Book Report: Modern Electronics by Wayne J. LeBlanc and Alden R. Carter (1986)

Book coverPerhaps the theme of this year’s reading will be “Clearing out thin books from the shelves and side tables.” This particular volume is an old “juvenile” book about electronics as you can see from the cover. I say “juvenile” in quotes because books don’t really get classed as “juvenile” any more, do they? It’s “young adult” now. I suspect it’s more to avoid the criminal association that developed from “juvenile” or to make juveniles feel better about themselves (young adults, so let us vote!) than because people using the word in conversation were getting juvenile confused with Juvenal.

But enough about me. About this book.

It’s a bit of an anachronism by now, surely, with its references to Radio Shack or your local electronics store (or to juveniles who might be interested in engineering) and a bit of optimistic wonder about what the future could bring since about forty years of integrated circuits brought us small radios, personal computers, and more (the answer, almost forty years on, is Web sites that exacerbate tensions between political factions and devices that listen in on you to help you with simple things and to better determine your psychology for tech companies’ benefit).

It might also tip a little bit to why the study of electronics might have fallen off a cliff. The basic progression of the book is:

  1. Basic chemistry: Electrons and atoms.
  2. Power source/circuits.
  3. AC/DC.
  4. Basic electronic parts: resistors, capacitors, diodes. Complete with diagrams and experiments.
  5. Chips and circuit boards with no real diagrams.
  6. Magic.

It doesn’t talk much about chip architecture or how electronic devices (even in those days) have a lot of chips that you can’t really do anything with. Well, I guess you can with chip programming things, but tinkering has gotten so much more complicated these days.

Still, I got something out of the book. A reminder about different electronic components, including an explanation of diodes and capacitors that made sense to me. So there’s something to be said about reading children’s books in fields you’re not studied in.

I have many fields in which I wish I had time to dedicate more study (one of the other being music), but, getting and spending, I’ve laid waste my powers. Books like this make me wonder why I didn’t spend more of my youth studying these pursuits since they really are rather simple at the foundational level. I suppose it’s half because my recognition of how much I had to learn in these fields overwhelmed me and made them seem more inscrutible than they are and half because I’m lazy and like to read books.

Book Report: Monuments: Masterpieces of Architecture by Laura Brooks (1997)

Book coverThis book is a little different from some of the coffee table tourism books I’ve read before that focus on a state or city. Instead this book focuses on monuments around the world, from the pyramids in Egypt to the memorials in Washington D.C. The images within it are big and color, generally just one of the mentioned monuments. The text, though, is kinda of bland and vanilla, kinda just talking very generally about monuments and not offering a whole lot of insight into the individual monuments or their construction.

I flagged some items, though.

The Monument to the Third International is another ambitious symbol of national idealism, but, unlike the Statue of Liberty, it was, unfortunately, never realized. The Soviet architect Vladmir Evgrafovic Tatlin (1885-1953) planned the monument in between 1919 and 1920 to house th legislative offices of th new revolutionary government in Leningrad. Tatlin conceived of a gigantic spiral of wood, iron, and glass that would reach the almost inconceivable height of 1,300 feet (396 meters). It was to span the Neva River, and encompass three glass-walled buildings that would revolve at different speeds–one would take a day to complete a turn, one a month, and one a year–while ligh beams projected skyward from the roof. The Monument to the Third International presented a vision of the technological utopia and reshaping of society that Communism promised. Its unprecendented form suggested a break from history and a ne architectural and social order. Had it been achieved, it would have combined the elements of time, movement, energy, and scale in a way never before realized in one monument.

For some reason, the book spends as much time on this incomplete but promised to be glorious Soviet Statue of Totalitarianism as the Statue of Liberty. And since this is a 1997 book, the Statue of Liberty, shot from the harbor, has the World Trade Center towers in the background.

In addition to memorials to soldiers, memorials to war victims are found throughout the world.

The book lists two such memorials: Peace Park in Hiroshima and the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. So saying “throughout the world” is quite a bit of a stretch here. I don’t expect you’d find many such monuments in Saudi Arabia or Iran, but I could be mistaken.

We think of monuments as enduring, everlasting, and permanent–as indeed they are meant to be. But many of the world’s greatest monuments are in peril. During the last fifty years, pollution has devastated the world’s monuments.

You know what has devastated monuments since the book was published? Groups destroying the monuments of the disfavored, whether it’s the Taliban destroying ancient Buddhist statues or American leftists pulling down statues of historical figures who were not 21st century Woke.

So it was a relatively quick browse, a couple nights/hours. I have a large number of coffee table or set picture books like this. Perhaps I’ll focus on them a little more this year to clear some of them out and to bolster my annual numbers.

Book Report: Mount Vernon: An Illustrated Handbook by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union (1974)

Book coverThis book is one of those books sold at a historic site to tell you about said historic site, but it’s pretty detailed–flat spine and 114 pages which includes numerous photographs and drawings, of course, but enough text that make this more than a football game browser.

It’s also more like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello than Death Valley Scotty or House on the Rock in that it details a place of historical significance, not just a tourist attraction or curiousity turned into a tourist attraction.

The book also includes the story of how Mount Vernon came to be preserved–in the middle of the eighteenth century, the last owner from Washington’s line wanted to give it to the Federal government or the state of Virginia, but neither took the offer (remember limited government? Ah, what an old notion!). So a group of women formed a society, raised money, and took it on (remember voluntary association for the common good? Ah, what an old notion!).

How’s that working out? All right.

We are proud that Mount Vernon does not accept government funding. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and rely solely upon patriotic individuals, foundations, and corporations to help preserve George Washington’s home and to educate visitors from all over the world.

What an anachronism.

At any rate, the book reminds me how little I really know about the revolutionary war and the late eighteenth century in general. However, the book goes through the building room by room with color photographs, and I realize that the whole thing reminds me of a stage set: You see all the props, but the action and narrative are often missing. I kind of get that, too, when I visit places like the Ray House at the Wilsons Creek National Battlefield or the Hawken House, the center of the Webster Groves Historical Society (of which I am still a member, ten years on). Showing me the things only fills in the gaps when I already know the story. I guess interactive programs and re-enactments have their merit.

So the book not only makes me want to visit Mount Vernon, but I also want to read a biography of George Washington. I think I have one around here somewhere. Only time will tell if my urge to read such a volume intersects with my finding such a book on my bookshelves before my urge to read it ebbs.

So I’m getting pretty close to having completed the books that languished on my sofa side table for years, although I have found on my to-read bookshelves books that I know where also on the side table for several football seasons, so I must have cleared it off without reading the books a year or so ago. Ah, well, perhaps I exaggerate for effect when I said how long these particular books had been there, but blowing through them is making for a healthy annual book count as I continue to trudge through The Count of Monte Cristo and the complete works of Keats and (P.B.) Shelley, not to mention the complete works of Shakespeare that I started last year and set aside a couple plays later.

Book Report: Pop Art by Michael Compton (1970)

Book coverThis book is part of the Movements of Modern Art series, so I expect they’re designed to be textbooks. It was not a good book for browsing during football games, as the text to image ratio is quite high. Chapters cover the origins of pop art, subject matter, formal qualities of pop, English pop artists, American pop artists, European artists, and post-pop art, complete with miniature biographies of major artists along with samples of their work. The book also includes little excerpts from magazines and books about pop art from the time when it was new. Which is not all that long before this book appeared.

So what is pop?

Rubbish is what it is.

The book explains that it’s a response to abstract expressionism, which is Jackson Pollack and all that other, earlier rubbish. The pop artists wanted to paint real things, and they often did, except that, instead of painting things as things, they made paintings as things themselves, whereupon the thing depicted was not the point. I would say, “And suddenly, we’re way off into never-neverland” or some such dismissal, but it wasn’t sudden. Blast, what my beloved Impressionists did to art by removing the straight lines.

Were I bothered, I would try to build pop art into a further example of how artists/”elites” in the 20th century fought for the common man by doing their damnedest to ensure that their books/poems/paintings did not speak to people, but instead spoke self-consciously to themselves and fawning critics looking for the newest fad to become an academic expert in. Which means they’re all chasing fads and making fads instead of making something pleasant to look at that tells a story or scene or causes a viewer to actually have an emotional response other than smug reassurance that he’s better than the hoi polloi.

