I Didn’t Need To See The Filename

At the end of his Florida Man Friday post this week, Vodkapundit includes this GIF:

And I asked Stephen, my Facebook friend of long standing, whether that was from the film Hell Comes to Frogtown, which I had just been thinking of otherwise as I watched Conan the Barbarian recently, and both films star Sandahl Bergman.

Well, Stephen hasn’t answered yet because, c’mon, man, we’re Facebook friends, but when I went to compose this post, I went to snag the image from the post, and it’s Hell-Comes-to-Frogtown.gif. So, yeah.

You know, I saw the film on cable’s USA Up All Night back in high school when the film was fresh, and I recorded it on my own videocassette at some point. I watched it numerous times and even came up with an official VHS tape which includes the brief boobage you didn’t see on basic cable.

It’s been a while. Soon, I will have watched all the Conan movies available. Maybe I should revisit that classic which is Rowdy Roddy Piper’s best film. Not They Live!

Come at me, bro.

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And We Have Named Him Samwise Gamgee

So in addition to the loss of one of our cats, we also made the difficult decision to put one of our other cats who had a problem with inappropriate urination out back.

We’ve done this before; ten years ago, we had a pair of tabbies whose occasional IU became more consistent, including peeing things on my desk, that we put out in the back yard. We provided them food and water and bought fairly expensive small dog houses to ignore whilst they sought shelter under the deck.

The food drew some of the other neighborhood cats and other fauna along, and so it was with Athena. A black male cat has been showing up, even before Athena was out there and food was available, but he comes around in the evenings for a little nibble. He makes a strange sound, and he will not get close to us, but he is comfortable enough to flop on the patio or the lawn nearby. And Athena, who did not get along with the other cats in the house–she would spit and hiss at them and then lose any escalated encounter that occurred. But she’s cool with Peirce, as we have nicknamed the cat (not a typo: He is named for Charles Sanders Peirce). She’ll not yowl at him and will sometimes trot off to see where he’s going when he leaves the yard–but Athena does not venture far, which is probably for the best.

It’s kind of nice having a backyard cat, Athena. I’ve taken to bringing a book out in the evenings to read, and Athena will jump onto my lap. Sometimes, she’ll jump down and lounge on the patio pavement or on the table between the chairs, and I’ll actually get to read that book.

Like last night. She hopped down and settled against the wall of the house behind my chair, and I read a bit.

But then Athena spit a hiss and moved from under the chair, and I turned to see if it was Peirce, and it was a different cat….

No, wait, it was not a cat. It was a raccoon that had basically sneaked toward the food dish by creeping under the chair I was sitting on.

He went to the food dish with one eye on me and consumed the remainder of the food in the dish.

So I have named him Samwise Gamgee, although I am not sure I will be able to recognize him again.

But I’ve been closer to him than I have to Peirce.

We try to keep the amount of food in the bowl to a minimum to prevent too many wild creatures in the back yard. When we had the boys out there, we kept the bowl for them full, so every night we had possums, raccoons, other cats, and skunks stopping by–sometimes more than one of each at a time.

Given that we sit out on that patio more these days now that we have a patio set, I don’t think I want to encourage it.

But I think I’ll take my phone out to get a picture from now on.

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On National Lampoon’s Black Ball (2003)

Book coverThis film is labeled “National Lampoon’s,” but it was a British film and not an American film. So any connection to the National Lampoon franchises or brand is negligible, which is kind of unfortunate, as I was going to speculate on whether National Lampoon films were kind of lampooning films of certain genres with their entries in the field, but unfortunately, it would appear that they just rented out the name for the money. And not enough, as a (full disclosure) investor in National Lampoon Media Partners (NLMP) would tell you (because the investment has not panned out, but at least it was not a big of a loss in my portfolio as Salon).

Ah, where were we before I started thinking of my 25 years of investing, which has pretty much broken even?

Oh, yes, this film.

All right, if you wanted to see a Happy Gilmore style movie, but instead dealing with bocce, I’m sorry, bowls (which is apparently the British spelling of bocce) instead of golf, this is the movie for you. Actually, it doesn’t have the Happy Gilmore story arc–this film follows more of the rock star arc where a humble man becomes famous, the fame goes to his head, but he redeems himself after alienating those most important to him.

A guy from the British projects plays bowls, a lawn game where you try to roll a ball close to a target ball, and you can knock the other team’s balls off away and into a gutter. So it’s remarkably like the bar game with the disks or even cornhole in that regard. He wants to play for the English team to take on the international stars, a pair of Australian brothers. So he gets to play in a local tournament/match/Ascot or whatever they call them in Britannia against the local reigning champion (played by James Cromwell, most recently notorious for a silly Starbucks hand-gluing) who has never aimed higher (to play for the national team, for example). He wins, but he writes a British bad word on his opponent’s scorecard, so he gets banned from the sport on a technicality. A splashy American agent (played by Vince Vaughn, not just phoning it in) convinces him to sign with him, and they make a splashy show out of bowls with the new Bad Boy of Bowls. Throw in an obligatory forbidden romance with the daughter of the local champion, a reconciliation of sorts, and a teaming of the two bowlers to face the Australian brothers (and a sudden death final point that looks an awful like Dodgeball), and finis!

Not a whole lot of laughs in it–to be honest, I liked it better when I was watching it and thinking it was an American film lampooning films like this and not the straight comedy it actually was.

But I am thinking about stopping by Academy Sports to pick up a set of bocce balls. Which would be interesting here at Nogglestead, as the ground slopes from north to south and has furrows from where water has run and where old fences stood. So it’s not likely to be the manicured greens of actual bocce courts.

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Teen Lives

Teen turned away from water slide because of weight, family says:

A family in Illinois said their 13-year-old daughter was turned away from a ride at Raging Rivers Waterpark after being told to step on a scale in front of strangers.

* * * *

The scale read 205, but Batton said they were told there was a 200-pound weight limit.

A spokesperson for Raging Rivers said the decision was made to prioritize the safety of guests.

Jeez, Louise, this story is out there to ding The Man, in this case the operators of an amusement park with safety rules that single people out based on physicism, which takes into account things like mass and gravity to stigmatize individuals of a certain size and to prevent them from plunging to their deaths or turning their little rafts over in dangerous conditions.

I mean, it’s been months since we were seeing the opposite story in the news (Adjusted sensors on ride contributed to Fla. teen’s death in fall) wherein the large teen in question died instead of ran crying to the news about being embarrassed.

Full disclosure: This summer I was in a water park whose new rotating water slide wheel had a weight limit. I don’t remember whether it was posted on every landing climbing to the ride or whether it was just at the top, but my family was too heavy cumulatively to ride in one raft. And, yes, the staging area for getting into the raft was a scale, with the numbers where everyone could see them.

I’m not here to pick on large people.

I am here, however, to decry sensationalist media who will run both stories in succession: The story of dangerous theme park rides killing kids who are too large for them, and then running stories about mean theme parks not allowing kids on rides which would pose an extra danger for them.

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Climate Prediction

In six or ten years, when we have another hot summer like this one, most people will not remember how hot it was in the summer of 2022.

Because most people are going to spend this hot summer indoors where it’s cool, and they won’t remember acutely that the days here in Missouri rang the 100° bell a lot this year.

I can say this with some confidence because I’m getting Facebook memories where I’m commenting on the weather, and I found a site called Climate Spy that acknowledged temperatures reaching 100° in June (highest: 100.9°), in July (highest: 106°), and in August (highest: 106°). It got to 96° in September, for cryin’ out loud. In December, Mizzou published a brief Jeremiad about Hot 2012: MU climatologist: last year was warmest since 1895.

You know, ten years is a long time when you’re young. It’s not too long ago when you’re a bit more, erm, seasoned. And when you’ve lived in the same place for over a decade, where you can watch the seasons pass in their rhythm and variety. Where you can see the warm and cold winters, the warm and cool springs, the temperate and the hot summers, and the warm and cold autumns. We’ve been at Nogglestead for a dozen years (soon to be fourteen because we’re superstitious). So we have seen. And we remember.

Unlike the rest of the modern world.

I guess I got a little of what I came for.

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On Death Race (2008)

Book coverI spent a little of the time that the boys were away at camp and at their church youth group gathering watching R-rated movies such as this one, which features Jason Statham as a former racecar driver framed for the murder of his wife and incarcerated on Terminal Island, a privately owned prison where convicts are given a chance to participate in a pay-per-view livestreamed Death Race, where they race on a course in cars modified with armor and weapons and try to kill one another on the track.

So, basically, it’s The Running Man combined with Car Wars.

The film opens with a race wherein a driver named Frankenstein is pursued by another driver called Machine Gun Joe. Frankenstein is in the lead, but his defensive weapons malfunction, but he still thinks he can win the race. His navigator/weapons officer, a female con named Case and played by Natalie Martinez, ejects just as the car blows up.

Statham, I mean, Jensen Ames, his character who is totally unlike The Transporter, is given the Frankenstein mask to wear and is told that if he wins the single race, he will be freed, but he figures out the con–Frankenstein will always not win that last race, and if the current Frankenstein dies, the warden will just get a new one. He also suspects that Case might be a part of it. So he makes a plan to escape with the help of Machine Gun Joe–Frankenstein’s hated enemy.

Okay, so it was the kind of midling action flick that you’d find on cable back in the day, but with a special effects budget that allowed just a touch of gore. Not bad, not disturbing, but there for its own sake. Not a lot of character development, but a lot of action.

So worth it for Jason Statham fans or if you’ve got a couple hours to spend whilst your kids are out of the house and you can watch R-rated movies. But perhaps the most telling rating for the film is that I watched a Jason Statham movie, and I shaved the next day. I’ve mentioned that Statham movies like Safe have led me to try the stubble look for a while, but although I wore it a while last year (even after I said it ended–I wore stubble and a short beard into the autumn and early winter this year, actually). But this one did not.

Oh, and did someone say “Natalie Martinez”?

Continue reading “On Death Race (2008)”

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A Quiz, Revisited

Whilst researching my book report for My Ántonia, I cam across a 2004 post about the 99 best books or series of all time that I treated as a quiz as was my wont. In 2004, I’d read 16 of the 99.

So how do I do now? I have put in bold the books/series I’ve read (providing links to book reports on this blog where available) and have underlined things I know are on the shelves but are yet unread.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishigruo
  3. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  5. All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  7. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  9. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  10. Syrup by Max (Maxx) Barry
  11. Emma by Jane Austen
  12. The Dirk Gently Series by Douglas Adams
  13. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  15. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  16. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  17. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  18. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  20. Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, &c. by Orson Scott Card
  21. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  22. Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
  23. Ana Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  24. The Three Musketeers Series by Alexandre Dumas [The Three Musketeers anyway.]
  25. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  26. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera [“Strip!”]
  27. Tess of D’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
  28. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  29. Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
  30. Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  31. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
  32. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  33. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
  34. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbon
  35. My Ántonia by Willa Cather
  36. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  37. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  38. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  39. Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  41. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoevesky
  42. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
  43. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  44. Galveston by Sean Stewart
  45. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
  46. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  47. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  48. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  49. Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne
  50. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  51. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  52. Big Trouble by Dave Barry
  53. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  54. Villette by Charolotte Bronte
  55. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  56. Phineas Finn Phineas Finn Redux by Anthony Trollope
  57. Darlington’s Fall by Brad Leithauser
  58. This Real Night by Rebecca West
  59. The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
  60. Summer by Edith Wharton
  61. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
  62. Cecilia by Frances Burney
  63. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  64. Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos
  65. Mr. Scarborough’s Family by Anthony Trollope
  66. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  67. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  68. The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope
  69. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  70. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
  71. The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  72. Baudolino by Umberto Eco
  73. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  74. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  75. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  76. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  77. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  78. The Manticore by Robertson Davies
  79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammitt
  80. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  81. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
  82. The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  83. Sula by Toni Morrison
  84. The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
  86. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
  87. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
  88. The Discworld Saga by Terry Pratchett
  89. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  90. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
  91. Possession by A.S. Byatt
  92. The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco
  93. God Knows by Joseph Heller
  94. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert Heinlein
  95. 95. Candide by Voltaire
  96. The Vagabond by Colette
  97. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  98. The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  99. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  100. It looks like I’m up to about 28 of 99.

