The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN

I might have mentioned, gentle reader, that amongst the 1500-odd book reports on this humble blog, for some reason my book report from 2013 on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Sire de Maletroit’s Door is very popular. Probably because it’s on the first page of Google search results.

Would you care to guess what is the second most popular book report here?

Continue reading “The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Meat in the Sandwich by Alice Bach (1975)

Book coverThis is nominally a children’s book. I bought it almost twenty years ago from a table in the foyer of the Bridgeton Trails branch of the St. Louis County library back when we lived in Casinoport. We didn’t have children then, but if I was going to have children, I would want them to read a book about young hockey players (as my beautiful wife and I watched every St. Louis Blues game at that time). As it turns out, a couple years later, I had children (well, my beautiful wife gestated and emitted them, but you know what I mean). A couple years after that, they could read, but neither of them were much interested in the old-timey children’s books I had, favoring the cartoonish children’s books of today. A couple years later, I finally picked up this book since there’s no hockey season. Was there one earlier in the year? It seems so long ago.

I say “nominally” a children’s book because, although the main character is in fifth grade, it’s 182 pages of dense, adult-focused text. I mean, I know kids books today are dumbed down, but compared with other kids books of the past like the Great Brain series and the Little House series, not to mention the Peggy Parrish books, and this is freaking Ulysses.

So the main character is a fifth grader who has two sisters (one older, one younger, so he’s the meat in the sandwich of the family), a father with a job at the electric company, and a stay-at-home mom (in 1975, this was still the norm or the ideal, gentle reader). His best friend and the star of the elementary school hockey team lives with his mother after his parents divorced, and that’s a big deal in 1975. A new kid moves in, a competitive kid whose father drives his own son and the main character to be better athletes, but not without tension (the usual “we train hard, and everyone else is a loser” mentality). When a new hockey coach splits the team into two squads, the main character and his athlete ‘friend’ are on different squads, so they’re not really friends any more.

In addition to that main story line, the protagonist’s mother wants to pursue her dream of being a painter, so the whole family has to divvy up the chores, including the cooking and the cleaning. His friend’s divorced mother pursues her dream of opening a little swap shop in her home where people can trade things they need without spending money. The protagonist’s mother offers her paintings in the shop, but nobody is interested in her abstract works which her children don’t think are very good.

The turning point in the book comes in a scrimmage between the two squads, when the protagonist is checked hard into the boards by his former friend. The protagonist ends up knocked out and with an injured shoulder, and as he mends (and hides from returning to school in shame), he rethinks his life and determines, hey, he doesn’t have to be a star athlete after all!

So, yeah. The voice is too sophisticated for a fifth grader, and it reads more like what a 1970s feminist would like to instruct little boys. Women’s empowerment and don’t be a boy. Learn to love the liberation of the new world which will lead to the utopia we see today. Meh.

Perhaps I’m a bit down on the book because I come out of that liberated millieu to some deleterious effect. But, yeah, there’s probably a reason why this book was marked $.25 after sitting in a library, likely unread, for 25 years. I can’t imagine what a millenial child would have gotten from it.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Strange And Minor Obsessive Things In Life

As you know, gentle reader, I’m a touch off center, and one of the things that kind of trips my circuit is which side of the faucet the soft soap dispenser is in our home. We have four sinks with soap dispensers, and the soap dispenser must be on the left.

I don’t care where it is elsewhere, such as when I am out. But at home, it must be on the left.

From time to time, someone cleans the bathrooms, he or she (my son or my beautiful wife) puts the soap on the right side of the faucet. And it weirds me out.

I have to move it to the correct side of the faucet immediately.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the influence of Time Out Of Joint by Philip K. Dick, where a simple incongruity makes a fabricated reality collapse around the man at the center of it. I read that book, what, in high school, when I bought it inexpensively at a drug store? Or is that what THEY want me to remember?

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Facebook Must Have Heard Me Speaking Spanish

Ha! I kid, but in a way that could be true. I mean, Facebook recommended this group to me:

Given that I’m in only a few groups (several related to my martial arts school, a couple related to multisports/running, a couple and the Legion of Metal Friends), I can’t figure out why the algorithm spit out this particular suggestion.

