Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Wish I Was There
The Milwaukee Rep is going to stage all three parts of The Norman Conquests simultaneously. (Story.) Man, I wish I was in Milwaukee to see them; I love the plays. How do I know about them?
    This is not the first time the company has staged "The Norman Conquests." The Rep did the trilogy in the smaller Stiemke Theater 13 years ago.
I saw all three of them my senior year in college. Better yet, in the high point of my girl-chasing career, I took three different women to see them.

Unfortunately, a scheduling error made it so that I scheduled two of them to see "Table Manners", so I saw that one twice and had to take one of them to see a second play. Also unfortunately, they all wanted to be "just friends."

At Least It's Not Written In Text Message Speak
I haven't offered much commentary on the Scott Thomas Beauchamp Baghdad Diarist thing going on at The New Republic because I haven't found it that interesting, but apparently the editor of the magazine offers a long-winded reasoning for why they thought the fabulous, though disputed, claims were not untrue (Fog of War, link seen on Instapundit).

What strikes me most about the piece, though, isn't the tone or the high-handedness, but rather the sad indicators of what passes for shoe-leather journalism and fact checking by senior staff at a national magazine.

We've got Instant Messages rife with obscenity, written in the gibberish that passes for the communication by most people in that medium:
    TNR: where did you see the crypt keeper?

    Beauchamp: are you there?

    TNR: yes

    Beauchamp: the last thing i got was "where did you see the crypt keeper"

    TNR: yes

    Beauchamp: the dfac on falcon or chow hall, as it IS commonly called

    TNR: what about kuwait?

    Beauchamp: brb [be right back]

    Nine minutes of silence

    TNR: you there?

    Ten minutes of silence

    Beauchamp: ok just did a sworn statement

    TNR: about?

    Beauchamp: saying that i wrote the articles

    TNR: ok

    Beauchamp: theyre taking away my laptop

    TNR: fuck is this it for communication?

    Beauchamp: yeah and im fucked

    TNR: they said that?

    Beauchamp: because you're right the crypt keep WAS in Kuwait


    this is bad isnt it

    TNR: yes

    where in kuwait?

    Beauchamp: it did happen in kuwait

    Camp Beuhring

    tnr: why didn't you tell us that?

    Beauchamp: i thought it was on falcon

    till somebody here convinced me that it wasnt i just talked to [Soldier A] and he convinced me that it was in kuwait when i thought it was on falcon fuck

    TNR: if what you're saying is true it's not the end of the world

    Beauchamp: ok

    TNR: as long as we can confirm it

    Beauchamp: good

    i have to go like NOW though im so sorry

    TNR: are you gonna be able to talk again?

    Beauchamp: i hope so but i dont know

    thank you again for everything

    TNR: i didn't do anything

    what did you sign?
I mean, I know I am one of the six people in the world who use complete sentences and punctuation in IM conversations, but do we have to see how simpleton national media players can be?

Then, there's this bit:
    We'd left messages on his MySpace page for him to call.
Oh, goody. Postings on MySpace. Just like Woodward and Bernstein, except without the effort or the result.

Maybe I'm holding them to too high of a standard for effort or for actual journalism as I would expect it in a national magazine of purportedly lofty reporting and commentary; that is, I didn't expect it to read like how two teenage girls discuss the latest pop idol.

But it probably is just me. After all, Foer says that the goal of the fact-checking was not to find out if the thing was true, but rather, if it was plausible:
    Facing the difficulties of verifying the piece, but wanting to ensure its plausibility before publication, we sent the piece to a correspondent for a major newspaper who had spent many tours embedded in Iraq. He had heard accounts of soldiers killing dogs with Bradleys. These accounts stuck with him because they represented a symbolic shift in the war. Iraqis regard dogs as annoying pests. At the beginning of the conflict, Americans made great efforts to befriend these mistreated mutts. It seemed telling that Americans now treated dogs with as little regard as Iraqis did. He considered Beauchamp's dog- hunting anecdote plausible.
    Among others, we had called a forensic anthropologist and a spokesman for the manufacturer of Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Nothing in our conversations with them had dissuaded us of the plausibility of Beauchamp's pieces.
Not implausible and based on the finest Internet gleanings available, they ran with the story.

Pardon me if I further assume that anything that appears in a national publication is only as reliable as a blog account or Wikipedia entry. Or if I don't bother to read national publications.

Friday, November 30, 2007
Book Report: Downtown by Ed McBain (1991)
I originally heard this book on audio book about a decade ago, when I spent a lot of time in my car. Ergo, I remembered the conceit of the book, but not much about the plot. I guess that happens, the details (that is, the whole plot) falls from your memory faster from audiobooks than from books you read, but that's because reading is more engaging than listening while you're doing other things, such as avoiding other people on the roads not content to merely listen.

This book is similar to Candyland in that someone who's not a native New Yorker gets caught up in the crime-ridden life in New York. Instead of a randy architect, we get a mild-mannered orange grower up from Florida who has some time to kill before his flight leaves for home, so he talks to a woman in a bar. The woman is a con artist who, along with an accomplice, steals the contents of his wallet. A sympathetic ear at the bar listens to his story, and then steals his car. After he talks to the police and gets subway fare to the airport (in the days where you didn't need ID to fly, apparently), he fights back in a mugging and is confused for the agressor by a cop. He flees, following the would-be mugger to a Chinese gambling den and catching a news upate that indicates that a film director, the sympathetic ear from the bar, was murdered in the car stolen from the protagonist and that the protagonist's wallet was found on the scene.

So it's a tour de force, absurd bit, but it drags you along.

It's a good book, as you might guess would deem a McBain novel. Again, it's a departure from the police procedural bread and butter, but it's amusing as long as you take it as sort of a camp. You cannot help it, which attests to the skill of the writer. And although I enjoyed the audiobook, I probably enjoyed the actual book more. Hopefully, I'll retain the plot a little longer in my memory.

Books mentioned in this review:

In Sudan, give a teddy bear a name, go to jail and fret as thousands demand your execution. This is widely condemned in the blogosphere.

In America, call a person a name on the Internet, and you will soon go to jail. This is widely applauded in the blogosphere.

Responding to a tragic incident with knee-jerk legislation will lead to unintended consequences. Don't we know this by now, or don't we care? And at what point do the consequences stop being merely "unintended" and start being "willfully negligent"?

That's Not Where I Keep My Knives
A highly-paid master of metaphor at work. Marvel!
    "If I'm going to get punched in the stomach, I'm going to take a knife out and get you right back," said John Lapp of the consulting firm McMahon, Squier, Lapp and Associates.

    Lapp considers himself one of a new breed of Democratic ad-makers who don't hesitate to hit hard in the ad war.

    "I'm going to use every single weapon I have in my quiver."
The gentleman has a way with words. A bad way.

Was Hiding Out In Argentina, Living Under Assumed Name
Israeli Says Elusive Biblical Wall Found.

After all, to be elusive, something must actively elude; I mean, your car keys aren't eluding you if you've just forgotten they're in your coat pocket.

A Moment of Strength, or Weakness
I was looking for an old car radio in the dimly lit basement storage room. Amid the archived esoteric computer peripherals and old gaming systems, I found a stack of magazines. It wasn't a surprise, really, because I have binders filled with an assortment of old magazines, including: old computer magazines with programs you could type into your Commodore 64 to turn hours of hunting and pecking and troubleshooting typographic errors into minutes of fun with primitive games; decades' old copies of Writers' Digest that contain the endless loop of advice that magazine provides; several varieties of home handyman magazines to provide me with fantasy projects that I could handle but wouldn't want and projects that I would want but couldn't handle; and myriad single copies of magazines I picked up on newsstands while telling myself that they're research for my writing career. No, instead of those semi-useful magazines, I found two years' worth of Spin.

Sometime immediately after the turn of the century, I got an unsolicited invitation to subscribe to Spin for two years. As it was, I wasn't hip to the latest music, and I'd just turned 30. So, with some lottery-ticket hope of recapturing some of my youth, I took the chance and sent the ten bucks, and the magazines started coming. Each issue showed some different group of unwashed kids revolutionizing everything about music. The White Strokes, the Activisions, Dashboard Light, and so on and so on and Scooby Dooby Dooby. Frankly, the magazine didn't give me the urge to increase my budget for CDs based on the say-so of some music-industry spit-shiners, so I let my subscription lapse. Besides, my music-buying habits in my salad days centered upon buying two dollar cassettes from the racks at Walgreens or Camelot Music and sometimes finding something I really liked, albeit several years and a couple of albums beyond the group's hits (a-ha and Cutting Crew, for example) and sometimes finding something I played once and then forgot (76% Uncertain et al). So Spin couldn't help me recapture a youthful musical hipness I never had in the first place.

Still, I browsed the magazines and then threw them into a box. Did I intend to keep them in case I needed them for research in the future? Did I keep them in case they became collectibles some decades hence? I'm not even sure I needed that much excuse, as I'm somewhat of an accumulator of things (see also that list of electronic esoterica). However, when I rediscovered this particular stack of magazines, I decided that I would never actually use them for research. They probably wouldn't be worth anything as a collectible as the next generations, to whom these would be collectibles, won't actually collect things. And the bands covered within the magazine are probably just flashes in the pan whose names I obviously cannot get correct even now, three years removed from the musical revolution and whatever passes for hits in the iPod world.

So I stacked them in a box, but I didn't throw them into the recycling bin. Perhaps I gave myself a cooling off period to ensure that I did not act rashly in my discarding the valuable-because-I-have-them clutterica. Perhaps my hands were too full (of nothing since I didn't find the car radio). Whatever the reason, the magazines took up residence in the box on the floor instead of stacked atop binders of more valuable magazines.

A couple of days later, I returned to the storage room and found the box of magazines. Now, I could certainly carry the collection to the recycling bin. However, as I looked at the box, I thought perhaps I could list an eBay auction composed of the “collectibles,” but my eBay sense tingled danger, and I knew that I'd only lose my auction fees. Then, I thought about saving them for a yet-unplanned garage sale in the future or using them as a donation to a sale of some sort, but ultimately I'd mark them a dime each and no one would even paw through them. No one pawed through the collection of magazines at our last garage sale earlier this month. So that foolish dream or rationalization too died.

Anti-climactically, I carried them out to the recycling. Ultimately, it was that easy; simply lift with the legs and not the back, ascend the stairs, open the door, set down. Once I got the habitual mental hang-ups out of the way, I did it without fanfare. I got rid of something I had no use for but that was only taking up space in our store room. But, contrary to the hopes and dreams of my wife, that doesn't mark the beginning of a trend in my behavior. These were just Spin magazines, after all, and not a sixth Commodore 64, a box of uncleaned and thoroughly played with G. I. Joes from the middle 1980s, or boxes of comic books that haven't been out of their plastic bags for fifteen years. Those things have intrinsic and obvious because-I-have-them value.

Thursday, November 29, 2007
More For Band Geeks Than Me
A video-game themed band half-time show.

It's upside down, though, so I had trouble deciphering it. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks to long-time, occasionally when I haven't peeved him, reader Cagey.

Book Report: The Handyman by Penelope Mortimer (1983)
Well, with a title like that, one would expect it to either be a bodice-ripping romance or a horror book. This book is neither.

It deals with a recent British widow who decides after her husband's sudden death to move to a small cottage in the British countryside. She does so and discovers its environs are mostly owned by a land-grabber who has a number of ruffians about. There's also a faded writer nearby. She moves in, deals a bit with her two children, and then engages a handyman to do a little work on her cottage.

Well, the handyman is a louse, ultimately, and his lousiness triggers a change in the widow and her son, and the characters move on that event. The book ends in tragedy, though, which saddened me, and the author goes for the Nausea ending:
    A memorial, then, to both of them, extinct as they are, foolish, fond, courageous and insignificant.
That is, in spite of the meaninglessness, the writer character decides to tell the idiot's tale for us. Marvelous.

I'm probably a better person, slightly, for going outside the normal comforts of genre fiction. The book isn't a bad read, although a trifle slow and slightly alien for a middle-aged American male.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Not Much Happening Here
But I have been posting regularly at

Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sometimes You're The Whopper, Sometimes You're The Whoppee
Useful information in case you need to whop the product:
Whopping it properly
Click for full size

Needless to say, given the quality of the documentation, I do want to whop the product since it doesn't appear to work.

I could have lived my whole life without seeing "u" used as "you" in technical material of any sort and been happy.

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