    I don’t know how much progress I’ll make between now and 2040, but I have a greater chance of reading the classical literature than the 20th century stuff, especially the children’s books or Colombian magic realism.

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Book Report: My Ántonia by Willa Cather (1918, 2004)

Book coverWell, I wish I could say that my confusion between Willa Cather and Eudora Welty is easing with my reading, apparently, a couple of Cather novels in the recent years. Oh, but no. I had this book before me with the author’s name right on it, but I got to thinking Eudora Welty wrote O Pioneers! which I read in 2018. Wow, four years ago? I feel a little better about forgetting who wrote it then, even though I said at the end of the book report:

I do have a copy of My Antonia around here somewhere; this book was a pleasant enough read that I won’t hide from the other novel if I find it.

Apparently, it took me four years (!) to find it even though it was in the front rank of my office bookshelves. You know, where I go most often when looking for a new book to read. In my defense, I probably passed over it a couple of times looking for something quicker or something that appealed to me more in that moment. But I finally picked the book up.

The book is very similar to O Pioneers! Both are set in Nebraska during the sodbusting years; however, this book follows a young man, Jim Burden, sent to live with his grandparents and his friendship with a young Bohemian (from Bohemia, not just wearing hemp) whose family arrives on the same train. She is the Ántonia of the title; the name is pronounced the Bohemian way, not the way to pronounce the small town down the county highway from where I lived my last years in high school. The Shimerda dwelling is basically a cave, and they really do not know how to farm or bust sod, coming from a city in Europe, so they need help, and Jim and Ántonia bond as he helps the children learn English. They have some youthful adventures; then Jim and his grandparents move to town when they rent their farm, and Ántonia, who is a couple years older than Jim, gets a job in one of the houses in town, and although they are not quite peas-and-carrots, when a traveling dance instructor troupe comes to town and hosts dances in a big tent, Jim hangs with Tony (as he sometimes calls her and I’m going to for the rest of the review because the accent on the A is a bother) and some of the other hired girls. Then Jim goes to Lincoln for college; another of the hired girls moves to Lincoln and starts a dress shop which does well, and she spends some time with Jim, but he becomes distracted from his studies, so his mentor, who is moving to Massachusetts to teach at Harvard, encourages Jim to come along, and Jim does. And then, twenty-some years later, Jim returns to Nebraska and sees Tony and her family, which includes her illegitimate daughter, the result of her dalliance with the son of a local railroad baron; the boy had promised to marry her, but he was not a good man, and after they lived together in Denver for a while, he abandoned her, pregnant, to return to Nebraska in shame. In the years since, she married another immigrant and they’ve had a large family. Tony has grown old, lost some teeth, put on some weight, whilst Jim, presumably, has aged better with his law degree and urban lifestyle. Jim feels the same connection with Tony as he had when they were kids–a kinship, more brother and sister though the middle part of the book indicated some romantic leanings–and he promises to visit the family and her boys in the future. And, finis.

One of the dings I, well, dinged O Pioneers! for was that it was a series of short stories or, more truthfully, sketches that Cather stitched together to make a book. You know, this book is also broken into sections. The first two, “The Shimerdas” and “The Hired Girls”, deal with the introduction of the characters and their lives on their respective farms and then their subsequent moves to town (Jim when his grandparents rent their farm, Tony when she hires on at another household). These two sections comprise the first 200 pages roughly of the 277 page book, and they hang together pretty well, hinting that there might be a cohesive plot. The next section, “Lena Lingard”, is about the hired girl who becomes the dress maker and meets up with Jim Burden in Lincoln; we still might have some plot advancement if she really does rival Tony for the author’s affections. Oh, but no. She mentions Tony is going with the ne’er-do-well son of the railroad businessman and seems to like him a lot. In “A Pioneer Woman’s Story”, the next section, takes place a couple years later, when Jim comes back to the Nebraska town after graduating law school and hears the story of Tony’s betrayal and her raising her new daughter at the old Shimerda place. Then the last section, “Cuzak’s Boys”, takes place decades later. The narrator has updated us on the other hired girls and how they’ve gone on in the world. Lena continues to be a successful dress maker, but she has gone to San Francisco and joined another hired girl, who had gone to Seattle, opened a business of ill repute, but sold it to join the Yukon gold rush where she made out big. When Jim, the narrator, returns to Nebraska, he visits Tony, now Mrs. Cuzak, and meets her family. And, that’s it. Ultimately, the book offered indications there might be a plot, which kept me reading along a little better than O Pioneers! (I presume), but ultimately it is just a series of sketches, and the whole My Ántonia title and repeating of Optima dies… prima fugit make one suspect that the author might have wanted to convey more a mood of nostalgia and the loss of youth, but that alone is a little disappointing after 277 pages.

Still, an easy enough read. I note that, like The Red Badge of Courage in the heavy use of colors as adjectives–one cannot go pages without blue sky or orange this or red grass. I think modern writers have been trained to not use colors as adjectives, but they’re easier to see in one’s mind’s eye than other obscure shades used as adjectives. The pamphlet that Reader’s Digest provided with the book says the author became friends with Stephen Crane, and one wonders if this tic was part of his influence on her.

I did flag a couple passages in the book for comment.

Regarding the back story of two Russians who have moved to Nebraska, someone relates that they had been drivers of dogsleds taking a wedding party home, but when the party was beset by wolves, the two men sacrificed the entire party to save themselves.

We did not tell Pavel’s secret to any one, but guarded it jealously–as if the wolves of the Ukraine had gathered that night long ago, and the wedding party been sacrificed, to give us a painful and peculiar pleasure.

C’mon, man. In the 21st century, the Right Thinkers Who Talk On Television have assured me that it’s Ukraine and not the Ukraine. A hundred years of common usage must be publickly discarded so that the current Right Thinkers Who Talk on Television can teach us rubes something and prove their own shibbolestication.

Regarding town living in the late 1800s:

Most Black Hawk [residents of the town, not the tribe] fathers had no personal habits outside their domestic ones; they paid the bills, pushed the baby carriage after office hours, moved the sprinkler about over the lawn, and took the family driving on Sunday.

You know, when the Monkees were singing in 1967:

They were echoing criticisms of the literati of fifty years earlier.

Although I think I just marked the passage because I did not realize sprinklers were a product of the 1800s.

Eh, I flagged a couple of other things and was not really sure what I wanted to say about them when I flagged them.

At any rate, still, a worthwhile read just to remember what life was like a hundred and forty or fifty years ago–and might be again!

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Media Trying To Make The Greitens Thing Happen

Clearly, the media and its friends have picked the weakest candidate for the general election for Senate in the state of Missouri, and, now, they’re pumping him for all its worth to try to get him to win the primary

Greitens fans shrug off scandals threatening GOP Senate seat

Eric Greitens resigned as Missouri governor amid criminal charges and legislative investigations, is accused by his ex-wife of abuse and bullying, and has run a widely condemned ad suggesting he was hunting members of his own party with a gun. And the Republican is still a leading contender for election to the U.S. Senate.

Yeah, no. And by “Yeah, no,” I mean, I really hope not.

But it’s worked before: Claire McCaskill bragged that she got Todd Akin onto the ballot.

Jeez, I hope it does not work again.

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On Meatballs (1979)

Book coverIt’s been ten years (?!) since I read the novelization of this film. I ordered it, and it arrived the very next day, ensuring I could watch it whilst the boys were at camp.

