Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, July 15, 2006
1980s Television Reprise
You know, M*A*S*H isn't as funny now, realizing that 50 years after the war and 25 years after the television show we'd still deal with the unspoken geopolitical implications behind the hijinks.

I Want Their Therapy
Apparently, the producers of have blotted the movie Dirty Dancing from their minds; otherwise, how could they call Eric Carmen a one-hit wonder for his song "All By Myself"?

Oh, they're British.

As if that's some excuse they didn't spend much of the late 1980s suffering through "Make Me Lose Control" on the radio.

My psychiatrist appreciates the difference and is glad I was not born in Leeds.

Suddenly, A San Francisco City Supervisor Is Inspired To Mandate Pet Sitter Licenses
Inspiration here: Don't gobble up slick tricks -- get Fido a pro: It takes more than fake certifications to make a pet sitter:
    So how can you find this trustworthy soul? It makes sense to start with a referral from someone you know and respect, like a friend or veterinarian, preferably someone who has actually used this sitter's services.

    You can also look in the phone book under "Pet Sitting Services" or check with an organization such as the Humane Society, or a local shelter or rescue group. I found a wonderful sitter for my greyhound, Elvis, through the referral program of Golden State Greyhound Adoption. My sole concern has been that sometimes I suspect he prefers her to me.
No doubt the government-solves-everything crowd and the organized pet sitters with organizations and whatnot know that their preferred solution is a license.

Author of the piece identifies some handy due dilligence for selecting a pet sitter in a free marketplace, but caveat emptor can always be solved when you knock out that damn laissez-faire. Both are foreign words anyway, too good for us Americans.

The Secret Of My Success, Revealed!
Why did a hottie take up with a down-on-his-English-degree printing press operator like me?

Because chicks dig sardonic humor and classical allusions, apparently.

Remember, Googlers, when you're trying to figure out how to attract hot women, the answer is read more Shakespeare.

Book Report: And Then She Was Gone by Susan McBride (1999)
I picked this book up at the Kirkwood Book Fair because I recognized the local author's name from the Big Sleep Books, and this book was a First Edition/First Printing. For a dollar. You cannot do wrong, can you?

Well, it's a child snatch book, and although it's not Nightmare in Manhattan, I didn't care for it that much. I'm just not big on that particular plot thing. Perhaps I just don't have the same nightmares as most parents, but I don't have an automatic investment in child snatch books, even if there's the scandalous confrontation of child molestation! It hearkens me back to my single visit to a starting writers' group in my former suburb, where it was me, a couple of "poets," and a number of old ladies all writing books on child molestation. It creeped me out, I kid you not.

The book is a serviceable genre piece, though, and worth a buck if you can find it. It did, however, alert me to Mayhaven Publishing and its annual novel competition. Boy, novel competitions are starting to look good to me as far as publishing my last novel are concerned.

Books mentioned in this review:


Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wherein Brian Scores Two of Twelve
That is, the number of Maxim magazine's 12 Worst Comedians of All Time whose books I have read in the last year (Sinbad and Judy Tenuta).

Of course, now if I see the others' books at book fairs and I remember, I'll probably pick them up so I can complete the set.

Democrats Turn America Around - To The Past
Althouse likes it, but come on. The new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad has the title America Needs a New Direction, but its premise is that it's about turning America around, and the only speaker in the ad is Bill Clinton.

Somehow, Bill Clinton does not represent a new direction, merely a reprise of a time when the world was rosier for Democrats, and they briefly controlled the presidency and the Congress. Before the country began its true change in a new direction (which sort of diverged, but turned parallel, sadly).

Going All Samson
Bush jawbones Hezbollah on Mideast peace issue

Unless he slew them with the jawbone of an ass, I don't see how this verb fits into the characterization of presidential behavior.

Blogging Kismet
On Sunday, I reviewed Stanley Bing's novel Lloyd: What Happened. Today, I got several Google hits for the book title.

It's because CNN is running a piece on him in support of his new nonfiction book 100 Bull---- Jobs ... And How to Get Them.

None of those cheapskates used the Amazon link to buy the novel, though. However will I top my quarterly record of $.08 without the help from some hapless Internet searchers?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
"Level" Means The Finger of Government Is On Your Scale
Somehow, I'm not sure whether the government should be in the business of determining whether cows are happy enough:
    Fears that big operations will muscle out family farms have produced a backlash, including a boycott by the Organic Consumers Association against the country's biggest organic milk brand, Horizon Organic.

    Organic farmers and consumer groups hope the Agriculture Department will level the field. The agency is considering whether to mandate that milk bearing the "USDA Organic" seal come from cows that have significant access to pasture, a move smaller producers say would give them the protection they need.
The whole marketing story used to be that organic junk was better for the consumer, healthier and all that. One would think that corporate economies of scale applied to organics, yielding more healthy consumers, would be a good thing. But not if corporations are involved; then the marketing story switches to more green, cow happiness (which corporations cannot/do not provide):
    Chris Hoffman drank Horizon milk until she learned about the dispute and switched brands. The resident of Sherburne, N.Y., said she'd thought she was buying milk from "family farms with happy cows." To her, feedlot milk does not follow the spirit of organic farming. "I just think it's patently dishonest. And it just really ticked me off," she said.
The spirit of organic farming, apparently, is protectionism, anti-marketism and anti-consumerism, and creation of artificial price floors to support people who thought that working in a niche market with a pricing minimum would pay off and later discovered, to their own financial (greed!) horror, that when their niche became mainstream, it proved to be less lucrative.

It's not about the cows, it's about the cash cows.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Will City of St. Louis Run Mallinckrodt Out Of Town?
Rail manufacturers, tar producers, and chicken plucking futures have just gone up! Explosion injures two Mallinckrodt workers:
    Two employees of Mallinckrodt Inc. suffered minor injuries this morning in a flash fire that occurred while one of them was mixing chemicals.

    St. Louis Fire Department Capt. Steve Simpson said the explosion occurred when dust was ignited, possibly from static electricity. It happened at Building 235 at the Mallinckrodt complex at 3700 N. Broadway at about 10:20 a.m.
Those of us who watched the Praxair accident aftermath (my coverage here, here, and here) have to wonder if Mallinckrodt will suffer the same banishment for the industrial accident, or if there are other criteria which a company meet to draw the ire of the government of the city of St. Louis, such as:
  • Dramatic pyrotechnics the whole neighborhood can see.
  • Live coverage on CNN.
  • Continuous drum-beating by the local daily paper.
  • ?
Either way, if the city doesn't punish the company, it will demonstrate once again the fickle nature of our governments and prove that businesses and citizens exist, live, and do business at the leisure of the regal ruling class.

Missouri Democratic Party to pay $20,000 campaign finance fine:
    The Federal Election Commission has imposed a $20,000 fine on the Missouri Democratic Party for violating federal campaign finance laws during the 2002 election.

    The fine -- part of a negotiated settlement -- comes less than a year after the party paid a separate $110,000 fine to resolve similar allegations from the 2000 election.
Of course, it reflects more on the labyrinth of campaign finance violations that make it an incredibly violation-fraught journey to try to run for political office in this country than actual corruption. Too bad for the Missouri Democrats.

Oddly, Fired Up! Missouri doesn't mention this story.

Monday, July 10, 2006
So What Kind Of Nickname Does He Get?
Packers sign sixth-round pick Jolly:
    The Green Bay Packers signed sixth-round pick Johnny Jolly on Friday.

    The 6-foot-3, 317-pound defensive tackle earned All-Big 12 honors in his junior and senior years at Texas A&M.
If it were hockey, they'd call him "Joller" or something.

Book Report: Stars and Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison (2003)
This book represents the third book in the Stars and Stripes trilogy, but I didn't know that when I threw it in my box at the St. Charles Book Fair. All I knew is what the front cover told me (A Novel of Alternate History, Harry Harrison, and the title), and that was enough for me. I've done a Turtledove in the recent past (Ruled Britannia, reviewed here) and another Harrison novel earlier this year (The Stainless Steel Rat for President, reviewed here), so of course I picked this one up, even though it's an ex-library copy and I would later realize it cost $2.00

The premise of the series: At the onset of the Civil War, Great Britain seizes a Confederate diplomat and unites the Union and the Confederacy into a war against Britain. Apparently the books deal with the initial conflict, subsequent conflict, and finally (this book) an invasion of Britain itself. It's a quick read and stood well enough apart from the others in the series that I was not lost in it.

Unlike Turtledove, this book is pretty straight-ahead action without a lot of reflection or repetitious, almost extraneous character development. On the other hand, it does skip a bit on actual drama and conflict, since the technology and the battle-hardened nature of the American side and its brilliant strategy pretty much ensures that events unfold as planned without significant hinderance from the British.

That simple, almost logical progression not only plays to my jingoist American sensibilities, but also acts as fast forward buttons on the reading.