Unless Facebook on my beautiful wife’s phone heard me mangling some Spanglish and reported it to home base.

Ha! I kid. Or did I say that to cover my actual, raging paranoia?

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Charles Russell by Sophia Craze (1989)

Book coverI got this book at ABC Books a week ago. I think in lieu of reading during football games, I will set artists’ monographs and travel books beside the recliner to browse through after a couple chapters or sections of other books I’m reading. Kind of like I used to do with comic books. I’ll use them to fill out the evening when I don’t want to start another chapter before bed.

This book gives a brief bio of Russell, a native of St. Louis and the child of a well-to-do family (Russell Avenue might well be named after the family), who decided early that he wanted to be a cowboy. The family, of course, were against it and tried to get him schooled and whatnot, but he kept hanging around with unsavory types. So they sent him out to Montana hoping to get it out of his system, but he caught on as a cowboy and whatnot until he found that he could draw and paint, and he became known as the cowboy artist. Unlike Frederic Remington, Russell did work from the frontier, but he did visit and have art shows back east and around the world.

You know, Russell is active painting and whatnot at the same time that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books cover, but it’s a very different frontier. Of course, the images would have to be more dramatic and marketable with images of cowboys and Indians and whatnot. That and perhaps the difference in locations explain the differences in the depictions.

“So, Brian J., Remington or Russell?” you might ask. To be honest, I guess it’s been ten years since I reviewed the Remington monograph. The works of both artists tend to be dramatic, with action depicted, and I prefer my art to be a little more still. Renoir portraits and landscapes and whatnot. So Remington and Russell are of a type that’s interesting to look at briefly, but not something I would hang on the walls of my home nor sit on a bench in an art museum and contemplate. Not that I do that with art that I do like, either.

So Remington and Russell. If that’s not a cop-out.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, June 27, 2020: ABC Books

I know, it’s been a whole week since I was at ABC Books, but as I announced as I entered, I had read three of the books (out of seven) that I bought last week so I needed more.

Actually, I visited because ABC Books hosted Donald D. Shockley for a book signing, and, as you know, I go up to get signed books whenever I can.

I only got four books this trip. Well, five, sort of.

I got:

  • Shockley’s Fertile Crescent Religions, a history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Shockley, an engineer, spent a lot of time in the Middle East and wanted to write this history from a Christian perspective. It’s got full color maps throughout and short, topical chapters, so I’m looking forward to reading this book soon, or someday if it gets lost in my stacks. I am primed for whenever I go on a Biblical history kick that is not bogging myself down in Kings/Kingdoms/Chronicles.
  • Bass 1 in case I want to learn to play my newest instrument.
  • The second of Jeff Patrick’s Rock Rogers books, Subzero. I read his first book, My Name Is Rock last week, and I wondered if it was supposed to be young adult. The proprietrix said this was indeed the case: the author wanted to write military thrillers his kids could read without sex and language and a little bit of prayer instead. So I bought another copy of My Name Is Rock and gave it to my boys to see if they’re interested in it. I mean, I wasn’t going to give them my copy to sleep with and to store on the floor of the truck beneath their wet feet for months.
  • A Few Flies and I, a collection of haiku by Issa. R.H. Blyth, whose Games Zen Masters Play I read last autumn, is one of the translators.

I will leave it up to you, gentle reader, to speculate as to which of the books I read first. I think it might be the Jeff Patrick book, as I’ve got a couple volumes of poetry in the poetry-reading queue already. I won’t actually “read” the bass book–books on how to play musical instruments are like technology/how to program or reference books in that I don’t go through them from beginning to end in a way that I do with fiction, other non-fiction, or poetry. I don’t get around to reviewing them because I never actually “finish” the book. Also, I don’t have a great track record on learning the skills in the books, either, but that’s more me than the books themselves.

At any rate, it was good to go to an author signing again.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Is Our Headline Writers Metaphoring?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline sez: 1969: A wild night on the Mississippi as the Becky Thatcher breaks free, and the Santa Maria sinks like a tub:

To be honest, I cannot conceive of how a tub sinks. Perhaps the headline writer is a fan of the 1986 film The Money Pit:

Just kidding. The headline writer was probably not even born in 1986.

