Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Book Report: The Wealthy Writer by Michael Meanwell (2004)
I got this book as part of the "You Get This Many Books and the Writers Market for $20 (plus shipping and handling" deal from Writer's Digest Books, and since I've lost the receipt, I cannot amortize for you the exact cost of this book, but it probably wasn't worth it to me.

The cover and blurb say it's The Wealthy Writer: How to Earn a Six-Figure Income As a Freelance Writer (No Kidding!), but it's really more How to Run a Successful Business Whose Product Happens to Be Writing Services. Its chapters cover the business aspects of becoming a successful business writer, providing marketing copy for corporations. While that is indeed a mechanism for making a living as a writer (and a comfortable living), it's not really writing in the artistic sense.

Because, face it, I made a living as a technical writer at one time, and it wasn't ultimately satisfying in the creation sense of the word. I'd hoped for some silver bullet of a book that would make me a disciplined writer who could sell stories and essays to magazines and books to publishers. Instead, it's the same hustle to make a buck, build a clientele, and whatnot that I've read dozens of times over in any small business owner book, but it's recursive in nature because you're doing the normal promotional pitching and marketing not only for yourself, but as someone who will do the same for clients.

So perhaps it's a good primer if you've not read this sort of thing before, but I have. Truth be told, I read a book in high school with a title like How to Make $17,000 a Year as a Freelance Writer ultimately geared to my particular jones which inspired me and encouraged me more than this book. I should note, however, that neither have overcome my inertia and addiction to Sid Meier video games and simply reading to turn me into a writer who earns anything a year.

Made with Real Babies
Man, who knew they could puree so smoothly?

Made with Real Babies?

Man, yogurt for babies. Baby vomit that requires no interaction on the part of babies' actual digestive systems. And unlike other yogurts which are made from industrial foundry by-products, this stuff is all organic.

One expects the companion product is Yo Mama.

(See also Made with Real Koalas.)

Perfect for "My-Time"
Camo Sleepwear for Women.

I would love ya if I could find ya, baby.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Man Watches Olympic Women's Short Program Figure Skating, Reluctantly and Somewhat Wistfully
You know, if Victoria's Secret started stocking some of those figure skaters' costumes, I'm sure they'd sell some.

Because surely I'm not the only person in America who might be interested in a little game of The Beautiful but Fading Aging Figure Skater at Her Last Olympics and the Corruptible French Judge.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Book Report: Under the Grammar Hammer by Douglas Cazort (1997)
I bought this book for $5.98 at the Barnes and Noble in Ladue around the turn of the year. You know how it goes; you've got a $25 gift card, so you try to stretch it on the bargain books and end up with $53 in a dozen books on the to-read shelves.

I picked this book because its title implies a certain ruthlessness which, as a reputed grammarian, I should appreciate. However, it just enumerates 25 common, obvious, and high-risk grammar errors and how to avoid them. I read the lists, read the supplemental material, scanned the cartoons, and mostly ignored the grammar examples. The rules I break I do so on my own account, not because I don't know what I'm doing.

It's a thin little book, a read for one sitting much like Strunk and White, but it doesn't have the depth of the masterwork. Also, it ends with an afterword that speaks of removing some of the rules of grammar, which sort of subverts the point of the book. I won't disagree with the afterword, as I have my reasons as a writer for sometimes not putting in commas where they're needed or sometimes leaving them outside of the quotation marks around the titles of short fiction and whatnot (see also my predilection for the European style here, as my beautiful grammarian wife has already noted).

Still, it's a worthwhile read if you're a mere mortal writer (like most of you) and even worthwhile as a reminder of your superiority (like some of us). Worth $6? Depends upon what sort of down payment you need upon your grammatical dominance.

No Marches For Her
Because she wasn't killed by police: Elderly woman struck and killed by car:
    An 85-year-old woman was fatally injured Monday evening when she was struck by a car while walking across the street in the 4500 block of Arsenal Street, near Lackland Avenue, St. Louis police said. Louise Dodenhof, who lived in the 3100 block of Portis Avenue, died at 9:52 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

All The Cool Cats Are Doing It

Ajax Podcatting

Calico Monkey Update
The Web Phenomenon continues.

Book Report: Collected Stories by Franz Kafka (1993)
My beautiful wife gave me this book for Christmas in 2004 because I'd admitted to not having read "The Metamorphosis". Well, thanks to her intervention, I cannot claim that. I've also read 400+ pages of Kafka's non-"Metamorphosis" work, and that's no small price to pay for having missed a pivotal short story in the Czech canon.

As some of you might recall, I have some reservations about reading translations because I assume that I don't get everything out of the language that the author put into it. For example, in the Kafka story "The Burrow", I must doubt that the term for the smaller animals as "small fry" comes directly from the Czech.

Also, I'll point out I'm not a fan of Eastern European literature or maybe any European literature from east of the English Channel. In addition to the language barrier, I don't really groove on the bleak, bureaucracy-rules-all worldview that the books tend to embrace. Although, as a liberative, I think our society is trending in that direction, I don't want to read about those things. I want to read a little about how life can be. Perhaps that's too much the influence of Ayn Rand's romanticism.

Some of the stories in the collection are engaging; "The Metamorphosis", "In the Penal Colony", "A Hunger Artist", and maybe, to be charitable, "The Burrow". However, with any roll-up volume, you get padding material, and most of the stuff in this volume seem like that. Many stories are five paragraphs or fewer, with no discernable character development or plotline. Slice of life material at best, but not really worth reading. Of course, some of the stories really hammer home eurobleakism, so maybe they're worthwhile to some people.

As I read this volume, I wondered if the twentieth century marked the point where high art became more and more inaccessible. I'll be frank, some of the stories I had to muscle through ("Investigations of a Dog") I had to muscle through, and I couldn't even force myself through ("Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk"). Aside from the stories I read above, I didn't really get into any of the stories and didn't really get much out of them. I suspect I couldn't enjoy the beauty of the stories in their original language, if that's what makes these stories worthwhile, but the plots nor characters don't draw the reader in, so the greatness of Kafka lies in....something. But academics have told us he's great, and they've spent their time and energy explaining how great he is. Perhaps his greatness, to their eyes, lies in the fact that normal people cannot recognize his greatness and his academic acolytes must interpret his greatness for the common man. Or perhaps I'm just keen on dinging the people who took the easy way out with their English degrees.

So the book made me better in that I can claim now to have read the complete works, or at least the collected "stories" of Franz Kafka, but it took a long time and some effort to reach those bragging rights. All reading is good and consumption of all ideas is good (note consumption of is not adherence to or acceptance of), but you might better serve yourself to reading only the heavily-anthologized stories of Kafka.

But thanks, honey. It's a handsome edition.

Eureka, Missouri, Eminent Domains Neighboring Town
Contrary to claims of Kelo backlash, Missouri municipalities continue their plans for land seizure and redistribution unabashed. In the latest news, the city of Eureka has annexed Allenton and will raze it for commercial development:
    But most of that will be gone soon - not just Janet's Barber Shop, but most of Main Street, as the core of this one-time farm and railroad community is bulldozed to make way for a 1,000 acre project that includes 1,200 houses and a shopping center. The $539 million Eureka South I-44 Redevelopment also would include parks and land for at least one school and a new Eureka recreation center. The city annexed the Allenton area, directly south of Interstate 44 from Six Flags, several years ago.

    The Eureka Board of Aldermen is expected to vote tonight to approve a redevelopment agreement that will allow the project to proceed. The agreement allows the use of eminent domain, if needed. Two weeks ago, complaints prompted the board to postpone a vote to give the residents more time to negotiate with the developers. At the time, Eureka officials estimated that only ten of the dozens of property owners had not signed sales contracts.
Ten of dozens. Which means possibly as many as 10 of 24 (42%) or maybe 10 of 36 (28%). But who cares about the right to private property, as long as the city of Eureka gets more tax revenue to feed its ever-growing gluttonous appetite.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Monday, February 20, 2006
A Talent for Pork
One more reason I am not voting for Jim Talent next election: he brings home the bacon.
    Just north of St. Louis, the nation's two largest rivers merge at a spot that few people visit.

    That may be about to change.

    On Monday, Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., announced plans to introduce a bill that would provide a special federal designation for the 200-square-mile area around the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers that would be known as the Confluence National Heritage Corridor.

    "This is an extraordinary natural landmark and this designation is long overdue," said Talent, of suburban St. Louis.

    The designation seeks federal funding for several conservation, heritage and recreational attractions that are part of an organization called Confluence Greenway.
Talent's legacy:
  • Turned the Arch pink.
  • That Sudafed Protection bill he co-sponsored with DiFi.
  • The Confluence National Heritage Boondoggle.
And I thought it made a difference when I helped unseat Jean Carnahan.

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