Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Book Report: The World's Most Infamous Crimes and Criminals (1987)
I'm not even sure any more where I bought this book. It clocks in at over 700 pages, friends, and it took me almost three weeks to read. As a matter of fact, I had to take a break in the middle of it to read I Ought To Be In Pictures when I was getting depressed from all the stories of murder and mayhem.

First off, I'd like to say that this collection is one of the most poorly edited and produced books I've come across in some time. A cheap edition published in Great Britain, this book features gritty paper, a cover that's close enough to a pizza box in quality to merit the comparison, pages cut by a dull blade, and partially washed out ink in many places. Additionally, the editing job was poor; many sidebar two-paragraph anecdotes inserted to break up sections actually retold the stories of incidents and crimes told elsewhere in the book. In the case of Black Bart, an old West stagecoach robber, he has his own named section in one chapter and, later in the chapter, is recounted as a part of a section about the most notorious Western robbers. By "is recounted," I mean the same seven or eight paragraphs appear twice in the same chapter, separated by only a handful of pages. This book definitely doesn't represent an academic or thoughtful work in any sense of the imagination. It's completely a case of slapping together a large number of pruriently-interesting things and hoping to make as much from them as possible.

Still, it contains quite the compendium of famous, infamous, and trivial crimes of murder, genocide, fraud, theivery, and whatnot. The first couple hundred pages focus on mass murderers and genocidal tyrants, which led to my distaste to which I alluded. It did, however, give me a little historical perspective on the "disproportionate" and violent doings of the Western military, particularly the American and Israeli militaries, in the last 100 years. I mean, come on, the Huns and the Khans and the Ottomans were capable of real genocide, not having small units go nuts or ordnance going errant. When we lose perspective on what animal mankind really is, I guess it's easy to think that our civilization isn't better than the worst man has to offer.

Is the book a worthwhile read? Well, if you're looking for macabre trivia--and who isn't? But take plenty of breaks to retain your perspective that all of mankind isn't like this book depicts.

Books mentioned in this review:

Driving While Black Republican
Akin rival arrested on traffic warrants:
    On Monday night, Parker had just finished staking campaign signs on private property near Highway 40 in St. Charles County when he was pulled over by a state trooper who questioned what Parker was doing near the road.

    When the officer later did a check on the candidate's drivers license, he discovered that Parker had two arrest warrants for unresolved traffic violations in St. Louis County. Parker was briefly taken into police custody and released after paying a pair of $100 bonds, according to court documents.
So this has all the trappings of a racial profiling sort of stop, and the Post-Dispatch's activism is muted. Because the target is a Republican, or because the target himself is avoiding the obvious?
    Parker, already considered a long shot to unseat Akin, issued an apologetic statement after being asked about the arrest on Friday.

    "I very much regret that this incident may detract, in these last few days, from the issues I have been stressing in this campaign," Parker said in a statement.
    "I understand, that as an elected official, no one person is above the law," Parker said.
Sounds like the reasoned response of someone we'd want to elect. I haven't seen the full statement (it's not on his Web site), but I hope it's as apologetic and appropriate as the paper makes it sound. Not accusatory, not avoiding responsibility, just explanatory and humble.

UPDATE: Representative Parker has sent me his complete statement, posted here.

Mmmm, Underbelly
Novelist emerges from cult status writing about underbelly of Ozarks:
    A few hollows and half a universe south of Laura Ingalls Wilder's last little house, you'll find Daniel Woodrell.

    In this author's world, Pa cooks meth and Ma sits by the potbelly with unwashed hair, her mind "broke." The three young ones pretty much fend for themselves.

    There's no sunshiny morning or easy redemption in these Missouri hills. No tender stories of life's travails eased by kindly neighbors or a loving Savior.

    Although Woodrell's characters share traditions with hardscrabble Ozark folks of lore, his stories probably aren't going to grab the "Little House on the Prairie" or "Shepherd of the Hills" crowd. Old Matt's moonshine still isn't so quaint when it's a lab for making crank.

    Woodrell is Missouri's most original, yet underappreciated working author. He's not unknown: Ang Lee made a movie of one of his books, and others have been optioned.
Because the coastal cultural elites prefer that their inferiors in the interior be seemy, irredeemable, redneck trash. Congratulations to Woodrell for his success in perpetuating and profiting from the stereotypes.

In my experience, the people of that area are less crusty and shotgun eccentric and more earthy and friendly. But as the journalist writing the piece indicates, the underbelly sells more than the smiling face, helpful hands, or strong back.

Chicken Dreams
Tristan fantasizes about dinner:

Chicken Dreams

Friday, August 04, 2006
Violate The Geneva Conventions At Home
It's not waterboarding as interrogation; it's yoga!

Be sure to click view the Windows Media Player video How to use a Neti Pot in the right sidebar, just in case they reinstate the draft and you're assigned to Guantanamo Bay.

When in Rome, do as the Visigoths do.

UPDATE Oops. Oh, yeah, I completely, inadvertently, ripped off Mark Steyn. Now I feel like a real blogger, headed for scandal. And after I even sent it to Top Five's Ruminations, too.

Friday Morning Serenity
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Also, let me win the Powerball.

Thursday, August 03, 2006
From Death to Lawsuit in 5 Days
Parents of woman killed in sky-diver plane crash file suit:
    The parents of a would-be skydiver who died along with five others in a plane crash Saturday [July 29] filed a lawsuit today [August 2] claiming negligence caused the aircraft’s engine to fail.

    Vivian and Susan Delacroix of Kent, England, brought suit against the engine manufacturer, skydiving club and others claiming they are responsible for the death of their daughter, Victoria Delacroix, 22.

    "Our initial investigation points to a right engine failure just after takeoff," said Gary C. Robb, a Kansas City attorney representing the family.
Congratulations to the proud attorney who pursued the pursuit of justice to England and probably got the lawsuit file before the body was buried. Not only is he quick, but he's aggressive with the defendants:
    The maker of the PT6A turbo prop engine in the DeHavilland DHC-6 airplane that crashed after taking off from the Sullivan Regional Airport. The manufacturer was Pratt & Whitney, which is owned by United Technologies.

    Annick Laberge, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney Canada division, declined comment today.

    "It is our corporate policy not to discuss incidents under investigation," she said.

    The suit also names the Quantum Leap Skydiving Center, which operated the skydiving club; the airport, which serviced and maintained the plane; Adventure Aviation, which owned the plane; and pilot Scott Cowan, who also perished in the crash.
Suing the estate of another victim of the crash. That, my friends, is pluck with a capital F.

Although we at MfBJN wonder how they couldn't work Thomas Miskel, Bourbeuse River Hauling, and Six Flags into the suit somehow. Perhaps it's only a matter of time.

(I post this with the plantiffs' attorney's name in here understanding that this attorney will find this post--hi there!-- next time he or a member of his staff uses Google to find his 'fan base,' but the last I heard, calling someone plucky is not actually libelous.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I Hope That Wasn't the DEA Looking
Apparently, I'm the number 11 Google hit for how is the heroin getting into milwaukee.

I guess I'll get a little extra scrutiny now. Thanks, Google.

Ruining It For Everybody
Woman sues over son's drowning death during church outing:
    The mother of one of the five children who drowned last month during a church outing to an eastern Missouri state park has sued the church and Joyce Meyer Ministries, claiming negligence and inadequate supervision.

    The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court, also said the ministries and its St. Louis Dream Center church did not have parents' permission to take 50 children to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County on July 9.
Litigation compounds a tragedy by ensuring that other depressed youth won't get the opportunity to go to church picnics in the future.

What Would Papa Do?
The old man and the six-toed cats: Hemingway home in dispute:
    The caretakers of Ernest Hemingway's Key West home want a federal judge to intervene in their dispute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the six-toed cats that roam the property.

    More than 50 descendants of a multi-toed cat the novelist received as a gift in 1935 wander the grounds of the home, where Hemingway lived for more than 10 years and wrote "A Farewell to Arms" and "To Have and Have Not."

    The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum disputes the USDA's claim that it is an "exhibitor" of cats and needs to have a USDA Animal Welfare License, according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Miami.

    "What they're comparing the Hemingway house to is a circus or a zoo because there are cats on the premises," Cara Higgins, the home's attorney, said Friday. "This is not a traveling circus. These cats have been on the premises forever."
He would have broken a walking stick over his head is what he would have done. Or shot himself, perhaps; our world does not accommodate men of Papa's stature and temperment any more. Instead, it allows attorneys and government functionaries to live the lives to which they've become accustomed, at our expense and at the expense of our mythology.

Monday, July 31, 2006
Coming Soon to Ebay
Some people see the Virgin Mary in foodstuffs. Not us; we're patriots.

Steak in the shape of the United States

No QA in Raleigh, NC
If my current gig goes south and I ever get tired of not having a real winter in St. Louis and confuse North Carolina for a real northern state, I could get a job proofreading street signs:
    Pity the English teacher out for a drive, passing Raleigh street signs.

    Russling Leaf Lane? That's Rustling.

    Sherrif Place? That's Sheriff.

    Chinquoteague Court? Misty lived in Chincoteague!

    You can't even scribble corrections in red spray-paint. The city would just scrub them off.

    About a dozen Raleigh street signs display words that are flat-out misspelled.
Who am I kidding? There's obviously no official sign proofreader position in Raleigh.

(Link seen on Triticale.)

Post-Dispatch Can't Hang It On Sengheiser
As I mentioned previously, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this year had a mad-on for the local charity Gateway for a Cure, run by Lou Sengheiser (sample article here).

Now, another charity that wanted to raffle off a house has run into trouble:
    A new $175,000 home or $125,000 and 40 smaller prizes guaranteed to make the $100 ticket at least pay for itself would have seemed a temptation for even a non-gambler.

    But the Waterloo Sports Association's idea of making someone lucky person's dream come true while raising substantial funds for its youth sports programs fizzled.

    The Waterloo City Council approved the WSA's idea last November and for weeks the house raffle was the talk of the town.

    Unfortunately, people were just talking, not buying tickets.

    "We had 3,500 tickets, and we finally gave up when we couldn't even sell 300," said Rich Grove, who headed the WSA fundraiser.
We at MfBJN are waiting with bated breath to see if the St. Louis Post-Dispatch goes after the Waterloo whomever as crooks, or if Lou Sengheiser was just lucky.

When Geeks Get Violent
Trivia events turn deadly in tough competition:
    In St. Louis County's VFW Halls and school cafeterias, a mistranslated Latinate, a misremembered movie quote, and even a sports record misstated by two at-bats have been motives for murder.

    Fourteen homicides struck neighborhood Trivia Night fundraisers over an 18-month period starting in 2001. The seemingly trivial reasons behind the killings led a prosecutor to label it "Ground Zero for Senseless Murder."
Oh, sorry, I misread the headline. It's "Trivial events turn deadly in tough neighborhood," which is much less amusing than where my mind went.

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Commissars Admit Failure of 5 Year Plan, Create 7 Year Plan
Two stories out of O'Fallon, Missouri, today allude to the failures of top-down community planning and optimistically endorse more top-down community planning.

First, we have the story of how small businesses beamed down into New Urbantopias sometimes fail:
    Some businesses are doing well. The customers are flocking to the Listons' neighborhood-style tavern, patterned after the one they used to run in St. Louis' Dogtown area.

    Nearby residents drop in Curbside Cleaners with not only piles of dry-cleaning but also newsy updates about their families and kids for co-owner Donna Stuart. And at the Churchill Coffee Express inside the local branch of the St. Charles City-County Library, owner Robert Tock says he has a loyal group of sippers lining up at his door at 6:30 a.m.

    But for other merchants who rely on foot and car traffic and a bit of impulse buying, it's been a rocky few years.

    Late last year, the Boardwalk suffered a major blow when Dave and Kathy Grabis closed their corner grocery market, to the dismay of many loyal customers who considered the couple the mom and dad of the fledgling neighborhood.

    "Dave leaving was definitely a downfall for this area," said resident Gisell Sterner, as she dropped off clothes at the dry cleaners.

    It was the second failed retail endeavor along the one-block strip, following the closure of a Roly Poly lunch shop.

    Two other small-town mainstays - the ice cream parlor and the pizza shop - both hit hard times early on, and their original owners sold the business to new entrepreneurs who both have watched the car and foot traffic to their shops dwindle in the aftermath of the grocery's failure.

    In January, things didn't get easier when WingHaven's free trolley stopped service because of a lack of ridership.
Never fear, though; the central planners are still at it:
    Business owners and residents are now optimistic about negotiations under way between an area convenience store owner and WingHaven's developer - McEagle Properties - to open a market in the same location as the former grocery.
Because the New Urbanists believe the corner market will trump super Schnucks, Dierbergs, and food-slinging Wal-Marts. Because they say so, they continue to push for it. Because if they will it, the citizens will shop there.

In other news, O'Fallon is going to apply for state money to revitalize its downtown:
    If all goes as well, it could be O'Fallon's dream come true.

    The City Council gave staff the OK to apply for Missouri's DREAM initiative program.

    Known as the Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri, the DREAM initiative is a new program created through a partnership between the Missouri's department of economic development, development finance board and the housing development commission.

    The goal of the program is to offer technical and financial assistance for communities to more efficiently and effectively start the downtown revitalization process.

    Additionally, the program is supported by professionals who are dedicated to help cities rebuild central business districts and shortens the redevelopment timeline, according to DREAM officials.

    "What it does it combine existing incentive packages and brings it all under one umbrella," said Jim Curran, O'Fallon's director of economic development. "More cities are taking a look at the program that may not have qualified in the past due to medium income or population."
Leaving aside that the revitalized downtown will probably cause more of the New Urbantopia businesses in WingHaven to collapse, we're struck again with an instance of the government or other planners trying to induce demand for a service by providing supply of the service. In the case of both the development and the downtown, there's no one there who needs a small urban grocery or whatever, but the planners want their kitsch, so they'll spend their own money or our tax dollars to resuscitate faux urban areas.

The original downtowns sprung up where people crowded together to live for commerce, trade, and security. Since we have better, cheaper mechanisms for travel to and from work and commerce, we don't need the congested areas any more. Those downtowns and their businesses and their housing emerged because people needed it and demanded it. Not because someone decided that the land needed x density of population and y numbers of businesses within walking distance.

And trying to impose such won't make it so. But it will waste a lot of money in the process.

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