But it’s just as well that the Santa Maria replica sank in 1969. Otherwise, in 2020, someone would have to sink it for hatred and indigenous genocide donchaknow.

In other news, I probably saw The Money Pit once in the 1980s. How I can remember that the tub sank through the floor is a miracle of teenaged neuroscience.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Earthborn Awakening by Matthew S. Devore (2018)

Book coverI got this book at LibraryCon last year and read it over the course of two days (vacation makes that possible).

Well, this book is pretty good. I actually just ordered it and its sequel for my nephew for Christmas, and if DeVore is again at LibraryCon this year, I’ll buy both inscribed by for my nephew/godson and give the ordered set to my cousin-once-removed whom I think likes fantasy (but I haven’t asked for sure because I wouldn’t know what to get him for Christmas if not fantasy). So last year’s trip to LibraryCon was especially fruitful, as everyone got A Blade So Black.

In the distant past, elves lived on Earth. It wasn’t their home world, but they lived here and built large cities and did their magic until the technologically and militarily advanced Urlowens conquered the planet and exterminated the Earthborn elves. One manages to make it to a stasis chamber, an experimental device designed to preserve a life; she hopes to only stay in stasis for ten years.

Meanwhile, after the fall of the Elves, apparently the Urlowen withdraw because ten thousand years later Humans have risen, and the Urlowens return. Although the nations of the planet have formed an Alliance to defend against space-borne threats, they’re not much of a match for the Urlowen–who seem to have lost the ability to do magic themselves. But a member of the ragtag resistance stumbles upon the stasis chamber and releases the Earthborn Elf, and maybe the Humans have a chance.

The book weighs in at 326 pages, but it moves very well, drifting between the points of view of an elite team of Urlowen and the resistance members. The Humans get some help from the newest member of the Urlowen Council Guard, but it’s related to intrigue among the Urlowen rather than benevolence.

As I said, I read it in two days and will probably read the second book in the series, Earthborn Alliance, before long. According to the author’s Web site, the third book is not yet out. Maybe by LibraryCon 2020 should such a thing occur.

Oh, and although the author is self-published, he thanks/acknowledges a professional editor. Man, perhaps I should give that a whirl. This book is pretty professional in design and in its content. His Web site also talks about the business of self-publishing. Perhaps I should pay attention if I ever come up with another novel.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Snakes of the Week

So last week, we encountered a couple of snakes in a couple of different habitats.

When we went to Dogwood Canyon, we saw this snake sunning itself on one of the stone bridges. Not on the part we walked on, fortunately.

To me, it looks like a rat snake of some sort, but I’m not sure. To be honest, the snake flashcards I created don’t really nail a snake if it’s in a different position. I know that lined snakes are okay, but the venomous snakes around here have diamond patterns or jagged ring things. So we gave this guy plenty of room.

When we got home on Wednesday, we found this:

That’s easy to identify; that’s a prairie ring-necked snake. Bigger than the one we saw in April. And dead, so the cats got it. We did have someone tending to the cats, but it’s good to know they could hunt up something to eat in the family room if they needed to.

Although maybe “easy to identify” might be a misnomer; I had the boys look through the snake flashcards, and the oldest came up with Northern Red-Bellied Snake. So maybe the flashcards are pretty worthless.

Maybe I should have made up an acronym like Snake Out, Snake In (SOSI) to riff on like , but that seems like work.

Book Report: My Name Is Rock by Jeff Patrick (2012)

Book coverI bought this book last weekend before our getaway (given how often I’m using that phrase in book reports this week, I should make a macro out of it). This, however, was the first of the books I read.

It’s the first in a series, and it reads more young adult than adult thriller. It weighs in at 144 pages total which includes the title/copyright pages, a list of characters, and a couple of pages of information about the guns in the book as well as the about the author pages, a sample of a later book, and promotional pages for other books in the series. So it’s not very long at all. The prose is very simple. The set pieces are set, but also simple. You can see that the author is kind of patterning the books after men’s adventure thrillers.

In this book, agent Zackary Rock Rogers is called to rescue the stepson of a Senator who’s being held in northern Africa by bad guys for a ransom. Other agents in the area have died suspiciously, and it becomes clear that someone on the inside is a double-agent. But he must effect rescue before the kidnappers realize the ransom isn’t coming.

