Book Report: Crossroads at the Spring edited by Shanna Boyle and Julie March (1997)

This book represents my first foray into the history of my new locale, the Springfield area of Missouri. Comparatively speaking, its history extends further back than Webster Groves, Missouri, did. Webster Groves was a proud suburb of St. Louis, and rightfully so: Webster Groves as a suburb extended back over 100 years. But Springfield, as a town and a region, compares something to St. Louis itself and goes back into the early 19th century (I know, St. Louis goes back further, but bear with me here).

This book is a photographic history, which means that it doesn’t present a narrative, but rather a grouping of photographs. As such, it silos up the Springfield story into things like churches, art organizations, government, and so on, and presents some related photos for each category as well as some text talking about how that silo progressed from frontier days into the present day, ca. 1997.

You know what? Those very limitations make it a good primer for the region’s history. It provides some photographs, including some buildings that survive until today, and it provides a selection of interesting tidbits. For example, I now know the original name of the town that would be known as Springfield and I know a story about cobras (the snakes) that indicates cobras appeared on the city seal (although I have no photographic evidence the seal includes or included cobras). Which is enough to make one want to learn more.

Also, a book of pictures coupled with a bit of text is good for perusing during football games (as we’ve previously discussed).

Books mentioned in this review:

There Are A Lot Of French People In The U.S.

Wanda Sykes speaks about meeting her “wife”:

How did you meet your wife? [They married in October 2008.]
In Fire Island. She’s French, so she had no idea who I was.

Well, that’s telling. Wanda Sykes thinks she has to go to Fire Island to meet someone who doesn’t recognize her.

Memo to Ms. Sykes: There are probably a lot of places in this country she could go an be anonymous. Most of the regions between the continent’s major mountain ranges, for instance.

Book Report: Beaded Jewelry by Wendy Remmers (2007)

This is the first book I’ve read on beading, so I cannot compare it really well to others in its field. It offers about 24 pages on the basics, including the types of beads, tools you need, techniques, and whatnot. I have gotten far enough into another book about beading that I recognize many of them include this section for novices. So I learned about the different beading “stitches” there are–ways to string beads that are not just pushing them in a line.

Then the book goes into chapters based on different types of jewelry and a couple of sample projects for each. In all cases, the beading style is sparse, with large beads popping out from between seed beeds and whatnot. I don’t know if that’s a style I’ll emulate, as I think I’ll end up with more elaborate weavings.

Still, it’s a clear book, with good photography, and detailed steps for each project, including watches.

Books mentioned in this review:

Sex Offenders, Constitution On The Same Side

The Springfield News-Leader has a sensational headline: Court sides with sex offenders.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with two sex offenders, ruling they cannot be barred from handing out Halloween candy and living within 1,000 feet of schools and child care centers because those restrictions weren’t in place when they were convicted.

Missouri enacted the sex offender restrictions in 2008 and 2004, respectively, several years after either man was convicted. Citing a provision in the state constitution that bars retroactive laws, a divided Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that it would be unconstitutional to force the men to comply.

Huh. Ex post facto laws are unconstitutional. You mean the legislature cannot make my actions yesterday illegal tomorrow and punish me for obeying the law at the time I did something?

Oh, these sex offenders are the current devils against whom any action is proper. I believe that sex offenders are currently the vanguard of the concept of rule of law. Because face it, most people in the mob of our society would bring back crucifixion for these guys if they could. And then it would be crucifixion for lesser crimes. And lesser crimes still.

Reruns Already?

The second book I read this year is Night Prey by John Sandford. I cracked it open and it was very familiar. It’s because I read it in April 2007.

I liked it better this time around, I guess. It was good enough that I kept reading it even though I read it before. This is the first Sandford novel I’ve done that to, and apparently the first time I’ve done it since posting book reports.

Better Than Privatizing Social Security

It’s publicizing your existing retirement accounts!

In a short conversation this noontime that CNBC apparently has omitted from their archives (Why’s that folks?) Rick Santelli was talking about a potential to effectively force money into the Treasury market.

Where would they get this?

From your 401k and IRA accounts!

From Businessweek:

The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort.

Let me tell you what this is – it is an attempt to prevent the collapse of the Treasury market!

Forcing people into Treasuries as an “annuity” is exactly what Social Security allegedly is. Except that Treasury stole the money that was collected in FICA taxes and spent it!

