Brian J.’s Bold Interpretation of British Tabloid Home Pages Proves Laughably Wrong

My interpretation of headlines in May 2020–Jolly Old England Is Getting Back To Normal:

You can tell the ‘crisis’ is coming to a close when the elected officials greatest concern is getting more money.

Today’s front page:

GIFT OF THE JAB Brits should be able to enjoy a ‘happy and free Great British summer’ with most UK adults vaccinated, says Matt Hancock

SHOT IN THE ARM Boris Johnson warned EU vaccine blockade risked pensioners’ lives in ‘spicy’ seven-hour showdown

SAFE SPACE Social distancing could be in place for rest of year unless Covid vaccine can halt ‘third death spike’, say ministers

Oh, well. Better luck this year, I suppose

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This Town Needs An Anemone

A teacher I know on Facebook who once offered me straight whiskey (I’m not saying that all teachers drink straight whiskey; all I am saying is that the only people who have offered me straight whiskey were teachers) posted “This town needs an….” on Facebook.

You know, I once made a GIPHY gif of Jack Nicholson from the Tim Burton Batman movie with the caption “This town needs an anemone.” Or maybe “an anemone.” The whole story is here (to which the gif is incidental). But the gif has been removed.

Okay, maybe the format of the URL changed. Or it got taken down by GIPHY because it has copyrighted material in it. Maybe it was disinformation because it had a pun in the caption instead of the actual quote.

But here’s what I got searching for “this town need [sic] an anemone [spelled correctly and pronounced correctly these days as I explained in the earlier post]“:

A gif of Joe Biden saying “People Need Hope” as the top result and magnified in the bigger rotating player to the side.

I will leave you to speculate why.

Meanwhile, I proffer to you, as I did my teacher friend, this response to her initial query:

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The Source of the Thing That Dad Always Says

Whenever one of the boys is somewhere that I want to sit, I say to him, “Move over, bacon. Now there’s something meaner.”

If you are of a certain age, you probably remember the Sizzlean commercials.

Actually, I more remember this one, but instead of leaner, they say meatier. Which could still work as the source, but although I remember the commercial more clearly, I remembered the leaner tag line, so that’s what I was riffing on.

For more about Sizzlean, see What Happened To Sizzlean Bacon? (short answer: the article does not answer the question definitively, does no actual reporting but reading Wikipedia, but provides content for the Internet with a couple of nostalgic YouTube embeds for the oldsters) as recommended by the Ace of Spades HQ Overnight Open Thread.

Truly, the 70s and 80s were a magical time of bastardized meat products such as Sizzlean and Steak-umms. Okay, I know their real birthdates fall outside of that window, but their advertising were at their peaks during my formative years.

And even though they’re eldritch and unholy combinations of meat bound together by dark arts, I’d still order them before tofurkey or Impossible anything.

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On Great Masters: Liszt–His Life and Music by Professor Robert Greenberg (2002)

Book coverAfter listening to the course on Brahms earlier in the month, I started on this one immediately as Brahms hated him. So I wanted to see if Liszt hated Brahms. Although it is mentioned, more time is focused on how Liszt helped Wagner’s career along and then came to hate him even as one of his (Liszt’s) daughters married the opera composer.

So, Liszt life does follow the pattern of many of the other composers and important musical figures of his time: A gifted child, nay, a prodigy whose family sacrifices to get him musical lessons and then take him on tour before he’s ready, like Luke leaving Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. They make some money, but something happens (Liszt’s father dies while leading Liszt on the tour) which ends that segment of his life. He then takes a few years off, goes on an extended concert tour, supports from afar a Hungarian rebellion (Liszt being a Hungarian born of German stock, he identifies as Hungarian). He settles in Weimar, builds it into a cultural center, and has a turbulent family life with two women whom he cannot marry.

The lectures include:

  1. Le Concert, C’est Moi–The Concert Is Me
  2. A Born Pianist
  3. Revelation
  4. Transcendence
  5. Weimar
  6. The Music at Weimar
  7. Rome
  8. A Life Well Lived

The lectures have a wonderful digression into the evolution of the harpsichord into the piano and then improvements in piano technology that really allowed the music of Beethoven and eventually Liszt.

So my impression of it is that Liszt was a phenomenal pianist and composer of piano pieces–whose works were often called impossible to play until someone saw Liszt himself do it–but he is not as well known for his symphonies. And later, he wrote symphonic poems, musical responses to known stories, that were not well received in his day but are heavily influential even to this day. Which probably means that they played some part in the twentieth century degradation of all arts, but I am not steeped enough in the study of music–despite listening to a couple of these lecture series–to really make a good case for it. I just hold as my default that all art veered from good to laying the ground work for bad in about 1880 or thereabouts.

Still, I like Robert Greenberg as a lecturer and look forward to the other couple of sets I have on the stack in this lecture series series. Although I have changed focus and am listening to something different now–I fear if I listened to them all at once, I would not distinguish them as well as their biographies have a lot of similarities.

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I Can Wait To See How They Screw This Up

George Clooney gives ‘Buck Rogers’ reboot serious star power

I bet climate change. And nobody will take my bet that the antagonists will be changed from Chinese. Probably to Republicans. Or businessmen who brought on the apocalypse for their own power/profit.

Reeling in the years, here’s previous mention of Buck Rogers on MfBJN:

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I Read Somewhere…

…that the United States ordered 1.5 million Purple Heart medals as part of the preparation for an invasion of the Japanese home islands in World War II, and since we did not actually have to go forward with the invasion (due to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for those of you who went to public school), the United States did not use all of those Purple Heart medals until 2008.

I read that here (link via Sarah Hoyt overnighting on Instapundit).

But you can bet I will be dropping that into conversation a bunch.

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Book Report: The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Susan McBride (2004)

Book coverI thought I first heard about Susan McBride because she was the first winner of the Mayhaven Publishing prize for fiction which came with a publishing contract. I entered my novel John Donnelly’s Gold in the same competition (well, a later one–not the same as Ms. McBride) and did not win. But that’s not exactly how it went down. Thanks to this blog’s waybacking, I can see that I read And Then She Was Gone in 2006 because I’d discovered the author as a local author on the Big Sleep Books Web site and then learned about the Mayhaven Publishing contest from her. So. You know, I have nobody left who can tell me what I was like when I was younger. Which is why I keep on blogging even on days when this blog gets readers in the single digit.

At any rate, perhaps I will now remember that I have read something by this author. Likely, though, I will remember this book because it’s part of the Debutante Dropout series, of which I hear from time to time. And it’s got a blurb by Elaine Viets on the back, and I am pretty sure Viets was the last decent metro columnist in St. Louis. But enough about that.

So, about this particular book:

Andy, the first-person narrator of the book, is a Web designer. Her widowed mother is a society woman, and her parents raised Andy to be a princess, but Andy rebels against all that, working for non-profits as a Web master. Her mother hooks her up on an emergency basis with a Martha Stewart type of personality whose local show has just been syndicated, and her former Web master quit right before the big launch party because the hostess is a diva. So Andy navigates this millieu, the hostess, her boytoy trainer (who is a bit of a sugar sonny who glomps onto wealthy widows), the hostess’s daughter (also a partner of the boytoy trainer) who the hostess has ignored on her climb to success and who has a host of mental problems and a history of addictions, the company chef who does not feel he is appreciated, and various hangers-on in that retinue. She also deals with her mother’s pressures, the story of the black family moving in down the block, and her relationship with a defense attorney that her mother set her up with.

Finally, on page 262 of 353, someone dies. It’s a small thing, I know, but when you have murder in the title, one expects a dead body before long. Instead, the book focuses on the main character drifting through scenes with these people until, after a disaster at the launch party, the next day the hostess drops dead at a party hosted by the main character’s mother to welcome the new black neighbors to be filmed as an episode of the new show casting light on the ladies’ club having the party. So the main character drifts along with a reporter friend, who uncovers the family secret (the adopted daughter of the new black family is actually the natural daughter of the hostess, given for adoption thirty years ago and recently hired as the hostess’s personal assistant because she wanted to be closer to her mother). Whodunit? The daughter, accidentally, who just wanted to make her mother sick and need her (the daughter’s) help to recover, but a shared genetic defect made her predisposed to dying from a dose of ephedra–as the daughter herself almost did the day before (?).

At any rate, the book has a plot and group of characters worthy of a Chandler or a Ross MacDonald book. However, the first-person narrator kind of drifts through the scenes within it, and most of the scenes and verbiage deal with the narrator’s responses to her mother and the other characters in the book. Although she is present at the major events, she’s only a witness to many of them, and other characters (the reporter friend, a police detective, also women) conduct much of the investigation. The subplot of the adopted daughter is really just tacked on, and the ending is very quick (after the murder, the scenes include a trip to a small town to uncover the family secret, and discovering where the boytoy disappeared to–the pond behind the hostess’s house).

So it’s a bit like a Jane Austen book’s sensibility applied to a rich-people-doing-bad-things mystery a la Chandler or Ross MacDonald. But it didn’t work for me as it prioritized wordy reflection on personal relationships over investigation and action. Not my bag, baby.

