On Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive and Count Your Blessings

Book coverThis audiobook is a collection of sort little essays about, well, counting your blessings and finding the bright side of things. It has eleven pieces by eleven authors. One of them is, literally, a woman who enumerates one hundred blessings, so it’s a couple minutes of sentence fragments.

A couple of them seem a little fictionalized. One features a woman coming to college in her forties who collects aluminum cans from the campus garbage for her daily bus fare and sometimes, on good days, her lunch. I look askew at this story, though, because I cannot remember a time when aluminum can prices were high enough that you could pay bus fare with a couple cans picked up. You’d have to fill a bag or so. Even the old automated machines that appeared briefly in grocery stores only gave a penny for two cans, and that was at the height of the market. Another deals with a snow storm where a woman breaks up furniture and keepsakes to burn them to keep warm, and how liberating that is. A lot of wood stuff, especially inexpensive stuff, is made with pine, and that would have been an unpleasant indoor fire indeed.

At any rate, it’s a little like the mindfulness that more la-de-dah people get from their Buddhist and Yoga texts. With a little uncluttering thrown in (ironically). It’s got a Christian bent, and the first three or four items featured divorced (and sometimes multiple divorces) people. I bet they needed some perking up.

Did it make me feel better? It’s not the sort of thing that changes your life in one listening. It’s the sort of thing you should probably steep yourself in to eventually, over the repetition, that can guide you to a better mind set. And it’s not an unpleasant hour or so of drive time.

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A British Summer Home

Since my first castle is here in town, I guess I’ll have to use this British castle as a summer home.

It took Anton Jones 15 years to buy what was known locally as Llantwit Castle from the Vale of Glamorgan council and another five years to transform the medieval house.

No cranes or cement mixers were used and all the materials were mixed and constructed using traditional methods.

Lime mortar was used and the solid oak beams were cut and constructed on site.

Anton was fascinated with the building since he was a child where he used to play but was also “scared to death of it.”

He said: “It was very, very creepy in those days because the ruin was totally covered in ivy.

“It was always very gloomy even on a summer’s day and there was always an eerie presence here and I actually got chased by horses here once.

“I can still hear the hooves hitting the stones now when I’m working here.”

When he bought the property for £5,000 the “conservation builder” feared he had bitten off more than he could chew when the extent of the restoration project became fully clear.

Anton said: It was completely ruined, in fact it shouldn’t really have been saved because it was too far gone.

It looks nice.

Unfortunately, it is in Britain.

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A Dying Time

When I was in late middle school and high school, which is to say the time when I lived in the trailer park and down the gravel road in the valley, a lot of family members died. I lost my grandfather, my grandmother, my cousin, a number of great aunts, my great-grandmother by marriage, and then my step-grandfather. Some were far off, but I attended between one and three funerals a year in that span. The older generation, those great aunts, were in their eighties, my grandparents died young, and my cousin was shot at 21.

Suddenly, I’m acutely aware of how those things are aligning again.

The autumn started with notices of death around us. Shortly thereafter, I learned that my aunt has cancer pretty badly, which has spurred a couple of trips to the St. Louis area.

I have since learned that my stepmother with whom I had a rocky relationship also has cancer pretty badly. I learned this from my grandmother, who let me know that fifteen people in the family have health issues of some sort or another.

So my aunts and uncles are getting into their sixties and seventies now. My mother-in-law is closing in on eighty. My grandmother is in her nineties, but you wouldn’t know it. And, who knows, maybe one of these random pains and little coughs I get might actually be the innocent symptom of Something Worse as I fear.

You know, you can recognize mortality and deal with it in one of two ways: You can appreciate every day what you have now and actively treasure those relationships, or you can dread the loss that you know is coming.

Me, I’m making more effort to see my family that lives outside Springfield (which is to say, all of them but my immediate family). I’m trying to live life with better experiences than the simple day-to-day maintenances (although now that St. Louis Blues Hockey games are $80 a ticket, they will be memorable because they’re scarce). I’m going to send more frequent notes and letters to my grandmother who has told me she loves them and reads them multiple times.

