They Have Never Heard The Actual Song

So I have been known to sing to my cats. A lot. And the same songs (and the same cat-chphrases) over and over.

My boys emphasized this to me recently as I came up the stairs, stepping around cats splayed across various steps, and I sang, “How many cats say ‘meow meow meow’ before you can call them a cat?” and my boys piped in with, “The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind.”

You know, I am not sure they’ve heard the actual song.

Although it is possible, I suppose, as I own the Reader’s Digest collection of that name which includes it.

In all reality, although the collection is not in heavy rotation, I probably have played it during the boys’ lifetimes, so they probably have heard it.

But in their minds, this song will always be about cats meowing and/or their crazy father.

Now that I have thought of it, I want to play the collection, which I inherited from my sainted mother, again. Given how infrequently I listen to albums these days, we’d probably get to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on side 2 of record 6 about the time of my father’s birthday.

Who Needs A GoFundMe?

Well, it’s not to the actual people. It’s to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation which:

The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation was founded in 2006, originally called the VIVO Foundation. The charity was created in an effort to financially support young people in “life-changing experiences designed to broaden their global perspectives,” according to the Foundation’s mission statement. Change lives it did- since it’s [sic] creation, the charity initiative also provided countless scholarships for minority college students and youth worldwide, as well as worked with the Make a Wish Foundation.

I am sure someone could count the actual scholarships, but that’s beyond modern journalism.

As far as donating, thanks, but I have my preferred and mostly local charities I support.

Not all are local and not all are local to me now (Feed My People and Nurses for Newborns are in St. Louis, not far from places I’ve lived). I also support three or four Friends of the Library organizations, the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield Foundation, and the church, but I am leery of large national organizations and sports figures’ organization, and organizations with nebulous goals. I’m also not a fan of giving in response to a triggering event (a death, a disaster) but recognize they do prompt other people who don’t give as a matter of course.

That’s my charitable philosophy. Not that you asked. But I’m sure if you click one of those links above, you can find a way to give. If you are the sort you responds to a triggering event or blog post.

Brian J. Was About To Bow To Lileks, Again

In yesterday’s Bleat, Lileks humblebrags about his music library:

I’m agonizing over the music. In the old days: you had a hundred albums or so, arranged on a particle-board shelf with concrete blocks on the end. If you were in college. Or you had them arranged in purloined milk crates. HEY if they didn’t want them stolen they shouldn’t have made them perfect for albums, man. Besides, Big Milk, like, gets money from the government.

Of the 100 albums, there were ten in rotation, and the rest were there to impress someone else, which they never did, or to bring back a mood, or to check if you still liked it. Quite possibly the ones in rotation weren’t even in the albums, just in the paper sleeves, like new friends hanging around the house in their underwear.

Now I have thousands of albums. I do not need them, but there is no cost to having them.

How many albums do I own? I don’t know for sure. I can only say that it looks as though I have ordered 10 100 packs of record covers and I’m almost through the 10th pack. And I have many, many nice record sets. As well as stacks of 78 and 45 rpm singles.

Holy cats, I was going to say that I’d ordered the 100 packs for or five times, but apparently, over the last seven years, I have bought a lot of records. But I guess my Good Album Hunting series is up to 20 or so entries, and I don’t just buy one or two records per.

At any rate, I was going to bow to Lileks, but I guess I have more records than he does. Although he was likely referring to electronic albums, of which I have “975” (I put it in quotes because some of the “albums” are single songs from the album).

As to the actual record rotation, I can say for sure that I have more than 10 in regular circulation, but I might not have 10% of my collection in rotation. I tend to play a lot of the Eydie and Herb and trumpet and sax, and I know that I don’t play some records often (many that I inherited with sixties and seventies pop, the vast Elvis collection), but I do play more than one hundred of them regularly.

Although I am not listening to the record player as often as I did in the past.

As to the electronic copies of the albums (as you know, gentle reader, I buy most of my newer music on CD and rip it to the computer rather than buying MP3 albums. I often listen to the last in most frequently, but I go through phases where I listen to different genres or different albums as a one off. Like listening to Die Trying’s self-titled album because I read a book with the same name.

So I can’t imagine removing anything from my library. Just in case.

So I was going to bow to Lileks, again, but.

