The Products Suggest Permanence

My Facebook feed is full of ads for masks and news of people who are making masks. My mother-in-law has ordered a pile of masks for my beautiful wife and children. Springfield has a mask ordinance until October 15; Nixa and Republic do not, so Nixa and Republic get a lot more of my business these days.

Although some masks are tempting…

I refuse to buy a permanent mask. Whenever I need to go to something in Springfield, I have a single workshop dust mask hanging from one of the shifters in my truck. I slap that on at the doors of the places where I must go that require masks. I refuse to put it on in the car, and I don’t want to own a couple dozen little bits of fabric in 2021.

Because this is only temporary, ainna? Or will the proliferation of masks make it easier to make the current measures of dubious necessity and efficacy permanent?

Well, all right, I must admit I did buy a mask to coordinate with my outfit for one of my required bi-weekly trips into Springfield.

This is the Internet. You are free to believe that I do not, in fact, wear a balaclava to my martial arts school. Or you can believe that I do because although the city of Springfield might have mandated that I look silly, it did not limit the amount of silly I will look.

Book Report: Loveroot by Erica Jong (1973)

Book coverI have mentioned before that I read Jong’s How To Save Your Own Life, her 1975 sequel to her seminal novel Fear of Flying a long time ago, before I started writing book reports on this blog. I never read Fear of Flying, though. And I’ve read some about it (mostly Wikipedia) that says Fear of Flying was an empowering bit of second-wave feminism. I guess it fit into the zeitgeist of the time, when the early boomers were coming of early middle age (well, their 30s, which was middle aged in those days), and Erica Jong became a thing.

This was her third volume of poetry. I started reading it after Fully Empowered, and the second poem in the volume is “To Pablo Neruda”. As a matter of fact, the poems refer/allude to/directly address a number of poets, including Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton (twice, and apparently Jong new her personally), Sylvia Plath, Keats, and Colette. A lot of the poems in the book deal with being a poet and the poetic impulse, so Jong is learned and takes herself very seriously.

The poetry is often vulgar and only sometimes crosses the line into earthy and sensuous, but you can only use the word “cunt” never in your poems to be anything but vulgar. Perhaps that’s the point, shocking little old bourgeois moi. Perhaps I’m judging her a little harshly because for every passage where it’s appealing that she’s good to go without using the cunt, she looks like she could be one of my immediate relatives.

So maybe that squickied the lusty appreciation of this early 1970s authentic womanly carnal expression right out of me.

Overall, aside from a few interesting moments, the poems have a very collegiate feel to them as though they were written by a sophomore at a university somewhere immersed in a creative writing program than real musings of someone growing older. I paid $4.95 (the same as the book’s cover price in 1973) for this at ABC Books in June for a first edition in a mylar cover, I don’t expect I’ll pay that much for another book by this author. If I ever buy another book by her, which is unlikely.

I Would Have Signed This Petition

James Hong, ‘Hollywood’s most prolific actor,’ may finally get Walk of Fame star:

He has more credits than nearly anyone in Hollywood, yet he still isn’t a bona fide “star.”

In his legendary career, actor James Hong — who recently went viral as “Hollywood’s most prolific actor” — has accrued more than 600 acting credits and inspired countless careers, yet he still doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now, a growing group of fans is actively trying to change that for Hong, 91, whose diverse projects include “Seinfeld,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and “Blade Runner.”

Also Wayne’s World.

Hopefully he gets the star. Although, to be honest, the headline aside, I would not have signed an Internet petition because I think they’re worthless and a waste of time. I prefer to spend my worthless and waste of time on an old timey Web log.

Book Report: Combat Stretch The Executioner #152 (1991)

Book coverNot longer after finishing the Medellín trilogy with Message to Medellín a week or so ago, I jumped back into the Executioner one-offs with this volume.

An interesting thing I discovered when researching the trilogy: Although the trilogy is numbers 149, 150, and 151 in the numbering, the numbering on Fantastic Fiction and in the front of the books indicates that #150 in the series is Death Load. Which makes me wonder how that happened. Was the middle book in the trilogy only available to subscribers? Who knows. Well, someone probably knows. Actually, Wikipedia says Death Load was in the main line and Evil Kingdom was in the Super Bolan line. Which probably explains why it was longer than the mainline. The copy I have of Evil Kingdom does not indicate Super Bolan at all. I wonder if that makes it a collector’s edition.

Sorry, that’s more about the series than this book. Don’t I decry series business over the individual books in my book reports? I do!

This book has Bolan working with a beautiful KGB agent to find a Japanese terrorist organization which has a super typhus that it threatens to release unless its demands are met. The KGB agent has another objective: To steal the bioweapon for the Soviet Union and kill Bolan.

In a series of set pieces, Bolan and the Russian track and engage elements of the organization at the safe houses where they’ve stored the bioweapon for dispersal. In one of the firefights, the good buys are exposed and have 72 hours to find the main stronghold and find an antitoxin before they become infectious and need to be quarantined. They find the stronghold, discover the kidnapped scientist who has already discovered the antitoxin, and get saved with thirteen minutes to spare–and the beautiful Russian agent has fallen in love with Bolan and cannot kill him, so her superior who is in love with her shows up and is disappointed.

So it’s not a bad entry in the series, but it does have some errata. At one point, Bolan discovers that the Russian agent is to poison his granola bars with arsenic using the nuts to cover the scent of almonds. As any Agatha Christie reader can tell you, arsenic doesn’t smell like almonds–cyanide does. And when teams kit up for battle, they all end up with different weapons again. I guess in a post-apocalyptic scenario, this might occur as gun collectors emerge with different guns in their collectons.

Aside from the little mistakes, not a bad entry in the series. Fear of bioweapons is as timely as ever, ainna?

What I Did This Weekend

Saturday, I went fishing with my boys. They, or at least the younger one, have/has been eager to go fishing again as it’s not our native thing, but the youngest really likes the thought of catching a fish and eating it.

They’ve gone a couple times with their school classes to ponds and had some luck there, and we went a couple years ago on a guided fishing trip that my beautiful wife got me/us for Christmas. With a professional guide, we caught fish all day–the first bite came before the guide had baited the second hook. We only caught a single bluegill that was large enough to keep–all the bass were the wrong size to take home–and we threw the bluegill back because one bluegill does not an appetizer make.

But they’ve had some high expectations to what fishing is. In their minds, fishing is mostly catching fish. The video game representations of the same task are equally rewarding. Continue reading “What I Did This Weekend”

Based On My Personal Experience

Which is none, by the way, as I am not yet over fifty, but when confronted with an Internet ad like this, I have to say that the answer, currently, is not a dating site on the Internet. I mean, people a couple years older than I am probably did not find their beautiful wife (erm, spouse) on the Internet (a USENET newsgroup, remember, twenty-some years ago) and were not natively born to computers as some of us in the latter Generation X were. They say that millennials and Generation Z don’t remember a time without computers and the Internet, but I do. They’ve been on the Internet their entire lives, but (as I tell my children), I’ve been on the Web its entire life.

So amongst the people I know over fifty who’ve found love (or at least married), where have they found “love”?

  • Church.
  • Work.
  • Widows/widowers marrying widows/widowers amongst their friends. Who knew their lost spouses.

Sometimes two of the three, actually.

I don’t know; maybe the generation above me or older members of my generation are clicking those links. I’d hate to think so, though–by this point in your life, you should have a good social network and be able to work it if you’re looking.

But, as I said, my experience is flawed.

  2. I am currently married to a beautiful woman whom I currently love (so when I am over fifty, too soon, I will find that love nearby most of the time).
  3. I go to church which introduces me to a different set of people than those who don’t go to church.
  4. I tend to hang out with a crowd that’s younger than I am.

So, basically, I have no clue what I’m talking about, but this is the Internet, so I get to say it as loudly as people who do have a clue. Also, experts. Which doesn’t necessarily overlap too much with “people who have a clue.” However, I am jaundiced enough to think that maybe Internet ads that merge my location with their text probably fall into that “don’t have a clue” segment.

The Apocryphoral Prediction Comes True

1986-87 Fleer Basketball Cards case containing Michael Jordan rookie sells for more than $1.7M:

An unopened case of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball Cards sold for more than $1.78 million in an auction conducted by Collect Auctions on Thursday night.

The auction house described the box as “the Holy Grail of all modern items” and possibly the last one left in the sports-card collecting hobby. The case includes 12 wax boxes with 36 packs to a box.

You know, I have many of my childhood collections, and I have always maintained that one cannot get rich from the things from one’s childhood.

In spite of this incident, I’m going to hold to it. Because an unopened box likely came from a speculator or the remnants of an out-of-business collector shop somewhere. Not from someone’s childhood.

(Link via the Springfield Business Journal.)

It Could Have Been Me

Kirkwood, Webster Groves residents walk the streets — every single one of them — in their towns:

Gabriella Ramirez, 16, and her mom, Deanna, set out to walk every single street in their town of Webster Groves. They completed their 160-mile journey in mid-June.

You know, when I lived in Old Trees, I had a baby who liked to ride in the stroller. So from the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2008, we roamed all over Old Trees for hours a day. The baby got up at 5am or so, and I’d feed him and take him for a two hour or so walk, and put him down for his morning nap. He’d wake up, have something to eat, and we’d go for our mid-day walk for a couple of hours, and then we would come home for his afternoon nap. He’d awaken somewhere in the mid-afternoon, and we would go out again for an hour or so. And maybe a little walk after dinner. We did this pretty much year-round, including 100 degree days in the summer and cold days in the winter where I’d put socks over his mittens. So we covered a lot of Old Trees, but not all of it.

We covered all of Tuxedo Park, Old Orchard, Webster Park, and Old Webster many times, but we were light on Sherwood, North Webster, and the other spots north of Lockwood (and the train tracks). Mostly because they were the most distant. A bit because some of the streets lacked sidewalks. Some, too, because North Webster is predominately black, and I have a policy of avoiding being the only one of anything anywhere (sure, some will call it RACISM, but I would feel the same about a predominately Serbian neighborhood like you find in south St. Louis).

In those days, before the iPhone and before smartphones took off, you didn’t have the ability to track the streets and your walks on an app; perhaps if I had gamified it, I would have made the effort toward completeness. And maybe got a book deal out of it. You know, the things I do, I don’t think about writing a book about. Maybe I should if I ever want to be a Real Writer.

Our walking days pretty much ended in the middle of 2008 when the youngest came along. He had an internal timer for 20 minutes, and if he was in a car seat or a stroller for longer, he would begin to wail inconsolably until he was out. This limited our walking excursions and car trips for the most part, but in Old Trees, you weren’t twenty minutes away from most things you’d need–church, shopping, and even my sainted mother’s house was just a touch over twenty minutes away. So we got by, and he got less ornery before we moved to the country.

As to walking all the local roads, well, I have not walked them as the block across the street is 4.1 miles around (4.2 on the bike), and the block we live in is 8.2 miles around by bike (or so I mapped; I haven’t done it because one side of the block is a two-lane farm road with no shoulder, no visibility, and lots of curves and hills that my beautiful wife doesn’t like to drive on, much less run or bike). So I have run on some of the major roads around, but not all of the cul-de-sacs and certainly not the private drives that abound in the neighborhood.

Still, good on these kids in Old Trees and More Old Trees on their adventures.

Giving Recruiters A Bad Name

The Kimble Group emails me from time-to-time with interesting “career opportunities.”

Like this one I received this week:

Assistant professor and health sciences librarian at Gozanga University’s Spokane, MO, campus. Since I live within 25 miles of Spokane, Missouri, I am a hot prospect for this job because, well, no one else in their database lives within 25 miles of Spokane, Missouri.

Word to the wise, kid: Gozanga is in Spokane, Washington.

Which removes my only qualification for this opportunity.

Homophones, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

A while back (five years ago?), my youngest son’s class collected as many homophones as they could, so my son took a lot of pleasure running through his vocabulary and ours to discover ones that his classmates had not.

However, I was remiss at that time in not including tocsin, an alarm bell, and toxin, a poison generally of plant or animal origin.

You would think I would have been better prepared for that pairing as a reader of suspense novels, but Alistair MacLean novels are more full of klaxons of the alarums.

(The word tocsin brought to the forefront of my mind via this Bookworm Room post.)

Book Report: How To by Randall Munroe (2019)

Book coverI bought this book at Books-a-Million in June. I haven’t made a goal of reading the books I bought in Branson this year (unlike last year, when I read all five ending with Herschend Family Values). But we bought a copy of this book for the boys as well, and the oldest spotted on my to-read stack (those volumes from Branson this year are still stacked on the floor atop the box of books I inherited from my most recently passed aunt) and recommended the book.

Well, he hasn’t read What If?, another book with a similar premise. Wherein What If? the author speculates on crazy questions and works out the math and physics on the prospect, in How To, he takes a basic activity like being on time, digging a hole, moving a house, playing piano, and so on and then goes off on a little physics tangent exploration of the possibility. So the schtick is a little different because he’s taking things for which we already have a good solution–leave early, use a backhoe or excavator, buy a player piano–and goes tangentally off into ridiculous but physics-ally sound answers (or reasons why the answers he chooses are not physics-ally sound).

So a little less engaging than What If? from my perspective.

My boys liked it, though. Enough to recommend I read it sooner rather than later. Although I’m not sure how much they appreciated the math and physics in it. I suspect they liked it because it had a lot of cartoons in it, like their previous favorites Dog Man and Captain Underpants.

I see Munroe has published another book in the interim–Thing Explainer–that I’ll watch out for. I’m also thinking about getting a copy of What If? for that former physics teacher on my gift list. She might find it a hoot. Or not. The key in Christmas gift giving, especially to those with whom you’ll open gifts in person, is a large number of items so that, hopefully, something will delight the recipient.

Family Video Tries Another Revenue Stream

I mentioned on Dustbury a while back that the local video stores have also started carrying CBD products and have used most of their signage since to promote that fact rather than the new releases. I guess the high speed Internet has spread out from Springfield enough that streaming media is starting to cut into video rental even out in the country. And I can’t hold myself blameless as I have not been visiting the video store much recently as the boys are watching all my Adam Sandler movies and when we get together to watch something recently, we’ve watched cheesy movies that I have watched before.

So Family Video is now offering a new benefit.

They probably get a cut from every membership in what looks to be a concierge-like service.

I get it. It pays to diversify your revenue streams especially when your mainline business starts struggling. But wouldn’t you think it better to find something almost adjacent to your core or former product offering so people kind of think of your store when they think of the product? Because after I delete this email, I’m not going to think about Family Video and telehealth services again until I stumble across this blog post years from now.

So if you’re a video store, what can you do?

  • Partner with other video stores nearby kind of like a library consortium. If you don’t have a title but your partner video store does, you can have it for your customer tomorrow at your normal or a special rate, and the other store offers you a reduced fee for the rental. It’s best to have a reputation for having everything and for having everything available when you’re a video store–especially obscure titles.
  • Movie discussion groups for people cinema buffs. You can’t actually show the film without getting exhibitor rights or something (citation needed), but you can get some people together to talk about movies every week. Like a book club. I think you could show excerpts from the movie–perhaps from YouTube instead of the DVDs–, and you could probably stock your shelves the week ahead (via your partnerships) with extra copies of the movie to discuss. Or maybe add your own copies to have available even after the discussion.
  • Movie trivia nights. Everyone likes a quiz. Perhaps add some event space to the venue to accommodate small events and perhaps screenings of local films or support for local film makers. A lot of gaming stores use a bunch of their floor space so people can come together and play games.

I mean, as a business, you could go afield of your core business, but your customers/members won’t necessarily think of you when they think of that other line of business. The more you can diversify your product offerings in adjacent to your original product offering, the better.

Of course, video store owners probably still have professional organizations and support networks that have already thought of this and can’t justify the additional almost-dead square footage in their lease or something.

But idle, ill-informed speculation is what blogging and the Internet are all about.

Has Our Journalists Worked Blue Collar Jobs?

Trucker sues Bass Pro after being hit by falling freight:

When Moore got to Florida, the lawsuit says Moore noticed that a load bar was dislodged and a palette had moved in the trailer.

The lawsuit says Moore asked Bass Pro employees to fix the palette and load bar, but they refused and told Moore it was his responsibility.

You know, I worked as a shipping and receiving clerk at an art supply store shortly after college, so the trucks I unloaded sometimes had palettes on them. But everywhere else where I’ve dealt with truck-delivered goods, the trucks have only had pallets.

Book Report: Flight of the Golden Eagle by Terrence Webster-Doyle (1992)

Book coverI bought this book almost a year ago already when I went to ABC Books to get some books signed by a local author. I would say that the year has flown, but honestly it’s only because the number of event markers to indicate the passage of time have diminished in the year 2020, not that I had a lot of Big Events to jazz up the metronomic rhythm of middle aged life here at Nogglestead in 2019. As they say and I often quote, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

The author of this book runs (or ran) his own martial arts for peace institute. A psychologist and martial artist, the goal of this children’s book is as much about talking about world peace and how the perspective of a young person as a martial artist can help them bring about that greater understanding and world peace as it is about martial arts concerns qua martial arts. The book is broken into small sections, stories, recountings of teachers instructing the students through lessons or martial arts training (sometimes not the same thing). Each section has a lovely children’s book illustration, so it’s almost half an art book, too.

I can’t help but compare it to the Buddhist sesshin books I have read in the recent years (Everyday Zen and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind). Although sometimes with insights that my own kyoshi has told me (Learn your own tells when you’re sparring because your opponent, if he or she is good, will see them, et cetera).

Still, the appeal of it for me, and the part I appreciated the most, was that practical advice and not the kumbaya bits. Because kumbaya is impossible. The best we can hope for is live and let live, and that’s in short supply these days.

Some Yes, Some No

A meme on Facebook.

As I mentioned in 2016, I took my boys too the old neighborhoods where I lived in Jefferson County:

So we hit St. Louis late in the morning, five hours ahead of our hotel check-in time, so I took the long way in, through Jefferson County where I could show the boys a couple places where I lived. The house in the valley in House Springs looked pretty dilapidated; the garage door had been replaced with a worn piece of plywood. Sometime around the time I left, the gravel road had been paved, but it doesn’t look as though it had been maintained at all, which is worse than having never been paved at all. I showed the boys where the mobile home I’d lived in for four years had sat, but Siesta Manor Mobile Home Park had rearranged the layout of the pads over time, so there wasn’t a 106 Quintana any more. After taking some flowers to my mother’s plot in the cemetery at Jefferson Barracks, we drove slowly by the house in Old Trees–the only house I’m sad to have left–and saw the lilies I planted ten years ago are six feet tall. We stopped at Blackburn Park, where the oldest played when he was one year old, and were the only people in the park on a Friday afternoon.

Then we headed north. We drove by the house in Casinoport, which looked much the same as it had or better. Most of the time we lived there, it was white asbestos shingle, but we had siding put on right before we left, so it looked better as we left than most of the time we lived there. We got to St. Charles, and I showed the boys a house where I lived with my aunt and uncle–who I grew up thinking were well-to-do but it turns out they were just doing better than we were. We checked into the hotel and had dinner at the Cracker Barrel nearby, which was good as the area around the St. Charles Convention Center was all torn up.

I drove past my aunt’s old house where we lived in her guest room and basement for a year and a half. Several times, actually, in the course of my travels to St. Louis.

Pretty much every time we go to St. Louis, though, I do drive by the house in Old Trees. As I mentioned, that’s the only place I’m a bit sad I left. It’s right off of Interstate 44, the road from Springfield to St. Louis, so it’s not far off of the path from where I’m going if I’m going to something in St. Louis County (it is not on the way to St. Charles, though, so I didn’t drive by it every time I was in the area last year).

However, other places I lived, I’m not sure I’m comfortable driving through.

The house I lived in when I lived with my mother in Lemay is in a sketchy area. It was sketchy then, but I was young and a bit angry-looking (albeit a skinny angry). I might drive past it, but I really haven’t the times I’ve been in the area to visit my mother’s grave at Jefferson Barracks.

The places I lived in Milwaukee. Well. I would certainly not drive by my house in the projects at night, and I haven’t really felt the need to go by it in the daytime when I’ve been in Milwaukee, either. The neighborhood where my father lived, and I lived in his basement during college, probably has not transitioned too badly, but the house where we lived the last month in Milwaukee before decamping for Missouri–the lease on our apartment in the projects ended before the school year, so we stayed with one of my mother’s friends until school ended and we moved (and my mother did not tell my father where we were for that month as a bit of a dirty trick–their marriage did not end amicably to say the least), well, that neighborhood has been in transition ever since, so I might drive by it, or I might not.

You know, the last couple of times I’ve been to Milwaukee have been transitional–we’re driving through it on the way to Wisconsin Dells, or we stayed in Germantown to visit my grandmother who lives outside the Milwaukee suburbs. Even when I was visiting Milwaukee in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, I was staying downtown and did not get to the northwest side very often.

Do I get a sense of nostalgia when I do? You know, not really–I get more from my memory than the places themselves since they’ve changed enought that I only sort of recognize them. Or I’ve changed that much. Although given how I hang onto physical things for memories’ sake, perhaps it is more that the things have changed than me in this case.

A Mistake I Should Never Make

I mentioned that I did not watch Ice Pirates with my boys when we wrote Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” this spring.

However, my oldest boy talked about herpes for some reason today, in passing, as a meme joke of some sort, and the film features a Space Herpe, so it was time.

My youngest went for a bike ride with his beautiful mother, and my oldest, the sophisticated cinemataster that he is, only made it through half, so I watched it mostly myself. And I made a mistake.

When Killjoy appears, I recognized it was a former football player gone Hollywood, and I initially thought Lyle Alzado, but it’s actually John Matuszak.

Lyle Alzado
John Matuszak

You might understand the confusion. Defensive linemen from the 1970s who went to Hollywood who had dark hair and beards and played supporting roles in sometimes cheesy offerings. One could throw Merlin Olsen in this mix, but his hair was dark enough to not quite look the same, plus he had his own starring roles on television which cemented his distinction a bit. Also, he’s a little older than the others, as he played in the 1960s (as recounted in Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay which I reviewed in 2004 and 2015.)

I say I should never make the mistake between Alzado and Matuszak because Matuszak was from Milwaukee and played a year of college football at Mizzou. So he should be on my list of “He’s from Milwaukee, you know” and has not been so up until this time. And he will be from now on.

Not that I won’t still have to think when I see one of them in a movie or television show from here on out. They do look enough alike for my confusion, don’t they? Humor me here, gentle reader.