Another Book Reader of Note

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain occasionally does a round-up of his recent reading.

He did one today.

I know I have not been reading much over the last couple of weeks; a chapter or two of a book or a short story or part of a long short story at night, Christmas cards and chapbooks during football games.

Which is not going to get me through this library any time soon. And it’s not getting me to reading the source material from audiobooks and audio courses I’ve listened to such as Aristotle or St. Augustine (although Pamela which I heard about briefly in The English Novel, remains only barely started beside my reading chair).

Part of it is that my reading chair is near the video game arena in the family room, so most nights it’s given over to my boys playing video games and watching one or two different videos each which does not lend itself to quiet, reflective reading (unlike, say, football games).

I might have to remove myself to another location to read in the evenings. When we first moved to Nogglestead twelve years ago, I did my reading upstairs because my recliner was in front of the television for watching football until we got a living room set for the lower level. I might make my way up there again, which would also lend itself to listening to records, which would mean that it wouldn’t take me months to read the things I accumulate at book sales.

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The Music Pulls Me Back

So I mentioned that I recently bought Brenda Russell’s album Get Here amongst sixty or so other records at the Friends of the Library Book Sale a couple weeks ago. I didn’t recognize the name, but as I was spinning the platter tonight for the first time, it yanked me back.

Her biggest hit, “Piano in the Dark”, comes from this album.

Suddenly, I am back in the computer room–a, what, spare room or bedroom except it had the stairs to the basement in it–in our house down the gravel road. It’s summer, and I’m monkeying around on the Commodore 128, typing programs in from magazines or playing disks’ worth of games we downloaded from BBSes before moving to a house in a valley a mile or so off the state highway where we had a party line. In 1988. The songs from those two and a half years are somehow more vivid than from other periods in my life.

Then I heard her sing “Get Here”, the title track from the album, and I thought, That’s not quite right.

Because I remember the Oleta Adams cover, which charted much higher, a couple years later.

Suddenly, I’m in college, noodling around either on the Commodore 64 I bought from the later Goth King of St. Louis to take to school or on the old 286 that that my stepmother’s mother bought for $2000 with an employee discount at Sears and I repaid over the course of six months at minimum wage. Probably playing it on the stereo I bought from Iron Maiden poster Dave for $20 My mom says I should charge more because it’s a good stereo, so give me $5 more for the speakers in the days where WKTI played songs like this one and “I Wanna Be Rich” over and over again.

Well, that was certainly worth the dollar I paid for it.

When I pulled up the YouTube video for “Piano in the Dark”, YouTube queued up Breathe’s “Hands to Heaven” and Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City” as things to play next. I already have both on CD already, on All That Jazz and the Miami Vice soundtrack. Because I was into 80s pop in the 80s, and I’ve only gotten into LPs and R&B records (and R&B influenced pop) in the 21st century. Or because I’m a racist/misogynist. Maybe both.

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In Case You’re Wondering Who Has My Man Card

Jogger hit by a car on U.S. 65 near Fair Grove, Mo.

The woman kept on running after the car hit her. She eventually returned to the scene with minor injuries.

You know, running out of Nogglestead takes you on a number of two-lane farm roads with high rates of speed and a state highway, but I’ve only had to dodge a car once (as it turns out, one of the fellows with whom I’ve studied martial arts and who built our new pool fence nine years ago was driving right behind the car I dodged and saw the whole thing).

One more reason for me to not run. Because if I got hit by a car, I would take the opportunity to lie down for a little while. Unlike some Gladyses of the world.

Also, the question arises, How out of date is “man card”? Seven years? Ten? Or more?

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Wrong Century

My Facebook feed these days is about 70% ads and promoted posts from old Hollywood, random authors, and retro/nostalgia sites.

One of which recently delivered this up to me:

How many of you had pieces of furniture in your house in the 1970s?

Well, I did not have any of these in my house in the 21st century, but my sainted mother had two differently sized end tables and the coffee table in her home in the 21st century:

My brother inherited the items after she passed. I am not sure if he still has the pieces–I didn’t look too carefully the last time I was out there–but these are heavy and heirloom quality. After all, I am pretty sure that my mother inherited them from her mother in the middle 1980s or perhaps from her sister.

