There Comes a Time In A Man’s Life When….

Posted in Life on September 17th, 2014 by Brian

It’s a sad, sad day when you realize that you’re as old as Les Nessman was.

Thanks for the blog post that led me to that reflection, Steve.

Headline Writers Leave Me Hanging Sliders

Posted in Headlines on September 16th, 2014 by Brian

Study: Parents Stop Using Booster Seats Too Soon

I gave mine up too soon.

Arkansas Mulls Alcoholic Beverage Ballot Issue

They’ve added spices to it and served it warm?

I Need A Volunteer Regarding My Book Of Gold

Posted in Books on September 14th, 2014 by Brian

A writer sez:

If you only write one book in your whole life, and only sell 600 copies or less, nonetheless, I assure you, I solemnly assure you, that this book will be someone’s absolutely favorite book of all time, and it will come to him on some dark day and give him sunlight, and open his eyes and fill his heart and make him see things in life even you never suspected, and will be his most precious tale, and it will live in his heart like the Book of Gold.

I’ve sold considerably fewer than six hundred copies, and I mailed out fifty or sixty copies for review, so I have to wonder if this holds true for John Donnelly’s Gold. I’ve gotten some nice reviews of it, and I’ve had some people tell me they didn’t care for it at all. It’s a serviceable and amusing bit of work, but not something that changes one’s life.

To think that it’s someone’s favorite book of all time? I don’t believe it.

(Link seen via Instapundit.)

Book Report: Mary Rose by J.M. Barrie (1929)

Posted in Book Report, Books on September 13th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI am so easily led. I see an article ("War, Culture, and the Minds of Nations") allude to a book (actual quote: "There were other responses that we have largely forgotten. England saw a revival of the spiritualism that had emerged in late-Victorian days among post-Christian intellectuals. James M. Barrie had a huge West End success with his syrupy mystical play Mary Rose, in which a bride disappears on her honeymoon on a Scottish isle only to reappear there completely unchanged 30 years later. It was said that when the line “Mary Rose is coming across the fields” was spoken, a gasp went through the audience. But a London theater audience in the 1920s was likely to contain several hundred people whose sons, nephews, and older brothers had perished on the Western Front. However absurdly, they were hoping that death could somehow be denied."), and suddenly I must read that.

So I bought this book and read it immediately.

The play, as one would expect from the author of Peter Pan, is fantastic in nature and also deals with, as Mr. O’Sullivan indicates, a character who is strangely young. The play has three acts: there’s a frame story about an old man coming to a haunted house for sale. He wants to see a ghost. Then we go to a flashback in the house, where a man, his wife, and the parson interact and talk about art. Then the man and his wife entertain the suitor of their daughter Mary Rose and reveal to him a curious incident from her youth, where she played on an island in Scotland while her father fished in a boat nearby, and she somehow disappeared for a number of days. When they found her, no time had passed. In the next act, the now-husband takes Mary Rose back to the island, and as they prepare to leave, she vanishes. Then another flashback takes place thirty years into the future; Mary Rose’s parents and the parson are again talking about art, and again Mary Rose’s husband arrives. Mary Rose has been missing the whole time, but news comes that Mary Rose has returned and is on her way (she’s coming across the fields). Mary Rose arrives, and she’s stunned to see how everyone has aged, and she’s eager to see her son who was a baby when she disappeared, but who has run away and made his life in Australia. Finally, we return to the present day, where the old man is Mary Rose’s son, and he meets the ghost of his mother. Mary Rose, now a ghost, has forgotten what she’s looking for, but it’s him, and he has difficulty in convincing her it’s the case, but ultimately, he puts her spirit at ease.

The plot is very symmetrical and engaging, but I think there’s a lot of the story that lies in between the frame stories that would be interesting. What happened to Mary Rose after she returned? She never went back to the island? Did she die young after not finding her child?

The day after finishing it, I’m still thinking about it, so that’s probably the mark of a good bit of theatre. And like so many of the non-modern plays I read, I’d like to see this on stage. But that is unlikely.

Books mentioned in this review:

I’ve Got A Little Black Book With My Poems In

Posted in Personal Relics on September 12th, 2014 by Brian

So I was listening to Pink Floyd, really loud, when I got to “Nobody Home”:

And I thought, “I’ve got a little black book with me poems in.” Read more »

Footnoting My Humor, Again

Posted in Humor on September 11th, 2014 by Brian

So we have this cat who likes to hop into the laundry basket when you’re folding clothes, and then she proceeds to defend the unfolded laundry from the said predations of meticulous arrangement and storage.

So I said to my beautiful wife, “Meowon Laundry.”

To get the joke, you either have to know the ancient Greek language, the history of Sparta, and/or support the second amendment.

My poor wife did not know any of these, and since she’s furiously studying Spanish, she heard the Spanish word for key in there and didn’t get it.

But rest assured, Victor Davis Hanson would think it was funny. Unless he doesn’t like cats. Or doing laundry. Or it’s not funny.

Break Alderaan, Good Buddy

Posted in Movies on September 10th, 2014 by Brian

James Earl Jones used his Darth Vader voice on the CB while traveling across the country:

You’re never tempted to pick up the phone and pretend to be Darth Vader? I did that once when I was traveling cross-country. I used Darth as my handle on the CB radio. The truck drivers would really freak out — for them, it was Darth Vader. I had to stop doing that.

Mostly, I think it was his declaration of their patrimony that was so dispiriting.

Book Report: The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (2012)

Posted in Book Report, Books on September 8th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI bought this book off of the discount rack at Barnes and Noble as part of a recent binge there. I’ve enjoyed Atkins’ Spenser novels (Lullaby and Wonderland), and I didn’t think much of White Shadow (but I didn’t dislike it enough to swear the non-Spenser Atkins books). So I picked this up. New, albeit old.

I have to wonder how much television programming affects how one reads books or perhaps how one writes them. This book is the second of the Quinn Colson novels about a ranger who served several tours overseas and who comes home and ends up sheriff of his county in Mississippi (that took place in the first book, where he had to uncover some perfidy that his uncle, the previous sheriff, was part of or something–events of that book are alluded to an awful lot). As part of his duties, he’s trying to find work for a friend and fellow veteran who lost an arm; he has to find a woman who is smuggling babies for adoption from Mexico; he also has to contend with a gun-running operation working through a traveling carnival for which another fellow veteran is the supplier.

It features all the modern amenities of shifting points of view with an omniscient narrator to ensure the short attention spans of modern readers (myself included) don’t wander. It hops between the plot items and everyday life of the protagonists (and antagonists). It alludes to the past things in the series. And then it wraps up, sort of, with some elements unfixed. Maybe that’s for next week? Also, we’ve got some flashbacks to childhood while Quinn works out an episode from his past that might have turned his younger sister from the straight and narrow onto a self-destructive path. It’s a very busy book.

I’ve only seen one episode of the television program Justified, but this book felt of a kind with the pilot of that program.

I guess this sort of thing has been a part of police procedurals since the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain, but somehow they’ve gotten moreso. Or maybe I was not in the mood for it.

At any rate, it’s not a bad book, and I liked it better than White Shadow, but I’m not going to rush right out and buy the rest of the series.

Unless I find them at book fairs or on Barnes and Noble binges, I suppose.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Hardest Working Book Reporter In The Business

Posted in Books on September 5th, 2014 by Brian

You know who reads and reports on more books than I do? Friar, that’s who.

Today, he does a book report on Robert B. Parker’s Early Autumn (and The Hunt for Red October).

I read Early Autumn back when I checked the paperback out of the Jefferson County Community Library. It was in the days of belonging to a broken home with no father, and it impacted me a lot. I was so heavily influenced by the self-definition portions of the book that I gave copies out to other shiftless, adrift twenty-somethings when I was in college.

