Good Album Stuff Hunting, June 26, 2020: Relics Antique Mall

Sorry to continue with the conspicuous consumption that is the hallmark of these pages, but after we got back on Wednesday night from our trip to Branson, I went looking for my most recent annual pass to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to see if I needed to get one before my boys and I take to bike the loop.

I could not find a pass, but I did find the remaining gift certificates for Relics Antique Mall that my beautiful wife gave me for last Christmas which apparently only have a six month shelf life. They were scheduled to expire on June 30. So I was very glad to have found them this Wednesday instead of next Wednesday. They were $70 worth of gift certificates. I would say “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been to Relics,” but Relics was closed for a bunch of that time.

I find it hard to spend gift certificates in the best of circumstances, but I really felt challenged to spend $70 at an antique mall. I mean, I don’t collect a lot of tchotchkes; I don’t have a lot of wall space for art (or furniture); and even with house money, I don’t want to spend the new-normal of seven to ten dollars on a record (!) because I’d get peeved if it skipped when I got it home. Also, as I had my boys along, I could not spend hours poring through the records anyway.

But I did get a couple.

Yes, I got Phoebe Snow’s debut album.

As you might remember, gentle reader, I first spotted a copy of this record at Relics whilst Christmas shopping in 2018, but I could not buy it as it did not have a price on it. And I have not seen another copy since. Today, I found two: One at $7.99 with 20% off and the second later at $1.99. Instead of taking the expensive one back, I bought them both. In case one skips.

I also got a couple other albums: Twilight Time and My Reverie by The Three Suns; The Sounds of Silence by Jane Morgan; and In A Mellotone by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

The selection of the antique mall records is starting to run towards 60s, 70s, and 80s rock and pop as well as country instead of the older stuff I like to accumulate. I guess my parents’ generation is reaching that dying or downsizing age, which is bringing that stuff to market, and it’s the stuff people my age in the album-buying mood wants to buy, which is why the records are so much more expensive. But I can generally still find things to buy in my mellow, easy listening genres that’s under $4 a record.

But, Brian J., that doesn’t add up to $70 even with the expensive Phoebe Snow album, you might notice.

So what else did I get? Say hello to my other little friend:

As I mentioned when I got my guitar in February 2018, I noodled around on a bass a bit in college. So now I’ve picked up a bass to mess around with again.

How’s that guitar playing coming, Brian J.? you might ask.

Shut up, Ted. That is, it has not gone well. I took lessons for a while and quit because I wasn’t finding a lot of time to practice between lessons, so I was not advancing much at all. So I discontinued the lessons and found even less time to practice. So it went kind of like the worst possible way short of electrocuting myself with the E string.

But now I have two such instruments in my office which will go much better.

But at least I got something for the gift certificates.

Book Report: The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg (2004)

Book coverI must be some kind of racist since this is the third book I’ve read this year that features the word nigger in it. In this book, a black woman who is seeing a white man calls herself that in a heated moment, using it to characterize her race from his perspective. So it’s not really used by a person in anger calling a black person it. But even into this century, playwrights whose works appeared on Broadway and who won big awards used the word without fearing what would happen to them for using it. Which is why so many of them are having things happen.

At any rate, I got this ABC Books just before my trip down to Branson this week. And it’s one of the three books I read there, albeit not the first.

As I mentioned when I got it, the book centers on a man who comes from some wealth who is starting a publishing house and figures he can publish one book. He is seeing an older jazz singer, the aforementioned black woman, whose memoirs he can publish. Also, his best friend from college has a manuscript, a mammoth like in Wonder Boys. So the lover and the best friend from college pressure him to publish the book whilst his assistant flits in and out providing some comic relief. As he is talking to either the lover or the friend–who is hoping to impress a Chicago heiress’s father with the book’s publication–a machine arrives. In the second act, the machine is spitting out pages from books and papers in the future that describe what has happened in the future, including to the characters, based on whichever way the publisher is leaning in the moment. Also, he might be a closeted homosexual with feelings for his friend from college. And possibly consummation in the future.

Well, it’s an interesting conceit, and it moves along well enough. It doesn’t have a stage full of characters in a bar unlike some things I’ve read lately (if you count, as I do, March of last year as ‘lately’). The playwright does emphasize pronunciations by capitalizing some syllables, particularly for the assistant, and italicizes some words for other characters. I think that takes a little from letting the actors interpret the roles, but I guess some impositiion of vision can be called for in some cases.

This might have been an interesting play to see live, but we probably won’t see a revival of it any time soon. And certainly not in its original form.

Starring Rachel Roberts As Erica

An A.I. robot named Erica was cast in the lead role of a $70M sci-fi film:

An enterprising sci-fi film crew has devised an ingenious way to shoot their film while circumventing coronavirus concerns — by casting a real-life A.I. robot named Erica. The move marks the first time a movie will star an artificially intelligent actor, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“She was created from scratch to play the role,” says Sam Khoze, a visual-effects supervisor behind “b,” the $70 million science-fiction film in which Erica will star. The flick, backed by Bondit Capital Media and New York’s Ten Ten Global Media, follows a scientist who finds a glitch in his DNA-replication research and helps the artificial organism he designed (Erica) escape, according to the outlet.

Sounds like the story they fed the media about the 2002 film Simone:

Will 2002, the year of Simone, Andrew Niccol’s feature film, come to be seen as another pivotal moment – the moment that the power of illusion surpassed that of reality? Will that year of the first “real-or-fake?” feature movie actor be seen as a symbolic bookmark locating the era when we could no longer tell, nor care if we could tell, what is authentic?

Critics did not agree about Simone. Reviews ranged from raves to pans, with many critics in the “mixed” camp. However, intelligent commentary seemed in agreement that it was the premise of Simone, which delivered its potential promise. That premise is that an entirely fake actress, digitally created by a desperate movie director (Al Pacino), could woo an unknowing audience and become a phenomenal star.

But there’s more. Just as Simone, the centerpiece “character” of Niccol’s film, turned out to be a fake, the actual actress who portrays Simone, turned out to be real. Although Niccol, Pacino, and even the film’s credits claim that “Simone”, the digital character, played “herself”, members of the press have revealed that Simone was in fact enacted by Canadian supermodel Rachel Roberts.

Sounds very similar indeed.

Good Book Hunting, June 22, 2020: Calvin’s Books and Books-a-Million

As I might have mentioned, we took a short vacation to Branson, which of course means a visit to Calvin’s Books. The first couple of books I looked at were priced very reasonably indeed ($2 or $3 for the Firefly books below and $1 for the travel/picture books), so I was afraid that maybe they were going out of business, but other books in the fiction section were priced as you would expect, and the store was cluttered more than usual, so they’re still buying books to sell.

My beautiful wife was also interested in some chess books and newer books, so we went to the new retail development on the north side of town which has a Books-a-Million, so I got a couple of new books as well.

At any rate, we got a few amongst the four of us.

I got these at Calvin’s Books:

  • The aforementioned Firefly books: The Official Companion Volume One, The Official Companion Volume Two, Still Flying (short stories by the television writers), and Serenity: The Official Visual Companion. The whole lot cost $10.
  • Travel/picture books depicting Notre-Dame de Paris, Castle of Chenonceau, Westminster Abbey, Marseille, Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Cotswolds, All Montserrat, Windsor Castle, and Versailles. As I said, these were $1 or $2 each. That’s book sale pricing. I’m set up if I ever want to watch sports again.
  • Violence of Action by Richard Marcinko, a Rogue Warrior novel without John Weisman and at a new publisher.
  • Deep Six by Clive Cussler, a Dirk Pitt novel without a named co-author. I said I might give this series a try, so here it is. When I give it a try remains to be seen.
  • The March of the Millenia by Isaac Asimov and Frank White. I might already have it, but why pass it up and take the chance that I don’t?
  • The Unauthorized Jimmy Buffett Concert Handbook by Elizabeth and John Encarnacion. I’m no parrothead, but I might eat at one of his restaurants sometime or write a book with a Jimmy Buffett fan in it. I remember how I used to use research for writing as an excuse to buy books. The only thing I write about now is buying books.

At BAM, I got:

  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.
  • Family Business by Car; Weber with Eric Pete; looks to be about a black-owned car dealership. Weber had a lot of books on the discount table, including an apparent sequel to this book.
  • A signed copy of How To by cartoonist Randall Munroe. I read his What If? a couple years ago. My oldest son also got a copy of the book.

I also got a couple of magazines (not depicted): Skeptical Inquirer, which I subscribed to once upon a time, and Triathlete (I’m not; I just do triathlons).

The sum total: A bunch. And, if you look closely, you’ll see that my wife did not get any chess books as she forgot to look for them by the time we got to Books-A-Million.

Well, that should give me something to read until the next time I buy some books which is probably next week.

Book Report: Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Heavy Metal by Jon Wiederhorn & Katherine Turman (2013)

Book coverMy beautiful wife gave me this book for Valentine’s Day. I started it in mid-March, using it as my “carry book” when I went to the podiatrist amidst The Pandemic even though this book chonks in at 700+ pages. I mean, I didn’t carry it a lot, and I certainly did not get the chance to sit on a bench in church during the Sunday school hour to read it.

Basically, the book is two music journalists presenting the evolution of some metal through the artist’s own words. It groups bands into genres like original metal, British new wave metal, thrash, nu metal, death metal, and so on, and then lets the band members talk about being in the band and so on. The timelines overlap, so we get a little re-starting.

It’s interesting that I recognize the bands up to the early 1990s, and then I have a gap until maybe 2010 or so except for the bands that started / got recognition in the very late 1990s or the bands that were around throughout. So I’m more familiar with the work of Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Testament and then suddenly Disturbed, but I don’t know much about Korn or Slipknot. Also, I’m light on the European bands.

Basically, the cycle is we started a band when we were teenagers, toured a bit, got a record deal, did a lot of drugs and had a lot of debaucherous sex varied a little. The crossover (punk and metal) bands swapped out acts of violence and fighting for the sex, and the black metal bands swapped out killing each other, killing themselves, and burning Norwegian churches (generally not in that order) in for the sex and fighting. So I found it a bit repetitive in the middle sections (nu metal, death metal, black metal) where I didn’t really know the bands.

But it did improve my sense of my own metal cred. I once saw Biohazard in Milwaukee, the week of my college graduation, in a small hall, and lots of bands (or at least the authors of this book) indicate Biohazard was very inspirational. And Static-X was big influence in the industrial movement, and I got a couple Static-X CDs a couple of years ago at a Lutheran rummage sale. So I am at least as hard core as your regular Lutheran.

I flagged a couple of bits in the book: The first is one of the Black Metal guys saying:

There have been times we felt that the whole scene was heading the wrong way, like ’97, ’98, ’99. The scene was permeated by this goth influence, and black metal was suddenly all about synthesizers and these large, pompous orchestrations and femal vocals and harmonies and melody, and everything was so soft and so gothic and so romantic.

Frost, the drummer for Satyricon, is here poo-pooing the rise of symphonic metal, one of the biggest subgenres going today and possibly my favorite, although it’s hard to draw a hard line between metalcore with female melodic vocalists and true symphonic metal.

The second thing I flagged was this unfortunate admission of my cred:

We had this bootleg videotape that we had named “Sex, Death and Mayhem”. It had all this crazy animation, snuff shit, and real death. We decided to splice together an hour of footage for a holiday show, and the footage culminated with the Bud Dwyer suicide. [Dwyer was the former treasured of Pennsylvania who, in 1987, after being accused of accepting a bribe, held a press conference in which he removed a .357 Magnum from an envelope, inserted the loaded revolver in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.]

Ew, you know, I saw that video in 1994 when I was staying with Dr. Comic Book (my friend from college who got a doctorate in rhetoric and now teaches college courses on comic books who, after reconnecting with me on Facebook this century, unfriended me because of our differing political beliefs). We were going to see The Mask and walked over to some the apartment of some of his friends. As Dr. CB also came from a rough neighborhood, his friends are a little sketchy, and they had this death on videocassette, and they watched it over and over again before we went to the movie.

Eesh, I have a lot of cred for a kid who got picked on by metal fans a lot throughout high school.

At any rate, at 746 pages including index, the book is long, but probably not as comprehensive as it would suggest in its subtitle–especially as new subgenres have arisen since then, and several of the interviewees have passed away. Some bands around in the very end of the period this book covers have become very big indeed (Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, and so on) aren’t even mentioned in passing.

Worth a glance, I suppose, but probably in small doses, maybe a chapter here and there to keep the almost monomythic narrative fresh. Or if your beautiful spouse gives it to you.

Now It’s Time For Our Long Distance Dedication

Apparently, a cloud of dust from Africa is making its way through the atmosphere to North America, and the Internet is commenting on it as though it were another 2020 unique catastrophe (spoiler alert: it’s not).

Saharan Dust: Here’s what to expect when it makes it to the Ozarks

What you should expect is me to post the Cutting Crew song “Sahara” from their album The Scattering:

I bought The Scattering on a discounted tape rack in 1990 and became a great fan of the Cutting Crew (most known for “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” and “I’ve Been In Love Before” from their previous album Broadcast). I even bought Compus Mentus five years ago. Although I guess I’m not so much of a fan that I knew the lead vocalist re-formed the band in 2015 and has released a couple of albums since then.

Things Done In Branson When You’re Brian J. (Checklist)

This week, we took a little trip down to Branson

Drive through a BLM protest

We drove down Highway 76 and the protest on Sunday as we were looking for something to eat. Protesters did not outnumber counter-protesters by much, and the parade of pickups greatly favored those with stars-and-bars. Branson police kept it under control, though, and we drove through it again as it was ending.

Go to Calvin’s Books.
Which did not burn down on Sunday as part of the protest (it’s next door to the store being protested). As you might expect, you’ll see what I bought there in a later post.
See a country and western singer in a cafe at 10am on a Monday while eating breakfast.
One of our vacation “traditions” is that Daddy, now Dad (or sometimes “bro” and “dude”), takes the boys on a walk so that my beautiful wife has a little time to herself. This ramble took us “around the block,” which was not that far, actually (about a mile and a half out and back).

But the out part of our route took us to a cafe. As the mistress d’ seated us, I heard loud country music. And then someone greeting us. A singer was on stage at 10am on a Monday.

Uptown Cafe has live performers for every meal and a show in the evening. So we tipped Jackson and bought his CD. And we came back on Wednesday for the lunch performer.

A number of the restaurants in Branson have performers who come in and work for tips, singing over background tracks on a computer. I respect their hustle and their belief in their art and tend to tip them and buy their CDs whenever possible. I’m also the guy who puts a couple bucks in a busker’s hat or guitar case no matter how good the performer is.

But Jackson was pretty good.

Start Christmas shopping.

On the way back from breakfast on Monday, we stopped at a craft mall and bought a couple of Christmas gifts which I’ll wrap up and forget what they are by Christmas. Which gives me the same surprise and joy for the gifts I give that I get for the gifts I receive. Also, I bought the boys–a little peaked from their half mile walk from where we had breakfast–each a piece of beef jerky bigger than a page of legal-sized paper, which they consumed in the half mile walk back to our rooms.

Hiked Dogwood Canyon.

We went to Dogwood Canyon which is about an hour south of Branson. It’s a park of sorts, a valley with a stream running through it, a couple of springs, and several water falls that the owner of Bass Pro Shops bought and turned into a parkish experience. You pay to get in, and you can rent bikes or take Segway, horseback, or tram tours of it, or you can walk the length of the canyon which is three and a half miles or so and crosses the Arkansas state line.

You know, when I was young, I dreamed of being so wealthy that I could buy 10,000 acres like this for a retreat. I don’t think I ever dreamed of being wealthy enough to buy it and open it to the public. I guess I’ll be content with being wealthy enough to buy all the used books I can carry at any one time.

Also, “hike” is a bit of a misnomer as the path is paved the whole way. So it was a long walk more than a hike.

Visit the cat cafe.

By Wednesday, we were four days without cats, so we not only attended a show called Amazing Pets, but we also visited Branson’s Mocha and Meows cat cafe which was around the corner from the place we were staying–the boys and I passed it on our walk on Monday. And, like Chekov says, if you see a cat cafe on day one, you’ve got to go to it by day three.

We did not come home with any extra cats.

Read lots of books on a balcony with a different vista.

We were on the first floor, so it really wasn’t much of a balcony, but the buildings are arrayed on the hillsides so that you have a view from any room. And I read three books in four nights which is not bad. Yes, you’ll hear about those later, too.

Go for a hilly run.

Branson is a little deeper into the Ozark Mountains than we are, so it’s much hillier–I am not sure that there are any flat spots that have not been made so to hold development of some sort or another. But I said I wanted to take a little run on the hills just to say I did, and Wednesday morning was going to be my last opportunity for it. So my youngest son and I did a little more than a mile around the block and up the hills (and down the hills). It wasn’t too bad. It would have been better if I were an athlete.

Leave early.

Branson is close enough that we’re occasionally tempted to decamp early. If we don’t have anything planned for the last evening in our resort, we might just sit in the resort room reading and whatnot, packing up and planning an early departure. When this happens, I’ll say, “Let’s just go home now,” and we’ll throw our gear in the bags/in the truck and get home an hour later.

It gives us time to unpack, start some laundry, and relax a bit before sleeping in our own beds with our own cats (although having to explain to them why we smell like a cat cafe). Actually, the cats will emerge from hiding at different times when we get home–they hide from the cat sitter and get weirded out when we’re gone for any period of time.

We can’t do that with flying destinations or longer drives, but we can do it when we’re in Branson–and we sometimes do.

Which leaves me with two days of vacation left. To fritter away on blog posts like this one, book reports, and wrapping the Christmas gifts we bought.

Book Report: Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships by Eric Shanower (2018)

Book coverI got this book at LibraryCon in 2019. It’s the first of a series of graphic novels retelling the story of the Trojan War. It takes 200 pages to get to the launching of the 1000 ships–almost; we have not gotten to Iphegenia yet.

The 200 pages tell about the run-up. We get the story of the young Paris, raised as a cowherd away from the palace because of the prophesy that he would bring doom to Troy. We get the story of Odysseus feining madness because of the prophect that he will wander for twenty years after the war ends. We get Achilles hidden amongst an obscure king’s daughters until Odysseus tricks him into revealing himself as a boy. We get machinations on both side and a pretty good fleshing out of the characters.

The book takes a human-centric approach, consciously as the afterword says, because the author wanted to make it more realistic. The afterword also goes into detail about the sources the author/artist drew upon (buh-DUM-sh) for both the story and the drawings of the period, including the clothing, weapons, palaces, galleys, and so on.

The books is well-illustrated, but not with a look-at-the-comic-art way you get in a lot of comics and graphic novels these days (like this). It tells the stories, not just shows you widely disparate images from the story.

So I will look for the others in the series should we ever have a thing like a con again.

Good Book Hunting, June 20, 2020: ABC Books

My beautiful wife participated in a virtual bike ride Saturday in part by riding around the annual Republic Pregnancy Resource Center Happy Feet 5k run course to look after participants whilst we ran it. To pick up her t-shirt for the bike ride, she had to go to an event space way up north, which is to say, right by ABC Books.

So we made a family outing of it.

I found a little something that I didn’t order during the lock-in:

I got:

  • Superstar, a novel by Christopher Long, about a singer on top of the world who is not happy. The author has been to ABC Books numerous times, mostly on weeknights. And Ms. E., the proprietrix, bought some marketing t-shirts to give away with each purchase of the book. I declined as my t-shirt drawer is already bulging from athletic event t-shirts, not yet including the shirt from today’s run with my company’s logo on the sleeve.
  • Ain’t No Such Animal by Larry Dablemont. I actually ordered another of his books from ABC Books in March. I was very pleased to learn as I prepared this post that it was not the same book.
  • My Name Is Rock by Jeff Patrick, a thriller in a series about a special agent. The author has a whole stand-up display at ABC Books, so he’s invested in his book. And if I like it, there are others in the series.
  • The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg, a play about a publisher starting out who has to choose between his lover’s book and his best friend’s book, and something zany and magical happens.
  • Loveroot by Erica Jong. I read her How To Save Your Own Life before I started this blog and wasn’t impressed. I can only hope I like this collection of poems as much as Danielle Steele’s Love.
  • Two monographs: Charles Russell, a western (cowboys and indians) artist, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Both look to be mostly images and some text, the kind of thing I would flip through whilst watching football, although I’m not sure whether there will be football this year or whether I will watch it. Basically, I am coming to enjoy flipping through these on their own with no sporting event at all. And they count as a full book no matter how little text they have.

As she was ringing me out, I asked Ms. E. to drop the hundreds place when she announced the total out loud. And she did.. Well, the total, including a couple books for the boys (not depicted) was just a shade under $100 (the local author books were dull price and the monographs were $10 each). But a bibliophile has to do what he can when the spring book sales were cancelled and the fall ones are in jeopardy.

Goodbye, Magic Bus

Out of the Wild: State moves Stampede Trail ‘magic bus’:

The state of Alaska moved a notorious tourist attraction — often known just as “the bus” — from the Stampede Trail on the west side of the Teklanika River on Thursday.

The bus has long been a destination for pilgrims enamored with the book and subsequent movie “Into The Wild.” Some people have died making that journey to the bus. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources called it a “deadly attraction.”

“After studying the issue closely, prioritizing public safety and considering a variety of alternatives, we decided it was best to remove the bus from its location on the Stampede Trail,” Commissioner Corri A. Feige said in a press release. “We’re fortunate the Alaska Army National Guard could do the job as a training mission to practice airlifting vehicles, at no cost to the public or additional cost to the state.”

As you might know, gentle reader, I hated that book when I read it last year.

Weird, huh, with all the statues toppled that anger me, and I see this symbol removed and think, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Because I’m a hypocrite.

As A Child of the 1980s, I See A Permanent Shadow

I’m A Stencil:

This is cute and clever. Kevin Parry made a stop-motion video with just a water hose sprayed at a wall -with him between them. Here’s a look at the process.

In the 1980s, we were always on the verge of a total nuclear war annihilation because we had a Republican president (the fear and promotion thereof died down when we got the second Republican president of the decade).

Although perhaps children of other earlier decades also would have thought the same. Ray Bradbury’s 1950 story “There Will Come Soft Rains”, collected in 1950’s The Martian Chronicles, includes this vivid passage:

Ten-fifteen. The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts, filling the soft morning air with scatterings of brightness. The water pelted windowpanes, running down the charred west side where the house had been burned evenly free of its white paint. The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titantic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hand raised to catch a ball which never came down. The five spots of paint- the man, the woman, the children, the ball – remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer. The gentle sprinkler rain filled the garden with falling light.

Hey, the way 2020 is going, a nuclear exchange almost seems likely. Although I’d bet on India/China rather than anyone involving the U.S. But these are strange days indeed.

I had an idea for a similar story about the same sort of thing called “The Last Span Falls” about the last bit of a bridge falling sometime in the far future. I never got around to anything but the title and conceit, though, the bad habit of which leaves me with only three books in print-on-demand in 2020.

Book Report: The Country Roads and Other Poems by Hazel Adelman (1972)

Book coverI am on a streak of sorts: This is the second book of poetry in a row that I’ve read and enjoyed (the other was 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda).

Mrs. Adelman didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Literature (and she wasn’t a communist, either, which probably helped Neruda with his). Instead, she fits into the World War II generation of grandmother-poets who kept several magazines afloat with their literary reading and writing even though many of them didn’t have much formal education.

The poems in the book are a cut above a lot of the grandmother poetry I’ve read. The book called them ballads, and they are longer, lyrical lines with end rhymes–and some internal rhymes–with a good sense of rhythm that is not regularly iambic. The topics are concerns of mid-20th-century housewives: Family, home, church, and patriotism. Although she writes about church, the poems themselves are not religious- or Christian-themed like you find in some similar works. Well, you would find them there if you read similar works. Sometimes I think I’m the only one reading these books decades later.

This is not a chapbook, by the way. Mrs. Adelman published this through Vantage Press, which was the bigest vanity press “publisher” of the latter half of the 20th century. Basically, you paid them a bundle (thousands of dollars) up front and provided them with a manuscript. They laid it out for you, designed the book cover, and printed a couple hundred or a thousand copies for you to distribute. So when she published her collection, Mrs. Adelman invested in it.

And a nice collection it is.

Living The Life Of Lileks

I’ve always looked a bit at the life of Lileks and thought, Man, that’s what I wanted my life to be, especially when I was at the university (which was before the Internet, so before I knew of Lileks). I mean, family, writing newspaper columns, a vast audience across the country….

Welp, I am finally aligned with his lifestyle, at least the bit he describes this morning:

Can’t say I was the most productive person this week. Can’t say I did much of consequence, besides the usual work. Some weeks I feel as if I did my part, but some weeks I think, well, my part in what, exactly?

That resonates too much.

Which Is Weird, Because I Just Watched Kelly’s Heroes

So Facebook, which thinks I like two things in the world (virtual athletic events and t-shirts), pushed this into my feed yesterday:

And I wouldn’t have known who that was except that I watched the Clint Eastwood movie Kelly’s Heroes in which the Donald Sutherland character Oddball (depicted on the shirt) appears. And I watched it, on DVD or videocassette in a device not connected to the Internet.

But I probably had my phone nearby….

At any rate, I did not buy this shirt. To be honest, although I bought the Scipio t-shirt, I am generally not in the market for them as athletic events keep my drawer bursting with them, and I have been relying upon them a lot for birthday and Christmas presents lately, so I probably won’t buy more than a couple a year.

Meanwhile, I get the ads. Also, Facebook seems to think I have a thing for otters, but really, I was just talking about Pauly Shore (the Weasel) movies recently. Well, okay, Encino Man, because it also stars Brendan Fraser. So who knows what the Facebook AI thinks?

All it knows is that it can extend advertising reach if I make fun of it.

Book Report: 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Stephen Tapscott (1959, 1986)

Book coverAs you might know, gentle reader, I used to sit and read poems to my child and then children while they played. This book, along with Ogden Nash’s I’m A Stranger Here Myself, represent probably the last two I started to read with them before they were resigned to the nightstand book accumulation point. So this, aside from the unfinished legendary collection of Emily Dickinson that I started in 1994, might be the longest I’ll ever go between starting and finishing a book of poetry.

To be honest, in the middle 1990s, a girl I was dating got into Neruda probably because her film class studied Il Postino (the other The Postman). She borrowed a translation from the library, and as I was examining it, I showed off my Spanish-language chops by comparing the original Spanish on the left with the English on the right. One of the first poems I saw if not thefirst translated something along the lines of “no me hace nada con muerte” to “I ain’t got no truck with death.” I laughed out loud and guessed the year of the translation–I was correct: 1974. But the particular flavor of translation clung to Neruda.

Which is unfortunate. This book also presents the Spanish on the left, so I was able to track the translations a bit, and this one was pretty straightforward. I only found a couple of variations, where the syntax of lines was rearranged. It was made easier, no doubt, that these were not actually sonnets in the original Spanish with rhymes and all. Instead, they’re earthy fourteen line love poems written for Matilde Urrutia Cerda. The book includes a picture of a portly, older Neruda kissing the head of an older woman, and you think, Aw, that’s pretty sweet, until you learn that he wrote these poems for a woman who was his side piece for like a decade until she became his third wife, which definitely dulls the luster.

However, I wish I had written these poems for my beautiful wife. They’re earthy, concrete, and they flow pretty seamlessly from metaphor to metaphor but still hold together. The poems are chock full of carnations, wheat, and bread, and they contain some maturity in their tone and conceits. A nice change from most of the poems I generally read, and even from the classical poems I’ve been reviewing with my children.

Although I’m not sure how much I want to delve into Neruda’s other poems as he was a committed communist. These poems only lightly touch on that as he talks about those who oppose him in contrast with the lover, and certainly in contrast with the film which revels in his communism.

Still, worth a read. And, perhaps, in time, a re-read.

Your Sugar Baby Might Realize She’s Not Getting Your House And Decamp

I mean, the picture is of an attractive young woman, and the ad is something something reverse mortgage, which is a (foolish) divestment strategy for people who own their own home:

I mean, look at her; she’s too young to own her own home, and if she inherits her parent’s (single person possessive because this is the 21st century, you know; intact families are so 19th century) home and does a reverse mortgage on it, she’ll get an annuity for fifty years spinning off a hundred dollars a month in income. So, yeah, this is not addressed to young people who own their own home.

I mean, I suppose the message if you click through (not me, brah; I’m already getting enough senior-themed advertising as it is) might be your kids won’t inherit the house, but, come on, your kids don’t look like models. I mean, mine are strikingly handsome and do, but we’re talking about your kids, gentle reader, and they probably look like you (mine do not; they take after their beautiful mother).

So, yeah, this is all about the sugar babies. Or just another instance of ads putting an image of an attractive woman in them to catch your eye. Alright, my eye. I plead guilty. Because I look for pictures of ads with attractive women who really have little to do with the product/service being teased. Also, I like to look at pictures of pretty women.

du Toit and Noggle, Aligned Again

Today, Kim du Toit echoes sentiments I have expressed:

I’ve never been a fan of “Cloud”-based entertainment, whether literature or movies, because it’s always seemed too easy for the “Cloud” to remove stuff that you’ve paid for — Kindle books, Amazon movies, etc. — at their own discretion / whim. I don’t care that my well-filled bookcases take up a great deal of space in my apartment, or that they’d be a pain in the ass to move should I decide to live elsewhere; I bought them, they’re my property forever, and nobody can take them from me. Ditto movies. I have a large number of DVDs of the movies I love and can watch over and over again — not too many modern ones, because today’s movies largely suck — and like my bookcases, my DVDs are eternal. (I have a brand-new-in-the-box multi-format DVD player sitting in a closet in case the existing Philips gives up the ghost at some time in the future, and ALL my computers come with DVD players, just to be on the safe side.)

As you know, gentle reader, I still have videocassettes to watch, so I even have backup videocassette players.

The Weekend In Review

Well, Brian J., did you do something radical in the fitness department this weekend? I mean, last weekend, you did a duathlon that kicked your butt.

Gentle reader, this week and weekend, I took it easy. It’s the first weekend in a month not dictated by a duathlon of any sort, so I took it easy. Next weekend, I have a 5K (that takes me past the Monte Crist subdivision). So perhaps I will take a run some morning or afternoon this week to remember I can do this sort of thing.

Today in the News-Leader, Steve Pokin talks to a local runner that I actually do recognize, and she says:

To race well, Laughlin tells me, it hurts. The body feels discomfort when demands are made on it mile after mile.

“I have a lot of determination,” she says. “I love competition. My goal every race is to see how much suffering I can endure and still maintain joy. Because if there isn’t any joy in it, I don’t want to do it.

“I think there is a lot of suffering in life — a lot of tough times. Can we find a way to maintain joy in the same space as suffering? If we can do that, life rocks.”

Yeah, I kind of think that’s why I run even though I hate it. At the end of last week’s duathlon, I was not that keen on riding a bike, either.

So what did you do this weekend, Brian J.? you might ask.

Well, I slept poorly, again, both nights. Which means I slept later than I would prefer on Saturday, and I got on the lawn mower at about ten o’clock, and….

(Event name suggested back in 2016.)

Let’s face it, if I don’t have a new certificate or t-shirt at the end of the weekend, I feel as though I’ve wasted my time. So I mowed the lawn for four hours and I went to the grocery and gas station, and then it was dinner time.

Sunday, we went to church for the first time in months, but instead of an 8:00 service, we went at 10:45. So before, I puttered and did light chores, and when we got home a little after 12, I ate, snoozed a bit, did a bit of yard work, wrote some blog posts, and then it was time for dinner and bed time again.

Perhaps I need to treat or think of every day as I do a vacation day: We have one great adventure or destination for the day, and the rest of it I have permission to relax, read, and whatnot. If that’s the case, I’m marking down two days of yard work as the pinnacle of the achievement and activity.

Meh, that probably won’t work long term unless I go about accomplishing actual things.