Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Everything Is Better In Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, and the flood waters are browner. And the clouds, they are bigger:

Wisconsin clouds
Click for full size photo

I guess I need to work on my image program's color compression settings.

Still. I'm not kidding about the sky, by the way. The St. Louis area must have extra haze or something, because it has a slightly greyer cast to its sky than home.

A Wedding Toast
Instead of making off with the rings and with the cash used to pay off the peripheral wedding personnel, I stayed and made this toast as best man:
    To B---- and H----. One a dreamer, one practical. Jane Austen would have called this a good match. Fortunately, we didn't have to suffer through 300 pages of Victorian prose to celebrate with them today. Yesterday was the first day of summer, but today is the first day of their spring. May they have many seasons, many fruitful seasons, together.
Yeah, I know, Jane Austen was pre-Victorian. Nobody in the back of the bar in the middle of Wisconsin called me on it. Probably didn't want to start an argument about Jane Austen on the big day.

Good Book Hunting: June 28, 2008
Today J1 and my sainted mother and I hit some garage sales and estate sales because she desperately needs an Elvis on Velvet in the next week. The whole thing took on the feel of a weird MMORPG side quest, with this strange character wandering around asking all of the villagers about a Velvet Elvis, even when the people only displayed baby clothes and toys in their shops, as though the parser hearing the words would trigger them to tell my mother what cave to go to or would offer a special deal of the Elvis directly from their wall for a sum of silver. The only way it could have been more so, I suppose, was if she was asking for Velvet Elves.

Amid all of that and a bit of a spat between an estate sale "professional" and an estate sale buying aficionado over a mispriced bit of shelving, I found like four books for me and one for the Js inclusive:

Five books
Click for full size

That includes:
  • Two books in the Isaac Asimov Foundation series, I think; as you know, I read a couple of these on my honeymoon, lo those many years ago. I've forgotten how far into the series I got, so I'm gathering a bunch on my to-read shelves because I'm afraid I'll skip a book or read them out of order. Maybe when I have the whole set I can begin again.

  • A biography of Ian Fleming.

  • Old Possum's Practical Book of Cats by T.S. Eliot. My wife informs me that she already owns a copy of that book. However, as you know, our books remain separate, so I don't care what she owns. I own it now.
Additionally, for the youts, I got a book about the lesser evil of the Roosevelts.

Not a lot, but reading is at a slow pace these days (backed up books to report on disbursed rapidly could lead to a different impression).

Or maybe I am saving myself for the Carondolet Y book fair coming later this year.

No Velvet Elvis, though, so my mother is probably going to fail her quest. I think she ought to get some XP just for trying, though. Next week, the world will be lousy with them.

Friday, June 27, 2008
Ruining It For Everyone
You know the AFLAC duck?

Voiced by Gilbert Gottfried.

And you used to like those commercials, didn't you?

Thursday, June 26, 2008
Book Report: Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1837, 1989)
You know, once might have been enough.

Fresh from reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales, I jumped right into this book by another American author to see if my thesis that I could read American vernacular with more pleasure than the British was true. Apparently, it's not unflinchingly true, as Hawthorne's stories are more allegorical, high-faluting, and educational rather than enjoyable.

I read it slowly. At the beginning, I thought the style was overwhelming. Then, I amused myself in snickering at double entendres that would have made Hawthorne blush if he'd known how they'd sound to 21st century ears, such as the first paragraph of "The Maypole of Merry Mount":
    BRIGHT WERE the days at Merry Mount, when the Maypole was the banner staff of that gay colony! They who reared it, should their banner be triumphant, were to pour sunshine over New England's rugged hills, and scatter flower seeds throughout the soil. Jollity and gloom were contending for an empire. Midsummer eve had come, bringing deep verdure to the forest, and roses in her lap, of a more vivid hue than the tender buds of Spring. But May, or her mirthful spirit, dwelt all the year round at Merry Mount, sporting with the Summer months, and revelling with Autumn, and basking in the glow of Winter's fireside. Through a world of toil and care she flitted with a dreamlike smile, and came hither to find a home among the lightsome hearts of Merry Mount.
However, I eventually got acclimated to the book and got more into the tales, but they're not really the sorts of things one reads for pleasure unless one gets pleasure out of saying, "I read Twice-Told Tales by Hawthorne for fun."

So I guess I got some secondary pleasure out of it.

Less fun than the aforementioned Irving though, and only a bit more enjoyable than the Stallone but at greater investment.
Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Clash of the Titans by Alan Dean Foster (1981)
You remember the movie with the L.A. Law guy? No? Damn kids. This is the novelization, essentially a recasting of the Perseus myth with a bit of modern (ca. 1981) costumery.

I like Alan Dean Foster, as you know, and he got a lot of this sort of work. He adds some allusions within the text not found in the movie, but some of the off-script scenes sound completely different, as though a couple pages of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead were accidentally grafted into Hamlet.

Still, it serves its purpose: reminding me I need to watch the DVD of the film I bought some years ago. Actually, I think the real point was to make me go buy something related to the film to add to its bottom line, but I don't think the lunchboxes still add to MGM's bottom line 30 years later.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Contrary Pleasure by John D. MacDonald (1954, ?)
This is a Fawcett reprint of the original book, so you'll have to forgive the back cover's references to patterns of violence and evil lurking beneath the surface. Instead of a crime novel, this book depicts a decadent family in a milltown in New York that has a week wherein their lives break out of the rut into which they'd fallen. It's a character study of each and the events that change them.

The patriarch, 50 something Ben, runs the mill he and the others inherited, but his progenitors allowed it to run down, so he's barely holding it together. A major financier comes along to buy the mill, and Ben has to determine what's best for the family.

Ben's son Brock has been expelled from school after falling in with a bad woman and stealing from another student to support her. He has to deal with his father's sanction, but he meets another girl who draws his attention.

Ben's daughter Ellen is dating an older boy and hangs with some older kids, college students now, but she thinks that they've changed or she has.

Ben's half-brother Quinn, a vice president at the mill, is intimidated by his robust and energetic wife. He doesn't work for his salary and keeps a woman on the side.

Ben's half-sister Alice married a construction man and deals with frigidity.

The construction man used to build good homes, but now speculates with his construction, cutting corners and using cheap materials.

The youngest brother of the family marries a strong woman in Mexico City, where both work for the State Department, and they return.

Over the course of the week, Alice has a sexual awakening of sorts, which causes the construction man to reevaluate his life and goals and stop doing shoddy work. Ellen's boyfriend stumbles through a rape attempt, and she grows up. Ben tells off Quinn, who must be the evil guy as he engages in the pattern of violence--beating his girlfriend to death (he thinks) and then killing himself. Brock regains his father's trust as he helps the patriarch with the crises. And Ben decides not to sell, even though it might drive him to an early coronary, because he likes keeping the mill--and the family--together ultimately.

A decent character piece, a bit awash in characters though, more like MacDonald's business books than his crime fiction. But a good read nevertheless.
Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Book Report: Paradise Alley by Sylvester Stallone (1977)
After almost winning an Academy Award for writing (Rocky, which ties Stallone with the number of almost Oscars as Roger L. Simon and puts him only one ahead of me), Stallone unleashed this book in bookstores before turning it into a film starring Stallone. Unlike Rocky, which dealt with boxing, this book deals with wrestling. And it's set in the 40s, not the present day (then), so it's completely different.

It's wooden, it's written pretty specifically in scenes for a movie, and it uses concrete poetry style arrangements of words to make points. But ultimately it didn't suck as bad as some novels movies are based on or some novelizations of movies.

Plus, I get to say I read Stallone's novel. It's mixed in with Austen, Dickens, and Hardy this year, but jeez, any kid in college reads those. I alone read Stallone.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Bread by Ed McBain (1974)
I passed up a couple of copies of this at the St. Charles Book Fair because I knew I had a copy of it at home. The copy I have is an ex-library copy, so because I wasn't that attentive, I passed up a chance to upgrade. One of these days, I should really add my to-read shelves to my database and run a comprehensive report before I go so I know what to look for and what to buy. But that's more organized than I pretend to be.

This book is a 1974 87th precinct book, which means you'll not find it as easily in the wild (St. Charles Book Fair notwithstanding) as you'll find the 80s-00s books, so I'm glad I got it regardless of the edition. One finds that McBain's quality remained pretty steady throughout his career.

This book deals with an arson fire that destroys a shipment of toys, putting a company's owner in a bind. Investigating leads the 87th Squad to find some dubious investment schemes and a series of related murders that indicate something more than toy selling was going on.

It's a good book, and it's dated a bit. I mean, pushers want bread, dig? But still a worthy read.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Thought That Was Illegal
Craig Morgan, in the song "International Harvester":
    I'm the son of a 3rd generation farmer
    I've been married 10 years to the farmer's daughter
Ponder the logical implications lost on most country and western fans.

Junior Undersecretary, US Department of Truth Tryouts
A small newspaper's editor comes out in favor of nationalizing the oil industry:
    Here is one question: If the free market is the answer, how come gas at the pump is far, far cheaper in countries where governments run the oil business – Russia, Venezuela, Indonesia. Please, I am just asking a question. I am not a commie.
Just asking a question facilely; I thought journalists wanted answers, but not when the answers undermine their glib socialism. Since he's not bothering to discuss the lifespan or quality of life of regular citizens in those countries, he's really just pushing a commie viewpoint.

Perhaps Corrigan would like to talk about how cheap microwave dinners are in Cuba, since that worker's paradise is only now giving its citizens conveniences we've taken for granted for decades. I would guess the same sort of dynamic holds true for cars; only a small percentage of people have cars, and even those who do tend to use them to try to escape to America and its high gas prices.

On the other hand, perhaps Corrigan hopes nationalization will save his industry, as newspapers are in precipitous decline as a business model (link via Instapundit).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
A White Guantlet Thrown Down During A Snowstorm
"Lady Willpower" is my favorite song by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. You probably don't even have one. Because you're a sissy.

Karaoke Revelations
As some of you Atari Party attendees know, we have kept up with the Karaoke Revolutions series by Konami. I'm not a very talented singer, but I'm pleased that I have scored perfectly on two songs:
  • "Take On Me" by a-ha

  • "More Than A Feeling" by Boston
I am especially proud because of the songs.

Monday, June 23, 2008
Urban Sprawl, Advance Team
As I told everyone I saw this weekend, Milwaukee is very odd in that its metropolitan area is small and drops off abruptly into farmlands. You can drive from the south end of the area to the north end of the area in a little over 30 minutes on the freeway. In St. Louis, by contrast, just starting from downtown (which doesn't include the eastern suburbs because they're in Illinois and although they like to pretend they count, they don't), you can drive for well over an hour one its freeways and still travel through well-developed suburbs.

However, in that sprawling farmland just beyond the reaches of Milwaukee's metropolitan area, there are signs that the development juggernaut is coming. This photo, taken along US 60 just outside of Jackson proves it. I passed fields, tractors driving on the side of the road, tractors for sale, and a sign:

Hand-lettered CONDOS sign
Click for full size

It isn't the farmers moving into CONDOS in the middle of nowhere.

Based on my experience with the St. Louis area and how my former area in northwestern Jefferson County has grown, I expect the way of life of those people in Jackson and in Richfield and in Hubertus and around those parts will change drastically in the next 20 years. If Milwaukee has the population to support it.

It's progress, I guess, but I'm still sad. Perhaps I should be like John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, et al, and write poetic crime fiction novels to lament it.

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