The Unfortunate Acronyms of Springfield

So I took a picture of D&D Home Services in Nixa because I was thinking about doing a post about it:

I was going to go off onto a schtick about “What would Dungeons and Dragons Home Services include? Gelatinous cube whole house decluttering and dusting?” and so on.

From the back seat, my oldest told us mentioned Wholesale Auto Paints, whose logo and sign on Glenstone feature the unfortunate abbreviation WAP which shares the letters of but probably not the philosophy of the recent Cardi B song. Well, he called it Warehouse Auto Paints, and it was I who explained the song to my beautiful wife, who was a bit aghast and termed it vulgar. I said it was the 2020 version of the oldie O.P.P., the 1991 song by Naughty By Nature, and she tried to defend the earlier song, saying that it was musical. Mostly, though, I hold that one considers different things vulgar when one is 19 than when one is (does math) thirty-something. But it was an interesting moment nevertheless.

I also mentioned Springfield Tool and Die, whose business stems from 1960 apparently. Its buildings are proudly emblazoned with STD, a term that would come to mean something entirely different in 1975, apparently.

Which is why I was very careful, gentle reader, when coining and popularizing (well, coining anyway) the abbreviation MfBJN for the name of this blog. Because if it’s ever going to mean something else, it is something that will still likely apply to me.

Thank you, that is all.

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

Book Report: Home by David Storey (1971)

Book coverI hit my bookshelves looking for a Christmas novel to put me into the mood for the holidays, and I did not find one. Instead, I found this play by a playwright whose name I didn’t recognize. Of course, whilst I was reading it, I spoke of it with my beautiful wife, and we got to naming modernish–that is, twentieth century, playwrights. She could only name, sort of, Alan Ayckbourn, “The Norman Conquests” guy, and Neil Simon. I could name a couple more, being a reader of twentieth century drama, but not this fellow, so I thought he must have been pretty obscure. Although “pretty obscure” does not generally get a Random House hardback and Book Club Edition.

David Storey was something in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. The son of a coal miner, Storey was a professional rugby player for a bit before turning to painting, novels (his first won a prestigious award and was adapted for the screen in 1963). Then he turned to plays. At the bottom of his Wikipedia entry, you find references to several textbook type academic works covering his plays, mostly, so some university (or maybe several) must have mentioned him in class at some time or another. This particular play opened in London and then ran on Broadway for a while. It was even revived for a run several times in this century (and has its own Wikipedia article). So he was not obscure–I just hadn’t heard about him.

Sadly, that’s a more interesting story than this particular play. It starts off with two men taking a seat and talking, which makes it a bit more difficult in reading than watching, as they don’t have too much distinction on the page or in what they’re saying. They’re passing time, not working toward a goal or problem. So I thought it was a bit Waiting for Godotish, and sometime toward the middle of the first act, I realized they were in prison or something. Spoiler alert: They’re in an insane asylum. In the second act, another man character is introduced who comes in and picks up the table and chairs at various times, and a couple of women characters, one of whom is round-heeled, I guess, and they… talk. About nothing, really, and then the play ends with no real resolution.

So I didn’t like it that much, but to be honest, I am coming to sense that I don’t like too many plays that I read cold; I guess I am more charitable to them when I see them on stage, but even then it’s about fifty-fifty. The ones I like, I really like, and most of the rest are kind of meh.

One thing, though: Look at the book cover. Now, understand that the play describes one of the characters as a middle-aged man in his forties. Brothers and sisters, I am older than that (what? when?). Why do the people on the cover look older than that? Is it because they’re English, and Americans tend to look younger than Europeans? Is it because in the fifty years since, people have taken to looking younger? Both of these? Is it because the directors chose actors who were older than the play text stated? All of these? Or worse: I do kind of look like that? Sadly, and fortunately, that’s what I see of myself reflected in this book–and not someone in an asylum.

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

Book Report: Triumphant Empire by Joshua Chase (2012)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, I have found these books which I ‘lost’ on my to-read shelves after I bought them in 2017. I have had to avert my eyes when I have seen the author at subsequent LibraryCons (in 2018 and 2019) because I had not read his first three books yet. I had even mentioned that I could not find them. He had no idea. On this humble blog, this has been the story of the mythical Joshua Clark books, which I have sometimes mentioned when I reported on other books that I had purchased at cons since then (such as Elton Gahr’s Spaceship Vision: The Impossible Dream earlier this year or Miracle in the Ozarks last year).

