Book Report: New Pearl of the Orient Korea by Korea National Tourism Corporation (~1980)

Posted in Book Report, Books on November 19th, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is one of the Korea-centric books I bought this spring in Clever. Like the first two I read, it’s a tourist-focused book. As a matter of fact, the Korean government’s tourist arm put it out. So it describes places to go and to see in South Korea and highlights some of the customs, traditions, and other cultural facts about the country that might interest a viewer, so it’s got an added dimension that the purely artifact- and location-based tourist tracts don’t.

On the one hand, the material I’ve read has covered a lot of the same ground and has been location- and artifact-based books I’ve read. But in reading similar material over and over again, I’m starting to pick up a sense of Korean history vicariously. I know when the Silla dynasty came to power, and I’ve got a sense of when the Yi (or Chosun) dynasty came to power. Although I lack detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of the history and the invasions, I’m getting a very high level sense of them. I’ve got a couple more books on Korean art to go through, and I think some of it will stick just from the repetition. Good for me.

At any rate, this book is an interesting artifact of its own in that it brags about different locations with all paved roads or mostly paved roads by 1980. I can laugh, because I live in Greene County, Missouri, one of the few counties in the state whose (public) roads are completely paved (although I’m not too far from some unpaved Christian County roads). Also, the book talks about driving four hours from Seoul to visit a location. I’m not much of a traveller, but it doesn’t appeal to me to fly some dozen hours to a destination and then drive eight hours round trip to another location. Perhaps that’s geared more toward the people who travel to Korea for a month or something.

I’m glad I’ve picked these books up and have looked through them. And I’m absolutely ready if one of the local trivia nights has a category called Korea. Well, that’s overstating it: a lot of this washes over me. But I’m more prepared than many people.

Books mentioned in this review:

I’ve Always Said It’s An Aggressive Recessive Gene

Posted in Miscellany on November 18th, 2014 by Noggle

My father had brown eyes. He had three blonde, blue-eyed boys between hazel-eyed and blue-eyed wives. Ergo, I was pretty sure the “recessive” blue eyed gene was awfully aggressive. At least in my line.

It’s in it’s nature, according to this scientific paper, or at least the news blurb on it:

New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.

But, wait! This would fly in the face of high school presentation of Mendelian genetics, where both parents must have a recessive gene to pass it on to their children. THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED.

Which proves something about science and the natural world aside from what the news report about a study indicates:

  • All SCIENCE THAT IS SETTLED is subject to review and revision when more information becomes available.
  • The understanding most of us have from science stems from extremely watered down summary materials which might be decades out of date.
  • The material from which most of us draw information is second-hand information about whatever we’re being told, so it’s akin to hearsay or science gossip instead of actual science we could reproduce in our basement labs.

Honestly, I’m not sure what practical application this research has, and it’s not like it’s reproducible. I’m more a fan of engineering these days, where some knowledge is put to practical benefit. Unfortunately, it seems like most speculative science — at least what’s covered in newspapers and on Twitter– is put to social engineering uses. Which is not really engineering at all.

The story does give one room for a little meta-reflection of the nature of science, but most people will just see the story, post it on their Facebook walls or mention it to blue-eyed people, and go on. Or maybe, being a blogger, I’m just prone to meta-reflection to make a word count and to keep the Google beast happy so I can keep my ten dollars a year advertising revenue flowing.

(Link via Trey’s Facebook page.)

Book Report: Murder for Halloween edited by Michele Slung and Roland Hartman (1994)

Posted in Book Report, Books on November 18th, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverI started this book on Halloween, appropriately enough. Which means it has taken me over two weeks to read this one book, which hardly justifies my profligate book buying habits. However, in my defense, the short story form leads to earlier reading stoppage in the evening, as instead of maybe just reading one more chapter of a novel, I have to think, “Do I want to read a whole new story with whole new characters and a whole new narrative style and situation tonight?” Often, the answer was no.

That’s not to knock the quality of the short stories in the volume; they’re all crime stories, not all of which include murder, centered on Halloween. Most have been published before, which explains why I’d read one of them before, an Edward D. Hoch Nick Velvet story I probably caught in its first appearance in a Ellery Queen.

At any rate, the book includes:

  • “Monsters” by Ed McBain
  • “The Lemures” by Steven Saylor
  • “The Adventure of the Dead Cat” by Ellery Queen
  • “The Odstock Curse” by Peter Wimsey
  • “The Theft of the Halloween Pumpkin” by Edward D. Hoch
  • “Hallowe’en for Mr. Faulkner” by August Derleth
  • “Deceptions” by Marcia Muller
  • “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “OMJAGOD” by James Grady
  • “The Cloak” by Robert Bloch
  • “What a Woman Wants” by Michael Z. Lewin
  • “Yesterday’s Witch” by Gahan Wilson
  • “Walpurgis Night” by Bram Stoker
  • “Trick or Treat” by Judith Garner
  • “One Night at a Time” by Dorothy Cannell
  • “Night of the Goblin” by Talmage Powell
  • “Trick-or-Treat” by Anthony Boucher
  • “Pork Pie Hat” by Peter Straub

Some of them are straight crime fiction, but some slide into horror and fantasy. “One Night At A Time”, for example, deals with a vampire detective. A couple of the stories are told from the perspective of children, such as “Yesterday’s Witch” and “OMJAGOD”. Some are of the quality of detective magazine filler, such as “What A Woman Wants” which is about a police squad looking for a smash-and-grab thief that uses Oldsmobile Cutlasses in his crimes, and the antagonist has a ride along magazine writer and agonizes about how to approach a fellow cop for a date fishing.

So it was a timely read when I started it, but a time consuming read once I started it. The biggest takeaway I got was in reading the Steven Saylor story set in Ancient Rome. I have a number of his paperbacks that I picked up some time ago, and his short story here has given me the excuse to pick one of them up.

Books mentioned in this review:

Putting the Sexy in Anti-Septic

Posted in Life on November 16th, 2014 by Noggle

This isn’t the 21st century juvenile science fiction of the middle 1900s promised us. No, this is the 21st century of custom fashion surgical face masks:

My Air Mask

Oh, how I laugh about it now. But in a couple years, when the 21st century resembles the 21st century promised to us by post-apocalyptic 1980s films, I might very well wish I had something like it.

Finally, Something For Those People In Funny Hats and Tight Pants To Laugh At

Posted in Life on November 15th, 2014 by Noggle

When I say funny little hats and tight pants, of course you think mime, but in reality, mimes already laugh at those other people in funny hats and tight pants, serious bicyclists. Now, the serious bicyclists have someone to laugh at: Elliptigo riders:

It’s a bicycle with pedals that mimic the workings of an elliptical. And this ad indicates one is expected to ride this on the street. Heck, even serious road recumbent bike riders are looking at this and saying it goes against the laws of nature.

But it’s a real thing, apparently. Briefly.

Some of you are asking “Isn’t your wife a serious bicyclist?” This is true. However, it is also true that she does not look funny in tight clothing. Also, she looks cute in hats of any sort except martial arts sparring headgear, in which she looks cute and like she’s going to punch one in the throat.

Book Report: Limericks by Edward Lear &c (1980)

Posted in Book Report, Books, Poetry on November 14th, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is just what it says: A collection of limericks, the five line poem type.

The book contains 212 limericks by Edward Lear, the English writer who popularized the form. His limericks are a bit of nonsence, and the fifth line pretty much just restates the first line without the clever twist that later limericks employed. So we get things like this:

There was a Young Person in Pink,
Who called out for something to drink;
But they said, “O my daughter,
There’s nothing but water!”
Which vexed that Young Person in Pink.

and:

There was an Old Person of Fife,
Who was greatly disgusted with life;
They sang him a ballad,
And fed him on salad,
Which cured that old Person of Fife.

After the main course of Lear, we get 28 limericks from Punch magazine and then 20 other limericks. These last 48 are in the contemporary form with a little more punchline to the last line, but none of them stuck with me or inspired me to memorize them and tell them to others.

I’m not really consumed with the urge to try out the form, either.

So skip this book unless you’re a real scholar on poetry forms or want something to browse through during football games and don’t mind re-reading the same limerick a couple of times because you’d forgotten you’d read it before third down.

Books mentioned in this review:

Because 99 Red Balloons Would Have Been Provocative

Posted in News on November 13th, 2014 by Noggle

8,000 balloons released to remember Berlin Wall

To remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and to celebrate it, one would assume.