I did flag one bit from one of those reviews I mentioned. It’s from Art News in 1964 by James Rosenquist:

I’m amazed and excited and fascinated about the way things are thrust at us, the way this invisible screen that’s a couple of feet in front of our mind and senses is attacked by radio and television and visual communications, through things larger than life, the impact of things thrown at us, at such a speed and with such a force that painting and the attitudes toward painting and communication throught dowing a painting now seems very old fashioned….

Just wait about fifty years and see where we are. It’s no surprise, then, that a number of the “artists” in the book flirted with other media, including films and “novels” and, earlier, environments and “Happenings.” Because they were chasing acclaim and fads.

The other thing I flagged was a precursor to tentacle porn called Il Visitatore del Mattino by Dino Buzzati. Which is supposed to be art. I couldn’t find it on the Internet with my first search, but apparently that’s because the artist’s name was misspelled in the book or on the Internet. The image is on Pinterest here along with other items in the vein. It might not be safe for work, especially if you work somewhere where you’d have to try to explain the importance of Buzzati/Buzzatti in later European pop art (and fail).

You know, I prefer painted treasures like these; anything I would like from the 20th or 21st centuries is probably kitsch by Real Artists circa 2019, but the more I see in books like this and in art museums run by Serious Art Apprecianatos, the more I’m fine with that. I’ve got three H. Hargroves on my walls and prefer Bob Ross or Thomas Kinkade to Warhol, Lichtenstein, or the other parade of forgotten pop artists in this book.

So, let me tell you how I really feel.

Book Report: A Million Hours of Memories by Dick Grosenbaugh (1979)

Book coverThis book reminds me a lot of Webster Groves by Clarissa Start, and well it should. Both are local histories compiled in the 1970s as part of the localities’ celebration of anniversaries. However, this book is a little less meaty than that one.

It has a couple of paragraphs around different topics such as sports teams, the car, airports, radio, television, and so on amid numerous black and white photographs. In addition, the book is chock full of sponsored pages, advertorials or paid content where a business had its copywriters or corporate historian chuck out a brief history of the business. You know, that was a thing in the middle part of the last century: The corporate historian, someone with an English degree or something that worked on keeping writing about the history of the company. This was proffered as a career option even when I was a kid for writers, but that’s all gone now, ainna?

At any rate, I was not a resident of the area at the time, so many of the brands and buildings they talk about within this book are gone now, although I did fly on Ozark Airlines and Trans World Airlines when I was a kid, before the bigger ate the littler and then got eaten by a bigger. But most of the local things mentioned in the book are gone, too, especially amongst the sponsored pages, so that probably explains why the Webster Groves book seemed more immediate to me when I read it–because it balanced historical places more than this volume, which focuses on abstract topic centers and businesses that have faded away.

At any rate, worth a buck, maybe, for the pictures. But don’t plan to browse it during football games and then wander away from the game.

Book Report: War Born The Executioner #123 (1989)

Book coverYou know, this is actually a pretty good book. And not just a good book for a Bolan book.

In it, Bolan is tasked with helping protect a munitions manufacturer, but he discovers that the munitions manufacturer has something to hide: He is willing to exchange SDI technology secrets for an American mercenary group to spirit his unknown grandson of a Vietnamese woman and his KIA pilot son out of Vietnam. The munitions manufacturer has also tasked his younger son, now a mercenary himself, with handling the extraction from Vietnam. But the in-country mercenary has made some powerful enemies who learn of the stakes of the swap and move to intercept.

So we’ve got Bolan a bit in the dark about what’s going on, we’ve got a small mercenary group led by the uncle who don’t know the score, and we’ve got the Vietnamese criminals and corrupt military officials all heading for a reckoning.

The jump scenes between the different groups and the individual interplay between the players work better than in typical Bolan novels, and it all moves the story along pretty well. A couple of things disappoint–a bit of clumsiness in the action sequences, and the whole “we have to airdrop into Vietnam and hump through the jungle to Ho Chi Minh City” instead of catching a plane with a fake British passport–but overall, it’s a pretty good little book. Well, less little than they used to be–they’re up to 250 pages by the 20th anniversary.

It’s books like this that keep me optimistic that my march through the dozens of books in this and related lines I have on top my to-read shelves won’t all make me cringe. I’d hope that most of them would be this good, but I am a realist who has a long track record already with these books. They’re not the same without Don Pendleton writing them, and many, many of them are not very good.

Going Backwards with Brian J.

I mentioned that I had a stack of books on the side table of my sofa that I browse during football games and that some of the books, especially the ones with high text-to-pictures ratios tends to fall to the bottom of the stack and remain on the side table for years. Furthermore, I mentioned that I made it a mission this year to go through the stack and read those books to clear them away.

Well, I moved them to another book accumulation point, the side table beside the reading chair.

But yesterday, in light of the Super Bowl, I went through the stacks and selected a couple of books from my to-read shelves (not from the books that had hibernated on the sofa side table for years, as those books were clearly not fit for browsing during a football game):

Some of these had, in fact, resided on the sofa side table in years past. But I did not expect to be that involved in watching the Super Bowl itself, so I thought I could read more text-heavy tomes during the game.

And then I didn’t actually watch much of the Super Bowl.

Gentle reader, that is how these things get started. There’s no telling now how long the books will remain on the sofa side table, unread. But, with history as a guide, it could be years.

Well, no. I have already cleared them to the reading side table where I shall browse them relatively quickly. Or perhaps leave them for years. Those very years will tell.

Book Report: The Martial Artist’s Way by Sifu Glen Doyle (1999)

Book coverIt’s been almost a day since a small business owner came around the counter and put me in a martial arts hold, but we’ll come to that by an by.

I bought this book in December at the same time I bought Taekwondo Kyorugi. I don’t consider myself a martial artist, but here I am reading about martial arts whilst training in martial arts.

This book is a very high level overview of martial arts and training in them; although the author is a teacher of kung fu, he does not focus on that style. Instead, he talks at a high level about thinking about studying martial arts, choosing a style that’s right for you, choosing a school, getting your mind right, training, fighting on the street, competition sparring, and other things. But all of it is at a very high level.

Although the book said it should include things that appeal and apply to someone who is already taking martial arts, nothing in it inspired me or provided me with any new insight. I agreed with some things, but probably disagreed with more than I agreed with (because my school is a blended style and recommends practicing at home, both of which are tut-tutted in this book). Much of the content is abstract to the level of pablum. I actually got more ideas from Taekwondo Kyorugi.

And I could not for the life of me figure out what the man was doing to that nice young figure skater on the cover:

From the clenched fist, I thought it was some sort of punch defense and counter, although the open hand of the riposte with the thumb toward the ear. Which doesn’t make much sense. So I asked my kyoshi.

“It’s a kung fu arm bar,” he said, and he came out from behind the front desk of the martial arts school to put me into it. It’s not a punch defense at all, but rather a counter when someone grabs you and you want to immobilize them. The sifu is actually pressing the attackers elbow with his body and has his forearm against Elvis Stojko’s neck and is pressing back and up. Which makes a little more sense than a block and a counter strike. I don’t know if it makes for a compelling martial arts cover, but I guess the other photos were not as good.

At any rate, I finished the book. It might be helpful if you’re thinking about trying martial arts and don’t have kids in a program somewhere that also sucks in the parents like our school does. But the book reads more like a vanity project designed to elevate the author’s brand as a martial arts/fitness consultant to celebrities and sports figures in Canada around the turn of the century.

Book Report: Brady’s Civil War by Webb Garrison (2000)

Book coverWhat better book to review on Super Bowl week than a book about Brady? Except I flipped through most of this last week, only finishing it this week, and the Brady in question is Matthew Brady, the mid-ninteenth century photographer, and not the football player. Other than that, it’s almost the same thing.

The book sat on my side table for flipping through during football games, but the paragraph-length text was a little too detailed for distracted browsing, and the coffee table book size made it unwieldy for the sofa. But now that I’m clearing the books from that table, I spent some dedicated time with it.

Historians spend a lot of time poring over these photos in detail, but I looked at them a little less studiously. Mostly marveling at the photographs that are 150+ years old.

I did spend a lot of time with the captions, though, more than the glances at the images themselves. As I always do when I review picture books from the Civil War, I realize how little I really know about the details of it. I could do better, as I inherited a decent collection from my beautiful wife’s uncle, and I did just buy a reading copy of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs. Perhaps I need to want to brush up enough to stack the books on a table and then, in a year or so, make it a project to read them all to get them off the table.

At any rate, back to this book: A good collection, and amazing, of course, that these are pictures. Of the Civil War.

Book Report: Walk High by Bobbie J. Lawson (?)

Book coverThis book is a chapbook of poetry written by an elderly woman in the twentieth century. The book itself is not dated, but one of the poems says now in ’91, and there’s a prose story that praises one of Lawson’s relatives that is dated 1998. I cannot find any information about the author or this book on the Internet, so you’ll have to trust me that it exists at all.

It’s a little like Leah Lathrom’s The Best of Wheat and a Little Chaff.

The poems are simple, faith-based lyrics with good rhythm and end rhymes. Many, if not most, of the poems end with a Bible verse that inspired the meditation. Pretty simple things, not great literature, but a pleasure to read. A couple focus on the gospel teaching of not worrying about tomorrow and being thankful for what you have today, which you know, gentle reader, is a theme I constantly try to embrace and embody, so I really enjoyed those poems the most. Also, note I enjoyed it more than the aforementioned Lathrom book.

I love buying the packets of chapbooks at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library for books like this.

Well, He’s Already Played Jesse Stone

So Tom Selleck is doing reverse mortgage ads, which stuns me because apparently I’m too close to the demographic targeted for reverse mortgage ads when I haven’t even finished paying my forward mortgage yet. But as I watched the ad while riding on a stationary bike to prepare for an upcoming triathlon as I try to futile stave off and lie to myself about being close to the demographic targeted for reverse mortgage ads, I thought, Wow, Selleck is looking a lot like Robert B. Parker these days.

If they make a movie of Parker’s life, I think they know who to call.

Book Report: The Official Guidebook of Dells Boat Tours

Book coverIt’s kind of funny: I read tourist guidebooks for places I have not visited (such as Chichen Itza), and I don’t have trouble counting them in my annual reading list. But when I read a book about a place I have been, especially when it’s the same sort of touristy guidebook but for a place that I’ve been or a tour I’ve taken, suddenly I feel guilty for counting it in my annual total. You would think, gentle reader, with all the trickery I use to pad my annual books read total, I would become inured to the pangs. Oh, but no.

Regardless, I counted this, and you get to read a bit about what I think on it.

I bought this book on our 2017 trip to Wisconsin. The book covers a boat tour of the upper Wisconsin Dells; that is, the side of the river north of the dam downtown (in 2015, I suffered the same pangs when I reviewed a guidebook for a Duck Boat tour of the lower Dells in Old Trails and Duck Tales).

As such, it recounts some of the history of the area along with some of the questionable stories told in the boat crew’s patter. It includes bits about moving lumber down the river (the last such trip was in 1890; in context, this was four years after the last Impressionist art exhibition in Paris which featured Mary Cassatt–these two events would seem to be from far different times, but they were contemporaneous), and Witch’s Glen, a narrow gorge where tourists land and walk through a very cool and very narrow canyon to a gift shop run by the boat tour company.

With many of these stories, one has to wonder how much of the history and stories are retconned to fit the places where the boat goes and how much is true. Probably most of it, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Although I learned quite a bit about Ho Chunk history on the tour which this book refreshed. Okay, the “quite a bit” is just my saying, “That should be Ho Chunk now” when passing a Winnebago RV on the road. But still.

I’m pleased to have read this book(let) as it refreshed some memories from that trip and the stories I heard on the tour. Which makes it more resonant than some of the guidebooks/tour books I read.

Book Report: Mary Cassatt: Oils and Pastels by E. John Bullard (1976)

Book coverThis is the second of the two books I bought about Cassatt last fall (the other was entitled simply Mary Cassatt.

Of course, the book has the standard art book template: A bit of bio in the beginning and full color plates of samples of Cassatt’s work along with a couple paragraphs of text about each. It’s pleasant to revisit the works that I have most likely seen recently.

More importantly, or more notably, a couple bits from her biography stick out from this book, whether because it appears in this book and not the other I read or because I’ve new connections in knowledge that make the things stick out:

  • The book plays up the relationship between Degas and Cassatt, wondering whether they had some romance that was stifled because her father did not like Degas.
  • I mentioned in my book report on [John Singer] Sargent that he and Cassatt were contemporaries; this book says he got her a portrait commission on one of her trips to the United States (remember, gentle reader, this “middle class” young lady traveled and settled in Europe).
  • I’ll quote the book directly:

    Cassatt completely rejected Matisse’s work. In a letter to Louisine Havemeyer in March 1913, she exclaimed, “If you could see his early work! Such a commonplace vision, such weak execution, he was intelligent enough to see he could never achieve fame, so shut himself up for years and evolved this and has achieved notoriety…. It is not alone in polities that anarchy reigns, it saddens me, of course it is in a certain measure our set [the Independents] which has made this [freedom] possible.

    I think the insertion of [freedom] instead of [excrement] is pro-Matisse commentary by this book’s author and not necessarily the intent of Cassatt. But I agree with her assessment (see also my report on the monograph Matisse. With this, though, Cassatt moves easily into a second-place tie with Manet in my list of favorite Impressionists.

Worth a browse, certainly, and worth the couple of bucks I paid for it at the autumn Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale.

Side note: Interestingly, Cassatt, the nineteenth century artist died in 1926, just three years before The Iron Mask was released. They seem of two completely different eras, but history is ultimately seamless.

Good Book Hunting, January 18, 2019: Barnes and Noble

For Christmas, I received a large gift card to Barnes and Noble, which meant that I needed, needed to make a trip to the store to buy some books, as I’ve not bought any in five whole days.

I bought four:

Titles include:

  • Old School: Life in the Sane Lane by Bill O’Reilly with Bruce Feirstein. I just bought a Bill O’Reilly book almost five days ago; note his co-author is the author of Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche and a long-time friend of O’Reilly.
  • Lies, Half-Truths, and More Lies by Herb Reich, a de-bunking of received and school-taught wisdom.
  • The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard. I used a gift card some five years ago on the three volumes comprising the complete Conan collection (The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, The Conquering Sword of Conan). I’m not familiar with Solomon Kane, so I’ll get a whole new experience here. The funny thing is when I bought the Conan books, the Howard section of science fiction and fantasy was chock full of books. This time, there were only four Howard titles available.
  • 30-Second Quantum Theory by Brian Clegg which is one pager overviews of concepts in quantum physics. Given that I’m ever hopeful that one of these books will help me get over the hump in understanding advanced physics, this book might help. When I find it again.

So I’ve bought a total of 12 books in the last week. I’ve read eleven, and that’s only through my usual accounting trickery. It’s clear why I continue to fall behind: I have more books already than I can ever read, but not more than I can ever want.

Book Report: Contemporary Mosaics by Ronit Attias (2007)

Book coverThis is one of the two “art” books I bought for a buck last month in Osage Beach (I already read the other, Painted Treasures).

This book is not so much of a how-to project book, although there are a couple step-by-step picture sets, a couple materials lists, and text about considerations and planning, but mostly it’s photos to use as inspiration for your own mosaic projects. The book includes some client commissions that the author did, including a swimming pool that’s quite out of the reach of hobbyists, and many of the photos are variations on a theme (a sculpture flower is represented in various colors and sizes).

But it did make me want to try my hand again at mosaics. I say “again” as though I’ve ever done a serious mosaic project, but I haven’t; I did a couple in art class in school, and I did a construction paper and glue mosaic of a city skyline when doing art with my children once some years ago, but nothing serious.

Oh, and I learned from this book that they make epoxy glue guns, which I had not realized. I’ll have to get one sometime to see if it works well, or if it’s just like the syringe-like blenders that come with the blister packed epoxy at the hardware store.

At any rate, worth a browse if you’re into mosaics, especially if you can find it for a buck. Which you probably cannot, as I got the last one.

Book Report: Croutons on a Cow Pie by Baxter Black (1988)

Book coverMy first exposure to Baxter Black was a folksy column that ran weekly in the Republic Monitor, the weekly paper in the next town over, when I first moved to southwest Missouri. He talked about being a cowboy and humorous anecdotes about the same. However, the paper dropped the column some years ago, likely as a cost-saving move. Or perhaps Baxter retired.

Apparently, Black first became known as a cowboy poet in the 1980s, and this collection of poems and an anecdote/story or two comes from that era. They’re fun to read like Ogden Nash, but with less reliance on vernacular or funny spellings. It’s about being a cowboy and whatnot, but the topic matter doesn’t detract from the fun of it. Perhaps it adds a bit to it.

The book also features cartoonish illustrations by Don Gill and Bob Black that accompany the poems and illustrate the stories therein. They add to it.

I didn’t completely browse this book during football games because I came to a block of prose that looked like a short story, but it was really just a page of prose amid the lyrics. Still, it’s off my sofa-side table.

And if I run across more of Baxter Black in the future, I’ll be sure to pick it up.

Book Report: Cactus: A Prickly Portrait of a Desert Eccentric by Linda Hinrichs and Nikolay Zurek with Text By Marjorie Leet Ford (1995)

Book coverI bought this book in October to browse during football games. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be: although this is a book of photography, it wouldn’t do for browsing during a football game because the paragraphs of captions and philosophizing about cacti are in a script typeface, which makes them hard to read. You have to follow along very carefully and can’t jump right back to a place after a football play.

And the photos include a few landscapes with cactus, but with camera and development effects/filters, especially underexposure to darken everything. But most of the photos are close-ups focusing on color and texture. Combined with the script font, this is a design book more than a photography book. Look at how pretty the book is except for the content.

So I was underwhelmed.

I was pleased with knowing who Pavlova is in this caption, though:

Rhythm, light, and balance, like Brancusi and Bach and Pavlova at once.

I know who Anna Pavlova was because I’m well read, and part of that reading is Neo.

So, meh. But it’s off the side table.

The Book Accumulation Points of Brian J.

I might have mentioned in my recent book reports that I’m working my way through the stack of books beside my sofa that I’ve stacked up to browse during football games. Some of them prove to be harder to browse than others, and they will sort of fall to the bottom of the stack and hang around on the side table (actually, a twenty-something year old Sauder printer stand) for years until I get tired of the stack and reshelve them, partially read or not. The stack contains, generally, a couple books or chapbooks of poetry, art monographs, collections of photography, or craft books.

This year, as the football season has just about ended, I’ve decided to actually read the books in the stack.

No word on the vintage collection of short story magazines underneath, though.

Which got me thinking about the places where incomplete books congregate at Nogglestead.

My chair side table contains the books that I’m currently actively reading or wish I were reading, even if the active part was several years ago:

How many years has it been since I started reading the book on the timelines of history on the bottom shelf? Long enough that the start date is in the middle of the book and not the end. The collection of Shakespeare I started at the beginning of last year is there, as well as the Riverside edition I bought late last year because I thought it might be easier to read. A collection of Keats and Shelley. The first book in Copleston’s History of Philosophy. An encyclopedia of religious leaders. Probably Rabbit Run by Updike yet. There’s a year’s worth of reading there, and that doesn’t count The Count of Monte Cristo which sits on the bar beside the table.

The stack on the dresser in the bedroom is growing:

Last summer, only two books were there: The Montaigne collection (which has been on the dresser since summer of 2017) and Streetcorner Strategy. The dresser acts as a repository for my carry books, books I stick in my gym bag when I’m going to spend a couple of hours at the dojo or that I’ll carry along to appointments. After a while, my zeal for reading them runs out, and I pack along something else, which leaves these partially completed orphans on the dresser, presumably until I reshelve them sometime in 2020.

The longest-tenured collection, though, is in my bedside drawer:

I don’t know if I’ve ever bothered to reshelve books that I’ve put in the drawer.

A couple (five?) years ago, I read in bed before turning out the light, so I got a couple of short chunk books that I could put down when I was sleepy and pick up without having to reread part of a narrative. But it’s been a long time since I did that, but because the books are out of sight, I don’t feel compelled every so often to clean them up. The drawer also contains a collection of Pablo Neruda verse from the days when I read poetry to my children while they played. When they were pre-school age. Eight years ago? Note the volume of Ogden Nash on the dresser was in the drawer for a number of years until I pulled it out last summer for reading on the deck on summer nights. Of which there were not enough to complete the collection and clear it completely from these photos.

I don’t know how many of the books from these accumulation points I’ll actually get through this year–after all, I am still accumulating books from the usual sources that will tempt me into reading them before books longer in the queue.

But however I trim the aging collections, it will feel like de-Rooneyfication when I do, and any stack I complete will come with a slightly greater sense of accomplishment than the other things I read from my to-read shelves.

Book Report: The World’s Greatest News Photos 1840-1980 by Selected and Edited by Craig T. Norback and Melvin Gray (1980)

Book coverWell, those boys have done it to me again. Like Ron Burgandy finding a question mark on his teleprompter, if I find a book on the table beside the sofa, I must read it. Even if I have already read it. In this case, I read this book in 2011. The boys, you may remember, also did this when they shuffled You Can Tell You’re A Midwesterner When… into this same stack.

At any rate, the book hasn’t changed at all: It’s a collection of noteworthy news photos from the very first deguerreotype taken in Paris in 1839 to the highlights of the Carter administration. Many of the images will be familiar, as their iconic images that have generally swayed public opinion in the leftward direction.

This time through, though, perhaps because I now have little adhesive tabs for flagging things in books (I don’t write or highlight in books, much to the disappointment of my college professors who thought it important that I “dialog with the text” by writing in books that I would no longer be able to sell back to the college bookstore or to shelve and never review again unless my kids got it out and put it on my side table), I have highlit some things that are just wrong in the captions:

  • In a caption to a photo of Winston Churchill, it says:

    England’s darkest hours were eased by Prime Minister Winstone Churchill, who promised the people “blood, sweat, and tears,” but ultimate victory.

    But Churchill did not “promise” “blood, sweat, and tears.” The actual phrase he used in his speech to the House of Commons was:

    I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

    He offered/promised his blood, toil, tears, and sweat–not the listeners’ or just generic bodily fluids.

  • About Super Bowl III:

    The 1969 Super Bowl was “Broadway Joe’s” best year, and he played brilliantly–leading the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts. For the National Football League, it was their first Super Bowl win.

    Sweet Christmas, knowledgeable football fans, even those who have not read a book about that very Super Bowl in the last six months (Countdown to Super Bowl in August) know that the Jets are in the American Football Conference–then the American Football League, and it was that conference’s first Super Bowl victory since the Green Bay Packers won the first two.

When I read trivia books and run across a fact that I know is not true (often planted by the authors/publishers to spot people who use the questions in violation of copyright), I have to doubt everything I read in the book that I don’t already know.

Even in a collection of “news” photos published in 1980, I have to do the same.

Good Book Hunting, January 15, 2018: Hooked on Books

So the whole family and I had fifteen minutes to spare before my son’s basketball game last night, so we stopped by Hooked on Books since it’s basically across the street from the school (which explains how I come to kill so much time there before picking up my children).

I hit all the dollar carts and rooms and came away with eight titles:

They include:

  • Ebony Brass by Jesse J. Johnson, an autobiography of Negro frustration and aspiration (so the title page says).
  • Yester Yore: Historical Diaries and Journals by Ozarks Technical Community College Students. It looks to be a collection of vignettes from diaries.
  • Dinner with Friends, a play by Donald Margulies, the author of one of my favorite modern plays, Sight Unseen.
  • Tales from Michigan State Basketball by Gregory Kelser with Steve Grinczel. It fit the theme for the evening.
  • The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichal and Jim Rutberg. This is more for my beautiful wife, who wants to return to her cycling ways but is often overwhelmed with work.
  • Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand In The Age of Obama by Bill O’Reilly. I’ve enjoyed his books (see Who’s Looking Out For You? enough to spend a buck on one of the ones that doesn’t have “Killing” in the title.
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. My wife informed me that we each already have a copy of this book, so this one might be a copy for gifting. Or one of the existing ones, if they’re new.
  • Funny Ladies by Stephen M. Silverman, a picture book/brief bio of women comediennes.

All that for eight bucks.

Now, where to put them?