Book Review: The Complete Geek (An Owner’s Manual) by Johnny Deep (1997)

I can’t believe I read skimmed the whole thing.

I bought this book at Downtown Books in Milwaukee for a couple of dollars, and I took a flier on it because I was in the throes of bibliophilic bacchanal, where another two dollars here and another two dollars there, and suddenly there’s no room in the trunk of the Eclipse for luggage. So I paid $2.95 for this, over ten times its value.

For starters, it’s printed in some comic sans serif font that looks funny informally, is bearable in short doses on the Web, and annoys the hell out of someone trying to read 200 pages of a computerized impersonation of barely-legible handwriting.

Also, its cartoons and cartoonish drawings by a slumming Bruce Tinsley (Mallard Fillmore) are derivative, ultimately limited by the material itself which is centered around the fictitious online journal of “Bill G.” who writes a computer friend who’s supposed to go out into the Internet to find who the best geek is. Or something. I’m not to clear on what’s supposed to tie this collection together.

I mean, there are sections where Bill Clinton is learning from Dale Carnegeek about how to influence geeks, and a section about how to date geeks, and throughout the book asks the reader to tabulate his or her geek quotient through a series of questions. So each chapter revolves around a macro-question and its component subquestions, which appear at the top of each page or so, and meanwhile the chapter is some banter or running storyline about Dilbart (a cartoon cross between Dilbert and Bart, for no particular reason) or Bill G. interacting with his computer bot friend, or the computer bot exploring the Internet cloud.

When it comes right down to it, there’s nothing funny in the book. Not a single chuckle, no matter what state of inebriation I was in while reading it.

I am sure it was hipper, edgier, and more timely in 1997, when the publisher could make a buck on anything with Internet in the title, or geek.

Here’s an alternate viewpoint.

Do the Math

Techdirt links to a story that says:

    …20 percent of U.S. residents admit buying products from spam purveyors.

Techdirt also links to a story that says:

    The US has a hardcore group of people who simply aren’t interested in using the Internet. Around a third of US adults have rejected the Net, causing researchers to split them into two distinct groups.

That would seem to indicate that 1/3 of the people in the United States connected to the Internet buy things from Spam! Well, it would, except:

  • By 20 percent of U.S. residents, undoubtedly they meant respondents to the survey.
  • It’s unclear whether “spam” means opt-in e-mails and e-mails from companies with which the users already have an established relationship.

Other than that, the stories are sensational!

Ebert in Love

Spiderman 2 review:

    Now this is what a superhero movie should be. “Spider-Man 2” believes in its story in the same way serious comic readers believe, when the adventures on the page express their own dreams and wishes. It’s not camp and it’s not nostalgia, it’s not wall-to-wall special effects and it’s not pickled in angst. It’s simply and poignantly a realization that being Spider-Man is a burden that Peter Parker is not entirely willing to bear.

He gives it 4 asterisks, which I assume is good. Unless they’re less than ampersands.

Honesty is the Best [Withdrawal] Policy

Hillary Clinton says:

    “Many of you are well enough off that … the tax cuts may have helped you,” Sen. Clinton said. “We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

I immediately thought to compare it to the campaign worker who visited James Lileks’ house:

    Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide – from the guys who demolished the old stairs, the guys who built the new one, the family firm that sold the stone, the other firm that rented the Bobcats, the entrepreneur who fabricated the railings in his garage, and the guy who did the landscaping. Also the company that sold him the plants. And the light fixtures. It’s called economic activity. What’s more, home improvements added to the value of this pile, which mean that my assessment would increase, bumping up my property taxes. To say nothing of the general beautification of the neighborhood. Next year, if my taxes didn’t shoot up, I had another project planned. Raise my taxes, and it won’t happen – I won’t hire anyone, and they won’t hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see?

    “Well, it’s a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge.

    “But then I wouldn’t have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn’t have new steps. And they wouldn’t have done anything to get the money.”

    “Well, what did you do?” she snapped.

    “What do you mean?”

    “Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?”

    “They didn’t give it to me. They just took less of my money.”

