Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The Man To Beat
William Gass, writing poobah at Washington University, has a home library of 20,000 books.

Of course, according to the sidebar, he's only getting about 30 new books a month, so I'm definitely on a pace to overtake him. Heck, on a good weekend in book fair season, I add 40 or 50.

Friday, December 07, 2007
Book Report: Spill the Jackpot by A.A. Fair (1941, 1962)
Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason novels, used the pseudonym of A.A. Fair to write the Bertha Cool/Donald Lam series (a small set of 20+ books). This is somewhere early in the series, written in 1941 and re-released in the 1960s to capitalize on Gardner's grown popularity.

The book has all the earmarks of 40s pulp: a hard-boiled detective working on a convoluted plot involving a wealthy young man whose fiancee runs off before their marriage. The father, who disapproved of the marriage, might have had a hand in it, and he hires Cool and Lam to find out why the woman disappeared. The paterfamilias plants evidence he wants the detectives to find, but they go beyond the simple decoy to find the woman, much to the father's chagrin.

Not before a murder occurs, though, so the detective (Lam) needs to figure out who did it and square it to the best of his belief in justice.

The book's cock-eyed enough to make it interesting. The main character, Lam, isn't a good fighter, and every scrap he gets into, he loses. He also doesn't figure out everything just right, but he makes things as right as he can given his limitations.

This looks to be a cool series that I'll pursue in the future.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: It's Pat by Julia Sweeney and Christine Zandar (1992)
I don't know why I did this to myself. It's a book based on a Saturday Night Live skit that I didn't find particularly amusing. I mean, don't get me wrong, I hold onto SNL skits beyond normal bounds of sanity--after all, I saw Night at the Roxbury on its opening weekend and Ladies Man as soon as I could, but the Pat thing? Nah, I have dodged that particular movie with aplomb.

As you know, gentle reader, the Pat thing is a skit by Julia Sweeney, an SNL alum I remember fondly up until the point that I deconfuse her with Jan Hooks, who I thought was hot. The gag in the skit, the movie (I presume), and the book is that you don't know if Pat is a male or a female. So innumerable hours of skit time, movie time, and fictional decades in the book are spent by people trying to pin Pat down metaphorically or literally to find out.

I guess everyone needs a hobby.

So the book's schtick is that it's a scrapbook of Pat's life, written in such a way to avoid all pronouns. Um, that's it.

Well, it didn't take too long to peruse, anyway, and I probably only spent a quarter on it.

Why do I do this? So I can serve as a warning to you, gentle reader, and I hope you'll learn the lesson and not bother with this book.

Apparently, an ad at the back indicates that a similar book exists for Wayne's World. Oh, my.

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, December 06, 2007
Dog Joke
Dog walks into a telegraph office and writes out his telegram: "Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof."

The clerk says, "You can add another woof, since you're charged the same price for ten words."

The dog says, "But that wouldn't make any sense."

(I don't know why dog jokes get to me, but they do.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Authorities Cite Drops of Jupiter At Scene As Evidence
Man talking on cell phone killed by Train in San Leandro

Dude, not only is it impolite to talk on a cell phone during a concert, but it's dangerous as well.

Book Report: The Book of Lists 1990s Edition by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace (1993)
I have been a fan of the Book of Lists series since my middle school days, when I bought the first Book of Lists as a paperback at a flea market just up the hill from the trailer park in which I lived. I've even read The People's Almanac, for crying out loud.

From a name that includes The People's Almanac, you can guess that the authors lean a little left of center. Now that they're flogging more recent history, it becomes more apparent. For example, the following list:

Presidents of the latter half of the 20th Century who were The Devil:
  1. Ronald Reagan
  2. Richard Nixon
  3. George Bush
  4. Ronald Reagan
  5. Ronald Reagan
Well, perhaps that list didn't appear in the book, but it could have. The authors rely a lot more on Exclusive for Book of Lists as their source material, which means that now that people have heard of it, the authors could send out a questionnaire instead of doing research. Not that all of the lists are like that; just a lot more than in previous editions, as I recollect.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, essentially the authors come up with chapter titles and then coalesece lists around them. Or vice versa, they come up with a bunch of trivia lists and make chapters to reflect it. Regardless, it's just a pile of trivia on a bunch of topics.

The book best serves as a sort of brainstorm for further research, as it's probably foolish to cite this book as a comprehensive or even correct source. Which could serve, ultimately, as the beginnings of many, many essays or articles if I don't just throw the book on my read shelves and forget about it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Book Report: The Enforcer by Andrew Sugar (1973)
This is not the paperback rendering of the Dirty Harry movie (this is). This is the first in the Objectivist-themed 70s paperback pulp series The Enforcer (I read the third book in the series, Kill City, in July).

It's more of what that one was about:
    I mean, imagine Atlas Shrugged if, instead of a cipher for Ayn Rand's fantasies of the perfect man, John Galt was an author who died somehow and was now living in a series of cloned bodies that deteriorate in 90 days while he works for the John Anryn Institute using his wits, his special power over his own life force (ki), and judo to take on all the Tooheys of the world (sorry, wrong book). But it's pulp fiction with a definite Objectivist theme.

    In between bursts of violent action, we have Penthouse letters sex scenes, the most graphic I've seen depicted in any paperbacks I assume were sold at drug stores. I mean, in some pulp, you get the "they're going to have sex" paragraph, "they're having sex" paragraph, and then the "it was good" paragraph. In this book, you get the he did that and she did this to his that and it was good thing. It starts graphic to the N-degree and then goes into the metaphorical several paragraphs later. Conforming with Ayn Rand's theory of sex, I reckon.

    Also, we get the speechifying, but in small doses, where the protagonist and his Institute compatriots go on about the power mongers who would rule over men. Nothing comparable to Galt's Speech, though, so the narrative is not impaired too badly.
What fun!

Author Alexander Jason is dying of inoperable stomach cancer at 38, but the John Anryn Institute has a solution and a means for him to chear death (the aforementioned cloning). On his first of his indentured service Enforcer missions, he's sent to a Caribbean island to blow up some oil wells, but the training wheels come off in a big hurry as he is inserted on the wrong beach and is captured right away. He awakens from weeks of torture to endure weeks more of torture before a second Institute mission arrives with a change in plans; instead of the oil wells, their primary focus is a secret lab in the jungle. And Jason has to deal not only with the new mission, but also a traitor in the midst and the breakdown of his clone body.

Probably the most possible fun I can have with this sort of pulp book, but your mileage may vary if you're not into Objectivism.

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, December 03, 2007
Book Report: Momisms by Cathy Hamilton (2002)
I bought this book earlier this year at a garage sale here in Old Trees at the same time as I bought my Triumph TR books and New York At Night. So I got it cheap, which is good, and in an gluttonous frenzy of book buying, which is also good, for this is not a book I would have liked to have spent a pile for and to have bought by itself.

It's a little gift book, and a slightly amusing one at that. The author takes individual clichés uttered by mothers, places them one up on each page, and writes a couple sentences of exegesis. I would have said humorous exigesis, but it's mostly wry. I guess if you're looking for something for your mother for Christmas and cannot think of anything (especially if, unlike my mother, you cannot simply stick to power tools), perhaps you can share some warm memories and smiles with the Hamilton book. It's a gift book, that's what it's for. Not great insight into the origins of the Modern American-English language.

Think of it as Lileks without the photos and without the depth. Speaking of whom, he's got a new book out, Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery. Buy two copies today, and send one to me care of this station.

Books mentioned in this review:


It's Only Tricky In 2007
Here's an obvious Constitutional crisis in the making:
    Either way, a two-story mural decrying eminent domain is testing the boundaries of the First Amendment, sparking a federal lawsuit that challenges the city's intricate zoning code.

    At issue is a tricky constitutional dilemma — fighting clutter versus protecting free speech — that experts say could force St. Louis to rewrite its laws regarding outdoor signs.
When your basic Bill of Rights freedom runs counter to a municipal regulation applied to a political message advocating the limitation of government power, which should win? In 2007 America, apparently it's a toss-up. At least according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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