Cold Hit

Just finished reading a crime/ police procedural novel by Stephen  J. Cannell called Cold Hit.  Mr. Cannell is something of a latter-day entertainment polymath, having scored big success in producing television shows as well as a series of novels and a couple of acting gigs.

As for TV shows, he was “creator” or “co-creator” (I use quotes because I think the act of creation should have a deeper meaning and greater value than a TV show, but that’s just me) of such winners as The Rockford Files, The A Team, 21 Jump Street, and a few others that even a casual viewer would recognize.  He has also had a dozen or so fiction books published.  Pot boilers, they used to be called I think, and his are pretty well done.  These kind of books are very popular now.  The list of authors is way, way too long for a blog, but I’ll mention two recent series  that I am familiar with.  The Kinsey Millhone books, written by Sue Grafton and the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker.  But, the tradition goes way back.  Way, way back.  Okay, I’ll show off a little.  The 80’s had The 87th Precinct books, the 70’s had Travis McGee, the 60’s had Lew Archer, the 50’s had Mike Hammer, the 40’s had Sam Spade, the 30’s had Nero Wolfe, the 20’s had Agatha Christie… it goes on and on all the way to Sherlock Holmes, and the progenitor of them all, C. Auguste Dupin.  

Who is C. Auguste Dupin, you may well ask?  He is the first fictional detective.  Ever.  And written by someone not generally known for his detective work, Edgar Allen Poe. Edgar A. apparently sobered up long enough to come out of his dungeon and write a pretty good detective story, The Purloined Letter.  Poe’s detective, by the way, has, hands down, the greatest title ever in the long history of detective fiction.  C. Auguste Dupin is the Prefect of Parisian Police.  Alliteration!  Three P’s!  I love it.

The fates of fictional police detectives have taken a turn for the worse since Monsieur Dupin massaged his little grey cells in the City of Lights.  Detectives, especially members of the police force, now have fallen arches, alimony payments and inhabit offices in bad parts of town with metal desks and a lingering odor of stale coffee.

That’s where Stephen J. Cannell’s detective lives and works.  He is Shane Scully and he is a Detective third grade out in California.  He has a wife who is a police captain and has, apparently, cheek bones that are worth describing several times.  He has a son whom he only met at the age of fifteen but is now going to USC on a football scholarship.  He has an alcoholic police partner who tries to kill him and who may be the serial killer that is the central plot device of the book.  Tossed into this heady olio are the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, homeless Vietnam era veterans, and Russian mobsters who are planting listening device all over Los Angeles.  

With all these narrative billiard balls careening off each other, and I suppose Shane Scully is the cue ball that gets them careening, mayhem and misdeeds occur apace.  Fibs were told, and whoppers too.  Feelings were hurt and hearts were broken.  Close relationships were threatened, but love triumphed.  Threats were made and shots were fired.  Bad guys were killed by the score except for one or two who were only maimed so they could tell the whole story to a federal prosecutor.  In the end, as it is supposed to be in the world of fiction, all loose ends were carefully bagged, tagged and wrapped up.  It was a good read.

This is not a book that increases your vocabulary or your IQ.  It won’t have you tossing and turning at 3AM pondering metaphysical questions.  Mr. Cannell doesn’t chime in on the existence of free will or add to our investigation of a grand unified theory.  It’s just a good read.

I think Edgar Allen would approve.  

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Timequake – Kurt Vonnegut

Just finished reading “Timequake” by Kurt Vonnegut. A really odd book.  Part biography, part paean to his family, part sci-fi novel, part, I think, farewell.  He wrote much about his family and friends, and how old they were, and how many of them were dead.  The book is sprinkled with suicides.  Vonnegut has always been bittersweet, but this was much more bitter than it was sweet.

Tough to follow, of course, because one of the fundamentals of the book was the fiction that a hiccup in the universe sent us all back 10 years to 1991, and we had to live those years all over again.  When the 10 years was up, and free will returned, people went into PTA or Post Timequake Apathy.  No one remembered that they had to actually do things consciously like steer a car, because it had all been done automatically for 10 years.  So, when we all awoke to free will, chaos.  Car crashes, people falling down, airplane crashes… chaos.  He jumps around through decades and mixes real people with fictional characters.  Several sections have him talking to his most famous creation, the science fiction hack Kilgore Trout.  

A few funny moments in the book, but it was all much disjointed and at times,  cacophonous.  But, having loved  Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle and Sirens of Titan, and certain that Kilgore Trout is a misunderstood literary genius, how can anyone complain about Vonnegut?

Out of Touch

Still paying attention to the national election, and still find it disturbing.  It is boggling to me that so many people, according to the polls, can still support Donny.  He is abrasive, transparently hypocritical, narrow-minded, egotistical, and woefully, gleefully uninformed.  He surrounds himself with people that are very much like him, including his family.  His children look more like cardboard cutouts than flesh and blood.  His top echelon supporters, i.e. Christie, Gingrich, Hannity, Sessions, all have their own serious baggage that they are trying to outrun by attaching themselves to this rambling, mercenary gas bag.  

And yet, and yet, he seems to be doing well, even leading by some measures.  His root audience seem not to care what he says, as long as he doesn’t say what everyone else says.  I hate to get all hyperbolic and historical, but I think this situation lends itself to hyperbole and history.  

Donny is trading on the idea that he is different.  Caesar did that. And Hitler and Mussolini and Huey Long and Father Coughlin.

The dictionary, the go-to reference when something needs to be clear, defines demagogue as:  a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.  

To me, that pretty much sums up Donny.  Long on prejudices and short on rational argument.

But I am coming to understand that he is not really the problem, just a shimmering, slightly orange reflection of it.  The real problem is the people who are supporting him.  Scenes of his rallies leave me nonplussed and slack-jawed (if nonplussed and slack-jawed are the terms I want.  Do you think nonplussed and slack jawed are the terms I want?).  Screaming epithets, abusing minorities, offensive sloganeering.  And that’s before they get warmed up.  The term ‘mob’ seems to fit comfortably here, and I don’t think I need to refer to a dictionary definition.  

To be selfish about it, what concerns me most is that I am so completely out of touch.  I never saw this coming.  I know we are a melting pot society, but I thought there were some boundaries, some common ground.  How can it be that people have become so wooden headed, so obtuse, so attached to one point of view that rationality is not even possible?

I could never support someone because of the banner he or she stood under: Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Progressive, Liberal, Libertarian… none of them. 

Dear Sir or Madam standing on your soapbox or reading from your teleprompter, tell me what you think and I’ll either agree or disagree.  But I will think about it first.  

I wonder, is there room anymore for an independent?   

Labor Day

Labor Day is the real start of the election campaign season, from POTUS all the way down to local judges.  I have been watching the national race this year on TV and on websites, and it has been both entertaining and disheartening.  I can’t really believe or develop any trust  either side.  Trump and his supporters are often laughable in their dirty dancing to repackage him and his word salad.  No one really knows where he stands on most issues.  He lies with every breath, sometimes twice in a breath if the lies are short enough, and his surrogates are pulling muscles backing away from his mindless brain farts.  And, it is hard to imagine life in a country being administered by Trump, Newt, Christie, Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giuliani.  Worse lately, he has climbed between the sheets with Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes, both considered far right extremists.  If you want to get depressed, go to Breitbart.com, CEO of which is Steve Bannon,  and just scan the headlines.  Scary, actually.  

