Depend on the Meaning of “Independent”

The New York Times has taken to advertising to me on Facebook.

One of the largest papers in the country is not exactly what I would call “independent” journalism. I’m not even sure who would be “dependent” journalists would depend upon in this formulation if not a full-time job with a prestigious newspaper.

Also, “Every Fact. Every story.” oversells what the paper actually delivers.

The Boys’ Christmas Wish List

Nerf gun, yeti teddy bear make most dangerous toys list

To be honest, though, they’re old enough to have discovered power tools and sledge hammers, and they think they can operate them without adult supervision. The youngest got to use a hand saw for the first time this weekend, and after we had packed it all up, he got it back out and cut himself with it.

So dangerous toys are not especially at the top of my parental concerns list.

Junky Sustainability

So the swag in our 5K bags has changed in the last year or so.

Instead of little tchotchkes like bottle openers, calculators, and whatnot delivered in a plastic bag that I could reuse as a small garbage bag, we’re getting ticky-tack water bottles.

The bottles, of course, are so you can refill them with tap water instead of drinking from a plastic bottle and tossing it. However, the swag bottles are only nominally thicker than the disposable water bottles. They’re not quality water bottles with insulation, and let’s be honest: everyone already has one. We do. Since everyone is giving out these little water bottles, we’ve got a bunch of them. Maybe I’m just a little peeved about their profusion because my boys like to fill one up with some fluid and instead of drinking it and reusing it, they leave them littered around the house like stray bowling pins as they then use another. Every couple of weeks, I collect them, wash them, and put them in a donation box for a church garage sale, where they can sit on a table for a couple of days marked a quarter before someone else throws them out, from whence they go to a landfill and take double the 100,000 years or whatever it takes for a disposable water bottle to decompose.

Many of the athletic events have switched from plastic bags to tissue-thin recycled plastic fiber “reusable” shopping bags as well. They’re thin and don’t look to be very durable except, probably, in landfills. I don’t use reusable grocery bags as I like to collect the plastic bags to use for cat litter cleaning and for the multitude of small waste cans at Nogglestead. At times, when I have not been shopping as often, I’ve resorted to buying a box of these plastic bags. I’d feel a little odd using the reusable bags for trash duty, so they go into the donations box pretty much the time I get home from the athletic event.

So in lieu of disposable items, the swagmakers and swag-swaggers of the world offer us these cheap reusable items that are not much better than the disposables they replace and allow the people whose logos appear on them to feel like they’re doing something for the environment, but, come on, they’re not.

On the Art of June Wayne

June Wayne bookJune Wayne bookJune Wayne book

This spring, I bought three catalogs of exhibitions of June Wayne tapestries and whatnot. Yesterday, I flipped through them, but I cannot bring myself to count them as books in my annual list. They’re like 35 pages each with a couple images in each book as well as little bits of film strip or negative with other, presumably full color representation of the work.

At any rate, June Wayne was a painter and lithographer know for her tapestries and textures. These three books show a limited range of subject matter, though. The books all show series of prints and paintings based on her fingerprint, an abstract of DNA, and Japanese/Oriental-influenced images of tidal waves.

Perhaps these books only represent a phase of her art, but a lot of her pieces from this time simply repeat with differences the same motifs. Which is kind of dull.

The text within the books, at least the text that is not French but could very well include the French text as far as I know, lauds Wayne as a very important artist. You know, back when I was reviewing art and poetry in print, I tried to say something nice about everything I reviewed. However, I never got to the point of overemphasizing the importance of an artist in the canon. Perhaps I’m just suffering from the recent monographs from minor artists whose work the public has forgotten if it ever knew them.

So worth a glance, but I wouldn’t pay top dollar to hang her stuff in my house. And I don’t feel the need to go see one of her shows.

Book Report: Devil Force The Executioner #135 (1990)

Book coverI was impressed (such as it is) with the previous entry in this series, White Line War, and I liked this book as well.

