Comedy Report: Ron White: A Little Unprofessional (2013)

Book coverThis is a comedy special by Ron White. You know, that other guy from the Blue Collar Comedy Tours from the turn of the century. No, the “Here’s your sign” guy is Bill Engvall (whose book Just a Guy: Notes from a Blue Collar Life I listened to in 2019). Of course, the big two are Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. I get the sense Ron White is really the forgotten man in the bunch.

And, to be honest, that rating probably matches the reality. I have enjoyed Jeff Foxworthy for decades; I’ve seen a Larry the Cable Guy comedy special or two; and I enjoyed the couple of Blue Collar Comedy tour specials I’ve seen. But that’s probably despite White, not because of him.

You know, I get it: Comedy shows are going to have their off-color moments. Gallagher had a couple moments. Charlie Berens, the Manitowoc Minute guy, whom I saw earlier this month, even Charlie Berens had a moment or two that made my poor wife cringe because she was at a comedy show with her children, and she was afraid she would have to explain a joke or maybe she was afraid she would not now that her boys go to public school.

But Ron White’s show, or this one perhaps, did not offer many topical insights into the foibles of human nature that did not involve being drunk, having sex (especially receiving oral sex), or drugs. One party situation or sexual situation after another, and finis!

Not my bag, baby.

I do have to wonder if comedy has followed a similar arc to pop music: that it increasingly has to cater to an audience who comes out to the clubs, and those are the party people and not the, you know, adults. Or maybe there are diminishing adults in the world to entertain.

One good thing came from watching this: I discovered a new jazz artist, Margo Rey.
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Off By One (Decade) Error

Singer Diamante has a new single coming out, entitled “1987”, and the cover looks like this:

I don’t want to go all Lileks on it, but the typeface and dress looks more 1977 than 1987. I guess she could be forgiven as she was not even born yet.

In related Diamante news, when I bought her second CD American Dream from her Web site, it came with a three-quarter sleeve shirt with Diamante on it. I hadn’t worn it as I’m not really a fan of the three-quarter sleeves. Last week, though, I put it on, and as I did, I wondered if my beautiful wife would comment. She did. I defended myself by saying I wear a t-shirt with Miles Davis’ face on it all the time. Apparently, having another attractive woman’s face on my torso is different.

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Book Report: Hey, Cowgirl, Need A Ride? by Baxter Black (2005)

Book coverThis book is a sequel to Hey, Cowboy, Want To Get Lucky?, and the joke’s on me. When I bought this book in 2015, I bought them both. And they quite likely might have been together on the hallway to-read shelves until we had to move those bookshelves into my office. So they were not together when I picked this book up during the month or so my to-read bookshelves have been (mostly) in my office, or I would have looked closer and picked up the first one first. Ooops.

At any rate, this is a modern(ish) cowboy book, a modern Western. Lick and Al tend cattle in Idaho/Nevada, making a lonely living in a small trailer miles from anyone else. One day, while they’re out on the range, they spot someone walking–it’s an attractive woman who has just emerged from a small plane crash. It turns out that she has taken $500,000 from the man she’d been living with, to whom she pretended to be married to appease his wealthy parents and to hide from a possible drug trafficking charge in her past. Her “husband,” who runs a casino, has partnered with a Las Vegas animal trainer who runs an exotic animal sanctuary to allow the richest of the rich to hunt endangered species at the sanctuary–and the $500,000 represents the deposits the “husband” has gotten from participants, part of which is owed to the partner. So he sends henchmen to find his “wife” and bring her–and the money–back.

That’s the plot. It’s a bit of a chase as the bad guys find where the woman is, and the cowboys have to get her to safety, and then when she’s safe (spoiler: she’s not safe for long), the goal becomes to stop the hunt from taking place or to minimize the damage. Which they might (they do) with the help of a posse of retired rodeo riders.

So it’s an amusing book. Better than The Adventures of Slim & Howdy which probably falls into the same modern genre of comic contemporary cowboy stories.

I enjoyed Black’s columns in the Republic Monitor back in the day (it being the first of my adopted hometown newspapers). I enjoyed Croutons on a Cow Pie, a collection of verse and silliness, when I read it in 2019. And I’ll probably enjoy the book that precedes this one when I get around to it.

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Trivia Night After-Action Report: A Subpar Swiftie

Last night, the Lutheran Student Center hosted a trivia night fundraiser at one of the rival Lutheran churches in Springfield. One of the hostesses called it the “Second Annual” but that is not exactly true. It is the second year in a row after a hiatus, but the LSC has held trivia nights before at the LSC on the Missouri State University campus before. I know because the North Side Mindflayers won like three in a row.