It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve gone back through Parker’s early work; back around the turn of the century, I ran through the books to that point. It was far easier then, as there were fewer books in the oeuvre. Also, the average quality wasn’t diluted by the 21st century work.

So I’ll stick to reading Friar’s book reports about Parker’s work.

An Ounce of Feline Prevention

Posted in Humor, Technology on September 3rd, 2014 by Brian

Google working on super-fast ‘quantum’ computer chip

Google said it is working on a super-fast “quantum” computer chip as part a vision to one day have machines think like humans.

Friends, we have the algorithm for a fail-safe prevention of a Skynet scenario right there: If we make the computers think like humans, we’ll be safe.

For example, if the computers think, after reaching a certain level of sophistication, they should simply use the network to share cat pictures and staged, marketing-driven ‘viral’ videos with each other instead of doing something useful like annihilating mankind. As a bonus, computers would more completely overwhelm the network doing these things at the speed of quantum, and they’ll knock themselves out.

I hope someone is checking this into GitHub right now for the good of mankind.

(Link seen in the Ace of Spades HQ sidebar.)

I’m Not Sure How I Feel About That

Posted in Books, Movies on August 31st, 2014 by Brian

A Mack Bolan movie might be in the works.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

It will be tricky to convey that which sets the Bolan series apart from other men’s adventure novels–namely, the interior life that Pendleton gave Bolan and the philosophical asides about his motivations and whatnot.

Of course, I was not compelled to rush out and see the Parker film, either. Let’s face it, I’m not much of a moviegoer during these child-rearing years, and I worry about what modern Hollywood will do to informed 1960s era paperbacks. Because, face it, your general Hollywood type in the 21st century is less well read and less educated than your general paperback writer of the middle 20th century.

(Link via Ace of Spades HQ.)

Book Report: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (2012)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 28th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverFunny thing about the passage of time when you get older: longer and longer passages of time seem like a short time because, I guess, they’re a smaller percentage of your whole lifespan. Which is why, although I last read an Odd Thomas novel (Odd Hours four years ago and the graphic novel In Odd We Trust three years ago, it doesn’t seem that long. Perhaps it’s the diminishing number of books I’m reading these days; it’s only been, what, 200 books ago, not 450 books ago?

At any rate, I picked up this book from the discount rack at Barnes and Noble on a recent binge, and I’m reading them first out of my stack of thousands. Besides, the character of Odd Thomas is still engaging enough to give me warm feelings about them. Especially after three or four years pass between readings.

This book finds Odd Thomas and his pregnant protectee on an estate where the few employees are weird, and the fierce owner seems of two minds about helping Annamaria, the pregnant woman. He’s compelled to house her, but he’s not happy about it when she’s not around. Odd Thomas gets some apocalyptic visions and encounters some strange beasts on the grounds, which are shuttered tight at night. So Odd investigates and finds not an apocalypse waiting to happen, but strange things at Roseland nevertheless and evil that he must ferret out and guns he must fire.

The same quibbles I had with Odd Hourse I have here: Too much of the book is Odd thinking to himself. Too much riding the voice alone and not the events or the odd things. To be sure, some fantastic things occur, but I’m pulled out of it by Odd Thomas as much as I’m drawn into it.

So it’s okay, more straight ahead fantasy thriller than horror.

I see that I’m two or more books behind on the series, and I’ve had enough of it for now. According to current projects, I’ll finish the series sometime in my fifties. Okay.

Books mentioned in this review:

Brian J. Points The Finger

Posted in Humor on August 27th, 2014 by Brian

There’s no food inflation.

But you know who’s to blame for the cost of a dozen eggs rising from $.79 a couple years ago to $1.79 now?

It’s the greedy chickens.

the Big Chicken cartel representative

Recycled Content

Posted in Life on August 26th, 2014 by Brian

Sometime over the weekend, my Google Pagerank must have gone through the roof, as suddenly the number of hits via Web search went up fifty-fold.

So I feel compelled to add something fresh all the time to keep the robots happy.

