The Pun Is Groan On Me

Someone said on Twitter:

When six of us showed up on my side at the duel, the guy I smacked with a glove was surprised. He’d never heard of the five second rule.

I don’t care where you’re from (as long as you understand the nature and rules of duels), but that there’s funny.

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Good Book Hunting, April 26, 2014: Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale

After a rigorous martial arts class, we hustled to the fire station in Clever, Missouri, for the semi-annual Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale. As we got there within an hour of the two-day sale’s end, the books were a dollar a bag. And bag day means that if I think I might want to read a book on the subject some day, I’ll buy that book just in case on bag day. As a result:

Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale purchases in April 2014

Highlights include:

  • A collection of books about (South) Korea, including a couple touristy guides to attractions, two books on speaking Korean, a Korean dictionary, and a couple books about the art of Korea. Someone in Clever cleaned out their parent’s bookshelves, and one or more parents had been in Korea for a while, I wager.
  • Three Brad Thor novels, Foreign Influence, The Apostle, and Full Black. I know he’s a darling of the right, and my beautiful wife enjoys his books (but borrows them from the library).
  • A couple of short novelty books about cats, cats being better than men, women who love cats too much, and books being better than men in bed. I need to pump up my read book count this year, you know if you’ve been reading the blog. These will help.
  • A couple of Steinbeck paperbacks, including The Pastures of Heaven and The Log from The Sea of Cortez. Minor works, which explains why I had not seen them before. Some years back I went on a Steinbeck kick and read four of his books in a row. Just in case something like that happens again, I have these two, East of Eden and Travels with Charley. And probably more.
  • The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell. I really ought to get into a Cornwell kick again, as I have a number in the Sharpe’s series yet.
  • Four books in the Western series The Gunsmith. I’m prepping for a time when I run out of the hundreds of Mack Bolan titles I’ve got on the shelf.
  • An entry in the Rogue Angel series, Forbidden City. The protagonist of these men’s adventure novels is a Lara Croft knock-off.
  • The Destruction of Dresden. Something to read since I just finished Slaughterhouse Five just three years ago. And in case I go on a Vonnegut kick, I have three or four in the stacks.
  • Random Acts of Factness and Espionage’s Most Wanted, summary and trivia roll-ups that I like to read from time to time for ideas to list on my white board for when I go on a writing short history articles kick. This happens about as frequently as individual reading kicks. Or less often.
  • Robert Frost: A Tribute to the Source, a coffee table book that includes poems by Frost, light biographical text, and photos of New England.
  • Norman Rockwell: A Fifty Year Retrospective, a coffee table book of Rockwell’s work that will probably read like the obligatory article in every current issue of Saturday Evening Post amid the Government Is The Answer commentary.
  • A book of dulcimer music. Not because I play dulcimer music, mind you, but because I am using old photos from my eBay selling days for test data in the application I’m testing, and I have a number of images of dulcimer books that I sold. I stuffed this in a bag, thinking maybe I’d try to sell it on eBay. Who knows? Maybe I’m ready for a return to The Lifestyle. Or at least for a couple weeks after the three bag days.
  • Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker. Although I stopped buying them new a while back, I’ve kind of been watching to find them in the wild (and, strangely, for best sellers, I don’t). I picked this up in case I didn’t have it, but as it turns out, I do: I have a copy I bought previously and a copy my friend Roberta sent me (which, of course, I can’t depart with because it was a gift from a dear friend). But this copy is already in the growing stack of duplicates I’m going to have to part with sometime soon.
  • A book by Dr. Laura, Bad Childhood, Good Life. Because I, like all of us, had a bad childhood. Undoubtedly, this will be something to pass onto my children, who are also having bad childhoods. Because we’re not, and we don’t know any better.
  • &c.

Additionally, last night, we stopped by a resale shop, and I got the three first editions you see in front: Cinnamon Skin and Free Fall in Crimson by John D. MacDonald and Firefox, the source material for the Clint Eastwood movie. In Clever, I got a John D. MacDonald paperback, Cry Hard, Cry Fast.

I also got a couple movies: Lawrence of Arabia, Dune, and Dracula on VHS and Omega Cop and Sucker Punch on DVD. I don’t know when I’ll watch these. Probably when I have the last physical media players on Earth.

My beautiful wife’s stack of paperbacks to amuse her in upcoming travel is to the left. I’ve also given her the Diane Mott Davidson hardback, since it would be no Mother’s Day surprise if she reads this post.