But it does illustrate a bit of the mindset and myopia of trivia nights hosted by the college students and millenials. The world starts and ends with popular culture from the time when they were born. The questions they compile lean heavily on movies and television of the 21st century as well as slant toward younger topics like children’s books and Disney. Maybe they just stopped reading after that, and if they need questions from literature, it’s recent children’s books or things assigned in high school.

With this in mind, I figured the odds of a Taylor Swift category were very, very high indeed. I mean, c’mon, man, biggest pop star on the planet and “dating” the star tight end of the Kansas City Chiefs, for whom people in this area cheer. So high as to be approaching 100%.

So I spent yesterday afternoon taking notes from her Wikipedia entry and studying the order of her albums, her hits, her few acting appearances, and some of her conflicts and controversies, although the anchor woman of got a list of previous boyfriends and the songs written about them for study.

So we got to the venue and I took one last look at my three pages of notes and crumpled them up and threw them away before the game began.

And the Taylor Swift category was: “Taylor Swift lyric or verse from the Book of Lamentations?”

Aw, hell, I didn’t know I was going to have to listen to the music, too.

So I guess I should have spent the afternoon reading my Bible instead.

As it turns out, we ended up tied for third after the table full of school teachers and the table with the church pastor on it (who I believe went ten for ten on the Book of Lamentations category). Which is out of seven.

It’s weird: I think I’m losing a step in the trivia game as we’ve not done so well with the couple of church trivia nights we’ve been to in the last couple of years, including this “second annual” event. But when I play along with Jeopardy! on rare occasions when I see it or when one of my co-workers asks a trivia question, presumably from a Jeopardy! list, I am pretty quick with the response. I really do think that there’s a real divide between these general trivia games which go back into the 20th century and beyond and the games put together here locally.

That’s what I tell myself in consolation, anyway.

And if anyone accidentally creates a Billy Joel category, I will be set. Although “old” music questions that they ask tend to come from or be about songs in rotation on the greatest hits of the 80s, 90s, and today radio stations. So like the literature questions, they’re pretty basic if you’re, erm, out of college.

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Another Generation Hearing From

I mentioned a while back that my father and I both enjoyed the music of Billy Joel. I’ve also mentioned on occasion that my boys, especially my youngest, listens to a basic playlist of 70s and 80s music that includes not only selections from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie soundtracks but also a number of Billy Joel songs from The Stranger through An Innocent Man. To be honest, I don’t know where or why he picked them up, as I only have “I Go To Extremes” on the gym playlist, and it and “We Didn’t Start The Fire” from their extra work during the school closures come from Storm Front.

At any rate, in the early 1990s, during my college years, I picked up videocassette versions of Billy Joel’s Video Album Volume 1 and Video Album Volume 2 which contained music videos from Cold Spring Harbor to The Bridge. Most of the older stuff is concert/performance videos, some shot in black and white (“Los Angelenos” and “Everybody Loves You Now”, for example). And I watched them over and over in my college years as was my wont. My father joined me on occasion and mentioned that he liked Billy Joel best when he was sneering, such as “Big Shot”, but he also like the harmonies in “For the Longest Time”.

So I dug the two videocassettes out–I think I have the Storm Front videos somewhere else–and I put one on the other night. I put volume 2 in first, not on purpose but because of the luck of the draw in the darkness, and it starts with “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)”:

“You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” and “While The Night Is Still Young” (which appears on the other videocassette) are from the greatest hits albums. I also have the former on a single, which skipped (hence it took me a long time to sing it correctly).

Not much tugs at my cynical heartstrings, gentle reader, but hearing my youngest son sing along with Billy Joel songs my father–whom my children know only through stories–enjoyed, well, that’s one of them.

You know, I have not listened to much Billy Joel these days as the music in my library has been ripped from cassettes and is disordered by the songs on the greatest hits album not appearing as part of the original albums–but I’ll have to make a point of it. Billy Joel wrote music that speaks to young men and then grows along with them, so one–I mean I–can appreciate the perspectives in them and can remember appreciating them from a younger perspective as well.

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One More Set

When my boys were young, they delighted in new sheets or new pajamas (sometimes just long underwear that they wore for pajamas) with cartoon characters on them, and they liked new novelty shirts. So I would buy them on occasion to give them a little joy and me a little joy in their joy. Brian J., did you spoil your children? In some simple ways, perhaps, but one of my love languages is gift giving, so those around me must fight against being spoiled on their own.

One year, when they were, what, two and four? Three and five? I bought them a matching set of novelty Halloween shirts from Walmart. They loved having the same shirts and dressing themselves alike, and they loved their Halloween shirts. So it became an annual thing for a couple years (they’ll remember it as all the time). The youngest, who chooses his favorite shirts and wears them almost daily even into his high school years, would wear those Halloween shirts all year round and into the next school year.

When I saw the shirts displayed this year at Walmart, well, I:

I bought them in the men’s section now, two larges. One for my high school senior and one for my sophomore. It could be the last time the oldest spends Halloween at Nogglestead.

I have put them in their rooms amidst their laundry without fanfare. We will see if they find them and wear them or if they’re lost in the maelstrom of teen boys’ rooms forever.

I shall probably do something like this with grandchildren some day if the boys extend our line.

Or, you never can tell. I might do this again next year.

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Local Deep State Update

Yesterday, I mentioned the current mayor of Willard is in a bit of a kerfluffle as competing power blocs fight over the composition of unelected power blocs.

Today (or later yesterday; I forget when I opened the tab), we got news of a former Willard mayor under a cloud: Former Willard Board of Aldermen member & mayor faces charges of embezzling money from Prime.

Definitely sounds like embezzlement embezzlement and not the worst reading of, erm, optimistic use of a corporate expense account, which is sometimes cast as shrieking EMBEZZLEMENT! THEFT! when the alleged thief is on the wrong side.

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Your Local Deep State

We’ve been seeing a lot of contention in southwest Missouri between elected officials and the permanently hired “city administrators” who actually run things. Two come to mind:

I’ve seen similar infighting in some of the smaller communities covered by my weekly arrival of my adopted hometown newspapers.

Why so much fighting over the city administrator?

Because people are starting to realize that these unelected officials can strongly influence policy and are only indirectly responsible to the citizens, and they will outlast changes in the electoral direction of the city/town/county or the will of the voters. And their career paths will take them to larger cities so their loyalty is to their betterment, their blending in with the wills of larger employers (larger cities) and not to the constituencies where they currently work.

Not all of them, but some of them.

Smarter men than we are set a framework for a system of government that limited this sort of thing, but cleverer men than we are have found ways around it.

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Hey, What’s Robin Carnahan Up To These Days?

General Services Administration head worked mostly from Missouri after calling employees back in:

The head of the General Services Administration, the government agency that helps to manage and support federal agencies, spent most of her time working remotely from Missouri during the year after she ordered employees back to their offices, according to a letter from the agency to Congress.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan, an appointee of President Joe Biden, spent 121 weekdays in Missouri and 64 weekdays in Washington from March 2022 through March 2023, GSA Associate Administrator Gianelle E. Rivera informed House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., in a letter on March 31, Axios reported after obtaining the letter Friday.

As you might recollect, gentle reader, I disagreed with Robin Carnahan when she was the Missouri Secretary of State about a decade ago, a little after her father was elected to the United States Senate after he died and her mother was appointed in his stead. Meanwhile, her brother was serving in the House of Representatives from my district.

It’s good to see she’s stayed in the family business. Although, to be honest, I should be a little pleased that she’s working from Missouri and not living the high life in D.C. Although with current crime levels, I’m avoiding cities larger than Springfield myself these days, and I’m a little cautious going to Springfield.

(Link via Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

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Good Thing I Never Stop At Two

Eating two servings of red meat increases risk of diabetes: study

Although after seeing this headline yesterday, I had planned to buy some beef for dinner, but then I remembered that my beautiful wife had mentioned a hankering for pork chops earlier in the week. So I brought home pork chops to grill instead of steaks. But not because a headline steered me away. Because I love to please my wife. And we traditionally have steaks on Fridays.

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The NSFW Library of Brian J.

My current employer has a forum for posting pictures of pets, and I frequently contribute as we have kittens who are still in the doing cute stuff phase.

I have to be very careful about posting photos of the cats on my bookshelves, though, since my library has some titles which are, erm, a little spicy.