On the other hand, Hillary’s gang are better looking, better prepared, and more palatable, but their long term effect is not real promising either. There is an uncertainty, or a shadiness about her whole public career that gives any thinking person pause. Why did she, and Bill, do the things they did?  Travelgate, the presidential pardons, the damn email server, the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the S of State?  Hard to believe that all if it is a ‘vast right wing conspiracy’, although I think the right wing has mined it like a Yukon gold strike.  She is so accomplished and so experienced that I think she would, as President Obama has said, be the most prepared person ever to be in the Oval Office.  I would rather have her talking to people like Putin than Donny, and her knowledge of domestic policy is light years in advance of Donny.  But, she will be slamming up against a major blockade in Congress, probably both houses.  Those people really hate her, I think out of all proportion to her mistakes.  Gridlock, unless the Democrats pick up a lot of seats in the House, is a certainty.

What I want is some way to follow this election without a lot of angst.  I have been too involved in it and now that it is ramping up, or even ratcheting up, I would like to keep in touch with it without it becoming a prime mover in my life.  Just in touch, not awash.

CNN and MSNBC are pretty well slanted toward the Democrats.  But with Donny bashing everyone he doesn’t like, really EVERYONE he doesn’t like, publicly, they usually just need to quote him, and not interpret him, and not even comment.  He has deadly aim when he is shooting himself in the foot.  He rarely misses.  Pow, right through the metatarsal.

Fox News (slogan: Fair and Balanced) is just a microphone for the Republican Party, and perhaps the Alt-right party.  The slogan could be changed to ‘Not A Prayer That It’s Balanced’.  They can’t even be called slanted, more like horizontal.  I can’t listen to O’Reilly, who has developed  ‘smug’ into a business plan, can’t listen to Hannity, who has slipped his neck under Donny’s foot, I can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh because he is Rush Limbaugh, ‘nuff said.

Even reading.  I get much if my news from the internet, and they tend to reprint New York Times and Washington Post articles, both of which slant left.  There isn’t much pro conservative that I have found that isn’t right wing bat shit crazy.  Breitbart included.

As this heats up, and as Ailes/ Breitbart/ Bannon become more influential, The lies will become more egregious (if egregious is the word I want.  Do you think egregious is the word I want?), the half truths more twisted, and the hyperbole more inflated.  Donny’s rhetoric to his base will become routine but more screeching, and Hillary will, as usual,  play it close to the vest of her pantsuit.  
I suppose this is just a quintessential TFY situation.   Think For Yourself.  

Sad really.  It is an objective truth that I live in the greatest country in the world.  Not a perfect country, but still the greatest.  And yet, and yet, I am having trouble finding a reliable source of information.

There is a line from a Paul Simon song that sings, “I get the news I need from the weather report….. I can gather all the news I need from the weather report.”

Maybe that’s the way to go.

‘Unofficial’

Tomorrow is Labor Day, the ‘unofficial’ end to summer.  “Officially’ summer ends on Sept. 20, which is another seventeen days.  As summer has only 93 days (I counted) that means ‘unofficial’ cheats us out of almost 19% of summer.

So, who are these ‘unofficial’ officials that are cheating me!  Yes, cheating me out of 17 days of sun, breezes, ice cream, chirping birds, flowers, baseball, iced tea and barbecues.  That is more than half a month!  Monsters!  Neanderthal cave dwellers with expensive suits, suspenders and shiny shoes.  And calendars.

Who are these people?  Who is able to muster the cheek, the impudence, the brazen, bald-faced chutzpah to shorten the summer.  They cause millions, maybe billions, to descend into depression.  Leaves turn dry and fall to the ground, crestfallen and suicidal.  Children sit, staring mournfully at iPods, waiting for school buses that are late because the drivers are learning their new route.  Stores move out the ‘back to school’ specials and move in the Christmas Decorations.  Parents search frantically for just the right backpack.

All because of the ‘unofficial’ end of summer.   

Personally, I plan to barbecue right through September 20th.  Maybe go to the beach next weekend.  Perhaps in a burst of defiance, I’ll buy a new pair of flip-flops and heart-shaped sunglasses.  

I won’t be intimidated.  I want my seventeen days!  Just who are these people?