The book report mentions the plot, but I can forgive you, gentle reader, if you’ve forgotten it in the 43 years since the movie’s release or the 10 years since the book report. The film centers on a low-cost camp and its counselors and attendees and their rivalry with the rich kids’ camp nearby. C’mon, man, camp comedies were quite a thing around then, ainna? The late 1970s and early 80s? I mean, look at the Every Summer Camp Movie; you strip out the horror movies, and you end up with a bunch of comedies from 1977 through, what, Ernest Goes To Camp in 1987? I mean, there are some outliers from later eras, but most of them fall into that timeframe (including Poison Ivy, the television movie with Michael J. Fox and my cousin Nancy McKeon–well, a distant cousin by marriage, but you know how it is–I have that on videocassette around here somewhere). And as I have mentioned before, ad nauseum, I came from a less-than-middle-class background. I never went to summer camp. I don’t actually know anyone who went to a weeks-long summer camp–I mean, my boys have gone to week-long summer camp, but not weeks-long. Maybe it’s a regional thing. You know, a famous philosopher, one of the Niebuhrs, maybe, often posits that most contemporary pop culture is actually made by the previous generation, so perhaps the pre-Boomers from the northeast were pumping out these stories of their youths to kids who mostly knew about summer camp from summer camp movies. Or maybe I’m just quite the outlier, and I think everyone else is just like me.

At any rate, the main character, Tripper, is played by Bill F. Murray, so you have trope two-fer: it’s the cool camp counselor behind most of the hijinks and it’s BFM who is behind most of the hijinks. You’ve got the isolated, lonely, neglected-at-home kid, Rudy, played by Chris Makepeace (who starred in two films I’ve researched recently, so I got to thinking he was a big star–but he was just in a lot of films whose names I remembered and mostly did not watch from the 1980s). You’ve got an obvious nerd archetype, you’ve got the overweight counselor archetype, you’ve got the love interest archetype. Tripper takes Rudy under his wing in a fashion that would be sus in the 21st century (okay, groomer). One of the running gags is that the stuffy camp manager/owner sleeps heavily, so the counselors take him, bed and all, and put him in funny places for him to wake up. And then, at the end, after Tripper mostly gets the girl, in this case Roxanne, the head counselor for the girls, the two camps have their annual two-day Olympiad. The losers camp falls behind on day one, but after a rousing speech by Tripper that goes against the grain of rousing speeches (“It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter!”), the losers camp pulls even with the rich kids camp, and it all comes down to the last event: A “marathon” run by Rudy, who has discovered his love of running after joining Tripper for some runs that Tripper stages to get Rudy to discover his self-worth through his passion for pounding the pavement. Rudy wins, narrowly, and the losers camp wins, and they all go home better people.

So, basically, it follows (or might have set) the template for camp movies.

Pretty thin gruel, but it’s a comedy. I do quibble a bit with the distances in the running portion of the film, as I often do. In the helping-the-kid-discover-his-passion bits, they talk about going for runs of a mile or maybe two. And the “marathon” at the end is a 4 mile pavement and trail run. C’mon, man, those are not great distances. I mean, the stock beginning race is a 5K which is 3.1 miles. Real distance runners do 10Ks or half or full marathons. Again, one gets the sense that people who write about running often do not run themselves and think a mile is a long way to go. Now, for me, I plod at a 10 minute pace for miles generally, but a kid of Rudy’s age, even without any training, should do it less than that. When I was in seventh or eighth grade, my time was about 8 minutes, and I was at the back of the pack. Ah, well.

So many believe this is the best of the camp movie genre, and I won’t dispute it since I have not seen a whole lot of them in recent decades. But perhaps the boys and I will explore the genre as I mentioned the movie in the note I sent to my oldest son while he was away at camp, and he sounds interested in seeing it.

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The Article Does Not Answer The Headline’s Question

Here’s why teens are dressing up in suits to see ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’

It answers:

It’s unclear why this trend has taken off, but TikTok users are saying it’s just for fun. Many groups have not caused issues.

No, it is clear: It’s TikTok.

Full disclosure: My boys dressed up to go see the film on the first. We thought that is one of the notions that gets into the older boy’s head from time-to-time until I saw the son of friends on Facebook also dressed up to see the film in the theater. So then I thought TikTok. In an unrelated note, when talking with my boys, I call it the TikTok to emphasize how old and out-of-touch I want them to think I am.

Man, that Chinese application can get the kids to do some crazy things! How scared should I be?

I would also normally riff a bit on how this might be a 20-something journalist getting something wrong and being ignorant of things he or she is too old for, but reading these little AP filler stories, I am not completely convinced that they’re not written by AI. I mean, this story and another I read this morning (Self-checkout growing even though no one likes it) follow a similar template. A trend mentioned with a non-specific example followed by a counterpoint of sorts. No actual reporting involved, and the headline is pretty much all you need to read.

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He’s Probably Run It

Steve Pokin’s Answer Man column, now with the Springfield Daily Citizen, today answers Why is East Mimosa Street so confusing? Reader thinks it’s dangerous.

The reader’s question was:

I am writing about a long-standing traffic problem on East Mimosa Street. Over a brief stretch of the road as you drive east, it splits into two one-way roads. One of the roads dead ends and the other quickly converts back into two-way traffic. I and numerous neighbors have had near misses. Why is the road designed this way?

As I’m reading Pokin’s answer and look at the photographs and maps, I think it sounds familiar, especially when it mentions a mansion hidden from view right over there.

Holy cow, that’s on the route of the Evangel Temple’s 5K, the Royal Run and Rides. I’ve run it two or three times (medaling once because Joe and I were the only males of a certain age–I actually walked the route that year with my beautiful wife).

One wonders if Steve Pokin, a notorious runner, ever ran that race.

Which leads me to another question: Is it just me, or has the 5K fundraiser peaked? We haven’t run as many races as we used to back when the boys’ cross country program ran 5Ks instead of school meets, but we back in the day, we’d do several a year. Back then, you could find more than one a weekend going to the local timing company’s Web site and Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners. But now it looks like you can only find a couple a month, total. The Republic Pregnancy Resource Center used to have one annually–we attended organizational meetings one year and have sponsored it for several more–but it doesn’t appear that they’re having it this year. I can’t find the Royal Run and Rides on the calendar or on the Internet these days. Perhaps the 5K fundraiser was a fad whose time has passed.

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Book Report: The Midwest Survival Guide by Charlie Berens (2021)

Book coverAs you know, gentle reader, I’m a bit of a fan of his for years (ah, jeez, I posted his video “Midwest Horror Film in October 2020). So when we saw (well, my oldest saw) this book in Baraboo, I had to have it. So we do. I have read it, but he has not yet.

It’s a large hardback running about 288 pages (including acknowledgements and credits) with a fair amount of imagery, photographs, tables, charts, and wingdings with chapters on The Basics, The Language, The People, The Setting, The Driving, Food & Drink, and so on. If you have seen any of his videos on YouTube, you’ve got the flavor of the humor.

Still, it works a little better in the short, three-minute videos than in a three hundred page book. I started it whilst on my vacation in Wisconsin, and I read about half of it, but I set it aside for a while to freshen it up a bit in the second reading. I had a couple quibbles with the book, first and foremost a certain love for Chicago that I assure you proper Wisconsinites do not have. Anyone from Wisconsin who expresses this desire to go to Chicago or any place in Illinois for that matter is suspect–but let us remember that Berens himself moved elsewhere and won an Emmy as a newscaster before returning home to be a Wisconsin-schtick comedian. Also, the book pays a little to self-consciously to recognizes native Americans, women, and other groups who might not have gotten a lot of recognition in the past, but now get all the recognition that’s handed out. Still, it’s only sprinkled in, but if you’re sensitive to the themes, as apparently I am in the 21st century, then you’ll spot it. But it’s just a little bit and not hectoring or particularly off-putting.

I only put a couple of flags in the book, all in the college section. First, my alma whattamattayou is not listed in the intro paragraph as an example of a midwestern university. Second, the book mentions Carleton College in Minnesota, and I remember that college was one of the first to send me brochures, which I liked to look at, but I was committed to going to my alma moneyforadecade since I was 10 years old–but I do wonder how my life might have been different if I had truly gone away to college (as I lived with my father, I was technically a commuter and more a resident of Milwaukee than a student bound to the university), and the last is a mention of Southern Illinois University, which threw me a bit–I did not realize that Southern Illinois University-Carbondale was technically “SIU”–I always thought of it with the town appended, but that’s because I’m a big fan of SIUE, which is Edwardsville, closer to St. Louis and home of the sound.

So a book amusing in spots, probably a bit long. Worth it at a book sale, although I’m not sure it’s worth $27. But I am a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to books. But I’ll keep an eye out for more from Berens, on YouTube and at book sales.

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Amazon’s AI Has Some Bad News For Me

Buying coffee, I was presented with a list of recommendations:

Apparently, SkyNet thinks my turntable and/or receiver is about to fail. Again. After all, we have had the receiver in there for over a year and the turntable for two. So that’s old by recent Nogglestead standards.

So I should probably add a line item to the budget or two.

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I Bought It

I mentioned in passing, I went to Rolla in June to take my son to robotics camp.

As is my wont, I went to Google maps to get manly turn-by-turn directions (on the occasions where my beautiful wife is my co-pilot and sets a destination whilst I am driving, I am often subject to disappointing the AI; I am sure that I am on its/their list somewhere as someone who does not obey machines), and I saw that a main thoroughfare through Rolla leading to the residence hall where I was to deposit my offspring was marked Barack Obama Expressway.

I accepted that (believing the machine), but apparently, it is not true: No, Bishop Avenue was not re-named ‘Barack Obama Presidential Expressway

No. Bishop Avenue was not re-named the “Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.”

For the past few days, there’s been posts and confusion on Rolla-focused social media as to why Bishop Avenue was suddenly and seemingly renamed the “Barack Obama Presidential Expressway” on Google Maps.

According to many comments, there were other accounts of the glitch happening in other Missouri cities as well such as Cuba, St. Louis, St. James, Ballwin and possibly others.

Well, we found it, anyway.

And I believed it because Rolla is a college town, and, ya know, college towns.

I don’t know if I would have seen this article before driving to Rolla if I were reading my hometown newspapers (10 or 12 at last count) in a timely fashion, but probably not.

However, we here at MfBJN can very well keep you up-to-date on the news from three weeks ago or 2016.

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Book Report: Boxing: The American Martial Art by R. Michael Onello (2003)

Book coverThis book is a former library book from Palm Beach County that ended up at ABC Books (from whence I bought it in April). It runs 176 pages, with lots of pictures, but it’s really more of a training plan than an instructional guide. It starts with some conditioning exercises and stretches, and then it goes into punches and combinations, with progressions detailing what you should do in weeks where you work out three or four times a week.

It does talk about combinations using numbers, which is something my dojo has started recently (well, within the last three years), but our dojo’s numbering system differs from the book’s (and our dojo really doesn’t talk about tae kwon do strikes now at all). The book also has a couple of different punches that my dojo does not focus on–a straight right (which is a shorter right than a right cross) and an overhand right, which is a high hard one, like a straight or cross punch but coming kind of down over the opponent’s guard. And the book emphasizes a boxer’s stance, where the lead shoulder is turned more toward the opponent than my school teaches, as that position, although it puts you on a better guard as you can hide behind your lead hand/shoulder and present a smaller target, it pretty much neutralizes your rear arm and leg. Of course, left to my own druthers, I would spar this way all the time.

At any rate, not quite as informative as Boxer’s Start-Up: A Beginner’s Guide to Boxing–remember, that book had a lot of really good illustrations identifying body pivots and angles of motion. But I guess it makes me more of a martial artist that I can sit and read books about the subject when I’m too lazy to go to the dojo.

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The Myth of the Modern Soft Switch

I’ve recently (well, four years ago) posted The Myth of the Modern Hard Switch about on/off switches that looked to be actual physical switches but really just prompted software.

Well, it’s worse with purely software switches, of course.

As you might know, I have used a wide variety of computer-based video conferencing bits of software, and they all have a mute button that purportedly turns off your microphone.

Oh, but no.

Google Meets serves up this helpful reminder:

A helpful reminder that, although you have the mute button on, Google is still listening. It’s just not sharing the audio with the other people.

Note that this displays after I have given Google permission to use the Web camera, and the green light is on. But still. Mute does not mean your audio is off.

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