Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Book Report: Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon (1985)
I bought this book at the Kirkwood Book Fair this year, which is odd, since I bought I Ought To Be In Pictures last year. I have to wonder if the owner is trickling out his or her library at a slow pace, or if I just missed it last year.

This book isn't a complete enough play for me; I mean, it's about a man's experience at military training in 1943 and some things that happens there. From the outset, we don't know what's at stake, and then something happens, and the play is over, framed with a last scene very like the first scene. There are some amusing lines and situations, but ultimately, I'm not sure the play says anything or leads anywhere.

As some of you know, this is a sequel to Brighton Beach Memoirs; both were made into movies in the middle 1980s. I saw parts of this movie on Showtime, and I read excerpts of the first in Weekly Reader, for crying out loud. How old am I?

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, May 11, 2007
Book Report: Sein Language by Jerry Seinfeld (1993)
I must have bought this book for a buck at the Webster Groves Library book fair this year; it's a recent acquisition, so of course, I read it soon. It's the first nonfiction book I've finished in over a month (the last being The Prize Winner's Handbook, and heck's pecks, 1980 and 1993--they were almost the same year!)

Wow, I don't mean to make you feel old, but you do realize that Seinfeld's television show has been off network television for almost a decade, don't you?

This book takes some of his topical humor and presents it in prose form. Now, I've not been much of a Seinfeld fan, so I don't know how well the book works when he presents it; however, this book really only made me chuckle aloud a handful of times. The rest was wry, witty sometimes, but not what I'd call funny. As I go on in my quest to find really funny books by comedians (as you know, I've read Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Dennis Miller, Rita Rudner, Sinbad, Judy Tenuta, Tim Allen, and so on, and so on). Of these, Bill Cosby and Dennis Miller come across as the best because they're storytellers or crafters of turns of phrase, and Rita Rudner's up there. Tim Allen's books (I Am Not Really Here and Don't Stand Too Close To A Naked Man) aren't so much based on his standup as booklength musings. Seinfeld falls in the middle of the pack with Chris Rock, Judy Tenuta, but probably above Sinbad in the book department. There's something to be said for showmanship, I guess.

As I read, I couldn't help but think that these books are something akin to riddle books for adults. Apparently, I'm hooked, and I'll keep picking them up.

Worth it? Well, as much for a 1990s time piece to show what were the concerns of that halycon era when Seinfeld ruled the world. A brief age of innocence lost like most are.

Books mentioned in this review:

PS: A note to future historians, ca 2010: No, you're thinking of Richard Lewis. Jerry Seinfeld was a different guy entirely whose popularity peaked a whole 8 years after Richard Lewis. But I see how you could make the mistake.

Counterpoint: Let's Keep The Mother Fighting Tradition Alive
Some people argue that mother fighting is a brutal sport that civilized nations should prohibit, since in many mother fights, the mothers are often wounded mortally or to the point where they are euthanized. While this might be the case, mother fights are conducted in the most humane fashion possible, without the use of spurs or other sharpened implements to increase bloodiness.

While some people don't like mother fighting, it's important to recognize the cultural import of the sport to many nations. In some underdeveloped countries, mother fighting provides much need entertainment in relief of hardscabble lives where people lack sports teams that charge $100 a ticket, concert venues where washed-up acts charge $100 a ticket, or functioning democratically-elected legislatures whose entrances cost millions of dollars. It remains an inexpensive sport participated in village greens, small outbuildings, and wherever like minded individuals gather to gamble, drink, and enjoy the spectacle.

And what a spectacle it provides! Brilliantly-plumed hens strutting and preening as they enter the ring, only to circle on another as in a ballet and come together in a whirling, flashing dance of life and death. Tallons, teeth, and elbows fly through the air gracefully, with the sensuous motion of lovers until one triumphs over the other. The arena bursts into applause at that great cathartic moment!

Mother fighting, unlike many of the organized sports of the upper classes, does not require expensive equipment nor time and minivan commitment. All a boy needs is a mother, time to train, some grain, and a dream. And what dreams the boy has; he can feel the warmth of the lights and the lightness of head that comes when his mother enters the ring and emerges victoriously. The boy's name will live forever, and the boy will become a proud man.

Some opponents of mother fighting think that it's barbaric and want to institute prohibition. They seek to transmute Mother's Day, the annual festival of mother fighting and the day of some of the largest, most festive carnivals and biggest mother fights, into a day of peace, a day set aside to preserve and honor the mother. This foolishness cuts to the very heart of tradition and seeks to impose a set of beliefs not held by the majority onto the world at large. We should not let this come to pass.

(Read the Point, Let's reclaim Mother's Day for peace, by Jordan's Queen Noor.)

New Business Slang
Get your new business slang free here at MfBJN! Here's today's term:

Net of Command: A chain of command hierarchy that is so interconnected and confused that any decision becomes tangled in it.

Feel free to use it amongst yourselves.

Apple’s iPods interfere with heart pacemakers, study shows:
    A teenager’s curiosity has uncovered an unsettling side effect of wearing an iPod: It might cause heart pacemakers to malfunction.

    The discovery appeared in a study announced Thursday during a research presentation in Denver. The finding, initially reported by Reuters, shows that iPods generate enough electromagnetic interference to hamper effective function of implantable pacemakers, and in some instances cause them to stop working entirely.

Thursday, May 10, 2007
Book Report: The Retaliators by Donald Hamilton (1976)
I saw the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies before I found this book at a book fair, cheap, so I didn't know whether to expect the Austin Powers tone in the novel. It's more of a straightforward paperback thriller: Matt Helm, counteragent, finds himself framed as a traitor, so he runs south to Mexico with the wife of a tycoon. Her brother was a copatriot of Matt's, and he was killed when captured during the frame-up. There, Helm finds details about their mission that was about to start before the frame-up takes place: kill an assassin who has his eyes on a revolutionary Mexican general.

Helm relies on assistance from a Mexican colonel he trusts from a previous mission, but too many people are shooting at Helm for his comfort or for his trust.

The voice is a bit wordy, probably looking for a certain braggadocio in the character. The pacing a bit slow, and the first person narrator keeps things a little close to chest. The plot itself is a little too clever for its own good and relies on a bit of Helm making cognitive leaps that I wouldn't have seen coming. The result is a second tier paperback thriller, way below John D. MacDonald's work, but good enough for some throwaway time.

Apparently, Helm has a legion of fans; perhaps the earlier books in the series are better.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Crony Capitalists Giveth
And crony capitalists taketh away:
    The Washington County Board has refused to pay a $4 million subsidy to Cabela's Inc., the world's largest direct marketer of outdoor gear, for construction of a store that opened in Richfield in September.

    A slim majority of supervisors Tuesday voted against borrowing the funds that the board had pledged to Cabela's in September 2005 as an incentive for building the store in the county.
I know, I rail on crony capitalism in the form of governments giving incentives to certain developers or corporations for selection of one municipality over another, but I'm even more disturbed that governments are becoming brazen in not holding to their words, resolutions, promises, writs, and whatnot.

Pardon me while I synchronize my watch with the continuing countdown to the end of our Western civilization.

Mass Murder of One
The layering of charges to get around that nasty prohibition against double jeopardy continues unabated. Within this terrible story, note how a death through negligence becomes mass murder:
    The couple were found guilty May 2 of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children. A jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the guilty verdicts.
That's three charges for the death of one individual.

Recognizing the possibility of prosecutorial overreach might have been the only thing preventing additional charges of child abuse, battery, and assault with intent to kill negligently.

Monday, May 07, 2007
That's a Bold Marketing Tagline
Seen in the current issue of Leatherneck:

V-22 ad
Click for full size

"No other aircraft gets Marines into and out of danger like the V-22."

That's just climbing into the aircraft.

Celebrate Brutality with the New York Daily News
So apparently Paris Hilton is going to jail, and here's the New York Daily News reveling in the brutality behind bars:
    Hotel heiress Paris Hilton better watch her back in the Century Regional Detention Facility, visitors who were at the jail yesterday warned.

    "If you act like you're all high-class and uppity," Denise Chavis said, "you're done."
The paper goes on to describe the deplorable nature of life in jail. With glee and a slight taunt. Finally, we've brought her down low.

How pathetic. However Paris Hilton emerges from prison, she'll still be Paris Hilton, and the mean-spirited Daily News West Coast Bureau Chief will still be only that.

Book Report: Another Part of the City by Ed McBain (1986)
With the cover of this novel, it's easy to assume it's one of the 87th Precinct novels. Of course, it doesn't actually say that, but it's easy to make that mistake, which I'm sure the publisher helped along with the cover matching the mid-80s 87th Precinct novels. I didn't realize it until all of a sudden they were actually in New York.

This book deals with Bryan Reardon, a detective in the 5th Precinct, and the rest of the 5th squad as they deal with one of the infrequent murders in their precinct. Reardon also has to deal with a divorce in process that he's not in favor of and a new romance, maybe, with a researcher for Forbes. So a restaurant owner gets whacked while Mob guys watch, but it looks to be a result of some financial shenanigans and perhaps a touch of geopolitics as an Arab got whacked at LaGuardia by the same perps.

The mid-80s novels set in New York are very, very bleak in their outlook on the safety in the city. Definitely progressed toward that Escape from New York future. Then a certain mayor came to lead the city and turn it around in the 1990s. Wow, if that mayor was running for president, he'd definitely be my Plan B. Fortunately, Ed McBain isn't around to see me linking up his books to politics with which he (McBain) would probably disagree.

So it's a one-off as far as series go, but it's classic McBain and worth a read.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Under a Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy (1871, 1983)
Hey, sometimes you're in the mood for a Hardy Boys book, and if that's the case, don't make the same mistake I've obviously done.

Just kidding. I read Tess of the d'Urbervilles in college and saw The Marriage of Bette & Boo that same year, so one has to wonder why I didn't become a total Thomas Hardy head. Except that it's Victorian literature, and I'm a contemporary American, more Hemingway than Faulkner much less Victorian.

Still, when this book was remaindered from the Bridgeton Trails branch of the library, I couldn't pass it up (I also got A Pair of Blue Eyes). It's a fair enough into to Hardy, as it's only a hair over 200 pages. It tells the story of a young man named Dick Dewy and the new school mistress Fancy Day. It comprises a fairly short number of scenes, some of which are less important to the forward progress of the story than their overall length would suggest. However, like with any serious novel and any old novel, you have to read it for the joy of the language and the archaism of the world it depicts.

Is it a good Victorian novel? Heck if I know; I haven't read enough bad Victorian novels to know the difference. But I know a little more about the time period in which organs replaced quires in the Anglican church and a little more about Thomas Hardy's work, so it was worth the quarter. Also, I've read more Hardy than you have now (probably), so feel my arrogance. Go ahead, put your hand right here on the monitor -> X <- Feel it?

Books mentioned in this review:

I Has Time Killerz
I Can Has Cheezeburger. Cat pix with captions in txt.

(Link seen on Trey Givens.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007
Don't Remake the Remake
The blogosphere, built of fanboys of science fiction, politics, or sometimes both, is abuzz about the Entertainment Weekly The Sci-Fi 25 top 25 science fiction things in the last 25 years, has this to say about #16, The Thing:
    Recently, there's been talk in Hollywood of remaking The Thing. Please don't. For the love of God, we're begging you. After all, this streamlined exercise in subzero paranoia cannot be improved upon.
This is amusing to some of us who realize the 1982 film was a remake of a 1951 film entitled The Thing From Another World.

Don't remake the remake because its subzero paranoia could not be improved? Hollywood 2007 surely differs; why, it's a parable about modern politics, somehow, making George W. Bush and the American military responsible would speak more truth to power.

In the pool, I'm taking the spot where alien is replaced with military experiment on Iraqi/general Arabic prisoner gone wrong.

Cop Killer, 25 Years Later, Full of Wrong Adjectives
Convicted killer fears his last moments:
    Workman said he doesn't feel much like a person anymore. He has become a pile of legal briefs, appeals, depositions.

    And he is angry, sorry, scared and depressed.

    Of the officer who was killed, Workman says: "Any loss of life is a tragedy."
No, sir; the loss of the officer was tragic, but the result of another man's actions. When that life is lost, it will be justice, not tragedy.

The dead cop didn't get 25 years to build up a good set of anger, fear, or depression. He doesn't feel like a person any more, either, because Workman killed him in a Wendy's parking lot. Poor bastard is nothing but a footnote in a CNN cause célèbre.

Meanwhile, pliable proletariat reader, feel sympathy for some poor soul who's had 25 years to reflect on what he's done, and the best he can do is a sideways sorry amid his own turmoil for his punishment.

I'd say shame on CNN and shame on Workman, but there's no shame any more. Some people have moved beyond it.

Why Does Jim Doyle Hate Real Estate Investors?
Maybe he doesn't hate them; maybe they're just dogs whose blood he wants to suck:
    Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's plan to double the fee paid by sellers of homes and other property - a fee increase that would cost sellers of property $142 million over the next two years - survived the first attempt by Republicans to kill it Thursday.
No doubt, Jim Doyle's blue-ribbon BOHICA commission assume that this will not impede real estate investment and rehabbing, particularly in blighted areas in the throes of gentrification. No doubt the crony capitalists in charge of Wisconsin government will redistribute some wealth to favored developers to offset the new fee increases they're saddling the honest men with.

But cause and effect aren't tied together when effects are bad and the cause is "more taxes" or "more government."

A Tale Of Two Commencement Speakers
One routinely says things that don't make sense, and the other is Yogi Berra.

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