Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Marsh Brings the Me-owr! To Political Argumentation
Perhaps Taylor Marsh is more qualified to be vice-president than Sarah Palin:
    Sarah Palin and I have one thing in common. We both did the beauty queen circuit. I won, she didn’t...
Well, then, Marsh is arguing from authority when she says Palin is a poor choice, but a good choice ultimately since it will keep teh Rethuglicans from winning another presidency.

But I oversimplify.

(Link on Instapundit.)

Great Moments in Map Reading
Courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in this article:
    As police investigated at the scene Friday night, groups of neighbors and teenagers gathered in the neighborhood of winding streets and newer homes northwest of Interstate 55 and Lindbergh Boulevard.

View Larger Map

That looks to be due north to me, not northwest. Green Park does not even extend west of Lindbergh, but given that I'm a county resident who traverses these small communities daily and not an insular Post-Dispatch The-City-Is-Back intern, I know these things enough to check them out.

Friday, August 29, 2008
Hardy Har Har, Ca. 1981
Stay back, I know Karate (and three other Japanese words).

Book Report: The Careless Corpse by Brett Halliday (1961)
Funny how the periods overlap; this book, written within a year of The End of the Night, is definitely a throwback to earlier detective fiction and the MacDonald book foreruns the more modern mystery (as does all of MacDonald's work). Sure, this book is one in a series with a two-fisted action hero whose name graced a mystery magazine (Michael Shayne), but MacDonald covered that series thing with Travis McGee, and the latter more closely resembles the work of the other MacDonald (Ross) than the hardboiled school (Chandler, Hammett, et cetera).

This book details with the theft of an emerald necklace from a rich man with a boozing, thrill seeking wife; after time, he gets a letter blackmailing him about his fraudulently placing an insurance claim on a replica necklace. Shayne comes in to wreck many plans, including some to arm counterrevolutionaries in Cuba.

The last bit is the most amusing of all: written right after the revolution, the two-fisted American PI is pro-Castro and some tough speechifying defends the revolution and says that Castro's not necessarily a communist. Of course, a year later, this book would be proven wrong. However, the political framework doesn't take away from the two-fisted action, so it was forgiveable. And amusing.

I don't know if I've read a Michael Shayne novel since high school; it seems to me I might have, and I really ought to get more. The problem with these books is that the early 1960s cheap paperbacks are deteriorating for the most part in the wild; this one had several pages loose from the spine, including one that the previous owner had put back in backwards (so I read the even page before I read the odd page--it made more sense when I flipped them to the proper position). It would be nice if someone were to bring out reprints or collections, but I suppose Shayne is too old school for that. So I'll continue to be very careful, only opening the book 25 degrees, and keeping cats off the lap while reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, August 28, 2008
Book Report: Nobody's Safe by Richard Steinberg (2000)
When I picked up this book, I figured it was going to be a go-go-go suspense thriller like something Heller or Ludlum would write. An uncommonly good cat burglar with a past in shadowy government service knocks over a luxury penthouse and is surprised by the occupant returning. And more surprised when the occupant is hit by shadowy government types. The cat burglar finds the goods that the bad guys wanted, but they're onto him, and he's on the run trying to figure out what they want and whatnot.

But he opens the contents of the safe, and it's the Majic-12 papers. Maybe some readers won't know what they are, but brothers and sisters, I got the papers off of the BBSes before the Internet existed and read them. Back in my youth, I was more speculative, and the thought of aliens coming to get you in the middle of the night was kinda spooky (this is before I became more realistic and focused on the government coming to get you in the middle of the night, which is not so much spooky as frightening since it's a possibility). So when I found that, I knew this was an X-Files sort of thriller, not a realistic thriller. It's speculative fiction or fantasy, not suspense. So I was disappointed and knocked right into reinvoking my disbelief.

