The Clues in the Songs

One does not have to go all The Da Vinci Code or National Treasure to find clues that will lead to some treasure. I have discovered some sort of conspiracy or puzzle in popular music across the generations.

So a recent (2019) song from Four80East, “Cinco Cinco Seis” has played a bunch on WSIE and DirecTV’s smooth jazz station many, many times:

In it, they repeat like an electro-jazz numbers station, “Uno dos tres quatro cinco cinco seis.”

Yesterday, on the radio, I heard “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”, the 1998 hit from The Offspring, and it, too, says that number:

1-2-3-4-5-5-6. What does it mean? Some people might say it’s counting to get the beat before starting music, but the music has already started.

It’s coordinates. Or something.

Does the number 480 and the direction East mean anything?

The beginning of “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy” samples the beginning of 1983’s “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard:

According to the official account (if you can believe the “official” story), this made up bit of German-sounding language was, again, designed to be the count for the music to begin–in this case, the music does begin after the words.

But are the words a pass phrase? An indicator that one must start at some point in Germany (a rock?) and go east 480…. something? Is 1234556 the password, proving that the people who have hidden vast treasure in Germany or Eastern Europe were as bad at passwords as people on the Internet?

The clues came out in 1983, 1998, and 2019. Will the next clue come out in a little over 20 years? I cannot wait that long.

If anyone needs me, I will be in a room in the basement, posting photos and text and drawing arrows between them until I solve this mystery.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 30, 2022: ABC Books

Wow, has it only been a week since I was last at ABC Books? Oh, but what a week. Perhaps I will go into that later. But after a martial arts class and a shower, I turned my vehicle north again to ABC Books through some badly needed pouring rain to go to another book signing.

I picked up a few things.

In addition to the book signed by the author, I pretty much cleared the rest of her martial arts section out again.

I got:

  • A Three Letter Name by Annie Lisenby, the signing author. She billed it as a “survival romance” which to me sounds like a Hunger Games-influenced work.
  • Small-Circle Ju Jitsu by Wally Jay. I might have mentioned that my martial arts school has a Brazilian Ju Jitsu program, but that I don’t participate because I do not come from a hugging family. But I’ll read about it sometime.
  • Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction by A. Westbrook and O. Ratti.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate by Randall G. Hassell and Edmond Otis. We will see about that.
  • Karate-Dō Nyūmon by Gichin Funakoshi. It’s a master introductory text translated from the Japanese. We will see how it compares to the 1980s books.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Isenberg. I have an set of engraving bits for my rotary tool, and I mean to pick this up again if I ever clean my workbench in the garage off again. Perhaps this autumn.

So this leaves three books in the martial arts section: Another Aikido book, another Tai Chi Walking book, and Raw Combat. Hopefully, they will get more in as I have already begun to read the ones I got last week, and we will get to that by and by.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Source Of That Thing Dad Always Sings At The Black Cats

I sang it to Dominique in the past and I sing it to Isis now:

¿Quién es esta gatita?

Clearly, I am the only one who remembers the 1987 Madonna song “Who’s That Girl?”

I have not seen the film, and to be honest, I don’t know whether I would spend a buck on it if I saw it at a garage sale. Although given that I’ve posted this, the odds have increased.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On Double Indemnity (1944)

Book coverI know, I know; it’s taken me how long to see this film whose screenplay was written by Raymond Chandler? This long, gentle reader, this long. So the real Chandler fans amongst you can titter behind your hands. I don’t know why it took so long; I guess it had been until now that I’d found it inexpensive for sale, or until recently that I was in the mood for a black and white noir film.

C’mon, you know the plot (based on the book by James M. Cain). An insurance agent becomes enamored with the wife of a businessman, helps her take out an insurance policy on him, and then helps with his murder. The insurance agent is played by Fred MacMurray, known to most of us as the father in My Three Sons twenty years later (and, to be honest, known to us because My Three Sons was in syndication a decade after that). My source (Wikipedia) indicates this was playing against type for MacMurry. Barbara Stanwyck plays the femme fatale, and MacMurray’s Neff comes to learn this might not have been her first time around. The film is told in flashback, as Neff gives his report to the claims inspector, his mentor, who’s on the trail.

So it’s black and white, and it’s noir, and it’s grim, but it’s all good. I enjoyed it.

Did someone say Jean Heather? No? Well, forget Barbara Stanwyck; Jean Heather played the stepdaughter.

Continue reading “On Double Indemnity (1944)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman by Pierre Alex Jeanty (2014)

Book coverThis book was in the poetry section at ABC Books, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. The author’s bio calls him a social media influencer, and the book reads like a bunch of Instagram posts. Some are a couple paragraphs of prose, and some are “poetry,” although they’re just prose with line breaks.

Thematically, the work is about a man who was sensitive, and then became quite the pick-up artist, but then repented of it and is celibate until he finds his future wife. He talks about an absent father, he apologizes to women he’s wronged, and he encourages them to wait until they find a man worthy of their affection.

I mean, it’s a good message, but I had a complicated relationship with the book. I mean, I’ve known some men who’ve been good with the ladies, my own father and Mike amongst them. And I’ve behaved myself chivalrously and neurotically with women even in my salad days, mostly. So I don’t have much of a score in the scoring department. So when presented with material about a reformed philanderer, I bristled a bit. I’ve always been a good boy; where are my accolades? Eh, not in this world.

Also, when a manipulator says he’s reformed, you can take it to the bank. The river bank.

Still, I hope he’s sincere, and I would have preferred a coda where he has found his soulmate and has been true to her. But I wish him well.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Star Trek 6 by James Blish (1972, 1975)

Book coverYou know, I had almost forgotten that I was working my way through these books earlier this year. So when I was looking at the to-read books in the hallway, I thought, Oh, yeah, and this book provided just what I was looking for: A quick and pleasant read. I mean, I have to get my stats up. I’m only in the 40s in the books read in 2022 list, and it’s almost August. And I’m not sure we’ll have the football package this year for me to browse monographs and chapbooks.

So we’re about half way through the book series which ultimately will include most, if not all, of the episodes of the original Star Trek series turned into short stories by a British author who has presumably seen some of the series even though he had not when he began writing the books–which was about the time the show was on, but this book first appeared in 1972, when the show had been off the air for a couple of years. One has to wonder if the popularity of these books (this 1975 edition was the 10th printing already).

But because we’re halfway through the series, we’re starting to get to the more obscure episodes. This one includes:

  • “The Savage Curtain”, wherein an alien race, hoping to learn more about good and evil, pits crewmembers from the Enterprise, Abraham Lincoln, and other notables against Ghengis Khan and some other violent people.
  • “The Lights of Zetar”, wherein an interstellar brain containing the minds of the survivors of a long-dead alien race seek a human host to live in the real world again.
  • “The Apple”, wherein a paradise-like planet is run by a giant computer whom the child-like natives think is a god.
  • “By Any Other Name”, wherein aliens from a distant galaxy lure the Enterprise to their rescue; they hope to take over the Enterprise and to use it to return home in several hundred years’ travel, but they find that their presence in humanoid bodies gives them humanoid appetites and emotions.
  • “The Cloud Minders”, wherein the Enterprise is sent on an emergency run to a planet that is the sole source for a needed material, only to find that the society is bifurcated between the people who live in the cloud city and the miners who do the work.
  • “The Mark of Gideon”, wherein the Enterprise visits a planet that had avoided contact. Kirk apparently beams to an empty Enterprise that only contains one of the natives, and she’s trying to get infected with a disease that almost killed Kirk in the past because her planet has no germs and the population has remarkable healing powers–so that overpopulation has overcrowded the place, and Kirk’s infected blood can help people die.

I only kind of remembered “The Apple” from my viewing days. Still, a quick, pleasant read with characters I know.

But more interesting is that I am this book’s second owner.

Continue reading “Book Report: Star Trek 6 by James Blish (1972, 1975)”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

Book coverThis film is a seventeen-year-old remake of a 1970s film. It comes from that turn-of-the-century period where Jim Carrey made some midling comedies (Liar, Liar and Yes Man come to mind) amidst his more dramatic and then kid’s movie roles. So it might get lost in that in-between period.

At any rate, Jim Carrey plays Dick Harper, a communications professional working for a large corporation. He gets promoted to Senior Vice President by his bosses, including the CFO and the CEO (played by Alec Baldwin). He’s thrown into the lion’s den by abruptly being shoved into an appearance on a cable news show where he’s confronted with suspicious behavior of the CEO, and as he (Harper) flounders, the stock tanks. The company shuts down amidst great scenes of shredding (a la Enron). As he was promoted, he encouraged his wife, played by Téa Leoni, to quit her job and make big plans for his new large salary.

Out of work, he looks for a job but finds it hard to get a job of equal stature (shades of Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America. So we get some scenes of interviews, followed by slumming by working briefly at a thinly veiled Walmart and working as a day laborer as their furniture, landscaping, and eventually home are repossessed. Carrey ends up with a toy gun, and that inspires him to turn to a life of crime with his wife as his co-conspirator.

It leads to a number of scenes where they commit crimes. When they spot the CFO, they grab him and plot a heist against the CEO, which is the climax of the film. Hey, I can’t know heist comedies, now, can I?

Amusing in spots, but like Executive Blues, it lacks imagination in the change in circumstances. But at least in this case, it’s for comedic effect, even though it stretches credibility.

So were I to give stars, I’d give two and a half out of four or three out of five.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

A Couple Songs For Those Of Us Feeling Our Age

You know, back about 1990, I would have been hard pressed to say I had a favorite New Kids on the Block song because in my neighborhood, the New Kids on the Block were uncool. If pressed, I guess I would have said “The Right Stuff” or “I’ll Be Loving You Forever”. I guess my neighborhood jumped off the New Kids on the Block train early, as they had a number of albums after 1990, and my younger cousin is still a squeegirl about them.

But thirty-two years later, I have a clear answer: “Bring Back the Time”:

This is also my favorite Salt-n-Pepa song, my favorite En Vogue song, and my favorite Rick Astley song simultaneously.

Also, how about a selection from Billy Ray Cyrus?

You know, I got a speeding ticket recently, and that should have made me feel young, but in the hair color slot, the officer wrote BALD. C’mon, man, I am not completely bald–I have short hair, and it’s blond or maybe steel grey. I mean, I would go full Statham but my wife is against it. So I have not just gone full Statham yet.

And I am growing uncomfortable going to my mother-in-law’s retirement community because I’m often mistaken by other residents as being a new neighbor. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of those ninety-year-old ladies thinking that anyone from forty to seventy looks young and not that I look seventy.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Another Movie Quiz

On the Ace of Spades HQ Overnight Thread last night, I saw a link to this listicle: 50 Bad Movies That Are Absurdly Fun to Watch, so I thought, well, how many of them have I seen?

The films I have seen in bold:

  • 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
  • The 6th Day (2000)
  • Airborne (1993)
  • Armageddon (1998)
  • Bee Movie (2007)
  • Book Club (2018)
  • The Boy Next Door (2015)
  • Collateral Beauty (2016)
  • Dune (1984)
  • Excalibur (1981)–I might have seen this; I have certainly seen parts of it on HBO the same time I saw Xanadu as our friends had HBO
  • Exit Wounds (2001)
  • Fear (1996)
  • The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise (2015-present)
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
  • Gods of Egypt (2016)
  • The Greatest Showman (2017)
  • Hackers (1995)
  • The Happening (2008)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • Home Again (2017)
  • Jade (1995)
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)
  • John Carter (2012)
  • Jupiter Ascending (2015)
  • Limitless (2011)
  • Mac and Me (1988)
  • Mamma Mia! (2008)
  • Meet Joe Black (1998)
  • National Treasure (2004)–Last week!
  • The Net (1995)
  • Over the Top (1987)
  • Party Monster (2003)
  • Rambo 3 (1988)
  • Road House (1989)
  • The Room (2003)
  • The Running Man (1987)
  • Season of the Witch (2011)
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
  • SPF-18 (2017)
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007)
  • Sucker Punch (2011)
  • St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
  • A Talking Cat!?! (2013)
  • Timecop (1994)
  • Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
  • Virtuosity (1995)
  • Waterworld (1995)
  • What Women Want (2000)
  • White House Down (2013)
  • xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Well, 30%, although I would argue that some of the films on this list are not bad at all.

I will leave it to your imagination, gentle reader, to wonder how many of these films I have seen in the theater during their runs. Know you that the number is greater than 1.

Also, I cannot help but note that the oldest film on this list is from 1985, and most of the films listed are from the 21st century, which leads one to believe that the person who wrote it is young and threw in a couple of big budget movies from before the writer’s birth to acknowledge that not everything has taken place in the last fifteen years.

But if you don’t have a bad black-and-white William Shatner movie like Incubus or even a color one like Kingdom of the Spiders on the list, is it really the best bad movies? No Hell Comes to Frog Town? No Revenge of the Wasp Woman?

Child, please.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, July 23, 2022: ABC Books

On Saturday, after spending an hour in a parking lot helping my oldest master the basics of parallel parking, I had him drive me a half hour to ABC Books and a half hour back to help fill his log book before his driver’s license testing. Also, Mrs. E. had posted about a book signing.

The author signing her books, Shirley Gilmore, is a local to Springfield but who taught in southeast Missouri for 25 years. Her books are set in a fictional town there called Turn Back and feature a ten-year-old girl, Bucky, who moves there with her father from New York City and things happen as they so often do. She has five books in the series and a related one-off, and of course I bought them all. Her books include:

  • Carly Piper and the Mystery of the Ruby Ring
  • Walking the Labyrinth
  • Songs of Three
  • For Such a Time
  • A Turn Back Christmas
  • Tangled Threads

The main characters are Bucky and a group of Sunday school teachers she befriends. Boy, howdy, the first book is 680 pages. I would have some work cut out for me were I to try to get to A Turn Back Christmas as my Christmas novel this year.

I also noted that Mrs. E. topped up her martial arts section for me. I also got:

  • Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams
  • Karate-Do: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi
  • Tae Kwon Do Basics by Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins
  • Complete Aikido by Roy Suenaka with Christopher Watson.

Just down the aisle from the martial arts books, I pawed through the music milk crates as I recently discovered I have no books on bass guitar (and I have a bass guitar again). So I picked up two books, Rock Jams and Iron Maiden: Play 8 Songs with Tab and Sound-Alike Audio; a closer look now that I’ve gotten home shows that Rock Jams was misfiled with the guitar books. Ah, well, I guess I will put that upstairs for the trumpet players of Nogglestead.

I did not empty out the martial arts section; I only took about a third. Because there’s another book signing next weekend, and I am being kind enough to give the other ABC Books martial arts book buyers a thin chance at picking them up. Mrs. E. said the others have not been in in a while. I grant them this one chance.

At any rate, the number on the photograph is 195. Hard to imagine that I’ve posted about bulk book buying 195 times, but the sagging and overstuffed bookshelves of Nogglestead indicate this is so.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Year Ends In “2”

FCC orders phone companies to block auto warranty robocalls

Clearly, the spam auto warranty calls were blocking the spam political calls, and the politicians demanded action.

I kid you not, we have been getting calls from one robopolling company several times every hour for several days.

You know who election year phone calls is killing? The phone company. We’re one of the last holdouts with a land line, and we’re about to dump it just so we can get our scam and spam calls on the go on our mobile devices.

(Link via Wirecutter.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Breaking News From Obscure Nonprofit’s Fundraising Appeal

Beloved monarch butterflies now listed as endangered by conservation group

It’s basically a press release from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but apparently the news story has quotes from ecologists not affiliated with the nonprofit saying the numbers of monarch butterflies have declined recently.

How recent counts match with history is impossible, because the prehistory–the time before written records were kept–of counting monarchs ended probably only decades ago–that is, all counts of monarchs, probably based on computer models rather than an actual census, began recently.

So science is probably only tangentially involved.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On National Treasure (2004)

Book coverOh, I have come to a place where I think of movies that are almost twenty years old as “recent.” I mean, this film came out when this blog was but a year old, when I was only a bit past thirty and probably didn’t even think about having children. So, yeah, this film came out two lifetimes ago, but it seems like not that long ago.

Okay, so this is Nicolas Cage as a modern Indiana Jones. He has been searching for the treasure of the Knights Templar since he was a boy and his grandfather told him the story. Thirty years later, Benjamin Franklin Gates (that is, Nick Cage) is a treasure hunter, and he is leading an expedition to the Arctic to look for a ship that holds a clue to the location of the treasure. They find a pipe whose inscription says that a map is on the Declaration of Independence–which is about as much of the movie as I could have told you before watching it (the Declaration of Independence is a treasure map). So the crime boss funding the expedition, played by Sean Bean, wants to steal it, but Gates balks, leading to a dissolution of their partnership. When Gates and his computer hacker/comic relief sidekick are rebuffed by authorities, they decide to steal it before Sean Bean can. And when they do, they follow the clues and hope to find the treasure, with the crime boss incredibly just a step behind them–and sometimes ahead of them.

So, yeah, well, it’s an actioner, so one should not expect too much from it, but it seems like lighter fare than the action movies when I was young. But, you know what? I’ve been watching some of those older movies, and they don’t have a whole lot of depth to them. If I’m looking for depth, perhaps I should re-weight my evening leisure to reading books, and not just men’s adventure paperbacks. Which this kind of resembles, actually.

But it was one of the few films lately that I watched with my boys, so I have that going for me. Although at least one of them had already seen it. As my beautiful wife has gotten a family NetFlix account so that my oldest could binge-watch Breaking Bad after her mother shared the first episode with the lad (and she a former English teacher, too), I am at risk of falling far behind on movie watching and pop cultural awareness so I must keep watching films. Besides, my to-watch cabinet is full, and I’ve taken to placing my recent video acquisitions atop the entertainment cabinets, which looks kinda junky. So my recent movie watching is actually housekeeping. Which is why I shall end this brief musing here and go watch a movie.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

A Little Con, But A Con

So on Saturday, after a rare martial arts class for me, I dragged my youngest to Rublecon at Relics Antique Center. As you might remember, gentle reader, I visited this small comic book and collectible convention in 2019, when I bought Potbelly Mammoth Volume 1. Of course, with the Ever Recent Unpleasantness, I have not been to a similar convention since then.

But we went in, not long before the only cosplayer present, someone dressed as Cobra Commander in battle mask, arrived. This person was putting on the helmet as we crossed the parking lot.

So it was a little smaller than Gaming Arts Media Expo and LibraryCon (RIP, apparently). I’d taken out some cash from the automated teller machine machine using my personal identification number number before hand, and the first two tables counter-clockwise were Anthony Hunter and Matt Decker, the comic book artists behind Lame Brains, Silent Sillies, and Zombie Dave. Which kind of explained a bit of my confusion: Both have zombie-themed comics, and I see them every (couple of now) year(s) at cons. So I was not sure about which issues I’d had of their work. So I overbought to be safe.

So, basically, the comics were it. I got:

  • Silent Sillies #2 and #3, although research indicates I already had them.
  • Lame Brains #3.
  • Zemara #0, a preview issue of a new series that Anthony Hunter is working on.
  • Zombie Dave #4 and #5. The son helped keep me straight as to which issues we had in this series.
  • Cub Team Alpha #1, which looks to be a kids’ series.
  • The Big Bad Book of Bill MUrray by Robert Schnakenberg at a retro collectibles table. It was $10, but it’s BFM.
  • The History of Pierce City Through Post Cards, Photographs, Papers, and People by David H. Jones at a table with old magazines and whatnot. The author, the guy behind the table, is a historian and librarian from Pierce City, so of course I told him the story. The book is not in the picture because it slid around in the back of the truck, so I didn’t grab it with the other gleanings. I was pleased when I went back to the truck and found it–I was afraid I had set it down on a table and left it there.

So it was about sixty bucks, but I saved a lot of money.

One table had old video game systems and had an Atari 2600 in its box ($150) along with some cherry cartridges in their original boxes including several Star Raiders complete with keypad controller. But I already have, what, five or six Ataris in both black and wood trim and an Atari, Jr., floating around here? So I told my youngest, “Ah, but if they had an Intellivision or ColecoVision…”, and I looked to the other end of the table (to which the helpful proprietor was gesturing, and lo, an Intellivision with all the accoutrements. $200 could have bought me the lot, but I demurred. I am thinking of downsizing my collection as it is.

Another booth, the one where I bought the Bill Murray book, had some off-brand first generation table tennis game that also accepted cartridges along with several cartridges for $300. I don’t think I’ve seen one like it ever before. But, again, fiscal responsibility and thinking about unhoarding while people my age have some spending power.

It doesn’t look like there’ll be a LibraryCon this year, and apparently the GAME con here in town will be the last one. Which, too, will help my fiscal restraint. But not Saturday.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On The Best of the Dean Martin Show (1965-1974)

Book coverThe Best of the Dean Martin Show was a collection of videocassettes and later DVDs with songs and skits from the decade-long television program along with occasional commentary from guest stars and the producer/director who released this set. It comprises 29 volumes in all, but the Lutherans for Life garage sale only had 7 videocassettes, and not contiguous, which makes me wonder where the other 22 went.

At any rate, as it is a “Best of” series, it does not play the episodes in total. Instead, it features a couple of musical numbers, a couple of skits, and a bit of commentary in each hour-long videocassette. It starts often with Dean Martin sliding down the pole into the living room set and singing “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, the show’s theme, but later with the Golddiggers, the all-female song and dance group that opened the show or the pre-show warning users not to touch the dial.

And the guest stars. Jimmy Stewart and Orson Welles team up with Dean Martin at one point to do a comedy and song number about men at a beauty salon. Dom DeLouise is a frequent guest, and Peter Sellers stops by. Lorne Greene from Bonanza sings a song with Dean while they’re astride horses and Dean’s won’t stand still.

The producer/director Garrison, who is behind the collection, said that they often did not tell Dean the punchline when he was being the straight man, or at least as much of a straight man that Dean Martin could be, so that his laughter and reaction would be genuine. And there’s a recurring bit where someone knocks from inside a closet, and when Martin opens it, he’s confronted by a secret guest star who makes a gag or something and then leaves, and Martin doesn’t know who it is in advance.

Much of the humor relies on Martin’s reputation as a sophisticated partier, but in real life, he wasn’t that way, so the Dean Martin character you see is only a character infused with Martin’s warmth and humor.

So it was a fun bit to watch–I am pretty sure I watched my seven cassettes in as many nights–but it would have been better if it was more of a complete first season kind of thing, with the actual episodes collected, but this collection precedes the confidence that people would buy that sort of thing by a couple of years–this collection was packaged in the middle 1990s and sold via infomercials. One assumes that the audience then would have been old people, perhaps my grandparents, who remembered the show and Martin’s movies fondly.

One can only speculate about the kind of audience finds these cassettes secondhand two decades in the twenty-first century, but old man is probably not far off the mark.

And as I mentioned yesterday, Sandahl Bergman, who played in Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, was one of the Golddiggers, the singers and dancers that opened the show in later years and appeared in skits. So given that I have watched those two films and four or five of this set in which she appeared, I have seen more Sandahl Bergman on screen in the last two weeks than anyone in the world unless 1) Sandahl herself is watching her old films, Norma Desmond style, in a dark room in her mansion or 2) there’s some academic writing a dissertation on her for a film doctorate who has done nothing this summer but watch her movies over and over to gather evidence for some assertions or others. If I yield to the temptation to watch Hell Comes to Frogtown in the coming days, I might surpass either of those cases.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The False Cats of Nogglestead

Yeah, verily, some might think we worship cats at Nogglestead. We have several (three indoors these days, one outdoors, and another that comes around but has a day home or day job). We have statues of cats. We have paintings with cats in them. When one is at Nogglestead, one sees cats everywhere. Sometimes when there isn’t actually a cat.

Such as this tableau that appeared on the table for a couple of weeks. The table downstairs, now a larger table after my mother-in-law’s downsizing, is not only the staging area for numerous Good Book Hunting photographs, but it’s also an accumulation point for the downstairs detritus. Books and toys (even now) that should go back to the boys’ bedrooms; Christmas cards and thank-you cards gotten out for periodic card-writing and then not put away for a while; articles of clothing (not socks) that need to go up to the laundry; puzzles and games gotten from the game cabinet but not returned; and a throw blanket or two.

From time to time, a cat will hop up there to have a rest amongst the soft nesting materials. So when I saw this, I thought the black cat had done so:

But the black cat was passing through on my lap.

Apparently, my pattern-matching algorithm favors cat in the house, as this was other things.

Instead of a cat, we have a crumpled cleaning cloth (made from an old Telerik Tools t-shirt, if I am not mistaken) and a Phillips 66 cap.

Even knowing now what I didn’t then, I would still want to pet it. As I do with an old stuffed cat that has found its way onto the back of the sofa in the living room (not Tristan II, who is still hanging above the bed) and the other scattered stuffed cats–c’mon, man, of course, Nogglestead has stuffed cats, too–or throw blankets that are arranged with corners sticking up on the sofa in the dim light.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

On All The Conan Movies

Book coverBook coverBook cover

So over the week that my boys were at camp and at the National Youth Gathering for non-perch-handling Lutherans, I took a moment to review the major Conan movies, including:

  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  • Red Sonja (1985)
  • Conan the Barbarian (2011)

All right, Red Sonja is not a Conan movie, but it could have been. It is a De Laurentis sword and sorcery flick with Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s name above the titles and above Brigitte Nielsen’s name.

To be honest, I have seen Red Sonja most of the films, as it was on Showtime in that era where I was young, bored, and not supposed to leave the trailer during the day when my mother was at work. So if it was on Showtime in those mid-1980s summers, I saw it a bunch, and Red Sonja qualifies. Secondarily, I have seen the first Conan the Barbarian several times, and Conan the Destroyer. It was the first time I’d seen the Jason Mimosa Conan the Barbarian–I remember when it came out that it was presented as being pretty brutal and not being too interested in seeing it.


In Conan the Barbarian, young Conan sees his father and mother killed before him when a raiding party strikes their undefended village, and he is taken as a slave. He grows up, becomes strong from his labor, and then ends up as a gladiator traveling with Mongol-types, still a slave, until he is released. He flees to a dead area where he finds Mako playing a sorcerer of questionable ability and seeks his revenge on the leader of the band who killed his family and razed his village, Thulsa Doom played by James Earl Jones. Of course, the man is now the leader of a spreading cult of snake-handlers. Oh, and Sandahl Bergman plays Valeria, a fighter-thief that Conan loves.

So it’s a pretty good bit of sword-and-sorcery low fantasy, with magic and whatnot, and it’s the most memorable of the films because, c’mon, man, James Earl Jones turns into a giant snake, and the film has the “What is best in life?” line. It opens and closes with Mako saying it’s but one of Conan’s many adventures.

In Conan the Destroyer, Conan is given a quest to escort the virgin niece, played by Olivia d’Abo, of a queen who is destined to restore the horn of a sleeping god. So Conan and a thief start off with the girl and her bodyguard, played by Wilt Chamberlain. They rescue Mako and a female warrior, played by Grace Jones, from a hostile tribe and they go do some sidequests and then the main quest and discover they’ve been played, and the queen is going to sacrifice the virgin to resurrect the god. So Conan has to slay the tall bodyguard and then the resurrected god.

You know, I might have only seen this twice: Once when I recorded the films onto a DVR and this time. It certainly did not stick with me.

In Red Sonja, a young woman watches her family killed before her for rejecting an evil queen (played by Sandahl Bergman). Left for dead, she prays for vengeance and a magickal figure offers her assistance. And Sonja goes to a monastery to learn to fight with sorta-Buddhists. The same evil queen and her henchmen attack another cult who are about to destroy a talisman called the Talisman that is too powerful for humans. They succeed, leaving only Sonja’s sister to escape and tell Sonja she must plunge it into darkness. So Sonja does some sidequests, dodges and declines Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s offers of help (but he shows up time and again to save the day). Then they storm the castle and save the day.

You know, for having watched the film over and over again thirty-five years ago, I remembered very little about the plot and the action in it. Maybe it will stay with me, but maybe not. Although I own the DVD now and can watch it again before three decades pass.

In Conan the Barbarian, the leader of a raiding band is looking for the parts of a magic mask that grant the wearer great powers. The Cimmerian tribes broke the mask when resisting the last guy to wear it, and they’ve hidden the pieces across Hyboria. Conan’s father is a blacksmith and war leader for their tribe, and this particular film develops the relationship between the father (played by Ron Perlman) and the young Conan. So he lives longer than a parent in the other films or your typical Disney film. But when the bad guy comes to town with his creepy (probably supposed to be Goth hot) daughter, they slaughter his family and take the last piece. But they need a woman of pure blood to sacrifice, which leads them to a monastery. The pureblood woman, played by Rachel Nichols escapes, and Conan captures her/defends her from an ambush and uses her as bait to draw the warlord to him for revenge.

You know, the other three movies are brightly colored and maybe just a touch orange in hue, but the latter film is very darkly colored, with the modern deep blue palette and with a lot of scenes taking place in the darkness or dimly lit areas. It was a little less pleasant to look at.

And as far as the brutishness goes, I guess the Jason Mimosa was supposed to play the character a little more coldly than the Schwarzeneggar version, but to be honest, it’s not that much different. And as for the blood and gore, it’s probably about as shocking as Conan the Barbarian would have been in the early 1980s. The earlier film had decapitations and whatnot, and this film has gouts of blood. I have previously discussed the 80s R and how different R-rated movies from that halcyon era were from R-rated movies today. I think that the brutality and special effects on display in the latter Conan the Barbarian reflect more what our era expects–after all, my kids play video games with gouts of blood erupting now, and that’s something we didn’t have because an Atari 2600 could not capture it.

Oh, yes, and I know, it’s not Jason Mimosa, but I’m going to call him that until he beats me at solo unarmed combat. Of course, I have been practicing saying, “I’m sorry, Mr. Mamoa,” without moving my teeth so I can do it with my jaws wired shut. But then I will probably call him Jason Meowmeow because I never learn.

So, to sum up: It was an interesting review of the material, and it made me wish they made 80s sword and sorcery films today. But they made them then, and I have DVD and videocassette players and spares of each, so I should be able to accumulate and watch the old movies.

It reminded me that it had been eight years(!) since I read the Conan stories (The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, and The Conquering Sword of Conan). I used to read a lot of this kind of pulp sword-and-sorcery stuff, but I have not in a while. I don’t know if they make much of it any more, or if it’s just not sold widely enough to end up at used book sales–or if it’s that I have not haunted the paperback fiction sections of said used book sales.

But I did get to thinking, how would the Conan saga played out if Robert E. Howard had not killed himself at 30. He could have feasibly lived until the 1970s or 1980s, writing the whole time and maintaining a tight degree of control on his work and characters. Would that have altered the arc of the availability of the characters’ rights for comic books and films? One cannot know.

Oh, and did someone say “Sandahl Bergman?”
Continue reading “On All The Conan Movies”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

A Sealand Of One’s Own

One wonders what kind of fiction a writer such as myself would create with a with a writer’s retreat like this:

In what looks like a scene out of Martin Scorcese’s “Shutter Island,” a decommissioned World War II fort in the middle of the ocean is being auctioned off for first time, starting at just $60,000.

Located in the Humber Estuary of Northern England, the concrete vessel was initially constructed between 1915 and 1919 for naval defense during World War I, though it wouldn’t go into use until WWII.

Considered a historic listing, the property is defined by the United Kingdom as a “grade II” building or structure that is “of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it.”

It’s about sixty thousand dollars, but probably more to have it fixed up. It has water from its own artesian well, which means you don’t have to have it brought in. N

So it’s like Sealand except a little more sheltered from the open sea, it would seem, and a tad less than the billion dollar asking price.

But my beautiful wife says no, so I guess we’ll stay landlocked.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Media In Action

The New York Post, (July 15, 2022): ‘Jaws’ made people irrationally afraid of sharks, scientists declare.

The New York Post the week before letting the “scientists” blame the fifty-year-old movie:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories