What the Squirrels Taught Me

Today, Wilder posts about media consumption and says:

The medium of video is “hot” (in the theory of Marshall McLuhan) and is especially wonderful for propaganda. Hot media fully engages one sense, and spoon feeds the content directly into the viewer’s mind. Cool media, like this blog, demands interaction, and demands thought.

.

Hey, I know that. Not from reading MacLuhan (although I have, a little). I learned that from Nuts About Squirrels.

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Book Report: The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Rober Schnackenberg (2015)

Book coverI bought this book for $10 at Rublecon last month because it’s BFM, man. Its subtitle says A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor, which is a bit of hyperbole, of course, but the book is not so much a critical appreciation of Murray’s work, but rather an encyclopedia of alphabetical entries about movies and shows he has appeared in along with topics on his relationships with other people, including his wives and his family. Interspersed with the encyclopedia entries, we get stories about Murray’s hijinks crashing parties and spontaneous appearances with normal people.

So we agree that Groundhog Day and Lost In Translation are amongst his best films, but I disagree with the book about The Man Who Knew Too Little–I think that’s a funny movie, and I not only saw it in the theaters, but I’ve watched it many times since then on home media. I am quite a bit behind on Murray films–I mean, I’ve never seen The Razor’s Edge or Quick Change, for example, not to mention most of the Wes Anderson collaborations (although I did see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, again, in the theaters).

The book also portrays Murray as a complex individual. Although it has its moments of homerism (such as the subtitle), some of the disputes and fallings out he’s had, not to mention a couple of bad divorces, and a reputation of being difficult (Dan Ackroyd called him The Murricane because of his mercurial nature). I mean, I guess anyone who’s been paying attention to Murray as a celebrity probably knows all this. But I somehow haven’t paid attention even though I like his work.

So a pleasant read in between chapters of other things I’m kinda reading, which really means they’re just stacking up on the table beside my reading chair. Informative. And I’m kind of pleased as well that I have so many Bill Murray films yet to see.

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Betrayal

Amongst the music-themed sponsored posts I see on Facebook, I have learned that David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd and solo projects, is apparently a Dallas Cowboys fan:

Well, he’s British, so maybe he thinks Dallas is really America’s Team.

Here’s the last song on his 1984 album About Face–my favorite of his solo albums. I got it on cassette, about wore it out, and now have it on CD. The song is entitled “Near the End”:

I quote it a lot. Well, relative to other songs.

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Onions Picked By Slave Women

Spotted at the warehouse club store:

Sure, some of you might think that’s an ampersand and not an O, but we know followers of the kajira have to hide in plain sight.

Actually, scratch that: People who would have embraced a Gorean lifestyle based on the books are probably in nursing homes by now, and today’s alternative lifestyle crowds don’t have to hide in the face of banning.

Still, even though I’m more vanilla than true Norman aficionados, it’s the first thing I saw.

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They Saw Me Coming

Facebook has barraged me with ads for companies that can take a photo of your pet (or other loved one, as some of the ads indicate) and put it on a shirt.

Needless to say, they saw me coming.

That’s my black cat Isis and what she thinks she looks like.

Actually, I clicked through on another ad and bought t-shirts for the family as Christmas gifts, and I was so enamored with the designs, I bought one for myself (July is not too early for the “One-for-you, One-for-me” Christmas gift buying protocol). Also, I am comfortable announcing the Christmas gifts because the designs, which are not black cats, will delight them, and nobody in my family reads my blog anyway.

When I got shipment notification, I was a little concerned that the items originated in China; however, I used PayPal for real (I hope) this time, and I hopefully won’t need to cancel my credit card and get a new one, unlike last year.

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Book Report: Serenity: The Official Visual Companion by Joss Whedon (2005)

Book coverThis book completes the four books I bought at Calvin’s Books the last time I went there. I was afraid that they were closing, as the Firefly books were only three dollars each, but they were not that inexpensive because they were closing. But they closed never the less.

At any rate, I read the Firefly scripts in Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One and Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two last summer and Firefly: Still Flying in January (when I thought it might count as a collection of short stories for the library’s Winter Reading Challenge, but it’s not really).