Read more »

It Makes Sense In Chicagoland

Posted in News on November 13th, 2014 by Noggle

Emanuel urges Rauner to extend income tax, raise minimum wage.

Make it so a small group of people make more money, and then tax them on it. Brilliant!

Step 3: Government revenue. Which is like profit, except it’s compulsory.

Finally, A Decade Of Randomness Pays Off In Vital Google Search Result Hits

Posted in Blogging on November 11th, 2014 by Noggle

Yesterday, I got a Google search hit for "aristophanes is not your name":

The result is, of course, this bit.

Strangely, though, I am not the top Google hit for that search.

I can do better.

Chickens Are The Urban Homesteaders’ Gateway Livestock

Posted in News on November 6th, 2014 by Noggle

The slippery slope: Family asks Ellisville for special permission to keep goats.

See, it started with chickens, but urban homesteaders won’t be happy until they can have a herd of yaks in their back yards for their home organic kumis brew operations.

You know what you can do when you get the urge to raise livestock? You can move to the country.

Book Report: Leif and Thorkel: Two Norse Boys of Long Ago by Genevra Snedden (1924)

Posted in Book Report, Books on November 4th, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is a ninety year old children’s book, written when children’s books were not 300+ page fantasies part of a series for adults to read. As such, it’s a couple pages over one hundred and is, the title page informs us, designed to make children interested in history. As opposed to fantasy, magic, dystopia, and intrigue, which is what we’re teaching them now, I guess.

At any rate, this follows two young Norseboys, Leif Ericson and Thorkel. Leif has come to live with Thorkel and his family, including father Lodin and wife Astrid. The chapters of the book recapture some of the slices of life in Norway around 1000 AD: Lodin comes home from raiding England; they drive the cattle down from the mountains for the winter; they prepare for and endure winter; they prepare the cattle to go to the mountains in the spring; they attend a Thing, which is a court proceeding adjudicating a dispute among neighbors and then a duel when one party does not concede. Then, the boys go their separate ways: Leif to Greenland where his father lives and then onto the Americas briefly and Thorken as part of a war between his half-brother, who becomes king of Norway, and an alliance of other nations against him.

The book has no larger plot other than these guys growing up and becoming men. It illustrates the way the Vikings lived from the perspective of young men whom the target audience could relate to. And it leaves the reader a little smarter than when he started, even if it’s only to remind an adult of things he’d learned about the Vikings in school but didn’t have at the tip of his brain.

This 1924 book was published by the World Book Company. Later, that company would be better known for its encyclopedias.

It’s a handsome looking hardback, too. Which is a shame, though, because I’ll probably start collecting other volumes in the series in my nonchalant collecting fashion, and it’s hard for me to keep track of all things I’m nonchalantly collecting.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wherein Brian J. Is Made To Look Like A Piker

Posted in Books on November 4th, 2014 by Noggle

Randy Johnson (not the baseball pitcher) rounds up his October reading: Thirty books.

I’m not my top pace of a couple years back, and even then I was not reading thirty books a month.

Here’s what I completed in October, if you’re interested:

Poems of Creatures Large and Small edited by Gail Harvey
Dirty South Ace Atkins
The Fall Albert Camus
Longarm and the Border Showdown Tabor Evans
As Autumn Approaches Ronald E. Piggee
No Exit and Three Other Plays Jean-Paul Sartre
Leif and Thorkel Genevra Snedden

Which are books 41-47 of the year.

My peak in recent years is 106 in 2011.

Not In My House, You Won’t

Posted in Humor, Life on November 3rd, 2014 by Noggle

So my oldest child has learned to read, which means he was able to see this on the back of the potato chip bag and comprehend it:

Lays potato chips and chocolate: Not a perfect evening, but spell components to open a portal to Hell

Melted chocolate chips on potato chips? Are they barking mad?

However, my eight-year-old thinks this is a good idea. Even though, or particularly because, I recoiled at the thought. Kind of like he’s determined he’s a fan of Led Zepplin because I change the radio station when a Led Zepplin song comes on. Do you understand how much I hate them? So much that I refuse to misspell their name the same way they do.

So I’m at a loss. He does not prepare his own snacks yet, and you can be sure I won’t create this abomination for him no matter how much he cries or begs. (Look how feeding the children after midnight turned out!)

If I prohibit this behavior in my house too strenuously, he’ll be wasting chocolate chips and potato chips whenever he can just to rebel against authority. If I do not prohibit it at all, he might commingle the two. And he might like it. And do it again and again.

The best I can hope for is that he will forget this travesty before we trust him with the microwave, and Lays will stop printing this perverse propaganda on its bags between now and then.

I know it might look like I’m overreacting, but look: It’s potato chips. With chocolate melted onto them. It’s unholy. We’re not talking about dipping chips in Mountain Dew, which is perfectly natural and healthy. FOR PETE’S SAKE PEOPLE, WAKE UP!

Book Report: As Autumn Approaches by Ronald E. Piggee (1993)

Posted in Book Report, Books, Poetry on November 3rd, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is a chapbook written by a Vietnam veteran, a black father in Nebraska in 1993. The poetry within ranges through a bunch of different styles, including free verse and at least one villanelle. It’s better than a lot of chapbooks I’ve read.

The book led me to some personal musings, though. In 1993, my father was two years away from dying from cancer; he was a Vietnam-era veteran who served in Okinawa instead of Vietnam (and I think he felt a little guilty about it). It’s hard for me to imagine him writing poetry, but that was not his way. He was a hands guy: his creative hobby of the time period was building elaborate ship models that required him to tie nautical knots in thread using a magnifying glass and tweezers.

Crazy that a book of poems about growing older would make me think about my father, how he didn’t grow older, and how I will not long be older than he ever was. Or maybe not so crazy, since that’s what poetry does. So consider that an endorsement of this book: It was definitely evocative.

Book Report: No Exit and Three Other Plays by Jean-Paul Sartre (~1950)

Posted in Book Report, Books on November 1st, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverSince I’m apparently on an Existentialism kick (see my recent report on Camus’s The Fall. I picked up this book. I’ve read No Exit before, whether in my collegiate Existentialist reading period or my collegiate Existentialism class. I had not read the three others, though.

For those of you who don’t know, The Fall is about three people in Hell. Each of them is condemned for sins related to love, and their torment is to spend eternity with people who irritate them. It’s the source for the quote “Hell is–other people.” that American collegiate Existentialists banter amongst themselves.

The Flies is a retelling of the story of Orestes and Electra’s revenge upon their mother Clytemnestra for the killing of their father Agamemnon. In this retelling, the Orestes returns to Argos just before they ‘celebrate’ a holiday when the dead come back to remind the living of their crimes and slights against the departed. Orestes meets a disguised Zeus and then his sister, who has long hoped for her brother’s bloody return. When they meet, she does not think he’ll be the one to wreak vengeance, but he does and she has second thoughts. He kills his mother and stepfather, and the siblings hide out from the vengeance-seeking populace and Furies in Apollo’s temple, where Zeus appears to deal with them and to get them to return to his fold and to rule the people by casting off their freedom and doing his plan.

In Dirty Hands, a comrade imprisoned for killing the leader of a rival faction returns to his revolutionary compatriots to their chagrin, as he has proven to be unreliable. An old flame or crush of his secures his temporary safety while she tries to understand what went on with the assassination attempt and whether the fellow killed the charismatic and pragmatic leader for proper party reasons or in jealousy.

The Respectful Prostitute tells a short tale about a prostitute fresh in town who was the witness of the killing of a black man on a train by an respected citizen of the town and the member of a powerful family. The official story is supposed to involve the attempted rape of the young lady by two black men and her defense by the racist fellow, but she does not initially want to hew to that line and tries to resist various forms of persuasion to keep her story true.

They’re all pretty quick reads; the translations aren’t dated. Sartre’s work really draws out some of the Existentialist thoughts on freedom and what it means to be a person, and Sartre really subtlely leaves some questions for us to wonder about–particularly whether the wife of the main character in Dirty Hands got herself into a compromising position with the political figure to trigger her husband’s jealousy and compel him to complete his mission. Pretty good stuff, and reading it makes me feel deep.