    That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

    “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Of course, I saw the story on Drudge and made the connection independently, but before I could post it here, the all-knowing Instapundit commented on it, too.

Upon hearing the quote, my beautiful wife said, “Geez, Hillary, why don’t you just move to China?”

And my response: “Because, honey, she wouldn’t rule China.”

To Coin a Phrase

Vendchinko:
When you come to a vending machine and see that a bag of chips or a pastry has hung up on the coils (called the bonus vendable) and has not fallen to the retrieval bin, and you decide to buy a product stocked above that bonus vendable (this product is known as the vendable in play, or vip) in hopes that the falling of the vip will knock the bonus vendable item down, too, effectively giving you two items for the price of one.

People use different strategies when playing vendchinko; some people try to buy the next item in the bonus vendable’s slot, which yields them two of the same item. This strategy can backfire, however, if the items are loaded incorrectly so that the bonus vendable falls, but the vip hangs up the same way the bonus vendable had been stuck, effectively giving the player only one item for the money and creating a new bonus vendable.

When selecting a vip above the bonus vendable, experienced vendchinko players account for the density of the vip’s contents, the packaging of the vip and the bonus vendable, the rotation of the vending coil, and the Coriolis force to maximize their chances of winning at Vendchinko.

So that’s why I stand there for so long in front of the vending machines.

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Admit it. When you watched The Adventures of Ford Fairlane in 1990, you thought a computer with three CD drives was ostentatious.

But fourteen years later, you wish you could have a super tower with 30 CD drives just so you could have a DVD player, a CD-RW, a DVD burner, and enough CD ROMs to contain all the copyright-protected games you play regularly without requiring you to reach under the desk every couple of hours to fumble for the little eject button.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Waste Some Time Today

How well do you know Spider-Man?

I am at 80%.

I missed questions 3, 10, and 11, but I want you to know I read the whole series about Kane and the Scarlet Spider courtesy of my brother, whose collection of comic books, gaming books, and fantasy novels I accepted in bulk as Christmas gifts for 1995-1998 since he didn’t want to ship them to Kanoehe Bay, Hawaii, his next base.

He Cannot Be Serious

For a man of discriminating taste, Neil Steinberg sure can say some awfully st00pid things:

    It reminds me why Democrats are always at a disadvantage when butting horns against the Republicans — Democrats think, and re-assess, and the notion of fairness at least floats somewhere in the background.

Got that, children? Republicans are inherently unfair and unreasonable. Democrats, on the other hand, are blinkered by the blinding light of their reason.

Someone tell me he’s joking.

I Blame Peer-To-Peer Music Sharing

Summer concerts are failing to attract crowds — Lollapalooza is the latest victim of the trend:

    Bongiovanni saidticket sales went south about the middle of April, when shows already on sale dramatically slowed and new shows failed to ignite.

    “Price has got to matter,” he said. “Ticket prices are elevated to where they are not a frivolous expense.” But industry insiders say it’s not simply high ticket prices and a bad economy that caused ticket sales to drop, but a variety of larger issues, ranging from the lack of exciting attractions to a growing reluctance to patronize the suburban amphitheaters (called “sheds” in the business) where most of the summer tours play.

Quickly, Senator Hatch, do something to force people to pay $75 dollars to sit on a patch of dirt to watch a band play a number of songs the listeners won’t even recognize. Or else music promoters can key the cars in movie theatres’ parking lots to penalize consumers for misusing their entertainment time and money.

Book Review: What Liberal Media by Eric Alterman (2003): Day One

Well, my friends, this book review represents a departure from those which have come before it. I ordered a copy of Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? The Truth about Bias and the News in paperback and have decided to test the new paint job in our bedroom by reading a flingable book in it. This book fits that bill already. So, in lieu of sticking a number of Post-It Notes ™ in it and then writing a couple of paragraphs when the heat of the reading is cool, I thought I might let you in on my thought processes as I read the book.

