This book collects some commentary on primary Buddhist texts by an early 20th century Nipponphile. R.H. Blyth was born in London and moved to Japan prior to World War II. He was locked up for the duration of it, but continued to live in Japan afterwords. He became quite the scholar in Buddhism and whatnot.
The book takes an excerpt from some Buddhist text, whether it’s a poem or a complete parable, and Blyth comments on it, making it more palatable or comprehensible to Western readers. He ties some of the tenets and lessons to Christian teachings to illustrate how some of the concepts align, but dealing with the primary sources really highlights some of the ways the ontology of Buddhism is a little hard to swallow at times.
You know, I might have said this before, but the Buddhism and Yoga purists rail against lightweight Mindfullness industry even though the authors and speakers who talk about embracing and focusing on the present instead of embracing the Eastern religion in toto might be distilling the best part of the religions kind of like non-denominational churches focusing on the gospel instead of the law. These provide practical blueprints for living, and we Americans are practical people in the aggregate. After all, we invented Pragmatism, did we not?
So this book lies a little more Buddhist than even some of the writings of Shunryu Suzuki or Hanh. Perhaps more akin to the Talmud where these other writings are akin to the epistles of Paul. That is, this book is commentary on the ontology, and those others are commentary on the message.
Or maybe I’m just making this all up. I don’t know if I’m really clever or really daft. Or if these are mutually exclusive.
Over the weekend, I drove up to St. Charles to visit my aunt. Powered by Gummy Worms and bottled tea and audio courses, I made the trip on Friday night and stayed at the Tru by Hilton at the streets of St. Charles based on a mention Charles made not long before he passed away. Although he was complimentary about his stay, I didn’t think much of the place. The room was smaller than a Hampton Inn, with just a bed, a table over a small refrigerator, a rolling table the size of a hospital table, and a rolling chair jammed next to the bed. The other table spaces were a couple inches of shelving attached to the wall. The whole thing seemed to be designed to resemble a dormitory–the common spaces were brighter and designed for working/hanging out, complete with coffee all night and a pool table. But the Streets of St. Charles Tru was more expensive than the place Charles stayed–and was likely more expensive than the Hampton Inn–so I’ll probably not stay at the chain again, opting for Hampton Inn for lesser stays and actual Hilton Hiltons for the more luxe stays.
I did get the best room in the joint, though:
“311” is my favorite Hiroshima song.
I thought I’d mention it to the clerk at check-in, but the song was older than she was by at least a decade.
The Streets of Saint Charles is a rather recent development in St. Charles. It’s a New Urbanist style block that has a couple of hotels, some apartments, dining, and shops. I might have liked to have lived in that sort of place when I was young, because it’s like a city without the dangers of living in a real city. A city for suburban kids. When I lived in the city, I lived in the city.
I had some dinner at one of the restaurants, and I dumbfounded myself with remembering that I once lived in St. Charles. I mean, I knew remembered it, but it was weird being there and grokking the knowledge.
It was for about a year and a half, when we first moved to the St. Louis area. We lived in my aunt’s basement whilst I was in sixth grade and part of seventh grade. I thought of my aunt and uncle as rich, but it turns out that they were simply middle class and struggling a bit. I would have mentioned to the server at the restaurant that I used to live in a mile or so away, but it was before she was born.
On Saturday, I got up a little early and hoped to hit the hotel’s “fitness center,” but the two treadmills and single weight bench were already full, so I went for a run/walk up to that house where I lived in St. Charles. My rich aunt and uncle’s house.
Which is a 1200 square foot ranch house. Smaller than any house I’ve owned.
It has three bedrooms, one bathroom (and a half, as I recall), a living room, and a kitchen/dining room upstairs. They refinished the basement while I lived there, which meant painting the walls and putting down a thin layer of carpeting, so that my mother, brother, and I could live down there for a while.
Thirty-five years ago. The neighborhood completely changed, of course–when we were there, it wasn’t much of a neighborhood. There was a small subdivision (suitable for trick-or-treating), but it was forests and farmlands from there to the river.
Now, it’s all subdivisions. The road has been widened into a boulevard with sidewalks on each side wherever subdivisions went in, and the houses in the subdivisions all have more than five rooms. There’s an arena down the road and a Tru by Hilton.
It’s not the house that built me–by that time, we transitioned from the projects to this house to the trailer to the house down the gravel road in the valley so fast that I don’t have a place where I grew up aside from the transitions. But it is a stop on the way.
And when I returned to school after college, I never really wanted or aspired to live in St. Charles, even when I was working in a print shop a couple suburbs west.
I’m losing the people who knew me, and the places I once knew are changing beyond recognition. Is it any wonder I cling to the personal relics so tightly?
So I was at the dentist today, and the piped in music was a collection of easy listening hits no doubt designed to soothe the nerves of people who don’t like the dentist. For me, it was a pleasant playlist as it contained a number of songs I don’t generally hear on the radio these days.
Including one by Jackson Browne whose name I could not fully remember. I remember the “Stay” part, but I could not remember the first part of the title.
I thought on it for a while, and then I got the pocket computer out and looked it up.
It’s “The Load-Out/Stay”.
Which is not what I would have I remembered had I remembered it. When I’d heard its name on the radio some decades ago, before pocket computers, I heard “The Low Down/Stay”. So for years I’d not known the real name of the song and only now am I prepared properly should this come up on a Trivia Night.
Which I hope it does. But by that time, I will have confused myself as to which it really is, and it’s a coin flip whether I get remember the title right when it matters.
You might remember, gentle reader, that my house is completely done in Impressionism, with maybe a dozen prints of Renoir on the walls along with a Monet print (and the other classic print is a Rembrandt). But what about the sculpture? The only classic sculpture we have is a small rendition of Rodin’s The Kiss because it was a souvenir from the Milwaukee Art Museum which has a plaster cast of it, and this small rendition of it has been in the family for probably almost fifty years–I remember it on the shelves in the apartment in the projects. So I was really hoping to like Rodin (which I am pretty sure I pronounce like Rodan because, although I like to pretend otherwise, I am an uncultured clown).
At any rate, this book: Oh, my.
You know how I like to comment on the balance of text to work in these sorts of books (monographs and photography collections)? This one is completely unbalanced in favor of the text. The text is not biographical; it’s more self-indulgent art criticism (redundant, I know) that explains how Rodin was to sculpture what the Impressionists were to painting. However, the text makes it sound like Rodin is the sculptural equivalent of the Jigsaw killer. Every incomplete figure is a gruesome dismemberment by the sadistic sculptor. I mean, the prose is pretty purple over and over in this regard. And then there’s a dash of Marxist class struggle, which Rodin’s work really, really advances. Death to the Bourgeoisie!
So, yeah, not worth reading. But I just bought the book for the pictures.
And I have a new favorite Rodin piece: The Eternal Spring/Eternal Springtime. But I probably won’t be getting a cast of it any time soon as Nogglestead does not have a lot of horizontal surfaces for sculpture.
And I learned that Rodin worked for a couple years in a factory designing vases and cups, so Rodin was decorating common household goods not unlike the people who worked on Painted Treasures. Rodin also illustrated an edition of Les Fleurs du Mal, known in English as The Flowers of Evil. The last would come in handy on a trivia night if only the trivia window had not shifted to the 1990s.
At any rate, I find that it’s not so easy to flip through these books during football games any more. I’m not sure if my attention spans continue to shrink or if football games have been shortened. Perhaps both. Perhaps the books I’ve picked up of late are particularly wordy in the text. Regardless, I have a couple more queued up and might get a chance to get a couple more at the library book sales this autumn.
We had a couple of minutes to kill before the school fundraiser began at Chick-Fil-A this evening, so we stopped by a couple of nearby thrift stores.
I found a couple records at the Salvation Army thrift store, and I got a real deal as the clerk rang them up incorrectly and then let me have them for that price. Basically, all of the following were $2.
Eydie Gorme, With All My Heart. Any day that yields a new Eydie Gorme record is a very good day indeed.
The Virtuoso Trumpet, a collection of classical trumpet pieces mostly to please my wife, the most beautiful trumpeter in the world.
Nat King Cole Sings The Great Songs! Strangely enough, although we have many Nat King Cole records, he doesn’t get the play he deserves on the turntables of Nogglestead.
