Good Book LP Hunting: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Sale Autumn 2013 (Round 1?)

So I snuck off to the book fair in the middle of the day yesterday to check out its selection of LPs and whatnot. Scratch that: The whatnot was eliminated by the sheer number of LPs. I browsed through the ones on the tables (not the ones on the floor), and it took me over an hour. I spent another couple of minutes running over the philosophy, literature, and history tables of $1 books. No Better Books shopping for me today. Perhaps Saturday (half price day) or Sunday (bag day) will see me doing my real damage.

Here’s the little stack:

LPs I got at Remington's

The haul includes:

  • Carolingian Chronicles, a pair of texts documenting French history in the 800s.
  • A collection of poetry chapbooks bundled together and sold as a unit for a buck. There were two, and I regret only buying one.
  • Remember when I said I only bought one copy of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights in Clever? Well, I found two more here. And I bought them.
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Greatest Hits. Since I’m now apparently a collector (and a speculator), I’m on the lookout for his LPs in the wild. The book fair had a couple copies of The Lonely Bull, Going Places, and SRO in addition to what I bought. His other titles are much rarer, I guess.
  • Two Chipmunks albums. My children are suddenly too old for Sesame Street songs and are at the edge of being too old for books on record at all (and I monopolize the record player anyway). But these, I was sure, would get to them. And so they did. The older one, a poseur of sophistication at seven, feigned disdain for it when I played it for them this morning. It was a strange thing: Chipmunks à Go-Go is a 1965 collection of early 1960s hits, so I recognize most of the songs. But not like that, Lord, not like that. The other platter is Sing Again with The Chipmunks from 1960.
  • Two by Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence: It’s Us Again (1962) and Songs from the Golden Circle (1959?).
  • Rod McKuen’s The Loner (1966). Oh, I’ve read his poetry. I can’t wait to listen to his singing.
  • Jackie Gleason Presents… “Oooo!” (1957).
  • Carmen for Orchestra by Morton Gould. Brian J., did you buy that album simply because there’s a pretty girl on the cover? ::cough, cough:: Well, it was one reason. A few more saucy covers like this, and I’ll have nothing to fear from the Opera category on Jeopardy! If pretty woman on the cover were the only criterion, though, I’d own a lot more Sylvia albums today.

So this sudden outbreak of audiophilia means I am going to have to buy bigger shelving for my (our) burgeoning record collection. It’s our record collection, as my beautiful wife owns her fair share of them, but I’m the one burgeoning it to death. Also, I’ll need more poly sleeves for the covers. And I’m thinking about getting another turntable for the den or for my office. And, maybe. And.

So if I make it back to the sale in a non-volunteer capacity, I’ll focus on the books. And I’ll keep you, gentle reader, posted.

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Fanboi or Professional?

It’s time to play fanboi or professional. Quick, guess, am I an Apple fanboi or a grizzled computer industry veteran?

There was a day, gentle reader, when I lingered over Radio Shack ads in the Sunday paper to look at and imagine what it would be like to get a TRS-80 and program on it. Some years later, I got a Commodore 128 for Christmas and dabbled on it a bit. Then I got onto what they called the clones in 1990.

And every couple of years, when I got (or built) a more powerful computer, I was excited. It would have better graphics, it would have a faster processor, it would run cooler games that were almost like movies. Whoa.

But sometime not long after the turn of the century, that joy left me. The excitement in getting a new computer. I started working with them, I suppose, and doing more things with them that were work and not fun. I did like having dual processor machines even unto 2007 or so, but now the performance differences are kinda meh. Also, lately they’ve started making movies that look like computer games, so I’m less impressed with how good a game looks because the movies look so bad.

Where am I going with this? Ah, yes. Getting a new computer is a bit of a chore these days because I have to copy data and install a pile of applications and whatnot (if it’s to be my Primary computer). And it’s not like I play a lot of games anyway.

So three or four weeks ago, I (my company) got an iPad 2 because I’m doing some mobile testing, and I’ll eventually need to test under the current iOS version and on a tablet. I configured it in a couple of minutes, and then I set it on the desk.

And it’s sat on the desk for the better part of those weeks. Hardly touched. The cats have swiped on it more than I have, but I didn’t give them my pass code, so those tweets are from me. Even the ones meowing great symphonic overtures.

