Good Book Hunting, March 14, 2019: The Church Garage Sale

Yesterday, we dropped by the annual garage sale at church that benefits the youth group. It always happens on spring break, which always catches us by surprise, as we like to clean out a little and donate some things, and we always end up just dumping random nearby things into a box.

But never books. No, never books. Well, unless they’re duplicates or titles that I decide I will probably never want to read.

But I did manage to find a couple for myself at the sale.

I got:

  • The Man Who Used The Universe by Alan Dean Foster. I haven’t read much Foster lately. Perhaps I should pick one up. This one will no doubt be at the top of the stack.
  • Wyrms by Orson Scott Card. This book is from the 1980s? Why did I think Card was from later? Because I didn’t know of him in the 1980s, undoubtedly.
  • The Paradox Planet by Steven Spruill, another 80s-era science fiction paperback. Someone was culling his collection. I know I should say “his or her,” but, come on, man. We know the odds here.
  • Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein. A Heinlein juvie for a quarter? This made the trip worthwhile on its own.
  • The 15:17 to Paris, the story of the three American servicemen who stopped a terrorist attack on a train. This is the movie tie-in version.
  • A New Owners Guide to Beagles because we’ve been thinking about diversifying the livestock at Nogglestead.
  • Conquistador by S.M. Stirling, an alt history novel of some sort.

I also got Natalie Cole’s Christmas album Holly & Ivy along with DVDs on learning American Sign Language, a Groucho Marx compilation from You Bet Your Life, and a collection of The Three Stooges films, and Adventures in Babysitting on VHS.

Total cost was less than $20. The total time to enjoy them all is, what, three or four weeks? The total time until I do so: Decades, if ever.

But we got a couple of kids a couple miles closer to the national youth gathering in Minneapolis this summer if nothing else.

Quick Comments on the News

I don’t comment on the news a lot these days because it’s boring and everyone does it. Maybe I should, though, because in the heydey of this blog, I was doing a lot of snark on the news. But most of the heydey of the blog came before Twitter.

At any rate, a couple recent stories caught my eye.

Look at this headline:

Dems and divided GOP approve birth control bill makes it sound like a bill sponsored by Democrats peeled off a couple RINOs. However:

Over the objection of a handful of conservative holdouts, a bipartisan majority came together in the Missouri House on Monday to pass a bill making it easier to refill birth control.

The St. Joseph Republican told colleagues that current requirements can leave women with gaps in coverage that make it more likely they will have unplanned pregnancies and either abortions or babies they’re not prepared to support.

This was a Republican bill with bipartisan support. Why do the Democrats get the top billing in the headline? Speculate the usual way among yourselves.

Also, there’s this story: Springfield woman sentenced for statutory rape involving 14-year-old boy:

On Monday, Conway, 42, went before a Greene County judge to be sentenced for two statutory rape convictions.

Conway was convicted at a trial in November, more than two years after the victim came forward about the abuse, which prosecutors say began in about 2012 in Springfield.

Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Dane Rennier said Monday that Conway’s case was one of the first child sex abuse cases he was assigned, and he vowed to treat it the same as he would if the gender roles were reversed. The majority of cases prosecutors handle involve male defendants.

At Monday’s sentencing hearing, Rennier asked for 15 years in prison, which he said is slightly more than the average sentence for someone with Conway’s convictions.

Sounds like the prosecutor reads Instapundit, who often highlights how women get sentenced more lightly than men in these sorts of cases (like this one today).

(I struggled with how to work Holly Getsentencedlightly into this snark, but I could not.)

He’s Not Talking About Me

Captain Capitalism tells us how he really thinks:

I don’t think the English language is robust or thorough enough for me to convey my hatred, despisement, and loathing of English majors. They are first and foremost lazy people who decide to major in a language they’re already fluent in by the age of 4. They are intellectual inferiors who think studying a subject to the point of atomic levels of anal retentive detail is a legitimate endeavor. And worst of all they are fascist tyrants who lord their technical, but impractical, knowledge of petty rules and laws of a “language” over the rest of us who use the language to live our lives, not make it our lives, because we have lives…unlike English majors.

I cannot overstate how inferior English majors are or how much I hate their loathesome and laughably inferior selves.

Ha, ha, your humble host laughs, that’s not me! I also was a philosophy major!

