On The Blues Brothers and 9 To 5 (1980)

Book coverYou know, these films were released in the same year. It’s crazy, because the aesthetics of each differ so wildly.

The Blues Brothers self-consciously represents a bit of a throwback, a bit purposely so. I’ve heard the story that the producers wanted the film to include more contemporary, disco musicians in it, but Dan Ackroyd and the dead Belushi wanted to have old Motown musicians. By 1980, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, and Ray Charles were past their pop-culture sell by dates, apparently. I don’t know what to think of this–there’s an uncanny valley between first popular appeal of some artists, followed by a lull, and then perhaps another ascent into the zeitgeist that some artists enjoy. Kind of how artists have a “comeback” album two or three years after a hit album. Elvis, for example, did his big comeback special in 1968, not far past his film successes. But I digress.

When I read the novelization earlier this year, I recounted the plot for those who didn’t know it. I will spare you the rehashing of the rehashing here, I’ll just do a little comment on the aesthetic, a la Lileks, but without the screen caps. So: As I mentioned, it’s a bit backward-looking, and the settings in gritty parts of Chicago are darker and dirty. The film is definitely feels like a film from the late 1960s or 1970s.

9 to 5, on the other hand, is an eighties movie. The colors are a bit more pastel, the whole film is a bit brighter. You can see that the film is more like The Secret of My Success than Network. Even though it’s set in Manhattan, it’s not the Manhattan of Midnight Cowboy or Escape from New York (released a year later than this film). It’s a bright, optimistic vibe, where the women are getting liberated and overthrowing their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot bosses.

Oh, but the professional look of 1980. The tight curls and those giant glasses. Most people think of the big and teased hair as the 80s look, and God bless them for their either forgetting or never knowing. The teased hair is flattering. This is not.

I think Missouri might have been a trailing indicator for this look; I remember in the middle 1980s, when someone would give my poor sainted mother a makeover, it always included a cropped, curly perm, big glasses, and too much makeup. She ended up looking like a zombie.

At any rate, 9 to 5 spawned a television show that ran for six years through most of the 1980s. I vaguely remember it.

And in a stunning twist, I watched the film a couple of times on cable when it was fresh, but not on Showtime. It must have hit HBO when friends of the family were early adopters of cable television, and we spent some time at their house including our last month living in Milwaukee after my mother gave up the apartment in the housing projects and before we decamped for Missouri at the end of the school year.

So I saw this film when it was new, and I was young, and the world was pastel and promising. So I remember it with more affection than it probably deserves on rewatching.

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On Comedy, Tragedy, History: The Live Drama and Vital Truth of William Shakespeare by Professor Peter Saccio (1996)

Book coverThis is an old timey Great Courses/Teaching Company set of cassettes. The copyright date says 1996, but the instructor at one point talks about the 1980s as being the present time, so it might have been recorded a couple of years before the copyright date. The lectures feature a live audience, so people laugh at his jokes and you can hear them shift from time to time–and one can expect that it’s actually them applauding at the end of each lecture–a sound effect that the company has kept throughout even though you cannot hear the audience otherwise or see them on the few DVDs I have watched.

The lectures include:

  • Shakespeare and Stratford
  • Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Theater
  • Richard III
  • Henry IV and Henry V
  • Twelfth Night
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear

It was a pretty short course–four or five hours–and the professor goes not only into Shakespeare in his time for context, but then delves into eight plays to provide some comment on them, their genres, and their interpretations over time.

For example, he talks about the Shylock question. As you might know, gentle reader, Shylock was a Jewish character in The Merchant of Venice, and the play apparently contains some stereotypes of Jews (that carry forward to this day). The professor talks about how the interpretation has changed over time to present a more sympathetic portrayal of the character, and the professor remarked that at least one performance he saw stripped some of the Jewishness from the character–and that plays in the 19th century were Bowlderized to remove the sex jokes, but in the late 20th century they were getting chopped up to remove other objectionable content. Brother, have I got news for you from the future.