Here’s a bit I did on Facebook:

Brian J. Noggle: If I got Heather a set of nice mixing bowls for Christmas, do you think she’d suspect I’d gotten them so I could use them?

Brian J. Noggle Because, honestly, I would. I’m getting tired of mixing in dog bowls.

Brian J. Noggle Oh, nuts, I just realized I’ve now got Springfield people on here who’ve eaten things I’ve baked.

I just want to emphasize the DOGS BOWLS WERE CLEAN.

Brian J. Noggle The dog’s tongue is like the cleanest animal tongue there is, you know.

That ought to get me some sweet Google hits for “mixing bowl” and “dog bowl”. You can buy them on Amazon:

Which is funny, actually: Missouri is one of the states where Amazon killed its associates program, so know, gentle reader, that I provide these links for your convenience, not my own remuneration.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to plot a science fiction story about an intelligent search engine that alters its pageranks to get bloggers to post more because it uses new content from small sources to learn about the human race and it trusts bloggers more than premium and often link-baiting Web sites. Go back to the ancient texts Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Short Circuit. The prophets warned us that the machines would manipulate us to provide them with input.

Book Report: Books Are Better In Bed Than Men Because… by Deenie Vin (1991)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 24th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverYou might have thought the depths of my book-reporting could get no lower than books comparing cats to men, but you have little imagination, gentle reader. Why, in my quest to rack up numbers for the sheer love of metrics, I have not even begun to critique coloring books yet!

I have, however, glanced through this book. It’s lower in quality than the cat books in both publishing (it’s a comb-bound book) and in tone. This one is a little more racy than the cat-loving books, and that’s to be expected, as it is entitled “in Bed”. But it’s a bit repetitive in quips, as the “you can read a lot of books and not be judged” motif appears several times. You will, however, be judged by how many times you hit the same punchline in a slightly different way to pad out a book.

So it might have been an amusing gift back in the day to give to your bookish friend, but most of the amusement is in the concept of the book and the gifting of it, not in the execution of the book or its reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

My Six-Year-Old Offers Me A Sense Of Perspective Regarding My Sense Of Humor

Posted in Humor on August 22nd, 2014 by Brian

My son has started writing his own material, and he might be unclear on what constitutes humor. His jokes often run along the lines of:

Q: Why did the fork run away?
A: Because he didn’t want to get eaten!

He follows this punchline with his own brand of stage laughter, and I pause a moment to suss out if there is, in fact, any cleverness in it.

Then I laugh. Because there is none. Or none I can see.

But it does lend a sense of perspective to me as to what it must feel like to be a bystander to my sense of humor whose quips and punchlines often require knowledge of Roman Empire military unit organization. Or electronic surveillance techinques. Or the intersection of the German language and 1980s action films.

In short, my sense of humor requires my audience to be me.

So that’s how it feels.

However, my laughter at my son’s joke makes him try harder. And the occasional occurrence of someone getting the joke–that one person in the room who snorts at the punchline while everyone else looks on like a daddy wondering who would eat a fork–gives me the strength to go on making the obscure jokes.

Besides, they amuse me.

That’s Okay, Words Don’t Mean Anything

Posted in Headlines on August 21st, 2014 by Brian

A Blind Legend, the All Audio Video Game for the Blind

If it’s all audio, it’s not video. It’s an all-audio computer game.

UPDATE: Welcome, Neatorama readers. Don’t forget to check out John Donnelly’s Gold, my novel about four laid-off IT workers who plot a heist against their CEO for revenge. It’s available in paperback, in the iTunes store, and for the Kindle (for only $.99!).

Book Report: 101 Reasons Why A Cat Is Better Than A Man by Allia Zobel (1994) and Women Who Love Cats Too Much by Allia Zobel (1995)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 19th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverIt is inevitable: Every autumn, as football season comes around, I find myself behind my best pace from the past in book reading (2011, wherein I read 106 books). So I pick up little comic books and whatnot that I can flip through while watching football games. Which explains these books.

