Not The Camus Quote I’d Have Gone With

Posted in Humor on May 22nd, 2015 by Noggle

So I’m three or four years behind on my reading of Birds and Blooms Extra. Which, to be fair, is not a magazine you’ve probably heard of nor one you’d expect me to read. But there was a time, long in the past, where I was interested in, if not birds, at least pretty flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. But that was before I moved to this Cthulhu-forsaken bermuda grass jungle. But I digress.

In an autumn issue, we’ve got an autumn-themed full page image, prints available for sale. And they’ve got a quote by Albert Camus on them.

Camus quote on a pretty picture

I’m not sure if that’s a real Camus quote or not. To be honest, I haven’t read all of The Myth of Sisyphus yet. Maybe it’s from that. But I can’t imagine how it came to be that this quote was appended to this image. Did an editor say, “Quick! we’ve got a picture of autumn leaves on a fungus! Get me an Existentialist quote, stat!” Did a passive-aggressive copy editor with a literature degree titter over his keyboard when he threw this quote on the picture, expecting no one would get it? Or, more likely, did someone do an Internet search for autumn quotes and find a result he or she liked?

Yes.

I, on the other hand, might have selected “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” Which is why I am not in charge of putting quotes on pretty pictures for a national magazine targeted to older people in the northern Midwest.

Wherein Brian J. Is Saddened By The Pop Culture News

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21st, 2015 by Noggle

What, the Lettermen won’t perform any more?

Truly a tragic turn of affairs!

At least the Four Freshmen are still together.

Sonny, they don’t make music like that any more.

(Exit question: Is the Lettermen version of “Going Out of My Head” better than that of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66? Of course not. I withdraw the question.)

Book Report: Poor Richard’s Almanack: Benjamin Franklin’s Best Sayings edited by Dean Walley (1967)

Posted in Book Report, Books on May 21st, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book was printed by a greeting card company (Hallmark) as a cheap gift you could pick up for someone as you were picking up the card. Pause a moment to reflect on the decline and fall of these sorts of books. From truisms, aphorisms, and self-helping little nuggets in the 1960s to feel-good and self-affirming poems to…. Do they even do these any more?

At any rate, this book collects some of Benjamin Franklin’s pithy sayings from his periodical and presents them with some period woodcut images. It’s a lot like reading a Twitter feed (or the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, for that matter). Some of the sayings are humorous descriptions of life, some are prescriptions for self-discipline and self-improvement, but all are worth reflection. It’s best not to try to read this as fast as you can–which is pretty fast indeed, as it’s sixty pages of three to five sayings per page–but instead to savor them, maybe even to read them aloud unless you’re in public (or perhaps even then).

Worth a look, and in book form, it’s more resonant than a collection you’d find on SmartyQuotes.com or whatnot.

Books mentioned in this review:

Public Service Announcement

Posted in Humor, Life on May 20th, 2015 by Noggle

A father comes into his child’s bedroom and turns down the son’s radio. The father holds a number of empty candy wrappers in his hand. He displays them to the child, who looks startled to see them.

Father: These yours?

Son: No, I….

Father: Your mother said she found them in your closet.

Son: I dunno, one of the guys must have left….

Father: Must have what?

Son: Look, Dad, they’re not mine….

Father: When did you eat it?

Son: Dad, I….

Father: Answer me! Who taught you how to sneak this stuff?

Son: You, all right! I learned it by watching you.

Father looks guilty, wipes the chocolate remnants of a Hershey’s egg from his lips.

Voiceover: Parents who sneak their children’s remaining Easter candy have children who sneak their remaining Easter candy.

Read more »

Book Report: Under the Dome by Stephen King (2009)

Posted in Book Report, Books on May 19th, 2015 by Noggle

Book cover

SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

So I’ve tucked it under the fold for your protection. Unless you come from a social media site or feed directly to this page, in which case there is no fold. TURN BACK NOW, YOU FOOL.
Read more »

Book Report: The Avengers #2: The Laugh Was On Lazarus by John Garforth (1967)

Posted in Book Report, Books, Television on May 18th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book did not have Iron Man in it. I guess Robert Downey, Jr., wanted too much to do it.

I guess not; this is the wrong The Avengers. This set is the 1960s British Secret Agents, mod 60s woman Emma Peel and staid John Steed. I’ve never seen the series, and I even missed the almost twenty year old film starring Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

It’s a slightly silly, disjointed book. A biotech company can raise the dead, and there’s a priest, and zombie American servicemen who can remember how to fly a stolen plane to the Pentagon. Or to New York.

I don’t know what to make of the story, how it relates to the others in the series, or to the television program. The book has a lot of interior Steed attracted to Peel but unable to say, and I don’t know if this is something that showed up in the program or if it’s a bit of the author’s own invention, thinking that Steed would because what man is not hot for Diana Rigg in a cat suit? I’ve seen that sort of thing before in books, although I cannot recall in which television series or movie novelization book report I remarked on it.

At any rate, of the two period television shows whose tie-in books I’ve read recently, the Kung Fu books (here and here) are better.

But I’ve got a couple more from The Avengers; maybe they’ll grow on me since I’m not going into them cold.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Admit, I Laughed Out Loud

Posted in Life on May 17th, 2015 by Noggle

I opened the most recent copy of Garden & Gun magazine, and I laughed out loud. Not at the Roy Blount, Jr., humor piece it contained. Not at a joke or intentionally humorous piece, actually. At the ensemble in the Table of Contents:

Go ahead, if you dare, and click for full size. Then, note in the lower left corner, this text:

Crop top, $3,990, and skirt, $9,700, by Zuhair Murad, at zuhairmurad.com.

That yellow outfit costs as much as a car.

I wonder how much more expensive if the top had sleeves and covered the belly completely.

I can’t talk, of course, as I’m a bit of a clothes horse myself these days. Why, just two weeks ago, I bought a new shirt at Walmart for $9 because the shirts I’ve received as inheritances from my father-in-law (fifteen years ago), uncle-in-law (seven years ago), and mother (six years ago) are starting to show some wear. And I’m outgrowing them as I continue to triumph over being underweight.

Book Report: Renegade Agent by “Don Pendleton” (1982)

Posted in Book Report, Books on May 17th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is a tedious, wordy little side-scroller of a men’s adventure novel.

The plot is exceedingly similar to Paramilitary Plot mashed up with Terrorist Summit: An ex-CIA agent is looking to put together a super-network of extra-national intelligence professionals and arms smugglers to help fund terrorists. Bolan has to find him and to rescue a prisoner–in this case, Toby Ranger, a recurring character from the War on the Mafia days.

Unfortunately, in the worst entries in the series, the writing does little to mask how similar these plots were to one another. This entry is particularly week, as entire chapters are chewed up in the musings of Mack Bolan. Where Pendleton would thicken/leaven his stories with a bit of philosophy, later authors simply rehash what Pendleton did and use it as padding to hit word count. This book often features a chapter or two of the musing/exposition, a chapter of Stony Brook team members getting information and thinking about it and the danger Mack Bolan is in, and then a chapter (maybe) that’s an action set piece. Then it repeats. Sometimes, we get a couple extra chapters of philosophy thrown in.

Not worth a read unless you’re compelled to read books on your to-read shelf as I am.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Bonus From This Was Cicero

Posted in Books on May 16th, 2015 by Noggle

As a bonus, This Was Cicero included a blow-in card for the Classics Club:

Click for full size

As you might know, gentle reader, I collect Classics Club editions (and a variety of other series published by Walter J. Black).

And although I’ve already invited the three fellows (Plato, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius) mentioned in the flyer into my home, I’ve only so far spent time with Marcus Aurelius.

Also, note in the flyer that the spines only say the name of the author; in reality, the spines also contain the titles. At least in the ones I’ve seen they do.

Book Report: This Was Cicero by H. J. Haskell (1942)

Posted in Book Report, Books, History, History on May 16th, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book is nominally a biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero, but in reality, it’s a history of the fall of the Roman republic wherein Cicero sometimes makes appearances. I guess the author was working from a lot of Cicero’s letters (as do so many historians from Plutarch on), so he focused on Cicero. But there are huge stretches of the book where Cicero is not mentioned at all, including the first couple of chapters.

The author is a Marxist, of course. He refers often to the proletariat in Rome; he defends Catiline because Catiline was in favor of redistributing the wealth; he name-checks the poor oppressed Sacco and Vanzetti; he touches upon themes and books mentioned in Books That Changed America (namely, conservative opposition to public schools and The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 by Alfred T. Mahan referring to either Pompey or Caesar’s understanding of naval transport of armies); and he often equates good with progressivism/Marxism and bad/corruption/know-nothing aristocracy with “conservatives.” But he’s an early twentieth century Marxist, so it’s lacking in the invective you get in later works.