It doesn’t follow a typical Bolan/Executioner plot, which is nice. In this book, someone is hitting members of a covert ops team from Vietnam known for their savagery. The CIA starts trying to hit those members as well to cover their operations in the war, and members of the teams are looking to kill the person hunting them. Bolan is almost an afterthought as he tries to get to the bottom of it. It turns a convention on its head, as the American servicemembers are the bad guys and a Vietnamese youngster seeking revenge is, if not the good guy, at least a more sympathetic character.

Still, having Bolan kinda fumbling around the main plot instead of just hitting a Mob hard site was nice, but it does end rather abruptly with a quick battle in the jungles of Cambodia kinda truncated a pretty good story.

So I’m not averse to pulling down one of these from the shelf every hundred or so pages of the Dickens novel I’m currently reading at a leisurely pace.

On Pageant Magazine’s Best Of Everything in 1951 Issue

Book coverThis January 1952 issue of Pageant magazine is its Best of Everything 1951 issue. A time capsule into the immediate post-war world in a digest magazine that apparently sought to take on Reader’s Digest. It’s a general interest magazine, with not so much the high writing of the slicks nor the woman-focus of home magazines.

What’s inside?

  • “2001 A.D.–Year’s Best Forecast”, a vision of what life would be like in 50 years. It’s off quite a bit, but it’s all-in for wind and solar power and down on nuclear, which is the state almost 70 years later.
  • “She Gets Most Joy From Cooking”, wherein the author of The Joy of Cooking Irma Rombauer is named Woman of the year. Almost 70 years later, the cookbook is still known.
  • “The Case of the Curious Cop”, a true crime story that’s interesting even now.
  • “The Miracle of the Giants”, a baseball story.
  • “The Men Around Truman”, profiles of some of the president’s advisors, many of whom are forgotten today.
  • “The Birth of an Island”, a science story by Rachel Carson. Yes, that Rachel Carson.

Along with these articles, we’ve got fashion guides on how to buy items that you can wear or pair for different occasions; the best toys to by for each age group; beauty queens of different festivals; and varied humorous joke/quip collections like you would find in Reader’s Digest.

Along with a full photo of the cover girl on the back:

Cute, but not racy.

No left-wing bias to speak of–the magazine talks about the “pinkos” in government–but a couple of environmental pieces that foreshadow things to come. The “best science story” by Rachel Carson, for example, tells of how volcanic islands are formed and how different plant and animal species might come to it, and how great it is until MAN SHOWS UP.

You know, I miss general interest magazines like this. I subscribe to Reader’s Digest off and on, and I used to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post and Grit, but those last two changed too much to retain my interest. But I must be the only one; otherwise, we would have more of them around today.

I wonder where I got this; the front cover has an antique mall sort of pricing on it, but I can’t imagine picking this up for a dollar at an antique mall. More likely, it was in a dollar bundle of digest magazines and chapbooks that I bought at a Friends of the Springfield-Greene Library book sale. These bundles, grab-bags really, provide me with quite a few curiousities that I sometimes count as books read. But not in this case, as it is clearly but a magazine.

Book Report: Humphrey Bogart: A Hollywood Portrait by Marie Cahill (1992)

Book coverThis is a coffee table book that presents a short biography of Humphrey Bogart, and then kind of steps through his career and filmography with promotional stills and perhaps some candid snaps, but probably less “candid” than posed behind the scenes shots.

It reminds me of how many Bogart movies I have yet to see, and that’s a sad commentary on how many movies I get to watch these days–which is several a year. And that’s not movies I watch in the theaters–that’s total. Yikes.

Perhaps I should watch less football and more black and white movies. Although I would not be able to browse books like this while watching a noir flick.

At any rate, worth your time if you’re a Bogart fan. And I am, as Bogart is the only cinema star whose picture appears on my office wall. If you’re keeping track, only one author (Robert B. Parker) appears on my office walls, but a lot of sports figures (various Packers, Jordan Binnington). For what it’s worth.

Found Bookmark: Brogans Restaurant and Bar Flier

So, within Vancouver: A Year in Motion, I found a flier for a restaurant. A restaurant in Vancouver would have made sense.

