Brian J.’s Recycler Tour, War College Edition

From this date in 2010:

Brian J. Noggle wargamed, using MegaBloks, Happy Meal toys, and various wheeled toys, a regional conflict in the Middle East that erupted when Israel stopped an “aid convoy” including Iranian naval vessels. It wasn’t going too bad for Israel until Russia, depicted by a talking Shrek riding on a cast iron tractor, offered direct military aid to Iran to further encircle Afghanistan with its military forces.

I am pretty sure I still have all the action figures and Happy Meal toys, but not the MegaBloks, in unsorted boxes in the garage. I should get them out and get to my predicting, as I could probably do no worse than the powers that pretend in Washington, D.C.

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Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)

Book coverI bought this book last summer on a trip back to the St. Louis area. As I mentioned then, Mr. Corrigan as the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, published at least one of my letters to the editor. So full disclosure on that, not that I pull punches on people who’ve published me (of whom there are very few) or people I meet in person (sorry, again, S.V.).

The subtitle of this book is “The Rodents That Conquered Popular Culture”. So when I started reading it right away during our vacation in De Soto, but I got fifty or so pages in and bogged down. I had expected a light-hearted look at squirrels, but instead, it looked like it was really turning into a serious study of squirrels. So it languished on my chairside table for a year until I decided to clear the table of some books that had been on the table for several years untouched (rest assured, gentle reader, I did leave some books on the table that had been there for several years untouched–I do have stretch goals of reading them sometime in the next couple of years). In the winnowed stack, this book remained, so I picked it up again, starting not from the bookmark but from the beginning.

And on this second pass through, it occurred to me that this is not about squirrels per se; this is a book about how squirrels are portrayed in different media, with each medium having a different take on squirrels, whether they’re cute or a menace, based on the type of thing that sells in that media. So wait a minute–Corrigan is a professor of media at Webster University–is it possible that this is a book about media and is only using squirrels as an example? I felt kind of clever catching on, whether I caught onto the real purpose of the book or not, and it helped me power through.

Although by the end, I wondered if that was really the point. Or if perhaps the author lost the point. Or padded it out with more squirrel stuff.

The early parts of the book:

  • Preface: Mass-Mediated Squirrels, an introduction.
  • Introduction: “Hot” and “Cool” Squirrels, which talks about the types of media (print versus electronic) and whether they favor stories about danger and menace or cool and funny.
  • Squirrels in Children’s Books, which talks about
  • Squirrels Make the Headlines, which talks about newspaper stories where squirrels are portrayed as a menace to homeowners, the electrical grid, and cars.
  • Squirrels for a Television Age, which talks about squirrels on television, especially local news and short segments on national programs where squirrels water ski or are dressed up–amusing and cool.
  • Squirrels in PR and Advertising and also as town mascots–also cool.
  • Movie Madness: Squirrels in Cinema about squirrels in movies, mostly in comedies.
  • Cartoons and Animated Movie Squirrels which deals with cartoon squirrels (not Rocky; he was cool on television).
  • Comics and Video Game Squirrels, especially Squirrel Girl who apparently became an Avenger after I started paying attention.
  • Legendary American Squirrels about squirrels
  • Squirrels in Myth and Folklore, mostly the Norse squirrel who was like a four-footed Loki.
  • Postscript: Squirrels Unlimited which promotes further study of squirrels in media.

So you can see the progression of sorts of squirrels in different media in kind of a historical context of the march of media, but then we get chapters about legendary squirrels, which makes one wonder if it is supposed to be a book on squirrels, and not on the media using the metaphor of squirrels, after all.

At any rate, the illusion or miscomprehension got me through the book. It could have used some editing–some bits are repeated almost verbatim within the same chapter, as though the book might have been different articles with similar material that got stitched together without removing the material repeated in the different source essays.

So kind of an academic book, but I’m not sure which direction its academic study is.

I have some flags in the book; let’s see what struck me as I was reading.

Continue reading “Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)”

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Book Report: Tucked Away in a Discarded Scrapbook by S.V. Farnsworth (2022)

Book coverI got this book at S.V. Farnsworth’s book signing at ABC Books in April. As I predicted, I picked this book up first as it’s a collection of short pieces and poems.

The subtitle is “Creative Nonfiction with Poetry”, but the creative nonfiction pieces do not rise to the level of full essays. Instead, they’re more like diary entries and/or writing exercises, some poetic musings on incidents or elements of her life, but not necessarily things abstracted enough to draw the reader in so that the reader says, “Oh, yeah, me, too.”