But now it becomes clear: From that very first day, when I bought his books three and a half years ago, I got his name wrong. It’s Joshua Chase, not Clark. Not that it made the books any easier to find. Which they were–when I was looking for a monograph or collection of poetry to browse this weekend, I found the three books in this series on the outside rank, but on the lowest shelf on the leftmost book case in my office (seen here before they got really full and started to break down). I don’t think it was the mistake in the name that made my eyes pass over this set for the last three years; I think it might have been because I often have something (sometimes book-things) stacked in front of the book shelves, and the best time for me to find a book is when I’m looking for a different book.

At any rate, the book: You can tell when an author, especially a young one, has played a lot of role-playing games. The fantasy story describes characters in such a fashion that you can almost see their rolled-up scores. This book reads as though the author was big into miniatures and wargaming. The story itself is about 130 pages long with 30 pages of appendixes about the main characters, the factions, and the weapons on each side. It looks like the next book has the same set of appendixes, so it, too will be a quick read.

In the book, the last holdout base of the Vehlan Union falls to the forces of the Ordeon Empire; escaping remnants of the Vehlan forces link up with space pirates whose supreme leader happens to be the brother of the leader of the Vehlans. A small special forces team has been holding out on a conquered planet, and when they’re forced to hide out when one of the members’ estranged family, they learn the Union has fallen. And the Ordeon leader who led the final assault on the Vehlan Union gets promoted to a supreme military leader position and starts his assaults on the remaining non-Ordeon systems in the galaxy.

The writing focuses on the plot and the battles more than individual characters or setting the scenes. As you know, gentle reader, if given the choice between a book which favors a moving plot and a book that focuses on the writing, I’ll pick the book with the plot every time–I do read a lot of genre fiction for this very reason, after all. This book has probably enough plot for a more modern 400 page book, but it’s stripped down perhaps even more than your common men’s adventure paperback.

But it was a quick read, and the plot was engaging enough. So I will read the other two books soon, and I will probably pick up the other(s) in the series if I get the chance just to see how this young man’s writing evolves over time.

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

A Difference That Probably Does Not Reveal As Much About Our Upbringings As I Would Say

So I was telling my beautiful wife about this overpriced Facebook-advertised tchotchke that I ordered for my youngest son for Christmas (and will no doubt see advertisements for it now that I have actually ordered it because clearly I am a good lead for this particular vendor, and that’s how Internet advertising works).

I explained it was a little like pachinko:

“It’s a pegboard where you drop a little metal ball down it, but it has specific gates and things that will guide the way the ball rolls down the board…” I said. Or words to that effect, gentle reader; I did not take down the conversation verbatim, but it’s as real as any conversation you’ll read in a Norman Vincent Peale book.

“Don’t you mean Plinko?” she asked.

Which led me to question, Did I mean Plinko? So I researched it quickly to verify that the game pachinko actually exists and to show her details about it. The boy’s gift is more like pachinko, by the way; Plinko uses a disk and just pegs, whereas pachinko uses balls and bumpers of various kinds. It’s a bit like pinball, but it’s often a gambling device. The boy’s school has a board they use for carnivals and whatnot, and an Internet image search indicates a lot of schools do.

So you know I would like to turn this into some indicator of the differences in our upbringing–that I grew up working class in seedy taverns and she grew up in a comfortable suburban family that watched The Price Is Right. But the seedy taverns, which really weren’t that bad, didn’t have pachinko machines (I grew up in Milwaukee, not Tokyo). That I knew my pachinko from my Plinko probably stems from the fact that I read more widely (id est, randomly) than she does.

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

Book Report: Reflections at Alley Spring by Tania Gray (1980)

Book coverThis book is a small collection of newspaper column-length text accompanied by one of the artists’ drawings of people and places near Alley Spring in northern Shannon County, Missouri. Self-published in 1980, this book includes interviews with local figures who were born around the turn of the century and remember traversing the county in wagons, in cooling their perishables in springs, and who used or restore old mills and steam equipment.

So, yeah, it was right in my wheelhouse.

I take a paper, the Current Local, which is just south of Shannon County and is also on the Current River, so some of the place names are familiar. And my favorite bits in that paper are the columnists, so the book fits into what I’m reading every week anyway.

So I enjoyed it. It’s a little saddle-stitched 59-page collection, so about 20 or 25 “columns.” The drawings are good, too, and the author is a painter by trade, I take it. She’s from before the Internet, so searches on her name bring up a variety of “We found Tania Gray for you, cyberstalker” sites but no examples of her paintings. I’ll have to watch out for them at local antique malls and garage sales, I suppose. As well as perhaps other similar collections, which would be a treat to find.

