Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Book Review: The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood (2002)

I bought this book as part of a package for signing up with the Writers Digest Book Club. As part of the package, I paid something like a dollar for it plus shipping and handling, and undoubtedly it was the last book in the required allotment of four or five to get the free Writer's Market that year. To make a short story long, I don't normally seek out this sort of book, but I got it, and I read it.

Essentially, it's a little collage of writing ideas, some microessays about writing, and a lot of photographs. The style's such that you can pick it up, flip it open, and have something to write or some lesson about writing. Numerous single-sentence mandates dictate that you should write about a particular topic or situation; other pages contain a single, often vertical, "horiscope message" that could serve as a plot. So there you have it.

The author embraces the writer lifestyle, which involves teaching college classes, going on writers' retreats, and "getting published" along with all the touchy-feely, grok-the-word crepe that festoons the lives of the lifestyle's participants. Personally, I'm not all into that--particularly the last part, apparently--so I could do without it. Still, it's an interesting little book, a quick enough read (since it's probably under 10,000 words all told in its unnumbered pages), and maybe something from it has stuck in my mind and has been encysted into a pearl of a story or essay for the future.

At worst, it's book number 41 for me on the year and will add a small element of color to my trophy bookshelves.

Were But That It Were True

Pardon my mangling of the subjunctive tense, which many of you did not know existed anyway, but read this article:

Nations [sic] Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue

Unfortunately, it's The Onion. Curses!

Friday, July 09, 2004
Adding Flour to the Conspiracy

The San Francisco Chronicle plays with verbs when it presents this on its Web site:

SF Bush Headline
Click for full size

    Bush Military Info Destroyed
    Payroll records that could clarify his service history were damaged. Pentagon blames 'deterioration.' AP
Really? The Pentagon--Bush's Pentagon--blames deterioration? What about "explains fact" or "cudgels conspiracy theory advocates with facts, to no avail"?

Here's the words from the article:
    The letter said that in 1996 and 1997, the Pentagon "engaged with limited success in a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm." During the process, "the microfilm payroll records of numerous service members were damaged," the letter said.

    This process resulted in "the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records," including Bush's, the letter said.
This particular conspiracy stretches back to the last year of Clinton's first term and the first year of his second! Damn, these Bushies are thorough.

I mean, it must certainly be unthinkable that this particular set of undifferentiated records from thirty years ago were damaged by underpaid, but underwhelming, low-ranking government and military functionaries. Instead, the San Francisco Chronicle would seem to have you connect the stars to make damning constellations.

Deeper and Deeper

Not only do campaign finance laws protect incumbents, but as Owen at Boots and Sabers points out, apparently they also protect polisci majors and other non-productive members of society. Or at least they penalize business owners who run for office:
    The next few months are a vital time for selling cars, but the Russ Darrow Group, with 20 dealerships throughout the state, may have to stifle its familiar pitch.

    That's because it is a vital period for selling candidacies, too. And the namesake of the car dealership chain, Russ Darrow Jr., is in the hunt for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

    New federal election law may forbid any television or radio advertising bearing Darrow's name and not funded by his Senate campaign during the 30 days before the Sept. 14 Republican primary.

    "It would appear as if such (car) advertisements might be considered electioneering communications," and thus prohibited, said Ian Stirton, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission.
Citizens, I ask you, is this freeing you from the corrupting influence of advertising impressing messages into your malleable mind or is it protecting a self-appointed ruling class who can schmooze their way through four years of schmooze classes, a couple of D.C. internships, an appointment or two, and then election through incumbent indulgence?

1-800-888-4848, Ext. 8201

Apparently, Subway restaurants have determined:
    Beginning Sunday, Subway stores throughout the [St. Louis] metro area stopped handing out a stamp for each 6-inch sandwich purchased, as did Subway restaurants in Knoxville, Tenn.; Madison, Wis.; and Lansing, Mich.

    "A number of franchisees feel that we are too big of a company to have an incentive program. They have elected to participate in a test to see what the customer feedback will be," said Subway spokesman Les Winograd at company headquarters in Milford, Conn. "They may replace it or go back to the way it was or drop it entirely."
Apparently, St. Louis is one of the test markets for this new "program" of discontinuing a program that has been in place for 39 years, since Subway's founding. Subway has determined that its name recognition alone will spur brand loyalty, even when faced with competition here with Quiznos, Blimpies, Mr. Goodcents, and other smaller shops just trying to get a foothold in the apparently-lucrative submarine sandwich franchise space.

