Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 16, 2007
All Right, All Right, I'll Post It
That's the sound of me finally giving into myself. I saw this video on Ace of Spades and have watched it over and over:

It's a nice tribute to Bob Ross of The Joy of Painting. I recollect catching Bob in his early years (ca. 1986-1988) and watching him on the local PBS station, broadcast over the air if you damn kids can believe it. I was twisting the knob, which was how we changed stations between the three to seven stations we could get with antennae, and I found his show early in my late middle school to early high school period, watching the grainy television from the top bunk in a bedroom in a mobile home sized to fit only a television, a bunk bed, and a dresser.

I liked how easy he made painting landscapes look, and I watched it a couple weeks running. He tempted me to try some painting on my own, using stray watercolor paint set gift packs and the only canvases I had handy--the glazed tops of doughnut boxes my mother brought as our special Sunday treats from the local U-Gas. The doughnuts were the treat, not the boxes, you dang literalists. Man, I can picture one of my self-portraits in my head even now, wherein a rudely-depicted blond young man reclines under a tree. Fortunately, that picture reclines in a landfill somewhere now. Even if I could post it, I probably wouldn't; let's leave it at that.

The year after I graduated, I was shipping/receiving clerk for an art supply store, and the shop carried a small set of the Bob Ross line of products. I remembered him fondly and probably caught an episode or two of his show for the then-kitsch value. He died while I was working there, a stunning blow that no doubt the sales staff, local students in art programs, brought to the back room with a combination of sadness and smugness. Based on the quality of my art work, I didn't have youthful superiority to spare, so I was only sad.

The aforelinked video touches me with nostalgia and a hint of that sadness, but also pleasantly amuses me with the music and with the sense that maybe, yes, Bob Ross would have felt that way about the message his laid-back style conveyed.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Book Report: Harvest Poems 1910-1960 by Carl Sandburg (1960)
I read this collection of poems at my son. I say "at" instead of "to" because he's getting mobile and is no longer a captive audience. Still, I pick the book up and read it at him as he plays so he can hear my voice.

Wow, I've read McKuen, Cohen, Dickinson, and L'Engle in the last couple of years. I've also worked on a small survey of John Donne (yet to be completed). In doing so, I've really missed out on good poetry with rhythm. These poems by Sandburg direct your cadence and really are fun to read. The turns of phrases make me pause and remember them so I can say them aloud and sound smart. As a matter of fact, I've used several lines from Sandburg as IM statuses, so that indicates how clever and insightful I think they are.

As its title suggests, this book collects poems from over 50 years, but most of them come from before the depression, when the poet lamenting war was still referring to World War I. Sandburg's themes include a sort of homily to the common man in the Midwest, a distaste for war, and a belief in God. The charged themes are handled lightly enough that they're observations and not proselytization. So they're palatable where we differ.

As I said, this is a collection taken from several books, so it's a step up from the poems from an author you'd find in an anthology (Yes, "Grass" is in here as is "Fog"). So if you've liked Sandburg from the anthologies, check this book out and see if you like the rest. Me, I liked this work so much that I'm going to look for the complete collections from which these poems were selected, and I'm also almost inspired to actually write more poetry.

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, June 14, 2007
That's Not A Bug
Centene ruling may have 'chilling effect':
    "Getting eminent domain for a project is already tough and this decision is going to make it tougher," said Jay Case, principal of Chicago-based Orchard Development, which is rehabilitating several historic buildings in St. Louis. He also is developing Trianon, a high-rise residential development in Clayton. None of his projects required eminent domain.

    "The decision will have a chilling effect on any community government thinking about invoking eminent domain," Case said.
Rule of law and the right to private property do so stand in the way of unbridled greed.

Bloodthirsty Blog Don Takes Another Life
I was shocked today to read that Mr. Wizard had died (via Instapundit).

How many more generation X celebrity icons must fall to this madman before we resist?

(Aw, but who can resist an Instalanche? Not me!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
One Thing, Unfigured Out
I read an article from about varied job backgrounds because, brothers and sisters, I was not just born the pestilence onto software that I am. So this article tries to tell me how to use that: A diverse background isn’t necessarily a problem, but two things struck me.

One, this quote:
    Remember from the movie "City Slickers," old Curley holding up his gloved hand and saying, "One thing -- and you've got to figure out what that thing is."
Um, no, both IMDB and I remember it like this:
    Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
    [holds up one finger]
    Curly: This.
    Mitch: Your finger?
    Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
    Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
    [smiles] That's what *you* have to find out.
Secondly, dude, your mailto link is messed up and is carrying through the headline and the first paragraph:

Bad mailto link

Well, I guess I have found my one true thing, the story to tell my future interviews and clients.

