It’s Only Been A Month Since New Stores Were Bad

May 23, 2019, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Dollar General’s aggressive expansion into small Wisconsin towns has hurt locally owned grocery stores.

June 30, 2019, Wausau Journal, reposted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: ‘It’s tough to shop locally’: Wisconsin shoppers turn to travel, online as stores and malls close.

You know, I think the papers just need to have something to whine about.

Kind of like me on this blog.

(I mentioned the first story in May.)

Books For The Ages And Brian J.

A photographer for the Washington Post has a listicle up called Books for the Ages which includes a book (or a series, or more) for each year of life.

It’s a silly list, but it’s an excuse for me to compare what I’ve read against the list.

Books I’ve read I’ve put in bold; books I have to read are in orange. I’ve included links for the books I’ve read and reported on on this very blog.

Here they are:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
  • A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • Stretching by Bob Anderson
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  • Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro
  • Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
  • Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
  • Dynamic Aging by Katy Bowman
  • The Five Years Before You Retire by Emily Guy Birken
  • Fear of Dying by Erica Jong
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  • Old in Art School by Nell Painter
  • 65 Things to Do When You Retire edited by Mark Evan Chimsky
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
  • Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger, and Happier by Peter Spiers
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Years of Lyndon Johnson four volumes, by Robert Caro
  • Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Coming of Age by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Coming Into Eighty: Poems by May Sarton
  • Devotions by Mary Oliver
  • The Summer of a Dormouse by John Mortimer
  • All the thrillers and mysteries
  • The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound Unanswered Questions About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life edited by John Brockman
  • Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardam
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Nearing Ninety: And Other Comedies of Late Life by Judith Viorst
  • A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing 90 by Donald Hall
  • Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer
  • Selected Poems: 1988-2013 by Seamus Heaney
  • Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes
  • Sapiens by Yuval Harari
  • This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite
  • The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
  • Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
  • Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author by Herman Wouk

Of the books that I don’t have colored in the list above, I don’t expect that I’ll even consider reading. I mean, most of the YA fiction listed above that I haven’t read is message-oriented, as are many of the other novels. I might read Gilead but that’s only because I gave a copy to my beautiful wife and her mother for Christmas a couple years ago, so there’s bound to be one or more floating around by the end of my retirement.

Fun fact: Rabbit, Run and Stretching are both at the chairside book accumulation point. I’ve tried to read Rabbit, Run, but I’ve found it odious. And I got Stretching on the indirect advice of my editor. For years, I’ve meant to take up stretching, but I haven’t yet.

At any rate, make of it what you will, the intersection of my reading habits with that of a photographer.

(Link via Althouse.)

When All You Listen To Is Metal, All The Headlines Are About Metal

Chevelle show comes home to Springfield:

Apparently, not that Chevelle:

The longest-running Chevelle show in the country is coming back to its roots in Springfield this week.

The 32nd Midwest Chevelle Regional Car Show will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center, 2546 N. Glenstone — the very site where the show got its start, back when the property was a Howard Johnson Hotel.

DED releases May jobs report:

Whoops, wrong DED:

May jobs report highlights:

• Missouri non-farm payroll employment increased by 2,500 jobs in May.
• Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 3.3 percent.

I think I like my interpretations of the headlines better.

The Source Of That Thing Dad Always Says

So, sometimes, I’ll use a type of speech that I’ll just call an Elaborated Pronoun.

You know, that as a pronoun generally relates to something visible or is otherwise fresh in mind; I want that.

However, I have been known to elaborate that by adding an antecedent bad oscar.

It came out when I was talking about fixing something for one of my boys, and I referred to the it as that bad oscar.

The Urban Dictionary says bad Oscar is slang for a hot dog or cheap sandwich. That’s not where I got it, though.

Back when I was at the university, one of my closest friends lived with his mother, who was a woman kept by a fellow who had a son of his own (kind of like a very abbreviated Brady Bunch). My friend considered the young man, who as sixteen or seventeen at the time, to be his half-brother, so he hung around with us from time to time; he was even the designated driver on my 21st birthday, when we went to a bowling alley and I had a glass of Miller and a sloe gin and Seven before the moonlight bowling.