For example, we get glimpses and allusions to abusive men her mother dated, and we get glimpses of the author’s younger years, whether getting ready to go to engineering school or serving as a missionary in Korea or ending up at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, where the author lives now. But it’s not a autobiographical enough to tell those stories completely, and some of the gaps and questions a reader has–what happened to the engineering track? What was it like in South Korea? are not covered.

The poems, too, were a bit underwhelming, with a nice bit here or there, but nothing that really grabbed me or made me want to read it aloud and feel it in my mouth.

I’m still hopeful that the fiction, of which I have a bunch, will read a little better. Certainly, the prose is not bad, but it really doesn’t get a running start to anywhere. Hopefully, the longer form work will be better.

Sorry, S.V.; however, I totally invite you to pick any of my work and savage it in any medium you favor.

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Book Report: Point Position The Executioner #304 (2004)

Book coverGentle reader, this is the last of the Executioner books on my shelf. Alright, alright, alright: I do still have SuperBolan books, Able Team Books, Stony Man Farm Books, and Phoenix Force books. Still: I got my first Executioner novel in 2007 and read it, Panic in Philly, later that year. I got the books in big chunks: 47 books in the 2011 as a birthday present from my beautiful wife and at the Friends of the Clever Library book sale in 2013. I have not counted, but I have probably read nearly 100 of them from #3 Battle Mask from 1970 to #373 Code of Honor from 2009, which I bought new in the grocery store (and, briefly, was caught up on my Executioner novels until I received the birthday gift that week). So, overall, it’s been a mostly enjoyable experience. But onto this book.

This book comes seven years and 83 books after the previous book on my shelf (Blood and Fire). The books are still 220 pages, but unlike the two previous, the title has no real relevance on the plot or action. Bolan is on the trail of some chemical weapons, and he has to team up with two mercenaries who are out to find and retrieve an even more frightening weapon–a sonic weapon that can immobilize people within its radius and make them forget years of their lives. A couple of set pieces later, and Bolan triumphs, of course.

I flagged a couple of things:

A jab took the man in the chest, the power of Bolan’s forearm and biceps muscles driving his adversary backwards.

C’mon, man, the biceps muscles handle moving things towards the body, not extending the arms. That’s the triceps job. And much of your punches, including jabs, should come from twisting your hips, not just using the arms.

Well, okay, I flagged one thing. But it’s interesting to note that in 2004, the terrorists are all right-wing groups even in Executioner novels. No more Marxists or Communists. Which probably makes this a good place to stop with the Executioner novels. If even the Executioner books start trending toward the political, I might not ever read another piece of fiction from the 21st century. Which is probably not true, but still.

At any rate, the jump ahead seven years from Blood and Fire to 2004 saw great changes in my life. In the interim, I had gotten married and gotten started in a career in technology–and I’d even made my mostly final move to quality assurance from technical writing. In a couple of months, I would start my own company to bill as a consultant, something I’ve done for the most part since. And in short order, my aunt would pass away, leading me and my beautiful wife to consider having a family, which, clearly, we have (and we’re almost done with these days). Of course, I’ll be going back to other series in the Bolanverse, so I’ll still get to relive the time in my life where I was when the book was fresh. I don’t do this with normal books, but with the Bolan books, I have. Probably due to the monthly subscription nature of the series.

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Could Have Been Me

Steve Pokin: Faced with horrifying scene, jury shows resilience in murder trial:

On Wednesday morning, it was the civic duty of the 12 women and two men in the jury box to look closely at photos of the body of Barbara Foster, who was run over and killed on Nov. 20, 2018.

(Fourteen are in the box because only the judge knows who the two alternates are.)

Deiter Duff, the Greene County medical examiner, calmly used words to describe the pictures, which revealed far more than could ever be said in even a 1,000 grisly words.

. . . .

Years ago, when I was a reporter in Southern California, I wrote a story that had the headline: The Jurors’ Trial.

I went back in old court records and found the names of jurors who had served in three or four of the most grisly and/or disturbing murder trials in our coverage area over the past 25 years.

One of the murder victims was a little girl who was assaulted and then strangled with the shoe laces from her tennis shoes. That’s how she was found. That’s the photo the jurors saw.

I wanted to know: Did they still remember the details of the trial? Ten years later? Twenty years later? Would they remember it for the rest of their lives?

Unanimously, of course, they did remember.

They remembered the photos. And the nights they couldn’t sleep because of those photos.

They remembered how random violence and depravity can be.

I was summoned for jury duty this week, but I was excused because I had to make two round trips to Rolla (at $70 gas per) to deposit and withdraw my son from a robotics camp at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

Which is just as well. I don’t know how impartial I could be as a jurist listening to experts saying that cough syrup made her do it.