Is that hysterical laughter barely keeping me from tears?

You, gentle reader, must tease that out of the text and write a three page paper defending your conclusion.

A Book Sale I’ve Been Training My Whole Life For

Book Warehouse Estate Sale:

BOOK SALE/ INTERNET WAREHOUSE/ BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS in Webster Groves, Missouri – everything must be moved out!!! Bookstore owner must move out of her house by end of the month and sell off personal collection and Internet storage. Over 15,000 books One-of-a-Kind bargains. Collectibles, rare books, first editions, children’s books, new, used, out of print books in all categories Most Hardcovers $2 paperbacks $1 By the Box as low as $10 Come make offer! ALSO household items, furniture, piano, musical instruments, puzzles, games

I’m trying to suss out whether that means The Book House is winding down operations.

One thing I’m sure is that I’m kind of glad that I’m in Springfield these days, especially since my current bookshelves are collapsing under the weight of my existing books.

Again.

Book Report: A Man Called Baraboo by M. Richard Tully (2007)

Book coverWhen I bought this book in Baraboo, Wisconsin, I thought it was a local history book. That’s not exactly what it is. It first tries to determine where the name Baraboo comes from, from the word for catfish, beautiful sandbar, or a vine.

The book eventually settles upon the theory that the river took its name from a French Canadian trader, François Barbeau, who set up a trading post on a bluff on the river. He traces Barbeau back to his youth and then to his military service at Fort Michilimackinac, from whence he received a commission to conduct the trading expedition to southwest Wisconsin (which, of course, was not yet Wisconsin).

The book weaves a lot of history from the colonial period into a narrative of traveling by canoe from the junction of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan across lakes and rivers to a trading post where they collected furs all winter and then returned when the ice broke up in spring. You get sidebars about equipment, lots of discussion of the native tribes in the area, and whatnot.

It’s a pretty good, relatively short (180 pages) narrative from a long stretch of time that gets pretty short shrift in history books and classes. I enjoyed it a bunch.

If I had read it immediately, I could have visited Fort Michilimackinac when I was in Michigan last year. Ah, well. Maybe next time.

Book Report: The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1905, 1991)

Book coverIt’s the strangest thing: I could have sworn that I just read the first collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, recently. But a quick search of this blog and the spreadsheet I use to track my accumulated reading since 2009 indicates I have not apparently read that collection in the last sixteen years. I even looked at my recently read bookshelves to see if I had missed it in my electronic tracking, and I had not. My book database software indicates that I have two (!) editions of the first collection, including one by Reader’s Digest that I remember so clearly.

So I don’t know why I thought I’d read it recently. Perhaps because I just read The Man Who Knew Too Much last year. Maybe I’ve even got another copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes floating around that I’ve seen recently on my to-read shelves.

Regardless.

This book tells the story of the reanimation of Sherlock Holmes by the Romulans (sorry, wrong book) a collection of stories about Sherlock Holmes set in the 1890s after he makes known to Watson that he did not actually die in “The Final Problem” but faked his death so he could hunt for those who wanted him dead. The book includes 13 stories that vary in tone and resolution; they’re pleasant enough to read, but too many of them in a row became a little tedious for me.

From a historical perspective, although we think of Sherlock Holmes as gaslight era, the last of the Holmes yarns appeared in print after the first Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot books appeared. The latter seem so modern and the former so old-timey. Partly that is because the last of the Holmes stories were a bit of an anachronism when they appeared, and Christie wrote of the modern world with cars, telephones, radios, and in her later works more modern technology yet. It highlights, though, the vast changes that occurred in England and in the world between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1920s. Of course, if you’ve watched Downton Abbey, you’d be aware of this as well.

In “The Six Napoleons”, part of the investigation deals with Italian immigrants, and one of them is suspected of being Mafia. So Sherlock Holmes is a forerunner of Mack Bolan. Face it, we’re one encounter with a young man named Broz from Sherlock Holmes touching all the greatest 20th century detective/heroes.

I marked a couple of other things:

  • In “The Three Students”, Holmes come to Watson while he’s making his toilet. I once wondered where I learned the term. I’m still thinking it was Ellery Queen.
  • The first paragraph of the Afterward says:

    Sherlock Holmes lives in our imagination in the pantheon of immortal literary heroes, right alongside King Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Count of Monte Cristo.