For some reason, this kid used that phrase to refer to things that were not sandwiches of any sort.

Twenty-seven years later, and I still say it from time to time. And that “kid” is over forty somewhere now. No word on whether he continues to use it.

Maybe Lexii Only Come With One Key

Roberta X. bought a used Lexus and:

That was mildly interesting, so I set it to one side. I bought my present Lexus RX-mobile* from their used-car lot, with exactly one key for it; maybe they found the others?

You know, when I traded my old pickup truck for an SUV last year, we ended up with an older Lexus with a then-luxe interior including a cassette deck. It came with two keys; when we got into the car, I gave the key with the fob (lock/unlock/panic buttons) to my beautiful wife, put the key without the buttons on my keyring, put the key in the ignition, turned, and…

Nothing.

I could not start the vehicle, and after a few tries, I started to get angry. I thought about the lemon law, storming in and demanding my old truck back and whatnot, but she (my beautiful wife, not Roberta X.) was really sold on the vehicle. The salesman came out with obviously artificial regret, but this particular vehicle only came with one key that could start the car–one with the integrated chip–and one that could unlock the doors, maybe. We could order another key with an integrated chip for a couple hundred dollars.

Which we did, because she was very taken with the vehicle, and I spoil her.

But I’ve added another thing to check when buying a used vehicle.

Between this and buying houses, I’ll know all the gotchas to look for after I’ve bought my last car or house. Although it’s probable that I’m too optimistic in thinking I can ever know all the tricks.

Book Report: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1939, 1981?)

Book coverWhen I read the preceding Little House book, On the Banks of Plum Creek in March, I predicted I’d read the next volume (this one) by summer. I missed that prediction by a couple of days.

You know, as the series progresses, the narrator (“Laura Ingalls,” a lightly fictionalized version of the author) becomes more sophisticated. In this book, she’s on the edge of thirteen. At the onset, the family is still in the house on Plum Creek. The mother (Caroline), Mary, and Carrie suffer from scarlet fever (which has made Mary blind). Relatives from Wisconsin pass through; one of the uncles has a job for the railroad running a grading team at the edge of the railroad construction. The uncle offers Charles a job running the company store with a salary and everything, and Charles takes it. So he goes on to join the railroad workers in North Dakota, and the ladies are to join them when they recover fully.

They get to ride on a train, and Laura has been tasked with describing the scenery to Mary as they pass. They meet with the workers’ camp as it’s being dismantled to move to the shores of Silver Lake, and Laura reconnects with her cousin Lena. The family moves to and they arrive at the shore of Silver Lake before the railroad camp arrives to meet them.

The book explores the environs around Silver Lake. Charles hopes to stake a claim to a homestead, and they find a spot. When the construction workers finish for the year, the camp disbands in the autumn, but the Ingalls get to stay on in a finely constructed and comported home used by the surveyors. When spring comes, a rush of homesteaders appear, and it’s only by the intercession of a previous acquaintance that allows Ingalls to beat some competitors to the claim office to ensure he gets the patch he wants. Then he stakes a claim and builds a building in the suddenly developing town of De Smet, which is constructed seemingly overnight.

As I mentioned, the book’s narrator is more sophisticated; we see some indications, as we did in On the Banks of Plum Creek, that Charles Ingalls is a bit of a dreamer, willing to give up what he has with a chance at something better (which does not always work as planned). Caroline is not so much a “Yes, Charles,” believing unalloyed that everything he does is the best possible decision–there’s a little resignation and acceptance demonstrated. And the stories are moving from the rural/wilderness to the urban landscape. With the next books, they’ll be living outside of town (kind of like in the television show), and I expect that the stories will be more centered on small town life and farming. So they’ll come to align with the stories from John D. Fitzgerald (The Great Brain series) perhaps.

