Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I see that A Room Of One’s Own is for sale. It’s one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Madison, and I hope it finds a buyer because I would hate for Madison to lose another bookstore. I would buy it myself, except that I would have to rename it Go Away, I’m Reading, which I realize isn’t very inviting but I gotta be me. I would sit in an overstuffed chair in the corner, always reading a book but always happy to take your payment for the book you wanted, and to hand you change from the dented gray metal box on the end table beside the chair, but if you asked me a question I would have to answer, “Hang on, I gotta finish this chapter.” Or, if I knew that finishing the chapter wasn’t going to be enough, “Go away, I’m reading.” So I have a pretty good feeling that I wouldn’t be in the bookstore business very long. Still, it’s a pleasant enough fantasy.

Go Away | 10:19 am CDT
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Monday, December 17th, 2012

laika graphic novelI followed My Darling B to the library again today and, while she was working on her resume, I wandered past the stack of graphic novels in the young adult section near the computer printers. Most of them were collections of comic books, old and new, from the Marvel and DC lines, with all the familiar names that reminded me of the good old days when I had a seemingly infinite amount of free time to lay on the floor reading stuff like this.

But the name on the spine of one hardbound graphic novel, “Laika,” stood out from the rest because, so far as I knew, there had never been a comic book character who went by that name but, more than that, I was pretty sure there had been just one soul by that name whose celebrity might have resulted in a book about her life. Prying the book out of the tightly-packed shelf, I flipped through the pages and found the story of the first living creature to orbit the Earth.

B was still working on her resume, so I settled into an overstuffed chair and read the first third of the book while I waited for her. When she came looking for me I couldn’t put it back on the shelf, so I checked it out and finished it in just over an hour in the recliner with Bonkers snoring quietly in my lap.

It’s a sentimental story, but I like sentimental stories, and the author and writer Nick Abadzis didn’t try too hard to tug at my heartstrings. He didn’t have to; his leading lady was a pretty little dog with a curly tail and a deep-seated desire to please everyone she met. Who doesn’t like a doggie like that? And even though I knew how Laika’s story ended, I was genuinely surprised to feel a little lump in my throat as I turned the final pages.

Thumbs up. Look for it in the YA section of your local library.

Laika | 6:22 pm CDT
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

Want some books? I’ve been in the basement lair this morning weeding books from our collection. Lots of the books have got to go. We’ve been hanging on to so many books that we don’t read and, so far as I know, have no sentimental attachment to, and I’ve collected – no, a more accurate word would be hoarded way too many novelty books over the years from thrift stores. They were fun to bring home and riff through, but they’re just taking up too much space now and we don’t have any place for them except in heaps on the floor, which I just can’t abide any longer.

So I’m piling them up in two different heaps on one side of the room now: One heap of books that I think I can take to Half Price Books and exchange for a little gelt, and books that I’ll have to either toss or haul to the thrift store to get them out of our house. The second pile is a lot bigger that the first.

weeds | 12:49 pm CDT
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Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Moving books again. I love books, but I’m getting just a little tired of moving them around all the time.

I built a set of book shelves in my basement lair, which means I had to move the 400 or so books that were stacked up on the cheap-ass book shelves I was using in the meantime. I heaped them up in piles around the edges of the lair, weeding out copies of books I had duplicates of, or hadn’t touched in years. or were about subject I didn’t even know I had once been interested in. I also threw away anything printed on cheap pulp. I had more of those than I ever would have thought.

The new book shelves are made from raw plywood wedged between two by fours and work surprisingly well, given that I made them up out of my own head. The top three shelves are actually the only ones made with books in mind. They’re just eight inches deep and spaced so that mass-market paperbacks would fit perfectly between. The bottom three shelves are much deeper than necessary for plain old books. They’re made for the growing horde of typewriters I’ve been gathering over the years. What’s the point of having all those books, or typewriters, if you don’t put them on display, right?

Putting up the shelves took longer than I thought it would, about two days longer. I cut grooves in the two by fours with a router so the plywood shelves would slide between them. I thought that would take about an hour. That took all afternoon on a Saturday several weeks ago. When I finally got up the steam to get the project going again, I spent a couple hours moving all the books and dragging the bookshelves out to the curb where, if my luck holds, someone will pick them up and stuff them into the back of their van. Then, I cut the two by fours to length, worked out a way to fix them to the floor and ceiling, and wedged the shelves between them. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, but I wasn’t finished until almost five o’clock this evening. Took me all friggen day.

shelf life | 9:15 pm CDT
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Friday, April 27th, 2012

I’ve been wandering through Saint Vinnie’s for weeks without finding a single thing I considered for a moment worth purchasing. Then, today, I wandered in, not expecting to find anything, yet within five short minutes of walking in the front door, I was cradling a copy of the Jules Verne Omnibus, a big, thick, old-looking book that included From The Earth To The Moon, a book I haven’t read to this day, although I promise to rectify that oversight this weekend.

Not far from that I found a memoir of Franklin Roosevelt by Rexford Tugwell. Who names their kid Rexford Tugwell? Well, the Tugwell part of the naming is already done for you, but really, Rexford? If you’re going to name your kid Rexford, you’ve got to be pretty damned confident he’s going to grow up to attend Columbia and become a close personal friend and confidant of the President of the United States.

But the catch of the day, I have to say, was the two-disk special edition DVD release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Zow. The second disk includes, among other things, the complete movie dubbed into Japanese, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Lego!

Happy Friday.

score | 10:01 pm CDT
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Monday, March 12th, 2012

Still makes as much sense today as it did then:

[An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship.]

“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

“What?”

“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

Ford shrugged again.

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

From “So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish,” by Douglas Adams, who would’ve been 60 years old yesterday. Happy birthday, you magnificent bastard, you!

DNA | 6:00 am CDT
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Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I was reading a chapter of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 last night and ran across the name “Adrien van der Donck.” Isn’t that fantastic? He was in New York back when the place was lousy with Dutch people and was known as the New Netherlands and, later or earlier (I’m not sure yet), New Amsterdam.

I mentioned this very cool name to My Darling B. Whenever I run across a very cool name, I have to point it out to somebody, or I’ll burst, which is pretty messy, so I try to avoid that. B opined that just about any name would be made way cooler by putting “van der” in the middle and, just then, Bonkers jumped up to sit with me.

So I tried it out. “Hey, it’s Jasper van der Bonkers,” I said.

And there was much tittering from B.

Hm. Every name is way better with a “van der” in the middle.

bonk | 5:42 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The most frustrating thing about lying awake is having to listen to everybody else sleep. The cats snore, My Darling B purrs, even the house seems to be relaxing as it settles on its foundations, creaking and popping. I’m the only one lying still and quiet.

If insomnia’s good for anything, though, I get plenty of reading done. I knocked off a couple chapters of Promised The Moon, the book about the Mercury 13 I found at St. Vinnie’s last week. Really good stuff, so I didn’t mind so much having all that time to read it.

listening | 6:07 am CDT
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Monday, January 2nd, 2012

This is the library of the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum in Higashi Osaka, Japan. I want to live there for the rest of my life.

Photo from the article in the blog Architect Day about the architect Tadao Ando, who designed the library.

heaven | 11:43 am CDT
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Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Edwin Layton was a Japanese linguist and cryptanalyst in the Navy during World War Two. As you might imagine, he has a few interesting stories to tell, and lucky for you and me he wrote them down in a book titled, “And I was there,” which I’m reading right now. Favorite story I read today: Layton went to Japan in 1929 to learn Japanese.

When we had a basic grasp of the language, we went to live away from the capitol for a while. My choice was the isolated town of Beppu. Even in remote Beppu I had a “personal” spy who not only dogged my tracks but also pestered my servant, and became a real nuisance. If I went for a walk, my Japanese shadow followed. After a time I began harassing him by going into bars and leaving before he had finished his beer. Then one day I confronted him: “Stop pestering me, and I’ll not leave the bar until you finish your beer. But don’t hang around my house.” The bargain appealed to him, as a beer drinker, and he was less of a bother after that.

beer | 9:11 pm CDT
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Monday, August 8th, 2011

I spent yesterday fixing a book case. I didn’t plan to. It was just one of those things. I happened to walk past it, looked up at the top and noticed that it had walked about an inch from where I wedged it against the ceiling about a year ago.

This was no ordinary book case. I built it out of two by fours and several slabs of rough-cut three quarter inch plywood. It probably weighs at least a hundred pounds empty, maybe three or four hundred pounds after I load it up with books, record albums and an old Underwood cast-iron typewriter. When a monster like that starts to tip over, no matter how slowly, I feel I pretty much have to drop whatever I’m doing and fix it.

I always meant to fix it in place eventually. I thought I had plenty of time to do it. I really thought it was wedged in so tight between the ceiling and floor that it couldn’t possibly fall over any time soon, but I was wrong. I should have realized that, with us walking across the floor above it month after month, and the natural expansion and contraction of the frame of the house through the seasons, there was no chance it wouldn’t fall over in just a year or two. I was awfully lucky to have caught it before it all went crashing to the floor.

So I spent pretty much all afternoon and part of the evening unloading books from the shelves, taking the frame of the book case apart, measuring and cutting, drilling holes, driving screws, and reloading the books so they wouldn’t be sitting on the floor where the bugs and the cold could get into them and wreck havoc of one kind or another. I tried every way I could think of to make repairs without taking all the books out and piling them on the floor, but in the end I realized that would be a half-assed fix and bowed to the inevitable. Also, if there was any chance the whole thing might tip over on top of me, better it was empty than full of books.

fix | 5:36 pm CDT
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Sunday, June 19th, 2011

It’s father’s day, a day I can claim entirely as my own to do with however I please. Just waste it doing nothing, or even less than nothing, if I want to. “Less than nothing doesn’t even make sense,” you say. “How can you do less than nothing?” You know how people say, “That’s a half-hour of my life I’ll never get back?” I spent the last half-hour watching videos of Louis C K on YouTube. The only way I can possibly rationalize that I was being productive in any way is that I was taking in oxygen and cranking out carbon dioxide so the green, leafy organisms around me could have lunch. And if modern science is to be believed, not that many people do, there’s already plenty of carbon dioxide in the air, so I’m really reaching, but give me a break, I was just trying to show you how completely and utterly I can waste my time today.

And here I am blogging. There goes another half-hour of my life.

If I had any kind of conscience at all I’d be putting up the book cases I finally brought home from the outlet store last weekend. About six weeks ago I ordered a pair of book cases from one of those stores that orders unfinished furniture from the manufacturer at a discount, sort of. They were still kind of pricey but I was at the point where I realized I was never going to build them myself. I figured, if I bought them already together, then all I’d have to do is fix them to the wall – Done! It’s a good idea. It could have worked.

But the project suffered from inertia almost from the minute I placed my order. First of all, it turned out that the store was on the point of financial collapse. I didn’t find this out under weeks later, when they sent me a “Going Out Of Business” flier in the mail many weeks later. Not that it made any difference to whether or not I got the book cases, it was just sort of a harbinger of things to come. I strolled in, found the book cases I wanted, found a sales person and asked her if I could order a couple. She took me over to the island in the middle of the store where they kept all the paperwork and the catalogs and had a computer set up. Another sales person was sitting in front of the computer surfing the internet while she ate take-out food from one of several boxes she had laid out around the keyboard. Keeping it classy at the furniture store.

When I placed my order, I asked the sales person if they had a delivery service. She said they did not, but she knew a guy with a truck who would deliver it for sixty bucks. She didn’t even blink when she said that, and I didn’t, either. I figured, what the heck? How could some anonymous guy with a truck be worse than any of the dozens of people who have moved my personal effects from one house to the next over the years? We’ve moved house at least a half-dozen times in the twenty-one years we’ve been married, and several of the teams that I’ve welcomed into my home to move our family’s possessions appeared to have been hired that morning, probably not through any formal system of application and interview. I think it was more like, the guy driving the truck spotted a couple of homeless dudes on a park bench while he was waiting for a light to change, rolled down the window and offered them twenty bucks each for a couple hours’ work. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I even wish the guy who showed up alone and told me I’d have to help if we had to be moved out that day had been as enterprising. We did have to be out that day. We all packed and moved a lot of boxes that day.

Where was I? Oh, that’s right: The sales lady at the unfinished furniture store told me she knew a guy, so I told her to please give him a call to find out when he could deliver the book cases, then let me know so we could arrange a date for delivery. A week passed, no call. As a matter of fact, by the end of the first week I’d completely forgotten I’d ordered a pair of book cases and probably would never have remembered if it hadn’t occurred to B to ask me, in the middle of the next week, when we could expect to have those book cases delivered, and I said something very on-the-ball, like, “Uh, yeah … those book cases … I’d better call and ask about that.” Clueless.

And I wasn’t the only one. Nobody answered the phone when I called, so I left a message, something like, “Hi, I ordered a couple of book cases about a week ago and you said you’d call me back to let me know when you could have them delivered. Please give me a call.” When she called me back later that day, she had no memory of ever talking to me about having them delivered. “But I could give him a call right now if you like.” For whatever reason, though, I didn’t feel like waiting for delivery any longer. “No, never mind. I’ll come pick them up myself this weekend.” She apologized for the oversight, I made sure I knew what her hours were, and that was the last time I spoke to her for MORE THAN A WEEK.

I’m a procrastinator. It’s what I do.

When I finally called her back a week and a half later she was still so very sorry about failing to have the book cases delivered to me that she felt she had to apologize again, so I didn’t feel all that bad about my lazy-ass attitude, even though I should have. I rented a van, got T to ride with me to the store and we loaded the book cases up and drove off with them. They were huge book cases, eight feet high. Made of white pine, they weren’t all that heavy but they were so tall that I would never have been able to manhandle them all by myself without dropping them every couple steps and gouging great gashes in the sides by clunking them against corners and other people. When we finally got them in the house they filled up one end of the room, which was just as I wanted it, only I want them at the other end.

I want towering book cases on either side of the window. I’ll have to build up a pedestal for each of them because there’s some duct work that’ll have to run underneath, and they’re so tall that they’ll have to be fixed to the wall so that, when they’re loaded to the rafters, and I imagine each of them will easily hold two-hundred pounds of books, they won’t tip over one random day and squish somebody I love like a worm. I’m putting these book cases up in a spare bedroom where guests stay overnight. It’d be one hell of a way to start the day. Wake up with the sun shining in your face, open your eyes just in time to see a wall of books free-falling toward you. The end.

I figured out how to build a pedestal and even pieced one together earlier this week but haven’t installed it yet. It would be simple, I just have to get off my butt and do it. Same with installing rails across the back to strengthen each book case and make it possible to fix them to the wall. I woke up yesterday morning with a very clear idea how I can do that, but again, I have to actually lift a finger, and I’m currently using said finger to type. But I could stop, I guess.

father’s day | 2:26 pm CDT
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