A Difference That Probably Does Not Reveal As Much About Our Upbringings As I Would Say

So I was telling my beautiful wife about this overpriced Facebook-advertised tchotchke that I ordered for my youngest son for Christmas (and will no doubt see advertisements for it now that I have actually ordered it because clearly I am a good lead for this particular vendor, and that’s how Internet advertising works).

I explained it was a little like pachinko:

“It’s a pegboard where you drop a little metal ball down it, but it has specific gates and things that will guide the way the ball rolls down the board…” I said. Or words to that effect, gentle reader; I did not take down the conversation verbatim, but it’s as real as any conversation you’ll read in a Norman Vincent Peale book.

“Don’t you mean Plinko?” she asked.

Which led me to question, Did I mean Plinko? So I researched it quickly to verify that the game pachinko actually exists and to show her details about it. The boy’s gift is more like pachinko, by the way; Plinko uses a disk and just pegs, whereas pachinko uses balls and bumpers of various kinds. It’s a bit like pinball, but it’s often a gambling device. The boy’s school has a board they use for carnivals and whatnot, and an Internet image search indicates a lot of schools do.

So you know I would like to turn this into some indicator of the differences in our upbringing–that I grew up working class in seedy taverns and she grew up in a comfortable suburban family that watched The Price Is Right. But the seedy taverns, which really weren’t that bad, didn’t have pachinko machines (I grew up in Milwaukee, not Tokyo). That I knew my pachinko from my Plinko probably stems from the fact that I read more widely (id est, randomly) than she does.

Book Report: Reflections at Alley Spring by Tania Gray (1980)

Book coverThis book is a small collection of newspaper column-length text accompanied by one of the artists’ drawings of people and places near Alley Spring in northern Shannon County, Missouri. Self-published in 1980, this book includes interviews with local figures who were born around the turn of the century and remember traversing the county in wagons, in cooling their perishables in springs, and who used or restore old mills and steam equipment.

So, yeah, it was right in my wheelhouse.

I take a paper, the Current Local, which is just south of Shannon County and is also on the Current River, so some of the place names are familiar. And my favorite bits in that paper are the columnists, so the book fits into what I’m reading every week anyway.

So I enjoyed it. It’s a little saddle-stitched 59-page collection, so about 20 or 25 “columns.” The drawings are good, too, and the author is a painter by trade, I take it. She’s from before the Internet, so searches on her name bring up a variety of “We found Tania Gray for you, cyberstalker” sites but no examples of her paintings. I’ll have to watch out for them at local antique malls and garage sales, I suppose. As well as perhaps other similar collections, which would be a treat to find.

Book Report: Samurai Warriors by Stephen Turnbull (1991)

Book coverI have described “carry” books from time-to-time, gentle reader. These books I throw into my gym bag to read at the martial arts school whilst my boys are taking classes before my class or to carry to church to read during the Sunday School hour. Well, this year has eliminated the latter, and time itself has eliminated the former. When my boys were younger, they took early afternoon young children’s classes, and the adult class was at 7:00, so I would spend sometimes three hours at the dojo before my class. Then, they were in older kids’ classes, which meant I would still spend an hour or so with time to read. But with the new abnormal, once the dojo opened back up, the older kids and adults had classes together, so we have all had class at the same time. And if the school ends up with enough kids again to split the kids from the adults, my boys will both be old enough to take adult classes. So the days of the carry book, or at least the one that goes into the gym bag, are over. And this is one of the last that I will finish, although it spent some time (years) on the table by the recliner because I was tired of carrying it and wanted to finish it during the evening reading (which is how so many of those books end up on the side table for a long time).

At any rate, this is a coffee-tableish book that focuses on showing variations in samurai armor over time more than give a detailed history of the samurai, although it does give a high level overview of medieval Japan and the tensions between the Shogun and the Emperor.

The book reflects my first foray into Japanese history, and unfortunately, it’s not a good intro (which, again, is not so much the point–it’s more a picture book of Samurai armor and art with some overview than a true history). I found it a little challenging because I am not familiar with the topography of the Japanese islands–the book only provides a single map, early in the book, that I had to keep flipping back to–and I am not familiar with the names yet, so I found it a little difficult to follow. Not Russian novel-level bad, but still. The samurai sometimes changed names, which didn’t help.