At any rate, I’m still enjoying the series, and they’re quick enough reads when I am trying to pad my annual stats so I don’t have to resort to coloring books (given that this is the 56th book I’ve read this year, I think I’m in good shape). I don’t have the next volumes in my library, so I guess I’ll suspend reading them until such time as I find them on the old childrens’ books shelves (technically, not my to-read shelves) where I collected books I thought my boys might like to read–but they didn’t. In their defense, I got most of them from my aunt when I got Captain’s Courageous, and I didn’t read them either. So maybe I should count them as to-read shelves since it took me almost two years to read Captain’s Courageous, and I’m apparently not above reading children’s books now.

Somewhere Between Noodling and Bowfishing

Actually, it’s not even on the fishing fishing spectrum: Magnet fishing.

Some folks in southern Wisconsin find themselves facing a magnetic attraction to the region’s hidden heavy metal scene.

They have taken up what’s known as magnet fishing, a hobby that — measured in terms of social media — is all the rage in Europe but is just now becoming a pastime in the American Midwest.

The hobby consists of attaching a powerful magnet to a rope, then tossing the magnet into a waterway. Once the magnet hits bottom, you drag it until it locks onto something metal. Then you haul the item to the surface.

Sometimes the result is treasure, most of the time it’s junk, and sometimes what you haul to the surface is just plain weird.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I read a little about being a “treasure hunter” back in 2011 when I had to get a metal detector to find a part for my garden tiller, but I never really got into the hobby mostly because there are a lot of rules and laws about where you can and cannot use one.

Perhaps I should jump into this hobby and spend the $100 for a magnet and kit before I discover rules that would preclude me from doing it. After all, who owns the middle of the river or a lake? (Someone, and if you find something really good, they’ll want it.)

Book Report: Out of Season by Michael Z. Lewin (1984)

Book coverThis book is the bread and butter of 1970s and 1980s midlist genre fiction. It’s toward the sixth book of an eight book series where the seventh and eighth books come at a gap of seven and thirteen years when the first six were within a span of thirteen years. The series character, Albert Samson, is a throwback of a private invesigator who is a bit of a cipher, a guy running around talking to people and taking notes and figuring things out. It might even have been a throwback in the 1980s, actually, since the likes of Robert Crais and Robert B. Parker were writing more vivid, personality-driven detective thrillers.

At any rate, Al Samson is hired by a rich banking family after the wife discovers, in the course of applying for a passport, that her birth certificate is a fake. They want him to look into it and find out why. Meanwhile, a man in a fancy apartment offers to retain him full time indefinitely in a nebulous assignment. During his investigation, he discovers that the woman was raised by an adopted family, and that the birth mother came into some money, and then that the birth mother was a Depression-era singer with a child out of wedlock who then married a society boy and shot him one night. She was acquited in the trial and then disappeared, so the detective has to find out where she is, if she’s still alive.

So the book features the tangled plot of a well-to-do family and layers of deception in the past. Like I said, a throwback. The kind of thing I thought I’d write.

Not a bad read; short, at the 180 page mark of the old timey genre fiction. I wouldn’t mind reading more of the series in time, but to be honest, I probably won’t remember the author’s name to look for more in the line. When my beautiful wife asked me late last week what I was reading, I couldn’t remember the author’s name or book title; all I could remember is that it’s an old school Indianapolis PI.

When Your Run Suggests Its Own Playlist

So I went out for a run last night, which makes it sound like I’m a runner, which I am not. I am not the sort of person who’ll take off from my driveway and go for a little run, mostly because I don’t really like to run and also because I live in the country, and a run from my house is likely to include near-misses by trucks on two-lane highway-speed farm roads and the threat of loose dogs of dangerous size.

I mean, I did do this, once, when I was in college and under the influence of Spenser novels, but I didn’t like running then, either, so I only ran around the neighborhood in northwest Milwaukee once even though I was impressed when my military friends would come back and run to the mall and back because it was only ten miles.

At any rate, my boys’ cross country coach tries to keep his kids in shape by holding voluntary fun runs twice a week in the summer, and I try to take them as often as possible because, for some reason, it seems that every year my exercise goes to hell after the Y Not Tri, and this year is no exception. I end up about a month away from the Republic, Missouri, Tiger Triathlon wondering how I’m going to get into shape enough to endure it.

So when I take my boys to the fun run, I try to get in a little running on my own. Last night, we went to Sequiota Park, which has a pretty straight line trail leading out of it north and south. If you run north out of the park, though, you run across a road where the trail walkers, runners, and bikers have a stop sign.

Lacuna Street

Which probably suggests some Lacuna Coil on the running playlist.

Or it would if I used Spotify or something. I don’t actually own any Lacuna Coil.

But perhaps you’ll see it on one of my musical balance posts forthcoming.

How was the run? you might ask if you’re interested in that sort of thing. 1.8 miles in 18 minutes, keeping with my base pace of about 10 minutes per mile. I’d like to see that go up, but you know what I’d have to do to get better? Run more.

Get It Before Estate Sale Pricing Takes Effect

Overheard at Nogglestead:

“Is that Jordan Binnington?” my twelve-year-old asked.
“It’s a signed limited edition print by an artist I know in a series of 200. How much do you think it’s worth?”
“$1000,” the twelve-year-old said.
“$200,” the eleven-year-old said.

It’s only 20 bucks at his Web site, and you’ll want to get one before they’re gone, because if you wait until my estate sale, the price will have gone up dramatically.

It’s funny; “an artist I know” means “a guy who worked for a guy who sublet from a place where I worked thirteen years ago.” Matt is also second cousin once removed from Al Hirschfeld, the celebrated caricaturist from New York (according to this piece in the New York Times, but Matt’s Web site doesn’t mention the familial relationship).

So I “know” Matt less than I do the comic book artist in St. Louis; I met them both long ago and am friends with them on Facebook, but that’s what I’ve got as the equivalent of knowing everyone on the block like a noir detective since I live in the country and the other houses are far, far away.

The Various Clubs I Have Attended

So I’m watching the video for Herb Alpert’s 1987 hit, “Diamonds”, from his album Keep Your Eye On Me which is the only Herb Alpert album I own on cassette (which is okay, because I have a cassette player in my new-to-me truck and get to listen to the album all the time).

At any rate, the track not only features Janet Jackson, but the story of it is set at a dance club of the 1980s:

So I got to thinking, “How prevalent was the dance club culture, actually?” I mean, if you watch the movies and whatnot, a lot of scenes take place at clubs, but I didn’t go to clubs a whole lot when I was young. I am pretty sure I can count them on one hand:

  • By George in Columbia, Missouri, when I was dating this hot chick in the area who loved to go there and dance.
  • Excalibur in Collinsville, Illinois, where I took said hot chick because it was the only dance club I really knew because they advertised heavily on the radio.
  • Fallout, a gay dance club that a friend (not that kind of friend) took me to in college, perhaps to make me uncomfortable. But I didn’t get hit on; everyone could see by my lack of dancing prowess that I was straight.

I was always more of a music festival kind of guy, being a native son of Milwaukee.

So I really cannot judge based on my experience how prevalent clubs were. In my coffee house days, whenever I hung out late at the Grind coffee shop in the fashionable Central West End, a lot of the people there would decide to go to Velvet, a club down on Washington. I never did though, as it had a dress code, and I attired myself pretty much in dark jeans and sneakers in my pre-going Grant days. But the people hanging around at the Grind included a lot of college students, many of foreign birth, and au pairs. So I don’t know how that segment of the population counts.

It’s just as well; I’m not very good at dancing. Most likely because I’m very self-conscious.

I have, however, been to music clubs, with seating to enjoy music.

Heavy metal clubs include:

  • The Thirsty Whale in Chicago to see Lillian Axe.
  • The Haven in Milwaukee, where I saw Ript.