So I liked the book and wouldn't mind reading the others in the series, but let's face it: I'll try not to pay $2.00 for ex-library editons in the future. Unless the book fair bug strikes again.

Books mentioned in this review:


Sunday, July 09, 2006
Book Report: Big Trouble by Dave Barry (1999)
This is Dave Barry's first novel and the source for the 2002 film, so of course I bought it when it was available from the St. Charles County Book Fair for $2.00. I've been meaning to see the movie, too, but now I can compare it to the book, unfavorably no doubt.

As Dave Barry works with Carl Hiaasen (Book reports: Strip Tease, Skinny Dip, and Basket Case), one could expect that the absurdist crime caper bacterium would contaminate the works of the normally serious Mr. Barry. And so it has. The book is full of oddball characters, strange coincidences, and other contrivances that make the work funny. It's not serious fiction, so it's good camp and high fun. Or vice versa.

I need to start pitching my books to agents as in the style of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry. I'll just have to be more careful to spell their names and book titles correctly. If you've clicked through those Hiaasen reviews, gentle reader, you'll note I've misspelled both in various places.

Books mentioned in this review:


What, you think I mention other books just to get the links on the front page of my blog? I am shocked, shocked at the accusation! But it's a new quarter, and I'm hoping to break my new record for quarterly referral kickbacks of $.08.

Because It's A Literary List, That's Why
Kim du Toit presents a list of his favorite short stories. While not a true "best of" list, compulsion to convince you, gentle reader, that I have read some things has lead me to reproduce this list with the items I have read highlighted with bold font: Short stories are harder to recollect than novels if you've merely read them in passing, as part of a survey course, or as part of a collection or anthology.

I'd also like to point out that I have a collection of Guy de Maupassant on my to-read shelves, so at some time, this personally annotated list will be more impressive.

Of all those I've read, I'd have to say that the "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is probably my favorite, and I've sort of got the idea for a story that has it in a twist of sorts. Sort of a combination of that and O. Henry's A Retrieved Retribution.

But that's neither here nor there.

So how well would you hold a conversation with Mr. du Toit on his favorite stories?

Book Report: Lloyd What Happened by Stanley Bing (1998)
I used to read Stanley Bing's column in Fortune magazine in 1996-1997, back when I was making $15,000 to $20,000 a year but was thinking big. It's also before Fortune magazine and everyone in the Time stable started unscrupulously sending out magazine subscription forms disguised as invoices or shipping Sports Illustrated calendars, payment due, to anyone who entered their contests. So while my appreciation for all things Time-Warner fell to the disdain level, my fondness for Stanley Bing did not.

So when I saw this ex-library hardback at the St. Charles Book Fair, I said what the heck, and I picked it up for two dollars. It's a satirical, slightly humorous look at life in the higher echelons of a multinational conglomorate. Lloyd, an executive vice president or some such, is a man with a title but no department who becomes the special envoy between the corporation and its parent as it begins to trim headcount in preparation for an acquisition. In addition to prose, the application includes relevant slide show presentations and graphs to illustrate Lloyd's lifestyle relative to what it was when he began his career and how it was when he began the year captured in the book. In between business deals, navigating the literally and figuratively murderous world of scheming underlings and scheming overlords, Lloyd must deal with the temptations of a fiery vice president who's available to a man of his obvious charisma.

Still, all temptations of the flesh and the power aside, the main character is a bit of a cipher; other characters explain how he fills a room, but that doesn't come off of the page nor out of the mind of the character. Perhaps that's intentional from Bing, a kind of representation of how even the most charismatic can fill out their interior lives with doubts. As I'm not particularly charismatic, you could easily convince me this is the interior life of more affable people, and I'll let Bing get away with it. Because in spite of his self-doubts and cloddish behavior, Lloyd gets a redemption of sorts, unlike Brandon Sladder (from The Columnist by Jeffrey Frank, reviewed here). So the good will in the overall story of the book and its non-American Beauty ending, coupled with the palatable satire, carried me along through the book.

It was an entertaining book, but it might have run a couple or fifty pages too long. Sometime in the turn beyond the 200 page mark, I started wondering where it was going, and then it wrapped up somewhat abruptly, but perhaps that's appropriate given the semi-absurdity of its ending. It's an enjoyable book, and I recommend it as not only humorous story, which it is, but also as an inspiration for some people ascending the corporate ladders. Sure, it's satire, but it's also human in that it shows that people in power, in the apex of their fields, still suffer from the existential angst when they wonder if that's all there is. I can appreciate that, and it's comforting.

Books mentioned in this review:


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