Books mentioned in this review:

Where Armed, Off-Duty Police Officers Can’t Walk Alone

Posted in Crime on October 31st, 2014 by Noggle

Chicago:

An off-duty Chicago Police sergeant was beaten and had his service weapon stolen during a robbery Thursday afternoon in the Loop.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be out working on Nogglestead’s moat.

Almost a Koan

Posted in Life on October 31st, 2014 by Noggle

The very things that irritate me most in the day-to-day living are the first things I forget tomorrow.

I just wish knowing this would make me less irritated today.

Book Report: Historical Tweets by Alan Beard and Alec McNayr (2010)

Posted in Book Report, Books on October 31st, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverThis book looks enough like something that Henry Beard would write that I thought maybe they were the same guy (until I looked at a Henry Beard book and saw his name was Henry and not Alan). I thought maybe they were related. It appears not. They’re only in the same vein of humor.

This book presents a series of Twitter messages–tweets– that historical figures might have sent. It’s akin to a number of lists you’ve already read on the Internet.

So it’s quick and it’s clever in places, but there’s nothing especially revelatory about history, nor does the humor last with you after you turn the page.

But it counts as a book I read this year, so there.

Worth a buck at a book fair, but please don’t give me the 2015 desk calendar for Christmas.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Benefit To You Is It Costs You Money

Posted in Life on October 28th, 2014 by Noggle

Amazon has a new benefit for its Prime members: Shipping costs.

With new Prime Pantry, people who receive free shipping with their Prime membership now get the chance to pay $6 shipping on a box of household staples.

A real reporter asked Amazon about it, and the Amazon spokesperson was a bit coy:

So I asked an Amazon spokeswoman to explain the program’s benefits to shoppers. She mentioned the exclusivity of the program — it’s only available to Prime members; the fact that you’re getting some heavy items delivered to your door; and that shoppers are getting “low prices on everyday essentials in everyday sizes.”

Uh huh. I’m willing to pay $6 shipping just because I’m one of the privileged few who pay an annual fee to get free shipping and then get the privilege to pay the shipping and handling.

Here’s a bold prediction you’ll find everywhere else: Amazon Prime will evolve out of its actual benefit of offering free shipping on Amazon purchases to merely streaming content and giving its members exclusive access to a box that you can see filling up as you add items to your shopping cart. Here’s another prediction: When that happens, I’ll no longer be a Prime member and I won’t shop on Amazon by default any more.

Book Report: Longarm and the Border Showdown by Tabor Evans (1993)

Posted in Book Report, Books on October 26th, 2014 by Noggle

Book coverI picked up this book, and I was all like, “Shazam, how different are these titles in the same series?” For lo, although the book started out with a bit of gratuitous hey, sailor contact for grandfathers everywhere, the paragraphs were longer, deeper, and richer than I could have expected. But then I realized I’d confused this, a volume in the Longarm series, with the entry in the Gunsmith series that I’d read earlier. And they’re night and day.

In this book, Longarm is a Federal marshal sent from his normal Colorado range to Laredo, Texas, to investigate a fellow Federal marshal who might have gone bad and might be helping crooked local authorities in smuggling operations. So Longarm picks up an unlucky gambler traveling partner and heads down to pose as a merchant who can happen to come across a large number of Federal weapons to sell.

As I mentioned, the book is deeper and richer in prose and its set pieces take a little work. It’s got some, er, amorous scenes, but it’s also got its limits in that area; there are apparently some women the main character won’t touch. Additionally, the book reads like a Western with its painting of frontier towns and–who would think it?– concerns about horses and transporting horses.

So I liked it as a lighter read, and its linear story telling allowed me to put it down and not have to go back to see if I’d forgotten a three page jump cut scene with important information that I’d read and forgotten the night before.

So as I get older, I’m finding myself looking forward to good genre fiction and classic literature for pleasure reading than modern thrillers and detective novels. Fortunately for me, there is plenty of both on my to-read shelves. Also, should I want to get into this series, it’s apparently still in production 20 years after the release of this book, the 174th in the series. It’s up to 436 novels done or in planning, 30 Giant novels, and 4 Double novels (according to Fantastic Fiction). So I’ll keep my eyes open for these titles at the book sales in Ozark and in Clever. And someday I’ll gut out others I own in the Gunsmith series. When I need penance for something.

Books mentioned in this review: