Movie Night At Nogglestead: THWARTED

Wednesday nights at Nogglestead are often Daddy Movie Nights during the school year because the boys have a church midweek thing and my beautiful wife practices with the choir, which means I can watch a full movie with violence or bad words in it. Or, more likely, an old movie, but I can watch it from start to finish without interruption.

But in the late winter and early spring, I often take a triathlon class, and this year is no exception, which puts Daddy Movie Night on hiatus for a couple of months–almost to the end of the school year.

So tonight, I skipped the triathlon class because I wanted to watch a movie. But the universe repaid me for my perfidy and thwarted movie night.

Here is the actual order of the movies I could not watch and the myriad reasons why:

  1. Adventures in Babysitting. As you might recall, I just bought this on videocassette, and I have fond memories of it from the 1980s, when it was on Showtime and I didn’t have much to do but watch movies on Showtime over and over again. I couldn’t find it on the unwatched video shelves, though, and I assumed that my children had rearranged things or got it out, as they often get out movies they want to watch and leave them in random places. But, no, I see now that I left it on the scanner when I scanned the cover for this post.
  2. The Secret Agent, the Alfred Hitchcock film from 1986. I put this in the videocassette player and it started; I wasn’t sure if it was a talkie or not as I know some of his early works are silent. The video had no sound, but it had no titles, either, and the actors mouths’ moved, so I thought perhaps the cheapie video was defective. Besides, I might have it in my collection of early Hitchcock movies on DVD (I later learned I do).
  3. My Favorite Brunette, a Bob Hope movie, was bundled with The Road To Bali on a DVD called The Road to Comedy. I worked myself up to some enthusiasm for watching this since the box said it was a send-up of noir films. A comedy. Oh, I could use a laugh. It was still wrapped in cellaphane, and when I popped in the DVD, it contained a collection of ten episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. I took it out and looked at it, aghast. The label on the DVD is, in fact, for the Bob Hope two-pack, and I did unwrap it and tear the little no-steal-it plastic from the table, but this damn thing was mispackaged and labeled.
  4. Charly. I just read “Flowers for Algernon” upon which this film is based, so I thought I would give it a whirl. It was not fully rewound, so I tried rewinding it and then play-rewind when it stopped prematurely on the rewind. But apparently this videocassette is blank, since it’s nothing but static from front to back.
  5. On the Beach. I figured this post-apocalyptic morality tale would cheer me up after the fiascos noted above. It came right up, but it, too, had no sound, so either the videocassette player is having trouble or something is disconnected on the back of the electronics tangle. I didn’t want to mess with it at the moment (I wanted to watch a movie!).
  6. Death Wish with Bruce Willis. All right, Roku and Amazon Prime it is, dammit. So I selected this film. I was just passed the very slow first part when I remembered that Amazon Prime movies choke out at about :47 minutes after the hour. They just stop, leaving me with a blank screen until I click Back on the remote a bunch at which point I can restart the movie. I don’t know if the fault is with my ISP, with Roku, or with Amazon Prime, but I do remember that I don’t like to watch Amazon Prime for this reason.

By this point, I was too beside myself to watch anything, and I really didn’t have enough time for a whole movie any more anyway.

So I gave up and did some housework. And wrote a blog post. And, soon, I will check the VCR connections to see if the audio is loose. I hope it’s something simple like that because I have a lot of videocassettes, and we’ve somehow already reached the point where you don’t see used VCRs at garage sales any more.

So let me foreshadow for you: MfBJN will not feature a post on a movie I just watched in the next couple of days.

UPDATE: The VCR uses a computer/TV switchbox to connect to the receiver, and the switch was in the wrong position. BOYS.

I should bookmark this so I know how to solve the problem when I next encounter it in 2024.

A Tale Wherein Brian J. Drew Strength From The Spice Girls

Last night’s triathlon class was brutal: We started with some hill running and then cooled off in the pool with some timed intervals. Let’s be honest: I have not improved in swimming in two years, and last night the swim about killed me. During drills, I focused on too many things and lost my breathing rhythm, which meant I breathed and swallowed a lot of air and a lot of water, both going to the wrong chambers in my torso.