Still, even as I do these things, I am pretty sure I’ll dread the future losses. I said you can deal with it in one of two ways. I will do both and let my impulses battle it out in my psyche.

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The International Flavor of MfBJN

The Artist Formerly Known As The One Hand Clapping Guy notes that he receives a lot of traffic from Spain.

Here at MfBJN, we’ve had more of an international flavor of traffic over the last couple of days:

I have no idea why this is. I do spend time speculating, though

What I do know, though, is that the book report for The Sire de Maletroit’s Door continues to be my most popular book report and one of the most-read blog posts ever. For some reason.

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Suddenly, “OK, Boomer”

So I’ve seen the rejoinder “OK Boomer” [sic] twice this week, and it’s only Tuesday. The first was on Facebook post by Bill Whittle and the second was on today’s Bleat by James Lileks. So I guess it’s a thing in Internet places where one contends with Millenials. I don’t, so I haven’t seen it, and I’m not a boomer anyway.

But I see “OK Boomer” and immediately I think of the Benji knock-off:

If you’re of a certain age, it probably triggers the theme song in your head.

Enjoy the flickering representation while it lasts, which will be until the automated copyright checking algorithms find it and I have to replace it in the post with the the German version.

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Not On Any Stars We’ve Lost in 2019 Listicle (In the United States)

So I recently discovered a Brazilian death metal band called Semblant, and the lead singer has a lovely voice:

I mean, here she is, singing Mozart for crying out loud:

So I prepared to post on my Legion of Metal Friends Facebook group that she, Mizuho Lin, might have supplanted someone as my favorite Brazilian vocalist. But who was my current favorite Brazilian vocalist? Gal Costa? Beth Carvalho?

In researching my quip, I learned that Beth Carvalho passed away this year.

I have a couple of her albums, Sentimento Brasileiro and Suor No Rosto, which I bought at a library book sale where someone had unloaded a lot of Brazilian and Mexican LPs. Which explains why I am familiar with Beth Carvalho and Gal Costa.

Here is Beth singing “O Sonho Não Acabou” from 1980:

It’s kind of early 80s pop Samba.

Funny story: We are friends with a Lutheran pastor from Brazil, and when his family was over, I spun some Carvalho on the turntable. He asked if it was in Portuguese, and I explained it was Beth Carvalho (and pronounced the name incorrectly, because how it’s spelled and sounds in Portuguese is different than my native language, Milwaukeean). But he, the pastor, was not familiar with the artist because, as he is a decade younger than I am, Beth Carvalho would have been his parents’ music.

I get that a lot, of course, with my other turntable musical tastes running to Big Band through the 1960s, but it was stark since I probably would have remembered Beth Carvalho on the radio were I in Brazil. I would not thought of it as old though.

I didn’t see any news about her passing here in the states. And although she was not my favorite Brazilian vocalist, I was sorry to hear of it.

My previous favorite Brazilian vocalist?

Astrud Gilberto, duh.

And, to be honest, since I’m a metal all day, jazz all night sort of guy, she probably still will be my favorite Brazilian vocalist after 5pm. But from 5:00am to 4:59 pm, it’s Mizuho Lin.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, November 2, 2019: ABC Books

ABC Books had another book signing this weekend, so of course we went. Jovanna Schlossenberg, a children’s book author from Kansas City, was signing copies of her first book JoJo Knows RVs, and she was glad to tell me and my oldest son all about it. So I bought two copies: One for my boys and one for my niece’s son who is more within the target age.

I also picked up a couple books. Which is funny: I come up there specifically for the book signings, but I pick up a couple other books before I come back to the table with the author. To cover my true purpose. Also, because I like books.

