All I Want For Christmas Is A New Credit Card

I mentioned that the son of one of my wife’s friends is a wide receiver at Ohio State University. So after I saw a couple of posts on Saturday, I thought that Buckeyes jerseys with his name and number on them would be a good Christmas present for the family. So I did a little Internet searching, and although the big retailers didn’t offer his name on a jersey, I found a store that offered custom jerseys and let you choose from members of the current roster. So I selected four different jersey styles and added them to the cart. Although the store had a PayPal logo on it, it didn’t offer it as a payment option during checkout.

So I entered my credit card information with a touch of trepidation, but I’ve been fairly lucky with online stores to this point, so….

The browser’s address bar goes to some Chinese processing company and ends with a screen that says System Exception. And, nothing. No email confirming the transaction, oh boy.

A little while later, my beautiful wife asks me to look at something. The credit card company has sent her a potential fraud alert. A payment to some company name not visible on the Web site in the amount of the transaction. I told her to decline it, which put us on the fraud path, which cancelled my existing credit card. I should get a new one sometime soon.

The best possible result is that this was simply a Chinese manufacturer that hid its name behind an American sounding storefront and was not actually harvesting Buckeyes’ fans credit cards.

But what makes this a particular Noggle Christmas story is that I told my wife what I had ordered, and she told me that her mother had been caught by the same site. My wife, unknown to me, had thought that a #86 Buckeyes jersey would make a good Christmas gift for me, so she asked her mother to find one, buy it, and wrap it for her. And her mother, who is fairly Internet savvy, ordered from the same online store. And her credit card company processed the payment without a potential fraud alert, and she had to not only get a replacement card, but she had to work with her credit card company to get a refund.

We have a history of getting each other the same things for Christmas, so we kept in the spirit of that by getting each other credit card fraud for the holidays.

In other news, my holiday spending and one-for-me, one-for-you protocol has been suspended for the nonce. Ah, well, everyone has enough from me already anyway.

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Good Book Hunting, November 27, 2021: ABC Books

As I mentioned, I was going to go and went to ABC Books on Saturday for a book signing.

So I picked up a couple of books, but no Leibniz.

I got:

  • Little Thoughts With Love by Anne Geddes. Brian J., are you getting collections of twee staged baby pictures paired with meme wisdom to pad out your annual book reading total? Of course I am! Watch for an equally twee book report this week as I review this book during today’s football game.
  • Terse Verse, poems by Roberta Page. A Carleton Press book, which is an old timey vanity press where you designed, laid out, and printed a couple hundred copies of your book to try to sell. None of that self-published print-on-demand wussy stuff you have today. Back then, you really had to believe and pay cash up front.
  • In Praise of East Central Illinois, a 1976 chapbook by Alex Sawyer.
  • The Poetry Home Reoair Manual by Ted Kooser. The subtitle is Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. I might find some useful tips in here, or I might throw it across the room. A quick flip indicates poetry with very short lines, so at least I will learn the justification for crap.
  • What Comes Before Dawn by Addison Michael, a mystery by a local author.
  • The Science of Takedowns, Throws & Grappling for Self-Defense by Martina Sprague. Apparently, ABC Books got a single new martial arts book, and I bought it. When Mrs. E. saw that I grabbed it, she smiled, because we’ve talked about how fast martial arts books move through the store before.
  • Philosophical Problems of Natural Science edited, presumably, by Dudley Shapere. A collection of essays about philosophy and natural science by probably philosophers contemporaneous to the publication date of 1965. I don’t recognize any of the names.
  • Change for the Poor by Mark F. McKnelly, the signing author. He works for a local organization helping the homeless. It’s been decades since I read Opting for the Poor, a Catholic call to action for helping the poor. I am not sure how soon I will dig into this one.

Earlier this year, I made a point of trying to read all the books I bought at ABC Books on various trips. However, as this trip brought some heady material as well as an increasing number of books per trip, I don’t know that I’ll get through all of these any time soon.

Ah, well, I still have a faint hope that medical science will keep me alive for the centuries it will take me to read all my books.