I mean, it’s just another computer, smaller and lighter, but basically a thin Web browser.

There you have it: I am not a fanboi.

UPDATE: Also not a fanboi: Mr. Hill.

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Book Report: The Danger of Peace by J.W. Allen (1915)

Book coverThis book is almost 100 years old; I have the original edition, not the one available on Amazon these days. Which is some testament to its content or its continued resonance in college courses somewhere.

The lecture upon which this book was based was presented at King’s College in defense of the war effort and against those who would accept a premature peace with Germany in World War I. Allen counters arguments put forward from pacifists, but agrees that most people want the absence of war. However, he recognizes that a cessation of conflict without complete defeat will lead to war in the future.

At 37 pages, it’s a quick enough thought-provoking bit of reading. If you’re steeped in Downton Abbey and are rediscovering the period, it’s an insight into the real thoughts of the era. If you’re somewhat lacking in World War I history, as I am, it’s a reminder of whole epochs with lessons still applicable and to the universal truths of human nature they can reveal and that modern thought cannot conceal for long.

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Book Report: Colter’s Hell & Jackson’s Hole by Merrill J. Mattes (1962, 1976)

Book coverI had seen plenty of copies of this book locally (or at least I saw this particular copy of this book often enough at Redeemed Books), so I assumed that the Colter’s Hell and Jackson’s Hole were local landmarks. Of course, gentle reader, you probably already know what I did not when I picked up this book: These are parts of Yellowstone National Park, and this book was a souvenir to visitors to that location. I guess it was really popular a generation ago when people went places on vacations. Do people still do this? I dunno.

At any rate, the book is a history of the region in its fur trapping days in the early part of the 19th century. Unfortunately, the material is presented as a kind of brain dump of source material. Although the author collects a lot of information from trappers’ diaries and other primary sources, the author presents it in a non-narrative fashion, skipping ahead and backwards in time as he follows a trapper or whatnot for a couple of paragraphs, and then suddenly we’re a year or so back in the past. And the copious material is dumped in without a particular readability. So it’s an academic-minded book offered to civilians, which might explain why so many are available used. But not my copy, of course.

It’s the second tourist pick-up book I’ve read recently (Hearst Castle the other), and it did make me want to visit Yellowstone (but not during a government shutdown, whose antics have made me less eager to visit the location).

And the strangest takeaway from this book: just the amount of time travel took in those days. You get people spending months bringing supplies up from St. Louis and annual meetings which are the only semblance of Western civilization the trappers encounter. How lonely it must have been out there, but how beautiful and, in the case of this region in particular with its hot springs, geysers, and whatnot, how fascinating.

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Look Who’s Mr. Big Gym Bag Now

So way back in 2010, I blogged about my gym equipment, particularly the Tony’s Pizza Super Bowl bag that I used for over 20 years in gym-going and whatnot.

You know, I’d seen people with the big gym bags and thought it was something akin to a sports car in the gym. Look at how athletic I am! they screamed. I am so athletic that I need a BIG ATHLETIC BAG for all my ATHLETIC GEAR. And all I, unpretentious I, needed was a little bag for some sweats, a lock, and some weight gloves.

Well, life has changed.

It’s not that I am MORE ATHLETIC, LOOK AT MY BAG, CAN’T YOU TELL HOW HEALTHY I AM BY THE SIZE OF MY GYM BAG? Instead, as you might know, I go through phases where I dress more nicely than I have to. Hey, I work from home, so I could wear jeans and t-shirts all day–and I do some days–but when I go out, I like to have khakis, a nice shirt, and oxfords on. These phases often run counter to my going to the gym phases–that is, I dress nicely until I realize what a hassle it is to additionally port around a pair of gym shoes, gym socks, and whatnot. When going-to-the-gym phases became ascendent, dressing-nice phases became descendent. This cycle, though, I’ve held on, but the shoes stuffed the little bag.

And on Saturday, I went to the gym and the martial arts studio, and there was no way that the change of clothes and a gi were going to fit into the Tony’s bag (and, as it was Saturday, I was in jeans and a sweatshirt and not the full Grant).

