A Purchase To Panic The Wife

Ever since we moved to the country, I’ve kicked around, often aloud, the idea of getting some livestock. Goats, maybe, or sheep. Then it was a cow or to for fresh beef. I almost had my beautiful wife convinced on that one, especially after a friend of ours mentioned having a cow once or twice (and he seems so normal!). Well, we were almost picking out a breed (but not a cow name because I knew that would be bad juju–if we named the cow, sooner or later it would be in the house and getting cow treats if it mooed on command), but she encountered a woman who had cows once or twice (and she seemed so normal!), and the woman mentioned how hard it was eating something whose name you knew. So my cattle dreams ended, or at least fell dormant.

Which doesn’t mean I can’t pick up a publication like this and leave it lying around the house:

A magazine to panic my wife

I mean, the local Meat Rabbits guy is out of business, and let’s face it, he didn’t set a high bar for business branding.

Maybe I could even come up with the 49th key to rabbit raising success. And I wouldn’t share it.

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Book Report: Kung Fu 2: Chains by Howard Lee (1973)

Book coverThis book finds Caine in the mountains, looking for his brother. He encounters some fellows who don’t like Chinamen and calmly dissuades them from attacking him and then walks into a local fort to inquire about his brother and to talk to an accused murderer who shared a mining claim with his brother. The murderer is accused of killing one of the other mining claim partners. Of course, the guys in the fort recognize Caine as a wanted man and shackle him to the accused murderer. These are the physical chains of the title.

The duo escape and try to make for the mining camp to find out what happened to the other partners, including Caine’s brother. Along the way, they encounter hostile Indians, a trapper who doesn’t like Caine’s chainmate and the sister of another partner in the mining claim and her tenderfoot husband, and the fellows from the opening reappear with hostile intent.

The story moves along more linearly than the first volume of the series and more like a teleplay. It’s a quick and engaging read and lightly heady enough with traces of lightweight Buddhist thought to make one think a bit and compare some of the tenets to Stoic thought if one happens to be reading both at the same time. So better than a lot of men’s adventure novels.

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Book Report: F15E Strike Eagle by Hans Halberstadt (1991)

Book coverThis book is badged by Microprose, which you old timers will recognize as the company behind military simulators such as F-15 Strike Eagle and Gunship (as well as the original Civilization). 1991 is near the end of its run as an independent game company (according to Wikipedia, so it’s possible they’re branching out into other revenue streams to create synergy at this point.

The book is primarily a photography book, with lots of images of the F-15E Eagle’s exterior and cockpit with a bit of text describing it, its history, and its recent successes in the Gulf War. If you’re a regular reader of Jane’s Defense Weekly, this stuff is old hat. But if you’re old timey like me and remember Top Gun fondly (which was not the F-15 but the F-14, but you know what I mean), you’ll find a lot to like in this short little book. Plus there’s bits like the fact that they painted over the kill counts on some of these machines as they continued to fly after the action where the saw the combat. Or that the names on the planes are not necessarily the names of the officers in the planes as crews take the available planes, not their plane on missions.

It makes me want to power up my Commodore 64 for another sortie. How come they don’t make good flight simulators any more? Oh, yeah: 9/11.

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Book Report: Holiday Memory by Dylan Thomas (1978)

Book coverThis book is a little chapbook containing a single ‘story’ from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It’s part of a series, and this ‘story’ first appeared in another volume, so I’m not sure why this appears in a slim chapbook edition twenty years after Thomas’s death.

At any rate, “Holiday Memory” is not so much a story as a stream-of-consciousness prose poem about being on vacation on the seashore in Wales in August of probably the late twenties or early thirties. Jeez, I’m going to have to start adding nineteen to the decades now, ainna? It’s a colorful, vivid recounting and a pleasant read, although there’s no plot to drive one along. It’s a pretty short work, though, so you don’t have far to go from morning to the beach and night at the fair.

Worth a look if you’re into this sort of thing as I am.

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Book Report: Romance by Ed McBain (1995)

Book coverIt’s been three years almost since I read an Ed McBain book (Doll in April 2012). It’s hard to believe because they were such a staple of my early adulthood, but he was producing new books at a rate of one or two a year until his death in 2005, and I had a source of new books to read then. By now, I’ve been through most of them more than once, and any reading is likely to be re-reading.

As is the case with this book.

An actress reports threats as she rehearses a play about an actress getting stabbed. Then she gets stabbed for real, superficially, which leads the detectives of the 87th Precinct, in particular Carella and Kling, to investigate. It turns out to have been a stunt cooked up by the actress and her lover/agent, but someone really stabs the actress good and dead, which complicates things.

