Movie Report: Knocked Up (2007)

Book coverAfter watching The Green Hornet, I picked up this film which might have been the movie that launched Seth Rogen’s career, to see if his characters always annoyed me. Which is a little less than rage-watching, but he had a big moment about a decade and a half ago, and I wanted to maybe catch a little of his career in case it ever comes up in a trivia night. After all, the things I thought were trivia–pop culture details from the 1940s-1970s–is now ancient history and the lost wisdom of the Ancestors.


In the film, Rogen plays a frattish bro living with a bunch of friends who are hoping to make it rich off of an Internet site (coming sometime) that tells you when you can see boobies in the movies. Katherine Heigl plays an up-and-coming broadcast talent who finally gets her break in front of the camera. The frattish boys are out at the club because that’s what they do, and Heigl’s Alison is celebrating her promotion, and after many, many drinks, Rogen’s Ben and Alison hook up. The coitus they barely remember results in Alison becoming pregnant, and against the advice of her family and at risk of her career, she decides to keep the baby. When she tells Ben, he decides to help, and they get to know each other as they prepare for the baby’s birth.

So the manboy in this film does undergo some character growth–the woman too–but I attribute this more to it being a Judd Apatow film more than a Seth Rogen film. some of Apatow’s other works also have those bits of growth and depth to them–This Is 40, The 40-Year-Old Virgin maybe–but some are just straight ahead comedies (Anchorman, Superbad, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, et al). Looking over Apatow’s ouevre, I have seen a lot of his films, and although I note that many of the same actors appear in them–his family, Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and so on–I don’t think of the Apatowverse like I think of the Stillerverse or the Sandlerverse. Probably because he’s behind the camera–far behind it as a producer and writer not always the director.

So the film was not as bad as I had feared it would be. Like most 21st century R-rated comedies, it has a lot of swearing and requires drugs or blackout drinking for major plot points–I need some Cary Grant films as a palate cleanser–but it is easily the best Seth Rogen film I’ve seen. Of which the sample size is small (although he has smaller parts in other movies in the Apatowverse, he stars in but a few).

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Book Report: Old Acquaintances by Ursula Gorman (2010)

Book coverI bought this book at ABC Books in the summer of 2021. The book is dated 2010, and the author’s signature is from 2018, so this is either before I started hitting as many of the ABC Books signings as I could, one that fell between the cracks, or one that the author signed for stocking.

At any rate, the story is about the owner of a boutique who seems to have a stalker. Who apparently starts killing people she knows or knew–one murder is the family at a house where someone she knew used to live.

The book is leavened with almost a bit of tension with the man whom she thought of as a brother as her mother took him in when his rich parents died and who has been her constant friend since. But he’s engaged to be married, which leaves her free to feel the flutterings for the handsome police detective on her case.

So it’s a bit of a cottage mystery, with a side order of romance. It’s a bit thin on the prose, which is better than being overdone, and the book is a short 140 pages, so it’s not long enough to be annoying. Next time I’m through John Donnelly’s Gold, I’m definitely going to gauge myself according to this new metric I have for prose: the density of it, contrasting paragraphs versus dialog and complexity of sentences to express meaning. I mean, Robert B. Parker, for example, wrote better when he had longer paragraphs, but not so much later when he relied mostly on dialog and stage directions. It’s kind of akin to my length-of-line metric for poetry, I suppose, but there’s something to it.

Another thing that struck me about this book was a certain similarity to Finding Lizzy Smith by Susan Keene which I read earlier this year. In both, people close to the female protagonist are getting killed. I wonder topically how often this happens in cozies–I don’t read many of them, Murder, She Wrote books that I read every seven or eight years. So I don’t know how much of a trope it is.

In researching this post, I see that the author published another book in 2012 which was to be the first in a trilogy. But nothing after, and her Internet presence is a Tripod site that has not been updated in years. This saddens me somehow, even though we’ve never met.

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Book Report: I’m Here For A Purpose by LaDonna Greiner (2023)

Book coverFull disclosure: I sort of know the author as she has volunteered with my beautiful wife in a local entrepreneur’s group (well, she was there before my wife, so perhaps I should say “My beautifule wife volunteered with this author.”) So when I saw that she, the author, was having a book signing downtown (not yet at ABC Books) on First Friday Art Walk night, I dragged my wife and my youngest downtown to get a copy.

Ms. Greiner is a photographer and avid hiker, and she often hikes alone. The book talks about those hikes, hikers who get lost, tells the story of how she got lost trying to get a photo of a sunset but made it to camp and to her husband only a little late, and then culminates in the story of how she got lost on a hike and spent a night in the forest whilst thunderstorms raged and the temperature dropped to near-freezing before hiking some number of miles in the morning to rescue (and then to a series of events that would not be believed in fiction).

The book is relatively short (117 pages), leavened with the author’s photographs. It’s professionally laid out (which as you know, gentle reader, I can appreciate, or at least do). Not only that, but the book builds the story–I confess, I knew what the book was about when I started it–starting with some anecdotes about taking photographs, sometimes in dangerous circumstances (it starts out with photographing alligators on the bayou in Louisiana) and then a little about getting lost, building to almost dying at the end and then dĂ©nouement which is its own story.

Okay, so I liked the book. How much? I read it in a single night, and then we tracked her down at Artsfest in Springfield the next day to buy another book as a gift. And if she ever makes her way to ABC Books for a book signing, I’ll have to think of to whom I will give that copy as a gift. But hopefully I will have some time. Maybe Mrs. Shepherd. Who likes to hike? Who likes photography?

Oh, yeah, I would be remiss if I did not mention that she credits God for her survival, and the book is also a testament to her faith.

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Wherein Brian J. Is Synced Up With The Ace Of Spades HQ Sunday Morning Book Thread (And Will Be Aligned With Today’s Post For Some Time)

From the Ace of Spades HQ Sunday Morning Book Thread today:

My family had a set of Durant’s Story of Civilization series, and that was my secret weapon through high school history. I read the whole series a couple of times, and some volumes again and again. Great stuff.
It does show its age, though. Not just in the sense of being at odds with current intellectual fashions — that’s a feature, not a flaw — but (especially regarding the earlier periods) new discoveries have changed our understanding of what actually happened.

It’s still worth reading, and I don’t know of a better introduction to the history of Western Civilization.

Posted by: Trimegistus at April 30, 2023 09:43 AM (QZxDR)

I might have mentioned, gentle reader, that I have begun to read this set, and it is likely to take me through the year and beyond. So I guess you won’t have 100 book reports to suffer through this year. But I’m making up for the content with the movie reports.

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Book Report: From Gold to Grey by Mary D. Brine (1886)

Book coverWell, finishing this book has been a long time coming. I mentioned that it was a gift from a friend at a garage sale at my sainted mother’s in Fall 2008. We would have known, ainna, by then? My sainted mother would have been in the early parts of diagnosing and examining the cancer that would kill her early the next year. Her surgery, which the surgeon later said he would not have performed if he’d known how pervasive the cancer was, would be in late November or early December. So she would have been full capacity, and the event would not have been terribly somber, although we undoubtedly missed my aunt who passed away a couple of years earlier and always made these events a hoot.

