Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, September 03, 2005
What Didn't Need To Be Said
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out the obvious: Katrina dwarfs our Flood of '93:
    Water was the enemy in both disasters, but observers say the Midwest's Great Flood of 1993 pales in comparison to what is unfolding now along the Gulf Coast.
It also pales in comparison to the disappointment I experienced when my lunch at the downtown Thai place was listed as two iconic flames' worth of hot on the menu, but wasn't very hot at all.

But I see how some local observers could mistake the scale of some upper middle class West County St. Louis being forced from their homes with the destruction of an entire city and devestation of parts of three states. Still, I'm sure the end result will be the same: hubristic and federally-funded reconstruction and further overdevelopment in disaster-susceptible areas.

Now That's Thorough
Relatives file wrongful death suits:
    Relatives of five people killed July 28 in a fiery wreck on Interstate 44 in Eureka, near the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park, have filed wrongful death suits in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

    The suits were among 1,400 filed in the county last week, before a new law capping damage awards in civil cases took effect.
The situation:
    A dump truck loaded with rock and driven by Thomas Miskel, of Imperial, smashed into the back of Huckaba's 2000 Dodge Caravan, shoving the minivan into four vehicles and across a frontage road before the wreckage erupted in flames.
How many suits? Five: one for each victim of the single accident.

The plaintiffs?
  • The driver of the truck, natch.

  • Bourbeuse River Hauling, the company that owns the truck.

  • H & H Freight Services, which provided the contract driver for Bourbeuse.

  • Millstone Bangert Inc., the company that hired the truck to deliver the rock to its construction site.

  • Kenworth of St. Louis, the mechanics who worked on the truck and should have known it wouldn't stop in time.

  • Six Flags, for apparently building a theme park nearby which people would look at or attend.

  • The state of Missouri for its poor design of the highway.

  • The city of Eureka, for not stopping traffic backup at the highway exit where the accident occurred.
Why not sue Dodge, for not making fourth, fifth, and sixth brake lights? The parents of the driver, for bringing a child capable of such evil into the world? The painting contractor who puts the lines on the highways and the makers of the asphalt for not providing enough traction for stopping?

Perhaps those are defendants for another day.

Book Report: Hark! by Ed McBain (2004)
I bought this book at the Carondolet YMCA for $4.00, but it's in almost new condition, and I hadn't read this book, and Ed McBain died this summer. So again I set aside my normal reluctance to spend that much money on a book.

Hark! is a Deaf Man book. There's no other way to put it. Normal crime goes out the window in this book, as the Deaf Man again taunts the boys (and girl) of the 87th Precinct with a set of clues about what he plans to do, knowing that they won't be able to stop him. Or so he thinks.

As always, these books include a lot of details in the lives of the characters. McBain kept up a tight schedule on publishing these novels, particularly in the last couple of years, so we can forgive him for what might have been an increased serialization of the private lives--although the books always had some of that. Something else striking about this book is that it refers to actual contemporary political figures--Bush and Blair--, contemporary musicians--the John Pizarelli trio--, and contemporary events--the war in Iraq. His earlier books used common nouns or made-up details, which has preserved their longevity and readability into the present. For example, a veteran returning from "the war" proved a relatively malleable archetype: it could have been Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the current wars depending upon the decade in which the reader encounters the book. By naming specifics, McBain has limited the future reach of these books.

But one can become as morose as Travis McGee lamenting that not only is the concept of reading books becoming meaningless in man's blithe march into media-mandated illiteracy and technologically-enabled idiocy, but with Ed McBain's death, the potential number of 87th Precinct novels (or at least those for which Evan Hunter is responsible) has become finite and the actual number of books I have not read will now slowly tick down to zero, much like life itself.

Man, that's depressing. I think I'll while some of that time away mindlessly by playing Civilization.

Book Report: The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald (1978)
I paid a whole $3.00 for this book at the Carondolet YMCA Book Fair last weekend. It's a lot for me to pay for a book, I know, but this one is a stated first edition. So I threw it in my box. As you know, gentle reader, John D. MacDonald is one of my favorite authors, and to get one of his first editions for only three dollars, well, I'd make that purchase any day of the week. Because of my love for JDM, I didn't evaluate the book coldly, rationally, like a true book collector, otherwise I would have noted the pen scribbling--hopefully by a child--inside the front and back cover and perhaps the slight molding on the spine. But since I'm thrilled to have this first edition for my collection and not for investment purposes, it will do.

An old seafaring acquaintance of Travis McGee commissions the salvage expert to find and return his good name. Captain Van Harder was found passed out aboard the ship he was piloting after its owner fell overboard. Although he battled and conquered drinking demons in his youth, no one believes him that he only had one drink on the job, and his license and livelihood are revoked. McGee travels to the gulf coast of Florida with his friend Meyer to investigate the disappearance of the owner. As his business was on the rocks, could the owner have slipped a mickey to his captain and friend to stage a disappearance to Mexico? It certainly looks that way.

I cannot really say anything bad about this novel without trying very hard, so I won't bother. I paid $3.00 for a book I'd already ready and might already own and I read it the same week I bought it. Let that guide your thinking about my opinion of the book.

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Inappropriate Metaphor of the Day
From a fundraising plea junk mail from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Program of the American Health Assistance Foundation, of whom I've never heard before and to whom I will never send any money whatsoever:
Major news in the research on Alzheimer's:
Researchers funded by Alzheimer's Disease Research including TWO Nobel prize winners--have made breakthrough discoveries that may signla the end of Alzheimer's reign of terror!

Alzheimer's reign of terror? Lord, love a duck, poorly written, poorly metaphored... I say we make it a trifecta by making it poorly funded, too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Twenty Year Trivia Turnabout
Joaquin Phoenix had a brother, River Phoenix, who was also an actor.

Compare/contrast this with trivia questions ca 1990.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Bush Prepares the Keynesian Free Market Wrecking Ball
Bush may tap strategic oil reserve as prices soar:
    Hurricane Katrina disrupted Gulf Coast petroleum output and rattled energy markets on Monday, sending oil and natural gas prices soaring and setting the stage for a spike in the retail cost of gasoline.

    The Bush administration said it would consider lending oil from the nation's emergency stockpile to refiners that request it and the president of OPEC said he will propose a production increase of 500,000 barrels a day at the cartel's meeting next month.
Given that the Middle East remains relatively unstable, that one of the largest exporters in this hemisphere has a mad-on for freedom, and that a rising rival power's consumption of the existing supply is growing, I'd rather we save the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for just in case the s really hits the f beyond consumer inconvenience and price increases. Call it a foolish consistency, but I opposed the last president's proposed release as well.

I mean, where does the government's meddling in free markets end? With increased home seizures when the housing bubble "bursts," so better to spur demand and keep the supply tight? Oh, no, you say? Why the heck not?

Brian Ends The Foreign Policy Debate With a Witty Riposte
I am a chickenhawk. I eat chickens. Are you a chicken?

Monday, August 29, 2005
Book Report: Movies and TV: The New York Public Library Book of Answers by Melinda Corey and George Ochoa (1992)
I paid $1.00 for this book last week at the J. I totally consumed it because I'm into trivia. Speaking of which, this book has the longest title of anything I've read in the last two years.

This book is kinda like a FAQ, especially FAQs like a former employer wanted me to write back when I was a technical writer: Just make up some questions. Actually, this is a little different, as someone did ask these questions of the New York Public Library.

The book focuses on movies, mostly classic movies, and television, mostly early television. Hopefully I have absorbed enough information to keep me competitive with MC Jazzy Pianist, the other anchor of the North Side Mind Flayers but sometimes a rival in non-official trivia events.

So I now know where RKO studios went and who played Joe Friday's partner in the second television go-round of Dragnet (although I already knew that--perhaps I'm not keeping up after all). I did note an interesting confluence, whether real or perceived: a lot of long-running television series went off of the air in the early 1970s. A lot of shows seemed to run from the radio days through the new medium and right up until 1971 or 1974 or whatever. Someone could make a persuasive paper about how this reflects the changing of the guard from the "Greatest Generation" to the "Me-est Generation." No doubt more academically-minded people than I have tried.

So is the book worth a buck? Of course not, Mike. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Husband Pleads Innocent
Somehow, some way, this blog is the number 1 search hit on Yahoo! for:

when your husband thinks you are better than him

I plead innocent, honey.

Update: Certain elements of the household have shown me how, due to the unique nature of Yahoo! algorhthyms, this result isn't always number one on different computers, even different computers in the same house. Ah, well, obviously I've already had the incident purged from my record.

Book Report: Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (1993)
I paid $1.00 for this book at the annual J book fair last Sunday. I've already read it. I like Carl Hiaasen. Perhaps it's because he doesn't write series (of which I'm aware), so he has something different going on in each one and can't just phone in a rehash of previous novels without any forward momentum on recycled characters.

This book starts off too slowly, really, with a hodgepodge of characters with something happening, but little risk or empathy to drive me along. When an out-of-control philandering Congressman goes nuts in a strip club and beats a bachelor attending his bachelor party unconscious, his fixers have to deal with the aftermath: a customer infatuated with a dancer who recognizes the Congressman despite his disguise, a smalltime chiseling lawyer soon-to-be-related to the bachelor by marriage who thinks blackmail, a well-read bouncer who wants to get rich on fraudulent lawsuits, and a stripper who only wants to get her little girl back from her felonious ex-husband, and the ex-husband who wants more pills and a better buzz for more audacious wheelchair theft.

It's a crime fiction farce of the Hiaasen mold, with the southern Florida landscape to explain the eccentricity and a social message hidden among the shenanigans. Man, 1993. What an innocent time.

As I mentioned, the book starts jumbled and slow, but if you stick with it, you'll come to enjoy it. Although it's hopefully excused for its shortcomings by being early in Hiaasen's career, it's worth a buck.

Sunday, August 28, 2005
That's a Big Pile of Unpaid Parking Tickets
In a story entitled City worker surrenders to face drug charges, we have this novel means of immobilizing cars:
    A veteran municipal employee, Meyer has been suspended without pay from the parking division's boot crew, which immobilizes cars with unpaid parking tickets.

At Least I'm Not Jimmy Stewart
John Wayne
You scored 52% Tough, 4% Roguish, 28% Friendly, and 14% Charming!

You, my friend, are a man's man, the original true grit, one tough talking, swaggering son of a bitch. You're not a bad guy, on the contrary, you're the ultimate good guy, but you're one tough character, rough and tumble, ready for anything. You call the shots and go your own way, and if some screwy dame is willing to accept your terms, that's just fine by you. Otherwise, you'll just hit the open trail and stay true to yourself. You stand up for what you believe and can handle any situation, usually by rushing into the thick of the action. You're not polished and you're not overly warm, but you're a straight shooter and a real stand up guy. Co-stars include Lauren Bacall and Maureen O'Hara, tough broads who can take care of themselves.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the Classic Leading Man Test.

(Link seen on Rocket Jones.)

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