But then, The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” came on the music piped into the pool.

Another fellow in the remedial swim lane has a strategy of walking most of the laps, and he was finishing a length of the pool not far behind me as I did whatever it is I do that is almost as fast as walking in water.

“I’m not going to drown and have the Spice Girls be the last words I hear,” I announced to him.

And I did not drown.

So consider me inspired by the Spice Girls.

Looking back on this blog, I see the other mention of the Spice Girls comes from 2005, where I boasted I could name them all even though I’d only listened to a complete Spice Girls song once. I think fourteen years later, I could go four out of five, maybe. Also, back in, what, 1997, I wrote about them in The Cynic Express’d.

In 2019, that might count as an obsession.

Consolation Prize

The Springfield Business Journal has selected the 2019 40 Under 40 list, and I didn’t make it, again.

Of course, I’m no longer eligible, and these magazines don’t tend to create 30 Who Try To Act Like They’re Under 30 lists.

That said, I’m pleased to be on the 7.5 Billion Not Under Six Feet list yet again today. So I’ll start there for the day.

The Natives Have A Word For It

Spring, or as it is known at Nogglestead, “Repair the Gates Season.”

This year, I didn’t have any trouble with the hinges (so far) since I attached them with carriage bolts driven completely through the posts/gates and secured on the other side with a washer and a bolt.

But this year, the wind tore the edge picket off of one of my gates, and that’s where the hardware to close the gate attached, so it has been blowing in the strong winds of early march. So I replaced the picket today, eventually.

Because Spring is also known as “This Drill’s Battery Ran Out Of Charge/Where Is The Other Battery?” season.

I believe the Germans have a word for it, but it’s not as melliflous as the original Ojibwe.

He’s Not Talking About Me

Captain Capitalism tells us how he really thinks:

I don’t think the English language is robust or thorough enough for me to convey my hatred, despisement, and loathing of English majors. They are first and foremost lazy people who decide to major in a language they’re already fluent in by the age of 4. They are intellectual inferiors who think studying a subject to the point of atomic levels of anal retentive detail is a legitimate endeavor. And worst of all they are fascist tyrants who lord their technical, but impractical, knowledge of petty rules and laws of a “language” over the rest of us who use the language to live our lives, not make it our lives, because we have lives…unlike English majors.

I cannot overstate how inferior English majors are or how much I hate their loathesome and laughably inferior selves.

Ha, ha, your humble host laughs, that’s not me! I also was a philosophy major!

Is that hysterical laughter barely keeping me from tears?

You, gentle reader, must tease that out of the text and write a three page paper defending your conclusion.

He Used To Do The Young Elvis

When I was at the university, I was a commuter, so most of my friendships developed with people outside the university. I drew a number of them from the grocery store where I worked in a transitional (on the way down) corner of town. Another guy named Brian started there a year or so after I did, and we got to be pretty good friends. We spent a lot of evenings together cruising the local mall or gaming together. We bought musical instruments together, a guitar for him and a bass guitar for me, and along with the third part of our triumvirate, we were going to be a band called Ghostriders.

Until he announced that he thought of the band as a back-up band for his Elvis impersonator show.

He was the young Elvis then, and although he got away from it for a while, he’s back at it, but he’s no longer the young Elvis.

None of us are the young anything anymore, ainna?

Being From Wisconsin, I Never Understood The Groundhog Day Options

You know, on Groundhog Day, they say if the groundhog sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter, but if he does not, it will be an early spring.

This always confused me as a child up north because six more weeks of winter would be an early spring.

I’ve been seeing a lot of memes like this on my Facebook feed:

And I think to myself, “It’s the beginning of March. Why would you people think that winter is over?”

I guess it’s because I live here amongst the soft, indolent southern tribes now.

Manic Pixie Friend Sunshine

I might have mentioned that I liked the album The Sunshine Project by Lily Belle. I play it from time to time, sometimes “Good Morning” to get my children up and moving in the morning (mainly because they’re preteens and hate the song).