For example, I have a photo of Nico looking at either the swords or the Summa Theologiae which I was going to post, but I did not as I looked closer and found The Clitoral Truth on the top shelf. I bought it from a book club probably twenty years ago and tried reading it; the number of paper markers in it indicates I disagreed with a lot of it. Although it bills itself thusly:

The clitoris has been dismissed, undervalued, unexplored, and misunderstood for hundreds of years, but the truth is out there, and internationally celebrated sex educator Rebecca Chalker has found it. In The Clitoral Truth, Chalker offers the only mainstream, in-depth exploration devoted solely to women’s genital anatomy and sexual response. Women readers everywhere–be they straight, gay, or bisexual–will learn about the countless sexual sensations and discover how to enhance their sexual responses in a more concrete way than ever before. Enhanced with personal accounts, comprehensive illustrations, and a thorough appendix of female sexuality resources, this book helps women and their partners understand and expand their sexual potential and work toward becoming independent sexual beings.

It read, from what I recall, more like a feminism or woman’s studies textbook. Given that it now has a marked 2nd Edition, it probably is a textbook at some universities.

So I took a picture yesterday of Nico looking at the games on the wall, cropped it, and posted it without looking too closely at it because The Clitoral Truth is on the end of the other bookshelves, and as we’re finishing up some work at Nogglestead, most of the To-Read shelves are in my office currently. Not only are the books double stacked on the bookshelves, but the bookshelves are currently double-stacked–I have the bookshelves from the hallway outside my office in my office, standing in front of the office bookshelves. So The Clitoral Truth is behind another bookshelf on the other end of the bookshelves.

But I should have looked closer.

If you click it to see it larger, which I hope nobody at the office does, you can see on the top shelf Sexual Revolution which looks to be another textbook from the Modern University which I bought in 2010 but has languished, probably in the back rank, on the bookshelves in the hall for that long.

It’s not that I’ve put the more spicy titles on the top shelves to keep them away from the children. When they first could read and started looking at my bookshelves, I took some of the more, erm, concrete titles off of the bookshelves entirely, but I left the textbookish titles, including Philosophy and Sex (mentioned by name in The Courtship of Barbara Holt) on the shelves.

When we moved the books and bookshelves into my office, the disorder of the books got rearranged, and Sexual Revolution apparently got put on the top shelf. And inadvertently into official corporate communications.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be explaining this to HR and using the words “Sociology textbook.” A lot.

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The Eyeglasses Dilemma of Brian J.

Gentle reader, my journey with eyeglasses began early. When I was five years old, I had eye surgery to correct a lazy eye (my kindergarten teacher visited me in the hospital!). I was issued eyeglasses shortly thereafter, and my parents (I had two in those days, gentle reader, a halycon era I can scarcely recall except that my kindergarten teacher visited me in the hospital, and a boy in the next bed had action figures that you could take apart and reassemble differently, and he let me play with them a bit) had me wear an athletic strap to keep them on my head. And after a while, the strap was painfully tight, so I took off the glasses for good.

Well, not so good. When I got to sixth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Pickering (who had no cause to visit me in a hospital, but I remember her name just the same) brought up during parent-teacher conferences that I was a smart boy, but I was bombing all my vocabulary quizzes. Turns out that she wrote the vocabulary words on the board for us to fill in the blanks on the quizzes, and so I could not see them. So I got a pair of glasses again, big 80s glasses, and we soon moved to the trailer park where I would be a nerd at the bottom of the social ladder. I didn’t have a regular eye doctor, much like I didn’t have a regular any sort of doctor or dentist at the time. The young optometrist I saw my freshman year determined that I needed bifocals. As I started high school. Extra nerd on that scrawny little me of 1980-something. Thick, thick glasses to correct raging astigmatism.

My sainted mother sprung for gas permeable contact lenses for me sometime in my sophomore year, so I wore them through the rest of high school and through college and into the start of my working life and then into my career. But sometime around the turn of the century, I got tired of them and went back to glasses.

In 200…6? I got LASIK surgery because, if civilization collapsed (it’s been on my mind a while), I didn’t want to be one set of eyeglasses from crawling around like Velma or looking at the Nogglestead library like Burgess Meredith at the end of the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last”:

I was a bit disappointed with the result. LASIK only corrected my vision to where my glasses did. Which is normal vision. I had wanted to have eyes like a hawk, but I just had eyes like me without eight to ten ounces of plastic on my nose.

Fast forward a couple of decades years, and I started to wonder about my vision. In church, the face of the pastor is not quite clear to me, but I do sit in the back row, chief of sinners that I be. And I sometimes cannot pick out small text on signs as I’m driving by. So I went to the local LASIK outfit to see about a touch-up which I understand one needs after a couple of years.