You can call Subway at the number listed above to register your feelings on the subject or just to let them know you're a consumer who's paying attention and don't subscribe to the theory that less-for-the-customer-is-more theory.

Class, what would Niccolo Machiavelli say about this particular idea? Hmmm?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004
I Am Honored

Someone nominated me as one of the top 260 underrated blogs. I am humbled, particularly as I suspect my beautiful wife was not the submitter.

Thank you, unknown benefactor.

Discriminating Taste

Would you choose a wine because it was named after a hockey player?

Michel Picard, winger
Michel Picard, former St. Louis Blue
Michel Picard Syrah
Michel Picard Syrah
Man, it's going to be a long year without a hockey season.

Comparable Sins

From Neil Steinberg's column today, wherein he describes how polarized political society has gotten, we have this:
    he electorate is as calcified and entrenched as I've ever seen it, divided by those who would vote for Bush if it turned out he was paid by Osama bin Laden to invade Iraq and so hasten the day of Islamic jihad there, and those who would vote for Kerry if photos surfaced of him in Hanoi in the 1960s standing behind Jane Fonda, his fist in the air in the black power salute as she inspected Viet Cong anti-aircraft guns.
I don't know how I should take that comparison. Right wingers, which I would guess includes me, would vote for Bush even if he were a paid operative of a foreign power actively involved in a conspiracy against the best interests of the United States, whereas more reasonable left wingers would vote for John Kerry if he openly supported, through "protests," an enemy power currently at war with the United States while he was in that foreign country (which is the key difference, since he only did that here and in Paris, France, but never in North Vietnam).

Message, again: People who support Bush are whackos.

I must be the most whack of the lot since I support Bush and read Steinberg three times a week.

So-Called Watch

Perhaps Associated Press writer A. Josef Hebert only dabbles in American English as a second language, as he resorts to the dreaded so-called adjective:
    In a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb, the Energy Department disclosed Tuesday.
I'm unsure what that particular adjective adds to the sentence. Unless Hebert's paid five cents a word, in which case it adds a dime to Hebert's pocket.

(Link courtesy Perry on Politics.)

Knowing Your Place

Jeff Jarvis notes the rise of blogs, again. For all the hoopla, I remind other bloggers to remember our place.

Bloggers write for other bloggers and about a half dozen readers who don't blog (yet).

We're Citizens Band Radio dot com.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Architectural Musings

Whitney Gould, the architectural columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, muses on what to do with "big box" store buildings after the big box stores have moved on. Go check out her July 4 column.

Me, I read her all the time as a residual effect of too many adolescent readings of The Fountainhead and too much adolescent appreciation of Patricia Neal as Dominique Francon. But you can read her for other reasons, as ye liste.

Significant Authority Always Exists

The mayor of a small newly-suburban outpost in St. Louis County has discovered the joys of property rights infringement: Arnold Mayor declares war on vacant buildings:
    Arnold Mayor Mark Powell is hoping that unsightly, abandoned buildings in the city will soon be nothing but an ugly memory. Powell reported that the city is cracking down on building owners who fail to maintain their properties.

    "I have reviewed our property maintenance codes and have determined that sufficient authority exists within the code to deal with the maintenance of the boarded-up buildings," said Powell. "The code provides for buildings to be kept up such that the building looks ready for use. This means no peeling paint, no boarded up windows, no missing shingles, no missing sign faces."
Or else it will be seized for a new Wal-Mart or New Utopianist mixed use apartment/condo/retail development that will be boarded-up buildings belonging to someone else in twenty years.

Yo, Powell, if you're so interested in making Arnold something more than a St. Louis-area punchline, how about you reform its ordinances to make it a business-friendly environment, so that the owners of the properties to which you refer would lose money by leaving them in their current states.

Oh, but no. Just seize them, dish them out to friends, and screw the person who put down capital on it in the first place. It's your perogative as duly-elected despot.

These guys always have sufficient authority, don't they?

Global Warming's Interplanetary Consequences

The joke's set up line, as published by the BBC, begins with the headline Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high:
    A new analysis shows that the Sun is more active now than it has been at anytime in the previous 1,000 years.

    Scientists based at the Institute for Astronomy in Zurich used ice cores from Greenland to construct a picture of our star's activity in the past.

    They say that over the last century the number of sunspots rose at the same time that the Earth's climate became steadily warmer.

