Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Book Report: Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley (2002)
I read this book right after the Gates thing and right after a conversation on race that pretty much ended with my black friend saying, "You're not black, so you can't understand and you're wrong." Maybe this book was penance. Or maybe it's because it was the first Mosley book I saw at a book fair after I read Transgressions. Pick whichever you want to fit into your narrative of Brian.

This book is later in the Easy Rawlins canon, and it fits into the mold of good hard-boiled detective fiction. Rawlins helps a friend by finding what his wife's child, the titular Brawly Brown, is into. He peels away the layers and finds that the young man is indeed in over his head in something bad and he has to go to extraordinary means to extract him (in a fashion).

That said, the retro feel of it, the strange lingo, and a certain alienation of the reader from the argot of the story keeps with what one encounters reading the oldies today. However, Mosley pulls the white reader out a little with continued that's what it's like to be black asides. The situations Rawlins encounters aren't that much different from the things encountered by the regular private eye, but the first person narrator dwells upon his blackness an awful lot. I don't dwell on my race that much, so that's very alien to me. I'm not sure if it's authentic or not, either, but if it is, that's a real tragedy.

Still, I liked the book enough to not shirk other Mosley books in the future.

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, August 14, 2009
Book Report: Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell (1998, 2005)
I read the first book in this series (Sharpe's Tiger) earlier this year, and nobody saw fit to fill in the gaps in the series for my birthday, so here I am reading the second book.

In this book, Sargeant Sharpe is the sole survivor of a massacre by a treasonous English major. Colonel McCandless takes Sharpe to try to capture the traitor and bring him to justice as English forces march to fight the armies of Northern India. A good collection of details and episodes based on real history.

One thing between reading this book and Space Vulture is how much more detailed modern books are. The old ones provided some sketches and a fast moving plot, but the books these days really lay on the detail. I don't know, it can take the book out of your imagination a bit and shoehorn it into the author's. Not that this book is that bad, per se, but I think it's a general evolution of the common style. I blame Faulkner.

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Book Report: Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers (2008)
One of the more interesting things about this story is the authors. Childhood friends in the 1950s in Illinois, they went onto different things. One wrote the story that became Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. The other became an archbishop. They got together and wrote a book that would hearken back to the sci-fi space operas they loved as kids. It's such a neat story, it appears on the back instead of anything of the plot. Probably because it's the sort of thing that hearkens back to fifties space operas.

The book follows the takedown of the Space Vulture, a criminal genius whose exploits are legendary. Opposing him are the reknowned bounty hunter Victor Corsaire; Gil Terry, a small grifter who was briefly in the custody of Corsaire; Cali, the widowed administrator of a planet raided by Terry and later, more successfully, by the Space Vulture; and Eliot and Regin, Cali's two plucky young sons who are left behind. In a series of reversals and cliffhangers, the foes gyrate about each other and finally meet for the climactic battle on a slaver planet.

The book walks the line between earnest and campy, staying pretty earnest. The style mimics serials a bit, complete with an ending that indicates another adventure will be available next week. And, with an archbishop co-author, we get prayers and peace in the face of death that you don't normally see in science fiction, but these are really just flourishes and asides, so religious belief is not core to the story.

Overall, a pleasant reading experience.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Book Report: TV Close-Ups by Peggy Herz (1974)
Yes, I really did read an elementary school fanbook about television shows on television in the early 1970s. This book talks about:
  • Gary Burghoff on M*A*S*H
  • Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie
  • Darren McGavin on Nightstalker
  • Patti Cahoon on Apple's Way
  • Freddie Prinze on Chico and the Man
  • Kurt Russell on The New Land
  • Valerie Harper on Rhoda
  • Clifton Davis on That's My Mama
  • Ron Howard on Happy Days
  • Angie Dickinson on Police Woman
  • Roddy MacDowall on Planet of the Apes (the television series).
Looking at that list, I have only seen 3 or 4 of the series; most were not even in syndication from the time I remember watching television. Some I remember from other roles. Some I know of only because his son starred in the classic film Wing Commander.

Each little snippet tells a heartwarming story about the actor/actress, the causes he/she favors, and the hard road to stardom.

At this snapshot moment in time, these celebrities are at the top of their games and, in many cases, their careers. 35 years later, we don't remember most of them. Sadly, ten years after the book appeared, we didn't remember most of them.

This fits in well with the stoic works of Marcus Aurelius, which warns about the fleeting nature of fame.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Great Moments In Realism
From the wikipedia entry on the board game Risk:
    Using area movement, Risk ignores limitations such as the vast size of the world and the logistics of long campaigns.
So you mean I'll need a navy to invade Iceland? There goes my weekend plans. Anyone want to go catch GI Joe instead?

Comments on a Parade Cover
The cover:

Parade with Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt will take risks for love. Seriously? Take risks for something of value? You don't say. I think it would be more revealing to say Brad Pitt takes risks because he's celebrity-insular and reckless. Unless they mean Brad Pitt shoplifts at Toys 'R' Us and stuffs Parker Brothers games under the baby blankets of his adopted hordes. That would mean taking Risks in a way that would be interesting.

But it's good to know that Brad Risk, for love, is not afraid to look like Jonathan Frakes for love.

Monday, August 10, 2009
Another Poor Widdle Citizen Screwed By The Corporations
Family losing home because of seven-cent mistake:
    A Michigan family is losing its home because it underpaid the mortgage by 7 cents in January, a legal aid group says.
The statement is presented as straight fact in the lead. However:
    Rooks said [redacted] of Deckerville, in the Thumb, inadvertently underpaid their mortgage because a postal clerk issued a money order for $440 rather than $440.07. The couple didn't catch the mistake and they were four weeks late making February's payment of $690.07. She said they had been late before.

    Though the Bergers caught up by mid-April, Rooks said, Countrywide Financial and its new owner, Bank of America, rejected the couple's payments. Bank of America countered that it and earlier loan servicers bent over backward to accommodate
    [redacted], who has been repeatedly delinquent since purchasing the modest four-bedroom frame bungalow for $38,650 in 1997. It said [redacted] rejected a reasonable offer last week to get reinstated.
Those allegations by the people who know and who own the paper mean nothing; the paper and its wire service have their hook and story. It was the seven cents, and that illustrates how capricious and darewesay evil companies are. Only the benevolent government and its press corps can save the people.

Apparently, Reporters Don't Know Much About Blades, Either
Man wins a gunfight with a knife:
    Normally you lose when you bring a knife to a gunfight, but not Ramiro Silva.

    . . . .
    The gunman stuffed the shotgun into a bag and ran into the woods and Mr. Silva grabbed his machete, a fearsome looking blade, and went in after him.

    . . . .
    Silva wacked the suspect with the sword, using the face not the blade.
Knife, machete, sword.... All the same to the kids writing news these days.

I suppose we should just be glad that it wasn't called an assault blade.

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