Book Report: Good Intentions by Ogden Nash (1942?)

This book collects some of Nash’s work in an around the World War II era, complete with mocking tones about Mussolini and Germany. However, it includes some gems of zingers and whatnot and amusing enough poetry to read aloud to a couple of children who don’t get the point but like to chant when they hear words they recognize.

I liked the book, and I hope some day I get to use “Who was Ogden Nash?” as a Jeopardy! question.

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Book Report: William Zorach by American Artists Group (1945)

This book is a monograph, I think, which means it’s a short autobiography along with photographs of selected work by the artist. This particular volume is special in that it contains not only a clipping of the artist’s obituary from a 1966 New York Times, but it is signed by the artist.

He led an interesting life, born in Lithuania in the nineteenth century and moving to America at age 4. He lived in poverty and quit school at 13, but he had a talent for art and worked in lithography until he saved enough for a trip to Europe. There in France prior to World War I, he painted, hung out, and met his wife. They came back to America and managed to support themselves on art fairly well.

His work is modernist, where the lines of statuary blurs to sculpture. His figures, mostly nudes or busts, blur the lines and don’t strive for absolute anatomical correctness but do resemble the human form. I liked it well enough.

I inherited this book from my aunt, and she searched and searched to find more information on the artist and the monograph. Four years later, with wikipedia and better online book listings, I found enough to know the book isn’t worth the amount she’d hoped it was worth. Back in the day, I got her and another friend of mine into going to garage and estate sales looking for things to sell on ebay. Me, I had a couple hundred bucks a month positive cash flow–not including the neat stuff I got myself out of the proceeds–but neither of my women companions really ever managed to list much on ebay. As a result, Pixie’s house is littered with stuff she bought (oh, and how we would fill her station wagon up, stop and unload it, and then fill it up again on a Saturday), and my aunt accummulated a large number of books and some ceramics that scattered to the family when she passed.

There’s a metaphor for or lesson of art in that perhaps. But I am too lazy to find it.

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On My Wish List

Want to know what to get me for my birthday? How about a Unique Cave Home from ebay?

Historic, regionally famous cave: 15,000 square feet, divided into three main chambers.

The front chamber houses the main part of the 3-bedroom finished house.

The middle chamber holds the laundry room, storage, and a spare bath. The middle chambe made a great party room. 80 feet by 80 feet.

The back chamber still has the stage where Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Ike and Tina Turner, the MC5 and many other bands performed.

Property: 2.8 scenic, partially wooded acres provide excellent privacy and the feel of the country right in the middle of town, just several blocks from shopping, dining, and other conveniences.

Energy efficiency: Geothermal and passive solar keep the home comfortable year-round without a furnace or air conditioning. In spite of the vast size of the home, our energy costs here run about the same as they did in our 800 square-foot starter home. The home naturally stays a little cooler than the average above-ground home, but we found that we acclimated quickly and easily.

Kitchen: The kitchen is the crowning jewel of the house, with nearly 400 square feet and a floor plan that lends itself well to cooking for one person, two, or parties of a hundred guests! Some of the features include a customizable Jenn-Air cook top, two convection ovens, Kitchen-Aid triple sink, large island with secondary sink and breakfast bar, and granite tile countertops.

Occupancy: The house could still could use trim and finish in several key areas. Trim is not a safety feature and not required by code. The City of Festus granted us an occupancy permit in May of 2008, and we have been living here happily ever since.

You choose whether to hire pros to customize before moving in, or live here and take your time getting intimate with the space while making your decorating choices.

Water features: The property has at least three groundwater springs, one accessible via a cistern in the middle chamber of the cave, one that yields an average of 100 gallons a day that drips into an indoor pond in the front chamber, and one near the woods that creates a shallow pond. During heavy rain, the property gets as many as fourteen beautiful waterfalls from the cliffs.

Anyone know how much huge closing concrete doors would cost? I’d call it NOGGLAD.

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Good Book Hunting: February 14, 2009

For Valentine’s Day, I took my sweetie to a book fair in St. Peters. The library out there broke their book fair into three parts: paperbacks, hardbacks, and childrens books (presumably printed after 1985 and having no non-book components). This weekend was the hardbacks weekend, which apparently only included mystery/horror books, bodice rippers by Janet Dailey, two Tom Wolfe novels, and videocassettes.

No nonfiction and little, if all, general fiction. Bare slices of science fiction, and really only stuff that was near-future suspense stuff.