Investment To Come Full Circle

Victoria’s Secret boss Leslie Wexner may step down, sell company

I bought stock in Intimate Brands, Incoporated, around the turn of the century based on Peter Lynch‘s advice to invest in what you know or like. When Limited Brands (later L Brands) bought out its former child brand, I bought into L Brands.

It’s done well for me. I don’t know if it’s been a ten-bagger, but it’s done all right.

But if L Brands is selling it, I am likely to sell my L Brands and pick up some stock in whomever buys Victoria’s Secret. My experiences in buying general mall retailers (Wet Seal, Chico’s/Charming Shops, JC Penney) have had mixed results at best.

Weird Musical Precognition

I forgot what got me onto the train of thought; perhaps I thought of my aunt, whose antique mall furniture refurbishing business might be called Wildfire Studios (not the video game producing company), but I remembered a song called “Wildfire” from my youth. I mean, you heard it a bunch in the middle seventies and into the 1980s on easy listening stations but which has fallen off of Jack (a dated radio format term) playlists which play the best of the 1980s, 1990s, and today, which means an entire catalog of 70s music has fallen into a hole unless you’re looking for it on YouTube. Or that’s what I would project based on my broadcast radio listening habits.

Then, yesterday, I heard it on the XMSirius Dentist Office station.

Which, I know, is a cognitive trick: I was just thinking about the song, and I heard it soon thereafter, so it sticks in my mind (and on my blog). I think of a lot of songs that I don’t hear soon thereafter unless I bring it up here for blogfodder (see also “Hearts” by Marty Balin).

When you leave YouTube’s autoplay on, it presents you another similar song. In this case, after “Wildfire”, it presented “Please Come To Boston”, another wistful ballad I remember from my innocent years. Ah, even more impactful than a wistful ballad is a wistful ballad from the past, wherein a lot of the stuff wisted is now wast.

(The third up on autoplay was “The Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg, which gave me the power to hit the stop button before we got to, as we certainly would, “The Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin, and I would have to trade the longing for my absent father from the then to the concern that I am too absent of a father now.

Fortunately, I have a new Crobot CD to listen to very loud to distract me.

A Milestone of Sorts

As I mentioned, this week marked a milestone in my life: I am older now than my father ever was. He died a month short of his 48th birthday, and it’s now less than a month until mine.

I would have preferred to pass this occasion in the peak of my manhood, but my current job and parenting schedule has limited my trips to the gym and martial arts school over the last year, and I don’t have any GAINZZZ nor MAINTAINZZZ THE ZZZZTATZZZ QUO to report. I think I’ve melted. And, to top it off, I am dealing with a sports injury that will require at the very least a trip to a specialist if not surgery to correct (or, perhaps, “Your insurance doesn’t cover it, so I can only prescribe that you stop martial arts, weightlifting, running, and triathlons, old boy.”).

You know, I sort of always think of him as older than I am. Middle-aged. But I guess that makes me middle-aged.

I cannot imagine him–my father, not my doctor–as an old man, though. I mean, there are a lot of older gentlemen at church, and I can’t even imagine my father at that age.

Also, a shout-out to Disabled American Veterans, who this week sent a donation solicitation addressed to my sainted mother.

Who passed away almost eleven years ago–the anniversary is creeping up on me–and never lived at Nogglestead. But keep trying, you algorithm-based mailing list builders.

Book Report: Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais (2008)

Book coverI was surprised and pleased to find a Robert Crais book on my to-read shelves; I just read A Dangerous Man, which is relatively new. How is it that a Crais book has languished on my to-read shelves for so long? Turns out, it has probably not. I read this book when it was new in 2008.

But it was on my to-read shelf, so I read it again anyway. Robert Crais might be the only modern writer whose works I can read and re-read like I can with John D. MacDonald’s work.

So Cole had gotten this guy free from a murder charge, and the guy apparently kills himself with photos from that and other killings on his lap. Cole doesn’t like the thought of having freed a killer to kill twice more, and then he suspects that perhaps the dead man was not the actual killer. So he goes to work.

The book is told in pure first person narration without jump cuts that most modern writers use. Even Crais uses them in later books. Somehow, it seems a more connected and flowing, a purer, literary style. And a throwback.

A couple things struck me mostly about the passage of time.