Dionne Warwick In The Valley of the Dolls. She was not actually in the film, but on this record she sings the theme from it along with some other Bacharach songs.
Satin Affair by the George Shearing Quartet. The cover is not as saucy as Latin Escapade, but I’m coming to like the sound of the music, too.
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Greatest Hits. I’m pretty sure I already have this, but I have bought it for a handful of change in case I do not or as a backup.
Lucille Starr The French Song. It’s an A&M record. I saw a couple copies of Claudine Longet’s The Look of Love as well. Hopefully, I will like this artist better.
Not bad for two dollars.
Although I need to get to building a new set of record shelves. And perhaps an annex to Nogglestead.
You know, I always thought that the one reader who might appreciate these posts, aside from the future me going back through the years, was Charles Hill. I’ll think of him every time I post one.
I bought this book earlier this year when I went to a book signing at ABC Books and made my way to the poetry section in addition to the martial arts and football books. I picked it up to browse during football games, but I ended up just reading it as I do so many books that I plan to browse.
So this book is a collection of poems by a woman of some success–her work has appeared in literary journals I’ve heard of. The poems are modern and a bit self-indulgent, which led me to wonder about modern poetry: Is it more about the poet telling his or her story and making you sympathize or empathize with him or her more than it is about using an incident to create a resonant moment within the reader? Because a lot of poems seem more about the poet’s expressing himself or herself more than anything else.
As in this book.
The poet recounts the end of a relationship with a modern sensibility, and her life experience does not resonate with mine, and her poems don’t evoke anything in me as a reader. As a matter of fact, certain elements create a conscious distance, and they express something, but it’s not necessarily good poetry.
Of course, she’s an award-winning poet with poems in journals whose names I recognize, whilst I am an almost double-digit selling poet whose works have pseudonymously appeared in zines like Monkey Spank. So perhaps being a successful poet is more about one point of view over the other, which is mine.
So last weekend, while I was in Poplar Bluff, my boys took a walk around the block. They’ve only just now earned that privilege, as the block is four miles around and is all two lane, no shoulder farm roads and state highway. But three quarters of the way around the loop, there’s a gas station where they can stock up on all sorts of things that they don’t get at home, like candy, meat sticks, energy drinks, and soda.
So the oldest bought a twelve pack of Pepsi and carried it a couple of miles home, and he was very benevolent with it. He wanted to be able to give his father a soda, so when I returned on Sunday, he kept offering me one. Which I declined. But he got very creative in his marketing plans.
The bar downstairs has an electric teapot. You put water in it and push the button, and it heats the water to the boiling point so you can make yourself tea. Mostly these days I use it to boil water to pour down the drain to clean the pipes. But it has a ring of blue LED lights at the bottom that light when the water is heating.
He again offered me a Pepsi, and I looked over. He had all the lights out by the bar, and he activated the teapot. The blue lights like the blue on a Pepsi can, you see.
I asked him if he put water in the pot–and as he had not, I told him to turn it off, as just heating the glass could lead to the glass cracking. So he turned it off.
At which point, I realized he had not just turned it on. He had put a can of Pepsi in it to make it into a little display case.
Which would have heated the can of soda to the boiling point, which could have led to an expressive outpouring of superheated Pepsi that might very well have shattered the glass at chest level with the young man standing about eighteen or twenty four inches away.
I mean, it might have happened that way. In my imagination, that’s what would have happened. Perhaps I’ve been overprotective as a father with that sort of imagination, but the household is probably due for a family conversation on the Ideal Gas Law.
Well. This is a collection of paintings done by the named artist and exhibited in New York and perhaps on the road shortly after the turn of the 21st century. A bit of introduction explains who Gussow was and why he was important, which basically justifies the exhibition.
But ultimately, he’s a mid 20th century brush strokes and shapes on canvas sort of painter. It’s hard to find anything represented in his work but for the colors and shapes. The frontspiece is reminiscient of Guernica but without the actual, you know, distinguished shapes. So this work doesn’t rise to the level even of Picasso. Or even, heaven forfend, Matisse.
