Book Report: Blood Song by Michael Schmeltzer (2016)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, as you might know, my beautiful wife is is a poet of some reknown and publication credits. So I had resigned myself to being the second best poet in the family. However, as this collection of poetry comes from my cousin’s husband, I might only be the third-best. Until my children start expressing themselves in verse.

As you might expect, gentle reader, I cannot say anything bad about the book at risk of not getting invited to family reunions, although I actually haven’t been invited to a family reunion since 2007. Schmeltzer’s poetry is more modern than I prefer or write. I liked elements of it better than most things I read, but I read a lot of chapbooks of amateur origin (like this and this) when I’m not struggling through the long, long poems of British Romantic poets (I read this book as a break from Keats; currently, I only have “Hyperion” in his long poems left, but it’s harder to slog through it than “Endymion” for some reason). Schmeltzer’s modern sensibilities reminded me a bit of David St. John, but that’s because that’s the best of the modern stuff I’ve read recently.

At any rate, Schmeltzer covers some ground that’s topically in my wheelhouse: the death of parents, relationships, and whatnot. However, some of the poems are a bit obscure, a collection of images that sort of hint at something, that didn’t tie it up neatly. Which might have been part of the point, I suppose.

I might have put my finger on a dichotomy in two different types of poems and rhythms: the paper rhythm and the spoken rhythm. As you might know, gentle reader, my poetry is steeped in performance in open mics, so my lines tend to be longer. A lot of modern poetry, including some of Schmeltzer’s work, has shorter lines. I wonder if they’re written to be seen on paper instead of heard aloud. When I’ve heard Serious Poets reading these kinds of poems in the university, they pause ponderously after every image or phrase. I blame William Carlos Williams. It’s not how I like poetry–I like longer lines and better sustained rhythm, I guess. Which should mean I love Keats, right? Well, he and the other Romantics had an outsized influence on my early poetry, I rediscover when I go through it.

I’m not saying that Schmeltzer is particularly guilty of overly truncated lines and unneccesary enjambment; it’s just what I thought of as I was reading what he wrote and relating it to the other things I’ve read.

So I liked it better than most of what I read. And, if you need the ultimate endorsement, I read one of the poems to my beautiful wife, and she nodded with her chin low and her eyes rolling up as she said, “It’s good.” Which is a sign of true excellence in her estimation. So she’d probably give it five stars instead of four.

Lostification

Someone is unhappy with how Game of Thrones is turning out:

Where to begin with “The Bells,” an absolute disaster of an episode that exhibited every bad habit the series’ writers have ever had? They threw out their own rule book (suddenly the scorpions don’t work and Drogon can burn everything?) to pursue gross spectacle.

Character and substance were left by the wayside so that the plot could go where the writers wanted. The pace was rushed in the beginning, painfully lagging by the end. The script created plot devices and conflicts out of thin air (no really, when were the bells ever so important?), relished in violence and let a main character survive beyond any reasonable odds.

Yeah, kinda like they did with Lost. The show’s writers were making it all up as they went with no end in sight, and then when they had to wrap it up, they did so with a truncated season that didn’t answer most of the questions from the bulk of the series and instead created a new series of mysteries and questions in the last series, questions that viewers were not invested in, that they could wrap up.

Badly.

So you won’t have to wonder if I watch multi-season narratives like this. I don’t. Because they’ll botch it.

UPDATE: Ace agrees about Game of Thrones and also brings up Lost.

The High-School-Quality Handiwork of Brian J.

I’ve always wanted to be able to build things with wood. It runs in the family. Noggle and Son Remodelers was a going thing for a couple generations of Noggles and their sons, but it folded when I was a mere lad. My parents split before I reached an age where my father could teach me those practical woodworking skills, and all I got from my childhood years was building treehouses with scrap lumber and recycled nails.

But I’ve wanted those skills, but I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to learn them. I mean, I built an outdoor toybox for my boys. But fine furniture was out of my reach.

So I thought I would build a cart for storage in my garage. We have some built-in shelving with space underneath, and we’ve stored sporting equipment and Nerf guns in plastic bins, but I wanted something that would roll in and roll out and fill the space instead of sticking out and leaving some vertical height.