Regardless, I have to wonder how many of these nostalgia clickbait posts are written by young people who don’t realize that, as you get older, the past, especially the artifacts, come along with you. Or perhaps it’s just me, someone who relies on personal relics to connect to the past since so many of the people I knew and could corroborate my stories have passed on or don’t remember.

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I Do Better Than British Journalists

One of the British tabs had a guessing game headline:

GUESS WHO Hunky actor is unrecognisable after he’s transformed into an OAP for new film

C’mon, man, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch. Even less difficult than guessing Simon LeBon.

And as for a bit of a behind-the-scenes note here at MfBJN: In composing this post, I fact-checked myself and did not publish two things I thought to be true but which are not.

First, I asserted in a throw-away line that Benedict Cumberbatch had two doctorates, one in Who and one in Strange. However, I looked to make sure he did play Doctor Who, but guess what? He’s one of the British actors who appeared in American media around the same time, so I just assume that they all played the new Doctor Who at some point. However, neither he nor Tom Hiddleston actually played Doctor Who, which I shall have to remember to avoid making this mistake, perhaps in haste, in the future.

The second one was that I was going to make light of this other article from The Sun the same day:

SHOVEL WHAMMY Shocking moment driver chases man with a SPADE and smashes his back window after being body slammed in road rage row

I was going to say, Haw, Haw, dumb journalist! That’s not a spade, that’s a shovel! However, apparently in Britain, according to this Web site, and perhaps everywhere in the world except Nogglestead, the spade does not look like the playing card suit with a pointed tip; what we call a spade at Nogglestead is merely a digging shovel, and the spade has a flat edge after all.

So journalists and headline writers in the U.K. might be smarter than me. Or perhaps I need to work in the garden more instead of spending a lot of time writing and researching a blog post to be seen by a handful of people.

But rest assured, I have lairs and lairs of fact checkers.

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Great Minds Think Alike, And So Do Ours

I was talking to the woman at the cleaners who handles my eldest’s JROTC uniform weekly about how time passes differently for kids versus we elder folk because each year is a larger percentage of their lives than ours. So a kid who’s fifteen, his fifteenth year is 7 percent of his life, and likely 10 or more percent of the life that he remembers well. Someone who’s going through his fiftieth year, the year is only 2 percent, and he might not remember much of it at all.

On Friday, Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise, explained:

I’ve long felt that I understood why this was. Let me give it a shot.

For a newborn, the second day it’s outside and breathing is 50% of its entire life. For a six-year-old, half of their life is three years – much more. It’s not a big percentage, but it’s much smaller than 50%. For a sixteen-year-old, half their life is eight years.

If you’re forty – half your life is twenty years. 1/8 versus 1/20? It’s amazingly different. We don’t perceive life as a line. We’re living inside of it – we compare our lives to the only thing we have . . . our lives. Each day you live is smaller than the last.

But that’s not everything.

As we age, novelty decreases. When we’re young, experiences and knowledge are coming at us so quickly that we are presented with novel (new and unique) information daily. New words. New thoughts. New ideas.

I have known this and have explained it to my sons and to everyone who will listen.

I have some photos rotating on my auxiliary monitor beside me; one crops up of the boys with medals for a middle school event. To me, it was very recent; to the boys, this was, what, 2018? A long time ago. By the time that period elapses again, the oldest will be out of the house, and the youngest will be, what, a junior in high school? The whole lives that they have known here will only be an interlude in my life, and the soon-to-be-over beginning of the rest of their lives. I’ve known this, too, for a while–I have been saying that we’re on the downhill slide since the oldest was nine. But it gets realer and realer in my imagination.

I already grieve for this time, even as I spend too much of it on work and other things or being frustrated/exasperated with them when I’m with them. Fortunately, I will only remember the best parts. And not my own, what, dread of our separation?

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Book Report: The Controlled Clasp by John Bahnke (1972)

Book coverI bought this in one of the three packets of chapbooks that I got for a dollar each at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale this autumn. The three sets of chapbooks and another volume of poetry are about all the books I got, instead focusing on albums as you might recall, gentle reader.