Not depicted: The books my children bought in their bag. The five-year-old got a dollar bill in an Easter egg and has been carrying it with him ever since, looking for something to spend it on. So he got a bag, and they put some children’s books in it as well as a Simpsons X-Mas book that he insisted was for me (since he’d seen my collections of The Simpsons on DVDs and thought I’d like the book, too). When he got to the payment table, the man said it was a dollar for the bag, and the boy said, “How much for the books?”

So our expenditure, all told, was $21. $1 for his books, $5 for our books, $5 for our annual membership renewal in the Friends of the Clever Library, and $10 because.

So we’re through the meat of the sales now. Strangely enough, the largest sale in the area, the Friends of the Springfield/Greene County Library Book Sale is next week. But because it’s so large, I tend to stick to the LPs lately. Unless it’s bag day.

That’s a cliffhanger, ainna?

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An Inadvertent Oxymoron

From an article on the suspicious deaths of a pair of children, we have this beauty:

“The circumstances surrounding the death of the two children had various similarities,” Wilcox said in a statement emailed to the News-Leader. [Emphasis added]

Various, from variety, implies many different. Literally, you can’t have varied similarities without risking the delicate balance between existence and non-existence in our fragile universe.

Unfortunately, various has been abstracted to mean nothing more than many or several in the argot.

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Book Report: Skin Tight by Gary Henderson (2007, 2013)

Book coverI ordered this book based on a theatre review on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Web site.

Before we get into what I think of the book, I’m going to do a little aside about, and maybe Milwaukee in general. I remember when I was in school being amazed and impressed with how many concurrent productions you could catch at the Marcus Center downtown. In the height of the season, there were sometimes three or four different plays running at the same time in different auditoriums in the same building. Basically, it’s a multiplex of drama. Not including the other troupes down in south city or the smaller groups. Man, I went to a bunch of different productions my senior year, and I loved it–and I chastised people who were eager to leave Milwaukee after the university to go places with Culture. I lived in St. Louis, and I volunteered for a theatre group for a while and supported others, but it was nothing like Milwaukee. Of course, it could simply be that the theatre groups are scattered all over St. Louis, where the cultural scene in Milwaukee has a high density downtown.

Several times a week, has a theatre review, where someone puts in the paper–or at least its online version–a review of a local theatre company’s current production. This, too, differs from St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its online equivalent don’t bother with covering its theatre groups. That fell to smaller free newspapers in the region. Of course, I can’t compare it to Springfield, which is far smaller than Milwaukee, nor can I compare it to the Springfield News-Leader, which is essentially four twenty three year olds with Journalism degrees retyping police reports and penning a column a week on their life experiences as journalists.

So I’ve been reading the theatre reviews on, as I said, and it’s made me excited for drama. And I read the review for this play, and I would not mind seeing it performed. So I settled for ordering it and reading it.

It’s a short play–the review mentions it’s an hour long, and that translates into 37 pages including production notes. The story unfolds in a stylized manner, with a man and a woman by a wash tub as they recount their lives together and their memories. Although it’s set in the fifties or sixties and in New Zealand, the themes stand outside the time and place–like it should in good drama and, frankly, art. It’s actually a pretty simple plot–this is a one act, after all–and it has some choreographed scenes that are but stage instruction in printed form.

So I enjoyed it. It, and the ever-present theatre reviews, certainly make me want to go see some drama on stage. After a couple such, I might be inclined to try my hand at writing it again.

Oh, and on a trivia note, this is not the first time I’ve reviewed a book called Skin Tight.

Books mentioned in this review:

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How Come I Never Find One?

Booksellers claim to have found Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary:

If it’s real, it’s the literary find of the century. New York antiquarian booksellers Daniel Wechsler and George Koppelman believe they have found William Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary.

The book itself is John Baret’s An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie, published in 1580. It was listed on eBay in late April 2008. They placed a bid of $US4300 and got it for $US4050. Wechsler is unequivocal, “only $250 separated us from never having had this experience.”
Images taken from the dictionary.

Although unsigned, it contains thousands of annotations in a contemporary hand that point directly to the composition of some of Shakespeare’s best known works, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and many of the sonnets. Wechsler and Koppelman have spent the past six years making sense of the annotations and building a case that it is Shakespeare’s copy.

To answer my own question, I never find these because I don’t like to spend more than a dollar on a book.

Also, I live in southwest Missouri, which is better suited for finding caches of silver coins than four hundred year old books.

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Good Book Hunting: Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale, April 19, 2014

On Saturday, I dragged my family to the Friends of the Christian County Library book fair in Ozark, Missouri. I say “dragged” because it was their second time there, as they had some free time on Thursday and were in Ozark. So they’d already bought a couple of books, but my beautiful wife found something among the gleanings.

As it was the last day, it was bag day, so I bought a number of duplicates just in case I didn’t have them already. In many cases, I did.

So here’s my stack:

Spring 2014 Friends of the Christian County Library book sale haul

Among the stack, I got:

  • Two new Classics Club editions (out of four I bought): Beginnings of Modern Science edited by Holmes Boynton and The Law of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius.
  • Nightfall and Other Stories AND Nightfall the novel by Isaac Asimov.
  • A new collection of Great Books summary sorts of books. I think I’m missing one volume in the set, which means I’ll spend blog inches in the future explaining how I’ve bought duplicates of volumes in this set chasing the missing volume.
  • The Blues Brothers movie tie-in novel.
  • Lincoln on Leadership.
  • The Nitpicker’s Guide for Classic Trekkers, a book that takes apart the original Star Trek series.
  • Two Heinlein novels, Glory Road and The Number of the Beast.
  • How to Live Like A Lord Without Really Trying.
  • A Nero Wolfe novel, The Rubber Band.
  • Classics such as Ivanhoe and Captain Horatio Hornblower.
  • A biography of da Vinci called Leonardo the Florentine.
  • A couple slender volumes of poetry.
  • The Book of Mormon. Undoubtedly, this is a duplicate. One can’t avoid picking one of these up somewhere or having one hand-delivered, can one?
  • A collection of fantasy stories called, appropriately, Modern Classics of Fantasy.
  • &c.

Quite an eclectic mix of things I’d like to read soon. As soon as I read the other things, I mean.

And a lot of things to ship off to some unsuspecting person.

The total spent: $20. It was six bags at $2 each plus a bit more for the Friends of the Library.

This week, we’ve got the Friends of the Clever Library on Saturday, and the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library sale begins next week. Which is the whole season, practically, in the southwest Missouri area, which is unlike St. Louis, where churches and whatnot run little book sales all summer. Which is fortunate for me, as I am about out of bookshelf space here at Nogglestead.

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This Field Now ADA-Compliant

The soccer and baseball fields behind the YMCA now sport a convenient ramp for the handicapped:

An ADA-compliant field

It’s nice that the YMCA has expended its money to give those in wheeled conveyances access to the ball fields so that they can watch the children’s sports leagues, but I’m not sure how practical it is. After all, once they’re up the curb, they’re still in a field, and fields don’t look to be that easy to traverse in a wheelchair or a Hoveround chair.

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Book Report: Damned If You Do by Michael Brandman (2013)

Book coverI read this book right after Wonderland which really brings out the differences in the styles of Parker’s literary heirs.

Again, the Jesse Stone book has two unrelated plots: Jesse takes on the big corporation that owns a nursing home when he discovers an old friend being mistreated, and a young freelance prostitute winds up dead after playing two rival pimps against each other.

The tone and pace of the book, again, matches television writing more closely than Atkins’ Spenser novels, but it’s readable. I complained in the review of Fool Me Twice that the plot too closely matched Killing the Blues, and these plots differ, so that’s a plus. But it looks as though there’s going to be someone else on the Jesse Stone books in the future, so we’ll see if that takes a new direction.

And I guess I’ve not commented on this before, but there’s been a change in the continuity. The character Molly in the early books was an Irish girl, married and the mother of many. But in the films, the Irish girl was replaced with a sassy black woman. And in Brandman’s books, we’ve got the second Molly instead of the first. Unfortunately, there’s not much to the new Molly other than the sass. And the other recurring characters–Suitcase Simpson, Healy of the state police, and Vinnie Morris–are almost nothing but the name-checks and bits they play.

Still, it’s an all right read. Not as layered and without the depth of the Atkins books, but better than a bad bit of men’s adventure novel that I would have read instead.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Wonderland by Ace Atkins (2013)

Book coverThis book is the second of Atkins’ entries into the Spenser canon (Lullaby being the first), and it again captures the flavor of early Parker with some of the later tropes thrown in.

The plot centers around Henry Cimoli asking Spenser for some help. Someone is trying to buy Henry’s condo building and, when meeting resistance from some of the owners, has taken to tough stuff tactics to convince the old people to sell. Leaning back on leaners-on is Spenser’s balliwick.

So Spenser looks into it and finds a casino developer might be involved. Or the casino developer’s competition. And/or the mob. Then the casino developer turns up dead.

I won’t go too far into it, but it is a return to Spenser trying to figure out a puzzle of many unsavory characters and whatnot. A good plot, but we never do find out who killed the chauffeur (that’s an old mystery reader joke–there are no dead chauffeurs in this book–but that might be a bit of a spoiler).

I’ll say it again: Atkins brings the depths back to the books that Parker kinda left out towards the end. Unfortunately, he does rely a lot on characters from previous books (Gino Fish, Bernie Fortunato, Vinnie Morris, and so on), but maybe paying Spenser fans really dig this. Also, there’s the train-the-new-guy subplot that’s been a part of the series since Early Autumn. I suppose it’s just Spenser being Spenser, but it’s really old ground by now.

But I liked the book and I look forward to the next. Which is not something I’ve said about a Spenser novel in a long time.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: The Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsom (1994)

Book coverI have seen this book in a number of book fairs over the years. And yet, I’d never heard of it. Eventually, I gave in and picked up a copy. And then I picked that copy up.

But a bit of back story on this book:

Apparently, it was a big deal. That’s obvious from the number of copies out in the wild. A bit of research reveals that this book got a $2 million dollar advance for a first novel and hit the New York Times Best Seller list in 1994. If you read other reviews, you’ll find people saying it’s the best book ever. But.

You might not have heard of this book. For all its splash and its Amazon reviewers who can’t imagine life without it, the book is an okay crime thriller that just misses on a number of fronts. Beware: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

The story centers on an American doctor in Europe. He’s had a dalliance with a French woman he met at a conference in Switzerland, and he changes his schedule and plans to see her again even though they’d agreed their fling would end. While in Paris, he sees the man who killed his father on a Boston street some thirty years earlier, and the doctor attacks him. The doctor is apprehended by the police, but the murderer gets away. So the doctor hires a private eye to find him so the doctor can kill the man.

Of course, the man who murdered the doctor’s father was a hit man on the run from the vast organization that had hired him; this vast organization is on its way to the culmination of fifty years of research and conniving. “Organization”? Who are we kidding? The 1990s was the last gasp of the original Nazis, with books like The Apocalypse Watch and whatnot. The Nazis of World War II who hid after World War II accummulated money and influence and then, just as they began to die off and/or collect pensions in their adopted lands.

So the Nazi conspiracy is also after the hit man, who was part of a plot back in the day and remains a loose end that should have been tied up those years ago. And the Nazis are about to have a big plot come to fruition, and there’s a big reveal…..

So it’s standard thriller stuff, with an element of science thrown in: In a related subplot, an American detective consulting with Interpol investigates a set of headless bodies discovered and a bodiless head. Naturally, suspicion falls on the doctor visiting Europe. But Interpol discovers that the bodies have been frozen to almost absolute zero at some point. Hey, the father of the doctor had been working on something to do with scalpels working in extreme cold. In a related subplot, a stroke recovery victim flies to Germany to dine with the Nazi aristocracy and brings his physical therapist with him.

So it becomes pretty clear what’s going on early in the book: The Nazis are developing the technology for head transplants. And there are two biological twins or clones that are the perfect Aryan specimans. We all know where this is going, don’t we? Hitler’s head is going to appear at some point.

Someone sold the publishing house that they’d found a mixture of Michael Crichton and Robert Ludlum here, and they’re not entirely wrong. But the book is just off, askew. You get some stilted thriller stuff, then a dash of the absurd. You get an everyman protagonist who does some very impressive things–stumbling into a hit by an elite Nazi team with a small caliber semiautomatic and polishing them off because they’re stunned by his harmlessness. Also, there’s the Hitler’s head thing.

At the end of the book, an insider in the conspiracy has a change of heart and brings the whole thing down with a couple blasts of explosives. The main bad guy, a second-gen Argentine Nazi, grabs a case from a deep bunker, gathers the love interest from police custodym, rushes to a peak in the Alps, and fights in a blizzard. The bad guy dies, the love interest is saved, and the cavalry comes. But in a flashback, as he recovers, the doctor muses on what happened on the mountaintop while he was half frozen, exhausted, and outmatched.

Spoiler: The love interest stabs the antagonist with a giant icicle while he’s engaged with the doctor.

Further spoiler: Although they didn’t say it (but, come on, we knew) and the other characters speculated that its contents included files and plans from the conspiracy, the last line reveals:

But the box landed near where Osborn lay in the snow, rolling over with its own weight and momentum. As it did, it came open and what was inside was revealed. And in the instant before it vanished over the edge, Osborn saw clearly what it was. It was the thing Salettl had left out. The thing Osborn could tell no one because no one would believe him. It was the real reason for Übermorgen. Its driving essence. Its center core. The severed, deep-frozen head of Adolf Hitler.