As I said, some set pieces connected a little more simply than in a Mack Bolan book. So it’s a little better than the worst of the Executioner novels but not as good as the best of the line.

I note that the book has a prologue that comes from an exciting moment later in the book. If I had to guess, I’d say someone told him that it started out too slow and he should start it off with a bang. I say that because someone told me that about John Donnelly’s Gold, and for one draft, I did the same thing–pulled a dramatic scene (the break-in scene to the point of entering John Donnelly’s house) as a prologue, which made the first chapters of the book a flashback, I guess. I thought it a cheat and removed it from my book. I’m not sure it really works in this book, either.

I won’t write the series off–I’ll maybe try another at some future time to see how the author might mature. But not anytime soon. I’ve got plenty of other things to read, including a couple dozen of those lesser entries in the Mack Bolan series.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories


So yesterday was the last day of my vacation, at least the weekday portion, so I took the boys on what has been our traditional outing: We go bowling, and then we go to the nature center.

We’ve done this summers when they’ve not been in “camps” (read: temporary, themed day care without the stigmatic name) or on holidays like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day. One summer, we did participated in the local “Kids Bowl Free” promotion which gives registered kids under 18 two free games of bowling as long as they’ve got a parent with them paying some freight. So we went, what, every week? Twice some weeks? A lot. But my boys didn’t get into bowling really because it requires skill and patience and taking advice for improvement. But we got to know Cathy and June at Sunshine Lanes a bit. But that was, what, four years ago? Our visits have tailed off to once a year to the bowling alley. And less to the nature center.

But yesterday, we rekindled the tradition. And, hopefully, started a new one.

I got a turkey. Which is three strikes in a row. To start the game.

Jeez, am I bragging again after showing off conspicuous consumption again? I never can tell how insufferable I might be to others, which is my blessing and my curse. But it’s my blog. So you hear about my turkey in.

I’ve never thrown three strikes in a row before. And I might not again. As a matter of face, I did not even pick up a spare the rest of the game until the tenth frame (and then threw a strike on the extra ball), so I ended up with a rather pedestrian 143 on a game where I had a perfect 300 game going through three frames.

At any rate, we went to the nature center next. The building with the animal and ecology exhibits was closed yet as were the bathrooms (which made me glad that I went at the bowling alley). We did the whole loop, a little over two and a half miles, and as we walked along the boardwalk above a glade, a bird crossed the path ahead of us and joined a friend right off the side of the boardwalk, and they stayed beside the boardwalk as we passed.

Wildlife at the nature center is very tame; the deer also are not afraid of people at all.

At any rate, all I wanted to say is that yesterday, I turkeyed in and I turkeyed out.

But, as you know, I also went to the antique mall, so it’s not factually accurate, but I did want to make the gag.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Album Stuff Hunting, June 26, 2020: Relics Antique Mall

Sorry to continue with the conspicuous consumption that is the hallmark of these pages, but after we got back on Wednesday night from our trip to Branson, I went looking for my most recent annual pass to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to see if I needed to get one before my boys and I take to bike the loop.

I could not find a pass, but I did find the remaining gift certificates for Relics Antique Mall that my beautiful wife gave me for last Christmas which apparently only have a six month shelf life. They were scheduled to expire on June 30. So I was very glad to have found them this Wednesday instead of next Wednesday. They were $70 worth of gift certificates. I would say “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been to Relics,” but Relics was closed for a bunch of that time.

I find it hard to spend gift certificates in the best of circumstances, but I really felt challenged to spend $70 at an antique mall. I mean, I don’t collect a lot of tchotchkes; I don’t have a lot of wall space for art (or furniture); and even with house money, I don’t want to spend the new-normal of seven to ten dollars on a record (!) because I’d get peeved if it skipped when I got it home. Also, as I had my boys along, I could not spend hours poring through the records anyway.

But I did get a couple.

Yes, I got Phoebe Snow’s debut album.

As you might remember, gentle reader, I first spotted a copy of this record at Relics whilst Christmas shopping in 2018, but I could not buy it as it did not have a price on it. And I have not seen another copy since. Today, I found two: One at $7.99 with 20% off and the second later at $1.99. Instead of taking the expensive one back, I bought them both. In case one skips.