More on the history of this book: As you know, gentle reader, I had this book beside the sofa for browsing during football games, wrapped in a paper bag until I properly wrapped it in mylar. I mentioned in September of 2021 that I’d started reading it in earnest, which means “off and on. Mostly off.”

I have certainly read other poetry books completely in the interim, but I had to be in the right frame of mind to read this book. After all, it is almost 150 years old, and I had to treat it gently. I did not open the book completely, only parting the binding the minimum I needed to read the book. And I had to read slowly, as the font sizes varied on each poem down to pretty tiny print to make it so the poems fit into the artwork.

So, the poems: I enjoyed them. They’re romantic, rhyming, and well-rhythmed. They deal with enjoying nature, looking forward to meeting one’s beloved, being with one’s beloved, and a couple about having lost one’s beloved. The sort of thing that heavily influenced me in my younger poet years, and I loved them.

I did flag a couple of things:

The first line of “In the Park” is:

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever!” so they say;

You might know, gentle reader, that I have a volume of the complete works of Keats and Shelley that was on the chairside table in 2019 but has migrated to the dresser upstairs as I’ve read the book outside on the deck in the evenings from time to time. But I know that “they” in this case is John Keats, as this is the first line of “Endymion”. Of course, I already flexed that I recognized it in a book review in 2021–however, to be honest, what cemented the first line for me is that when I mentioned I was reading the, my mother-in-law (epithet needed) quoted the first line to me, and I did not recognize it. But I do now.

A poem entitled “The Golden Gate” begins:

Beyond the clouds, the Golden Gate is waiting,
Which only angel hands can open wide,
And only they whose toil has ended
Pass in, and find their rest at eventide.

Gentle reader, when you and I think of “The Golden Gate,” we think of the bridge. Which was completed fifty-one years after this book was published in the first Grover Cleveland administration.

The book itself is beautiful. Heavy paper and lush illustrations surround every poem.

Every page is like that. Beautiful, but hard to read in spots because the fonts (although they probably called it merely “type” back then) is often small so the poems can fit into the illustrations. I might or might not have used a pair of my beautiful wife’s cheaters a time or to, but no one will ever know because I would only have done so after everyone else was in bed.

Now, a bit more about the provenance of this book.

The book was originally given to a Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Perry, on Christmas of 1886.

The book was then given by Mrs. Perry to her grandson, a young man named Ray Wood, in March 1929. Right before the bad times were coming.

I received this book in 2006 from a relation of Ray, I suspect, as they shared the surname. Given her age in 2006, I would guess Ray was her older brother or cousin and not her father. But what a great gift. I miss “Roberta.”

I’m glad I gave this book its due and read it outside football games. I am glad I’ve protected it with mylar and have hopefully kept Dorito dust out of it. But I cannot help feel some sadness that I suspect that I will be the last person to read the book.

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Book Report: From Ghetto to Glory: The Story of Bob Gibson by Bob Gibson with Phil Pepe (1968)

Book coverI hopped into this book right after reading Open Net because I was in the mood for another sports book, and this one was right across the hall.

So. This book really has three themes, and they don’t mesh together very well at all.

  • It’s partly a biography of Bob Gibson, who came out of a poor neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska, played with the Harlem Globetrotters for a season, and then settled into playing for the Cardinals organization and then the major league team, winning a couple of World Series with them and becoming a star, although he’s pretty humble about that.
  • Because it’s 1968 and because Gibson is Black, the book also tackles the Race Question, which served to distance this particular reader who is white but grew up pretty poor. It distances the reader from the experience of the man whenever the book goes into the Experience of the Race.
  • A bit of a baseball book which goes into the philosophy of pitching and that particular, 1967, when the Cardinals won the World Series.

It would have been a far better book if they’d only focused on the first and the third of those themes. It would have focused on what draws us together, not what separates us. Fifty years later, the professionals have gotten better and more scientific at separating us.

At any rate, some good stories in here, like the time where he broke his leg and came out to pitch on it anyway before coming out of the game and being shut down for most of the season thereafter. A lot of love for his wife, whom he divorces a couple years after the book comes out. A lot of familiar names from Cardinals history–Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver, Roger Maris, and so on. So like Open Net, it helps someone who came to fandom later connect those names to stories, but perhaps useless to current fans.

The book is written in very plain language–I wondered if it was targeted to kids, or if it’s just the way the sports journalist Phil Pepe wrote.

I did flag a couple of things.

How do you measure poverty? I wore the same coat for three or four years. It was a hand-me-down from one of my brothers and I wore it until it had too many holes in it. I had one pair of shoes. No Sunday shoes, just one pair for every day in the week, and I wore them until they practically fell off my feet. When they got holes in the bottom, I put a piece of cardboard in them so the water would not seep through when it rained.

See, I can understand that. I got hand-me-downs from the neighbors, which meant I was pretty fly for a white guy in 1980. And my shoes were rubber-soled sneakers, so they’d break down by having the top separate from the sole, not wearing holes in the bottoms, but I remember making the shoes talk like a mouth with my exposed sock as the tongue. It was definitely not a Race thing.

Now that’s the way I see the Negro riots we’re having in this country, as a brushback pitch. Their intention, like the brushback pitch, is to get people to think and not to get complacent and take things for granted. Negroes have been mistreated for years. They are getting tired of being mistreated, misused, and misunderstood, and the only way they can rebel is to stage riots.

The chapter was called “Brushback”, and it started in pitching philosophy including when to brush someone back. Then, it turned into justifying riots as part of the Race Question. Gentle reader, I remind you that over 80 people died in 1967 in riots. The only person who died from a pitch was Ray Chapman. So they’re not the same. And it illustrates how the book veered between its themes poorly. One wonders what Gibson thought about the riots fifty years later in 2020 (which occurred right before his death). Oh, one wonders.

And, yes, lest you wonder, the book does contain the baddest word. Gibson talks about how he feels about it and how he and a couple of teammates cleaned the locker room up of language (and how the team came together as a team instead of groups of different colors).

All I wanted was a baseball book, where I could learn from Bob Gibson, the pitcher. Instead, I got a whole lot of Bob Gibson, The Other.

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Book Report: Open Net by George Plimpton (1985)

Book coverI bought this book at the J. in St. Louis in August 2007, and I guess I was waiting for the right time to pick it up. It rested on the half bookshelf in the hall, close to The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire. So I picked it up. I suppose it helps that the St. Louis Blues did not make the playoffs this year, and I have no live television provider to watch hockey anyway, and Facebook for some reason is showing me lots of hockey-themed suggested posts. At any rate, I picked it up and read it.

The book takes place almost twenty years after Paper Lion (which I read in 2016), so the author cannot really embed as an older rookie with the Boston Bruins, the team that he embeds with for some training. The book takes place in the early 1980s, before the NHL grew to what it is today. The players remember the brutal days of the 1970s and the older facilities in which the teams played then. Don Cherry is the coach of the Bruins at the time, and I remember him from my hockey watching days fifteen years later as the CBC commentator with the crazy suits. And free agency wasn’t the thing it is now–players tended to stay with teams for a long time. From what I know of hockey today, that still seems truer than it is for other sports, but not like the old days.

The book contains stories from the players, descriptions of the drills, and then Plimpton gets some game time in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers. But that’s two thirds of the way through the book. Then he goes into meeting with the WAGs (wives and girlfriends–don’t you read British tabloids?) and watching the game with them, experience watching the Bruins, whom he has come to think of as his team, at Madison Square Garden, and other stuff, and I wondered–where is he going with this? In Paper Lion, the climactic scene is the football game at the end, but it didn’t seem this was the case with Open Net. But then I discovered that after his experience, he went on a tour promoting the book or hockey or something and ended up in Canada, with a chance to play goal against Gretzky in warmups. So I guess that is the climax, although we’re never informed that we’re building toward that.

So it’s a good book that tells some stories about names I’d heard of, and it includes as young guys some players I’d recognized from the height of my hockey fandom around the turn of the century. No telling how good it would be to, say, my son, whose hockey knowledge is twenty years later than mine, and he might not even know who Bobby Orr was or Eddie Shore, whom I only knew that the Hanson brothers wanted to play old-time hockey like him.

If you’re going to read about a toff pretending to be something he or she is not, Plimpton is far superior to Barbara Ehrenreich.

And, full disclosure, I might have some Plimpton signatures around here on rejection slips from his magazine back in the day. Or they might just be stamps.

I have, I might have mentioned, his golf book as well (which was right next to Open Net, which probably means that the only organization in the stacks at Nogglestead is now gone). But as I am not a golfer, it might take longer than seven years before I pick it up.

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Good, Erm, Hunting, Saturday, April 29, 2023: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library

Gentle reader, yesterday was half-price day at the Friends of the Library book sale, so I wandered back up north with my oldest son. Mainly, I wanted to hit the tables of cheap DVDs again, especially as they were going to be fifty cents each (!).

So I did. And I bought a bunch.

Look at that haul. Coupled with the couple of bundles of chapbooks I got on the dollar books side, I spent $20.

The movies include:

  • A Cary Grant videocassette that seems to contain three films: Charade, Penny Serenade, and Amazing Adventure. I am pretty sure I have Charade already, which means I spent 12.5 cents each on the other two.
  • Hondo with John Wayne, of whom I have a very thin collection.
  • The Sacketts, a two videocassette set. C’mon, man, that’s got to be based off of Louis L’Amour books, ainna? To be honest, I didn’t look closely at the videos as I was trying to keep it relatively quick. My boy at almost seventeen has more patience than he did at six, but he’s still no Buddha.
  • Medea Goes to Jail. The library had several of these. I’ve never seen a Medea film, but they were pretty popular, ainna?
  • National Lampoon’s Barely Legal, a National Lampoon-badged film as apparently I’m a fan (see National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie, National Lampoon’s Adam and Eve, National Lampoon’s Black Ball, National Lampoon’s Vacation, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I, and so on, and so on….).
  • Death Trap which I saw part of in high school (but I missed the second day of for some reason). I read the play in 2020.
  • Cloverfield.
  • Avengers: Endgame. A library copy, but it was fifty cents. I think we’re missing a lot of the later half of the first phase of the MCU films.
  • Discoveries… America: Wisconsin, a documentary about my favorite state.
  • Borat, something my son tucked into the stack.
  • A Man For All Seasons. I think I read something about the film in a The New Oxford Review recently.
  • About a Boy since I’m on a Hugh Grant kick. Well, not so far, but I did recently watch a movie based on a Nick Hornby book, so it’s almost the same thing.
  • D.O.A., the original from 1950 and not the later remake with Dennis Quaid (1988). It’s probably due for a reboot, ainna?
  • Knocked Up, a Seth Rogen movie. To test if he really annoys me all the time (as he did in The Green Hornet. And note that I picked up this film and I picked up National Lampoon’s Barely Legal, I passed over Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Why? I dunno.
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I’ve seen this before, but not in the theaters.
  • Stand Up Guys which looks to be a mob movie.
  • 50 First Dates, an Adam Sandler film that I have so far missed.
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats, a George Clooney film I saw in the theater.
  • Shopgirl starring Steve Martin based on his novel (novella?) which I read in 2006.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom, a foreign film which might or might not feature action.
  • The Return of the Pink Panther. I have seen bits of these films as a lad (and I was probably disappointed they did not actually feature the Pink Panther cartoon character). I wonder what I will think of them as an adult.
  • Return of the One-Armed Swordsman. Another foreign actioner.
  • Finding Forrester starring Sean Connery, but not an action film, and to my knowledge he does not wear a futuristic speedo.
  • Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone. It only now occurs to me as I type this that it might be included in the four film set I bought that includes Demolition Man. Oh, well, if so, the Lutherans for Life are accepting donations for their summer garage sale.
  • Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Perhaps I am only on a Hugh Grant movie buying kick, although I did pass over Bridget Jones’ Diary and on a later table its sequel.
  • The Out of Towners, the 1999 remake with Steve Martin and not the 1970 original. Perhaps I am also on a Steve Martin kick. Or at least a Steve Martin movie buying kick.
  • The Reader which is that movie where Kate Winslet takes off her clothes artistically. No, the other one. Maybe.
  • Rocky Balboa, one of the later Rocky films. Maybe I am on a Sylvester Stallone buying kick, although I did recently watch Demolition Man and The Expendables.
  • The Bad News Bears, the remake with Billy Bob Thornton.
  • The Best of Gallagher Volume 2. I watched his Showtime specials back in the trailer park an awful lot.
  • Mission to Mars, one of the two or three films that came out about the same time about missions to Mars.
  • Little Miss Sunshine.
  • The Departed.
  • The Italian Job, the remake. I bought the original at the same book sale on Thursday. For twice the price, though.
  • 21 Jump Street, the comedy film. My son added this to the stack, proving that he was amusing himself at the sale tolerably well, and certainly more frugally than his father.
  • The Jade Warrior, a Chinese film.

Guys, that’s 37 or 38 films on physical media for about $17. You can’t beat that with a stick.

So I wrote my first check for $20 and sent my boy to the car with the box of DVDs while I went to the Better Books section.

Where I did some damage.

First off, in my defense, they had a number of audio books and courses that were reasonably priced to begin with and were half off on Saturday. Some years, the volunteers have priced the audio courses at $20 or so, but most of them this sale, at least the ones available on Saturday, were $4, $5, or $8 list price (and half off of that).

So I got a few:

These include:

  • Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement.
  • The Science of Mindfulness.
  • How to Make Stress Work For You.
  • Patriots: Brotherhood of the American Revolution.
  • Meaning from Data.
  • Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language.
  • The World Was Never The Same: Events that Changed History.
  • The Genius of Michelangelo.
  • How to View and Appreciate Great Movies. Although to be honest, I probably could use a course on how to watch middling or bad movies.
  • Unqualified by Anna Faris.

Most are on CDs, but some are on DVD (which play in our primary family vehicle without the video). We had thought about driving to Florida for vacation this year, but backed out of it. Now, I’m a little sad we’re not going to spend thirty or forty hours in the car.

Records? Well, the Better Book section generally only has a couple of crates’ worth, but I found a couple of things.


  • Black Satin by the George Shearing Quintet. Yes, I know I already have it. But this cover might just be slightly better. Funny story about this record. Not long after I got the first copy of it, my youngest son saw it and was SCANDALIZED because he didn’t know how to spell Satan. So he thought this record was “Black Satan.” Perhaps they call the devil “Old Nick” at his Lutheran school. I don’t know. But when I picked the record up this time, I showed it to my oldest and said, in my best Church Lady impression (which, undeniably, is not very good) “Could it be…. SATIN?” And my oldest had no idea what I was talking about because that skit is, what, 30 years old now?
  • About the Blues by Julie London.
  • Good King Bad by George Benson.
  • Let Me Be Your Woman by Linda Clifford, a 1979 disco/funk 2-record set that not only features a pretty woman on the cover (PWoC), but also a centerfold (where she is wearing more clothing than the cover itself).

Oh, and books? I did pick up a couple of those as well.

I got a couple of art monographs and a couple bundles of chapbooks mostly. The haul includes:

  • Lyrics of Lowly Life by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I know, you’re thinking I just bought (well, just two years ago bought) Dunbar’s complete poems. Why do I need this book? Well, need is not the word, but this is a handsome 1914 edition of his third collection originally from 1896.
  • The Tao of the Jump Shot by John Fitzsimmons Mahoney.
  • Jack Rogers: Cowboy, Fighter Pilot by Marion H. Pendleton. For some reason, the name sounded familiar.
  • Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream by James Morgan. Not a monograph; looks to be sort of similar to Travels with Epicurus maybe.
  • Auguste Rodin: Sculptures and Drawings. It’s been a couple years since I reviewed any Rodin.
  • Masaccio: The Complete Paintings by the Master of Perspective by Richard Fremantle.
  • Mom at War: A Story of Courage of Love Born of Loss by Todd Parnell. Not a monograph. Pleased to see I haven’t bought it before. I did pass over several copies of Privilege and Privation. Which is good since I apparently bought copies both in 2021 and 2022.

I also picked up a couple of bundles of chapbooks/pamphlets for $1 per bundle. Included in the bundles were:

  • Three Hallmark Treasures titles, The Magic of Children, In Quiet Places, and What Is a Friend. Basically Ideals magazine, but smaller.
  • Three Salesian Mission booklets that you got for a mail-in donation or as a come-on for the same: Golden Moments, The Way, and Love Everlasting. Kind of like Hallmark Treasure titles, but they fit in a #10 envelope. Will I count each as an individual title in the 2023 reading log? Given how fast I’m knocking out books this year, probably!
  • Letters from July by Nicole Simone. This is a 2021 title, so relatively young to be in a bundle at the FOL book sale.
  • Heirarchy by Jeremy Daryl. The POD date at the end is 2022. Perhaps a local literary magazine donated books sent in for review.
  • With Ridiculous Caution by Susan Stevens. From 2013.
  • Shin Splints by Dorothy Stroud.
  • Songs for the Grandaughters published by the Friends of the Lincoln-Lancaster Commission on the Status of Women. Oh, boy. Poetry by commission. I can wait.
  • The Best of Wheat and a Little Chaff Number II by Leah Lathrom Wallace. And just like that, I am the biggest collector of Leah Lathrom Wallace poetry in the country (since I also got the first volume in a similar bundle some years ago and read it in 2018.

Whew! That’s quite a catalog.

I have to admit that I had the same giddy feeling after making this haul as I used to when I’d get paid on a Friday night, cash my check at the courtesy counter of the grocery store where I worked, and take the bus to the mall and blow it all. I’d get home, unpack the bags of video games, cassettes, books, and movies onto my bed, and anticipate all of them and savor choosing where to begin.

Now, clearly, I have chosen to share the bounty with you, gentle reader.

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Not A Question I Can Ask Myself

Cedar asks:

Asking the hard questions in life: how do you organize your library?

Organize? Hahahaha!

When we first moved to Nogglestead, I tried to organize the books by genre and author, but over the fourteen years, I’ve seemingly doubled the library without doubling the shelving, so now the question I ask myself is Can I put all the books on the shelves and not have some on the floor? Current answer: No.

I guess I do have some organization. I have eleven and a half bookshelves containing books that I have read or reference books or sets and seven and a half bookshelves (and two boxes in the office closet) containing books I have yet to read.

But organized? Not at Nogglestead.

We still dream of a buying a home with a dedicated library. With two-story bookshelves, a reading loft, and a massive fireplace. Someday.

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Book Report: Seasons of the Four States edited by S.V. Farnsworth (2019)

Book coverI bought this book last year when I met S.V. Farnsworth at her book signing at ABC Books. She is only the editor on this book which is a collection of works from the Joplin Writers’ Guild.

So the book collects works by the members. Poetry, some genre works, some slice-of-life short stories like you used to read in McCall’s or other general interest magazines. Some of it is pretty pederstrian, but I’m not one to level judgment. I haven’t completed a poem or short story in months. At least these kids (some of whom are older than I am, no doubt) are trying.

Ya know, I was a member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild for a year or so and perhaps a paper member of the Springfield Writers’ Guild. A full member–I’ve had works in national magazines for pay, gentle reader, and don’t worry, I won’t let you forget it. I never made it to a meeting, though. But maybe this book has encouraged me to consider trying again. I am surely less of an ass than I was in writers’ workshops in college, where I was one of the few seriously cranking out works and submitting them. Trying to be a writer, not just a writing major.

But I’ve mellowed.

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Book Report: The Union Club Mysteries by Isaac Asimov (1983)

Book coverThis collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov could be considered Encyclopedia Brown stories for adults. They were published monthly in Gallery magazine in the early 1980s. Man, I wish I’d known about that when I spent a long, uncomfortable stretch of time pawing through magazines in the Adult section of a used book store looking for the Gallery magazine with Robert B. Parker’s “The Surrogate” in it. I could have amortized the time in scoring some original appearances of these Asimov stories. Also, Stephen King had numerous short stories in men’s bazinga magazines in the early 1980s–at one point I compiled a list of them and started ordering them on Ebay when they were listed strictly as bazinga magazines and whose sellers did not know what was contained in the words within them. But I know now. Not that any used book stores in southwest Missouri have those kinds of back rooms. I associate them with Milwaukee.

At any rate, the book is structured thus: A group of men retire to their club after dinner and chitchat about something. This awakens Griswold, a man whom they don’t really like, and he lays out a mystery or spy story of which he took part, and each ends with a dramatic pause on the part of Griswold, inviting the others to guess how he solved it. In the magazine, the ending would be printed elsewhere or upside down to give the reader a chance to guess, but, man, the reader of the bazinga magazines in the 1980s must have been pretty clever indeed as I think I got one out of 30.

Each mystery is only a couple of pages, which makes for a quick read and something easy to pick up and put down. It has been less than a year since I read a science fiction collection from Asimov (Nine Tomorrows). Given how the stacks here at Nogglestead are sprinkled with Asimov fiction and nonfiction, I shall probably accidentally pick up another before long.

So I see three little paper flags in the book. What did I mark to comment?

He said, “I obtained a very good set of Durant’s The Story of Civilization for a mere pittance and I was delighted. I read each volume from the library as it came out, and I had always wanted a complete set. The only catch was that Volume 2, The Life of Greece, was missing.”

I bought most of them in 2019 (minus Volume I and Volume VI), and I even started to read the first volume three years ago. Well, I picked it back up right before I read this book, starting over with Egypt (which might be the longest chapter/book in the volume). I’m pleased to say I’ve finished the chapter on Egypt.

“Yes, we have some idea. Indirect evidence leads us to suppose he’s a member of the Black Belts, a street gang.”

Me, too, brother, me too.

I’ve often thought to ask kyoshi what he’s going to do with the army of martial artists he has trained, but I have not. When the time comes, he will let me know.

At any rate, a quick and amusing read. Apparently, Asimov wrote 55 of these stories in total, but a second collection of them did not appear. And, sadly, if it hasn’t by now, it probably won’t. I know the blogosphere is very high on Heinlein, but, c’mon, man. If you could have dinner with only one of them, you’d have to pick Asimov, ainna?

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Book Report: Woodburning with Style by Simon Easton (2010)

Book coverI have to admit, gentle reader, that this book has spent many football seasons on the Sauder printer stand serving as book accumulation point for browsing during football games, and it has spent many off seasons on the lower deck of the table by my main reading chair. It had a bookmark not far into it for all those years. When I’d bought it at the Hobby Lobby, I’d hoped it would be an easy browser, but no. I briefly considered it for the Instructional category in the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge, but I opted for A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving instead. And they both suffered from a similar flaw.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I do a little bit of woodburning or pyrography from time to time, but I’m not the sort of person who can do highly detailed work. See the work I did for Christmas gifts in 2017–as it had been six years, I felt comfortable doing a couple this year as well. And, whoa, the Make It Happen plaque was seven years ago? I probably picked up this book around then.

So, gentle reader, here are the flaws with this book, or at least the flaws at the intersection of what Brian J. can or wants to do and this book.

  • The book is written in British. And by that, I mean that the chapters are full of thick, descriptive paragraphs that one does not generally find in craft books. At least not American craft books. In our craft books, you get a bit of introduction about the craft, and then when it comes time for projects or techniques, you get a photo, an introduction, and a numbered list of steps with only a couple sentences each. Which makes them skimmable. This book has, erm, richer prose, but it does take away a little from the pragmatic or practical application one gets with American craft books. Not a lot of discussion why the author made the choices.
  • The author is an artist, with a degree and numerous awards to his credit. Which introduced some distance between us as I am not an artist, and my fine motor skills preclude anything but thick kindergarten-crayon lines in pyrography.
  • The author uses a wire-nib pyrography machine instead of a cheap solid-state one like I have, although I bought a unit that’s a little more advanced with a stack of Hobby Lobby gift cards I’d gathered over the years. But it was a lot like in A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving, where the author used grinding wheels instead of a rotary tool (or acid etching) to make the marks. One wonders how much the techniques can be transferred from the artist’s tool to the rudimentary tools that the barbarians are using. Some, I am sure, but it still builds distance between the reader and the work.

The author also focuses a lot on small works, like keychains, napkin rings, and keepsake boxes–which I guess are good ways to practice, but of somewhat limited utility either as items for sale or for gifts. Perhaps these are best for practice while honing skills for larger things.

He also talks about working with a lot of different woods, which means he has a better craft store than Hobby Lobby to source from. At Hobby Lobby, it’s all pine, all the time.

At any rate, ultimately not that helpful for me. I’m going to end up hanging around at chapter 3, Silhouettes, for most of my woodburning hobby career.

Which does kind of strike at one of the conundrums I have with woodburning and hobbying: I make these things, and they languish in boxes in my garage, and I’m not sure what to do with them. I deluge my shrinking number of gift recipients with whatever I’m trying out when I try them out, but other than that, I’m reduced to putting things in silent auctions from time to time. I could do holiday bazaars or try Etsy or a booth somewhere, but that would probably only indicate how much money I lose per item.

I mean, I kind of enjoy making something, but I hate learning how little value my skill is to others. I mean, gentle reader, that’s what this blog is for, to keep me humble.

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Book Report: The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire (1967)

Book coverThis book has been languishing on the most ignored to-read bookshelf at Nogglestead, the small little bookshelf in the hall between our offices. The three full-sized bookshelves on the opposite wall command the attention when I’m looking for something to read, and so I rarely draw a book from there. Even when I’ve looked at that shelf for something to read, I’ve sometimes considered this volume, but it’s a bit of a chonker–it’s 400 pages, and with Playboy on the cover, it’s not like I was going to carry this book to the dojo or to church. I guess I was saving it up for just the right moment when I would want to read it. Which finally arrived.

The book contains over 30 humorous articles and essays that appeared in the magazine up to the middle 1960s. Some of the articles are about sex, but not all of them. Remember, younglings, back in the 1960s, Playboy was a premier literary magazine as well as a place to see bazingas.

So this book includes pieces by Woody Allen, Allan Sherman, Art Buchwald (who must have been young once, ainna?), Jean Shepherd, and others. And aside from Art Buchwald, I could hear the enumerated authors’ voices in my head as I read (after all, I did listen to Pomp and Circumstance, a collection of Shepherd’s radio programs, in 2019). In searching for the link to the musings on that radio program collection, I externally remembered that Shepherd Mead, also in this book, was the author of How To Succeed In Business Without Trying (which I have not seen or read) as well as How to Live Like a Lord Without Trying (which I have read). So, clearly, I am in the target demographic of this book although I was born five years after it was published.

Overall, an up and down collection. Some pieces are funnier than others. Some rely on being an insider on publishing or movie-making. I was going to say that a few of them are dated, but, c’mon, man, very few overtly political sneers and no mentions of modern technologies or mindsets, so they’re all dated, but some of them fall into the anachronisms of my lived experience. I am sure that if you handed this to a kid today, he wouldn’t be scandalized because he wouldn’t know what Playboy represented in the 20th century, and he probably would not understand much of the humor within the book anyway. Not that he would want to read it. Not if there was a good, or any, TikTok or YouTube video available.

Which is unfortunate.

At any rate, Playboy collections from the 1960s are probably worth picking up even if they don’t have pictures. So one can remember a time where men aspired to some sophistication or at least think wistfully about a time when men might have aspired to some sophistication but were probably mostly all about the bazingas.

Although the cover art, man. That gives me nightmares.

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Book Report: The Best of Saki by Saki (1994)

Book coverI have a bit of a confession to make, gentle reader: when I was younger, middle school or high school perhaps, I was prone to confuse Saki with O. Henry. Mostly because I knew that both were short story writers who used pseudonyms. I am pretty sure that I only had O. Henry stories available in the giant reusable English textbooks of the day, but it certainly wouldn’t have helped that I only read “A Retrieved Reformation” and maybe “The Gift of the Magi” and no Saki whatsoever. Because the styles are quite different.

One wonders if young people today, or even college English majors, could tell the difference between the two or know just that much about them (short stories, pseudonyms) to confuse them. Probably not.

It doesn’t help that Saki short stories are rather short, with a bit of a twist to them kind of like O. Henry stories. However, they are very British. They reminded me of Chesterton’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, as it too deals mostly with upper crust members of society at their particular concerns and country manors. Several deal with Clovis, a young sophisticate and how he punctures some of the more fuddy-duddy members of his class.

The book also plays upon the trope of aunts, childless women in the family who insert themselves into the lives of their families (or who end up raising the children in the family for various reasons). Kind of like a relatively recent Progressive insurance commercial I’ll post below but which will be yanked from YouTube within a year as its rights expire or something, and we’ll all wonder what I was talking about when viewing this post in 2026:

One had to wonder if the shrinking size of the American family has put all of that aunt energy into the political arena to our detriment.

At any rate, an enjoyable read at 178 pages in a cheap college-reader paperback edition.

I did flag a couple of things:

The baddest word
The book does feature the baddest word, and even in Britain in the late 1800s or early 1900s, it’s used to show the speaker in a bad light. In this case, a man who would like to be known as an expert in religious architecture has moonlighted as the writer of poems that are set to popular music of the day, and he’s afraid that he’ll be known as the writer of music that, erm, black minstrels sing. So it’s not the main character (Clovis) using it, but a bit of a ridiculous fellow.

Although, to be honest, the word “minstrel” is probably already on its way to being a bad word, and I should probably be banned from polite society for using it. Not that 1) there’s any part of society that’s polite these days, and 2) I probably would not be part of that world anyway.

I’m right there with you

“It’s not the daily grind that I complain of,” said Blenkinthrope resentfully; “It’s the dull grey sameness of my life outside of office hours. Nothing of interest comes my way, nothing remarkable or out of the common. Even the little things that I do try to find some interest in don’t seem to interest other people.”

Ya know, I spend my off hours reading books I only post about on this blog, writing poems that I’m not sanguine about placing with magazines, and doing various crafts that end up in boxes in the garage because I’m not sure they’d be of interest to anyone but me, and I’m not eager to open an Etsy account to determine if that’s truly the case.

Hopefully, though, I won’t have the comeuppance or resolution that Blenkinthrope has which involves a fictional chicken.

Walmarts Dollar Generals in 1910 England

“The outlook is not encouraging for us smaller businesses,” said Mr. Scarrick to the artist and his sister, who had taken rooms over his suburban grocery store. “These big concerns are offering all sorts of attractions to the shopping public which we couldn’t afford to imitate, even on a small scale–reading-rooms and play-rooms and gramaphones and Heaven knows what.”

I guess it was not the Dollar Generals back then, but the same complaints are heard today, ainna?

The solution, devised by the artist, involves having some actors in to provide some intrigue which the housewives spread amongst themselves and that pretend intrigue draws them in to shop.

I’m not sure if it would work at the Pricecutter–it’s hard to keep the story lines straight when the employee turnover is accellerating (Dusty was in produce for a number of years, Ira and Debbie’s pharmacy is gone, Ron, the retiree who worked at Pricecutters as a bagger for fifteen years after retirement from his real job, and Linda, the sour checker, are gone; even Andrea and Ryan, the later replacements who checked and worked their ways up to the courtesy counter, have been gone for–years?)

But it’s a good example of how the stories have their twists, and how they might have been ahead of their time. Or how, perhaps, I did not give enough credit to stories and concerns that were nearly universal in industrial/modern societies that might have been shared by people or writers before my time (random thought: My brother and I offered this rejoinder to our sainted mother back in the day: “It’s the 80s, Mom.” which is an anachronism now).

I guess that’s why I read: to broaden my horizon and to realize that my experience is not so unique.

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Book Report: Starwolves #2: Battle of the Ring by Thorarinn Gunnarson (1989)

Book coverWhen I bought this book five years ago (along with another in the series), I said it was probably not related to Starwolf #1: The Weapon from Beyond. And so it was, but one can be forgiven from making the mistake. After all, both series are about space pirates with special abilities. But the books themselves are twenty years apart (1967 versus this paperback’s 1989 publication date).

It is the second book of the series (although the four are not numbered). Many millennia from now, the human race that spread from Terra are at a genetic bottleneck–kind of like Idiocracy, bad genetics and defects are overrunning the population, so the Union has battles other offshoot races to maintain its preeminence in the galaxy. The Starwolves are a race of warriors, four-armed and hardened for battle. Their leader, Velmeran, who triumphed in the first book, has risen a bit, but he still leads his pack of fighters from his mother’s ship, an 18,000-year-old sentient battleship. The Terrans, after their stinging defeat in the previous book, create a super-carrier and a whole new way of doing battle with the Starwolves, and then they hunt Velmeran.

It’s a pretty good book with a couple of different arcs to it, including a rest stop on a safe planet where Velmeran disguises himself as a human trader and picks up an ally who would like to have been his lover but is just happy to get into space; initial contact with the Challenger, the Terran ship; and then infiltration of the Challenger itself.

So one can see, if one’s looking, some blending of elements of Battlestar Galactica with Star Wars, but they’re broad enough themes to not really detract from the story. As the book progresses, we discover more and more that Velmeran is a mutant Starwolf with telepathic abilities, including some glimpse of the future, telepathy, and eventually the ability to teleport. So he runs the risk of being Velmarysue more than a character just a step outside the race that the reader can identify with.

Still, not a bad bit of space opera with some interesting pieces to it.

Unfortunately, the other book I have in the series is the fourth book, so I’ll let a little time elapse between them to prevent myself from getting whipsawed with the additional passage of time and events.

These two books were in mint shape when I bought them, which made me wonder if anyone else has read them before me (I did buy them used). I was going to annoint myself Spinebreaker for damaging the book by reading it, as was Star Trek 11 when I read it this year. However, this paperback weathered the reading well, and although the book has clearly been opened, the spine is uncracked. Which is pretty good for a thirty-five-year-old paperback.

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Book Report: The Art of Strategy by R.L. Wing (1988)

Book coverThis is a “new” translation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and as the slightly altered title indicates, it wants to extend the lessons of the master to situations other than war. The author/translator, as a matter of fact, breaks The Art of War into sections and then adds introductions before each section with how you can apply the lessons within each to Conflict with Yourself (internal struggles or battles with yourself when you want to improve), Conflict with the Environment (which is not Gaia, but rather circumstances in which you find yourself), Conflict with Another (where you disagree with another), and Conflict Among Leaders (when you have conflicts and you’re in authority).

As you might remember, gentle reader, when dealing with classic texts, I tend to skip introductions until the end so that I can read the work first and then dig into the instructions. With this particular work, though, I gave up on reading the section introductions as it seemed the author was working too hard to draw out or make up lessons for each of the arbitrary sections. So most of this “report” is musings on the original work itself other than saying another, briefer translation might prove a better read and surely a better form-factor than this book, which in addition to the large introductions, includes the original Chinese on the left-facing pages along with a little calendar/notes spot so that you can study the sections over the course of time and to meditate on the teachings and how to apply them to your life as you study. So this is a coffeetable sized paperback, but you can find The Art of War in Barnes and Noble hardbacks or in mass market paperbacks that fit into your back pocket.

I read this book once or twice before when I was younger. So when I bought this book last Labor Day Weekend in Kansas, it was only a matter of time before I picked it up because I remember it as a short read. Well, it would have been, but the additional material kind of bogged me down even though I was not reading it. So I started it last summer or autumn and set it aside and then picked it up again recently.

At any rate, overall, The Art of War is pretty much a set of koans and things to meditate on which will kind of seem simple–don’t attack when your opponent is strong, appear to be in a different place than you are, and so on. So some good high-level things to consider, but if you’re actually wanting to study war and how to do it, you’re probably better off reading Julius Caesar, studying George Patton, or picking up a wargaming sourcebook. They provide practical details and considerations, like secure your corn and water first. Things no doubt taught to ancient Chinese military leaders, but not communicated very much in this text.

Reading this, though, one can appreciate how China might take a longer view of warfare and conflict that the West, but one has to wonder how that’s worked out. After all, much of China’s territorial gains have come from homelands of invaders who conquered China in kinetic warfare, become Chinese, and set up their own dynasty of “Chinese” emperors only to be overthrown by the next invading horde. I mean China never conquered Korea even though it’s right there (although who would want to, really) and didn’t hold onto its southeastern claims in Vietnam and whatnot.

I have probably mentioned before that I was approached to edit a book on how this was going to be China’s big century. But I demurred because I’ve read some Chinese history, and I know that a lot of centuries were going to be China’s century. I’m not as certain as this guy:

But I do think that the future will surprise us. Probably not in a good way, but it will certainly be different than what the modern clickbait prophets say it will be. Or what they said yesterday, which might be the complete opposite.

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Book Report: Twice a Week Heroes by Danny Miles (2021)

Book coverI got this book last August at ABC Books who had (and still has) a stack of them under the dwindling (now empty) martial arts section. It’s by a local author, but he had not to my knowledge stopped up at ABC Books to sign his book. Which is just as well, as I’d have to stop by to buy a signed copy even though I’ve already bought and read a copy. I’m just that way.

I started to read this book before the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge in bits and chapters here and there, and after completing the challenge, I’ve taken to reading books that I started before it instead of picking up new books. For now.

So. The book is subtitled “Stories that skim the surface of fast pitch softball in Springfield, Missouri.” So I hoped for, well, stories. But it’s not so much that as a kind of history of fast pitch softball leagues from the 1950s through the 1990s. Miles starts out as a fan watching with his uncles at the local parks, becomes a pitcher for a decade or so, and then a manager for the last of his times. And although the book starts a bit with stories of watching the games and idolizing the players, as it gets into later chapters, it turns more into a revisiting of rosters (and their shuffling) as well as the results of the leagues and tournaments.

Unfortunately, this makes most of the chapters kind of repetitive as they detail the players changing teams, the teams changing sponsors, and sometimes doing well and sometimes not. The book details a AAA league, which is a very competitive league, so they teams often play in regional and national tournaments and poaching from other teams. The number of teams dwindles from 200 or so in the middle part of the century to under 10 in the 1990s and maybe none now.

And the number of actual stories diminishes over time. Many of them are only a paragraph or two, which mentions the dangers of driving a mid-century car several hundred miles full of grown men and a case full of beer, but mostly it’s rosters and results. Unfortunately.

A bit more flavor like this story from Wirecutter, could have improved this book:

There was a baseball complex just catty corner from the ammo plant and the ammo plant just happened to have a fastpitch softball team, so during the season a bunch of us would pack up our coolers and go to the game if it was on a weekend.

They were a blast. Our team sucked majorly and yeah, it was for lack of trying. They were there strictly for the fun. We’d sit right behind the dugout and sneak the team beer after the cooler they smuggled in emptied out. Motherfuckers would be half in the bag by the time the game was over.

Jose, the best player on the team, would saunter up to the plate with a stagger in his gait, tug at his hat, tap the plate with his bat, then sneer at the pitcher. The pitcher would fire a pitch at Jose, and Jose would somehow knock it out to deep left field. Jose would then reach into his pocket, pull out a cigarette and light it, wave to all of his adoring fans, then get tagged out before he took a step. And we would go wild. After all, it was a great hit even if he was just showboating for both his wife and girlfriend.

We’ve all heard of players being thrown out of a game, but on more than a couple occasions, our entire team would get ejected usually for petty bullshit like drinking on the field during play or trying to grab a female ump’s ass.

Doesn’t sound like a AAA team, but the story definitely has flavor.

The book is most likely targeted to people who played and who will be happy to see their names in this book. Me, I was interested in seeing the mention of the parks and a bit of dogging of the Park Board for banning a player or making different decisions in the parks’ interest if not the fast pitch softball teams’. As I have mentioned, my beautiful wife is on the Park Board, so I let her have it a bit for the decades-old transgressions.

Also, as the book extended into the 1990s, I found again (like the history from Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks) that this “history” creeped a bit into things I remember. I would have started coming to the Springfield area with my then-girlfriend in 1997, and I moved here almost fourteen years ago (!), so I know the names of the parks, the names of some of the sponsors (even the historical sponsors based on my other local history readings). Like Seeburg Mufflers (a team sponsor in later years). I used to see the Seeburg Muffler car outside its Springfield location at Campbell and Sunset:

They sold that location either to Bass Pro or to a restaurant that wanted to serve the Bass Pro tourists a couple of years ago.

So I’ve been in the Springfield area long enough to recognize some anachronisms here. Well, I guess it fits, since I’m an anachronism myself.

At any rate, a bit of a disappointment of a book, but I recommend you all go to ABC Books to buy a copy to make more room for martial arts books. Also, if you have any martial arts books to sell, you can get good prices at ABC Books. Actually, I don’t know what kinds of prices ABC Books uses to buy books. Selling books is not my thing, as you probably know by now.

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Book Report: Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes by Nicky Beer (2022)

Book coverI bouught this book last week at the Novel Neighbor in Old Trees, Missouri, when I traveled to St. Louis (the actual city, gentle reader, not The St. Louis Area which is safer and saner). The Novel Neighbor is not my favorite St. Louis area bookstore–it was not there when I lived in Old Trees, and most of the book stores I knew from that era but fourteen years ago are gone now and new ones, like the Novel Neighbor and the new Webster Groves Book Shop, have spring up. The Novel Neighbor is a bit more progressively themed, so I prefer the Webster Groves Book Shop because it has a better local interest/local authors section. But I stopped at the Novel Neighbor first since it was closer to my hotel only to discover that the Webster Groves Book Shop closed at 4pm–and my stop at the Novel Neighbor put me past that time. Ah, well.

At the Novel Neighbor, I stopped by the poetry section, and this volume, a signed copy, faced out, so I picked it up and flipped it open. The first poem I encountered was “Marlene Dietrich Plays Her Musical Saw For The Troops, 1944”. As you might know, gentle reader, I am a sucker for a good musical saw.

(Full disclosure: Alberti is a friend of mine–she is the mother-in-law of my last best friend who has been dead, what, seven years now? But she has been a resident of Springfield for a long time, and when we all had dinner at her home more than seven years ago, she actually pulled out a saw and played it for us along with piano and flute duets with her daughter, and Alberti pointed out that to play a saw, you want an older saw, not one you can buy at a hardware store now with a hole in it to hang it up because that alters the sound.)

Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, buying this book. I flipped through a couple of other books on the progressively themed poetry shelf, but nothing appealed to me more than this book, so it’s what I bought. And it’s the only thing I bought that Wednesday afternoon, so that’s the reason you did not see a Good Book Hunting post from that time, gentle reader. I read most of the book the next day in a series of hospital waiting rooms and polished it off when I got home, and…. I liked it.

Now, to be honest, the first poem is “Drag Day at Dollywood”, and something in the next couple of poems made me wonder, How progressive is this poet? So I flipped to the back of the book, to the About the Author bit, and the author identifies herself as a bi/queer writer. The poet identifies herself thus first, which is unfortunate, as the she is a poet first and foremost.

I mean, the poems do include some references to gender/sexuality in the “bi/queer” sense, but thematically, it fits into questions of identity: Who am I? Is there something wrong with me? The poems question these themes very well outside of the politicized context of bi/queer/gender/sexuality.

I mean, the lines are long enough to develop thoughts, images, and metaphors (although I’m not sure about the line breaks). The poet, get this, uses evocative language and imagery to initiate a response in the reader instead of just declarative statements to tell the reader what’s on the poet’s mind.

Maybe I need to read better poetry than the grandmother poetry or the bad chapbooks I read, but this poet should be offended if I compare her to Rupi Kaur or Pierre Alex Jeanty, two other 21st century poets I’ve read recently. So I won’t. Ach, I even had a thought–this poet might be better than I am.

But she’s no Edna St. Vincent Millay. None of us are, although maybe Neo comes close.

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Book Report: Murder, She Wrote: The Maine Mutiny by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain (2005)

Book coverThis would turn out to be the last of the books I read for the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge, 14 of 15 categories completed. This one fit into the “Cozy” category, which means generally a little old lady solves a bit of a cottage mystery akin to an old English novel rather than a hard-boiled or police procedural investigation. I looked it up, actually, and although I probably have many other samples hidden amongst the stacks of Nogglestead, I knew where one or more of these books were as I had given a number of them to my sainted mother back in the day, and I often spotted one or more when browsing the stacks (and hence thinking of Mom). Not long after she passed away, I read one of these books (Murder, She Wrote: Dying to Retire) and was not impressed.

This time around, though, maybe I appreciated it more because I’m over a decade older and slower. I mean, it’s not like the Lee Goldberg books in the Monk or Diagnosis: Murder series with a lot of humor and some daffy characters for amusement–it’s pretty earnest. And Jessica Fletcher does go about her business talking and talking to different people in Death Capital (which is the translation from the French of Cabot Cove). And of course they’re planning a big party while she’s doing it.

So, the plot: Cabot Cove is getting ready to have its first lobster festival, which means Jessica comes into contact with the lobstermen who are having a bit of a problem with their broker who handles their sales–and perhaps the leader of the lobstermen’s organization is not really on their side. So half of the book explores this tension, well, the dual tensions of putting on a lobster festival on what seems to be a very short timeline (the book starts a week or so out, and they’re still planning it) and the lobstermen vs the broker, and the lobstermen who dissent from the current order vs the those who like tradition or how things are always done. I guess that’s triple tensions, but they take the first half of the book, setting things up. Then, on page 150, Chapter 13, Jessica awakens on a lobster boat with a dead body whom she discovers is the broker, and the boat is sinking. Actually, we get a primer on that in the Prologue–Jessica on the boat with a body, and then Chapter 1 starts two weeks earlier. And the next 120 pages are the subsequent rescue, investigation, resolution, and denouement.

So the pace is slower than your 60s or 70s men’s adventure paperback original, but it’s a different target audience. Perhaps the pace matches the show–I still haven’t seen a full episode (nor of Monk or Diagnosis: Murder), but maybe it takes :20 to get to the murder and :23 to resolve it (or vice versa). Or maybe because I’d mentally prepared for a “Cozy” or because I’d read one previously or because I was used to slower pacing from “Female Detective” in Finding Lizzy Smith, but the pacing did not bother me as much as it did in the book I read in 2010.

At any rate, it was okay. Colorful in its way. And I have two or three floating around on the to-read shelves, so perhaps I will read another before 2036.

Eesh, that’s a big number, 2036.

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It Ends: 2023

So the Springfield-Greene County Library 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has come to an end. In the end, I only read books in 14 of the 15 categories. I did not read a banned book, as I don’t have many banned books easily at hand, and I’ve read most of the ones I own (I think).

So here it is, the completed form:

The list includes:

Listen to a Book How I Write by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
Set in Space Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh
Instructional A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Isenberg
Religious or Spiritual Breathe! You Are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh
Female Detective Finding Lizzy Smith by Susan Keene
Cozy The Maine Mutiny by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
Author of Color A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs by Susie King Taylor
Kid’s Chapter Book For the Love of Benji by I.F. Love
Under 200 Pages The Book of Irish Limericks by Myler Magrath
Banned Book
Speculative Fiction Conquistador by S.M. Stirling
Nature/Outdoors Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein
Page Turner Racing the Light by Robert Crais
Wartime Setting I’m No Hero by Charlie Plumb
Pictorial Fantin-Latour by Michelle Verrier

So I’ve read sixteen books this year, total, and I’m happy to get back to self-guided reading. I like the Winter Reading Challenge at the outset of the year, where part of the fun is picking out books from the Nogglestead stacks that fit the categories (I didn’t need a library book this year), but it does become a bit of a chore when you get to the last category or two.

I turned in my form at the Library Center on Saturday, but in a stunning turn of events, they were out of mugs. Not that I needed another, gentle reader, but it would have been a bit of a trophy. The librarian at the reference desk mentioned that they might order more and contact me when they’re available, but time will tell, and time is already nodding its head in the negative.

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