I flagged a couple of things (including the exact page where the murder occurred because I was starting to think that no murder would actually take place).

Trump Sighting:
When the author is chiding herself, she says:

Sure, Andy, sure. And Ivana Trump shops at Wal-Mart.

I am thinking about starting to actively track mentions of Trumps in books from the 1980s through the early part of the century, where Trump was shorthand for ostentatious and gaudy. Perhaps it will illustrate how prevalent he was in popular culture for thirty-five years before running for President–a feat that modern “celebrities” like Kanye West will have a difficult time replicating. Plus, it will make it easier for the authorities to identify wrong thinkers in the past who mentioned the name of He Who Must Be Scrubbed/He Who Must Be Forgotten and places where the Unholy Name must be expunged.

Misquoting Alanis:

The author misquotes a (then) nine-year-old (now 26-year-old, old man) Alanis Morissette song when she says “Life is a funny thing…isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?” The song never says “Life is a funny thing.” The song says:

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out

Heaven help me, but I remember that song. I think Jagged Little Pill might have been the first CD I bought. And possibly the only non-duplicate CD I have ever sold or donated.

Blogs Educated Me To:

My daddy used to drive a Caddy. A Brougham d’Elegance that he often bragged was inches longer than the Lincoln Town Car.

I know what brougham means because I read Riverside Green, frequent contributor Tom Klocktau often posts about this particular body style.

And, fun fact: When I was in college and finally getting a driver’s license, my father asked me to move my great-grandmother’s Lincoln from the driveway to the street, saying that it would probably be my car someday. I had trouble parking the thing because I could not see the curb across that great expanse of blue hood. Also, my great-grandmother lived several years after I finished school and moved back to Missouri, by which time I had gotten my red old yellow car–and probably one or two others that I drove into the ground besides.

Memories of What I Once Was:

There was even a shot of her [the hostess] in a yoga pose that had me wondering if someone had not done a bit of airbrushing to get that foot behind her head.

You know, I used to be able to do that, when I was a kid. I don’t know why it was a thing for us to compare in 1981, but we did. Maybe it was an episode of Three’s Company where Jack gets his legs stuck in the lotus position. I could sit in the lotus position, even swinging my legs into position without using my hands, and I could put my foot behind my head. My mother and brother could, too. I can’t any more–I have been a little leary of stretching the groin since I tore a muscle in it stretching a couple years ago in martial arts class–but my boys and wife can. I have a book of stretching, and maybe I will get into it and get there. I can kick head high, though, and really, who needs more than that?

Wrong Punch:

Amber Lynn swung at her husband, catching him with a right hook beneath the chin.

I know, I read one book on boxing, and suddenly I think I am an expert, but a punch landing under the chin is generally an uppercut. A hook would land on the side of the chin as the motion of the arm and fist are mostly horizontal.

So I will slot this book in the 2021 Winter Reading Challenge in the Female Protagonist category, leaving open the Crime slot in case I pick up another crime novel before the end of next month. And I probably won’t seek out more McBride, but the odds that I have previously remembered the name at book sales over the last decade and stocked some of her other works on my to-read bookshelves are pretty good. And, now that I think of it, I might have an Elaine Viets novel somewhere that I might want to check out.

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Who Did Not See This Coming?

Walmart to convert dozens of stores into high-tech warehouses:

Walmart said it will convert space at dozens of its stores into high-tech warehouse space as it expects a surge in online orders for pickup and delivery will persist beyond the pandemic.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said some store locations will get divvied up while others will get additional square footage to create on-site mini-fulfillment centers, in which automated robots roam the floor to retrieve certain items and bring them to an assembly work station.

The robots will whittle the process of picking and packing orders down to “a few minutes,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product in the US, said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Personal shoppers will be used, however, to retrieve fresh food like meat and produce as well as bulkier items, he said.

On occasion, when I have gone to Walmart, I seemed to see more associates picking orders than shoppers. It wasn’t true, of course, but I wondered where the tipping point would come where Walmart would just close down the stores and turn them into warehouses.

That time, apparently, is now.

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But How Have They Lived?

In a post The Fremen are Chechens: “Sabres of Paradise” as inspiration for Dune, Scott Locklin issues this cri-de-coeur about current popular culture:

Similarly, our degenerate era of 0-dimensional Mary Sue NPC action heroes, we need better stories, and better heroes and villains. We need character arc and amusing relatable personalities which embody something like real people who actually lived, rather than unrelatable superhero robots which act like invincible video game avatars.