I also got a couple other albums: Twilight Time and My Reverie by The Three Suns; The Sounds of Silence by Jane Morgan; and In A Mellotone by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

The selection of the antique mall records is starting to run towards 60s, 70s, and 80s rock and pop as well as country instead of the older stuff I like to accumulate. I guess my parents’ generation is reaching that dying or downsizing age, which is bringing that stuff to market, and it’s the stuff people my age in the album-buying mood wants to buy, which is why the records are so much more expensive. But I can generally still find things to buy in my mellow, easy listening genres that’s under $4 a record.

But, Brian J., that doesn’t add up to $70 even with the expensive Phoebe Snow album, you might notice.

So what else did I get? Say hello to my other little friend:

As I mentioned when I got my guitar in February 2018, I noodled around on a bass a bit in college. So now I’ve picked up a bass to mess around with again.

How’s that guitar playing coming, Brian J.? you might ask.

Shut up, Ted. That is, it has not gone well. I took lessons for a while and quit because I wasn’t finding a lot of time to practice between lessons, so I was not advancing much at all. So I discontinued the lessons and found even less time to practice. So it went kind of like the worst possible way short of electrocuting myself with the E string.

But now I have two such instruments in my office which will go much better.

But at least I got something for the gift certificates.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg (2004)

Book coverI must be some kind of racist since this is the third book I’ve read this year that features the word nigger in it. In this book, a black woman who is seeing a white man calls herself that in a heated moment, using it to characterize her race from his perspective. So it’s not really used by a person in anger calling a black person it. But even into this century, playwrights whose works appeared on Broadway and who won big awards used the word without fearing what would happen to them for using it. Which is why so many of them are having things happen.

At any rate, I got this ABC Books just before my trip down to Branson this week. And it’s one of the three books I read there, albeit not the first.

As I mentioned when I got it, the book centers on a man who comes from some wealth who is starting a publishing house and figures he can publish one book. He is seeing an older jazz singer, the aforementioned black woman, whose memoirs he can publish. Also, his best friend from college has a manuscript, a mammoth like in Wonder Boys. So the lover and the best friend from college pressure him to publish the book whilst his assistant flits in and out providing some comic relief. As he is talking to either the lover or the friend–who is hoping to impress a Chicago heiress’s father with the book’s publication–a machine arrives. In the second act, the machine is spitting out pages from books and papers in the future that describe what has happened in the future, including to the characters, based on whichever way the publisher is leaning in the moment. Also, he might be a closeted homosexual with feelings for his friend from college. And possibly consummation in the future.

Well, it’s an interesting conceit, and it moves along well enough. It doesn’t have a stage full of characters in a bar unlike some things I’ve read lately (if you count, as I do, March of last year as ‘lately’). The playwright does emphasize pronunciations by capitalizing some syllables, particularly for the assistant, and italicizes some words for other characters. I think that takes a little from letting the actors interpret the roles, but I guess some impositiion of vision can be called for in some cases.

This might have been an interesting play to see live, but we probably won’t see a revival of it any time soon. And certainly not in its original form.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Starring Rachel Roberts As Erica

An A.I. robot named Erica was cast in the lead role of a $70M sci-fi film:

An enterprising sci-fi film crew has devised an ingenious way to shoot their film while circumventing coronavirus concerns — by casting a real-life A.I. robot named Erica. The move marks the first time a movie will star an artificially intelligent actor, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“She was created from scratch to play the role,” says Sam Khoze, a visual-effects supervisor behind “b,” the $70 million science-fiction film in which Erica will star. The flick, backed by Bondit Capital Media and New York’s Ten Ten Global Media, follows a scientist who finds a glitch in his DNA-replication research and helps the artificial organism he designed (Erica) escape, according to the outlet.

Sounds like the story they fed the media about the 2002 film Simone:

Will 2002, the year of Simone, Andrew Niccol’s feature film, come to be seen as another pivotal moment – the moment that the power of illusion surpassed that of reality? Will that year of the first “real-or-fake?” feature movie actor be seen as a symbolic bookmark locating the era when we could no longer tell, nor care if we could tell, what is authentic?