So, day one:

Objections:

  • Page xi, in the Preface and Acknowledgements, for crying out loud. Alterman acknowledges missing the works of Robert Caro as he (Alterman) pursues an advanced degree in history–so he (Alterman) listens to the complete works of Caro on tape. Cheez, Louise, Alterman, that’s not scholarship, that’s killing time. When you listen to books on tape, they flow past you in a stream of someone else’s conscious narration, and once the words are past, they’re gone; you’re at the whim of the break in the tracks if you want to listen to a section over again, which is why I rarely do.

    Mostly I listen to books on tape to kill time on long drives to Milwaukee and back, or I used to do them when I had an hour long commute from work (or an hour and a half commute from work to my sweetie’s home, a quarter of the way across the state. If you’re listening to books for twenty minutes at a crack, you’re not paying them much attention. Cripes, I would not dare try to impress upon my mind the serious works of Tacitus or Gibbons through books on tape; I’d require the opportunity to re-read sentences until I grasped their very meaning. Alterman admits he–in pursuit of a college degree, for crying out loud (or swearing out loud in my case)–did less. It’s less respect to Caro on Alterman’s part than I am paying to Alterman, but it’s too late for me to borrow the abridged audio version of Alterman’s work, so I am stuck with my dollar’s worth (plus Quality Paperback Club’s Postage and Handling) of print. Heaven help me, and you, gentle reader.

    Fortunately for the both of us, I skimmed the rest of the acknowledgements.

  • pp1-2 in the Introduction, a lot of name dropping, but I disagree. Whereas Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter quote people to indicate bias and slander, Alterman quotes people who indicate there is not bias nor slander. Goldberg and Coulter’s quotes represent primary sources, that is, indications that illustrate their points; when Alterman quotes sources who say there is no bias, it’s the equivalent of hearsay, since he’s not actually illustrating non-bias, but rather people saying there is not bias.
  • p2 in the Introduction, Alterman quotes Pat Buchanan, for crying out loud, as though he (Buchanan) were a member of mainstream-right thought. Who are you kidding?
  • p3 in the Introduction, Alterman refers to Ann Coulter as a blonde bombshell pundette. Ad homenim as Alterman points out that Coulter is an attractive (hem) woman, and hence should be judged lesser than, say, a homely man such as Alterman.
  • p3 in the Introduction FIRST TOSSING POINT this comes a couple lines later:
      In recent times, the right has ginned up its “liberal media” propoganda machine. Books by both Ann Coulter, a blond bombshell pundette, and Bernard Goldberg, former CBS News producer, have topped the best-seller lists, stringing together such a series of charges that, well, it’s amazing neither one sought to accuse “liberals” of using the blood of conservative children for extra flavor in their soy-milk decaf lattes. [Emphasis mine.]

    Got that? Alterman is saying that Coulter and Goldberg might as well have committed “blood libel.” The tradition to which “Mister” Alterman alludes says Jews use the blood of Gentile/Palestinian children in Zionist rituals of some sort or another. It’s often repeated these days in the Arab media to support the tradition of strapping explosives to Believers, women, and children to blow up Israeli civilians whose crime is stopping at a market or drinking coffee in a particular cafe. Damn you, Eric Alterman. I curse you only to the fate you deserve, whatever form it might take.

    I would like to take a moment to apologize to Ajax and Tristan, the felines scared when I flung this book from my hands (towards the door, not the labouriously-painted walls) and to my beautiful wife, whom I upset with my foaming-mouth invective for Eric Alterman. You all deserve a better refuge when trying to sleep. I shall try to read this book alone, with a schnucking hammer with which to beat it, in the future for your peace of mind.

Day: 1
Pages read: 6.5
Chapters: Prefaces and Acknowledgements, Introduction (part of)

Book Review: Billy and the Boingers Bootleg by Berke Breathed (1987)

Full Disclosure: I remember trying to enter the contest for the Billy and the Boingers songs back in the middle 80s. I don’t remember if I actually completed the entry or not, but I do remember I did not win. So if you must, dismiss this review as sour grapes.

This is not the first copy of this book I have read; I cannot remember if I borrowed it from one of the rangers listed in a previous post (Thanks, Noodles) when it was new, but I bought it at a garage sale in years past along with my other recent funnies pages reads (The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, Tales Too Ticklish to Tell) and I’ve read it now, with those same books.

