a Church of Christ (I think–I was rather young).

But I’ve learned the Lutheran countersigns so when I walk amongst them, they don’t know that I’m a stranger. For your benefit, should you ever need to infiltrate a Lutheran church, I present this list of signs and countersigns so you know how to respond when challenged.

Sign: Countersign: Comment
The Lord be with you. And also with you.  
May the Force be with you. And also with you. Lutherans sometimes reply automatically even though this is not the traditional Star Wars response.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah! Especially prominent on Easter.

Join us next time when we discuss the proper identification tokens to present. Hint: At the potluck dinner, the answer is not Lutefisk in Missouri: You should, in fact, bring a dessert to ensure that the proper balance of four desserts for every meal item such, as meat or vegetables, is maintained.

The Story of the Easter Tie

Many people have Christmas ties with snow, snowmen, Santa, or other seasonal imagery on them. Some involve lights and music.

But, friends, I have an Easter tie.

It looks like it’s made from an old bed sheet, and it feels like cotton instead of a more silky tie material. I’ve only worn it a couple of times prior to before making it the official Easter tie, but now it’s an annual tradition.

I bought this tie, what, 26 years ago? I was at the university, and I worked at a grocery store on the northwest side of Milwaukee that required its baggers to wear shirts and ties–along with slacks and nice shoes– every day. Why, when I started, they also required a blue vest with your name tag on it, but a bagger rebellion and the cost of replacing them eventually led that to go by the wayside. So I needed ties when I was nineteen years old.

On Fridays, we could cash our paychecks right there in the store, and a friend and I would hop the 76th street bus (Route 67, which is weird because it was on 76th Street, but I am no mass transit expert) to the local mall (Northridge). Where, too often, we (and by “we,” I mean “I”) would blow a whole week’s pay (around $100 in the days of $3.65 minimum wage).

One day, we were in J.C. Penney’s. My aunt had given me a gift certificate (not a gift card), and I wanted to buy something inexpensive because the store gave refunds in cash in those days. And I was a poor college student prone to blowing his whole paycheck on music and movies and video games, so I always needed extra cash. So I found this tie marked down to $1.98, and I jumped on it.

As I was checking out, I told the cashier I was lucky because it was the last one. He didn’t realize I was joking.

Not to be confused with the Easter Chewbacca.

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.

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.

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.

A Very Brian J. Saturday

Today, I:

  • Participated in my second Y Not Tri indoor triathlon at the Pat Jones YMCA.

    It’s my second year in a row, and my third overall triathlon. The morning did not get off to an auspicious start. I have my phone alarm set for five and six am (in case I want to sleep in, I can just shut the alarm off and go on sleeping without fumbling to reset the alarm). So last night, I turned off the five o’clock alarm so I could sleep in directly, but I’d failed to remember that just last week I set the alarms off on Saturdays since I like to sleep in (generally, until seven, which is a far, far cry from what “sleeping in” meant in my younger days). Fortunately, though, I awakened at 6:11 and managed to get to the YMCA plenty early to check in.

    While checking in, we were to put our own numbers on our biceps instead of having a volunteer do it for us. So I looked down, and did my best, and inked my number right side up but backwards.

    So I wrote it again under it.

    I tried to tell everyone I did the first one like the flag patch on the right sleeves of the military (backwards, but to make it look like the military is charging into the wind). I’m not sure anyone bought it.

    So I survive the triathlon, and then I jumped into my car and raced westward so I could…

  • Attend a martial arts class.

    I got to the martial arts school seven minutes before class (that is, 23 minutes after I finished the triathlon), dressed out, and hit the water fountain. I didn’t drink a lot of water during the triathlon because I didn’t want to swallow a lot of air, but then I had about a liter of water in the truck. Which meant when I put on the heavy gi, I started sweating a lot, and I briefly wondered what I was doing.

    But I got through the class okay. I didn’t make too many tired mistakes while sparring (well, my head would have only been knocked off once or twice).

    But I made it through, and more importantly, I impressed my beautiful wife.

    Later in the day, a little logy from the day’s activities and a short nap, I went out again, where…

  • I Went to the antique mall and bought a charming little Tiffany lamp that is perfect for our mantle.

    I got home just in time for the dinner hour, but nobody was really hungry since we’d stopped at a pizza buffet for lunch, so…

  • I baked some delicious chocolate banana bread.

    I have a very rigorous banana-eating timeline, which is as follows:

    Week 1: I LOVE BANANAS! I EAT ALL THE BANANAS!
    Week 2: I buy an extra couple bunches of bananas to sate MY DESPERATE NEED FOR BANANAS!
    Week 4: I need to do something with these very ripe bananas.

    This has happend a couple times in a row (well, the row is several calendar months). The last time, we gave the second loaf of banana bread to the teachers at my boy’s school. Tomorrow…who knows?

So, basically, the masculinity arithmetic today was basically a wash.