Have you noticed that people who avoid saying “Merry Christmas” and say “Happy Holidays” instead, explaining that they want to include all seasonal holidays continue saying “Happy Holidays” after Hanukkah ends, but stop saying “Happy Holidays” after Christmas, even though Kwanzaa starts after Christmas and New Years’ Eve/Day and Epiphany are yet to come?
How secular, really, is it to say “Happy Holy Days,” anyway?
Also, what is the adjective to apply to celebrations of the Epiphany? “Happy Epiphany”? “Merry Epiphany”? If we as a people have not yet set one, I should like to wish everyone a “Personal Epiphany.”
I just bought Greenlaw’s Seaworthy earlier this month, so I decided to pick up this, her first book, to get on with reading the complete canon.
I read her second book, The Lobster Chronicles, in 2009. I thought that book was a little disjointed, but that must have been something of a sophomore slump. The Hungry Ocean hangs pretty tightly together.
The book describes the events of a single swordfishing expedition, an approximately one month voyage from Gloucester, Massachussetts, to the fishing grounds east of Canada where the fishermen ply their trade. The book starts out with the captain, Greenlaw, taking on supplies and making lists, fretting about the return of her crew from their two days of shore leave, and then starting out, steaming, to the fishing area. There’s no great disaster to overcome (a la The Perfect Storm, the book and later film which have Greenlaw in them on the periphery). It’s just a normal fishing trip, but it goes into elaborate detail about the technology and techniques of commercial swordfishing as well as the captain’s considerations throughout the voyage.
It’s akin to Moby Dick in its technical descriptions, but is overall more readable. It’s got more detail than an Educators Classics edition of Captains Courageous. And it falls almost into the journals of George Plimpton, Dave Anderson, or Jerry Kramer in distilling the essence of a long, repeating sport or profession into a single block of that profession. Although Greenlaw is not a sport fisherman; she makes a living at it.
I’ve sometimes thought whether I could have done the work, ever since I was a young man regaled with the stories of that one friend of a friend who worked as a fisherman for a couple months a year and made enough for a whole year in a couple of trips (I actually did have a friend of my beautiful wife who did that for a couple of years before returning home for good). I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but the days were long, the conditions often poor, the work repetitive, and the reward uncertain and often underwhelming.
On the other hand, it makes for better stories than being a ronin software documentation and testing professional.
So I’m looking forward to the other two nonfiction books from Greenlaw and might someday delve into her recent mystery series as well, although I get the sense that I’ll have to order those books new. Or perhaps look over the fiction selection at the library book sales more closely.
The middle of last year, I got a couple of high scores at the local arcade. I mused that the scores had been reset recently as they weren’t very high. When we went back last week when our kids were on Christmas break, I discovered how it works: 1984 resets its annual high scores on July 5, the anniversary of the arcade’s opening.
So I’d hoped for another easy score of a free button and free pass for my next visit to the arcade (between high score free passes that my beautiful wife and I both earned, we had a two-for-one coupon, so the whole family got in for only $7.50), but with six months of previous players, and quite honestly, better players to contend with, I decided to go with the A-10 Warthog strategy: Low and slow.
Instead of working on video games that I enjoy or games that I can play passably well (which is, come to think of it, none of them), I looked for old, slow games that won’t captivate the players from today who’ve grown up on PlayStations and Fortnite. So I watched the board scroll by, and I saw that Elevator Action had a high score of 10400.
So I went to work on the game.
I played a couple of times straight up, trying to get the secret documents and whatnot, but I wasn’t improving fast enough to make the high score. Each set of documents was worth 500 points, and killing an enemy spy was worth 100 points, so I decided to camp in a defensible position and try to shoot or jump side kick 105 bad guys.
Which I eventually did after hogging the game for about an hour.
Did I say “hogging”? Clearly, I exaggerate, as nobody else seemed to want to play the slow, 35 year old game. It was pretty busy at 1984 that night, but everyone crowded around the later games or the more popular games, leaving me to shoot and dodge bullets until I had the high score.
I guess in a loud arcade, en sounds like em. But I got a button and a free pass.
I could have gotten a little higher in score, as I didn’t realize I got an extra life at 10,000 points and stepped back for my final brief life.
But the A-10 strategy looks to be a winner:
Pick an old game, probably a slow game that bores modern players.
Which will most likely have a low high score.
Play the game to score points, not to advance the plot.
We will see if this strategy holds true the next time I go to 1984, which might be in the middle of July again. But I know what game I’ll spend my time on: Space Invaders. It looks like one only needs to get through the first two levels to beat the high score, and I’m pretty sure in a couple of hours I could do that.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in studying up, here’s someone playing Elevator Action for an hour:
You know, my kids watch YouTube videos about video games all the time. I can only hope that the videos they watch are more interesting than this video. BECAUSE THAT MEANS THE KIDS WILL BE TOO BORED TO PLAY THE OLD GAMES UPON WHICH I NEED TO SET HIGH SCORES.
For starters, “The Thing on the Sink” is not an H.P. Lovecraft short story, although with a title like that, it might be a good one.
No, this particular thing on the sink has travelled throughout the lower level of our home with feline assistance. I hope. Otherwise, it might be something out of a Lovecraft story.
I not-so-recently changed the toner on my black-and-white printer (which is why I’m not afraid to throw extra hyphens into this blog post–I have enough toner to print them if needed). I’d bought a two pack of the the toner cartridges on the Internet, and they came in a box with foam packing at the ends. I’d already used the first of the two toner cartridges and had taken it to Staples, where I would eventually get a $2 coupon to use in thirty days that I would not actually use because I only go to Staples to recycle toner cartridges for the two dollar coupon that I never use. It doesn’t make much sense to me, either, but that’s what I do.
Since I used the second cartridge, I took the foam ends out of the box because I save foam packing like it in case I need to add filler material to a project I’m working on, but I never do because I’m lazy and haven’t done anything with a monitor bezel in years, but I’m still accumulating foam for my next project in a couple of years.
So I left the foam ends in my office, and one or more of the cats decided one of them was a cat toy. So it made its way from my office into the living room, and then into the hallway between the living room and our offices. I picked it up off the floor to vacuum and put it on the cat tower in the hallway, meaning to take it up to the garage at some point in the future. But I didn’t before one or more of the cats took it from the tower and into the bathroom, from whence I put it onto the sink.
See, it makes sense. And, one day, it might make it into the garage to get used in a project, or more likely, to be saved for a project I never get around to.
You see, I can explain the seemingly random placement of seemingly random things at Nogglestead. Basically, it boils down to one or more things, sometimes in combination: Cats, children, and/or laziness.
State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, the Missouri bill sponsor and director of the Missouri Grocers Association, said he has no problem with business owners cutting back on wasteful materials, but he said he does not believe the government should mandate restrictions.
“What we’ve seen throughout the country is a continued attack on business being able to take care of consumers the way consumers want,” said Shaul, who added that any movement toward a more biodegradable future should be consumer-driven.
“It (the bill) will not impede a business from making a decision that’s in their best interest or meets their business model,” Shaul said. “We think it should be their decision.”
Shaul’s legislation, if signed into law, would mark an expansion of current Missouri law, which forbids localities from restricting single-use plastic bags through bans or taxes.
Not found in the article amid the pro-environmentalist anecdotes? Any mention of the developing nations that contribute most of this waste.
Here, let me fix the headline: Paper Takes Opportunity To Expound The Virtues of Meaningless Virtue Signalling, Expresses Enthusiasm For Onerous Government Regulations That Do Not Solve Anything.
On the one hand, I am for pushing regulation down to the lowest possible level, but on the other hand, the “laboratory” of democracy currently experiments with bad ideas by implementing them far and wide through the power of media and social media pressure before anyone can figure out if they work or not. And when they all fail together to solve the problem, the people who make the rules think the solution is more rules applied from the top down.
I bought this book at ABC Books earlier this month; the author was in the store with a book signing, so I stopped by and picked up a copy of his book. ABC Books has signings on a lot of Saturday afternoons, but I haven’t had much luck slipping up there when an author was actually in house until then.
In this case, the book is more of a chapbook (for $6.50) that contains a single short story. It’s a a spooky sort of story, kind of a speculative bit of fiction dealing with life after death. Something handled better by The Twilight Zone.
Back when I was a publishing mogul, I would have run a story like this–as a matter of fact, I did, but I was desparate for prose. This story kind of falls into that category. It’s okay, but proably not worth $6.50 unless you particularly want to support local book stores and local authors. Which I do.
As you might remember, gentle reader, I tend to run my goal year not so much from January 1 to January 1 but from sometime the week after Christmas to sometime the week after Christmas. Something about the holidays makes me reflective and, increasingly, melancholy about the passage of the year.
I didn’t have that many goals for the year, and I accomplished neither of them. I did, however, meet my annual hoped-for quota of 70 books. And exceed it by 20 or so.
I didn’t finish one of them (as noted). I also didn’t count the Shakespearean plays I read at the start of the year when I thought I would power through the complete Shakespeare to finish something with heft this year (but only count as 1 book, strangely enough). I also finished the year about 40% of the way through another 1000 page book in which I’ve bogged down and have read other books between its chapters.
Once again, it’s a blend of poetry, drama, nonfiction, philosophy, and genre fiction with only a smattering of Literature this year (not counting the Shakespeare and The Count of Monte Cristo which I have yet to finish or the portion of the Complete works of Keats and Shelley that I’ve read).
Hopefully, next year I’ll come up with some achievable projects and will read enough books that I feel like I’m making progress on clearing out my to-read shelves (spoiler alert: I will buy enough books next year to fall further behind).
I must have bought Baldilocks‘ book when it was fresh and new, as it’s autographed and everything, but it’s been floating around my to-read shelves for a while. But, in my defense, such as it is, I have not actually had to move the book unread.
It’s a literary novel set in the early 1990s at a university in New Mexico. A black young woman who has gained some notoriety for past behavior has decided not to leave school and to stick it out meets the white quarterback of the football team, and they like each other and start dating.
That’s the plot in a nutshell; the execution of the book is a slightly talky exploration of how this affects the protagonists, their families, their friendships, and their standing within their communities. It’s a pretty frank set of musings and interactions, and they do have a conservative/classical Liberal bent, so I agreed with the sentiments for the most part, so I didn’t mind them much but I would expect readers with a different, more modern perspective would not be convinced.
It was a quick, pleasant read and worth my time regardless.
So I watched American Ninja last week for several reasons: It has recently become available on Amazon Prime, and I wondered if it would be something I could watch with my boys who are not yet teenagers. I watched it on Showtime when we lived in the trailer park, many times because there’s not much to do in a rural trailer park, and I would have been only a year or two older than the oldest is now (because we moved into the trailer park one month before my thirteenth birthday because the trailer park would not let families with teenagers move into the park).
Wait a minute, Brian J. you say. Wasn’t the reason you watched American NinjaJudie Aronson? “Shut up, Ted,” is my reply. One of the reasons, surely, but not the only reason.
But American Ninja is rated R. So I hesitate to show it to my children because they’re sensitive, or I like to think they’re sensitive, young people protected from screen violence. I’m watching American Ninja, trying to gauge the violence and swearing, and it’s not so bad.
I especially call it not so bad because I followed American Ninja with Kick-Ass, which is also rated R. Which made the difference between an 80s R and a 2010 R very stark.
Take a look at the violence in the final fight in American Ninja:
Now, take a look at the first big fight with the diminutive Hit Girl in Kick-Ass:
American Ninja has violence, but it looks more and more like the 50s Westerns where a gunshot causes the bad guy to clutch his stomach and fall down. Kick-Ass, on the other hand, has dismemberment, splatter, someone set on fire, and a guy getting microwaved until he explodes. American Ninja has soldiers and bad guys swearing in context, while Kick-Ass has an 11-year-old girl with quite a potty mouth at every opportunity (which, sadly, might be the linguistic landscape in the twenty-first century).
But, jeez, an R rating changes across movie eras, ainna? It’s clearly not an absolute guide to sex, violence, and swearing in a film, but a relative measure of how much a movie contains relative to other movies released contemporaneously.
I suppose that’s clear to any thinking person, but I got the proper visceral (literally figuratively) reaction with the juxtaposition of these two films.
I bought this book for a buck earlier this month, and I had the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to browse it over a couple of football games that I watched parts of because I’ve been disappointed in the Packers’ play this year.
As I alluded to in the Good Book Hunting post, this book is part project book and part catalogue.
As it’s published by the parent company of Writers’ Digest, which also has a number of other art and crafts magazines in its stable, this book has a number of art project discussions of how to make the painted objects, including the colors on the palette and brush stroke techniques to mirror the project originally painted by the artist. I learned how you build up from the background with basic colors and shapes and then add lines, shading, and highlighting to give the actual depth. This is a lot different from the flat way I did painting when I was in school and trying to get extra credit in my art classes, but I wasn’t doing it like Bob Ross told me to even then.
