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Friday, July 22, 2005

I just finished reading The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler. Not the best Marlowe story, but still part of the canon and possessed by the distinctive Chandler voice. Some of the lesser characters are the most interesting, although the plot is a bit too complex to go into detail. There's the small town sheriff who's not as dumb as he looks. And the LA cop who gets himself into a mess. And of course the femme fatale.

Now I'm going to read The Da Vinci Code, or try to, I should say, because what I have found is that it's really what I would call a pot-boiler. Clever, but cliched, and worse overwritten. Brown's style is the familiar style in pot-boilers the world over, scenes where nothing really takes place, expository scenes where nothing really takes place, someone boards a plane, recieves a phone call. They exist mostly for exposition, to create a mood or mystery. Each chapter predictably breaks down in a cliff-hanger, just after the cusp of some mysterious development or right after one. Sometimes, the next chapters jumps maddeningly to a completely different scene or sub-plot, an effect intended to create suspense, but resulting merely in annoying the hell out of me. I keep hoping that it will get better, that it won't be so hokey, but I don't think so. I might have to put it down and just wait for the movie. That Tom Hanks, he's good. And reliable too.

I went book shopping today and picked up Dean Koontz's Phantoms, a massive brick of a book in two days I read when I was a teenager. I wanted to get the book again after watching the movie version, starring Rose McGowan (hot even in her white coat), Liev Schrieber (a talented actor who has this quality of being a little "off," a quality exploited in his best movies), Peter O'Toole (making the best of a bad situation in this one), and Ben Affleck (before he was Bennifer, but you can see the seeds of it here). The movie isn't that great, but it's not terribly bad. It's grisly enough to stand on its merits as a horror movie, but too hokey to be anything other than a cult classic.

The book, though, is much better. Dean Koontz claims he dislikes the book because it pigeon-holed him as a "horror" writer, typecasting he still struggles with. In his after-word, he describes trying to make it a "tour-de-force," assembling all kinds of elements including, oh yeah, horror. He succeeded in that category. Dean Koontz has some of the "cleanest" prose around. And when I mean clean, I don't mean spare or devoid of verbal flourishes. Clean in the Charlie Parker way, hitting all the right notes and looking for the pretty ones. Here's an example:

  The flashlight struck the floor and spun away, casting wild and leaping shadows with each revolution, illuminating nothing.
  And something cold touched the back of Jake's neck. Cold and slightly moist - yet something that was alive.
  He flinched at the touch, tried to pull away and turn.
  Something encircled his throat with the suddenness of a whip.
  Jake gasped for breath.
  Even before he could raise his hands to grapple with his assailant, his arms were seized and pinned.
  He was being lifted off his feet as if he were a child.
  He tried to scream, but a frigid hand clamped over his mouth. At least he thought it was a hand. But it felt like the flesh of an eel, cold and damp.


Clean, but vivid. And notice how many "rules" Koontz breaks here. Passive sentences. Fragments. Short, truncated paragraphs. The sentences almost describe shots in a movie, each one an image you can feel.

I think it's a quality Dan Brown aspired to, but so far missed the mark.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I found this post by Cenk Uguyr interesting, so I sent it to a few people who might not. I wanted to get their reactions.

The first reply, from my friend Ian, consisted of the following:

Blah blah blah.


My Uncle Jim, previously a contributor (*in a past e-mail), responded thus:

James James James. I have a bunch of problems with this persons opinoins. I can't hit them all but I will hit just a few. First of all the reason we did not go all the way to Iraq in the first war was we did not fear the back lash. At the time we did only what our president asked us to do. Push them out of Kuwait and restore their freedom.