Guess what? They’ll do that here too – you’re going to “invest” in Treasuries which of course are effectively a CALL option on the future taxing ability of the government.

Sort of like Argentina did:

Here is a warning to us all. The Argentine state is taking control of the country’s privately-managed pension funds in a drastic move to raise cash.

It is a foretaste of what may happen across the world as governments discover that tax revenue, and discover that the bond markets are unwilling to plug the gap. The G7 states are already acquiring an unhealthy taste for the arbitrary seizure of private property, I notice.

Some people in the country live in a fairyland of It can’t happen here. They think that because it has not happened yet.

Book Report: Futureland by Walter Mosley (2001)

This book is a collection of interrelated short stories set in a dystopian near future. This future has a rigged societal structure based on employment, with the unemployed sent to live in underground barracks sort of like modern housing projects, but with fewer prospects. Also, corporations run the world.

In this thread, a young boy becomes the smartest man in the world and hears the voice of God in intergalactic static before euthanizing his caretakers; a woman boxer becomes heavyweight champion; a man meets the reclusive head of a megacorporation and beats him at tennis; a private investigator finds that his new lover is the assassin killing his clients’ comrades; a designer gets a promotion that he never dreamed of; whitey creates a virus to kill black people, and a team of black people mutate it so it kills white people.

The stories are stronger in the beginning, when they’re only tangentally connected in that they’re set in the same world. They’re independent and self-contained, so they are stronger. Once the characters start coming together, it weakens. By the time we get to the end, the final culmination of the book seems forced and not satisfying because it seems like Mosley is trying to tie it up neatly.

Given the ending of the book, you might think Mosley’s politics are all leftist and whatnot. Frankly, since the book is dedicated to Danny Glover, I expected at least one full-mouth kiss of a Latin American dictator somewhere. But Mosley’s a bit weaselly. His characters espouse some odd positions, such as the aforementioned man who meets the reclusive leader of the corporation who turns down a job offer where he could make a difference for the human race, provide well for his family, and become something, but chooses instead to remain a radical chasing down conspiracies that keep the black man down or such as the ultimate elimination of the blue-eyed devil in the end. However, throughout, Mosley sprinkles in self-determining heroes, asides praising private property, and the book ends with the white man gone and brutal tribalism rising from the survivors. Mosley’s stories and his themes are more complex than that. They keep me guessing and engaged on a thematic level.

A pretty good book. Starts strong, ends kinda weakly. He’s no John D. MacDonald, but who is?

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Samaritanish

This weekend, I did something atypical for me. I did something nice for a stranger, offering to help a fellow out when I could have done nothing. As I normally do.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a very charitable person in an abstract way. My wife and I give something like 8% of our income to charities, more actually since a lot of those gifts are in goods that we undervalue so the IRS doesn’t make us explain why we claimed $60 for a children’s accessory that sells for $120. We’ve even endowed a freakin’ scholarship by our mid-thirties. But that’s not direct person-to-person nice.

There are people in this world who stop their cars when they see someone pulled over to the side of the road with a flat tire or something. I’m the sort of guy who passes without a glance. But that sort of conflicts with my internal characterization of myself as some sort of hardboiled stoic hero. I mean, I have the hardboiled bit and the stoic bit down, but I’ve been lacking in the heroic.

So we’re sitting in a McDonalds, and this large man comes walking through, asking all of the patrons if they drive a silver car since the car is parked too close to his car for him to get in. We finish eating, and this guy is sitting in the passenger door of a Miata parked next to us. He’s way over to the left of the parking spot, so he can’t get into the car until the silver car moves.

So I offered to back the Miata out so he could get in. He accepted, pleased to discover I could drive a manual transmission. I squeezed in, threw it into reverse, revved it high as one (me) is wont to do with an unfamiliar stick, and pulled it back enough so he could get in.

It took me three minutes to help this guy out instead of letting him sit in the cold until someone moved his or her car. But it made me feel good. Not only did I help the guy out, but I got over my inhibition to helping someone out. And I got a lifetime of wondering why a guy that big was driving a Mazda Miata in the first place.

