Coronavirus Update: The Metaphor for Business

Received in the mail today: The Springfield Business Journal Today in Business newsletter:

A missing image marker. What an apt metaphor for these days of “If you like your business, you can keep your business if you can keep your business when people are prohibited from using it.”

Full disclosure: I actually have my email client set to block images, so I never see the images, metaphor-made-for-blog-content or not.

Coronaviraschooling, Day 1

Today, we had a unit on Sophocles and Aeschylus.

As I have mentioned before, in the days before cable and the Internet, you really had a limited selection of things to watch, and we watched Hercules and Hercules Unchained on Saturday and Sunday afternoons along with a whole host of peplum. Although I remember the Sinbad movies as well, but it looks like those were not products of the 1960s but the 1970s. And a whole bunch of Zorro.

I like recapturing those Saturday and Sunday afternoons when I find a film like this one at some yard sale or another and watching it, sometimes with my boys (who don’t mind the old films so much since I’ve inured them to it with viewings of old films like The Iron Mask and National Velvet).

And then I do a little research and learn tidbits of trivia (“research” means I read the Wikipedia entry for Steve Reeves) and learned Internet truths like he was the highest paid actor in the world in his day and that he was considered for the roles of Doctor No and The Man With No Name.

Neat stuff.

But, clearly, I am not watching the old films as fast as I thought I would at the beginning of last year. Perhaps the coronacation will allow me to catch up a bit.

A Big Part Of The Soundscape In Our Apartment in the Projects

Kenny Rogers has passed away.

I’ve seen him recently in the news as he played in Branson a couple years ago, and the review was a little harsh as he was older and couldn’t do what he’d done in better years.

The best of those years probably came in the early 1980s when he had great crossover success with songs like “Islands in the Stream”, “Lady”, and “Love Will Turn You Around” not to mention the country staples like “The Gambler”.

My favorite Kenny Rogers song was “Coward of the County”:

Mainly because I was a scrawny kid, and I hoped I would be able to lash out appropriately if needed. Apparently not, or perhaps I really never needed it.

Like “The Gambler”, this song was turned into a television movie that I probably saw back in the day. Before cable television and the Internet, gentle reader, you pretty much had to watch what was on, and we did.

I’m also a fan of the recent song “The Greatest”:

Although a little research indicates that this song is twenty-three years old. In my defense, I didn’t listen to country in the late 1990s, and I was exposed to the song as I started to mow the lawn at Nogglestead and could only pull in a “classic” country station. Which is also why I thought “Could Have Been Me” was also a recent Billy Ray Cyrus song.

At any rate, Kenny Rogers left his mark on the music, as he was part of the pop-ization wave of country in the late 1970s and early 1980s that spawned a reactionary, more country sound in the 1990s. And the cycle continues today.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” the business coach asked.

She didn’t ask me; I don’t have a business or life coach. She asked this of my beautiful wife the other day, and my wife asked me last night while we watched the sunset.

I remember Joe DuBois asked me that in 1998. We were standing at the old timey semicircle sink, washing up after a day of running printing presses, and I told him I did not know. I mean, back then, I was five years out from college, and I told him that I hadn’t expected to be working as a printing press operator five years from then.

It’s pretty clear I’ve never really been much of a planner. My wife, on the other hand, does, so this question is right in her wheelhouse. She likes to plan out the week to come on Sunday nights, including the nights we’re staying in (all of them these days) and what we will eat for each meal. She likes to get a little more granular than that, but when the week unfolds, something always comes up which derails the weekly plan. Someone has a homework emergency. Work runs long. Or something. These variations stress her out a lot at times, whereas I am able to better go with the flow.

If I skip ahead in five year segments from my conversation with Joe, I would find myself working at an Internet startup that I hoped would make me rich. Five years later, I had worked been an Executive and had just struck out on my own as a consultant, but mostly was taking care of my two children. Five years later, both my kids are in school, and I’ve taken a contract with another startup that I hoped would make me rich–my billed income was certainly high, and I thought the sky was the limit (until my accountant calculated the annual tax increase, which sobered things quickly). I’d also started training in martial arts after my boys did. Five years later, my consulting work had gotten stale, and I took a full time position that’s not as swashbuckling, to say the least, as being an independent contractor. Five years from then, which is only three years from now, I’ll have a high school graduate and high school sophomore and…. Who knows?

If we reel back in the years in five year increments, we can see what I was blogging about on this day in history.

March 20, 2015
Book Report: Holiday Memory by Dylan Thomas (1978)

March 20, 2010
No posts on this date, but a couple on March 21:
This Administration Cannot See Clearly
Charity Founded By Former Elected Officials Blows Entire Budget On Overhead, Parties
An Unfortunate Turn To Boilerplate Health Care Sob Story

March 20, 2005
No posts on March 20, 2005, either, which is odd as it was at the height of my blogging. However, on March 21, I posted:
Book Report: Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene (2000)
The Dogs That Didn’t Bark
Collateral Damage Audience
Post-Dispatch Gets It Right In Sidebar
But There Won’t Be Smoking Allowed

To be honest, that’s what the blog is really about: Giving me the ability to go back to a point in time and see what was going on in the world and in my life at the time. You, gentle reader, are just along for the slow-moving ride.

And where ever I am five years from now, I’ll know how I got there. But I’m not sure where that is, nor am I sure where I would want that to be.


So the spellchecker in the browser here does not recognize the spelling of coronavirus yet, which is a nice thing.

On Tuesday, we had a project manager for a local contractor out to re-bid replacing the gutters at Nogglestead. The current gutters, many years or decades old, can no longer handle the deluge that comes with severe spring thunderstorms. I had the same fellow out to bid last year, but we didn’t have it done for some reason–I got busy or something. At any rate, the price was the same, so I put down a deposit on it. Sometime in the next week or so, a team will be out to put my new gutters on amid the panic. After he took my check, the project manager held out his hand to shake mine, and I felt like a dandy germophobe in not clasping his.

I went to Sam’s Club yesterday to top things off in case some time in the near future I won’t be able to. The hours have been trimmed, and I got there about an hour after the store opened. I can’t give you an apples-to-apples comparison of the same time period on a normal weekday, but it wasn’t terribly crowded. Cleaning products were limited to two per SKU as were diapers and whatnot. The laundry detergent was mostly gone. The meat department and produce department were a little light, but I managed to get what I needed. I managed to hit the checkouts as everyone else did, but I remembered I wanted to pick up some sushi for lunch, so I went back, and when I got to the registers a second time, the lines were minimal.

We have been staying in more than normal, with only one trip out some days (Sam’s Club or the recycling center). Today, my beautiful wife is going to visit a 92-year-old woman who just joined her choir. When she first showed for choir, she forgot where she parked, and my wife drove her around the church parking lot looking for her car. So the new choir member made an afghan for my wife, and she wants my wife to pick it up today in spite of the current unpleasantness.

Five of the last six days have been overcast and rainy, with only yesterday warm and sunny. Spring always catches me by surprise. This year more than others. But a cool, rainy spring last year led to our best peach crop ever, and the trees are starting to blossom now. I hope we’re not going to get another freeze, but it is definitely possible.

So that’s the story. Life goes on, especially for the people who have to go to work somewhere that’s not in the service industry. It might even seem more normal for the people who still have to go out to work every day than it does for those of us in the professional trades who sit at home alone but for the Internet headlines and rumors for company.

Good luck out there in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Remember to eat your neighbors first while they’re still plump, before they start getting thin from starvation, and only then dip into your stockpiled beans.

A Four-Legged Book Snob

Isis, the current black cat, prefers hardbacked, 1000-page classical literature to cheap paperbacks like Deep and Swift:

Of course, she judges a book based on the amount of resistance it provides when she scratches her cheek on it, and she prefers the thicker books and hardbacks for her self-gratification.

She can’t actually read the books, gentle reader.

She’s a great cat, but not that great.

The Cost Savings Are Lost By Me

Now that I’m dispensing financial advice to your detriment, gentle reader, I want to let you know in on a little secret I learned back in the old days, before the macarenavirus, when my son and I could freely travel to the YMCA for a triathlon class in advance of a triathlon sure to be canceled now.

After class, we went to the vending machines to get a Gatorade. The price listed on the machine said $1.50, and it had a credit card reader, so I used the credit card to buy a couple of drinks.

When I checked the credit card statement, I had a pair of charges for $1.60. When I checked the machines again, I saw the fine print: The price reflects a ten cent discount for using cash.

Well! I never! Well, no, I rather too often!

So I have decided that I’m going to save that ten cents each drink and pay with cash from now on.

One thing to note about me is that I don’t tend to carry coins out of my house. We have a little mite box for the Lutheran Women Missionary League, a little receptacle for change that you can bring, once a month, to church and dump into a larger box. So whatever change I accumulate in my pockets goes in there when I unpack for the evening.

Now I do try to generally be frugal with my pocket money as I will, if given the opportunity, stuff it into some collection plate or another. So I get a twenty out of the ATM once or twice a week, and then I promptly stop by the doughnut store. As a matter of fact, I tend to get that twenty just to buy doughnuts. My order comes to $4.76, and the proprietor gives me a quarter and three fives in change. If I have a dollar, I’ll tuck it in the tip cup. If not, sometimes I tuck in a five (a tip jar is a sort of personal collection plate, ainna?).

So when I get to the YMCA, I have a wallet full of five dollar bills. Two of the machines dispensing Gatorades do not take five dollar bills (apparently, the only “cash” allowed is coins or one dollar bills). One of them does, though, and we get a Gatorade and change paid out in three Sacajawea dollars and two quarters. Two quarters and a Sacajawea buy the other, and I have two dollars left.

Two dollars in coins.

You already know what happens next: I get home and put the change into the Mite Box.

So I’ve essentially spent two dollars to save twenty cents.

Fiscal responsibility really isn’t my strong suit. I have an English and Philosophy degree, friends. Not accounting. I would have said “economics,” but we know that’s not a study of money so much as manipulating people into doing what the economists want.

Book Report: Deep and Swift The Executioner #148 (1991)

Book coverThis is the next Executioner novel after Payback Game. The series has started to move between international thrillers and the more basic Bolan-against-the-mobs plots, with this one featuring Bolan in New York City fighting both sides of a drug turf war between Vietnamese gangs which include re-settled warriors from the Vietnam War whom Bolan knows and Columbians.

So, shoot-em-up set pieces which are not laughable. Some helpful sympathetic characters die. Some live. There’s a bit of innovation on how he penetrates the enemy stronghold at the end. So not a bad outing in the series, but not one of the more inventive ones.

Still, now that I am almost done with the Little House books, I’m starting to wonder how long it would take me to go through the remainder of the Executioner novels I own. Probably, with effort, years. So I will probably plug along at a little slower than that and maybe make it in a decade or so.

Another thing that struck me whilst reading this book is how little the titles have to do with the plot. It used to be that they had a place name in them that made for an indicator, at the very least, of where Bolan was going so that maybe, if you paid attention or were a Bolan scholar, you would know which plot goes with which book. But less so now.

But An Attractive Woman In Yoga Pants Is How I Got The Back Pain

An ad that appears often on sites that know how to thwart (or pay off) my ad blocker:

I haven’t watched the video to see whether it is a yoga thing or not, but I am pretty sure that I’ll not look as eye-catching and clickable as the ladies in the ads if I do any kind of stretch you would find on the Internet.

Time will tell, though, as I got my beautiful wife who favors yoga pants gift certificates to the local yoga shop for her birthday, and someday when the air is clear again, we shall use them.

In the interim, though, I’ll be doing her bidding in the garden and getting the back pain that I’ll need to cure.

The Dying Time, Redux

I predicted even before the macarenavirus troubles began that a dying time was coming. As you know, gentle reader, my aunt and godmother died on Thanksgiving. Her illness and the age of the previous generation led me to my unhappy musings.

Yesterday, the best man at my wedding died of a drug overdose.

I had met Mike in high school where he was a year behind me. We had a Spanish class for a year and got to be acquaintances. When I went away to the university, Mike was one of the people to whom I wrote (letters, not emails, as I am far older than most people who use We shared an interest in poetry and exchanged poems (printed on computer paper as we did have computers back then, you damn kids, but not the Internet, really). When I came back on break my senior year, we did coffee house open mic nights and poetry slams together, and we did that throughout the middle 1990s along with some roleplaying games and trips to GenCon.

We started parting ways toward the end of the 1990s. I got a girlfriend, and he got married, and although the house I rented with my new bride was only a couple blocks from his, we didn’t see each other as much because we were married men or something. He wasn’t even my first choice for best man; I think I slotted him for second runner up or usher, but when my first choice for best man decided he could not, in good conscience, stand at my wedding (and another groom’s man stopped talking to me), I gave him a battlefield promotion to best man. And he did it well.

We didn’t drift apart after that; sometime after I moved out to Casinoport, he stopped returning my phone calls. The last time I reached out to him was November 2000, when I left a message in Spanish on his machine (voice mail was on tape recorders or locally hosted computer chips back then, gentle reader) to invite him to go see Bedazzled. He never called back.

Although I would have called him my best friend back then, in retrospect I’m not sure how good of a friend he really was. He was, erm, good with the ladies. He was handsome, smart, athletic, and appeared to have self-confidence in bunches. So, yeah, he was with a lot of ladies, including a number of women in whom I was interested and told him so. He used drugs and kept that hidden from me because he knew I would disapprove. He definitely showed me what he thought I would approve of, so I’m not sure who he was.

He called me up in early 2008. A mutual friend, the other of my groom’s men who bailed on me over a philosophical argument of some sort, had reached out to him after a decade, which prompted him to call me to apologize for the break in our friendship. He told me that, back in the day, I was such an ass that he would have to tell other people before meeting me that I was an ass and that he got tired of having to warn people about me. He told me a bit of what he was up to, but he never asked me anything about how I was or what I was doing. I was an executive downtown, and we had a baby, and I lived in Old Trees, not far from one of his obsessive flames and one of my crushes (two different people) that he slept with lived. I was bursting to tell him if he asked or if he even seemed interested, but the call was about him, not me.

So the fellow who was to be my groom’s man but stormed off after the philosophical argument reached out to me yesterday to let me know that Mike had passed. I understand he had substance abuse and mental health issues that followed him into middle age. That he pushed away most of his remaining friends. I was just talking about him with my wife not long ago, but I hadn’t felt compelled to reach out to him.

The service is on Thursday night, but it’s in St. Louis, so I won’t make it. It’s funny, for someone I haven’t talked to in a long time how this has affected me. Perhaps because I thought we were such good friends once, but I was later not sure (so, Brian J., why don’t you trust anyone, including your own judgment in people?). Maybe because he was a peer and one of the first of my youth cohort to die that I’m aware of. I don’t know.

Sadly, so many of these death posts are about how I feel about it and not a roaring tribute to the deceased. But I am an egotist and a recovering ass, so it’s par for the course.

(Link for seen today on Friar’s Fires and Neatorama.)

From The All Journalists Are 23-Year-Olds Files

The story Someone Modified A Drone So That It Looks like Snoopy Flying Around On Top Of His Doghouse begins:

One of the most memorable scenes from The Peanuts Movie (2015) was where Snoopy imagines himself riding his flying doghouse in his quest to take down the Red Baron. Now you can have the chance to see this iconic scene in real life with this flying Snoopy doghouse. It features the figure of Snoopy sitting on top of his red doghouse. But the most amazing thing is, it actually flies.

The source, you see, is a five-year-old movie for kids. Not the comic strip that began in 1950. That’s when the Boomers were babies, man. Ancient history with Romans and stuff.

Nobody tell this kid about the 1966 Royal Kingsmen song.

I own the original single as my mother was of single-buying age in 1966.

(Link via Instapundit which only seems to be the only site on the Internet that I read.)


For some reason, Wally has been on my mind recently. I flagged a poem in Robert Hayden’s Collected Poems with the name.

Wally lived in the projects at the other end of the block from us, but he would shamble down 40th Street a couple times a day, probably on the way to the grocery, drug store, or liquor store on Florist. He was ancient to those of us under ten years old. He had white hair and no teeth, and he moved slowly. I was never sure if he was infirm or intoxicated, but he would always happily comply when a group of children would surround him and request his rendition of “Tiny Bubbles”.

I was talking to my brother a couple weeks ago, and he mentioned that Wally served in World War I. Doing the math, I guess that would work out–he was about eighty. My grandfather served in World War II and was only a little older than I am now in 1970-something.

What stories Wally (and my grandfather) could have shared with me. Probably not about the wars, as men of those conflicts didn’t talk much about it, but just the things they had seen in the early part of the 20th century.

It’s probably why I like self-published personal memoirs like The Apple Man and Growing Up In The Bend. I get to hear those stories of ordinary men in their own words, without having to actually talk to them (or risk them with various infections).

Another good reminder to live in the present with those around you instead of tinkling on a blog or banging your head against a promise chain for hours a day.

Book Report: Gauguin by René Huyghe (?)

Book coverThis book has not disuaded me from my thesis that art (not just visual art, but literature and music also) became generally broken sometime right before the turn of the twentieth century when the focus changed from the work of art representing something in real life to the work of art reflecting itself. That is, a painting wasn’t necessarily for you to look at the something in the painting, but rather for you to look at the painting.

Gauguin still stands on the representational end of he spectrum. You can tell his crude executions depict something, often nude native women, which means that he’s basically the artistic version of old National Geographic magazines. That is, an educated excuse to see boobs.

The book itself is laden with text with some boobs and some non-boob art interspersed. The text is heavily art-critic and translated from the original French, so it’s pretty florid and emphasizes how awesome and important Gauguin is, relating his work to other less consequential figures and the Impressionists. I am not cultivated enough to really grok it, though, since it’s the sort of in-language that detects hints of smoke and blackberries in the wine.

So, yeah, not a fan.

Something interesting about this book: the first couple of pages–the frontspiece and the title page have come out, and the title page has a picture pasted onto it. Which makes me believe that they were added after the rest of the book was bound. You know, one of the early work-at-home businesses was to paste these pictures into the box on the page and then ship them back off to the publisher to insert into the books. Work at home in your spare time while watching television ads in the backs of magazines. This girl I dated in the middle 1990s did that, pasted craft pictures onto the title page of some crafting book. It wasn’t that good of money, and you had to pay close attention to get the right amount of glue on the picture and to make sure it was square. Or the boss would reject the pages and maybe dock you for them. So the girl I dated didn’t do it for long.

How Brian J. Became The World’s Biggest Collector of Tommy Reynolds Records

So I have quietly begun to accumulate Tommy Reynolds and his Orchestra (Your Band Of Tomorrow) records. And by that, I mean I have snapped up the inexpensive copies that I have found on eBay. I’ve got nine so far, including some that are not on his Discogs page.

That’s right, I have been watching for items on eBay, which is unlike me. Mainly, I like to get my records for a buck each at the book sales. But I am hunting down Tommy Reynolds stuff on eBay.

I even have a 16mm film reel of his song “Smiles”:

I mean, the video guy has it to make my own DVD copy of it. You see, in the middle 1940s, the Mills Novelty Company made Panoram machines that played short reels of film, generally musical numbers, and you could put your nickel in the Nickelodeon sorry, that’s a different thing entirely. You could put your money in and see a film performance of a song. Music videos before MTV, children. So I’ve got my own copy of a film I can’t watch natively, and I’m hoping to stumble across other Tommy Reynolds titles.

Why, Brian J., are you so into an obscure big band?

Because my Cousin Tat sang with that band.

You might remember Cousin Tat as the doctor who did not know who Fred Thompson was. To be honest, at that time, that’s about all I knew about him, too: that he was a doctor, and that he could pray in Hebrew.

He passed away in late 2008, and it was only at his memorial service that I learned the measure of his legend.

He sang with the Tommy Reynolds Orchestra. He was an Anglican Bishop. He was the head of one of the Cherokee nations and visited 10 Downing Street. He was a medical doctor and professor who married an attractive, much younger student (my mother’s cousin, so Tat was really my cousin once removed by marriage). He owned a series of clinics abroad that specialized in nutrition and longevity treatments not approved by the FDA here in the states. And he was a nice man, a humble man.

Although the research I’ve seen on the Internet does not show any known recordings where he is credited with vocals, I’m grabbing up everything I can from the Tommy Reynolds Orchestra just in case I can find something with my cousin on it.

Side note: One of the best things about coming from a large (that is, normal sized for the early 20th century) family is that I’ve pretty much got a cousin who has done it all. I’ve got a cousin that sang with a Big Band in the 1940s. I’ve got a cousin who sang with a heavy metal band in the 21st century.

On The World of George Orwell by Michael Sheldon (2010)

Book coverThis audio course is entitled The World of George Orwell, and that describes the content of the course. It’s partly a biography, partly a history of the early part of the 20th century in which Orwell lived, and partly a discussion of his works. It’s a seven disc, 14 lecture set that culminates in discussion of Animal Farm and 1984.

It’s a Modern Scholar course, so it’s 2 lectures longer than a similar Teaching Company/Great Courses lecture series, and it’s slightly lower quality. The professor presenting has a more sonorous voice, a little less dynamic, and he repeats himself a lot–sometimes the same sentence, he says in a slightly different way twice in a row. Still, he’s a homer–he loves his subject and has enthusiasm for Orwell which serves to mitigate the delivery.

So, biographically, a sickly young man with an education above what his upbringing might have borne decides instead of the military to join the imperial police, and he gets stationed in Burma. After a couple years, he returns home after an illness and to the disappointment of his family. He decides to be a writer and starts to write. He serves and is grievously wounded in the Spanish Civil War. And he returns to the United Kingdom and writes a number of books that don’t really go anywhere. He struggles with his publisher, gets married and loses his wife, endures World War II, and then hits big with Animal Farm and 1984. And then he dies.

Somehow the lectures diminished Orwell, or at least my concept of him. He seems a shabby little socialist who punched above his weight with a couple of good essays and a couple of books that captured the anti-communist zeitgeist of the middle part of the twentieth century.