    This trend is being amplified by gases from fossil fuel burning, they argue.
Got that? Driving an SUV causes sunspots. Maybe even space-time distortions that threaten our very existence, or perhaps just the holes that stupid people will punch in November.

On the other hand, global warming has proven to be our main defense against planetary invasion from the venomous snowcrawlers from Dis X. So I guess you have to take the bad with the good.

If I weren't laughing, I would be crying.

Monday, July 05, 2004
Book Review: The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan (1973)

I am sure some of you are going to ask me why I read this book in hardback. Hey, I don't know. I just read lots of books. The little red dot indicates either I paid thirty-three and a third cents for it at Hooked on Books or that the International Masculinity Squad has someone in the treeline about to take me out for my gross transgressions against manhood. I guess I picked it out from the bookshelf outside the bookshop where the booksellers put the books they want people to steal. So I flipped a 33-cent piece onto the counter and walked out of the shop with this handbook for becoming The Total Woman.

All right, I read the book because I thought it would be amusing to read. It's carbon-dated to 1973, which means it was written about the time I was born and coming home from the hospital. The back cover contains a photo of Ms. Morgan, who looks like an amphed-up Liz Crocker from the time period. A former beauty queen from an upper-middle class suburban Wonder bread world dishes out some advice to other high-strung married-too-early tract house denizens. Man, urban-born and 21st century me was going to laugh, laugh all the way through the book.

A funny thing happened on the way to that mockirvana. I started respecting the book and its viewpoint.

It's not that different from any other self-help style, inspire-yourself book. Whereas other, more contemporary tracts tell you how you can be a better businessperson, salesperson, or more complete self-actualized Bobo, all of them seek to make you better at a particular role. This book's not that different. It definitely presents a different set of lines in which to color--those of a Christian housewife--but it offers a certain amount of pluck, vibrance, and intelligence to the role. It's not so much about remaking yourself as a Stepford Wife (a reference contemporary to the time in which this book was written, remember) as remaking yourself as the Wife of Bath.

Because although the book encourages a certain submissiveness on the part of the wife, it's not because of a woman's inferiority--rather, it's because she can, and because she wants to be part of the whole that is the functioning nuclear family unit. Not only a part, but the backbone. Of course, in 2004, "nuclear family" is a perjorative in many circumstances, but I still personally admire the goal and the imperfect-but-striving examples in the world. So screw you if you're too smart to be constrained by tradition and morality that won't let you have open marriages or that require committments to your spouse and your children.

So, what should you do if you're a Christian housewife who wants to strengthen her marriage (and, in most cases, fears that her marriage is failing or is not satisfied with its current state)?
  • Focus on the good things
    You got married to this person for some reason, theoretically because you guys liked each other. Focus on those things, and make an effort to be more like the person you were then, and not the nagging harpy you are now. Okay, not nagging harpy, but look beyond the concerns of the day-to-day household management to reconnect with the people who have made the household.

  • Feed his ego.
    He's only a man, and he needs to be stroked. When he's stroked, he'll stroke back.

  • More, imaginative sex.
    Okay, here's my favorite passage from the book:

      Still another gal took the course [The Total Woman course, which this book describes] being held in her Souther Baptist Church. She welcomed her husband home in black mesh stockings, high heels, and an apron. That's all. He took one look and shouted, "Praise the Lord!"

    Indeed. Sex comprises one quarter of the book, and she advocates dressing differently, wearing costumes, role playing, and other things--in the name of family values! Good marital sex helps a good marriage. Also, she's an advocate of the female climax, which she says has helped many class attendees learn to appreciate sex. Morgan's writing about the dark ages, undoubtedly, but it's interesting to note that the book is geared toward church-going women. Contrary to the popular caricature, maybe women who are Christians and who go to church can be sizzling lovers.

    Don't tell them, though, or those coastal Democrat types will come to carry off our womenfolk like the barbarian invading hordes they are.

So I read the book, and although I laughed at certain parts, I appreciated the sentiment and the intelligence of the author. She certainly seems earnest enough, and she's smart enough; although the only endnotes are scriptural citations, she quotes Shakespeare and Robert Browning easily. Also, the churchgoing aspect of the book isn't overwhelming--she's not proselytizing, she's talking about her convictions. The shortest chapter in the book, near the end, talks about her relationship with God. Interesting, a little personal and common, but not something the make the book unreadable.