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Nogglestead Escapes Brown Friday, Unfortunately

Thanksgiving dinner was served late at Nogglestead; my beautiful wife was a bit under the weather and was napping when she meant to put the turkey in the roaster. As it was only the four of us this year, we were very flexible. So we ate late, 7:30 or so, after dark. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and gravy.

As is my wont, I finish the meal the fastest, and I got started on the dishes. It wasn’t lost on me that in addition to the normal detritus we were going to wash down the garbage disposal, we were including some bit of mashed potato boiling water thick with starch effluvia along with the resultant remnant mashed potato paste and store-boughten brown gravy. I got to thinking that the last backup at Nogglestead, earlier this year, came on an evening where we’d had a nice Sunday dinner but that required a lot of dishwashing.

Apparently, plumbers call the day after Thanksgiving Brown Friday:

“The term Brown Friday, the first time I heard about it was probably a few years ago,” said Chad Farrell with Roto-Rooter Plumbing.

Local plumbers say the day after Thanksgiving is one of their busiest days of the year. That’s because many households experience drain and pipe clogs in their bathrooms and kitchen sinks during the holiday.

So that was in the forefront of my mind as I washed the large turkey platter and the large turkey roaster pan. I thought I might send one of the boys down to the bar sink to watch for backup while I finished the dishes.

Then I turned on the garbage disposal, and when I turned it off, it drained really quickly. That’s the new garbage disposal I installed this summer, a little oversized perhaps, and not the whisper quiet one because I didn’t want to spend $100 to have ten seconds of whisper quiet every couple of days instead of normal volume garbage disposing.

Now, the linked article says stay away from using your garbage disposal, and I do, for the most part stemming from my time in Old Trees, where the wastewater lines there backed up several times a year. I was aghast when I saw my recently passed (two years? already?) aunt putting whole potato peels down the disposal there when helping with dinner.

So I flipped on the disposal just to clear out whatever bits of effluvia were slowing the draining (hopefully, it was that and not a blockage down the line somewhere). Then I rinsed a dish, and the resulting water drained quickly. Notably quickly. I was surprised and pleased.

Until.

Until my beautiful wife, barefoot, brought over some dishes and noticed the floor was wet. I checked to see if it was rolling off of the counter top, but no.

I looked beneath the sink. The garbage disposal was sitting on a can of cleaner and hanging by its PVC discharge tube. Apparently, over the months, it was unbalanced enough or loose enough to vibrate itself off of the mounting ring that holds it to the sink (its whole weight hangs from the sink, which seems risky enough engineering to me as it is). And the contents of the sink were inside the cabinet and on the floor.

Ah, gentle reader, there is a life lesson in this: Do not worry about what might happen, because something entirely different is likely to go wrong.

I remounted the disposal–the bucket and wood that I used to lift it into place were still together in the garage as I am slow to clean the garage and don’t tend to put things where they belong because other things that don’t belong are already there.

So I will go into this holiday season not only thinking about my dwindling extended family, but also my seeming incompetence to do basic home maintenance chores without disastrous results and spoiling the holiday.

If anyone needs me, I shall be outside, wishing for holiday snow that rarely comes to these lands.

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On Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment by Professor Alan Charles Kors (2001)

Book coverI took a break in the Charlton Heston-narrated cassettes on philosophers to listen to this Teaching Company/Great Courses series on French author Voltaire. Although I had read Candide–my beautiful wife and I took turns reading aloud from it during our courtship–I was not that familiar with him. This course certainly set me a-right. Apparently, he was the biggest European author/thinker of the 18th century, although it might be a touch exaggerated since it is a course on Voltaire, and the course slant tends to be a little homer if you know what I mean.

The lectures include:

  1. “The Patriarch”–An Overview
  2. The Education of a Philosophe
  3. Philosophical Letters, Part I
  4. Philosophical Letters, Part II
  5. The Years at Cirey
  6. From Optimism to Humanism
  7. Voltaire and the Philosophical Tale
  8. Voltaire and God
  9. Voltaire at Ferney
  10. Voltaire and History
  11. Voltaire and Toleration
  12. Apotheosis

It definitely gives a pretty good survey of his writing, his life, and his times. The strongest parts are, again, the biographical stretches and the specific works in the beginning. When we get to the broad summary Voltaire and lectures on the back half, it moves away from citing individual works and more exploring themes with little support in the actual texts.

But, still, I already knew my Voltaire from my Voltron, and should I fall into any trivia nights in the near future (unlikely), I will surely remember that he wrote a long poem on the Lisbon earthquake and that he wrote the Dictionnaire Philosophique. However, as time goes by, I will likely confuse that with Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary. Except one is titled in French, although the obvious might not help me. Fortunately, the deadliest plague ever!!!1 has curtailed trivia nights. That, and in approximately eighteen minutes, I will misremember Voltaire’s birth name as Martin L’Aday and subsequently “remember” that Voltaire is French for meatloaf, which will be disputed the next time my beautiful and French-speaking wife serves her beloved meat casserole.

Also, when I was at Hooked on Books a week and a half ago, I mentioned looking for some Leibniz. Because this course says Voltaire started out really digging the philosophical optimism by argument Leibniz offered and then turned against it after the Lisbon earthquake and the death of Voltaire’s mortal beloved. So I’m interested in acquiring some Leibniz. Not necessarily reading it–heaven knows I have many, many fine primary texts that I’m saving for retirement–but to have just in case. As I’m going to ABC Books this morning, perhaps I will luck out.

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Don’t Know Much About Historical Geography

So I spent some time on Thanksgiving with an X-Acto knife and fifteen-year-old copies of magazines like French Cottage and English Garden that I bought at an estate sale in the autumn and that languished on the desk in my parlor ever since. Don’t ask me what for.

But I did snicker at this article headline.

French Bohemian flair? That’s like saying Canadian Mexican flair. One suspects the headline writer only knew Bohemian as the adjective for funky hippie artistic, not that Bohemia was an actual place in Europe that’s now part of, what, the Czech Republic? Although it has been held by the Germans and the Holy Roman Empire in the past, it has never been part of France.

Oh, all right, I’ll tell you why: Because this autumn, I did a couple of découpage projects, and I bought a big bottle of Mod Podge for them, so I thought I’d pick up some magazines to look for images to use in collages. So I finally got around to cutting out promising looking images and discarding the remainder of the magazines. When my beautiful wife asked me about it, I gave her the real answer: I am generating raw materials for crafts that I won’t get around to doing, much like already clutter the shelves in the garage.

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Movie Report: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

Book coverIt had been a long time since I watched this film. How long? I don’t remember, but I do remember going through the later film renditions of Raymond Chandler’s works, including The Big Sleep, also starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe but set in contemporaneous England, and The Long Goodbye starring Elliot Gould. The middle 1970s were a high time for period neo-noir detective movies, probably brought on by the success of Chinatown.

At any rate, the story is told partially in flashback as Marlowe is holed up in a cheap flophouse. The police are looking for him for a series of murders. In the flashback, Marlowe gets hired by a large man, Moose, fresh out of prison who is looking for his old flame Velma. He only has a name and the information that she worked at a certain club. So Marlowe and Moose go to the club, which is now a colored place, and Moose asks the owner in his brusque way about Velma, killing the owner in self-defense when the owner draws a gun. Marlowe follows up with former employees of the club as Moose goes into hiding. Apparently, in addition to Moose being wanted by the police for questioning regarding the death of the club owner, various unsavory types are after him as well as Moose went to the moosegow for a bank robbery where the loot was never recovered–and his perhaps partners might want their share or all of it now that he’s out. So Marlowe navigates the various lies and plots and red herrings to finally find Velma with disastrous consequences.

The book captures the intricate plot of the book fairly well. Some people have knocked Mitchum in this film as being too old for Marlowe, but what they don’t take into account how the definition of middle-aged and elderly evolved between the forties and the seventies (and now). So 57 ain’t that eld, he said as he closes in on 57. You know, for my money, Mitchum is the best actor portrayal of Marlowe. Above Gould, whose film it took me two tries to get through, and even above Bogart. But I should probably rewatch the entire canon to be sure.

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The film also included Charlotte Rampling.

Continue reading “Movie Report: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)”

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Movie Report: Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Book coverI put a Christmas tree up on November 1 (well, our Trunk or Treat this year was a Christmas-decorated trunk, one of three that showed up at our church this year, so I moved the little Christmas tree from the trunk to the parlor). So of course it’s not too early for a Christmas movie at Nogglestead.

In the middle-to-late 1980s, Ernest was everywhere. The character started as a commercial pitchman in Tennessee, selling a variety of products in different places–in the St. Louis area, he appeared in commercials for Laclede Gas. Their, what, popularity led to a television show Hey, Vern, It’s Ernest. And then a series of films–Ernest Goes To Camp appeared on Showtime, so I saw it more than once. Regardless, I am pressed to think of another career and pop cultural arc like that one.

This is the second film in the… franchise? Ernestverse? Santa flies to Florida seeking his replacement, hoping to lure a children’s television host who just likes kids into the gig. Ernest plays the cabdriver who picks up Santa at the airport and helps him to find the star, who is on the cusp of taking a role in a low budget slasher film as his other, more child-friendly gigs dry up.

Basically, it’s a setup for John Varney (not John Varley, the author), who plays Ernest, to mug for the camera with his schtick: He believes he’s very competent at whatever he does, and he has stories to back his his braggadocio up, but he manages to screw things up in just such a fashion that things turn out right. Man, what a crazy, optimistic time the 20th century was.

At any rate, it’s mostly aimed at kids, and my boys thought it was a bit cringey. But they don’t find these films cringey enough to stop watching films with their father, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour: Baking Day Edition

Apparently, this date in history has been the day before Thanksgiving a couple of times. Here are some of the pumpkin pie baking quips I’ve made over the years.

2010:

Brian J. Noggle is baking his first pumpkin pies, but he’s not using his mother’s recipe. That must explain the difference in the number of seeds in the pie compared to his memories.

2010:

Brian J. Noggle blames his pumpkin pie fiasco on the Campbell’s Soup people, from whom he got the recipe. They were unclear whether he was to add the can of water along with the can of Cream of Mushroom Soup in the recipe. After 2.5 hours of baking, Noggle assumes not.

Also, note IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE LUMPY!
Those are nutritious mushrooms.

2011:

Brian J. Noggle doesn’t have enough condensed milk for two pumpkin pies. Looks like he’ll have to stretch it out with mayonnaise.

Bonus for the day after Thanksgiving, 2017:

There’s no Black Friday at all, really. Matter of fact, they’re all quite black.

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Book Report: The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson (2018)

Book coverI bought this book earlier this month, and I kept it where I could see it. As you might remember, gentle reader, I like to read a Christmas novel every year in the holiday season. But I sometimes have difficulty finding one in the Nogglestead stacks when the time is right. I mean, I buy them when I see them at book sales and whatnot, but the Nogglestead to-read shelves are a dense jungle, and if I have to find something, I generally cannot, but then when I am not looking for it, it is right there.

At any rate, this book has a bit of a dark premise: A couple has split up right before Christmas. Although good Christian kids who dated in high school, they split when they went to separate colleges. But she loses her mother, and when he loses his father, their shared grief and past leads them to one night of passion pregnancy and guilt. He drops out of college to take over his father’s auto parts store, and she drops out of school to be a mom. Although they start from humble beginnings, they build a good upper middle class life together as the parts store prospers under his guidance, and they have a total of three children. But the woman mourns the loss of her youth and her college degree, and when her school rival for her husband’s affections returns to town, she becomes suspicious and throws him out.

Through a series of flashbacks, many revolving around the central gimmick that he has given her a Christmas ornament every year of their marriage, we get this story and its lead-up. Although she really loves him, she hasn’t forgiven herself or him for that one night that led to their successful marriage, and she self-destructively breaks it up. But, c’mon, man, this is a Christmas novel, so, spoiler alert, they get back together at the end.

A nice bit of Hallmark Channel movie in a book form. It’s got a little depth to it, unlike some Christmas books, and I kind of felt bad for the protagonists until they reconciled.

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Apparently I Sexed That Article Up

I recently discovered that an old article I’d written doesn’t appear on my publication list, and so I searched the Internet for the first line (“‘Most robust applications, whether desktop- or Web-based, allow multiple users to log “) to see if it appeared somewhere that I’d forgotten.

Well.

The third search result, and the sidebar suggestion, are the Wikipedia entry for Human Sexual Activity.

That is the most spicy first line I’ve ever written. Spicier than Robert Davies tried to log onto FuckedCompany.com, and he could not, and he knew he was fucked. even.

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On Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World by Jeff Madrick / Narrated by Adam Grupper (2014)

Book coverI had hoped that this would be an antedote or rebuttal of Thinking Like An Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision Making, a Great Courses lecture series that started out explaining how free markets were good, allowing to use choose their actions to make their lives better according to their wishes but then veered into the econonmists know better and must maniuplate the “free” market so individuals make the right decisions.

Oh, but no.

Written not long after the banking crisis of 2008, this book instead takes the tack that the state did not have enough control of the economy to prevent the problems, and that the free market economists like Hayek and Friedman were the deluded puppetmasters who made the problem. Not Keynes and Krugman and their statist ilk. The problem with real socialism economism is that it’s never been tried!

I only made it a couple of chapters into it before abandoning it because I was listening to it while driving, and experiencing a Red Curtain of Blood (RCOB) and shouting Eff you, you effen mothereffer, that’s not true! until you’re hoarse while driving is dangerous.

So that’s my report. I didn’t make it deep enough to get to the enumerated ideas, but I am pretty sure that economic performance over the decade or thirteen years after the crisis would disprove the author’s beliefs (not arguments, which can be refuted, but beliefs which can only be reinforced). But I bet he loves him some Build Back Betterer thinking.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend reading it in throwable paperback rather than audiobook.

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Book Report: End Game The Executioner #218 (1997)

Book coverWell, this is a later (well, middle, since the series goes on for another 20 years) Mack Bolan book. He is again dealing with terrorists looking to build a nuclear weapon, and this book hopscotches across the world (Scotland, Turkey, the Caribbean) as Bolan chases leads and shoots people and blows up things. He has the assitance of a Russian agent for a while (spoiler alert), and discovers that a Caribbean dictator deposed by the US has commissioned the device so he can get his revenge by blowing it up in an American city.

Kind of a meh book, to be honest. A bit sweeping for a Bolan book, but I guess by 1997, even the pulp was packing it on.

This book leaves me with but four Executioner titles in my to-read shelves, which means I have to start thinking about what other series in the line I should start after. I’m thinking SuperBolan because I’m a glutton for punishment.

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On David Hume read by Charlton Heston (1990)

Book coverAll right, all right, all right–it’s actually been a couple of weeks since I finished listening to this short, two-cassette overview of David Hume’s life and thought. This is from the Giants of Philosophy series as were Socrates, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and Baruch Spinoza. Needless to say I am enjoying the series.

Helpfully, the vocal talent voicing Hume (Heston narrates, but vocal talents do the voices of original sources, including Hume and his critics) is doing a high Scottish accent, so it’s not distracting, and it’s not pompous. The, what, book? Lecture? Whatever the antecedent of the following pronoun, it balances Hume’s biography with his thought and offers a basic overview of his works over time.

And what do I think about Hume’s thinking? Well, I agree that our understanding of the world comes from our sensory experience, but Hume dismisses the role of reason and the human mind in being able to project future events from past experience. He also denigrates the self/soul as a coherent thing but rather a memory of sensations (but no predictions, of course–you cannot prove their worth or even a person’s ability to do them logically). So, dare I say it, it goes a little Buddhist for my taste.

I mean, you cannot reason a lot of things out of nothing but reason, but you can apply some thinking to your perceptions and get value out of it, ainna? So I’m a fan of his beginnings and some of his premises, but not his conclusions.