So I measured and bought some lumber. And put it off. Mostly because the lumber was more expensive than the scrap lumber I built treehouses with. Then I built the base of the cart, a floor with some wheels, and it sat in my garage for months like an oversized skateboard that took up space as part of the mess instead of helping alleviate the mess in the garage.

So last weekend, I apparently had forgotten the price of the lumber enough that I was no longer afraid to bollix it up. I got about to framing the cart, and I put the walls on it this weekend.

I worked mostly from plans in my head and with a jigsaw and circular saw for cutting instead of a table saw (I have one, but I don’t actually have a table for it). I over-engineered it a bit and put in more screws than absolutely necessary. And I miscalculated the width of it so that the walls of the sides are inside the framing instead of the outside, and the framing is an inch and a half more shallow than the base.

But the first is done.

And it fits where it’s supposed to fit.

It took four or five hours to finish it up, so probably six hours total. I am going to build another; I bought enough lumber for two. One for sporting equipment and one for Nerf guns. I’m not sure if I will paint them or not as I am going to want to hurry into getting my garage cleaned up.

But the next goal beyond these carts is building some record storage since the collection has far outstripped the overloaded bookshelves that I painted seven years ago.

You know why I haven’t done hat much practicing and acquiring this skill? Because I often don’t feel like I have the hours to dedicate to learning it with all the time I expend getting and spending and laying waste my powers and pretty much maintaining in the day to day. But it looks like I find plenty of time to blog about every little thing I do accomplish. So it’s a time management and prioritization problem.

We will see how long it takes for me to make that second cart.

I Know Where That Background Vocal Line Comes From

So I was doing the evening chores, and I found myself singing a bit of “Ew wah ew wah ew wah ew wah.”

Unlike when I found myself ruminating on the melody of Marty Balin’s “Hearts” in February, I knew where this came from.

Dwight Yoakum’s “Pocket of a Clown”.

Although I did have to search for it to make sure I wasn’t crazy (“Pocket of a Clown”? No way that’s a real song.).

I had Dwight Yoakum’s This Time album when it was fresh. It’s weird; I think of my college years as mostly steeped in pop music, but I listened to my share of country at the beginning of the 1990s as well.

Why it came up in my mind’s rotation, I have no idea. I am pleased, though, that the radio station that I can listen to while mowing the lawn has, after a couple of years, backed off of the all-bro-country format and returned to a mix of today and oldies. And by “oldies,” I mean things current when I was an adult.

I’ve Seen That Meme

Spotted on the Powerline blog Week in Pictures:

I think it was on March 16 as I was coming back from ABC Books. The carrier turned left onto Republic Road and passed me going the other way.

Of course, it might still be in town since VisionCon is this weekend.

I was toying with the idea of going, and that’s now greatly increased as I see that Jewel Staite will be there. Shiny.

What Goes Around Comes Around

My youngest son is having a birthday soon, and I wrapped his gifts today. A while ago, I bought a couple rolls of birthday wrapping paper, but apparently, I’ve run through them, and I had some green crafting paper and some old wallpaper that I use as wrapping paper because it’s thick and stiff, so it doesn’t wrinkle or tear. Also, it was like a buck at a garage sale a long time ago.

Apparently, I’ve been in this situation on May 9 before.

This year, though the green craft paper covered both gifts with no waste, so no wallpaper for the laddie this year.

But I’ll probably wrap gifts for his children in this wallpaper.

Is this your second post from Facebook memories you’ve done this week, Brian J.? you ask. Yes, I guess so. Some weeks I got nothing.

Book Report: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847, 1984)

Book coverThis book shall probably forever hold the Personal Record in my life for the longest time between re-reads at 33 years. I read this book as a freshman in high school and didn’t remember that much from it except the basic outline of a servant woman working and falling for a rich man with a crazy wife in the attic. Uh, spoiler alert.

So not long after I read The Count of Monte Cristo, I spotted this book on my shelf and decided to pick it up since it was a classic and shorter than the aforementioned The Count of Monte Cristo. Still, it took me two weeks to read the book, partially because my evenings have been pretty active in those two weeks with watching playoff hockey and the less occasional movie.