Then we get into some items in the Decorative Arts Collection, which is a 25-year-old (then) club/consortium of decorative painters that got together to promote and to collect historical art of the stripe. Well, not stripe: It’s painting flowers and walking men on various practical articles to tart them up a bit. A lot of painting on tin, a little less kitchy than pure folk/country art, but along those lines.
Prettier to look at than, say, Matisse but with a little less depth than real Art. But still, pleasant to look at, and certainly not something I could do.
So what wine did we pair with Christmas dinner this evening?
Well, it seemed symmetrical to our selection in early November to choose The Patriarch:
Actually, it was a gift from a friend who brought it along to Christmas dinner, but I cracked it open because of the previous wine selection.
It does, though, remind me that I have been the Patriarch of this family, the oldest male in my lines, since 1995, before I even had a family to patriarch over. But I’d just finished college, so I knew how to oppress even then.
I’ve been haunting the antique malls the last couple of weeks, looking for gifts for different people, and I’d seen something I thought I would pick up last Sunday at Ozark Treasures, a cat-themed game, and I thought it would be good for a friend, but we’ve already taken care of that particular friend this year, so I let it go. But I thought of another friend it would be perfect for, so I returned Friday to look for it. But I didn’t find it. Instead, I picked up this book, which is also cat-themed and would be a good gift for either of the aforementioned friends. But in a stunning turn of events, I decided to keep it because I also like cats.
The book is a picture book of classic through the middle 1980s stars with cats, and there’s a caption telling you who it is. Most cats appear only once, although Morris the Cat and Orangey, who appeared in several movies, appear more than once. We’ve got the cover woman Carole Lombard, we’ve got Marlon Brando, we’ve got Sigourney Weaver with the cat from Alien.
It’s an interesting book to browse mostly if you’re in the intersection of old movies and cats like I am, and, in retrospect, only one of the friends to whom I thought to give this book. So perhaps it’s for the best that I kept it after all.
Although I could, I know, give it away now that I have read it. But that would be most unlike me of all.
The Rocket City Trash Pandas won’t play for another 18 months, but the team is already breaking records. Merchandise sales have beat out past Minor League Baseball records, and the team has garnered the attention of major league executives.
I was in the market for a new sweatshirt, as my current rotation of Marquette University, Northern Michigan University, St. Louis Blues, Milwaukee Admirals, and Jazz 91 sweatshirts is getting a little frayed, so I rushed right out and got one:
I’ll have to keep an eye on this little team from Alabama once they get going.
I haven’t seen a bunch of feminist hype for the new Transformers movie Bumblebee akin to the Ghostbusters film or reactions akin to Ace‘s recent rants against the film Captain Marvel. I’ve only seen a couple, okay, a lot of commercials during football games.
Here’s the official trailer:
It doesn’t play up any Grrrl Power angle, it doesn’t show some slight teenaged girl beating up large, martially trained men, and it features Bumbleebee as a Volkswagen as God intended (which just means that Volkswagen ponied up the dough to be featured, prolly).
The “Transformers” movie universe has lately been leaky and rusted out. It’s become shorthand for bad blockbuster moviemaking — male-driven, mindless spectaculars with sophomoric humor. How can it be saved? Just hand over the keys to some talented women.
“Bumblebee,” the sixth film in the series, is a stand-alone origin story written with disarming skill by Christina Hodson and starring the gifted Hailee Steinfeld. It’s a charming tale of a girl and her adorable car-robot, flipping the script on the tired, bloated franchise. While hard-core fan-boys may complain it’s too soft, this film may turn out to be the perfect way to save “Transformers.” Could Bumblebee rescue Optimus Prime this time?
On the other hand, perhaps I should just be greatful that nobody called the president “literally Megatron.”
Meh, I’m not outraged. I’m just a little disappointed in my fellow man.
This powerful and deeply moving dramatic poem is as contemporary today  as it was in 1942 when Edna St. Vincent Millay was commissioned by the Writers’ War Board to write a poem immortalizing the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia. This verse-narrative, arranged as Reader’s Theatre Script, very eloquently voices the protest and horror of all peoples of the world at the wanton destruction of the small village during World War II by the Nazis who claimed that the citizens of Lidice were harboring the assassin of Reinhard Heydrich, a Nazi henchman. Opening on the peacefulness of the village and daily activities of a peasant family, the action soon draws us into its suspense and mounting tension as Nazi soldiers enter Lidice, destroy every structure, kill every man, drive the women into “concentration camps,” and her the children into “educational institutions.” Written in a white heat of outrage and fury after news of the cold-blooded mass murder, Miss Millay’s poem has become one of the great literary classics opposing all war atrocities.