The book makes good use of the play within the play trope (wrapping it in a novel–Ed McBain was nothing if not novel and clever as a writer). It has some series business in it–Kling is starting a new relationship with a deputy chief who is black–and some of the characters only make walk on appearances (although Ollie Weeks appears, and I’m not sure why McBain focused so much on him at this point in his, McBain’s, career). The beginning of the relationship–the first dates and whatnot–give McBain an opportunity to explore The Race Question especially in terms of personal relationships. Some of McBain’s books have crime-based subplots, but this one only has the one crime plot and the relationship plot. So it reads a little like an episode in a television series.

Which is what you expect when you’re picking up one of these books after having read others. And it’s not a bad thing. And McBain is an excellent writer in the genre. So it’s worth reading more than once.

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When A Facebook Quip And Realty Collide. Not Really.

On Facebook, I said:

I don’t get my fashion tips from Buzzfeed or other Internet sites. I take my fashion cues from old Cary Grant movies.

This, gentle reader, you know is true.

I forget what bit of Internet advice I saw that set me off about this, but I know I saw something about how hipsters roll their sleeves that identified Buzzfeed as someone whose fashion advice I’ll avoid from now until when Buzzfeed is as relevant as Geocities. I took offense because I roll my sleeves the way the forefathers of this great nation rolled their sleeves if they’d have rolled their sleeves, which I’m not sure they did because eighteenth century fashion and twentieth century fashion (not twenty-first century fashion, thank you) differ.

Where was I? I don’t know.

But not soon after I made that quip, I saw an abomination that reminded me one more place I don’t take my fashion cues from: fashion ads in slick magazines. Continue reading “When A Facebook Quip And Realty Collide. Not Really.”

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Book Report: Calvin and Hobbes: The Sunday Pages 1985-1995 by Bill Watterson (2001)

Book coverI don’t want to make you feel old, old man, but Calvin and Hobbes hasn’t been in the newspapers in twenty years. One day soon, you’ll have a doctor born so late that he’ll never have read it in the funnies, and how can you trust a doctor that young?

This book is not a comic collection. Instead, it describes an art exhibition that took place in 2001, fourteen years ago and six years after Watterson ended the strip. Watterson’s Sunday work was rolled into an art exhibition, and this book describes some of the history of Calvin and Hobbes as well as some of the Sunday comics. Each included comic includes the rough sketch and the finished product along with some commentary about the comic. Readers also get insight into how the Sunday comic is structured–in many cases, the first line of a three line comic is expendable as editors might have to cut it out to fit it into a particular newspaper or they can be sold “as is” as a half page, wherein the panels can be sized differently than normal and won’t be cut (Calvin and Hobbes started as the former but ended as the latter).

It’s a good bit of information, and the cartoons themselves are timelessly humorous.

The cartoon has been gone twice as long as it actually appeared in the paper; however, that’s probably a good thing, as Watterson got to end it on his terms, and readers were spared the endless “vote which cartoon stays” sorts of polls pitting Calvin and Hobbes against the Boondocks or having to write letters to the editor to get it restored.

I’m glad these books appear, though, because my children are coming to enjoy the strip. To be honest, my oldest son borrowed this book from the library and I poached it.

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The Reason My Child Said That Crazy Thing, Part I

When my youngest child was in preschool at age 3, he won a pencil for something, and he told his teacher, “My daddy can put it in the garden!”

Which made no sense to the teacher, but it does make sense, sort of, if you know my son’s daddy.

I use pencils to mark things in the garden. When I plant a root that’s going to grow into something, I stick in a single pencil. For row crops, I use two pencils to mark the ends of the rows and then tie a string between them.

I mean, I could use a Contractor’s Grade Row Marker or a My Little Hobby Farm Organic Row Marker (either available at the local home center for $4.99 each), or I can use pencils I buy at Walmart at $3 for 20. They’re yellow and easy to see, and they are cheap and expendable.

So the lad likes to work in his garden with his father, and he cannot think of anything he’d rather do with a pencil that he won than to use it in the garden.

Although this is three years ago, I’m pretty sure he feels much the same way today, since I was working in one of the garden beds today, clearing away some weeds and old growth on the asparagus (and marking the asparagus with fresh pencils), and the boy was very upset that I was planting in the garden without him.

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How Have Things Improved Thirty Years Later?

Book coverI recently read The Human Fly #15 (Marvel Comics 1978) with its cover line “War in the Washington Monument!”

The Human Fly is a stuntman who fights crime, and it’s apparently based on a real stunt man from the era who did charity events. But that’s neither here nor there.

The plot of this particular issue is that (SPOILER ALERT!) two Vietnam veterans, one confined to a wheel chair and one mentally unstable, have taken over the Washington Monument to protest the conditions at their local VA hospital where the greedy doctors enrich themselves at the expense of the suffering veterans. Don’t worry, the Human Fly prevents them from destroying the monument, but it’s still going to be closed to the public the next time you’re in Washington, D.C.

