Movie Report: The Expendables (2010)

Book coverI bought this movie during a spree in February, and I wasted no time in watching it. It’s a bonus pack with the film on DVD and on Blu-Ray, which worked nicely for me, for although I have both, only the DVD is hooked into the sound system and the Blu-Ray only plays through our nearly 20-year-old television (which we will keep for as long as we can because it is not a smart device). So I played the DVD version of it.

Basically, it’s kind of like The Avengers in that you have a number of action stars, Stallone, Statham, Li, Lungren, Terry Crews (who I have seen mostly in commercials, honestly), and some other guys (cameo by Schwarzeneggar, Mickey Rourke in a supporting role) are mercenaries. In the initial action sequence, one is a little too violent and gets expelled from the group. They pick up another assignment, to take out a dictator on a Caribbean or South American island who is just a front for a rogue CIA operative’s drug operation. Some action sequences, some betrayal by the discarded merc, and finis.

Statham and Stallone have the meatiest parts. I think Jet Li was a little underused, but he’s a martial artist in a world of firearms, so I suppose that’s to be expected. Overall, about as good as you would expect, which is not bad if you’re into actioners with blockbuster budgets.

The one thing I would have stuck a sticky note on were this a book, though, was Tool’s speech, where Mickey Rourke as a tattoo artist who supports but does not go on missions, describes how he lost his soul:

Gentle reader, that is the plot of Albert Camus’ The Fall, in a nutshell. And either Stallone or the other writer on the film David Callaham knew it. Given that Wikipedia sez that Callaham’s screenplay was only a starting point for the film, one must infer that Stallone has read The Fall.

A quick Internet search indicates that nobody else has recognized this as the source of the side story meant to burnish the development of the main character (who goes back to the island to save the girl before the splash), one must also infer that the Venn Diagram of people who watch movies like The Expendables and people who like Camus books is a picture of me.

Thanks for stopping by, and know that although I am not a genius like Dolph Lundgren (well, I once scored Trailer Park Genius on an IQ test), I am well-read. And a fan of actioners, big budget or not.

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Movie Report My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)

Book coverThis is a Luke Wilson film, as opposed to an Owen Wilson film. So you’ll have an everyman protagonist thrust into a bit of a situation, and he’ll play it pretty straight throughout.

In this case, Wilson plays Matt, a project manager who has not been lucky in love until he meets and is encouraged to ask out a mousy librarian type by his womanizing friend. She rebuffs him, but when someone snatches her purse, he chases after the fellow and gets into more trouble than he bargained for. Then, the tables are turned on his attackers. The woman, art historian Jenny Johnson, is the secret identity of superhero G-Girl, and she’s touched that he tried to defend her. So she goes out with him, they start dating, and she reveals her secret. Then she meets his co-worker Hannah, with whom Matt is really comfortable, and Jenny becomes jealous. When Matt breaks up with her, she lashes out in a series of humorous situations that only a superhero can provide. So Matt teams up with G-Girl’s nemesis, Professor Bedlam, to strip her of her powers, but all’s well that ends well with a comedic ending.

The arc of the story is a little more balanced than the title would have you believe–she is only his ex-girlfriend for the final bit of the film, so the movie relies on other situations for the humor, which is just as well. The quick bits of her revenge would make for a long night if they comprised the whole thing.

At any rate, the movie runs about an hour and a half, which means that it’s fortunately not padded out. So an amusing thing to watch, and not something I’ll avoid rewatching in the future.

I know, I know, gentle reader: As I post these notices mostly so I have future reference as to films I’ve watched and what I thought about them when I did watch them.

You, on the other hand, are here for the pictures of the actresses in the movies. However, I am too lazy to work that up today, so you’ll just have to go to Kim du Toit’s blog as he just posted pictures of Uma Thurman last month.

Last month already? How long has this DVD sat on my desk awaiting a couple paragraphs of brain dump?

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What A Wasted Life Looks Like

They say it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert, and I still play the game at Settler or Chieftain, the two lowest game settings.

Just think what I could have learned in that time over the last 20 years. To actually play a musical instrument instead of just buying them. I could have written a couple more novels, although they would have probably only sold as well as John Donnelly’s Gold at best, which is not that well. Or something.

