Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Whew, Heather Would Have Killed Me Otherwise

With some trepidation, I took a quiz pointed out by Ravenwood, and fortunately discovered:

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Heather's choice of mate is validated!

P.S., Ravenwood, Heather thinks your Red Zinfadel goes well with pizza.

Friday, April 02, 2004
Book Review: The Dilbert Future by Scott Adams (1997)

I don't know if it was inappropriate or not, but I read The Dilbert Future at work. Unlike most Dilbert books, which lament the workplace environment and the world's dysfunctional state, this book laments the current state and the state the world was going to be in. So it represents a forward looking bad employee attitude.

Scott Adams took his cartooning insight into trends that were nascent in 1997 (or 1996, which is when I assume he wrote the book) and projected them out into the future. With some wryness, of course, but with some sincerity, too. His futurism is hit or miss, but he did pick up on some interesting things which came true. Some don't, however. We don't all have ISDN, but we do have cable modems and DSL, which are gradually supplanting the dial-up lines used in 1997. And this Internet thing has gotten a whole lot bigger. Not as big as the hype which would peak within a couple years of this book's publication, but bigger. Adams also picked up the trend of blogging:
    Prediction 52: In the future, everyone will be a news reporter.
Jeff Jarvis is so behind Scott Adams.

So Adams takes his best stabs at the future, and the book's amusing enough with that. However, with the ultimate chapter, "A New View of the Future", Adams goes careers off into a I'm Not Really Here-style weird Buddhist musing. He talks about how future paradigm shifts will indicate our current perception of the experience of time is inaccurate, and the near past, near future, and present are all the same, or similar, or something. He's sincere. Hey, I am all for keeping an open mind, but this bit lacks a big enough dose of skepticism for me.

Still, it's only a chapter, and it's not the whole book, so I can overlook it and say the book's amusing enough to read.

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Book Review: Give Me a Break by John Stossel (2004)

When I finished this book last night, Heather asked me if I liked it. I said, "It's okay." Was it a good book? she pressed. "It was okay," I responded.

There you have it: this is a nice book.

It's about 40% biography, wherein John Stossel tells us about his evolution as a thinker and a commentator, and 60% survey of libertarian positions on issues. It's an unfortunate mix, because it really didn't do too much for me.

Stossel tells us anecdotes from times throughout his career when he was working as a consumer advocate reporter for local affiliates up until he became the 20/20 presence and network gadfly. These anecdotes and insights are the strength of the book. It could have used more of Stossel's personal account of his odyssey. The first four or five chapters describe it.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the book is not much more than a laundry list of what libertarians believe (less government, more personal responsibility). The very chapter titles reflect this: "Welfare for the Rich", "The Trouble with Lawyers", "The Left Takes Notice", ""It's Not My Fault" and up to "Owning Your Body" and "Free Speech". Stossel works in a few anecdotes--including the one excerpted in Reason--but mostly he just conducts a survey course.

Perhaps it's a good primer for the people who've seen Stossel on television and don't know much about libertarianism. If so, he assures them that others share the vision they might find attractive. Heck, he even invokes Ayn Rand a couple of times. But it doesn't offer a detailed, reasoned argument to sway thinkers--or to offer arguments for the believers who want to them.

Of course, it's not Bias when it comes to harsh indictment of media, and it's not Ann Coulter or Michael Moore polemics to rouse the rabble or enrage the heretics. It's more even-tempered than that, and it does treat the reader fairly, and the opposition sympathetically. Stossel even offers kind words to the police state government and contemporary society, noting that we're remarkably open and free even while we're moving towards crackpot nannyism.

That Stossel's a nice boy.

So that's what it is; a nice, rational, but ultimately lightweight treatise (if that's not an oxymoron) on how one man became a libertarian (or small-l liberal) and what it means to him.

I Came Not To Fisk Whitman; It Just Happened

The world-famous DC from Brainstorming, who also appeared on the Hugh Hewitt show this evening (even if Instapundit overlooks it, we know), asks why I didn't want to be associated with Walt Whitman.

The backstory: I took a Quizilla quiz that asked what poet I was. I wasn't Walt Whitman, and I said I was glad I wasn't. DC took the same quiz and was. And she wondered why I said I didn't like Walt Whitman.

I don't find his poetry very vivid. Certainly, most of it seems to have a point, which Whitman doesn't hide. As a matter of fact, he pretty much delivers a non-rhyming lecture with line breaks. Let's take DC's favorite Whitman piece, and let's color code it. Blue is show, which means an image or other sensory material; green is tell, which is discussing abstractions:

    O Me! O Life!

    O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
    Of the endless trains of the faithless--of cities fill'd with the foolish;
    Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
    Of eyes that vainly crave the light?of the objects mean?of the struggle ever renew?d;
    Of the poor results of all--of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
    Of the empty and useless years of the rest--with the rest me intertwined;
    The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?

    That you are here?that life exists, and identity;
    That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
You see, I am reduced to coloring the blooming concrete nouns to find images and turns of phrase. The rest, chatter.

Personally, when it comes to poetry, I prefer structured poetry to free verse. So let's take a quick gander at something from my personal favorite poet (aside from my beautiful wife and, well, me, of course), Edna St. Vincent Millay:
    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
    I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
    Under my head till morning; but the rain
    Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
    Upon the glass and listen for reply,
    And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
    For unremembered lads that not again
    Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
    Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
    Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
    Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
    I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
    I only know that summer sang in me
    A little while, that in me sings no more.
The concrete images resonate at a lower level than abstractions, and the reader makes the connections and draws the higher meaning for himself, which resonates more deeply than a series of things we know, but cannot see or feel.

(Thanks to Lex Libertas, another conservative poetry lover, who led posted a pile of Millay's poetry.)

As I said, I like structured poetry better than free verse (although not exclusively). I prefer to see a poet struggle against the bonds of tradition, and make the poem worthwhile. So it's no surprise that I work in the sonnet form like my patron saint:
    It's always more than sex to sleep with you.
    Don't get me wrong; I like to tangle sheets
    and hungry scents and taste the salty dew
    of glistening sweat where heavy brow meets
    soft eyelids closed, relaxed. I'll kiss them, too,
    and sample other slow seduction sweets.
    But I run out of juice, won't thump my chest
    and say I don't, and so I like the rest:
    I like to lie, arms wrapped around you, deep
    in comfortable darkness where the moon projects
    odd patterns on the walls. I want to keep
    you safe and warm as winter licks our necks.
    You mumble love and slowly fall asleep;
    these moments worth much more than simple sex.
You can mentally add your own blue or green highlighting to it. But keep in mind, it's not public domain, and I better not Google it and find other hits, or I will kick your ass (don't worry; if you don't own a donkey, one will be provided for you).

To make a short story long, I don't like Whitman because his poems don't contain the things I value in poetry. Imagery, concrete sensational phrases, and/or structure.

The Bottom of the Slippery Slope?

Oh, how they mocked me last year when I shook my head about St. Peters, Missouri, arresting underage teenagers for taking pornographic videos to sell to their fellow high school students. (I went into greater detail about the absurdity the next day.) Can you get any more absurd than charging children for exploiting children?

The Meatriarchy Guy links to a story in story in USA Today:
    A 15-year-old girl has been arrested for taking nude photographs of her self and posting them on the Internet, police said.
Her crimes?
    She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.
She has been charged for abusing herself for having and distributing naked pictures of herself.

You know, Government could better protect The Children and the little inner The Children by straight-jacketing us and putting us in dark closets, where no carcinogenic sunlight need blemish us.

Pulling the Emergency Brake on the Train of Thought

Have you ever had this happen to you?

This afternoon, I was thinking that The Toxic Avenger was named Melvin before he became the title character. When suddenly, the absurd nature of the musing pulled the emergency brake on my train of thought, and it went off the tracks. Maybe it was already careering too fast around a bend when I saw it.

Why the heck was I thinking about a movie I have not seen?

I couldn't retrace my thoughts nor make sense of it. Some of you know I am prone to spitting out random trivia seemingly unrelated to what we're talking about. Perhaps you'll feel better to know I do it to myself, too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Book Review: Basket Case by Carl Hiassen (2002)

Ah, a light mystery romp. This is the first book of Carl Hiassen's that I have read, and it probably won't be the last.

It's the story of a newspaperman who's gone from the front page of his small Florida daily to the obituary beat, punishment for his forthright (and possibly self-destructive) nature. As he grows older, he starts obsessing about the ages of famous people when they died, and whom he's out lived--without contributing as much.

When an obscure 80s pop star dies, Jack Tagger suspects foul play. He's right, of course; what kind of mystery would it be without it?

You know, Hiassen might just be the funniest writer to come out of the Miami Herald ever. The voice of the book is light, vulnerable, and humorous. It's a good light read, and I look forward to my next Hiassen novel.

Yep, that's all I got for a review.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Emancipations from Proclamations

Thanks to a pinko reader for sending us an enlightening e-mail: Follow the link to the Snopes page, and you'll find that George W. Bush, as governor of the state of Texas, issued a proclamation that made June 10, 2000, Jesus Day in Texas. This, I guess, is supposed to illustrate that George W. Bush is a religious zealot, and that by electing a person who sincerely espouses a religion to elective office, we can expect to get someone who acts according to higher ideals. You know, convictions. So be it.

But tying Bush to this single proclamation is a red herring and not really an argument in that favor. George W. Bush issued numerous proclamations when he was governor; that's what governors do, at least it's the least harmful thing governors do. Personally, I'd rather they issue useless proclamations every day instead of politicking and spending tax money. But what do I know? I am just a voter in the minority.

Here's a running tally of other groups to whom George Bush is beholden, as illuminated by the proclamations he issued: So you can see that the Governor's mansion, and probably the White House, have a whole wing of highly-paid professionals who do nothing for 30 hours a week but to turn out these proclamations for someone to stamp the executive's signature on. To call Bush a religious nut or to think that the proclamation for Jesus Day is out of the ordinary, establishing a state church which will begin pogroms against other faiths or to even indicate that there's a morality above the Government is Good creed is asininine. (Sorry, that particular word is a little like banana to me.)

If you want to elevate one of these trivialities as a wedge issue, why not start printing the bumper stickers that say:

President Bush:
Weak on French Week, Weak on Terror

To be honest, there's only one trivial ceremonial issue that could make me vote for someone other than Bush this election. As a meat eater and a proponent of capital punishment, I am greatly bothered that this president, like his predecessors, pardons the damn turkey every Thanksgiving. It sends a bad message to America, that it's bad to kill something to eat, and that you can pardon animals like you pardon criminals. You want to know who I will vote for instead of Bush?

I will vote for the candidate who promises to whack the turkey, particularly if he (or she) will do it himself (herself) with a hatchet and a tree stump. I will even send money to a candidate who plucks the turkey and eats it himself. That's an American president. Also, I like turkey.

Things You Wished I Hadn't Made You Think Of

Gollum singing Parliament's "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)":

Yessss, wes wantses the funk
Gives us the funk
Yesss, we needses the funk
Wes gotta haves that funk

Face it. In one fell swoop, I have infected your mind with the song and have possibly ruined the song for you forever.

No need to thank me, it's part of the community service portion of my sentence for Missouri State Statute Section 574.010, Grand Lack of Funk in the Second Degree.

Sunday, March 28, 2004
A Converse to the DYKWIA Syndrome

John Kerry visited St. Louis this weekend. His campaign managed to offend the largest radio station in the area and 50,000 watts' worth of a listening area spread across the Midwest by not granting interviews to mere radio reporters (television only, thanks) and by not even knowing who KMOX was. KMOX has been banging this drum all morning and has this on its Web site:
    Kerry Aide: What's KMOX?
    March 27, 2004
    Reporter barred from interview

    The John Kerry campaign came to St. Louis Saturday evening. . .and seemed a bit confused. The Democratic hopeful appeared at a tightly-guarded rally in Forest Park to talk about his plan to create jobs. KMOX Reporter Molly Hyland was on the scene but found Kerry campaign aides had decided that only television reporters could interview the candidate. Kerry's campaign aide said she had never heard of KMOX and would not allow an interview. The Kerry campaign did arrange for the senator to call KMOX by phone earlier in the day. . .but that, too, fell through. The call never came. Saturday night, the Kerry campaign phone lines were closed; its spokesmen out of reach.
Good work, Kerry. You're really connecting with the little man in the West Mid, or whatever the quaint residents call that desolate prairie between the coasts.

KMOX also mentioned on the air that the audience jeered the aides and the Secret Service whenever they asked who KMOX was and what kind of radio station it is. It's the biggest radio station in the market. It has been for decades. Thanks for stopping by in your layover between real work.

Undoubtedly, people will point out that this is only the ill will generation of a single campaign staffer, but I have to pose two rhetorical questions about the Kerry campaign from this tidbit:
  1. What does it say about the campaign that the event was controlled by imported help? Didn't they have any local support to organize the thing?

  2. So, Kerry's aides don't research enough to know what KMOX was. These are the incompetents running his campaign. If Kerry is elected, will these be the same people strumming the delicate strings of national power?

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