    A book I picked up as I avoid finishing The Count of Monte Cristo calls me out.

At any rate, an enjoyable read, but probably best read a story or two at a time.

Like the Cobra Scare of 1953

Cyclists, hikers find alligator along Ozark Greenways Trail in Springfield:

Cyclists and hikers spotted an unexpected reptile along a trail in Springfield over the weekend.

Jason Stratton said he was riding his bicycle Saturday afternoon when he received text messages from his son, AJ, who was cycling just ahead of him on the South Creek Trail. The trail runs from National Avenue to Battlefield Road.

“He sends me a couple text messages saying ‘Hey, you need to come down here,'” Jason Stratton said. “And then he gives me a call, ‘No, you really need to come down here and check this out. You won’t regret it.’”

About five minutes later, Jason Stratton arrived to find his son and a couple other folks staring at what looks to be a stick in the middle of the trail.

“I’m thinking ‘Why is this of any interest at all?'” Jason Stratton said. “As soon as I got up close to it, I could tell what it was we were looking at, of course.”

It was an alligator.

Not only do we have to sometimes worry about cobra around here, but now alligators.

Although I have to say it was a pretty active alligator for winter.

And before you ask, yes, that trail does run right by my boys’ school; they run on it during cross country season all the time.

UPDATE:Here is some security camera footage of the Greenway Trail the night before last:


via GIPHY

Book Report: Finish by Jon Acuff (2017)

Book coverMy beautiful wife eats self-help, goal-setting, accomplishment-preceding books like this up. Me, I tend to prefer my self-help books to be written by philosophers and Buddhists rather than itinerant life coaches. I mean, when you go to the local weekly entrepreneur’s event, it’s chock full of these peppy people who want to build business empires on the weight of their optimistic messages. And yet, as I have bookshelves chock full of unread books about everything except chemistry, apparently, I have many titles like this lingering about, so I might as well read one from time to time.

So, this book is not about starting projects/dreams/goals, it’s about finishing them, and it identifies very early perfectionism as the villain that keeps one from finishing one’s goals. It does lay out some pretty good points about how trying to be perfect often causes one to stumble or quit something the first time one encounters something, an obstacle or lapse, that destroys a dream of perfect resolution to one’s goals or projects.

But it carries on the conceit a little to far and applies the term perfectionism to other obstacles where it doesn’t really seem to be the operative problem, such as bad personal habits. It turns what was a valid insight into a schtick to tie the book together in ways it didn’t need.

Still, I got a little out of the book and flagged a couple of bits.

One is a section entitled How to Read One Hundred Books A Year. Oh, I know how to do that: lots of picture books. Although this author says comic books are allowed; once I hit that passage, I put the book down and picked up a comic book.

Second, he refers to Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame. Personally, I think of him as of The Andromeda Strain fame because I read that book in middle school, before Jurassic Park came out. The author is talking about how the television show ER came out, so he’s might be more informed on Crichton from his works made into films and television shows (although The Andromeda Strain was adopted for the big screen and, much later, television).

Also, he mentions several times that you should start a blog (party like it’s 2005). Strangely enough, that’s the same advice I got from a business coach from the local entrepreneur event: start a blog and go viral. Welp, I’ve started, what, eight blogs in he last 20 years (this one, QA Hates You, Pop-Up Mocker, Draft Matt Blunt 2008, The Beading Will Continue, Found Bookmarks, The Weakened Gardener, and probably others I’ve forgotten, and I contributed to 24th State for a while). To be honest, they didn’t do much for me. Even with a sixteen year presence here, I don’t get that much traffic, and it hasn’t helped me push enough books to cover the cost of publication (a professionally designed cover on John Donnelly’s Gold and a fifty-freebie-book publicity push put me in the hole quite in the hole on that one). So, yeah, I suppose it could help in some regards, but going viral is not in the cards for a lot of people, so social media engagement might just be busy work on your way to a goal.

At any rate, this is why I don’t read too many go-get-’em books: They don’t fit my personality type, and they really don’t compel me to change my personality type.

Your mileage may vary.

(For related musings from me, see For Me, The Hardest Part Is Not Starting from 2012.)

On How To Listen To And Appreciate Jazz

Book coverI had to take a trip to Kansas City on the Ides of February, so I stopped by the library to check out a couple of audio courses to listen to on the way up and back (in a day–it was seven hours of driving for about an hour of work appointment).

