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Book Review: The Book of the Raven

This British publication by Angus Hyland and Carolyn Roberts is subtitled “Corvids in Art and Legend.”

gordon meyer holding book

I bought the book as a gift for a friend, but before I had the chance to give it away its compelling design and quality captured my attention and I simply had to read it. (Forgive me, buddy, I was gentle with it.)

The book draws from literature, poetry, science, fable, and art to present a comprehensive and compelling cross-section of how corvids have been portrayed and studied across hundreds (if not thousands) of years. The blurbs are short (the longest being Poe’s famous poem) and the artwork is produced with careful attention to detail. Overall, it’s as nice as any “art book” you’re familiar with, albeit in paperback. (And without the high cost.)

I’ve always felt a special affinity for ravens (especially so after my maternal haplogroup was identified — Ursula represent!) and this book is sure to please anyone who feels similarly. Get your copy at Amazon.

Wisconsin Observations

Greetings from Manitowoc, Wisconsin — and the exact spot where Sputnik fell to earth.

gordon meyer standing

The second-best thing about Manitowoc was the “Ditto” antique store that’s in the back of the “Dead By Dawn” B&B. The former was charming and had some great locally sourced hand-carved figurines. The latter was closed, but the idea is just wonderful.

gordon meyer holding carved figure

We also visited the Sheboygan Indian Mounds Park. When we arrived, there were three cars in the parking lot. By the time we exited our car; we were the only ones there. (Hey, don’t leave on my account!) We saw not another (living) soul during our visit. We heard the trees speaking (which we recorded) as we followed a diminishing trail that crossed at least two dwellings that were reminiscent of those depicted on Sasquatch “documentaries.”

gordon meyer took this photo

Unexpectedly, there are contemporary houses that abut the mound area, giving truth to the trope about living on an ancient Indian burial ground. I wondered if a realtor would consider being on sacred ground a selling point.

burial mound gordon meyer

Because it was so quiet and peaceful, and seemingly welcoming, we decided to have our picnic lunch at the tables near the entrance. Unfortunately, the tables were covered with dirt and sap, so it was a standing meal.

mound sign gordon meyer

As we left, a tree in the yard across the street caught my eye. It seemed to take human-like form, but that may have been a trick of the light.

strange tree photo by gordon meyer

At the 3 Sheeps Brewery, which we visited before the mounds (so thus, could explain the tree thing), I was drawn to a vending machine that sold advertising cards which just happened to also be a game of chance.

gambling machine photo by gordon meyer

I couldn’t resist spending a dollar on a ticket. I was not a winner. But I enjoyed the 3 Sheeps beer, so I guess that’s a “win” of another sort.

ticket by gordon meyer

Trucker Suspenders are a thing

When I worked for Ross Perot’s EDS, the company had an infamously strict dress code. Along with my solid-color socks and white dress shirt, I used to wear suspenders with my suit. Recently, I came across a pair of forgotten, unworn casual pants that were just a little too big in the waist, so I decided to try wearing them with suspenders in order to get some use out of them.

I dug around in the back of my closet and found a thirty-year-old pair of formal, leather suspenders. Quite nice ones, actually. But they require brace buttons on the pants, which the newly rediscovered slacks did not have. So, I started looking to buy a set of clip-on brace adapters, but quickly discovered it was more economical to buy new suspenders instead. (And bonus, this would avoid the Village People vibe of wearing my vintage leather ones.)

That’s when I came across “Trucker Suspenders.” This was a revelation to me! Trucker-style suspenders have two attachment points instead of three, thus eliminating the small-of-the-back connection which can be uncomfortable when seated. I had to try them, so I ordered a casual pair made by Carhartt.

It took some getting used to wearing them, but they are great. Because they only attach on the sides, the rear of the pants is slightly droopier than regular suspenders. And the way they loop over your shoulders makes it feel as if you’re wearing a pistol holster (or so I presume), but they are definitely more comfortable than traditional suspenders.

But I can’t help wonder what Mr. Perot would think of them. On the other hand, since we were never allowed to remove our suit jackets while at work, he’d likely never notice.

Book Review: The Secret of Terror Castle

You have most likely heard of the Hardy Boys, but are you familiar with “The Three Investigators?” These teenage friends and their improvised detective work were very much a part of my formative years, so I was happy to discover one of the novels about them at Downtown Book in Milwaukee.

photo of book cover by gordon meyer

The series consists of dozens of books, of which The Secret of Terror Castle is the first. As such, it’s a great introduction to the boys and their exploits. It was published about the time I was born, so it was a few years later when I discovered the stories, thanks to the wonderful Scholastic Books program at school. (I have a vague memory of donating my copies to my grammar school library when I got older.)

My friend Spencer and I formed our own “detective agency” based on these adventure stories, and we pursued it doggedly by inserting ourselves into petty neighborhood crime investigations. That came to a screeching halt when an actual city detective caught us collecting fingerprints and intimidated us into finding different hobbies.

So, how does a teenage mystery novel hold up in the eyes of a grown man? Pretty good, actually. There’s a strong nostalgia component, of course, but I was surprised at how many of the details I’d forgotten but still enjoyed upon rediscovery. However, I proudly still remembered the solution to the crime in the story.

If you’ve read these in the past, I strongly recommend revisiting the books. They’re great fun. You’ll have to excuse some things — such as the relentless fat-shaming of one of the protagonists, the lack of female characters, and the frequent sidelining of the bookish, and ‘crippled,’ member of the team. But these elements don’t overwhelm the story (although they might help explain the continued marginalization of the series) and the clever, solid mysteries are well worth your time.

Not just for kidnappers

One of the most unsung, but most useful, things to add to your suitcase is a package of RediTape Duct Tape. It’s the regular duct tape you know and love, but comes in a reasonable length “flat pack” that makes it easy to pack. (You can get it in multiple colors, too. I prefer white, which looks less industrial than the typical silver tape.)

What will you use it for? You’ll surprise yourself at how many uses you discover. The adage that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” becomes true — a good, strong piece of tape solves numerous problems: inside pants that need hemming or repair, suitcase and shoe repairs, first aid, automobile cabin rattles, tamper-evident bag seals, and hotel room peephole privacy covers. (Yes, it’s paranoid, but sadly actually happens.) I’m confident you’ll find even more ways to use it once you have it on hand.

The Tub Shroom works

I needed a new drain filter/hair catcher for my tub-shower combo. I came across a strange “As Seen on TV” product called Tub Shroom. After perusing the numerous positive review on the Amazon, I bought one. Damned if the reviews aren’t right. The goofy thing really works. Other than that you should buy one, my only recommendation is to notice that it comes in different sizes, so make sure you get the right one for your situation. Oh, also, don’t be an idiot and cram it all the way into the drain hole — leave it sticking up slightly as shown on the package. (I swear, Amazon reviews are an intelligence test for some people.)

How the Mormon church pervades everything in Utah

The sign in this photograph is near the entrance to a popular fast food taco restaurant in Cedar City, Utah. It is promoting, without saying, the Mormon Church’s edict of “Family Home Evenings” — wherein families are required to engage in weekly at-home religious studies.

family home evening door sign photographed by gordon meyer

The “Parents Empowered” organization is, apparently, an arm of the state’s liquor control board, although their website almost completely obfuscates that connection. The LDS Church, of course, prohibits the consumption of alcohol and demands unquestioned obedience from children, so the overall message of the site — in addition to promoting Family Home Evenings — slots in perfectly with church scripture.

When people find out that I was born and raised in Utah, I’m often asked what it’s like to live there. This is a fine example of how the state government and culture intertwine with Mormonism.

Book Review: The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers

This is a collection of “gruesome tales,” compiled and re-told by Jen Campbell, along with amazing illustrations by Adam de Souza.

book cover held by gordon meyer

The memorable and striking tales are from all over the world. (As you might gather, from the titular story.) Campbell, in the afterword, explains that she has made every effort to restore the stories to their original, dark content. (Many fairy tales have been neutered by well-meaning parents and Hollywood execs.) She has also stripped them of any moralistic addendums that some re-tellers insist on adding. (I’m looking at you, Grimm brothers.) The result is remarkable, sparse, and hair-raising. In nearly every case, I wanted to immediately close the book and find someone to share the story with. These are not the Disney-fied fairy tales of your youth.

Also following a grand tradition, Campbell has, in some cases, slightly tweaked the stories to suit her own, modern sensibilities. That is, sometimes genders have been changed, or situations adapted to be more inclusive. This is done deftly, and had she not mentioned it in the afterword, I wouldn’t have noticed. Bravo.

Treat yourself to this book. It’s a keeper, and a conversation piece. You can get a copy at Quimby’s, as I did, or of course, the Amazon. (If you’re hesitant to dive into a so-called “Children’s book,” you need to read this other review of mine.)