Well, about this book. Apparently it’s a chapbook of “poetry” from 1972. That’s what I gather from limited Internet searches for the book and the poet on the Internet. The first poem, or perhaps the section, is called “Nightmares in the Dark”, and the whole collection with its dated poems ranging from 1968 to 1972 read like a Vietnam veteran working through his PTSD or perhaps a patient in an institution working through some things. The prose poems are reflective of nightmares, where the poet-narrator is in the jungle, or meeting with a woman whom he gores or who gores him, and there’s a clown that keeps reappearing.

Most of them are in paragraph form, not verse, and some themes repeat. But it’s not very poetic, and it’s not compelling reading. I finished it, not browsing during football–the prose is too dense to glance down and glance up–but in the chair just for completeness sake. And to add to my annual tally easily.

So far, no nightmares of my own on account of it, which is nice.

So probably something to avoid.

But I get the sense that the story behind the book is better than the book, and that’s quite probably lost.

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Book Report: Carver: A Life In Poems by Marilyn Nelson (2001)

Book coverI picked up this Scholastic book to browse during a football game, and I thought, a collection of poems about the life of George Washington Carver for kids? Who needs that? Who would read that?

But, you know what? I kind of got into it eventually. The book builds poems, not very poetic poems but rather poetry-prose with line breaks and distinct phrases instead of full sentences–to talk about Carver’s incidents from Carver’s life. From his early years as a slave and his early attempts at formal education to his eventual work with the Tuskogee Institute and, yes, peanuts.

So perhaps a good intro to an amazing life, but you would definitely want to follow it up with something more weighty, such as George Washington Carver and/or a trip to Diamond, Missouri.

Also, you know George Washington Carver was a black American. This book, coming from the turn of the century, makes a couple of references to our people, and the poet’s father was one of the Tuskogee Airmen, but the book is not an especially racially themed book. One wonders whether the poems were written twenty years later would differ greatly from the interesting and straightforward presentation of a fascinating figure of American history we have here. Sadly, one thinks so.

Oh, but this children’s book has the baddest word ever in a poem called “My People” about the envy the other instructors and staff at the Tuskegee Institute felt toward Carver. But it’s further proof of my latent white supremacism that I read books with the baddest word in them. That is, books written in the dark past of twenty years ago.

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Lileks Looks Down On Brian J.

Lileks pities the technical writers:

Of course there were manuals. In binders. Sitting on the shelf of everyone’s desk. Never used. Tossed out en masse. I feel a bit of sympathy for the people who wrote them, but that’s probably misplaced. A job. They were paid. Wasn’t creative. Kept the lights on.

Yeah, I’ve written manuals for money. Pretty good money, actually.

But one does not finish a manual or set of updates to documentation and feel any sense of creative accomplishment, for sure.

Kind of like writing a backwater blog.

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Try Again

A local religious university, under pressure from some vocal but numerically small group or another, changed its mascot from the Crusaders

to Valor.

Um, yeah, no. Try again. Maybe the Robins.

Or they could go with Golden Eagles, which is what the university I graduated from changed its mascot to to get out from the naked racism of…

the Warriors.

The countdown begins until some vocal but numerically small group starts saying that valor is a white European thing that offends someone.

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Wherein Brian J. Respectfully Disagrees With Severian

In a post called simply Dignity, Severian says:

Karen Carpenter and Linda Ronstadt were always singers, but they were primarily folkies, and while Linda Ronstadt was really something back in her Stone Poneys days — yum! — her biggest hit with them (“Different Drum”) made it clear that she was not the one for you.

One might infer that Linda Ronstadt was not really something after her Stone Poney days (1966-1968). I beg to differ.
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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour: Medical Tips Edition

From September 23, 2015:

I was sitting on the edge of the roof for like an hour before I realized that gargoyling didn’t help a sore throat at all.


You know, I used to post those kinds of quips here, too; in the early years of MfBJN, you’d find a lot of one-liners and whatnot in posts. I sure got away from that. I’m not sure whether it’s the posting of one liners or of coming up with funny one-liners at all.

