Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, September 17, 2005
A Failed Google Search Leads To Hollywood Rumormonging
calvin and hobbes xxx

Who else could follow in the footsteps of Vin Diesel and Ice Cube but a young, tow-haired boy and his imaginary tiger?

Because I cringe at speculation about what else that particular searcher was seeking.

Book Review: The World of Raymond Chandler edited by Miriam Gross (1978)
I paid $4.95 for this book at Downtown Books in Milwaukee one weekend when I accumulated a number of biographical pieces about Raymond Chandler. (See also my report on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe earlier this year.)

Perhaps this book could better be called The England of Raymond Chandler; twenty years after his death, it collects a few essays but a number of interviews and memories from people who met him in England in the year or so before he died. Perhaps I only think that because the book's longest piece, "His Own Long Goodbye" by Natasha Spender, chronicles in excruciating detail the shape he was in in London in the late 1950s and how the writer of the piece and her friends helped him survive England. All right, it's probably accurate in its detail of his failing health, his end-of-life melancholy and suicidal tendencies, but it's not what I wanted to dwell on about Chandler.

Some of the essays do discuss Marlowe and the evolution of Chandler's writing and his storied past, so it's worth it if you're a big fan of the man, but to the casual reader who likes hard-boiled mysteries, it's a bust.

Friday, September 16, 2005
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful
The beauty products from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners:
    A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.

    Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss about".
Come on, fill in your own tag lines. Soylent Morning Rose people!

Thursday, September 15, 2005
Book Report: TV Superstars '83 by Ronald W. Lackmann (1983)
Yes, I am a grown man, but I read this Weekly Reader book some two decades after its expiration date and about two decades after I should have stopped reading Weekly Reader books--heck, I am sure by 1983 I was out of Weekly Reader books and was probably already into Agatha Christie or thereabouts, but I justify my reading on the following:
  1. It's short and counts as a whole book.

  2. It's chock full of trivia about things everyone else has forgotten.

  3. The rest of the damn world feels perfectly comfortable reading a series of books published by Scholastic, so why shouldn't I read something by Weekly Reader?
The book's what you'd expect: a piece of fluff-and-puff written by early eighties PR flacks, talking about all of their clients' beginnings. Performers who played nice characters were exactly like the characters they played; performers who played the villians were nothing like the characters they played. Everyone got starts in summer stock, doing the same plays for different community theaters until their big breaks. However, only one lists a rather racy film in her repetoire. Perhaps her publicist also included The Bitch, but the author couldn't print the bad word.

Most of the superstars of 1983 television have faded to ephemera, many of their television shows unremembered. Peter Barton, featured on the cover, was in The Powers of Matthew Star. Byron Cherry was Coy Duke in that one forgotten season when Tom Wopat and John Schneider walked off of the set of The Dukes of Hazard. Most of the shows from 1983 producing this crop of superstars lasted one or two seasons. Hopefully, the superstars had good financial planners, or else some of them are panhandling in California even now.

Who could have foreseen, deep in Reagan's first term, that the superstars who would have "careers" would include Scott Baio, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Tony Danza?

Regardless, I found the book slightly interesting and will retain some of its trivia for use in future North Side Mind Flayers matches. Also, the book held some geneology secrets for me, as some rumor has it that I am related distantly, through a series of failed marriages, to Phillip and Nancy McKeon--both of whom were superstars in 1983 and perhaps even the spring of 1984.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
New Studies Refute Dr. Martin
New studies indicate that love is, in fact, a sixties-style action show judo chop to the back of the neck.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
New Heights in Senatorial Inquisition Rhetoric
Herb "The Helmet" Kohl stands upon the shoulders of giants during the Roberts confirmation hearings when he echoes philosopher William Martin Joel during a harangue.

Semator Kohl:
    Justice, after all, may be blind, but it should not be deaf.
Billy Joel, from the video for "Keeping the Faith" ca 1983-1984:
    Your honor, they say justice is blind, but I sure hope it ain't deaf.
(Quote first seen on Ann Althouse.)

Monday, September 12, 2005
The Devil You Know
Oh, sure, some tech snobs liken Bill Gates and Microsoft to The Devil and the AntiChrist, but face it, you pasty-legged, Macintosh-huffing zone dweebie, when Steve Jobs introduces the iPodPeople, a music player with the ability to download music, photos, OnStar service, debit card, and other software protected by GUID and DRM which you can implant directly into your freaking head, you'll line up around the block for the outpatient surgery.

And feel good that you're helping overturn the Microsoft hegemony.

Book Report: American Diplomacy 1900-1950 by George F. Kennan (1960)
I read this book, its ninth printing from 1960, starting in February. I got bogged down around the time where Mr. Kennan began discussing what to do about the Soviet Union since I know how it turned out, but I buckled down and finished it last week.

The book starts with a brief recap of some of America's oversights and missteps in foreign policy in the first half of the twentieth century, including the Spanish American War, missteps in China and the Orient (which is what they called Asia until 1960 or so), World War I, and World War II. It also proffers some plans for how to deal with the Soviet Union, including a brief history of Russian communism and its relationship to the native population.

Wow, it's an intelligent book written by someone with a slightly different point of view, but I never felt like throwing the book. Perhaps I've spent too much time in the contemporary slums of political thought, but at no point did Kennan offend me with his politics. He explains his logic and frames his arguments on historical fact and his interpretation of him. One suspects one could have a discussion about the policies of containment versus confrontation without raising one's voice--or maybe one could, if one remembered how gentlemen did it.

However, as a lifelong diplomat (and future ambassador to the Soviet Union), Kennan's approach sees diplomacy as the end-all, be-all of international relations. As such, he would prefer that military force only be used at the behest of the diplomats and only as a sort of mailed-gauntlet slap at an international cocktail party. Undoubtedly, he would fit into the sort of philosophy that perplexes Mark Helprin:
    f you must go to war, do not do so hesitantly, with half a heart.
Instead, the stiffening of sinews and making like tigers might offend Kennan's sensibilities or protocols of restraint, but that's the nature of war. It is a last resort, it is very bad, and it must be prosecuted to its end.

Kennan argues passionately for engagement and containment with the Soviet Union, which ultimately worked to end communism. However, one must ask upon reviewing Kennan's lessons from this book, originally a series of lectures, can we apply these lessons and these techniques to current rivals or enemies--China and non-stated organizations formed around radical Islam and other aggrieved groups. I would hesitate in trying, for the Soviet Union was a Western power, based in Western thought and philosophy, which we can easily understand. Modern and future opponents are not.

Oh, and if you're wondering, I bought the book for a quarter at some yard sale or estate sale in the midterm past (probably after 2000). Occasionally I do try to elevate myself through reading, and this book helped.

Bucci Joins the Ranks of Cat Bloggers
See for yourself.

Government Entities, Claiming Poverty, Spend Money in Attempt to Get More Money
Schools fear 'tax giveaway':
    "This is so complicated that a lot of people will not get it," said Patrick Lanane, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for the Lindbergh School District in St. Louis County.

    "Be careful, be quick or you will miss one of the most important tax giveaways that will happen in a person's lifetime," Lanane said. He and others believe that some outstate school districts are getting far more state aid than they deserve.
Thank you, Mr. Lanane, for looking out for the interests of taxpayers. No, wait, pardon my while cynicism realism settles in: You're not afraid that these other school districts are getting too much; you're afraid that your district isn't getting as much as you think it deserves.

But never fear, our government officials are on the case:
    School and business leaders in the St. Louis region feel so strongly that they have begun a campaign to raise $100,000 to pay for studies of the accuracy of assessments in 10 counties, said Glenn Koenen, of the West County Chamber of Commerce. The studies would be completed early next year.
Raising that money to educate students? You forget the purpose of government, citizen, which is to get more money for government, even if it's from a higher government and its gains are at the expense of other governments in outstate Missouri.

(Link submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Monday Morning Reading
The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security

To which I would add a seventh: Biometric identifiers. Sure, it does price some timid criminals out of the market of cybercrime, but it also increases the risk to the innocent or the protected. After all, whereas the serious criminal who really, really wants to get in only had to guess your passwords and PINs, now he or she needs your body part.

(Link seen on /..)

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Deferred Debut of the Packer Flag
I know, you all expected that today would mark the day of the Packer flag's annual debut.

But not on September 11, brother; my flag brace holds a different flag today.

I won't forget.

Cheaper Than Eminent Domain
Look out, Crestwood: a private consultant hired by the city has told the city that it has to renovate a privately-owned mall or lose tax revenue. Of course, he couched it in waivers and wherefores, but what do you think the local government heard?
    While he proposes redevelopment, Melaniphy [the consultant] doesn't advise Crestwood on whether the city should use public funds for the project. That's something the city and Westfield will have to iron out, he said. "If financial assistance can be used to keep a Macy's or a big anchor store, the board should at least listen and see if we can accommodate that," Robinson [Crestwood's Mayor]said.
Translation: The government should use tax dollars to ensure that it continues receiving tax dollars. Serve the citizens? No, modern government serves itself first.

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