I got some books, many to replace Book Club editions in my library, and some videocassettes:

St. Peters book fair 2009
Click for full size

This includes:

  • Desperate Measures by Joe Clifford Faust. Back in 2004, I read one of his books (A Death of Honor), and he linked the book report on his blog, so I’ll read another of his books.
  • Dark of the Moon, a Sandford book that features a minor character from the Davenport series.
  • Calamity Town by Ellery Queen.
  • Cujo by Stephen King, which will replace a BCE of the same in my library.
  • Red Storm Rising by Clancy. This might replace a book on my to-read shelves or might just be a duplicate.
  • Rose Madder by Stephen King. I didn’t already have it, honey, honest.
  • Shadow Money by George Alec Effinger. I read one of his a long time ago and recognized the name. I hope I’m not repeating a mistake.
  • A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett. Because I’ve read most of my Florida-themed crime books to this point (except for the McBain Hope novels which are building up).
  • Sudden Prey by Sandford. I didn’t think I had this one (and I was right), but I was judging by plotlines. Hopefully there’s not another in the series which I don’t own which features grisly killings where the bodies were staged, gruesomely, to send a message. Because I saw a number of the Prey novels with something similar on the flap.
  • Rainbow Six by Clancy. Might be a replacement or duplicate. But the Clancys were very, very evident at the book fair.
  • Misery by Stephen King. Probable replacement for BCE.

Among video cassettes, I got:

  • Three movies made from Clancy novels: The Hunt for Red October (timely!), A Clear and Present Danger (pretty timely!) and Patriot Games.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which I was missing from my Star Trek VHS collection.
  • The Sands of Iwo Jima because it was a John Wayne movie for a buck.
  • Faith, a collection of music videos from the George Michael album. Sure, I could have gone to YouTube and seen any one of these videos at any time I wanted to, but there’s a difference between browsing and searching. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably own or want a Kindle.
  • Hamburger: The Motion Picture. I already have the Kentucky Fried Movie and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This is some sort of hybrid, right?
  • The Poseiden Adventure because I haven’t seen it, and Mrs. N wants desperately to go on a cruise, so I need to bone up on survival techniques.
  • Cast a Giant Shadow, a movie glorifying the founding of Israel. They don’t make them like that any more.

And the most exasperating thing about this book fair? Although Koontz novels were prevalent, the tables had a large number of Forever Odd, the second book in the series (which I have read) and a couple copies of Odd Hours, the fourth book in the series which I own but won’t read until I read Brother Odd, the third book in the series–and the one that I could not find anywhere.

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Truish Conversation

Sainted Mother: Do you know Ann Rand’s Atlas?
Me: You mean Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged?
Sainted Mother: Yes. Does it predict what’s happening now? They mentioned it on Fox News.
Me: Well, yeah, sort of.
Sainted Mother: I’d like to read that.
Me: pauses. It’s over 1000 pages.
Sainted Mother: A thousand pages?
Me: Yeah.
Sainted Mother: pauses Maybe not.
Me: You were expecting 160 pages?
Sainted Mother: Well…

On the other hand, it’s still longer than the omnibus spending measures passing through Congress.

Or at least the last one.

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Laying Odds On Obama’s Mortgage Plan

Chances that President Obama will heed one of his most beloved senior advisors and give out a brand new house to everyone in the audience today in Mesa, Arizona: 1 in 2000.

It would ensure enthusiastic, bipartisan crowds (including a couple of Republican governors who might need somewhere to live after their next election) at all his stumps and it would keep the wife of a Republican state legislature from upstaging him again. Win-win!

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Book Report: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (1984)

This is an early Tom Clancy book, and you can really tell if you read it soon after one of his later books. For starters, it’s under 400 pages. This comes at the expense of some of the elaborate cast of characters you get in later books, where Clancy fleshes out even minor characters with a page or two of their own. Instead, only the major characters–and eventual recurring characters–get the treatment, which is odd, because later books don’t go into as much depth. I guess Clancy expects you’ll remember who Jonesy is (he’s the one possessed by the alien Mr. Gray, isn’t he?).

At any rate, a Russian sub wanders off the reservation, and the whole of the Russian navy chases it to the edge of American waters. Jack Ryan suspects the Russian captain is trying to defect and needs to come up with a plan to establish contact and to somehow get the sub and its new propulsion system into American hands. You know, like in the movie.

Clancy’s not at his peak building tension here, either. The final climactic sub battle seems almost tacked onto the story and relies on quick scene switching, and I mean after a paragraph in many cases, to artificially attempt to create tension. It’s not as effective in that short of bursts; Clancy gets better at it and at continually building tension to a resolution as he matures as a writer.

