I Have Heard Of This Movie

Green comet to appear in sky for first time in 50,000 years:

People looking at the morning sky this month might notice a rare celestial body.

NASA says a glowing green comet will make an appearance for the first time in 50,000 years.

It will have streaking tails of dust and could appear fuzzy.

The comet will be closest to the sun Thursday and closest to Earth between Feb. 1 and 2.

Night of the Comet:

The Earth is passing through the tail of a comet, an event which has not occurred in 65 million years and coincided with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. On the night of the comet’s passage, eleven days before Christmas, large crowds gather outside to watch and celebrate.

If we survive, perhaps on February 3 I will start my screenplay for a mash-up of a zombie movie and Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow.

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On Spanglish (2004)

Book coverI tried to lure my boys into watching a film with their old man (is that a slur or just slang? In the 21st century, it depends upon not so much the word nor the intent but how someone feels about it) by watching an Adam Sandler film, but they didn’t bite, which is just as well. This is not a comedy despite what the box nor blurbs say. This is one of the films where Adam Sandler is trying to turn into a dramatic actor as Tom Hanks did, but Hollywood and audience are still not letting him do it.

He’s not even the main character in the film: That’s Flor, played not by Salma Hayek. I am probably to be condemned for confusing Selma Hayek with Spanish actress Paz Vega, but I confuse a lot of people for others for reasons unknown and for reasons inscrutible to others (apparently, Heather Newman does not sound like Mary Chapin Carpenter and so on). Flor is a Mexican woman left by her man with her daughter. She comes to the United States (although not said explicitly, illegally is implied). She finds work as a maid/nanny for a wealthy family, including a famous chef (played by Sandler), a shrewish striving wife (Tea Leoni–has she ever played a character that did not annoy me? The Family Man, maybe?), a dumpy daughter, and an alcoholic mother in law (Cloris Leachman). The wife takes an interest in Flor’s daughter, buys her things, takes her to a salon day, gets her into the daughter’s private school–to Flor’s dismay and discomfort, her daughter starts behaving like the rich Americans. Flor does nice things for the family and gets closer to them, including moving into their vacation home during their vacation with her daughter, and she learns English. When the wife cheats on the husband, who has been busy preparing for a meal serving an influential critic and getting all his stars as well as having a subchef threaten to leave the restaurant–well, throughout, the husband and Flor grow close, but when the wife cheats, the husband cooks for Flor in the restaurant, they share a moment, but Flor leaves, and the husband seemingly goes to reconcile with his wife as Flor and the daughter leave them for good.

The film has a frame story of the girl, in voiceover, telling the story as part of her essay trying to get into Princeton and explaining how much she admires her mother. I’m not sure whether it adds to the film, and I’m not sure how much I really enjoyed the film or if I took any lessons from the film, but I suppose as I’m becoming a pre-Netflix Sandler completeist, I can cross it off the little checklist.

Below, in my defense, I have some pictures of Paz Vega so you can determine if she looks like Salma Hayek.
Continue reading “On Spanglish (2004)”

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Book Report: Lay Down My Sword and Shield by James Lee Burke (1971, 1994)

Book coverTwo and a half years ago, I picked up this book ABC Books after having read about the author in Garden and Gun magazine–a 2016 issue, which I was then four years late in reading. When I did my Good Book Hunting post, I said I’d get to the author eventually, and that was only two and a half years, which isn’t bad comparatively.

At any rate, this book is in the mystery section, but it is not a mystery. It’s in the mystery section because the author later became known for one or more mystery series, and the publisher who put this book back into print wanted people to buy it, too. So, voilà! A “mystery.”

But the book is more a serious, perhaps literary, novel about a Texan Korean War veteran whose service was briefly as a corpsman and less briefly as a prisoner of war, a member of a longstanding line of Texas heroes and businessmen starting with an ancestor who was a legendary lawman and a father that was thought to be a shrewd businessman. The protagonist, such as he is, is now an attorney serving an eccentric oilman and industry clients. He’s running for Congress and deals with a senator who looks forward to welcoming him to the fold and a mysterious power broker/fundraiser who is seemingly appended to the senator. He, the protagonist, is also a raging alcoholic who spends all day drinking whiskey, and he cheats on his wife with Mexican prostitutes–the first scene in the book is leaving his home and his oil wells for a trip to a cheap motel with one such on his way to a political event. He’s got an older brother trying to keep him on track, perhaps for his own purposes, and a cold wife. Just when you’re wondering if the alcohol or the whoring is going to do him in, an old army buddy calls from a small town jail in an agricultural area. He’s been working with some of the workers to unionize the agricultural workers, and the strike breakers and the local law enforcement have just about killed him. When the protagonist gets him out, they do kill him, and the protagonist takes up the cause of the farm workers–it doesn’t hurt that they drink a lot, too, and one of them is an absolute babe from back east. This allows him to work out his demons from the war (as a POW, he was eventually broken) and to find more meaning than coasting on his family’s wealth and fame.

