A Lost Metaphor

Not a metaphor referring to the television show Lost–I mean, who remembers Lost now?

I mean, a metaphor that we really cannot use in the 21st century.

Static.

I was driving along this morning, taking the oldest to school in the darkness for his marching band practice, and I thought about writing a poem about moving through the tunnel of the night, and I thought perhaps I could work in a line about static, but no.

I mean, who under the age of, what, forty has experienced broadcast static?

Most kids these days have not experienced over-the-air television nor have seen a playing of the national anthem and then television stations signing off in the middle of the night nor dozens of UHF stations on the second dial that show nothing but white noise.

On the radio, the Seek buttons and digital tuning eliminates that sound between the stations, and although one can still experience some weaker signals when driving out of range, who listens to the radio in the car any more except we old men, and by we, old man, I mean I.

So I got to wondering whether the removal of the concept of static from the mental makeup of modern man has had any impact. In the digital media world rife with social media misgivings, have we lost the ability to discern signal from noise, the ability to not accept everything presented to us as equally true or just surface impressions?

Eh, maybe I’ll use the metaphor anyway since I don’t expect young people to read my poetry anyway. Or old people for that matter. I’ll just write what I want.

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Book Report: Fabergé Eggs Introduction and Commentaries by Christopher Forbes (1981)

Book coverThis is a huge book, part of the Abrams Poster-Sized Book line, and it lists and depicts, well, Fabergé eggs and other charms made by the great jeweler whether the ones given by the czars of Russia to wives and mothers or other nobles of the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries.

In case you don’t know, these small bits of metallurgy and lapidary are intricate bits of work, often with surprises inside like little charms or miniature paintings, that the leader of Russia gave as gifts to his wife, the Czarina, or his mother. After the revolution, the Soviets sold many of them off, and Forbes ended up with the most comprehensive collection of them, which is why a Forbes wrote the text.

They’re incredible pieces of work. Fabergé didn’t do the work himself, and the book identifies the masters who did when possible. The form factor of the book makes it a bit awkward to handle, especially when a cat wants to get onto your lap, but it does allow you to view the eggs larger-than-life. And where the eggs are not available for photography, a chronological presentation with line drawings appears at the end of the book.

A fascinating look at art and engineering probably best known as a James Bond prop.

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The Hidden Treasures Of Nogglestead Indict The Noggles For Their Poor Housekeeping/Improvement

So yesterday, as I was putting away two five packs of toothpaste in our master bedroom walk-in closet, I came to a discovery. Not that I am a hoarder, gentle reader, but in this the year of our Lord 2021, when you use one, you buy two, and the word “Limit” in a store means “Buy this many whether you need them right now or not.”

No; as I put the glued packs onto the high shelf in the closet, above my head but still reachable, I pushed them back, and they encountered resistance. I reached up there and found….

A… What, radio?

It turns out it’s a small wired speaker powered by three AAA batteries that you can plug into your Walkman or Discman to play them without headphones, I guess. I suppose it would work with an old iPod, too, as it has the 1/8″ stereo cord tucked under, so definitely designed for some mobile device.

I asked my beautiful wife if she recognized it, and she did not. It looks like a Bluetooth speaker, so I thought perhaps it might have been one that did not work well and that we abandoned. But as it’s a wired speaker….

It’s entirely possible that it’s been on that shelf ever since we’ve lived here, something that the previous owners did not see when moving out. I mean, I certainly did not see it from the ground level, and if I’ve brought a step into the closet to change the bulb, I didn’t look in that direction or it was behind other things. It damns me for not cleaning or reorganizing the closet in the entire time we’ve been here and for not repainting it, I suppose.

I just wish I’d find a trove of pre-1965 quarters instead of the normal sort of electronica I might buy at a garage sale with a modern quarter. Or I would have in days past; I’m not hitting many garage sales these days, and although I’ve gone to a couple estate sales in the recent months, I’m not accumulating the electronic bric-a-brac I used to.

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Book Report: We’re Doing Witchcraft by E. Kristin Anderson (2015)

Book coverI got this book from one of the bundles of chapbooks I bought at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale (he repeated).

