The Savings Is More Than I’m Willing To Pay

My beautiful wife has taken to gardening and has an indoor garden with a grow light that uses little pods and can grow small herbs, maybe tomatoes, and flowers.

So I was a good target, maybe, for this ad ahead of Christmas:

But, wait a minute, mister. Save $200 now? How expensive is this that everyone can save $200 now?

Gott im Himmel! $1000 plus a monthly membership of $30-40.

I see a lot of ads like that. Save $X now, where X is a lot already. Which generally indicates it’s not something for me.

Wait a minute, Brian J.! Don’t you buy $10 CDs by the bucketful? Don’t you like to write checks greater than that amount for organizations you support? Well, you have me there. And if I need a $1000 home repair, I get the $1000 home repair without thinking. Or a thousand bucks of firewood which is just money going up in smoke, ainna?

But something about $200 gifts which might or might not be liked, or $200 things for myself, tend to make me blanch. Blanch, I said–not make me into a Golden Girl.

I’m sure Dave Ramsey would still go all Patton on me for my spending habits, but there you go.

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Good Book Hunting, November 19, 2021: Hooked on Books

It’s been a while since I’ve had a little time to kill by my youngest son’s school, but his archery practice let off an hour and a half before the basketball games, so we scarfed some McDonalds. Which did not kill an hour and a half. Fortunately, Hooked on Books, almost across the street, is open until six, so we got a chance to browse.

Of course, I hit the dollar/fifty cent books in front of the store. In the dark, since it was 5:30. And then I hit the dwindling dollar books room in the back. And the cart of cheap books at the end of the mystery section. They haven’t moved them.

However, I did pick out a couple of art monographs and a philosophy comic book at full price. I happened to be in the philosophy section looking for some Leibniz, but, c’mon, man, this is the 21st century. No used bookstores not located on university campuses are going to have source material from the seventeenth century.

At any rate, here is what I got:

Titles include:

  • Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader. Because it says Ninja on the front and sprawling erotic thriller on the back, which probably means lurid and not well-versed in actual martial arts.
  • Get Out Of I.T. While You Can by Craig Schiefelbein, a self published book from 2007.
  • Tin House magazine Volume 16, Number 3, which I can stack amongst all the other literary magazines I’ve been meaning to read when not distracted by sprawling erotic thrillers.
  • Acorns from an Aging Oak by John C. Allen which looks to be some grandpa poetry for a change.
  • Field Stones by Robert Kinsley, the less expensive of the two Kinsley titles they offer. The authors photograph on the back is very serious, so I’m worried they will be a bit academic. Now that I read the author bio, I see he’s the editor of a literary magazine. So.
  • Philosophy for Beginners by Richard Osborne. It’s in the same series as Einstein for Beginners, so I am sure it will be chock full of straight-up Marxist fun.
  • Antoine Watteau, a Henry N. Abram monograph about said artist for browsing during football games.
  • Edward Hopper: A Modern Master by Ita G. Berkow. I picked up this monograph because it was the less expensive of the two Hopper books they had, and earlier this week, I saw someone talking about how Hopper was one of their favorites, but I’ve forgotten where. But what I read on blogs continues to influence my purchasing decisions.

As I stacked the books on my to-read shelves atop other books, I thought, Man, I need to read more. I have only been getting in an hour some nights as we handle the boys’ activities and whatnot. Of course, in a couple of years, I won’t have to keep one ear open all night for the boys, so I will have time for projects and reading and whatnot. And I will be both happy and sad.

THIS JUST IN: When I mentioned to my beautiful wife I bought a sprawling erotic thriller, she laughed. But when I mentioned the name Lustbader which sounds just like the nom de some off color joke here of an erotic thriller writer, she said she’d heard of him as he’s the guy who took over the Jason Bourne series for Ludlum. So I guess that’s his real name. And this book is the first in a series that has run (so far) from 1980 to 2016 (an ebook short story). So I guess that is his real name, and I’m not looking at a fat mash-up of Kung Fu featuring Mace and The Gunsmith. I have put it on the table beside my reading chair anyway.