I’ve also been to a couple jazz clubs:

  • Finale in St. Louis to see Erin Bode.
  • Yoshi’s San Francisco which I went to because it was Yoshi’s, and we saw the Gospel Gators, a local college’s gospel choir.
  • The Blue Note in Columbia, MO, to see one or more folk acts favored by that hot chick who became my beautiful wife even though I cannot dance.

There are probably a couple more if I really plumb the depths of my memory.

Of all of the ones I listed, only the Blue Note and, apparently, Excalibur are still around. Coupled with yesterday’s post about poetry slam in St. Louis, and suddenly I realize how old I’m getting.

It also doesn’t answer a question I often have about how different the depictions of life and youth in culture, even that of the time or the new retro nostalgia costume dramas, vary simply from my life or do they vary from the experience of the majority of my generation? I suppose I could ask someone my age if I get to talking to them.

Book Report: Selected Poems from Midnight Galleries by Jennifer Silvey (2016)

Book coverI picked this book up for free at ABC Books last Saturday, and I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of reading a little poetry every morning, a habit that had fallen by the wayside with the onset of summer and less structured mornings here at Nogglestead. So I picked this book up instead of jumping right back into the Keats.

It has a dinosaur on the cover, and a number of the poems have fantastic collections of words centering on dinosaurs. To be honest, many of the poems are rather collections of images and words, and I didn’t get a real sense of what they were about. But a couple of the samples were more cohesive, especially when they didn’t involve dinosaurs.

It looks like the author funded the full book with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $1775. Clearly I’m not doing something right here; I self-funded Coffee House Memories and am not yet in the black on it (and probably never will be).

At any rate, Kickstarter campaign materials seem to indicate that poetry is not her main form of creative expression and that she’s just having fun with it perhaps rather than trying to write Serious Literature. Which makes me feel a little better.

Book Report: Retraining Your Mind by D. Dyneska (2019?)

Book coverI bought this book just last Saturday, and after I read Ice Wolf, I needed something to read, and I certainly couldn’t read another Executioner novel as the default right after an Executioner novel (there are rules, arbitrary as they are). So I picked this one up since it was on the top of one of the stacks.

When I was talking with the author, she asked if I read a lot of books in this line. I said I read more Buddhist thought than self-help books, and she said this wasn’t really self-help. I don’t mean to demean the genre when I call it that–I don’t tend to think of self-help as exclusively concerned with battling addictions or abusive relationships or whatnot. I think it also includes the sort of thing my wife likes to read about building good habits, making your bed in the mornings, and thinking right. Books concerned with the practical things. Which, to be honest, is what I read Buddhist thought, Stoics, philosophy, and literature for–to figure out how to live the best possible life. So maybe I do read books like this a lot. Amongst the innumerable men’s adventure books.

At any rate, the book has the feel of a journal more than a denser, dare I say it, self-help book. It contains a number of inspirational quotes and chapters on defeating excuses, getting to know yourself, allowing positive distractions, setting priorities, and whatnot. It’s a short book, weighing in at 130-some pages including some lined pages for your own notes and featuring generous margins. So it’s not a heavy read.

As I mentioned, the book reads more like a journal–it’s written matter-of-factly, and mostly in the second person (you can do this, you can do this) and with few examples or stories from her own life and mind retraining. She alludes to recovering from a devestating house fire, but it’s only mentioned in passing; this would have been a pretty gripping example of keeping a positive mindset.

This book certainly is from Springfield, though: When discussing things that can make you smile, such as jamming to music, painting, taking a walk, taking a bubble bath and massaging your own feet, she lists shooting guns. You won’t get that out of an author writing this kind of book in Connecticut or California, werd.

He’s No Jack Palance

Although every generation gets the Bruce Campbell hero it needs, he will have some big shoes to fill when he hosts Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Best known for the “Evil Dead” franchise and USA’s “Burn Notice” — not to mention his bestselling autobiography, “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor” — he is now hosting the latest installment of “Ripley’s” (Sundays at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel).

“I thought ‘Ripley’s’ was a good fit for me because the people who follow what I do, they like stuff on the edge, and that’s what ‘Ripley’s’ is,” says Campbell, 60, on the phone from his home in the self-proclaimed “wilds of Oregon.”