On re-read, I recognize and appreciate the three part structure of the book. The first part is Jane’s unhappy youth at her aunt’s place and the charity school she attends; the second her life as the governess at the said home with a said lunatic; and the third is her life after she’s fled from Mr. Rochester after discovering his secret at the altar when she was going to marry him.

You’ve got a bunch of hints that Jane has some wealth coming (she does), a little bit of resolution with her family line (her mother was from a moneyed family that disinherited her when she married a poor clergyman, and the moneyed family lost the money in a bad speculation), and whatnot. It’s one of those tangly Gothic romances, you know.

It does, however, offer a bunch of topics for school papers, though. You can explore Jane Eyre’s personality: Is she really strong? She yields a lot to circumstances and strong male figures. Is her endurance a strength? Is it weakness? One could talk about the proper ways women relate to men: Should they yield as Jane does? You could talk about the roles of class. You could write about how Jane can only really be with Rochester when he is humbled. I’m sure many could.

Me, I’m thinking that this book warped me at a young age as to how imperious and haughty one can be and still get the chicks. It didn’t work for me throughout school. But I eventually got a babe, so maybe not too much.

So it was interesting to read, shorter than The Count of Monte Cristo, and it makes me feel worthy of my English degree to have returned to it.

But I don’t think I’ll read it in another 33 years when I’m eighty. I’ll not be that far into the to-read shelves by then.

Wait a minute, Brian J., are you saying that you’ve re-read Me and My Little Brain as an adult? Well, gentle reader, I didn’t think you were paying attention. So this re-read of Jane Eyre is probably not my personal record, but I can pinpoint the time when I read it to give it an absolute number, so I went with it. Me and My Little Brain probably went almost forty years between readings. EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THIS SITE IS A LIE! Except the part about my beautiful wife being beautiful.

Everybody’s Doing It

Tam K., as do we all, responds in a Pavlovian fashion to the Daily Double sounder on Jeopardy!:

Personally, as someone who has traditionally yelled “BET IT ALL!” at the screen every time Double Jeopardy came up, I’m enthralled to run across a contestant with the chutzpah to do just that.

In my head, I can still hear my oldest son at two exclaiming that when he heard the Jeopardy! sounder in our house in Old Trees some decade ago.

I went looking through my new computer to see if I recorded it, or if I’ll just have to remember it as best I can. It looks like I’ll just have to savor the memory.

However, I did mention it on Facebook.

Nine years ago today. Exactly.

Good Book Hunting, May 5, 2019: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

As I mentioned yesterday, I visited the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale yesterday. It was half-priced day, so I hit the dollar (fifty cents!) records. Sometimes, I can put those in the hold area and take all of my purchases out at once, but yesterday, I paid for the records, put them in the truck, and then went into the Better Books section to look for actual, you know, books.

I limited myself pretty much to the art monographs, history, and Missouri/Ozarks tables because I managed to accumulate most of two boxes’ worth of books there as well (fortunately, I had my oldest boy who is going to be a teenager later this year) to help me carry.

As I mentioned, I got a couple of things.

I got:

  1. The Tent on the Beach by James Greenleaf Whittier, an 1899 first edition in pretty good shape for $25. Because I confuse him with James Whitcomb Riley. I think I already have an old collection of Whittier that I inherited, in a roundabout fashion, from my maternal grandfather.
     
  2. Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder / Edited by Stephen W. Hines. Because I’m going to collect them all, now, apparently.
     
  3. The Legend of the Golden Huaca by Colleen Tucker, a local author. Fiction.
     
  4. The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack with Bo Burlingham. A local manufacturing executive has created a system to gamify business. My beautiful wife has seen him speak several times, and this book might very well disappear from my to-read shelves. I probably wouldn’t miss it.
     
  5. Thawed: The Art of Gary Bedell(?), a comic art monograph. It might be autographed; inside the front cover is the sigil that appears on the cover as the author’s name.
     
  6. Three different collection catalogs of June Wayne exhibitions. One is in French, so it might be a duplicate of one of the English catalogs.
     