So this book means the end of the road unless I find some of the comic books or the recent novels cheap. So I am a little sad to come to this end. I’m sure some of that is mixed in with missing Calvin’s Books as well, although I need more books like I need more sunny days without rain here at Nogglestead.

So: It’s the shooting script for the film Serenity. As a reminder, this film came out three years after the television series, so if you watched them altogether as we did, you’ll notice things. Jewel Staite, for example, lost some weight (she said she had to eat a bunch to keep at Kaylee weight for the series in one of the previous books). And they played the characters a little different, and it was cut without some of the humor and playfulness of the television series. So the tone was a lot darker–although it might have been more in the acting and editing than the scripting. And they try to answer a lot of the questions from the television series in a fashion that’s disappointing, not on the Lost scale, but still

The book also has some inside looks at the making of the film, as the previous book does, but having read Star Trek Memories earlier in the year, I notice quite a difference in tone in the descriptions of making the film, even the nitty gritty technical aspects of it. In Star Trek Memories, making a television show is a more blue collar affair, with discussions about hitting budgets and physically doing the work, whereas these books are more about artistic vision, and the people who worked on the show take themselves very seriously. Perhaps it’s a difference in the elapsed time between the books and the television show/movie they depict (26 years have elapsed between Star Trek and its book, whereas these books came out within a couple of years). Maybe it’s a generational shift between the movie makers or between the fandoms. I dunno.

The book talks about a possible movie franchise, but that did not pan out. Maybe killing a couple of the main characters and tweely solving all the mysteries will dim that prospect for you–at least in the Star Trek movies, they only got into the habit of blowing up the ship every movie.

But, you know what? It’s been almost twenty years. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.

As I said, I was a bit sad to come to the end of the books, so I started re-watching the television series. Time will tell if I make it through again and if I watch Serenity. I invited my boys to watch, but they were not interested. So I guess I should stop making allusions to the show since perhaps nobody younger than forty-something will get it or even care.

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Book Report: Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (1979, 1982)

Book coverI bought this book a couple weeks ago at ABC Books when I made the first of my recent runs on the martial arts section. I read it on a recent business trip to Chicago, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s not a long book–133 pages, and the chapters are short, generally a page or two story or anecdote from martial arts training and a bit of a lesson. The Zen it goes into is not the ontological Buddhism nor the practice of completely emptying oneself to escape the futility of life. Rather, it’s more geared to what we would later call mindfulness, with lessons on being present in the moment fully and in flowing. So good reminders.

And let’s talk a moment about the author. I had no idea who Joe Hyams was, but look at his Wikipedia entry. Born in 1923, served in World War II (Purple Heart and Bronze Star), worked for Stars and Stripes, went into newspaperin’, was sent to Mexico to cover illegal immigration (is that still a thing?), wrote a blockbuster story, was given some time off in Los Angeles as a reward and was told–perhaps jokingly–to interview movie stars that he met, and ended up scoring interviews first with Bogart and then his co-stars, became a full time entertainment columnist, studied martial arts as a student with Bruce Lee and then took lessons from Bruce Lee, studied several martial arts disciplines, wrote stars’ biographies, travelled with his wife Elke….

Jeez, the guy is Hemingway: The Next Generation, but without the legacy of novels.

So, yeah, the book has a lot of stories about Bruce Lee teaching this guy lessons. But they’re good lessons. And I really enjoyed the book. If I can remember to and if I’m not overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the unread books in the Nogglestead library, I should like to read it again. Definitely a better devotional than the Thich Naht Hahn, the Joko Beck, the Pirsig, the Suzuki, or even the forgotten The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.

Oh, and his wife Elke? He married Elke Sommer when she was 24 and he was 41. It’s not often I can turn a book report into a Rule 5 post, but here we are.

Continue reading “Book Report: Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (1979, 1982)”

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, August 6, 2022: ABC Books

For the third weekend in a row, ABC Books had a book signing. This time, Marshfield’s Randy H. Greer came in to sign copies of his new book Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks about a lawman in Christian County (which is only a mile and a half south of me; if I take the long route for a walk, run, or bike ride, I nick into Christian County for a little bit of it). I thought the story sounded familiar–I remember reading about this sheriff or one like him in one of my local papers–it turns out, a bit about this book appeared in the Marshfield Mail, where I had likely seen it.

I got a couple of things.

I got:

  • Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks and Echoes of Mercy, Greer’s stories from his days working at the Federal Medical Center, a hospital complex for Federal prison inmates located here in Springfield.
  • Aikido Techniques and Tactices by Gary Bennett, the other aikido book I’d left last week at ABC Books, officially draining the martial arts section again to another book on Tai Chi walking and Raw Combat.
  • Twice a Week Heroes by Danny Miles, stories about fast pitch softball leagues in Springfield. There were a stack of them on the shelf below the martial arts section. I’ll be in a conundrum if Miles shows up at ABC Books soon to sign copies.
  • Poems by Mary Baker Eddy, the Christian Science church founder. A 1918 edition, this would have come out eight years after her death.
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. A flat-spined collection of poems, but the cover calls Kaur a New York Times Bestseller. So this ain’t no chapbook.
  • 100 Bill Harvey Poems by Bill Harvey. They look to be theologically flavored. But I will end each poem hearing Paul Harvey say, “Good day!”

At any rate, it should give me a couple of handy collections of poetry to read out back in the evening. If I can find them again easily once I move them off of my desk and into the stacks of the Nogglestead library, where books just disappear.

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Book Report: A Lifetime Collection of Poetry by Lucille Christiansen (?)

Book coverThis book bears no copyright date, but some of the poems that are dated come from the late 1960s–and the first is dated 1937 and says it’s the poet’s first poem. So we can assume this is from the 1970s or 1980s–maybe even a little later given that the collection has wingdings between poems that might come from the birth of desktop publishing. Remember, younger readers, desktop publishing referred to being able to lay out your books on your desktop computer for printing, not blogging or e-zines where the work never actually leaves the desktop (which these days includes mobile devices).

The author was a teacher, and perhaps an English teacher, as the poems come in a variety of forms and styles, so it’s clear she liked to noodle with words a bit. The quality varies from simple to some that are actually halfway decent. So it’s a bit of grandmother poetry with a little dash of the cool teacher who might have inspired you to write. Strangely enough, I can’t think of anything in my middle school or high school career where English teachers actually wrote, and my college mentor, such as he was, has published only three or four books in his career.

At any rate, a quick, light read from when poetry was designed to be quick, light reads.

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On Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)

Book coverI bought this film recently on one of my antique mall splurges or at the Lutherans for Life garage sale. As it was on the top of the stack–which, in this case, means atop the old cabinet that holds our video games now that the old repurposed stereo that formerly could hold all of my unwatched videos is too full for any more–as I was saying, as it was on top of the cabinet, it took some precedence over the things behind the glass that formerly protected probably a sweet hi-fi thirty or forty or fifty years ago. But on a recent boyless night, I popped it in.

So: It’s a Chinese film from 2010. Chen Zhen served in a Chinese contingent in World War I (although they did not number it that then), but he returns home and, in the 1930s, ends up in Shanghai. He takes on a role at a nightclub and works to antagonize the Japanese who are moving in as he serves in the resistance. Of course, previously, he had beaten one of their dojo’s students (to be explained later), and there’s an element of revenge for the Japanese bad guy, the son of the previously beaten sensei.

As an actioner, it’s not bad. Direct-to-video quality. But as a cultural artifact….

You know, gentle reader, ever since I dabbled into Sinophilia, I’ve found source material from the middle of the twentieth century on to be suspect, so I’ve had to wonder. In this film, which is subtitled, we’ve got soldiers running away identified in the subtitles as French, and we have men on the take identified as British, but, c’mon, man: in the IMDB entry, we have only actors identified as American soldier.

Alright, so they’ve hidden within the subtitles that the bad guys are the Americans.

So the hero who rises above his station to malign the British French Americans wears a cap and mask like Kato from The Green Hornet. And Jet Li in The Black Mask. And this film borrows a bit from Casablanca, not om the least in its dueling songs–Chinese songs versus a Japanese song–early on.

And from whence is Chen Zhen returning? Well, the character was originally played by Bruce Lee in 1972’s Fist of Fury–this is where Chen Zhen tears up the Japanese dojo to avenge his sensei. Then, it appeared in a couple of sequels. Then, Jet Li played the character in 1994’s Fist of Legend (Li would also play Zhen’s teacher in 2006’s Fearless). So the endless cycle of reboots and sequels to a particular character, with some continuity and some discarded elements, is not an exclusively American thing.

