Book Report: Made To Be Broken by Allen St. John (2006)

Book coverWell, I got this book from ABC Books this week, and I was so achy for sports that I jumped right into it.

It’s a photograph-laden book with 50 different streaks and records that the author thinks are important across sports, including Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, Ty Cobb’s batting average, Johnny Unitas’s touchdown pass streak, Rickey Henderson’s stolen base and runs scored records, as well as tennis, golf, and Olympic records.

I remember most the baseball and football ones from real life even though I might not have lived in their times just because they’re the legends of the game even though they weren’t Brewers, Cardinals, or Packers.

Some of the records have been broken since the book was published (Mark Spitz’s gold medals in an Olympics, Dan Marino’s career passing yardage–twice) and one has been stripped (Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins). So not all of them will last the ages.

An interesting and quick browse between heavier works, and a pleasant interlude.

Good Book Hunting, April 2, 2020: ABC Books

On Sunday night, I placed another order from ABC Books. I have assigned my children to read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as part of their home school adventure before it became a home school and a little tele-school adventure. I ordered a copy of each off of Amazon, but one of them is reading is assignment faster than the other, so it opened an opportunity for me to place another order from ABC Books. Which arrived on Thursday.

As I might have mentioned, I cannot browse their stacks, but I do the next best thing: I go through their inventory by category and end up placing a bunch of orders based on whether the title looks interesting. For the most part, I don’t even click through to the book description; I just click Add to Cart on the listing page because I’m being, erm, promiscuous (definition 2) in purchasing. More than normal, and with less discernment than when I am physically browsing the shelves (and less blushing). But now that I’ve laid the groundwork for my defense, here’s what I got:

The small haul includes:

  • Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. Now that I look at it, I wonder if I already have it. If I do, perhaps I will assign it to one of the boys.
  • Get The To A Punnery by Richard Lederer, a collection of puns one assumes from the title.
  • Ethics and the New Testament by J.L. Houlden.
  • The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower by Robert Graysmith. I’m not sure if it’s true crime or not. I think so. Maybe.
  • Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill] by John Cleland. HOLY SPIT! That ain’t no memoir. From the Wikipedia entry:

    Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure–popularly known as Fanny Hill (possibly an anglicisation of the Latin mons veneris, mound of Venus)–is an erotic novel by English novelist John Cleland first published in London in 1748. Written while the author was in debtors’ prison in London, it is considered “the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel”. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history.

    Oh, my. Well, that will go on my “I’m afraid to be seen reading it” shelf alongside the Lawrence and the Nabokov. In related news, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go back to ABC Books in person again. Although time will tell if it’s any more saucy than a Gunsmith novel.

  • A Harvard Classics (Five Foot Shelf) edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, and Fruits of Solitude by William Penn. ABC Books did not have the autobiography by itself, so I got it in a collection. Although this collection might be too nice to give to my youngest to read, it is in a brown binding, and my other Harvard Classics are in the original green (such as Folk-Lore and Fable: Aesop, The Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen). So do I put it on my shelf next to the others even though they’re a different color? Or do I collect the set in both bindings?

So I was going to quip that if the coronacation lasts too long, I will eventually have bought the entire inventory of ABC Books without buying the whole shop. To be honest, that might be the best-case scenario as I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to return in person.

Book Report: The Cyclops/Heracles/Iphegenia in Tauris/Helen by Euripedes (1969)

Book coverAfter watching Hercules Unchained, I decided to go right to the source material. Well, Hercules Unchained is based Sophocles and Aeschylus’ works, not Euripides. Which becomes clear when one reads the tragedy Heracles that is included.

The book includes:

  • The Cyclops, a comedy of sorts of a type called by scholars a satyr-play, so it’s a touch raunchy and one expects the chorus to be a bunch of men in goatskin pants and priapi (I hope I spelled that correctly; you will forgive me that I did not conduct an Internet search to make sure.) (I am just kidding; I do have a dictionary, so it is spelled correctly). It recounts Odysseus’ trip to the island of Polyphemus and the escape.
  • Heracles, a tragedy that recounts Heracles’ return to Thebes, his madness, and its consequences.
  • Iphegenia in Tauris, wherein Orestes goes to Tauris to steal back the idol of Artemis to calm the Furies chasing him, where Iphegenia is the high priestess after Artemis whisked her away from Agammemnon’s sacrifice.
  • Helen, wherein Menelaus is shipwrecked in Egypt, where he finds the real Helen, not the fake Helen who was carried away by Paris, triggering the Trojan War.