On one hand, these hours played actually represent the cumulative time that the game has been open, and most of those hours are time I’m not actually playing them–sometimes, when I start a game, it will run for 48 or 72 hours while I’m not at my computer. C’mon, 175 hours in the last two weeks? I haven’t even spent that much time at my desk.

But, on the other hand, this only represents the time since I bought this game on Steam. Civ V, if I recall, was the first that required a Steam login to play. So the Steam version only comes with, what, my current computer, which is only a couple of years old.

Still, I could better spend my time. Although, as you might know, gentle reader, I’ve gone through phases of my life where I play a lot of Civ and then patches where I don’t. I just happen to be in that patch of playing it for a bit every afternoon or night now.

And practicing guitar or harmonica or maybe getting to some of the I’m Gonna projects in the garage? Not so much.

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Like a Bad Neighbor, Brian J. Is Somewhere Else

On Wednesday afternoon, my oldest son asked me to come outside. He was not asking me to a game of Horse or 1-on-1. Instead, he was showing me that he had sheared the passenger side mirror off of the truck that he uses to commute to school. As it is a power mirror, it was hanging by the cabling. Instead of pulling the whole door apart that afternoon, we duct-taped it with a little support beneath it in an effort that would prove mostly futile to stabilize it until we could get another mirror ordered and then only pull the whole door apart once (and hopefully put it back together again).

As I was putting the duct tape away, I noticed someone coming across the private drive that separates us from our nearest neighbor, D—. D— and her husbandlived there when we moved in, and I’ve talked to them on a couple of occasions, and I’ve even been in their house a time or two to help trouble shoot computer issues or help move a refrigerator. But because our 80s era homes have garages that face each other and because we have a football field between our homes, most of our interactions have been waves or shouting “Hi,” across the private drive if we’re going out to get the mail at the same time.

The husband passed away some years ago, and D— has been in declining health recently. One of her children basically moved in with her, and I saw him more than her over the last stretch of time. So when I saw someone coming, I thought it was bad news about D—.

But, no.

Let me back up a bit. When we first moved here, the house at the end of the private drive a quarter mile away was owned by the Whitakers who not only bought the property with the house, but also bought several acres from the previous owners of Nogglestead and built a twenty horse barn (in addition to the 8 horse barn on their property) as they wanted to run a boarding stable. When their dreams fell apart, the banks foreclosed on both parcels. The house has been bought and sold three times, once by the Jones family whom we got to know a little better because the wife was a dental tech at our dentist before they moved out of the area to a real ranch. The next people were only there for a year or so, and I never met them. And I’ve only spoken to the parents of the Russian family that now live there once, and they’ve been there about a year now.

The large barn, though, that was another matter. I went to the auction on the courthouse steps when the barn and its acreage were foreclosed upon–only to discover that the other bidder is likely to be the bank that holds the note, and they start the bidding at the amount of the mortgage. Which is why it was not my twenty horse barn for almost a decade now.

As that parcel and barn originally belonged to the owners of the house at the end of the private drive, its access was through the private drive, and it was landlocked as the easement on the private drive ended before the beginning of the property. And my neighbors across the lane were not eager to allow a business to buy that property, so they refused to offer easements to it for any number of businesses.

Until one man and, I presumed, his wife wanted to make it into a dog ninja warrior training facility. So they bought the property and sued for access to it. To bolster their case, they built a little “house” on it for their residence and said they weren’t going to use it for a business–just parties (or so I heard. Well, once they got access to it, they moved out of their little shed and bought a small house about a mile down the road. Then, when the house opposite our neighbor across the private drive went up for sale, they bought that house and moved into it to be closer to their barn.

I only talked with him once, I think, when he asked about Internet availability (we’re at the end of what was possible with cable, so he’d probably have to go with satellite) and once with his presumed wife when she came to the door to ask if we’d seen anything when someone stole a trailer from that property (we hadn’t). Other than that, it was waving across vast pastures when mowing the lawn or waving at cars when they were coming or going down the private drive to the barn.