So, also on Saturday, I bought a cavernous gym bag that can hold a couple changes of clothes, a couple of magazines, a pair of shoes, a couple of magazines, and a couple of snacks. And maybe a decorative little gym bag dog like a golden retriever.

Meanwhile, the Tony’s bag will hit the showers and become an inactive relic in the museum of things I keep to remind me of the old days. It’ll fall under a pile of bags in the closet (Look! here’s the bag I got from the company that had the funeral for my mother! Hey, this backpack had a GenCon patch on it twenty years ago!).

At least until I find that my Big Gym Bag does not easily fit into a locker at the YMCA. In which case it will return triumphantly from premature retirement, a little canvas Mario Lemieux.


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Book Report: Texas Earth Surfaces by Jim Book (1970)

Book coverI got this book last weekend at the Friends of the Christian County Library book fair, and last night I discovered that listening to the ball game on the radio lends itself to reading text even less than watching a baseball (or football) game on television does because you have to listen and process the words instead of having the visual shortcut of the image to keep up with what’s going on. So I learned a bit about my cognitive processes and picked this collection of photographs up to flip through while listening to the game.

It’s a collection of images of, guess what? The ground–along with some vegetation and landscape features–in Texas. That’s a twist ending, ainna?

In the middle of the baseball game, while flipping through a book of photographs, I had an epiphany that I’d probably read somewhere else before: At some point, art stopped being about depicting something and all about being Art. Hear me out:

These images were taken and selected because of the different interpositions of the textures of, say, stones and tree bark or a mushroom amid dirt and grass. Okay, that’s a nice study, but what is it supposed to mean to the viewer? Nothing more than that: What might be good practice or technique studies becomes the art itself. Unlike, say, Bittersweet Ozarks at a Glance with its pictures of people and places, this book doesn’t really give anything for a layman to grip onto except the technique. It’s art for other photographers. Kind of like modern literature is jazz improvisation without a theme or motif or modern painting and sculpture is just technique for itself. The medium is the message, kinda.

Or maybe I just don’t like landscapes particularly. Take your pick.

At any rate, this particular volume was originally $20 at Hooked on Books because it was autographed by the author, but I got it for a buck from its sale room some time after that initial decision was made. So it feels like a particular deal.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Heathcliff Round 3 and Heathcliff: Treasure Chest by Geo. Gately (1984, 1991)

Book covers

These books come from different sources: the first, Heathcliff: Round 3, collects cartoons from the newspaper panel. In previous reviews of Heathcliff collections, I’ve mentioned that this meant that a book hit a lot of common tropes that are better separated over the weeks of a cartoon’s run in the papers.

Heathcliff: Treasure Chest, on the other hand, collects Heathcliff stories from the Marvel comic books, so each runs a couple of pages as you would expect in a comic book. There are little adventures where Heathcliff is on television or wins the lottery, and they do expand upon the humor in the cartoons, but even so, two of the cartoons collected in the book repeat a plot (Iggy and Heathcliff get locked somewhere with burglars).

Both are amusing in their way, and worth flipping through if you can pick them up for a quarter. Also, children love them.

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From a Distance, That Makes No Sense

It was the 1980s: when we were close to them, we couldn’t see the senselessness.

We can’t go on just running away.
If we stay any longer, we will surely never get away.

Not to put too fine a point on it, that’s a direct contradiction of a density to warp time and space.

Also, children, the rumors were true: 1980s architecture did feature doors made taller specifically to accommodate teased hair.

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Book Report: The Sire de Maletroit’s Door by Robert Louis Stevenson (1985)

Book coverI thought this book was a novella originally based on its length, but it’s not. It is a short story printed in a hardback edition to capture the college required reading market or, nowadays, the copyright-has-expired-let’s-pour-it-in-a-hardback-and-see-who-buys-it print-on-demand market. But I got my copy for a buck, so I win.

The basic plot of the story is that a fun-loving cavalier is out on the town one night, a strange town where he’s violating a curfew, and he slips into an unlocked door to evade the night watch. But the unlocked door is really a one-way door designed to trap the paramour of the young maiden who lives in the house. The uncle of said maiden believes this fellow is the one who’s been passing her notes at church and opened the door (rimshot!) to scandal, so if the young man does not agree to marry the woman by dawn, he will be killed.

So, basically, it’s Sartre’s “The Wall” except with a comely woman from a good family as the fate worse than death.