So why do I bother with monographs and collections of artists I don’t like? Perhaps I hope to crystallize things I like and to be able to explain better what I don’t. But I’m not sure that’s working. To turn Tolstoy’s quote from Anna Karenina on its head: All art that I don’t like are all alike; each piece of art I like is pleasing in its own way. And the reason I don’t like a lot of modern art is that it’s basically self conscious artist doing art that is supposed to be viewed and reviewed as art. That is, you know you’re looking at a painting. It has little content other than Hey, I’m a painting!.
Perhaps I need to review more modern art monographs to improve my explanation. Or put a little more thought or effort into it. But what am I, Driscoll or Lileks?
This book is by one of the artists behind Duel! and the author of a couple of other books I picked up at LibraryCon 2019.
This book deals with Rook City, a place where many people have special abilities, but one fellow does not. A college student who likes mysteries, he helps an elderly vigilante escape a nursing home and witnesses several students who consume Dracula’s reconstituted blood and each receives a single ability of the vampire’s power–and a professor that drinks a vial with a more powerful reconstitution. Oh, and the super hero defender of the city pays an actor to act as his nemesis and always look good.
It has a number of stories with interconnections, and it works. The art is simple and serves the story, which you know is what I like in comics. And it hints at a continuation, so I’ll look for that.
I liked it, so I’ll pick up more of the artist’s narrative work (that is, not the sketchbook kinds of collections that a lot of con comic book participants offer). And I hope that I like Gahr’s fiction as much as I liked these stories.
The timing really didn’t work for us. As I mentioned, I was out of town over the weekend, which meant that Nogglestead had a bit of a laundry backup as I am the majordomo of the household. So we had a pile of laundry to catch up on, but when I opened the door on the dryer, the clothes within were still wet.
This sometimes happens when one of us puts the load in the dryer and doesn’t think to turn it on. The timer on the dryer is mechanical and will count down even if you don’t turn the heat and blow on.
So I turned it on, and when I came back a second time, the clothes were still wet, so I knew something was wrong.
I didn’t have time to troubleshoot it myself, he said defensively, so I called upon Sears Home Services (not a paid endorsement) because I know that they can usually send someone out in the next day or so with a truck full of parts to repair appliances.
But I still had two loads of laundry to dry–the one in the dryer and the one in the washer.
I don’t have enough places to hang laundry in my house, and although I have toyed with the idea of putting up clotheslines outside from time-to-time, I had not actually done so.
Luckily, though, like any D&D player who ignores the encumbrance rules, I had some rope and ten foot poles–or at least eight foot long 2x4s, and unlike a 1st level Fighter, I had ratchet straps. So I could quickly improvise a clothesline for emergency drying purposes. I ratchet-strapped the 2x4s to posts on my deck, drilled a hole through the wood, and fed the rope through.
And it worked. I could hang some laundry to dry. Not only did I dry the two loads that were already wet, but I ran a couple loads on Thursday just in case the appliance repairman couldn’t make it.
Look at me, all MacGyver and whatnot.
I must have had ratchets on the mind as I showed my brother the proper way to use them last weekend when we cinched some plywood onto his minivan. I’ve mostly used them to reseat flat tubeless tires on my lawn mower or dolly, and I’ve generally had to watch YouTube videos on how to feed them every time because I’m prone to feeding them the wrong way and having to cut the straps loose. But the proper use of them must have finally stuck with me, as we were able to load and unload the plywood as expected.
When I was getting the straps out, though, I noticed that I had left one of them coiled around the ratchet. As though some years ago, I had not known how to remove the strap once the tension was released. So I just left it for Future Me to figure out. Some years later, I actually knew.
I’m not saying that my ratchet-fu is perfect.
I managed to position the ratchet on one post so that I could not release the tension to remove it once our dryer was repaired. One of the deck’s boards was in the way.
Past Me would have cut the straps or something. Present Me, who obviously has some experience working on the deck (note the freshly replaced board in the pictures) simply knocked one end of the prohibiting board loose, let the strap loose, and then nailed the board back into place.
At any rate, it made me feel delightfully competent, and my beautiful wife was impressed. So I got that going for me.
I’m not blogging to brag. I’m blogging so a couple years from now I’ll know why the 2x4s have holes in them.
This book is not a real monograph, nor is it a comprehensive survey of art in America between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century. It’s a very, very brief glance.
