George Kuffs Rides Again

SF considers bringing back ‘patrol specials’ from Gold Rush-era amid police shortage:

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Short hundreds of officers, San Francisco is now looking back to a Gold Rush-era idea for a possible staffing solution.

The police commission is hoping a new squad of officers will free up the police department to focus on more serious crimes.

They are called “patrol specials” — security guards with some police training. For a city struggling to get a handle on crime, some government officials say it could be a quick way to add eyes and ears to the streets of San Francisco.

I’m not saying I watched the Christian Slater film a whole bunch–not a Showtime-in-the-trailer bunch–but I saw it in the theaters and then bought it on videocassette and watched it numerous times.

I still have the VHS tape in the Nogglestead video library. Perhaps I will dust it off for old times’ sake.

Man, I wanted to be like Christian Slater in the middle 1990s.

(Link via Wirecutter.)

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Tell Me You Have Boys Without Saying You Have Boys

It has been a while since I’ve had to clean pasta sauce off of the light fixture, but….

Last night was Homecoming and my boys were going. The oldest got the idea to get some Welch’s sparkling grape juice to take to the dance. I discouraged such behavior, because even if it were grape juice, it would upset the School Resource Officers. So, instead, they went to dinner before the dance and stopped at the grocery but returned home to drink the sparkling grape juice before the dance.

The oldest, 17, decided he would open the bottle with a winged wine opener. So he started trying to screw into the cap, but these bottles have twist-off metal caps under the foil. So he shook up, the contents under pressure, and then he managed to punch a small hole in the metal cap. And the contents under pressure….

Well, some are on the ceiling, some was on the floor, some was upon him in his homecoming finery.

But, like Pandora’s box, after the troubles blew out the top, the boy was left with about an inch of fluid in the bottom of the bottle for his trouble.

And we have a reminder that will likely last until we move out of Nogglestead and the painter who covers it all will wonder what it is.

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Shades That Make Me Feel Eighteen

I participated in a sprint triathlon in August at the YMCA, and the swag bag contained a pair of YMCA sunglasses with the neon arms.

My goodness, when I was eighteen, I didn’t wear anything other than sunglasses with neon arms, cheap ones. And we called them shades.

I misplaced my regular sunglasses, so I’ve worn this pair for about a week, and it made me feel eighteen.

And, according to my boys, I looked like an anachronism. Well, they did not say anachronism as I am not sure it’s in their vocabulary. But if they knew the word, they would apply it to me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to party like it’s… a couple years ago.

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Good Book Album Media Hunting, Saturday, September 16, 2023: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

Well, gentle reader, as with the last few sales, I was not sure whether I would schlep all the way to the other side of town to buy records and books that would, maybe, barely fit onto my existing shelves. I asked my beautiful wife Friday night if she would like to go, and she made sounds like maybe she would go just to go with me but one of us should be around to pick up the student athlete from school in the early afternoon on Saturday. So I asked my oldest son if he would like to go, and he answered with relative enthusiasm that he would. So he and I went and met with the crowd of the first hour of half price day.

We only went to the dollar section, which is half the sale but included not only books (which I didn’t really browse) as well as records, audio books, and DVDs which were fifty cents each. Those, I browsed.

And bout a few.

I only got a few books, browsing the poetry and philosophy sections on the way out. I did get a bundle of chapbooks/pamphlets for a dollar; since I just read one such short work on fraktur, I was eager to see what was available. But there was only one such bundle, which I bought.

I got:

  • Bullshit and Philosophy edited by Gary L. Hardcastle and George A. Reisch. Is reflections on On Bullshit? Time will tell.
  • The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell, an Arthurian legend in verse. Originally published in 1848, this book is not quite that old, but could be 100 years old or so. It pains me how recently a book published a hundred years ago would have been published.
  • Milton: Minor Poems edited by William Allan Neilson. Do not confuse this Lake English Classics edition with Milton’s Minor Poems edited by Philo Melvyn Buck in the Eclectic English Classics edition which I read in 2020. I am hoovering up the little pocket editions from this era which are still in pretty good shape, although this book is an ex-library edition with the attendant marks. The book sale had two copies of this particular volume; I picked up this one because it had a better cover.
  • What I’ve Learned About Life in the Ozarks… Our Kids’ Perspective. a 2004 fundraiser by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) ot the Ozarks, a collection of short quotes by kids and photos. The kind of thing that I would pick up, but my son threw this into the box. But he’s not here to claim it now, so into the unread stacks it goes.
  • How It Was: Remembered and Fabricated by Orvey C. Buck, a self-published collection of poems from…. well, one of the included chapbooks is dated 1989, and the font is monospace, so it might have been laid out on a typewriter. Even so, the collection is probably contemporaneous with my first chapbooks.
  • One World, One Heart by Susan Polis Schultz. But didn’t I already read it? Yes. But it was the chapbook facing out on the one bundle I bought. So I got another copy. It reminds me of buying poly packets of used jukebox 45s back in the day. You could see the first and last one, and you were generally gambling on what was in between.
  • Nutshell People and Other Biota by Mykia Taylor (1989).
  • Timberlines by Mable A. Lybyer (?).
  • The Little Wilderness Poems by Mary Holman Grimes.