I get the sense I would do better on civil trials.

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On Coming to America (1988)

Book coverThis is one of my beautiful wife’s favorite movies, and now that the youngest is fourteen, we thought he was old enough. He’s good with swearing, but boobs in movies weird him out. He is definitely not a child of the 1980s, when many if not most films that a young man watched (comedies and action films) featured at least one set of breasts, no matter how briefly. So the youngest only made it a little way into the movie before heading off to his YouTube videos to learn how to be cool.

Aside: In the video from “American Ride” by Toby Keith, in 2009, a caricature of Trump appears. But we were talking about Eddie Murphy’s movie about a rich prince who comes to America to find his bride.

That’s basically the plot: An African prince, not happy with the arranged marriage planned for him, convinces his father to postpone the wedding so that he, Akeem, the prince played by Eddie Murphy, can go to America. The father, played by James Earl Jones, thinks it so that his son can “sow his royal oats,” but Akeem wants to find a woman who has not been trained from birth to serve him.

So Akeem and his friend/servant Semmi, played by Arsenio Hall, travel to America, New York specifically, and they end up in Queens (naturally). They get jobs at a local restaurant patterned after McDonalds, owned by Mr. McDowell played by John Amos, and Akeem falls for Lisa, Mr. McDowell’s daughter, so he and Semmi take a job there. Antics ensue, and when Semmi contacts the royal family of Zamunda, the whole entourage arrives just as Akeem is winning Lisa’s heart–but he wants her to love him for himself, not his royal riches.

The film was noted at the time for the number of roles Murphy and Hall played, from barbers and their patrons to women in the clubs where the prince and Semmi go to look for women. It’s a bit of an in-game to look for the characters played by each the first time you see it, I suppose. For me, that was a long time ago. The movie also tips the cap to Trading Places, the 1983 film where Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are reduced to poverty at the end–in this film, five years later, Akeem tucks a wad of cash into their hands, and they announce they’re back. Which would have made sense if you were an Eddie Murphy fan and had seen this film five years prior. I’m pretty sure I saw it long after.

The other actors in the film are noteworthy as well. Comedian Louis Anderson plays an employee of McDowell’s. Samuel L. Jackson tries to rob McDowell’s. Vondie Curtis-Hall has a bit role; in a couple of years, he would be a bad guy along with John Amos in Die Hard II. And so on.

So the film is quite up there in the Nogglestead pantheon. Not only is it one of my wife’s favorite comedies, but it also has several lines that we use as common allusions in fairly regular talk. Including:

  • Inclining head: Whatever you like.
    Said when one of us asks the other’s preference in places to eat or similar aesthetic decisions.
  • The first thing we have to do is get you out of these wet clothes.
    I won’t go on about when that’s said.

Also, I bought the girl a Sexual Chocolate t-shirt, but she is a proper woman of the community and does not wear it out of the house. I think it must be at the bottom of the drawer, as she does not wear it.

I guess the oldest thought it funny enough, but as I mentioned, the youngest did not watch it. Yet.

Now, I know you like to see pretty girls tucked under the fold here, gentle reader, but I looked through the IMDB listings of most of the players in the film, and this was the peak of many of their oeuvres. Except for Garcelle Beauvais, who was a rose petal bearer in the film early in her career, and she has been very active ever since.

Continue reading “On Coming to America (1988)”

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Unelected, Unaccountable Governance

Last week, Pergelator opined:

I’ve been hearing about the clown show in Washington D. C. since forever and I’m thinking maybe we need a different arrangement. Instead of having Congress decide everything, maybe we should hire a manager to actually run the country, the way some city councils hire a manager to run their city. That way the clowns in Congress could concentrate on what’s important to them (which is performing on stage for the public) and the manager could worry about actually running the country. The important part is that Congress would no longer have the power to levy taxes, award contracts or borrow money.

The way the Federal government was supposed to work was that we had a manager type: The Executive, aka the President, who was nominally accountable to the people, executing laws passed by the legislative branch, the Congress. However, it has evolved so that unelected administrators in the Executive branch get to make regulations and enforce them–and they’re barely accountable to the people if the people don’t watch closely the announcements of proposed regulations and raise an outcry when some of the more expansive are introduced.

At the more local level, especially in smaller towns but also smaller cities, where the mayor is part time and the city/county legislatures more parter time, they introduced the City Managers, the chief unelected bureaucrat who ends up serving under various mayors and councils. Who become a power onto themselves, unfortunately.