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On Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933)

To be honest, I had not ever watched a full Marx brothers movie before. I knew about Groucho, of course, as he was still in the cultural zeitgeist in the 1970s, and you can even still buy the Groucho novelty glasses at the party store for cheap drop-ins for birthday party gift bags given to attendees (I have, but not in many years). So I picked up a couple of videocassettes of the movies recently, and I got the opportunity to review them.

Book coverBook coverYou know, the films both come from genres that would be recognizeable today. Horse Feathers is a college comedy, not unlike Animal House, Van Wilder, PCU, or other entries in the genre (including the Bing Crosby film High Times which I did not finish in two tries–but that was recorded digitally from cable–if I had the videocassette, I would no doubt finish it). Groucho Marx gets appointed to be the head of a university, and it’s a bit fish out of water as he tries to get star players to join his university’s football team for a game against their rivals (so it’s also got a sports angle like Necessary Roughness). Chico and Harpo play dimwits who vacillate between the factions; Zeppo plays a smooth guy, and Groucho, of course, plays Groucho.

This movie, on the other hand, sees Groucho appointed as the head of a European country. He declares war on a neighbor, and the Marx brothers then go to war. Chico and Harpo play dimwits who work for both sides, sometimes accidentally. Zeppo plays a smooth guy, and Groucho plays Groucho.

So the Marx brothers play very similar characters, so Depression era audiences didn’t have to think too much about characterization. The comedies themselves show their vaudevillian roots. They’re chock full of quips and one-liners, very clever ones at that, and song and dance routines, including musical solos where the different Marx brothers show of their chops on the piano or harp or what have you. I recognized tropes from then and now, which helped me appreciate it better than my boys did, but they had similar problems with films like Airplane! and Hot Shots!. That said, you can see a definite influence on the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films from the Marx brothers films.

So still amusing, I suppose, if you’re of a certain age. But “cringey” if you’re a damn kid.

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I would be remiss in my Rule 5 duties (for a second week in a row) if I did not highlight some pretty women from these films.

Continue reading “On Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933)”

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I’ve Seen That Happen Live

Wirecutter showcased this animated GIF:

A couple months ago, I went into the Republic Walmart as it was in the middle of its reconfiguration, and they were jacking up whole aisles and moving them around. I was having trouble finding things that had moved, and I could not help but wonder if they had moved things I was looking for to places I’d already looked. It was like shopping in the Cube with slightly less deadly traps.

I’ve seen this slow reconfiguration of Walmarts in my area over months, so I’ve been largely non-plussed by the Empty Shelves At Walmart stories–I figure that they’ve been running the shelves down to have less to move. My Pricecutter grocery store has been pretty topped up, so I haven’t worried too acutely (although I have laid some stuff up). We’ll see as the moving aisles calm down whether I was right about the Walmarts.

“Did you find everything?” a checker at my home Walmart asked. “No,” I said. A couple of weeks later, the cats are happy to learn that I finally found where my home Walmart has put the cat food.

I noticed that my home Walmart has expanded the self-checkouts, but still has a number of manned checkout stands. But they’ve staggered them like Target has been doing for years, and they’ve reduced the height of the point-of-sale shelves, probably to improve the visibility and discourage shoplifters. However, I wonder how many small businesses that make the impulse purchase tchotchkes that you used to find on these shelves are faring with the reduced shelf space. Or if it’s just slightly diminishing profits from some Chinese conglomerate.

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On Secondhand Lions (2003)

Book coverThis film was one of the reasons I started accumulating VHS cassettes and DVDs. When I wanted to see this some time back, I could not find it on the streaming services at all nor was it at my local video store. I realized how captive I was to these services, and I’m the sort of guy who wants to watch what he wants to watch, not just to watch something and will pick something from what’s available.

So: It is a coming of age story set in the, what, 1950s? 1960s? The uncles fought in World War I. I think it’s the late fifties, which would have made the distant uncles almost sixty. Which is not that old, but would seem so from the perspective of a young man. At any rate, the son of a floozy gets dumped on the doorstep of the aforementioned uncles who live in a falling down house in Texas. The uncles are rumored to have a great stash of wealth on the property, and the mother thinks it would be nice if the boy ingratiated himself to the uncles and/or found the loot. The uncles are not sure what to do with him, but since he annoys the other gold-digging distant relations, they decide to keep him around.

The uncles had a previous hobby of shooting at the traveling salesmen who came onto their property having also heard the rumors of their wealth, but the boy convinces them to perhaps spend a little of that money, which leads them to some whimsical spending, including on a lion that they hope to hunt. Instead of a mankiller, though, they end up with an aging lioness retired from circus duty, which the boy then adopts and feeds.

When buying Purina Lion Chow, one of the uncles has a spell which puts him into the hospital, but he checks himself out. At a diner, they encounter four greasers whose behavior the uncle corrects, leading to them trying to brawl and knife him–but he wins against the four, even giving the knife-bearer advice on attacking with the knife and giving him the knife back to try again. He then disarms the kid again, and after beating them all, he invites them home for dinner, after which he will give them the Being a Man speech. Meanwhile, the other relations, disappointed to learn at the hospital that “He’s gone” did not mean “dead,” go to the uncles’ house, and the spoiled children release the lion accidentally, and it hides in the corn patch that the uncles, starting their life as retired gardeners, planted.

The boy follows one uncle to a secret room under the barn, where he espies a large amount of cash, some spilling out of bank bags. When the floozy returns with a man she describes as a private investigator, he tells a story that the uncles are bank robbers, so the boy should out with the loot’s location. When the boy remains loyal to the uncles, the “private detective” starts beating the boy, only to have the lion come and maul him. The floozy mom tries to take the boy away with the mauled man, but he tells her to leave him, and he does.

This is the first flashback: The story has a wrapper from a presentish day after the boy, now a man, receives a call that his uncles have died. So he is reliving the story of his raising.

The film has another flashback in the flashback, as one of the uncles tells him the story of their roving in Africa after World War I, his brother (the other uncle’s) romance with a pretty Northern African princess, and how they eventually came to steal her away from a prince–with several thousand pieces of the prince’s gold. This flashback is interwoven with the other and presents a story of how they got the money without bank robbery. At the very end, when the boy/man reviews the scene of their accident (at ninety-something, they tried to barnstorm through a barn in a biplane that they built from a kit thirty years before, they missed and hit the barn), a helicopter lands and a North African or Arab steps out–he had heard their names on the radio, and remembered stories his grandfather had told of the only men who had bested him–proving the story his uncle told was accurate.

So the film has many layers. It’s not only a coming-of-age story for the boy, but also a coming-of-a-certain-age story for the uncles who are getting middle aged and need to learn to enjoy that stage of life. So it’s got a message for young people, and a message for their parents. It’s PG, too. I watched it with my youngest, with my older boy popping in at the end to provide his sophisticated Twitch Stream Commentary. Which is unfortunate: He is at an age and mindset where he cannot take in experiences like films without feeling the need to offer his take on things, verbalizing twee things to debunk and denigrate the film as it plays. My youngest, my film buddy, has shown a little tendency towards this when his brother is around. Hopefully not too much.

Because this self-involved ironic stance is really taking a bit out of the shared cultural experience, a set of allusions and common metaphors that help bind a community.

Or maybe I’m just an old man kvetching, but I because I watched this film this week, I was able to catch the reference at At any rate, Wilder, Wealthy and Wise today:

How many firefighters will quit rather than get the jab? How many EMTs will simply walk away rather than submit to it? By my count, the number is not insignificant, and these are crucial jobs if you like keeping your house not burned up like and would like granny to get to the emergency room in some other fashion than you tossing her into the bed of the pickup after you move the Purina® Lion Chow™ out.

So much of this will go over my boys’ heads when they’re adults. Except nobody will make allusions like this in the future. The future will have all the depth of Idiocracy.

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A Questionable Study

Volcanic climate impacts can act as ultimate and proximate causes of Chinese dynastic collapse.

It’s not that the ruling regimes became corrupt and unable to manage or perform the necessary government duties. It was the volcanoes.

I just glanced at it, and I can’t help note that all the data stops at 1911. What, no earthquake in 1949? Weird that when the technology and recorded history gets better at recording actual volcanic eruptions, the charts stop.

I am skeptical about anything about China, especially speculative scientific work by Chinese scientists or historians.

(I saw the link somewhere else first, but it also appeared at Instapundit where Professor Reynolds uses it to advocate for space colonization.)

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They’re No Rocket City Trash Pandas

The Beloit Snappers minor-league baseball team finally unveils its new nickname:

A long-gestating rebrand is finally complete for the Beloit Snappers, who announced Monday that their new mascot would be the “Sky Carp.”

Before you ask, a sky carp is a slang term for a goose that doesn’t migrate for the winter.

So why did they change the name? (He asked innocently, but since the article does not say why, he assumes it is because Snapper is also slang for something.)

(As you might remember, gentle reader, the Rocket City Trash Pandas are my favorite minor league baseball team, and it looks like they actually finally got to play this year.)

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A Weekend’s Work

Last year, my beautiful wife ordered me a cord of wood for Christmas so we could burn wood fires. In the past, I’d had Duraflame logs or small bundles of wood I bought at the grocery, so it was even more pleasant to have a wood fire going every evening at Nogglestead. And it helped with the propane costs as the wood fires heated up the bricks and slowly released the heat overnight, limiting the amount our furnace ran.

Being this is 2021, man, and the last two years have kicked my hoarding and stocking up instinct several notches (to 11), this year I ordered 3 cords of wood before the winter from the local arborist (whose radio ads I’d heard decades ago in St. Louis–apparently, it’s at the least a regional chain). We might only burn a little over a cord and a half, but I’d rather have wood on the pile that I don’t use this year than need wood I don’t have in January if propane is not available. Yeah, I might be going a little crazy, but at best (or perhaps worst) my estate sale will look like a fully stocked grocery and home supply store.

The arborist sold the wood in “bags” of about a third of a cord each on pallets, and it took three trips to two different locations of the arborist to bring me three cords. The arborist had a dump trailer, which meant nine pallets of wood were dumped at the end of my driveway.

The wood came on Thursday, which gave me a chance to pick up some additional cinderblocks on Friday. And then, on Saturday….

Well, on Saturday, I warmed up with a martial arts class, had a bite to eat, and then the boys and I got to stacking.

We spent four hours on Saturday, almost until sunset, before I called a halt. Although I had thought we could condense nine “bags” of wood to seven pallets, apparently my stacking is not as tight as it could be. It took us longer than it should have because the oldest found lots of work that was not moving or stacking the wood, including hamming it up for his beautiful mother who took thirty-some minutes of his running monologue of what he was doing. Also, the boys liked to throw wood; in clearing the pallets, they threw some of the wood in the direction of the opposite of where we were stacking it. And instead of using a wheelbarrow to move it, they preferred to throw the logs into a pile three feet from where it lay and have me come to that pile, which was ten or twenty feet from the wood pile, to get the logs to stack. Well, we all got our exercise.

On Sunday, we picked up a couple more cinderblocks to make room for two more pallets to stack the wood on. Using the wheelbarrow, we finished the last half cord or so in about an hour.

It looks nice.

Strangely enough, although my fitness tracker says I walked ten miles between pile A and pile B, I only got a couple minutes’ worth of exercise.

As I said, although it’s not my primary heating source, I am happy to have the wood in case I need it.

My beautiful wife did not ask me how I knew how to stack wood; if she had, I would let her believe it’s because I am a man, and not because I read homesteading blogs.

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Book Report: The Hirschfeld Century by David Leopold (2015)

Book coverAs I mentioned, I own an original Hirschfeld. A Matt Hirschfeld, Al Hirschfeld’s considerably younger second cousin also from St. Louis. So when I saw this book at ABC Books, I had to have it. Well, I had to have it because I’d run out of monographs to browse during football, and I didn’t make it into the Better Books section of the Fall 2021 Friends of the Library book sale (where the Art section is). So I paid $15 for this book instead of two or three. Also, note that the art monograph section of ABC Books is getting pretty thin these days as the Martial Arts section is. Make of that what you will.

This is a 300+ page comprehensive review of Al Hirschfeld’s work including a biography and plenty of images. Hirschfeld had plenty of biography–he started drawing in the 1920s and lived into the 21st century, so he had a lot of ground to cover. He worked mostly with entertainment subjects, starting with plays but also moving into movies and then television, and he made a really good living at it. To make a short story long, that’s it. His style evolved a bit, as he sought to really condense shape and movement into the fewest lines possible, so while he was never really as busy as the old timey illustrations you find in classic literature or, say, the children’s works illustrations by Mercer Mayer, Arnold Lobel, or Maurice Sendak, by the end of his career, his works are very sparse indeed. To ill effect, I might add. And although I could recognize some of the notables he illustrated, the captions helped a lot–not only because the personages might have peaked decades before I was born–well, mostly because of that.

So an interesting perusal–a bit text heavy for pure gridiron browsing, I had to take this one to the chair to complete it. As I mentioned, it’s as much a biography as a monograph. But worth my time, and yours, too, if you’re into pop art from the 20th century.

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Not Like The Old Days

Next buyer of Prince Charles’ $6.7M former home must let him fish there:

Prince Charles’ glorious former home is up for sale for the first time since he sold it over 27 years ago — but there’s a catch.

Listed at nearly $6.7 million, the next buyer must be OK with his royal highness stopping by to fish.

The listing explains that since the home was built in 1906, it has been owned by the Duchy of Cornwall — an estate that funds “the public, charitable and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family,” according to its website.

“A quirk remaining from the previous ownership allows his royal highness to retain the right to fish on the property’s riverbank as long as 24-hour notice is given,” a representative for the real estate agency, Knight Frank, told Insider.

In the olden days, of course, the kings and princes could do that at any home they wanted. They were all the king’s fish, after all.

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Also On This Day

I know it’s the birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

But it’s also the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Of course, that reminds me that it is my father’s birthday. After my parents divorced and we moved to Missouri, I would hear this song on the radio (or once on my mother’s newly acquired Reader’s Digest Blowin’ in the Wind boxed set of LPs–which I still own of course), and I would remember to call my father (collect) to wish him a happy birthday. I probably tell you this story every November, gentle reader; thank you for indulging me.

He died at 47. I cannot imagine him or my sainted mother as elderly.

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Book Report: Rogue Warrior: Vengeance by Richard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice (2005)

Book coverMy review of Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation mentioned Marcinko (mainly, how “sir” is pronounced “cur”). So when I spotted an actual Marcinko on the shelves, I picked it up.

The other Rogue Warrior novels I’ve read were Marcinko and John Weisman, and I noticed a marked difference in the books. This one is a little thinner on the depth; fewer asides, perhaps less research, more akin to a basic modern thriller or fat men’s adventure book than the previous books. So I didn’t like it as much for that reason.

In it, Marcinko and his group are doing some Red Cell work for the Department of Homeland Security. In the first set piece, they infiltrate a moving train containing dangerous chemicals, and although they do not harm it, they find someone else has set charges to blow it up. Someone from his past, who seems to know Marcinko and his M.O. very well, taunts him as he works on other Red Cell messages. Is it a former colleague? A well-funded terrorist group? Why not both? A couple more set pieces later in various locales, at the finale we find that it’s a sister and brother from Vietnam who’ve been told that Marcinko was responsible for their American father’s death, and they’ve lived their lives for revenge–and they’ve caught on with an actual terrorist group whose attack they will use as cover for their titular vengeance.

So it’s a bit, erm, twee. Even the Marcinkoness of the book is tuned down a bit. I was disappointed. It looks like I’ve read most of the Weisman collaborations already, and that the balance of the Rogue Warrior books are this new guy. Which might be part of the reason that I don’t find them in the wild at book sales. Although the greater reason is probably that I don’t generally look over the fiction sections at the larger Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library sales.

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Forget the Night Light

I dunno why Facebook thought I was in the market for this:

But I’ve got all the navigational beacons I need for my darkened household.

I would, however, be interested in a book on D&D Furniture.

What, you don’t look at the books in advertisements? You probably don’t go right to the bookshelves when you first visit someone’s home to see what they have, either.

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What the Ruck Was I Thinking?

On Thursday, we picked up our packets for this weekend’s Ruck n Run, a 5.56k in support of local veteran’s organizations. It had two options: To run, or to ruck, which involved carrying a backpack with 45 pounds in it and stopping at five stations on the route to do 25 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks, 25 mountain climbers, 25 squats, and then 25 burpees.

When signing up for the event, I guess I was feeling frisky, because although I signed the youngest and my beautiful wife up for the run, I signed myself up to be a rucker.

Ruck roh.

I had to run to Walmart on Friday to buy a backpack, and the event organizer wanted to collect canned goods, so I bought 48 15oz cans of chili to fill the backpack. I did the math: 15 oz by 48 is 45 pounds, and it was heavy. I started to question my sanity and whether I could actually do it. But then I realized that 15 ounces measured the contents of the cans, but the steel was something else. So I weight the backpack and took out ten pounds of chili.

And I spent Friday worrying how I would do, and if I would even finish the event. The ruck was definitely an unknown, and my training regimen has been spotty for a couple months at least. Okay, since the summer some time. I have done a couple of events–a stair climb, a martial arts testing–that gave me trepidation because I did not train for any of them.

And in all the cases, I did okay.

I started walking instead of running on Saturday morning, and I was pleased to see some other ruckers walking.

I did have a glitch: At the second station, I dropped my backpack behind me and did 25 fast jumping jacks. I grabbed my gloves and the backpack behind me and started putting it on as I was going. I got a couple hundred yards down the road, and someone grabbed me by the backpack. “You’ve got my ruck,” some humorless fellow said, and indeed, he had put his backpack next to mine, and as I was not familiar with my new backpack, I grabbed his instead of mine. So I gave the humorless fellow his backpack and ran back to get mine. On all the other stations, I put the backpack in front of me.

The course was an out-and-back course; as I came to the crossroads where my oldest was posted (a volunteer in his JROTC uniform), I ran up to him and reached out for a low-five. When he returned it, I told him we were a tag team, and he was in–as I made like I was going to unbuckle my pack. I hit the fourth station, squats, and had no problems. So I started run/walking. The fifth station was burpees, which I did in four sets: 15, 5, 3, and 2. And I ran most of the rest of the way, passing some other ruckers. I was going to sprint the final leg, especially as a trio of ruckers I’d just passed picked it up near the finish line, I dipped my shoulder on one stride, which put 45 pounds of chili on that side of my back all of a sudden. So no sprint, and I let those kids go ahead.

Official time says 1:01, but my watch said 54 minutes.

Regardless, the answer to “But did you die?” is no. It wasn’t even as bad as I feared.

But I really do need to get back into the good habit of getting some workouts in.

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He Prefers The Trapster

Jim Treacher, a RINO who probably wanted Hillary to win, said:

Yesterday I joked about Marvel giving Paste-Pot Pete his own movie because they’re running out of decades-old comics characters to exploit. Well, the joke’s on me, because Marvel just announced a 2022 Halloween special for Disney Plus that will feature… Werewolf By Night. If the character’s name confuses you, he’s a werewolf. Who comes out by night. Which is redundant if you’re at all familiar with the werewolf legends, but whatever.

C’mon, man, he preferred to be called The Trapster.

But if when it comes to Z-level Marvel characters who I’d like to see, it would be The Fabulous Frog-Man or Speedball.

Of course, they would probably be on Disney+, which I won’t subscribe to, or released in theaters, and I’ve been over super hero movies for some time now. So it wouldn’t matter much to me. And given the things I’ve recently picked up in the dollar comic boxes at Nameless City, I might be over comics too.

Which leaves me more time for men’s adventure paperbacks, I guess.

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Book Report: Fugitive Blues by Debra Kang Dean (2014)

Book coverI probably could have added when I mentioned that I bought this book two weeks ago that I would probably read it soon; chapbooks are good browsers while watching football, and I did read this while watching some football.

This chapbook contains poetry with a little more perspective than something written by younger poets, so some themes about getting older instead of just trying to find someone or dealing with someone. The poetry styles range from a bit of concrete poetry–where the arrangement of the words on the page make designs or pictures–to longer-lined pieces. More modern than mid-century Formalism, unfortunately, but overall it was okay.

Which might be damning with faint praise, but I read a lot of bad poetry and a little good poetry, and this book lies in between.

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