At any rate, I really enjoyed these audiocassettes. If you’ve been here for some time, you might remember that I started reading the complete works of Shakespeare in 2018, and I got about five plays in before laying the book aside. See my category Shakespeare for my current progress on reading the book. If it has more than five entries, know that I have been inspired by this lecture series to pick it back up. I will have to pace the plays out like Executioner novels to ensure that I don’t get tired of them and see the formulaic parts too clearly. Perhaps 2022 will be a year of drama, as I have Volume 2 of the complete works of Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare, around here somewhere (the first volume comprised the reading of my college course on Ben Jonson back in the early 1990s).

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Worth Less Toward My Retirement Than My Baseball Cards

Over at Outkick, Joe Kinsey’s daily post reminds me of an old pastime:

Winters seemed snowy back then in southwestern Ohio. Very cold. Dark. But there were always those Summerall and Madden afternoon Redskins or 49ers games to get us through. I’d be filling up NFL sticker books with my Christmas stocking hauls and listening to those games religiously. I can still go back in my mind to 1987-1989 specifically and remember the setup in our house and how we’d spend Sundays with the NFL.

I’d not only like to point out that the 80s were snowier than the current decade–we had a lot of snow in Jefferson County, meaning a lot of time off of school–but…

Collectible sticker albums. I’d not thought of those since probably the 1980s, but I, too, would buy an album and then buy packs of stickers, sight unseen, to stick into them. I did baseball albums, though, not football albums. I never completely filled one, but I am sure I had a couple of them going in the middle to late 1980s.

I don’t have them now, even though I have all my baseball cards from the era. I wonder how collectible the sticker albums eventually proved to be. Not enough to check the prices on eBay. Just enough to say, huh, I remember those.

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2021: The Year’s Reading in Review

Herein I present to you the list of books that I read in Book Year 2021, which starts the week after Christmas and runs to the week after Christmas (so this is technically Book Year 2022, wherein the Executioner novel I’ve been nibbling at a chapter a night will likely be the first entry).

So, my assessment? I started strong with a number of classics finished (Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and The Picture of Dorian Gray among them). The Winter Reading Challenge from the library propelled me strongly along. Later in the year, though, I kind of bogged down and did not read as much–poetry and football browsers being the bulk of Q4. The Eric van Lustbader thriller The Ninja really bogged me down late in the year.

But I read:

  1. Black Hand The Executioner #178
  2. Boxer’s Start-up by Doug Werner
  3. War Hammer The Executioner #179
  4. One-Step Sparring by Shin Duk Kang
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  6. Whiskey Words & a Shovel by r.h. Sin
  7. Like the Pieces of Driftwood by Jon Francis
  8. Complete Karate by J. Allen Queen
  9. We Live on Mackinac Island
  10. Gettysburg Visions by Sam Weaver
  11. The House on the Rock
  12. Sid Meier’s MEMOIR! by Sid Meier and Jennifer Lee Noonan
  13. Book Lust by Nancy Pearl
  14. The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Susan McBride
  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  16. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi / Translated by Thomas Cleary
  17. Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
  18. Widows by Ed McBain
  19. Danger on Vampire Trail by “Franklin W. Dixon”
  20. Force Down The Executioner #180
  21. Vespers by Ed McBain
  22. Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton
  23. She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo
  24. The Judgment of Caesar by Steve Saylor
  25. Karate! by Russell Kozuki
  26. A Ginger on a Mission by Lynn Daake
  27. Alien Nation by Alan Dean Foster
  28. The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly
  29. Mission: Impossible by Peter Barsocchini
  30. Supercarrier by George C. Wilson
  31. More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl
  32. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
  33. True Lies by Dewey Gram and Duan Dell’Amico
  34. Men in Black II by Michael Teitlebaum
  35. On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
  36. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  37. The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald
  38. Hackers by David Bischoff
  39. Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows by Jane Killick
  40. Mr. Monk Goes To The Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
  41. Mr. Monk Goes To Hawaii by Lee Goldberg
  42. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  43. Home Is Where The Heart Is by “Thomas Kinkade”
  44. Alien by Alan Dean Foster
  45. Heroes and Outlaws of the Old West by Shane Edwards
  46. The Great Optimist by Leigh Mitchell Hodges
  47. Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J. T. Stepanek
  48. Cocoon by David Saperstein
  49. The Blues Brothers by Miami Mitch
  50. Lethal Agent The Executioner #182
  51. Life After Favre by Phil Hanrahan
  52. Whoppers by Alvin Schwartz
  53. Rescue Run The Executioner #204
  54. Hell Road The Executioner #205
  55. I Remember Vince Lombardi by Mike Towle
  56. Moon of Mutiny by Lester del Rey
  57. Rock On by Dan Kennedy
  58. Coffee is Cheaper Than Therapy by Ann Conlkin Unruh
  59. Selected Poems by Mary Phelan
  60. The Pessimist’s Guide to History by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flecner
  61. Death Whisper The Executioner #208
  62. Three Comedies by Aristophanes
  63. My Cat Spit McGee by Willie Morris
  64. Asian Crucible The Executioner #209
  65. Fission Fury The Executioner #214
  66. Oriental Love Poems by Compiled by Michelle Lovric
  67. Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One
  68. Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two
  69. Poetics South by Ann Deagon
  70. Sonic Warrior by Lou Brutus
  71. Laugh Lines by Alison Pohn
  72. Fire Hammer The Executioner #215
  73. Poems by Chris Alderman/Harold Alderman
  74. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King
  75. Descartes in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern
  76. Lake Honor by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  77. A Bend in the Road by edited by Mary A. Shaugnessy
  78. Gone in the Night by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  79. Shadow Valley by Alan Brown and Brian Brown
  80. Carver: A Life In Poems by Marilyn Nelson
  81. The Controlled Clasp by John Bahnke
  82. Prayers and Meditations by Helen Steiner Rice
  83. We’re Doing Witchcraft by E. Kristin Anderson
  84. Thoughts from a Dark Room That Lit Up by Denzel Norris featuring Joel Smith
  85. The Legend of the One by Orlea Rayne
  86. Something to Someone by Javan
  87. One World, One Heart by Susan Polis Schutz with Stephen Schutz
  88. Thanksgiving Ideals magazine
  89. American Art Deco by Eva Weber
  90. Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation by edited by Tom Kratman
  91. Look What God Did! by Patty E. Thompson
  92. Whose Job Is It Anyway? by Patty E. Thompson
  93. Kung Fu Mace #4: The Year of the Dragon by Lee Chang
  94. Fugitive Blues by Debra Kang Dean
  95. I Marry You by John Ciardi
  96. Vengeance by Richard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice
  97. The Hirschfeld Century by David Leopold
  98. End Game The Executioner #218
  99. The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson
  100. Little Thoughts On Love by Anne Geddes
  101. Antoine Watteau
  102. Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow
  103. At the End of the Rainbow by Mary Worley Gunn
  104. Field Stones by Robert Kinsley
  105. Terse Verse by Roberta Page
  106. In Praise of East Central Illinois by Alex Sawyer
  107. The Ninja by Eric Can Lustbader
  108. The Wisdom of Father Andrew by edited by Kathleen E. Burne

That’s a lot of Executioner novels–what, 11? I’m clearly making it a priority to finish that series presently.

I have a lot of fine, fine books–the Summa Theologiae now among them–to read, so perhaps I should make a greater priority of reading in the evenings.

108 is not as many as SupaTrey, but he includes audiobooks he listens to, and I only count the actual books I read (and physical books, too, not ebooks).

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Nogglestead Christmas Round-Up

Gentle reader, I had one of the best Christmases in recent memory even though the days have had high temperatures in the 1970s, as un-Wisconsinlike as you can imagine; the only snow we had was in Christmas songs. However, this is not far outside the wide range we’ve seen here at Nogglestead in our time here–we have had a sum total of one white Christmas, I believe, when an unexpected snowfall lightly dusted southwest Missouri in 2010.

So what made this Christmas special?

My brother and nephew came over from Poplar Bluff on Christmas Eve to spend the night, open presents and to have Christmas dinner before returning to Poplar Bluff. Which explains why I know what this means:

Compared to a standard Kawasaki Mule, the Roxor is a little bigger, a little heavier, a LOT more powerful, and a bit simpler in most respects. Most critically, because it’s not CVT-equipped, it can tow quite a bit more, to the point where I’d feel comfortable using it to maneuver a loaded car trailer around our property.

You know what has a continuously variable transmission? A Jeep Compass such as my brother drives. Which led to a series of adventures.

My brother felt the transmission struggle a bit as he hit my farm road after driving on the highway for three hours. He checked the transmission fluid and found it a bit low, so we went out at six-thirty on Christmas Eve looking for CVT Transmission Fluid, which is different from regular transmission fluid. All the Walmarts were closed, so we ended up hitting a couple of gas stations and an extensive truck stop, but no luck. Plenty of regular transmission fluid, but none of the special stuff. So my brother and nephew would also stay Christmas night, and we’d hit Walmart in the morning so he could top it off.

Christmas itself went well. We opened presents, of course. My beautiful wife got the Iron Maiden cooler she never knew she wanted:

My best moment was when my youngest, acting as Santa and passing the gifts out, slid a wrapped box toward me. I picked it up and said, “This feels like the Summa Theologiae.” And my beautiful wife said a not beautiful word, because it was.

I have mentioned often, whenever I listen to audio books or courses on Aquinas, that I wanted to own a copy of Summa Theologica. Well, now I do, and I’m going to have to consider reading it.

We spoiled the boys, of course. The nuclear family got the standard pajamas, warm pajamas suitable for many Decembers, albeit not this onw. I have my brother-and-nephew tactical pens–if it has tactical in the name, it’s a good gift for them–along with books and gun targets. We then ate a great meal, watched a Packers victory, and watched my new DVD of The Blues Brothers–I read the novelization in March and haven’t seen the film in estate sales, thrift stores, or antique malls since, so my beautiful wife found it for me at a music/video resale shop (and paid $6 for it).

Then, on Boxing Day morning, I took my brother to Walmart when it opened at 6:00 for some special transmission fluid; he topped it off, but when he threw it into reverse to head home, the transmission made a crashing sound, and he had no gears. So I spent Boxing Day driving he and my nephew back to Poplar Bluff. He’s in a bit of a spot–it was his only running vehicle, and he is yet unsure where to have it repaired, how long it will take, or how much it will cost. So his adventure is a little more problematic than my drive, but I enjoyed the extra time with him.

And the whole weekend provided a little break from my routine. Towards the end of this year, I’ve been spending too much time at my desk getting too little done. I was going to write a cri-de-coeur post–I even had a great pun title, L’Eh State, C’est Moi, but never mind. I’m going to find space on my bookshelves for Summa Theologica, write my thank you notes, and get away from my desk.

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Book Report: The Wisdom of Father Andrew edited by Kathleen E. Burne (1949, 1950)

Book coverI must have gotten this pamphlet tucked into a pack of chapbooks bought from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County. It is a mid-(twentieth)-century pamphlet, apparently one of six in the set, from Britain collecting the wisdom of Father Andrew, real name Henry Ernest Hardy, one of the founders of the Society of Divine Compassion, an organization dealing with the poor in London.

This 32-page book has a bunch of paragraph or two snippets from Father Andrew’s other works, presumably. A number of them deal with focusing on one’s work as a vocation, not merely a job, but doing work for God no matter what the work is. So it reminded me a bit of C.S. Lewis’s work blended with Buddhism, perhaps. It’s definitely Christian work, though, as Father Andrew wants you to live like Christ. Father Andrew died in 1946, so this book and its brethren are posthumous.

More interesting, though, is the provenance of the book. Kathleen E. Burne was apparently a female poet of the World War I era (just like Joyce Kilmer!), but if you search for her now, you find some mention of her books of the life of Father Andrew (you can find Prayers from Father Andrew online here). The booklet I have is a second impression from 1950, and in the intervening fifty seventy years, it’s made its way across the ocean and into the interior of another continent (not as quickly as Five Themes of Today, but still).

Imagine a tract in the little plastic holder in the front of your church in the hands of someone in another country in 2095. Hard to imagine, ainna? And yet, my beautiful wife’s current Portals of Prayer might go far. If we did not recycle them at the end of every month. I think that might be a bit of a difference: Ephemera like that, and current Reader’s Digests that we read, we discard–unlike people in the last century, and certainly not like people in mid-century Britain would have.

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An Uncomfortable Conversation At Nogglestead

Honey, former crushes of mine are sending me pictures of themselves in bed.

The Triplets sent me an email wishing me happy holidays, along with the above photo, and invited me to join their email list. I did. Strangely enough, I had listened to their Christmas album, Christmas Time Is Here, earlier in the day.

Time was when I could tell Sylvia, Diana, and Vicki apart. But that was thirty years ago. Also, in this picture, they’re upside down. Although I can read a book upside down–the product of a lot of practice reading books to children so they could see the pictures–I cannot easily recognize an upside down face. Which is why I am pleased that gravity works for all of us, and special effects from Doctor Strange movies are just that.

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An Album I Need To Own

KCSM, the Bay Area’s Jazz station, posted this on Facebook:

Great, now that’s something I must own.

I actually bought Canta en Español and Cuatro Vidas on CD about ten years ago when I was adding to my Spanish language CDs (the time I bought a lot of Claudia Acuña, Rocío Dúrcal, Rocío Jurado, Paulina Rubio, Shakira, and José José among others), and I have picked up a couple of the records since then. But there’s a Christmas record? I really, really want to find that out in the wild now.

Probably more likely that finding Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald. In the original, anyway; apparently, there’s a reissue on vinyl, so I might run across one somewhere, but one does not find Ella Fitzgerald records in the wild, like almost at all.

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A Quiz, But Not A Definitive Guide

In 2011, The Mystery Bookshelf posted a four-part series entitled 20 Must Read Hard Boiled Classics (hey, I’m late to the party, but OregonMuse just posted it on the world-famous Ace of Spades HQ Book Thread this week).

So of course I decided to turn it into a quiz to find out how many of them I’ve read.

The results are not pretty. I have highlighted the titles of the ones that I have read.

  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  • Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane
  • It’s a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
  • Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
  • The Drowning Pool by Ross MacDonald
  • The Chill by Ross MacDonald
  • The Deep-Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
  • Eight Million Ways To Die by Lawrence Block
  • When The Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block
  • Miami Blues by Charles Willeford
  • Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke
  • L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

40%, If you throw in movies, I would be all the way up to 45% (unless you counted varied renditions of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye as extra credit).

I am not sure if I have any of the ones I have not read that I do not have on my to-read shelves. I have some James M. Cain–Mildred Pierce, which I started once but did not finish yet–but not the two listed here. I bought a couple of James Lee Burke books last year, but not Black Cherry Blues.

I would like some extra credit for reading the complete works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald as well as extensively in John D. MacDonald (all the Travis McGee novels, to which the Deep-Blue Goodbye belongs) and Mickey Spillane.

What would I add to this list? I don’t know that I could right away. Perhaps after some thought, reflection, and perusing of my shelves.

But I don’t have time for that now.

I will maybe keep an eye out for some of these books, but I would expect to find many of these out of print, or at least out of the print that would put them on the cheap bookshelves I haunt.

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Footnotable Humor

I guess it’s a meme, which is the modern equivalent of the cartoon but requires no actually drawing skill, but Instapundit posted this on Facebook, and I was amused.

I mean, I’ve told that story once or twice, but probably not to pretty girls. Well, except my beautiful wife, but I learned it after we were married, and she was stuck.

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Apparently, YouTube Thinks I Like Sirenia

As I have mentioned, one of my methods for finding new bands is to search for a video from a band I like and run through some of the suggestions that YouTube provides to keep me engaged and watching ads. Although my ad blocker means I don’t suffer through the ads.

At any rate, Sirenia has come up a couple of times, and I like it.

Well, maybe not. The videos I see look to be a couple from the band’s 2006 album Nine Destinies and a Downfall which was the only album by the band to feature lead singer Monika Pedersen. The band has had four female lead vocalists over the years. Maybe I just like Monika Pedersen. Continue reading “Apparently, YouTube Thinks I Like Sirenia”

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The Low Class Entertainments of Brian J., 2021-2022

You know, I was going to get “Weird Al” Yankovic concert tickets for my family for Christmas, something to stick into their stockings for a nice treat. But the page for the concert says that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event.

The concert is scheduled for next August. In the next nine months, we can expect the definition of vaccination and COVID test to change once or twice.

You know, I stream WSIE, the Sound, the jazz station in the St. Louis area, and all of the concert announcements feature the same stricture. And I saw an out-of-date ad for the Springfield Contemporary Theatre–although I thought I would go to a lot of performances there when I first learned of it five years ago, I haven’t been back. But in addition to Facebook showing me ads for productions that were over, the theatre also has the vax passport or negative test bit.

You know what doesn’t have bouncers at the door checking your papers? Sporting events. Movie theaters. School events. You know, the things that the proles like.

So I guess I’ll be avoiding the hoity-toity cultural events for the nonce.

(Related: It’s time to abolish ‘emergency’ COVID-19 powers by Glenn Reynolds. Although down here in the Ozarks, most of those things have already been eliminated, although my son has to mask up again for his school since they set Protocols at the beginning of the year, and they must slavishly follow them.)

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On Soren Kierkegaard narrated by Charlton Heston (1991)

Book coverI have read a couple of books on Kierkegaard (Søren Kierkegaard in the Makers of the Modern Theological Mind series and Kierkegaard in the Leaders of Modern Thought series) and actually some of the source material Fear and Trembling. I think I have another book or two of his around here somewhere. This two cassette overview narrated by Charlton Heston makes the books sound more accessible than the books on Kierkegaard probably are.

Again, these Giants of Philosophy sets are two cassettes, so they run two and a half or three hours. So you don’t get a lot of depth of the thought but rather get more biography and summary of the high points of the thought–although some of the series, like Aristotle, get a little more detailed in the thought because the bio is so thin. This book talks about Kierkegaard’s private life and upbringing and relationships with his father and Regina, his spurned fiance. It goes through his publications roughly in order and how his thought evolved at the time, and how he eventually battled the organized Lutheran church in his hometown.

Like the best of these lectures and courses, it made me want to dive into more primary materials, perhaps Either/Or next if I find that I own a copy or if I get an ABC Books gift card for Christmas (or if another book signing occurs, and I have to buy something else as a fig leaf, although I am pretty sure Mrs. E. tells all the authors that I come to all the book signings, which is only a slight exaggeration).

I only have two more of these left, one on Neitzsche and one on John Dewey. I will be sad to finish what I own, and I will definitely keep my eyes out for others in the series in the future, especially if I can get them at a buck or less per (as I did with these this May).

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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour Visits South America

As I said in 2010:

Brian J. Noggle asks, “What’s the difference between an Argentinian cowboy with a copy of Das Kapital in his saddlebag and the host of ‘You Bet Your Life’?”

One is a gaucho Marxist.

That is so simultaneously esoteric and not actually funny that it cracks Noggle up.

Sometimes, like Jim Treacher, I need to footnote my humor. Which does not make it any less funny.

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My Beautiful Wife Will Not Be Thrilled

Will Forte on reviving ‘MacGruber’ and his surprise real-life wedding

Eleven and a half years ago, we were one of the few people to see the MacGruber film in the theaters. On our anniversary. We’d seen Iron Man 2 and had dinner, and then I said, “Hey, want to see another movie?”

Oy, she hated it, but she did not divorce me over my taste in films.

It’s back now, but apparently it’s on a streaming service, so she is safe from my watching it.

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I’m Not Saying They’re Listening To You, But They’re Listening To You

So I mentioned to my beautiful wife that I’m working my way, slowly, through Tea in the Time of COVID which I bought in June and which disappeared into the back of the truck, a boy’s room, or both for a while.

I mentioned the author has 100 blog posts, essentially, about the tea mug she’s drinking from (she has a vast collection of hand-crafted tea mugs), the philosophical tweet on her teabag, and a little of what’s going on.

So suddenly, I’m seeing ads for artisanal tea cups on Facebook.

Yeah, that’s a coincidence. Yeah, I’m seeing a pattern where there is none. But given how often I see ads for things I don’t buy online but have talked about, I’d say there is a pattern.

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Book Report: The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader (1980)

Book coverAs you might remember, gentle reader, when I bought this book last month, I said that the back of the book called this a “sprawling erotic thriller.” So of course I jumped right on this book–as you know, I am a sucker for the smut. But wait, Brian J., you bought Fanny Hill a year and a half ago? Well, gentle reader, I like to cover up my propensity to read diry books by spacing them out a great deal indeed.

So is it erotic? Well, on page 30, we learn that the love interest read de Sade in college, so one might expect the book to turn into Fifty Shades of Ninja, but it does not. It has a bunch of sex scenes with some brief explicity, but we’re talking only a couple of sentences or paragraphs per, and they’re spread through 500 pages. We do get a variety of sex scenes that would have been called deviant in 1980, including incest, pedophilia, lesbian sex with a firearm as sex toy, and male anal rape. The book might have been shocking in 1980, but it’s definitely less titilating than a Gunsmith novel.

But is it sprawling? Oh, boy, Mister, is it!

All right, so the plot: A guy from an ad agency has quit and is living in the suburbs when a neighbor dies from what looks to be an accident, but a World War II veteran medical examiner finds traces of metal in a puncture wound, reminding him of an experience in World War II when he met the ninja. Our hero, Nicholas Linnear, is really a ninja! Spoiler alert, but, c’mon, man, the “twists” are pretty obvious as we go along. He meets the modern love interest, the daughter of a tycoon, soon after the murder (who turns out to be a former co-worker of Linnear). He becomes involved with her, but we also get long, vivid flashbacks of his upbringing in post World War II Japan by an English (Jewish) father and a Chinese mother (who might not be his real mother).

So we’ve got the past and the present interwoven; in the present, we have the good ninja agreeing to guard the tycoon from assassination by the ninja and collaborating with the local medical examiner and talking with some of his Japanese friends in New York, and they’re all systematically killed by the bad ninja, leading the good ninja to realize that maybe the bad ninja is targeting him as much as the tycoon. Whoa! And in a twist you can see hundreds of pages in advance, the bad ninja is his cousin! Or is he really Nicholas’s brother?

And then we go into a flashback of Nicholas’s young life in Japan, with some Nipponophilia and Japanese history worked in along with his love for a Japanese girl, Yukio, who might be playing him for a fool and in the service of his cousin, a student at the same ryu as Nicholas until Nicholas beats him–at which time he goes to a black school to learn the dark arts of bujistu. To be honest, a lot of words in the book are italicised to emphasize their exotic flavor.

But the backstories–each character gets his or her pages or paragraphs, if only to flesh out a character to be killed later–really chonk this book up. I mean, it goes into greater detail about the characters than classical literature which often weighs in at 500 pages or more. But I prefer my genre fiction a little punchier, and this book could have lost probably half of its words to tighten it up.

Oh, and the book is broken into five sections–rings based on The Book of Five Rings, and the author is name checked a bunch. I felt smaht for knowing this as I read the book earlier this year.

At any rate, not my kind of “thriller.” Overly long and wordy. I will probably not bother with the rest of the series which spans six novels through 1995 and two e-book short stories in 2014 and 2016.

Definitely the second-best book entitled The Ninja that I’ve read recently (The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art, which I read in 2019, was the best–I was surprised to see I already had an image called theninja.jpg for book reports).

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The Texting Cats of Nogglestead

So I got a text message from my mother-in-law yesterday. Apparently responding to a cryptic text that I sent her:

90,,,,,,,,,nmhj\op? I did not send it. I don’t know where it came from. It’s not a password, don’t try, script kiddies.

Then I remember that Isis, the black cat, climbed into the window about that time.

As you might know, I have a number of computers in my office as it’s a testing lab, sort of. One of the computers is a Macintosh, and its wireless keyboard is atop the letter file on my desk. The one that Isis used to step into the window since the desk that serves as the cats’ highway is currently stacked with Christmas presents.

The Macintosh had not put itself to sleep or gone to the login screen since the last time I used it. And I used it not for testing, but to use the messaging application to send longer texts to my mother-in-law that I could compose with a real keyboard instead of a phone.

So Isis managed to type and send a text message before getting to the window sill.

Maybe I should give the cat her own phone.

That way, she won’t keep borrowing mine.

Actually, she has not borrowed my new one, but the old ones in that black Otterbox case, she liked. She would pick it up when she found it and carry it somewhere else. I discovered this during one of my beautiful wife’s business trips a few years ago. We had used my wife’s phone for the alarm up until that time, but since she was gone, I set mine because I could put it on the nightstand next to me and turn it off before it awakened the boys–unlike the klaxon of the alarm clock on the bureau, which might have done so. But in the middle of the night, I awakened, and the phone was gone. The cat had taken it into one of the boys’ rooms; I found it in the darkness, and my phone has gone into the nightstand drawer at night ever since.

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