Here in Missouri, several city managers have recently been ousted by elected officials:

On the flip side, we have a police force threatening resignation when an elected mayor planned to appoint a new police chief: Pierce City, Mo. could have a ‘mass exodus’ of police officers:

”He attempted to relieve the chief of his duties and appoint someone that was not only not qualified, but her moral compass is so messed up that it’s unreal,” Hutson said.

The news story gives no real context to it, and the Springfield media has not followed up to explain who the proposed chief was or what the actual positions this person holds are. This actually follows another local town whose police force resigned en masse last year: Kimberling City Police Department chief, all of his officers announce resignations.

There’s a lot of distrust at all levels of government these days, it seems. And adding unelected authorities to the mix is unlikely to improve trust between citizens and government or even between government entities themselves.

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On Taxi (2004)

Book coverThe trailer for this film appears before one of the movies I watch fairly frequently–perhaps The Man Who Knew Too Little on DVD, or perhaps Dodgeball. So I have seen the trailer enough so that when I found the video at the antique mall when I had a gift certificate to spend, I picked it up.

If you’re of a certain age and think Taxi, you hear Bob James’s “Angela” in your head.

But this is not that show.

This is a Queen Latifah movie with Jimmy Fallon in it judging by the titles; it also features a young Henry Simmons (Mac from Agents of SHIELD) as Queen Latifah’s boyfriend and an unrecognizeable Ann-Margret as Jimmy Fallon’s mother. In it, Fallon’s character, detective Washburn doesn’t drive a car well, and in the intro, his antics lead to destruction and a license suspension. When he hears of a bank robbery, he jumps into a cab driven by Belle Williams (Queen Latifah) and orders her to follow the robbers. It’s no ordinary cab–a former bicycle messenger, Williams has modified the car serving as her cab to be a racecar, and she’s a NASCAR hopeful. So they drive really fast on the trail of the bank robbers, who are apparently also models for some reason (well, they can’t all be surfers like in Point Break, I guess). Which means the leader of the band is Mrs. Tom Brady. I tried to lure my boys to watch the film, but that trivium was not enough.. And as they work together, they meet each other’s families and whatnot for some humorous set pieces.

So it has a bit of a bad reputation and rating, but it’s just a piece of early century popcorn action comedy. No worse than most, and honestly better than the Internet would have you believe.

So, about that band of bank robbers.

Continue reading “On Taxi (2004)”

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Misremembering Leads To Errant Music Purchase

In April, I bought a Pat Travers Band album:

Crash and Burn by the Pat Travers Band because someone, I think it was Jack Baruth, posted about him once upon a time recently, although a quick search of his blog does not come up with a post about the band.

Today, while trolling through my archives (sorry, gentle reader: I do not write for you, but I write for me sometime in the future trolling my archives), while trolling through my archives, I discovered a different Pat entirely:

I guess the world wants me to look for Pete Metheny records at book sales.

Clearly, I need a Know The Difference post on these guys.

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Book Report: Mr. Obvious by James Lileks (1995)

Book coverSo I ordered this book from Amazon a while back because although I have read some of his nonfiction (most recently Fresh Lies in 2011(?!) and Mommy Knows Worst in 2005, when this blog was fresh and new–although I have read The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Interior Desecrations before I was book reporting), I have not delved into his fiction.

According to his Wikipedia entry, Lileks has four books of fiction: Falling Up The Stairs from 1988, which precedes this book and has the same characters, so this book alludes to that book; this book, from 1995; and then two books released exclusively electronically, Graveyard Special in 2012 and The Casablanca Tango in 2014. I have on the Internet and reading Lileks for a long time, so I remember when he was talking about writing and releasing those books, and it seems more recent than eight to ten years. But when you get to a certain age, a decade was just a little while ago.

So this book is the second book featuring local newspaper columnist Jonathan Simpson, formerly of a big city daily but now writing food columns for the local free weekly (see book #1 for details). After doing a radio spot with a local personality whose ratings are in free-fall, Simpson is hit by a bullet meant for the radio talker. After being in a coma for three months, he starts looking for the assailant. Well, sort of: He can’t actually walk, so he’s around people who kind of investigate and who carry him or push him in a wheelchair for a while. Meanwhile, he deals with the large house that fell into his lap (see book #1) and a potential love interest with alopecia.

I started reading the book thinking it was great. The writing is pure Lileks, with the digressions into different learned subjects and amusing metaphors. But I got about one hundred pages in, and I realized that the protagonist wasn’t really leading the action–things were happening to him. About page 150, he starts taking some agency, but the plot was kind of convoluted and the story-pacing was slow. The whole exercise was a platform for Lileks to, well, Lileks. Overall, his blog The Bleat and columns are better sized for that.