But you know what? It falls into an Alpine crevice. Leaving room for a sequel, if you know what I mean.

Strangely, forget the head of Adolf Hitler and near-absolute-zero surgery on a molecular level. Apparently, the Nazis also invented a portable cooler capable of keeping frozen goods deeply frozen for days without making a sound or making people think it’s anything more than a large over-the-shoulder piece of luggage. Brothers and sisters, that’s where the money would be.

At any rate, I read the whole thing and kind of enjoyed it. Sure, the prose is a little stiff in places (those places are called “pages”), and it careens wildly into the absurd in places. But it’s kinda what a cult movie is like in a book form. So bad it’s good.

Folsom has published five books and has a background in films and television–which shows a bit in the prose, I bet. Perhaps his latter books are better in a straight ahead fashion. Perhaps I’ll see, but none are as ever-present at book fairs as this one was, as it sold over a million copies. Which puts it only a couple orders of magnitude beyond my novel sales to date.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Are You A Psychopath? Take This Quiz And Find Out!

Listen to this song:

I’m obviously a psycho, because when I hear this song, I have an allergic reaction: My eyes start to water and my throat closes off a bit.

When this song came out in 2004, it was about me and my father. You’ve not heard much about him on this blog because after my parents divorced in the early 1980s, my mother got custody and moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis, so I didn’t see my father but for a couple weeks in the summer. Eventually, I did return to Milwaukee for school and lived in his basement, but after that, when I moved back to St. Louis again, our relationship was a little strained. Perhaps he felt a little betrayed that I didn’t stay in Wisconsin. At any rate, he died a year and a couple months later.

So when this song came out, I missed him and acutely wondered what he would think of me as a man.

But, now, ten years later, the song is doubly potent because not only do I think about how I miss my father, but how much my boys will miss me. I know it, and they won’t until they do.

(If you want further confirmation of whether you’re a psychopath, you can take this quiz linked by neo-neocon to find out. In running down your list of favorite bloggers, gentle reader, you’re bound to surmise I’m not really a psycopath because I can’t actually affect concern for other people effectively.)

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Springfield Building Streets to Serve Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Roundabout to slow traffic for pedestrians, bicyclists:

Drivers turning onto the westbound lane of Walnut Lawn Street from National Avenue will be met with “road closed” signs through next week.

Just down the road, crews are constructing a roundabout intersection at Walnut Lawn and Maryland Avenue.

. . . .

A traffic stop was not an option for the intersection. Gugel said the roundabout was the best option for making the street safe for pedestrians and bicyclists and will allow traffic to travel “fairly uninterrupted.”

Right. It’s going to bollix travel for automobile drivers, but that’s okay. Commissions and committees have proven that people who sit on commissions and committees, not to mention the urbanist consultants putting out thousands of dollars of reports, all favor riding bikes. And urbanists who love their bikes and dog parks attend government meetings.

So the future of governments will continue to be written by people who like government. And drivers who just want to go from the Walmart to the car wash at the end of Walnut Lawn will have to go around in circles to please them.

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Marilyn Monroe Was Stronger Than I Was As A Freshman

Neoneocon has a lost picture of Marilyn Monroe lifting weights, and I feel like less of a man.

In the photo, she’s working with an empty bar, but it has the weight collars on.

And I am shamed.

You see, my freshman year of high school, students in gym class could opt out of the normal activities to go down to the weight room beneath the high school stage and pump iron. On a couple of occasions, my friend Jim (who would later become the Goth King of St. Louis) and I would go down at my urging. I remember distinctly being unable to lift the bar for bench presses with the collars on, but if we took the collars off, I could lift the empty bar a couple of times.

And here’s tiny Marilyn Monroe besting me. Or a me of thirty years ago.

Somebody get me a protein shake. And one for Monroe, for Pete’s sake.

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Introducing the Assault iPhone

Add a camouflage case to the next generation iPhone, and it magically become an iPhone worth of banning:

Just days after leaked images suggested Apple’s iPhone 6 will have a protruding camera, a patent has been issued giving an insight into what this feature may be used for.

The patent, initially filed in 2012, describes a bayonet mount system for an iPhone camera.[Emphasis added.]

A bayonet mount, as you know, is one of the cosmetic features that make a rifle into an ASSAULT RIFLE BADBADBAD!

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