Elvis Cole does tae kwon do kata on his deck; twelve years ago, I could not have imagined that I’d be a black belt in tae kwon do, basically, the next time I read this book. Although my school is a satori school that does not focus on kata.

Also, I said then:

A good book overall and one that keeps me interested in the series, which makes it one of two contemporary series I appreciate (Sandford’s Lucas Davenport being the other).

Yeah, well, not so much now.

So will I end up “accidentally” buying more Crais books at book fairs just to read them again? Maybe!

When It’s -458 Degrees Outside

Catastrophic cold comes to Britain!

ICEBOX BRITAIN UK weather forecast – Snow to hit this weekend as temperatures plunge to bone-chilling 1C

Sweet Christmas, 1C is just a little above absolute zero, where all motion stops! Britain will be devastated!

Wait a minute, someone has just informed me that 1C is actually just above freezing. 1 K[elvin] on the other hand, is very cold indeed.

You know, I read somewhere that Britain once was a globe-striding colossus and that its photographers once scaled the Himalayas practically barefoot for fun, but I’m having trouble believing that when its newspapers hype up 1C temperatures.

You know what we call 1C in Wisconsin? Late spring.

I went to pick up my boys from school today, and it was 1C and raining. And I didn’t put on a coat.

Book Report: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas (1954)

Book coverI just read Thomas’s short story Holiday Memory, but upon checking my notes (this blog), I see that just read was almost five years ago. Tempus fuhgeddaboudit.

This is called “A Play for Voices,” which probably means a radio drama more than a stage play. The cast of characters indicates why: There are 63 named “voices” in the play. Apparently, this drama debuted as a staged reading in New York City with six people (including Thomas) doing all the voices. It must have been confusing to watch and keep up with it without the names above the spoken words, as several voices (Drowned One, Drowned Two, and so on) appear, say their line, and then disappear for half of the play only to reappear later. In context, you can kind of figure out who they are–they’re more types than real characters–but to see this on stage with only six people doing five voices each would have been underwhelming.

At any rate, the drama is a limited omniscient slice-of-life day of a small town where not much happens. You look into the minds of lovers, husbands and wives, the clergyman, and a variety of other characters as they go through their day. And CUT!

I mean, there’s no plot to speak of; we get some characterizations of the various characters, but it’s just a day in their lives.

The words are poetic and would be pleasant to listen to, but the “play” lacks any drive or development beyond its presentation of this day in the life. So it, too, underwhelmed me.

I’m going to start an idle speculation about the evolution of drama. In the old days, like 1592, you read a lot of drama about heroic characters (or tragic ones), kings and princes and whatnot, but in the 20th century, is there a shift to more working people and common people as protagonists (as it were)? Does this reflect a shift in the audience–from common people seeing heroic stories to academic and upper class people watching stories about distant lives of the common folk? I suppose I could write an academic paper or a book making that argument and throw in how today’s commoners flock to movies about outsized heroes. Were I so inclined and not so lazy.

At any rate, worth a read if you’re into Thomasania.

This completes my reading of the four books I bought at ABC Books this month. I thought about going up on Saturday to buy more, but I decided that I have enough to read for now. If they have an author signing next week, however….

Book Report: Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1592, 1978)

Book coverThis is the third of four books I bought at ABC Books earlier this month that I have read in this, the same month I bought them. What a triumph it will be to return to the place of purchase and announce that I’ve read all the books I bought the last time I was in! Which will not, really, be much of a triumph at all, and I’m the only one who will take any delight in it at all.

At any rate, you probably know the story of Dr. Faust by now: A learned medieval philosopher/scientist reaches what he thinks are the limits of knowledge through traditional learning, consults with some sorcerors, and makes a pact with the devil. In exchange for his soul, he gets 24 years of magickal supremacy. Although he starts out with grand dreams of power and what he’s going to do with them, over time it turns out he does not much, and then the devil claims his soul.

I’ve seen an operatic performance of the story (not this story) where Faust is redeemed in the end, but that’s not how it happens in this story.

So the story is an archetype we see re-written today, but it can also be seen as a comment on man’s condition in the world, where man becomes earthly and fritters away what powers he has whilst in the world. Or maybe I’m just getting middle aged and seeing signs of how I’m puttering my way through my life and I’m seeing that as a storyline where it’s not.

Regardless, it’s a play in blank verse. A long introduction talks about variations between the texts and relates the work to contemporary other works by Marlowe and Shakespeare, but I skipped this until after I read the text itself. I have hammered home again and again how I prefer to do this because the scholarly professor’s intercession on your unlearned behalf often kills or at least mutes the desire to read something.

The play itself is 90 pages of text, but sometimes a third of that is given to footnotes explaining things that someone with an English degree (or at least one that steeps the undergrad in Shakespeare, Jonson, and Chaucer) is going to know anyway and differences between the A and B text. So it’s a quicker read than that.

I enjoyed it, and I enjoy being able to say I’ve read it. A two-fer.

I think I have Goethe’s work around here somewhere. Perhaps I’ll pick it up sooner rather than later for a compare and contrast. If I remember, and if I find it.

Ross Thomas Makes It Big

Well, I’m pretty sure the author made it big enough during his lifetime.

But here in the 21st century, 25 years after his death, his 1984 book Briarpatch is getting a television treatment:

The explosive opening of USA’s “Briarpatch” promises that this new series, starring Rosario Dawson as a crusading investigator uncovering hometown corruption, will continue to offer bang for its buck.

That doesn’t quite happen, but “Briarpatch,” adapted from Ross Thomas’ 1984 crime fiction novel, does provide enough of a compelling storyline to keep viewers guessing where it will all eventually lead.

I’m kind of pleased.

It’s been five years since I’ve read a Ross Thomas paperback, but I have plenty scattered amongst the library, possibly including Briarpatch. So when I end up reading one of them in the near future, you’ll know why.

(Previously reported: The Porkchoppers, The Mordida Man, and Voodoo, Ltd..)

Book Report: Life After Death by T.A. Kantonen (1962)

Book coverThis book is a short (54 pages) theological explanation of the (or perhaps a) Christian view of life after death based on Biblical texts. It talks about what life is, what death is, what happens at death, and what happens in the final reconciliation / resurrection.

He definitely explains the monistic Christian idea of the soul+body combination versus the dualist notion that the soul exists outside the body and takes issue with the common conception that someone who dies goes immediately to Heaven and then talks about the resurrection of the body (and soul). So it runs a little counter to popular sermon fodder and populist notions of life after death.

The author draws upon biblical sources but also classical literary sources (Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold) along with theological sources and delves into different philosophies such as Platonism, Aristotleanism, and Existentialism to contrast them to Christian thought and explains how different translations of Greek texts have led to the popular misconceptions. So it’s a heady and literary work, but it’s not academic–the mentions of these other sources and philosophies are kind of pointers toward more examination rather than requiring esoteric knowledge of others’ footnotes to understand this work.

Personally, I contrast this book with its learnedness but targeted to common laity circa 1962 with common Christian best-sellers of today, and I find them lacking. Even though I have not read a bunch of them, they’re a bit contemporary self-affirming from what I said, whereas this is deeper. Not quite the Tillich (alluded to in this book), but scholarly enough.

Oh, and another thing. I flagged a mention in the section of What Is Our Relation To The Dead regarding ESP:

The depths of the human heart and the experiences to which they lead must not be treated lightly. In our day research in extrasensory perception has indeed afforded remarkable insights into the potentialities lying in personal relations, far exceeding the ordinary. But the exploration of that experience and the determination of its genuineness must be left to the psychologists. The concern of Christian faith is man’s relation to God.

You probably don’t get many such references in contemporary works to ESP as being possible and not necessarily demonic, either.

For some reason, when I bought this book at St. Michael’s book fair in Lemay in 2009, I thought it was a play. Which would have made it fit right in with the drama I have been reading to start the new year.

The Shadows of Nogglestead

So my oldest son played Destiny 2: Shadowkeep the other night and didn’t like it because it was too hard–which means different from the first person shooters he’s accustomed to.

As my beautiful wife and I ate dinner, I mentioned to her what he said, and then I thought of Shadow Chasers, a short-lived television series from the eighties that could have been a comedic blueprint for the more successful The X-Files.

I hadn’t thought of this show in years. But the Shadowkeep brought it to mind.

Almost as a non sequitur, my wife said, “In 2052, we’ll be eighty.”

It would almost be a non sequitur, and it might have seemed so to her, but I corrected her. “Shadowrun is set in 2050.”

Although she was not a big roleplaying gamer back in the day–or a television watcher who would have seen one of the eight episodes of Shadow Chasers that aired–our martial arts school is in Shadowood Plaza, and I have told her at least once that the name of the plaza reminds me of Shadowrun. Which I never played, by the way.

So we really hit for the cycle on geekery: Video games, esoteric television, role playing games, and martial arts based on the word “shadow.”

I’m Through The Worst Of It

This is when middle age really starts to suck: study:

A new study confirms that middle age is unpleasant as hell, but there’s an exact moment where the malaise reaches its peak. Dartmouth College professor David Blanchflower was able to pinpoint that midlife torment reaches its crest at 47.2 years old.

The economic study, distributed Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used data across 132 countries, including 95 developing and 37 developed nations to determine the connection to well-being and age. The researchers concluded that every country has a U-shaped “happiness curve,” with the lowest point at 47.2 years old for developed countries, while a developing nation reaches its low point at 48.2 years old.

I’d have to say that my 47th year, which is ending soon, has not been the best or most satisfying one in my young life. If I believed in economic studies, I’d be encouraged.

Rather, I believe in myself. So I’m encouraged.

It’s The Wrong Strategy, Cotton

Report: ‘Kevin and Liz’ Springfield morning show canceled as iHeartMedia slashes staff nationwide:

Liz Delany, longtime host of a popular morning drive time show on KGBX along with co-host Kevin Howard, confirmed Wednesday morning that “The Kevin and Liz Show” was canceled.

“Before you hear it elsewhere, the Kevin and Liz show was canceled as of today,” read a post on Delany’s Facebook account. “I love this community and I’ve been proud to serve it during these last 21 years. Thank you all for supporting us for so long. I’m going to miss talking to you every day. God bless you, Liz.”

Broadcast radio is definitely facing serious competition with Spotify and other media, not to mention the occasional audio book or course in my vehicles. No doubt.

But I’m not sure firing the local personalities that radio audiences know is the right strategy.

The show’s cancellation came on the heels of major cuts nationwide by KGBX’s parent company, iHeartMedia, which announced a corporate restructuring earlier this week. The goal, officials said in a news release, was “to take advantage of the significant investments (iHeartMedia) has made in technology and artificial intelligence.”

So, instead, we’re going to get broadcast radio that sounds more like Spotify, but with smaller playlists selected for you by artificial intelligence that you don’t control.

I suppose it’s the sort of thinking that makes short-term sense. Cash outlays are down. But the decline in listenership will hasten.

On Being Early

Patrice Lewis links to a Guardian story “Beat the Clock: The Surprising Psychology Behind Being Perpetually Late“, and she (Ms. Lewis) asks:

So what end of the spectrum do you hit? Are you early or late? And what’s your logic/reasoning/motive behind it?

I am on the early side. I think it’s because I don’t want to be rude and I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself coming in late and being unprepared for whatever.

I have a tendency to be really early, like being a half hour early to pick my boys up or drop them off. I used to be so early dropping my boys off to school that it became common to drive “around the block” a couple miles to kill some time until the school actually opened. And when going to job interviews, I’d end up being an hour early, find the company where I was to interview, and then drive twenty minutes down the road and twenty minutes back to be a little early.

The problem might have worsened when we moved to the Springfield area from the St. Louis area. In St. Louis, you might have to drive for forty-five inutes from one suburb to another for things and commute an hour. So I got used to that and built in some extra time, natch. But here in the Springfield area, you can go from our house outside the southwest corner of Springfield to ABC Books, all the way in the northwest corner of Springfield proper, in about twenty minutes. An hour’s drive will take you to another city (Joplin or Marshfield or Branson) past a lot of rural country. But I have tended to retain my sense that I need to leave an hour early to go downtown.

I am working on it, though. Just yesterday, I knew I had to pick up my boys at 5:30 and that it would take fifteen or twenty minutes to get to their school, and although I wanted to leave at 4:45, I waited until 5:00. And then grew anxious because I was afraid I’d be late.

So, nah, I’ll just give up on trying to be just on time. I mean, I know you’re supposed to get out of your comfort zone, but I think I’ll do it in other ways than taking a chance that I might, possibly, but not likely, be late.