For painting, we’ve got a couple paragraphs and an image or two for Whisler, Sargent, Cassatt, members of a group called The Ten, Eakins, Remington, a couple photographers, but each really only gets a mention and a plate. Then we’ve got a couple paragraphs on the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Didn’t Cassatt do an impressive mural for it? Yes, yes, she did, I remembered.), some pages on architecture and engineering in the last half of the last century (The Roeblings who built the Brooklyn Bridge suffered for it; the father died and the son had lingering effects from working in the caissons, I remembered).
So it’s a quick skim–the text is really only essay length–with relatively few images for the text (but the text is not dense). It was most valuble for me to remind me of things I already knew, as I have read books on Sargent, Cassatt, and Remington and the story of the Roeblings in Who Built That?.
This is a fun little collection of, well, two stories essentially: Duel 1 and Duel 2.
The first has the conceit of two kids drawing super-powered characters who take turns stomping the other kid’s most recent character. So we get a bit of one-upmanship with simple comic drawings of different types of characters.
The second actually features two comic artists swapping drawings, so each new creation attacks and defeats the champion from the previous turn.
The book also includes a couple prequel adventures of the characters before they met their ends in the duels, which is a nice treat of more straight forward comic bookery. The end matter of the book includes additional treatments of the characters.
It’s a bit of fun. I might get a copy of it for my boys for Christmas.
As evidenced by my reduced blogging frequency in recent months, the loss of my only known occasional reader is not the sole cause of the Tally Book’s dearth of content; it’s a cause, but not the only one.
Oh, I am nothing, am I? I’ve kept you in my blogroll all this time even though you kept changing the URL to confuse me?
Bear in mind, son, we only declared a truce or got bored with the blog war. We never signed a peace treaty.
But I agree with him on this:
Another big part of it is that, when it comes to things political and social, the only thought that ever occurs to me anymore is to wonder whether it’s possible to roll one’s eyes so hard and so often that they eventually just pop right out of their sockets.
You might have noticed, gentle reader, that this particular blog has also gotten less focused on the news and politics since its inception. But that’s because after the first decade, you realize that you’re just repeating yourself and that history, or at least governments and politicians, repeats and without much, if any, improvement or learning.
So, yeah, you get twee book reports that are a couple of paragraphs about what the book made me think of and pictures or stories of life. And by “you,” I mean “me in a couple of months or years when I stumble back upon each post.” Or when I have to crawl the archives again trying to update all the YouTube links because it has again changed its embedding format. As I fixed in one of the posts from the 2006 Blog Yee Hawd.
But enough about me. Kevin McGehee is responsible for bee colonoscopy collapse disorder.
I bought this book six years ago because I recognized Doctorow’s name from the Internet. In those six years, I have read a pile of Executioner novels acquired that same day before picking this book up. In the interim, I forgot it was a novel, and I initially placed it in my carry bag last week to read at the martial arts school while my kids were in class (and I was not, as I recovered from the memorial stair climb).
But it is a novel, and to sum up: Nothing of consequence happens in an interesting world.
The extrapolated world has people constantly jacked into the Internet, extreme body modifications, and sort-of immortality via consciousness backup and restore to a clone. People live not on cash, but a currency based on social media reputation called Whuffies–if you do a lot of things that people on the Internet value, you have a lot of doors open to you, but if you do not, well, you’re on hard times. Down and out, one might say.
The narrator begins by recounting how he met his best friend, and then the main narrative explains that he (the narrator) returns periodically to Disney World after various adventures. His friend returns, out of Whuffies, and talks again about permanently ending his life. The narrator convinces his friend to not go out on the bottom, but to rebuild his reputation and to go out at his peak. So the two work with the narrator’s girl friend to manage part of the park.
The park itself is run by various ad-hocracies, like-minded individuals who come together to do things guided by people on social media who reward them with likes–and Whuffies–for good ideas. Another attraction developer moves into Liberty Square and threatens the status quo with new technologies–and someone murders the narrator, which makes the narrator go a little off in his defense of the status quo.
Spoiler alert: At the end, status quo is maintained. As I mentioned, nothing of consequence happens in an interesting world.
I’m not sure if the intended message is that nobody can move forward or change in such a society, but that’s what I took from it.