Since I liked Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion, I picked up this course to supplement what I learned from the earlier course. All the way up and back, I swapped discs between this course and one on the Old Testament (that I’m still listening to, so don’t expect to see it any time soon).

But I didn’t like this course as much.

For starters, it begins (hem) with a couple courses on listening to jazz where the lecturer talks about the sounds of jazz, the elements (hem) and how they evolved, and the instructor illustrates a bit on the trumpet (his instrument). But then the bulk of the course is a name-checking of jazz musicians and who they played with de-coupled from the sounds of the jazz they’re making. For some reason, probably rights issues, the courses themselves do not have music samples inline to illustrate what the lecturer is saying. Instead, the course includes a two-CD collection of jazz that originally accompanied another book or textbook, and the lecturer refers to sample songs by track number, and the bulk of this course has no music in it whatsoever.

The lecturer’s presentation was a little flat and a little uninspired, too, especially compared to the enthusiasm and humor expressed by the lecturer in Elements of Jazz.

So the whole course pales in comparison. Perhaps it would seem better if it was the only course you listened to or if you listened to them in the opposite order. Or if this was your only dabbling in jazz lectures. Or if you wanted more of a history of jazz.

As this was a library edition, I had to hasten it back to the library before I read the guide book that came with it, so I don’t really get to count it as a book read this year. Much like, perhaps, The Count of Monte Cristo.

He Used To Do The Young Elvis

When I was at the university, I was a commuter, so most of my friendships developed with people outside the university. I drew a number of them from the grocery store where I worked in a transitional (on the way down) corner of town. Another guy named Brian started there a year or so after I did, and we got to be pretty good friends. We spent a lot of evenings together cruising the local mall or gaming together. We bought musical instruments together, a guitar for him and a bass guitar for me, and along with the third part of our triumvirate, we were going to be a band called Ghostriders.

Until he announced that he thought of the band as a back-up band for his Elvis impersonator show.

He was the young Elvis then, and although he got away from it for a while, he’s back at it, but he’s no longer the young Elvis.

None of us are the young anything anymore, ainna?

Being From Wisconsin, I Never Understood The Groundhog Day Options

You know, on Groundhog Day, they say if the groundhog sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter, but if he does not, it will be an early spring.

This always confused me as a child up north because six more weeks of winter would be an early spring.

I’ve been seeing a lot of memes like this on my Facebook feed:

And I think to myself, “It’s the beginning of March. Why would you people think that winter is over?”

I guess it’s because I live here amongst the soft, indolent southern tribes now.

Brian J. Unbalanced

It’s been like eight months since I posted about my musical balance, wherein I prove yet again that my musical taste runs in jazz songbirds and heavy metal.

Well, Brian J., you ask. How have you done over the Christmas season, where the One For You/One For Me protocol takes effect?

Well. Last Christmas, the One For You/One For Me protocol took place mostly at antique malls which don’t count in the arbitrary classifications that I made up for these posts (especially since they don’t fit into the schtick of these posts, but note that my album buying tends to be jazz or easy listening from the mid-twentieth century, R&B, and lately a little disco and 80s pop). So I’ve only bought fourteen CDs new in the last eight months (is that a lot?), and most of them have been the jazz songbirds. Reeling backwards through my Amazon order history, I see that I bought a bunch of metal in the late summer and early autumn and mostly jazz songbirds since.

Here’s what I’ve bought since last July:

  • Cindy Bradley Unscripted
  • Cindy Bradley Natural
  • Sara Gazarek Return to You
  • Erin Bode Little Garden
  • Erin Bode Be Still My Soul
  • Erin Bode A Cold December Night
  • Erin Bode Here and Now
  • Erin Bode The Little Garden
  • Natsumi Kiyoura Jyukuiro
  • U.D.O. Rev-Raptor
  • Diamonte Coming In Hot
  • Unleash The Archers Time Stands Still
  • Ghost Prequelle
  • Unleash the Archers Apex

That’s eight jazz, one Japanese pop singer, and five metal CDs (three of which are bands fronted by women who might be metal songbirds if the concept were not so alien as to be almost incomprehensible).

I warned you that Erin Bode would unbalance my purchases, but that’s not the only reason.