Book Report: What Men Don’t Tell Women by Roy Blount, Jr. (1984)

Don’t tell Roy Blount, Jr., this, but I think I remember that he was some sort of humorist. In the middle 1980s. Maybe earlier than that. Since he’s still playing with Dave Barry in the Rock Bottom Remainders and since I checked to see he still has new books coming out, I think Roy Blount, Jr., is still alive.

Although I read some of his work a long time ago whose varied titles I don’t recollect and whose publication titles I don’t remember, this is the first volume of his collected works, circa my sixth grade year, that I have read. It wasn’t bad.

Blount’s works are more essayical than zany Dave Barry’s works, so they’re not slapstick, but they are amusing. Somewhere between Barry and P.J. O’Rourke amusing. However, Blount’s works are more left-leaning in nature, as every educated person from 1980-2000 aspired to. The politics, though, and zingers speaking truth against the conservatives, do not dominate the book. Its humor for the most part speaks to universals which never whisper to Bill Maher or Senator Franken (although the words “Senator Franken” whisper them).

Blount’s framework for the book is not as amusing as the work he collects. Apparently, he’s tasked to write for a women’s magazine to speak to women about what men don’t say to women. So throughout his collected essays, we have italicized bits about men talking about women. Sadly, this schtick detracts from the collected Blount essays within the book, some of which are sort of related to the relationship of men and women.

An amusing read, lighter than Marcus Aurelius, but probably not world-changing. Which puts it on par with Marcus Aurelius.

Books mentioned in this review:

Confusing One’s Self With The Government

It’s not a leader this time. It’s a citizen who has to bear the indirect cost of new government revenue.

The story: AT&T customers will bear brunt of tax settlement:

Now that AT&T and Missouri municipalities have settled a $65 million suit over disputed taxes, AT&T’s customers are now stuck with paying the bill.

AT&T in December began adding up to $1.99 a month for residential customers and up to $3.50 a month for businesses to the bills of its 1 million Missouri customers.

The foolish quote by a citizen who’s getting to pay new taxes and who’s paying back taxes for AT&T:

“I got my phone bill and I’m irate because there’s a charge here,” said Irv Logan of University City. “It looks like I’ve been charged for winning the case, and there’s something wrong with that.”

He did not win the case. The local governments won the case. But instead of directing his anger at the gluttonous maw of tax spending government, this fellow is angry at the corporation that provides him with a service that he apparently values.

Because he’s been raised that way.

A Videocassette Is Also A Time Capsule

I have a Videocassette Recorder hooked up to my television even in 2010, and I pick old videocassettes up for a quarter at garage sales and whatnot. You can only find older films on videocassette these days, but I don’t mind. Putting the film into a media device that will actually caress the medium instead of bombing it with amplified light makes one nostalgic. Nostalgic enough to use “caress the medium” instead of tangling the tape.

Please keep me from going too deeply into the you have to savor the experience of the entirety sort of riff. I don’t don a special jacket or pour cognac to watch a film. But sometimes the experience can throw you back in surprising ways.

Tonight I watched The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. I’m not sure if I’d ever seen the whole thing before, as the plot hadn’t stuck with me. So I put in the videocassette and was transported to different places. Not by the magic of Hollywood, but by my own experiences and memories.

The first coming attraction on this Paramount tape was for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. “I just watched that,” I thought. Well, not just. I watched it as part of a proto-bachelor weekend marathon. It was January 2007, and I was painting bedrooms in the house to accommodate my forthcoming son. My mother came in the morning to help me tape, I painted in the afternoons, and at night I watched the Star Trek films in order. January 2007 was a long, long time ago, but watching the videocassette (of course) Star Trek films didn’t seem like long ago at all.

Then the videocassette offered a preview of Regarding Henry. Harrison Ford had a pretty unlined face once. I saw the film on cable, once, at least part of it. This didn’t do much for me.

Finally, the last “coming attraction” was an advertisement for buying used videocassettes at the video store. Once, and you might not remember this, children, movies came out on videocassettes a couple months after the theatrical run closed. However, these initial offerings of videocassettes were priced for the video store, who would then rent it to you. The rental store price was something like $90, so typically for a couple months the movie was only available at video stores. After a set amount of time, the price dropped to the consumer price and you could buy a movie for $20-30.