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On St. Thomas Aquinas read by Charlton Heston (1990)

Book coverCharlton Heston reads this one, as he did Aristotle, so it’s the voice of Moses, Ben-Hur, and the Omega Man lending some heft to the reading. But his part is not really a dramatic reading–he’s reading the content pretty straight. And, fortunately, the dramatic readers who step in to act/read the quotes from Aquinas and his contemporaries and critics play it pretty straight, although other friars from Italy speaking with Italian accents but Aquinas speaks in American English which is inconsistent.

The two hours focuses as much on his biography as his thought, but it does show how he re-introduced Aristotle to the Western canon and interpreted him for the Christians. Which reminds me of how much I want to own a copy of Summa Theologica. It’s only a couple hundred dollars. Not like the complete works of Hemingway, which runs to the thousands for a nice matched set.

Of course, would I read it? I would aspire to read it, gentle reader. Although to be honest, I’m getting a little less aspirational these days. Why, I did not even go into the Better Books section at the recent Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale.

Well, I’ve gone afield here from talking about Aquinas, though, ainna? Dominican friar, a great teacher, one of the first Dominicans to teach at the University (and not without some scandal), participated in public lectures where he answered questions extemporaneously at length. So this is a good portal to the life and works of Aquinas. Better than studying four years at a formerly Thomist Catholic university anyway, although I dropped my theology minor impetuously one semester, and the university was far along the secularization path even then.

But I am enjoying the set of cassettes I got in the spring, and I’m pleased to see that Heston is reading more of them than Redgrave.

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Book Report: A Bend In The Road edited by Mary A. Shaugnessy (1982)

Book coverAs you might know, gentle reader, I consume a lot of what I call “Grandma Poetry.” These are usually chapbooks published by older women with themes of family and God; the authors are not professional poets and probably don’t even have a magazine credit on their copyright pages. Most of it is not sublime or exhilirating; some of it is nice. If you read the collected works of a Great Poet, you’ll find their works are limited to the really, really good once in a while and maybe nice most of the time.

This collects presumably the best poems and some artwork from residents in nursing homes owned by Beverly Enterprises. So the tone and shape of the poems varies. Some are about youth, some are about being your best self in a nursing home, but more than one are about being lonely and forgotten–even if it’s only in the subtext of a poem lauding volunteers who come to visit.

So it’s uneven and lacks a single voice, and some are poems by committee–classes where several people put a poem together. You can actually tell these poems apart from others as they lack internal consistency and voice.

Man, I remember nursing homes in the 1980s. Two of my sainted mother’s aunts ended up in a couple of different facilities, and the facilities were as cold and efficient as hospitals but with less care. It depressed me to go visit those old ladies–I was young then, and impatient. Times have changed now, though; one local senior living facility has been running ads showing a tatted up, goateed and mohawked pierced grandpa with big headphones on taking a selfie. One expects the new facilities are more fun, but then again, the ones that advertise in 417 are probably the nicer ones anyway; one would probably find my relations in more traditional centers.

At any rate, something to flip through during a football game, but not something to emulate in one’s own poetizing.

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Book Report: Shadow Valley by Alan Brown and Brian Brown (2021)

Book coverSo as I mentioned when I reported on Lake Honor and Gone in the Night, I was going to pick this book up next, which means I read all the books I bought from Brian Brown at his book signing in rather short order which is probably the best endorsement by my actions rather than quibbles I post in my book reports.

This book does without the frame story present in the other two books, where the authors insert themselves and listen to or work with Booger McClain to “solve” an unsolved mystery–but whose resolution is not actually the solution of the crimes, perhaps an allusion or a theory that cannot be acted on.

Instead, this is a more straightforward story: An old friend comes to Booger to find his estranged wife and daughter who were last known to have been living in a trailer park in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. So Booger and his new wife Rose move into the trailer park to figure out what’s going on. Well, Rose does: A couple of injuries land McClain in the local hospital, which takes him out of the action for much of the book, so he acts mostly as a sounding board for what Rose is doing and as comic relief. So Rose uncovers a prostitution ring running in the trailer park, and that the shadowy Branson organized crime types behind it are dealing with the introduction of cocaine trade in the same area. Two guys in a blue truck make shadowy appearances, including perhaps killing the wife and daughter, and the sheriff of Pea Ridge is one of McClain’s former deputies. So they manage to depose the sheriff and get him to turn state’s evidence, so they take out the drug ring. But they don’t really solve the case they started with except for allusions and some speculations, perhaps.

So maybe that’s thematic, then, and not just how a quickly written book turns out.

As with the previous two, this one could have used a copy edit to catch things like:

  • Again referring to the Sheriff of a town; McClain was sheriff of Branson, this book also mentions, and another town. But sheriffs are county officials and the law enforcement for unincorporated parts of a county. In cities and metropolitan areas with cities whose boundaries run right up to each other, such as the St. Louis area, the sheriffs and their deputies mostly serve papers. It’s probably no help that St. Louis County, where the Browns live, has a St. Louis County Police force which handles law enforcement and differs from the St. Louis County Sheriff.
  • Talk about the trailer park and living in a trailer. At one point, someone is a couple hundred yards away from a trailer; in general trailer park sizes, a couple hundred yards is clear on the other side of the trailer park. The lot sizes are not generous. The book mentions going into the cellar under a trailer; okay, that’s rare in a trailer park; sometimes you can put them on foundations, but that’s more permanent than a trailer park. But at the end of the book, the trailer is towed away, but when trailers are placed on foundations and can have cellars, the wheels are generally removed.
  • Rose goes to a neighbor’s trailer during a power outage; the trailer is lit with a lot of candles because the neighbor is used to this. Rose learns that the neighbor has security cameras, so they go back to another room to look at the computer monitors that show the view from the cameras. That would be a lot of batteries to power monitors.
  • The wife and daughter are named Tammy and Carly, and I had some trouble keeping them straight in my head. At one point, too, the book says Tammy sold her stocks and bonds and moved back to Little Rock–but that’s the daughter’s name, not the wife. So I was not the only one having trouble keeping the names straight!

I also flagged a couple of things to comment on:

  • At one point, while driving down to Pea Ridge, one of the characters said “Maybe we should have stopped in Berryville.” As you know, gentle reader, Berryville earlier this year, and I mentioned to my beautiful wife (but did not post on the blog) every time that I have seen Berryville mentioned in the news–although I think one of the other mentions of Berryville that I encountered might have been in Lake Honor.
  • Somebody calls the local paper the Tri-Lakes News; however, last year or the year before, the paper changed its masthead to emphasize it’s the Branson (Tri-Lakes) News. As I boasted recently, I get that paper twice a week.
  • At a wedding at the end of the book (See? It is a comedy!), they play a Shania Twain song (“You’re Still the One”). I can reveal to you, gentle reader, since it’s not the security question on any Web site that I am aware of, that at my wedding, our first dance as husband and beautiful wife was to a Shania Twain song–it was “From This Moment On”, and I forgot to get the CD back from Ernie, the owner of Occasions, when we left. When we were in town this summer, it looked like Occasions was still there and maybe open.

Also, it had typos and wrong word substitutions–instead of alter for altar which appeared in a couple of places in Lake Honor, we got conscience for conscious a couple of places here.

So it was a fun bit of reading that could have used a bit of copyediting. Kind of like Elton Gahr’s books. I’ll pick up more of them if I bump into Brown or Brown in person again, but they’re not so compelling that I’ll go out and order them. After all, I have many, many fine stacks of books to get to in the interim.

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A Jabberwocky For Our Time

Twitter must be having problems with money metrics again, since they’ve ramped up sending emails to all my testing accounts trying to get me to log in and provide them with free content again. “Brian, don’t be selfish! Pour words into our interface so we can make money off of your thoughts! “Brian, did you see that great tweet?”–never minding that most tweets these days are not, in fact, great, and the medium is best for one-liners, not deep thoughts, but our modern tastemakers have only enough depth to their thinking to fill maybe, what is it now, 280 characters?

Also, I get stuff like this:

“Sonu Sood evaded taxes over Rs. 20 crore: I-T department” Moment

I am not sure what most of those words and abbreviations mean. Or if they’re real words and abbreviations at all.

Does this mean that I am old? Or that Twitter thinks I’m Indian? Embrace the healing power of And.

And you can rest assured, gentle reader, I did not click through to share in the Moment.

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A Typical Brian J. Problem

I just ordered an autographed CD from German band Null Positiv, navigating the site, the store, and the checkout process completely in German (which I do not speak) only then to discover a drop-down list in the footer that, whereupon the user selects English, displays the site completely translated.

