Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Book Report: The Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese (2002)
I bought this book in a book story in San Francisco last May, or at least I think I did. It's hard to remember what I did in San Francisco, although I do remember it was hilly. I don't specifically remember buying this book, either, but its $4.98 price sticker reminds me of the others I bought there (Jump the Shark, The Action Hero's Handbook, and so on).

This book collects a list of hoaxes throughout history. It started as a dissertation, but turned into an Internet phenonmenon of which I'd never heard. Still, the book is a quick enough glimpse into some of the more foolish things our forebearers have believed, if only briefly. The book offers a number of pointers to the Web site, which kinda irks me; I mean, I bought the damn book, albeit at a reduced price; why not just freaking tell me the story? Oh, because I'm not an ongoing revenue stream as a book purchaser, but as a piece of the ad-price-setting aggregate traffic, I'm worth the effort.

Although I found the book a treasure trove of trivia, I was kinda disappointed on a couple of fronts:
  • The author's political views seep in subtly, but not too badly. Although you couldn't really tell by the way the author excuses Janet Cooke's invention of Jimmy, the eight-year-old heroin addict, whose saga in the Washington Post earned Cooke a Pulitzer by saying, "In a way the story of Jimmy did convey a truth about conditions that existed in many inner-city regions of America, even though it did not actually tell the truth," or concludes the Tawana Brawley fiasco by saying, "More than anything else, the episode and its bitter aftermath displayed the deep racial divides that still haunted American society." Say what you will, but those aren't the conclusions I would make. Previously, the author had lauded some hoaxes from the Enlightenment era as rational men using hoaxes to educate. One could briefly sense he was hoping the Brawley case and the Cooke fictitiousness would enlighten the masses.

  • Also, as the hoax snippets tripped into the later quarter of the last century and beyond, I suddenly realized that the reach of the grand hoax of old has faded, as we're slightly more skeptical. I mean, Bonsai Kitten? Only idiots believed that. So the hoax loses its allure with familiarity.
Still, it's a fair enough read if you've got the time and can get it cheap. But like most non-fiction crossover material from another medium (whether talk radio or the Internet), ultimately it looks more like the shadows on a Platonic wall than a complete whole.

Conservative Opposes Transparency In Government
Owen of Boots and Sabers wants the government to do business behind closed doors.

Face it, someone was going to call him a hypocrite. I just wanted to do it gently, and from a homie.

Marketing Tip
Although I am not a highly-paid marketing professional (I am merely a highly-paid technology professional who works for a marketing company), I'd like to proffer the following tip that might seem like a good idea, if not the obvious:

Pepsi One, Coca-Cola Zero
Pepsi One, Coca-Cola Zero

Never, ever name your product so that, if it's placed side by side with its equivalent product from your competitor, it sounds as though you've just lost a tightly-contested ballgame.

Book Report: Johnny Mnemonic by Terry Bisson (1995)
I bought this book from a garage sale in my eBay days for a quarter. As you know, gentle reader, I don't shy away from novelizations of movies (see also The Enforcer and Desperately Seeking Susan). So I read this book even though I haven't yet seen the movie.

As you might know, it's based on a screenplay by William Gibson based on a short story by William Gibson. Instapundit once repeated a question from Stuart Buck:
    STUART BUCK on the novelization of the Narnia movie: "If you make a movie out of a classic and beloved children's book that has sold millions of copies, why on earth would you want to have someone write a book based on the movie?"
Duh! Because if the original novel sold more copies, the movie studios wouldn't get a cut. But with the synergy of rewriting the source material and releasing it as new, preferably by one of the parent company's subsidiaries, you get an alternate source of revenue for the property. Heck's pecs, I haven't even been to Hollywood and I grok that.

But I digress. This book details the story of a courier with a flash drive (or the 1995 predicted equivalent) wired into his head. A pair of scientists hire the courier to carry a large secret to Newark, but as the upload completes, organized criminals burst in and put the courier on the run. Also, the courier has overextended himself; the scientists uploaded 320 gigabytes (not megabytes), so the overload is beginning to to impair him. He races to Newark looking for his contact, but the organized crime figures are on his tail, driving the courier underground with the Lotek gang and an enhanced but attractive young woman.