Ah, but what other experiences do the young have now? The ones that go to college all have the same basic sets of experience; the ones who go Hollywood all have the Hollywood screenwriting life or those who go onto writing Serious Books tend to end up teaching colleges themselves. And all of them have played video games as their main source of entertainment for decades now. So they’re following the adage of write what you know. Which, unfortunately, isn’t much.

Or maybe this is a bit of a personal projection cri-de-coeur. I have not written a lot of fiction since I started working a desk job–the stories that come out of being a middle-aged, work-from-home desk jockey don’t excite me, much less an audience. Let me tell you about my exciting career as a blogger! Let me captivate you with spending my days on conference calls where I only say things to make sure everyone knows I am actually here. And so on.

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The Other, Inadvertent, Pocket Squares of Brian J.

I mentioned previously that I am occasionally a fashion plate with my era-appropriate pocket squares; however, I am also not setting trends with another inadvertent pocket square I favor:

When I’m folding laundry, I tend to put the used dryer sheets in my shirt pocket to remember to throw them out. If I put them in my pants pocket, I tend to forget them, which means in a day or so I will have one or more clean used dryer sheets coming out of the laundry.

However, as it happens sometimes, I forget them in my shirt pocket–let’s face it, I’m not the sort of guy who looks at himself in a mirror frequently, even when going out–and I go out into public with one or more spent Bounce sheets for the world to admire.

Nobody mentions it, though, because are you going to question 195 pounds of sour attitude and Walmart-splendor that he’s got a dryer sheet in his pocket? It might just be the modern chip on the shoulder! I might be just daring you to take the dryer sheet out of my pocket.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try to insert that phrase into the lexicon since nobody knows or understands the source of phrases chip on the shoulder or knock your block off any more.

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Not Just Frozen Custard

Last week’s Greene County Commonwealth puts the arrival of a locally grown frozen custard shop on a timeline of important events in human history:

I mean, it’s frozen custard, yo. I’m from Milwaukee. I’ve been to Kopp’s. I’ve been to Kalt’s. They serve frozen custard just as good, and they have burgers. So.

Although I’m going to try to get “So what do you get at Andy’s?” to be the Springfield equivalent of “So where did you go to high school?”

1983 is an interesting choice for The Internet is born, though. I had to research it. That’s when ARPANet went to TCP/IP. Well, maybe that’s when the “Internet” was rebooted, but born? Also note the accompanying photo is a Web browser. Which really doesn’t become popular for another decade and change. Kids Journalists these days, huh?

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Book Report: House on the Rock (1988)

Book coverStrangely enough, I am pretty sure that I read a later version of this book not long after I visited in 2015. Although I have not done a direct comparison of the two, both are copyright by the House on the Rock, so this book is essentially what I would have picked up if I had visited the House on the Rock if I’d had an intact family that took vacations in high school.

So my memories of the House on the Rock track with the ones I had when I originally read the later version (and the trip was fresher in my mind): A lot of the rooms, especially the original ones, were dark, and I didn’t remember them except as a block of the dark rooms. I remember the giant carousel, some of the automaton music machines, and the room with the little drug store automatons.

Other rooms that I remember, such as the giant sculpture of a sea monster fight and the infinity room (the finger of glass that extends over the valley, where you can walk out and look around) are represented in the back of the book with artist renderings because they were only then under construction. Well, the effect was to make everything else feel like I had seen it after riding out to it in the back of a 1967 Chevy Impala.

A nice return to a memory. I am hoping to get back to Wisconsin this year or next, but not the House on the Rock. I have been, and I have the souvenir books.

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Kim du Toit: Metalhead

So, yesterday, Kim du Toit extolled the virtues of symphonic metal, recommending the works of Nightwish (both Floor and Tarja), Epica, Ayreon, Within Temptation, and Battle Beast (I happened to be listening to their eponymous album whilst reading his post).

No mention of Semblant (whose album Obscura I listened to before the Battle Beast, and who properly is classified as Brazilian death metal, but Mizuho Lin was also trained classically) or Amaranthe.

Also, no pictures, which is unlike him.

So I will remedy that.

Elize Ryd,
Mizuho Lin,
Sharon van Adel,
Within Temptation
Noora Louhimo,
Battle Beast

Also, let us not forget that Amaranthe’s “82nd All The Way” is the best Swedish band cover of another Swedish band’s (Sabaton’s) song about American Congressional Medal of Honor winner Alvin York you’ll hear all day:

Or, as I like to call it, The Plank Song, because when it comes on at the gym, I have to stop what I’m doing to try to do a plank through the whole song. I’m not there yet.