Critics did not agree about Simone. Reviews ranged from raves to pans, with many critics in the “mixed” camp. However, intelligent commentary seemed in agreement that it was the premise of Simone, which delivered its potential promise. That premise is that an entirely fake actress, digitally created by a desperate movie director (Al Pacino), could woo an unknowing audience and become a phenomenal star.

But there’s more. Just as Simone, the centerpiece “character” of Niccol’s film, turned out to be a fake, the actual actress who portrays Simone, turned out to be real. Although Niccol, Pacino, and even the film’s credits claim that “Simone”, the digital character, played “herself”, members of the press have revealed that Simone was in fact enacted by Canadian supermodel Rachel Roberts.

Sounds very similar indeed.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, June 22, 2020: Calvin’s Books and Books-a-Million

As I might have mentioned, we took a short vacation to Branson, which of course means a visit to Calvin’s Books. The first couple of books I looked at were priced very reasonably indeed ($2 or $3 for the Firefly books below and $1 for the travel/picture books), so I was afraid that maybe they were going out of business, but other books in the fiction section were priced as you would expect, and the store was cluttered more than usual, so they’re still buying books to sell.

My beautiful wife was also interested in some chess books and newer books, so we went to the new retail development on the north side of town which has a Books-a-Million, so I got a couple of new books as well.

At any rate, we got a few amongst the four of us.

I got these at Calvin’s Books:

  • The aforementioned Firefly books: The Official Companion Volume One, The Official Companion Volume Two, Still Flying (short stories by the television writers), and Serenity: The Official Visual Companion. The whole lot cost $10.
  • Travel/picture books depicting Notre-Dame de Paris, Castle of Chenonceau, Westminster Abbey, Marseille, Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Cotswolds, All Montserrat, Windsor Castle, and Versailles. As I said, these were $1 or $2 each. That’s book sale pricing. I’m set up if I ever want to watch sports again.
  • Violence of Action by Richard Marcinko, a Rogue Warrior novel without John Weisman and at a new publisher.
  • Deep Six by Clive Cussler, a Dirk Pitt novel without a named co-author. I said I might give this series a try, so here it is. When I give it a try remains to be seen.
  • The March of the Millenia by Isaac Asimov and Frank White. I might already have it, but why pass it up and take the chance that I don’t?
  • The Unauthorized Jimmy Buffett Concert Handbook by Elizabeth and John Encarnacion. I’m no parrothead, but I might eat at one of his restaurants sometime or write a book with a Jimmy Buffett fan in it. I remember how I used to use research for writing as an excuse to buy books. The only thing I write about now is buying books.

At BAM, I got:

  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.
  • Family Business by Car; Weber with Eric Pete; looks to be about a black-owned car dealership. Weber had a lot of books on the discount table, including an apparent sequel to this book.
  • A signed copy of How To by cartoonist Randall Munroe. I read his What If? a couple years ago. My oldest son also got a copy of the book.

I also got a couple of magazines (not depicted): Skeptical Inquirer, which I subscribed to once upon a time, and Triathlete (I’m not; I just do triathlons).

The sum total: A bunch. And, if you look closely, you’ll see that my wife did not get any chess books as she forgot to look for them by the time we got to Books-A-Million.

Well, that should give me something to read until the next time I buy some books which is probably next week.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Heavy Metal by Jon Wiederhorn & Katherine Turman (2013)

Book coverMy beautiful wife gave me this book for Valentine’s Day. I started it in mid-March, using it as my “carry book” when I went to the podiatrist amidst The Pandemic even though this book chonks in at 700+ pages. I mean, I didn’t carry it a lot, and I certainly did not get the chance to sit on a bench in church during the Sunday school hour to read it.

Basically, the book is two music journalists presenting the evolution of some metal through the artist’s own words. It groups bands into genres like original metal, British new wave metal, thrash, nu metal, death metal, and so on, and then lets the band members talk about being in the band and so on. The timelines overlap, so we get a little re-starting.

It’s interesting that I recognize the bands up to the early 1990s, and then I have a gap until maybe 2010 or so except for the bands that started / got recognition in the very late 1990s or the bands that were around throughout. So I’m more familiar with the work of Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Testament and then suddenly Disturbed, but I don’t know much about Korn or Slipknot. Also, I’m light on the European bands.

Basically, the cycle is we started a band when we were teenagers, toured a bit, got a record deal, did a lot of drugs and had a lot of debaucherous sex varied a little. The crossover (punk and metal) bands swapped out acts of violence and fighting for the sex, and the black metal bands swapped out killing each other, killing themselves, and burning Norwegian churches (generally not in that order) in for the sex and fighting. So I found it a bit repetitive in the middle sections (nu metal, death metal, black metal) where I didn’t really know the bands.

But it did improve my sense of my own metal cred. I once saw Biohazard in Milwaukee, the week of my college graduation, in a small hall, and lots of bands (or at least the authors of this book) indicate Biohazard was very inspirational. And Static-X was big influence in the industrial movement, and I got a couple Static-X CDs a couple of years ago at a Lutheran rummage sale. So I am at least as hard core as your regular Lutheran.

I flagged a couple of bits in the book: The first is one of the Black Metal guys saying:

There have been times we felt that the whole scene was heading the wrong way, like ’97, ’98, ’99. The scene was permeated by this goth influence, and black metal was suddenly all about synthesizers and these large, pompous orchestrations and female vocals and harmonies and melody, and everything was so soft and so gothic and so romantic.

Frost, the drummer for Satyricon, is here poo-pooing the rise of symphonic metal, one of the biggest subgenres going today and possibly my favorite, although it’s hard to draw a hard line between metalcore with female melodic vocalists and true symphonic metal.

The second thing I flagged was this unfortunate admission of my cred:

We had this bootleg videotape that we had named “Sex, Death and Mayhem”. It had all this crazy animation, snuff shit, and real death. We decided to splice together an hour of footage for a holiday show, and the footage culminated with the Bud Dwyer suicide. [Dwyer was the former treasured of Pennsylvania who, in 1987, after being accused of accepting a bribe, held a press conference in which he removed a .357 Magnum from an envelope, inserted the loaded revolver in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.]

Ew, you know, I saw that video in 1994 when I was staying with Dr. Comic Book (my friend from college who got a doctorate in rhetoric and now teaches college courses on comic books who, after reconnecting with me on Facebook this century, unfriended me because of our differing political beliefs). We were going to see The Mask and walked over to some the apartment of some of his friends. As Dr. CB also came from a rough neighborhood, his friends are a little sketchy, and they had this death on videocassette, and they watched it over and over again before we went to the movie.

Eesh, I have a lot of cred for a kid who got picked on by metal fans a lot throughout high school.

At any rate, at 746 pages including index, the book is long, but probably not as comprehensive as it would suggest in its subtitle–especially as new subgenres have arisen since then, and several of the interviewees have passed away. Some bands around in the very end of the period this book covers have become very big indeed (Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, and so on) aren’t even mentioned in passing.

Worth a glance, I suppose, but probably in small doses, maybe a chapter here and there to keep the almost monomythic narrative fresh. Or if your beautiful spouse gives it to you.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Now It’s Time For Our Long Distance Dedication

Apparently, a cloud of dust from Africa is making its way through the atmosphere to North America, and the Internet is commenting on it as though it were another 2020 unique catastrophe (spoiler alert: it’s not).

Saharan Dust: Here’s what to expect when it makes it to the Ozarks

What you should expect is me to post the Cutting Crew song “Sahara” from their album The Scattering:

I bought The Scattering on a discounted tape rack in 1990 and became a great fan of the Cutting Crew (most known for “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” and “I’ve Been In Love Before” from their previous album Broadcast). I even bought Compus Mentus five years ago. Although I guess I’m not so much of a fan that I knew the lead vocalist re-formed the band in 2015 and has released a couple of albums since then.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Things Done In Branson When You’re Brian J. (Checklist)

This week, we took a little trip down to Branson

Drive through a BLM protest

We drove down Highway 76 and the protest on Sunday as we were looking for something to eat. Protesters did not outnumber counter-protesters by much, and the parade of pickups greatly favored those with stars-and-bars. Branson police kept it under control, though, and we drove through it again as it was ending.

