Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, January 20, 2007
MfBJN Offers Its Only Comment on the iPhone
Steve Jobs has certainly recognized, so far, that the products and interfaces that most closely resemble the things we've been conditioned to expect from 40 years of Star Trek win, but I've got two words for him:

Voice Recognition

Touchscreen is nice on this little tricorder thing (what, you scan it in with the camera and run it through OS X applications and you'd call it something else?), but whomever gives me voice-activated wireless communication with my home network and through the firewalls to the Internet will win.

Whether it's an affected A like the television show or a little Windows icon on the RFID on my chest that I tap remains to be determined.

Book Report: Robert Frost by Lawrance Thompson (1959, 1963)
Well, this book has certainly held up its cover price well. Sold in the middle nineteen sixties for a cover price of 65 cents, I bought it last weekend at a small book fair in the gymnasium of a small local Catholic church/school for fifty cents because it's a paperback (hardbacks were a whole dollar). Aside from cars and homes from 1959, there's probably not much that would have retained resale value like this volume.

Did I say volume? I meant pamphlet. This particular item represents #2 in a series by University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Its chapbook (5.5" by 8") format comprises 41 pages of text, saddle-stapled. So don't think I labored over it for weeks. A couple of nights at 20 pages per night. I probably spent more time on Robert Frost's In the Clearing when I read it (Two years ago? Already?).

Essentially, this volume presents one critical essay that includes some of Frost's life and an interpretation of his work through 1959 (which did not include In The Clearing) in terms of its inherent contradictions between a heretic and his Puritanical upbringing who believes in the design of an angry God. Or at least a God whose workings are limited and inconsistent to the understanding of Man.

A good pick up for fifty cents, particularly if you like or read Frost. As any bit of criticism, it's a level removed from what you get if you directly read the poetry, but if you're like me, you encounter the poetry amongst the maelstrom of daily life and daily stresses--two years ago sometimes. A brief critical interlude, from someone who's only life's work was to read Frost's material in its obra and to comment on it, can provide some additional food for thought. Not that I think it should replace your reading of the original or supplant your interpretations thereof. But it's grist for the mill, or some other metaphor more relevant to the twenty-first century.

Apparently, this Thompson guy (the author) is the real deal, too. A quick perusal on Amazon of his works indicates a large body of work in covering Frost. Most came after this work, but it's the same guy.

It's only this particular volume that came out during the Eisenhower administration and was reprinted until Kennedy got shot. A later edition came out in the Johnson years. Sorry, sometimes I measure these books in their historical context for my own amusement.

Worth fifty cents? Why not? I'm a special sort of consumer for used books, and I don't think I wasted my time or energy on this book. I bought three others in the series, so time will tell what I think of them. But this book did not discourage me.

Books mentioned in this review:


Friday, January 19, 2007
I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
Perhaps they had a problem while jamming: Rolen, La Russa haven't talked since postseason riff.

Rift, maybe; tiff, certainly; but that La Russa and Rolen haven't spoken since a melodic phrase? I don't buy it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Book Report: Kiss by Ed McBain (1992)
This represented the rarest pleasure: An Ed McBain book that I hadn't read before. I've read most of the 1980s/1990s/2000s Ed McBain books more than once. So even if I don't recognize the title, a moment will come when I'm reading the book that I'll click into recognition. And I'll keep reading the book because I like Ed McBain.

This book, again, travels to the 87th Precinct, where a new black mayor has been elected. Of course, this would be the beginning of the Dinkins era in New York. You remember that, don't you? No? Well, Giuliani sort of cleaned the town up and made the city safe enough that it could worry about banning smoking and trans fats. So when I read these books, I tie them to New York history of the time.

The book centers on a woman who has two murder attempts on her life. She goes to the police, and they track down the attempted murderer--her husband's ex driver. In the meantime, the husband has hired an out-of-town private detective to protect her. But when the attempted murderer is murdered, the plot thickens. It looks like the husband might have hired the driver to kill his wife, but if he did, why did he hire an out-of-town private detective to protect her? We all see where it's going, and I stayed on to watch it unfold under the masterful direction of Mr. McBain. I almost got the twist at the end, too.

Meanwhile, Kling has broken up with someone, so we know where the book fits in the sequence from that, and Steve Carella's father's murderer is brought to trial, so we know where it fits in the sequence from that. So even though I hadn't read this particular volume, I still felt in touch with the master narrative.

Frankly, it's encouraging to find a McBain book I didn't read before; it means that not everything on my to-read shelves of known quality is a rerun.

Books mentioned in this review:

Government, To Help Students, Reduces Number of Student Lenders
The rah-rah:
    The Democratic-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to cut interest rates on need-based student loans Wednesday, steadily whittling its list of early legislative priorities.

    The legislation, passed 356-71, would slice rates on the subsidized loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in stages over five years at a cost to taxpayers of $6 billion. About 5.5 million students get the loans each year.
The short term fix that will have unintended, and startlingly unforeseen, consequences:
    The House bill aims to reduce the $6 billion cost by reducing the government's guaranteed return to lenders that make student loans, cutting back the amount the government pays for defaulted loans and requiring banks to pay more in fees.
Let's see, Congress has just:
  • Cut the profitability by limiting the upside (the interest) that lenders can make.
  • Increased the risk by cutting out the government "insurance" against default. Instead, those defaults will have to be covered with the reduced margin for error (the interest; profitability is just unused margin for error).
  • Increased fees that the lenders have to pay to have access to lowered profit potential and increased risk.
That's the sort of fiscal and economic thinking that comes from not having to balance your checkbook.

So in 20 years, when student loans are harder to come by, the poor students will have to enter the workforce with naught but a high school education and, to those who can afford it, an Associates degree. To struggle, not make it very far, and vote Democrat.

Just kidding. The same people who strangle the privatesque solution today will determine that education is a right, like health care, and the government--they--should be the ones to fund it and mete it out.

Thanks, Hugh
Grant will buy HPV vaccine in Missouri

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Shrewsbury Licks The Tip Of Its Banning Pen
Pet German shepherd kills Affton woman

In response, the nearby municipality of Shrewsbury, the aldermen and mayor whipped out their special banning pen and began crafting an ordinance to ban German Shepherds, Germans, shepherds, and dachsunds (because they have a German name).

Except for police K-9 units, of course. Because the police can be trusted with German Shepherds, and the citizens cannot.

Wal-Mart Wreaking Havoc On Local Economy
Local family businesses are taking extreme measures:
    St. Louis shoppers can expect to see more grocery prices fall as competitors react to Schnuck Markets Inc.'s move to cut what it charges for some 10,000 items.

    "We've always been competitive, and we always will be. That's the bottom line," said Greg Dierberg, president and chief executive of Chesterfield-based Dierbergs Markets Inc. "We'll react to any items that we need to."
Are they providing better values for the customers in the region out of the goodness of their hearts or in cutthroat competition between the chains?

Of course not.
    Schnuck Markets launched its aggressive pricing strategy on Sunday, ahead of what it sees as rapid expansion of Wal-Mart Supercenters into the St. Louis metro area. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., has more than 2,100 Supercenters in the U.S., including seven in the St. Louis market [sic, in that the story lacked a period]
Proof again that Wal-Mart is destroying mom-and-pop businesses and ultimately hurting the consumer. But it's so subtle that you can't see it unless you squint really, really hard until the very dust motes before your eyes become capitalistic monsters.

Monday, January 15, 2007
Book Report: Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows by Rod McKuen (1970)
In July (2006), I read In Someone's Shadow to my son. Since then, we've been working on the innumerable inscrutable complete works of Emily Dickinson. So, to give him a break after a hundred or so, I read him this collection. Most of it, anyway.

Compared to Dickinson, McKuen is a breeze to read. I've done my share of coffee shop open mikes, so I'm familiar with the flavor of easy, first person emotional free verse. I understand the line breaks and can read them aloud with the self-conscious and self-important air of the turtle-necked hipster. That doesn't make the poetry any better. As a matter of fact, it detracts.

Overall, although many of Dickinson's pieces are riven with weird capitals, unfathomable line breaks, and often run to the simplistic, they're built on imagery often whereas McKuen's, like other poems by free versers of the era and all juvenile journaler poets moving into the English programs of today, rely upon the biographical poet narrator saying I did this or I did that or I loved you or I served in Korea. Sure, it's cathartic for the poet narrator and it can speak to a subset of people who share your experiences directly, but the words don't evoke the emotion through imagery. They report it in the idiom of the day.

Ultimately, it explains why so many Rod McKuen books are available at book fairs, I suppose.

(Oh, my, and I bought so many volumes at the Carondolet Y Book Fair this year. It's going to be a long year of poetry-reading, gentle reader.)

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Grifters & Swindlers edited by Cynthia Manson (1993)
No doubt, I picked this book up because I thought it was a compendium of true cases (back in the old days, I hoped to write for and expected I would need constant pointers to interesting cases). But, no, this book is a collection of short fiction collected from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and was edited by the Director of Marketing for those two brands. Trying to extend the brand, you see, into some hardcover publishing dollars since Ellery Queen aren't churning out the books like they used to.

The anthology collects its stories from a number of decades, so some seem dated (not that I disprove), but others are remarkably contemporary. As you might have noticed, gentle reader, I've returned to a fondness for short fiction because it lends itself to easy truncation of a night's reading when I need to go to bed. Forgive me that I don't enumerate the stories here, but I'm lazy. Overall, the book was entertaining and short and worth the buck I paid for it. There you go.
Books mentioned in this review:

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