So I was a little disappointed with it, ultimately. I will probably pick up the first of the two books (and by pick up, I mean order from Amazon since they’re not thick on the ground around here) as well as his other nonfiction from the era. But I am impressed that Lileks had a big publishing contract in the 1980s and 1990s. I mean, wow, okay. One might think his career arcked downward early–his biggest book publishing and syndication came before the turn of the century–but I hope he doesn’t think that. After all, I enjoy his columns in The National Review and The Bleat every day.

And even with four novels to his credit, he’s several ahead of me.

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Thankfully, It’s Not Musical Theatre

As I have mentioned, gentle reader, I support friends’ and acquaintances’ artistic endeavours. I mean, I will buy books, I will buy CDs, and I will even go to see friends in musical theatre productions. I prefer CDs and book because I do not like musicals, and musicals tend to cost several hundred dollars instead of $10 or $20.

I mentioned I bought Connor Fiehler’s CD Generation Flee in 2020 because I used to work with his parents. When his mother posted on Facebook that he had a new band, I gave it a listen.

She linked to this performance:

Wow, okay, a soul/funk band with a horn section. That’s better than Generation Flee, and the one lead singer can really wail.

The band, The Pitch Pockets, has a single, “Out My Mind”, available on Amazon.

I have bought it, of course, and hope they’ll release more. They’ve got some other things on YouTube worth watching as well.

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Wreckification of Names

So as I was driving to the dojo this morning, “The End of the World (As We Know It)” by REM came on the radio, and it struck me that the song names three people with similar names: Lenny Bruce, Leonard Bernstein, and Leonid Brezhnev.

And I thought, are those all forms of the same name?

Lenny is short for Leonard, of course, but apparently Leonid is not the direct Slavic equivalent–it comes from a shortened form of Leonidas. However, all three do derive from the Greek for lion (Leon). So is there any meaning in this within the song?

I have no idea; however, in reviewing the actual lyrics, apparently a fourth man is named, Lester Bangs, a rock critic who died in 1982. Lester, apparently, comes from Leicester, the English city, and referred to a person from the town. So I got nothing as far as a grand revelation. And I’m not enough of an REM fan to write a treatise on it.

(Name meanings from Behind the Name, the first result in a search for the meaning of Leonid. Hey, since its search engine optimization is on-point, you can take it to the bank.)

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On Fletch Lives (1989)

Book coverMy oldest re-watched Fletch earlier this year, and I told him to look for Fletch Lives in the watched section of the video library. The video library is only marginally better organized than the book library, which is basically because we own fewer DVDs and videocassettes to randomly array on the too-packed shelves allotted them. He did not find it then, but when I went looking for another previously watched (Coming to America, which my beautiful wife and I had seen, but not the boys had not). The oldest made a run through the stacks looking for that film and could not find it, either. So I took a try and found this film on the first pass through (and Coming to America on DVD on the second pass, but early, as it was like the third film on the upper left shelf’s second rank).

So the boys and I watched it.

In this film, Fletch receives a call from Louisiana that his aunt has died and has left him her plantation, home and 80 acres. He quits his job and travels to the bayou, only to discover that the house is in poor repair. However, a cash offer is immediately made on the place, and after he signs the papers to take over the estate and makes whoopie with the attorney (Patricia Kalember), she dies in bed with him, and he is picked up on suspicion of murder. After his release, a real estate agent (Julianne Philips) approaches him with a better offer, which makes him suspicious. He investigates, with the help of his aunt’s caretaker (Cleavon Little), and encounters a nearby religious-themed amusement park that has been acquiring land to expand. So is it the televangelist, played by R. Lee Ermey, or something more sinister?

Well, the ultimate plot is a little more elaborate than that, something a bit Chandlerian in complexity, but it does give Chevy Chase the chance to chew the scenery and put on some silly disguises. The film does hit some common 80s tropes (televangelists as venal hucksters, toxic waste), so it’s not especially inventive, but it has gotten rapped in reviews for being not as good as the original. Maybe not, but it was not that far off if you watch them one after the other. So never mind the reviewers from its day: Know that my oldest son was disappointed that there is not a third Fletch movie (and before Hollywood gets it into its head to make one thirty-three years later, it’s too late).

So I enjoyed it, and it’s something I have re-watched in the last couple of years (well, maybe seven or eight). So let that be an endorsement as well. For the books as well–perhaps now the boy will read the Fletch books.

But did someone mention Patricia Kalember and Julianne Philips?

Continue reading “On Fletch Lives (1989)”

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