Movie Report: Bad Boys (1995)

Book coverI mentioned when talking about Judge Dredd that it felt like a throwback to the movies of the 1980s. The first Bad Boys came out the same year, and it seems like a far newer film. Will Smith when he was cool and Martin Lawrence chew up the scenery as two detectives hunting for heroin stolen from the police evidence room. A witness to a shootout (Téa Leoni) has been told to only trust Will Smith’s Lowery, a ladies man, but when she calls looking for help, she gets family man Burnett (Lawrence) who pretends to be Lowery. Which leads to some comedy as the detectives have to pretend to be each other to keep the ruse going. A couple of chases, gunfights, and explosions later, and finis.

C’mon, man, you’re not here for insight into the human condition. You’re here to see Smith and Lawrence chew the scenery and banter. Apparently, it works, since there have been two widely spaced sequels (2003 and 2020(!)). So an amusing couple of hours and a way for me to bring my pop culture knowledge all the way up to 1995.

And this might be the first film where Téa Leoni’s character did not annoy me. The list of those films includes Deep Impact, The Family Man, and Spanglish. I guess I did not specifically mention being annoyed with her in Fun with Dick and Jane, so maybe not.

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In One Easy Step

The Springfield Daily Citizen proffered a podcast I did listen to because I already know the answer.

“Book Bans” today just means not putting sexual material in the elementary school library. You want to get around it? Order it on Amazon.

When a community objects to government subsidy and encouragement of objectionable material, that’s not a ban. Just because something is not provided by the government does not mean it’s banned. Unless one is actively arguing for “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

I am tired of how some political actors stretch definitions to conflate something objectionable with something wrong.

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I Get It

Severian said today:

And yeah, I deliberately chose Taylor Swift, because she’s pretty much already an AI. As I’m sure I’ve written, I “admire” her in a way, for a certain deeply cynical value of “admire” — Sir John Hawkwood himself wasn’t that openly mercenary (did I mention that one of the reasons I love this place is that I can drop an allusion to Sir John Hawkwood and bet everyone will get it?).

Yeah, I got it. After all, I read John Hawkwood: An English Mercenary in Fourteenth-Century Italy fifteen years ago and briefly tried to get the Internet to replace Chuck Norris jokes with John Hawkwood gags (such as John Hawkwood invented the color Burnt Sienna. Poor Sienna.). I also had the domain name for a number of years before I started culling my portfolio (I’m down to 18).

It makes one feel smaht to get allusions and references, and it’s cool to drop them into conversations. Even when nobody gets it.

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Movie Report: Judge Dredd (1995)

Book coverI bought this videocassette at the Friends of the Library Book sale this spring, and it was only after I’d spent my quarter on it and I popped it into the videocassette player that I wondered if it was part of the four-movie Stallone set that I bought that has Demolition Man on it. I was pleased to learn it is not. Before I watched the film, I was not sure if I’d seen it before, but I think I had. To be honest, over the years, Stallone actioners and post-apocalyptic films didn’t stick with me after my younger years.

This film, based on a comic book, has Stallone as the title character, a sort of super-policeman in a crowded Mega-City One who serves not only as the person who arrests people, but can sentence and even execute them on the spot. A super-villain escapes prison and returns to the city, aided by powerful politicians who want to use the chaos to bring about a better world–wait a minute, am I watching Demolition Man? Apparently not, as this film also has Rob Schneider as comic relief in a hacker freshly released from prison. Dredd is framed for the murder of an investigative reporter and sent to a penal colony along with the hacker, and their transport is ambushed by marauders of the wasteland outside the city. They are rescued by Dredd’s old mentor, banished himself when he spared Dredd’s life on his conviction. The mentor reveals that Dredd and his friend, whom Dredd put into prison, are actually brothers, experiments in building the perfect judges. So Dredd and Rob Schneider return to Mega-City One to stop the chaos and to bring his brother to justice.

So you can see a lot of thematic material that was probably better presented in other films mashed up into this one. But it’s not a bad film–it’s just one that does not stand out. And when I watch it again–it’s the kind of thing I’m likely to watch again (and probably remember that I’ve seen it before next time)–I will enjoy it for what it is. A mid-1990s actioner that was already a bit of a throwback to the 1980s when it was released.

The film also featured Diane Lane, who played Judge Hershey, a trainee who becomes Dredd’s ally.
Continue reading “Movie Report: Judge Dredd (1995)”

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Movie Report: The Best of Gallagher Volume 2 (1999)

Book coverThis DVD includes two of Gallagher’s comedy specials from 1983, The Maddest and Stuck in the Sixties. I recognized a lot of The Maddest from heavy rotation on Showtime in the years where I spent a lot of time in a mobile home with but a television (well, and a brother, and friends who were prohibited from actually being in the trailer when my sainted mother was at work). However, it’s entirely possible that Showtime played The Messiest, a 1986 compilation of bits from other specials.

Gallagher deals with topical comedy and relies on a lot of props for his humor–a giant sofa to jump on, a motorized school desk, an animatronic baby doll in a high chair representing his new childm and of course the Sledge-o-Matic that he uses to smash produce up to a watermelon at the end of each show. In Stuck on the Sixties, he does hit a couple of political points to contrast the early Reagan era with his idealized version of the sixties, but overall, it aged better (at forty years old now) than, say, Dennis Miller’s The Raw Feed from only twenty years ago. Or maybe I have extra affection for the comedian because I watched his special or specials over and over again when I was younger.

When I was browsing the DVDs at the Friends of the Library book sale this spring, a woman waved her hand at the DVD and said that he’s funny. So I told her about how his brother would do his act sometimes, but it turns out I got the story wrong: His brother looked a lot like him and did his own shows, perhaps hoping people would confuse him with the Gallagher until the Gallagher sued his brother to make him stop, and he did.

Gallagher toured until 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down, and he passed away last year. I kind of wish I would have seen him live, but one wonders if his comedy became more political as everything did in the 21st century. I can believe not, at least until I run into some of his later comedy specials on DVD.

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For Consistency

Whereas I am known for pronouncing wary as war-y because it has the word right in it and because I’ve been known to pronounce vapid and rabid as vay-pid and ray-bid because they come from vapor and rabies,

Let it be known that hereafter, I shall pronounce diplomat as DIPLOMAt because it has the word diploma right in it.

Ah, the things that come to me at 2:30 in the morning instead of sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Backyard, Too

Springfield shelters overrun with kittens

We brought in a pair of black cats last year, so we’re topped up.

But in the last couple of days, we’ve seen some new faces, including a large black cat with white feet and, this very morning, a pair of very young tabbies.

It seems cyclical at Nogglestead. We see a lot of tabbies wandering around, and then we see a bunch of Jigsaw-spawn running around, and then we see a bunch of black cats running around, and I guess we might be back to tabbies somehow.

I guess it all depends upon the lifespans of their various mothers in the wild.

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Movie Report: Excalibur (1981)

Book coverI’d had this film in the cabinet for quite some time, and I watched it instead of the growing selection of recent acquisitions spreading across the cabinets beside the television.

It has been a long time since I delved into Arthurian legend. I read Edna St. Vincent Millay’s The King’s Henchman in 2007. I saw The Sword of Lancelot with Cornel Wilde and his wife Jean Wallace sometime after the turn of the century but before I started relying on Movie Reports to provide content for my great advertising and affiliate marketing empire keep my mind straight as to what I’ve seen and when.

This 1981 film retells the legend of King Arthur from the time of his father Uther Pendragon–who receives Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake and unites England, but throws it all away and relies on Merlin to help him seduce the wife of his rival. The union produces a son, Arthur, whom Merlin raises. Arthur then reuinites England pretty much off stage, and then he meets a knight errant and bests him using the power of Excalibur inappropriately. The knight errant, Lancelot, falls in love with Guinevere but does not act on it until a drunken Gawain, put up to it by Morgana, Arthur’s half-sister, accuses them of adultery. Arthur orders a trial by combat, and Lancelot returns, and he and Guinivere consummate their shared love. Morgana comes to Arthur disguised as Guinivere and conceives a son, Mordred, whom she raises to supplant her half-brother. Arthur goes into a stupor and sends his knights out to find the Holy Grail which he hopes can restore him and England. So they all go out and look, falling into Morgana’s trap, except for Percival, who finds the Grail and restores Arthur just in time for a big battle where Arthur defeats Mordred but is mortally wounded, and Excalibur is returned to the Lady in the Lake for future distribution.

Sorry to ruin the story for you. Sadly, this is the 21st century, you know, and although school children will be exposed to many fine stories of today’s political mania, they won’t learn about the legend of King Arthur, and this would indeed be a spoiler alert for them.

The film is more ponderous than other sword-and-sorcery fare of the era, such as the Conan movies, but it is trying to be a serious film and a piece of art and not just entertainment and/or a blockbuster. The pacing is a tad slow for modern audiences, and of the films I might have caught bits of at my friends’ house, sponging off of their HBO and cable, this is definitely the one without the sword with three blades in it (The Sword and the Sorcerer, 1982, which now that I’m thinking of it, I’ll look for it).

Also, some of the anachronisms in the film kind of took me out of it–not a problem when dealing with the Hyborean Age, but still: the Knights of the Round Table ride around, alone, on horseback in full plate through the whole movie. If they’d cut more of those scenes, perhaps the pacing would have been better. But I think they might have been trying for the high-budget, good looking film, and shiny armor was that.

When I was reading up on the film for this post, I was stunned at the cast. Helen Mirren as Morgana–there’s a scene where Morgana, who had used magic to stay young, as the spell was broken ages into an old woman, and Helen Mirren clearly did not turn into a crone. Gabriel Byrne is Uther Pendragon. Liam Neeson is Gawain. Patrick Stewart is Leondegrance, one of the first to pledge to Arthur. I didn’t recognize any of them because they were so young.

I probably won’t watch this film over and over, and the previous owner did not, either, as the film still had cellaphane over most of it. Which meant the picture was amazingly clear.

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Movie Report: The Punisher (2004)

Book coverIt’s a bit of a shame, gentle reader, that I think of this 19-year-old film as the new The Punisher, but that’s because I am old enough to remember the 1989 Dolph Lundgren movie which was an earlier take on the character. I do not think I’ve seen that film en toto, but I remember that it was made. This rendition of The Punisher, only fifteen years later, might be the first with the Marvel Studios flipping comic pages with the main titles. Blade didn’t have it, did it? It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed the Blade trilogy, and I might want to revisit them since there’s another Blade movie in the works (and I might not bother seeing it).

This film opens with a couple of guys looking to facilitate an arms deal of some sort, but it goes bad and the police drop in, but in the ensuing shootout, one of them is killed. Turns out that he’s the son of a mafioso, Howard Saint, played by John Travolta. Saint (not the Saint, clearly) places a bounty on the man responsible, who turns out to be Frank Castle, played by Thomas Jane. Castle is a deep undercover government operative who vows this is his last job, and he goes to a family reunion in the Caribbean with his family. When Saint orders the hit in the Caribbean, his wife, played by Laura Harring, asks to have the whole family eliminated, and the bad men do just that, killing the whole Castle family but only leaving Frank for dead. When he is restored to health by a local juju man, Castle returns to the country with only one thing on his mind: revenge.

So Castle sets up shop in a rundown apartment building populated by some misfits, including Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (not painted blue). And he goes about destroying Saint’s business and setting him up to do violence to those closest to him before Castle kills him.

It’s a bit on the sadistic side, but I am starting to think casual sadism is a bit of a trope in the first part of this “21st” century. I mean, some people (in movies) just need killing, but some of the killings in this film include a little pain and realization before the final offing. I dunno. I don’t mind my heroes outside the law, and I can tolerate a bit of torture (in fiction) for vital information, but modern films just include cruelty for its sake or for the cinematic sake of it, and that bothers me (says the man who has read, what, a hundred Executioner novels?)

Speaking of which, I had a little problem at the beginning because they altered the origin story…. But then I realized I was comparing Castle’s story to Mack Bolan’s origin story, and then I was mollified a bit. I mean, the Punisher character was quite modeled on the Executioner–the comic with the first appearance of the Punisher also had an interview with Don Pendleton for cryin’ out loud (speaking of the greatest gap in my comic collection).

I had a harder time with thinking that Thomas Jane (I keep wanting to type “Hardy,” which means it must be closing in on time to actually read The Return of the Native) in this film looked an awful lot like a younger Herb Alpert.

A man seeking bloody vengeance
The best musical artist in recording history

Maybe I am still confused.

So I liked the film alright in spite of the unnecessary brutality in spots. But not enough that I won’t like the reboot, although I guess that was a streaming show, which means it has been fired into the ether never to be seen again.

The film did feature Laura Harring as Livia Saint, and it’s not too often that I say, “Wow!” about an actress. But, “Wow!”
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The Baddest Word Strikes Again!

Actually, no, it’s people have made the word magic who have struck again.

The headline is Glendale High School teacher placed on leave after student records him using racial slur

However, the teacher did not use the baddest word as a racial slur. He discussed it as a word:

After a student notes slave owners’ use of the term, the teacher says he recognizes that, but then says, “Is the word (N-word) not allowed to be said?”

Amid several audible gasps from students in the class, a student begins to tell the teacher not to say it, noting, “As a teacher, if you want to keep your job — this isn’t a threat …”

The teacher responds: “But I’m not calling anyone a (N-word). I can say the word.”

Spoiler alert: It was a threat.

Weird times we live in, when “educators” can “safely” discuss sexuality with children and tell the children not to tell their parents, but discussing a word as a unit of language–not using the slur, but discussing it–is grounds for termination.

Also, I am probably a homophobe and a racist for bringing this up. But twenty years of this blog have already proven I’m irredeemable.

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I Knew The Hotel From The Headline


Mookie Betts apparently has no interest in messing with potentially haunted hotels.

Betts has become a team leader for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but during the team’s series against the Milwaukee Brewers, he’s not with his teammates.

C’mon, man, that’s the Pfizer, one of the premier hotels in the city. I’ve stayed there a time or two when returning home in the years immediately after college. When I could not really afford it.

Which is weird: I went from staying with friends to staying at hotels starting with the Budgetel on the northwest side and the motel by Timmerman Field to staying downtown pretty exclusively. Hearkening back, I wonder if the change took place after I got my job in IT. It must have. But I stayed downtown numerous times, including at the hotel where Teddy Roosevelt got shot (the Hyatt at the time, although it’s probably changed names since then).

Never saw a ghost in the Pfizer, though.

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Movie Report: The Other Guys (2010)

Book coverThis is a buddy cop film comedy with Will Ferrell as a forensic accountant and Markie Mark as a hothead. They never get the good cases because two hotshot cops, played briefly by Dewayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson, get all the good cases, the headlines, and the nookie. When the two hotshot cops die in a foolish jump during a chase that did not have their normal Hollywood ending, Gamble and Holtz think that they have a shot to make the big time. But even though they’re on the thread of something big–a permitting violation has focused them on a British celebrity businessman who is involved in a massive bit of fraud to cover the losses incurred on behalf of a client.

So the film has rather predictable shenanigans and a recurring gag that the geeky Gamble (Ferrell) has the attention of beautiful women, including his wife (played by Eva Mendes) and an ex-girlfriend (Natalie Zea), which Holtz cannot fathom.

Eventually, of course, they get their man and save the day.

Overall, I might have confused this film with The Nice Guys, the Gosling and Crowe period piece. Well, not that closely. But I suspect that The Nice Guys is better. When picking films to watch one evening, my oldest mentioned that he’d started to watch this on Netflix but abandoned it. Given that he’s a Will Ferrell fan, this commentary probably explains why this film really never entered the zeitgeist for me to remember it outside of a profligate movie buying incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Movie Report: Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991)

Book coverWell, I guess I am on a Virginia Madsen kick. I mean, I posted the trailer of Electric Dreams for a twee post on AI, and then I watched Sideways. While researching her C.V., I discovered that she was the love interest in this film from back in the 1980s, and since I just watched Highlander in January, watching this film just seemed the thing to do. Also, note that since I picked up a second set of videos in the Highlander series, watching them again will mean that I’ve watched the series through within a span of five or seven years–more than the Conan series even. Make of that what you will.

So: Highlander purists deny this film from the canon, and it’s a strange thing that there are Highlander purists and Highlander has a canon. The film strays a bunch from the thin story set forth in the first movie and retcons some things in that make little sense in a continuing franchise, but this was the 80s, man (the film’s release date was 1991, but the zeitgeist was 80s). They weren’t thinking in terms of story arcs and trilogies and whatnot then–they were thinking “Hey, can we milk this almond one more time?” So when the third movie came along somehow, it ignored the events and stories set forth in this film. Rightly so.

At any rate: The film takes place in the far off future of 2024 (that is, next year). In 1999, Connor MacLeod, grieving the death of his wife Barbara (apparently, he married the woman from the first movie) due to–radiation sickness? Severe sunburn?–helps a scientific team to build an artificial “Shield” to replace the ozone layer which a decade after the first movie has broken down enough to threaten all life on Earth (remember that? No–we remember the artificially created panic around the possibility, but by the actual 1999 we’d moved onto the artificially induced panic of Y2K). The film takes place in 2024, 25 years later, when Connor has aged.

Here’s the retcon: MacLeod and Ramirez, Sean Connery’s character from the first film, were actually revolutionaries on a planet called Zeist where they rebelled against the rule of General Katana, played by Michael Ironside. When they’re captured, they’re exiled to Earth, where they’re immortal until they slay the other Zeistians(?), which I would guess includes all the other people who were killed in the first film and the Kurgan(?). Wouldn’t they have been fellow revolutionaries on Zeist? Ah, forget it, they’re just making stuff up and not planning beyond the end of this movie. Once Connor (I keep typing Duncan because that’s the Highlander from the television series) got the prize at the end of the first film, he could have chosen to go to Zeist (but he didn’t remember that part?) to be immortal there but chose to age on Earth (the alternative) with his wife. Who then died twenty-five years before the film takes place.

At any rate, for some reason, General Katana can no longer just wait for MacLeod to die of old age and sends two goofy assassins to kill him. Earth, meanwhile, under the shield is a miserable place, hot, humid, and without the chance of rain or the site of the sun and the stars. When the elderly MacLeod defeats the Zeistian assassins, the quickening from their deaths restores his youth and Zeistian immortality. He encounters the head of a resistance group, played by Virgina Madsen, who has learned that the Shield might not be necessary any more as the ozone layer appears to heal itself, and then General Katana comes to Earth himself to tackle MacLeod and so Michael Ironside can chew some scenery. Katana makes himself partner in the parent corporation (with a smarmy corporate leader Blake played by John C. McGinley, last seen hereabouts in The Animal. Sean Connery’s Ramirez is resurrected for some quick comic relief and to sacrifice himself to save MacLeod, and MacLeod defeats Katana and turns off the Shield to save mankind (I’d say “spoiler alert,” but, c’mon, man, we knew it would happen).

That is a lot of backstory and whatnot to make essentially a low budget B-movie about swordfights. It does not add the depth that the flashbacks do in the first movie, and they really don’t add anything at all. But it’s not bad for all that, although I don’t have an emotional stake in the Highlander canon to worry about the real serious issues you guys about this film in the whole mythos. Because it really wasn’t planned to be a mythos, and it doesn’t seem to have been planned much beyond getting the film done cheaply at all.

I have additional copies of the other two films in the to-watch library, so don’t be surprised to see a movie report about Sonny Spoons chewing the scenery in the near future.

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

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

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

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

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

I did flag a couple of things:

The first line of “In the Park” is:

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

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

A poem entitled “The Golden Gate” begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Movie Report: The Raw Feed (2003)

Book coverThis twenty-year-old Dennis Miller live comedy video from 2003 is mostly interesting as an artifact. I mean, I like Dennis Miller and all (I can’t believe that I’ve only reviewed Ranting Again during the lifetime of this blog, but I read The Rants in 1996 and I listened to other things as audiobooks before I started writing them up as well). But I think part of Dennis Miller’s appeal, at least to me, is a bit of snob appeal–he makes a lot of clever allusions to classical works, and I chuckle to hear them.

But his humor is very topical and based on contemporary events. This show was filmed in Chicago, and the biggest responses it got were about getting ready to invade Iraq and a joke about the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. Twenty years on, though, they’re not as fresh.

I have to wonder if I would appreciate this standup routine better as a book, but I’m not sure a single standup routine is enough for a whole book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did flag a couple of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Movie Report: Sideways (2004)

Book coverI got this film in February, and I watched it when it was amongst the latest and greatest haul. However, the February haul has been supplanted by the box load from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale over the weekend, so I will likely start in on those before I finish the ones I bought in February.

At any rate, Sideways is a Paul Giamatti film. His name is above the title. I’ve always been a fan of Paul Giamatti–I remember him from The Truman Show and probably The Negotiator, but suddenly it seemed like he was in everything. But this is the only film I recall him in the starring role.

Giamatti plays Miles, a divorced man who is a writer and a wine and food enthusiast who takes his college roommate Jack on a week-long trip to wine country before Jack’s wedding. Jack is a philanderer and a scallawag, a bit shallow, but Miles is not an unblemished character either–his marriage collapsed due to his affair, and he starts the trip by visiting his mother to wish her happy birthday and to “borrow” (he probably thinks) some cash from her reserves. When they reach wine country, Jack sees that a waitress, played by Virginia Madsen, is into Miles, and he (Jack) arranges a double date when he picks up a winery pourer (played by Sandra Oh).

The relationships progress, but Miles learns that Jack has invited his ex-wife and her new man to the wedding, so he goes into a bit of a tailspin. Meanwhile, Jack’s relationship with Stephanie progresses as well even though Jack is supposed to be getting married in a couple of days–but he declares his love for Stephanie and their planned life together. One gets the sense that he means it, too, just like he means everything in the moment. When Miles lets slip they have to go to a rehearsal dinner, Maya tell Stephanie, and everything is off, but Jack has time for one last fling with another waitress before they return with a cover story explain his broken nose (having it broken by a jilted woman swinging a motorcycle helmet would not do).

The film is most notable for having damaged the merlot industry for a few years (and boosting the pinot noir varietal), but could be secondly noted for having two fully naked sex scenes in it. Miles walks in on both, and I’m sure this is a commentary on his lack of a relationship since his marriage and perhaps a comment on modern relationships as neither is a particularly Biblically sanctioned coupling. But give how few boobs one sees in action and comedy films these days, it was a little strange. Perhaps that’s because it’s a serious movie, where such things are allowed.

At any rate, a good film, a thoughtful film, and I am sure it would have hit me in a different chord if I’d watched it when I was 30 years old and fancied myself a struggling writer (about the time the film came out, I, too, was trying to place a book). But I’m twenty years older than that, and I’m a little calmer these days. So I did not identify with Miles as much as I might have.

Virginia Madsen appeared in this film. I mentioned Electric Dreams, a film that was an early role for her, last month. So perhaps I am on a Virginia Madsen kick.
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