Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, November 22, 2008
America, F---- Yeah!
Things your little army cannot afford to equip its soldiers with? We give them to our children:

Night vision gear for the kiddies

On the other hand, watch for bands of swarthy looking men in cars with Michigan plates driving from Target to Target, buying each out of this item using cash.

Friday, November 21, 2008
Ahead of the Trend
Let's just say, as far as investing goes, I keep it real. I bought all my current penny stocks before they all did the trendy thing and became penny stocks. I'm no sell out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008
Metrosexual Alert: Zac Brown
Ladies and gentlemen, up and coming country and western singer Zac Brown is a metrosexual.

Zac Brown: Metrosexual

Let's look at the textual evidence within his paean to all things country, "Chicken Fried":

    You know I like my chicken fried
    Cold beer on a Friday night
    A pair of jeans that fit just right
    And the radio up
Jeans that fit just right? Ladies and gentlemen, real men do not understand the concept of jeans that fit just right. Women's jeans, apparently, have 132 different variables in cut, shape, and jib. Women worry about jeans fitting just right. A man worries about jeans merely fitting, which means the button closes and not too much sock shows. Fitting just right sounds an awful lot like Zac Brown has spent time in trendy urban outfitters, getting custom denim cut for him. He probably uses body wash, too.

And that's just not manly. Know your inseam and your waist and take the one off of the top of the stack at Walmart, you sissy.

Book Report: Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker (2008)
Well, it's a Spenser book. A fair plot, although at the beginning of it, I was afraid it was going to recast the plot of one of the Paradise novels. Spenser's hired as a bodyguard of sorts for a secluded wedding (40 minutes by boat from the coast of Massachussetts, I think he said), a job he doesn't quite understand, since the rich people have a full security detail. But then The Gray Man recurs, shoots a couple people, and kidnaps the daughter. Someone tries to kill Spenser because he won't stop investigating. Spenser gets information from recurring characters (Rita Fiore, Ives). Then he makes a deal with the Gray Man, and the book ends. Man, I remember when these sorts of books ended with some sort of justice. Now they end with deals with the bad guys.

At least Parker didn't call out the Spenser Superfriends team (Bernie Fortunato, Teddy Sapp, Bobby Horse, Chollo, you know, the diverse cast of people like Spenser). Hawk appears, but I don't count him as part of the SSF because he preceded them. Although, let's face it, his days of menace are gone. Nobody is afraid of Hawk any more but the stock civilian characters who appear to show fear of Hawk. The police tolerate him, Susan Silverman makes kissy talk with him, and so on.

You know, I cannot think of a Spenser novel I liked beyond 1990. I guess that's really showing now in these reviews. This one, I got from the BOMC because I had to get something. The next one, I'll probably get from a book fair.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Heat by Mike Lupica (2006)
In a stunning turn of events, this is the second book I've read with this title this year. The first, Ed McBain's Heat, I read in January. The two are not too similar, even though Lupica dabbles in some crime fiction. Because, in a stunning turn of events, this is the second Young Adult novel I've read in a couple weeks. Crikey, I must be into my second childhood. What's with adult authors trying to jump into the YA market? It makes for some confusing times at the book fairs. Is this Hiaasen an adult book, or a green-preaching YA novel? Is this Lupica book one of his adult plots turned into simpler sentences and shrunken to 12-year-olds? What, pray tell, does Robert B. Parker write for young adult fiction--embrace an arbitrary "code" of relativistic, touchy-feely ethics and bone your neighbor's wife which is okay if it feels good and you don't feel guilty?

At any rate, this book deals with a 12-year-old Little League superstar pitcher from Cuba whose father has died, but whose 17-year-old brother is working two jobs as they keep the death quiet so they don't get turned over to family services and split up. Additionally, the kid's eligibilty is challenged since his birth certificate didn't make the boat ride from Cuba. It's a very complicated story, and it works out with an almost deus ex maquina thing, but it's all right.

For a kid's book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Another Thing I Could Have Lived Without
A smooth jazz rendition of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door":

That's rolling a 1 on a d20.

And, sadly, that is the version on the Lethal Weapon 2 soundtrack. You know, from the very end where Riggs is shot by the South African diplomat on the freighter.

If you don't know the exact scene, you haven't watched it enough.

UPDATE: You know what I really could have lived without? Researching it and finding out who else did the song. Roger Waters? Are you freaking kidding me?

This is an unholy aberration.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Book Report: 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (2005)
I bought this book because I thought it might be a saucy sort of male equivalent of Sex in the City or something. Without a dustjacket, I flipped it open and landed on the first person narrator's self-description, and that was enough since I had a wallet full of money and a box half full of books at the book fair. I missed the part where it identified him as a high school kid.

So it's a young adult novel, set in high school. The main character isn't so good with the girls, so his friends post an online ad for him seeking a prom date, and it gets a lot of response. So he agrees to evaluate 24 girls for in the week before the prom and then to select one for his date. It takes on a little of a reality show feel, and he deals with the unreality and with the reality of his life.

Oh, and he grows and learns something about himself at the end.

Well, then. I frankly missed the YA thing. I went from Hardy Boys in elementary school to hard boiled detective fiction in middle school. I suspect I didn't miss much, and I used my reading to prepare myself for the grim real world, not the goofy high school world. I'd go on a spurious tangent about how YA books have trained kids to be adolescents in their adulthoods, but frankly, I don't think enough kids read to have that impact.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The TV Theme Song Trivia Book by Vincent Terrace (1996)
I bought this book because when I flipped through it, I landed pretty quickly on the beginning narration for the original Battlestar Galactica, so I thought I'd do pretty well. As it turns out, I got about 10% of the questions, maybe less. Because, let's face it, the popular television seasons spanned a large bloc of years, so the theme songs you remember represent a very small percentage of television shows. The book is rife with answers based on short-running shows from fifty years of television, including four or so decades where I didn't watch television.

As a result, I didn't get many questions right about 1960s cartoons, 1940s detective shows, 1970s meaningful sitcoms, or 1950s westerns. I didn't even get the chance to answer the question about the inexecrable Buck Rogers in the 25th Century theme song lyrics, which the producers fortunately turned into a science fiction march after the pilot. So I knew something that this author might not, which is the best I can do.
Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Smarter by the Dozen by Jane & Bill Dahlin/Doloris & Ted Pepple (1989)
When I bought this book, I expected a book in the line of Tom Braden's Eight is Enough: a collection of anecdotes and incidents about raising a large family, set in a familiar location and with a historical relevance.

Instead, this book is really just a brain dump of parental advice on topics from buying insurance to handling kids' drug problems. Not what I was looking for at all, really, but it made the book--dare I say it?--very skimmable.

One bit of historical trivia: The book has a whole chapter on 16 in Webster Groves, a documentary about growing up in suburban America that CBS shot in Webster Groves. In true reality television style, the network apparently cut the film to portray its story that suburban American children were being brainwashed into the bourgeoisie. Webster residents at the time were upset with it. So much so that the authors include it and spend a chapter railing against it 23 years later.

I'd tell you where the book is for sale, but you don't find it anywhere on the Internet. Its existence is proven electronically only that it appears in a photo in this Flickrstream. Given that this book was printed as a limited edition, the photographer is either a Dahlin, a Pepple, or a nearby resident of Webster Groves.

Monday, November 17, 2008
Book Report: The Three Musketeers (abridged) by Alexandre Dumas (1974)
I thought this book would be a movie tie-in book because it has the actors from the movie arrayed on the front cover, and it has action stills in the photo section in the middle of the book. Oh, but no. Instead of being based on the script for the film, it is truly just an abridged form of the book (which I read in its entirety last year).

So it lacks some of the more campy humorous bits that the film had. It's a pale version of the complete book and unrelated at all to the movie, but I suppose it does distill some of the plot points that the film captured from the original book. However, some scenes I recall from both the book and the movie (breakfast at the seige of La Rochelle) have been abridged from this edition entirely.

Probably not worth the read unless you're a fan of Readers' Digest Condensed Books, but might be worth your time if you're into treatments of Dumas.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Three Musketeers Exclusive Movie Edition abridged

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Book Report: The Explainer by the Writers at Slate Magazine (2004)
This book collects a number of questions covered in Slate's "The Explainer" column and groups them by some sort of similarity. It's better than The Best of Slate as far as collections go, but it's not "The Straight Dope".

Worth a buck, I suppose. If you will have any to spare in the upcoming Obama/Pelosi/Reid Bush depression (overtime).

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Elm Ave., Heart of Webster by Save the Heart of Webster, Inc. (1984)
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in 1984, the powers that be wanted to widen Elm Avenue, a north-south road that cuts through the middle of Webster Groves, to make it an artery of sorts to handle traffic from Clayton areas to South County. The residents of Elm Avenue banded together to fight it and had a street party to show off their homes which would be lost or have yards cut drastically as part of the plan. This slender volume is a catalog of the homes on Elm Avenue along with the history of each. Not quite Webster Park, but its aim was much lower.

Last year, as part of preparations for the Highway 40 closing, powers that be floated the idea of widening Elm again, 23 years after this book was published. They got a stop light where only stop signs had existed before and a no-left-turn thing instead, fortunately for the big old houses along Elm.

Sorry, no Amazon link for this book; I cannot find any reference of it on the Internet, either, which means I must be making it up.

Signs That You Might Be A Little Old, Suburban
You know I wish that I had Jessie's grill.

Book Report: Back to the Future by George Gipe (1985)
One of the best things about movie tie-in paperbacks, aside from their brevity and probable familiarity with the storyline, is the speculation within them. Did they work from a treatment? An early version of the script? Or the actual movie?

This book dealt with an early version of the script, so it doesn't actually jibe with the movie that well. In addition to the extra depth that the authors add to the interior lives of the characters that you don't get out of dialogue, this book has completely different scenes than what appears in the film. Some are missing, too, such as the original beginning scene (Marty with the big guitar amplifier). Ergo, this book is sort of like a weird alternative-universe version of the movie.

An interesting artifact if nothing else.

Books mentioned in this review:

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