Which is why I did not recognize the woman crossing the grass on Wednesday afternoon. I thought it was one of D—‘s daughters, as numerous cars have been parked on the grass over there for the last few days (not likely good news, as I mentioned). This woman said they were having an auction in a week and that there would be lots of cars, so that was what was going on. She handed me a poster for the auction, and when she got halfway across the grass, I asked, “Does this mean you’re leaving?” And only when she got to her car did the full realization hit me. “C—- died” I told my son.

I did a little research, and I found the online guestbook/obituary. He died in December, and I hadn’t noticed. I’d seen increased activity back there in the past few weeks, but that has been typical as they prepared for “dog parties” in the spring and summer. But I guess this year, she was getting ready for the auction.

I kind of feel a little bad that I didn’t notice, and that I didn’t get to know him better. David Burton, whose book A History of the Rural Schools in Greene County, Missouri I read in 2010, has been writing columns on how to be a good neighbor for years, recognizing in the modern world how easy it is to not get to know your neighbors. The modern world combines with my suspicious nature so that I keep neighbors at a distance. Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve really only gotten to know one of my neighbors in five different locations.

Which is not to say we have not tried. We brought Christmas cookies to neighboring houses the first couple of years we lived here, and that never really spurred a lot of communication. I did end up with the phone number of the family of the dental tech at one point, so we had a couple of interactions.

But I’m not a good neighbor. Not a bad neighbor. Just a guy you might wave to and will never miss when you don’t.

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Better Stay Home Where It’s Safe

Apparently, going to the gym is getting dangerous.

Here in southwest Missouri, my greatest danger at the gym is that I’ll do something foolish to impress my beautiful wife, like captain’s chair leg raises:

I know it’s a good ab workout when I think I’ve contracted the stomach flu two days after the ab workout.

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Movie Report: Born in East L.A. (1987)

Book coverI remember seeing ads or trailers for this film, but I am not sure if it was contemporaneous advertisements for it in 1987 or if the trailer preceded one of my favorite comedies from that era, which meant I saw it over and over again. So I bought this DVD earlier this month, and because I have liked Cheech in some of his later work (Nash Bridges and Lost, so it’s not recent later work), and because I was in the mood for a comedy one night, I popped it in.

The film follows the story of Rudy, a Los Angeles resident, who is supposed to go pick up his “cousin” from Mexico at a factory. Due to plot contrivances (which are not unnecessarily unrealistic plot contrivances), he mistakenly leaves his wallet at home when he goes, and while he’s there, he’s swept up in an INS raid and gets deported. With no ID and no money, he has to figure out a way to get back home. Which relies not only on the grifts of an ex-pat American running a club (a pre-Home Alone Daniel Stern, but the affection of a Mexican woman (played by an American of Southwest Asian Indian-Venezuelian descent). Eventually, he is able to cross the border when he storms it with a vast crowd of Mexicans. My DVD must have skipped a scene or two, as he pops up in a parade, and he and other main characters in the movie try to blend in to escape the authorities.

Ya know, times have changed. Although sympathetic with the main character, a couple of pieces of the movie don’t ring quite so innocent in 2023. One is the storming of the border by the numerous Mexicans. Another is that one of the grifts that Rudy participates in is helping some non-Mexican immigrants from Asia to act Mexican-American so when they illegally cross the border, they can fit in. Ay, carumba! the blogger said, stealing from a culture–not so much the Latinx culture but the 1990s catchphrase of Bart Simpson.

The biggest difference is not so much the political questions of today–those sticking bits from the preceding paragraph–but the loss in the shared humanity that made these stories approachable and consumable in the 1980s and 1990s. I mean, when I rewatched Friday last October, I also hearkened back to a time when the art made me sympathize with the plight of the characters even though I was not of that particular race.

I mean, I liked The Triplets’ “Light a Candle” which is all about illegal immigration:

But, now, it’s a political hot button (and a far greater problem), and I’m having trouble seeing it as a human interest story or a bit of shared humanity.

Because the professionals, the grievance industry, the politicians, and the people making “art” today would prefer to divide us.

Man, the future of back then sucks. I hope the future of today is better, but I’m not betting on it.