As I mentioned, the author spends a lot of time talking about things other than Cicero, and he spends a lot of time equating the lives of Roman citizens in Cicero’s lifetime to different periods in history, including seventeenth century England and modern (~1940) America. The comparisons are probably too facile, especially when trying to equate the political groups of the period to modern equivalents (which boils down mostly to Tories/Republicans/Old Senate Factions = bad, Democrats/Redistributionists/Caesar and anyone shaking up the order to make it fairer for the proletariat = good). However:

This is still a pretty good book to read. It is pretty in-depth coverage of Roman history during Cicero’s lifetime, which includes the First Triumvirate and the Second Triumvirate and the Civil War from a different perspective than Julius Caesar. It’s the story of one man with hopes of a restoration of the Constitution that never comes and the slow, continued dissolution of the ideal of the Roman Republic from an ideal state that probably never existed to the seeds of empire based on strong, charismatic men with armies ruling.

It also provides a good deal of context for Cicero’s orations and his other works, including the historical details of why and when the pieces were written. Reading a collection of Cicero’s words will get you a little context, but this book fills in all the gaps.

The author does not paint a flattering picture of Cicero, though. The subject of the book, when he appears, is presented as vacillating, vain, vainglorious, and too much in love with his own oratory. Also, Cicero, in this book, seems to think his words alone could counter armed insurrections of various stripes. A tale with modern parallels.

I enjoyed the book and learned a bunch from it. It’s not without its flaws–politics aside, it does give the subject a bit of short shrift and it has a tendency to draw back from a point in time to provide historical context which gives the reader a bit of whiplash–but informative none the less.

Recommended.

Books mentioned in this review:

After Music, He Turned To Crimefighting

Posted in Headlines on May 15th, 2015 by Noggle

Sting recovers collection of stolen car titles, keys

A Common Metaphor

Posted in Music on May 15th, 2015 by Noggle

Boy, musicians really like the learning to fly metaphor for self-actualization, don’t they?
Read more »

Workouts: An Objective Scale

Posted in Humor on April 30th, 2015 by Noggle

Here is the official Brian J. Noggle scale of a workout’s intensity:

Decent: You mutter to yourself.

Good: You mutter to yourself in a voice from out of The Exorcist.

Very Good: You mutter to yourself in a voice from out of The Exorcist in Latin.

Excellent Workout: You mutter to yourself in a voice from The Exorist in Latin and invoke curses from the dark tome Bellicis Artibus Idoneitatem et Veneficia.

Last night, I had an excellent workout, and I want to apologize to any instructor who is afflicted with painful boils or whose vehicle is destroyed by a hail of toads.

Point/Counterpoint: Epictetus vs. Dave Grohl on Stoicism

Posted in Philosophy on April 28th, 2015 by Noggle

Epictetus, Discourses Book IV Chapter 7, “On Freedom From Fear”

And, for this reason, if he thinks that his good and his interest be in these things only which are free from hindrance and in his own power, he will be free, prosperous, happy, free from harm, magnanimous pious, thankful to God for all things; in no matter finding fault with any of the things which have not been put in his power, nor blaming any of them. But if he thinks that his good and his interest are in externals and in things which are not in the power of his will, he must of necessity be hindered, be impeded, be a slave to those who have the power over things which he admires and fears; and he must of necessity be impious because he thinks that he is harmed by God, and he must be unjust because he always claims more than belongs to him; and he must of necessity be abject and mean.

What hinders a man, who has clearly separated these things, from living with a light heart and bearing easily the reins, quietly expecting everything which can happen, and enduring that which has already happened? “Would you have me to bear poverty?” Come and you will know what poverty is when it has found one who can act well the part of a poor man. “Would you have me to possess power?” Let me have power, and also the trouble of it. “Well, banishment?” Wherever I shall go, there it will be well with me; for here also where I am, it was not because of the place that it was well with me, but because of my opinions which I shall carry off with me: for neither can any man deprive me of them; but my opinions alone are mine and they cannot he taken from me, and I am satisfied while I have them, wherever I may be and whatever I am doing. “But now it is time to die.” Why do you say “to die”? Make no tragedy show of the thing, but speak of it as it is: it is now time for the matter to be resolved into the things out of which it was composed. And what is the formidable thing here? what is going to perish of the things which are in the universe? what new thing or wondrous is going to happen? Is it for this reason that a tyrant is formidable? Is it for this reason that the guards appear to have swords which are large and sharp? Say this to others; but I have considered about all these thins; no man has power over me. I have been made free; I know His commands, no man can now lead me as a slave. I have a proper person to assert my freedom; I have proper judges. Are you not the master of my body? What, then, is that to me? Are you not the master of my property? What, then, is that to me? Are you not the master of my exile or of my chains? Well, from all these things and all the poor body itself I depart at your bidding, when you please. Make trial of your power, and you will know how far it reaches.

Whom then can I still fear?

Dave Grohl counters:

Although Grohl counters that the philosophy of Stoicism could easily crumble when actually confronted with the events in life, Epictetus would not disagree. Throughout his Discourses, he laments the students who come to study Stoic thought to learn it, but not to live it, and he acknowledges that it is difficult and requires discipline and training.

So I think Epictetus and Mr. Grohl are actually in agreement here.

I Guessed Better The Second Time Around

Posted in Books, Quizzes on April 26th, 2015 by Noggle

At OregonMuse’s prompting, I took the Christian Science Monitor‘s Famous Literary Detective Skills Quiz.

When I went through it the first time on my phone, I got a 73%, but when I went through it on my computer preparing this blog post, I got:

77%.

This indicates I guessed one better on the English detective novels on the computer. Note the mobile version of the quiz does not show you the right answers as you go along, which explains why I only did one better guessing the second time around instead of getting them all right to impress you, gentle reader.

Good Book Hunting: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library, April 24, 2015

Posted in Books on April 25th, 2015 by Noggle

So I went about an hour early before my volunteer shift started at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. When I went on Wednesday, I thought I’d bought a copy of Olivia Newton-John’s Olivia, but the platter inside the cover is If You Love Me, Let Me Know. So I’d hoped the donor had just misfiled them, and that I could find the cover for If You Love Me, Let Me Know with Olivia inside.

Alas, no.

I did buy additional albums, including Newton-John’s Come On Over. Eleven additional albums, which puts me at 42 for the week.

Here’s what I got:

Books include:

  • Poor Richard’s Alamanack, a collection of Ben Franklin’s best sayings from the periodical.
  • The Year 1000, a book about what normal life was like in Britain in 1000 AD.
  • The Stephen King Companion since I’ve started a 1000 page Stephen King book, naturally I expect I’ll want to read about Stephen King when I’m done with his novel.
  • The Red Badge of Courage in the Reader’s Digest edition. Not the condensed edition.
  • Three Classics Club titles, including Locke’s On Politics and Education, Bradford’s History of Plymouth, and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, of which I only needed the last.

I got three films:

  • Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx.
  • Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, and some red boots.
  • Muppets From Space

Additionally, I got three sets of university courses on CD, including The Teaching Company’s Origins of Great Civilizations and Greece and Rome as well as The Modern Scholar’s A History of Ancient Israel. The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale often has these courses pretty cheap, but the key is to pay attention to what each binder contains. This time out, they marked each binder $10, but some courses are in library binders, where only two discs of a course are in the binder and a whole course might have seven binders. That would be $70 versus $10.

So I’ve got a few things to read, a few things to watch, and a whole lot more to listen to. And I’ve avoided the siren song of half price day today and expect I’ll evade the siren song of bag day on Sunday.

Because, believe it or not, I am running out of places to put books here at Nogglestead. Until I build my stand-alone library building.

The Source Of That Thing That Daddy Always Says When Going To The Hardware Store

Posted in Life on April 24th, 2015 by Noggle

Whenever we go to the hardware store, I tell the boys, in my best Jack Nicholson impression, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware, man.”

Why do I inflict this upon my children?

The old Ace jingle:

combines with an old television commercial for a Milwaukee radio station that had a Jack Nicholson impersonator say, “Like, fa la la la la, man.”

So I did a mashup of two obscure things my children will probably never experience. And I do it over and over again upon those poor fellows.

One would think over the years that my Jack Nicholson impression would improve. But one would be wrong.

Book Report: A City in the North by Marta Randall (1976)

Posted in Book Report, Books on April 23rd, 2015 by Noggle

Book coverThis book should fit right into my wheelhouse: An abandoned city of an advanced civilization lies on a planet inhabited by intelligent, but primitive, ape-like beings. A shipping magnate and his off and on again rival shipping company magnate wife arrive on the planet to steal into the restricted area to visit the city. On planet, they find a mostly impotent governor tending a native garden while members of the corporation running mining operations on the planet run most of the show. The corporation members look at the tourists as though they were agents trying to figure out the illegal scheme the corporation is running. The tourists get permission from the apes to visit the forbidden city, and as they hitch a ride on a transport car between the only two bases on the planet, they avoid an attack from the corporate killers and flee with the apes who are migrating north toward the forbidden city. The wife seems to be going native and the husband wonders if his obsession with viewing the city, sparked by a talk he saw when he was younger, is worth the cost.

The story uses multiple points of view shifting intrachapter (but with clear demarcations via heading–this is Toyon’s Journal, this is Alin’s journal, and so on), and it has a pretty slow buildup. The world is interesting and alien, but the reveals at the end are kinda blurted out by principals to the main characters, and then the climactic action takes place. It could have been handled better, but I was afraid the ending and the mysteries would disappoint me, but they did not–only the execution of the story did.

It really brings to the fore the theme of humans coming into a world and observing it for a limited time and how much of that world throughout the ages they might miss, creating a flawed understanding. A good theme for sure.

So give it a look if you get the chance to do so inexpensively.

Books mentioned in this review:

Burger King Answers Age-Old Question

Posted in Life on April 23rd, 2015 by Noggle

What part of the chicken is the nuggets?

Chicken Nuggets are the chicken's back.

Its back

Otherwise, you would have to think that the sign person misspelled “it’s” when using a pronoun that does not agree with the related plural noun “nuggets.”

Why do you always think the worst of people, unlike me?

Good Book Album Hunting: Friends of The Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale, April 22, 2015

Posted in Books, Music on April 22nd, 2015 by Noggle

Today, I visited the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Spring Book Sale for the first time. Over the last couple of years, I’ve adopted a staged approach to the book sale. First, I go for the albums, and then I go back and look over the books, preferably on half price or bag day.

So today I bought 31 record albums (at $1 each). I also got a couple books as I passed by the History and Poetry tables in the Value Books section.

Here they are:

I got:

  • Four albums by the Four Freshmen. I already had The Swingers and have hoped for the opportunity to expand the collection. This time out, I got Four Freshmen and Five Guitars, Freshman Favorites, In A Class By Themselves, and Fresh! which is from 1986 and is probably a new set of singers.
     
  • Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New which looks to be a collection of standards.
     
  • Pete Fountain’s Mood Indigo. I got a couple of Pete Fountain’s albums in the autumn, and I liked them well enough to look for more.
     
  • Mary McPartland Plays the Music of Billy Strayhorn
     
  • Ray Parker, Jr., The Other Woman
     
  • Yello, One Second featuring “Oh Yeah” (which also appears in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. When my children were littler, I played this song for them a lot on YouTube. It will seem strangely familiar to them now when I play it on record.
     
  • Doc Severinson and the Sound of the 70s, Feel Good
     
  • An album of Gregorian Chant
     
  • The soundtrack to the film Xanadu to replace a copy I bought last autumn which skips.
     
  • Two other Olivia Newton-John albums, Don’t Stop Believin’ and something else because my beautiful wife has a lots of her albums. When I showed her the new ones and asked if she had them, she said no. Also, she doesn’t really like Olivia Newton-John.
     
  • Diana Schuur, Schuur Thing
     
  • Tito Rodriguez, Este Es Mi Mundo (This Is My World).
     
  • Jackie Gleason, How Sweet It Is For Lovers
     
  • A collection of television theme songs not by the original artists.
     
  • A bunch of classical stuff because it looks as though the college radio station was dumping a lot of classical records. It’s hard for me to pick amongst classical things, as I’m not sure what of the great composers we have or lack (aside from knowing we have a lot of Beethoven but no Fidelio).

This year, the Rat Pack and Herb Alpert were poorly represented; only The Dean Martin Show and a copy of What Now My Love were present. A lot of Olivia Newton-John, though, and a lot of Barbra Streisand.

I also got a couple of packs of poetry chapbooks (bundled together for a buck each), A History of Rome to 565 AD, and a collection of musings called Ginger Snaps.

So my bookshelves are not bulging much more from the purchase, but my record storage is now sadly lacking. I’ll have to invest in a nice record cabinet sometime to store them properly.

And I’ve discovered that I get a more acute sense of anticipation buying record albums than books. When I bring the records home and put them by the record player, I find myself inventing reasons to be in the parlor just so I can listen to another of the new platters. When I bring the books home, I’m often interested in reading them, but I no longer really get a I can’t wait! feeling. Because, as the years have proven, I often do wait.