Book Report: The Reagan Wit edited by Bill Adler with Bill Adler, Jr. (1981)

Book coverI have a bunch of Reagan-themed books in case my 1980s nostalgia kicks in. This book is one of them, and to be honest, I picked it because it’s pretty slim, and I needed a quick read amidst all the Eastern philosophy I’ve been reading of late.

Although the book proclaims to be examples of Reagan’s wit, it looks to be a quick means to capitalize on his recent election (given the publication date of 1981, it was rushed to press within months of his inauguration). So the actual wit in it is ill-considered. We get some one-liners from earlier in his political career and his governorship, but many of them fail to stand alone without the context. Some of them are not much more than “Aw, shut up.” (Reagan responds to some hecklers.)

Once we get into the presidency, though, we get fuller stories with paragraphs of setup before the wit, so they’re better. I’m not sure whether that’s because the wit was more recent or because the presidential papers are more complete. But they were better.

So it’s not like it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Or even amusing for the most part. But it does provide a bit of a reminder how tough a Republican political figure and elected official had even in the good old days of the 1960s or 1980s which lends itself to perspective on the present day’s troubles. Which is something the people of the present day often lack, perhaps by design.

(I guess my 80s nostalgia has flared from time to time already: see previous Reagania Remembering Reagan and Dear Americans: Letters from the Desk of Ronald Reagan.)

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Nice Try; Now Read A Book

A sportswriter swings and misses on a metaphor:

The Packers’ running back group is packed to the brim with distinct inexperience, unmistakable intrigue and alluring potential – creating a position with more mystery than most Poe novels.

Most Poe novels? You can count the novels that Edgar Allan Poe completed on one finger: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Can’t anyone here play this game?

That’s a quote from a sports figure, he explained to the sports journalists.

(Spoiler alert: I’m reading Poe now, so I’m likely to re-read that novel again in the coming weeks.)

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Book Report: Silent Flowers: A New Collection of Japanese Haiku Poems edited by Dorothy Price (1967)

Book coverThis book was published by Hallmark back in the day when your grandmother or great grandmother might pick up a little light book of poetry as a gift for someone and maybe take a little try at verse herself even though she left school in the eighth grade to take care of her younger siblings. And her poems were better than the stuff written by kids in the English program in college because sixth graders back then were better read than contemporary college-educated folk. But I digress.

The book is, as you might expect, a slim collection of haiku poems. They’re translated from the Japanese, so the actual 5-7-5 syllable count is off on many of them.

But they’re in the proper haiku style, where they provide an Eastern koan sort of thought designed to spur your musing or to trip your own experience with what they’re discussing instead of creating an experience for you.

However, it’s not best to sit down and read them all at once, as they’ll seem very repetitive if you do.

On the plus side, I can now say I prefer the haiku of Bosun to Basho, which will be nice and will impress anyone who earnestly asks.

Are there any haiku in the book of poetry I keep talking about publishing? Yes. And I’ll have to remember to add this one.

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Book Report: The Upanishads translated by Vernon Katz and Thomas Egenes (2015)

Book coverI picked up this book from the library not long after reading Tao Te Ching. I mean, why not? I’ve also read a couple books on Buddhism recently (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Start Here Now, and Buddhism Through Christian Eyes) and Tao Te Ching. Why not touch on that other large Asian religion, Hinduism?

Like the Tao Te Ching, I think I might have read this book before, or at least parts of it. I did have a class on Eastern Philosophy, after all, which I denigrated at the time because Father Naus (not Nous because how cool would that have been) used to stand at the lectern, holding the texts, and saying “I don’t understand that, but maybe that’s the point.” Now that I’m a little older and have read more of them, I can understand his point of view and think maybe he’s right.

This book includes many but not all of the things called “Upanishad.” The book includes:

  • Isha Upanishad
  • Kena Upanishad
  • Katha Upanishad
  • Prashna Upanishad
  • Mundaka Upanishad
  • Mandukya Upanishad
  • Taittiriya Upanishad
  • Aitareya Upanishad
  • Shevetashvatara Upanishad

It’s kind of like reading the psalms of Hinduism. The Vedas are earlier works, I remember from my class, and these are later poetical reflections on them that are also canonical.

At any rate, many of them talk about the basics of Hinduism, including the form of Brahman, the eternal, and the Atman (the bit of eternal incarnation that is the individual self) (I think). Some of them refer to the gods lower than Brahman, but you don’t get a cohesive Western style of narrative or lyric. Some of them have a bit of it, but mostly they’re designed to spur reflection and meditation.