At any rate, the film was amusing. And notable for being a whole film based on a novelty parody of “Born in the U.S.A.” Which is better than most films based on video games and board games.

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On The Art of War (2000)

Book coverAs I just read a translation of The Art of War, of course I jumped right on watching this film even though I didn’t pick it up on my latest DVD buying binge. Actually, it ended up atop the cabinets by the media center because last week, as my boys were out of town, I organized the media center by throwing all of the video game controllers, cords, and games into their cabinet and also tried to match discs with their cases for the most part before giving up when I was almost done. In condensing the unwatched films from the top of the cabinet to the interior, it moved them around a bit so some from the cabinet are now atop the cabinet and more visible when I’m in the mood for a film. Kind of like I did to my library 7 years ago(?!)–which means I should give that a go again this year and rediscover half my books.

At any rate, on to my thoughts on this film. Hominy crickets, but this film, released in 2000, might be the very 1990s movie ever.

I mean, Snipes plays a black bag covert ops guy for the United Nations whose first exploit is to jam up a North Korean general in Hong Kong who is dealing in sophisticated military equipment and underage prostitutes. When the Canadian Secretary-General of the UN, played by Donald Sutherland, learns that someone is trying to saboutage a US-China free trade agreement, he reluctantly brings Snipes’s character in to investigate and to protect the Chinese ambassador (James Hong). When the ambassador is assassinated, Snipes is framed for it and has to hunt down the real conspirators aided only by a translator who claims he’s innocent (played by Marie Matiko).

I mean, it’s got the UN as the ultimate power broker here, using its covert operations branch to manipulate China and the US into a better tomorrow. I mean, of course the bad guys are ultimately westerners who want to hold China down (and, presumably, to loot China’s cultural treasures as in every martial arts movie I’ve seen recently). But this is strictly Hollywood’s play: The actors are mostly American, and most are not Chinese, even the Asian characters. We’ve got Koreans playing Japanese, Americans of Japanese descent playing Chinese characters, and so on. I mean, even James Hong is an American of Chinese descent from Minneapolis. Weird.

And listen to the big speech by the ultimate bad guy:

Eleanor Hooks, the bad guy: The Art of War teaches win by destroying your enemy from within. Ironic, isn’t it, that a 2000-year-old strategy would be turned against the very people who created it? Better us doing it to them than them doing it to us.

Julia, the translator caught up in the middle of this: What are you talking about?

Hooks: I’m talking about 20 years of China fucking America from within, and nobody noticing. Well, now, they’re going to notice.

Julia: You. You’re behind all this.

Hooks: With just enough help from David Chan to keep everyone guessing. David Chan most of all.

Julia: I don’t understand.

Hooks: Of course, you don’t, my dear. Because you, like most people, never stop to look at the big picture. I’ve been looking at the big picture every day for 20 years, and I’ve tried to look forward, and you know what I see? I see China maintaining a stranglehold on freedom, influencing our political process with illegal campaign contributions, stealing our most secret military technology and selling it to our enemies, weakening us from the inside. Like a virus. This trade deal is an invitation to finish the job. I intend to cancel that invitation. I intend to return America to Americans.

Geez Louise, considering that the bad guy was looking at the situation in 2000, think of how it is now, a quarter century later. I’m more sympathetic to the bad guys than the good guys from the U.N.

But the ultimate bad guy is not a MAGA Republican:

Julia: Who do you think you’re representing?

Hooks: The people who have steered this nation for decades behind the scenes, the people who protect democracy from itself.

Julia: For a woman obsessed with Chinese conspiracies, you sound frighteningly like the government you’re trying to stop.

The ultimate bad guy wants to save the day for the deep state.

Twenty years later, things are the same. But different.

Enough of that, though. Marie Matiko plays Julia, the translator in over her head. Continue reading “On The Art of War (2000)”

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What “I’m Gonna” Looks Like

Geez, Louise, but I’ve never head the condition of my garage better than this:

Because that’s my theory as to what hoarding really is: Reified potential. What might have been, in physical form. Again, n=1 here, so take this for what it’s worth, but the hoarder in my life has elaborate justifications for every single item she’s got, and they’re all of the “I’m gonna” type.