Still, a good book. You know when they study literature after the next Dark Age, they’ll read Clancy and King from our era.

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Let’s Talking About Parsing Statements

From a Washington Times article entitled "‘Doom’ talk scored as ‘not presidential’", we have a former "senior aide" to George W. Bush showing that Republican professional political parasites can look like twits:

Brad Blakeman, a senior aide to Mr. Bush from 2001 to 2004, said the new president’s language is immature.

“It’s not presidential. An American leader needs to be hopeful and optimistic – and truthful. Everything he says is parsed; everything he says is searched for deep meaning. When he goes to ‘DefCon 5’ on the economy and says that we’re on the brink of catastrophe, it’s absolutely insane.”

As anyone whose life was changed by the 1983 film WarGames can tell you, the DEFCON scale goes from 5, the lowest which is used during normal peacetime conditions, to 1, which means the mountain is closed, brother.

Maybe professional political parasites should really stay away from the military talk since they don’t teach that so well at the Kennedy School of Government.

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Where The Humor Goes Awry

You know, you would think, “What’s there for Brian not to like?” It’s a Web site with cat pictures and captions with a name sort of like an affinity to one of my blogs:

I mean, it’s meh a bit relative to and But I tolerated it for a few clicks until I got to this entry.

Vulgarity+Cheney=Comedy Gold!

Well, no, not so much. That’s just juvenile, really. I mean, I do from time to time run to a little schizophrenic satire about politicians with whom I do not agree, but simply saying Fuck <politician> isn’t any sort of intelligent humor no matter how you package it, Ms. Cho.

Maybe the site will be worthwhile after the author emerges from puberty at the age of 40 or so.

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I Can Hardly Wait

Just back from the Post Office. Foolish to go on a morning after a holiday, I know, but I had the time, so I tried it.

There were 18 numbers ahead of my ticket and a dozen or so people waiting around. There was one window open.

I waited for about five minutes. It looked as though a second window would open, but instead a postal employee with a fake tan just looked at the crowd that gathered to adore her. I left after the five minutes because the one open window had processed one customer shipping one package in the time I was there, and the guy leaning on the table in front of me had about 60 Priority Mail envelopes.

I cannot wait until our federal government does the same to our medical industry. And once it does, I will wait, hardly.

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Book Report: The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty (2004)

I admit it, I bought this book (finally) because Ron McLarty was Sgt. Belson in the television series Spenser: For Hire.

It got some critical note and some commercial success (I hope), because it’s ultimately a pretty good book. An obese Quality Control inspector in an action figure factory spends his lonely nights in an alcoholic haze. After a week at the cottage with his folks, they die from an automobile accident just as the father finds the crazy disappeared sister. This quite frankly breaks the fellow from his moorings and from his current life.

He sort of stumbles on a cross-country bike ride to claim his sister’s body, and the narrative splits between flashbacks that tell the story of the happy suburban life’s disintegration as the daughter goes crazy and the man on his meandering voyage of self-discovery.

This is the second of the crazy sister books I’ve read recently (the other being The Moment She Was Gone which I read in December), and I’m pleased that this book didn’t resort to a cheap gimmick to twist it. I figured out the exact moment where the narrator would have died if we were going for an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge twist, but that didn’t erupt. Instead, we get a measured (but slightly fantastic) story about a man’s reawakening when everything he knew goes.

I recommend it.

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Book Report: The Jeopardy Book by Alex Trebek and Peter Barsocchini (1990)

I bought this book because it was $1 at St. Michael’s and because our family and I have recently become fixated on this show. We watch it every night, and I took the online contestant test recently.

That said, the book is a little underwhelming. It was published in 1990, when the new show was 4 years old, so it’s a very high level gloss over the show. A bit about Alex, a bit about contestants, something about how it’s taped, and then lots of trivia answers, mostly laid out like game boards so fewer questions would win more space.

I guess there are some other books out there about the show that give a real insider’s view of the process, including a couple written by contestants. I should check those out.

So I guess it was an okay thing if you’re into the game show, but as I said, underwhelming.

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Book Report: Breaking Legs by Tom Dulack (1992)

Now this is a funny play.

A staid Irish-American professor approaches the family of one of his former students, one of his former hot students, for money to produce his play about a murder. The family? Oh, yeah, the Family.

It’s a two act bit, of course, because none of these new kids have the stamina for a five act play, but it has structure, it has wit, and it worked for me.

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