This book actually immediately precedes Tales Too Ticklish To Tell, in that it introduces the Boinger storyline carried over into the later volume and introduces the basselope and Lola Granola characters.

What I said about the later book which I reviewed earlier remains true: It’s dated material. Still, I think this one is marginally better than the other. Since it deals less with the 1988 political season, it can focus on more universal themes, such as Tipper Gore leading a crusade to ramrod morality into rock music. Man, how things have changed, huh? But I digress. Because storylines involve Steve Dallas looking for a change from his lawyer work and Opus feeling his biological clock ticking–which leads him to his search for his soulmate (the aforementioned Miss Granola), Breathed gets to examine the human condition instead of the current political climate.

Face it, the human condition will remain mostly the same, regardless of the calendar date, which is why we’re reading Shakespeare four hundred years after he wrote his plays, or at least we’re watching movies on cable wherein Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves play them, but why Berke Breathed is struggling against obscurity and why Garfield–mocked as a comic strip in the second comic strip in this book–is now a major motion picture featuring the voice of Bill Murray.

Book Review: The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler by Robert B. Parker (1984)

Well, finally I have saved enough money up from my, er, prudence with purchasing one dollar books to save up for a copy of The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler by Robert B. Parker. He stripped some of the academic verbiage from the dissertation he wrote for his PhD and published it as a limited edition via Lord John’s Press in the early eighties. How limited? This printing was limited to 300; I think the more exclusive run was under 100, so there are fewer than 400 copies of this book in print. And I got one. Nyah, nyah.

Here are some pix:


Cover


Title Page


Copy Number

Click any photo for super size

I’ve read all of Parker’s fiction, some of his profiles, and some of his nonfiction, but this represents the greatest divergance from his normal style I’ve seen. He stilted its prose to impress some review board, or whatever group determines whether a master becomes a doctor, so I realize I, consumer, am not the target audience. Still, it’s more stilted than most nonfiction I read for fun, Make Room for TV notwithstanding.

To summarize, Parker takes us on a six chapter, 63 page exploration of the hard-boiled detective character embraced by Dash and Raymond, exploring how they fit into the literary canon of American heroes. The first two chapters run through obligatory quotations from other critics and academics, which rather drags but undoubtedly proved that Parker did his research. Then, Parker explores earlier manifestations of the American hero archetype that led to hard-boiled private eyes: the frontiersman, demonstrated in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales and Daniel Boone’s legendary biography.

Parker doesn’t build a revolutionary case, nor does he really reveal any blinding insight into the scholarship of the hard-boiled detective–although my reading is certainly limited, but I have read some (American Tough, and so on). The biggest insight is not in the text itself, but in its relationship to how Parker would craft the Spenser novels.

Using this document, one can see an earlier step in Parker’s thought processes than The Godwulf Manuscript. For example, he notes that neither the Continental Op nor Philip Marlowe could really describe the code of honor to which they adhere. Spenser and Hawk, in Parker’s novels, don’t suffer, at great length, from this flaw.

So it’s an interesting read if you strive to emulate Parker’s success by imitation and ceaseless devotion, or if you like Spenser, I guess. Although there are no We’d be fools not to, there is one Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?–proving that this really is Parker, with the throwaway allusions that characterize not only his novels, his screenplays, but also, apparently, his most serious nonfiction. Thankfully.

P.S. Class, why is it that two of the vendors selling this on Amazon.com are both selling the exact same copy, # 245, of this numbered limited edition? Never mind, class; I am cynical enough to guess.

Shaming the du Toits–Again!

Well, since Kim du Toit called me a wanker for showing our library before, I just want to take this opportunity to show you, gentle readers, how we in the Noggle family are escalating the books race. Here’s a current view of my personal library:



The Brian J. Noggle Personal Library circa June, 2004

Click for super size

Note that it now encompasses four bookshelves instead of three. The furthest to the left comprises the 400+ volumes I have yet to read (double-stacked, natch) and the two in the middle, mostly doublestacked too, represent already read stuff. The bookshelf to the right contains my Robert B. Parker collection and my Ayn Rand collection. If you supersized it, you would see it easily.

Rearranging our bedroom has made room for two more bookshelves, which we will purchase soon enough. I won’t spread out my “to-read” shelves because their contents are daunting enough in one double-stacked bookshelf (with some titles crammed atop the double-stacking, too).

No word yet on how the Steinbergs of Chicago will react to this escalation–however, it should be noted that Neil and his family will probably have to clean their suburban house to throw a party to show off his library.

One of These Is Not Like The Others

From a CNN review of the movie White Chicks:

    From 1986’s “Soul Man” to last month’s “Soul Plane,” racial stereotypes have been the backbone of comedies good and bad. Makeup-induced transformations are nothing new, either, whether in 1964’s “Black Like Me” or Murphy’s phlegmy turn as an old Jewish man in 1988’s “Coming To America.”

Although Black Like Me was made into a movie, it was not a comedy; as a matter of fact, it was a “based on a true story” thing, based on John Griffith’s book of the same name. It wasn’t humor.

To include it in a list of comedy movies denigrates what Griffith did and the sacrifices he made to experience the south as a black man–ultimately, his treatments to darken his skin might have contributed to his death later.

Ah, the beauty of blogging: I can focus on a throw-away line with an intense lens to show its flaws. It’s just a throwaway line, but much of what people retain from reviews and other articles are the throwaway lines, which often Gestalt into an incomplete and inaccurate picture.

Buzz Machine Breakdown

Jeff Jarvis characterizes tax cuts:

    George Bush (following in the footsteps of Reaganomics) made a politically cynical tax cut when he came into office, cutting taxes but not cutting spending and instead borrowing so he could cut those taxes. He gave away money to voters, money he didn’t have. He borrowed money from our children to pay us to curry favor with us. That is political cynicism at its worst; it’s one of my big problems with Bush.[my emphasis]

Whereas the federal government, wherein the House of Representatives initiates all spending and tends to do so in large, unvetoable ominousbus bills, did in fact decide to cut taxes and keep spending, this does not represent giving money to voters. It represents confiscating less.

But then again, Jarvis is not a constitutional scholar or a political scientist. He’s a happening-man-about-the-country.

Of course, I am not any of the above; however, I am a tax payer, or rather, I am someone from whom taxes are taken in my bimonthly pay check.

More Headline Abuse

Headline: Schwarzenegger Wants Strays Killed Faster:

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to repeal a state law that requires animal shelters to hold stray dogs and cats for up to six days before killing them.

    Instead, there would be a three-day requirement for strays. Other animals, including birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes and turtles, could be killed immediately.

Actually, it sounds like he’s reducing a requirement, not mandating felinicide and caninicide. Perhaps Schwarzenegger alone among the ruling class understands that federal- and state-level mandates and requirements serve as Procrustean beds that bind the hands of local governments who must deal with the ultimate execution, er, implementation.

I would guess that if the three-day requirement replaces the six-day requirement that all shelters in the state of California will immediately set the red digital countdown clocks on their puppy doomsday machines to 72:00:00.

Instead, those counties running animal shelters flush with cash will continue their current policies, and those counties whose governments need to choose between hospitals and an extra three days of keeping an ill-tempered, underfed chow-rottie mix in a six by four cage except for brief exercise periods where it snaps at the shelter volunteer but doesn’t–thankfully–draw blood.

But Brian, the counties don’t have to make those sorts of choices! You’re more right than you should be, opposing viewpoint; governments will make both choices whenever possible and will flout a tax increase or ballot initiative to pay for it. But damn it, those tax dollars are the difference between canned asparagus and fresh asparagus, the difference between the pork and the steak, in some people’s diets. So you want to save the animals, you eat lesser food and donate the difference to keep Sapp, that chow-rottie mix, in his chain link for three more days, but don’t make me do it with you, and don’t you fail to do so without your precious government mandate.

UPDATE: Michael Williams gets it.