It starts out with a very Lovecraftian feel as the town is described and you get the sense of the architecture and history looming over this stranger. But once he’s in the house, it becomes a meditation on honor and choices and what makes people compatible for life.

So it’s a nice little story, a quick read and a book to mark down on my annual list. Woo!

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The Laddie Wants An Ambush Party

So my five-year-old, somehow my youngest, child gets fixations, whereupon he dwells upon one concept or another for weeks. This month’s obsession: Where he’ll have his next birthday party. Which is amusing, as he’s got until next spring to decide. He’s considered parties at the local bouncy house (bouhaus?) and at the Ozark Community Center (somehow abbreviated by its marketing team to “The OC” because appropriating southern California slang is hip).

However, amid his musings, he announced he wants an Ambush party.

That’s not his five-year-old way of saying a surprise party. He means an Ambush party. Continue reading “The Laddie Wants An Ambush Party”

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Book Report: [sic] by Melissa James Gibson (2002)

Book coverThis book is a 21st century New York play. It’s not Neil Simon, that’s for sure.

It deals with three characters who share a hallway on the third floor of a New York apartment building that might or might not be owned by their mutual acquaintance Larry. Theo is a composer stuck on his maximum opus and in love, sort of, with Babette, who is working on her maximum opus esoteric book and borrowing money. Frank is a former flame of Larry and is working on auctioneering. Throughout, you hear (and in the stage version partially see) from down the air shaft a couple breaking up. And there’s Mrs. Jorgenson, who sings, is a friend to them somewhat, and who dies.

So what’s the point of the play? The play’s the thing. What gets resolved at the end? Mrs Jorgenson is still dead. The main characters are all pathetic. SO IS LIFE! I guess.

I dunno. It ain’t my bag, baby. And, unless I miss my guess, those whose bags it is lie on the island of Manhattan.

Also, the play uses a special tick of the characters speaking without punctuation, with capitalization For Emphasis, and sometimes over each other in a way to capture How People Talk, except they don’t, not That Way, and to the extent they do it’s Hard to read.

Overall, not something I’d recommend. You all know the kinds of plays I recommend (The Courtship of Barbara Holt ::cough, cough::).

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Basically, It’s A Monroe Press Release in USA Today

I found an article called Top 5 places for a Wisconsin cheese pilgrimage.

You know how I can tell it’s not a real top list? It does not include Mars Cheese Castle.

Instead, it identifies five places all in Monroe, Wisconsin to visit.

Given all the cheese in Wisconsin, this seems a rather tightly focused list. Almost as though the “journalist” merely regurgitated a list of places from a Monroe Chamber of Commerce brochure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Monroe, Wisconsin, or its effective outreach that has gleaned national attention.

But, come on. All five destinations are in the same town? Who would fall for that? Right. People not from Wisconsin. Who read the newspaper.

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Book Report: Innsbruck by Dr. Adalbert Defner (1963)

Book coverThis book report will dispell any illusions you might have had, gentle reader, that I have to actually read a book to count it as a book I’ve read over the course of a year (unless you remember Hand Shadows to be Thrown Against the Wall). This volume, unlike the hand shadows book, does have text. But it is in German. So I could pick through some of it, but not enough to get what the preface/introduction conveys. Probably something about the history of Innsbruck, Austria, which is what the book is: A collection of photographs, probably sold to tourists, of Innsbruck and its environments in the early 1960s.

So the images definitely have that going for it: Not only is it another place, but it is another time in that place. The photos include old cars and fashions, but in a foreign land. It’s like watching one of those post-World War II Americans Abroad films (such as Three Coins in the Fountain). Except with no Americans.

But the book does anticipate American or Britsh readers: Although the preface is in German, the captions for the photos are in German, French, Italian, and English. So I was able to learn what I was looking at, but not much of it was that helpful as I have not been to Innsbruck.

But, still, many old fascinating buildings in the 1960s. Mountain back drops. Actual cable cars.. How cool is that?

Someday, I might actually want to travel to Europe. I’ll have to build up some cardio-vascular super strength, though. Not because I’m afraid of the Alpine heights, but because some of these vistas are breathtaking, and too much of it, and I’ll be flopping on the ground like a fish out of water.

