Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, March 27, 2009
Another Country and Western Music Law
Country and Western singers and band members (particularly men) should not have more than one capital letter in their last names, such as Rascal Flatts members Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus.

The fact that the other member of the group, Joe Don Rooney, has two first names in his professional name, cannot salvage any C&W credibility with the group.

Thursday, March 26, 2009
Magazine Report: Image MagazineVolume 9, Issue 1 (1981)
All right, I'm not going to make a habit of reviewing the various and sundry literary magazines that I pick up for the poetry. But this particular magazine struck me on many levels:

Image Magazine from 1981
Here's what I found noteworthy:
  • The book was laid out before desktop publishing, so it required cutting and pasting. No, the real thing, from which the computer metaphor arose. I did some of that myself in the olden days.

  • The magazine was based in the same suburb in which I live now. Meanwhile, in 1981, I lived in a housing project in Milwaukee.

  • The mailing address of the magazine is a post office box in the zip code of this very suburb. 13 years after this magazine appeared, I used the same post office for my literary magazine. I did not live in St. Louis proper at the time, but wanted a St. Louis mail address for submissions. I had to drive 45 minutes from Jefferson County to check the box. Which was rarely full.

  • Yes, the Image magazine does include a poem by Lyn Lifshin. You know the six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well, if you're any kind of poet at all, you're one degree of Lyn Lifshin. That is, you've appeared in at least one magazine with her. Heather has. I have not.
Those are the crazy things that I thought about when I looked through the magazine. The artwork is what would later become known as 'zine-ish, with a lot of simple hand-drawn bits. The poems are of lightweight literary quality. But I got a kick out of the magazine for the other things which it reminded me of and the wonder of wondering who these guys were that put this out right at the beginning of the Reagan era.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Book Report: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (1987)
Yesterday's foreshadowing about the introduction to the novella in Transgressions mentioning this book wasn't a hint as to the resolution of that story; instead, it foreshadowed that I read this book after that one. Because one decent 780 page book deserves another. Well, truly, this book is only 560 pages, but it took me a while to read it.

In it, the town members of Haven, Maine, start acting funny when a writer begins to uncover an alien vessel buried in their midst.

Well, it's a kinda short King book, but he still puts in cannon fodder characters that he introduces just to kill off. Also, he spends a lot of time making allusions to other books (The Dead Zone and It in particular) and even alludes to himself (a writer up near Bangor who writes gross books, unlike the writer in this book, who writes Westerns).

In true King fashion, bizarre things occur as people encounter fantasy novel situations and don't realize they're in a fantasy novel. However, like many, the writing of the book is very good but the end leaves me a little disappointed. Maybe I misconstrued some of the foreshadowing, but it seems to me that early parts indicated survival of characters who didn't survive. Perhaps I misread it. But with thousands of volumes left for me to read, I don't have the need to go back and re-read it to see if I was right.

Now you can understand why I read those Dilbert books I reported on earlier in the week. After 1300 pages in two books that took me weeks to read, I needed to boost my numbers and I'm a little behind on the annual book reading numbers.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Emphasis Is On Magazines
You know what won't sell me on a "business" magazine subscription?

These are magazines.  They are not pro-business.

Gushing about the man atop the administration that's going to punish any free business that isn't government business.

Some lean left, some lean right, we lean forward? You mean progressive aka "left," don't you, Businessweek?

The important thing to remember about these rags is that they're magazines that cover business. That is, they have the normal media biases and the normal collection of journalists writing and editing them. And if something is good for The People, business be damned.

Book Report: Transgressions edited by Ed McBain (2004)
In his introduction, McBain says he wants to honor a mostly-forgotten form from the pulp era, the novella. Longer than a short story, shorter than a novel, the form doesn't get much love these days. So he rounds up a number of people to contribute works in this form.

  • "Walking Around Money" by Donald Westlake. The story of series character Dortmunder and a plot to break into a printing plant and print a number of bills of a foreign currency from the presses used to make the currency and reset the serial number equipment.

  • "Hostages" by Anne Perry. A crime novel, sort of, depicting the seizure of an Irish Protestant leader by Irish Catholics. That's all secondary to the main plot: Men are stupid, and docile women really have to save the day.

  • "The Corn Maiden: A Love Story" by Joyce Carol Oates. A rather pedestrian, almost high-schoolish effort detailing the abduction of a young special needs kid told in a variety of viewpoints, including that of her abductors. Side note: I was very down on the novella at first, but I realized I had confused Joyce Carol Oates with Erica Jong. Once I realized my mistake, I enjoyed it more. Because I don't have a lot of respect for Erica Jong.

  • "Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line" by Walter Mosley. This novella doesn't feature his series character, but instead a rather crazy setup spun from the Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin paradigm. I enjoyed it a lot and was disappointed that Mosley hadn't created a series with the characters.

  • "The Resurrection Man" by Sharyn McCrumb, not so much a crime fiction piece as a character study about a slave/former slave charged with a grisly task for a medical school in the South circa the Civil War.

  • "Merely Hate" by Ed McBain, a chance for McBain to mention once again that he really hates George Bush. Pathetic.

  • "The Things They Left Behind" by Stephen King. After the attacks of September 11, a man who called in sick that day must deal with some remainders and reminders from his coworkers who died in the attacks. The introduction mentions The Tommyknockers by name. Consider that foreshadowing.

  • "The Ransome Women" by John Farris. A reclusive artist chooses an art dealer's assistant to be his next subject, and her police detective fiance thinks there's something amiss since the former subjects are all reclusive.

  • "Forever" by Jeffrey Deaver. A police statistician thinks that an abnormal number of suicides might mean murder. A bit of a fish-out-of-water tale that was very pleasing.

  • "Keller's Adjustment" by Lawrence Block. A murderer-for-hire has a change of heart after the September 11 attacks and has to work it out while on the job. Plenty readable.
On the whole, it was a pretty good book, although I didn't enjoy a couple of the novellas very much. Sadly, that includes the McBain piece.

It weighs in at nearly 780 pages, so it's quite an endeavour to read it. But the novellas move along and you can read each in one or two nights, so it might expose you to some writer whom you'd enjoy in longer form.

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, March 23, 2009
Appropriate Abbreviation of the Day
Transfer on Death (TOD): when someone assigns assets so that they pass onto a beneficiary upon death.

Why is it so appropriate? Because as any student of Dr. Russ Reising can tell you, tod means death in German.

Book Report: It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone by Scott Adams (1995)
This is an early book in Scott Adams's collections, one of those whose cartoons are reprinted in Seven Years of Highly Defective People. So I got some deja vu.

As always, the cartoons are amusing. I'm sure I relate to them because not long after this book was published, I left the world of retail and light industrial to make my livelihood in an office, and I didn't know how to behave. Fortunately, it's a lot like Dilbert, so eccentricity was okay.

By the way, if you're keeping track at home, by the time this book was published, Wally was not yet Wally.

Books mentioned in this review:

Sunday, March 22, 2009
Government Health Care, Heart and Head Style
President Obama, speaking on the dystopia he would inflict upon Americans:
    "There is a moral imperative to healthcare," Obama said. "Having said that, if we don't address costs, I don't care how heartfelt our efforts are, we will not get this done. ... We've got to balance our heart and head as we move this process forward."
Well, here's how they balance the costs in Britain (formerly Great Britain, but now not so much):
    A seriously ill baby has died just hours after a judge ruled doctor's should turn off his life support machine against his parents' wishes.
Here's what the judge says about your right to life:
    But yesterday, judge Mrs Justice Parker ruled the boy did not have the right to life 'in all circumstances'.
The circumstance that abrogate that right to live: it's to expensive to the government, the health care provider.

It would be easy for me to make a pithy response that using the heart and the head in government health care means some department head determines when your heart stops, but let's be honest. Most of these decisions won't be made by department heads or courts; instead, it will be some 24 year old with a social work degree killing off the expensive through bureaucratic process.

Book Report: Seven Years of Highly Defective People by Scott Adams (1997)
I bought this book last week at a book fair and thought it would make a good break from the thick books that have been bogging me down this year. Indeed, it was not only a break, but a retread of sorts, since this book collects material from earlier Dilbert books and provides a bit of gloss or exegesis to the characters Adams created and what he was thinking of. This includes thoughts about the origins and evolution of Ratbert and Dogbert as well as the character who would become Wally but who was called by many names over the first couple of years.

Considering that this book came out in 1997, that means Dilbert is coming up on its 20th anniversary. It seems like it's younger than that, but probably only because I think I'm younger than it would make me. Additionally, one has to reflect that Dilbert really caught on because it was partially established when the Internet rolled around and geek/engineering culture ascended. Adams really was in the right place at the right time.

So this book shouldn't be the first of the collections you get; you can get the same cartoons elsewhere, and Adams's commentary is interesting if you're really into Dilbert. Or if you're an Adams drone who will buy any book he publishes, like me.

Books mentioned in this review:

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