At a little over 200 pages, it’s a pretty quick read, and narratively, it pulls you along. So pleasant, but meaningless.
I mentioned two weeks ago about how a post about Civ IV appeared on my Facebook Memories feed.
Last night, I found an ad for it in a comic book that also has ads for Age of Empires III and other video games.
Were video games the last things along with movies and television shows to advertise in comics? I’ll have a definitive answer for the state of the industry in 2019 sometime in 2022, when the comic books of 2019 are marked a dollar somewhere.
I got this book at LibraryCon 2019. The author/artist had a couple of regular, staple-stitched comics that I bought as well as this collection which has a flat spine and hence gets counted as a graphic novel and eligible for my annual reading list and an official MfBJN book report.
This book is a collection of stories that take on stuff from the Brothers Grimm (or at least popular representations thereof) and nursery rhymes and given a darker (although not necessarily as dark as the Brothers Grimm) turn, often featuring lycanthropy as the pivot.
An interesting book. The art is black and white and not too busy. The art and story are well balanced–it’s not a story ins service of the art, but the art serves the story. So pretty good.
I liked it better, strangely enough, than his individual comics. One of the series I read, Musical Mishaps of Cat and Fiddle, stretches a story similar in feel (and featuring a form of lycanthrophy as well), into six issues which lends itself to creating more panels for the story which unbalances it a bit.
So perhaps I’m learning a little about the balance I prefer, and this book has it. For what it’s worth.
Still, I’ll watch for more from this guy at future conventions.
For some reason, The Golden Girls television show is demonstrating a resurgence amongst memes I see on Facebook. I have no idea if this means people are actually watching the show or merely feeling nostalgic for when it was on. Or both. I think the some reason is that some members of Generation X are getting to that age and they hope they’re as stylish and sassy as the characters they probably didn’t pay attention to when they were young.
Regardless, this item cropped up on my Facebook feed, and I immediately spotted the error, and I wondered if the person who created this meme was ignorant or if he or she wanted to have some fun passing around a meme with an obvious falsehood.
So last weekend, I humblebragged on Facebook about my busy and pain-inducing Saturday:
The stair climb was for the National Fallen Firefighters Association, and it involved climbing up and down every aisle at Missouri State University’s Plaster Stadium. Four laps of each aisle. It was single file, so it was more of a leg workout than a cardio workout. I did it because I wanted to see if I could, and I was humbled by the number of firefighters who were doing the climb themselves in full gear. So, yeah, I did okay for an old man, but nothing compared to those who serve.
I’d hoped I could do the climb in an hour and make it north to Bolivar (BALLiver) to catch my sons’ cross country meet (but for it, they would have joined me at the stair climb). However, the climb did not start at the time they said it would (8:30) because they had an opening ceremony, and when everyone lined up to begin, I stopped at the rest room first and found my way to the end of the line. It took a while to get started, so I was only done and back to my car about an hour before my boys were scheduled to run–but the expediency of the meet meant that events were moved earlier instead of later (which is generally how it goes at a track meet). So I got there just in time to pick up my son and turn around to drive another hour back.
Pretty much all of it was guaranteed to make my legs stiffen, and we then went to a church festival where I bought the lad too many tickets, so he spent a couple of hours playing the games there while I watched and encouraged while standing on asphalt.
Oh, yes, I felt that.
So this weekend, I tried to top it.
Did a “5k” on Saturday morning that was more like 2.6 miles instead of 3.1.
Immediately jumped into my car and drove 3.5 hours to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to help my brother put on a new roof.
Climbed onto a ladder and helped tear off a new roof for five hours.
Picked up shingles in the yard, put them in a wheelbarrow, wheeled them to a dumpster, unloaded, and repeated for four hours.
Drove three and a half hours home.
Did the Nogglestead Sunday afternoon chores.
While working with my brother and his brother-in-law, we talked about how we were going to feel after the strenuous activity, and we agreed it wouldn’t be good.
But I’m starting to wonder if humblebragging about how much we ache after that level of activity does not so much indicate how active we are, but how old we are. So I’m reconsidering bringing it up again in conversation, gentle reader, except for this blog post.
However, I think I will skip the martial arts class tonight.