Oh, and check out the inscription. In German. Sentiments from Europe in 1967:

Inscription in the book Innsbruck

You’re welcome to translate that yourself; I can’t really make out the cursive German letters well enough to try to run it through the Google translator, but you’re welcome to try if you’ve got lots of time on your hands. Perhaps it’s a coded message from hidden Nazi remnants identifying where the war loot is hidden in the Alps. If so, be kind and give me a finder’s fee, okay?

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Good Book Hunting: The Friends of the Christian County Library Book Fair October 2013

You might have thought, gentle reader, that I let you down last week when I only bought a few books in Clever.

Oh, but see what I’ve done now in Ozark.

In my defense, it was a date night where I treated (or was treated to by) my beautiful wife to a fine Italian dinner at the very best Italian restaurant in Springfield (whose name I redact to ensure we can get a table when we want). In the past, this dinner plus the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale Friends Night yielded us plenty of opportunity for bookshelf fillage. But.

This autumn, they limited the first night, limited to the Friends of the (you get the point) or people willing to pony up $5 to be friends to the hours of 6-8 pm. This meant we got there with fifteen minutes to browse. Granted, it is just one room full of books, and the crowd of UPC code scanners had thinned to only one, so we were not held back by a throng. So I only got, gasp, seven books. But I also got:

The Christian County book sale

Whipped Cream and Other Delights. I’ve been looking for this iconic album ever since I’ve begun gathering Herb Alpert albums, and this one is not often available while Going Places is. The Friends of the Christian County Library sale had two copies of Whipped Cream and Other Delights, and I only bought one. Which I now regret.

I also got a couple of picture books for football games, a history of Hawaii, a couple of books on making your small farms efficient, a Niven/Pournelle science fiction book, and a Robert Louis Stevenson short story bound independently.

I also got record albums of the score of the Man with No Name trilogy and Hang ‘Em High and a five record set of Los Norteamericanos. The whole set is packaged as The Band I Heard In Tijuana; I’d already had one disc of the five packaged under the same name. Also, Andy Williams Greatest Hits from back in the day.

I get the sense that I’ll also hit the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County book sale next week for record albums more than books. Which is strange, since I only have one bookshelf devoted to record albums, and it’s already full.

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The Fall Foliage At Nogglestead

The trees are starting to turn here at Nogglestead:

Fall Foliage at Nogglestead

What the? you might ask. That’s the smallest maple we have here at Nogglestead, although we have many small ones.

The previous owners went maple-nuts with new plantings; they lined the driveway and put a number of young trees in the yard. But they didn’t protect them from neither buck-rubbing (wherein young male deer rub their antlers on trees), deer-nibbling (wherein deer eat the bark around a tree, effectively killing it), or frost-cracking (where the bark splits at the base of the tree from the temperature changes near the ground in the winter). This particular tree had frost cracking and some fungal growth on it, and during a summer storm with seventy-mile-an-hour straight ahead winds, the majority of it toppled over. I cut it off near ground level, but this never-say-die maple threw up a couple of leaves to turn red in October for us.

This maple was joined in calamity by a couple of brethren that I also cut low; however, they threw up enough twiggery to resemble topiary Peckingese:

Fall Foliage at Nogglestead

Fall Foliage at Nogglestead

I’m not kidding about the Peckingese: Sometimes, in the early morning or in the evening twilight, I double-take because I think those runt trees are some sort of short animal.

These trees will soon be joined by the remainder of the maples that the previous owners planted, as they have been ringed by the deer so the maturish top parts are dead and small branches from the root stock have leafed out (so I have maple bushes instead of maple trees). Next spring, I shall probably remove these runts and replace them with leaf-spotting-resistant peach trees that I’ll special order (instead of dropping in the leaf-spotting-OPEN-FOR-BUSINESS peach trees one buys at the local hardware store). Which I will surround by a small fence and coil around their bases so the trees actually grow.

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I Am The Coffee Party I Was Waiting For

Not too long ago, my beautiful wife commented on the number of coffee cups in a phrase that indicated I should get rid of some. She was probably being defensive because she was not properly allocating said resources between the upstairs collection and the downstairs collection when she unloaded the dishwasher. Not properly according to my unpublished schedule. You see, the coffee cups downstairs are for the little single cup brewer that I use down there; others, including the large mugs, are those allocated to the upstairs portion of coffee cups used with the upstairs, pedestrian 12-cup coffee maker.

TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

You see, I prefer to drink from the large mugs, but I have only two. I use the downstairs coffee maker in the mornings when I’m going to have a cup when I start my work day before my children arise. Then, when they’re up, I switch to the big coffee maker and to the big mugs (12 cups, the side of the carafe says. Or 4 mugs).

And yet.

We do run the dishwasher once a day or almost; given this, do I really need thirty coffee cups?

The partially depleted reservoirs look like this:

The upstairs coffee cups

The upstairs coffee cups

I mean, what am I planning? A coffee party?

As you know, gentle reader, I am an artifact-based life form. Most of these coffee cups have some significance to me. I have some that are Fiestaware, which go with our Fiestaware dishes in case we ever have people over for a party and we have coffee. However, we’ve upgraded our company dishes to some white porcelain stuff that does not have matching coffee cups. I have coffee cups that were my mothers, including one from one of her old commands, one with a snowman on it, and whatnot. I have a couple of Gevalia coffee cups that were free gifts for subscribing a subscription or two back (when I cut expenditures, I cut my Gevalia shipments). I have a couple that were Christmas gifts (a set of Monopoly cups from Aunt Sandy which are, honestly, outside the two-year window to retain them before putting them in the garage sale). I have a Green Bay Packers cup which is, of course, sacred. I have a couple from my Aunt Dale bearing the logo of her former employer and its brands. A couple of St. Louis Blues cups we got when we were frequent visitors to the Savvis Center. And so on.

So they all mean something, sort of. Although I could probably lose the Gevalia cups and the Monopoly cups, which is four.

And yet.

This week, my wife traveled for her job for four days, which left me tending the boys and drinking heavily. Or so it would seem.

I had my cup in the morning. I had my mug in the morning. In the afternoon, I braced myself with another cup. And, as it was cooler and autumnal in the evenings, I had a powdered hot cider mix as a treat. That’s four cups in a day. And as Mommy was not cooking and Daddy was not grilling to impress Mommy, we had a tour o’ fast food for dinners which meant I did not run the dishwasher for days.

Suddenly, my supply of cups dwindled to dangerous levels. Well, to the point that I could have seriously run out of coffee cups if I didn’t put forth the effort to pour some soap into the dishwasher and press a button.

So I can’t get rid of those cups because sometimes Heather goes out of town for five days at a time instead of just four, and I could need over twenty cups.


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Book Report: The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein (1985)

Book coverThis book started out pretty good. Well, I mean, it is one of Heinlein’s adult books, so it’s very talky, with action broken up by a lot of banter and philosophizing. It starts out with a bang: A former military officer, hiding out from something in his past as a writer on a space station, has someone invoke that Dreaded Secret to get his attention at a night club. Before the man can explain what he wants beyond that the main character must kill a fellow space station resident before noon tomorrow or they’ll all perish, the man demanding the hit is killed and the hit is covered up very neatly by the restaurant staff. Then, the owners of the space station are in some hurry to push the man out or off the station, so he decamps to the moon and a series of cities on the moon just one step ahead of disaster, attempts on his life, or bandits.

Then, about 250 pages into the book, he finds his new bride (the one with him at the nightclub and with whom he banters a bunch) recruits him into Time Corps, and I thought, Here’s where the real book begins.

But it did not.

I guess I confused Heinlein with a thriller writer who amps it up and then ties it all together neatly.

Because after a hair’s-breadth escape on the moon from dark forces, he finds himself recuperating on Lazarus Long’s polyamory paradise from Time Enough For Love, and many of those characters make appearances, and then the Time Corps has to do something for some reason, and there’s a tribunal with gunslinging, and he undertakes the mission. The secret of his past? Glossed over. The stuff from the beginning of the book? The work of other forces. Are those other forces dealt with? The end.

Man, I have to stick with the old Heinlein stuff like Rocket Ship Galileo or even The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. Or, I suppose, Job (when I get to it, John–which reading this has probably forestalled a bit).

I dunno. Maybe I’m just in a place these days where science fiction ultimately disappoints me or something.