If you can find a copy for under a buck (with shipping, if you're Internet inclined), this book will offer a view of marriage from a viewpoint outside your own (most likely) and will offer ideas and insights that you might apply to your own marriage. If you want it to work.

For example, tomorrow night I shall greet my wife at the door wearing black mesh stockings, high heels, and an apron. (Don't tell her, though!)

Galls As Big As Church Bells

I salute Bill Cahir, who enlisted in the Marines at age 34.

Brother, you remind me I have a couple years of eligibility left in me in case this whole marriage with a hot chick on a bicycle thing doesn't work out.

On another note, we have the PC as big as Deep Blue award to the Marine Corps, who opened an investigation into its boot camp based on the above story. I would say, "Poor form, Peter," but the sensitive Marine bureaucracy might think I was calling them perjoratives for the male genitalia.

Show of Force

Who knew Mexico's armed force had automatic weapons? Too bad all dozen and a half of its forces showed up and interrupted a Marine funeral for a Mexican-American:
    Mexican soldiers carrying automatic weapons interrupted the U.S. Independence Day funeral of a U.S. Marine and demanded that the Marine honor guard give up ceremonial replicas of rifles they carried.

    Hundreds of friends and relatives packed a small cemetery for the funeral on Sunday of 22-year-old Juan Lopez, who was born in this sun-scorched farming town, immigrated to Dalton, Georgia, as a teenager and became a Marine.
Message received, "allies". Hey, you guys remember when Mexico was a French possession? Ain't history fun?

Now In Delicious Cat Poop Flavor

Stop the madness! Now there's a Pro Plan Performance Bar nutritional supplement for dogs!

Sunday, July 04, 2004
Commit Suicide In Your Garage? Sue Honda

Just eliminate yourself from the decision-making process if your choices lead to your death, just like this woman's estate:
    The plaintiff, Linda Lou Poag, executrix of Rubick's estate, claims that Atkins and two other doctors at the Atkins Center were negligent in treating Rubick's cancer.

    In 1995, Rubick, then 39, underwent a lumpectomy of her right breast for treatment of stage two breast cancer, according to court papers. The surgeon - not affiliated with Atkins - referred Rubick to a traditional oncologist for chemotherapy.

    Rubick decided instead to pursue "alternative care" with Dr. Atkins, care that consisted of such "quackery" as dietary manipulation, enemas and vitamin therapy, the suit says.
    [Emphasis mine, since I'm the only one who seems to think "decide" is an active verb, requiring a subject. Unfortunately, I have no connection with the legal system.]
Apparently, Willie Sutton is the patron saint of attorneys.

Slipping the Surly Bonds of a Target Demographic

The headline on the Maxim article is Be Her Boy Toy and the lead is:
    Younger guys and older women: Why should Ashton and Justin have all the fun? Rosie Amodio explains the benefits of Mrs. Robinsons…and how to score one.
Mrs. Robinsons? Hardly. Let's count the rings on some of these "older" women:
  • Like lots of girls my age, I’ve had a stud puppy. I was 26, he was 21.

  • “Sure, when I dated a 30-year-old, I tried to act more sophisticated. I dressed well, held doors, bought her flowers, wore cologne,” says Benjamin, 23.

  • The first time Billy and I had sex, I was the boss,” says Jane, 29.

  • “A guy I dated picked me up in the cheesiest way. He said he’d been watching me all night but was intimidated because I seemed worldly and stylish,” says Luanne, 31.
Holy Hebe, Tulsa, those older women are younger than we are. I know, I am cherry-picking the ages by highlighting the oldest, but let's see what we have in the senior citizen category from the article:
  • “I dated this 25-year-old who was such a party boy,” says Jane, 35.

  • “Once we went out, flirted all night, and didn’t even make it back to my place,” says Karina, 36.

  • “It’s a mental rush to date some 23-year-old guy, but it’s weird if it goes on for too long,” says Jenny, 36.
Cripes, Tulsa, they're still the same age as Grandpa Doug, who's 36. You ever get the feeling we're not exactly the people whom Hugo Boss seeks in his ads anymore? I mean, I'm about ready to bust out of the Hot or Not 26-32 age group. I guess we're getting old.

Man, I can even remember changing fax machine paper rolls. Better hike my Dickies up another couple inches.

(Link seen on Fark. Those damn kids better get off my lawn!)

It's Independence Day, Dammit

Anyone who wishes you a happy Fourth of July misses the point. It's not the calendar date that's important.

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