So it’s a bit of Ross Thomas meets Larry McMurtry as well as a commentary on Texas, noble unionizers, and the change from Democratic political dominance to Republican political dominance and the Viet Nam war taking place about the time of the book’s writing. The text is a little bit lush, with again a lot of color being thrown around to describe things (I noticed this in The Red Badge of Courage as well). A little slower paced than a mystery, but not a bad book. Its political leanings are there, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with them as later authors might.

So not a bad read. I finished this book at the beginning of the month (well, all right, New Year’s Eve, but the Book Reading Year starts early), so it’s not eligible for the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge. I’m not sure where I could have slotted it anyway–it’s certainly not a page turner, and it’s 226 pages long. But it hasn’t dulled me on the author, which is good as I still have a couple of his other books which might actually be mysteries somewhere. Probably close in the stacks to where I got this one, but I have forgotten where that is.

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Remember Game Designers’ Workshop

Michael Williams has a story about how Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast/TSR is trying to screw people over with copyrights, leading to Williams’ rant about IP.

I, on the other hand, remember what TSR did to Game Designers’ Workshop and Gary Gygax over Dangerous Journeys (Gygax talks about it way down in this interview.

Mike, another friend, and I met Gygax at GenCon when he was preparing to or had just settled the lawsuit, so we got to look at the court papers (which Gygax was carrying with him, I guess). TSR was claiming copyright to things like dwarves, elves, and rolling dice.

So it’s not new that they’re playing IP games, especially now that they’re owned by bigger fish. It’s that they’ve always wanted to be the stereotypical Microsoft-style or Google-kind of monopolistic power, but they’re niche.

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Words Do Not Mean Things

US renames 5 places that used racist slur for a Native woman

The word is squaw which has only recently come to be a racist slur because some people want a cudgel to beat others. If you look at the etymology of the word, and if you’re looking at an online source if you scroll past all the verbiage describing how this is a racist, vulgar, double plus ungood badthink badmouth, you’ll find this comes from a Massachusett (the tribe for which the commonwealth is named) word for woman or younger woman.

In common usage, I’ve seen the word used to describe a Native American woman (of any tribe–remember, the natives were tribal, and sometimes those tribes slaughtered other tribes–history, anyone?). So it’s a single word to describe a human person of a particular heritage. It does indicate “race,” but I haven’t seen it used much as a slur or to denigrate someone unless you already think that someone of a particular heritage is inferior. Which I don’t because most squaws are not blondes.

In my experience, it’s fallen out of common usage anyway as the cowboys and Indians mythos has fallen out of the common culture. For example, through the 90s, you see the baddest word fairly frequently, but not this other not the baddest but bad word (and if I start using that expression for not baddest word racial descriptions it will get confusing). Of course, I guess I read a lot of urban suspense novels and not a lot of things set in the southwest.

This online source usage note is rich, though:

It can be very offensive when members of the dominant culture appropriate piecemeal bits of language to imitate or perform impressions of an ethnic or racial minority. Borrowed words like firewater, squaw, and wigwam, or imitative words like how were once used for comedic effect, but they are now considered insensitive to Native Americans and their cultures.

My quibbles (which in this sense means complete disagreement with) the usage note (which is much like what you find on other dictionary sites and Wikipedia):

  1. English is nothing if not a thief of words from other languages–because if they have a better or more concise way of expressing it, we want to use that. But you don’t see the Greeks and the Romans rising up, much less Hispanics or the Spanish, the Italians, or the French rising up. Well, I am sure the French try.
  2. Firewater would be a compound word the natives might have borrowed from the English (I say might have because I have only seen it in pop culture sources, not original or historical documents). So how is it that English speakers would be appropriating it?

Never mind; it’s not about speaking and writing with concision. It’s about beating others with any cosh you can.

Also, if full disclosure, I used firewater in a video I shot some decade ago. Because I’m a racist. Or a pedant. Which some parts of the disculture might think they’re normalizing for me, but they’re not.

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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour, Early Days at the Dojo Edition

From this date in 2011:

Brian J. Noggle just tied the karate belt on his son’s gi based on an eHow tutorial. Noggle hopes this is the traditional way and not the one that signifies the wearer wants to challenge the sensei to mortal combat for the right to lead the dojo.

Of course, he’s not wearing the knot. So it could be worse.

Followed by a comment later:

Aw, nuts.

Well, two positives from this faux pas: 1., perhaps the avenging his brother thing will encourage the younger son to study Karate more dilligently. 2., I made $5 betting on the sensei.

A year later, the younger brother would start classes. A couple of years after that, mommy and daddy started taking classes. In 2022, 3 of 4 reached black belt rank, but only daddy still takes classes there.

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On The Burbs (1989) / The Money Pit (1986)

Book coverThis is a two-pack of Tom Hanks comedies from the middle 1980s. Remember when Tom Hanks made comedies? Try explaining that to young men born in the 21st century. Ever since his back-to-back Academy Awards in 1993 and 1994, he’s pretty much been a serious actor. No cross dressing for laughs, as in television’s Bosom Buddies–I am pretty sure that show could not be made today at all, and I bet if I dug, he has probably retcontrited for forty-year-old humor. But I digress.

The Burbs tells the story of a man taking the week off from a high pressure job and just hanging out in his cul-de-sac when he begins to suspect his new neighbors are evil. With the help of a couple of neighbors, he investigates after a fashion and suspect the neighbors have killed another neighbor. They hijinkily try to prove that the neighbors have murdered him but not his little dog, but just as Tom Hanks’ character is about to accept that their intrusions and suspicions are causing more problems than they’re detecting, their suspicions are proven correct.

The movie has an all-80s-star cast, including Carrie Fisher as Mrs. Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Rick Ducommun (whose special I’d seen on Showtime and who would later appear in Groundhog Day as Gus), Henry Gibson (whose looks somewhat like Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate infame would have helped if only this film had not come out 8 years before that cult killed themselves), and Corey Feldman as the local teen who stands aloof and likes the show. It’s funny: The film came out in 1989, by which time we were living down the gravel road, so it is not one that I would have watched over and over on Showtime, although I think of it as such. However, we did have a movie poster for it, or rather a video store poster of it–a local video store would give us old posters, and we hung them on our walls, my brother and I. So perhaps I remember the poster of it and only later watched it over and over, perhaps at my father’s house when I was in college. And perhaps “over and over” is once or twice.

The film ultimately is a fairly stock indictment of living in the suburbs as viewed through people from either coast, but it’s not preachy or messagy, and it pokes a little fun at people, caricatures, who are solely defined by living in the suburbs.

I watched this film with my older son, who thought it was okay.

The Money Pit is actually an earlier film, but might be slight less remembered than The Burbs. In it, Hanks plays a record company/band management guy dating a woman in the symphony (Shelley Long) who is the ex-wife of a maestro (Alexander Godunov) whose apartment they’ve been living in. When the maestro returns suddenly from abroad, they have to vacate in a hurry. The pressure of finding housing leads them to a mansion outside New York City that is an amazing deal because the husband has just been extradited, and the old woman living there has to unload it in a hurry. When they move in, they find out that it needs a little more work than they’d been led to believe. Which leads them to having to deal with household disasters, contractors and their workers, and asking maestro for help. It tests the bonds of their relationship but ends well, of course–it’s a comedy.

The film is not as star-studded as The Burbs, but it does have Yakov Smirnoff in a small role, and the boys recognized Alexander Godunov from Die Hard.

You know, I am not sure that I’d seen this film all the way through before this time. I remember bits, probably from commercials on television when I was 12. What, fourteen? How do I remember things that recent?

At any rate, it’s amusing. Like The Burbs, it’s poking a bit of fun at the fixer upper house, the deal too good to be true, and dealing with contractors (whatever the question, whatever the job, it will be done in two weeks). However, in the intervening years, I suppose we’ve (I’ve) gotten a little sensitive to “What is this movie attacking?”

