Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Book Report: Priest-Kings of Gor by John Norman (1968, 1973)
This book is the third in the series. I haven't read the first two. Although I have owned a large number of Gor books in my life, I currently have but four. Back near the turn of the century, I was an active eBayer, picking up books and whatnot at garage and estate sales and listing them on eBay. I bought a stack of Gor books at a quarter each and discovered, as they were first printings and second printings, that they were worth far more than a quarter each. I think I sold the 23rd book in the series for almost sixty dollars. So I made my money back on them and kept my eyes open for Gor books in the future. Needless to say, I didn't sell all of them by the time I was done with the eBay thing. So I have a couple left, later printings.

The Gor books draw a lot of attention because of certain elements within them. Okay, one: women are about chattel in these books. They're subservient at best and most of the time, they're slaves. Apparently, some segments of the population like to re-enact this lifestyle according to the books (so much that Gorean sites are banned by some Web hosts). Weird, huh?

The storylines strike me as reminiscient of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Warlord of Mars or maybe John Jakes' Brak stories. Elements of science fiction coupled with sword and sorcery that was kinda popular for much of the last century. In this book, Tarl Cabot, an Earthman transported to Gor, the planet on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. Cabot is going to seek the forbidden priest-kings who rule the planet from afar to seek vengeance for their destruction of his city. He goes into Sardor, the mountains encircled by a wooden frontier, armed with only his sword, shield, and wits.

The book is very detailed in the description of Gor, its lifestyles, its species relationships, biology, and so on. Not bad for a third book in the series; Norman gave a lot of thought to what he was doing and what he was going to do.

I liked the book well enough. Enough to read more, but not enough to chain women at the foot of my bed. I'll read the others I own in the series and maybe pick up a couple more. Because unlike some survivors of collegiate English programs, I can suspend my moral outrage along with my disbelief to enjoy a little hack'n'slashery, although this series probably rises above the most base in the genre in spite of its depictions of women.

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, September 21, 2006
It Only Makes Sense
The CDC recommends regular AIDS testing for people 13-64.

    Federal health officials Thursday recommended regular, routine testing for the AIDS virus for all Americans ages 13 to 64, saying an HIV test should be as common as a cholesterol check.
Because you're just as likely on any given day to eat eggs and cheeseburgers as you are to have sex with an intraveneous drug-using homosexuals who trades sex for drugs.

Oh, right, like I'm the only one who tosses that coin every morning.

First, It's Puppy Safety Seats, Then It's Mandatory Booster Seats for Beagles
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch tells another heartwarming story of someone with a personal preference who would probably not mind government enforcement of his preference. This time, it's car restraining systems for pets:
    Since then, Rodriquez has beome an advocate for having all dogs in cars secured in the back with safety restraints.
Ad absurdum used to be a logical fallacy. Now, it's standard operating procedure.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Marketer-to-English Translation
Hasbro is using brand name products for token in its new Monopoly Here and Now game:
    Five of the eight tokens in the new Monopoly Here and Now edition will be branded, offering players the chance to be represented by miniature versions of a Toyota Prius hybrid car, an order of McDonald's french fries, a New Balance running shoe, a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Motorola Razr cell phone.
Hasbro Games senior vice president for marketing Mark Blecher assures us:
    Hasbro chose not to brand all the new tokens, Blecher said, to minimize concerns that the new edition would be too commercialized.
Apparently, in Blecher's world, 62.5% commercialized is acceptable, whereas 62.6% is not. However, as I am in marketing myself (obliquely), allow me to translate what Blecher really means: Hasbro chose not to brand all the new tokens because it couldn't find cross-promotional deals with an airline, a dog breeder, and a computer maker.

Monday, September 18, 2006
Some Unfunded Government Mandates Are More Equal Than Others
Mandating $15 ID to vote, restoring some measure of faith and legitimacy to elections by making it harder to vote fraudlently? Bad.

Ordering citizens who would procreate (nowadays, that's Republicans and the poor) to add a $49.99 (minimum) booster seat after the mandated $99.99 (minimum) infant car seat and the mandated $99.99 (minimum) toddler car seat on the off chance that the child will be in an automobile crash? Good.

Someone call me and ask me if I have faith in my government so I can add a couple hundredths of a percentage point to an inconvenient poll that our venal government betters will ignore.

Probably Nothing To See, But
D.C. man charged with stealing desktop with info on thousands:
    Authorities have charged a 21-year-old Unisys Corp. subcontractor with stealing a desktop computer with billing information on as many as 38,000 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical patients.

    Khalil Abdulla-Raheem of Washington was charged Wednesday with theft of government property. He is the employee of an unnamed company that "provides temporary labor to Unisys," according to a statement released by the VA's Office of Inspector General.

    The computer was stolen in late July from Unisys' Reston, Va., offices. It contained records on about 16,000 living patients who had received treatment at VA medical centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well has information on another 2,000 who are deceased. Data on an additional 20,000 patients may have been stored on the computer, according to the VA.

    The VA said these records may have contained Social Security numbers, addresses and insurance information. The FBI is analyzing the computer to determine whether the information was compromised, but investigators do not believe that Abdulla-Raheem was after the VA data.
Still, forgive us our sensitivity to fellows with Arabic names. No, probably, we won't be forgiven; instead, we'll be told to pay no attention to criminals of a certain faith.

What, It's Not Identity Genocide?
In the San Francisco Chronicle, a quote by a feminist equates theft of consumer data in a video game to, what else, rape:
    "It's identity rape," said Lisa Stone, co-founder of Palo Alto's BlogHer, an organization for female bloggers, and a sporadic resident of Second Life. "If this happened, it would be a personal violation. It's completely unacceptable."

    She said she's typically much more uninhibited in the virtual world of Second Life than she is in the real world. This is largely a factor of using a pseudonym when interacting with other Second Life members and having an invented digital image -- an avatar -- to hide behind.

    "It's fantastically freeing," Stone said. "When I'm online, I can be anyone I want."
So knowing your secret identity is exactly, or at least metaphorically, equivalent to forcible sexual penetration with actual violence or the threat of violence? I doubt it, seriously, and I haven't even had to be raped to know the difference. Perhaps that makes me a chickenvictim or something.

You know, modern rhetoric and discourse has a distinct lack of imagination for metaphor. It's either rape or Hitler to someone, somewhere, who lacks inventiveness to create his or her own turn of phrase. Yet these people get rewarded by a chorus of "Hell, yeah!"

The St. Louis Cardinals Bring St. Louisians Together
Who would have thought it? Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and I agree on something: the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals played the civic "leaders" like ballpark organs:
    Not so with a ballpark. If developers thought a Ballpark Village were a great idea, they would have built a village around the old ballpark. They didn't. So when the Cardinal owners wanted some financial help for their new stadium, they promised - and put that promise in writing - that they'd also build a Ballpark Village. This would be a big plus for the revitalization of downtown.

    Now comes the word that yes, the Cardinal owners could live up to that promise, but the Village would be a lowercase sort of place: ballpark village. Doomed to failure. Who wants to live in ballpark village? On the other hand, the city could have something spectacular - three times the size of the original plan - but the taxpayers are going to have to help out again. Maybe $100 million or so worth of help.
Perhaps these crony capitalists are serving a function for the greater good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006
St. Louis Cardinals Pop Some More Seed Corn
Media Views: A cut in free-TV games seems to be in the Cards:
    As the baseball season winds down, the clock also could be ticking on KPLR's run of televising Cardinals games. It remains to be seen where the over-the-air games in the Cards' local television package end up next season -- or even if there will be a free-TV portion to the deal. The current agreement places 41 games on Channel 11.

    FSN Midwest, the cable-satellite TV outlet that carries the bulk of the team's local television package (110 games this season), has been negotiating with the club for months to increase its number of games as part of a new deal that would begin next year. (The club's arrangement with KPLR allows for either side to opt out of after this season.)

    This is a high stakes game not only for the team and TV outlets, but for a significant number of fans. Only about 80 percent of homes in the market subscribe to services that carry FSN Midwest, which is one of the lowest percentages of cable-satellite TV penetration in the country. That means that one in five homes in the area -- about 244,000 total ­-- could face a significant reduction in the number of telecasts available over free TV, as the club would be taking money over those fans' interests and the fact more people watch on KPLR than FSN. That would parallel the team's switch of flagship radio stations, from KMOX (1120 AM) to KTRS (550 AM).
Let's not forget the Cardinals made the public build them a stadium with fewer seats in it, so they've got to dissuade the casual fans somehow. By making the games unavailable for free on television or the radio, they're on their way.

You know, current sports owners remind me more and more of quick-turn real estate rehabbers. They buy a team, slap some wallpaper agreements raising revenue in the short term, and sell it for exorbitant profit after only a short time. The next investor group picks it up, does the same, and hopes to make their short term profits before the infrastructure--in this case, the fan base--crumbles entirely.

Book Report: TV Now: Stars and Shows by Dorothy Scheuer (1984)
I picked this book up at a book fair for a quarter because it's like TV Superstars '83, and I already shot my credibility as a serious thinker by admitting a weird attraction to the Scholastic books covering television from the era in which these things mattered to me. Man, I remember the little one page tissue-paperesque book order forms from Scholastic, Tab, Arrow, and so on, and how one could buy real books for a buck or two for a paperback. Of course, we didn't have a buck or two, so I just got to look at the catalogs and imagine (for the most part). And now, some twenty years later, I'm amassing a library which includes the occasional book I was denied in elementary school.

This book, like the other, deals with television shows in the 1983-1984 time frame, so there's quite a bit of overlap--Mr. T., Tootie Fields, Gary Coleman, and so on. But where TV Superstars '83 filled out its pages with stars who've faded from even my memory, this book delves into the television industry, including chapters on the portrayal of technology on television, cable television, a bit about ratings, adulation for commercials, and musings about the future of interactive television. So this work might be the slightly more serious of the two.

Like you're going to run out and get it or click the link below to order it from Amazon. Still, I read it because it was a cheap and quick way to get another item on my annual list of what I've read and a last ditch Sunday night blog entry. But I read it, and here's my post on it.

Books mentioned in this review:

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