Digression time: I once bought a copy of The Adventures of Milo and Otis for a girl at the rental price, a week’s wages almost for me. I had to special order it at Suncoast because they didn’t stock movies at the video store price. Obviously, it didn’t work out with the girl, and now that I have children, I have bought a copy of the videocassette for them. Which means I’ve paid an average price of $45.12 for these video cassettes. End digression.

So Paramount threw a sop to video stores by putting an actual commercial on the video to encourage its viewers to make their videocassette purchases of the excess rental stock at video stores. My goodness, I realize you can still buy used videocassettes at rental venues, but this is one dated commercial. One almost expects to see Pepsis and jets.

And then into the film. It’s set in the George H.W. Bush era. For those of you who cannot recollect the plot, like me in a week, it deals with Bush seeking the advice of a scientist to help determine the nation’s energy policy. Knowing that the scientist will espouse fluorescent light bulbs and solar and wind power, Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Nuclear kidnap the fellow and replace him with a stand-in who will direct the government to, I don’t know, drill baby drill or something.

You know what? In 1991, that might have been funny. The bad guys were obvious caricatures, and the proposals espoused by the right-thinking people in a slapstick film weren’t the law of the land. But now that we’re 19 years later and we’ve got low flush toilets to go with the established media conventional wisdom that the people who work in the profitable segments of the energy industry are these caricatures, it just isn’t funny.

But the political considerations and the plot of the film aside, simply watching the videocassette takes me back to a number of places and times beyond the content of the film. I don’t get that with fresh DVDs—won’t until 2025 at the earliest—and not from things I record digitally. But then I am an old schooler, someone who looks for that nostalgic kick in everything.

Book Report: Green Bay Packers: Legends in Green and Gold by William Povletich (2005)

This is the one of three books I got this Christmas, and it’s the first I “read.” I put that in quotation marks because it’s a picture book, or at least a book of pictures with captions. It chronicles the history of the Green Bay Packers and the different eras within the organization and serves as well as a bit of history of the NFL. If you’ve been a recent (relatively) active Packers fan (as opposed to a dormant Packers fan, which is someone born in Wisconsin or the UP of Michigan who does not follow football), you know of the names Lambeau, Hornung, Hutson, and so on. This book puts faces to the names and puts the names in their appropriate historical context.

Also, it’s a book you can skim in three hours while watching a Packers game. As nature intended it!

Books mentioned in this review:

Another One Falls to Kindle

Courtesy Dustbury, we get an account of a bibliophile who falls to Kindle:

So you’d think I’d be the last person in the word to get a Kindle. That’s the device that lets you download books instantly and read them in electronic versions. Where’s the fun in that? No searching through dusty shelves. No flyleaves or book jackets to read. No fourth hand volumes to discover with cryptic or even embarrassing inscriptions on the first page. But my husband, who is an unrepentant gadget buyer, got me one for Christmas. So I have to make a commitment to it.

Fortunately, she shows that she’s not my kind of bibliophile:

Keeping an open mind and repressing all Luddite tendencies, I can see the value of it, even in my life. Every area of my home is filled with books. Overflowing with books. Weighed down with books. I’m not just talking living space. Garage, corners, under the bed. Stuffed with books. And the place in Sonoma? That’s starting to get filled up with books. This is despite dedicated twice monthly clear-outs where I truck cartons of books off to used book stores and Goodwill.

What? Getting rid of your books? I don’t even get rid of all the duplicates I find.

She has a nice library, though.

Which reminds me: I owe the Internet pictures of the new library at Nogglestead. When I get them all sorted and aligned pleasingly on the bookshelves.

Welcome to the New Musings from Brian J. Noggle

Almost seven years since I started the Web log, and I’ve finally moved it to WordPress.

Do you know how long I’ve been on Blogger/Blogspot? I paid $100 to Blogspot back in the day to host my blog without banner ads on the top. I posted using Blogger before Blogger recognized the concept of a post title, so many of my old posts just have the title as a line of bold text.

I posted 5000 posts on Blogspot. I’ve imported them, and they’ve come out to be a little short of that. For some reason, the first three months of the blog are missing. I’ll have to see what’s up with it.

I’m also still on the default theme as I try to figure out what I want to do with it. I’ll add a blogroll and some ads and whatnot later in the day, even as I try to work my way through 5000 (!) posts to add categories, correct links, and whatnot.

Wish me luck, and thanks for hanging around.