I also picked up five bundles of The Missouri Conservationist magazine to look for photos I can use in découpage. The magazines were essentially a nickel each, which is below even yard sale prices.

Before I hit the books, though I went through the albums. The sale did not have many, but not many people were looking through them. Still I picked up a couple.

  • Gap Mangione! When I looked at the cover, I thought, “Man, I didn’t recognize him without a hat.” But this is Cap Mangione, Chuck Mangione’s brother. It would appear that their relationship was/is better than the Gallagher brothers.
  • Living Together by Burt Bacharach.
  • In Orbit by The Three Suns.
  • This Is Perry Como.
  • Greatest Hits by B.J. Thomas so I can play his biggest hit for my boys to hear without the ooka chocka locka.
  • Sami Jo by Sami Jo. Pretty Woman on Cover (PWoC). With most of these, you can guess mid 70s folk country, and so it is here: her second album from 1976, and her last.
  • Party Boots by Boots Randolph. A two record set. Might already have it, but I spent fifty cents to make sure.
  • Montenegro in Italy by Hugh Montenegro. The composer/band leader behind the iconic spaghetti western themes.
  • Traces of Love by Jane Morgan. I have at least one of her records around here somewhere (research on this blog and certainly not any sort of organization of the Nogglestead music library indicates The Sounds of Silence and In My Style).
  • Mediterranean Cruise by Frank Carle and his orchestra.
  • Songs You Love To Remember by The Mills Brothers.
  • Melissa Manchester by Melissa Manchester. “You like Melissa Manchester, don’t you?” I asked my wife, hoping to make this whole orgy of profligacy about her.
  • Aces High by Ace Cannon.
  • Unfailing Love by Evie. Since I got her Christmas album, maybe I’m an Evie fan. Or maybe it was just fifty cents so why not.
  • Soft Lights and Sweet Music by Percy Faith and his orchestra. Apparently, this is a 1977 reissue of a 1950s original. But PWoC. Holy cats, that young lady is adorable. And if that young lady is still alive, she’s nearing eighty.
  • When Your Lover Has Gone by Teresa Brewer. A jazz singer; I’d never heard of her before.
  • Colours of Love by Hugh Montenegro. I might already have this, but it was fifty cents, so it’s best to make sure. And it would double my chances of finding it in the music library if I ever wanted to.
  • Return of the Wayfaring Stranger by Burl Ives.
  • Burl Ives and the Folk Singers Three.
  • It’s Not Just My Funny Way of Laughing by Burl Ives.
  • Singin’ Easy by Burl Ives.
  • The Versatile Burl Ives. I mean, if I really get into Burl Ives, I’d hate to spend more than $3 for a set of his records.

It’s funny how the sale has its gluts of different things. This sale had a lot of Rose Maddox, for example, where other sales have had a lot of Spanish or Brazilian music. Unfortunately, or fortunately according to my pocket book, this sale didn’t have a lot of tempting records. We might be running out of that window where I’ll find a lot of 40s-60s jazz and easy listening available. Those grandparents are probably all about downsized by now.

After the records, I hit the DVDs and pretty much collected anything that I might want to ever see.

The takings include:

  • Get Carter, a Stallone actioner of a bygone age.
  • A Quite Place, that movie about aliens that locate humans by sound.
  • Dallas Buyers Club.
  • Don Juan DeMarco, a Johhny Depp film from a bygone age.
  • How To Be A Latin Lover, which looks to be a comedy with Selma Hayek, Rob Lowe, and Kristen Bell.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the Pitt and Jolie action comedy(?).
  • A Little Unprofessional, a comedy special by Ron White. Although I apparently did not pick up the one by Larry the Cable Guy.
  • The Bookshop; I read the book in 2021.
  • Corky Romano with Chris Kattan. Heaven forgive me, but I took my wife to see this in the theaters.
  • Toy Soldiers which is not Little Green Men but instead a Louis Gossett, Jr., movie with Sam Gamgee in it.
  • Iron Mask which surely must be a retelling of the Dumas story starring Arnold Schwarzenneggar and with Jackie Chan.
  • Rocketman, the Elton John biopic which my son slipped into the stack.
  • Legionnaire, a Jean-Claude Van Damme film.
  • La La Land.
  • Bringing Down The House with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah which is not the story of the MIT card counters. I don’t think.
  • Knives Out which is a relatively new film. I’m not sure I want to see it, but maybe someday the mood will strike me.
  • Medea on the Run, one of two Medea movies I picked up. My son was stunned.
  • 15:17 to Paris; I might already have it, but I spent 50 cents just in case not.
  • Underworld which I saw a long time ago when it was new, but I have not followed the franchise.
  • Cry Macho, a recentish Clint Eastwood movie.
  • Brimstone which is not the turn-of-the-century Sci-Fi series but a western. Hopefully, not to much of a modern Western.
  • A Madea Family Funeral, #2 of 2.
  • The Predator, a recent entry in the franchise likely to disappoint me.
  • Fantastic 4 which I might already have.
  • Ambulance, a Michael Bay film the boy wanted.
  • Ad Astra, a Brad Pitt film I am not sure I heard of, but the boy wanted.
  • The Poseidon, a remake of The Poseidon Adventure. No Ernest Borgnine, no Shirley Winters, no Leslie Nielson as a straight man. I expect to be disappointed.
  • Better Off Dead with John Cusack. I’ve been kinda looking for this one, so I’m excited.
  • Argo.
  • Tomb Raider, the new one with Alicia Vikander.
  • Crazy Rich Asians.
  • The Legend of Bruce Lee, a documentary.
  • Clash of the Titans, the remake.
  • Wildthings with Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, and Denise Richards.
  • Casino Royale, the first of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. I saw it in the theaters, and it’s the only ones of the Craig set I’ve seen.
  • Baywatch, the comedy remake.
  • The Master Gunfighter starring Tom Laughlin. You know, Billy Jack. Well, I would not have known either (although I am pretty sure I have seen at least parts of The Legend of Billy Jack because my sainted mother liked the movie or maybe Tom Laughlin).
  • First Blood, the first Rambo movie.
  • Patch Adams and What Dreams May Come, a Robin Williams double feature.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the first in the series which I also might have seen in the theater.
  • Olympus Has Fallen, one of the Obama-era “terrorists/bitter clingers have attacked the White House!” movies. Probably enough time has passed I can view the movie on its own merits and not part of the contemporaneous coastal zeitgeist.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a later (well, not Netflix-later) Sandler comedy.
  • The Producers with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.
  • The Deer Hunter, the Vietnam movie which captured my son’s attention.
  • Zoolander No. 2–well, it was only fifty cents.
  • Kick-Ass 2.
  • Beowulf which has a computer-assisted Angelina Jolie in it, ainna?
  • The Death of Stalin, an ensemble comedy from a bygone era more bygone than other bygone eras I’ve mentioned so far.
  • Trading Places, the Dan Ackroyd/Eddie Murphy comedy from the early 1980s.

Holy cats, that’s fifty films. I haven’t watched the last fifty I bought yet.

Looking at the list, I’m somewhat surprised just how heavily weighted it is to franchises, remakes, or reboots. But I suppose I should not be. Also, I have determined the place to get later films on DVD will be library book sales, as some of the later titles here were ex-library holdings–and libraries might be the only DVD release some titles get.

I also picked up two courses, Starting Out In Chinese and Shakespeare: The Great Comedies. So I just need to start commuting again or something to listen to these and the others I’ve acquired.

At any rate, the check made out to FOL totaled $40. If I had stopped in the Better Books Section, I would have spent more, perhaps on art monographs or old books, but I would also have had to eventually shelve them. Which is a sore subject right now as work at Nogglestead required us to move six bookshelves and their contents. It only took a little over an hour, but still.

I would proffer a pool, gentle reader, as to which film you would expect me to watch first. I cannot participate, gentle reader, as I have already watched it. But you can speculate in the comments if you would like.

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It’s Been A Long Time Since I Read That

Glorious Trash reviews the first part of F.M Busby’s Demu Trilogy, Cage A Man.

When I bought a couple of Busby’s other paperbacks in 2011, I said:

Two F.M. Busby science fiction novels in the Star Rebel series. I read Busby’s Demu trilogy a long time ago. They didn’t put me off his work forever, just twenty years or so.

Make that 30 years now; I read the Demu trilogy in high school or early college. Probably bought it at the flea market up the hill from the trailer park or at a paperback exchange in Milwaukee at the beginning of college.

What’s funny is that the books are in the forefront paperback on one of the shelves on my office, so I have passed over them an awful lot in the past couple of years. Seeing this book review (at greater length than I generally go to, as you probably can guess) might trigger me to pick one of them up presently. And if I like it, I will pick up the other in something less than 30 years, maybe.

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Or Not

Your childhood VHS tape collection could be worth a fortune:

If you have a pile of VHS tapes that haven’t been touched since the dawn of digital media, you might be able to make a fortune on them.

Blockbuster video cassettes are obviously a relic of yesteryear, with technology moving from VHS to DVDs and Blu-Ray and now onto streaming — but they’re still popular among some cult cinema collectors.

Many are going for a shocking amount of money on eBay, including classic films such as “Back to the Future” and even newer flicks with a cult following, such as the original “Fast and the Furious.”

However, simply posting a VHS on eBay doesn’t guarantee you’ll get big bucks — the condition must be top-notch.

First of all, if it’s your childhood VHS collection, it’s likely to be Disney films which are worn out. Secondly, the eBay list price is not the eBay sales price.

Also, as an accumulator (not a hoarder), I can tell you that although DVDs are going up to about $5 to $10 per these days, the pop culture stuff and media in your basement will not support your retirement. Even Blake Martinez is learning that Pokemon cards are not as lucrative as professional football.

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A Paragraph Short Of A Five Paragraph Essay Blog Post

Well, gentle reader, rest assured I am not writing long form material all of a sudden, although I have had spates of it in the past where I decide to go for it.

Someone at work posted about the band Train, and I mentioned the video for “50 Ways To Say Goodbye” had the Hoff:

And I got to thinking about how he’s also in the video for Brad Paisley’s “Last Time For Everything”:

I mentioned how the song affected me when I first heard it in 2017; six years (?!) later, my oldest has entered his senior year and is experiencing many of the last things from the video, but he will only learn it when he thinks back later. Me, I’ll mourn for him and for myself now.

So, anyway, I got to thinking of other music videos that the Hoff is in…. and I drew a blank.

Well, not entirely a blank. Of course he’s in videos for his own songs. My youngest has “Hooked on a Feeling” on his playlist, so I hear it often, and I thought it was the Hoff’s version because it has the oooka choka part that I associated with the David Hasselhoff version:

I mean, the version my son has is clearly not B.J. Thomas. Apparently, it’s the Blue Swede version from 1974, which also has the oooka choka locka on it and is the one on the soundtrack for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie from…. 10 years ago already?

Speaking of Swedes, here’s the Hoff singing “True Survivor”:

Basically, it is the sound track to Kung Fury (produced by Swedes) which I first mentioned on this blog in 2015.

So a proper five paragraph essay would have an intro, three examples of the Hoff guest starring in videos, and then a conclusion. But I could only think of two examples off the top of my head. He does not appear in music videos that I tend to partially watch these days which are symphonic metal. Which is odd because the Hoff was big in those countries. Maybe still is.

Help me out, gentle reader. What other music videos has David Hasselhoff guested in?

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Book Report: Vengeance Is Mine! by Sage Hunter (2022)

Book coverI got this book the last time Sleuth Ink came to ABC Books for a signing in July. Wait, maybe it’s not the last time ABC Books had a book signing for the group–maybe it’s just the last time that I went. ABC Books has been racking up the book signings since, and I have been missing a lot of them. I’m also playing the little interior drama will I go to the Friends of the Library Book Sale? It starts today, and I am not sure about going. I am really, really running out of space for books and LPs. And yet the odds that I attend are still fairly high even though I won’t decide to do it until Saturday morning.

At any rate, this book presents itself as a Christian Suspense Novel, but it’s not, really. It’s more of a Christian romance or melodrama. A young man with a family moves to Springfield Lake City from a small town in the region with a promise of a contract by a known developer based on a relatively recently deceased mogul from Springfield. However, this business owner has the reputation for screwing over subcontractors who work for him, driving them into bankruptcy. The young man pretty much bets it all on this one contract and gets put behind the eight ball when a flood wipes away his work and makes it difficult for him to making the spring Lake–no, it’s spring in this case–and missing the deadline would trigger financial penalties.

The pressures of the job lead him to pulling away from his pregnant wife. Then a series of unfortunate events occurs: A car hits their house, the husband is t-boned by a car which puts him in the hospital, the wife has her baby, the husband befriends the homeless near the job site and eats with them at the mission, and the wife get hit over the head when visiting the job site which puts her in the hospital as well. The family pulls apart and comes together, the husband finds the faith that the wife always had, and then an unrelated investigation handles the bad businessman in the last couple of pages.

The writing is not bad, but the plotting is a rather melodramatic. The book is a bit talky–I know, I know, if you’ve read John Donnelly’s Gold, you could say the same about it. But the worst part is some of the detail work which just doesn’t ring true. Now, I’ve not been in a maternity ward in fifteen years, but the description of the events of the wife’s giving birth and that whole thing–she hasn’t seen the baby in a long time? From my recollection, the mother is supposed to suckle the child a whole lot. I’ve been in an ER and in hospitals, and some of those elements don’t ring true. And the owner of a landscaping business who spends months moping around a job site and a husband counting on that one thing for all of his family’s finances…. Well, these things did not feel right.

I always feel bad when I pan the work of local authors who have put in the effort to write and self-publish novels. I mean, it’s been almost 20 years since I finished my magnus opus. Reading these books inspires me, though, to see other people doing it. And I’m hopeful that the authors I review will go on to write more and better in the future, unlike me.

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From the Durant

From Our Oriental Heritage, page 794:

The relaxation of family discipline in America has been made possible only by the economic unimportance of the urban home, and the appropriation of family functions by the school, the factory and the state.

Weird to see a writer on the left point this out. Sometime between then and now, the left has ramped up that breakdown to better atomize individuals and make them beholden to the state and its funded entities.

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I Would Say So

The article is entitled “Charity contests loss of license office contract” and it’s for subscribers only.

As I have mentioned before, gentle reader, the slang DOV for Department of Motor Vehicles does not apply in Missouri. Drivers’ licenses and automobile registrations go through the Missouri Department of Revenue, and the local offices are, well, localish offices that the Department of Revenue tends to award to charities so they can raise money from them.

Here in Springfield, one such charity (or an independent operating entity working on behalf of the charity) lost one such franchise to a former executive’s organization, and the such charity has sued to get it back.

The charity (or independent charity working on behalf of the charity) runs several other local fee offices for the Missouri Department of Revenue, so it’s not like the rather well known charity, which hosts numerous other fundraisers which attract the glitterati, has lost all its funding. But it wants all its funding.

What does the organization do for the community?

[The charity] began operation in 2000, and sincce that time has distributed $7.9 million in aid.

Sweet Christmas, that must be a typo. That’s less than $350,000 per year in aid.

“These five offices together raised enough money to pay for the entire administration of [the charity],” he said. “It’s a substantial amount.”

Reminds me of the scripted answer we had when I worked in the telemarketing fundraising organization a long time ago. When asked how much of the money in the law enforcement window decal campaign would go to the Missouri Deputy Sheriffs Association, we were to rattle off a list of enumerated administrative costs, such as the equipment, the lease (on a storefront in a strip mall in Hillsboro, Missouri, so not premium real estate), postage, et cetera, et cetera, and the profit-taking on the part of the owner of the operation (redacted), the actual stated purpose of the fundraising received a very small percentage indeed.

A substantial amount. You don’t say.

This makes the cynicism lobe of my brain throb, and it underscores why I choose very small, direct impact charitable organizations. I culled probably two hundred pounds of canned goods from our “just in case” fund for the local food bank today. Not the well-known one with the big painted trucks and glitterati fundraisers. That one gathers money and food by the pallet which it then sells to the local food banks that distribute food to the hungry. I support the one run out of the shotgun shack on the railroad tracks which is only open two days a week because it’s run by volunteers.

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Book Report: Fraktur: The Illuminated Manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Dutch by Frances Lichten (1958)

Book coverI forgot to include Fraktur in my list of disparate vocabulary words I will soon forget, but fraktur is one of them. Because suddenly I found myself reading this book, which I undoubtedly got in a Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale bundle of chapbooks for $1.

The booklet contains the contents of a talk that the author gave when the Free Library of Pennsylvania got a large collection of fraktur documents. Fraktur refers not only to a font/typeface of German printing but also to the freehand documents produced by German immigrants in Pennsylvania in the late 18th through the late to middle 19th centuries.

Basically, if you wanted to have a birth certificate or a marriage certificate in those days, you’d hire a wandering illustrator to write one up for you are pre-printed forms from the county office were not available. The Pennsylvania “Dutch” (Deutsch) mostly spoke German, so they hired German-speakers to write them up, and the producers also decorated the documents with little illustrations. The Free Library of Pennsylvania in the middle of the last century (hey, old man!) got a private collection (and later another) of these historical documents.

And, you know what? It was an interesting little read.

The talk/booklet gives a bit of history, some description, and a couple of stories. She tells of finding an illustration of a crocodile on one such document and wondering how a German-American circa 1850 knew how to draw a crocodile, so she starts looking at educational spellers, in German, and finds the very illustration the artist reproduced. She also briefly outlines one such itinerant artist who spent years going community to community, sleeping in the rail depots, and earning just a bit writing and illustrating fraktur.

It’s 26 pages, so the length of a long essay or something that the New England slicks produced before they became mere propaganda mills.

And, gentle reader, you might wonder, Does Brian J. have any fraktur? Well, gentle reader, I might, although a photo reproduction. I have in a rolled tube somewhere a large photograph or slick reproduction of my great Aunt Laura’s birth certificate from the late 19th century (I assume), and from what I remember, it is in German, elaborate, and quite likely frakturic. It has been a while since I’ve gone into the archives–about a year and a quarter ago I had to come up with my marriage license, and although I did not find mine (I am married–I remember that pretty clearly even though I might have gotten a little wavery and woozy when she came down the aisle), I found many others in the family–and I would likely have put this document to the side un-unrolled as I knew what it was and I was not interested.

I am interested now. So I got more out of this book, and more interest on things outside this book, than I get from most books I read.

The author has a couple of other books available on Amazon and eBay from the first half of the last century, but this one does not look to be widely available. As it is collectible, perhaps I should put it in a special place on my read shelves. Undoubtedly, wherever I put it, it will be the place where I cannot find it again.

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From the Durant

From Our Oriental Heritage, page 736:

In textiles and metalworking the craftsmen of China, during and after the Sung era, reached a degree of perfection never surpassed; in the cutting of jade and hard stones they went beyond all rivals anywhere; and in the carving of wood and ivory they were excelled only by their pupils in Japan. Furniture was designed in a variety of unique and uncomfortable forms; cabinet-makers, living on one bowl of rice per day, sent forth one objet de vertu–one little piece of perfection–after another; and these minor products of a careful art, taking the place of expensive furniture and luxuries in homes, gave to their owners a pleasure which in the Occident only connoisseurs can know.

An interesting perspective, that the best craftsman should only earn a bowl of rice a day. Sometimes, the old Socialist left gets a little dewy-eyed in its idealization of poverty and how men react to it.

One also wonders if much has changed in modern China.

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Book Report: The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories by O. Henry (1987)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, when I reported on The Best of Saki, when I was younger and had probably only read a short-story or two from O. Henry, I confused the two because they were both wry/humorous short story writers who used pseudonyms and were basically contemporaries albeit on different sides of the Atlantic ocean. I also read a book whose author called O. Henry blended with The Twilight Zone, so I thought I would familiarize myself with the O. Henry to see if the comparison was apt. And, well, sometimes.

So the first two stories, “The Gift of the Magi” and “A Retrieved Reformation”, are the ones you see most anthologized in textbooks. In the first, a husband and wife living on a strict budget sell their most precious possessions (hair and a wristwatch) to buy a Christmas present for the other–which augments the precious possession pawned. In the second, a safecracker is in town for a job, but goes straight when he falls in love and opens a shoe store. But when children are accidentally locked into the new bank vault, he uses his old skills to open the vault under the eyes of the lawman who just caught up with him–but who lets the safecracker go (which reminds me a lot of The Outlaw Josey Wales which might have drawn inspiration from the story).

The book has 27 other stories in it, and I’m too lazy to enumerate them all here. They kind of fall into two camps: love affairs that are missed or are matched and stories about men and/or criminals who don’t get what they’re looking for. Maybe I should break it into three silos, with men getting or not getting what they want and criminals somehow getting a comeuppance, caught, or turning over another leaf.

If you read a bunch of them in a row, they’re a bit repetitive. I mean, we have two stories in 29 where old friends meet after a time where one is now a cop and the other a lawbreaker and the cop cannot bring himself to bust his friend but sort of does due to the twist. The stories do not all end with DUN DUN DUN! They have a little more denouement for that, mostly. And they don’t end up happily–sometimes Richard Cory goes home and puts a bullet in his head (the twist at the end of two or three–or more–of the stories is suicide). But for the most part, they are amusing, or just (justice–I did not forget a word there).

But I was ready after 29 stories to be done. My mother-in-law apparently has the complete works of O. Henry which she inherited from her father, and I cannot imagine trying to go through a multi-volume set at once. Although reading them one or two a month, maybe, or more if you took all the magazines in 1910, that would have been pleasant.

I guess O. Henry doesn’t get much truck with academia these days, which is too bad. He has a lot of good moments and life lessons. And a lot of vocabulary to teach.

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Why Does Brian J. Hate The Poor?

Massachusetts teen dies after taking part in social media’s spicy ‘One Chip Challenge’:

A Massachusetts 14-year-old died Friday hours after he participated in the so-called “One Chip Challenge” — a viral social media trend that the teen’s family believes contributed to his sudden death, according to reports.

Harris Wolobah, a sophomore at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, consumed an exceedingly spicy Paqui chip at school and quickly developed a stomachache, his mother, Lois, told NBC 10 Boston.

I saw a couple of those, expired, marked down at the local grocery store, so I brought them home. My boys, wise to them because they follow TikTok and Instagram, would have nothing to do with them. So I threw them in the box with other things to go to the local foodbank.

Man, I hope no one got sick from it. Given that it was expired, the food pantry might have just thrown it out. Their policy is generally to put certain expired foodstuffs out, clearly marked, and allow patrons to take them if they want them. So anyone who would have ended up with it would have to have chosen to receive it. But, still.

Also, I wonder if there’s more to the story.

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Book Report: Self-Reliance in the 21st Century by Charles Hugh Smith (2022)

Book coverI saw this book mentioned on a blog, and I cannot remember which one. It almost makes me want to create a blog or browser plugin called “Where’d I read that?” which searches the sites on your blog roll and in your browser history to find out where I should attribute credit. Or I could just guess Bayou Renaissance Man, conduct a quick site search over there, and discover yeah, that’s it.

So Bayou Renaissance Man’s preview had the first bit of the book in it, and it looked to maybe be a combination of musing on Emerson’s essay blended with modern prepping tips, and I guess it was that after a fashion. But it read more like a series of blog posts hastily stitched together, and I didn’t get a whole lot out of it. I found it very hard to read, in fact, and then I realized why:

60% or more of the sentences in the book (an estimate, not a count) use the verb is.

Let’s look at the first part of the Bayou Renaissance Man’s excerpt for an example as I am too lazy to type any out on my own:

What is self-reliance?

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice in his 1841 essay Self-Reliance still rings true today: “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another.”

For Emerson, self-reliance means thinking independently, trusting your own intuition and refusing to take the well-worn path of conforming to others’ expectations.

This celebration of individualism is the norm today, but it was radical in Emerson’s more traditionalist day. What’s striking about Emerson’s description of self-reliance is its internal quality: it’s about one’s intellectual and emotional self-reliance, not the hands-on skills of producing life’s essentials.

Emerson doesn’t describe self-reliance in terms of taking care of oneself in practical terms, such as being able to build a cabin on Walden Pond and live off foraging and a garden like his friend Thoreau. (The land on Walden Pond was owned by Emerson.)

Emerson did not address practical self-reliance because these skills were commonplace in the largely agrarian, rural 1840s. Even city dwellers mostly made their living from practical skills, and the majority of their food came from nearby farms. (Imported sugar, coffee, tea and spices were luxuries.)

The economy of the 1840s was what we would now call localized: most of the goods and services were locally produced, and households provided many of their own basic needs. Global trade in commodities such as tea and porcelain thrived, but these luxuries made up a small part of the economy (one exception being whale oil used for lighting).

Even in the 1840s, few individuals were as self-sufficient as Thoreau. Households met many of their needs themselves, but they relied on trusted personal networks of makers and suppliers for whatever goods and services they could not provide themselves.

Okay, perhaps it’s not 60% in that excerpt, and maybe it’s not 60% in the whole book, but it is a whole lot, and I certainly noticed it and then got bogged down analyzing the writing more than the content. Of course, if you’ve made it this far, you’re looking at that preceeding sentence and are preparing your tu quoque attack because I used is for 60% of the verbs in that particularly convoluted sentence. But this is a blog post, not a book. Not even a book based on blog posts.

Aside from the issue, the content was a bit repetitive, identifying global macro forces that have led us into a tight spot–the book italicises key concepts like landfill economy–that items are produced to have a short useful life after which the owner will scrap them and buy a new one–and then italicizes and defines them again. Useful tips are repeated in different lists of useful tips. And, yes, I did spell italicize both the American and English way because I’m not sure what that one guy in Seoul who keeps searching for mature pantyhose only to get a book report on The Life Expectancy of Pantyhose and the Poems of Middle Age prefers.

At any rate, a couple of good reminders–grow what grows easily, which is good advice if only I could find what aside from grass grows easily in this rocky clay soil and if I could only find something I can do easily and well that would produce a side income. But overall, a lot like reading a blog on paper–and not even a Substack long-form kind of blog, but rather the quick hits and bulleted lists kind. I had a similar response to The Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich last year. I should probably steer clear of bloggers’ nonfiction in the future unless it’s from someone I already read and it promises more substance or more detail than their existing posts.

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The Soon-To-Be-Forgotten New Vocabulary of Brian J.

I am not claiming to be a polymath, gentle reader, as I would have to be a far better autodidact than I am. But I sure am reading and listening widely these days, which means I have a lot of new vocabulary words getting thrown into my brain, briefly, while I’m reading/listening/studying. Soon to be fall out when I start memorizing additional heavy metal lyrics on my gym playlist.

Recently, though, I have learned the following words and could briefly say them correctly and/or read them with fairly correct pronunciation:

  • Kuduasai. I’ve started playing with Duolingo, refreshing some of my Spanish and starting, again, Japanese from scratch. Kudasai means please in a familiar sense.
  • Chavín de Huántar. This is an archeological site in Peru which has information about the Chavín culture which spread through cities in Peru about 1000 BC. I’ve had a couple of car rides/child pickup opportunities recently, so I’ve started listening to lectures again, this set being Lost Worlds of South America. I’ll probably finish this sometime in 2024, by which time I will have forgotten how to pronounce Chavín de Huántar, but I will likely remember the feline deity and whether one can build a vampire story about them.
  • As I mentioned, I’m in the process of reading The Life Of Greece by Will (and Ariel) Durant, so I am all steeped in Greek names like Polycrates and Anaximenes and Anaximander and Xenophanes, and I am pretty sure my pronunciation tracks with the Greek. I mean, I do have a cat named Chimera, which is pronounced just like it’s spelled, ainna?
  • I’ve been reading some late ninteenth century and early twentieth century short stories, so I’ve been looking up lots of words like demirep and so on. Unfortunately, I did not write down each new word as I looked it up or otherwise note it. Or perhaps it is for the best, as I would want to use them and would become more obscure than I am.

Something is bound to stick, though, gentle reader, and that will make me even more boring to talk to at parties as I suddenly lurch from creepy and silent to enthusiastic about esoterica. Which is also creepy, ainna?

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Movie Report: The Family Man (2000)

Book coverLike 300, I saw this film in the theater, but this time it has no controversy because I know I saw it with my beautiful new bride. My goodness, we went to a lot of movies in those early years BC (before children). Now that we’re getting to the AC years, I’m less interested in the offerings at the cinema and like a sad old man like to watch the films I have already seen at home because I think they’re better than what’s getting made now adays. And I’m probably correct, but I’ll leave it to Christian Toto, John Nolte, or the Critical Drinker to argue why.

At any rate, the movie starts with college sweethears Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni at the airport. He’s going to London for a one-year-long internship with Barclays which should set him on his career path, and he vows to return to her. The story picks up thirteen years later–he did not, in fact, return to her, and has instead become a wealthy finance guy on Wall Street, and he’s keeping his team in the office over Christmas to work on a big multi-billion dollar merger. He decides to walk home on Christmas Eve and stops by a convenience store for some egg nog when he has to step in and defuse a tense situation. The street thug, played by Don Cheadle, is actually some sort of angel who, in speaking with Cage (the character’s name is Jack Campbell, but the character is the understated Cage), does not believe the businessman when Campbell (I will try to get better about using the character name instead of the actor in these movie reports) says he is not lacking anything in his life.

So Campbell wakes up on Christmas morning in a strange place: A house in New Jersey where he is married to Kate (Leoni) and they have two kids. He tries to return home, but the doorman and resident at his apartment do not know him, nor does the security man at the firm where he worked. So he tries to navigate his new environment, and he learns that in this reality, he returned from London the next day and ended up working for–and saving–his father-in-law’s tire store when the father-in-law had a heart attack. And Campbell learns the value and love in this life that he was missing.

It ends a bit abruptly and unsatisfyingly when he’s returned to his old life and contacts Kate, only to find that she is moving to Paris. But he meets her at her airport gate in a scene clearly designed to mirror the opening scene, and the ending is but perhaps an opening.

Still, it occurred to me as I watched this that this would have been the last new movie I saw in theaters with the World Trade Center in the New York skyline and where you could go to an airports gates without standing in line and presenting a ticket. World events made the movie an anachronism in less than a year.

Also, I wondered what my perspective would have been watching the film then. I was a newlywed, and I did not sacrifice anything when I married–if anything, it was during my courtship of my wife that I moved from being a printer to being a professional in IT. The film takes place thirteen years after the initial parting of the protagonists. I’ve been at Nogglestead longer than that, and in rewatching the film after having children (not in the plans in 2000) who are almost grown up now. And I look back to see if I made sacrifices. Did I? Would I have been so different had I not married my wife now? I know a couple of people who have not married and climbed various ladders. Would I want to trade places with them? No.

So I guess that’s a nice reminder.

With re-watching this film, I have rather covered a lot of Téa Leoni’s oeuvre in the last year or two (see also Bad Boys, Spanglish, Fun with Dick and Jane). Combined with Deep Impact and A League of Their Own which I saw in the theaters, that’s her major movies.

I’ve also seen most of Lisa Thornhill’s major movies as well. Which is a tacit admission that I have not yet seen Time Cop. Continue reading “Movie Report: The Family Man (2000)”

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From the Durant

From Our Oriental Heritage page 642:

We must not, through blur of distance, exaggerate the homogeneity of this culture, or of the Chinese people. Some elements of their early art and industry appear to have come from Mesopotamia and Turkestan; for example, the neolithic pottery of Honan is almost identical with that of Anau and Susa. The present “Mongolian” type is a highly complex mixture in which the primitive stock has been crossed and recrossed by a hundred invading or immigrating stocks from Mongolia, Russia (the Scythians?), and central Asia. China, like India, is to be compared with Europe as a whole rather than with any one nation of Europe; it is not the united home of one people, but a mdeley of human varieties different in origin, distinct in language, diverse in character and art, and often hostile to one another in customs, morals and government.

More modern Chinese histories that I read do not, erm, highlight this.

Of course, taken from that perspective, one wonders how much of the coming century’s history will deal with nations that are groups of differing tribes that might devolve. The Soviet Union being the earliest example, but this might include China, the United States, and the European Union. Perhaps we’re not looking at a world war, but rather a series of civil wars as nations break apart.

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