Thirty years later and many reforms later, and we’re pretty clear now it’s not the doctors who are the problem.

It’s pretty said that these particular plots can be recycled for a quarter of a century when dealing with government programs.

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Book Report: Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff (2014)

Book coverI received this book for my birthday this year; it’s definitely the kind of book bought new as a gift. Or perhaps by serious, institutionizable fans of the show. It contains no narrative, no fan stuff: It’s basically an introduction by the fictional Carson (the butler) writing for new hires at Downton Abbey followed by tips and tricks for each job and their attendant responsibilities.

I’ve said recently what I think of the show these days, but there’s not any of that to dislike in the book.

Carson’s introduction is a nice bit of Stoic philosophy encouraging new workers: You are part of something meaningful and grand, and you should do your best at it. Then the tips and tricks are pretty much polish it with chamois leather. That’s two things I learned from the book: That chamois leather is good for polishing, and the source of the pun inherent in the ShamWow name.

Yes, friends, there are gaps in my classical education, and I’m unlikely to get certain French puns, especially those relating to cleaning products and practices, until decades later when reading gift books tied into British soap operas. Which probably means the chamois/ShamWow joke is the only one I’ll get.

So the book is an interesting little read if you get it as a gift or pick it up at a book fair, but it might not be a thing you order. But just in case you’re institutionizable, note this post is full of convenient links.

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The Source Of That Thing Daddy Always Sings

Back when my children were young, which was not so long ago and yet was a very long time ago, they’d watch a PBS program called Between the Lions which featured a segment called Cliff Hanger that had a little theme song:

Cliff Hanger,
Hanging from a cliff,
and that’s why they call him Cliff Hanger.

Ever since, I’ve been using this song for any three syllable phrase that ends in -er. Like the grocery store Price Cutter:

Price Cutter,
They’re cutting all the prices,
and that’s why they call them Price Cutter

(In the St. Louis area, you might want to substitute Price Chopper for the same effect.)

Or for the tabby I’ve nicknamed “Big Bopper”:

Big Bopper,
The bopper who is big.
That’s why they call him Big Bopper.

(Not to be confused with the recently former kitten I’ve nicknamed “Little Bopper” but who is now as large as “Big Bopper.”)

For some reason, Between the Lions came to my oldest boy’s mind recently, and he talked about a segment or episode of it at the dinner table. I said, “You know, that’s where I got the song from.” And he didn’t remember the Cliff Hanger segments or the theme song. Even though it was only a couple of years ago that he watched them.

Alas, this is why I must post these footnotes to the things I say to my children. Not just to prove that I’m not making everything up out of whole cloth, but also so that I remember in the coming years where these tropes come from.

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Book Report: The Town Council Meeting by J.R. Roberts (2009)

Book coverThis book starts out with an interesting conceit: The Gunsmith is playing poker when a group of ranch hands come into town and claim that he has killed their boss who was planning to hire him for something. It turns out he’s playing cards with the mayor, the judge, and the town’s attorney, so they call an impromptu town council meeting to order the sheriff to keep the men out of the saloon. So we’re presented with something novel: Clint tries to find out who killed the rancher by interviewing people while playing cards.

Ah, just when we’re wondering exactly how the author will handle this conceit throughout the book, it ends, and Adams sneaks out the back door to do a little, erm, investigation in that way he does. And he uncovers a pretty staple Western trope that ends with a gunfight in the street where (spoiler alert!) the title character of the series wins.

It’s unfortunate that the book couldn’t carry on with the novel setup to its conclusion, but that’s not what buyers of the series want or expect.

Me? I expected a thin bit of book to read that I spent a quarter on. And I got it.

So it’s the least bad of the books I’ve read in this line because of the novelty. I’ve only got one more in the series, and I don’t expect I’ll buy any more, though.

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Book Report: Paramilitary Plot by “Don Pendleton” (1982)

Book coverThis book is another in the 1982 Bolan books; at this time, they seem to have gone to the monthly model, which means of course that individual entries are passed onto different authors, which accounts for an uneven series.

This entry isn’t bad, but its plot is exceedingly similar to the others reviewed recently (Terrorist Summit, Return to Vietnam, and The New War especially). In each, Bolan gets wind of someone being held in an enemy camp (twice a jungle, once a desert, now a swamp). Bolan infiltrates the compound, leaves the compound, and then has to go into the compound with the bad guys on alert to extract the hostage and blow everything up.

In this case, the hardsite is a compound in the Everglades run by a right-wing corporate government contractor who wants a biological weapon to facilitate the invasion of Grenada, where he can then start properly trying to take over the world for right-wing reasons, which seem to be just being corporate and having a military.

This book preceded the actual United States invasion of Grenada, so its author was a little prescient in recognizing the political situation with the small island nation making it unstable. So I got a little history lesson on that which covers some of the gaps I didn’t gather when it happened because I was eleven years old at the time and dealing with boyhood things, like my parents’ divorce and my mother’s nascent plans to uproot us from Wisconsin to Texas.

So, as a book, it’s too much in the line with then-recent Bolan offerings but an interesting artifact in a meta way.

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Why I Gave Up On Downton Abbey

A couple years ago, I got swept up in the Downton Abbey mania, and by “got swept up in,” I mean my beautiful wife and I had gotten a Roku and were looking for something to watch on Amazon Prime when we agreed on this British program because so many other people were watching it and because my wife likes British accents.

But I gave up on it after a couple of seasons for a couple of reasons which I’ll go into below the fold. Be advised, there are spoilers below.
Continue reading “Why I Gave Up On Downton Abbey”

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Book Report: Curse of the Gypsy Woman by Lin G. Hill (1993)

Book coverThis book is a chapbook containing a single short story by a local author; I think I have one of his full length works here somewhere. I must have gotten this book in a package of books for a buck at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County book sale.

At any rate, in this story, an author with writer’s block and a looming deadline agrees to take a quick vacation to a random spot on a map, and he ends up renting a car and driving with his wife into the Ozarks. They pull off the highway where a sign promises a restaurant and a place to stay, but the road turns to a dirt road. They pass an old gypsy woman and do not give her a ride, which leads to her placing a curse upon them. When they reach the ramshackle inn, they find it’s run by gypsies, and they’re kidnapped and taken to a hidden gypsy camp where they are locked in a ramshacklier shanty on the Night of the Wolf. And werewolves attack, and they survive. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOW CURSED WITH LYCANTHROPY.

It’s a pretty basic story, and not a very good one. But it hearkens back to a time of less cellular coverage and fewer smartphones. In a more deft storytelling, this might not have been quite so disparate, the distance between then and now, but reading it left a lot of brainpower for thinking about other things instead of the primary text.

Geez, Charles, I hope this isn’t your brother I’m pooh-poohing.

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The Platter Stack

Every week, I listen to a pile of records. Well, not a pile. A stack.

You see, as I get them out from the shelves to give them a spin, I start stacking them next to the record player not unlike a college student stacking his beer cups at a Milwaukee church fair. As trophies of music listened to. Also, it ensures I get decent rotation on the LPs so I listen to different things daily.

At the end of a week, it looks like this:

The platter stack

Last week, I listened to:

  • The George Shearing Trio Jazz Moments
  • Living Brass Songs Made Famous By Tom Jones
  • Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass Volume 2
  • Frank Sinatra September of My Years
  • Frank Sinatra That Old Feeling
  • Maynard Ferguson Conquistador
  • Herb Alpert Rise
  • The Swedish Gospel Singers Take A Little Time to Sing
  • Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
  • Guy Lombardo Alley Cat
  • Jackie Gleason Presents Music to Make You Misty
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass What Now My Love
  • Bobby Dukoff Sax in Silk
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass SRO
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Going Places
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Warm
  • St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Debussy La Mer and Ravel La Valse and Valses Nobles et Sentimales
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass The Brass Are Comin’
  • Los Norte Americanos The Band I Heard In Tijuana
  • The Melachrino Strings and Orchestra Music for Relaxation
  • Dean Martin You Can’t Love ‘Em All
  • Mercury Records Music to Live By
  • Rocio Jurado Senora
  • Daniel Barenboim Mozart in Minor
  • Maynard Ferguson High Voltage
  • Emil Gilels Beethoven ‘Emperor Concerto
  • Frank Sinatra Only the Lonely
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Sounds Like
  • Jackie Gleason Presents The Torch with the Blue Flame
  • Chicago Chicago
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Greatest Hits
  • Soundtrack Bridge on the River Kwai
  • The Paris Conservetoire Orchestra/New Symphony of London Favorite Overtures
  • Lawrence Welk Polka Party
  • Dean Martin The Dean Martin TV Show
  • Jackie Gleason Presents Music, Martinis, and Memories
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Coney Island
  • Gary Graffman and the New York Philharmonic Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto/Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Herb Alpert Beyond
  • The Trumpets Unlimited Sounds Tijuana!
  • Percussion Espanol
  • The Jay Gordon String Orchestra Music for Day Dreaming
  • The Houston Symphony Orchestra Johannes Brahms Symphony 3 in F Major
  • Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Rossini William Tell and other famous overtures
  • Henry Mancini The Music from Peter Gunn

I also probably also listened to a Beethoven symphony or two, but I put the boxed sets away immediately and don’t stack them.

As you can see, I favor the 1960s Tijuana trumpet sound. Also note that the record collection tends to run towards big band, crooners, classical, and trumpet selections with only a few post-1960s titles and movie soundtracks. Because that’s what I like to play in the background for meals or main level house living. The rock is all on the computer for work-time listening.

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