So I did what the kids today do and visited YouTube to see if she had any new videos out, and it looks like she has just started a video series called “My Friend Sunshine” where she gives advice and whatnot. The first is called “5 Ways to Encourage a Hurting Friend”:

The second is “Five Ways to Jolt Your Creativity”:

Note that none of her tips are are actually Jolt Cola or any caffeine at all for that matter. Caffeine would be at least two of my five tips for creativity.

As of this writing, there are only two.

Also, It Has A Good Hat Shop

Kim du Toit decides if he has to go into Witness Protection Program, he wants to go to Traverse City, Michigan.

You know, I was just in Traverse City last year for a couple of hours, and it’s got Horizon Books as you might remember.

But it also has a good hat shop just down the street from Horizon Books, and I spent enough time dithering over whether to buy a new fedora with a liner that we overstayed our parking meter and learned that Traverse City has a very convenient Web site for paying your five dollar parking meter fines.

Also, it has snow in the winter.

I mean, it’s not Wisconsin, which is God’s best creation, but it’s not Minnesota. Or spit Illinois.

So if I could not choose Wisconsin, and I probably could not because I go on about it all the time, I’d take witness relocation in Traverse City or even Petoskey.

Not Like My Snow Days

While the northern part of the nation is having a snowy winter like I used to know (Milwaukee has been getting hammered, and not just in the beer and brandy sense) and even the St. Louis area has been seeing a snowy weather pattern like I remember from the late 1980s and early 1990s (this weekend’s forecast: Storm to drop 3-5 inches of snow and wind in St. Louis on Sunday, then temps bottom out).

But here in Springfield, we rarely see that much snow. We’ve had a couple of snowyish winters at Nogglestead, where we’ve had a couple of snowfalls of a couple of inches that has stuck around for a couple of days, but this year, we’ve fallen at the lower edge of all the precipitation-producing weather events which now bear names for some reason. This means that we’ve gotten rain or, sometimes, a glazing of ice.

My children have had, what, three or four “snow” days this year based on a slight accumulation of ice that has generally cleared by midday. Once, all the schools called the night before precipitation based on the meteorologists fantasies, and we got a little rain before a nice day.

On Thursday, they were off again based on a little ice.

The poor lads don’t get proper snow for their snow days. They don’t get to go out and play in the snow, build snow forts, have snowball fights, or sled (just kidding–they’ve never owned a sled or even snow boots because what’s the point of it in Springfield?). They go out, play like they’re clearing the ice from the driveway and deck using a variety of gardening implements (remember, as a parent, I must make things explicit, such as “Do not chop the hoe down on the deck.”) Then they come in, ask for some hot chocolate like they’re in the Alps or something, and then they want to go to a pizza buffet, which we often can since the roads are clear by lunch time.

Meanwhile, I’m reading the snowfall totals in places I’ve lived previously, and I’m all:

Parenting Is All About Making The Obvious Explicit

For some reason, my ten-year-old son decided to bid on some gold-painted near-filigree Christmas decorations in a silent auction last week.

Which he won. He’s giving one to his grandmother, but he’s got the other in his bedroom.

Of course, I had to state clearly, “Do not sleep with the Christmas decoration.”

Because just about everything ends up in their beds, and they routinely sleep on books, radios, flashlights, decorations, radios, electronic devices, and, well, anything that they can bring or sneak into their room.

Of course, my clear statement of the rule does not mean that they will not sleep with the Christmas decoration at some point or another. But I try.

Also, you are correct in noting that the decoration is covered in glitter. I had almost run out the stray glitter clock on the Christmas cards–although just last week I picked up a speck from the pile of papers on my desk that predates Christmas last year, the sightings were fewer. But the church bundled the Christmas decorations with other auction wins, and one of them is on my desk atop the aforementioned pile of papers, and it is shedding bits of gold glitter that I’ll wear for month to come.

A Difference Of Fifty Years

I was digging through a box of old photos looking for something, and I came across an old black and white photo of my maternal grandmother.

In this photo, she’s got to be in her thirties or forties.

And I couldn’t help contrast it with this photo from last year of my paternal grandmother:

My grandmother is 93 years old, and clearly she’s very vital. When I too infrequently talk to her, she laments that she can only mow her lawn or work in the garden for a couple of hours without needing to take a break.

But she does not look fifty-some years older than my other grandmother in the first photo.

What accounts for this? A dated hairstyle and glasses, a prim smile of the capital-A Adult from the middle of the last century (the smile itself a relative innovation, at least as far as photos are concerned) contrasted with color and a more modern hair style? Good genetics? Healthy living?

I don’t know, but I do know that I’m hoping to channel my Nana more than my Grandma, as the latter died like so many of her line at age 60 after a long battle with cancer.

Haunted By A Melody, Briefly

So last evening as I folded some laundry, I was humming a bit of a song that I remembered from my youth. I didn’t know much of it, but I repeated a motif of it over and over again.

I wondered if I could find it on the Internet. I was not sanguine; I was not even sure if the lyrics I remembered were correct, and, besides, I’m used to liking a song and not knowing anything about it for years.

But I typed “is everything alright i just called” into Bing, and it started auto-suggesting the next words, and the song is obviously (to the computers of the Internet) “Hearts” by Marty Balin:

Sometimes, this worldwide computer amazes me.

The song is from 1981, the year my parents’ marriage broke up. In my unreliable memory, we heard this song in heavy rotation on the way to and while at my grandfather’s cabin in the upper peninsula of Michigan not far from the Wisconsin state line. I relate a couple of different songs to that venue because the cabin had an old cathedral radio in it, and on rainy days we didn’t have much to do but listen to it and the hiss of rain outside. If I remember correctly, this must have been in the summer before the bottom dropped out.

The song sort of fits my mood. As some of you know, I just celebrated a birthday, and, if I make it to next January, I will have lived longer than my father did. So I’m ruminating and marinating in a blend of nostalgia and melancholia. The song and melody fit right in.

John Keats Defends Hoarding

The first lines of Endymion:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Clearly, I feel the same way about things, which explains, partially, the neglected Personal Relics category here.

Also, initial impressions of Endymion: It’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” but stretched into three or four Netflix seasons.

“I bought myself the cutest little swim dress today,” I said

on Facebook regarding my recent purchase of a triathlon suit.

I will compete in my third Y Not Tri indoor triathlon in April, and it will be my sixth overall triathlon. Up until now, I’ve done the triathlons in swim trunks which has been a little uncomfortable at times.

But in the class I’m taking at the YMCA ahead of the Y Not Tri is going to feature swimming every night, so the coach encouraged us to wear triathlon suits so we could go right from the swim at the beginning to biking or running drills without losing too much time in between.

So since I had a couple of gift cards to a local bike shop that is clearing out its triathlon gear, I picked up a triathlon suit. An XXL, by the way–although the sizes said I should fit into an XL, I did not, which explains why I already have a triathlon suit I do not fit into in my drawer. Well, that, and the fact that I twice ordered sizes too small through another local bike shop and only returned it once. Come to think of it, I only got that one because my beautiful wife had gotten me a gift card before my first triathlon so I could pick up a suit.

At any rate, as I completed the transaction, I quipped that the next big step would be to wear the thing in public.

“Everyone has one,” he said, and he was right: When I go to triathlons, I have been one of the few not in sleek bits of moisture wicking fabric, much less sharkskin apparatus.

But it’s still weird to me on two levels.

First, it’s odd to put on a different uniform of some sort. I remember when I started my first job as a grocery store bagger whose uniform included a blue vest (and a dress shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes–it was quite a different era). That was odd. And I remember when I became a produce clerk and wore an apron. That felt weird. Looking down, it looked like a dress, and it kind of bound up the long strides I normally take.

When I stepped out onto a martial arts mat for the first time in a gi, I was really self conscious as well–even though everyone else was wearing a gi, I was not used to seeing myself in one. It passed, of course, and now I’m about the only one on the mat in a full gi as the school has started allowing people to shed the jacket and train in one of the school’s t-shirts. Come to think of it, I was the last bagger to wear the blue vest, too, when the store lightened up and let the utility clerks get by with just a shirt and tie.

Second, I guess it means I’m serious about it, and I have to stop thinking of myself as a lucky amateur, a walk-on that’s doing better than the extras in the film of my life should expect. My first try at martial arts, I didn’t buy a gi–I was a poor English major working at a little above minimum wage and could only sort-of afford bujitsu classes without the official uniform. It only lasted a couple of months, and I wore the black sweat pants I bought for nights at the Missouri Bujinikan Dojo to bed for decades after. But the gi and the triathlon suit represent an investment, emotional as well as financial, in hobbies that I’ve avoided for most of my adult life.

But I’m pretty sure that it’s because I think I look silly in them until I’ve worn them a couple of times in public.

Was I self-conscious about my hat back in 1994? Perhaps.

And in conclusion, I have no conclusion. Thank you, and try the veal.

On Sailing The Wine Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill (2003)

Book coverTechnically, this is not a book report, as I listened to the abridged form of this book on tape. No, really, on tape. I procured it sometime in the misty past and saved it for such a time as I would sit down around an old cassette deck to listen to these things. Fortunately, though, instead of waiting for that time, I bought a user vehicle with a cassette deck in it, and I got to listen to this audiobook, which I had filed with our Teaching Company Great Courses.

Which is not; whereas those are taught by professors with some experience in making material interesting, this is a book read. So the language is more book language than spoken language, and it sounds like it. Olympia Dukakis reads it pretty flat.

So: Why do the Greeks matter? I guess the book makes the case that Ancient Greece is the font of all Western thought, especially when blended with the Judeo-Christian tradition coming out of Israel in the early A.D.

The book recounts tales from Greek mythology and turns its attention in turn from story-tellers, poets, philosophers, and statesmen with a little bit about the military history, but it’s not the focus. It’s a high level summary, with plenty of time spent on pederasty and glowing reviews of the statues of young men. This, combined with the infrequent use of casual vulgarity for no other reason than signal the author’s authenticity and twenty-first century sensibilities, led me to stop listening to the course when my children were in the car.

Oh, and it does get a little left towards the end with a bit of misdichotomization between the Classical Greek and the Christian worldviews, and I didn’t have to see the date of the book’s publication to know what strutting, smirking simpleton contrasted unfavorably with Pericles and Kennedy. To be fair, Kennedy doesn’t measure up to Pericles as a stateman for the ages, either. Also, I’m not sure how you say the classical Greeks were more into “social justice” than the Christians, but I’m well-educated enough to perhaps write a counter-argument were I needing to publish or perish or convinced that anyone at all would read, much less be convinced, by my effort.

So at best, you can revisit some things you should probably already know about Greek history (although perhaps the book’s target audience, possibly those educated in the latter half of the twentieth century, wouldn’t).

It’s a pretty good indicator, again, of why I should really travel a little further afield of classical history when I’m picking out things to listen to in the truck. I remember more when I start out knowing less, and that seems a better use of my time.

Inviting The Pests

When we bought Nogglestead, one of the outlets in the corner of the lower level had a Bell Howard Ultrasonic Pest Repeller plugged into it. It was out of the way, so we just left it there. For a very long time. Seven or eight years.

However, we have professional pest control services for bugs and quadrapeds for mice, lizards, and snakes. So about a year ago, when I was plugging or unplugging something from behind the chairs or perhaps doing one of our decennial vacuumings behind the reading chairs, I unplugged it and set it on the bar behind the coffee pot and electric tea kettle.

So how long has it sat on the bar back there? Months, if not a year or so. It’s behind the coffee pot, so when I’m at the bar making coffee or feeding/watering the cats, it’s not immediately in sight. And the reading chair (as depicted here, but the pots and the pest repeller are tastefully cropped from the mess) is in such a position as I don’t see the counter from it. So it can rest there comfortably there forever.

I doubted that it served its claimed purpose; the only mouse intrusion we’ve had was when one got in from the garage when we stored the cat food underneath the bar sink–right next to the repeller. The mouse didn’t have to cross any cat-patrolled ground for a snack, and I’ve not seen any other evidence of mice in the house since we’ve moved the cat food to a different cabinet. Nor did it keep out the various snakes, frogs, and lizards that the cats used to find (but they haven’t found in a while, which must mean the new cats are lazier than their predecessors, or the reptiles and amphibians are more cagey).

And I have not seen an uptick since I unplugged it.

