Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Book Review: Billy and the Boingers Bootleg by Berke Breathed (1987)

Full Disclosure: I remember trying to enter the contest for the Billy and the Boingers songs back in the middle 80s. I don't remember if I actually completed the entry or not, but I do remember I did not win. So if you must, dismiss this review as sour grapes.

This is not the first copy of this book I have read; I cannot remember if I borrowed it from one of the rangers listed in a previous post (Thanks, Noodles) when it was new, but I bought it at a garage sale in years past along with my other recent funnies pages reads (The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, Tales Too Ticklish to Tell) and I've read it now, with those same books.

This book actually immediately precedes Tales Too Ticklish To Tell, in that it introduces the Boinger storyline carried over into the later volume and introduces the basselope and Lola Granola characters.

What I said about the later book which I reviewed earlier remains true: It's dated material. Still, I think this one is marginally better than the other. Since it deals less with the 1988 political season, it can focus on more universal themes, such as Tipper Gore leading a crusade to ramrod morality into rock music. Man, how things have changed, huh? But I digress. Because storylines involve Steve Dallas looking for a change from his lawyer work and Opus feeling his biological clock ticking--which leads him to his search for his soulmate (the aforementioned Miss Granola), Breathed gets to examine the human condition instead of the current political climate.

Face it, the human condition will remain mostly the same, regardless of the calendar date, which is why we're reading Shakespeare four hundred years after he wrote his plays, or at least we're watching movies on cable wherein Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves play them, but why Berke Breathed is struggling against obscurity and why Garfield--mocked as a comic strip in the second comic strip in this book--is now a major motion picture featuring the voice of Bill Murray.

Book Review: The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler by Robert B. Parker (1984)

Well, finally I have saved enough money up from my, er, prudence with purchasing one dollar books to save up for a copy of The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler by Robert B. Parker. He stripped some of the academic verbiage from the dissertation he wrote for his PhD and published it as a limited edition via Lord John's Press in the early eighties. How limited? This printing was limited to 300; I think the more exclusive run was under 100, so there are fewer than 400 copies of this book in print. And I got one. Nyah, nyah.

Here are some pix:


Title Page

Copy Number

Click any photo for super size

I've read all of Parker's fiction, some of his profiles, and some of his nonfiction, but this represents the greatest divergance from his normal style I've seen. He stilted its prose to impress some review board, or whatever group determines whether a master becomes a doctor, so I realize I, consumer, am not the target audience. Still, it's more stilted than most nonfiction I read for fun, Make Room for TV notwithstanding.

To summarize, Parker takes us on a six chapter, 63 page exploration of the hard-boiled detective character embraced by Dash and Raymond, exploring how they fit into the literary canon of American heroes. The first two chapters run through obligatory quotations from other critics and academics, which rather drags but undoubtedly proved that Parker did his research. Then, Parker explores earlier manifestations of the American hero archetype that led to hard-boiled private eyes: the frontiersman, demonstrated in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales and Daniel Boone's legendary biography.

Parker doesn't build a revolutionary case, nor does he really reveal any blinding insight into the scholarship of the hard-boiled detective--although my reading is certainly limited, but I have read some (American Tough, and so on). The biggest insight is not in the text itself, but in its relationship to how Parker would craft the Spenser novels.

Using this document, one can see an earlier step in Parker's thought processes than The Godwulf Manuscript. For example, he notes that neither the Continental Op nor Philip Marlowe could really describe the code of honor to which they adhere. Spenser and Hawk, in Parker's novels, don't suffer, at great length, from this flaw.

So it's an interesting read if you strive to emulate Parker's success by imitation and ceaseless devotion, or if you like Spenser, I guess. Although there are no We'd be fools not to, there is one Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?--proving that this really is Parker, with the throwaway allusions that characterize not only his novels, his screenplays, but also, apparently, his most serious nonfiction. Thankfully.

P.S. Class, why is it that two of the vendors selling this on are both selling the exact same copy, # 245, of this numbered limited edition? Never mind, class; I am cynical enough to guess.

Shaming the du Toits--Again!

Well, since Kim du Toit called me a wanker for showing our library before, I just want to take this opportunity to show you, gentle readers, how we in the Noggle family are escalating the books race. Here's a current view of my personal library:

The Brian J. Noggle Personal Library circa June, 2004
Click for super size

Note that it now encompasses four bookshelves instead of three. The furthest to the left comprises the 400+ volumes I have yet to read (double-stacked, natch) and the two in the middle, mostly doublestacked too, represent already read stuff. The bookshelf to the right contains my Robert B. Parker collection and my Ayn Rand collection. If you supersized it, you would see it easily.

Rearranging our bedroom has made room for two more bookshelves, which we will purchase soon enough. I won't spread out my "to-read" shelves because their contents are daunting enough in one double-stacked bookshelf (with some titles crammed atop the double-stacking, too).

No word yet on how the Steinbergs of Chicago will react to this escalation--however, it should be noted that Neil and his family will probably have to clean their suburban house to throw a party to show off his library.

By Popular Request

My beautiful wife had never heard of X-Entertainment, which is Generation X, not Rated X, and she wanted me to give her the link.

Here it is:

One of These Is Not Like The Others

From a CNN review of the movie White Chicks:
    From 1986's "Soul Man" to last month's "Soul Plane," racial stereotypes have been the backbone of comedies good and bad. Makeup-induced transformations are nothing new, either, whether in 1964's "Black Like Me" or Murphy's phlegmy turn as an old Jewish man in 1988's "Coming To America."
Although Black Like Me was made into a movie, it was not a comedy; as a matter of fact, it was a "based on a true story" thing, based on John Griffith's book of the same name. It wasn't humor.

To include it in a list of comedy movies denigrates what Griffith did and the sacrifices he made to experience the south as a black man--ultimately, his treatments to darken his skin might have contributed to his death later.

Ah, the beauty of blogging: I can focus on a throw-away line with an intense lens to show its flaws. It's just a throwaway line, but much of what people retain from reviews and other articles are the throwaway lines, which often Gestalt into an incomplete and inaccurate picture.

I Am With You In Spirit

Summerfest opens in Milwaukee.

High temperature on Thursday in Milwaukee: 61 degrees.

Dance on a picnic table, poorly, to one Surf Boys, Streetlife, Rockerfellas, or Booze Brothers song for me, brothers.

Love Letter to Illinois Governor Roddy Blag

Personal note to Aaron, of Free Will Blog: Ha, ha! Your governor sucks worse than my governor!

Friday, June 25, 2004
Buzz Machine Breakdown

Jeff Jarvis characterizes tax cuts:
    George Bush (following in the footsteps of Reaganomics) made a politically cynical tax cut when he came into office, cutting taxes but not cutting spending and instead borrowing so he could cut those taxes. He gave away money to voters, money he didn't have. He borrowed money from our children to pay us to curry favor with us. That is political cynicism at its worst; it's one of my big problems with Bush.[my emphasis]
Whereas the federal government, wherein the House of Representatives initiates all spending and tends to do so in large, unvetoable ominousbus bills, did in fact decide to cut taxes and keep spending, this does not represent giving money to voters. It represents confiscating less.

But then again, Jarvis is not a constitutional scholar or a political scientist. He's a happening-man-about-the-country.

Of course, I am not any of the above; however, I am a tax payer, or rather, I am someone from whom taxes are taken in my bimonthly pay check.

More Headline Abuse

Headline: Schwarzenegger Wants Strays Killed Faster:
    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to repeal a state law that requires animal shelters to hold stray dogs and cats for up to six days before killing them.

    Instead, there would be a three-day requirement for strays. Other animals, including birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes and turtles, could be killed immediately.
Actually, it sounds like he's reducing a requirement, not mandating felinicide and caninicide. Perhaps Schwarzenegger alone among the ruling class understands that federal- and state-level mandates and requirements serve as Procrustean beds that bind the hands of local governments who must deal with the ultimate execution, er, implementation.

I would guess that if the three-day requirement replaces the six-day requirement that all shelters in the state of California will immediately set the red digital countdown clocks on their puppy doomsday machines to 72:00:00.

Instead, those counties running animal shelters flush with cash will continue their current policies, and those counties whose governments need to choose between hospitals and an extra three days of keeping an ill-tempered, underfed chow-rottie mix in a six by four cage except for brief exercise periods where it snaps at the shelter volunteer but doesn't--thankfully--draw blood.

But Brian, the counties don't have to make those sorts of choices! You're more right than you should be, opposing viewpoint; governments will make both choices whenever possible and will flout a tax increase or ballot initiative to pay for it. But damn it, those tax dollars are the difference between canned asparagus and fresh asparagus, the difference between the pork and the steak, in some people's diets. So you want to save the animals, you eat lesser food and donate the difference to keep Sapp, that chow-rottie mix, in his chain link for three more days, but don't make me do it with you, and don't you fail to do so without your precious government mandate.

UPDATE: Michael Williams gets it.

Who Calls Him a Critic?

Joe Williams, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrecks his brain on Farenheit 9/11:
    I wracked my brain for a clever way to introduce this fiercely entertaining documentary. But instead I'll begin with a straightforward appeal to see this film - and do it quickly.

    Before most Americans get a chance to judge the film for themselves, they will be overwhelmed by counterspin and noisy attacks against Michael Moore, the director of this openly partisan document. But the smart-alecky fellow, who has often offended his own supporters by wielding his camera like a squirt gun, has his own ammunition ready.
Because the consumer will be overwhelmed by counterspin to the "documentary" before he or she can see the movie, Williams launches some preemptive spin. Because the message of the movie is more important than its artistry, beauty, or truth.

Everybody's a critic, except for Joe Williams.

Naughty Headline of the Day

Economy slows to a 3.9 percent pace in first quarter:
    Economic growth in the first quarter was slower than first reported -- at an annual rate of 3.9 percent -- a pace that was solid but lacking the momentum exhibited as the calendar turned to 2004.
Economic growth was less than the preceding quarter but was growth nevertheless. AP reporters apparently have the same mentality that afflicts equities traders: that growth, not financial strength or profit, determines the state of the economy.

An unfortunate, but probably meditated, mischaracterization. Each quarter, the same amount of gain in absolute dollars represents a smaller growth in the relative percentage measurement because each quarter, the whole gets bigger. So an addition of 3 to a total of 100 is 3% growth in the first quarter, but an addition of 3 in the second quarter (where the total is 103), the economy "slows" to 2.9%, the second seal is broken, and apparently the only way to prevent the end of the world is to elect John Kerry, who will Robin Hood money from the rich and corporations to increase the economy!

Or maybe I am reading too much into it.

A Novel Idea

Hey, Oprahzenry, E.J. Dionne mentions Barack Obama, the guy running for Senate who didn't ask Seven of Nine to have sex in public (that we know of), and Dionne thinks this guy could be president.

Swell. Here's Dionne's ringing endorsement summary:
    Obama is interested in people who are hurting and problems that are serious. That, even more than his biography, is why he'll hit the big time.
We need a yet another president worried about hurting.

Personal note to Illinois voters: Please vote for Obama, elect him to the Senate, and make it near impossible for him to become president.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

As I was at the gym tonight, staring in fascination at these things they call "music videos" which display on screens throughout the gym during time I should have been doing this thing they call "working out," an "accidental" juxtaposition led me to an insight more startling than the insight that those little stickers which say "Keep away when machine is in use" might prevent pinching-to-the-point-of-near-amputation. Where was I? Oh, yeah, the insight:

Celine Dion is the result of a partially-successful French-Canadian attempt to clone Cher.

Come on, deep in the bowels of the Canadian health system, you know they looked southward sometime in 1968 and said, "What is best of American culture?" and, since there's French in French-Canadian, they looked to the most, um, flamboyant of music coupled with the most dowdy spouse (which is undoubtedly how Quebec thinks of the other provinces). So they sent their crack secret agents to get a mouth swab from Cher, to ensure her beat goes on, so to speak.

Unfortunately, their cloning technology was limited due to budget constraints and bureaucratic infighting. So the clone, "Celine" (French for Cher), was of smaller stature, and due to limitations in the maintenance budget, underfed. Also, due to the unfortunate accident of her French Canadianosity, she speaks French.

But look how it all adds up. She marries her "manager," which is to say the lead scientist in the secret project that produced her. Come on, this explains why someone that the French Canadians would consider marginally hot (especially since the basis of comparison would be Alanis Morissette) would marry someone over forty years her senior and would bear his genetically-enhanced children (undoubtedly, clones of David Bowie and Iggy Pop).

Just ask the Canadian prime minister about it if you get the chance. He'll deny everything, of course, and that will be all the proof you need.

Headline Inferences

Irish outlaw Muslim second wives.

What can we infer from this headline?
  • Muslims' third through sixteenth wives are okay.

  • Second wives are okay if they're Methodist.
Pah, I got nothin.

Book Review: Tales Too Ticklish to Tell by Berke Breathed (1988)

Unfortunately, I read this book immediately upon the heels of The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, and this volume suffers by comparison.

It's been sixteen years since this book came out, and it's already not much more than a time capsule into the last two years of Reagan's presidency. Whereas Calvin and Hobbes touched on broader human themes that sometimes touched on daily topics, but Bloom County's storylines are completely wed to the period in which they were written. I mean, who remembers the Jim and Tammy Faye enough to find a penguin's take on them amusing? The cover of the book depicts George (H.W., as he would later be known) Bush with Opus on his lap; it refers to the photo of Gary Hart with Donna Rice on his lap that spoiled his bid for the Democratic nomination in 1988. See how the topics fade to irrelevance and obscurity?

Bloom County, like Calvin and Hobbes, became iconic in that Opus was on everything in the late 1980s; apparel, plush toys, lunchboxes. However, unlike Calvin and Hobbes, which is fresh and funny twenty years later and probably will for a number of years yet, Bloom County's as relevant and contemporary as Snuffy Smith. Unlike Watterson, who quit while he was popular (like Gary Larsen) to avoid a strip depicting Calvin in his little red wagon flying over a pool with a shark in it, Breathed has continued trying to breathed life into these characters through Bloom County and then Outland and now Opus whenever a Republican president needed a public lambasting by a penguin. (Read James Lileks on Opus last week.)

Blast from the Past

James Lileks, as a Minnesotan, is an honorary homie. Today, he mentions Green Goddess salad dressing. That's one of those telling details of the upper Midwest. You don't think about it for a number of years, and then suddenly you remember salads drenched in cucumber ichor.

Green Goddess is not quite the phenomenon here in Missouri as in Wisconsin. Hence, I haven't seen it for decades. I assume you could buy it in the grocery store, but amid the ranks of other dressings and smiling visages of Paul Newman, I've not seen it. Of course, I don't use salad dressing, so I wander down that aisle typically with my eyes ahead, counting aisles until the beer aisle.

But during my boyhood in Wisconsin, every family gathering proffered Green Goddess. Right next to the cannibal sandwiches.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Depends What the Meaning of "Break It Off" Is

Drudge links to a Yahoo! photo of Bill Clinton with the headline CLINTON SPORTS MYSTERY BRACELET....

Mystery? Come on, we're on the Internet.

We know what the bracelets mean.

John Kass is the Best Columnist in Chicago

There, I have said it. Read his column today, entitled Terrorists take us to the real ring of hell (worth the registration required). Real meat:
    Avoiding the Berg video, or the pictures of what happened to Johnson, or the images of the next American they grab, won't dull the knives of those who want us all dead. They want to drive Americans from where we want to stand in the world and send us quivering home.

    Avoiding won't make us safer here, either. It actually may do us all a disservice, since it allows us to keep an emotional distance.

    The flat of the killing knives is only an inch or two wide. It is much shorter than the distance between today and Sept. 11, 2001. We've achieved separation from each, and that is dangerous.
I don't know why Kass isn't a blogosphere superstar like Lileks, Appelbaum, or Steyn.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Does Cuba have enough land for an "all-out ground war"?

(Link seen on Fark.)

Joke of the Day

UN slams US over spending Iraq funds. It goes like this:
    United Nations-mandated auditors have sharply criticised the US occupation authority for the way it has spent more than $11bn in Iraqi oil revenues and say they have faced "resistance" from coalition officials.

    In an interim report, obtained by the Financial Times, KPMG says the Development Fund for Iraq, which is managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and channels oil revenue into reconstruction projects, is "open to fraudulent acts".
Ha ha ha ha! Hooo. And then the UN says, "the CPA is open to fraudulent acts." Ha ha ha ha haa!

Sorry, it's hard to type with the tears from the laughter in my eyes. That Matt Drudge, who told me this one, is a stitch, ainna?

Somebody Save Me

Our wonderful realtors Jim and Gale Beardsley provided us with a complimentary subscription to Home by Design. I like to browse through each issue, but the Editor's Letter in the latest issue made me cringe. First sentence:
    I am so excited for this issue of Home By Design magazine because it is my first, as the new Editor!
As it was a magazine, it didn't hurt when I slammed my head into it repeatedly, so I had to step outside and lean into, repeatedly, the exposed foundation of my home.

Is That All?

For months, people watching the Illinois Senate race have wondered what was sealed in Jack Ryan's divorce papers. Opponents sniffed at the locked documents and speculated that they contained something dark and evil, such as the mark of the beast on Jack Ryan's, um, well, something, anyway. Now, the papers are a-coming out, and they contain some dudshells:
    Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan pressured his wife, actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, to have sex in clubs while others watched, she charged in divorce documents released Monday.

    The ``Boston Public'' and ``Star Trek: Voyager'' actress said she angered Ryan by refusing. She did acknowledge infidelity on her part, which she said took place after their marriage was irretrievably broken.
See the difference? Sex in public with your spouse, bad. Adulterous sex in private, okay. Well, I am not here to cast aspersions on either, hem, alternate lifestyle (although I will acknowledge that one is immoral and the other inaesthetic), I will ask:

Is that it?

Perhaps I am just a product of Generation X, who grew up with Kevin Smith films and with vampire movies mainstreaming the S&M club into tomorrow's kitsch. I'm not shocked, and I'm not sure how his particular pecadillos would impact his governing ability. He's not violated any law, and as far as I know, he would not want to have sex with her in the Senate (although it would certainly boost CSPAN ratings). Heck, it just might be the crossover appeal needed to get Democrats to vote for him.

(Link seen on Drudge.)


Sure, it won't make you feel superior to your workplace like Dilbert does, but Mrs. du Toit offers some reminders about what it means to be a worker bee.

The working world: like it, or vote Democrat.


You know, on weekends and, well, weekdays, I don't catch much television coverage of the news and I dodge radio coverage when I can.

That must explain why I haven't heard the stories covering declining gas prices. You know, the video that depicts the jubilant American street dancing under the gas station canopy, with gushing men and women on the street thanking government inappropriately for the partially-free market working and explaining that since gas prices have fallen thirty cents, they can afford to feed their children (expensive preprocessed food) and can once again afford to commute ninety minutes to work.

Because undoubtedly the media covered the what comes down portion of the cycle with the same alack!rity that they covered the what goes up story.

I just must have missed it.

That's Just Precious

Instapundit links to an AP story about John Kerry's campaignreceiving a bothersome campaign contribution:
    John Kerry's campaign collected a maximum $2,000 check from the recently arrested son of South Korea's disgraced former president, and some of its fund-raisers met several times with a South Korean government official who was trying to organize a Korean-American political group.
Kerry's going to give it back, of course, since it's now public.

But the ad dished up with the story is amusing:

John Kerry wants your illegal campaign contribution
Click for full size

Click to send your own questionable campaign contribution.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."