Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Enthusiasm, Tempered
Charles Krauthammer, "Why I Love Australia":
    God, I love Australia. Where else do you have a shadow health minister with such, er, starch? Of course I'm prejudiced, having married an Australian, but how not to like a country, in this age of sniveling grubs worldwide, whose treasurer suggests to any person who "wants to live under sharia law'' to try Saudi Arabia and Iran, "but not Australia.'' He was elaborating on an earlier suggestion that "people who ... don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off.'' Contrast this with Canada, historically and culturally Australia's commonwealth twin, where last year Ontario actually gave serious consideration to allowing its Muslims to live under sharia law.
Meanwhile, Australia, the beloved, features strict gun control and sword control policies. Let's not forget that while we laud the plucky Australians for their collective spine.

UPDATE: I'm Not Answering The Door, Either
In this post, I explain why random events outside of the home make me afraid to leave my house. Now, thanks to Ace, I have a new irrational fear:
    Knock, knock.
    Who's there?

    Ali who?
Jeez, folks, dial my number from your cellular phone when you're on my porch, otherwise, I'll think you're coming to give me the death roll in my own front yard.

Friday, June 23, 2006
One Man's Property Is Another Man's Property, If That Other Man Is The State and The First Man Is Annoying
Over at Boots and Sabers, Owen applauds the lowering of the threshold at which the government can seize property from individuals: if it's annoying. Owen says:
    This could be a good idea.
Wherein "this" is this:
    Frustrated by a weekend cruising ritual that gridlocks intersections and gobbles up officers' time, some Milwaukee leaders are pushing for new tools to fight the problem, boosting fines and letting police seize cars by declaring them a "nuisance."
Geez, maybe I'm just a jack, maybe it's just because I'm young enough to remember engaging in car-seizure yielding nuisance behavior--whether playing my car stereo too loud or getting into a car with friends to ride around on a Friday night-- or maybe I just don't want the government to seize private property based on a subjective call of one of its functionaries, but I think it's a really, really bad idea to keep lowering the bar for reasons why the government can take your property. And a nuisance crime isn't it.

Unfortunately, Owen doesn't elaborate on how high a lawn would have to get before the government could take a house--but it's a nuisance when neighbors let their lawns go to seed. It's a matter of degree, not a matter of kind, that prevents the government from doing so once we've allowed the State to start stripping property based on arbitrary and subjective judgments of "nuisance."

To allow this abuse of government power because it punishes that which annoys you leaves you no sympathy and no quarter when the government wants to take something from you because you've annoyed someone else.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Book Report: Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker (2006)
Because of who is he and what he meant to my youth, I bought this book like all other Robert B. Parker novels at full price, in hardcover, when it became available. Because it's a Sunny Randall novel, though, I didn't immediately read it right away. Heather actually read it first, which meant she could duly be impressed when I verbally anticipated plot points when they became obvious.

A serviceable piece of genre work, this book combines elements of the Parker books Looking for Rachel Wallace, Stardust, and Double Play and almost channels Lupica's Full Court Press. And although it channeled the books, it didn't completely retread them, so there you go. Sorry, that's a Robert Crais catch phrase, not "We'd be fools not to," the Robert B. Parker catch phrase.

Serviceable, worth a couple of bucks, but it's not as deep nor satisfying as Parker's other work, but I'm not as young as I once was, either, so perhaps I'm just more demanding or less in need of moral instruction.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Normal Day Until
Sure, it's a normal day enough day. You rushed through breakfast, kissed your wife on the cheek quickly, and were thinking more about the day ahead than passing over the interstate when suddenly a backhoe on the back of a flatbed on the interstate below cuts the overpass in half.

Okay, that took place at night and apparently didn't have any fatalties, but that's how suddenly and stupidly your life could end. A plane skids off the runway, a truck topples over and rolls off of the exit ramp, and good night. It's no wonder I don't want to leave my house.

Have a nice day.

If Only This Story Had Been In The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
If only this headline would have been in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Woman bitten by dog is in coma.

Because verbs are so much more expensive in the south, the St. Louis daily would have simply gone with Woman bitten by dog in coma, and oh, the fun I would have had. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel can afford the extra two characters' worth of ink, and my world is less mirthful on account of it.

Scope Creep
Highway Patrol can't probe most deaths of mentally ill:
    Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared last week that the Highway Patrol would be told of every death and assault in a state mental health facility, but the patrol says it doesn't have the manpower to investigate a majority of those cases.

    "We don't have those types of resources," said Capt. Chris Ricks, the Missouri Highway Patrol's spokesman.
One would assume that it's because most of those deaths were not, you know, on highways.

Why is this a story?
    The acknowledgment came a week after a Post-Dispatch investigation found failures in every level of a system that is supposed to ensure the Department of Mental Health and police adequately investigate allegations of mistreatment of mentally retarded and mentally ill residents.
Because the Post-Dispatch wants to keep up a crusade and maybe get a journalism prize or something.

And if it has to further empower state law enforcement, who cares? The story of overreaching government authority, that's a story--and a new outrage for media to discover and cover--for another day.

Why did the dog want 15 tons of asphalt and a steam roller?

He wanted to pave paradise and put up a barking lot!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Mail Order Bride Community Up In Arms
Leaders: Broad Immigration Bill Unlikely

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Carbondale Vandalism Blamed on "Visitors"
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville have reported that over $100,000 vandalism has occurred in the last several years in Carbondale, but are quick to pin the tail on someone other than the students in the area:
    Campus Police Chief Todd Sigler says vandalism and other cases of damage haven't noticeably spiked over the past several years. And he says he believes that not all damage to property is criminal or caused by students, suggesting that visitors may be responsible for some of the problem.
Those "visitors" have, no doubt, been known to be aggressive and elusive -- capable of moving up to 35 mph -- with anyone who gets too close.

No dollar figure was cited related to the damage caused by police firing willy-nilly on flightless "visitors" to the campus.

Inauthentic Without Homeless People
From this recent column by Sylvester Brown, Jr., for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we get the following stunning insight:
    His comment reminded me of a call I received from Erin Earley, 46, who had attended the recent Rib America Festival downtown.

    "I've been going for eight years and have really enjoyed it. But this year, it took a real turn," Earley, who described herself as Irish, told me.

    "There were few people of color, no blues or R&B acts, just bad rock 'n' roll bands. They also charged a $3 cover for some unknown reason. I wondered if a white people's 'Da Vinci Code' had been put in place," Earley said, suggesting that event planners had sent subtle messages to keep the homeless and people of color away.
A priori assumptions:
  • Rib America is somehow less authentic without homeless people.

  • The same signals work on homeless people as on people of color.
Well, if that statement, with its set of a priori assumptions, doesn't express what's wrong with race relations today, I don't know what does.

Monday, June 19, 2006
Lord Stanley's Cup Travels to Southeast For Summer, Again
Egads, for a second time in a row, the National Hockey League Stanley Cup is awarded to a team in the Southeastern United States (Tampa Bay then, North Carolina now) over a Canadian team (Calgary then, Edmonton now). It's an affront to the sport that places that don't care about it triumph over teams in places where kids actually play pick-up games of it.

Rankles me almost to the point that I'd run away and join the hockey, which is the nearest thing Canada has to a military these days. But like other chickenwingers, I'm just going to complain about it and not do anything. Because I cannot skate backwards.

Emu Update: The Carbondale Police Have Reloaded
A new nugget of fact in this story about the Carbondale Emu:
    Police are searching for the bird's owner.
He or she had better not act aggessive or elusive--running up to 35 mph (in short bursts, as Grygrx pointed out)--otherwise it's skybusting time on the ground.

Fortunately, though, the ultimate pet is the ultimate protector:

Bulletproof Emu

Well, honestly, he wasn't exactly bulletproof. Just really, really hard to bring down.

(More on the Carbondale Emu here and here.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006
Book Report: Vespers by Ed McBain (1990)
As you know, I have glutted myself on cheap book club editions of Ed McBain books at book fairs throughout the St. Louis area this spring. I bought this one for a dollar at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, much like the others I've read recently Poison and Ice. As the 1990 entry, this book takes place two novels after Poison.

The main plot deals with the murder of a priest in a small, rundown church in a small, rundown neighborhood. Carella and Hawes have their hands full trying to decipher from among the myriad stories and possibilities. Was it a drug dealer who had hidden drugs in the church? Was it the neighborhood toughs? Was it the local Satanist church, or perhaps someone who was carnally involved with the priest?

Main subplot deals with Marilyn Hollis, introduced in Poison, who has to deal with her dark past as two men associated with her Argentinian pimp who've come back for money, for vengeance, for subplot reasons.

This book comes from the time where I started contemporaneously reading McBain; once I started reading his work, I started with some of the older books, of which there were plenty; after this point, I started reading them as they came out. I don't recollect reading this one, but I remember how immediate the characters were and how they aged and evolved in realish time for me after this.

Of course it's a good book, and I'd recommend it for some light suspense/mystery/police procedural reading. But you, gentle reader, know if the blog post title says "by Ed McBain" or "by John D. MacDonald," you're in for some sloppy kissing on my part. Consider this installment done, but for the gratuitous links to Amazon by which if you should click through and buy one of the titles, I can make pennies!

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Existentialism and Human Emotions by Jean-Paul Sartre (1957)
I first read this book as an impressionable freshman in college, in one of those "I could be in Biology class, or I could be in the vast college library" moments. So when I saw a paperback copy at a book fair and had already paid for the bag, of course I picked it up again. Because let's face it, like many Existential works, it's thin and it's deep.

I can see now (because I paid a little more attention to the copyright page and I've picked up a little more insight into Existentialism in the intervening 16 years) that this book is not a standalone work nor a mere collection of essays, but a union of a basic defense of Existentialism and freedom from Existentialism and a couple of shorter topical sections from Being and Nothingness.

Frankly, I find it odd that the thing is entitled Existentialism and Human Emotions, as I'm not really sure where the emotions come in. True, the first portion deals with the essential emotional descriptions of Existentialism as anguish, forlorness, and despair, and how these starting points for Existentialism don't necessarily mean that Existentialism leads to a bleak person even if the starting point is bleak.

I can see how this book hooked me into Existentialism as I completed my first passes through the Ayn Rand canon. The definition of freedom and the concept of man continually inventing himself within the context of his available choices appealed to me. I think Sartre gets a little screwy when he starts saying that when you choose your action, you choose for all of mankind, and that the subjective experience really triumphs over objective reality. I agree with Ayn Rand that there's a subjective consciousness perceiving an objective reality, and hence that some things do exceed outside of the subjective, and some of those things can include ethics and whatnot.

I didn't care much for the second part from the book, which comes from Being and Nothingness. I've tried once or twice to read Sartre's master work, but I think it's a bit self-consciously and maybe even purposefully dense. It's hard for me to get into the prose, much less to keep the relationship between the prose and relationships straight. Much of the excerpted that appears in this book deals with psychoanalysis, so I didn't get too much into it, but I could tell that the difference between psychoanalysis and Existentialist psychoanalysis is the Existentialist rejection of the unknowable unconsciousness.

So there you have it; this gateway to Existentialism is half good and half Being and Nothingness, but worth a little time if you're looking for something short 'n' deep to read.

Books mentioned in this review:

Finally, A Forum For Me
The Fedora Lounge.

Finally, a reason for the Internet.

(Link seen on the sidebar of The Confidentials, a Milwaukee blog I got two of my first fedoras at Donge's on 3rd Street, werd.)

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