You can read more about the actual event on Wikipedia. Note that this is what actual Nazis did, and that the literal Nazis did not stop their reprisal with this one village. Contrast with political figures compared to Hitler in the modern world.
At any rate, this version of the poem is broken into different narrators so that different sections are told in different voices and sometimes the individuals mentioned in the poem can have a distinctive voice to present the sections of the narrative. I kind of ignored that because in reading, there’s little difference between Woman 1 and Woman 2 or Woman 1 and Man 2. The poem itself delves into the lives of a family in the village, two parents whose oldest daughter is getting to marrying age and is getting courted by two local lads when the Nazis arrive. It’s 32 pages of verse, so a pretty quick read, and it’s pretty well executed.
But it’s more interesting as a snapshot of a time in history where a group of writers came together to promote national unity in a war effort. A sepia-toned and faded snapshot when compared to the behavior of “poets” in the 21st century.
The copy I have is in a library binding from a local high school whose theatre program I support through my business. The book itself stems from 1972, and the checkout form in the back cover shows 11 checkouts in the 1990s. People who went to school with my wife checked this book out. Whoa.
This book isn’t a complete waste of time, which was the wish I expressed in the report for Twisted Path. Mack Bolan doesn’t smoke a cigarette, for example.
The plot: Someone is killing off the Saudi royal family, and it looks like the Iranians and the Russians are working together to install a puppet monarch on the Saudi throne. Bolan goes to Saudi Arabia to uncover the plot, and it leads him and Grimaldi into an assault on a compound at Mecca.
It’s an odd duck of a book; I was first pretty satisfied with it, but then the set pieces in the plot were kind of clumsy. I don’t know how much to ascribe to the writer or to the people who prepared the plots. But the set pieces don’t really seem like they’d be a good idea to advance to the next, and then Bolan charges in with guns blazing. So the writing was okay, but the set pieces were faulty.
Although the book contained a couple of mistakes:
The men were Arabs, probably with the ayatollahs–Iranians in Western dress carrying compact Russian automatic weapons.
Iranians are not Arabic. As I was reading, I wondered if I could tell Arabs from Persians and Semites based on appearance. Maybe, maybe not. But in plain text and history, I can.
Also, at the very end, they crash land a plane that has run out of fuel, and it explodes. Which is one of the nice things about an airplane running out of fuel: The explosions are much lesser.
Still, not a bad entry, but it might be until next year until I get to another, especially as I realize I have not read a Christmas novel yet, and I will have to do so on an emergency basis.
Every year, we start the holiday season hoping to get Christmas cards out in a timely fashion. Not long after Thanksgiving, I started on a Christmas letter, but busyness and, to be honest, the typical we’re working, the boys are in school, playing sports and doing band, and we had a vacation template bored me a bit, so it got set aside. I managed to finally tap out that we’re working, the boys are in school, doing band and playing sports (see how I freshened it up?), and we went on vacation this year. So last weekend, we were ready to get some Christmas cards to start the writing. But Walmart was out of Christmas cards. So I started the preliminary work to panic, but Saturday afternoon, we found another Walmart had plenty of cards.
The Christmas cards we selected this year have little bits of glitter on them to make them sparkle like snow. Which means I have a lot of glitter on me. I finished the cards up yesterday, for the most part, but I still have the glitter on my forehead, in my beard, and on my clothing. I am not this festive or fabulous in real life.
I write little notes in the cards, personalized for some (Gimlet and his family got a little \m/, the ASCII equivalent of the rock-and-roll horns favored by Dio.
But the standard message was Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2019. Except I cannot shake the nagging feeling that at least once I must have written best wishes for 2018.
I packed and shipped packages to relations in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Poplar Bluff this morning. One of the items for my aunt seemed to be a softcover book. I don’t remember what that is. And I came home to find a gift that I was supposed to ship to Poplar Bluff on my desk where I’d set it when repacking the box. So now I wonder whether I forgot anything else or sent gifts to the wrong places. I guess I’ll know in the next few days. By the way, it costs about $15 to ship from Springfield to each of these areas, and it should be delivered tomorrow. Or I could spend $100 to overnight each box. I asked the young lady if UPS still used the zone system, but that probably went out of favor before she was born.
The various school programs and concerts are done, and now that the cards and packages (except for the one I will ship to Poplar Bluff tomorrow) are out, I can relax and just watch the snow fall.