. . . .

“They’ve been around for 100 years, so everyone’s heard of them,” says Campbell. “In my formative years, there was always some form of Ripley’s book or publication [in the house]. I still have the red, cloth-bound Ripley’s book that I had in my living room. It had all these crazy illustrations of people doing amazing things.”

I mean, I can still hear Jack Palance from the 1980s ABC version of the show saying, “Believe it…or not.” Where the “or not” sounded like a threat, and you’d better believe it if you know what’s good for you.

Book Report: Ice Wolf the Executioner #131 (1989)

Book coverI picked this up right after Creature; the Executioner series is the default for “I’ve just finished a book and need to pick up another, but I don’t want to spend much time picking it.” And it will be for some time to come as I still have 30 on the shelf (not counting the spin-off series like Stony Man or Able Team).

In this book, Bolan is on a security team for a summit between the President and Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington when Leo Turrin tips him to a hit team that is eliminating people in the witness protection program. Bolan prevents this team of trained pros from killing one target and reaches out in his own particular way to a local mob boss who hired the hit team–who reached out to him with the offer. Bolan eventually discovers that the hit team is killing the witnesses as a red herring to distract law enforcement from their real target: the President and Gorbachev. Like so many other fictional antagonists from the 1980s (and, sadly, to this day), they’re Nazis who emerged from a deeply hidden program to take over the world again.

The book weighs in at about 250 pages, a little longer than the pulp entries from early in the series, and they have the makings of an interesting modern (well, 80s) thriller. The big bad Nazi, trained to be a killing machine by his father, might be jeopardizing his mission by hunting for a woman who escaped from his clutches that he must possess; the aforementioned red herring subplot; and infiltration of the security teams by the long-planning Nazis. But ultimately, it’s a couple of set pieces and then the author gets to about page 220 and has to wrap it up with sudden revelations (the woman is his twin sister!) and a climax that is abrupt and we’re done.

So I’m comparing this book to Creature, and I have to say that I’ll remember the plot of Creature better than Ice Wolf in the days to come. I suppose that series books lend themselves to a little bit of this confusion–what plot happened with which title (especially since series titles tend to fit a pattern to increase salability rather than describe elements of the plot). However, I’m sure authors of these series are happy to accept this trade off with profitablity on our behalves.

Which is why I need these posts–so I can keep the plots of books and my thoughts of them clear as the years pass. Although, to be honest, I rarely go back to Executioner titles to see what I had to say about them.

What I Made Yesterday

Well, first off, after church, I made a trip to Lowe’s. The 18 volt DeWalt cordless drill I have came with two battery packs, but only one of them continues to work, so I hoped to pick up a couple of spares and another drill that fits them. However, a new standard, 20 Volt, has taken over, so the shop did not offer an 18 volt drill. Instead of buying a couple spare 18 volt packs and a new 20 volt cordless drill, I opted for the spare packs and a cheap corded drill.

Because on Saturday, I’d started working on a project, and I spent a lot of time changing between a drill bit and a screwdriver bit, and I wanted to be able to just switch drills instead of bits.

Which worked out all right.

I’ve built a rudimentary set of shelving for my records:

They’re rough and probably high school shop D-level work, but with a paint job and a bunch of records on them, they’ll do. Given that they’re constructed from (inexpensive) two by fours, this shouldn’t happen again. The fact that they all said STUD while I was working on them was very affirming. And they’re modular, so I can move them around and stack them up and add another tier when it becomes necessary (probably after the next Friends of the Springfield-Greene County book sale in the autumn).

They impressed my beautiful wife, anyway, but she’s not the son of a carpenter.

In addition, when we stopped at the grocery store after Lowe’s, I got it in my head to make a chocolate pudding pie. However, my wife does not like chocolate pudding pie. So I got the fixings for a cherry pie as well.

So I’m not sure if I’m operating my masculinity at a deficit here; there are two pies, but does the record shelving count as two or as one? Also, the record shelves are not yet done. I’m going to have to let the Internet judge here.

Also, I did not actually have any pie; my wife prepared pasta for dinner, and I had so much of her delicious Italian cooking that I did not have room for pie. I might make up for it by eating one or the other pie remainders today.

Good Book Hunting, June 15, 2019: ABC Books

ABC Books had an author in to sign her book yesterday, so I headed up after a martial arts class. As is my wont, I acknowledged the author, headed to the martial arts section, then the artist monographs, then the philosophy and poetry shelves, all of which are getting more and more sparse as I pick them over. Only then do I go to the author’s table to see what the author has to offer.

Here’s what I got:

You cannot see them, but they include:

  • Selected Poems from Midnight Galleries by Jennifer Silvey, a free giveaway promoting a collection of poems.
  • Zen and the Art of Stickfighting by Stephen F. Kaufman. We’ve been working with sticks at my martial arts school for six or eight months now; certainly this book will be more useful to me than Zen and the Art of Knitting.
  • The Book of Goodbyes, a collection of poems by Jillian Weise.
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson.
  • Retraining Your Mind by D. Dyneska, the author who was in shop. It’s a little more practically minded, so to speak, than the Buddhist and Stoic thought that I read to try to get my mind right. It’s more in line with what my beautiful wife reads. Perhaps I should have had it inscribed to her and gave it to her for her birthday.

Not depicted: A monograph on Antoine Watteau and a five hundred page biography of Vince Lombardi. I had to save something for the next time there’s an author signing.

The proprietrix also related a story: The author who appeared on May 19 was a little saddened to learn that I attend the same church as the owner of ABC Books; she thought it meant I would not like her work. The owner of ABC Books reassured her that I read a lot of different things, that I’m well educated, and that I’m a poet myself, which seemed to make the author feel better.

Of course, the owner does know that I not only buy a vast variety of books, many from her, but she also catches me from time to time sitting on a bench at church with a book in my hands. I’ve explained to her the code–if I’m holding the book so its cover is visible, it probably has an ABC Books sticker on the back. If I have the book in my lap, it’s from some other book store. Or, more likely, a garage sale or a book sale.

But enough about that–I have to get back to reading.

Not Mentioned: The Other

Kim du Toit links to a story on SFGate with the provocative title Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable.

And it poses an interesting theory:

We know why. With the onset of internet porn, viewers looking for vicarious thrills had instant access to a cheap, private universe of polymorphous gratification. While Hollywood embraced a business model centered around wholesome baby-boomer nostalgia and PG-13 franchises, cable television and streaming services found their own niche, engaging in “Game of Thrones”-like one-up-manship in violence, profanity – and sex.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posited my theory before, but in case I haven’t: You know why Hollywood doesn’t put sex scenes in movies any more or even the formerly obligatory woman’s bare chest in comedies?

Overseas markets.

The cultures or gatekeepers of culture in other parts of the world don’t want that. So nobody gets it.

Like Kim, I’m not really mourning the loss.

I wonder if the gloss over the other cultures’ censors was intentional or thoughtless.

Book Report: Creature by John Saul (1989)

Book coverAfter reading Cabal, I thought maybe I’d knock out a couple of the 80s-era horror books I have around. I have a couple from John Saul, so I picked up this one. Who knew that it might actually be the next in alphabetical order?

At any rate, the plot is that a nuclear family moves to a small company town in the Rockies when the father gets a promotion at the tech company he works for. They find the town idyllic, but it’s controlled almost top-down by the tech company. The local football team has boys that are bigger and meaner than other nearby schools, and it’s because the local “sports” clinic, funded by the tech company, is conducting experimental treatments on the boys. It makes them bigger and stronger, but sometimes makes them feral. Of course, the gentle son of our nuclear family decides abruptly that he wants to become stronger and so he falls under the influence of the doctor running the clinic. When some of the mothers of the affected children start wondering if their children are in danger, the tech company and the fathers align to protect the program and the company.