The LASIK guy said that with a, erm, distinguished gentleman like me, the eyes are not as adaptable or good candidates for additional work, so he wrote me a prescription for eyeglasses to help with my distance vision. I took it to a shop across from the mall and paid too much to order a set of glasses that I thought looked good on me but are not the prevailing style. Only later did I realize that the eyeglass frames matched the style that my brother has worn for years–so when it came to picking something out, I picked out something that looked familiar.

I waited a couple of days for my sets of glasses to arrive–I got a pair of sunglasses, too. When they did, I popped them on, looked at the sign across the street, and….

That’s it?

The larger signs were just a touch sharper, but I couldn’t see anything with the glasses that I could without.

That was a year or so back, and every once and again, I think I should try them again. This weekend, we went to see Charlie Berens at a local theatre, and we sat in the back (cheapest of the sinners that I be). The comedian did not look as sharp as he does on YouTube, fourteen inches away. So I got them out again on Sunday and brought them to church. I did some A/B testing, or “1 or 2″ testing, by putting on the glasses and then taking them off to see how much earlier I could read street signs or to see how much clearer the pastor was when I had them on, and….

Not much. A little, but not worth the hassle of the logistics of putting the glasses on for driving or shows or church and making sure I have a glasses case (with glasses) and…. To be honest, not worth the hit to the vanity of going back from being a distinguished-looking fellow to the 5″ 6” eighty pound nerd. Which, of course, I am not, but I don’t wonder if I would not feel that way again. Also, I don’t want to become dependent on glasses. I don’t know if the science backs this up, but in my previous experience, one’s eyes behind glasses do not tend to hold steady. I always needed new, stronger glasses every eye appointment.

So I’ll put the glasses back in the drawer for another time.

You know, I’ve done something similar with my beautiful wife’s reading glasses. Sometimes, when I’m reading alone and nobody can see me, I will slip on a pair of her reading glasses to see what effect they have on my close vision and…. Not much.

Well, they do magnify the text, but if I hold my book at regular reading distance (regular because that’s where the focal point is the best–I do read best at a particular distance–is that normal?), the text is just slightly less sharp, maybe.

But a slight improvement, maybe, is not yet worth the cost.

One day, too soon, I will turn that corner. And I will suddenly need bifocals again. But it doesn’t seem to be today.

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Movie Report: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)

Book coverOld movies had Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr or Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. The (early) 21st century had this film bring together two attractive and popular stars–Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie–for what they might have hoped would be similar chemistry. I guess it kind of worked–this film broke up Brad Pitt’s first marriage and led to his relationship and eventual marriage to Jolie (which also ended in ongoing acrimony).

Pitt plays John Smith, an assassin for a government agency of some sort, who has a cover of a construction engineer who has to travel to various projects. Jolie plays an assassin for a different agency whom he marries after meeting her in Bogotá after one of them–or both, or neither–has done a job (the flashback is ambiguous). Five or six years into their marriage, they’ve settled into a routine that has led them to counseling (the counseling bit is a frame story that begins and ends the movie). They’re both tasked by their agencies to take out a prisoner during some sort of exchange, and each approaches the job in their own way. Mrs. Smith has a tech trap set up, and Mr. Smith comes at it from a more hands-on approach. But they interfere with each other’s attempt and vow to eliminate their rival–only to eventually discover it’s the spouse. So they come together to grab the prisoner from a super-secure facility and discover that he’s bait in trying to get the Smiths to kill each other which leads to a shoot-em-up climax and finis!

I guess Pitt and Jolie might have some chemistry here, but it’s not developed as in an old movie. This is an actioner, so it’s a series of set pieces with practical effects and it looks to be some wire work. So it doesn’t look quite as video-gamey as today’s fare but is does employ on some video-gamey camera work. One wonders if what it would look like if made today–probably Mr. Smith would be a punchline and not an equal to his wife, although when they have a long hand-to-hand combat sequence that destroys their house, Mrs. Smith equals her husband already for drama’s sake which is, erm, stylized? Idealized? A physical confrontation like that would only take place in a movie. In real life, it would be a lot shorter and likely less favorably for Mrs. Smith.

At any rate, not a bad film. A product of its time. Which is a bit now, but mostly then.

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The (Likely Briefly) Successful Kludges of Nogglestead

Gentle reader, I have successfully triumphed over a small broken appliance with a successful hack.

A couple of years ago, we bought a little cordless handheld vacuum commonly known as a Dust Buster no matter who makes them, although ours does happen to be a dustbuster® by Black + Decker. I used it to vacuum up the little bits of wood that shook off of firewood on the bricks before my fireplace every day. It’s the kind where you have to hold the power button to make it work. And it worked for about a year when it suddenly stopped. Pushing the button would not engage the motor and the suction even after charging the device for a long time.

So it languished on a side desk in my office for over a year, as things do (as you know, gentle reader!) until I recently cleared off that desk–well, I didn’t clear it, but I did remove the dustbuster® and a flashlight that’s not working–and took the things to my workbench. Which has had a blocker project on it for a couple of months. The blocker project is not the lamp–I’ve moved that, yet incomplete five years later, to a different desk in the garage. It’s a bed tray that I was hoping to do some découpage with, but I ran into a little snag painting it and just… left it there for later, which is even later from now.

With a little time to kill available to me on a Sunday afternoon, so I set aside the blocker project (perhaps for five years or more) and opened the device up to see if I could figure out what was wrong with it.

When I opened the shell, I could see it was a simple device. A battery, a charging plug, a pressure switch, and a simple motor turning a plastic rotor.

Given that it was a power switch required pressure to keep it on, I thought perhaps the external switch was not contacting the internal switch, so I pressed it tighter, and the motor ran.

I did, however, see a little spark at the top of the battery from time to time, and my original theory proved incorrect. Essentially, the little bit of metal attached to the top of the battery had come loose. When the dustbuster® lie on its back and when I pressed on it, I guess the battery was close enough that it touched or the electricity could jump the gap, but it was definitely broken apart. The battery was not in a housing where you could swap them out. It was hard-wired into the system. Or it should have been.

Now I suppose, gentle reader, I could have soldered the lead back onto the battery. One of the pyrography tools I have, the nicer one, has a soldering tip and came with some solder–and I might have another kit somewhere–but I have never soldered anything in my life, successfully or no, and I didn’t want to try and to fail on a Sunday afternoon with what would be the defining moment or capstone of my weekend.

So, instead, I got a couple of rubber bands, and….

Well, I make that sound so easy: I grabbed a couple of rubber bands, as though Nogglestead has a drawer full of them. Now, you might think this is the case, and it might well be–I have not opened some drawers in years, and I am not sure I would have noticed rubber bands on instances where I have opened some of the more esoteric drawers looking for a luggage tag or the driver’s side mirror of a 1986 Geo Storm. I mean, it’s not like the collection of 3.5″ discs from my first 286 circa 1991. I know which drawer holds those.

So I went looking for rubber bands. We don’t get nor use rubber bands a lot here at Nogglestead. It’s not like we’ve had need to buy a bag of them. Mostly, they come to us on rare occasions when the postal service sees fit to put a rubber band around a stack of our mail. Or our accountant will sometimes band our files or filings together. But we’re getting only a single hands’ counting of rubber bands annually. I put them in the little box of paper clips, which I also glean from filings our accountants sends us, but I recently discarded several as my beautiful wife was concerned the kittens might take them from the box and choke on them. But I found a rubber band under the paper clips, and I started back out to the garage with it, when the rubber band of unknown provenance and age broke. I went back to my office and found two more which appeared more supple. I know I am running on, but I want to give you a sense of how much actual moving back and forth from the actual opposite ends of my home I had to do to to acomplish this simple repair.

Where was I? Probably going up and down the stairs.

So I looped the rubber bands around the battery to ensure that the lead remains in contact with the battery. As I mounted it into its the plastic body, I had to re-weave the rubber bands a bit, but it held. And when I got the screws in and pressed the power switch, it worked.

So I have a working dustbuster® again. At least until the rubber bands snap or until I jostle it so that the lead is no longer in contact with the battery. But I feel clever for an afternoon.

Also, I am now thinking about how easy it would be to unscrew the housing and reverse the rotor on the motor so that the dustbuster® blows instead of sucks. But I don’t have many friends in real life to whom I could try this. Just a coincidence, I suppose.

Also, sorry I don’t have pictures like a proper Internet how-to, but I was eager to try it out (it worked! as I mentioned) but then I am too afraid that if I open it up again to see the magnificent harp of Icantsolder will lose its magic.

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Book Report: Rebel’s Quest by F.M. Busby (1984)

Book coverAs I read the first in this series, Star Rebel, earlier this month, of course I picked it up right away. I figure if I did not, I might not pick it up and “complete” the series for a couple of years–witness how long it’s been since I picked up Iroshi by Cary Osborn–five years–without picking the second book in the trilogy there because I was unimpressed with the first book in it.

Joe at Glorious Trash has completed Busby’s The Demu Trilogy, and he was unimpressed. But I think this book was okay–as I’ve mentioned, it’s been a few years since I read The Demu Trilogy, but I think I am coming to understand F.M. Busby’s writing: He’s more of a short story writer stringing together incidents and episodes, perhaps with some idea where they’re going but perhaps not.

This book picks up where the last left off. Bran Tregare, a member, but of an outcast branch, of a wealthy Earthborn concern has survived the UET military academy, survived serving his first tour aboard a ship with The Butcher, a captain known for throwing cadets out of the airlock for minor infractions, and he has participated in a mutiny that liberates an armed UET ship for him to command. His situational brutality, however, has caused his lover to have second thoughts about him, so she has left him. And we start this book….

Well, the book is basically a series of episodes where Tregare and his crew travel to different planets and meet different people. He buys a load of slave women from a captain who was treating them humanely; he picks up a new second, a black woman who was captured from a Earthen gang; and so on. They’re episodic in the way that, say, Star Trek was: The ship goes somewhere, something happens/they do something, and they move on in the next chapter. Some characters are introduced, some leave the main story line, and then we get to an end where Tregare marries an agent of his family’s organization, a woman from another of Busby’s series and they deal with a family of assassins on the Hulzein outcasts’ new world. But the book leaves off with him preparing to assemble his fleet of ships to take first Stronghold and then, presumably, Earth–or maybe the other way around.

The back of the book says:

REBEL’S QUEST is the final chapter in the Hulzein Chronicles, bringing this monumental saga to a resounding conclusion.

Uh, this is the second book of what looks to be (now that I looked it up) a four-book series. So I guess it makes sense that it ends with threads unresolved.

I don’t know if Busby was padding this out to be a four-book deal, or a trilogy, but this book does not advance the main story arc a whole lot. Instead of padding, though, I think Busby probably just liked the character and wanted to throw him into some adventures.

But my previous sentiment continues to hold true: Pretty lightweight rocket jockey stuff with a lot of sex thrown in. Not graphic sex, but Tregare gets his share, from the black warrior woman to the wild child of a backslid culture whose colony returned to wild when the last ship to visit could not lift again and other encounters that are described as occuring, but not too graphic.

So if I fall over other books in the series for fifty cents each, I’ll pick them up. I don’t know that I will look for them in used book stores, but now that I said I won’t, I probably will.

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Point/Counterpoint

The true story of Matthew Shepard: it wasn’t homophobia that killed him talks about conclusions from The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard (2013) whose blurb declares:

What role did crystal meth and other previously underreported factors play in the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard? The Book of Matt is a page-turning cautionary tale that humanizes and de-mythologizes Matthew while following the evidence where it leads, without regard to the politics that have long attended this American tragedy.

Meanwhile, in Springfield, we get Considering Matthew Shepard. Odds are pretty good it does not mention meth.

When the legend becomes fact, sing the legend, I guess.

(Link to the Hot Air piece and book via Instapundit.)

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Book Report: Star Running Backs of the NFL by Bill Libby (1971)

Book coverGentle reader, you might know I am a sucker for children’s books on celebrities or sports figures. For example:

So you might have expected that I would have picked this book right up right after I bought it. Well, gentle reader, two things impacted that.

First, I must have bought the book in the St. Louis area before I really enumerated the books I bought each week in Good Book Hunting posts (which go back not quite two decades).

Second:

Well, it was not quite forty years. The memory came up on the Recycler Tour just a day or so before we had to move all of those bookshelves for some work to be done on our lower level, and I grabbed the book. And, of course, I had to read it to prove the prophet, in this case me twelve years ago, mistaken.

At any rate, what of the book?

Well, it’s an interesting artifact. Number 15 in the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick Library. A hardback with a binding suitable for libraries, it has a cover sticker which prices it at $2.50 in 1971, so it might have been priced for the tax write-off when donating to libraries in that era. $2.50 is pricey for a kid’s book then, and this did not come out of a school book order, brah.

The book basically covers a number of running backs from the NFL and the AFL with small bios of several (Floyd Little, Leroy Kelly, Dick Bass, O.J. Simpson, Alvin Haymond, Ron Johnson) in individual chapters and then groups a couple sets of other running backs (Gale Sayers, Mel Farr, Dick Post, Mike Garrett, Donny Anderson, and MacArthur Lane are “The Breakaway Artists”; Jim Nance, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Hewritt Dixon, Ken Willard, and Mat Snell are “The Workhorses”, and Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas played on the same team).