I hung with it, though, and made it through the cat burglary of Area 51, the rescue of the aliens (Joe and Max Gray--Hah! I snorted when I read their cover names!), the flashback of dubious merit except that it would please Majic-12 believers, the dubious deal to set everything right, and then the discovery that the deal won't hold and the sequel is on.

It wasn't a bad book, but that didn't make it a good book. Maybe I would have been more tolerant if the book had been packaged as what it is instead of a straightforward suspense book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Book Report: End of the Night by John D. MacDonald (1960)
This is probably the darkest John D. MacDonald book I've ever read.

The story details, sort of, a cross-country crime spree by four drugged-out kids in the late 1950s. The action focuses really on their last murder (of 4, I think) in a small town and the events that lead up to their capture as well as bits from the trial. MacDonald does not go into a straight narrative, instead starting out with a letter from one of their executioners to a former employee at the prison where the bad guys died. MacDonald then weaves in an out of the in-over-his-head defense attorney's blustery memos during the trial, the death row diary of the college-kid-gone-bad in the quarter, some "live" actions of the final victim, her fiance, and law enforcement on the trail of the criminals. It's a bit jumbled, but you get a decent picture.

In most of MacDonald's book, we get a protagonist of sorts, in some cases a shopworn hero and in others a pretty ruthless, efficient sort of character, but in this book, the protagonist ultimately is circumstances and dogged law enforcement that leads to their arrest. You get a couple scenes with the functionaries in law enforcement, not one guy doggedly stepping forward. Just the professional grouping and how they come together to catch crooks hell-bent on being caught.

MacDonald spends a lot of time on the college-kid-gone-wrong, a kid from a good home who one day decides he's done with common life, so he walks out in the last semester of college and gets into a tawdry adventure and then falls into the group of drug-addled ne'er-do-wells. He has some conscience, sort of, and serves as a reminder that but for the grace of God go we.

The final scene of the book occurs after the fiance of the last victim, an architect, sells the property where he was going to build their dream house along with the plans he'd drawn up for them. As he drives away, he suddenly swerves to hit a dog but misses and then feels bad for the attempt and relief that he missed. This is the message of the book: one small swerve, maybe even only on whim, can lead one to great evil.

MacDonald's characterization talents are up to snuff, but overall the book isn't among his best because of the choppy pacing and lack of a protagonist. Also, did I mention its bleak outlook?

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
With A Name Like That, How Can The Band Be Bad?
The Pat Sajak Assassins. The very name inspires me to purchase one of their CDs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008
Good Book Hunting: August 22, 2008
The final book fair of the season, the Carondolet YMCA book fair, no longer takes place at the Carondolet YMCA. As a matter of fact, I overheard at the new venue that the Loughborough YMCA is closing down since there's a new, more modern facility available. A shame, really, since the old building was historic in nature. Also, because the books were spread over a number of rooms, they didn't overwhelm one, unlike the hockey rink in a South County park that had a checkout line wrapping into the bleachers when we came in.

I didn't even hit the fiction section before calling it a day, as I'd carried my fifty pounds (eventually) of books for part of or most of an hour and a half just getting through four of the six rows of tables. I've got so many books and read so few these days that I get little joy from my compulsive acquisition these days.

So here's what I got:

Carondolet Y purchases 2008
Click for full size

I bought:
  • Rush!, a biography of Rush Limbaugh.

  • Playwriting, a book about writing plays. Duh! Probably not as good as Backwards and Forwards, but I already have that.

  • How to Study History by Norman Cantor and an extra. I've read a couple of Cantor's history books and enjoyed them. Maybe he'll tell me I'm doing it right.

  • Five Women I Love by Bob Hope about touring with the USO in Vietnam. I think.

  • Interview with History by Oriana Fallaci.

  • A biography of Carl Sandburg.

  • The Kama Sutra, which is a game like Mah Jong.

  • A hardback copy of The Return of the Native, which is good because my unread paperback copy has a front cover that's torn off and taped on, badly. Something more durable will lend itself more easily to reading.

  • The Broken Spears, history of the conquest of Mexico from Aztec sources.

  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  • The Rush Limbaugh Story, another Rush Limbaugh bio. Which means I own three now (the other is Rush To Us, which was also available amongst the multitudes at the Y).

  • Before Jane Austen, a scholarly book about the rise of the novel in England.

  • I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore, a second copy of Clarissa Start's memoir to give as a gift to my mother-in-law.

  • Platoon, the book or novelization of the movie.

  • Churchill, a collection about Winston Churchill.

  • Urban Affairs, a collection of pieces by Elaine Viets. The cover photo was taken at the Coral Court motel, if I remember correctly.

  • The Fifty Year Dash by Bob Greene.

  • The Dragon and the Gnarly King by Gordon Dickson, because I don't have any unread Dickson, I think.

  • Thunder on the Left, a political bit.

  • Guns, Crime, and Freedom by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

  • Bob Geldof, a biography. Listen, because the guy played Pink in The Wall, I've bought an album of his (Deep In the Heart of Nowhere) and a bio. That's carrying it a little far just because I liked the movie.

  • Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell. My friend Glenn would be proud, if I ever talk to him again and let him know I got a book by his favorite columnist.

  • Warriors of the Way, an alternate history bit by Harry Harrison. The Vikings conquered England.

  • The Virginian in the Reader's Digest Classics edition. I actually bought this at an antique store we stopped in to kill some time between the book fair and dinner, so I paid a whole $3 for it, which is still only 10% of its original cost.

  • Cocoon, the movie paperback.

  • The Age of Reason, some small paperback summary history of the Enlightenment.

  • Old Yeller. Never read it. Nobody tell me it ends sadly. Actually, in 8th grade, I was kidding around with someone who read it and I blurted out an ending to ruin it for him. Someone told me the ending I made up (having not read the book) was the actual ending. What a waste of precognitive skills.

  • The Peter Principle. The book that coined the term, I think.

  • Event Horizon, the movie's paperback, which will be less gory than the movie since it won't have the special effects. Never saw the movie. Heard it was gory.

  • Smarter by the Dozen, a book about two families here in Old Trees.

  • The Study of American Folklore, the textbook about American Folklore by Jan Brunvand.

  • William the Conqueror. A biography.

  • England in Elizabeth's Time. A summary history book.

  • The Wizard and the Glass, which means I have the complete set now of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. I'll need to reread the first three, though, so this project will be in the future sometime.

  • The Aztecs, a book about the Aztecs.

  • A stray issue of the Missouri Historical Review from last year.

  • The Mysterious Maya. Not about the poet.

  • Mysteries of the Past, a book by American Heritage, so it's probably more credible than what the Reader's Digest people put out in this vein.

  • Appliance Service Handbook.
As you can see, Mrs. Noggle bought a couple cookbooks, a couple books, a stack of magazines, and dozens of cassettes. The children got a couple of books.

Loading these onto the to read shelves, I note I have just a litle space left. No doubt I'll accidentally fill this in the coming months. Then I'll have to start determining what furniture we sacrifice for more bookshelves. But that's not really a sacrifice, is it? Or perhaps I can somehow justify renting storage somewhere....

Good Book Hunting: August 16, 2008
Last Saturday, we stumbled across a couple of yard sales, reminding ourselves why we've stopped going to yard sales. However, I picked up a couple buck's worth of books:

August 16, 2008, books
Click for full size

I got:
  • A collection of sportscaster Jack Buck's poems. I mean, they cannot be worse than the complete works of Rod McKuen, can they?

  • A book applying Machiavelli to business. One of many, no doubt.

  • A biography of Vermeer. Because I don't have any so far, that I know of. But given how many books I've got these days, who can tell?
  • Crossword Poems Volume One. Oddly enough, this weekend, I saw this book and its companion volume and had no interest in them. Fortunately, as I would have bought duplicates only a week apart, and that's just embarrassing.
Yesterday's haul will be forthcoming, and a haul it was.

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