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

Book Report: Samurai Warriors by Stephen Turnbull (1991)

Book coverI have described “carry” books from time-to-time, gentle reader. These books I throw into my gym bag to read at the martial arts school whilst my boys are taking classes before my class or to carry to church to read during the Sunday School hour. Well, this year has eliminated the latter, and time itself has eliminated the former. When my boys were younger, they took early afternoon young children’s classes, and the adult class was at 7:00, so I would spend sometimes three hours at the dojo before my class. Then, they were in older kids’ classes, which meant I would still spend an hour or so with time to read. But with the new abnormal, once the dojo opened back up, the older kids and adults had classes together, so we have all had class at the same time. And if the school ends up with enough kids again to split the kids from the adults, my boys will both be old enough to take adult classes. So the days of the carry book, or at least the one that goes into the gym bag, are over. And this is one of the last that I will finish, although it spent some time (years) on the table by the recliner because I was tired of carrying it and wanted to finish it during the evening reading (which is how so many of those books end up on the side table for a long time).

At any rate, this is a coffee-tableish book that focuses on showing variations in samurai armor over time more than give a detailed history of the samurai, although it does give a high level overview of medieval Japan and the tensions between the Shogun and the Emperor.

The book reflects my first foray into Japanese history, and unfortunately, it’s not a good intro (which, again, is not so much the point–it’s more a picture book of Samurai armor and art with some overview than a true history). I found it a little challenging because I am not familiar with the topography of the Japanese islands–the book only provides a single map, early in the book, that I had to keep flipping back to–and I am not familiar with the names yet, so I found it a little difficult to follow. Not Russian novel-level bad, but still. The samurai sometimes changed names, which didn’t help.

So it’s a good book if you’re already kind of familiar with Japanese history and samurai armor, as it can reinforce what you’ve already seen or read, but you would better be served reading other works first.

What other works? I will be hanged if I know. A quick search of the local library system for Japanese history brings up titles on how Anime conquered the world and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, so I am not sure how much of a NNipponophile I can become from the library books. But I should read up on it a bit. Japanese history looks to be a little more internally directed than, say, China, where China can get invaded (and does) from every direction, but the Japanese islands mean that no outside force can walk there (a key in conquest, I explain). So Japanese history is full of internecine conflict, but not a lot of being conquered by the Mongols, the Manchu, and so on.

But I’ll find something, sometime, at a used bookstore or book sale. If not, I’ve still got primary sources of Frankish history to read, so I am not hurting.

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

The Word Is DeRooneyfication

I know how Adaptive Curmudgeon feels when he says:

Among my many first world problems was a window in my shop that had rotted away. Wind was whistling through the 1″+ gaps around what once was the edges. Last year I bought a cheap window to fit the rough opening, and then dropped the ball… for an entire year.

As long as you’re not dead you haven’t given up. Right?

Which is why I have coined the term and have a whole category, sparsely populated, called DeRooneyfication, which is:

Sometime when I was reading some of his columns some number of years ago, I related to one of Andy Rooney’s situations. He mentioned going into his basement workshop and finding a number of projects that had been off to the side for a number of years, including a chair that needed fixing and whatnot. Even though I was probably just the long side of thirty at the time, it resonated with me, since I’d been collecting projects and materials for projects since before I got married. Now that I’m just the short side of forty–and soon on its long side–I decided to start finishing some of those projects.

But not lots of projects, gentle reader, oh, no! As a matter of fact, the blocker project, another term I coined, about which I wrote in 2018, has not been completed (by me, he said to really underline the passive voice). Instead, it has been moved to the side table in my workshop area of the garage. By “workshop area,” I generally mean the place where things get dumped, so that the first and most difficult project of any energized period of doing on my part is cleaning up the area so I can do anything there. A project itself that I often start but seldom finish.

I did, however, complete a little project last weekend that I sort of feel proud of/sort of disappointed that it took me so long to actually do it.

Continue reading “The Word Is DeRooneyfication”

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

Book Report: I Sing of America by Earle Davis (1981)

Book coverThis is a collection of poetry, or rather a group of cantos about America. Spoiler alert: About the only good thing about America is jazz music. Everything else is pretty much killing the Indians, slavery, and oppression. Well, not exactly that bad but mostly so.

So poetical bashing of America goes back a long time, but I guess Charles Sykes published ProfScam in 1988 and The Hollow Men in 1990 (I read them in my formative college years when they still had that new book smell).

The verse itself is not very evocative; rather, it’s expository, preferring to mostly tell what it wants to say (America bad, or at least suspect). The author in a note at the end says he’s trying to emulate Ezra Pound and the Chinese Odes in writing a vast epic built on individual cantos (there are 15) which include a narrator introductions to individual segments in each canto. The author intends for each canto or indeed segment to be an independent poem, so the rhyme scheme and rhythm varies. Some are better than others. But that praise is relative. Nothing in it is very compelling.