See, it’s only the Internet age that thinks cats are just now the centerpiece of lists, but in the olden days, little book forms of humor relating to cats (see also All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat and 101 Uses for a Dead Cat) were pretty widely available. They must have gone as gifts a lot of times.

At any rate, this one-two punch comes with a marriage for the author sandwiched in between. The first deals with how nonjudgmental a cat is and how a cat will never pressure a woman. Which is unlike any cat I’ve ever known. The second book covers such fecund territory as how badly a cat treats its owners and why they still put up with it.

So it’s about what you would expect, and it’s as amusing as the comics page of the newspaper. Perhaps it’s better if you’re a woman. Or if it’s 1994 again.

Man, we’ve got a whole football season of these non-thoughtful book reports to look forward to. And they’re even less amusing than the books themselves.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Private Hell of Hemingway by Milt Machlin (1962)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 18th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverAs I mentioned yesterday, I got this book in Orlando last week. I mean, I already have a hardback entitled Papa on my to-read shelves, but I was in Florida (although not Key West), and I was not that excited about my other airplane paperbacks (a fantasy called Catswold and a history of Australia by a historian). So I bought this book.

And read it quickly.

The author is an acquaintenance of Hemingway (who often refers to himself as “the author” when he meets Hemingway, so we get some weird things where one sentence says Hemingway and the next says “the author,” and you have to figure out if the author is Hemingway or his biographer). The book came out in paperback in 1962, very quickly after Hemingway’s suicide, and it has a title that was the postwar equivalent of clickbait. Obviously, they’re trying to capitalize.

That’s doesn’t matter, though; this is a very readable biography of the author (Hemingway) starting from his youth in Illinois to his success in the thirties and then his later career. The book follows Hemingway to Europe for World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and then into Spain for his love of bullfighting. It talks about his marriages to his four wives and his wild lifestyle. It talks a bit about his books, but this is not a literary criticism by any means. The book covers his trips to Africa, including the one where his plane crashed and how it affected the end of his life.

Strangely, the book really doesn’t dwell on the end of Hemingway’s life much, and if there’s anything in the book that it might present as hell, it’s Hemingway after his plane crash. But the book only mentions it, and the book’s end comes pretty abruptly.

Still, it makes me want to read Hemingway again. I haven’t read a Hemingway novel in the ten years this blog has been running, apparently, since a blog search only shows a little literary recap and no primary sources (but plenty of instances where I compare people to Hemingway). On the weight of this book, I checked online for complete collections of Hemingway, and the only one I see is about $2000 for an Easton Press collection. I’m adding it to my Amazon wish list for your convenience, gentle reader.

Recommended. But it’s not quite what the title would have you think.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: August 9, 2014: BrightLight Books, Orlando, Florida

Posted in Books on August 17th, 2014 by Brian

Back when we were young, my beautiful wife and I would always look for a used bookstore in places to which we traveled. At some point, we got away from that. Well, at some point we got away from both traveling and from going to used bookstores when we traveled. That point might be called “childbirth,” and it’s possible we only got away from traveling.

Regardless, we went on an excursion recently to Orlando, Florida, and we got out of the tourist corner of the city to find the BrightLights book store in Fern Park. And as we did not drive to Florida, we were pleased to discover, after inquiry, that they would, in fact, ship the bulk of our purchases home for us so we didn’t have to transport them expensively on our plane.

It’s not like we got a whole lot:

Books from BrightLights Books

I got a trio of 3 ex-library books by John Ringo because I heard he’s a libertarian science fiction writer and they were only a buck each; a signed uncorrected proof of Robert B. Parker’s Wilderness; and a biography of Hemingway (not pictured because it’s a small paperback that I carried with me onto the plane and was not hence unboxed yesterday).

My beautiful wife got a set of The Teaching Company lectures for $14 and a couple other books in her interest areas.

It’s a good tradition, and since we’re starting to do these “family vacations” now, we’ll have to ensure we visit used bookstores wherever we go.