All those newspapers? I’m gonna make a scrapbook. The empty perfume bottles? I’m gonna turn them into wind chimes. She fancies herself an artiste — she even introduces herself that way — although the only actual art she’s ever produced is a series of sketches… from back in high school, which was a long time ago. They’re buried at the bottom of a big stack of sketch pads, all filled with nothing but “gonna.” I’m gonna start sketching street scenes. I’m gonna start tomorrow.

As you might remember, gentle reader, when I moved to palatial Nogglestead, I was spending a lot of time with a couple of toddlers and watched a lot of craft shows like Creative Juice and That’s Clever and hitting lots of garage sales where I bought a bunch of craft materials and things to do inexpensively. And although I did some woodburning and made a couple of clocks and other things, my purchasing ran ahead of my doing, and the completed projects piled up in a couple of boxes when I ran out of people to whom to give things. I’ve held onto broken things, stereo equipment or small appliances, that I’m hoping to fix.

I mean, for a partial example, here are some shelves:

What do we have here?

  • 8-Track Tape shells I bought at a yard sale and gutted with hopes of making cell phone cases out of them. But phones have gotten too big for that.
  • A bunch of wooden plaques and objects for wood burning.
  • A colander missing a handle. Whatever will I do with that?
  • A bunch of glass bottles that I’d hoped to cut the tops off of and turn into candles. Or to etch and make into little lights.
  • Green pipe cleaners, or whatever the modern equivalent is. I think they’re designed to look like coniferous needles. Clearly, I was gonna make Christmas decorations with them.
  • Various bits of old light fixtures. For my art, when I get to it.
  • A vast collection of woodworking and repair guides. For when I get serious about those hobbies.

And that’s just one set of shelves. Not depicted: The boxes full of beads for making jewelry, the 1960s dressers that had been with my beautiful wife and I since our respective childhoods, the cookie sheets that I started painting with chalkboard paint but never finished (which have been on improvised tables in the garage for years now, buried under other accumulata), old computer monitor bezels that I intend to make into whiteboards, various découpage materials, a box of old National Geographics we got when my mother-in-law downsized which I will probably never look at but cannot discard or cut into découpage material, and so on, and so on.

The Nogglestead library is a bit the same way. The stacks contain more books than I can read in my lifetime, and I still buy more (but no longer by the dozens as when I would really go nuts at book sales). Very aspirational in that I’d like to read them all someday. But at least I can generally find something to read when I finish a book.

We’re fortunate enough that we have a large house for all the books, records, videos, and the personal relics that make up the other half of my semi-hoarding kind of life. As you know, gentle reader, my family, or at least the family that I had contact with in the latter part of my growing up, has mostly passed away. So I am loath to part with anything that I have received as part of their legacies, from the figurines that were on the living room shelves in the housing projects, trailer parks, and beyond (and which appear on the cover of Coffee House Memories) to the little tchotchkes that my grandmother has given us over the years (a little boy doll and train music box when my first son was born and a motion sculpture later) and beyond. Without people who remember my history to validate my existence or correct my stories as needed, I rely on these little icons to remind me of where I come from.

Regardless, the I’m gonna does capture the essence of a lot of crap around here and a very cluttered garage.

I guess I have three choices:

  1. Do instead of gonna.
  2. Go all Marie Kondo and clear the crap out.
  3. Die and leave it for my heirs to sort out.

C’mon, man. You know which one I’m going with. The Nothing.

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Book Report: Starwolves #2: Battle of the Ring by Thorarinn Gunnarson (1989)

Book coverWhen I bought this book five years ago (along with another in the series), I said it was probably not related to Starwolf #1: The Weapon from Beyond. And so it was, but one can be forgiven from making the mistake. After all, both series are about space pirates with special abilities. But the books themselves are twenty years apart (1967 versus this paperback’s 1989 publication date).

It is the second book of the series (although the four are not numbered). Many millennia from now, the human race that spread from Terra are at a genetic bottleneck–kind of like Idiocracy, bad genetics and defects are overrunning the population, so the Union has battles other offshoot races to maintain its preeminence in the galaxy. The Starwolves are a race of warriors, four-armed and hardened for battle. Their leader, Velmeran, who triumphed in the first book, has risen a bit, but he still leads his pack of fighters from his mother’s ship, an 18,000-year-old sentient battleship. The Terrans, after their stinging defeat in the previous book, create a super-carrier and a whole new way of doing battle with the Starwolves, and then they hunt Velmeran.

It’s a pretty good book with a couple of different arcs to it, including a rest stop on a safe planet where Velmeran disguises himself as a human trader and picks up an ally who would like to have been his lover but is just happy to get into space; initial contact with the Challenger, the Terran ship; and then infiltration of the Challenger itself.

So one can see, if one’s looking, some blending of elements of Battlestar Galactica with Star Wars, but they’re broad enough themes to not really detract from the story. As the book progresses, we discover more and more that Velmeran is a mutant Starwolf with telepathic abilities, including some glimpse of the future, telepathy, and eventually the ability to teleport. So he runs the risk of being Velmarysue more than a character just a step outside the race that the reader can identify with.

Still, not a bad bit of space opera with some interesting pieces to it.

Unfortunately, the other book I have in the series is the fourth book, so I’ll let a little time elapse between them to prevent myself from getting whipsawed with the additional passage of time and events.

These two books were in mint shape when I bought them, which made me wonder if anyone else has read them before me (I did buy them used). I was going to annoint myself Spinebreaker for damaging the book by reading it, as was Star Trek 11 when I read it this year. However, this paperback weathered the reading well, and although the book has clearly been opened, the spine is uncracked. Which is pretty good for a thirty-five-year-old paperback.

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Book Report: The Art of Strategy by R.L. Wing (1988)

Book coverThis is a “new” translation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and as the slightly altered title indicates, it wants to extend the lessons of the master to situations other than war. The author/translator, as a matter of fact, breaks The Art of War into sections and then adds introductions before each section with how you can apply the lessons within each to Conflict with Yourself (internal struggles or battles with yourself when you want to improve), Conflict with the Environment (which is not Gaia, but rather circumstances in which you find yourself), Conflict with Another (where you disagree with another), and Conflict Among Leaders (when you have conflicts and you’re in authority).

As you might remember, gentle reader, when dealing with classic texts, I tend to skip introductions until the end so that I can read the work first and then dig into the instructions. With this particular work, though, I gave up on reading the section introductions as it seemed the author was working too hard to draw out or make up lessons for each of the arbitrary sections. So most of this “report” is musings on the original work itself other than saying another, briefer translation might prove a better read and surely a better form-factor than this book, which in addition to the large introductions, includes the original Chinese on the left-facing pages along with a little calendar/notes spot so that you can study the sections over the course of time and to meditate on the teachings and how to apply them to your life as you study. So this is a coffeetable sized paperback, but you can find The Art of War in Barnes and Noble hardbacks or in mass market paperbacks that fit into your back pocket.

I read this book once or twice before when I was younger. So when I bought this book last Labor Day Weekend in Kansas, it was only a matter of time before I picked it up because I remember it as a short read. Well, it would have been, but the additional material kind of bogged me down even though I was not reading it. So I started it last summer or autumn and set it aside and then picked it up again recently.

At any rate, overall, The Art of War is pretty much a set of koans and things to meditate on which will kind of seem simple–don’t attack when your opponent is strong, appear to be in a different place than you are, and so on. So some good high-level things to consider, but if you’re actually wanting to study war and how to do it, you’re probably better off reading Julius Caesar, studying George Patton, or picking up a wargaming sourcebook. They provide practical details and considerations, like secure your corn and water first. Things no doubt taught to ancient Chinese military leaders, but not communicated very much in this text.

Reading this, though, one can appreciate how China might take a longer view of warfare and conflict that the West, but one has to wonder how that’s worked out. After all, much of China’s territorial gains have come from homelands of invaders who conquered China in kinetic warfare, become Chinese, and set up their own dynasty of “Chinese” emperors only to be overthrown by the next invading horde. I mean China never conquered Korea even though it’s right there (although who would want to, really) and didn’t hold onto its southeastern claims in Vietnam and whatnot.

I have probably mentioned before that I was approached to edit a book on how this was going to be China’s big century. But I demurred because I’ve read some Chinese history, and I know that a lot of centuries were going to be China’s century. I’m not as certain as this guy:

But I do think that the future will surprise us. Probably not in a good way, but it will certainly be different than what the modern clickbait prophets say it will be. Or what they said yesterday, which might be the complete opposite.

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Like Chesterton’s Fence

It’s Nogglestead’s plate:

I came upstairs this morning to find an inverted plate on top of a napkin just inside the door to the deck.

Now, normally, I would attribute this to the boys, who would never think of littering outdoors but let wrappers, empty bottles, and anything else fall from their hands wherever they are inside our house. But they’re on their band trip this week, so they’re not around.

I would attribute it to the cats, especially the kittens, but the plate would probably be too heavy for them to carry by mouth, and there’s nothing nearby for them to have knocked it down.

So it must be that my beautiful wife put it there for some purpose, and as I do not know what that is, I cannot pick up the plate.

She’s in a long business call right now, so I still have plenty of time to let my imagination go wild. Is there a dead mouse or bug beneath it? Something she does not want the cats to get, and she did not have time to clean it up before her call?

Cruel blogger that I am, I might not bother to update this post with the solution so you’ll never know. Or, as likely, she will pick it up before I ask her about it, and I will forget about it until I read this post some years hence, at which time I might bring it up and she will be unlikely to remember.

(Chesteron’s Fence explained.)

UPDATE: Apparently, the unneutered kitten marked his territory by the door. His neutering is in a couple of weeks, and it cannot come quickly enough.

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Why Brian J. Prefers Hotels When He Arrives At Night, Redux

Woman who got B&Bs confused and climbed in man’s bed died after being ‘dragged outside’

I had a recent trip to St. Louis, and my beautiful wife asked me if I preferred an AirBNB or a hotel.

Given that I might be arriving at night, I preferred a hotel with big signs, a parking lot, and a lobby.

Because I have enough imagination to find myself entering not the AirBNB but the house/apartment/condo next door at 11pm and getting ventilated for it.

Not likely to be dragged down stairs, though, given that I’ve conquered being skinny.

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Skynet Plays the Long Game

I was at a conference this week, and one of the stars of the show was one of Boston Dynamic’s Spot robot dogs.

As you know, gentle reader, in the grim future, the last remnants of humanity use dogs to spot infiltrator terminators:

Very clever of Skynet to send its agents back in time to get humanity to replace real dogs with robots before it unleashes the terminators. Very clever indeed.

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Another Word Verboten

Bill Walton facing backlash for using a derogatory term on broadcast.

I always wonder if the news story will mention what the offending word is. If it’s really, really, double plus ungood, no. But if it’s only a single plus ungood or less, it will, and it did:

During halftime of Arizona State’s eventual 77-72 win over USC on Thursday, Walton — who serves as a broadcaster with ESPN — used the “m-word” while complimenting the in-game host.

“He does not need a little chair because he is a giant in a world full of shriveling m—–s,” Walton said.

Walton then turned to his broadcast partner, Dave Pasch, and joked: “Speaking of shriveling m—–s, what is your name again?”

The m-word. Time will be there will be too many words to be the letter word. But fortunately, when all dictionaries are electronic, they will update automatically.

In the meantime, comrade, if you see one of these offensive cars:

Remember to bash it with whatever is at hand. For s- – – – – j- – – – – -!

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Musings from Brian J. Noggle Still The Kiss of Death

Less than a month ago, I mentioned Robert Blake on this blog talking about the television show Hollywood Squares.

Robert Blake died yesterday. And the headline is “Robert Blake, actor acquitted in wife’s murder, dies at 89“. Not “Robert Blake, Television’s Baretta“. Not “Robert ‘Bobby’ Blake, Mickey in the Our Gang/Little Rascals Comedies”.

As you might recall, gentle reader, Larry McMurtry died while I was reading The Last Picture Show.

