So Many Quips, Only One Spam

  • I don’t need you to loan me a 5k; I have enough of my own.
  • On the other hand, I have created a new category in my financial software specifically for 5ks, and I’m afraid to see at the end of the year how many hundreds of dollars we will have spent on them. Perhaps I will need to add another mortgage to my house next year to pay for them.
  • “Reduce debt with a loan”? That’s not how it works. But, perhaps this sort of reasoning works on people who only learned Republicans are evil in school.

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The Review Is In!

Well, it’s not technically a review. I entered Coffee House Memories in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards competition this year.

I did not win.

Part of the contest is the promise of brief commentary from the judge. Here’s what the judge said about Coffee House Memories:

In Coffee House Memories, a book of poetry by Brian J Noggle, we are presented with a tour of the speaker’s mind and heart, a journey that moves from immaturity to maturity to that delicate balance we strike when we look back with fondness or regret on our past selves. The title for this collection seems to this reader to be bland, missing an opportunity to more evocatively cast a tone for the collection to come. The book is broken into sections which helps the reader to navigate through the various themes and ideas that are presented throughout. The poetry here is formal, adhering to set rules and forms, but this does the subject no real service. Form is a useful tool, can be a worthwhile constraint that gives the poem shape and substance while pushing the writer into nuanced phrases and word choice that might not have been available otherwise. Here, however, the form is a kind of lockstep that forces the writer into clunky language and line. The overall design of the book is professional. It features an interior layout that is crisp and clean with text design on each page that is readable and presented soundly. It may seem minor, but getting the interior in order is an important step in getting the reader hooked! Also, the cover image for the book is straightforward and relatable.

Well, it sounds a lot like what Dr. Berry said in my poetry class at the university. I did improve upon my sonnets from that era, though.

And I got really good scores for my book design. That must be a product of years of designing technical documentation or something.

Still, I guess it’s about what I should expect. Maybe some of the lines are clunky, but the book includes some really good poems, too. You could take my word for it, gentle reader, or you could spring $.99 for a Kindle copy and see for yourself.

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Book Report: Bitter Harvest by Hazel Hirst (1984)

Book coverThis book is a collection of 14 poems about living on a farm and then losing the farm. It comes out of the 1980s Farm Aid era of family farms lost to corporate interests, a genre that somehow was a big thing in the middle 1980s (a response to President Reagan, perhaps?) but has dwindled (although, apparently, Farm Aid is still going, so perhaps it’s just my awareness of it that has dwindled).

Apparently, the purchase of this book in 1984 included a raffle ticket to win the Hirst farm. The author and her husband, faced with debt and foreclosure, tried to sell 50,000 copies of the book to pay off their debts, but ultimately they cancelled the raffle. 50,000 is a pretty lofty target for a chapbook. Take it from a poet who thinks 100 copies is a stretch goal.

At any rate, the poems are lyrics, generally over 12 or 16 lines long and end rhymed. Opposite pages have photos of the family farm and the livestock, so it’s a quick enough book to read. Nothing that sticks out, really. A little more meat than Under the Sunday Tree but that’s mostly because the lyrics are lyrics and longer.

More interesting for the story behind it, though.

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Book Report: Under the Sunday Tree Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson / Poems by Eloise Greenfield (1988)

Book coverWhen I found this book at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale this spring, it must have been misclassified as Literature (that’s what the first page says) or maybe Art, but it’s actually a children’s book of art and poetry. I think it’s based on the art of the Bahaman artist Mr. Amos Ferguson with some verse by Eloise Greenfield added.

The verse is light and simple, which is not a bad thing in itself, but its depth is aimed at children, so it lacks real poetry meat to it. As does most of the poems I read in cheap chapbooks anyway.

The art, though, is primitive/folk art, and I really don’t know how to appreciate it. I mean, the paintings kind of look like the stuff I painted on the recovered white-coated cardboard tops of doughnut boxes that I used as my canvases when I lived in the trailer park and watched my first episodes of The Joy of Painting. I mean, I can look at Renaissance paintings and judge, knowing that it’s my opinion alone, good and bad, what moves me and what does not. I can do that with Impressionism. I can do that with a lot of European figurative painting. But with primitive and folk art styles, I really lack an aesthetic vocabulary to say whether one thing is good or better than another. So all I can say here is that it ain’t my bag, baby.

Which is weird, because most of the “art” I do in woodburning or etching is pretty primitive and folk-artish. Which explains why I have no idea whether I am any good at it or not. Which probably means “No.”

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If Only I Had Consulted Dustbury First

Yesterday, “Der Kommissar” came on the radio, and my oldest child asked what a kommissar was.

I gave a lengthy explanation, as is my wont, but I blundered when he asked who sings it. “Falco?” I said.

“After the Fire,” my beautiful wife corrected me.

If only I had read this Dustbury post beforehand. I would have known and not made a fool of myself.

“They sound like that band that sings….” and then he spit out some lyrics that I recognized as “The Boys Are Back In Town”.

“That’s Thin Lizzy,” I said. “No, they [After the Fire] sound British or European. Thin Lizzy is American.”

Wrong again! Thin Lizzy is an Irish band. Although I did peg After the Fire right: They’re British.

Maybe I should not expound on any music at all unless I’m merely parroting Charles. Or amusing Friar, who apparently likes humor in poor taste. Which explains why he’s a regular reader here.


As I decided to add YouTube videos to this post, I discovered Falco did indeed do the song “Der Kommissar”:

It was, in fact, the After the Fire version, which is in English, that came on the radio.

And I still botched the nationality of Thin Lizzy. Like I once told the boys Lou Gramm of Foreigner was Canadian.

No wonder they don’t trust a thing I tell them, like “It’s time to go to bed.”

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Good Book Hunting, November 24, 2018: ABC Books

As I mentioned, we headed up to ABC Books to stock up on gift cards for Christmas today, and since it was for Christmas gifts, I found myself in the spirit to buy a bunch of random things for myself.

I got:

  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve been reading them this year (most recently Little House on the Prairie, but I’m missing some in the series. Unfortunately, although I made a list of the missing volumes for my boys to look for at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale this fall, I don’t know which ones I’m missing, so I only bought this one even though ABC Books has a bunch of the other titles available. I did not buy a complete series box set for $63 because I was being frugal, which in my mind is just not being as profligate as I possibly can.
  • The Quest of Kadji by Lin Carter because I recognize the name from the old time pulp authors, but I don’t remember reading anything by him.
  • The Foundation for Exploration by Sean Goonan. It looks like a self-published primer on philosophy.
  • The Dark Side by William Schilcter, the second book in the series that started with Enter the Sandmen. I said in the review of the book that I’d probably pick it up sometime but wouldn’t order it online. Promise: KEPT!
  • Bitter Harvest, a poetry chapbook from 1984 by Hazel Hirst.
  • How to Play Guitar by Roger Evans. Perhaps buying books about playing guitar will help rekindle my drive to learn to play guitar. But the strategy has not worked so far.
  • Henri Matisse, a monograph on his works that features the artist and a nude model on the back cover. So not only did I feel lascivious when I bought it, but I cannot read it at church and have to be very, very careful with it should I try to browse it during football games.

Total spent: A bunch, but most of it was on gift cards. So this hardly counts as me buying books for myself at all.

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New To The Style Guide

When gun violence erupts at a location that is generally considered safe and where normal people go and don’t expect gun violence, make sure to call it the Place Shooting to make it seem more like a terrorist act.


I don’t want to diminish the murders that happened, but I get the sneaking suspicion that calling them The Place Shooting is part of an effort to maximize their impact and to turn local crime stories into a greater narrative to influence people to support “reasonable” gun control measures.

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Book Report: Ozark Mountain Humor edited by W.K. McNeil (1989)

Book coverWith a title like Ozark Mountain Humor and a subtitle of Jokes on Hunting, Religion, Marriage & Ozark Ways, you might think that this is a humor or joke book. As I did. But, ah, my foes, and, ah, my friends, it is an academic study of jokes as folklore.

Which means that half of the book is end notes describing where the joke was “collected” (via field work, where intense academic types transcribed jokes). Each joke is numbered for easy reference, and each joke is called a “text” when described in the end notes. Motifs, numbered academically according to one or more humor motif codexes, are cross-referenced, and some of the jokes are delineated from humor manuscripts in 15th century Renaissance Italy or old English joke books printed immediately after the Gutenberg Bible.

And one or two of the jokes are funny.

But reading an academic book about jokes that includes jokes adds a bit of remove from the actual jokes, so perhaps I was less prepared to laugh. Also, I don’t tend to laugh at many jokes in these books, and I’m infrequently actually amused.

Here are the notes that I flagged in the book as I was reading:

  • One joke deals with a young girl saying her prayers prior to moving to St. Louis, and she says at the end of her prayer, “This is goodbye, God. We’re moving to St. Louis.” (Text 117.) Even though I was a longtime resident of the St. Louis area, it was a bit reluctantly, so I can empathize.
  • One joke (Text 126) deals with a barber whose shop is visited by a notorious outlaw; this reminded me of a shorter version of “Lather and Nothing Else” albeit with a punchline instead of a moral lesson.
  • Texts 202b and 204a/204b look to be the source material for the Ray Stevens song “Sitting Up with the Dead”:

I didn’t flag the footnote that jokes about black people were removed at the publisher’s request. The jokes about nuns enjoying being raped, however, remained in the book. In 1989, our official sensibilities were only starting to be refined. Although one of the nuns being raped jokes relied on the inclusion of a black nun who speaks with a hyperbolic accent and who already knows a thing or two about sex. One wonders if this text was excised in later editions of the book.

Also, the author refers numerous times to Asimov’s Treasury of Humor (which I don’t think I own, but I will be on the lookout for), but never refers to Lecherous Limericks. Limericks are not part of the native Ozarks oral tradition, apparently.

At any rate: I read it, and it counts as my 75th book of the year. I even read the End Notes, or skimmed them, anyway, as some of them detailed the local people who told the joke, including many people who were born in the 19th century and saw the early 20th century changes to their corner of America.

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(Not Depicted: School-Supplied Distraction Devices)

Apparently, a middle school teacher has written an essay on how mobile devices affect children’s social lives, with the need for social media badges like Likes, follower counts, and the immortality of embarrassing incidents.

It’s fictionalized narrative which leaves me little to grab as far as a brief point of the exercise, but basically, it’s that mobile devices affect our children’s development in a bad way. He offers some solutions at the end of the piece, but they’re pretty basic stuff: Have the school technology classes teach kids phone etiquette, stop using social media for official school communications, and try to convince that real life is out there.

Not mentioned: The fact that schools themselves are increasingly giving devices to students.

My children don’t get a lot of device time; they were taken away and locked away many months ago because their behavior was tweenish. But the oldest got a laptop from school last year. Without close, close supervision, he will spend hours on it “doing homework” which turns out to be a little homework and a lot of what he would do on a mobile device.

So, yes, we’re trying to keep them focused on real life, and we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the school’s technology.

As this is the Internet, gentle reader, I will leave it to your feverish brains to wonder why schools would think their often-subsidized-by-technology-companies devices, which capture our children’s data, are better than parent-provided devices which capture our children’s data. I certainly cannot ascribe particularly nefarious motives to my boys’ Lutheran school, but I do wonder why schools feel the need to teach children about computers and devices–things that are common in their worlds outside of school. I mean, they don’t offer Nerf gun classes or riding a bike classes. Kids just learn these things growing up.

Oh, sure, the thought is that they’re teaching the kids technological skills they need to know growing up. But they’re teaching them Google Docs, some video editing software, some quizzing games, and drag-and-drop scripting programming tools. Which most kids would learn on their own if they needed to use the tools. And which will be as relevant as Lotus 1-2-3 when the children grow up. Instead, perhaps the school teaching should focus on working with pencil and paper, since that’s closer to the brain.

I’m not harping on my kids’ school; it’s just following, after a fashion, trends in the modern professional education space.

I don’t think I have a cohesive post for you here, but I’m working from an Internet-connected distraction device here, and this post is a distraction from something I should be doing instead.

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Against the Current Fashion

Downtown Lebanon Cleared After Tree Removal:

Commercial Street in Lebanon is looking more clear after city crews removed several trees lining the streets. It happened Sunday. The tree removal project is first in a series of steps to improve downtown. The Downtown Business District Advisory Board decided to remove the trees due to disease, sidewalk damage, blocking of light from street lights and damage to business awnings.

Now, I’m new to this area, and Lebanon really isn’t that much this area that I’m new to, but I wonder if the trees were added in the 1990s or early 2000s to improve downtown.

Whenever I see small trees in planted decoratively along downtown streets when the Powers The Be decide to improve a downtown or district, I wonder if those people know what trees look like in a couple of decades. I have to assume that they do, and that they don’t care. Because a couple of decades from now is someone else’s problem.

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Book Report: Specialist from “Hardscrabble” by Elbert Crittenden Traw, DDS (?)

Book coverThe title of this book might fit onto one of the men’s adventure paperbacks I favor or perhaps one of the series Westerns I infrequently indulge in, but instead it is a collection of reminisciences published in the 1940s or 1950s from a man born in 1875 and a graduate of the Washington University School of Dentistry in 1904. So maybe the book is from the 1960s or 1970s, but most of the stories within it come from the late part of the ninteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries.

The book doesn’t move in chronological order, so we get stories of his growing up on a farm following stories of him working for the streetcar line while going to dentistry school. In addition to the memoirs, we get some natural science musings as he talks about different animals he’s seen and killed as well as health musings, including a chapter on constipation that leads to some, erm, novel remedies (and, after bladder trouble, he mentions that he doesn’t drink much water, so 100 years later, we can probably give him a better solution than the ones he recommends).

It’s a bit like listening to an older relative tell stories. I enjoyed it because I like these sorts of books, as you know, where real people put together their recollections and diaries and describe their world more plainly and accurately than historians or historical filmmakers can. What’s most striking about his life is not so much the hunting and fishing stories, but the times he talks about casual brawling with his associates and friends. They’d just start fighting for fun, and Dr. Traw had a long memory for men who whopped him, and he’d just sometimes get them back by starting to throw punches. As an adult. Maybe radio killed this pastime for rural America for the most part.

One thing I’d like to note is that this book ostensibly takes place 40 years or so before E.M. Bray’s Growing Up In The Bend, but how remarkably similar the lives were in the use of farm machinery, wagons, and rural life. It really illustrates how disruptive and changing the 20th century was. So far into the 21st century, we’re nowhere near that on technology. On politics and the future of the country, maybe more so, because that doesn’t require math.

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Book Report: Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy (2002)

Book coverI read the original (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) earlier this year, and I told someone (probably the precocious kid at my martial arts school who likes to read philosophical works, or perhaps my beautiful wife) that I wanted to read that volume so I could read this sequel to it, as this volume was on the outer rank of my to-read books in the hall and was hence present any time that I went looking for a new book to read and did not have something I’d bought that week that I wanted to jump right into. As you can tell, gentle reader, my Web host offered me a good deal on italics this week, so watch this space for their overuse.

It’s not a sequel, of course; it’s one of the books that play upon the title of the Pirsig work and call themselves Zen and the Art of something.

In this case, it’s knitting. The author does play up some of the mindfulness and “in the zone” elements you can get into when you’re sort of focusing on your knitting, but when the habits of the hands leave the mind free to wander or not.

However, this is not a particularly compelling book.

It really doesn’t have much to say aside from the description above; each chapter doesn’t really build upon a theme. Instead, it’s a series of interviews that the author has with creative professionals, educators, or her aunt the nun about what knitting means to each. Which is generally that they can express themselves and become mindful when knitting.

So I had to gut my way through the book, and in the end, it made me want to take up knitting less than Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance made me want to tackle small engine repair.

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More Nogglestead Cats Talking Back To Memes

Seen on Facebook:

Isis says:

The hard part is knowing exactly when her desire will change from preening with petting to biting. Which changes faster than a quantum computer can add single digit numbers, my friends.

As I was saying, we have enough cats that we can pretty much match any cat in any meme. And if we can’t? We have an extra Fancy Feast dish with no owner yet.

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Book Report: Rococo: A Style of Fancy by Terence Davis (1973)

Book coverThis would have been a book to browse during football games, and indeed, that was the goal last year when this book ended up on the table beside the sofa. However, the text portion of the book is dense at the front of the book, chock full of designer names as it creates a slow-to-read name-checking evolution of the rococo style in France, Italy, Britain, and Germany. Only then does it really go into the photography illustrating the rococo style as it is.

So it lounged on that table for almost a football season and a half before I moved it over to the table beside my reading chair for some attention amid the longer work I’m reading (to be announced probably a couple weeks from now; it’s that long).

So what do I remember from the book?

Rococo followed Baroque style in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, peaking in France but with some elements appearing in other countries. It, like Baroque, is elaborate and rounded, but it’s more whimsical than its predecessor and influenced a bit by the contacts with the Orient. Also, aside from some of the sculpture, maybe, it’s not for me.

Which is more than I knew before I read the book; all I knew of Rococo before it was the Rocky Rococo pizza by the slice chain, but I am from Wisconsin (where the chain is based). Which is, really, what I hope for when I glance through these things: A short intro course on something I don’t know with information for further learning should I like a topic or style. But Rococo ain’t it.

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That Will Suck The Cool Right Out Of It

So the other evening, we were driving back from a basketball game in Avilla, Missouri. My sons attend a small school, and as such, their sports teams have to travel to a number of exotic small towns in southwest Missouri to find worthy competitors teams small enough to match their own.

So the day of the game, I’d had a bit of oral surgery. I’m sure it has a scientific name, but it’s the thing where they cut open the gums to get at the roots of your teeth, clean it out, and maybe grind off a tooth root if it’s cracked (as it was in my case). It’s a little bit bigger of a deal than a scaling-n-planing or a root canal, so my beautiful wife wanted to baby me and drive for the day.

But the two-lane Missouri roads (well, just one, Missouri 96) at dusk and after dark stressed her out, so I offered to drive home. Well, it was not all to benefit my wife. I overheard that one of the girls on the middle school basketball team was playing despite having had a root canal earlier in the day, and that made me feel like a wuss. Also, the driver has control of the sound system according to Anglo-Saxon law, so, since I was not on any pain killers aside from Advil (it doesn’t hurt, and if it did, I wouldn’t admit it to you), I slid into the driver’s seat.

But I was underway when my beautiful wife asked me what I wanted to hear, and my phone with its choice selections of music from varied tastes (well, heavy metal and jazz songbirds) was in my pocket. So she asked me what I wanted to hear from Spotify, and I was a little bedeviled with what to choose.

So my oldest son asked if he could pick a song, and he did, and so people in the car took turns picking songs. The youngest, on his turns, picked Imagine Dragons songs. The wife picked folk songs that amused her and that she had mentioned in recent weeks. I picked a couple of driving songs (“Don’t Look Back” by Boston and “Roll On Down The Highway” by BTO).

The oldest son, though, picked a couple of more modern tracks that he watches on YouTube on his school computer when he should instead be learning. He picked a couple of tracks by The Fat Rat, including “Monody”:

In a stunning departure that is sure to convince the young man that The Fat Rat is played out, his (antecedent: the young man, my son) mother liked it, although his (antecedent: The Fat Rat) mother probably claims she likes it, too, even if she doesn’t because her son made it.

But what my young son might not realize is that his mother is OG EDM.

Given that his father listens to heavy metal and jazz and that his mother likes EDM and folk, clearly we’re backing this poor child into rebelling against his parents by listening to bro country.

As to me, I am fine, thanks for asking. I’m in no pain (not that I would admit), but given that I should eat soft foods for a couple of days, I’m cleaning Nogglestead out of ripe bananas mashed in milk, decade-old instant oatmeal, and couscous of dubious provenance.

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Book Report: Lecherous Limericks by Isaac Asimov (1975)

Book coverMy son had a poetry assignment for his seventh grade language arts class, and part of that assignment was to write poems in a variety of styles, including a limerick. Which seems odd to me, gentle reader, as the limerick as properly understood, is a bit off-color in its humor most of the time. In a show of solidarity and to inspire the boy to write the poems, my beautiful wife said that she and I would also write poems, so I scratched out some lines of a clean limerick that isn’t very good. And isn’t very done yet.

But the exercise reminded me of this book, and I remembered its approximate location, so I thought I might browse it while watching football. But it is, erm, “Boldly Illustrated,” and a quick glance at it indicated that I should not read this where my children might see it. For although by the time I was his age, I had illicitly commandeered my mother’s copy of the Frank O. Pinion Dirty Joke book and memorized enough of them to be slightly less unpopular at North Jefferson Middle School. But I’m not sure how much off color humor I want to introduce to my son and, by extension, his Christian school. So I read this book under the blankets in the dark, and I’ll make sure it’s hidden on my bookshelves again where he won’t casually find it.

So. The book is 100 off color limericks by Isaac Asimov. They’re clever for their form, but what makes the book is that Asimov talks about the form in the beginning, and with each limerick he writes a couple of sentences to a couple paragraphs that explain what he thinks of them, how his wife might have helped with it, the circumstances in which he wrote it, and other asides from the mind of Asimov. A book of 100 limericks by Asimov would be less than 200 pages of Asimov talking about his limericks.

So I enjoyed it.

A couple things of note:

  • Asimov used the word lollapalooza before the word became cool and then uncool again because of the musical festival.
  • One of the limericks has a hand written notation “To Martha From the PE Wall” in tidy cursive on a limerick about male masturbation. I wonder what that’s all about.

A good read for an adult fan of Asimov. Unfortunately, these days, is there any other kind?

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