Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 09, 2006
As If Millions Of Sophisticates Suddenly Cried Out In Terror And Were Suddenly Silenced (I)
Monster truck rallies. In Paris.
    Six of the world's most legendary Monster Jam® monster trucks had the fans at Bercy's Omnisport Arena on their feet throughout four action-packed performances in the tour's first-ever stop in Paris.

    Grave Digger®, Hot Wheels®, El Toro Loco®, Slingshot, and the Superman and Batman monster trucks delighted the 20,000-plus fans at the Hot Wheels-sponsored Monster Jam. Grave Digger and the Hot Wheels monster trucks stole the show, earning multiple wins in the wheelie competition, the racing competition, and freestyle competition.

    "We’re continually amazed by the enthusiastic support we receive at every European Monster Jam tour stop," said John Seasock, driver of the Hot Wheels monster truck. "Hot Wheels really supported our tour here in Paris, and I'm so happy to put together some wins for them here."
Oh, some Frenchmen must have spontaneously combusted for this degradation of their celebrated culture.

But, come to think of it, what exactly is that celebrated culture? Nothing but imports. I mean, the most famous painting in their fancypants museum was painted by an Eyetalian, wasn't it?

Book Report: Twice in Time by Manly Wade Wellman (1988)
Back in my eBay seller days, I bought a first edition hardback written by Manly Wade Wellman at a garage sale for next to nothing and sold it for quite a bit of scratch. So when I found another paperback by the author and tried to turn that one for some bucks. No dice. So I still have it, and here it is. So much on my to read shelves follows this pattern (see also the Chronicles of Counter Earth series and numerous Stephen King and John Saul titles). So it's here, and now it's read.

Manly Wade Wellman was an author in the science fiction pulps. This book includes a novel originally published in 1940 (the eponymous Twice in Time) and a bonus short story called "The Timeless Tomorrow". It also has a brief introduction, which I thought I'd read, but I got to the point where it said "If you like surprise endings, don't read any further." I mean, come on, you're going to give me the ultimate twist in the introduction because you take this author seriously as literature enough to strip that enjoyment from readers? Where does that mean you fall on the self-esteem scale, or where do you think the audience does?

So I stopped reading it, but I knew there was a surprise twist coming, so I figured out the surprise fairly early. I don't know if I would have otherwise, but the names and the very cover gave the game away.

A modern (ca 1940) man builds a time reflector to go back to Renaissance Florence. He does and falls into the clutches of an ambitious courtier who wants to use his new "friend" in his lust for power. Together under duress, they take on the d'Medicis.

The additional short story also deals with time travel, as Nostradamus learns he cannot only see the future, but can participate in it.

The writing style is the simplistic of the pulps, but without the transcendence of Hemingway or Hammett. It reminds me of much of my early fiction and probably too much of my contemporary fiction, probably. It's not bad, but the not bad is not a synonmym for good. And it's really not worth an introduction that talks about the book as though it was a literary triumph with which everyone is familar, even if they haven't read it.

That said, click the link below to buy it and send me a couple pennies for my effort.

Books mentioned in this review:

View From The American Quagmire
In today's news, an insurgent opened fire in a Chicago high rise today, killing several. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the crumbling infrastructure continues to pose problems as parts of the metropolitan area suffer from a loss of power in the feared Midwestern winter, where temperatures drop beneath freezing. Corruption remains a problem, as government officials continue to work with the insurgency. Authorities disrupted one plot to blow up a shopping mall but were powerless to prevent a dramatic explosion in an industrial facility.

Take a handful of incidents from across a country, dash in some weighted words, and blend them together nicely, and I guess you can make any kind of meal you want.

Friday, December 08, 2006
Civics Lesson from David Nicklaus
He says:
    Brace yourselves, St. Louis. The convention industry is about to start beating the drum for another major expansion of the city's meeting facilities.

    There's no official plan yet, just a consultant's report. But that's how these things start. A consultant identifies a problem, and pretty soon officials get busy figuring out what they can build to solve it.
And if that isn't enough, I'd like to remind St. Louis that its football and hockey sports venues are now over a decade old, which means that they're one championship and the attendent goodwill away from being obsolete enough to require publicly-funded replacement.

Nobody Remembers The Second To Market
The old adage which powered a large number of failed startups remains true. If you break into a new industry or make a new product, you have to be the first to offer it and build market share, or no one will think to buy your product when there's a dominant product already offered.

Case in point: Christian First Person Shooter video games. Super 3D Noah's Ark is credited with being the first.

And you cannot even think of what might have been the second one, can you?

There's probably an MBA paper in this anecdote somewhere.

Thursday, December 07, 2006
Forget Pearl Harbor
Harry Levins of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rationalizes why the newspapers help Americans forget historic anniversaries:
    The bombs had barely stopped falling on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when Tin Pan Alley produced a tune that was eminently forgettable, except for its title:

    "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor."

    But today, precisely 65 years later, demography has determined that very few of us still "remember Pearl Harbor."

    Most of us have to be 5 years old before news events imprint themselves in our memory. And Census Bureau estimates drawn up last year show that only 26 million Americans are old enough to remember Pearl Harbor.
Funny. I think let's remember Pearl Harbor is less a directive to think back to where we were than it is to work at not forgetting the lessons of history.

Never mind, there's column inches to spend on Barry Bonds becoming a Cardinal.

A Hipster Test
A new scientific experiment to determine the nature of hipsters:
    Apple Computer Inc. may be cool and hip with consumers, but it's anything but a trend-setter when it comes to good environmental policies, according to the activist group Greenpeace.

    In its latest report on major electronics manufacturers, Greenpeace ranked Apple dead last on environmental issues because it still uses harmful chemicals in many of its products and because it does a poor job promoting recycling efforts for its iPods and other products.
If the hipster under study receives this news and changes to HP and Zune, he or she is genuinely concerned about the environment; if the hipster under study receives this news and continues with the Macs, iPods, and contributions to Greenpeace, the hipster only cares about appearances or his or her own creature comforts, with the money going to environmental causes as a sop to his or her own conscience. Or, I suppose, the person likes Apple stuff and thinks this is a cynical ploy by Greenpeace to increase donations by conscience-stricken materialist hipsters.

Aw, heck, I guess it could mean anything. I, Mr. Noggle, am a poor scientist. But that's why I got an English degree.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Book Report: So Long As You Both Shall Live by Ed McBain (1976)
I found a pile of Ed McBain books at the Carondolet Y book fair this year, and I bought them. This book clocks in at 147 pages, so it's more like a novella than a novel, but it was a quick read.

The book deals with Bert Kling's marriage to the model, Augusta, and her kidnapping on their wedding night. The detectives of the 87th, along with Fat Ollie Weeks, beat the bushes, grasp the straws, work the informants, and ultimately find her just in time.

Even though I know the longer story arcs of these characters, I can still enjoy individual books pulled from the middle of the 87th Precinct series. It would be a neat endeavor to read them all in order. Someday, perhaps, when I get them all.

Sure, it's a short review. It's a short book. And you don't read these anyway.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Thunderball by Ian Fleming (1961)
Mark Steyn has been talking about the old James Bond books and a new book about James Bond books, so I was inspired to draw this old paperback from my shelf. It had been a while (at least two years, since there are no book reports) since I read the first three Signet paperbacks in my library (Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Diamonds Are Forever), but I liked them enough to buy a couple more when I found them at garage sales.

Thunderball is based on the screenplay of the same name, so it's not a straight James Bond novel, I suspect. Still, the author has a lot of fun making cracks about the plot being like a B movie plot, so Fleming didn't take it too seriously. Much like the movie Never Say Never Again didn't take it too seriously when they remade it.

The story, for those of you who don't know and probably don't care, is that SPECTRE (not Spectra, that was Battle of the Planets, silly!) has stolen a plane with a couple of nukes on it and they're going to blow them unless they get ransom. The West looks for SPECTRE and thinks about paying, but Britain sends James Bond to Bermuda just in case it's there. It is.

A quick read (188 pages) and, apparently, a piece of British history. Shorter and more engaging than a Clancy, anyway.

Books mentioned in this review:


John McClane, Escorting a Prisoner Back From Brazil, Smirks
Brazil Cancels Flights at 3 Big Airports:
    Virtually all takeoffs from three major airports in Brazil were canceled Tuesday night after an air traffic communications system broke down, making it difficult for controllers to communicate with pilots and creating air travel chaos.
Hey, it's [almost] Christmas!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Sometimes Taxes Just Ain't Enough
Milwaukee Public School seeks "donations":
    Is it worth $300 a year for your child to go to the Milwaukee High School of the Arts?

    A group of parents involved with the Milwaukee Public Schools' specialty school is answering yes and has sent all the school's parents a letter asking them to donate or raise that much per student to strengthen arts programming there.

    Although the $300 is not a fee or a requirement, the campaign is about as close as a public school can come to making parents pay extra for activities that are part of the regular content of a school's program and may be unprecedented in MPS.
Hey, how about firing a couple junior-level administrators?

No, instead, since the normal year-round student-centric fundraising isn't doing it, how about making them come up with "donations." We can be sure that students will continue to be chosen for this specialty school on talent, but it might not continue to be artistry in the future.

Monday, December 04, 2006
Headline of the Day, You Can Say That Again Edition
Agency closing ends era in U. City Era ends with closing of agency

Like the Man Said
Robert Frost:
    SOME say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.
As Robert Frost was from New England, of course he wouldn't initially think that ice and snow were threatening enough to end the world. But he never lived in Missouri.

Sunday, December 03, 2006
Waiting for the Rioting
Crass commercial use of the image of a religious icon? Let the riots begin!
    Plastic charge-card consumerism and yoga-minded, organic-eating activism — they seem to clash.

    But there they are, fused in new Visa credit cards bearing such images as a meditating Buddha and sunlit hands folded in prayer.
Oh, wait, I guess we hold some religions and their adherents to a higher standard.

Found Humor
From an e-mail to Instapundit regarding game systems:
    I'm you're[sic] typical colelge[sic] guy, but bringing it home for thanksgiving[sic], every member of my family played it and loved it.
Three grammatical errors in one sentence. Typical colelge guy, indeed. Sadly.

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