2018 Reading Challenge – Update #3

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As usual, my reading slowed down during the summer. In fact, it almost stopped completely. And as the year progressed, so many devilish things happened in our nation that many of the books that I planned to read seemed to foretell what we were experiencing. I started a few of them, and I was enjoying them, but the echoes I saw on our TV screen and read in our paper, ruined the experience for me. So instead of a certain biography, a certain novel written in the 1940s, and a certain book on a historical subject among others, I went to more lighthearted fare.

The Pupil

I read The Pupil by Caro Fraser as a book by an author I had never read before. Because the protagonist of the novel is a barrister I assumed the book was a mystery or a courtroom thriller. It was neither, but rather a novel whose main characters happen to work in law firms. It is a good read, and the start of a series of novels. I’ll probably read more of them.

 

 

 

The Warrior Heir

Next I read The Warrior Heir by Cindy Williams Chima. This a YA fantasy novel by an author I had never read before, but I slotted it as a book first published in the 2000s. The clerk who checked me out at the bookstore where I purchased it praised the series. She volunteered how much she enjoyed reading the books. As is the case of a few YA books of this sort, the protagonist discovers that he has spectacular powers when he reaches a certain age. He battles and overcomes evil forces by the end of the book. Don’t you love happy endings? I liked it, and plan to read more in the series.

 

 

Lemons Never Lie

From the 1970s I chose Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake. Westlake used the name of Richard Stark primarily when writing novels about the thief Parker. A number of movies based on the Parker novels have been made, beginning with the 1967 film Point Blank starring Lee Marvin. I don’t know why they changed Parker’s name to Walker in the movie. But that has nothing to do with Lemons Never Lie except that the main character, Alan Grofield, appears in some of the Parker novels. Like Parker, Grofield is a thief; and like Parker, the heist goes wrong. I haven’t read one of these novels in many years. It was good to read another Richard Stark book.

 

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir

From my original choice of biographies I moved on to Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt. I have been planning to read this since it was published in 2013, but never seemed to get around to it. When I found it on a sales table I snatched it up to read for the challenge. Linda Ronstadt has been one of my favorite artists since I first saw her on The Woody Woodbury Show on television performing with The Stone Ponies. In the memoir she covers her life from childhood to her retirement. Unlike some other autobiographies I’ve read by performing artists, she exhibits humility and kindness. I don’t believe she said an unkind thing about any of the many people she wrote about. The closest she came was describing an artistic difference she had with a record producer. I miss hearing new music by her, but I have hundreds of recorded songs that I can go back to.

 

Villages

I chose to read Villages by John Updike as a book by a favorite (favored?) author. One of he reasons I love to read Updike is the ability he had to write convincing dialogue. He was also able to take ordinary people and events and make them so interesting that we want to know more. Many people, including me, swear that we hate having drama in our lives, and don’t understand people who seem to thrive on it. But we all seem to enjoy reading about it or seeing it on TV or in the movies. Also, it is the stuff that keeps gossip alive. Perhaps Updike was the fictional version of a gossip monger whom everyone decries but loves to hear. I love his books.

 

Berlin Game

Finally, for this update, I went back to the 1980s and reread  Berlin Game by Len Deighton. It was the first of a series with Bernard Sampson as the protagonist. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I love Deighton’s spy thrillers. They stand up there along with LeCarré’s, plus they have humor that others who write in that genre lack.  This was my first rereading of the novel since the 1990s. I don’t know why I waited so long to return to it. I’ll soon be going back to the next in the series, Mexico Set.

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More Little Things

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Leaves from my neighbor’s tree, our yard

I finally took a picture of autumn leaves. Now I have to get them out of the yard. The leaves on the trees in our yard have barely started to fall.

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In my last post I commented on a trope found in murder mysteries. Well, I have another to discuss today.

Perhaps you have noticed those mysteries where the hero/heroine surreptitiously enters the home of someone. Often there will be a television or sound system playing. The protagonist, who doesn’t want to be caught, immediately turns off the sound coming from the electronic device. Why? Wouldn’t that notify the occupant that someone had entered their domicile?

We know that nobody will notice the lack of background noise because they are (GASP) dead. Gosh, we never saw that one coming. The only person surprised by this development is the body finder. It makes one wonder about the script writer’s skill.

I would be glad to hear any movie/TV tropes that cause you to sigh and shake your head. Feel free to comment.

***

I attended a concert by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet a few weeks ago, and it was great. If you like jazz, you should see them if they come to a venue near you. Everyone sitting around me had good things to say about the group. But I must admit that while I eavesdropped on their conversations during the intermission and after the concert, I felt that they were saying some of the most inane things I had ever heard.

But while I was driving home I realized how unkind my thoughts had been. I’m sure that if I attended a classical music concert, other people might find my opinions, while positive, vacuous. We all come to music in our own way. For me, I base my musical likes and dislikes on the skill of the artist(s) as well as their choice of repertoire. Others might have different criteria, and that is fine for them.

I’m still working on being a better, more tolerant person. I have a lot of work to do on that project.

Little things

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Stock photo from freeImages.com

It’s autumn, and I haven’t taken any pictures yet. I haven’t done much of anything recently. By recently I mean the past few months. Oh, I’ve cut the grass and done a few other odds and ends, but nothing that makes me feel that I’ve accomplished anything. So today I’m trying to complete a post.

Today’s post is about a few mundane things that bother me. The first is a cause of wonderment to me. I call it Picture and Strings.

Picture and Strings

Cindy and i like to watch murder mysteries one TV and DVDs. One thing that I find incomprehensible is the use of walls to post pictures, news clippings, post it notes, etc. concerning the crime, and using string or colored yarn to connect things.

I don’t get it.It just looks like a hodgepodge to me. How does it help anyone?

I would understand if they set up a spreadsheet with the names of people and places on the X axis, and a timeline on the Y axis. That makes sense to me, but pictures and strings? Perhaps a person who responds to visual stimuli would find it helpful, but not me.

Toddlers at the BMV

I went to the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office a couple of months ago. It was time to renew my driver’s license. I pulled a number and sat down to wait my turn. Behind me sat a young woman who had brought three young children, all between the ages of two and five. They were a rambunctious lot. There was a lot of use of outside voices and scurrying about.

Imagine my surprise when the woman’s number was called and I saw that she was there to take a written test. She left her young charges behind when she went to take the exam. The outside voices turned into squeals and the scurrying turned into outright running.

I was about to stand up and become the hard-nosed authority figure when my number was called. Well, thought I, let someone else be take charge of the situation while I renewed my license. I suppose I shirked my civic duty. I feel bad about that. But I did get my license renewed and was out of there in record time.

Around The World In 3 Pictures

This Labyrinth I Roam

I love the N-N-1 no matter how many entries we get in. All you need is one different perspective of the same date and the same time. I don’t really have the words to express the powerful emotions it evokes in me. I hope you enjoy this edition as much as I did.

I sought out a quiet place for my picture this time around. I love graveyards. There is a calm serenity that is hard for city dwellers to find. Though, truth be told, I would love a graveyard if I lived on top of a mountain. This is one of the Catholic graveyards in Lafayette. The Catholic ones tend to have more older trees and rolling landscape. It is almost enough to make me consider becoming Catholic and be buried rather than cremated. But the odds are that I shan’t. I wonder if I can find a graveyard…

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reblogged: Time For Another Adventure Through Space And Time — This Labyrinth I Roam

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My good friend Anju is hosting the next N-N-1. N-N-1 you ask? Read on for the details. You might be interested enough to try your hand. It is really kind of fun. Participation doesn’t even require that you have your own blog.

I’ve exhausted all my money on “budget-friendly” holidays this summer but have still not a made a dent on the colossus that is my Wanderlust. The time is ripe for another N-N-1, an opportunity to see various parts of the world for FREE!

For the uninitiated, N-N-1 is the brainchild of one of my best friends Norm Houseman who blogs over at Classical Gasbag. The genius idea (some would say I only think that cause he’s one of my favourite people, but those people would be wrong #hatersgonnahate) is an attempt to see through the lens of the blogosphere where they are at that moment, whatever they are doing.

Simply put, bloggers from all over the world take a photo on a select date and time, whatever timezone they are in. The result is a magnificent online kaleidoscope of postcards that I am quite frankly addicted to.

You can find some of our older N-N-1 masterpieces by clicking on the link.

If you want to participate, please take a photo on SEPTEMBER 1st 2018 at 5:00pm YOUR LOCAL TIME. Send me the photo along with a 100 -200 word ‘caption’ to labyrinthiroam at gmail dot com within a week and I will publish it.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about it, and to also invite any of your friends who you think might be interested!

Good luck! Bonne Chance! Viel Glück! Sterkte! Buona fortuna! Selamat Maju Jaya! Bahati njema! Buena suerte! And so on!

via Time For Another Adventure Through Space And Time — This Labyrinth I Roam

Still another strange dream

Lilies in the backyard

These lilies bloom in our backyard every year. We have 3 or 4 clumps that come up, but due to changes in our landscaping they are no longer in areas where others can admire them. We plan on digging the bulbs in the autumn and transplanting them into the front an/or side yard. They may not bloom the first year of the transplanting, but they should in subsequent years.

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Do your dreams have specific start and stop points? Mine don’t. They usually fade in and end abruptly. It seems as if they end when I wake up, but I don’t know if that is what really happens.

Recently I had another of my strange dreams, and I have no idea what brought it on. As my dream fades in I am preparing to pitch ideas for two different manga. Now before I go further, I should mention that many years ago I thought about trying my hand at writing American comics, but decided that I wasn’t young enough or hip enough to do it. So, manga. In my dream I had previous experience writing in the field. I had written a story arc of three books titled Daisy Worship, but it was dropped by the publisher because the artist couldn’t meet the deadline on the third book. All I remember about the book was that it involved a young woman named Daisy, and everybody loved her.

Now I was trying to get back into the field. The first of my books was titled Master Plaster Blaster and starred, you got it, the Master Plaster Blaster. His sidekick was Harri-chan. The details of the story I that I had in mind for MPB and Harri-chan were so forgettable that I forgot them as soon as I woke up.

The other manga I planned to pitch was even more forgettable. The only thing I remember is the main character’s name, Incubus Boy. Catchy, right?

It goes without saying that both were super-heroic titles. I was excited about the concepts and was about to explain them to a visiting friend, but then I woke up. Who knows, I might have become famous if I could find an artist who could meet deadlines.

I had to write about this

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Still a summer favorite

Hawaiian style shirts go in and out of favor, except in Hawaii. I saw on television this morning that they are currently stylish. I’ve had this shirt for fifteen years, and have worn it every summer since I bought it. You might say that I’m fond of it.

***

A couple of days ago Cindy went in to have a cortisone injection into the ball-and-socket joint of her hip. She was very nervous about the procedure because one of her “friends” told her a horror story about her experience with that procedure. Among the things she mentioned were a gigantic needle used in the process, a patch of skin being removed at the injection site, and pain so bad that she wanted to jump off the table.

Cindy asked me to go along so that, if allowed, I could hold her hand for comfort at best, and break her out if the worst came about. I kind of imagined holding her down on a butcher table and stuffing my handkerchief in her mouth if the screams got too loud. But the nurse said that I couldn’t go into the room where the procedure would take place and seated me in a waiting area down the hall where other patients and significant others could wait. She took Cindy off to change into a gown and enter the forbidden chamber.

I had brought a book, 1984 by George Orwell, to read in that eventuality. However I couldn’t help overhearing some of the conversation the others were having. Actually, it was more of a monologue being conducted by a middle-aged fellow who looked to me a lot like Barry McGuire after he grew a mustache and shaved his head. The young among you might want to Google Barry McGuire. The bald fellow’s audience consisted of a youngish woman awaiting a procedure, and her paramour who was wearing a cowboy hat. On the television screen that no one was watching was the non-controversial Weather Channel.

The bald fellow’s story went something like this:

  • 400,000 Muslims have been sent into this country to overthrow the government.
  • a “gas chamber” prison that will hold 40,000 people has been built in Terre Haute, Indiana. The people sent there will never come out.
  • There are another 400 such facilities around the country. I think he likes the number four.
  • He knew this because he worked for National Security! He said that he had been all over the world and knew things the public never hears about.

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

The guy in the cowboy hat asked, “What did you do in National Security?”

The bald guy said that he couldn’t tell him, because of the security implications. He went on to say that he had been in some scrapes; he had been stabbed in the neck twice.

The flabbergasted cowboy wannabe said, “Twice! What? Where?”

The bald fellow said, “I work with computers.”

Cowboy: “What were you doing with computers that got you stabbed?”

Baldy: “That was because I got drunk in a place where I shouldn’t have been. National Security didn’t give us proper support. We had to walk back 17 miles to our base.” I hope that he got the bleeding stopped before that hike.

Then he said to his audience, “People don’t know what goes on in this country.”

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

Cowboy: “Yeah!”

Baldy: “People don’t know that there is a nuclear reactor in downtown Las Vegas. It is camouflaged as a casino. You can’t walk into it. When you go in the door (Wait.You can walk into it?) you go down an empty 400 (4 again) foot corridor and that takes you into the real casino that is in another building.” So I’ve been in a number of Las Vegas casinos and have never seen a blank corridor, let alone at the entrance to a building. Just saying.

Upon hearing that the cowboy shook his head at the enormity of that coverup. His lady friend was taken away for her procedure. Also, another woman joined us to wait for her procedure.

The bald guy said that he could tell the cowboy things, but that the cowboy would think him psychotic. He had told a few friends, and they thought he was psychotic. Before he could say anything else he was called for his procedure. The cowboy opened a magazine.

The new patient said, to no one in particular, “Why are all of these TVs here set on the Weather Channel?” She picked up the remote and changed the channel to MSNBC, the liberal answer to Fox News.

Normally I enjoy MSNBS, but I wanted to concentrate on Chapter 5 of 1984. That was not to be. The conversation on TV was about Paul Manafort. The woman said with a chortle, “That man is going to jail! He is going down!” Then she went on a fifteen minute rant about President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

When the cowboy’s friend returned from her procedure, he jumped to his feet, said “Let’s go,” and nearly sprinted down the hallway. The newer woman continued talking about our President until they came to take her to her procedure. I turned off the TV and returned to my book.

Eventually Cindy returned from the ordeal. She was smiling. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her and the nurse doing the huckabuck as they came down the hallway. The horror stories were not true.

 

I’ve been thinking

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Quality Control takes a vacation

I opened a pack of ankle length socks a few days ago. I don’t wear them often. Normally I wear them when I’m doing yard work, or if I’m on vacation and wearing shorts. So I was somewhat surprised when I found this pair upon opening the pack. At first I wondered if Cindy had bought them for me, and had purposely looked for unequal lengths because of the toe that had been amputated some years ago. I looked at the package, and, no, they were supposed to be the same length. If I wear them, it will be in the back yard, behind the fence.

***

As I’ve written previously, I just can’t get enthused about writing. I had hoped that it would pass, but it hasn’t. The only thing that gets me fired up to put things on paper, or in Classical Gasbag, is the situation in this country. I don’t want to do that.

When I consider what is happening in the U.S. I get depressed and I get angry. Those are not emotions that I want to exhibit. I talk to Cindy and one or two close friends about current events, but I want to limit it to that. And so, I remain silent.

Perhaps I should change the direction of this blog since my standby options no longer bring forth words. I’ve changed before, though on a gradual basis. But I don’t know where to turn focus. I would appreciate any ideas. I’ll give them strong consideration.

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #2

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If you aren’t aware of what my person reading challenge encompasses, you can read about it here.

I posted recently that I am currently in a writing slump. I also went through a reading slump, but have climbed out of it somewhat. Here is what I have been reading recently.

The American

The American by Martin Booth was my choice for the “From page to screen” book. The book was originally titled A Very Private Gentleman, but appears to have been changed to match the movie title. I can only assume that the American in the title refers to George Clooney’s character in the movie. The book centers around a person who is nearing the end of his chosen, illegal career. He is proud of the work that he has done, but realizes that he as reached a point where he wants to settle in somewhere. There is a lot of interior dialogue which offers insights to his personal history. I enjoyed the book. If you come to this book after having seen the movie, as I did, or vice versa, be prepared to accept that there are major plot changes, new characters, removed characters, and other differences. For instance, the very private gentleman is not an American.

Tarzan: The Beckoning

Next I chose to read, and view, the graphic novel, Tarzan: The Beckoning by Thomas Yeates. This book finds Tarzan and Jane in a more modern-day environment, fighting illegal ivory trade. If you’re wondering how a man born before WWI can still be alive and kicking, Tarzan fans know that he has become immortal, but they may not know that Jane is also immortal. At any rate, some familiar Tarzan tropes are present, such as a plane crash and amnesia. It is an interesting graphic novel, and the art is very good. My only complaint is that the final chapter seems to come to a rushed conclusion.

 

 

The Elements of Eloquence

I have a category called “A book of any kind,” that I think of a as my miscellaneous category. This year I chose The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, by Mark Forsythe. I bought a copy of th book as a gift to a friend, and thought it looked interesting enough to purchase a copy for myself. The book explains, with examples, thirty-some figures of rhetoric. Don’t let that turn you off, because Mr. Forsythe’s writing is engaging. Once you read the book you’ll find yourself noticing examples in the things you read and hear. I notice them especially in television commercials. I have been noticing them a lot on the morning political talk shows, most noticeably Morning Joe. The namesake of the show, Joe Scarborough, has the annoying habit, while on a diatribe, of stringing together a group of complaints and starting each sentence with the same words. This is called anaphora. I’m happy to know the term for what he does. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but now I have the name of what he does.

The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter

The western I chose this year is The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter by William W. Johnstone & J.A. Johnstone. This is a collaboration between a dead man and his living nephew. It is hard for me to say how much William contributed to the book since I’ve never read anything that he wrote while living. I understand that William was dead for three years before his reading public was informed of his demise. But that is just tittle-tattle, let me say a few things about the book. To me, it read like a the pitch for a western movie made in the 1930s or 40s. The drifting cowboy comes to town and stops a war between the ranchers and the oil drillers. With him he brought his faithful horse who comes to him when he whistles, and his dog who is very intelligent. The dog understands everything he is told, saves his owner from being shot, and could probably throw down the rope and pull Timmy from the well without going for help. He is that good! One thing different from the movies is that the hero got neither of the attractive female characters.

Walking With Grandfather

Next I read Walking With Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders by Joseph M. Marshall III. This was the book recommended by a friend. My friend was Cindy, who bought it while on vacation a couple of years ago, and passed it on for me to read. It offers a perspective on life based upon the lessons the author learned from his grandfather, while growing up on a Sioux reservation. It is an interesting, informative book that doesn’t preach. I enjoyed it.

What’s wrong with me?

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Monday morning

This was my car yesterday, the day after Easter. By 3 p.m. all of this snow had melted. Today it is raining with the temperature to go into the 60’s F. We may get snow again before the end of the week. Life in Indiana.

***

It has been about a month since the last time I posted anything. It isn’t from lack of ideas. I’ve had a few ideas, jotted down some notes, started a few drafts, and let them never progress beyond that point. In some cases it is good that I stopped. For instance the idea for a blog post on belts died a worthy death. It is hard to believe that it even reached the draft stage. The truth is that I just don’t feel like writing.

Not only have I not written anything here, but also I never finished a couple letters that I started. Nor I haven’t written an email in months. I haven’t worked on my never-to-be-published novel. Most of the text messages I have sent were copies of Tweets that I liked.

Sometimes a felicitous phrase will come to my mind, but generally it stays there until I forget it. If I jot it down, it is not used. What’s wrong with me?

Perhaps you thought this post signals the breaking of the dry writing dam. Nope. I started this post in hopes of renew my love of writing, but it hasn’t happened. So consider this short post an explanation for my absence, and a promise that I’ll try to get back into the writing swing. But not right now. I don’t feel like writing. What’s wrong with me.