Reading this, one cannot help but compare the impression of Hinduism to Buddhism that I got from the other things I’ve read. Both depend heavily upon meditation to get in touch with the inner self, with the Brahman/Buddha nature that is eternal and present within oneself; however, Buddhism is very much about renunciation (Buddha’s first four thoughts are that want creates suffering, so renounce wants), but Hinduism, at least in some of the Upanishads, is about celebrating the things you eat and whatnot. Although I guess that one often thinks of Hindu ascetics, so there must be some strains of Hindu thought that talk about renunciation. That stuff must come from other writings.

Although I delved into this book with some relish, by the time I got two thirds of the way through I was pretty fatigued with reading it. Partially, that stems from reading other speculative primary texts like the Tao Te Ching and this book on Ancient Near East primary texts I’ve worked on a bit. But cumulatively, I have to wonder how many more Eastern thought books I will get through before my current interest in them wanes. I predict…not many.

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It Happens At Nogglestead, Sometimes

As some of you might know, I sometimes have to deal with cheap particleboard bookshelves collapsing when the weight of fifty pounds of books causes the shelf pin holes to erode. At which time I have to move the pins and reorganize the shelves so the contents fit on the resized shelves. Or I have to deal with a shelf that bows so much that it can no longer rest on the shelf pins, at which time I’ve turned the shelf over so that it unbows for a while and then bows in the opposite direction. So, you see, I have some experience with the bookshelves failing.

But the record shelves that I painted in 2012 (five years ago? REALLY?) collapsing? That’s another thing entirely.

Well. What to do.

Since the records were already off of the shelves, it was easy to take a look at the cause of the collapse. It wasn’t so much a collapse, though. The bookshelf has adjustable shelves, but instead of pins, the middle shelf rests on oblong pieces of wood the entire width of the shelf.

What happened is that the records weighing on the shelf and the process of taking records off of the shelf made the oblong shelf holder slant forward.

I could have cut some new oblong holders that fit the cutouts to hold the shelves; instead, I solved it by taking some Popsicle-style craft sticks that one of my children had acquired for some project or another (and that I’ve since purloined for the warrens of my workbench for just this sort of thing) to shim the shelf in the front so it tips back and will keep the records from spilling.

It’s not a great story of a LIFE HACK or anything. It’s not even that great of a story.

But it is, to the point, a way to obliquely brag about my growing record collection. ADMIRE IT!

Also, note that this is a temporary solution, as I have been promising my beautiful wife for a while now that I would construct a better set of shelves. And I supposed I’d better now that I’ve mentioned it on the Internet.

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Book Report: Savanah Swingsaw by “Don Pendleton” (1985)

Book coverIt seems to me that I knocked some of the non-Pendleton Executioner books recently in a book report on something else, but I can’t find it now. But I was pleased with this book because its plot differed from the simpler Bolan Invades A Hardsite plots that so many earlier, non-Pendleton books were.

In this book, Bolan gets himself thrown in jail to break out a small time crook targeted by the KGB for assassination. While inside, Bolan gets into some trouble with other inmates and gets a little help from his wheelchair-bound cellmate. A vigilante band called the Savannah Swingsaw breaks Bolan before Mack can execute his own escape plans. So Bolan has to break the targetted kid out before the assassins can get him. Once he does, he finds that the Savannah Swingsaw’s crimelord adversary has found them at last, so Bolan has to help them clean the crime syndicate up, too.

The plot, as I mentioned, was fresh and different, which made the book a better read than some of the other recent ones in the series, and I’m looking forward to picking up a couple more in the future. As in “reading the ones I have”–I have a pile enough left that I’m in no hurry to acquire more. Maybe someday.

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Book Report: Perfect Dark: Initial Vector by Greg Rucka (2004)

Book coverI picked up this book after Perfect Dark was an answer to a question at a recent Geek-centric trivia night, and I did not know the answer. Of course, because I’m encountering this book as a book and not a video game, I probably won’t have it in the proper context should I ever be asked about the franchise again. On the other hand, it’s a book that I get to count towards my annual total.

I thought I recognized the author’s name. I thought perhaps he was one of the authors on the The Starcraft Archive, but I was mistaken. I remembered the name, vaguely, because he’s the comic book writer who last year said that Wonder Woman, canonically, is gay. Which is kinda overreach, if you ask me: If you’re just a small contributor to a canon, you don’t get to pronounce ex cathedra things that cover the canon which began before your birth and might well continue after your death. But I don’t tend to write in existing mythos because I’m a control freak.

At any rate, I guess this book is a prequel to the game series, but I’m less clear on the game mythos than I am on the modern DC mythos (this research notwithstanding). But as a standalone book, it’s all right. It’s set in a corporate future, the kind where the big corporations have replaced nations, have their own armies, and have re-written international law to the benefit of the corporations. One organization, the Carrington Institute, is working to expose wrongdoing among the corporations, and it has working for it a woman named Joanna Dark (of the game title). A young Mary Sue, she’s very good at fighting and shooting and whatnot.