  7. Dan Worth: Photographs 1955-1985.
     
  8. Pierro Della Francesca.
     
  9. Dialogs with Nature: Works by Charles Salis Kaelin
     
  10. Art Noveau Belgium/France.
     
  11. William Partridge Burpee: American Marine Impressionist by D. Roger Howlett.
     
  12. Adolph Dehn Drawings.
     
  13. In Focus photographs by Jim Rathert.
     
  14. Missouri Images of Nature by Charles Gurche
     
  15. Images of India by Samuel Bourne.
     
  16. Gauguin.
     
  17. Cezanne and Chagall from the Color Slide Program of the Great Masters series. Instead of plates, each comes with 20 color slides. But, Brian J., do you even have a way to view slides? Shut your mouth! Of course I do. Not a projector, though: just a little slide viewer.
     
  18. Catherine Murphy: New Paintings and Drawings.
     
  19. Alan Gussow: Oils 1950-1980 by Lyle Gray.
     
  20. Jon Corbino: A Heroic Vision.
     
  21. John Shaw’s Landscape Photography. The top of the book says “Professional Techniques for Shooting Spectacular Scenics”, so this is more of a how-to guide than a monograph.
     
  22. The Art of Carl William Peters.
     
  23. Steuben Glass by James S. Plaut.
     
  24. The Art of America in the Gilded Age by Shirley Glubok.
     
  25. Rodin by Yvon Taillandier.
     
  26. Henry Fuseli by Carolyn Keay.

I also found a two incomplete sets of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. The sale included two incomplete ex-library sets: one with the dust jacket and one without. The one with the dust cover had Volume 1, but on the overleaf where the price goes, it said “New” and then had some high prices marked down to $129. Others similar to that volume were marked $4 each, so I don’t think it was to be sold as a set, but I didn’t want to get into a controversy when arguing that that volume should be $2 on half price day and not $65, especially since I was already shelling out $25 for another old book. So I’ll look for Volume I and Volume VI now to fill out the set. I’ve been really jonesing for them since I read The Lessons of History in 2016.

“Will you read that?” my beautiful wife asked when she saw the stack of them.

“I hope so,” I said. I hope to read all of the books I buy. Which is why I am hoping for advances in medical science in the next decade or so.

At any rate, it’s thirty-five new books for me. And, friends, we have reached the stacks on the floor stage of book accumulation. Which means I should probably hold off on getting too many more for a couple of weeks yet.

Also, it probably means I should stop re-shelving books from my book accumulation points.

Good Album Hunting, Saturday, May 4, 2019: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

Friends, somehow this spring’s book sale sneaked up on me, so I only found an opportunity to visit it on half price day today. Which worked out all right for me, as I only spent thirty some dollars on records.

Which is 61 LPs, double-albums, and boxed sets.

I got:

  1. Asilos de Abandonados Miguel Aceves Mejia
  2. Entre Copa y Copa Miguel Aceves Mejia
  3. Canta…Los Huapangos de Oro Miguel Aceves Mejia
  4. Con Mariachi Los Panchos
  5. Midnight Time The Three Suns
  6. Help Is On The Way Melissa Manchester
  7. Romantic Jazz Jackie Gleason
  8. Trumpet A Go Go James Last Band
  9. El Nuevo Trio Los Panchos Trio Los Panchos
  10. Greatest Hits Boots Randolph
  11. Court and Ceremonial Music of the 16th Century Roger Blanchard Ensemble with the Poulteau Consort
  12. Songs of Italy 101 Strings
  13. Sings Spanish and Latin American Favorites Connie Francis
  14. 1100 Bel Aire Place Julio Iglesias
  15. The Sound of Boots Boots Randolph
  16. The Best of Vicki Carr Vicki Carr
  17. The Yakin’ Sax Man Boots Randolph
  18. Heart Like A Wheel Linda Ronstadt
  19. Songs of the Seasons in Japan 101 Strings
  20. The Manhattan Transfer The Manhattan Transfer
  21. Maynard Ferguson Maynard Ferguson
  22. Forever Gold The Isley Brothers
  23. Fall Into Spring Rita Coolidge
  24. Love Me Again Rita Coolidge
  25. Everything Under the Sun The Three Suns
  26. Men of Brass Massed Brass Bands of Foden’s, Fairey Aviation and Morris Motors
  27. 1980 Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
  28. Como Swings Perry Como
  29. Miriam Makeba Miriam Makeba
  30. Lead, Kindly Light The Three Suns
  31. Cocktail Piano Frankie Carle
  32. So Early in the Spring Jackie Collins
  33. 30 Hits of the Tuneful ’20s Frankie Carle
  34. Look to the Rainbow Al Jarreau
  35. El Gallo Colorado Miguel Aceves Mejia
  36. A Treasury of the Award-Winning Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass The Longines Symphonette Society
  37. Lo Mejor De Miguel Aceves Mejia (box set) Miguel Aceves Mejia
  38. Lo Mejor De Amalia Mendoza (box set) Amalia Mendoza
  39. Lo Mejor De Jose Alfredo Jimenez Jose Alfredo Jimenez
  40. It Must Be Him Vicki Carr
  41. Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell Volume 2 Baden Powell
  42. Ecos de Cuba Trio Matamoros
  43. Even in the Quietest Moments Supertramp
  44. Sweet Talk Boots Randolph
  45. Spanish Fly Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
  46. Love Is A Season Eydie Gorme
  47. Louis and Keely Louis Prima and Keely Smith
  48. Cocktail Time Frankie Carle
  49. The Fantastic Boots Randolph Boots Randolph
  50. Portrait of My Love Steve Lawrence
  51. Golden Saxophones Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra
  52. Come Waltz with Me Steve Lawrence
  53. Cantos de Amor Campriano Miguel Aceves Mejia
  54. Para Cantar Yo Naci Miguel Aceves Mejia
  55. Classical Cats
  56. A Man and a Woman (Un Homme et Une Femme) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  57. Die Große Stereo-Starparade – Folge 3
  58. Soulful Dionne Warwick
  59. The Road to Romance Dorothy Lamour
  60. Bourbon Street Pete Fountain and Al Hirt
  61. Also Sprach Zarathustra Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Honey, I didn’t buy 100 LPs, I told my beautiful wife via text message to soften her up.

