Book Report: Rook City by Seth Wolfshorndl and Elton Gahr (2016)

Book coverThis book is by one of the artists behind Duel! and the author of a couple of other books I picked up at LibraryCon 2019.

This book deals with Rook City, a place where many people have special abilities, but one fellow does not. A college student who likes mysteries, he helps an elderly vigilante escape a nursing home and witnesses several students who consume Dracula’s reconstituted blood and each receives a single ability of the vampire’s power–and a professor that drinks a vial with a more powerful reconstitution. Oh, and the super hero defender of the city pays an actor to act as his nemesis and always look good.

It has a number of stories with interconnections, and it works. The art is simple and serves the story, which you know is what I like in comics. And it hints at a continuation, so I’ll look for that.

I liked it, so I’ll pick up more of the artist’s narrative work (that is, not the sketchbook kinds of collections that a lot of con comic book participants offer). And I hope that I like Gahr’s fiction as much as I liked these stories.

The Improvised Clothesline of Nogglestead

So on Tuesday, our dryer shot craps.

The timing really didn’t work for us. As I mentioned, I was out of town over the weekend, which meant that Nogglestead had a bit of a laundry backup as I am the majordomo of the household. So we had a pile of laundry to catch up on, but when I opened the door on the dryer, the clothes within were still wet.

This sometimes happens when one of us puts the load in the dryer and doesn’t think to turn it on. The timer on the dryer is mechanical and will count down even if you don’t turn the heat and blow on.

So I turned it on, and when I came back a second time, the clothes were still wet, so I knew something was wrong.

I didn’t have time to troubleshoot it myself, he said defensively, so I called upon Sears Home Services (not a paid endorsement) because I know that they can usually send someone out in the next day or so with a truck full of parts to repair appliances.

But I still had two loads of laundry to dry–the one in the dryer and the one in the washer.

I don’t have enough places to hang laundry in my house, and although I have toyed with the idea of putting up clotheslines outside from time-to-time, I had not actually done so.

Luckily, though, like any D&D player who ignores the encumbrance rules, I had some rope and ten foot poles–or at least eight foot long 2x4s, and unlike a 1st level Fighter, I had ratchet straps. So I could quickly improvise a clothesline for emergency drying purposes. I ratchet-strapped the 2x4s to posts on my deck, drilled a hole through the wood, and fed the rope through.

And it worked. I could hang some laundry to dry. Not only did I dry the two loads that were already wet, but I ran a couple loads on Thursday just in case the appliance repairman couldn’t make it.

Look at me, all MacGyver and whatnot.

I must have had ratchets on the mind as I showed my brother the proper way to use them last weekend when we cinched some plywood onto his minivan. I’ve mostly used them to reseat flat tubeless tires on my lawn mower or dolly, and I’ve generally had to watch YouTube videos on how to feed them every time because I’m prone to feeding them the wrong way and having to cut the straps loose. But the proper use of them must have finally stuck with me, as we were able to load and unload the plywood as expected.

When I was getting the straps out, though, I noticed that I had left one of them coiled around the ratchet. As though some years ago, I had not known how to remove the strap once the tension was released. So I just left it for Future Me to figure out. Some years later, I actually knew.

I’m not saying that my ratchet-fu is perfect.

I managed to position the ratchet on one post so that I could not release the tension to remove it once our dryer was repaired. One of the deck’s boards was in the way.

Past Me would have cut the straps or something. Present Me, who obviously has some experience working on the deck (note the freshly replaced board in the pictures) simply knocked one end of the prohibiting board loose, let the strap loose, and then nailed the board back into place.

At any rate, it made me feel delightfully competent, and my beautiful wife was impressed. So I got that going for me.

I’m not blogging to brag. I’m blogging so a couple years from now I’ll know why the 2x4s have holes in them.

Book Report: The Art of America in the Gilded Age by Shirley Glubok (1974)

Book coverThis book is not a real monograph, nor is it a comprehensive survey of art in America between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century. It’s a very, very brief glance.

For painting, we’ve got a couple paragraphs and an image or two for Whisler, Sargent, Cassatt, members of a group called The Ten, Eakins, Remington, a couple photographers, but each really only gets a mention and a plate. Then we’ve got a couple paragraphs on the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Didn’t Cassatt do an impressive mural for it? Yes, yes, she did, I remembered.), some pages on architecture and engineering in the last half of the last century (The Roeblings who built the Brooklyn Bridge suffered for it; the father died and the son had lingering effects from working in the caissons, I remembered).

So it’s a quick skim–the text is really only essay length–with relatively few images for the text (but the text is not dense). It was most valuble for me to remind me of things I already knew, as I have read books on Sargent, Cassatt, and Remington and the story of the Roeblings in Who Built That?.

But not a bad way to pass an hour or so.

Book Report: Duel! by Steve Wolfhorndl and Matt Meyers (?)

Book coverThis is a fun little collection of, well, two stories essentially: Duel 1 and Duel 2.

The first has the conceit of two kids drawing super-powered characters who take turns stomping the other kid’s most recent character. So we get a bit of one-upmanship with simple comic drawings of different types of characters.

The second actually features two comic artists swapping drawings, so each new creation attacks and defeats the champion from the previous turn.

The book also includes a couple prequel adventures of the characters before they met their ends in the duels, which is a nice treat of more straight forward comic bookery. The end matter of the book includes additional treatments of the characters.

It’s a bit of fun. I might get a copy of it for my boys for Christmas.

Someone Wants To Renew A Blogwar

Kevin McGehee says that I don’t count:

As evidenced by my reduced blogging frequency in recent months, the loss of my only known occasional reader is not the sole cause of the Tally Book’s dearth of content; it’s a cause, but not the only one.

Oh, I am nothing, am I? I’ve kept you in my blogroll all this time even though you kept changing the URL to confuse me?

Bear in mind, son, we only declared a truce or got bored with the blog war. We never signed a peace treaty.

But I agree with him on this:

Another big part of it is that, when it comes to things political and social, the only thought that ever occurs to me anymore is to wonder whether it’s possible to roll one’s eyes so hard and so often that they eventually just pop right out of their sockets.

You might have noticed, gentle reader, that this particular blog has also gotten less focused on the news and politics since its inception. But that’s because after the first decade, you realize that you’re just repeating yourself and that history, or at least governments and politicians, repeats and without much, if any, improvement or learning.

So, yeah, you get twee book reports that are a couple of paragraphs about what the book made me think of and pictures or stories of life. And by “you,” I mean “me in a couple of months or years when I stumble back upon each post.” Or when I have to crawl the archives again trying to update all the YouTube links because it has again changed its embedding format. As I fixed in one of the posts from the 2006 Blog Yee Hawd.

But enough about me. Kevin McGehee is responsible for bee colonoscopy collapse disorder.

Book Report: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (2003)

Book coverI bought this book six years ago because I recognized Doctorow’s name from the Internet. In those six years, I have read a pile of Executioner novels acquired that same day before picking this book up. In the interim, I forgot it was a novel, and I initially placed it in my carry bag last week to read at the martial arts school while my kids were in class (and I was not, as I recovered from the memorial stair climb).

But it is a novel, and to sum up: Nothing of consequence happens in an interesting world.

The extrapolated world has people constantly jacked into the Internet, extreme body modifications, and sort-of immortality via consciousness backup and restore to a clone. People live not on cash, but a currency based on social media reputation called Whuffies–if you do a lot of things that people on the Internet value, you have a lot of doors open to you, but if you do not, well, you’re on hard times. Down and out, one might say.

The narrator begins by recounting how he met his best friend, and then the main narrative explains that he (the narrator) returns periodically to Disney World after various adventures. His friend returns, out of Whuffies, and talks again about permanently ending his life. The narrator convinces his friend to not go out on the bottom, but to rebuild his reputation and to go out at his peak. So the two work with the narrator’s girl friend to manage part of the park.

The park itself is run by various ad-hocracies, like-minded individuals who come together to do things guided by people on social media who reward them with likes–and Whuffies–for good ideas. Another attraction developer moves into Liberty Square and threatens the status quo with new technologies–and someone murders the narrator, which makes the narrator go a little off in his defense of the status quo.

Spoiler alert: At the end, status quo is maintained. As I mentioned, nothing of consequence happens in an interesting world.

I’m not sure if the intended message is that nobody can move forward or change in such a society, but that’s what I took from it.

At a little over 200 pages, it’s a pretty quick read, and narratively, it pulls you along. So pleasant, but meaningless.

Speaking of Civ IV

I mentioned two weeks ago about how a post about Civ IV appeared on my Facebook Memories feed.

Last night, I found an ad for it in a comic book that also has ads for Age of Empires III and other video games.

Were video games the last things along with movies and television shows to advertise in comics? I’ll have a definitive answer for the state of the industry in 2019 sometime in 2022, when the comic books of 2019 are marked a dollar somewhere.

Book Report: Seven Dwarfs and Some Odd Tales by Isaac Crawford (2016)

Book coverI got this book at LibraryCon 2019. The author/artist had a couple of regular, staple-stitched comics that I bought as well as this collection which has a flat spine and hence gets counted as a graphic novel and eligible for my annual reading list and an official MfBJN book report.

This book is a collection of stories that take on stuff from the Brothers Grimm (or at least popular representations thereof) and nursery rhymes and given a darker (although not necessarily as dark as the Brothers Grimm) turn, often featuring lycanthropy as the pivot.

An interesting book. The art is black and white and not too busy. The art and story are well balanced–it’s not a story ins service of the art, but the art serves the story. So pretty good.

I liked it better, strangely enough, than his individual comics. One of the series I read, Musical Mishaps of Cat and Fiddle, stretches a story similar in feel (and featuring a form of lycanthrophy as well), into six issues which lends itself to creating more panels for the story which unbalances it a bit.

So perhaps I’m learning a little about the balance I prefer, and this book has it. For what it’s worth.

Still, I’ll watch for more from this guy at future conventions.

Ignorance, Or A Joke On The Ignorant

For some reason, The Golden Girls television show is demonstrating a resurgence amongst memes I see on Facebook. I have no idea if this means people are actually watching the show or merely feeling nostalgic for when it was on. Or both. I think the some reason is that some members of Generation X are getting to that age and they hope they’re as stylish and sassy as the characters they probably didn’t pay attention to when they were young.

Regardless, this item cropped up on my Facebook feed, and I immediately spotted the error, and I wondered if the person who created this meme was ignorant or if he or she wanted to have some fun passing around a meme with an obvious falsehood.

I’ll let you study it, gentle reader, for a moment. But undoubtedly you, as a connoisseur of classic cinema, have already spotted it. But I will put the answer below the fold.
Continue reading “Ignorance, Or A Joke On The Ignorant”

Busy Weekends Sometimes At Nogglestead

So last weekend, I humblebragged on Facebook about my busy and pain-inducing Saturday:

The stair climb was for the National Fallen Firefighters Association, and it involved climbing up and down every aisle at Missouri State University’s Plaster Stadium. Four laps of each aisle. It was single file, so it was more of a leg workout than a cardio workout. I did it because I wanted to see if I could, and I was humbled by the number of firefighters who were doing the climb themselves in full gear. So, yeah, I did okay for an old man, but nothing compared to those who serve.

I’d hoped I could do the climb in an hour and make it north to Bolivar (BALLiver) to catch my sons’ cross country meet (but for it, they would have joined me at the stair climb). However, the climb did not start at the time they said it would (8:30) because they had an opening ceremony, and when everyone lined up to begin, I stopped at the rest room first and found my way to the end of the line. It took a while to get started, so I was only done and back to my car about an hour before my boys were scheduled to run–but the expediency of the meet meant that events were moved earlier instead of later (which is generally how it goes at a track meet). So I got there just in time to pick up my son and turn around to drive another hour back.

Pretty much all of it was guaranteed to make my legs stiffen, and we then went to a church festival where I bought the lad too many tickets, so he spent a couple of hours playing the games there while I watched and encouraged while standing on asphalt.

Oh, yes, I felt that.

So this weekend, I tried to top it.

I:

  • Did a “5k” on Saturday morning that was more like 2.6 miles instead of 3.1.
  • Immediately jumped into my car and drove 3.5 hours to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to help my brother put on a new roof.
  • Climbed onto a ladder and helped tear off a new roof for five hours.
  • Slept.
  • Picked up shingles in the yard, put them in a wheelbarrow, wheeled them to a dumpster, unloaded, and repeated for four hours.
  • Drove three and a half hours home.
  • Did the Nogglestead Sunday afternoon chores.

While working with my brother and his brother-in-law, we talked about how we were going to feel after the strenuous activity, and we agreed it wouldn’t be good.

But I’m starting to wonder if humblebragging about how much we ache after that level of activity does not so much indicate how active we are, but how old we are. So I’m reconsidering bringing it up again in conversation, gentle reader, except for this blog post.

However, I think I will skip the martial arts class tonight.

Book Report: Scooby Apocalypse Volume 1 (2017)

Book coverSo, Brian J., you’re saying. It’s not enough that you count looking at artist monographs as reading a book for your annual total, but now you’re counting comic books? Well, in my defense, gentle reader, this is a collection of the first six comics in a re-imagining of the Scooby Doo universe published by DC comics from 2016-2019 (or so I learned on the Scoobypedia). So it’s not too far off from, say, Potbelly Mammoth or a graphic novel. He said in his defense.

One of my boys borrowed this from the library, and one of my boys (perhaps the same one that checked it out) this weekend said it creeped him out. So I picked it up.

The book reboots the story as post-apocalyptic fiction. Velma works for a secret corporate lab that has a plan to release nanobots that will reprogram humans to be nicer to each other. When she discovers that her superiors also will make humanity docile, she invites an obscure journalist (Daphne) and her cameraman (Fred) to the complex. They and a dog trainer (Shaggy) and an artificially augmented dog (Scooby) are the only ones who are unaffected when the triggered nanobots instead turn people into monsters. They grab a prototype armored vehicle and head out into the wastes in search of… Well, other survivors or other of the complexes.

Not much happens in the first six issues, really. We get some flashbacks about Shaggy and Scooby and Velma, but too many of the pages deal with the bickering between Daphne, who blames Velma for the apocalypse, and Velma, who really did. The actual action of the issues are kinda nil. Reading the above post about the cancellation of the series after 36 issues, I saw the same complaints with the whole run.

Oh, and spoiler alert: Taking a page from the movie, Scrappy Doo is a bad guy–but is arc is just beginning at the end of this volume.

Eh. I didn’t care for the reboot/reimagining. It didn’t creep me out, though.

Book Report: The Art of Carl William Peters (1994)

Book coverI liked this collection better than Jon Corbino: An Heroic Vision. They both come from the early part of the 20th century, where painting has been freed from the line, but Peters’ subject matter is more appealing. It depicts landscapes, generally creeks/rivers or docks, but with human figures in those landscapes.

Well, “figures” might be a little giving. Basically, they’re a couple of brush strokes. But the effect is more akin to the original Impressionist influence. Well, maybe it’s more akin to what I take away from my favorite Impressionism–a sense of a remembered scene or setting.

Unfortunately, as the introductory text indicates, Peters liked to do the same scenes over and over again at different times and in different seasons. So although most of the work is pleasing to look at, if you run through a catalog for an extensive show like this one, it’s repetitive.

But, like I said, pleasing to look at. The human figures make them more pleasing than Monet’s sterile, flora-only landscapes anyway.

I wonder if I will remember Peters or Corbino in a year month or two. Unless I see some of their things at the Springfield Art Museum sometime soon, and I can say, “A-ha! I saw a monograph in that artist,” probably not.

Book Report: Jon Corbino: An Heroic Vision (1987)

Book coverWell, this is the first artist’s monograph that I’ve browsed during the 2019-2020 Packers season.

The book is a couple of full-color plates and a lot of black and white images. The art itself is unclean lines with Degas-like Impressionist touches. The subjects tend to be human figures, but the unclean lines combine with the phrasing, so to speak, make it look a little like Soviet peasant art. I didn’t like it much.

As you know, gentle reader, aside from Impressionism, I prefer cleaner lines, and most of the stuff produced after 1870 will not please me. But your mileage may vary.

Death All Around Us

For some time, Facebook has shown me phantom notifications on my login screen.

When I log in, they’re gone:

So last week, I thought perhaps these notifications from people on my friends list that I have unfollowed, generally because their posts are unrelentingly anti-Republican and anti-Trump, and I’d prefer not to think about how many people I’ve known on a friendly basis who wouldn’t mind if I was put up against a wall and executed for wrongthink.

So I unhid a couple, and one of them, a former co-worker of and bridesmaid for my beautiful wife, had a couple of posts about organ donors who benefited from her son. So I clicked a couple of times, and I learned that she had taken her son to college last year, and a couple of days later, he died.

This effected me in a couple of ways: I felt awful that I didn’t know this before now–nor did my wife, who might have also hidden her on Facebook. I mean, they still get together when my wife goes to St. Louis, but the last time had been before he died, so we just didn’t know. I felt bad for not knowing, and reeled a bit from his death so young–the bridesmaid had been early in her pregnancy at our wedding, and I don’t think I ever met the lad.

But it bothered me more acutely because the boys at Nogglestead are entering those rebellious teen-aged years and are becoming difficult in a sophisticated manner. Sometimes, we have to become strident in rule enforcement, which includes discipline, raised voices, and a lot of time spent angry and frustrated at our boys. Knowing that this young man died at 18, a couple of years older than my own children, made me viscerally aware that my family is spending some of our very limited time together with this nonsense. But it’s within the realm of normal child behavior, and parenting it takes some effort. It is harder, though, when viewed through the lens of mortality.

Last week, I also came across a trackback from Dustbury.com on a post I put up in 2010, right after I switched from blogspot/Blogger to my own domain and WordPress. I sent him a little note telling him that I appreciated his blog for a long time, but he never got it because he passed away this weekend. Charles was probably the longest-time reader of this blog excluding me, and I read his blog several times a day. Even now, when I have a spare moment, I find myself typing his URL in the address bar. I’m going to miss him, and I only knew the online version of him.

I don’t have a pat conclusion for this post. What, hug your family while you can? If you’re like me, that will probably diminish the further I travel from this moment–although my much-mentioned double-effect narrator always keeps me mindful of the passage of time and the loss of this moment at pretty much every moment.

Here, have some David Gilmour.

Unprecedented, Except For All The Others Who Set The Precedent

In his review of Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Christian Toto lauds Ronstadt for doing an album of Spanish songs.

We also see (among the many highlights) Ronstadt’s rise to a stadium-filling superstar, her surprise stint performing “The Pirates of Penzance,” the creation of the “Trio” album (alongside always-engaging interview subjects Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris) and, perhaps her most surprising career turn, the creation of the Spanish-language “Canciones de mi Padre” album.

A recurring theme appears – whenever someone tells Ronstadt she can’t do something, she does it anyway and finds success. Projects like a solo career, opera and an unprecedented album of traditional Spanish music by an English speaking pop rock star proved to be the opposite of career killers.

Unprecedented!

Except for:

  • Eydie Gorme with Trio Los Panchos, Amor (1964)
  • Eydie Gorme with Trio Los Panchos, More Amor (1965)
  • Eydie Gorme with Trio Los Panchos, Navidad Means Christmas (1966)
  • Eydie Gorme with Trio Los Panchos, Canta en Español (1970)
  • Eydie Gorme with Trio Los Panchos, Cuatro Vidas (1970)
  • Vikki Carr, Que Sea El (1971)
  • Vikki Carr, En Español (1972)
  • Vikki Carr, Hoy (1975)
  • Vikki Carr, Y El Amor (1980)
  • Vikki Carr, El Retrato Del Amor (1981)
  • Vikki Carr, A Todos (1984)
  • Lani Hall, Lani (1982)
  • Lani Hall, Lani Hall (1984)
  • Lani Hall, Es Fácil Amar (1985)
  • Doris Day, Latin for Lovers (1965)

That’s almost off the top of my head.

Although perhaps Vikki Carr, born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona but who came to musical prominence with an Anglicized name, might be a stretch as she ended up being more of a Latin singer than an English one–her albums after 1980 are mostly in Spanish.

But, still, by the time Linda Ronstadt got around to it, English-speaking pop stars singing in Spanish (or Portaguese) was almost its own genre.

Although I cannot fault him for not being as knowledgeable about mid-century American songstresses as I am, I can fault him for the modern writing where everything is the best or the first and every play in every game breaks some sort of record.

Five Things On My Desk (VII)

Apparently, I haven’t done one of these posts in three years. I’d like you to believe, gentle reader, that my desk has been impeccably clutter-free in that interim, so I will not dispel your notion should you have it. Although, I am pleased to say, none of these items has been on the desk for three years, some have certainly been on my desk for too long.

The Thank You Card

My oldest son had his birthday at the beginning of the summer, and my beloved aunt sends him a gift card every year. Every year (well, and at Christmas, too, so it’s more than once a year, but only once for the birthday) I have him write a thank you card to her. Sometimes it’s delayed a little while so he can say what he spent the money on, but this year, he spent it quickly on a Nerf gun. But it took a couple weeks (a month’s worth) to get him to write the card. And then he gave it to me to mail, and I generally include a little card of my own with it. But as I have not yet written that note, the thank you card languishes.

The Christmas Ornament

Gentle reader, this is not a true Christmas straggler (that is, a Christmas decoration in some nook or cranny that is not boxed when the Christmas decorations come down). The school my children attend has an annual fundraiser with ornaments depicting the theme of the school year, and I buy extras to give as Christmas gifts. This one was an extra.

I don’t remember exactly to whom I gave them last year, so I’m not sure what to do with this one. Perhaps, as we’re now a two tree family, we can put one from 2018 on each.

My Great Grandmother’s Paintings

My great-grandmother executed these paintings maybe, what, fifty years ago? They were on the wall of our house in the projects–so after the divorce, apparently my sainted mother got custody of them as well.

Here at Nogglestead, we had them on the wall in the dining room until a woodburned chicken keyhanger replaced them because suddenly my beautiful wife likes chicken decorations in the kitchen and dining room. They went unboxed into the garage, on my workbenches (which have more than five things on them, I kid you not). When cleaning the garage, I brought them into the office here until I can determine a good place to hang them. They’re not big pictures, but the walls here are very full already and getting fullerer.

The Light Bars

I bought these LED light bars out of a catalog over 10 years ago before they became common enough to find in department stores. I wanted them for indirect light atop bookshelves, and they did that at our house in Old Trees and here at Nogglestead for a while. Well, they sort of did. I set them atop the bookshelves but never actually turned them on.

So a year or so back, I had to clear some space atop the main den’s bookshelves for audio courses. I brought these into my office, and they’ve sat on the far edge of my desk where I put things that I should put away somewhere other than my desk. They’ve been there except for the times when I have moved things I should pick up and put elsewhere to the floor. This last strategy does not work, as I then might put some of the things away but generally pick up the floor by putting them on my desk.

I’m not entirely sure where I would put them, which probably means I should just put them into the donation box in the garage.

The Pen I Thought Was Cool When I Was Ten

Man, when I was in elementary school, the four-color ballpoint pen was the greatest thing. You could write in one of four different colors. All the cool kids had them.

So, of course, I did not. I got my first Trapper Keeper from a trash can in the projects (and my first bike came from a dumpster), so technology this advanced was way out of my experience.

Now, some forty years later, The Heritage Foundation has sent me one along with a fundraising pitch, and I cannot think of a single thing I want to write in green.

This shall probably be the first thing to leave my desk as I give it to one of my boys who will likely find it as cool as I would have.

Now that I have mentioned these things, perhaps I will be inspired enough to remove them from my desk.