So it’s a good book if you’re already kind of familiar with Japanese history and samurai armor, as it can reinforce what you’ve already seen or read, but you would better be served reading other works first.

What other works? I will be hanged if I know. A quick search of the local library system for Japanese history brings up titles on how Anime conquered the world and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, so I am not sure how much of a NNipponophile I can become from the library books. But I should read up on it a bit. Japanese history looks to be a little more internally directed than, say, China, where China can get invaded (and does) from every direction, but the Japanese islands mean that no outside force can walk there (a key in conquest, I explain). So Japanese history is full of internecine conflict, but not a lot of being conquered by the Mongols, the Manchu, and so on.

But I’ll find something, sometime, at a used bookstore or book sale. If not, I’ve still got primary sources of Frankish history to read, so I am not hurting.

The Word Is DeRooneyfication

I know how Adaptive Curmudgeon feels when he says:

Among my many first world problems was a window in my shop that had rotted away. Wind was whistling through the 1″+ gaps around what once was the edges. Last year I bought a cheap window to fit the rough opening, and then dropped the ball… for an entire year.

As long as you’re not dead you haven’t given up. Right?

Which is why I have coined the term and have a whole category, sparsely populated, called DeRooneyfication, which is:

Sometime when I was reading some of his columns some number of years ago, I related to one of Andy Rooney’s situations. He mentioned going into his basement workshop and finding a number of projects that had been off to the side for a number of years, including a chair that needed fixing and whatnot. Even though I was probably just the long side of thirty at the time, it resonated with me, since I’d been collecting projects and materials for projects since before I got married. Now that I’m just the short side of forty–and soon on its long side–I decided to start finishing some of those projects.

But not lots of projects, gentle reader, oh, no! As a matter of fact, the blocker project, another term I coined, about which I wrote in 2018, has not been completed (by me, he said to really underline the passive voice). Instead, it has been moved to the side table in my workshop area of the garage. By “workshop area,” I generally mean the place where things get dumped, so that the first and most difficult project of any energized period of doing on my part is cleaning up the area so I can do anything there. A project itself that I often start but seldom finish.

I did, however, complete a little project last weekend that I sort of feel proud of/sort of disappointed that it took me so long to actually do it.

Continue reading “The Word Is DeRooneyfication”

Book Report: I Sing of America by Earle Davis (1981)

Book coverThis is a collection of poetry, or rather a group of cantos about America. Spoiler alert: About the only good thing about America is jazz music. Everything else is pretty much killing the Indians, slavery, and oppression. Well, not exactly that bad but mostly so.

So poetical bashing of America goes back a long time, but I guess Charles Sykes published ProfScam in 1988 and The Hollow Men in 1990 (I read them in my formative college years when they still had that new book smell).

The verse itself is not very evocative; rather, it’s expository, preferring to mostly tell what it wants to say (America bad, or at least suspect). The author in a note at the end says he’s trying to emulate Ezra Pound and the Chinese Odes in writing a vast epic built on individual cantos (there are 15) which include a narrator introductions to individual segments in each canto. The author intends for each canto or indeed segment to be an independent poem, so the rhyme scheme and rhythm varies. Some are better than others. But that praise is relative. Nothing in it is very compelling.

The book is signed, an unnumbered copy of a limited printing of 100 copies. It looks like it was laid out with a typewriter.

It probably was, as it precedes the desktop publishing revolution. My first chapbook, Unrequited, appeared during the desktop publishing revolution and still looks like it was laid out with a typewriter. But on a computer! We all got better.

My beautiful wife glanced over at some point and read some of it, pronouncing it not good, and wondering why I read things that are not good (poems and novels). The professor conducting the current lecture series to which I am listening said yesterday that writers can learn as much or more from reading bad things as good. Which is what I also maintain. Although the importantest lesson for writers is to write as I hope to learn someday.

Book Report: Zen and the Art of Stick Fighting by Stephen F. Kaufmann (2000)

Book coverI bought this book at ABC Books in June of 2019, in the Before Times (sudden thought: this might still be the Before Times of something; I’d better get to enjoying them more). As I mentioned then, my martial arts school has been working with escrima sticks for a while, so I thought I might learn something from this book.

Well, I picked it up this weekend and paged through it pretty quickly because it is chock full of pictures.

So, what did I learn from the book?

Well, not a lot of really new materialy. The sticks used in the pictures and this sensei’s training are a little longer than the ones we use in our class. But he described some of the strikes in terms of overhead strikes, forward strikes, reverse strikes, and terms we don’t use in our school–when I turned them into 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, I got a little more out of it. Because the stick is longer, the book shows two-handed strikes and a lot of rear strikes with the butt of the stick that my kyoshi does not emphasize. The book has a lot of multiple-attacker scenarios that we haven’t covered in my school, but sometimes I looked at them and thought, “Why would you do it that way? You’re turning this way and then reverse the motion to do this instead of following through and doing this….” Of course, some of the training is designed to break down tendencies and habits to add new possibilities to your repertoire. So I can’t discount it as I cannot discount what my kyoshi does at our school. He has really shaken things up after I got my second degree black belt, which made me glad I got it when I did.

However, I am not sure I would ever want to swing the stick up and over my own shoulders and head to attack someone behind me. In part of a second strike on a separate attacker, I would prefer to spin out and strike from a forward position as this would move me out of a position where one attacker is ahead of me and the other is behind me. But, again, I suppose it is important to drill things you probably wouldn’t use so you know how to do them if you have to.

Also, the starting stick position in the book is the stick held down by the legs, which I guess is a good practice starting position for carrying a walking stick or an umbrella, but I would definitely worry about speed in bringing that up for defense. An improvised weapon, though, would probably go to our ready-start position, which is up over the shoulder. Also, the book talks about using the stick as a block against kicks and punches, which seems a little iffy to me–it’s placing the strength of your wrist against the body weight of an attacker, and I don’t think my wrist and stick would completely stop an overhand right from someone my size–or smaller, even. But, like I said, perhaps it’s best to practice things you will never use in case you ever do.

You know, in addition to browsing martial arts books since I’ve been taking martial arts, I also checked them out from the library when I was a scrawny kid and wanted to learn karate so I could show those other kids. Unfortunately, I never did learn the martial arts from the books because you really can’t from a start and end photograph. You can learn how to use a weight-lifting machine from the iconography on the machine because the machine really inhibits motion to the proper point A to point B (Dom Mazetti notwithstanding). The human body is not like that, though, so one can swing a stick in many ways. How far outside the body line should the stick go from up to down? How much arc on the whack? Oh, yeah, do not drag like you’re cutting with a sword–swing to the point of contact and back.

So a book on martial arts is a good reminder or perhaps good inspiration if you already have experience with martial arts and know how some of the moves should work before looking at the pictures. But you’re not really likely to become good at stick fighting just from this book. You need the reps. So do I. We’ve got a new kata that started last cycle, and I only kind of remember the first three positions/moves. So I should get to class more often, you’re saying; indeed, I should.

Also, I noted in the book that the author cites one of his previous volumes: The Martial Artist’s Guide to The Five Rings, which I bought and started to read in October 2018. I don’t think I finished it; I wonder where it has gone (one of the book accumulation points, no doubt).

So I shall probably have to pick that one up again when I find it.

Metal Makes Everything Better

As you know, gentle reader, I have often postulated that metal makes all music better and have pointed out how much better Leo Moracchioli’s covers sound than the originals (see Transgenre Music from 2018 and many, many postings in the Legion of Metal Friends Facebook group or build a time machine to travel back to the Redeemer Trunk or Treat in 2018 where we did a heavy metal concert theme and played Frogleap Studios on a loop).

Well, B.P. has a more thoughtful post called Making Metal Out Of Rock which makes the same point, albeit with significantly less Noregianness.

Happy Cybermen Day

I doubt “Cyber Monday” is much of a thing any more, really; back around the turn of the century, people did a bunch of Christmas shopping at work the Monday after Thanksgiving because their employers had fast Internet connections, and if people had Internet at all at home, it was dial-up (I can’t believe I have to explain this, but we are twenty years on). Now, everyone has a faster Internet connection in their pocket and the shopping apps on their phone, so you can buy what you want when you think of it.

I recycled this post from Facebook, where I originally posted this image five years ago. I don’t really do The Facebook any more; it’s for old people. Actually, no, I am an old people; it’s just that Facebook has, perhaps by its own design, gone from a place to share quips and pictures of your dog to the common Internet comments section, except starring people you actually knew sometime as the rando trolls.

I have signed up for MeWe, but it lacks (so far) a critical mass of people I know to make it worthwhile.

So, gentle reader, you get the bulk of my blat-something-into-the-aether communication efforts for the nonce. And occasional recycled content when appropriate.

Apparently, I Am Not Eligible To Start For Denver Today Either

NFL rules wouldn’t allow Colin Kaepernick to help COVID-19-stricken Broncos:

The Denver Broncos not having any quarterbacks available Sunday may have been seen as an opportunity for Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL again.

But that was never a possibility, as league rules mandate that acquired players must remain in COVID-19 isolation for six days before joining their new team.

You mean someone might have been actually interested? Nah, bro, we were just working his name into a headline again:

Then again, Denver, along with every other team, has never seemed interested in reaching out to Kaepernick.

The guy has been out of football for three years now. Let it go.

You know whom the Broncos wanted to bend the rules so they could play? A coach:

The Denver Broncos are starting undrafted rookie practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, but the team wanted their starting QB to be Rob Calabrese, their offensive quality control coach for the past two years, sources told ESPN on Sunday.

Denver felt that Calabrese had the strongest command of its offense and he could run the system better than anybody, sources told ESPN. The league denied those requests that were made throughout the day Saturday, saying that the Broncos could not activate a coach to their active roster. The league doesn’t want coaching staffs being storage areas for potential players, sources said.

Considering that the Broncos are playing the New Orleans Saints, who are starting gadget quarterback Taysom Hill again this week, it would almost be worth turning it on to see who does better. However, the Red Packers are playing at the same time, so Nogglestead will be tuning in to see the team that the Packers defeated in Super Bowl I instead.

UPDATE: Sorry, the quips keep coming, so I’ll add them:

  • Where is José Oquendo when you need him?
  • “And starting at quarterback, Sarah Fuller!”
  • I told my youngest, who broke and dislocated my finger with a football pass that he needed to suit up. Strangely, and disappointingly, enough, my boys are nominal Broncos fans because the oldest had friends in kindergarten who were Broncos fans. My boys have grown since then, but they still sleep under Broncos blankets and the youngest, at least, has not yet outgrown Broncos apparel. He did not believe me about having to start for the Broncos. So if the Packers game goes badly, we might well end up watching former Packer Taysom HIll.

The Book Accumulation Points of Brian J., Explained

I explained book accumulation points last year (almost two years ago, actually).

But I failed to explain one of the reasons why the stack of books has gotten so tall by my reading chair.

It’s because my current black cat Isis defends them.

I try to reach for the books, and she bites me.

Actually, she bites me for so many reasons. Such as doing the laundry (she is no longer satisfied with The Arena of Isis; now, she insists upon jumping on the bed whilst I’m folding laundry and batting and trying to bite me).

I don’t know what it is. The black cats are all so sweet and friendly until they come to me, and then they become mean.

Actually, she does not defend the side table that much. I was just trying to use it as an excuse to justify my own habit of laying aside books to finish later, when later might be years.

Isis actually prefers to jump on my lap when I am reading and inspect books by rubbing her cheek against them. Clearly, she favors heavy hardback books which scratch her better than Executioner paperbacks or saddle-stitched self-published works. But she prefers those to nothing at all.

And then she hops off and runs away, only to return minutes later to hop up and inspect the book again.

Sometimes, though, she will settle into my lap for a long-Isis-time of a couple minutes. But I am not to pet her. Otherwise, she will bite me. Ibit.

Book Report: Eat The Cookie… Buy The Shoes by Joyce Meyer (2010)

Book coverAs you might recall, gentle reader, I ordered this book from ABC Books in May right as the lockdowns were ending here in southwest Missouri. Although I started The Power of Positive Thinking before I picked up this book, I finished this book first–back in September. I didn’t review it before now because I wanted to do a little comparison of them as I did, and I wanted them to be fresh in your mind when I did so. Of course, if you’re reading this first, some of the comparisons won’t make much sense. Not that these book reports make much sense or are much actual “book reports” in any sense of the word anyway.