I started this film with both boys, but they both gave up before the midway point. Whether that’s a question of pacing, a question of adult concerns (home maintenance and improvement), or a question of whether they had pressing business on their important Internet games, I leave to you gentle reader.

However, the Internet has not made a debate about Carrie Fisher versus Shelley Long as your preferred dream partner, but I am here for you.

Continue reading “On The Burbs (1989) / The Money Pit (1986)”

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That Many?

Lileks ain’t even humblebragging:

And apparently I am in the 1% of people my age who can do 50 pushups. I’m sure that’s absolutely scientifically and empirically true and I will hear no argument about it.

In other news, I should not challenge Lileks to a push-up duel any time soon. For although I was able to do fifty push-ups in my martial arts class yesterday, I shook my arms at the thirty and forty push-up marks.

I’m actually, apparently, working myself back into shape–I have an indoor triathlon in a month, and I’ve been trying to attend more martial arts classes these days (holidays and the school’s abbreviated schedule aside), and I’ve found that I have tired legs. I’d worry that my physical fitness ceiling has lowered as I have aged, but in all likelihood I just need to build back into it. After all, I do remember aching legs when I first started to do 5Ks six years ago (and my last was, what, three years ago? Two years ago?)

Ah, well, there are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Advil.

By the way, back in those early days of martial arts, we put a bottle of Advil in the glove compartment in the car to pop one before class. So I suppose I am working too hard to discourage myself and to convince myself that the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge is a more important personal goal.

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On Highlander (1986)

Book coverBefore watching the Christmas movies (Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Invasion USA, and Lethal Weapon), I invited my boys to watch this film with me. I’d found it in the videocassette player, and asked them if they’d watched it already–but they had not. So I watched it, alone, as they’re too sophisticated for 80s B actioners now that they’re in their teens in the 21st century.

I actually watched the Highlander movies, including Highlander II: The Quickening, Highlander III: The Final Dimension (alternatively titled Highlander III: The Sorcerer with Mario van Peebles) and Highlander: Endgame which tied the movie to the television series, a couple years ago (a couple years being maybe two, five, or eight–as I was not writing movie reports at the time on this blog, I have no way to know). But I picked up fresher videocassette copies last July, so having new copies (well, new old copies) on the to-watch shelf means I have to watch them again.

Okay, you probably know the premise if you’re of a certain age: A Scotsman joins his clan in battle, but nobody fights him–a strange figure has said that he wants the Highlander for himself. But circumstances, and the need to make a full movie of it, means the dark figure does not best the Scotsman, who is seemingly killed. When he miraculously returns to life, he is run out of town as being the devil. Sean Connery appears to tell him he is an immortal of a special sort, and to explain the rules of The Game: He can only die if his head is lopped off, and the immortal who cuts off the head of another get his power or some such. When they come to a final reckoning in a strange land, one will emerge with the power to rule humanity.

So, yeah, you know, it doesn’t go a lot into the cosmology, which is probably for the best–the second film (The Quickening) kind of tries to retcon some weird, almost Scientological backstory on it, but other cuts of the film eliminate that in favor of just letting it ride. But that’s to come in the future.

The film was a disappointment at the box office, and it’s pretty clear why: It has more of a direct-to-video feel and look to it, but it’s since become a cult classic and clearly has spawned several other movies, television series, and books (including Highlander: Element of Fire, which I read eighteen years ago–equidistant in time between this movie and now).

But someone has been listening, whether it’s my boy’s phone or whatnot, but Facebook knows I’ve watched the film.

I’ve also gotten posts explaining that Christopher Lambert is very nearsighted and did not wear his glasses for filming, so the stunts and sword-fighting he did were that much more dangerous. So, yeah, someone knew I watched this film before you did, gentle reader. Perhaps they knew it before I did (which might have been asking if they’d already watched it since it was in the videocassette player). You think I’m mad? I WILL SHOW YOU MADNESS.

At any rate, although it has become a cult film, Highlander has not spawned any Brenda versus Heather Internet arguments.

Continue reading “On Highlander (1986)”

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Brian J. Joins The Cool Kids Club

Google has put a post of mine behind a Content Warning:

You know, Google, I have not used Blogger/Blogspot for 12 years now, and you’re not making me regret my decision.

Gentle reader, you can read the post here without the warning, although I will point out it’s based on a joke that Laura Bush made about her husband, President George W. Bush, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2005:

He’s learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What’s worse, it was a male horse.

In terms of telling bloggers who had cases of the vapors because Chimphitler Bush! (remember the good old days?) to get a grip, I might have used the word masturbation and related slang.

What a potty keyboard I had then.

Also recently added to the cool kids club: Neo.

Clearly, Google is settling old business, perhaps before Elon Musk can buy it.

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It Begins (2023)

The Springfield-Greene County Library 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has begun! Here’s the paper form for the challenge, which lasts from January 3-February 28:

To win the blessed mug, one needs to read five books from these fifteen categories:

  • Listen to a book
  • Set in Space
  • Religious or Spiritual
  • Female Detective
  • Cozy
  • Author of Color
  • Kids’ Chapter Book
  • Under 200 Pages
  • Banned Book
  • Speculative Fiction
  • Nature/Outdoors
  • Page Turner
  • Wartime Setting
  • Pictorial

The beauty of the unread stacks here at Nogglestead is that I can pretty much find books from all of those categories without any trouble. As a matter of fact, I’ve already picked out six books that fit the categories and have finished one with another to be completed tonight.

So, game on!

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He’s Wrong, You Know

For The Love Of All That Is Holy, Stop Backing Into Parking Spaces:

It would not be unreasonable to assume a couple of thousand cars are coming and going from my neighborhood strip mall on a given day. Given that much traffic, there’s a basic formula for efficiency here: The time it takes to get your car into a space added to the time it takes to pull out of the space.

Now a great many drivers seem to be under the impression that, because being able to pull out of parking space when you’re already facing forward is a little quicker than backing straight out of a space, this somehow makes up for any extra time it took to back into the space. Please go to your local busy parking lot with a stopwatch. I assure you, it does not.

But, ah, my foes! And, ah, my friends! The timing of it is not what’s important. It’s a safety issue and a vision issue.

When you’re backing up, you are in an uncomfortable position with reduced vision just because you’re craned all the way around to see where you’re going–or you’re just using the context-free backup camera, in which case you’re already behaving unsafely enough that my advice won’t help you. So you have two choices as when to back up:

  • When you’re pulling into the parking space. Which means the things in your peripheral vision will be stationary parked cars. Not many people on foot are going to dart between your car backing into a spot, as the space between the rear of your car and the other cars diminishes.
  • When you’re backing into traffic from either direction and with pedestrians appearing on either side of your car and on either side of the traffic lane. Not to mention other cars backing out into the traffic lane that might be turning into the traffic lane in your blind spots.

Note when leaving driving forward, your position will generally be forward of center, which means you will not only have easier and better visibility into the traffic lane because you’re facing forward, but you’ll also have an earlier increasing field of view because you will be abreast of the edges of the other cars sooner than when you back out. When you’re backing out, you’re not only doing this:


But more of your vehicle is exposed in the traffic lane before you get that increased visibility of clearing the parked cars.

Yeah, no. Pulling directly through an unclaimed parking spot so you can pull straight out is the best (mostly when the parking lines are parallel–when they’re at an angle, it’s less good as you have to cross more of the traffic lane to make sure you don’t clip the car next to you), but after that, backing into a spot is best, followed by parallel parking, and only then, as a last resort, backing into traffic.

I can’t believe I even have to point this out. But it’s a blog, and that’s what we do on blogs. Go on at length in spurious slap-fights.

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False Dilemma: It Could Be Neither

So I called our portly cat The Big Kahuna this morning, and I got to thinking: Is that from the Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon beach movies such as Bikini Beach or the 1960s television show Gidget starring Sally Fields? I’ve never actually seen any of the former, and although the latter was in syndication on channel 11 (KPLR) in St. Louis through the 1980s (along with The Flying Nun, another Sally Field vehicle from the 1960s), if I have seen any of them, it’s bits from when the television was on in the background–I cannot remember actually watching a full episode, much less multiple episodes of either.

Welp, gentle reader, it was neither.

Frankie Avalon’s character in the Beach movies had a nickname, but it was Moondoggie. Although there’s an episode of Gidget that features a character named simply Kahuna, it’s not probable that I picked that up as the source of the trivium.

No, gentle reader, The Big Kahuna is a character in…. Gidget, the 1959 movie starring Sandra Dee as Gidget. The movie, based on a novel of the same name, probably launched the beach movies and perhaps the California beach sound of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and so on. And, clearly, the television series which might have been closer to the books than the original film was.

A movie I have not seen, either.

I picked up a lot of trivia by reading things about popular culture, much more than experiencing popular culture. Which is just as well, since I don’t tend to watch streaming services as a matter of course and because:

  1. Trivia nights timeline of trivia has reset so that all knowledge, and it’s mostly pop cultural knowledge, began in 1990;
  2. When I caught sight of Jeopardy! at the gym earlier this week, it had questions about streaming television shows, and although I could name some of them, I’m a little less clear on the actors in them.

So I have some studying to do. Perhaps after I finish the Winter Reading Challenge 2023. And if only they had TV Superstars ’20 and TV Superstars ’22 books to clue me in.

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Every Generation’s Conception of ‘Old’ Is The Preceding Generation

An article in the New York Post entitled Gen Z shocked to see what 45-year-olds looked like in the 1990s got me to thinking.

A popular 1990s film has sparked a discussion about how Hollywood portrayed people in their 40s in the late-20th century versus today.

Filmmaker Jessica Ellis started the conversation when she tweeted a poster for “Father of the Bride 2,” featuring stars Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in their classic mom and dad get-ups.

* * * *

“An unbelievable thing that has changed in 30 years is that in 1995, this was supposed to be what 45-year-olds looked like,” Ellis wrote, clarifying that she was referring to the movie characters — not the actors themselves.

This led me to two separate musings, which I will sketch out into two bullet points instead of developing two full themes for them:

  • The previous generation always looks older.
    If you’re of a certain age, gentle reader, you might think old looks like beehive hairdos and big sideburns. Because that’s what you might have seen on your parents when you were young and they were older than you. I am pretty sure I have hammered on this theme before, but I still think it’s true, although it will probably be less true for later generations since Gen X and onward has always dressed down.
  • Movies are changing to reflect changing audiences.
    I have remarked on this before regarding music–that modern music has changed to reflect the tastes of the people who attend live music concerts and clubs–but the same could be true of movies. You’ve probably seen articles about how families are not going to the movies, and who has time to binge watch streaming services–it ain’t parents with families. So movies are now R-rated comedies, superhero movies, and whatnot–the big ticket ones, anyway. The people you see in the tabloids tend to be people who go to events and who are struggling to remain young and in the spotlight. So the actual depiction of adults in popular culture might skew to younger-striving people instead of people with the responsibilities of actual adults.

    Perhaps one could wonder what changes to the employment marketplace has also altered the business-casually dressing parents in the intervening years. Fewer and fewer people have to adhere to the dress codes that would put a man in a shirt with a collar or a woman with a skirt during the day, which likely would alter depictions and memories of them in the future.

I dunno. I do wonder if my boys will be outliers amongst their peers in the future for having a father who looked old. I do spend a lot of time in business casual clothing and a fedora, which made me look old in the 1990s, and older now that I am not a kid in a fedora.

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Meanwhile, In My Old Neighborhood

Man shot, killed at Maryland Heights tire shop after argument with coworker.

I used that auto shop when I was in Casinoport both times I lived there–it is on the corner of Dorsett/McKelvey, which was about half way between the apartment where I lived before I got married and the house we would later buy. It was in the same plaza as the Gold’s Gym where I was a member for a while between stints at the YMCA (which was down McKelvey). I was a customer there until they recommended I replace the exhaust manifold on my Geo Storm, and I had them do it, but it resulted in the car stalling out on me at times when I was first accelerating from a standstill, like when turning onto busy roads.

Of course, if the shooting had occurred at the ITD shop across Dorsett, I would have been a patron of that establishment, too, briefly, when it replaced the fuel pump in the very same Geo Storm with a fuel pump that I could hear in the cabin. Friends, have you ever heard your car’s fuel pump? Well, I have, and no matter what the shop manager said about how everyone can hear them, I made them replace it with something probably not out of a salvage yard while I watched, standing in the shop with crossed arms, until something moderately better was installed.

So somehow a headline turned into a musing on car shops I’ve known. I haven’t known the mechanics, per se, but the guys out front. And I’ve seen some turnover in the shops, and I tend to stick with a shop until something egregious happens. Knocks on wood. I’ve been with the shop we use now, a nice five mile walk away, for five or six years now. May they continue to not disappoint me.

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The Christmas Straggler 2023

We took our Christmas decorations down on New Year’s Day, which is a bit earlier than normal–we’re not hidebound to leaving everything up until Epiphany–and we usually take them down the weekend after New Year’s Day. As it turns out, that holiday was on a Sunday, and it would have seemed weird to have them up for a whole week after that.

This year seemed to take longer, or perhaps it was part of the diminishing experience I have with Christmas as I grow older, but the two hours of untangling lights from trees, boxing ornaments, and moving oh-so-many boxes to the understairs storage area and banging my head on the top of the doorframe 8% of the time, we got everything put away. We have an extra tree this year, handed down from my mother-in-law, who was inspired by my sainted mother’s Christmas tree protocol. At the end of the season, my mother would put a large bag over her fully decorated tree and have me boost it into her attic intact. My mother-in-law would throw a bag over her tree with the lights on it and have one of us carry it to her Spartanly appointed garage. So for most of this year, it was intact in our garage, which Marie Kondo herself with Herculean effort and perhaps a diverted river could only reduce to “extremely cluttered.” Yes, gentle reader, as you can imagine, the garage has more garbage (that is, raw ingredients for crafts from inspirations years past, a little something laid up, underused Nerf guns and unused sporting equipment, and all sorts of tools and yard gear that we use once every couple of years if not only once) than this sentence, the preceding sentence, and perhaps this whole paragraph which has wandered quite afield from its topic sentence.

At any rate, the mother-in-law tree was on our lower level, and the one the kittens played in the most (see also). We didn’t have a box for it, and I battered it into some bags to stuff under the stairs–which has gotten really full as I repackaged some items, which probably means we put underpacked or empty boxes under there).

But, as you know, we often find one Christmas decoration set in an out of the way place, leading to almost annual posts on the topic. But this year, with the kitten protocols in place, we limited our decorations. We didn’t put much breakable out. Mostly, we put up plush or stuffed decorations along with a couple special photos and a couple of pine cone and pine bough things that are in pretty rough shape and that the kittens could probably not damage. So this year, I was pretty sure that we got everything.

Then I sat down to watch a little football.

Friends, that is pretty far afield of where we had the tree.

So even though I was careful to look on the bookshelves next to the tree’s location for ornaments we had picked up and placed on books after the kittens knocked them down, apparently, I was not thorough enough in looking for Christmas ornaments elsewhere.

So I have picked up this ornament and another, but given kittens, it’s entirely possible we’ll find a feline soccer team’s worth of ornaments elsewhere throughout the year.

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2022: The Year’s Reading in Review

I only read 76 books this year, but I did close out some series–well, at least I read all the volumes in certain series that I owned, including the Executioner whose books I started picking up about a decade ago, some children’s books that I bought before I had children, and re-read some volumes of James Blish’s Star Trek series which turned episodes of the television series into short stories.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. Terror Intent The Executioner #219
  2. Tea in the Time of COVID 2020 Ann Kynion
  3. Time’s Eye Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
  4. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates Mary Mapes Dodge
  5. Terror Near Town James R. Wilder
  6. Firefly: Still Flying
  7. Gracie: A Love Story George Burns
  8. Star Trek James Blish
  9. Star Trek Memories William Shatner with Chris Kreski
  10. The Courtship of Barbara Holt Brian J. Noggle
  11. Mr. Monk Is Miserable Lee Goldberg
  12. Star Trek 2 James Blish
  13. Heidi Johanna Spyri
  14. Star Trek 3 James Blish
  15. Star Trek 4 James Blish
  16. The Story
  17. The Dark Side of CX Michael G. Bartlett
  18. Gorilla Mindset Mike Cernovich
  19. Star Trek 5 James Blish
  20. The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane
  21. John D. MacDonald: A Checklist of Collectible Editions and Translations David G. MacLean
  22. True Tales from Dickerson Park Zoo Mike Crocker
  23. Tiger Stalk The Executioner #220
  24. The Samurai: The Philosophy of Victory Robert T. Samuel
  25. The Valley of Yesterday Jeane K. Harvey
  26. Black Beauty Anna Sewell
  27. Blood and Fire The Executioner #221
  28. The Old and the Beautiful
  29. Mr. Obvious James Lileks
  30. Point Position The Executioner #305
  31. Tucked Away in a Discolored Scrapbook S.V. Farnsworth
  32. Nuts About Squirrels Don H. Corrigan
  33. Thin Ice and Other Poems Marcia Muth
  34. Within This Center: Poems and Images Robert C. Jones
  35. Hard Start: Martian Intrigue S.V. Farnsworth
  36. Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  37. Introducing Machiavelli Patrick Curry and Oscar Zarate
  38. Sergeant York Alvin York / Edited by Tom Skeyhill
  39. Boxing: The American Martial Art R. Michael Onello
  40. The Midwest Survival Guide Charlie Berens
  41. My Ántonia Willa Cather
  42. Star Trek 6 James Blish
  43. Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman Pierre Alex Jeanty
  44. The Pandora Gambit Levi Samuel
  45. Tae Kwon Do Basics Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins
  46. Lifetime Collection of Poetry Lucille Christiansen
  47. Zen in the Martial Arts Joe Hyams
  48. Serenity: The Official Visual Companion Joss Wheldon
  49. The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray Robert Schmakenberg
  50. A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L’Amour Angelique L’Amour
  51. Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes Lester Dent
  52. Nine Tomorrows Isaac Asimov
  53. I Sing the Body Electric! Ray Bradbury
  54. A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller
  55. Star Trek 7 James Blish
  56. Bendigo Shafter Louis L’Amour
  57. Life to Life Don Pendleton
  58. Star Trek 8 James Blish
  59. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne
  60. Star Trek 11 James Blish
  61. John Donnelly’s Gold Brian J. Noggle
  62. The Saint Meets His Match Leslie Charteris
  63. Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks Randy H. Greer
  64. The Broken Snare R.D. Symons
  65. The Lilac Lady Ruth Albert Brown
  66. Time to Time Don Pendleton
  67. Born Standing Up Steve Martin
  68. Dark Love edited by Nancy A. Collins, Edward E. Kramer, and Martin H. Greenberg
  69. Conan the Barbarian L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
  70. Conan the Destroyer Robert Jordan
  71. The Wild Horses of Shannon County, Missouri Dean Curtis
  72. The Silent Partner Lee Goldberg
  73. Christmas Stories for the Heart compiled by Alice Gray
  74. Double Star Robert Heinlein
  75. Fullmetal Alchemist Hiromu Arakawa
  76. Milk and Honey Rupi Kaur

I read several volumes of poetry, a couple plays, and only a couple pieces of literature not counting the classic children’s volumes (My Ántonia and The Red Badge of Courage). So I guess I’ll have to dig into something more serious in 2023.

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The World We Live In Today Redux

On Friday evening, as I grilled our steaks for the evening, I told my beautiful wife that we might need a new chimney starter soon, as our current one is showing some buckling from its constant exposure to fire and flaming coals.

On Saturday, I got this ad in my Facebook feed interspersed amongst pictures of David Gilmour–for some reason, probably because I liked the official Pink Floyd page a decade ago, suddenly I see all kinds of Dave Gilmour and other Pink Floyd fan pages’ posts as “Suggested for You”:

I did not text this to her. I said this to her in passing in the kitchen as I was getting the steaks to put on the grill.

Coincidence? A false pattern spotted by my brain because I was looking for a pattern? Or the truth?

Although from the image, it might not be a chimney starter. It looks fairly industrial. Perhaps something for smelting metals or tempering steel.

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Like Calling The Milwaukee Police “The 5-0”

Official government agencies in the heartland take on the slang based on popular entertainment. Yes, when I was riding the buses to and from the university in Milwaukee, I heard the local police called “the 5-0” from a television series that had gone off the air a decade before (and whose short-lived reboot was still almost 20 years in the future).

This week, I renewed the plates on one of our vehicles, and I brought my oldest son along to see the process as he’s a licensed driver now and might, in the next couple of years, have to license his own vehicle (not the one of our vehicles that he uses now and calls “his” truck).

On the way, I pointed out that Missouri does not have a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Instead, it has License Offices, which are run by charities on behalf of the Missouri Department of Revenue (not the Department of Transportation). But people still call it the DMV because that’s what it’s called in movies and television.

Including headline writers for the local television station.

Ozark License Office (DMV) closed after building collapses nearby on the historic Ozark, Mo., square

::Sigh:: It’s so hard to be right on the Internet.

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