Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Morning Read
Read this first: Of Bibliophilia and Biblioclasm:
    In 1936, George Orwell published a little essay entitled Bookshop Memories. In it, he recalled his time as an assistant in a second-hand bookshop, a time that was happy only when viewed through the soft-focus lens of nostalgia. Irony might be defined as disgust recalled in tranquillity, and Orwell's essay is nothing if not full of irony. He was glad to have had the experience, no doubt, but more glad that it was over.

    Not much has changed in the three quarters of a century that have elapsed since Orwell's experience as a bookseller. Second-hand bookshops the world over still tend to be inadequately heated places, Orwell says because the owners fear condensation in the windows, but also because profits are small and heating bills would be large. There is a peculiar chill, quite unlike any other, to be experienced between the stacks of second-hand bookshops.
I love to browse because navigating Web sites and menus does lose the tactile pleasure of the experience, which also explains why iTunes has not replaced a collection of records, CDs, and audiocassettes. When everything you own is just another node in your content tree, is it really the same as really having it?

(Link seen on Neo-Neocon.)

Friday, November 28, 2008
Book Report: The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald (1985)
This book, the last in the Travis McGee series, represents the most existentially maudlin entry in the series. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I rather like the wistful tone taken in some of the books, but this one hammers it pretty hard.

It's a pretty pedestrian plot as far as McGee novels go. Hired by a rich man to find his stolen yacht, McGee finds it with the bodies of two American teenagers and a daughter of a Peruvian diplomat/drug trafficker aboard. Suddenly, people connected with the case begin dying, and McGee has to survive long enough to figure out if it's to cover up for the crime or as revenge for the crime that he's being targeted.

I've read this book before, and as I purchased this latest copy of it, I misremembered which one this was. I thought it was the one where his wife died, but that's earlier in the set and probably not as melancholy.

Books mentioned in this review:

Race to the Bottom
You put money on the Iran/Israeli conflict as the next nuclear wars? Pakistan/India's odds are increasing even as we speak.

Mumbai Attacks Highlight the Cancer That Is Pakistan

Selexyz Means Sexy Library in Dutch
Roberta drew my attention to the Selexyz Dominicanen, a book store built into an old Dominican church.

It's giving me ideas for the library in my castle, when I build it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008
I Must Have Heard It Wrong
Happy Thanksgiving, you say?

Well, it's just as well since the T-72s I ordered from Omen Wannabi, a Somalian e-mail contact, haven't come yet.

Book Report: The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre (1974)
This book collects a handful of Sartre's stories, including "The Wall", "The Room", "Erostratus", "Intimacy", and "The Childhood of the Leader". If you have read a Sartre short story, you have read "The Wall". It's the best of this anthology, and in an odd turn of events, the whole thing starts well and progressively gets worse. "The Wall" is a good story, but "The Childhood of the Leader" is a sixty page exercise in Sartrean pontification and excess.

Let's face it; Sartre is not a writer whose philosophy dribbles out of his writing. His writing exists to prop up his philosophy, kind of like Ayn Rand's fiction really lays out Objectivism. Ayn Rand had better plots, though. Sartre's plots are very literary, and the tone of each story is self-consciously literary. Maybe that's a factor of the translation undertaken by a student or something.

As such, Sartre deals with revolutionaries sentenced to death; a man gone mad and his wife; a man who just decides to kill someone; a wife who married an impotent man but cheats on him; and a guy who grows into an anti-Semitic leader. So these aren't people I can necessarily relate to, which makes reading a chore. However, in some literary and high-brow fiction threads, that lack of identification and even repugnance throws me out of my bourgeous sentimentality or something. It also make reading Sartre for pure enjoyment impossible.

As I said, the books first two stories are the best. "The Wall", about condemned insurgents spending their last night together in their cell and facing the Wall tomorrow, is oddly enough the most approachable. The narrator is forced to dwell on dying and dying well in a limited amount of time. It's almost Hemingwayesque, but with a distinctly Existential twist at the end. "The Room", on the other hand, is sort of two parts: It starts with the mother of the wife, confined to her room, as she gets a visit from her husband, a very practical man who's off to go to tell his daughter what he thinks of her tending to her psychotic husband. He then goes and tells her. In the second part, the woman deals with the aftermath of her father's visit and how she feels about the husband whom she loved. She wonders what his insanity is really like, experientially, and wonders if she's going a bit mad herself. It's a very complex tale, where one wonders about whether the father telling her to send her husband off to an institution is completely consistent, since he himself tends to the woman's mother.

After that, it's rather basic Existentialist hokum wrapped in stories about unsympathetic people. Worst of the lot, "The Childhood of the Leader" relies on the main character becoming the narrator of Nausea at three years of age, questioning his existence and the existence of things outside himself, before growing up, having an abortive homosexual relationship, and then turning anti-semitic for really no reason other than to wrap up the story.

Interesting if you're a student of philosophy, but you can get more enjoyable life lessons out of classic English literature or hard-boiled detective novels.

I think I need to read some Camus to rinse this out of my head.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
That's a Neat Trick
I just got a credit card statement in the mail today for my Commerce Bank Small Business Visa. I'm turning around and paying it right away because I missed the last deadline by a day because I'd been in the practice of letting a couple of bills collect before I sat down and wrote a bunch of checks.

So I sit down and look it over. The statement date is November 18. Today is November 26. It took Commerce Bank eight days to get this to me, which gives me a little more than, what, two weeks to turn it around without exorbitant penalties.

I called and told them it was poor form, and the customer service representative sat in silence while I said, procedurally, this was a dirty trick, and I was displeased with the way they conducted themselves. I'm not the best guy at venting my spleen on the phone, and certainly I had no end game (I want a free night at the hotel, I want a charge removed, et cetera), but even calling them to complain ultimately made me feel smaller than if I hadn't called because I don't expect the policy to ever change because we are a nation of small fries (and now, Goverment Sponsored Entities formerly known as Big Businesses).

But I am empowered, through this blog, to tell you, gentle reader who is searching for photos of Natalie J. Rabb or Commerce employee tracking the business's online response. So there you go.

At this point, I sometimes want to throw up my hands and say, Big Government, Big Business, what's the difference? It's all about ossified bureaucracies and procedures designed to glean every possible drop from you for their own purposes. I guess the difference is choice, which means Big Business needs to trick you, whereas government just has to tell you, so it's quite a big difference indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2008
MfBJN: Your Source For Masculinity
Gender Analyzer is 100% sure this site is written by a man.

That's higher than the industry average.

Meanwhile, my other blog with the word Hate right in its title, only scores 89%.

Because of its inherent sensitivity.

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Ill Harbinger
Has anyone else noticed that the sun has begun setting earlier since the country elected Obama as President?

What does it mean?

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