I guess that’s not a large sample size, and it’s probably because I’m an old man who often blogs about older people. But still. One can never be too careful.

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Today, In “I Roll To Disbelieve” News

Suggested for me, because apparently Facebook thinks I’m impressionable:

Wow, 1825 miles in 24 hours. Which is, what, 76 miles an hour for 24 hours straight with no breaks to, I dunno, fuel the motorcycle?

I thought maybe it was a joke I didn’t get, an actor from a movie or something, but this guy is in the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame, and the Web site mentions his feat.

So if it’s on a Facebook suggested post (why the motorcycles all of a sudden? Did I like a post about hockey, so I must like all sports with helmets?) and the Hall of Fame Web site for an organization I’d never heard of, I guess I have to admit the very small chance it might be true.

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Movie Report: Spies Like Us (1985)

Book coverI bought this DVD last weekend, and it was the first of the new films I watched.

I got the paperback book when I was in middle school or early high school, and it was years before I actually saw the movie. And probably decades passed since I watched it again (this time). Or maybe this was the third time I’d seen it. Over the years.

My oldest has become a Chevy Chase fan (we watched National Lampoon’s Vacation and Fletch Forever last year), so it was an easy sell for him. Even though he said, “Who is that other guy?” Dan Ackroyd, from Saturday Night Live (forty-some years ago), Ghostbusters (almost forty years ago), Dragnet! (almost forty years ago)…. (The next day, my beautiful wife would point out that he was also Elwood Blues.)

As you might recall, gentle reader, if you’re an old man, that this film centers on two nincompoops, one a Lothario smooth-talker from the State Department (Chase) and the other a tech whiz civilian employee of the Department of Defense (Ackroyd), who are chosen to become operatives–well, they’re chosen to be expendable decoys for the real operatives whose mission is at risk because of a leak that has gotten other operatives killed. So we get training montages with Bernie Casey as the military commander. Then, they’re air-dropped in Pakistan to a remote area, where they avoid being killed by Pashtuns by pretending to be doctors, where they meet Donna Dixon and a bunch of real doctors; when an operation fails to save the kin of the clan chieftain (before they begin to operate), they have to escape, and they do–to the chagrin of their controllers. But they bumble their way across the Soviet border to continue being a decoy, until they begin helping the lone survivor of the actual agent team to–launch a nuclear missile, it turns out, in a live-fire test of an anti-missile system.

So they have to save the day.

It’s chock full of 80s tropes, paced like a late 20th century comedy with some sexual humor but it’s not terribly crass, and it has a good heart although it pokes fun at the idea of missile defense (making sure we understand that Reagan was president). It has Chevy Chase playing a Chevy Chase character and Dan Ackroyd playing a Dan Ackroyd character, so it might not stand out that much from their respective ouevres. But it was Vanessa Angel’s first film, so it is notable in that regard. Continue reading “Movie Report: Spies Like Us (1985)”

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I Shouted Out, “Who Killed The Kennedys?”

A hard-hitting, ProPublica and Gannett-regurgitated piece delves into an accidental death on a dairy farm and discovers the real killers.

Apparently, the farm was mostly staffed by immigrants who might have been illegal immigrants, and the boy’s father might have backed over him with a skid steer. To be honest, although the story indicates this is the police report, it remains purposefully vague on a lot of points and casts some doubt on whether the report is accurate because the employees who were there, including the father, spoke little or no English.

But is it a tragic accident? Yes, but:

What happened to Jefferson and his father is a story of an accumulation of failures: a broken immigration system that makes it difficult for people to come here even as entire industries depend on their labor, small farms that largely go unexamined by safety inspectors, and a law enforcement system that’s ill equipped to serve people who don’t speak English.

The system failed. Not in keeping out illegal immigrants (maybe), but it not being completely bilingual and more accommodating of the immigrants.

After all, it was you and me.

I don’t mean to make light of this tragedy–I am a father myself, you know–but the authors of this piece try to make political hay of it, exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

I am not sure who will be swayed by this piece–I see it’s off of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Web page already–but rest assured, the nonprofit, its employees, and its vendors will continue to get paid.

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