It's a quick little cyberpunk book which preceded the mainstreamization of the cyberpunk genre. It's also interesting to read about Johnny Mnemonic, portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the movie, as jacking into the matrix--several years before Reeves jacked into the film that revitalized his career. Many people see this story as a precursor for The Matrix, but that stretches reality a little bit--there's no paranoia fiction aspect to it at all.

A quick read, worth the quarter.

Already Have One, Thanks
Excellent opportunity in the mail yesterday:
    I'd like to talk to you concerning a full or part time management opportunity with my company. Please call me at 636-xxx-xxxx.
                        Thank you,
                        Len De Clue
Come on, if you're looking for suckers, don't insult their intelligence on the first contact. Although, in retrospect, this is probably a good mechanism for vetting leads. If they want you, Len de Clue, they're ripe for the harvest.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
I Don't See That
Neither will anyone else, which makes one wonder what the point is:

SIRIUS Satellite Radio to Launch New Playboy Channel

Guess How The Headline Would Have Differed
for this story: Republicans say they have fixed economy if the legislature or government had been in the hands of Democrats?

Oh, yeah, it would be stacked with numbers and facts about how the economy had improved, instead of merely quotes from Republicans claiming the economy had improved.

But numbers are hard, and aspersively parroting is easy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Private Property Hijacked By Owners
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's headline identifies whose side it comes down on: Casino's parking is hijacked:
    How much is too much to pay to park a car in downtown St. Louis?

    At the very least, it's a bit less than $25, according to the President Casino on the Admiral.

    In an apparent power play over control of the much-disputed "Cherrick" parking lot, its owner has jacked up more than tenfold the price the President pays for customers to use the lot.
So it's the owner hijacking its own property. Well, sort of. As I read the article, the owner wants to squeeze the government-subsidized entertainment venue (the President Casino) into buying the parking garage before the new government-subsidized entertainment venue (the new casino and go-kart track) seizes the property for a "fair" price. Somewhere in there I got confused about the blighted area infighting for the same profitable resource and stopped paying attention.

Which is probably just what they wanted. All the better to rule me.

February Down to 23 Days in Certain St. Louis County Municipalities
You thought eminient domain was bad:

Maplewood-Richmond Heights revises calendar

Pot Calls the Kettle Iron
Pete Townshend Warns IPod Users:
    Guitarist Pete Townshend has warned iPod users that they could end up with hearing problems as bad as his own if they don't turn down the volume of the music they are listening to on earphones.
Surely, it was the headphones, not playing guitar in front of large stacks of amps and monitors for decades.

MfBJN Gets Results
After a post last night (take that, you Johnny-come-latelies like Instapundit and Ace--what am I, chopped liver?), Jack Abramoff dresses differently.

Conspiracy Theory
Rest assured: somewhere, somehow, a crack team of expert conspiracy theorists tonight are finding a way to blame Ariel Sharon's stroke on the Jews.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006
After All I Do To Make It Look Good
Jack Abramoff makes the black trenchcoat and fedora look bad.

Note to self: Continue belt cinched around expanding belly abstinence. Also, don't bribe congressional representatives.

Monday, January 02, 2006
Now That's What I Call A Good Submission Guideline
Writers, take note:
    And don't blow up Cleveland. Somebody's going to need that later on.
The power of the pen is mightier than the neutron bomb.

Book Report: Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1954)
Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister Norma published this book after Ms. Millay died, so its works contain a gamut of the good to the filler material selected from the poet's incomplete or unpublished work. Oddly, the linked Amazon listing says that the first edition is 1949; however, the stated first edition I have has a 1954 copyright. Perhaps Norma was just planning ahead.

I paid $10 for this stated first edition at Hooked on Books in Springfield, and it's a former library book. That said, perhaps it's only worth ten bucks to me, but I've enjoyed Ms. Millay's work since college. Actually, in college I read a great deal of her work and her biographies and whatnot. Early in our relationship, I gave Heather a collection of Millay's sonnets. So let's just establish that I am somewhat biased.

In this volume, Millay's thoughts muse more on death than on love, partially accountable to her advancing age and partially accountable, I would expect, to her sister's selection for poignancy. But Millay can still turn a phrase, and the poems within this volume which are not incisive nor insightful are tolerable, which puts her in an upper league on merely that account. A couple of memorable lines in decent poems scream for quotation, and I'll reread the book in the future and will enjoy it then, too.

So it's probably worth the ten dollars even though I never attended Albernathy High School nor used its library. It's mine now.

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