I got a couple volumes of poetry (Naturally Nappy by Bonnie Lynn Tolson and Collections of Madness by Jane Smith, Asil Nottarts, and Nod Nihin2). I got The Yogi Book by Yogi Berra because I was offended by a St. Louis Post-Distpatch story saying Max Scherzer replaced Berra as the best baseball player from St. Louis. I haven’t read a Yogi Berra book in two years. I also got a small survey book on Nietzsche from the Modern Thinkers series by Van Riessen.

I will probably read the poetry first but might bull through the Nietzsche book since it’s pretty small and not likely to be as dense as actual, you know, Nietzsche.

I also suffered from an awkward, and perhaps even rude, moment. Ms. Schlossenberg was very friendly, effusive, and she shook my hand first thing when I stopped by her table. I shook reflexively, but I remembered that I was coming fresh from a boxing-centric martial arts class, and my hands smelled like the inside of boxing gloves. I.E., nasty. So after she signed both books that I was buying, she extended her hand again, and I said that I didn’t want to shake her hand again. I tried to explain I’d just been boxing, but I’m a middle-aged (at least) man, so that might not have been very clear. So I’m afraid she might think I didn’t want to shake her hand because she was black or something.

Crazy, I know. But it’s the little kind of I didn’t mean it that way that will linger in my conscience in a slightly obsessive way.

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I Know; I Am From Milwaukee

The Current Local, the Van Buren, Missouri, weekly paper, recently ran a piece on a local resident who once was a state trooper in Alaska.

The text, though, doesn’t think many people reading it are from Milwaukee.

In July of 1968, Stan Kaziczkowski (pronounced kozziKOWskee) stood at the unlikely doors of the Alaska State Trooper Academy in Sitka, a small city on Baranof Island south of Glacier Bay National Park.

I know how to say Kaziczkowski, for Pete’s sake. Just like it’s spelled. And, yes, Kaziczkowski is from Wisconsin.

(See also Finalists for Most Milwaukee Wedding 2017 Announced.)

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Mixtape Update

We were just talking about mixtapes, and I earlier today searched this blog for “Didde” to see if I could find the picture of me with my printer from the middle 1990s.

Instead, I found an old blog post about a mixtape I made for my then-girlfriend, now-wife called the Lil Didde Mix.

So apparently I did do that in the 1990s.

It’s amazing the details one forgets.

Which is why it’s nice to have the blog and the personal relics to jog my memory.

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The Old Grey Socks

So as I was laying up the Halloween costumes in the closet, I noticed I had some old grey socks in a bin with some overflow underwear I culled from a crowded drawer at some point or another.

How old are those socks, you might ask (but probably not). Over thirty years old, gentle reader. Over thirty.

From 1996 to 1998, before I began my career in computers, I operated a Didde-Glaser 175 two color offset printing press in O’Fallon, Missouri.

One of the second shift printer operators nicknamed me “Inky,” as I might have been a little messy. I learned to wear black jeans and black sneakers as reflex blue ink does not stand out on them, and I bought grey athletic socks to tone down the flash of white between the jeans and the shoe. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve bought socks like that, so these would indeed be getting into their third decade.

I recently bought a couple pairs of athletic pants to replace some old ones that I’d worn out with frequent trips to the gym. However, the current style seems to be a little form fitting. To the point that I feel like I’m going to stand out of them whilst doing squats. So I was going to turn this into an object lesson for my oldest child who is really into name brands as, I suppose, youth often are.

“These are Michael Strahan’s,” I said, pointing to the athletic pants. I had prepared my lecture about how the fact that they were a premium brand meant little since they wouldn’t actually serve my athletic needs, that I should have just gone to Walmart.

But he sidetracked my planned life lesson when he didn’t know who Michael Strahan is. I explained a couple of things: New York Giants defensive end. Today Show co-host. Apparently, a clothing magnate.

I did say that as a “premium” brand, it was probably of better quality than what I would buy at Walmart and wear out in a couple of years.

I got to my final point, and the knowledge that brings this whole post together:

“When my grandchildren come to a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa, I’ll wear these pants to bed.”

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