So I’m finally trashing it. I’m not sure if this falls under depackratification (probably not, since it was not mine to begin with) or deRooneyfication (probably not, since simply discarding something is not a project). More likely it’s but another example of how, like my sainted mother, I don’t like to rush into anything. Or vacuum behind furniture.

But I hope the rodentia of Greene County do not read this and come over now that the ultrasonic pest repellent is gone. I’d hate to think they’re posting it on Rattit and commenting right now.

The Very Manly Weekend Of Brian J. (I Hope)

About last year this time (well, early March), I did an indoor triathlon, and the toxic masculinity and toxic femininty that drives, if not toxic, well, then frankly insane people to participate, (and, frankly, people not, good with commas in complicated sentences) (where was I? Oh, yes, about to comma), leads me to thump my chest and proclaim how masculine I am, or not, based on what I did that day (or, weekend).

So, let us recap:

  • On Saturday, I participated in the first Chesterfield Family Center Indoor Triathlon. I say first boldly because this means I’ve been in all of them ever which is a little like the triathlon coach at the YMCA having been in all of the Republic Tiger Triathlons (which is eighteen or nineteen so far). So my participating in all the CFC triathlons so far is a little like that, but easier.

    I was stoked (should I have put that in bold, or should I have placed an extraneous comma somewhere?) because the indoor triathlon had only a ten minute swim, and I am not a very good swimmer (the triathlon coach might not have actually given me nicknames, but he could have). So I thought that would not put me too far behind.

    But then I read the scoring system, and apparently, it was scored according to your position in each event added together, and the lowest score wins. Well, I thought, coming in 21st in swimming would put me so far into the hole that I would not recover unless they awarded negative numbers somehow, so I thought I was outside the medal range, but.

    I got second. Out of like 24.

    I’m not sure how it happened, but given that the swimming was given by lengths of the pool, I can only assume that there were a lot of ties among people who swam twenty and fifteen laps meant I was in third or fourth or fifth and not actually 21st.

  • I did some overdue chores around Nogglestead on Saturday and Sunday. How overdue? Well, I vacuumed the lower level, which includes the office in which I spent ten or eleven hours a day. You have heard of the Nogglestead Christmas stragglers? Well, if we’re being scientific, the real stragglers are the bits of plastic “Christmas tree needles” and glitter still on the floor, okay? I am not proud of it, but I did it.
  • I reupholstered a hassock, sort of.

    The footrest has two top panels that you can remove to store things inside the body. Covered in faux leather, it sits before our main television, and after almost ten years of feet resting (and football games and their attendant book browsing), children playing, and cats a-leaping, were worn to the point where I covered them with a throw blanket to hide the panels’ damage. Sometime last fall or early winter, I picked up some black faux leather from Hobby Lobby to replace the worn brown because I’ve heard that black goes with anything (except, I fear, a black belt with brown shoes, although I’m not sure why).

    So as I was teaching my oldest child a lesson about procrastination and that, sometimes, you can spend more time dreading, putting off, and regretting putting off a task than it takes to do the thing. And that I’m more prone to do that with something I don’t know I know how to do.

    But the results, this time, were adequate.

    My beautiful wife was amazed that I knew how to do upholstery. But I didn’t; I figured it was a little like wrapping a Christmas gift, but with staples instead of tape. A little like that.

    Now, to tackle the arm of the sofa where leaping cats have torn, but that repair is not as simple and will require a bit of faux leather gluing, so I’ll put that off for a while yet.

    On the downside, the project has not been on my to-do list long enough to count as actual DeRooneyfication.

    On the plus side, I have enough faux leather left over to make something for my beautiful wife.

  • I grilled. In the cold. And the rain. And the fog.

    Although that’s not really impressive. I’ve grilled four times in the last week, and today’s weather was not as bad as some this week.

    But you know what’s bad weather for grilling?

    Jupiter. Maybe.

So I’d like to say I’ve had a good, masculine, fulfilling weekend. How about you?

UPDATE: My beautiful wife informs me that I have not done anything so masculine this weekend so as that she would wear anything I would make out of those scraps.

But there is next weekend, I think to myself.