Go to Calvin’s Books.
Which did not burn down on Sunday as part of the protest (it’s next door to the store being protested). As you might expect, you’ll see what I bought there in a later post.
See a country and western singer in a cafe at 10am on a Monday while eating breakfast.
One of our vacation “traditions” is that Daddy, now Dad (or sometimes “bro” and “dude”), takes the boys on a walk so that my beautiful wife has a little time to herself. This ramble took us “around the block,” which was not that far, actually (about a mile and a half out and back).

But the out part of our route took us to a cafe. As the mistress d’ seated us, I heard loud country music. And then someone greeting us. A singer was on stage at 10am on a Monday.

Uptown Cafe has live performers for every meal and a show in the evening. So we tipped Jackson and bought his CD. And we came back on Wednesday for the lunch performer.

A number of the restaurants in Branson have performers who come in and work for tips, singing over background tracks on a computer. I respect their hustle and their belief in their art and tend to tip them and buy their CDs whenever possible. I’m also the guy who puts a couple bucks in a busker’s hat or guitar case no matter how good the performer is.

But Jackson was pretty good.

Start Christmas shopping.

On the way back from breakfast on Monday, we stopped at a craft mall and bought a couple of Christmas gifts which I’ll wrap up and forget what they are by Christmas. Which gives me the same surprise and joy for the gifts I give that I get for the gifts I receive. Also, I bought the boys–a little peaked from their half mile walk from where we had breakfast–each a piece of beef jerky bigger than a page of legal-sized paper, which they consumed in the half mile walk back to our rooms.

Hiked Dogwood Canyon.

We went to Dogwood Canyon which is about an hour south of Branson. It’s a park of sorts, a valley with a stream running through it, a couple of springs, and several water falls that the owner of Bass Pro Shops bought and turned into a parkish experience. You pay to get in, and you can rent bikes or take Segway, horseback, or tram tours of it, or you can walk the length of the canyon which is three and a half miles or so and crosses the Arkansas state line.

You know, when I was young, I dreamed of being so wealthy that I could buy 10,000 acres like this for a retreat. I don’t think I ever dreamed of being wealthy enough to buy it and open it to the public. I guess I’ll be content with being wealthy enough to buy all the used books I can carry at any one time.

Also, “hike” is a bit of a misnomer as the path is paved the whole way. So it was a long walk more than a hike.

Visit the cat cafe.

By Wednesday, we were four days without cats, so we not only attended a show called Amazing Pets, but we also visited Branson’s Mocha and Meows cat cafe which was around the corner from the place we were staying–the boys and I passed it on our walk on Monday. And, like Chekov says, if you see a cat cafe on day one, you’ve got to go to it by day three.

We did not come home with any extra cats.

Read lots of books on a balcony with a different vista.

We were on the first floor, so it really wasn’t much of a balcony, but the buildings are arrayed on the hillsides so that you have a view from any room. And I read three books in four nights which is not bad. Yes, you’ll hear about those later, too.

Go for a hilly run.

Branson is a little deeper into the Ozark Mountains than we are, so it’s much hillier–I am not sure that there are any flat spots that have not been made so to hold development of some sort or another. But I said I wanted to take a little run on the hills just to say I did, and Wednesday morning was going to be my last opportunity for it. So my youngest son and I did a little more than a mile around the block and up the hills (and down the hills). It wasn’t too bad. It would have been better if I were an athlete.

Leave early.

Branson is close enough that we’re occasionally tempted to decamp early. If we don’t have anything planned for the last evening in our resort, we might just sit in the resort room reading and whatnot, packing up and planning an early departure. When this happens, I’ll say, “Let’s just go home now,” and we’ll throw our gear in the bags/in the truck and get home an hour later.

It gives us time to unpack, start some laundry, and relax a bit before sleeping in our own beds with our own cats (although having to explain to them why we smell like a cat cafe). Actually, the cats will emerge from hiding at different times when we get home–they hide from the cat sitter and get weirded out when we’re gone for any period of time.

We can’t do that with flying destinations or longer drives, but we can do it when we’re in Branson–and we sometimes do.

Which leaves me with two days of vacation left. To fritter away on blog posts like this one, book reports, and wrapping the Christmas gifts we bought.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories