I’m in a hellish spiral of shopping for a product and reading reviews. Does it matter which product? You know the situation. We’ve all been there. The reviews are no help, because one guy loves it and the next guy gives it one star, and when you look at the reasons why, it’s because it broke on the first day and fell apart and burst into flames and summoned Baphomet, Bringer of Lies, and the next guy’s been using it every day for five years and it works perfectly, although you have to remember to count backwards from ten in Latin first for some reason. Next review gives it one star because the box was dented. Next guy gives it five stars because it shipped on time.

I am looking for a lawnmower. As part of our General Economic Husbanding of Resources, which in this case requires an expenditure of Husband Activity, I am not paying someone to shave the vast swath of Jasperwood this year. I am hale and even though I live on a hill, I can cut crosswise up the incline with a good self-propelled. It will be work, but as I said, I am hale, and it would be a good act of personal effort, rather than paying the guys. I cut out the snow blowing and I can cut out the lawn mowing. I want to wake on Saturday with my job clearly defined, instead of waiting around for Wife to tell me to do something with the yard. What? Pick up things. Plant something. Do something.

Good honest labor. Why not? Plus, if I get a battery-powered model, I can claim that the battery ran down, and I’ll do the rest after it charges. Like, tomorrow.

I went to Home Depot’s website, and Menards, and they sell proper brands I recognize. The stuff on Amazon’s page is all Chinese brands. Of course the John Deere and the rest may have a Chinese engine, and probably do, but dammit I’m not buying one of these upstart fakes. Give me a Lawn Boy! A Toro! That . . . brand I forget!

Having gotten absolutely nowhere with the web search, I am going to do the sensible thing and go down to my local hardware store and show them a picture of my lawn and talk about my options. They know me there, and after 30 years, they’re not going to steer me wrong.

I’ll keep you posted, which includes the inevitable picture of a mangled limb or the thing wrecked after it toppled sideways down the hill.



Our weekly recap of a Wikipedia peregrination. Expect no conclusion or revelations, but if you've been with us since this started next year, you know . . . sometimes we learn interesting things.

  So! How do we get from here . . .
  . . . to there?

Via this.

The Flame Room, at the old Radisson, was a place for special dinners.

As for the artist:

Miriam Ruth "Mimi" Benzell (April 6, 1918 – December 23, 1970) was an American soprano who performed with the Metropolitan Opera before establishing herself as a Broadway musical theatre, television, and nightclub performer.

Here’s a look at a vanished culture:

Benzell was married to Walter Gould. That’s where this take a turn: he was the brother of Morton Gould.

Imagine my amusement upon seeing the album cover: oh, right.

Gould did the music for the TV version of Casey, Crime Photographer. The radio version was fun, even if Casey didn’t do much in the way of photography. It began and ended in the Blue Note Cafe, where a piano player would noodle in the background while the main characters talked to the bartender. A notable role for Staats Cotsworth, and I wish I could retell the anecdote about the time he tried to get a job on Peg Lynch’s radio show, because it’s a hoot, but I have to leave that for Astrid’s biography.

If you wander through YouTube looking for Easy Listening - and this is Easy Listening Year, remember - you come across a lot of Gould.

Listen to how this album starts.

Gould’s bio notes that he was a prodigy, and studied as a child under Abby Whiteside. She has a Wikipedia entry.

Abby Whiteside (Aug 27, 1881 Vermillion, South Dakota – Dec 10, 1956 Menlo Park, California) was an American piano teacher. She challenged the finger-centric approach of much classical piano teaching and instead advocated a holistic attitude in which the arm and torso are the conductors of a musical image conceived first in the mind.

Sounds a bit dramatic. I had to smile at her quote:

"Why spend dull hours with Hanon when the arm can easily furnish all the power that is needed without specialized training? If we could only believe in nature's way instead of in traditional concepts, so much wasted time, boredom, and ultimate frustration could be avoided."

Mastering the Chopin Etudes and Other Essays, p. 178

Ah, Hanon.

Charles-Louis Hanon (2 July 1819 – 19 March 1900) was a French piano pedagogue and composer. He is best known for his work The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises, which is still used today for modern piano teaching, but over the years the method has also faced criticisms.

Piano students all over the world know of Hanon's famous training exercises. Both Sergei Rachmaninoff and Josef Lhévinne claimed Hanon to be the secret of why the Russian piano school delivered an explosion of virtuosi in their time, for the Hanon exercises have been obligatory for a long time throughout Russian conservatories; there were special examinations at which one had to know all exercises by heart, to be played in all keys at high speed.

Although most respected pedagogues and pianists acknowledge the value of Hanon's exercises, they have their detractors. Some critics have questioned the merits of the independent finger technique which the exercises seek to cultivate, with some pedagogues, such as Abby Whiteside, considering them to be actively harmful.

Boring it was, but so was memorizing your times tables.







Population, says Wikipedia, is "1,000." No more, no less. Also: "Sedan was founded in 1871.  The city was named in commemoration of the 1870 Battle of Sedan."

Which was:

The Battle of Sedan was fought during the Franco-Prussian War from 1 to 2 September 1870. Resulting in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and over a hundred thousand troops, it effectively decided the war in favour of Prussia and its allies, though fighting continued under a new French government.

Seems an odd choice. There had to be a reason. Aside from the fact that it had been in the news.

“Bob, it’s nice and all that, and everyone’s watched it go up and all, and everyone knows what it’s for, but what do you do about the person who comes to town and doesn’t know what it is?”

“Good, good. That’ll do the trick.”


What the hell is that thing? Some sort of crawfish?

It won’t always work out as well as hoped, but you can do a lot!

That’s the strangest collection of roofline ornaments I’ve seen in some time. Are they supposed to be Egyptian?

A reminder that when you cover up the front of the store and block off the windows, you might go bust down the line and leave the building all the poorer for it.

The old citizens in their finery, lined up for a group picture of town elders.

Second floor: the architects knew exactly what they were doing.

Ground floor: they did not.

Some areas of town look like they were excavated from the deposits of a volcano.

Note the vestigial brick on the right, referencing a long-gone neighbor.

Ah! Well, that’s better. Still in use.

As with the building above, one structure that’s also obviously two.

An utterly ordinary building of the times, but better than anything done in the last five decades - if only for its solidity and connection with other buildings in other places. A continuous style of commercial architecture that helped define small towns.

Really? For a town this size?


The year this building was erected, the owner - Everett Irwin Fish - saw the birth of his grandchild, who died in 2010. Says his obit:

Both his grandfather and father received degrees and Certificates in Pharmacy from the University of Kansas. They both practiced pharmacy in the two story brick building E.I. Fish had built on the corner of Main and Chautauqua Streets in Sedan, Kansas.

He went to enlist on the afternoon of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, but wasn't enlisted in the Army until February 14, l942. In September he received a Second Lieutenant rank. He served in the African Campaign, then to Bizzerte to prepare for the Sicilian Campaign. Going into Sicily, he joined the 400th Separate Battalion Anti-Air craft, Third Army. He also served in Monte Casino. He climbed Mt. Vesuvius near Pompeii. From Naples he went up to the invasion of Southern France. North of Avignon, Bob was wounded in his leg, earning a Purple Heart.

All that was ahead of them on the day they cut the ribbon.


The corner bank, shy on classical details. Wonder when it went up?

Ah, thank you.

Another hardy block that’s looking good. This style wears its age well.

This style does not.


Who knows what’s under there. I suspect a good old Roman embassy.



The Gregg. Cinematreasures says it’s open, and playing movies. Its Facebook page says it’s a non-profit, and run entirely by volunteers.

Which is pretty nifty.

Of course I didn't build this to hide bodies in the space between the floors, I don't know what you're talking about

The website doesn’t say which national award they won. You’d think it would.

The arched roofs often mean a civic building of some kind.

I've no idea what its purpose might have been.

The unmistakable severity of a Gummint Building:

I like it, but I don't know what's going on under the windows.



That'll do! Off to pretentious screen shots. See you around.


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