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The Sky at Nogglestead

One thing that continues to amaze me on the rare days when I can drag my carcass from the keyboard is the sky above Nogglestead.

It’s been four years since we moved from Old Trees and since I left my urban and semi-rural* upbringing to live in the Ozarks. With wide horizons, high skies, and tall clouds.

Clouds at Nogglestead

Clouds at Nogglestead

Clouds at Nogglestead

And an occasional sunset:

Sunset at Nogglestead

Something you don’t realize living in the city is how far the sun moves on the Western horizon during the course of the year. At Winter Solstice, the sunset is behind the wind break to the left. At Summer Solstice, it’s to the right of the house back there.

Another thing that’s apparent where the horizon isn’t a row of houses thirty yards away: The sun does not rise and set directly up and down: it lowers at an angle to the right. What! I’m not on the equator after all?

And something we get out here several times a year: Rainbows.

Sunset at Nogglestead

We had two last week, in fact. One was a full arch. This one just a partial. But how many of those do you see in a year?

One more thing I might have finally spotted in my lifetime: shooting stars. You hear about them. But unless they’re meteors big enough to almost start World War III***, you’re not going to see shooting stars in the well-lit city sky. Notice I don’t say “light polluted” city sky. Light means relative safety, urban dwellers. I have a bit of light out here so I can keep the predators away from my doors. But it’s not so much that, if I lie on my back, I can’t see more stars than I did in St. Louis. And a couple of times I’ve seen streaks of light that were not planes as they started and stopped in relatively short order. So they might have been shooting stars, but I am a skeptic who is not one hundred percent sure of things I can’t create (in the old days, they called this sort of thing science, but now whatever one imagines or builds on a playset counts as science), so I’m only willing to say I might have seen shooting stars. How many of you have seen a real shooting star? Probably campers and Boy Scouts amongst you, but that was not my pay.

Four years in, and the location still fills me with wonder on occasion. I should really seek out these moments more frequently. Or will that make them lose their wonder, I wonder?

* But, wait, Brian! I thought you said you’ve lived in a trailer park and down an old dirt road. This is true, gentle reader, but both of these locations were in distinct valleys, where the sky was impeded by hills covered with trees.

** “World War”. What a 20th Century concept. Do you, gentle reader, seeing a large number of countries going against a large number of countries ever again? I doubt that there’s currently enough vigor in the West to support it. And a nuclear exchange from here on out is likely to be just a couple of countries with the rest of the world going, “Tut, tut,” ainna? This is just my spurious musing this morning, subject to change this afternoon after careful assessment of new data gleaned from fastidious Internet sources.

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Book Report: Blondie #1 and Blondie “Celebration Edition” by Dean Young and Jim Raymond (1976, 1980)

Book cover

I read these books over the course of a couple of football games this month. You know, I’m not by default a particular fan of Blondie, but I’ve glanced over it when reading comics in the newspaper over the years. In the past, when I was young, they really didn’t speak to me because I was young. Now, I am older, but the cartoons themselves are old, too, so they don’t relate to my current situation. Of course, my current situation–independent computer contractor working from home–does not lend itself to workplace humor or getting to the workplace humor. I dunno.

But I can appreciate them as an artifact of a simpler time. The Blondie comic started out in the flapper era, so its fifty year run (to the time of these books’ publication) has seen some changes, but a bit of stability through the middle to late part of the last century. How stable life seemed then, in retrospect, and through the representation of cartoons. Father worked, mother stayed at home (later, took some work outside the home) but the dynamic of the family and the workplace seemed so stable. In cartoons and in cartoonists’ imaginations I guess.

At any rate, that’s what I took from them: a bit of nostalgia for a time I don’t remember and that probably did not exist. Kudos on the cartoonists, though, for keeping the strip going for 80 years.

Bits of trivia: according to the Wikipedia entry, the original author claimed the cartoon was set in the suburbs of Joplin, Missouri, which is just down the road from here. And in addition to Red Ryder, Blondie spurred a series of other media, including a string of movies, television series, and books. Not to mention a series of relatively recent Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes, which has a location here in Springfield.

Do you think we’ll ever see cartoons younger than Garfield get wide media play like this? I doubt it.

Ask me in seventy years and I’ll have a better answer than my half-informed prognostications.

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