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Brad's Blog

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March 1
    I've gotten a couple comments on my nearly shaved beard.  To me the main thing it does is make my chin appear shorter...
    The kiln problem was as I suspected--a bad junction of wires leading to the top third of the kiln--fixable for a 20 cent connector.
    While working on removing a counter from our lake view cabin today, I discovered beneath the particle board floor is a reasonably good tongue and groove fir floor.  This is good news, but it means removing a lot of particle board, secured with ringed nails, to get at it.  While I was working, some young friends called interested in renting it--the place is still quite a mess from deconstruction efforts, and I had to shovel a path through two feet of snow to get easily to any of the doors, but they'll come and look tomorrow.  
   
March 2-3
    This time of year whether it snows or not is about as big an event as we can expect.  But yesterday was a full up all day hoo rah, which is why I didn't get around to posting...
    In the morning we had a couple come with a month old baby that might live in our lake view cabin (this led to our attacking the particle board, removing it from the floor today).  We've known the mother since she was a young child...
    As soon as they left, we hopped in the car to go to the Spokane Symphony.  I mostly avoid the Symphony as it tends to put me to sleep, and I only like strongly melodic music.  So of course the first two pieces were modern and strongly atonal, but I napped on the way so I stayed awake and endured.  After the break was a more conventional Dvorak symphony, but I think I'd rather hear Sousa.  What made the trip worthwhile was to see the stunningly restored Fox Theater.    Boy, they sure new how to build Art Nouveau masterpieces back in the 20's...  
    As soon as we got back to Spirit Lake, some friends arrived from Montana, stopping through for the night.  Any one of those events would have been enough to keep me going for a week or so...  And the possibility of renting our cottage has inspired us to make it habitable...
    But since I began speaking of snowing, I'll end on that note.  It's snowing fairly seriously today.  We're pretty tired of looking at snow, but at least since it's March it doesn't seem such a dire threat as the big snows of February.

March 4

I went for a walk after 5 pm this evening...  These two doe whitetailed deer, with a yearling fawn, were standing on the ice, immediately aware of me as I walked across the road on the Millpond.  Even though I was over a hundred yards away, they soon fled, resulting in this photo, their white tails waving, all feet off the snow...  I was thinking recently how their tendency to be active at evening and early morning fits well with the snow being frozen at those times in the early spring, so they can walk on top of the crust...  The lake has only a thin crust of snow, since the weight of snow pushes the ice downward, causing it to flood and absorb some of the snow on top...
    On the way home I glanced in a construction dumpster, and was amazed at the long 1 x 6 boards thrown in there with the usual construction debris, mostly 16 feet long.  I ended up rescuing a bunch of them from senseless dumping.    They had been used for cement forms, so they have a little cement on them, but lots of utility left...

March 5
    I neglected to mention yesterday that I spotted the first robin of the year in town yesterday, as well as its relative, the varied thrush (which I photographed in central Washington last fall, but had never noticed here before...)  The robin was hunkering on a snowy powerline wondering why it got here before the Spring rains that bring the worms out...
    This morning I took care of pots made yesterday and glazed two kilnloads, as well as working on the floor of the cabin...  This afternoon I started recording more hymns for the guitar, but ran out of time today to post them to Youtube.  Tomorrow may be busy as well.

March 6
I finished pruning the trees in the morning, including climbing a fruit ladder set on the hard crust...
In the afternoon I went to Spokane, to go to the library and practice music.  I knew they were having their annual book sale, but thought it started tomorrow.  Since the sale was open, I went. Library book sales are a mixed bag for me.  I lament the loss of some good books from the shelves by good authors, like the ones I saw today by  Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Block.  I've read most of them, but given my memory, I'll be ready to read them again in no time...  It looked like they were also clearing out Rod McKuen's poetry, which I approve...  Most of the books I'd never heard of and would never consider reading, and I understand the task of librarians to keep the stacks weeded so there's room for more books.  It is sad how older major authors like Steinbeck or Faulkner end up with odd representation in the stacks, from the vagaries of the process...

March 7
Today I saw my first butterfly of the year.  I'm hoping it's the kind that just mates, lays eggs and dies, or it's going to starve to death, as there's still two feet of snow here...  Yesterday between Rathdrum and Spokane I saw 36 deer in one mile, where the wild hills meet the alfalfa fields  of the Spokane Valley.  I'm assuming the deer have always migrated to lower elevations in the spring, but there weren't always alfalfa fields waiting for them...  I've never seen so many deer in one place before locally, although it's common when I've passed through Wyoming...
    But you can tell it's spring here by the mating calls of the birds in the morning, after a long silence through the winter, occasionally pierced by crow or goose calls.  It doesn't hurt that the sun shone bright today and the temperature approached 50 (10 C).
    I added these videos today:
Children of the Heavenly Father Hymn sung with guitarBeneath the Cross of Jesus Instrumental guitar hymnSine Nomine (For all the Saints) Instrumental guitar hymn

March 8
    I was checking last March's blog to see how the year is comparing, particularly in the gardening department.  At this time last year we had a half foot of slush.  This year we're trying to dig a path through the 2 feet of snow to the greenhouse to start some spinach.  It's a comfort that there's still two weeks before the time I usually plant the bedding plants...
    I spent part of the morning still gathering materials at our cottage.  The previous owner saved everything, tucking wood, formica scraps, and anything metal anywhere he could, particularly in the crawl space under the house.  So moving them to the garage helps inventory them in my mind.  There are several large and long piles of lumber there now, and there's still the attic of the shop to clear, which was reachable only by ladder.

March 9
    I pursued a few futile activities today.   I recorded a version of an obscure pop song from the 60's ("One Together" from Fleetwood Mac's Kiln House album, before they became really famous).   At our cabin we're removing the paneling to reveal the cedar walls underneath, and the paneling was attached with glue as well as nails.  Although a web search suggested diverse methods including heat, vaseline, and mineral spirits, none of them made an impression on the very hard Liquid Nails glue.  That leaves nastier chemicals, higher heat, or grinding it off with an angle grinder.  Since I didn't want to try those today, I studied the lake which is building up on the street in front of our (floodable) garage.  Apparently there was a collapse in the snow where the water used to flow through the snow, so the water is not draining fast there.   I think I'll work on the drainage issue tomorrow, as rain is predicted for tomorrow night.
    It was an event like this, on a slightly larger scale (called Glacial Lake Missoula), that resulted in a lot of interesting geology in our area (200 miles and more down the river from it).  An ice dam built up as the glacial epoch receded, making a huge lake which finally broke the ice dam and sent an inundating deluge off towards the ocean.  The gravel, settling out from these repetitive experiences, ended up filling our local canyon and providing us with lots of cheap gravel and a large local aquifer.  
    Spirit Lake has had flash downpours that resulted in major erosion along this same ridge that the garage resides.   I'm not as worried about the erosion potential on our property as the flooding...  The street in front is gravel, and was never really engineered for drainage (which is why our garage, built on fill in the natural gully, is a prime candidate...)

March 10
    I didn't get much of a channel chopped through the inches of solid ice...  Perhaps tomorrow I'll be filling sandbags...  I'll leave that for tomorrow.
    I worked on removing paneling again today, along with glazing pottery.  Mondays are frequently a bit blah...  But the weather was pleasant all day...

March 11
   It rained for several hours in the night, enough to keep me awake wondering how the roads were draining, but not enough to make me get up and look.  By the time I gave up on sleeping and got up at 5, the rain had mostly stopped, and the water was draining away mysteriously without flooding our garage, probably right into the gravel soil.  The snow piles all looked dirtier and a bit shorter this morning from the rain.
    My son turned 23 today, and has skied every day for the last 100, making him well known to the lift operators and quite the iron man, particularly since he never stops for lunch...
    In Maine Street news, the cafe once known as the Missouri Mule, later to become the Mule, then to die and become a used clothing store and tattoo parlor (in a typical story of urban decay),  is reopening as a cafe, called Emily Rose.  This makes the restaurants (4) outnumber the bars (3) on Maine Street, but I have to wonder if the town can support all these, plus the Hog and Jog, which has been being refurbished for the last year.  I wish all the local businesses luck, because they tend to need it...

March 12
    I got kind of bogged down in the remodeling project today.    The paneling we're removing was glued on, and the glue was stuck worse to the boards I was trying to clean today.  After some consultation, we decided to try to fix up one small bedroom as a "proof of concept," before proceeding to depanel the rest of the house.  It's not a large house, but it's turning into a large project...
    This evening bassist Jonathan and  I practiced for the concert this weekend by playing the songs at a pizza place jam in Spokane Valley.  It's a good "dress rehearsal," in that the people there are pretty talkative and distracting, so presumably the attentive audience of hundreds this weekend will go better...

March 13
    I painted on a primer coat of paint on the torn up sheetrock.  Hopefully this will stabilize the surface to add on texture paint.  But I kept thinking as I did it, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."  This is a dated saying, since one encounters neither silk purses nor sow's ears in day to day living (except as grotesque doggy chew toys), but the concept still has a ring of authenticity about it...  Ah well, the proof is in the pudding...

March 14-15
    The last two days have been packed...  On Friday I visited a potter with a new used kiln, and helped get it running.  Then we had the potter's guild meeting, where I tried to lead a discussion about pottery pricing (mostly I talked).  We continued to plan for our Christmas sale, moving it to the county fair grounds.
    Immediately after the meeting we went up to Schweitzer to watch my son compete in a rail jam.  The setup was very frustrating for the participants, since they couldn't get enough speed to do anything on the rails, but in the end a few of them compensated enough to stand out...  My son was among those who tried to do too much and failed.
    Arriving home in the evening, a friend arrived from Seattle, with a ton of clay I'd ordered.  We unloaded it in the morning,  then he went his way and our way was back to Schweitzer, where our son was competing in a slopestyle competition (two rails and three jumps).  The competition was fierce, as one of the prizes included possible entry in a national ski film (which brought in skiers from as far as Colorado).  Birrion was happy to finish 14th out of the 30 or so that participated.  
    The third contestant of the morning mislanded on his head and shoulders, knocking him out for two minutes, and apparently injuring a shoulder.  As he was loaded on a backboard, beyond sympathy for the young man (who waved as he was carted off), I'm sure many of the parents were wishing their kids were chess experts or something instead of extreme skiers...
    So I got back to Spirit Lake with enough time to view the videos, unload  a couple glaze kilns, then go off to play for the Bluegrass Thang.  The bassist showed up exactly when I did (6:30), and after warming up for a few minutes we learned we were first on the schedule (to play at 7).  We could have used more practice time, but we're generally improvisational as to how each song goes, so it went fine..
    The other musicians were fairly diverse, playing ancient Irish tunes, standard and modern bluegrass (including a 9 string dobro), and the fiddling group Red Wing even used a bowed cello.  From my recent reading of early American stringband history, bowed bass or cello was the most common accompaniment to string bands when a bass instrument was included.  And pictures of the early popular groups revealed there was no standard instrumentation (which only really happened when bluegrass crystallized the standard combination of guitar, bass, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin...)

March 16
     A peaceful day at last.  My son is maturing from being a competitor to a coach, as today he got up at 5:30 to be there for several young proteges and prodigies for the amateur slopestyle competition.  This included kids as young as 9 or so.  I stayed home and relaxed...     I've added a  very short video of Birrion yesterday--his first run.  The second was better but I didn't catch it.  What you will see is a bunch of kids standing in the foreground, and he appears sliding a rail at the top, then he takes the first jump, lands backwards (called "switch" or "fakie") goes over the second jump backwards, spinning around and crossing and uncrossing his skis while doing it, then landing backwards. He was purposely not doing anything extreme for him--wanting to make sure to land cleanly.   Here's the link: http://sondahl.com/blog/Birr2008.wmv

March 17
    I started texturing the wallboard in a small room of the cabin today.  Since I've never done it before, I had my share of qualms, and read some parts of books and on line articles to gear up for it.  In the end, wallboard can go all smooth and perfect, or funky and textured.  Since the wallboard was already funky from having glue on it, all the texture does is make it all so funky that whatever imperfections were on it become camouflaged.  I can deal with that, even if it didn't come out in some classic pattern.
    It snowed some last night, and more is predicted tonight and every night this week.  Fortunately it's also melting during the day, so it seems pretty harmless.  The lake is still mostly frozen, and somehow the 4 feet of snow that fell on the lake this winter didn't make it rise up significantly--in fact it's still down about 4 feet from full pool.  I expect that to change whenever the real thaw hits, probably next month...

March 18
    Because I spent too long with an accountant doing taxes today, the most significant event of the day was getting 5 eggs from the hens this afternoon. But since neither of those are of general interest, I'm going to tell my thoughts on pottery pricing, leftovers from a minilecture I did at the last clay guild meeting.
    First, it's a free market world, and you can charge whatever you want for your pottery.  You have to compete against other hand made pottery, domestic and foreign, as well as finely made mass manufactured ceramics, so if your prices are too out of line one way or the other, you'll be either wildly popular and broke, or highly priced with few sales.
    A neighbor of mine helps his family business making and selling woodstoves, and they face some of the same issues as handcrafters.  There's a limit to how many pots or stoves you can sell locally.  So you enlist vendors (who get half the sale price), or travel doing the fairs and sales (less overhead, but lots of time and energy).  While there might be a large market through wholesaling, you have to work twice as hard to make as much money, and there's no machines to crank it out--it's all YOU doing the work.
    What you charge also depends on what your overhead is.  I live in an historically poor town, in a less than thriving business district--"low rent."  If I were selling through an urban gallery, their overhead is high enough that they don't want to sell $10 pots, but $100 ones, and lots, just to pay the rent.  If I were to have a gallery in such an area, I'd have to price my pots similarly.  But I don't want to live the high life, and if I price my pots so more people can afford them, I can get repeat customers coming back for the great deals.
    Unfortunately the high price of gas is starting to cut into travel plans, both of tourists and myself, so whereas I used to think in terms of how many minutes I live from Spokane or Coeur D'Alene, now I have to think of how many dollars each trip is.  So my overhead is rising, along with some of the pottery materials and shipping costs.  One result of this is inflation--raising prices to keep abreast of raising expenses.
    When I started, mugs were typically $5.00.  Even today, the raw materials and firing for a mug are probably $.50, so you can make a profit selling mugs at that price.  For quite a while I didn't change prices, because it was easier to remember the same price from year to year.  So I fell behind the inflation curve. Today handmade mugs are usually around $15.00 around here, and I'm still selling them for $8.00.  I can throw 50 of them per hour, so I can still make a good profit at that rate, although I can't sustain that rate because of all the other processes involved.  If I look at my yearly totals, I average around 100 pots per week.  A lot of them are more expensive than mugs, and a few are cheaper.  Unfortunately, besides making 100 pots per week, I also have to sell the same amount or the shelves overflow and I get depressed.
    So whatever you sell pots for, you have to sell them, and constantly, to stay in business.  Many are enamored of pottery making--but few of selling, day in , day out--which is part of why there aren't more professional potters.

March 19
    It remains refrigerator weather--below freezing at night, and up to around 40 (4C) in the daytime.  I spent the afternoon making applesauce from nearly the last apples from our trees.  
    Since the daylight savings time began, there's been time to walk after supper.  Last night I saw 3 deer while bicycling along the lake road.  Tonight there was a beaver swimming in the open spots in the Millpond near the bridge. I could tell it was a beaver in the dusk by the way it slapped its tail when it dived...  There were also geese and 6-8 ducks in the area.  Everyone is waiting for spring.
    The moon is nearly full tonight, but it can't be full yet, or Easter would be a month later.  For the Western church, Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal (spring) equinox (which is Thursday).  I can't find a calendar with the full moon on it, but I'm guessing it's Thursday, making this Easter among the earliest possible.  No bulbs blooming this year to brighten up the holiday... The Eastern Orthodox calendar follows a different rule, such that this year their Easter will be about a month later.  (They don't get the Easter sales timed with their holiday.)  The Jewish Passover is based on a lunar calendar, so it isn't tied with either of the Christian traditions, although there was some thought early on that Easter should be celebrated always on the weekend following the Passover.

March 20
    When little pellets of snow fall in a brief storm, almost like soft hail, we used to call that a corn snow.   But apparently the correct term is grappel, and we had some pretty good grappel showers today, typical of Idaho spring, where these grappel showers may continue into May.
    I worked on time consuming pottery items this morning, since they take up the most time when time is shortest (in the summer).  These included casseroles--the pot, the lid, the knob, and two handles, salt and pepper shakers (fussy trimming to make the filler hole in the bottom, and little pouring holes in the top), and gravy boats (special flat rolled out handles).
    I also painted the textured walls at the cabin, and the results were good enough to commit to doing the other paneled walls with the same process.

    
March 21
     
One of our cats killed a robin today, then wanted to bring it inside.  It doesn't bother me much that our cats kill birds (that is of course their nature), but I wish they'd learn to eat them, making the birds death not totally stupid.
    As it snowed nearly all day, I did some music to ignore it all, and posted the songs with improved sound at Youtube.  The improved sound comes from recording them on good mics on the computer while videoing, then trying to synch that sound file with the original video.  It never quite matches up, but the better sound quality justifies the poor synch...
A picture from life's other sideOld time song with guitarKeep a light in your window tonightOld time song with guitarYou have to walk that lonesome valleySpiritual sung with guitarJesus calls us oer the Tumult variationsInstrumental hymn guitar
    In the late afternoon it cleared off, and on a walk I could see quail, twice as many ducks in the open areas of the Millpond, and I watched a doe deer trot across the frozen part of the Millpond.    Spring was never so eagerly awaited for me as this year...

March 22
    The quail were out in the sunshine today, walking across the snow in the back yard, by our raspberry canes...
Happy Easter...


 March 24
    It rained enough on Easter that we dug more trenches to encourage drainage in desired directions...  We colored eggs today, and might be able to schedule an egg hunt in a couple days.  Since our youngest is 23, there's no rush. He may even hide them for us parents to find.  
    I was back to house finishing today.  I spent some time on Easter adding the wallboard texture.  After letting it set up a while, I slapped it with fir tree branches, which ended up making an interesting texture, but also raising sharp bumps, so I smoothed it off once more and had a reasonable looking stucco finish.  Today I painted it, and it looked pretty good.
    I also glazed a kilnload and loaded a bisque firing, just to keep my hands in pottery work.
    Every day the high is around 40 (4 C), but our greenhouse gets into the 80s, so it's time to plant the garden seedlings, even though the garden is still buried, and planting dirt is hard to come by.  I also know it's time from checking previous year blogs--I always plant the cabbage family and tomatoes around now (hoping the frosts will be done by the time the tomatoes come up).

March 25
    I cleaned the woodstove chimney today, as it was not drawing well enough, meaning it would leak smoke out the door when loading it.  The only customers of the day came while I was up on the roof with the wire brushes...  We had to buy a third cord of wood last weekend to make it to the much anticipated warm weather.  I'm still splitting my worktime between the pottery and the remodeling of the cabin.
    This afternoon I spent a couple hours filling in forms and finding photos for two forms of lottery.  The first is for selling pots at Art on the Green, which is competitive enough to enter that you feel a winner if accepted (and they charge $30 just to be juried).  The second was for a bluegrass night at the Rockin B Ranch in Stateline, where they will pay bands to play there, if accepted.  This seems a long shot since Sondahl and Hawkins isn't by most stretches of the imagination a bluegrass band, but someone called and asked me to send info this morning...

March 26
    It snowed most of the day, but didn't build up on the streets, only covered the dirty snow piles.  My son came home from the mountain with snow still in his beard after the hour drive home...
    We got to talking about cicadas (or 17 year locusts) at supper, how to pronounce the name and such.  The Wikipedia entry presents a rationale why they would live underground for 17 (or 13 in some, or less in others) years before briefly emerging to mate and die.  It said that 17 and 13 are prime numbers, meaning that if the predator insects that feed on them have multiyear growth cycles, they would not likely match up in such a way as to decimate the cicada hatchings.  That's pretty cool.
    We also discussed the amazing way Monarch butterflies hatch in the north, but are born with an instinct to find disticnt ancestral wintering grounds (mostly in Mexico) .  Being bugs with no brain that can do that, while I couldn't find my way to Mexico without  a map, is always a bit humbling.

March 27
    Today was rollend bonanza day.  Commercial printers usually quit printing before the end of the large rolls of newsprint they print on.  I use the end rolls to make wrapping paper for pottery.  I was almost out, so I've been calling a printer in Spokane that generally has them (for free).  Last week they had none.  Today they had a large bin full, so I took about 40 of them.  Most of them don't have a lot of paper on them, but the center cardboard tube, cut in half with a bow saw, burns about as well as a Presto log, so it's still worthwhile.
    Meanwhile the weather is stuck on snow every day again, but it  gets above freezing enough that it's still only building up on the snowy areas.

March 28
    I finally planted the broccolis, tomatoes, and cauliflowers today, and a bed of spinach and chard in the greenhouse.  Chard, planted in the garden seems to draw deer, so it's an experiment to see how it does in the greenhouse.  A major snowstorm is starting this evening, so planting now is a true act of faith that winter will leave us, and soon.
    This afternoon I went to the library, and saw they were looking for a children's librarian.  This is actually something I've thought I'd like to be, having worked at libraries in Nezperce and at Seminary, and being very bullish on books (see list below).  So I'm considering applying, although the downside of being tied to regular hours 5 days a week (and doing the children's programs) are hard for a free spirit to accept.  This would be in addition to pottery, not supplanting it.  As it is, I mostly do pottery in the mornings, and the library is open in the afternoons...

March 29
    We got a foot of snow overnight (measured with a yardstick--no exaggeration) so I started the day shoveling.  Although the forecast was for the snow to continue through the day, the sun came out in the afternoon, shrank the piles by half, so Spring still seems possible.  I guess this is the March going out like a lion phase...
    I put handles on small half pound cups today.  I made some for an order as childrens' cups, and decided I might as well make more for teacups or people trying to cut down on their imbibing.  One thing our generation experienced, along with bulging waistlines, was the size of the coffee cup go up from about 8 ounces to Very Large...

March 30
    Another day, another inch of snow in the morning...
I closed the curtains and made a few Youtube videos today.  The first two are reworkings of tunes I've previously posted.  Wildwood Flower was requested by an aspiring guitarist.
Pentatonic Waltz on guitar5 and Dime March on guitarWildwood flower on guitar

March 31
    I had a bout of  stomach flu last evening, so took it easy today--just glazed a couple kilnloads of pottery.  In the afternoon I recorded this hymn, but without the video part, so I decided to make it into a video slideshow.  I don't take lots of pictures of suffering, though, so I decided to include some "bloopers" from the ski hill, as the young athletes clearly do a bit of suffering...  At the filmed competition, one of them broke his collarbone, but I didn't include video of that...
Talk about Suffering Here Below


Books read this month, and films of note:

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.  There aren't a lot of stories written in the 1870's  that are still easy to read.  MacDonald, a pioneer in the fantasy genre (influencing C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain, among others) wrote in a fairly plain style that still reads well.  Although clearly designed for young readers and with a moral message (he was a minister),  the plot forges the way for many subterranean fantasies to follow.  
I am the Blues by Willie Dixon.   A pretentious title, but the standard Chicago blues songs Willie Dixon penned, and the Chess record sessions he produced and played bass on, testify to his lasting legacy.  He was also instrumental in exporting the blues to Europe in the early 60's, just in time to influence most of the British Invasion, who mostly covered his songs as well.  I checked a new Spokane blues band today, and two of their 5 Myspace songs were ones written by Willie Dixon.  
    The book is totally in interview format, with friends and associates verifying and enlarging on the details of his life.  His early days included escaping from a penal camp set up to profit from vagrancy, and later playing washtub bass on the streets of Chicago.  Unlike many of his contemporary black musicians who came uneducated from the rural south,  Willie could read and write, which gave him an advantage, however slight, against the legal money machines of the music business.

Moody Gets the Blues by Steve Oliver
    This is the first of a couple novels about a Spokane cabby turned detective.  The writing is a little uneven, which may either be the author or the mentally unbalanced protagonist who is narrating, but being the only detective novels set in Spokane make them worthwhile reads for locals.  Spokane is a fairly provincial town--many people I've met from Spokane have lived there for a long time, even back to the 1970's when this novel is set.  That's about the time I first came through this area as well...

Nails by Peter Bowen.  Peter Bowen first gained fame writing Old West adventure novels about a character called Yellowstone Kelly.  Now his fame is detective novels set in mythical Montana, featuring the ultra colorful Gabriel Du Pre.  This novel has a backdrop of evolution vs. creation science, and the protagonist is by objective standards very flawed, liking to drink and drive, for instance.  Of the series, this book seems the most outspoken politically, grinding any number of (likely) personal axes of Peter Bowen.  But if you can detach yourself enough to just follow the narrative, it's a good ride, and captures the rugged individualism of the backwoods west.

Emil's Pranks,
and Emil in the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren.  This is some of my favorite storytelling, from the woman who brought the world Pippi Longstocking.    Emil is a Swedish version of Dennis the Menace, but with sometimes warm human outcomes to the stories.  It's set in the preautomobile Swedish countryside, with lots of references to Swedish customs and foods.  These stories, along with her Noisy Village series and Rasmus and the Vagabond, are less phantastical than the Pippi stories, but all her books are worth reading.

The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood  
by P.G. Wodehouse.  Wodehouse remains one of my favorite writers, creating Shakespearian comedies over and over again from the same stables of effete English nobility.  Galahad resembles another Wodehousian character, Uncle Fred, as well as the much more familiar Jeeves, in their abilities to complicate a situation, then to solve it satisfactorily with a deft touch.  The usual situation is star crossed lovers, and when Blandings Castle is involved, there are also always impostors visiting and attempts at perfidy with milord's prize pig.
In spite of the recurring themes, Wodehouse's ability to improvise on the theme is distinctly jazzy.

Boomsday
by Christopher Buckley.  You would expect William F. Buckley Jr's son to be sharp witted.  You wouldn't expect him to write political satire that can appeal to most political persuasions. This book takes the "modest proposal" that baby boomers should "transition" themselves (commit suicide) at age 70 to help balance the Social Security mess and reduce the cost to the 20 somethings expected to bear the burden.  Buckley frequently has strong female protagonists, as does this one, and as did Florence of Arabia, which I read previously.  A few of the disturbing financial trends outlined have already come into being in the couple years since the book was published.

Country Music Originals
by Tony Russe
ll.  A fine book of short articles on mostly preWWII stringbands and country stars.  It lacks an index, but was otherwise quite enjoyable.  Many fine black and white photos help to show the personalities and instruments employed.

Renaissance by A.E. Van Vogt.  Sort of a situation Sci Fi novel from the 70's.  Suppose some theoretically omnipotent aliens visited the earth and decided to fix things by making men all nearsighted and then giving them mind controling glasses to curb their aggressive instincts.  Then only allow women to drive and run the governments. Although an absurd premise, Van Vogt manages to make an interesting adventure of it...

The Weapon Makers by A.E. Van Vogt.   My favorite book by this author is The Weapon Shops of Isher, about a furture world where the tyranny of the ruling House of Isher is kept in check by shops that sell superior weapons that can only be used defensively.  This story is the root of my song, "Every one should have a gun."  The Weapon Makers is a sequel, involving superintelligent arachnids, an immortal protagonist, and a surprisingly late development of a faster than light stardrive...

Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald   Although I do enjoy Ross MacDonald's work, he generally has a complex enough plot and enough characters that I have a hard time keeping track of it all to the end, being a bear of little brain.  This one combines a fire on a ship in WWII with events occurring years later during a major oil slick.

Underground Man by Ross MacDonald.  On the cover, Eudora Welty says Ross MacDonald has Chandler and Hammett beat for complexity--she's right, but I prefer my crimes to be intelligible, not convoluted.  Maybe it's a stage of life thing.  Perhaps I used to be able to remember all his characters and now I can't.  I guess I should reread Winnie the Pooh...

The Bank Dick (film)  W.C. Fields at his best, including as the writer (under a pseudonym)  I can see why women wouldn't enjoy this movie so much--it's sort of the ultimate middleaged  male fantasy (at least for W.C. Fields) for 1940.  The DVD version is wonderfully clear compared to frequent scratched copies from that era--I suppose they're doing that a lot with computer editing these days...

Beowulf (film)  This was a bit of a gore fest, redeemed by Neil Gaiman putting his own mythic interpretation to the story.  I never read Beowulf in high school English, so I wasn't bothered by the liberties taken.  I did tend to think of the amusing parodies in Monty Python style that could be made of it while watching, so I guess I wasn't totally taken in by it...


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