"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side

People outside the United States and many within it often look at the USA with its mindless fundementalist fanatics, daytime talk shows, tabloids, conspiracy kooks and Paris Hilton, not to mention the White House, and ask "How dumb are Americans?"

Well according to this basic scientific literacy poll done by the U.S. National Science Foundation the answer is "pretty frickin' dumb"

According to the survey:

  • 65% of Americans either don't know or don't believe that Evolution is a valid scientific theory.
  • 25% believe that the Sun goes around the Earth
  • 52% believe that humans once coexisted with dinosaurs
  • 46% don't know how long it takes for the Earth to go around the Sun

A little Kristmas music
Jesus was a capricorn
He ate organic food
He believed in love and peace
And never wore no shoes
Long hair, beard and sandles
And a funky bunch of friends
Reckon we’d just nail him up
If he came down again

'cause everybody’s gotta have somebody that they can look down on
Somebody they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

Eggheads cussing rednecks cussing
Hippies for their hair
Others laugh at straights who laugh at
Freaks who laugh at squares
Some folks hate the whites
Who hate the blacks who hate the klan
Most of us hate anything that
We don’t understand

--Oil empire heir, Rhodes scholar, chopper pilot, studio janitor and Billy the Kid impersonator Kris Kristofferson

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Hardboiled detective strictly softheaded
Drop Dead My Lovely?
By Ellis Weiner
New American Library
277 pp, $23.95
By Kevin Wood
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

After falling off a ladder and under several boxes of books while searching for a Ross MacDonald novel, Peter Ingalls, mild-mannered recluse and bookstore clerk, wakes up a new man. He pockets a handsome insurance settlement, rents himself an office and puts this ad in the newspaper:
“Gumshoe…Dick…Shamus…Flatfoot – Put them all together, they spell Peter Ingalls, P.I.”
Thus begins Ellis Weiners’s Drop Dead My Lovely, a marvelous satirical homage to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and all their literary descendents in the hardboiled detective genre.
Speaking and dressing like Humphrey Bogart in the “The Maltese Falcon”, Ingalls can certainly talk the talk: All the “dames” he meets are addressed as “doll” or “angel” while the men are “soldier” or “chief” and the first person narration is straight out of cinema noir. Ingalls constant asides about “the code” and the importance of remaining loyal to his client are off-the-rack standard issue in hardboiled private eye fiction, but are presented here with a cockeyed touch certain to amuse anyone who has ever skimmed a Robert B. Parker novel. Like most of the people he meets, Ingalls secretary isn’t sure what to think of him.
There it was. That “um.” I’d been hearing it all my life. The party of the second part was about to pop some frequently asked questions. “What? You’re on the air, kid.”
“Seriously. What’s up with you?”
“Come again, doll?”
“That. The way you talk. With all these ‘dolls’ and ‘angels.’ And these zoot-suity clothes. And the hat. This whole hardboiled thing. Are you serious or what?”
“Yeah, people ask me that all the time.”
“So? What do you say?”
“I say I’m just a guy trying to stay clean in a dirty world. I’m a professional, and wear what the professionals wear. Anybody who doesn’t like it can send an email to their congressman.”
Stephanie suddenly looked sly. She said, one con artist to another, “Come on, Pete. You can tell me. This is a put-on, right?”
“Lady,” I said, “you’re looking at a man who doesn’t do put-ons. Why? In self-defense. Because life as we know it is a put-on. The more you learn about the world, the more they change it into something else while you’re in bed reading The New Yorker. The more convinced you are that you know the score the bigger the pie they’re baking to hit you in the face with out on the street. All a mug can do in a world like this is be as deliberate as possible. In everything. Which brings us to the present conversation.”
She widened her eyes and recoiled a bit, and I thought, Well, well, Ingalls. Maybe you touched a nerve. Maybe this slice of the boss’s worldview hit home. Then she said, “Wow. You’re even more f----- up than I am.””
While Ingalls has the patter down, as a detective he is strictly softboiled, all fedora and no .45. He doesn’t seem to like he could detect water if he fell out of a boat – he constantly takes no for an answer, getting the brush-off from almost everyone he tries to question. He gets beaten to a pulp by a timid publishing executive and doesn’t recognize clues when he steps in them, thinking a pool of dried blood is brown paint. He consistently put two and two together and comes up with 22.
Fortunately for Ingalls, the aforementioned secretary, aspiring actress Stephanie Constantino, is a natural snoop and all-around busybody with investigative instincts worthy of Phillip Marlowe and a streak of Brooklyn toughness and foulmouthed vulgarity thrown in for good measure.
While much of Drop Dead My Lovely is given over to poking fun at the conventions of the hardboiled genre, it is also a clever murder mystery that hinges on Ingalls apparent cluelessness. All the standard Chandleresque plot elements - - greed, infidelity, seduction and betrayal – rear their heads as Ingalls stalks the mean streets of Manhattan, never quite getting it right.
Weiner has an obvious affection for the genre, and manages to remain respectful of its strengths while lampooning it. His knack for creating memorable supporting characters – loutish homicide cop Henry David Thoreau, television ranter Darius Flonger, his neglected manic-depressive wife Catherine and her man-eating friends – serves him well and prevents the book from becoming a one note joke along the lines of Steve Martin’s noir tribute “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” The mystery genre is home to many successful series and Weiner set himself up for a sequel at the end. With luck, Peter Ingalls next case will be as entertaining, ironic and sharp as his debut.

From the Daily Yomiuri, Nov. 14, 2004

Family portrait in Kimono from Nov. 17, 2004 Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Flipping the bird
Bravo to the Mirror for such fine investigative reporting. Parrots really do live to ripe old ages

Jan 19 2004
By Bill Borrows

SHE WAS at Winston Churchill's side during Britain's darkest hour. And now Charlie the parrot is 104 years old...and still cursing the Nazis.

Her favourite sayings were "F*** Hitler" and "F*** the Nazis". And even today, 39 years after the great man's death, she can still be coaxed into repeating them with that unmistakable Churchillian inflection......

Who said it?
"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today, Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years."

- Adolf Hitler -