So it’s got a children in danger theme to it that seems fairly common to the genre, and it has helpless wives who lack the power to get their children out of danger. It reminded me a lot of The Stepford Wives in that regard. It got under my skin a bit–I cannot imagine any of my mother’s sisters or my mother dealing with the issues as the mothers in this book do. And they all lack a support network outside the town, so nobody calls a sister or friend for a sanity check. Stephen King’s books often featured isolated locations, but it doesn’t seem forced. Here, it is.

The book ends very quickly with a burst of violence; it was sudden that I thought right before it that it was leading up to a cliffhanger or a sequel. But no, a little bloodshed and not a complete set of revenge which might have left room for a sequel.

I did flag a bunch of things in this book:

  • Some anachronisms. Or the opposite of anachronisms: things that would seem to belong to a future era, more like the present, than 1989.

    They’d gone first to the software section, where a group of top programmers, all of them casually dressed, were working at computer terminals or whispering quickly to each other in strange programming language that Blake had never been able to comprehend. “We have an Artificial Intelligence unit working here,” Jerry said in reply to Blake’s inquisitive glance. “We’re far ahead of the guys in Palo Alto and Berkeley, but of course they don’t know it. In fact, as far as they know, we’re only working on a new operating system to compete with Microsoft.

    Aside from the locations or writing an operating system, that could be cut from a novel from today.

  • The family moves to a house on Telluride Drive. One story behind the name of Telluride, Colorado, is that it’s from To Hell you ride. Or at least that’s what Michelle Malkin told me.
     
  • Observe this barbarity, the worst in the book:

    “In a few minutes, honey,” she told the little girl. “How’d you like to take care of the steaks for me?”

    Kelly’s eyes glittered with pleasure, and she instantly picked up the large fork from the counter by the grill and stabbed experimentally at one of the thick T-bones that were just barely beginning to brown. “Is it time to turn them?”

    “Every four minutes,” Sharon replied, glancing at the meat and deciding she had at least fifteen minutes in which to talk with her son.

    Oh, the humanity!

  • Recovering from a beating at the hands of a nearly feral football player, the undersized lad says:

    Mark winced with almost every motion, but when he finally made it, he forced himself to grin at the nurse. “See? Nothing to it. I could run a ten-K if I had to.”

    It’s presented 10K these days, and it’s about an hour of running at a six-mile-per-hour pace. Which is easier for kids.

  • It must have seemed quite cutting edge at the time:

    “May I help you, Mrs. Tanner?”

    Sharon frowned, then glanced instinctively at the girl’s lapel, searching for the identification badge that all TarrenTech employees wore.

    The girl wore none.

    The girl’s smile broadened as she realized Sharon’s dilemma. “I’m Sandy Davis,” she said. “And you don’t know me. The security system did a photo comparison on you, so I knew who you were even before you came into the building.”

    But now we just assume it, ainna?

  • Marty Ames opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out the .38-caliber pistol he’d started keeping there when he first realized that some of the boys might become dangerous.

    You know, I would have gone with a larger caliber.

  • Speaking of isolated:

    For the first time that morning she was able to think about the funeral without crying. She didn’t know whether it had been like other funerals, because she’d never been to one before. There hadn’t been very many people there, and it hadn’t taken very long, and as she sat in the front pew of the little church, listening to a man she’d never seen before talking about her family–and she knew he’d never even met her family, so how could he talk about them?–she tried to convince herself that it really was her father and mother and brother in the three coffins lined up in front of the altar.

    Notice there’s no other family members nor a church support network. Artificial isolation that really sticks out.

So ultimately, the book really didn’t work for me. I’m not a great fan of the genre, and this book hasn’t made me want to read another any time soon.

In thinking about this book and John Saul’s sort-of ubiquity–you could see his books available back in the day, and they were prevalent at book sales a couple years ago–made me wonder how the collapse of book clubs altered book buying. Book club editions were a staple of the book sales for a long time. I think we might have seen that bubble burst as members of my parents’ generation have downsized their libraries. What am I talking about? Even I don’t know.