As for Bill Clinton bringing us a balanced budget. He did not do that! It was policys put in place over the years of the Regan-Bush Sr era. The president can't just waive his hand and all of a sudden all is well. It takes years, even decades. He rode the coat tail of 12 years of republican presidency. At the end of Clintons term, the last year and a half, the economy was droping. He was to worried about his personal bull shit than he was the security of this nation. When Bin Ladden tried to blow up the WTC in 94, that should have been his ass right then and there. Remember what happened? They blew up 30,000lbs of explosives in a truck in the basement of the WTC. It was in the corner, they wanted it to topple one tower into the other. It would have killed 10-15 times as many people as Sept 11th.
Clinton kept telling us "he would hunt down the bad guys and punish them". A fact is he spent more money hunting down and punishing Bill Gates and Microsoft then he did fighting terrorist. THIS IS A FACT! Don't give me that, this was before 9/11 bull shit and we did not know better. The WTC in 94, the embassys in Africa, the USS Cole. They were after us OSAMA FUCING BIN LADDEN! The candy ass Clinton let it all go. Oh yeah, do you remeber that Saddam Hussein tried to kill Bush Sr durring the Clinton era? That alone should have got his ass invaded and taken out of power.

Is it un-american to stand by the current administration? No, but according to this fool it is. You go with who ya got. Right now it is W. Stand by him. Vote for your choice. DONT WHINE LIKE A LITTLE KID WHEN YOUR PERSON DOES NOT WIN. BE A MAN, SUPPORT WHO WE GOT! QUESTION IT IS FINE, BUT DON'T SHIT ON HIM. I never liked Clinton but I never shit on him. I am now!

Am I a republican? Not exactly. Has my choice been republican the last few elections? Yes. I don't vote down party lines. John Kerry was a bastard for what he did when he got home from Vietnam. You can't do that then ask to be the Boss. He made the worst mistake you could make in my eyes. W has had his problems too. Kerry was the worst of the two in my eyes. I don't think W is perfect, but hey GO WITH WHO YA GOT!!!!!

Jim


And finally, my Dad had these encouraging words to say:

James,
Thank you for this article. I found it vary interesting to read. I whole heartedly agree that to blindly support the man is wrong. Yes Mr. Bush II has been making one blunder after another. And no he is no Ronald Reagan but he is the president. He will not be spending another term in office so let's see who the two major parties put forward in the next election. As for a third party??? We have many parties that should have done better in the last several elections. What ever happened to the little guy with the big ears(Ross Perot)? And how about the Green Party? At this point in time a third party is only a spoiler for the next closest idealological candidate. Maybe you should run Bud. I would be out knocking on doors campaigning for you. I know that you could do no worse than the clods we have had in the past. I mean really what did a peanut farmer do for the country? Party affiliation mean little in the grand scheme of things I still believe the Republican party holds the best hope for this country even if it has been sidetracked a little bit to the fanatical side. Love you Bud Dad


Ian is a free-market libertarian and, although he wouldn't admit it, something of an extremist. He believes, and will preach this gospel if you let him, that government has three functions in society. I don't recall the whole triumvirate right now, but his Utopian concept leaves out many vital functions of a modern government. Me and Ian aren't on speaking terms right now, perhaps because I sent him the link, or perhaps because of his response, or my response to his response. Names were called and feelings were hurt. Apparently the only result of that conversation was that I'm a creep and he's a dick.

So I was very pleased to get a response from both my Uncle Jim and my Dad that actually had some thought behind it, and though neither denounced the Republican party, neither of them offered the lame glowing reviews of the Bush administration that you get from actual Republican politicians. I think that their leaning towards the Republican side has more to do with suspicion of Democrats than the Bush neo-con philosophy, from which I would then extrapolate that many "Red State" voters have similiar feelings.

Now, onto Hillary Clinton. Old Hill has raised $6 million in three months for her upcoming Senate campaign, where she wants to thrash any Republican challenger, possibly to set-up at run in 2008 for president. Here's hoping she squanders it. I don't mind her in the Senate since she's not from my state, but let's be honest here. She's a carpet bagger who has already spent eight years in the White House. Surely there's other talent. What's next? Chelsea for governor?

Finally, Tom Tancredo sticks his foot in his mouth on this one. I don't think he understands what he's talking about. Bombing Mecca? Um, no. Next!

What I'm listening: Inexplicably, a lot of Benny Goodman.