So, as I said, it’s an okay martial arts film, but more interesting as a cultural artifact. And something to make one feel superior to one’s peers–watching foreign films with subtitles–as long as one does not consider that martial arts films are not European art house films.

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Book Report: The Pandora Gambit by Levi Samuel (2018)

Book coverWell, it’s been a while since I bought this book–I got it at the last LibraryCon, in 2019. As I might have mentioned, I recognized the author, who under a different pseudonym wrote Dammit Bre!. So I’ve bought at least six of this guy’s books; this is the second, and the first fiction of them I’ve read.

I guess the point was to write a quick bit of fiction blending urban fantasy with Miami Vice. And, you know what? He did it. I’m going off of his author’s notes here, a bit of Piers Anthony’s thing, as I recall, putting author’s notes about the writing of the book and the reaction of fans to his work.

Alright, so, the plot: The olden folk, elves, orcs, and whatnot, have gone to ground and have hidden from us for centuries, but they’ve also participated in the world a bit where their interests are concerned. In the modern day, an operation of their kind goes awry, and one of the elves betrays his fellows in law enforcement, leaving his partner wounded and left for dead, whilst the elf goes off to help distribute a drug that has different effects on the races. It makes orcs into berserkers, and it elevates humans to be able to see through the magic that hides the other folk. The olden folk want to keep the drug off the streets, and that means that an orc has to partner with a human detective to break the drug ring up.

So it’s a quick, fun read. And I’m a bit inspired by Levi Samuel Rickard–he’s banging out these books, and they’re likely getting better (this is only the second of his I’ve read, but I have four fantasy books floating around somewhere). It’s almost enough to inspire me to work on one of the novels I’ve plotted or stubbed out here, but not yet. Perhaps when the boys are out of the house. But most likely not. But I can appreciate the efforts of those who do.

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Thanks. I Needed That.

As you might recall, gentle reader, we had a cat euthanized last month.

So a share from Instapundit on Facebook really hit home.

“It turns out that pets also have last wills before they die, but only known to vets who put old and sick animals to sleep.” Twitter user Jesse Dietrich asked a vet what the hardest part of his job was.

The specialist replied without hesitation that the hardest thing for him was seeing how old or sick animals look for their owners before they fall asleep. The fact is 90% of owners don’t want to be in a room with a dying animal. People leave so they don’t see their animals leave. But they don’t realize it’s in these last moments of life that their animal needs them the most.

Vets are asking owners to stay close to animals until the end. “It is inevitable that they die before you. Remember that you were the center of their lives. Maybe they were just a part of you. But they are also your family. Even if it’s hard, don’t give up on them.

Don’t let them die in a room with a stranger in a place they don’t like. It’s very painful for vets to see how pets can’t find their owner in the last minutes of their lives. They don’t understand why their master left them. After all, they needed the consolation of their master.

Veterinarians do their best to make animals not so scared, but they are totally strangers to them. Don’t be a coward because it’s too painful for you. Think about the animal. Endure that pain for them. Be with them until the end.

You know, we’ve had to put down four cats and a dog over the years, and I’ve always been with them to the end. Galt expired on my wife’s lap as we were on the way to have him euthanized, and Ajax died in the yard.

Yeah, the hardest part is not the grieving. The hardest part is watching someone you love grieving.

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Another Entry in the “Is That The Name of the Song or the Band?” List

I briefly mentioned a thought game four years ago to think up bands who have songs that are another band’s name.

Back then, I had such suggestions as Fozzy’s “All That Remains” and Alice Cooper’s “Poison”.

To these I should like to add Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”:

In the early 1990s, listening to AOR on QFM in Milwaukee, one would also hear the band Shooting Star, generally “Last Chance”:

I bought greatest hits collections on cassette by both bands, Shooting Star on the weight of the song above and Bad Company’s based on “Feel Like Making Love” which I’d first bought as a cassette single.

Bad Company might win this game, as the band also has a song “Bad Company”:

I am not sure you can get more recursive than that.

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Book Report: Tae Kwon Do Basics by Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins (1987)

Book coverI bought this book last Saturday, and it would have been a good bet to guess it would be one of the first that I read.

It helps that this book, like so many from the era, was written for children who were getting into martial arts in what must have been a post-Karate Kid boom–so many of the books I see are from the 1980s or now with fewer selections in between. And it really is the basics, designed as something you can review at home after having seen the things in class (and many of the chapters indicate your instructor will likely show you more examples).

So it’s a book that shows basic moves and basic forms with black and white photos for starting positions and ending positions, but unfortunately, that does not capture the flow in any of them. So if you’re thinking you’re going to learn the actual moves from a book, you’re mistaken–as I was in the 80s, when I checked out at least one book from the library about karate. But it’s like learning a language–you have to do more than read a dictionary (which I’ve also done, trying to learn foreign languages from dictionaries before I understood verb tenses and whatnot).

Still, for me, it’s a nice refresher. And I note, again, that the sparring stance for tae kwon do is a more guarded, hide-behind-the-lead-shoulder posture than the one my school teaches. Which makes me want to ask the kyoshi where he got the stance preference.

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The Clues in the Songs

One does not have to go all The Da Vinci Code or National Treasure to find clues that will lead to some treasure. I have discovered some sort of conspiracy or puzzle in popular music across the generations.

So a recent (2019) song from Four80East, “Cinco Cinco Seis” has played a bunch on WSIE and DirecTV’s smooth jazz station many, many times:

In it, they repeat like an electro-jazz numbers station, “Uno dos tres quatro cinco cinco seis.”

Yesterday, on the radio, I heard “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, the 1998 hit from The Offspring, and it, too, says that number:

1-2-3-4-5-5-6. What does it mean? Some people might say it’s counting to get the beat before starting music, but the music has already started.

It’s coordinates. Or something.

Does the number 480 and the direction East mean anything?

The beginning of “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy” samples the beginning of 1983’s “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard:

According to the official account (if you can believe the “official” story), this made up bit of German-sounding language was, again, designed to be the count for the music to begin–in this case, the music does begin after the words.

But are the words a pass phrase? An indicator that one must start at some point in Germany (a rock?) and go east 480…. something? Is 1234556 the password, proving that the people who have hidden vast treasure in Germany or Eastern Europe were as bad at passwords as people on the Internet?

The clues came out in 1983, 1998, and 2019. Will the next clue come out in a little over 20 years? I cannot wait that long.

If anyone needs me, I will be in a room in the basement, posting photos and text and drawing arrows between them until I solve this mystery.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 30, 2022: ABC Books

Wow, has it only been a week since I was last at ABC Books? Oh, but what a week. Perhaps I will go into that later. But after a martial arts class and a shower, I turned my vehicle north again to ABC Books through some badly needed pouring rain to go to another book signing.

I picked up a few things.

In addition to the book signed by the author, I pretty much cleared the rest of her martial arts section out again.

I got:

  • A Three Letter Name by Annie Lisenby, the signing author. She billed it as a “survival romance” which to me sounds like a Hunger Games-influenced work.
  • Small-Circle Ju Jitsu by Wally Jay. I might have mentioned that my martial arts school has a Brazilian Ju Jitsu program, but that I don’t participate because I do not come from a hugging family. But I’ll read about it sometime.
  • Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction by A. Westbrook and O. Ratti.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate by Randall G. Hassell and Edmond Otis. We will see about that.
  • Karate-Dō Nyūmon by Gichin Funakoshi. It’s a master introductory text translated from the Japanese. We will see how it compares to the 1980s books.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Isenberg. I have an set of engraving bits for my rotary tool, and I mean to pick this up again if I ever clean my workbench in the garage off again. Perhaps this autumn.

So this leaves three books in the martial arts section: Another Aikido book, another Tai Chi Walking book, and Raw Combat. Hopefully, they will get more in as I have already begun to read the ones I got last week, and we will get to that by and by.

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The Source Of That Thing Dad Always Sings At The Black Cats

I sang it to Dominique in the past and I sing it to Isis now:

¿Quién es esta gatita?

Clearly, I am the only one who remembers the 1987 Madonna song “Who’s That Girl?”

I have not seen the film, and to be honest, I don’t know whether I would spend a buck on it if I saw it at a garage sale. Although given that I’ve posted this, the odds have increased.

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