He’s part and parcel of what has become philopsyche: Instead of man’s place in the world, philosophy has turned a bit to the world’s place in man, and it ends up just as speculative and untethered from the concrete reality as purely reasoned speculation. Were I more than a layman dabbling in philosophy, I suppose I could seek out the primary sources–I have one or more on my shelves–and write a well composed refutation of them, but I have a list of things to do today, and Refute Hume ain’t on it. Of course, one of the things is to complete the filing in my office and maybe clear my desk, but where would I go for Five Things On My Desk posts? But, Brian J., you haven’t done one of those in two years! That’s because the same things are on my desk, gentle reader. I really need to clean it.

You want well-reasoned refutations of Enlightment’s failures, go to Blogodidact.

All I have to say is that the deeper I get into the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy, the more I think Ayn Rand was on the right track with a lot of her thinking.

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The Savings Is More Than I’m Willing To Pay

My beautiful wife has taken to gardening and has an indoor garden with a grow light that uses little pods and can grow small herbs, maybe tomatoes, and flowers.

So I was a good target, maybe, for this ad ahead of Christmas:

But, wait a minute, mister. Save $200 now? How expensive is this that everyone can save $200 now?

Gott im Himmel! $1000 plus a monthly membership of $30-40.

I see a lot of ads like that. Save $X now, where X is a lot already. Which generally indicates it’s not something for me.

Wait a minute, Brian J.! Don’t you buy $10 CDs by the bucketful? Don’t you like to write checks greater than that amount for organizations you support? Well, you have me there. And if I need a $1000 home repair, I get the $1000 home repair without thinking. Or a thousand bucks of firewood which is just money going up in smoke, ainna?

But something about $200 gifts which might or might not be liked, or $200 things for myself, tend to make me blanch. Blanch, I said–not make me into a Golden Girl.

I’m sure Dave Ramsey would still go all Patton on me for my spending habits, but there you go.

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Good Book Hunting, November 19, 2021: Hooked on Books

It’s been a while since I’ve had a little time to kill by my youngest son’s school, but his archery practice let off an hour and a half before the basketball games, so we scarfed some McDonalds. Which did not kill an hour and a half. Fortunately, Hooked on Books, almost across the street, is open until six, so we got a chance to browse.

Of course, I hit the dollar/fifty cent books in front of the store. In the dark, since it was 5:30. And then I hit the dwindling dollar books room in the back. And the cart of cheap books at the end of the mystery section. They haven’t moved them.

However, I did pick out a couple of art monographs and a philosophy comic book at full price. I happened to be in the philosophy section looking for some Leibniz, but, c’mon, man, this is the 21st century. No used bookstores not located on university campuses are going to have source material from the seventeenth century.

At any rate, here is what I got:

Titles include:

  • Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader. Because it says Ninja on the front and sprawling erotic thriller on the back, which probably means lurid and not well-versed in actual martial arts.
  • Get Out Of I.T. While You Can by Craig Schiefelbein, a self published book from 2007.
  • Tin House magazine Volume 16, Number 3, which I can stack amongst all the other literary magazines I’ve been meaning to read when not distracted by sprawling erotic thrillers.
  • Acorns from an Aging Oak by John C. Allen which looks to be some grandpa poetry for a change.
  • Field Stones by Robert Kinsley, the less expensive of the two Kinsley titles they offer. The authors photograph on the back is very serious, so I’m worried they will be a bit academic. Now that I read the author bio, I see he’s the editor of a literary magazine. So.
  • Philosophy for Beginners by Richard Osborne. It’s in the same series as Einstein for Beginners, so I am sure it will be chock full of straight-up Marxist fun.
  • Antoine Watteau, a Henry N. Abram monograph about said artist for browsing during football games.
  • Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow. I picked up this monograph because it was the less expensive of the two Hopper books they had, and earlier this week, I saw someone talking about how Hopper was one of their favorites, but I’ve forgotten where. But what I read on blogs continues to influence my purchasing decisions.

As I stacked the books on my to-read shelves atop other books, I thought, Man, I need to read more. I have only been getting in an hour some nights as we handle the boys’ activities and whatnot. Of course, in a couple of years, I won’t have to keep one ear open all night for the boys, so I will have time for projects and reading and whatnot. And I will be both happy and sad.

THIS JUST IN: When I mentioned to my beautiful wife I bought a sprawling erotic thriller, she laughed. But when I mentioned the name Lustbader which sounds just like the nom de some off color joke here of an erotic thriller writer, she said she’d heard of him as he’s the guy who took over the Jason Bourne series for Ludlum. So I guess that’s his real name. And this book is the first in a series that has run (so far) from 1980 to 2016 (an ebook short story). So I guess that is his real name, and I’m not looking at a fat mash-up of Kung Fu featuring Mace and The Gunsmith. I have put it on the table beside my reading chair anyway.

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On Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933)

To be honest, I had not ever watched a full Marx brothers movie before. I knew about Groucho, of course, as he was still in the cultural zeitgeist in the 1970s, and you can even still buy the Groucho novelty glasses at the party store for cheap drop-ins for birthday party gift bags given to attendees (I have, but not in many years). So I picked up a couple of videocassettes of the movies recently, and I got the opportunity to review them.

Book coverBook coverYou know, the films both come from genres that would be recognizeable today. Horse Feathers is a college comedy, not unlike Animal House, Van Wilder, PCU, or other entries in the genre (including the Bing Crosby film High Times which I did not finish in two tries–but that was recorded digitally from cable–if I had the videocassette, I would no doubt finish it). Groucho Marx gets appointed to be the head of a university, and it’s a bit fish out of water as he tries to get star players to join his university’s football team for a game against their rivals (so it’s also got a sports angle like Necessary Roughness). Chico and Harpo play dimwits who vacillate between the factions; Zeppo plays a smooth guy, and Groucho, of course, plays Groucho.

This movie, on the other hand, sees Groucho appointed as the head of a European country. He declares war on a neighbor, and the Marx brothers then go to war. Chico and Harpo play dimwits who work for both sides, sometimes accidentally. Zeppo plays a smooth guy, and Groucho plays Groucho.

So the Marx brothers play very similar characters, so Depression era audiences didn’t have to think too much about characterization. The comedies themselves show their vaudevillian roots. They’re chock full of quips and one-liners, very clever ones at that, and song and dance routines, including musical solos where the different Marx brothers show of their chops on the piano or harp or what have you. I recognized tropes from then and now, which helped me appreciate it better than my boys did, but they had similar problems with films like Airplane! and Hot Shots!. That said, you can see a definite influence on the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films from the Marx brothers films.

So still amusing, I suppose, if you’re of a certain age. But “cringey” if you’re a damn kid.

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I would be remiss in my Rule 5 duties (for a second week in a row) if I did not highlight some pretty women from these films.

Continue reading “On Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933)”

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I’ve Seen That Happen Live

Wirecutter showcased this animated GIF:

A couple months ago, I went into the Republic Walmart as it was in the middle of its reconfiguration, and they were jacking up whole aisles and moving them around. I was having trouble finding things that had moved, and I could not help but wonder if they had moved things I was looking for to places I’d already looked. It was like shopping in the Cube with slightly less deadly traps.

I’ve seen this slow reconfiguration of Walmarts in my area over months, so I’ve been largely non-plussed by the Empty Shelves At Walmart stories–I figure that they’ve been running the shelves down to have less to move. My Pricecutter grocery store has been pretty topped up, so I haven’t worried too acutely (although I have laid some stuff up). We’ll see as the moving aisles calm down whether I was right about the Walmarts.

“Did you find everything?” a checker at my home Walmart asked. “No,” I said. A couple of weeks later, the cats are happy to learn that I finally found where my home Walmart has put the cat food.

I noticed that my home Walmart has expanded the self-checkouts, but still has a number of manned checkout stands. But they’ve staggered them like Target has been doing for years, and they’ve reduced the height of the point-of-sale shelves, probably to improve the visibility and discourage shoplifters. However, I wonder how many small businesses that make the impulse purchase tchotchkes that you used to find on these shelves are faring with the reduced shelf space. Or if it’s just slightly diminishing profits from some Chinese conglomerate.

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