The book is signed, an unnumbered copy of a limited printing of 100 copies. It looks like it was laid out with a typewriter.

It probably was, as it precedes the desktop publishing revolution. My first chapbook, Unrequited, appeared during the desktop publishing revolution and still looks like it was laid out with a typewriter. But on a computer! We all got better.

My beautiful wife glanced over at some point and read some of it, pronouncing it not good, and wondering why I read things that are not good (poems and novels). The professor conducting the current lecture series to which I am listening said yesterday that writers can learn as much or more from reading bad things as good. Which is what I also maintain. Although the importantest lesson for writers is to write as I hope to learn someday.

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

Book Report: Zen and the Art of Stick Fighting by Stephen F. Kaufmann (2000)

Book coverI bought this book at ABC Books in June of 2019, in the Before Times (sudden thought: this might still be the Before Times of something; I’d better get to enjoying them more). As I mentioned then, my martial arts school has been working with escrima sticks for a while, so I thought I might learn something from this book.

Well, I picked it up this weekend and paged through it pretty quickly because it is chock full of pictures.

So, what did I learn from the book?

Well, not a lot of really new materialy. The sticks used in the pictures and this sensei’s training are a little longer than the ones we use in our class. But he described some of the strikes in terms of overhead strikes, forward strikes, reverse strikes, and terms we don’t use in our school–when I turned them into 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, I got a little more out of it. Because the stick is longer, the book shows two-handed strikes and a lot of rear strikes with the butt of the stick that my kyoshi does not emphasize. The book has a lot of multiple-attacker scenarios that we haven’t covered in my school, but sometimes I looked at them and thought, “Why would you do it that way? You’re turning this way and then reverse the motion to do this instead of following through and doing this….” Of course, some of the training is designed to break down tendencies and habits to add new possibilities to your repertoire. So I can’t discount it as I cannot discount what my kyoshi does at our school. He has really shaken things up after I got my second degree black belt, which made me glad I got it when I did.

However, I am not sure I would ever want to swing the stick up and over my own shoulders and head to attack someone behind me. In part of a second strike on a separate attacker, I would prefer to spin out and strike from a forward position as this would move me out of a position where one attacker is ahead of me and the other is behind me. But, again, I suppose it is important to drill things you probably wouldn’t use so you know how to do them if you have to.

Also, the starting stick position in the book is the stick held down by the legs, which I guess is a good practice starting position for carrying a walking stick or an umbrella, but I would definitely worry about speed in bringing that up for defense. An improvised weapon, though, would probably go to our ready-start position, which is up over the shoulder. Also, the book talks about using the stick as a block against kicks and punches, which seems a little iffy to me–it’s placing the strength of your wrist against the body weight of an attacker, and I don’t think my wrist and stick would completely stop an overhand right from someone my size–or smaller, even. But, like I said, perhaps it’s best to practice things you will never use in case you ever do.

You know, in addition to browsing martial arts books since I’ve been taking martial arts, I also checked them out from the library when I was a scrawny kid and wanted to learn karate so I could show those other kids. Unfortunately, I never did learn the martial arts from the books because you really can’t from a start and end photograph. You can learn how to use a weight-lifting machine from the iconography on the machine because the machine really inhibits motion to the proper point A to point B (Dom Mazetti notwithstanding). The human body is not like that, though, so one can swing a stick in many ways. How far outside the body line should the stick go from up to down? How much arc on the whack? Oh, yeah, do not drag like you’re cutting with a sword–swing to the point of contact and back.

So a book on martial arts is a good reminder or perhaps good inspiration if you already have experience with martial arts and know how some of the moves should work before looking at the pictures. But you’re not really likely to become good at stick fighting just from this book. You need the reps. So do I. We’ve got a new kata that started last cycle, and I only kind of remember the first three positions/moves. So I should get to class more often, you’re saying; indeed, I should.

Also, I noted in the book that the author cites one of his previous volumes: The Martial Artist’s Guide to The Five Rings, which I bought and started to read in October 2018. I don’t think I finished it; I wonder where it has gone (one of the book accumulation points, no doubt).

So I shall probably have to pick that one up again when I find it.

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

Metal Makes Everything Better

As you know, gentle reader, I have often postulated that metal makes all music better and have pointed out how much better Leo Moracchioli’s covers sound than the originals (see Transgenre Music from 2018 and many, many postings in the Legion of Metal Friends Facebook group or build a time machine to travel back to the Redeemer Trunk or Treat in 2018 where we did a heavy metal concert theme and played Frogleap Studios on a loop).

Well, B.P. has a more thoughtful post called Making Metal Out Of Rock which makes the same point, albeit with significantly less Noregianness.

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