Must Be Why I Like It

Apparently, the museum hosting Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère has slapped a trigger warning on it:

The Courtauld Gallery has been criticised for introducing a ‘woke’ new label on the Manet masterpiece A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It warns viewers of the ‘unsettling’ presence of a man

As I mentioned when I read a book on Manet, this is my favorite Manet painting.

Also, I think “The unsettling presence of a man” is going to be my slug/lede on my resume and LinkedIn profile from now on.

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Someone’s Not Up On Economic or Business Terms

In a story Etsy sellers strike back: Creators fed up with fee hike, we have this bit of business ignorance:

During the month of November 2020, McGrath made $44, however, Etsy took $28 from that profit. She stated she sees no logical reason for the company to be taking so much of a seller’s profit.

It’s not a profit until you’ve accounted for all the costs of the business, such as transaction fees by the marketplace.

As you might know, gentle reader, around the turn of the century, I was a very active Ebay seller. I would spend Saturday mornings at estate sales and garage sales picking up books, old games, computer things, electronics, and music to list throughout the week.

However, I left the service because fees were going up, Ebay bought PayPal and wanted you to accept payment through it (with additional fees), and basically it went from being a seller’s market to a buyer’s market.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting a booth at the antique mall to put some of the various bric-a-brac that I’ve gathered and some of the crafts I’ve done and put in boxes in the garage. It seems more straightforward than messing around with the online services again. But I’m not entirely convinced that I would make enough in sales every month to warrant it–or to keep it going long term–and, to be honest, if I did sell a bunch of things, whether I could find/make enough to keep it going.

I guess I will find out sometime if I get around to actually doing it.

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Book Report: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895, 1983)

Book coverI am going to go out on a limb here and say that the text comes from the 1895 publication of this book; in 1982, Norton came out with a longer version based on Crane’s “original manuscript,” and I doubt they would have shared that copyright with Reader’s Digest the same year (the Reader’s Digest The World’s Best Readers edition came out in 1982, and mine is a second printing from 1983). Not that it matters except for purists. But I am throwing it out there because I read the Wikipedia article.

At any rate, this was my first reading of this book. I understand, or at least my beautiful wife told me, that some people read this book in elementary school, or perhaps their mothers’ wombs, but I came to it late, and I am pretty sure that I have mentioned once or twice that I confused this book with Where The Red Fern Grows because they both have the word Red in the title. So, alright: Even though I came from an era where they read novels in school, the schools I attended did not read either of the red books. Nor The Little Red Book, which they might teach in TikTok form to modern students, but that’s neither here nor there. Also, that might remind me of a story, although I don’t need much reminding as it’s recent, but perhaps I will tell it someday.

Where was I? Oh, yes. This is a Civil War book about a young man who goes to the war over the objections of his mother, who does a bunch of marching and bivouacking and thinking, and when he encounters battle for the first time, he gets caught up in a disorderly retreat, and he runs away. He spends a couple of days out of the fray, running then meeting up with a rearward march of the wounded, and he gets a bang on the head which he presents as his war wound to have taken him out of battle. Then, he returns to his unit, and they have a battle, and then they’re ordered to a charge he knows is a distraction which is expected to lead to many casualties, he performs well, and he does not die.

Um, spoiler alert retroactively.

I had a bit of trouble with this book because I’m from the 21st century (well, I am from the 20th century, but I’ve been here in the 21st a long time now). As I read it, I kind of expected that the main character would die and/or the book would veer into anti-war or anti-patriotism, but it doesn’t take a more modern turn. Instead, it tries to re-create what it was like in the Civil War even though it was written twenty years later by a man born after the war.

The prose is a bit purple. And red. And yellow. You don’t go more than a few sentences in dry spots where a color is not mentioned, and the prose is measured for its own sake, not the service of the plot. So it was a bit denser of a read than a thriller or genre book, but not as dense as Georgian prose or self-indulgent high literature.

So not one of my favorite books, but I’m glad to have read it as it offers some light classical literature amid this year’s children books and Star Trek short storification collections.

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On Barbarella (1968)

Book coverOne of my Christmas gifts was a gift card to Vintage Stock, a retailer in used movies, video games, CDs, movies, and records. So sometime right around the turn of the year, I went over to Vintage Stock to spend it, and I amassed a number of movies and DVDs, including this one. It was my lucky day, too, as I made my first (and only) stop to the new comic book shop on Campbell, right across the city from the now-closed Nameless City Games. And although Nameless City did not have the first issue of the Sarah Hoyt Barbarella last July, the new comic book shop had one copy of the first issue six months later. So I got the original movie and the latest pop cultural incarnation on the same day. Spoiler alert: I read the comic first.

So. The plot is that Barbarella, an interstellar agent in the future, has to go to Tau Ceti to find a scientist named Durand Durand who has created a positronic ray that might be used as a weapon. So she goes to Tau Ceti, meets some different people and different species including murderous children, blind angels, and a planet whose energy source is a flowing substance below the ground that feeds off of negative thoughts and emotions–Ghostbusters 2‘s slime sorta. She has sex with a couple of people, and eventually finds Durand Durand who wants to use his ray to take power. But he overreaches and dies.

This is an early Dino De Laurentis film, and the look-and-feel of it, along with some of the pacing, feels a lot like Flash Gordon from 1980 (although this film is obviously earlier). The protagonist in this film, though, is a bit more passive than Flash Gordon–other characters and natives of the planets she visits lead her around to different venues, and sometimes she has sex with them, but most of the time, Barbarella is not leading the action.

Oh, and about the sex: Although my beautiful wife had heard that this was a soft core porn film, it really wasn’t. Although I am glad I did not share the film with my boys, the sex in it was relatively tame and not depicted graphically. I mean, it’s essentially a French film, directed by Renoir’s grandson and co-starring Marcel Marceau, but it doesn’t have the ooh la la that you get in some French and Scandinavian films of the period. The opening sequence of Barbarella removing a spacesuit in zero gravity was pretty, erm, compelling, though.

At any rate, I’m glad to have watched it for its, what, cultural value? To have seen something that was influential and that continues to be a bit of a touchstone today–I mean, aside from the comic series, there was a musical in 2004, and the band Duran Duran took its name from the name of the scientist, for crying out loud–but as a story and a film, meh (which is quite different from mwah! which is the chef’s kiss, which this film is not).

Below the fold, Jane Fonda as Barbarella in her many outfits.
Continue reading “On Barbarella (1968)”

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Book Report: John D. MacDonald: A Checklist of Collectible Editions & Translations by David G. MacLean (1987)

Book coverI bought this little chapbook at ABC Books a couple weeks ago, and when I went back earlier this month and bought a book by Gregory McDonald, I mentioned that Gregory McDonald was one of the big three MacDonald/McDonalds–the other were Ross MacDonald and John D. MacDonald (I said, gesturing to a Travis McGee novel stacked and ready for pricing behind the register). I then told Mrs. E. that I had recently bought a price guide for John D. MacDonald books, this very book–and then I realized I had bought it at ABC Books a couple of weeks earlier, albeit when she was not there.

So. This is a 32-page, saddle-stitched, typeset with a typewriter booklet from 1987, probably not long after MacDonald’s death (at a different hospital in Milwaukee than the hospital where Heather Graham and I were born–he is buried in Milwaukee, and I never visited even though I have been a fan since he was interred). It lists first editions, including first foreign editions in some cases, and prices circa 1987.

How do the prices stack up to modern prices? The Brass Cupcake, his first novel in paperback from 1950, is listed in the book at $40 including notes on a recent sale. You can find it on Ebay from between $30 to $250, and there’s a hardcover edition at $1250 (which is a hardback reprinting of the paperback). So your mileage may vary.

As I have mentioned, gentle reader, I’m a bit afraid of eventually running out of John D. MacDonald books to read. So this book gave me an opprortunity to audit my collection using the Wikipedia entry for John D. MacDonald’s bibliography, the archives of this blog, and my seriously overburdened inexpensive, turn-of-the-century book library software. The shocking results are below the fold.
Continue reading “Book Report: John D. MacDonald: A Checklist of Collectible Editions & Translations by David G. MacLean (1987)”

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Book Report: The Dark Side of CX by Michael G. Bartlett (2022)

Book coverI bought this book new on Amazon when a local tech group mentioned it. I kind of thought that CX (customer experience) would be something akin to UX (User Experience) which deals with UI (User Interface) which is the parts of the computer program that users actually tap, type, and click on. Each step up the chain is a bit of an abstraction that allows the consultants to sell it a bit more to audiences who are further up in the management chain. Pardon me, do I sound a little cynical? Or maybe envious of the cool consultants?

So CX is actually customer/client experience, which blends marketing, sales, and customer support into a single concept about which one can draw some lessons. He breaks the failures into two categories: Goal friction, where the problem prevents the customer from achieving a goal, and Social Friction, which makes the customer feel bad or socially diminished.

The book uses the Russian term priyome, which is a term for a pattern and an action leading to advantage from recognizing the pattern. He gives them cute names like “Pass the Parcel” and “Without a Paddle,” explains the pattern/archetype a bit, and then how to solve or avoid the problem.

A lot of this seems like common sense, especially if you’ve had any retail or customer service experience, but this is 2022, man. What was common sense in 1990 might be the lost wisdom of the ancients by now.

The book is kind of structured like The Gorilla Mindset in that it interrupts its main flow–in this case the priyomes–with interviews with experts and digressions on company culture (but nothing on juice products advertised on the podcast!).

So it made for a quick, light read that really doesn’t offer much I can apply directly to my day-to-day, but it’s something to go into the hopper for future recombination with my ideas.

And I felt a little gratified by an invitation to a forthcoming webinar that confuses CX with UX:

Improving the Mobile Customer Experience Through Scriptless Automation

Let’s face it, mobile automation is difficult. You can’t rely solely on coordinates or xpaths to make it work. Yet so many automation products do, resulting in flaky test scripts and a maintenance nightmare. If a test script fails, it can lead to reduced customer satisfaction and retention, or worse—it can be seen as a reflection of your brand. This need to keep users happy while maintaining app performance can seem impossible, but there is a solution: scriptless test automation.

This is testing the user interface, not the end-to-end customer experience Bartlett envisions. I wonder whether this term and abbreviation are not tightly locked down yet.

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Perhaps In The Disney Movie

I might not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know who Janet Yellen is.

And that’s not her.

So Microsoft is throwing up random ads in the home page of the Microsoft Edge Web browser these days, and one of them is clickbait enough to combine a powerful financial figure, a buzzword, and a stock photo of a woman.

But not enough to make me click. Only enough to make me mock.

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Not Quite That Country

The Licking News, small a paper as it is, has numerous columns worth reading along with a comic page with puzzles.

On of the comics is R.F.D. by Mike Marland.

Last week, the cartoon dealt with local sourcing of foods:

We at Nogglestead are not that country. Although there are many beef operations in the area, including one run by the realtor who helped us find Nogglestead, we do not frequent farmer’s markets to get to know small producers nor do we really home in on local producers whose names we might recognize from Ozarks Farm and Neighbor. Mostly, we grab what is least expensive at the grocery or the warehouse club store.

I am, however, reminded of the time I went back to Kansas with a girlfriend to visit her grandparents, and on Sunday morning, the grandmother or aunt served bacon from Uncle Rick’s pig–and she said she did not like store boughten bacon at all. Although she probably did not say “boughten,” given how much of a throwback to the old ways both families of farmers were in the 1990s, she probably meant it.

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A Horror Story for Brian J.

Not by me, mind you. Something that fills me with dread: Justin Fields Must Recruit Former Teammate To Chicago:

Still, it doesn’t mean Fields can’t find a way to bring in at least one of his former teammates. He’ll do some extra legwork to lure Chris Booker to Chicago if he is smart. Don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with the name. The senior spent two years for the Buckeyes as a backup. He made only two catches during that time—both of them in the year after Fields left.

So why in the world should the QB even bother?

Namely, because Booker has untapped potential. He’s 6’3 with understated speed and surprisingly polished as a route-runner. After dropping out of football at Dayton in 2018, he transferred to Ohio State with no intention of playing again. However, he was convinced to join the school’s club football team. In his first game, he scored touchdowns on a reception, an interception, and a kick return. His head coach knew he had way too much talent for that level right away. So he pestered the school’s varsity program to give Booker a shot.

They finally did after a year. He became a regular on their scout team and would catch passes from Fields in practice.

So the two know each other well. Teammates and coaches alike grew surprised by his progress. That included receivers coach Brian Hartline, a former NFL standout. While he never cracked the offensive starting lineup, Booker became arguably the best special teams player in the entire program and one of the best in college football. Every time somebody was making a play on kick coverage or blocking units, #86 was in the frame. Sadly the ascent came too late in his career to drum up draft interest.

My beautiful wife, who shared this story with me as she’s friends with the lad’s mother, said, “It would be the one way to get a Bears jersey in our house.”

“The hell it would,” I countered thoughtfully. “However, if he were to sign with the Green Bay Packers, everyone in the house would have a Chris Booker jersey. Even the cats.”

What followed was an attempt to edit a listing from the Packer Pro Shop for pet jerseys to include the name and number of the young man in question. An effort abandoned when I determined it would require a couple hours of work for a couple of chuckles at best.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, April 2, 2022: ABC Books

Yesterday, I made my way up to ABC Books for a book signing. It was no ordinary book signing; it was Mike Crocker, director of the Dickinson Park Zoo here in Springfield. I already knew a little about his book, as the zoo is part of the parks system, and my beautiful wife sits on the park board. So she already has a copy of it, and she has read excerpts to me that she really likes.

I made my normal loop (martial arts, poetry, philosophy) and also stopped by the contemporary mysteries section, and I got a few things.

I got:

  • True Tales from the Dickerson Park Zoo by Mike Crocker, the signer in residence.
  • Confess, Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald. My oldest and I watched Fletch together again a couple weeks back (the first time was last Spring), and I’m always trying to get him interested in the source material for movies. So I picked up this book, which was not on the shelf two weeks ago) but not Fletch Won which is a later entry in the series but deals with Fletch’s earliest adventure (because my attempts to get him to read real books are often futile).
  • The Political Ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas edited by Dino Bigongiari, selections from Summa Teologica. Which I received for Christmas and have not started yet. Heck, I haven’t even found a good place to shelve it yet.
  • The Poetry of Stephen Crane. I just read The Red Badge of Courage (book report forthcoming), so this leapt out at me and was like $6.
  • Boxing: The American Martial Art by R. Michael Onello. This, too, was not present two weeks ago.
  • Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig, the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance guy.

Were I a betting man, I would bet that I will read the zookeeper’s book first followed by the boxing book. But there’s no telling how soon either will be.

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On The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series (2009)

Book coverAs you know, gentle reader, I am about half way through James Blish’s short paperbacks collecting episodes from the Star Trek series (see also Star Trek, Star Trek 2, Star Trek 3, Star Trek 4, and Star Trek 5 for the recent re-reads or click here to see earlier and future re-reads–which will include the others in this timeline that I post later than I post this). Last Christmas, I received gift certificates for the antique mall again, $100 worth this time (with a six month expiration and no change returned, so a very old school type of giftcertificate). As I mentioned in the report on Star Trek 4, I looked for episodes of the original series at Relics Antique Mall last month. Although I did not find any physical media for the original series on that trip–one in which my buying focus was finding one big thing, like a set of fencing equipment, a receiver to serve as a back up in the parlor, or something that cost $100, I went again later with two certificates to look specifically at DVDs and videocassettes, and amongst a number of videos that I have not yet begun to watch, I spotted this DVD (and bought it, of course).

This 2009 release comes at a time when Paramount released the first season of the original series on Blu-Ray, remastered and with remixed sound. One assumes that this was a bit of a loss leader, a way to pitch the new set to people who maybe casually or perhaps a little more than casually enjoyed the original series but hadn’t seen it in a while. 2009, man. They probably still had video stores like Suncoast back then, ainna? Certainly the Best Buys and Walmarts still had fairly robust video sections in Electronics.

So this single DVD collects four episodes:

  • “The City on the Edge of Forever” (Blishified in Star Trek 2), the one with Joan Collins in it. C’mon, man. Joan Collins. Something something time travel and Joan Collins.
  • “The Trouble with Tribbles” (Blishified in Star Trek 3), the one with the little puff ball creatures that takes place on a disputed space station and where Klingons insult Kirk and the Enterprise (which is why the quote from Wilder’s post that I mentioned yesterday was fresh in my mind).
  • “Balance of Terror”, (Blishified in a later volume than I’ve read so far), the one where the Enterprise encounters the Romulans and their cloaking device.
  • “Amok Time” (Blishified in Star Trek 3), the one where Spock goes through Pon Farr and has to return to Vulcan to mate, much to his high Vulcan chagrin.

So I enjoyed spending a couple of evenings reviewing things I’d seen before and read recently, for the most part. Not enough to buy the complete series on Blu-Ray (although it looks as only the first season got the treatment and is only $22, whilst the whole movie collection with the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation is only $44, which is not bad for new, but I’d rather pay less than $5 for DVDs).

I know, I know. By now you expect me to post photos of actresses from things I watch below the fold. But, c’mon, man, I already posted about Arlene Martel, who appeared in “Amok Time”, after I saw her in Route 66.

Well, to save myself from your disappointment and disapproval, how about some photos of Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Rand? Continue reading “On The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series (2009)”

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Again, Brian Knows Wilder’s Source Material

Wilder begins a cheery post entitled The Coming American Dictatorship, Part I with a quote from Star Trek:

“Well, Captain, the Klingons called you a tin-plated overbearing, swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood.” – Star Trek

Oooh, oooh, Mr. Kahtter. I know which episode that comes from. Not only did I read the short story version of “The Trouble with Tribbles” in Star Trek 3, I actually caught the episode on a DVD I bought a couple weeks ago.

But that’s a story for another post.

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Book Report: Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich (2016)

Book coverI ordered this book when I saw Cernovich’s name mentioned on two blogs on the same day. Sorry, I forget which blogs they were, but they were likely ones from the blogroll.

So this book is all about shifting your mindset, a self-help title focusing a little on how you frame things/alter your perspective, that you should be in the moment, and that you should drink vegetable juices using the juicer that sponsors his podcast.

I’ve read a number of self-help books over the last couple of years, including The Power of Positive Thinking and Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes in late 2020. The first is from 1952; the second is from 2010, but from an author a generation or two up from mine (probably closer to one, since I apparently have reached the age of lower auto insurance rates). This book, the one under review, comes from someone of my generationish (he’s five years younger than I am), and much of the book seems adapted from quick hit blog posts and podcast transcripts. If you read the books in chronological order, you see a definite decline in the depth of the prose. One wonders if we are still printing and reading books in ten or twenty years if self-help books will be but collections of memes and inspirational quotes on images or more akin to Dav Pilkey books, lightweight prose broken up by rudimentary cartoons. It could go either way.

At any rate, a little actionable information in the book, I suppose. I mean, there’s a bit on recognizing negative self talk, and I took action on it, thinking That’s negative self talk when I did it, which dropped my negative self talk down to fifty percent of my interior dialog with the introduction of 50% thinking That’s negative self talk. I did realize how grousy my mother’s family was, in total, grousing as a large part of their other-to-other talk. But I have not completely reframed my perspective with that knowledge or that book.

A quick read, not very deep as I mentioned, and akin to the stuff you might find in popular Buddhist philosphy/mindfulness books and whatnot.

Perhaps it is best to read Cernovich in blog form or listen to him on his podcast to hear him in his native enviroment rather than in book length chunks.

He’s had a lot of success with the podcast and notoriety from his blog, so he’s doing well for himself. Good on him, I guess, but I don’t know if I need to read more of his work. And it might be another year or so until I try another self-help book (aside from philosophy or whatnot, which is university-grade self-help) for another year or more. I mean, it’s not telling me much that I don’t already know.

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Seems Backwards

Ad on Facebook:

Wait a minute: A Pink Floyd tribute band, and Living Colour is the opening act?

What kind of parallel universe is this? Living Colour is the lesser of the acts in a major amptheatre?

Sweet Christmas. I have been wearing a beard (despite my pronouncement last summer that I was done with facial hair for a bit) for a couple of months, but I shaved it off just to see if I can somehow put this universe aright.

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