Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Book Report: The Only Girl in the Game by John D. MacDonald (1960)
This might be one of MacDonald's darkest pieces. Set in Las Vegas, it focuses on a hotel manager who tries not to get involved in the mob doings on with the hotel or the casino. He falls for a singer who's been with the hotel for a long time (a couple of years), and he dreams of taking her away when he makes enough to buy himself a hotel of his own in Florida. She, however, is blackmailed by the casino owners into spending nights with high rollers who win to encourage them to stay in Vegas and lose their winnings, so she suspects it's a pipe dream.

But when her father dies--the person to whom her seductions would have been outed as the threat of the blackmail--the singer decides to break free. The mob has other ideas. And then it's up to the hotel manager and the millionaire oil man who befriended the singer to exact revenge.

It's dark, and it's cynical, and then the ending comes very quickly. For that reason alone I was a little disappointed. But I still think MacDonald can write anything.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Growing Up in the Bend by E.M. Bray (1998)
This book is a set of reminiscences about growing up in the bend of the Gasconade River in rural Missouri in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The author is the son of a small farmer in the region who attends the local one room elementary school at the time and occasionally takes in a film in a nearby town. Strangely, the stories seem more from the time of The Great Brain series (Utah 1898) than a more modern era. When you compare the films of the era, often set in urban areas and New York in particular with the life of a rural person (no heat, no electricity, and some people still travelling by wagon), you get a stunning juxtaposition and a reminder of just how much change some people saw in the 20th Century.

The book isn't too long, but the narrative is a little disjointed, as each chapter is a discrete piece that relates stories or circumstances in the Bend in the year the author talks about. But it makes for some slow reading as each piece doesn't lead to the next.

Still, I enjoyed the book and learned a lot from it. Mostly, I learned how little a city boy like me knows of rural skills, such as hunting, butchering, growing, and gathering. It makes me what sort of city boy skills I have taking their place in my palette of experience. Running a backwater blog for over half a decade might be it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Crossroads by John D. MacDonald (1959)
This is a shorter of MacDonald's works, it seems, and it combines two of his themes: business and crime.

In it, the oldest brother of a family runs a business empire built on a Florida highway at an interchange. Businesses include a truck stop, a hotel, a motel, a couple restaurants, and a strip mall. His father, who bought all the land, has retired and lives on a hill overlooking his family work. The whole clan, including the numbers-mad but indecisive brother, the alert sister, and the playboy youngest son, work in the group. The book touches on the affairs and marriages of the characters and culminates in a robbery that goes awry.

A good bit of reading, combining a slice of life vignette with the planning, commission, and aftermath of the crime.

And the ending is mostly upbeat, too, which is better than The Only Girl in the Game.

Books mentioned in this review:

Democratic Party Barking at Shadows
The Missouri State Democratic Party intends to file an ethics complaint because a Congressman explained his vote to his constituents:
    The Missouri Democratic Party is crying foul over a mailer U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt's office sent to 7th District residents addressing his vote against cap and trade legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gases.

    The League of Conservation Voters has spent more than $500,000 in November and December, airing a television ad throughout Missouri, targeting Blunt for his vote against the legislation last summer.

    Blunt's office mailed a four-page glossy pamphlet to constituents this week -- at taxpayer expense -- to explain why he voted against the legislation, which he says would lead to a national energy tax on coal and raise the price of electricity and goods.
A Congressman communicating with his constituents? Heaven forfend! One might see why the Democratic Party thinks elected officials should not communicate with the people who elected those officials since Democratic congressmen can often only offer the argument "Nancy Pelosi told me to" or "Nancy Pelosi gave me earmarks to" for their votes.

As a bonus, now Robin "The Ghostwriter" Carnahan can say that Roy Blunt is under an ethical cloud--filed by her own party over a pretty obviously manufactured incident.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
More Dangerous Right Wing American Tea Party Protestors
Taking to the streets, smashing things up:
    Police have forced back hundreds of protesters who tried to break through a perimeter fence at the UN climate summit venue in Copenhagen.

    The Bella Centre, where the conference is taking place, has now been shut off, says the BBC's Sarah Mukherjee.
When conservatives take to the streets, Democrats in office characterize them as violent mobs. When leftists take to the streets, they are violent mobs.

But as long as Democrats think that television makes the reality, the cognitive dissonance will ring.

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