This book is a more modern entry in the series (compared to these decades-old cards). They mostly deal with, of course, being young and a woman in the 21st century, relationships and the like. Growing older, learning, and so on. A cut above most of the things I read, actually, with longer lines and some good imagery, but some inchoate images and poems that didn’t speak to me.

A number of the entries are erasure poems, wherein she took another text and eliminated words, sentences, and presumably paragraphs to carry elison (ahut) into a new work with meaning. It’s an interesting exercise, but somehow seems less than writing something from scratch. However, I am sure it keeps the creative juices flowing, and here I am waiting for the muse to strike me at the exact moment I’m sitting at a coffee shop for thirty minutes with a notepad. Which happens sometimes, but not often. Perhaps I should get to coffee shops more.

At any rate, this chapbook was all right. Of course, Ms. Anderson doesn’t need my validation; her copyright page indicates she’s getting her work out without my blog’s linking to her work, which is just as well since it’s not on Amazon, and you guys don’t use the handy links when I provide them anyway.

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And Here We Are

In the review for A Bend In The Road, a book of poetry put together by a nursing home operating company featuring poems by its residents, I said:

Man, I remember nursing homes in the 1980s. Two of my sainted mother’s aunts ended up in a couple of different facilities, and the facilities were as cold and efficient as hospitals but with less care. It depressed me to go visit those old ladies–I was young then, and impatient. Times have changed now, though; one local senior living facility has been running ads showing a tatted up, goateed and mohawked pierced grandpa with big headphones on taking a selfie. One expects the new facilities are more fun, but then again, the ones that advertise in 417 are probably the nicer ones anyway; one would probably find my relations in more traditional centers.

I went through several copies of 417 we had on hand to try to find the ad in question to share it with you, but I could not find the full page ad nor remember the name of the place to look for the ad online.

But I got the new issue of the local slick this weekend, and Turners Rock has reduced it to a quarter page, which trims it a bit, but you can see whom they expect to live in their senior living facilities:

I guess he doesn’t have a mohawk after all. And we can’t see piercings, but they’re definitely implied.

You know, I’m not far off of eligibility for senior living facilities, but I can’t see myself downsizing that much. I have too many books yet to read and too many records to fit into a small apartment, and I am used to playing my music as loud as I want. But fifty-something is not turning out to be adulthood and elderliness that I remember from when I was young. I cannot tell whether that’s because my perception has changed as I have aged or whether being older has changed. Probably both, and both to a large degree. But, truly, truly, I say to you, most of the metalheads I know these days need Advil after a concert, not so much for hangovers but for body aches.

In a related note, they’re building a lot of senior living around Springfield, giant complexes with hundreds of units. Theoretically, many of those seniors will be moving out of their homes and putting them on the market. And builders keep building lots and lots of new single family homes. Who is going to live there? The population has been holding steady. We haven’t been cranking out babies to warrant this much growth (we only did one for me and one for you but not one for the bishop). Are the powers that be planning for a population boom from somewhere else (abroad or aliens?), or are they merely pursuing a build-build-build strategy not unlike China’s which will lead to an eventual bubble bursting?

I dunno, but I’m not taking out any home equity loans based on valuation that says Nogglestead has almost doubled in worth since we’ve been here.

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Wrong Century

My Facebook feed these days is about 70% ads and promoted posts from old Hollywood, random authors, and retro/nostalgia sites.

One of which recently delivered this up to me:

How many of you had pieces of furniture in your house in the 1970s?

Well, I did not have any of these in my house in the 21st century, but my sainted mother had two differently sized end tables and the coffee table in her home in the 21st century:

My brother inherited the items after she passed. I am not sure if he still has the pieces–I didn’t look too carefully the last time I was out there–but these are heavy and heirloom quality. After all, I am pretty sure that my mother inherited them from her mother in the middle 1980s or perhaps from her sister.

Regardless, I have to wonder how many of these nostalgia clickbait posts are written by young people who don’t realize that, as you get older, the past, especially the artifacts, come along with you. Or perhaps it’s just me, someone who relies on personal relics to connect to the past since so many of the people I knew and could corroborate my stories have passed on or don’t remember.

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Great Minds Think Alike, And So Do Ours

I was talking to the woman at the cleaners who handles my eldest’s JROTC uniform weekly about how time passes differently for kids versus we elder folk because each year is a larger percentage of their lives than ours. So a kid who’s fifteen, his fifteenth year is 7 percent of his life, and likely 10 or more percent of the life that he remembers well. Someone who’s going through his fiftieth year, the year is only 2 percent, and he might not remember much of it at all.

On Friday, Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise, explained:

I’ve long felt that I understood why this was. Let me give it a shot.

For a newborn, the second day it’s outside and breathing is 50% of its entire life. For a six-year-old, half of their life is three years – much more. It’s not a big percentage, but it’s much smaller than 50%. For a sixteen-year-old, half their life is eight years.

If you’re forty – half your life is twenty years. 1/8 versus 1/20? It’s amazingly different. We don’t perceive life as a line. We’re living inside of it – we compare our lives to the only thing we have . . . our lives. Each day you live is smaller than the last.

But that’s not everything.

As we age, novelty decreases. When we’re young, experiences and knowledge are coming at us so quickly that we are presented with novel (new and unique) information daily. New words. New thoughts. New ideas.

I have known this and have explained it to my sons and to everyone who will listen.

I have some photos rotating on my auxiliary monitor beside me; one crops up of the boys with medals for a middle school event. To me, it was very recent; to the boys, this was, what, 2018? A long time ago. By the time that period elapses again, the oldest will be out of the house, and the youngest will be, what, a junior in high school? The whole lives that they have known here will only be an interlude in my life, and the soon-to-be-over beginning of the rest of their lives. I’ve known this, too, for a while–I have been saying that we’re on the downhill slide since the oldest was nine. But it gets realer and realer in my imagination.

I already grieve for this time, even as I spend too much of it on work and other things or being frustrated/exasperated with them when I’m with them. Fortunately, I will only remember the best parts. And not my own, what, dread of our separation?

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Lileks Looks Down On Brian J.

Lileks pities the technical writers:

Of course there were manuals. In binders. Sitting on the shelf of everyone’s desk. Never used. Tossed out en masse. I feel a bit of sympathy for the people who wrote them, but that’s probably misplaced. A job. They were paid. Wasn’t creative. Kept the lights on.

Yeah, I’ve written manuals for money. Pretty good money, actually.

But one does not finish a manual or set of updates to documentation and feel any sense of creative accomplishment, for sure.

Kind of like writing a backwater blog.

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Book Report: A Bend In The Road edited by Mary A. Shaugnessy (1982)

Book coverAs you might know, gentle reader, I consume a lot of what I call “Grandma Poetry.” These are usually chapbooks published by older women with themes of family and God; the authors are not professional poets and probably don’t even have a magazine credit on their copyright pages. Most of it is not sublime or exhilirating; some of it is nice. If you read the collected works of a Great Poet, you’ll find their works are limited to the really, really good once in a while and maybe nice most of the time.

This collects presumably the best poems and some artwork from residents in nursing homes owned by Beverly Enterprises. So the tone and shape of the poems varies. Some are about youth, some are about being your best self in a nursing home, but more than one are about being lonely and forgotten–even if it’s only in the subtext of a poem lauding volunteers who come to visit.

So it’s uneven and lacks a single voice, and some are poems by committee–classes where several people put a poem together. You can actually tell these poems apart from others as they lack internal consistency and voice.

Man, I remember nursing homes in the 1980s. Two of my sainted mother’s aunts ended up in a couple of different facilities, and the facilities were as cold and efficient as hospitals but with less care. It depressed me to go visit those old ladies–I was young then, and impatient. Times have changed now, though; one local senior living facility has been running ads showing a tatted up, goateed and mohawked pierced grandpa with big headphones on taking a selfie. One expects the new facilities are more fun, but then again, the ones that advertise in 417 are probably the nicer ones anyway; one would probably find my relations in more traditional centers.

At any rate, something to flip through during a football game, but not something to emulate in one’s own poetizing.

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The Ignorance of Journalists Is Fun!

The Springfield Daily Dammit, Gannett! has a video wherein the Answer Man tests the new twenty-six-year-olds on how to pronounce various places and streets in the Ozarks.

Which shows not only that the journalists, who have been at the paper for some time now, have not yet been around enough to pick up some pronunciations, but also that they’re not from around here to begin with.

After twelve years here, I knew how to pronounce everything except the basketball coach’s name. I am not sure how that counts as Ozarks since MSU is only a job, and probably (the coach hopes) a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Now ask them questions derived from old episodes of Schoolhouse Rock so we may laugh at their answers to basic civics as well.

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Weekend Recap

You know, some weekends I come through on Monday morning wondering what I did and where the time went; generally, this follows a weekend of common tasks, chores, and work, where I get up-do a martial arts class-nap-work-chores-sleep-church-nap-chores. In the autumn and winter, Sunday afternoons are given over to football as well, so the time goes by and I seemingly have nothing to show for it.

This weekend, though, I can account for my time pretty easily–and still have little to show for it.

On Saturday, I slept in until about eight thirty. When I was younger, my waking hours tended toward the night, so I would stay up until midnight, one, or two in the morning, and I would sleep until ten o’clock. But having children has put me on a morning-based schedule, so when I get to sleep until eight, I take it. I slept until eight, and then I had some breakfast, and I puttered a bit with morning chores, and then I took my younger son down to Nixa so he could spend the day with a friend. On the way home, we (my beautiful wife and I) stopped at an estate sale over in Battlefield. You know, I used to hit estate sales every week in my Ebaying days, so I was a little inured to how somber it was to go through someone’s life’s leftovers, but now that I hit them only once every couple of months, and because I’m getting closer to that end for myself, I’m a little sad. But I picked up several videocassettes, including Secondhand Lions for which I was kinda looking, and some magazines for découpage projects.

After a nap, I replaced the belt and tension wheel on our dryer, which had taken to screaming like a banshee when drying laundry–which had made me reluctant to do laundry at all. The kit I bought had replacement drum support wheels as well, but I didn’t want to take the drum out completely. I was on a bit of a clock with afternoon plans, but I wanted to fix the dryer because we were going to need to run it later in the evening and perhaps after bedtime. When I started it up, it was quieter, but then the squeak returned. I didn’t have time to re-open the dryer and do it all over again, so that failed repair would have to linger until Sunday.

In the afternoon, I drove to Cole Camp to pick up the oldest son, who had gone out of town with a friend to visit the friend’s grandparents and fall festival in Cole Camp. It’s two hours to Cole Camp, and we picked up the youngest after we returned to the Springfield area, so all told I spent about six and a half hours in the car on Saturday ferrying children. On the plus side, I got Secondhand Lions, and the trip to a new town enabled me to get two new papers to subscribe to, the Buffalo Reflex and the Benton County Enterprise. Which means I’m going to have to get a bigger mailbox so Cora, our mail carrier, can fit all these papers in on Thursdays and Fridays.

On Sunday morning, we did the Springfield 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

110 flights of stairs; it took us a little over an hour. I did it two years ago, and this year, I did it with the boys. I was a little concerned as I am two years older and have not been as active as I have in the past, but it was not too bad. The crowd was smaller than my previous experience, but it was still full of firefighters doing the climb with their full gear. It humbled me, and I pointed out to the boys that most of the people there would risk their lives to save yours without a thought to the danger. I felt a little like I was stealing some valor participating as a civilian. I’m not one to thank everyone for their service–frankly, I think that’s a middle class affectation more for the thanker than the thankee–but I do appreciate what those firefighters do.

After the climb, my youngest and I pulled apart the dryer, including removing the drum. We wrestled off the existing drum support wheels and tried to fit the new ones on. Either the wheels I received in the kit were the wrong parts, or a production defect made them a millimeter too thin, but the new wheels did not fit. So I cleaned some fabric–hair or lint wound tightly around the shafts–and added a little WD40 and hoped for the best. The boy, who likes to help with these sorts of thing when they go well grew frustrated, as the new little plastic clips were also tight to get onto the shafts. However, when we put it all together, it worked, quietly, and so far the dryer has not caught fire.

It was a good thing I did it before the nap; I told the boys that the climb was more of a workout than a 5K and more akin to a triathlon. After pizza and a nap, I was not good for much of anything. Fortunately, football season opened everywhere but the NFC North, so I got to read poetry whilst the Packers took a pasting.

So that’s what I did. Something close to nothing, but different from the weekend before.

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Things I Learned Today

Apparently, there’s a local company, Pine Box Entertainment, that has produced a collectible card game called Doomtown: Reloaded that is based on the Deadlands role-playing game.

Which is the last new-to-me role-playing game that I bought in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 2017 (but have not played).

I have since bought the new version of Dungeons and Dragons’ Player Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide, but haven’t played them, either.

I just saw the headline in a local business journal’s afternoon email and thought I might have recognized it, unlike many of the publication’s regular readers.

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Hopefully This Does Not Catch On

Forget Netflix, some movie fans rewind to VHS tapes:

That hasn’t stopped die-hards. A small community of VHS fanatics has sprung up around the country, trading tapes and tips on how to watch. Much of it is organized around small boxes where people can drop off or pick up tapes. The “Free Blockbuster ” boxes started in Los Angeles and spread. There are VHS tape trading events and auctions.

In the late 1990s, Hollywood studios began selling films on DVDs and VHS rentals lost their grip on home viewings. Blu-ray took over in the early 2000s. By 2010 Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection.

Mis. Hum. at the Ace of Spades HQ overnight thread says:

Vinyl went by the wayside, but has made a return.

Lordy, I hope not. I’ve seen what has happened to the price of records in the wild, and now that I’m actively accumulating VHS and DVDs, I’d hate for the prices also to quintuple.

But, wait, the article is actually about a silly Little Free Videocassette Sharing fad:

To try to re-create a bit of the video-store experience, Brian Morrison started Free Blockbuster in 2019. The group turns former newspaper boxes into free little libraries of movies. VHS die-hards hope the effort encourages the exchange of home entertainment with strangers in their neighborhood.

Yeah, never mind. Nothing to worry about yet.

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A Quiz Too Close To Home

DAFT DESIGNS Changing Rooms brought us floating shelves and rag-rolled walls – how many of these dodgy 90’s trends are YOU guilty of?

The Nineties and Noughties series had questionable taste and encouraged a nation of DIY decorators, sometimes with disastrous results.

Siobhan O’Connor asks how many of these popular Changing Rooms hacks you can remember, and which are still lurking in your home?

Sadly, I score highly on the quiz, mostly for the homes in Casinport and Nogglestead. Our home in Old Trees was completely remodeled in 2005-2006 as it was flipped to us, so its knockdown paint job won’t be eligible for nostalgic listicles for another ten years.

So how many of the listed designs have I suffered through?

  • MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard). C’mon, man, I still have two Sauder printer stands as an end table and an entertainment center, so I’m way into this. Also, most of Nogglestead’s bookshelves are fibreboard of various states of breakdown. I’m pleased to say our expensive furnishings are not; they’re cheap but costly laminates, we’re discovering as the laminate is getting nicked.
  • Boudoir Bedrooms. Well, this includes four poster beds, and one of the costly laminates is a bed that you can configure as a canopy, four poster, or sleigh bed. We’ve generally had it in the canopy configuration, but only rarely with actual fabric.
  • Mirrored Wardrobes. The photo has mirrored doors on the closets, which were a feature on our home in Casinoport.
  • Terracota.
  • Stenciling/Tape.
  • Rag-rolling/Sponging. I ragrolled my home office right before installing my expensive MDF desk in it.
  • Shaggy Sheets.
  • Floating Shelves.

I almost gave myself another bold for the stenciling and tape as Nogglestead has several wallpaper borders which are kind of in line with the thought, but they’re not exactly the same thing, so I used that loophole.

Still, I’m at 50%, with 37.5% occurring here at Nogglestead. I might have mentioned we haven’t upgraded it a whole lot. I suspect we’re going to be those trapped in amber time capsule people whose homes look like they haven’t changed in 40 years. And we won’t have been the ones to have changed it to its last state in the first place.

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Brian J. Is Back On The Comics: Chic Young’s Dagwood, #136, April 1964

As I mentioned when I did a… what, comic book report? on a Sad Sack comic from 1967, I picked up some comic books a couple weekends ago when I had time to kill. I’m not tearing through them at any raste–it’s been almost a month since I read that previous comic, the Sad Sack Laugh Special. I moved these two to the top of the stack because when I was a kid in the 1980s, I inherited a bunch of 1960s Harvey titles, and they have nostalgia value for me.

This comic is a Dagwood title, #136 in the series, that came out in 1964. Which is eight years before I was born, but everything from before I was born was in the olden days. Just let me kids tell you about how inconceivable the twentieth century was.

A couple of years ago, I read a couple of Blondie paperbacks from the late 1970s (Blondie #1 and Blondie “Celebration Edition”, from during my lifetime and after Chic Young’s–he passed away in 1973, so the comic was then in the hands of his heirs and their hirelings. Well, I guess the first gathered some Chic Young comics, too, but most of my experience comes from the daily strip which I am sure I read at times in my youth.

These comics are of the older set, where Dagwood is rushing for the bus instead of a carpool. Blondie is a bit more ditzy, into shopping and mid-century women’s things. And Dagwood, if you can imagine it, has some more depth. The stories have more length than a daily strip, so I’m not sure if they collected several days’ worth of strips or if they were written for comics. But they’re amusing at times, especially for a former resident of the 20th century and someone who has read enough older books to understand the time before he became self-aware absorbed.

This comic, along with the Sad Sack comic, have short stories in them. Short-shorts, one page blocks of prose, interrupting the comics. They have a message–a girl reluctant to go to school has fun in one such here, which presupposes that a four-year-old or five-year-old going off to school would be reading this comic and would learn a lesson from that story. Here in the 21st century, I would guess not many kids starting school know how to read short short stories. And here in the 21st century, the most popular children’s books are large font sentences broken up with cartoons.

So maybe I am still a resident of the 20th century in exile.

As for the nostalgia, well, it smells like an old comic, and it’s full of ads for the things comics used to have ads for. Novelty items, selling Grit, muscle-building programs. So, yeah, it made me feel twelve again for a minute watching it.

In very tangentally related news, I am sure I mentioned that Blondie over its career has been on radio, in movies, and on television off and on for decades. Not long after this comic came out, television made another short-lived series starring Patricia Harty as Blondie.

Continue reading “Brian J. Is Back On The Comics: Chic Young’s Dagwood, #136, April 1964”

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And Here We Go

My oldest son’s English II teacher sent an email home welcoming him and us to English II, and its first lessons.

It’s been a great first week, and I’m looking forward to starting our first unit. We’ll start with multicultural book clubs, and your student was able to choose from a selection of six titles: Dreamland Burning, We Were Here, Dear Martin, Purple Heart, Sold, and Refugee. We encourage you to have a conversation with your student about their choice.

When I mentioned this to my beautiful wife, she mentioned that it would come in English IV. But, c’mon, man, I read A Tale of Two Cities as a freshman in high school (and I admit I turned to the Cliff’s Notes edition to get the plot straight). You know, Dickens. Those tales of white privilege and supremacy and debtors’ prisons.

Looking back over the books they’ve had to tote home, they’ve never had to read any of the great books or elements of the classical canon, ever. And they went to a private elementary and middle school. The only exposure they’ve had to classical literature is what we’ve provided at home.

I suppose I should work harder at it again.

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Might I Never Again Attend a Renaissance Festival With My Boys?

The Daily Dammit, Gannett! has a story about the Kansas City Renaissance Festival which runs from Labor Day weekend through the Columbus Day.

I have attended the festival thrice: Once with friends, a year or two later with the beautiful girlfriend who would become my beautiful wife, and once about seven years ago with my boys and my brother and my nephew who lived in the area at the time.

I’ve hoped to head back up with them, but we’ve been busy, and I’d had a real job for four autumns, which kept us away.

Now, of course, it becomes clear that the festival overlaps marching band season–I just got a calendar that fills Saturdays until Halloween. My boys will be in marching band likely until the end of their high school careers. Which means I might have attended my last renaissance festival with my boys already.

Sobering thought.

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That Time Brian J. Bid On A Picasso

As you might remember, gentle reader, I don’t care much for modern art, including the work of Picasso (see What Makes a Picasso a Picasso? and forget that I once sponsored a theatre company after seeing Picasso at Lapin Agile). But one time, I bid on a piece of original art from Picasso, mostly to say I have a Picasso if I won it at age 23.

When I was a boy, I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum a bunch. My grandmother managed the gift shop, so she got us past the velvet rope for free, which is about the price a family from the projects can afford. So every year or two, we went down to the lakefront and walk around the exhibits for a couple of hours. To be honest, we enjoyed some of the more modern, what, sculpture installations? One thing on the wall had holes in it, and if you held your hand over holes/sensors in it, it would make different sounds. Another exhibit had a room with lights and mirrors in it on all walls, the ceiling, and the floor. You could put special slipcovers on your feet and go into it, and it would look like you were floating in an infinity of lights or stars in every direction. I guess they have Rodin’s The Kiss–of which we have a small casting to this day.

When I returned to Milwaukee for college, I went down to the art museum a couple of times a year. I was always, always amazed at the other students at the university just up the road who claimed they wanted to get out of Milwaukee because it lacked culture even though they’d never been to the art museum within walking distance of the campus or the multiple theatre company performing arts complex within walking distance of the campus. So I took a couple of people there for their first time.

After I graduated, I came back to Milwaukee about once a month, driving an old Nissan Pulsar. Okay, only eight years old at the time, but, c’mon, man, how many Nissan Pulsars did you ever see? In 1994, they were dead and buried but for this one which only sometimes left me stranded on the side of the road on the way to or from Milwaukee. But sometimes I got to Milwaukee with time to kill because my hosts were working, so I would go to the art museum.

One such time, the art museum was holding a silent auction of small pieces of art and ephemera as a fundraiser. I looked at the auctions posted on various walls with the bid sheets, and I didn’t see anything I liked for its own sake–or at least anything I could afford. But I found an original Picasso drawing, smaller than a sheet of notebook paper and in pencil, some little scribbling, to bid on. I wrote my name and phone number and $150 (I think) on it, my heart pounding in my chest and my throat a bit dry. In those days, my bid was, what, almost two weeks’ take home pay in a time where my student loans were coming due? If I won, I would have a Picasso, man, but I’m not sure how I’d fuel my car to get me to work for a couple of weeks, much less to pay my student loans atop that for a couple of months. My Picasso might land me in prison for nonpayment.

Well, gentle reader, I was spared that conflict. Someone must have outbid me by the time I was back in this soft Southern land, or perhaps my shaky, nervous writing was illegible. I never got that hundred dollar Picasso also-ran.

In the years since, I have adorned my home in $10 Renoir prints from garage sales, $100 prints from my artistic aunt in Wisconsin (who’s taking care of my grandmother these days), and I’ve bought various original art pieces of a couple hundred dollars for my beautiful wife.

But I wrote a note to myself to mention to my grandmother in my next letter to tell her this story; I’m not sure where I’d graft it into the epic of our summer shenanigans at Nogglestead. But I thought it worth mentioning here, amongst the blatantly Rule 5y posts.

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Threshold Crossed

On this day in 2014, I said on Facebook:

I won’t know it the last time I hear “Do it again, Daddy!” But I’ll sure miss it.

Welp, I have passed that marker somewhere along the road. Where am I in the “Cat’s in the Cradle” road map?

Don’t I know it. I’ve always known about the timeline, but that has only made me a slightly better parent.

At least they don’t understand the music of Everclear.

And let’s not forget what happened the penultimate time I played catch with my boys. You’ve played catch with the football with them after you healed? Yes, of course. But with a football inflated to Tom Brady’s exacting standards, not something you could bowl with. Which was much more comfortable.

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Not Exactly The Prime Exemplars I’d Emulate

Seen probably on the Facebook wall of my belly-dancing, yoga spouting cousin:

The Aztecs built their capital in the middle of a swamp because of a religious vision someone had, and then proceeded to, as Hugh Thomas put it:

What was necessary, in the meantime, was a suitable appeasement of Tlaloc, the rain god. He had to be given food, precious objects, people, chlidren (small, like the little Tlalocs who were believed to wait on the chief god of that name), in a series of festivals. The children had to cry, in order to indicate to the god exactly what was required; and to achieve this, their nails were often drawn out and thrown into the lake monster Ahuitzol, who usually lived from the nails of drowned persons. (Thomas 332)

So you should you also appease the rain god this way?

Eh, it’s already more words on a picture than the kids these days can manage to read. Expecting them to understand complete context, where context does not mean merely slogans I learned in school, is probably a bit too much.

How is it even possible that I am getting even more curmudgeonly as I get older? I thought I already pegged that gauge.

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