You know, the contemporary wailing about Hollywood relying heavily on known intellectual properties for entertainment, but it has nothing on the ancient Greeks.

Euripedes put his own spin on the latter two tales, wherein both women were not where common (Homeric) stories had them. Artemis replaces Iphegenia with a hind during the moment of sacrifice, so Iphegenia is still alive after the Illiad. The gods make a double for Helen who is carried to Troy, so the real Helen has remained true to her husband. Given that the book is titled Euripedes II: Four Tragedies, I expected the stage to be littered with corpses at the end of these plays, but I was pleased that they ended a little more happily than that.

Each play has a relatively length bit of criticism/history/relating the stories to other Greek works that I skipped. A lot of times, I’ll come back and read the commentary after I read the source material, but this time I skipped most of it (I read the intro to Helen which is presented after the play and I read a little of the introduction to The Cyclops). I’m more interested in the source materials than the academic scholarship around it anyway.

At any rate, I flagged a couple of things:

  • From Heracles, a defense of monotheism:

    Ah, all this has no bearing on my grief;
    but I do no believe the gods commit
    adultery, or bind each other in chains.
    I never did believe it; I never shalll
    nor that one true god is tyrant of the rest.
    If god is truly god, he is perfect,
    lacking nothing. These are poets’ wretched lies.

  • In Iphegenia in Tauris, Iphegenia tips the forty for her presumed dead brother Orestes:

    Give me the urn o gold which heavy holds
    My tribute to the God of Death.
    Orestes, son of Agammemnon, who
    Who are lying under the dark earth, I lift
    And pour–for you.

  • Also in Iphegenia in Tauris, Artemis herself lays down the baseball rule that the tie goes to the runner:

    Orestes, once I saved you
    When I was arbiter on Ares’ hill
    And broke the tie by voting in your favor.
    Now let it be the law that one who earns
    An evenly divided verdict wins
    His case.

    Note that in modern American civics, though, an evenly divided jury is hung, and in the Senate, the vice-president gets to vote to break the tie.

  • From Helen, a brief aphorism that comes at the end of a speech that, erm, prophecies Luther’s arguments against some practices of the medieval church:

    The best prophet is common sense, our native wit.

    Oh, right, I cannot make that assertion about Luther and not give the wider context:

    It shall be done, my lord.
    Only, now I am sure
    how rotten this business of prophets is, how full of lies,
    There never was any good in burning things on fires
    nor in the voices of fowl. It is sheer idiocy
    even to think that birs do people any good.
    Calchas said nothing about this, he never told
    the army when he saw his friends die for a cloud,
    nor Helenus either, and a city was stormed in vain.
    You might say: “No, for God did not wish it that way.”
    Then why consult the prophets? We should sacrifice
    to the gods, ask them for blessings, and let prophecy go.
    The art was invented as a bait for making money,
    but no man ever got rich on magic without work.
    The best prophet is common sense, our native wit.

    So you can see where I might have thought that: Luther was against some of the money-earning practices of the church, including the saying of masses with no attendees for money to expedite the stay in purgatory for dead relatives. So, basically, the criticism of the church is similar across time and churches.

    Also, it gives a nice aphorism.

If you’re interested, you don’t have to buy the book; you can find all of these plays and more on MIT’s Classic page for Euripedes. You might like that, gentle reader, but as you know, I need a book. This book is part of a series, but I am not going to seek them out. But if I see them at ABC Books or the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library, I will be all on them.

Because these pieces of classical literature, in good translations, are very approachable and readable especially if you skip the academic and mostly irrelevant prose bookending them.

Homeschooling, Day XIII: History of the 20th Century

I think I’m going to make my children transcribe and research everything from “We Didn’t Start The Fire”:

When I was in high school, the last couple of days of the Honors Western Civilization class featured a video that covered the 20th century. For extra credit, we could turn in our notes from watching the film. I transcribed the lyrics to this song (because we did not have the Internet, gentle reader, and either had to go by ear or by the tiny liner notes in the cassette case).

Although I did not actually turn these notes in, a friend of mine took them and turned them in. The teacher, of course, had no idea.

The Coming War with China

Perhaps the title is a little too certain, but this is the Internet, and the drive for clicks supersedes the drive for truth.

I don’t want to go all Bill Gertz here (I reviewed his book Treachery in 2005 and followed some of his columns in the Washington Post back in the day; he was/is quite the, erm, cautionary voice on China), but the plan after the Coronication is to decouple economically from a face-saving nation whose regime will be under the threat of losing the Mandate of Heaven, who faces uncertain demographics and dramatic, bad economic outlook but has a really big military, right?

So I would like to think that the Top Men are seriously thinking about what that might involve.

But, to be honest, I’m not very impressed with the Top Men and Women at this point.

UPDATE: As seen on Ace of Spades HQ later this morning, a story from the Washington Times but not Bill Gertz: Semper Modify: Marine Corps to undergo ‘radical’ overhaul in pivot to take on China.


Pentagon officials argue that China’s rapidly improving military capabilities make the prospect of a traditional Iwo Jima-type shore landing exceedingly unlikely, and the Corps instead will shift its resources toward becoming a “stand-in” force that can operate within enemy range rather than fighting its way into theater from the sea.

So the Top Men are not planning a battle to liberate Taiwan is what you’re saying.

Top. Men. (And. Women.)

Coronaschooling, Day Something: Wherein Jethro Tull Answers William Blake

Last night’s poem was “The Tyger” by William Blake.

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The poet asks:

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Jethro Tull responds:

He who made kittens put snakes in the grass

The youngest spontaneously burst out singing this song a week or so ago; it’s on my workout playlist, which I played sometimes in the car in the Great Before when we went places such as the gym in our car. So they know the song, and I got to connect the theme from William Blake to popular culture.

Well, culture that’s popular at Nogglestead, anyway, and probably wasn’t even that popular when it came out in 1974 (although, apparently, it hit the top 20).

That Dolphin Show I Saw In Milwaukee

Last night, I was telling my oldest child about how my grandmother used to take my brother and I out of school for a day once a year, and she would take us different places in Milwaukee. She took us to the Milwaukee Art Museum, but she did that more than once and more than on the day with Nana because she managed the gift shop at one point and could get us in without charge. She took us to the Milwaukee Public Museum which had the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. She took us to the downtown library, where you could check out an Atari 2600 and a game cartridge for blocks of an hour (and I foolishly picked Space Invaders, but my brother picked E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, so you can guess that was a long hour for us).

And one time she took us to see the dolphin show at the Public Natatorium. In Milwaukee. Probably in the winter.

We didn’t actually see the dolphin show; as it was a school day and we were the only kids in the audience, the dolphin trainer had us come help with the show. So we held up fish whilst the dolphins leapt and held up the hoops the dolphins darted through. Although after the end of the show, I was feeling comfortable with the dolphins and reached for it, but the dolphin chattered in a way that scared me, so I backed off.

I told my son the story, and then I went to the Internet to back me up on this.

OnMilwaukee has stories about the public natatoria built in Milwaukee in the latter part of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries which include the first indoor pool in the United States. The Old Milwaukee blog has the rest of the story about how entrepreneurs briefly turned the last of the natatoria into a destination restaurant with the dolphin shows.

The dolphin shows. In a restaurant. In Milwaukee.

The past is an unbelievable place.

Coronavirus Update: PATIENT ZERO FOUND

Must credit MfBJN!

Fun fact: In the middle 1980s, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was addicted to the tabloids. Not the National Enquirer which had celebrity news. I spent far too much money on Weekly World News and The Sun which had the crazy, unreal things in them. Like Bat Boy.

I would have better served myself in spending that lawn mowing money on comic books or blowing it on the Rampage machine up the hill at the U-Gas.

Good Book Hunting, March 30, 2020: ABC Books

Gentle reader, I did not go to ABC Books yesterday. Springfield is on a 30 day timeout, and non-essential businesses are closed.

But the intrepid staff of ABC Books is in-house fulfilling online orders, so last week, I placed an order, and today it arrived.

The acquisitions are a little different from my normal fare (but not too much) because, instead of browsing their actual shelves, I went to their Alibiris page and browsed the categories. And bought anything that looked interesting.

I got:

  • The Tough-Minded Optimist by Norman Vincent Peale. I have started re-reading The Power of Positive Thinking, so I wanted to gather the sequels in case I want to read them as well. I think I already have The Power of the Plus Factor here somewhere. Probably right beside the Agatha Christie collection I have lost.
  • A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter. I can’t imagine what this must be like, but I will have to try.
  • Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: Tao Sports for Extraordinary Performance Athletics, Business, and Life by Chungliang Al Huang and Jerry Lynch. I will skip dietary recommendations, though.
  • Boomerangs: How to Make and Throw Them by Bernard S. Mason. In case we go all the way primitive. Unlike the book on whip making that I bought in December, perhaps I can work on these projects with my children.
  • The Art of Love by Ovid / Translated by Rolfe Humphries. A collection of poems that are fitting into my recent film viewing (and reading, albeit slowly).
  • Rocky Mountain Warden by Frank Calkins. An older hardback, probably something along the lines of Nature Noir but with less Lyme disease.
  • The Little Capoeira Book by Nestor Capoeira himself. Capoeira is a Brazilian dancing martial art. I studied it briefly during a unit on it in our martial art’s school Master’s Club, which was essentially a survey of weapons and other fighting styles.
  • The Country Roads and Other Poems by Hazel Adelman, a collection of grandmother poetry published by Vantage Press. Which was a vanity press outfit, so it was essentially self-published in a high quality and high cost hardback.
  • Si-Cology 101: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle by Si Robertson with Mark Schlabach. You know, I had a gift schtick for my aunt who just passed away. On a call sometime she said something about Duck Dynasty, and not complimentary, so every Christmas I would send her something with a Duck Dynasty theme. Duck Dynasty sweatshirts, Duck Dynasty beach towels, and so on. Last year, I had wrapped a set of Duck Dynasty shot glasses for her and had to instead give them to my sister-in-law who collects shot glasses. So this book kind of makes me think of her. And will again when I pick it out of the stacks in a decade.
  • Weird Hikes: A Collection of Bizarre, Funny, and Absolutely True Hiking Stories by Art Bernstein. I was clearly on a roll clicking Add to Cart.
  • Memories from a Misty Morning Marsh: A Duck Hunter’s Collection by Larry Dablemont. The Current Local, a news weekly out of Van Buren, Missouri, to which I subscribe has started running a column by Dablemont, and I enjoy it. So when I saw a book by this author, I jumped on it. I expect I will like it as I have other books by local columnists Jerry Crownover and Jim Hamilton.
  • Books by Larry McMurtry. The author owned a bookstore. Did you know that? I did from an essay I read in some academic writing magazine circa 1994 (the essay, “One Writer’s Big Innings“, is available for the Kindle).
  • Made to Be Broken: The 50 Greatest Records and Streaks in Modern History by Allen St. John. It’s a coffee table book, and looks a little too wordy for browsing during a sporting event. Not that we have those any more. So perhaps I will browse this in lieu of actual sporting events soon.
  • Brett Favre: The Tribute, a Sport Illustrated coffee table book.
  • Danica Patrick: America’s Hottest Racer by Jonathan Ingram and Paul Webb. For Trog, who’s no longer blogging but whose Danica Patrick fascination remains legendary. The book is from 2005. She looks so young. I am pretty sure I was not young in 2005.

Before shipping them, the staff removed the ABC Books stickers from them, which won’t be helpful should the proprietrix see me during the Sunday school hour if the government ever lets us go to church again. Without the sticker, I will likely not know where I got the books, and I might hide books I should flaunt.

This represents only the first order I placed. I placed another order Sunday night as I was looking for a couple of titles for my boys to read whilst we’re homeschooling them. And I added a couple other items to the cart because why not. Hopefully, the owners of ABC Books will be all right through the current unpleasantness. If not, it won’t be due to lack of effort on my part.

Because Nothing Interesting Ever Happened On Leap Day

So my mother-in-law gives each member of the family a wall calendar for Christmas, but over the years, I’ve found that although I hanged it on the office wall, I didn’t really write anything on it as appointments go on the family calendar (generally, the one she gives to my beautiful wife) that hangs in the dining room. I often found that I was months behind in turning the pages of it. So last year I reclaimed the wall space (to hang the Hirschfeld print and a Packers-themed wallhanging Christmas gift from my mother-in-law to be named later).

Which is why this year’s calendar is still in its wrap. I have it placed atop the bookshelves near where it would hang were I still to hang it. And as I was performing my biannual (or is it biennial?) office cleaning, I saw it and noted something awry with it.

365 interesting things in a year with 366 days.

Clearly, the cover designer was not paying attention.

I have not cracked it open to see if a day is, in fact, missing its remarkable people, extraordinary events, and/or fascinating facts.

Because clearly this misprint will be a collectors item someday.

Homeschooling, Day 9: Not the Movie For It

Yesterday, my beautiful wife picked “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost for our daily poem.

I thought of the perfect film for it:

The Ice Pirates starring Robert Urich between his stints as Gavilan and Spenser.

Yes, it was on Showtime in the middle 1980s. Yes, I did watch it over and over again whilst confined to quarters, which in the middle 1980s was a 12′ by 60′ trailer, and I wasn’t supposed to go outside when my mother wasn’t home during the work week.

Although I have it on DVD, I am not sure when I will watch it with the boys. Mostly because I don’t want to have to explain what a Space Herpe is. Or, worse, not explain it and have to explain to another parent why my child called her child a Space Herpe.

Coronaviraschooling: Day 8

So every day of this last week, their first at home because of the coronavirus lockdown, the boys and I (and sometimes my beautiful wife) have taken a poem and hand-copied it to keep up with our handwriting and to talk about poetry. We started with “If” by Rudyward Kipling, and apparently it’s a thing now because I’ve seen it on a couple different blogs (here and here this very week). I was going to have them do “The Gods of Copybook Headings”, but it’s pretty long–“If” took the slowest writer an hour (complaining included).

So we did a couple of shorter poems–a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “Ozymandias” by Shelley on Friday.

Continuing the theme of Romantic poets writing about ancient Asian things, yesterday we went with “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

After about an hour (including complaining), we finished. We talked about the rhyme scheme, the meter, and the way the poet uses strange contractions to make meter. I mentioned that Coleridge is best known for writing the Iron Maiden song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“.

And then we watched the film version of the poem.

I told my beautiful wife I had just picked it up. Wherein “just” in this case means three years ago.

My wife and youngest son watched the whole thing with me; the oldest son wandered off, and when he returned, he asked what was happening, as though it was making real sense between the Olivia Newton-John numbers. We told him it would have made more sense if he hadn’t missed the animated interlude in the middle. Which was not true, but.

Today, I think we will continue our mythology unit with the 1980 Clash of the Titans.

Confession: I did select “Kubla Khan” just so we would get to watch the movie thereafter. There, I said it.

Book Report: Murder at the Painted Lady by Barbara Warren (2011)

Book coverAs I mentioned, my grandmother sent me a really nice omnibus edition of five Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie. Which I put on my to-read shelves. Where I promptly lost it. I am not kidding; after I finished Deep and Swift, I went looking for it on the shelves in my office, and I could not find it. You would expect it would be on top or something, but it is not.

Instead, I found this book on top of the floor stack. I bought it at LibraryCon last year from a pleasant older woman whose product didn’t really fit the general science fiction/comic convention. It sounded like a British-styled cottage mystery. And so it was, although it is set in the Ozarks.

A young lady finds that she has inherited a fine old house in Stony Point, Missouri, that has run down a little bit from an estranged great aunt whom she tried once to visit but was rebuffed. The husband of her aunt, if only there was a word for that, was prosecuted for jewelry theft and went to prison, and the aunt withdrew from society as she tried to prove his innocence, and she left the house to the only relative who ever showed her any consideration along with the directive that she clear her uncle (oh, that’s the word) name.

But even before she decides to accept the house, a chilling phone call warns her against it. Suddenly, she’s got relatives coming out of the woodwork, literally, to try to wrest it from her. With the help of a conscientious contractor and friends she makes along the way, she works to restore the home and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.

Oh, yeah, and one of the contenders for the home is murdered in the house–a house where she had no right to be and no signs of forced entry. I mean, murder is right in the title of the book. It’s not all a romance about a plucky young lady.

So it did fit into the cozy cottage mystery vibe, and I enjoyed it. I have a couple more from this author somewhere, but not on the stack immediately beneath this one. So I’ll probably enjoy them when I find them. Someday.

I’m Not Sure There’s Anything He Couldn’t Do

My father was born in the Baby Boom generation to a family of carpenters and outdoorsmen, gentle reader, so as I grew up, I was pretty sure he knew how to do everything. He could build a house, repair or rebuild a car, survive in the woods on his own, and so on.

Of course, my parents divorced when I was a pre-teen, my mother got custody, and we moved to Missouri, so I really didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him in those years where I could have learned a lot of things like this from him. You know, useful skills. Not that it would necessarily have done any good, though. I did live with him during my college years, and I didn’t take the time to absorb what I could have then, either, as I was busy working or studying (just kidding) or trying to frame myself as a poet and writer who would eventually be a big deal in New York or something. Anyway, to cosmopolitan for anything like working with my hands.

I am probably retconning a bit to be harder on myself than I need to be here. After all, I worked retail, warehouse, and printing jobs through those years and into my immediate post-college career, so I wasn’t as genteel as that. However, I did not learn a lot from my father when I could have.

So I received a little note this week from my grandmother in Wisconsin along with an enclosure.

It’s a poem he wrote in 1966, high school or perhaps his first year in the Marine Corps. It’s before he met my mother, as she did not enter the Corps until the next year. Maybe it was for the girl girl who gave him this sweater. Or another. He was a handsome young man, a football player in college, and popular with the girls. Although my grandmother had it, so perhaps he wrote it for her.

Apparently, he could write poetry and had nice handwriting to boot.

So here I am, older than he ever was, and I still have to find a way to equal him. Although I’ve got him on years married to the same woman. I think he topped out at eleven years twice.

Today I Learned

Sledge Hammer was born in St. Louis.

(I learned this because Adaptive Curmudgeon had a post today capped with a clip from the 2008 film Burn After Reading that featured Sledge Hammer! and the Farmers Insurance pitchman, so I looked him up on IMDB and learned that he’s been in a lot of other television shows and films since the television comedy that I know him best for.)

Certainly the IMDB entry says he’s known for other things.

But come on. He’s Sledge Hammer!

Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

False Dilemma

A nonprofit CEO writes in this week’s Marshfield Mail:

Unfortunately, it’s not online currently unless you want to pay a buck to get into the digital issue.

But it’s a false dilemma.

The actual article shares the anecdote of the guys who bought the 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and marked it up before Amazon put the kabosh on their entrepreneurial spirit and then goes on to tell people how you can help during this crisis.

As you know, gentle reader, I like to lay a couple things up. Which means I have a couple weeks (months, if rationed carefully) of canned goods at any given time. Because it’s only been a little over a decade since this region shut down for a week or so due to an ice storm (which was before we got here). And it just seems wise.

So does that make me a hoarder? I don’t expect to make money off selling my canned goods at some future date; as a matter of fact, I tend to rotate them out and donate them to the local food pantry as they come upon their “Best Buy Some More” date–which, as you know, is not when the food within goes bad but when it’s no longer at its peak of profitability or something.

The local food pantry has some guidelines for items past their date, so when the occasional can or case turns up that’s six months past the date stamped on the can, we give them to some of our friends who have a really large family and are not afraid to take canned goods out of season.

So we’ve laid up supplies and we’re helpers.

I dunno. I like to think I do my part. I could probably do more. But I take umbrage when someone whose paying job is to tell me that I am not doing enough tells me I am not doing enough.

Coronavirus Update: Lockdown Edition

So the county has implemented a stay at home order:

Leaders ask you to stay at home unless you are considered an essential employee, shopping for essential services for goods or exercising outside.

I’ve read the whole order which is a PDF which I cannot swipe and paste, so pardon me for embedding screenshots instead of text.

Here’s the order:

Sounds grim. You can only go to an essential business for essential activities.

Essential activities are:

Basically, you can only go to essential businesses if you need their goods or services.

What are essential businesses?

Grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, auto garages, construction/home repair, taxis/people movers, laundromats, Lowes, banks, hotels, call centers, doctor’s offices, and vet’s offices.

You know, it might have been clearer if they said what should close.

Which is apparently schools, gyms, martial arts schools, and ABC Books.

So it’s not exactly martial law.

It is a sad commentary, though, at how few places I go that are not essential.

As I was at a doctor’s office today discussing it with the non-doctor person who was setting me up, basically this means you can go about your business, but you should probably not go about it today as everyone takes care of their essential business before the essential businesses don’t exactly close.

“Brian J., does that mean you’re going out every day?” you might ask. You know what I ask, gentle reader? Why are your questions sometimes in italics and sometimes in quotation marks. Don’t you have a style guide? But my answer to your question is of course not. We will run out once or twice a week for essentials, that is, perishables and booze and to tend to whatever my mother-in-law needs. But we’re not going to panic.