I am not sure it worked.

I jumped on someone’s former collection of Miguel Aceves Mejia; on first listen, it’s more traditional Mexican music than the pop that I have tended to favor. I got a couple of other box sets akin to his that will likely prove similar.

I got some more Frankie Carle, The Three Suns, Boots Randolph, and Vicki Carr to add to my catalog of their LPs.

I’ve also started the slide into 80s pop (Supertramp and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam) since that music is coming on 35 years old now. As close to today as Sinatra was to us. You might hear a song or two on the radio from these bands, maybe, but I really need to pick up the source material because the stuff on radio playlists is so shallow in breadth. Can you be shallow in breadth? On this blog, you can!

I also got some books, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what I got.

A Triple F Musical Throwdown

Harold Faltermeyer was quite the instrumentalist for movie soundtracks in the 1980s, including two from that movie that had a Saturday Night Live alum portraying the title character, an investigator who assumes various comic roles as part of his investigation.

I’m talking about Fletch, of course.

I’m talking about Axel Foley, of course.

I prefer the former due to racism, of course. Also, because it is a little more than the synth progressions of the “Axel F Theme”.

It also made me start enumerating the films where a Saturday Night Live alum starred as a wise-cracking cop or investigator. Between the Fletch and Beverly Hills Cop movies, we’re already up to five. Throw in Taxi, and we’re up to six. Surely there are more, which I’ll give far too much thought and investigation to.

An Ozarks Spring Evening in One Photo

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Our shoes spent the night next to the door to our storm room.

Our storm room is an interior room with one side in the earth, two sides of brick, and with the ceiling joists supported with extra braces. It has a gravel floor, though, since our pump tanks and whatnot are in there. We store a card table and matching chairs in there along with flashlights, a little food, and a radio just in case.

Last night, we had tornado warnings off and on from 3pm to a little after 9pm. Our weather radio squalled a couple of times, and the local sirens went off once, but most of the real action took place northwest and southeast of Nogglestead.

Still, we have to be readier than we did in Saint Louis or Milwaukee. Every couple of years, a tornado touches down hereabouts. About fifteen or twenty years ago, a nearby barn got destroyed and a woman was killed because instead of seeking shelter, she went to calm her horses. It’s an apocryphoral story, though, since it’s from before we were here, and I don’t remember exactly who told it.

I know you loyal readers in Oklahoma understand.

UPDATE: A loyal reader in Oklahoma documents his response to the same system, experienced during his commute as crazy thunderstorms.