So. Joyce Meyer, if you’re not familiar, runs a successful (prosperous and it reaches a lot of people). I think she started out at a small church in the St. Louis area and then went national, whether just from attending large conventions and writing successful books or whether she got into television which springboarded her to national prominence (or at least the success she has enjoyed). In the St. Louis area around the turn of the century, though, her company employed a lot of IT contractors, so I knew a lot of people who had done some work not with her but on her business anyway.

At any rate, the subtitle of this book is Giving Yourself Permission To Lighten Up. So the focus on the book is, again, not heavy theology but rather explaining that you can enjoy your life and be a Christian. It does not focus on giving or service, but on enjoying what you’re given without feeling guilty about it. So if you want to come charging in with judgment blazing about prosperity gospel, you can make a case, I suppose, that this book does not emphasize Jesus telling someone to sell all his goods and follow Him.

However, the book does focus on the scriptures where Jesus and the disciples relax from their labors. Also, the Psalms. In contrast with The Power of Positive Thinking, or maybe not so much, the book does not really look to using prayer and positive thought as a tools for success but rather as a respite from the tasks and efforts the world requires–as well as some material things, like buying a pair of shoes (which I don’t understand, because I’m a male) or eating a cookie (or a whole pie, which I do understand as I am, well, me). Although these are material and sensual pleasures, the book highlights verses from the Bible which indicate it’s okay to enjoy life in the material world as long as it’s not your primary pursuit.

It’s written to a lower reading level than The Power of Positive Thinking, more conversational. Shorter paragraphs. Modern. The balance of supporting anecdotes come from Meyer’s own life and not so much from other people who critics claim did not exist. The book didn’t change my life, either, and I didn’t like it as much as the Peale book, but I can see how they’re on a continuum and what role they play amongst Christians. Whereas the Peale book might have had the hope and perhaps the effect of bringing back to the church some non-practicing Christians, the Meyer book is targeted to practicing Christians, I bet.

I have a Joel Osteen book around here. I expect I’ll find it very similar.

On the Plus Side, Christmas Letters in 2020 Are Easy

Actually, it’s not true here at Nogglestead, fortunately. As my grandmother mentioned that she liked reading my letters and read them several times, I took to writing her once or twice a month, so I have a good running commentary of 2020 in almost real time. The real challenge, of course, will be distilling 2020 down into a one pager. It’s easier looking back at the end of the year, when the first four or five things I remember become the contents of the Christmas letter. With all this extra information at my fingertips, I have to prioritize.

Which will give me an excuse to put it off until it’s almost too late, at which time I will put in the first four or five things I think of just to get it done.

Never let it be said that I lack a process or procedure for writing the annual Christmas missive. Do let it be said it is not a good process or procedure.

Book Report: The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952)

Book coverThis book might well represent the longest time between reads on my shelves. I read it in late middle school or early high school when I got this copy, perhaps from the flea market up the hill from the trailer park or perhaps from my grandmother. Or maybe I am confusing it with How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie which I got about the same time in paperback Given that I inherited a copy of that book from my grandparents, that’s probably the provinance of this book as well–my grandmother was high up in the local Toastmasters, after all, and this would probably fit into that curriculum. Re-reading it in 2020 would put it at about thirty years, give or take, between readings, which beats out Dinosaur Time and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel which I read as a child and then read to my children. Captains Courageous, as you recall, represents the longest elapsed time between when I got the book and when I read it at 30 years. Although I did pick this book up in 2012 when my beautiful wife and I tried the habit of reading books to each other in the evenings. We did not finish this book at that time, so it really is thirty some years between completions.

At any rate, I picked up this book earlier in the year because I thought I could use a little positive thinking. My interest in the book waxed and waned throughout the year as did my application of the lessons in it.

Continue reading “Book Report: The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952)”

Book Report: Hunters of Gor by John Norman (1974)

Book coverAs I mentioned, I last read a Gor book in in 2014. I’m not saying it’s old, gentle reader, but then-frequent commenter John Farrier and now-frequent commenter Friar overlapped. Wow. Friar is moving into nomination to the MfBJN Commenter Longevity Hall Of Fame, second only to Charles Hill (PBUH). Higher than my own sainted mother who passed away when this blog was but six years old. Rob K. and Gimlet could unseat him, but they don’t comment that frequently. But that’s neither here nor there, but it’s probably more interesting to think about than this book.

After the previous seven-year hiatus from the Gor books, and I said:

So I was disappointed with this book, and I’ve got at least three remaining on my shelves. I might pick up another one soon–before 2021, I would hope.

So that became a twee goal of Brian J. If it weren’t for twee goals, I would have no goals at all. With a month to spare, I picked this volume up and….

Well.

I was disappointed with Captive of Gor because it was not a Tarl Cabot story; instead, it focused on a woman who was not a very likeable character who had some chances for redemption, perhaps (sorry, I read it seven years ago and cannot be remember exactly), but she chose poorly instead each time that option came around. I have mentioned before (see also book reports for Vienna Days, 2007, and Clemmie, 2010) that I really end up disliking books with unredeemable protagonists who just make their lives worse through poor decisions after some success (shut up, Ted!). Which might have carried over, but the degradation of women in the book was a part of it, too, perhaps.

Well.

This book is about 60% explaining slavery on Gor and treating women slaves poorly (although the male slaves do not fare well, either). The female slaves crave the domination, and they’re happy in their servitude when they give into it. Which is a bit of an extreme presentation of traditional roles of the sexes, but, eesh. Not so much. Perhaps liberals think the newest Supreme Court justice is into this. But probably not.

The other 40% is a pulp story of Tarl Cabot going into the untamed forests in the north of the Gorean continent to find his True Love from the early books (I mention in my report on The Priest-Kings of Gor, 2006, that I did not read the series in order, my memory of the saga is soggy). He has lost the home stone of Ko-Ro-Ba and has been cast out of Ar and is now a merchant in Port Kar. To be honest, I didn’t remember much of the continuing saga as I went along, so some of the reminisces and probably foreshadowing (the assassin probably lives, and I’ll probably read about him in the next volume, someday). But he has heard that the wild women, the Panther Girls, of the forest have her, so he sets up an expedition with a galley and some trusted people to go looking for her. The leader of the city-state whom formerly employed Tarl, the leader of Ar, is also looking for his daughter in the north forests. Tarl dreams of finding the daughter first, triumphing, and elevating himself to the highest levels of Gorean aristocracy, and the book repeats this a bunch. I thought perhaps it was setting itself up for some counter-narrative when Cabot himself gets captured as a slave, but, no. After a series of set pieces and reversals and betrayals, Cabot alone hunts his enemies who have taken the leader of Ar and his retinue slaves and are headed to their exfil point but Cabot hunts them down. At the end of the book, a bunch of slaves are manumitted, but many of the women return immediately to slavery at the hands of their beloved former masters. And Tarl returns as the Bosk of Port Kar, leading into another book which I will likely read before another seven years pass. If only because I set another alarm.

At any rate, the book moved all right, although perhaps that’s because I was skimming a bit.

But one thing stuck out, and I flagged it:

In hunting, one often fells the last of the attackers first, and then the second of the attackers, and so on. In this fashion, the easiest hits are saver for last, when there is less danger of losing a kill. Further, the lead animals are then unaware that others have fallen behind them. They are less aware of their danger. They regard as misses what may, in actuality, be hits on others, unknown to them.

I flagged it because Gary Cooper tells his barracksmates that this is the way to kill turkeys in Sergeant York.

So if I have learned anything this month, it’s how to kill a line of turkeys or Gorean slavers on the march.

Sounds Better Than A Bomb Cyclone, Anyway

UK Weather: Britain braces for 48-hour snow bomb as temperatures set to plunge to -5C.

Maybe bomb cyclones only hit the Ozarks.

I am thankful to live in times and in a society where meterologists use bomb as a metaphor, and we are not so accustomed to the concrete realities of actual bombs exploding around us with enough frequency to see what a ridiculous metaphor that is for weather which is in the range of normal.