Book Report: Field Stones by Robert Kinsley (1997)

Book coverThis book, the less expensive of the books by this author that I spotted at Hooked on Books almost a month ago, is the work of a professional poet. The author is the assistant editor at The Ohio Review at the time, so he’s definitely a pro. But for all that, it’s not so bad.

Some of the poems to do fall to the two-to-four-syllable-lines problem. How can you develop a thought or image in lines that short? Short answer: unless your name is Issa and some of the beauty of the poetry is in the brushstrokes themselves, you can’t. But modern poets lurve it, and when I read poems like that, I can here them reciting a couple of short words and then pausing ponderously at the end of the line. Eesh.

At any rate, many of the poems contrast growing up on the farm with today, which although it was then was later than growing up on a farm. I liked it a little more than I thought I would, but I found enough in it to not dislike it.

But none of the poems really touched me. You know, I’ve read a lot of poetry this year–what, about 20 books, give or take how you account for some of them–and not many of the poems or poets stick with me. I liked some of the Mary Phelan and John Ciardi I read this year, the poem I remember most en toto and even quote bits of to myself comes from Robert Hayden whom I read in 2020. So I guess the best I get out of most poetry is that’s nice and move on.

Perhaps that’s the best I can hope for from people reading my poetry. Or people reading my poetry at all.

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Doing the Christmas Cards

So I am almost done with the 2021 Christmas cards.

I have mentioned in the past that I still send out Christmas cards (Reflections On Christmas Card Sending 2018, Literally, The Christmas Card Scandals of Nogglestead).

I’ve mentioned before that I like to send the old school communications. We don’t do the custom photo card much, as that requires too much planning and getting a good picture of all of us together. Instead, I write a Christmas letter with a couple of paragraphs and pictures of the boys and buy several boxes of cheap cards to tuck them into.

Then I spend a couple of nights addressing envelopes and signing cards. I have mentioned how the whole process gives me the opportunity to reflect on the people I’ve known and only keep in contact with through unrequited Christmas cards, including distant family with whom I’ve spent Christmases past but whom I have not seen in decades.

As I said last year:

The real scandal of the Christmas cards, I suppose, is that it gives me the one chance a year to think of and to communicate in a one-way fashion with people I’ve known and I think fondly of, but not fondly enough to keep in greater touch throughout the years. Some of them are on Facebook, or were for a while, but I’m not on Facebook much any more, and I hardly saw things from them when I was, either because they stopped participating or because Facebook has curated them out of my feed for its own ends.

So, for me at least, Christmas cards are about the warm feelings they give me and are a completely selfish pursuit. But I really do wish the recipients a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021.

The Christmas card list is dwindling, though, and the number of people for whom I write little notes is fading. So it’s a more somber holiday onanism than normal.

Also, when I went to get Christmas stamps, all the store had was otters playing in the snow.

Given the recent news (Man attacked by 20 otters, bitten 26 times: ‘I thought I was going to die’), I have to wonder what sort of Christmas message my recipients will think I am sending.

I have made my quips, though. On Facebook, I said:

To make our Christmas letter fit on a single page and inside the margins of the decorative paper, we eliminated any mention of our second son.

Let’s see if anyone notices.

It’s not true, but I inattentively signed one card Brian, Beautiful Wife, and Son #1, and Son #2 because I went with the and too early.

I have also caught myself being a little inattentive while signing them Merry Christmas and a blessed 2022. I am wondering the ratio of people I have wished a blessed 2021 to people I wished a blessed 2202. Probably 3:1, which is probably a good thing.

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Book Report: Terse Verse by Roberta Page (1973)

Book coverThis hardback comes from Carleton Press, a self-publishing firm, in 1973. Not only is it a hardback in a dust jacket, but the dust jacket is Mylar-wrapped, so someone thought highly of it. Perhaps Ellen Massey, the teacher extraordinaire, to whom the book is inscribed.

One might think of this as grandmother poetry, based on the photo on the back, but the author bio indicates that she still has a child in the house. I certainly made that mistake; she’s likely in her late thirties or early forties when this book came out, so not grandmother yet.

It doesn’t touch on the normal grandmother poetry themes of religion, patriotism, and so on. Instead we get short (well, terse is right in the title) bits about personal relationships and whatnot. The poems’ lines are not short, so she’s not a Professional, but many of the works are light on imagery and heavy on abstractions and explaining emotions.

So the poetry is not very memorable or compelling to a poetry glutton like me, but she must have been very proud of it, and she pursued her dreams, spending likely thousands of dollars in the process.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, December 11, 2021: Christmas Shopping Done Wrong (II)

So yesterday, I had a couple of hours whilst my son was at an event in Republic, Missouri, so I thought I would do some Christmas shopping. My first stop took me to Mike’s Unique, where I bought some records. The second stop was at ABC Books, where a local radio personality, Marla Lucas, was signing her book.

I did my circuit, although I stopped by the local authors and science fiction authors books to see if I could find something for my nephew.

I found some things for me, certainly.

I got:

  • Hope Always Wins by Marla Lucas. She mentioned that she wrote it in 30 days. Meanwhile, I’m up to beyond 30 months on whichever novel I happen to finish next.
  • Hard Start: Mars Intrigue by S.V. Farnsworth, a local author. I usually pick up a copy of something I’ve read an enjoyed during the course of the year for my nephew, but I haven’t read much this year in science fiction or fantasy that wasn’t tied to a movie or television show. So, instead, I bought a copy of this book for both of us. Mrs. E. asked if I had been to her book signing last week, and I had not. To think, I could have gotten a signed copy for myself my nephew. And, confession: ABC Books has been having so many book signings these days that I cannot get to all of them. I feel like I’m letting the proprietrix down.
  • The Inner Game of Fencing by Nick Evangelista. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually done the outer game of fencing.
  • Perry Rhodan: The Wasp Men Attack by W.W. Shols and Atlan #1: Spider Desert by Ernst Vlcek. ABC Books as a lot of old paperbacks in the Perry Rhodan series (which I only know of as a lot of them are at ABC Books). Since I’m running low on Executioner books, perhaps I should look for another midcentury series to waste my time on invest in.

I also got my nephew a copy of Gateway by Frederik Pohl that I enjoyed…in 2013? That’s can’t be right. I just read that, and my beautiful wife got me the others in the series, which I have not yet read, that Christmas.

At any rate, the ratio of Christmas gifts at this stop was 2/4, so I’m getting better. Unfortunately, after running all the way to the north side of town after my stop at the antique mall, I really did not have time to stop anywhere else except to pick up a couple of gift cards for the stockings. So I might have do something like this again next weekend.

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Good Album Hunting, Saturday, December 11, 2021: Christmas Shopping Done Wrong Edition

So I had a couple of hours today between dropping my son off at an event and picking him up, so I thought I would do a little Christmas shopping. As such, I stopped at Mike’s Unique antique mall/flea market. I saw a Marine Corps emblem made of LED lights that I thought I’d get my brother, until I thought, “What kind of Marine would want a Lite Brite eagle on an anchor?” And although I told myself, I would only go through the records at a single booth (and not the records-centric booth at the back), well…

I got:

  • Noël by Nana Mouskouri, a Greek singer. The album itself looks to be German.
  • Communication by Bobby Womack. I already have this one on CD; now I can spin it along with The Poet I & II on the turntable.
  • The Exciting Voice of Sergio Franchi.
  • La Bella Italia by Sergio Franchi, whose Christmas records I’ve been playing and enjoying this season.
  • Romantic Love Songs by Sergio Franchi. And now when I see his other records, clearly I pick them up.
  • Robert Mitchum Sings by Robert Mitchum. The tough guy actor. One day, I will have all the songs from the Golden Throats series on the original records, werd.
  • The Lamp is Low by Marilyn Maye.
  • Made in France by the Surrey Strings. Which looks to be songs about France, not songs in French or French singers at all.

Well, I did find a single gift at Mike’s Unique, but my ratio there of gifts for others/things for me was 1/9. Far below the ideal 1:1 ratio I strive for. In my defense, some people are hard to shop for, but I always know when I want something.

The records ranged in price between $2 through $8 (the Bobby Womack record); most were $2 or $3, and some discounts were applied. It’s becoming fairly standard, unfortunately, to find records by artists whose names you recognize at about $10. But I’ll still find something inexpensive to take a flier on.

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Book Report: In Praise of East Central Illinois by Alex Sawyer (1976)

Book coverInstead of some grandmother poetry, how about some grandpa poetry instead? Ah, but for the depth of grandmother poetry. This volume has 51 pages of landscapes with little beyond describing the flora of East Central Illinois. Many of the poems within are cinquains, which are short five line verses. Longer than a haiku, but not by much.

Still, the book I have is autographed and is from the third printing, somewhere in the 601st through 800th copies made available. So the fellow sold or gave away more books of poetry than I have amid my two chapbooks and one self-published print-on-demand title, and like At the End of the Rainbow, it’s available on Amazon almost fifty years after publication.

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Book Report: At the End of the Rainbow by Mary Worley Gunn (1974)

Book coverNow this is what you would expect of good grandmother poetry. The book, comb-bound when I was but two years old (but not by my grandmother) runs 94 pages on high-quality cardstock for the most part. It touches on themes of holidays, religion (lightly), family, and patriotism, but not unalloyed with a touch of pain (apparently, she lost a son in World War II). We get the gamut of history in the poems: She married in 1918, in the shadow of World War I, lost a son in World War II, and wonders about kids these days in the 1970s.

The poems are tidy little bits with end rhymes; the introduction says that the author had pieces published in the newspaper; I remember when newspapers published poetry. I will have to admit, of all the papers I take these days, only one drops in a poem from time to time, and of all the magazines I take (which, to be honest, is fewer than the newspapers), only one or two have a poem from time to time. But in the olden days of the last century, gentle reader, you might get your little ditty in the paper, read by people, enjoyed a bit and mostly forgotten. Unlike today, where you pump the poem into a database somewhere to be eventually discarded with a click of a No button instead of a nice form letter, and even if you get it published in a proper place, only other poets will read it.

You know, that’s why I read grandmother poetry and old Ideals magazines. Because I remember when poetry like this was a staple of the people and not The Poets and Power. 1974, maybe 1980, might have been the high mark of this; by the time I was dropping chapbooks in 1994 and 1995, nobody at the coffeeshops was buying.

Compare and contrast: Although you can get a print-on-not-much-demand copy of Coffee House Memories on Amazon, you can actually order a print copy of this book on Amazon. Unrequited and Deep Blue Shadows, my laid-out-and-printed-at-Kinko’s chapbooks, are not available.

Or maybe that’s because they’re more collectible.

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Musical Balance, Q4 2021: Wobble, Wobble, Wobble

As you might remember, gentle reader, I often posit that my musical purchases are evenly balanced between jazz songbirds and heavy metal, although the heavy metal often has female lead singers, so maybe my taste in music is pretty and lovely sounding women.

Well, since the end of August, my music balance has become all a-wobbly as I have bought music outside those simple genres (although in August, I’d admitted to buying jazz music by non-songbirds).

If you’re wondering, here’s what I got:

  • Chapter I: Monarcy by Ad Infinitum. Metal, female lead.
  • American IV: The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash. Uh, country? Because my oldest son asked my my favorite Johnny Cash song, and I said it was the title track, but then I realized I had no Johnny Cash in my library.
  • The Dana Owens Album by Queen Latifah, after I heard her singing a jazz standard on WSIE.
  • Trav’lin’ Light by Queen Latifah, ibid, although the song I heard came from this album.
  • Chapter 2: Legacy by Ad Infinitum.
  • Welcome to Fat City by Crobot. Hard rock. A couple of the favorites on my gym playlist are from this band.
  • Original Album Classics by Pretty Maids, a five CD set that includes Red, Hot and Heavy, Future World, Jump the Gun, Sin-Decade, and Stripped. My beautiful wife introduced me to the band via Future World fifteen or so years ago; given how much I liked the band, it’s taken me a long time to fill out my collection.
  • Undress Your Madness by Pretty Maids, their 2019 album.
  • Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (single, MP3).
  • Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys (single, MP3). Funny; I have put these on my gym playlist, but I have not yet downloaded the first Beastie Boys cassette single I bought (“So Whatcha Want?”). I’ve never bought a whole Beastie Boys album.
  • The Pioneer” by Follow the Cipher, who are long overdue for a real CD or album.
  • Independenz by Null Positiv. I ordered the CD directly from Germany and got a signed picture from Elli Berlin for my effort.
  • Mirror, Mirror by Eliane Elias. A jazz songbird and pianist I heard on WSIE; this album is mostly the pianist.
  • American Dream by Diamante. C’mon, man, I warned you.
  • BRKN Love by BRKN Love.

So that’s 9 rock/metal albums versus 3 jazz records with 1 Johnny Cash album with three singles, of which 2 are rap and 1 is metal. Definitely unbalanced, and unfortunately no metal additions to the gym playlist yet (although I have added the Beastie Boys songs, but mostly for non-intensive workout listening).

But enough about that. Let’s talk about Elli Berlin, Melissa Bonny, and Linda Toni Grahn.

Continue reading “Musical Balance, Q4 2021: Wobble, Wobble, Wobble”

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Exception: Found

Reader’s Digest has a trivia quiz every issue. This one had a couple of questions that caught my eye.

First, the bonus question drove me nuts because I’d just read on a blog somewhere about the name of the guy. Wait, see page 22? I read it in this very issue of Reader’s Digest which is kind of like a printed blog.

But, anyway, it’s question 8 that made me raise my eyebrow. Female reindeer have antlers. Actually, it’s the answer that made me raise my eyebrow.

Fact; reindeer are the only deer species in which females have antlers.

[Laughs in Ozarkian]

16-point deer harvested in Missouri turns out to be doe

So perhaps the answer is that all reindeer does have antlers, but reindeer are not the only species where antlers appear on does.

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To Keep The Spirit Of The Holidays Alive, I Just Need To Write The Check

So, to bring you up to date to the calumnies befalling Nogglestead. Remember our misadventures this holiday season so far:

So what has befallen us lately? Continue reading “To Keep The Spirit Of The Holidays Alive, I Just Need To Write The Check”

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The Same Story From Two Different Points of View

This morning, as I was taking my youngest into school, one of my favorite Elton John songs, if not my favorite Elton John song, came on the radio:

“Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road”. I asked him what he thought it was about; he said, “The Wizard of Oz?” I said it was about a guy of humble origins elevated by a relationship with a wealthy person, but who comes to think that the wealthy person does not care for him, but rather likes the novelty of having a partner of lower origin. So the poet-narrator (if they have such things in songs) is breaking it off and returning to his roots. I pointed out how Elton John and the brown dirt cowboy (Bernie Taupin) used a lot of metaphor in the song, which gives it depth you don’t find in much modern pop.

I changed the radio stations; after we caught the last chorus off “All Star” by Smashmouth, “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” by Human League came on.

“That’s basically the same story, but from the other perspective,” I told him. A partner with a better station in life elevates a cocktail waitress, but she breaks it off with him. This song presents both sides of the story, though, so one gets sympathy for both sides of view. But it’s not as deep as the Elton John song, probably because of the metaphors and imagery in the former.

Tomorrow, on the way to school, perhaps we will talk about the monomyth in love songs. I mean, the young man has a mind to an engineering track and career, but there’s no reason I cannot infect him with some comparative literary criticism skills for fun.

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To Ask The Question Is To Answer It

Nicklaus: The economy is booming. Why are Americans so glum?

Messenger: Of smoking, masks and shifting views of freedom

And to be honest, using “Booming” to describe how the price of everything has gone up in the last year is a bit of a stretch of optimism.

But, yeah, in an inflationary environment, when the elites and journalists are all about explaining how the inflation is good for you and the loss of freedom is good for you, and you’re a racist anyway, why are Americans glum?

Must be the grey skies with little chance of snow.

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Patrice Lewis asks:

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across an article entitled “Americans Panic-Buy Firewood And Stoves Amid Energy Crisis”: “The global energy crisis has led to a spike in natural gas, heating oil, propane, and power prices, making the cost of heating a home this fall/winter very expensive. As a result, Americans are panic buying cords of wood and stoves to deflect soaring fossil fuel prices.

Have others noticed this? Is anyone transitionng [sic] to wood heat this winter in response to energy prices?

Well, I wouldn’t say panic buying, but I did lay some extra wood up.

Although I haven’t even bothered to light a fireplace candle the last few nights as the daytime temperatures hereabouts have been in the upper 60s or lower 70s for the last week. Which does not warrant a little flickering light in the family room no matter how early it gets dark.

Still, in one of the phrases that my boys will someday say “My father always said,” it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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The Wrong Funny Hats

Apparently, because I wear a fedora, Facebook thinks I like funny hats.

I’ve gotten this ad a bunch, and I don’t know why. I’ve never worn a scully. Well, I had a corduroy hat with a sloping front when I was in eighth grade, but I didn’t wear that hat very often–although I once drew a self portrait for an art class that actually looked like me, and I was wearing that hat. So maybe it just looked like the hat. My friend Shaun favored hats like that–I think there’s a photo of us together, and he’s wearing a hat like that. But, c’mon, man, do I look like some guy out of Southie? Don’t answer that.

I also get ads for some novelty headgear as well.

I’ve also gotten some ads for top hats and steampunk abhorrations.

I am definitely not the target audience for these hats. I take a classic fedora, 2″ brim, 4″ c-crown, black. I accept no substitutions.

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Book Report: Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow (2006)

Book coverI saw someone–perhaps the Ace of Spades Midmorning Art Thread–mention Edward Hopper. Of course, I knew about “The Nighthawks”, which the particular post mentioned. So when I got a chance to pick up this book at Hooked on Books, I did.

The book mixes biographical text with large renderings of the paintings as well as some detailed close-ups. It definitely uses the page effectively; some books have fairly large margins and tiny reproductions of the art, but this book really illustrates how to do a monograph. Of course, it is from the 21st century. Clearly, printing has improved since the 1970s and 1980s, when a lot of the monographs I review were published.

The author of this book talks about how grim and isolated, how despondent the people in the paintings are, and he lays out a good argument for that, but I think the scenes are not quite as bleak as the author would have us believe. They’re scenes of working people, often urban or newly developed areas, and they depict not portraits but moments in time in the urban landscapes and in the peoples’ lives. The almost impressionistic blurring of the lines works well, and this author indicates that Hopper might have influenced Noir cinema instead of vice versa.

So I liked the book. Of course, I live in the country now, so city living is but a memory, which might be why I like the gauzy focus urban paintings–paintings from a time way past when I lived in the city, but how I imagined myself in that city even as I lived there and even now.

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Book Report: Masters of World Painting: Antoine Watteau (1980)

Book coverYou know, ABC Books has amongst its dwindling artists section a thick volume on Watteau, and I felt a bit like a traitor when I bought this book at Hooked on Books two weeks ago. Of course, that’s odd, since I was a Hooked on Books patron before I even moved here, twenty-some years ago when I came to Springfield with my beautiful-then-girlfriend. So perhaps I should feel like a traitor to Hooked on Books for buying so much at ABC Books, but Hooked on Books has changed hands once or twice since then, and ABC Books has not changed hands since I’ve known of it.

At any rate, watteau to say about this artist. A late seventeenth and early eighteenth century French artist–Voltaire might have thought him old school. You know, if I read and remember enough of these monographs I will see he’s more Gainsborough than Caravaggio. The brief text introduction in the book explains how he was misunderestimated in his age, but how he’s really a towering figure. Except fewer people remember his name than Caravaggio, probably.

Not bad to look at; group scenes where you can tell the subjects are people. I don’t know that I would hang any reprints of his work in my home if I were to come upon one somewhere. But I probably wouldn’t, as, c’mon, it’s Watteau.

The book, though, is nominally a Harry N. Abrams book, but it’s also credited to Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad. Most of the pieces depcited on the plates were in Soviet museums, and this was a nice, artificialish “We like art, too” reach across the Iron Curtain where the book was published in the Soviet Union, but the art images are all pasted in by work-from-home people circa 1979. I have mentioned before that I dated a girl in the 1990s who caught on with one of these publishers who would send her books and art plates to paste into them, and the girl would get dinged on quality control if the plates were a little crooked, so it wasn’t something you could do while watching television (as the ads in the magazines promised).

You know what? I have forgotten Watteau since I started typing this review. Which explains why it’s the only monograph left at ABC Books besides the $30 “comic” art one (which I will probably buy in 2022). So, consider that the ultimate meh.

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