So when one of the corporation’s CEO disappears, it triggers a race for his successor, and it comes down to a woman programmer-turned-executive and a doctor with a pharmaceutically enhanced henchman. The Carrington Institute prefers one over the other, and it looks to help her by finding a mysterious blackmailer who has information on the other candidate, who might have triggered a global pandemic.

There’s a lot of corporate intrigue going on, people not knowing what other peoples’ angles are, and so forth. Then there are some action set pieces which lack a certain amount of verisimilitude (people flipping up tables or ducking behind sofas in a firefight kinda thing).

But, as I said, it was okay.

And if you’re wondering, is there room in this other canon that the writer is working in for gay characters? Well, there is a moment where a woman touches another woman’s face tenderly, so all indicators point to yes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you’re known more as an outspoken person than a writer, people are going to be more sensitive to your outspokenness than to your writing, and that’s not a good thing for your reputation as a writer qua writer.

So, how does it stack up on the scale of books from video games? Better than The Dig, not as good as HALO: First Strike and most of the aforementioned Starcraft Archive. There are probably more in the series, but I’m not sure I’ll run out to get them.

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Good Book Hunting: May 5, 2017, ABC Books

So I accidentally, after a twenty minute drive into the northwest corner of Springfield where I had no other pressing business, wandered into ABC Books. Well, not so accidentally: it was on a pretext of picking up gift cards to include in Thank You notes that my children will write to their teachers for the end of the school year. What? ABC Books is having a 50% off sale? Brothers and sisters, that is a Buy One Get One Free sale on books, if you know what I mean.

So I got some free.

You know, I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy and Eastern religion stuff of late in addition to listening to audio courses on the same (I’ve been holding out on you, and I promise to make it up to you once I get around to it). What, you don’t believe me? See this and this and this and this. As to the Western philosophy, trust me or not.

As I’ve read some ancient texts (including the Tao Te Ching and others, I’ve started to bog down on them. So I’ve commented to my beautiful wife that I might be done with them. Just in case I am not.

However, that did not preclude me from picking up books on theology, primary texts in Western Philosophy, and secondary work.


  • Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: H. Richard Niebuhr. As you know, I read the book in this series on his brother. So why not complete the set of the brothers, but not (yet) this particular series?
  • Understanding Zen, a book that sounds like a contradiction. How Zen!
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume. I’m listening to a Great Ideas In Philosophy lecture series, and as I’ve gone along, I’ve noted how many of the primary texts I already own. Except this one, until now.
  • The Tao of Elvis. I read The Tao of Pooh last year. I’ll probably read this book this year.
  • The Search for Satori and Creativity. Honestly, I’m a bit light on what satori means. I know the martial arts school I attend considers itself a bit satori. So I’d better bone up on this before someone kicks me in the groin about it.

With the gift cards, the total was eleventy billion and nineteen dollars (including some comics and such for the children). I don’t know how fast I’ll jump on these books in my reading–I’ve quite obviously been bogged down a bit, with a number of books in the middle of completion and the number of bookmarks available for new reading reaching critically low levels. But I just feel smarter for having these books in my library.

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Good Album Hunting, Friday, April 28, 2017: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

I did manage to drag myself up to the Ozark Empire Fair Grounds on Friday morning to peruse the dollar album selection. However, there wasn’t much to choose from. I don’t know if they’re running out of album donors or if the collection had been cherry-picked in the first couple of days by dealers who’ll post said albums in Relics at $4 each for me to look at and reject later.

At any rate, I did find 13 albums. Which matched the amount of cash in my wallet, so I didn’t have to write a check. It’s called financial self-discipline. Look it up (I did).

I got:

  • Son of a Preacher Man Nancy Wilson
  • Lush Life Nancy Wilson
  • Chartbuster Ray Parker, Jr.
  • Italy After Dark Cyril Stapleton and His Orchestra
  • Brass, Ivory, and Strings Henry Mancini and Doc Severinson
  • Make Way For Dionne Warick
  • Hit Boots Boots Randolph
  • At the Movies Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme
  • Amor Eydie Gorme and The Trio Los Panchos
  • Jackie Gleason Presents Rebound
  • Wild Flower Herbert Laws
  • The Best of Sammi Smith
  • Cha Cha Charm Jan August

I actually had to put some down to make it to 13, but a couple of them looked a little scratched, and I put back a couple of Pete Fountains’ works because I have a bunch that I don’t listen to that often.

Still, it ran me out of protective Mylar covers as it took my collection over another hundred mark, and it keeps me from overrunning the existing storage too much more, but that’s another story.

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