But this restaurant, Brogans, is in Ennis, Ireland.

The restaurant is only only 35 years old, which is about the age of the book, and the traveler could have picked it up and put it into the book at any point since then, but I suspect it would likely have been in the 1980s. The flier is on brown card stock and looks like something that would have been pasted together by hand and not by computer.

So, likely, whomever would have put this flier in the book visited both Vancouver and Ireland in relatively short order. I would be envious except I’m generally reluctant to travel, and I have visited Poplar Bluff, Missouri, St. Charles, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., in the last couple of months, so I seem to be easing into a little travel anyway. Also, envy is for the small minded.

So what do I do with this now that I’ve read the book and scanned the flier for posterity? Shred the flier and use it as kindling for a fire in the Nogglestead fireplace? Tuck it back in the book now atop the shelves at Nogglestead? Or simply let it float around on the jetsam on my desk for a year or two so that it appears on a Five Things On My Desk post in a couple of years (after all, I’ve already scanned it, so that will make it easier for that latter-day post)?

Probably the latter followed by one of the former when I get around to it.

Book Report: Vancouver: A Year In Motion (1986)

Book coverThis is the official book of the Vancouver Centennial celebration in 1986, and its schtick is that a series of photographers went out to photograph the city in its centennial year. So it starts in January and runs through December and includes the building and running of the exposition that marks the centennial.

The photos look to have been chosen to illustrate aspects of Vancouver from its economy to its wonderful landscapes, and the book is a little text heavy as it explains how awesome Vancouver is. The amount of text takes away from the images, and the images themselves, as I said, are not chosen for quality or their photographic skill alone.

So this is not an art book.

It is interesting, though, that of all the city-touting photography books (touting cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Detroit), this is the only one to specifically pay homage to the city’s strip clubs, complete with photo of an exotic dancer on a pole. So it has that going for it.

Worth a browse, but it requires some attention. For a coffee table book, it is attention-intensive. So I browsed it during football games not featuring the Packers.

Were This An Actual Movie….

I would probably take my poor, long-suffering beautiful wife to see it.

I have taken her to see far worse films based on Saturday Night Live skits.

But I would not take up another $10 or $15 a month service charge to stream it. I might have mentioned that I don’t get to see many movies these days, and I think we’re about two seasons backed up on the things we record on our DVR, so I don’t need to spend extra watching things I probably won’t enjoy and that will probably lecture me anyway.

On The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon

Book coverThis course offers a history of how the books of the New Testament became the canon. I guess the title indicates that. But it’s not a straight ahead timeline of the conscious development of the New Testament. Instead, it’s more of a survey of different things to consider when looking at the history. It discusses the different types of literature in the New Testament, the Gospels, the epistles, and apocalyptic literature. It touches on apocrypha that did not make the final cut (and sometimes why). It talks about the creation of the written literature as the church evolved and needed a central repository of teachings to share among the scattered churches. It also talks about copying errors and whatnot and a touch of church history.

So it’s an interesting listen. My beautiful wife would not like it because she rankles at people who are probably not Christians opining or discussing Christian or Biblical history from a non-Christian perspective. This lecturer says that he’s not going to tackle the theological content of the books under discussion, but at times he does make light of what his Christian students say, so he’s probably not exactly a homer. I, on the other hand, am very interested in church history and consideration of the imperfections of translations of the Bible.

So you good bit of listening if you don’t mind those things.

Geophrenology Only!

Headline: E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules.

Reality:

A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study’s conclusions.

So, basically, no more regulations made based on tl;dr interpretations of single, unrepeated studies.

So, you know, basically limiting science to science and not desired interpretations leading to desired law.

The Laddie Reckoned Himself A Poet

So whilst I was in St. Charles this weekend, I stayed at the Tru by Hilton again, mainly because of its proximity to the historic Main Street and because I can get Hilton points for staying there. Not that I pay attention to the accumulation of Hilton Points nor do I expect to use them, but I have been conditioned to accumulate points as ends in themselves.

Instead of going for a run or hitting the little fitness center room, I spent an hour or so pounding coffee in the hotel’s common area, scratching lines on my notorious legal pad. Later that evening, I was in the coffee shop listening to Janet Evra, and I scratched a couple of lines and added a little code, and I finished the poem.

Which was a great relief, as I have been working and scratching at this poem a long, long time.

How long?

A tidied version of a draft is on the cover of Coffee House Memories.

Once can find behind the lined notepad pages behind the initial lines notes taken during a meeting at the Republic Pregnancy Resource Center Heppy Feet 5K committee in 2017. So, yeah, it has likely been percolating for many years.

But I am happy to have finished it. It might be only the third poem I’ve written in the last ten years (only “Springfield Panera Bread BDU” and “Canny” come to mind).

When I showed it to my beautiful wife, she said it was good. She did not roll her eyes when she said it like she did when reading my cousin’s poetry, but I’ll take what I can get these days.

In my more fatalistic moments, which are more like fatalistic minutes or hours or days rather than moments, I think this might be the last poem I ever write given the pacing over the last twenty years. In the interims between my fatalism, though, I think I should make some time to sit in coffee shops with a pad and a pen since I rather enjoyed it, especially as I actively developed this poem.

Oh, and as far as the poem itself goes, I’m not going to share it on the blog at this time. I’m going to tighten a couple turns of phrase and submit it to poetry journals for a bit and see if I can get it, you know, published. Should that route fail, gentle reader, I’ll share it here so someone other than me, my wife, and a set of editorial assistants can read it.

“Do you know any veterans?” my manager asked.

Yes, it is true, not currently a carefree contractor for-hire, but I’m in an engagement where I have a manager. Actually, I am pretty sure I have thirteen or fourteen managers, or that everyone is a manager except me, but that’s pretty much been the story of my full time jobs anywhere.

So I talked to my manager on Friday, a day ahead of the long weekend, and she asked me if I knew any veterans.

Which seems like an odd question to me.

I mean, my parents met in the Marine Corps. My grandfather also served in the Marines. My father in law was Air Force. Let’s be honest: My children’s school canceled the annual Veteran’s Day slide show because it turned pretty much into my boys’ family tree after I asked my grandmother for a picture of my grandfather in uniform, and she sent me pictures of family members going back over a hundred years in uniform.

My brother signed up for the Marines after high school. Jimmy from the trailer park, the other N in the Triple N Enterprises lawn cutting service, signed up for the Army and went Airborne. Dave, who lived two doors down from my father in Milwaukee and with whom I was very good friends my first year at school, signed up for the Army after high school and went Airborne. My friend Brian, the Elvis impersonator, was in the National Guard for a long time. Todd, the thespian I went to school with, was in the Navy and afterwards played Mike in a staged reading of The Courtship of Barbara Holt.

Those are the people from my close circle who served. I have numerous acquaintances from church who served, and I’m Facebook friends with BlackFive and Baldilocks.

So, yeah, I know some veterans.

Is that odd? Is it because I’m the product of neighborhoods, trailer parks, and cohorts where college was not the default option after high school that I know so many veterans? Is it because I’m the product of a more expressively patriotic age?

Perhaps it was just my manager’s way of getting to my plans for Veterans’ Day.

Which only incidentally had an outward demonstration that might tie into the holiday. As I was in the St. Louis area, I visited Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and put flowers on my mother’s grave.

And I don’t just thank veterans on one day of the year. But I do thank them. And you, gentle reader, if it applies.

The Polite Fiction of Janet Evra

I might have mentioned that I have an aunt who might be terminally ill in St. Charles. I have been remiss in visiting the St. Louis area and seeing her in the last ten years since we bought Nogglestead–I might have been back only two or three times–so I have been inventing excuses to drive to St. Louis as she would disapprove of me making the trip solely to visit her.

A couple weeks ago, the family and I traveled to see our first Blues game as a family.

This week, my polite fiction was that I was going to see Janet Evra perform.

I just happened to visit my aunt for coffee and with my brother, who up to see my aunt at the same time.

“Are you really going to see this jazz singer?” my other aunt, the caregiver, asked.

I did.

Unfortunately, it has taken my aunt’s illness to shake me out of weekends of doing the same old, same old martial arts-book signing at ABC Books-nap-chores-dinner-reading-church-nap-football/chores-dinner-workweek cycle that has seemingly consumed a better part of the last decade. That oversimplifies it, but honestly, when I look back at what I’ve done lately, that’s what I see.

At any rate, Evra played two sets, about two hours, in a coffee house with seating for about thirty–and those seats were full. It seems odd to me to see her in a coffee house–I mean, in my coffee house days, I saw a lot of coffee house musicians, and I even got a CD from one later, but in this case, I’d heard the artist on the radio and got her CD and then saw her in a coffee house which seemed backwards. Unnatural. As though by CD and radio time, artists should be playing halls. The Focal Point at least (although I have not been to the venue since it moved from Webster Groves because Memories part of Coffee House Memories).

She played a couple of oldies jazzed up (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and, I hate to say it, Blondie’s “Call Me” is an oldie), a couple of pieces from her album (“Paris”, “You or Me”), and many selections in French and Portuguese (including “Agua de Beber”) and assorted Sambas (“The Girl from Ipanema”).

I enjoyed it, needless to say.

So, Brian J., how’s your concert musical balance? you might ask. Well, gentle reader, my concert going tends toward septuagenarians (Gordon Lightfoot, Herb Alpert), women my wife likes (Dar Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter), and jazz. I don’t go to many metal concerts because, to be honest, metalheads intimidate me, whereas I am pretty sure I can best one or more jazz concertgoers in unarmed combat. Which is a misconception that will likely lead to a future butt-kicking by a septuagenarian at a jazz concert.

A Shot Missed Over The Years

I’ve never been a real photography buff. I mean, I had a couple of cameras when I was a kid, and I’m glad that I had them to document my early life (like this). But I haven’t really gotten into it as a hobby, although I have bought at garage sales a number of tripods for some reason.

However, there is one photograph I’ve wanted to take for a number of years

A couple hills over, a white barn sits partway up the slope. As you drive down the farm road, you can see it in a small window in the trees. Trees climb a hill behind the barn, and trees lie long the intervening hillsides so that the barn is surrounded by the leaves. You can only see it from a spot on the corner before it is again obscured by the trees. It’s especially beautiful in the autumn, with the vivid colors.

So in past autumns, I’ve tried to take the picture with my phone, and it didn’t work. I tried a couple of times with a digital camera, including putting it on a tripod, but it lacked a zoom. Other years, we have only had a single fall color, brown, after dry summers. Some autumns, we’ve had windstorms that denuded the trees right after they turned and I didn’t get a chance.

This year, someone built a large house on a corner lot on the farm road. I gamed out an encounter with a suspicious homeowner as I tried the photo this year, but as I slowed down when driving by, I found the foreground trees had grown so that they overlaid the barn, and the opportunity for my perfect shot had passed.

Ah, well. I took it for granted that one autumn day I would get the shot I wanted even as the years passed and the landscape changed. The house on the corner lot has planted a boundary for trees. In another ten years, I won’t be able to see the new house–or the barn on the hill beyond.

So I guess I will enjoy the vista while I can and only occasionally mourn the photo that never was.

On Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive and Count Your Blessings

Book coverThis audiobook is a collection of sort little essays about, well, counting your blessings and finding the bright side of things. It has eleven pieces by eleven authors. One of them is, literally, a woman who enumerates one hundred blessings, so it’s a couple minutes of sentence fragments.

A couple of them seem a little fictionalized. One features a woman coming to college in her forties who collects aluminum cans from the campus garbage for her daily bus fare and sometimes, on good days, her lunch. I look askew at this story, though, because I cannot remember a time when aluminum can prices were high enough that you could pay bus fare with a couple cans picked up. You’d have to fill a bag or so. Even the old automated machines that appeared briefly in grocery stores only gave a penny for two cans, and that was at the height of the market. Another deals with a snow storm where a woman breaks up furniture and keepsakes to burn them to keep warm, and how liberating that is. A lot of wood stuff, especially inexpensive stuff, is made with pine, and that would have been an unpleasant indoor fire indeed.

At any rate, it’s a little like the mindfulness that more la-de-dah people get from their Buddhist and Yoga texts. With a little uncluttering thrown in (ironically). It’s got a Christian bent, and the first three or four items featured divorced (and sometimes multiple divorces) people. I bet they needed some perking up.

Did it make me feel better? It’s not the sort of thing that changes your life in one listening. It’s the sort of thing you should probably steep yourself in to eventually, over the repetition, that can guide you to a better mind set. And it’s not an unpleasant hour or so of drive time.

A British Summer Home

Since my first castle is here in town, I guess I’ll have to use this British castle as a summer home.

It took Anton Jones 15 years to buy what was known locally as Llantwit Castle from the Vale of Glamorgan council and another five years to transform the medieval house.

No cranes or cement mixers were used and all the materials were mixed and constructed using traditional methods.

Lime mortar was used and the solid oak beams were cut and constructed on site.

Anton was fascinated with the building since he was a child where he used to play but was also “scared to death of it.”

He said: “It was very, very creepy in those days because the ruin was totally covered in ivy.

“It was always very gloomy even on a summer’s day and there was always an eerie presence here and I actually got chased by horses here once.

“I can still hear the hooves hitting the stones now when I’m working here.”

When he bought the property for £5,000 the “conservation builder” feared he had bitten off more than he could chew when the extent of the restoration project became fully clear.

Anton said: It was completely ruined, in fact it shouldn’t really have been saved because it was too far gone.

It looks nice.

Unfortunately, it is in Britain.

A Dying Time

When I was in late middle school and high school, which is to say the time when I lived in the trailer park and down the gravel road in the valley, a lot of family members died. I lost my grandfather, my grandmother, my cousin, a number of great aunts, my great-grandmother by marriage, and then my step-grandfather. Some were far off, but I attended between one and three funerals a year in that span. The older generation, those great aunts, were in their eighties, my grandparents died young, and my cousin was shot at 21.

Suddenly, I’m acutely aware of how those things are aligning again.

The autumn started with notices of death around us. Shortly thereafter, I learned that my aunt has cancer pretty badly, which has spurred a couple of trips to the St. Louis area.

I have since learned that my stepmother with whom I had a rocky relationship also has cancer pretty badly. I learned this from my grandmother, who let me know that fifteen people in the family have health issues of some sort or another.

So my aunts and uncles are getting into their sixties and seventies now. My mother-in-law is closing in on eighty. My grandmother is in her nineties, but you wouldn’t know it. And, who knows, maybe one of these random pains and little coughs I get might actually be the innocent symptom of Something Worse as I fear.

You know, you can recognize mortality and deal with it in one of two ways: You can appreciate every day what you have now and actively treasure those relationships, or you can dread the loss that you know is coming.

Me, I’m making more effort to see my family that lives outside Springfield (which is to say, all of them but my immediate family). I’m trying to live life with better experiences than the simple day-to-day maintenances (although now that St. Louis Blues Hockey games are $80 a ticket, they will be memorable because they’re scarce). I’m going to send more frequent notes and letters to my grandmother who has told me she loves them and reads them multiple times.

Still, even as I do these things, I am pretty sure I’ll dread the future losses. I said you can deal with it in one of two ways. I will do both and let my impulses battle it out in my psyche.

The International Flavor of MfBJN

The Artist Formerly Known As The One Hand Clapping Guy notes that he receives a lot of traffic from Spain.

Here at MfBJN, we’ve had more of an international flavor of traffic over the last couple of days:

I have no idea why this is. I do spend time speculating, though

What I do know, though, is that the book report for The Sire de Maletroit’s Door continues to be my most popular book report and one of the most-read blog posts ever. For some reason.