Sometimes Blight Means, You Know, Blight
Missouri courts block expansive definition of blight, disgruntling land-rustling developers and their greedy municipal sidekicks:
    The Missouri Supreme Court narrowed the bounds of eminent domain Tuesday in rejecting the Centene Plaza plan for downtown Clayton and raising the bar for taking private property.

    The upscale city failed to prove that property in the 7700 block of Forsyth Boulevard was blighted, the judges ruled in a 6-1 decision favoring landowners who fought condemnation.

    City officials began the process to take the land in late 2005 as a site for a $210 million office-retail complex whose future is now in question.

    Under the ruling, developers who seek to use condemnation to take land from other private owners will have to give proof that the property is not only old or of obsolete design but that it impacts health and safety as well.
This is very good news for property owners. Now they cannot be thrown out for owning uncool buildings or not producing the maximum level of revenue possible (at least, not until another court determines that impacts health and safety means "doesn't provide sales tax revenue that funds local EMT services."

And for the kids in the Mystery Machine, this is also good news, since it will force developers to once again rely on the trick of convincing land owners that the property is haunted, and hey, that made for great cartoons.

One Stop Shopping
As Jack Travis said in Lethal Weapon 3:
    The police department's got it all: guns, ammo, drugs, cash... it's a one-stop shopping center. If you've got the balls and the brains, there's not a fucking thing anyone can do about it!
So it goes:
    Explosives capable of causing "extensive damage" have been stolen from a St. Charles County firing range used by the sheriff's office and the FBI, federal officials said Tuesday.

    Officials are still trying to determine how much dynamite, C-4 and other explosives were taken and exactly who was responsible.
And special kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its discretion:
    The explosives, including C-4, dynamite and safety fuse, were being stored at the St. Charles County training center and firearms range at 1835 South Highway 94, Schmitz said. The range is located in a rural area.

    They were stored properly in the federally approved storage magazine, which resembles a large construction Dumpster, Schmitz said.
Awesome. Now everyone knows exactly where to find bomb making equipment in the future and exactly what sort of storage mechanism to look for.

In the novel or screenplay I build from this, the crooks/terrorists/bad guys will just use a construction truck that hauls away large construction dumpsters to pick it up.

Maybe I'll even make the bad guys disgruntled land developers. They'd have access to that sort of thing and a strong urge to blight an area.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Just Watching It For The Commercials
I've found myself watching YouTube renditions of various and sundry commercials and "viral" advertisements lately. Once a series grabs me, I like to watch a pile of them, which makes them amusing if not effective. Brand awareness and affinity? You bet.

First, thanks to a post on, I started watching the "Making Things Right with Pete and Red series" for Haggar:

These represent an extended version of some television commercials. You can find the HaggarFilms list on YouTube here and on the Haggar site here. And, if you search around on YouTube, you can find others and the 30 second cuts that appeared on television. Makes me want to go out and buy pants.

Secondly, when Carl's sued Jack in the Box for its Angus commercials, I went right out to review the advertisements in question. Here's one:

Using YouTube's related suggestions and search mechanism, I found a number of other of the commercials I liked. I watched some that I'd seen on television. Particularly "The Intern," which I watched again during the creation of this post. Carl's probably made a mistake bigger than hiring Norm MacDonald to voice its star.

So then I went to find an old Bud commercial with the beavers because every now and then I think the tagline Naughty little beavers and want to use it in professional conversation but I cannot without it sounding, well, worthy of a call to HR. But I'll embed it here because the more it becomes known, the less chance I'll have to think of euphemisms for "fired for sexual harrassment" to use in job interviews for "Why did you leave your last job?"

Or the "Willy! It's go time." commercial:

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't drink Budweiser if I was drowning (which, ultimately, makes no sense). However, I like the commercials.

What's my point? Oh, yeah, if you're all slavering to get into Web 2.0 advertising--that is, to save money on actually distributing/running your adverts, you probably ought to spend money on the production of them and make them amusing and funny enough to warrant further watching. Sure, it's cheap, but so's a blog, and if this blog serves any lesson for you it's that you can have a steady Web presence, but just because you put it out there doesn't mean you're doing your clients any favors or garnering any attention. And here's the only YouTube commercial I have ever bookmarked: Folger's Happy Morning:

The last coffee I bought was Folger's, partly because I was trimming expenditures from the $20 a pound stuff but partly, perhaps, because I enjoyed an amusing video that I could watch over and over again for the same set of amusement.

Monday, June 11, 2007
Must Be An Al Qaeda Cell
Bogus storm reports probed: FBI joins search for fake warning source:
    The FBI has joined the effort to find whoever has been sending false reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.

    The service began getting the reports in mid-April through an online form on its Web site. The areas affected by the reports have included Milwaukee, La Crosse, Chicago, and Lincoln, Ill., said Tom Schwein, chief of the National Weather Service's systems and facilities division for the central region in Kansas City, Mo.

    "We've been detecting a regular pattern of a person who has been submitting false severe weather reports that are constructed in a way that seem very realistic," Schwein said. "Whoever this person is seems to have knowledge of severe weather reports. When they send in reports, they seem very plausible."
It's fortunate that the FBI has nothing to worry about more than pranks.

    Schwein likened the reports to calling in a false bomb threat or pulling a fire alarm when there is no fire.
Oh, puhlease.

Sopranos Ending Comment
Tony flying back and forth across the Pacific, whacked out on OxyContin, hoping to get back to the island? I mean, that sucked.

Guns Don't Kill People; Shootings Kill People
Wis. shooting kills 6, wounds toddler

Maybe She Should Have Shot Her Husband Dead
Let your child drink at home: 27 months in jail:
    Elisa Kelly did not want her teenage son, Ryan, or his friends to endanger their lives by drinking and driving. So she decided to let him have a 16th birthday party at home, where she would supply the beer, confiscate all the car keys and supervise a nightlong sleep-over.

    Today she begins a 27-month jail sentence imposed by courts in Virginia – where drinking is banned for people under the age of 21 – for "contributing to the delinquency of minors".
That's reduced from the original sentence of 8 years in jail.

On the less serious end of crime, we have shoot your husband dead, 210 days in jail:
    Knoxville native Mary Winkler will go to jail in connection with the killing of her minister husband.

    A judge sentenced Winkler to three years of split confinement in connection with the shotgun slaying of her husband in March of 2006.

    Of that, she's been ordered to serve 210 days in jail.
But she apparently prays for her ex-husband's family every day that they can find peace. That's swell of her.

Respect for law and order continues to erode as society contemplates how serving liquor to teenagers is considered a far more serious offense than shooting someone in cold blood.

(Links seen on a big victory, Dr. Helen.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007
That's An Expensive Twinkie
A blow-in from Capper's offers something less than a deal:

Capper's Subscription Deal

The headline implies that the issues are $14.95 each, which is $179.40 for a year's subscription.

Somewhere, a proofreader or QA professional might have indicated that the headline was unclear, but this was overruled by someone in a hurry to get the proofs off to the printer. No one would get that impression and mock the magazine/its brand for the headline.

Oh, how wrong you are. Mock. Mock.

Good Book Hunting: June 9, 2007
As promised, my beautiful wife and I attended the St. Charles Book Fair this year for the third year in a row. Last year, my beautiful wife was also my very pregnant wife, so this marked the first time we ventured to the convention center was a trio instead of a duet.

The book fair is apparently becoming more popular, as it was more crowded this time out. A large number of people stopped to socialize with each other in front of the tables of books, too. Popularity and population make book fairs annoying. I mean, what's with the people who review these tables from left to right. Don't you realize it's easier to read the spines if you move from left to right? I jumped large sections of tables when encountering the meandering throng of people after something in particular instead of avaricious book hoarders like me. I mean, when you want something for sure, go to eBay or something. Don't spend hours lingering over the mystery table hoping you'll find a first edition of A is for Alibi. You probably won't.

The selection was good, though. Perhaps slightly too good. The volunteers continued to put out books as space opened on the tables. As you know, this discourages the seriousish collector in me, as I will automatically assume I've missed stuff and accellerate my browsing when I see that no matter how dilligently I review all titles, I will have missed something by the dint of its addition after I passed. Brutha, that's too much like professional software quality assurance, my day-to-day existence, for me.

Still, I found a pile of middle McBain era books (Heat, Tricks, Bread, Mischief) and an Evan Hunter crime novel (Criminal Conversation). I picked up two John D. MacDonalds (More Good Old Stuff, a second collection of short stories in hardback and The Lonely Silver Rain, a late Travis McGee novel I bought because it was a 3rd printing and although I suspected I have a 1st printing, at $2 a hardback, it cannot hurt to be sure). I picked up some unknown bit (State's Evidence because it had a cool cover and I already had picked up a box I needed to fill), the sequel to The Total Woman, a couple of Neil Simon's plays (but I didn't buy the one by Tom Stoppard that I saw), a couple of mysteries by old school mystery writers Ellery Queen and Rex Stout, a nonfiction book by Mike Lupica, a book of predictions for the next 20 years written in 1980, a book on how to fix audio and visual equipment, a Where Are They Now book written in the late 1960s which could better be cast as Who Remembers These People in the 21st Century (James Lileks for one and perhaps me in a couple months), and a book entitled Overlooked Treasures about collectibles that few people collect.

You can see I was somewhat discriminating in mysteries, but once the box started filling up, my threshold for purchase dropped as it usually does. I limited myself to one box, fortunately. The book fair offers dollies, and if one of the volunteers had seen me schlepping 40 pounds of books and offered me another box and a dolly, well, let's just say the stacks below would have been taller.

Here's the result, $67 dollars later:

St. Charles Book Fair Purchases

That's 27 books for me, 10 for Mrs. Noggle, and a collection of 10 cent audiocassettes that will provide our iTunes with a massive influx of 80s music (and, judging by the presence of an Eric Carmen tape, plenty of flashbacks for me).

So this weekend I bought half as many books as I read this year. Which means that I'm somewhere like 60 books in deficit now.

Personal Chart History
My beautiful wife got me a set of musical reference books from a garage sale or book fair. The titles include The All Music Book of Hit Singles which compiles the top 20 singles by month from 1954 through 1993 and provides the results in monthly charts for the United States and the United Kingdom on opposite pages so you can compare the two. Each page has three such charts and 3-4 bullet points of trivia for the quarter. I thought I could go through these charts as my nightstand book, a book I read in very small snippets in the 10-15 minutes preceding sleep on the occasional nights where I am in bed and the lights are on for those minutes. Ultimately, it wasn't a good choice, because I found myself opting for sleep rather than reviewing historical charts (I only made it to 1959). So as I took the book from the nightstand and removed the bookmark, I flipped it open to the late 1980s, a time period where I was more directly related to the music on the charts.

The book fell open to July 1988, and suddenly I was there:

July 1988 top 20

I don't mean I was suddenly at the page, because although I was suddenly on that page, that's not worth commentary. No, friends, suddenly I was in July 1988.

It's late at night. We only got to stay up until 9pm (well, we had to be in our rooms at 9pm, but the de jure 9pm evolved to de facto 10pm or thereabouts) on school nights (in high school, no less). In July, 1988, we've moved from the mobile home in Murphy to the single family home down the old gravel road (Ruth Drive, or Route 5 alternately but less so at that time). The house was far into a valley from the nearest two lane state highway (MM, which runs from House Springs through Otto and onto Antonia); if we were so inclined, we could walk about 30 minutes to that T intersection where Heads Creek Road met MM, but rarely did, since it was another 40 minutes to Otto or an hour or more to House Springs on the two lane, no shoulder highway. At the time we moved in, the valley offered spotty television reception from St. Louis and did not have cable television. Or private telephone lines. At the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency, we still had to pick up the phone receiver and make sure none of our neighbors was using the line before placing a call. Party lines, they called them.

But I didn't have to worry about that late at night. Or much during the day, either; we weren't the most popular children.

Our mother took great pride in moving us way into nowhere where she could afford $40,000 worth of house on over an acre of land, most of which was flat. We had trees, we had a lawn that it took 3 hours to mow with push mowers (not reel mowers, thankfully), and we had a shady spot with poisonous snakes. We even had one or two kids who didn't want to beat the snot out of us on sight. The house itself was a ranch with an attached two car garage and a full unfinished basement. Three of the bedrooms were bedrooms, and a fourth room that could advertise as a bedroom (with basement access) served as our computer room. A grey computer desk held our Commodore 128 (yes, that desk). I spent many nights that summer seated on the wooden folding chair in front of that grey/beige keyboard, typing programs in from Ahoy!, Compute's Gazette, Run, and Commodore Power Play into memory and saving them onto old floppies.

While I typed those old programs in, a shelf audio system with cassette deck, turntable, and tuner played the songs from that chart. It would have been Y 98; 103.3 KHTR had already changed to oldies a couple years before. Y 98 hasn't altered its format that much and still uses the KYKY designation, so it's probably due to change to smooth jazz any time now.

I can almost close my eyes and remember the bookshelves to my left, the battered metal office desk to my right holding an ancient Remington electric typewriter and a 1960s styled electronic word processor that could save your documents to cassette and could print them on rolls of paper. Even then, once in a while, a feeling of future nostalgia would wash over me and I would press the sounds of the trees outside the window and the stillness of the house into my memory for someday. Somedays like today.

My brother was just turning toward the harder rock, so he would have favored "Pour Some Sugar On Me". "Make Me Lose Control" and "The Flame" both acutely remind me of that particular era and, indeed, the particular selfshot of me at the computer, trying to proofread typos or to enjoy the always disappointing simple little games that resulted. Late at night, me and that Commodore 128 after everyone had gone to bed. Until the cable company pulled its lines and private phone lines behind it, I wouldn't even have Bulletin Board Systems again. Just me, that radio, and the Miami Sound Machine or the soul of "Terence Trent D'Arby", whom I mocked then and continue to mock now. Some years later, I would have disposable income and would own a number of those songs on cassette or 45, but then I only had the radio and the endless time of youth in the summertime, nights to spend typing from magazines and dreaming of a future whose days and nights matched those, but better.

And here I am.

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