At least I think I just ordered an autographed CD. I’m a little afraid to go back and see what I actually ordered.

Also, since this is a German band, I will likely rip the songs to my computer, unlike certain Russian autographed CDs I’ve bought.

By the way, here is some Null Positiv:

I am not sure what Elli Berlin is saying, but I do like the way she says it.

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First Exposure to Route 66 (1961)

Book coverAs I mentioned, I bought three video cassettes with episode of Route 66 on them. I had not ever seen the program before, although it might have still been in syndication when I was young, and it might have appeared on Nick at Nite at some point when we had cable when I was growing up, but I hadn’t seen it before. I knew the premise, though: two guys in a Corvette driving up and down the iconic highway having adventures. So I popped the first videocassette in, and….

The episode “The Newborn” starts out with two men on horseback and a guy in a cart riding through the desert. As I had thought that Route 66 was in color, I wondered if the videocassette was mislabeled and I ended up with a Western television series of some kind. Then I saw that the guy in the wagon was dressed in 20th century clothing–it was Buz Murdock, one of the main characters. He’s going to with the owner of the ranch and his psycho hand played by…. Is that Robert Duvall (whom I just saw in The Godfather(s) and whose film Secondhand Lions I just bought last weekend)? It is! They’re going to retrieve a pregnant Native American woman played by Arlene Martel–who wants to die, but not before the baby dies without her. Apparently, the protagonists (Buz and Tod, the guys with the Corvette) have caught on with a ranch in New Mexico and have worked there for about a month before the events of the episode. When the pregnant woman does not want to come, the ranch owner wants to bind her and carry her off. Buz objects, with his fist, which puts him on a collision course with the psycho hand. Especially when Buz and Tod quit the ranch and help the native woman run off and give birth. The back story, alluded to at times, was that the ranch hand’s son raped the native, who was a Christian who was planning to become a nun (rape of a nun? I just saw that in Change of Habit). The father, the ranch owner, made the son marry the woman, but he killed himself, and the ranch owner wants to raise the child as an Ivy (that is, in his family). But the mother, who dies in childbirth, wants the child raised in her pueblo, so Buz and Tod promise to take the child there–which leads to a final reckoning with the psycho henchmen who also dies.

The second episode, “…And the Cat Jumped Over The Moon”, takes place in Philadelphia, which is not on Route 66 at all, but never mind. They’re visiting a friend of Buz, a social worker who helped get Buz out of the gang life, and a young lady played by Susan Silo appears and says that unless he does something, the hit will be that night. So he leaves his small one bedroom apartment, telling the boys he’ll be back. He goes to an apartment building and meets with the gang on the roof, and according to the gang’s constitution (?), he can have a summit with them if he matches or bests the gang leader in a parkour-lite game of follow the leader. Unfortunately, the social worker loses his balance and falls from the building. As it happens, the girl is the fiancee of the former leader of the gang, and the gang wants to hit him to set an example that you cannot leave the gang. The gang kidnaps the girl, and the former leader comes to rescue her, and a knife fight is about to erupt, but Buz calls for a summit. The former leader of the gang takes Buz’s place in the parkour game and eventually bests the current gang leader, and the gang turns on their most recent former leader. As the credits roll, I notice that the former gang member was played by Jimmy Caan–who was also in The Godfather, and the current gang leader was played by a very young Martin Sheen.

So it was an interesting bit, and if you look at the IMDB entries of the bit players, how they played in a bunch of different series from the time–I’ll recognize a number of them in the Twilight Zone episodes I’ll be watching sometime soon.

And this series is a pleasant bit of throwback television, an episodic series which really shows that any kind of story might appear. But Buz and Tod have left three bodies in their wake in just these two episodes. But Tod does mean Death in German. So with “Buz” and “Tod” as the stars, perhaps this is a story of a pair of spree killers on the rampage.

I’ve got two more videocassettes with other episodes, which

I must mention if you click this link and buy, I get a few grubzits:

But I did mention Arlene Martel and Susan Solo by name, so let’s take a look.
Continue reading “First Exposure to Route 66 (1961)”

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