I haven’t been listening to Spotify to find metal artists that sound similar to bands that I already like. I haven’t been hearing much new metal on the local hard rock station. That’s partly because I’ve been listening to audio courses or books like this one, and partly because Q102 hasn’t yet convinced me that I like Bring Me The Horizon.

Instead, I’ve been listening to the stream of WSIE a lot, and it has reminded me that I like Sara Gazarek and recently introduced me to Cindy Bradley who sounds a little like later Herb Alpert:

She might be the second prettiest trumpeter in the world. The first, unfortunately, is not on YouTube.

Manic Pixie Friend Sunshine

I might have mentioned that I liked the album The Sunshine Project by Lily Belle. I play it from time to time, sometimes “Good Morning” to get my children up and moving in the morning (mainly because they’re preteens and hate the song).

So I did what the kids today do and visited YouTube to see if she had any new videos out, and it looks like she has just started a video series called “My Friend Sunshine” where she gives advice and whatnot. The first is called “5 Ways to Encourage a Hurting Friend”:

The second is “Five Ways to Jolt Your Creativity”:

Note that none of her tips are are actually Jolt Cola or any caffeine at all for that matter. Caffeine would be at least two of my five tips for creativity.

As of this writing, there are only two.

Book Report: Running Scared by Gregory Mcdonald (1964)

Book coverThis book, the cover informs you, is by the author of Fletch. And it shares the title with the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines film from the middle 1980s. However, this book is not the source for the film. It’s from 1964 and is Mcdonald’s first book; it would be about ten years until Mcdonald started the series that would make him known and about twenty years until the movie Fletch, based on that series, led someone to print his first novel with a tout that this is the guy who wrote Fletch (the book).

At any rate: It’s a simple enough story, sort of. A cold, detached college student watches his roommate and longtime friend commit suicide in their apartment and, only after it’s done, calls campus police. When asked about it, the college student, Tom Betancourt, says his roommate Casey was free. He quits school before they can expel him and goes home to his high class family, such as it is–a father who is never there, traveling on business most of the time, and a needy mother with a longtime affair. Betancourt doesn’t know anything about Casey’s family, as his roommate never talked much about them in their years rooming together at boarding school and college, but Betancourt knows Casey has a sister, and Betancourt hopes to meet her.

So he goes to their summer home community and takes a job at the yacht club under an assumed name. He meets and falls for the girl and meets her parents who are also quite rich but are dysfunctional in their own way, especially after the death of the son. As they fall deeper in love, Betancourt knows he must tell her the truth, and he does, with tragic consequences clumsily foreshadowed earlier in the book.

The narrative punches quite a bit above the plot’s weight, as we’re carried along, trying to figure out something about this main character. He somewhere on the spectrum between Howard Roark of The Fountainhead and Meursault of The Stranger. He’s handsome so that all the girls throw themselves at him, not that he cares, and he’s hyper-competent, but more detached and less driven than the Rand hero. The book hints at things, such as how his childhood might have made him hold everything at arm’s length. The book also hints that the roommate might have killed himself because of an unrequited homosexual attraction to the main character as the main character sort of considers the possibility. But these questions remain unresolved at the end, which is rather abrupt (but not unforeseen, as the foreshadowing was not subtle).

It reminded me a little of Robert B. Parker’s Love and Glory as both feature young men falling in love at college in the olden days, and something of the narrative style, but they’re really not that much alike.

So I was hoping for better as the narrative pulled me along, and the more I think about it, the less I actually liked the book. That’s what pretty good writing in service of a plot lacking will do.

But I liked the Fletch and Flynn books I read in high school (and reread much later).

Also, It Has A Good Hat Shop

Kim du Toit decides if he has to go into Witness Protection Program, he wants to go to Traverse City, Michigan.

You know, I was just in Traverse City last year for a couple of hours, and it’s got Horizon Books as you might remember.

But it also has a good hat shop just down the street from Horizon Books, and I spent enough time dithering over whether to buy a new fedora with a liner that we overstayed our parking meter and learned that Traverse City has a very convenient Web site for paying your five dollar parking meter fines.

Also, it has snow in the winter.

I mean, it’s not Wisconsin, which is God’s best creation, but it’s not Minnesota. Or spit Illinois.

So if I could not choose Wisconsin, and I probably could not because I go on about it all the time, I’d take witness relocation in Traverse City or even Petoskey.