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Book Report: Complete Karate by J. Allen Queen (1994)

Book coverThis is another martial arts book I picked up at ABC Books, this one almost a year and a half ago. In the Before Times.

This book is a textbook for starting Karate or its derivative martial arts forms. Judging by the history it presents, most martial arts derive from a karate way in the past, with differences arising in different places (Tae Kwon Do, from Korea, features more kicking than Japanese forms of Karate because the Koreans tended to be taller than the Japanese, the book asserts–I have no idea if the science and anthropology bears this out, but it makes sense).

The book covers early elements of starting out, including pickin a gi (some of the ones in the book are quite spangled). It talks about basic strikes, but mostly with only the two-photo method and then goes into using those techniques in sparring and in kata (forms, where you do a choreographed set of moves). It also identifies some warm-up and other exercises you can do before class or as part of class to loosen up or increase your flexibility.

As it focuses on traditional strikes and not the boxing that my school focuses on, but I don’t wonder if I can see an evolution in the curriculum from sparring. When I started out six or seven years ago, some of the existing black belts threw back fists and jump punches that caught us n00bs by surprise. Except for the instructors, they’re all gone now. We really didn’t cover those strikes back in those days, and only covered the knife hand and ridge hand (karate chops) a little bit. Now we don’t cover them at all, and in free sparring, I can catch the newer students by surprise with the more traditional strikes since they’re trained and have practiced watching for boxing strikes. Also, I am the old man there now. I think one or two students might be older than I am, but none of the instructors are.

Jeez, every time I think of that, I feel the need to ice something.

So this book is kind of bifurcated in focus, perhaps on purpose: It is targeted to people who have yet to take a martial art–hence the talk about gear and gis, but also a source book to remember the different techniques. So it’s pretty good, better than some of the others I’ve browsed.

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I Thought We Were Past The “Haw-Haw!” Stage, But No

Missouri senator calling for limits on local lockdowns tests positive for COVID-19

There’s no mention of his condition nor a hope for his recovery; no, just the stain of a positive test coupled with the bad things he said (that is, Republican positions on various issues), and casting wider aspersions on the Republicans who have not taken The Crisis seriously enough and have been/should be punished with the stain of a positive coronavirus test.

Nothing but making sure that everyone knows that this fellow, who thinks wrongly, bears the stain.

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As The Prophets Foretold

I got this book at ABC Books.

When I got it home, I did put it directly on the read shelves in the poetry corner, where I discovered that although I do indeed have a volume with Tennyson Illustrated on the cover, they are not, in fact, in the same set nor are they by the same publisher. I guess everyone at the end of the 19th century was doing lush editions of current (!) poets.

I did put it immediately on the read shelf next to the Tennyson and the other collections of poetry from the 1800s that I own (except for the one that I am currently reading, sort of). I mean, I did buy some slightly younger (early 20th century) reading copies of Longfellow’s work last spring from ABC Books when I was placing orders. So I have those to read and later put on the shelf beside this book.

The nice display shelf has the old Tennyson, the new old Longfellow, the Ogden Nash I have read over the years, the Wordsworth and Millay my sainted mother bought me for Christmas thirty (!) years ago, and some Riley and Whittier. I’ve had to start double-stacking books even here (which is why Jane Eyre is on a poetry shelf), so I have hidden an embarrassingly large selection of Rod McKuen.

So, gentle reader, does this move me into the category of blue-blood book collector, or am I still in my more comfortable blue collar mere book accumulator?

I suppose I will turn a corner if I have an insurance agent give me a rider on my homeowner insurance for the books. I’m just afraid to have them appraised and found wanting.

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Book Report: Gettysburg Visions by Sam Weaver (2002)

Book coverThis is the size and shape of a poetry chapbook, but it’s printed on glossy paper with four color pictures throughout. So it was anything but chap, gentle reader. Apparently, the author has a ministry of his own (Oil and Wine Ministries) where you can actually download this book and his others as a PDF for free without having to pay ABC Books $3.50 for it.

At any rate, the poems are simple rhymed numbers based on the Battle of Gettysburg triggered by the author’s visit. They talk about Jesus’ forgiveness and how soldiers on both sides received grace as all were sinners redeemed by the savior. It’s a thought that might be a little nuanced for modern audiences. But probably not those reading Bible-inspired poetry published by a ministry organization.

So a very quick read indeed, as half the book is color pictures of the battlefield. It also has a collection of Bible verses tied to the poems, so there’s some learning in addition to just reading poetry. But the poetry itself doesn’t rise much above grandmother poetry, although to be honest, I still prefer it to more modern Good Poetry.

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