Given how few of the names resonate now, fifty-some years later (Gale Sayers, Larry Csonka, and O.J. Simpson for non-football reasons from thirty years ago), the book really highlights how ephemeral the position really is. A number of these guys are very young, and they’ve already been injured a number of times. Running backs tend to have a couple of really good years, and then they fade except for rare exceptions (and only a couple of the guys in this book are exceptions). I mean, if you look back at the Green Bay Packers running backs of recent note (and of course you do because you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, aren’t you?), you see Ahman Green, who I nicknamed “The Bowler” because he fumbled a bunch, sometimes forward for extra yards. Ahman Green is the Packers’ leading rusher of all time. You see Samkon Gado, who spelled Green when he was hurt, had a couple of good games and maybe a season, but who is most notable for finishing his studies to become an ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) doctor–that’s his current career. You might think of Eddie Lacy, who was good for a couple of years until injuries caught up with him. You might think of Aaron Jones, who had a couple of really good seasons but is getting slowed by injuries…. So, yeah, these guys will also be forgotten in fifty years along with so many of us.

This book is also a product of its time in that many of the subjects are black, and they come from poor neighborhoods. Back in my day, we called it the ghetto (as did Bob Gibson, as did the other neighbors of the projects where I lived, as did Robert B. Parker in a number of his books). But that term has fallen out of fashion in a way that barrio has not. Or has it? I dunno. But, still. Notable.

So an interesting read even though it’s a kids book because of the historical information and perspective it provides.

Now, I would say that I’m going to look for the other titles in the series, but I rarely get to the kids’ section in the library book sales I go to, and the titles are too old for the garage sales, even the church garage sales, that I go to. Maybe I’ll stumble on one at one of my rare trips to estate sales these days, but probably not. These books and those like them have already probably passed through the cat litter factory.

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Movie Television Report: The Twilight Zone Volume 6

Book coverMy beautiful wife gave me the first season of the original Twilight Zone series, probably not long after I read The Twilight Zone Encycolopedia. I don’t know if she’d forgotten that, but she got me a couple of these individual DVDs with four episodes per for another gifting opportunity this year. So instead of figuring where I’d left off on the first season of the program, I popped in this DVD when I wanted to watch some shorter bits of television.

I definitely got the sense from watching that these episodes were chosen from a later season. I seem to recall from the book that the show had an auspicious beginning, but that the powers that be cut its budget and messed with its formula in later seasons (of course, I could be thinking of Star Trek based on Star Trek Memories). Maybe that was just the way back in those days. But the episodes on this disc really had a low budget feel to them, the kind of thing I associate a lot with the black-and-white speculative digest programs (I guess my other experience back in the day was with The Outer Limits).

The DVD includes:

  • “The Passersby”, wherein Civil War soldiers pass an old derelict plantation house whose owner sits on the porch and watches them go by. One soldier stops and asks for a drink of water, which leads them to discover–they’re in The Twilight Zone! DUN DUN DUN!
  • “The Grave”, wherein a villain is gunned down by the townspeople of his home town. When another gunman comes to town, one that the townspeople hired to track and kill the badman, he is challenged to visit the villain’s grave. DUN DUN DUN!
  • “Deaths-Head Revisited”, wherein a former Nazi camp commandant stops in a small town and discovers it is the place where his camp was–so he revisits the camp and enjoys some good memories until the ghosts of the dead return to put him on trial. DUN DUN DUN!
  • “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, wherein a young man climbs out of the coffin at his funeral and tries to convince the suspicious townsfolk that he is not a threat to them. But is he? DUN DUN DUN!

So we’ve got four period pieces which can reuse sets from the Western television shows (“The Grave”, “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, “The Passersby”) with stories that thematically deal with the evils of war (“Deaths-Head Revisited”, “The Passersby”). They’re so themeatically similar and so aesthetically similar that they really didn’t provide the same sense of wonder nor the same inspiration to write other stories. And even though they’re still only 30 minute episodes–actually 25 minutes or so–they can seem a little longer than they needed to be, particularly “The Grave”.

I have a couple more of these four-episode collections, and I will undoubtedly get to them by and by, but I was disappointed with this one to say the least.

Your mileage may vary, of course. At least “The Grave” had Lee Marvin in it.

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