This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, June 30, 2011

House Rules

I'm reading the book House Rules by Jodi Picoult, and have been for quite some time. Or rather, I started reading it before I got my Kindle, then abjured any reading material that came in non-Kindle form for a minute, and now I'm reading it again. 
It's about an 18-year-old man with Asperger Syndrome who is on trial for murder. I think part of the reason that I've been taking so long to read it, aside from the abjuring of all things paper, is that the book irks me, a lot. See, the main character, Jacob, is an asshole. The book keeps switching first-person narrators, from his mom, to his brother, to him, to his lawyer, and I think we're supposed to get a whole picture of the world of Asperger Syndrome or something. I'm getting a picture of a person who is an asshole. I don't think that's what the author was going for.
So I guess I should define Asperger Syndrome first. People with Aspergers display a lot of the symptoms of autism, but tend not to have as many of the verbal and cognitive issues that go along with autism. I don't like the term high functioning, because it makes me think of stereos and toaster ovens, but that's a term used a lot to describe people with the condition. Some of the symptoms follow:

  • Difficulty with interpersonal social interaction (difficulty with eye contact, maintaining a conversation, understanding non-verbal cues such as tone and pitch of voice, difficulty taking turns in a conversation)
  • Obsession with routine 
  • Perceived lack of empathy
  • Stereotypic behavior (rocking, flapping, pacing)
  • Obsession with or fixation on a few subjects, lack of interest in almost anything else
  • Tendency to be literal, matter-of-fact, or exceptionally honest
Obviously, this is a pretty general list and likely sounds like about a dozen people you know, so I'd advise you not go about diagnosing people with it. I, for instance, rock, flap, pace, am obsessed with a few subjects and have a difficult time taking turns in conversations. I definitely don't have Aspbergers.
Often, these symptoms can cause a person with Aspergers to appear to be an asshole. Take the old "do these jeans make my butt look fat" conversation. Let's say John asks Mary, who has Aspergers, whether these jeans make his butt look fat. Mary replies that yes, in fact, John's butt looks very fat in those jeans. John gets upset, and Mary doesn't understand why; maybe Mary even gets defensive and argumentative about it. John starts crying, and Mary doesn't appear to care.
Under the surface, Mary is answering the question honestly because she believes that it is wrong to lie. Maybe she knows that there are circumstances under which it's appropriate to lie, but she's not sure which ones are which, so she's honest, because honesty is the best policy. When John gets mad at Mary, Mary's at a loss because she thought she was doing the right thing. Maybe Mary's a little indignant because Mary is trying really hard to be a good friend to John and John is angry that Mary is trying to be a good friend. When John starts crying, Mary doesn't know what to do. Not only does she not feel bad because she was only telling the truth, she's not sure what the socially appropriate response to someone crying is. When Mary's upset, having people touch her, hug her, engage her, makes her more stressed out, and she doesn't want to do that to John so she just does nothing. Or maybe she's so frustrated and overstimulated by the whole experience that she shuts down and goes off into her own world.
Really, if you look at it from Mary's perspective, John is the one who is being rude. John has changed the rules without telling Mary - he wants Mary to lie, but he doesn't tell Mary that. Then he's getting mad at Mary for not playing the game by the rules that he just made up. Then he expects Mary to feel bad for failing to know that the arbitrary rules have arbitrarily changed. Who is the asshole?

Anyway, the book House Rules fails to convince us that Jacob cares about anyone or anything. He is selfish and self-centered. He doesn't care if he hurts your feelings. In fact, he does really hurtful things, on purpose, just because, and then blames it on his disability. And Jacob, and his mother, and the author, for that matter, seem to think that the solution to the problem is to have the entire world change to accommodate Jacob's behavior. Of course it's fine for him to run through life telling people their butts are big. But the majority of people are always going to get upset if you tell them they have a big butt. If Jacob continues to tell people they have big butts, people are going to continue not to like him and not to hang out with him. Nobody says "Hey Jacob, just so you know for next time, usually when people ask if they look fat, their feelings will be hurt if you say yes. If you are fine with that, okay, but if you're not, let's talk about some alternate answers to that question."
From my fancy new DSLR to you

Monday, June 27, 2011

In honor of my cousin Jack, who died last night. He was like nobody else, and I wish I could think of the words to remember him right. The words aren't there tonight, though, so here:






Well they built the Titanic to be one of a kind, but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but they could build another if they please
Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt, are unique I suppose
But when they built you, brother, they broke the mold


Now the world is filled with many wonders under the passing sun
And sometimes something comes along and you know it's for sure the only one
The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe
And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold


When they built you, brother, they turned dust into gold
When they built you, brother, they broke the mold


They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong
'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you're still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold


Now your death is upon us and we'll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowing you've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold


That attitude's a power stronger than death, alive and burning her stone cold
When they built you, brother

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rock and roll can save the world... and the chicks are great

Last night my friend was telling me about the group Public Enemy and their 1990 song 911 is a Joke. The song referred to the fact that in inner-city New York, along with many other inner cities, emergency responders took far longer to arrive after a 911 call than in nicer areas of the city. I think Tony said, and I can't corroborate this because apparently the Internets don't remember back that far, but Tony said that the average response time for a 911 call in inner-city New York was something like twice that of nicer neighborhoods, and I wouldn't be at all surprised. I remember hearing stories about it being that way in parts of Cleveland too.
The not-quite ghetto I called home
At any rate, this song sparked a huge controversy, as did every rapper back then who wasn't singing about how they became the prince of a town called Bel Air. The cops are doing their best, gangs and thugs blah blah blah... but fairly quickly after the song dropped, 911 response times in the inner city quickened. Tony said that with that one song, Public Enemy saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives.
I don't think he's being dramatic. I remember my mind being blown back when Gangsta Rap showed up on the scene. Not blown in a good way, mind you, I was scandalized. Scandalized, honestly, because I was pissed off at the anti-white rhetoric and hatred some of these guys got away with. Now I understand that songs like NWA's Fuck the Police and Ice T's Cop Killer reflected a rage, a fear, a desperation that was a daily reality that gripped people who felt like they were trapped in the ghetto for life. Even though I didn't exactly grow up in Bel Air myself, the reality experienced by people living in the sort of ghettos that artists like NWA, Public Enemy, and Ice T is something I'd never experienced, and likely never will. This music, think of it what you will, brought America's attention to stuff we'd been quite willfully ignoring for ages. Movies like Boyz n the Hood happened. Eyes opened. People started caring. And maybe a few things started getting better. You know that kid who acts out because he's being abused at home and just needs someone to understand? That kid's a lot more likely, in my experience, to have authorities intervene than the kid who just raises her hand and tells her story. Seems that way to me, anyway.


So anyway, Tony got me thinking - what other songs have saved lives? I mean We Are the World and other Band Aid-ish songs like that, I guess. We Are the World was certainly the first time I remember being aware of starvation in Ethiopia. Then again, I was six. Previous to that, I'd been aware that Legos aren't something you eat.
REM hoped to talk people out of suicide with the song Everybody Hurts. Honestly, I know the lyrics are kind of cheesy and stuff, but I don't think there's ever been a time so dark that Everybody Hurts couldn't reach me at least a little bit, give me some hope. Rumor has it that Kurt Cobain was listening to the song right before he died, so maybe it's not 100% effective.
Jeremy reminded me about the Underground Railroad code songs that helped lead people to safety, and before that, the spirituals that gave people hope and helped them hold on.
Religious music, perhaps, some of it. Some religious music has sparked decidedly not life-saving acts.
Can you think of anything? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We're living in the future, and none of this has happened yet

Mantic is an adjective describing anything related to fortune telling or divination, from the Greek mantis for profit. This is indeed where we get mantis, referring to an insect that holds its arms out like it's praying. For information on all things mantic, I read the essay Mantic Mania by Robert Devereux.
Extispicy was an ancient practice by which soothsayers sliced open a dead animal to read its guts, believing that in so doing, they could see the future. It was practiced by ancient Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Etruscans, and Romans.
Seriously? Who came up with this? And who the hell believed them? "Hey, I know, let's vivisect us some sheeps and then poke around in their livers and then we'll know the future." Wouldn't it be a lot more believable just to be like "Hey, I know the future," and not have to worry about all the guts and stuff? Because even if organs did tell the future, how the hell would you know how to interpret them? Did the god tell people? In that case, couldn't the gods just tell people the future? Maybe it was a ploy on the part of butchers to sell more entrails. Bill Brohaugh, author of Everything You Know about English is Wrong (hurtling through cyberspace into my Kindle as we speak) coined the term expository extispicy in this blog post, referring to people's practice of predicting a word or phrase history by cutting it up and trying to reverse engineer it. Like the myth I once heard that the expression "mind your own beeswax" comes from the fact that women used to use bees wax as some sort of foundation, and women would say that to each other when one woman was staring too hard. Speaking of wondering who thinks these things up and who believes them. 
Anthropomancy is the art of divining the future by looking at human entrails. That one's pretty useful. "I predict this person will remain dead." You're right roughly 100% of the time.
Another way of divining the future? Poop. Scatomancy refers to reading a person's fortune by looking at their poo. I shit you not. (See what I did there?) I don't care what my sources say, that shit sounds made up. (See what I did there again?)
I guess, though, in a way, this is one method of divination that might stand a chance... I mean, if someone's poop has worms in it, say, you can predict they're going to have problems with worms. Or something.
Hospitals, I suppose, are practicing scatomancy when they demand a stool sample. On the obligatory musical episode of Scrubs, the song Everything Comes Down to Poo informed us that "the answer's not in your head my dear, it's in your butt."
Myomancy is the practice of predicting the future by watching the movements of mousies. My best friend practices myomancy - sometimes she gets to sit around all day watching mice run around in an enclosure, how far out into the open they run. How many poops they make. Someday, they hope, they'll be able to use myomancy to determine how the brain can better fight off diseases. Or something. To tell you the truth, when she talks about her job, I only understand about one in every five words. I'm flattered that she thinks I understand, though, and that's what counts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rape isn't funny. Please repost if so moved

Allow me to be that lady for bit. It's about a movie preview I saw yesterday for the movie Horrible Bosses*. The preview ends with a hilarious bit in which two men argue over which of them is more likely to be raped in prison - one of them is hurt that the other thinks he is more likely to be raped.
I'm feeling nauseated as a write this. Last year I wrote this post about how a lot of modern chick lit seems to sensationalize, romanticize, or otherwise trivialize sexual violence against women. But movies and TV do something that seems worse when it comes to sexual violence against men.
When men get raped, it's a punchline. If you saw the movie The Wedding Crashers, you may remember a scene in which Vince Vaughn's character is raped by a female character. I got that I was supposed to be laughing, but something must have been going over my head. A scene in which the gender roles were reversed would never make it into a comedy, and if it did, feminists would take to the streets. Where were us feminists when The Wedding Crashers was released? Or 40 Days, 40 Nights, in which Josh Hartnett's character must beg forgiveness from his current girlfriend after having been raped by his former girlfriend, which she seemed to think constituted cheating on her. Where were the voices of opponents of sexual violence? 
I think there's a temptation to say that it's only humor, that they're not actually condoning rape. And I can almost see it that way. Horrible Bosses is, after all, is a black comedy about murder. We joke about murder all the time; are we saying that rape is worse?

The thing is that everybody knows that murder is a serious crime. Everyone knows that if our loved one gets murdered, we can report that murder and the police will take us seriously, no one will mock us for it, and nobody will tell us we had it coming. Even if our loved one is a pretty bad person, most people will agree that they shouldn't have been murdered.
Rape victims, especially male rape victims, especially rape victims in custody (prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), have no such assurances. To joke about the crime is to further trivialize an already trivialized crime. To joke about the crime is to reinforce, to any past or future rape victim, the idea that what happened to them is inconsequential and they shouldn't report it.
With every joke about rape we laugh at, we become more convinced of the notion that rape is trivial. With every prison rape joke we laugh at, we become more convinced of the notion that prison rape is a trivial inevitability, and that the victims, by virtue of having committed a crime, are just getting what's coming to them.
Maybe you could consider re-posting this, or writing your own blog post on the subject. I think it's worthwhile just to ask people to think about the subject, in the hope they'll maybe see stuff a different way. It's not about shaming people into not joking, or making them stop, but about asking people to think before they joke or think before they laugh about the mentality this joke perpetuates. 
New Line contact info, for what it's worth:
New Line Cinema Corporation
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
CA Tel. 818-954-6000



This is the part of the conversation where somebody always seems to bring up the First Amendment, and how the folks at New Line have the right to say whatever the hell they want. And they do. However, freedom of speech means you have the legal right to speak your mind without being penalized by the government. It doesn't mean I'm legally obligated not to disagree as loudly as I want to. It certainly doesn't mean that nobody else has the legal right to ask you to shut the hell up.


*I'm not linking to the trailer or info about the movie in question, because I don't want to give them publicity. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Things that goeth before a fall

This weekend, I marched in the Columbus gay pride parade with a whole bunch of my fellow Unitarian Universalists. It was the sort of day that makes you almost physically high with bliss, and my face muscles still hurt a little from smiling. 
Gay people, straight people, trans people, people in rather inadequate orange loincloths, everybody was grinning and hugging and loving the crap out of each other. And I'm not sure what more I have to say on the subject.
I could write about the protesters, and how I was struck more than anything about the fact that they show not the faintest desire to turn us away from our evil ways anymore, not the slightest desire to save our souls. They seem there only to gloat over our impending trip to hell. I could write about how, though their behavior couldn't be less Christlike, it's pretty in line with the teachings of the Old Testament. I don't know how I feel about that.
I could write about my mixed feelings over the rampant pantslessness. I'm not sure it doesn't reinforce stereotypes, and I'm not sure about how I feel about the fact that it'd be nice to have an event folks could bring their kids to without, you know, having to do a whole lot of 'splaining to the wee one. I'm not sure how I feel about that either. 
On the latter subject, I kind of came to this conclusion: heterosexual sexiness is so ubiquitous, you barely notice it anymore. You look around and pay attention, to commercials, to billboards, to magazines, and the gay boys in their underpants don't seem so unusual. And while it'd be nearly impossible to keep my theoretical kids from seeing half-naked women and hetero couples simulating the nasty, all I gotta do to keep my kids from half-naked gay folk is not bring them to a Pride parade. 
Also, Gaga appears to have completely supplanted Elton John as the bard of the gay movement. 



I thought about doing a whole big thing about how irrational it is to condemn people for homosexuality based on what little the Bible has to say on the subject (six to twelve verses, depending on interpretation). Pointing out how prohibitions against heterosexual sex acts in the Bible outnumber prohibitions against gay sex acts about a gazillion to one. Spell-check approves of gazillion. But I don't think I can say it much better than our nation's greatest* president, Josiah Bartlett, had to say on the matter.
"I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21 : 7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35 : 2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11 : 7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side-by-side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?"

*Fictional

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Goodbye Big Man

Clarence Clemons, saxophonist and soul of the E Street Band, died today. That's all that's really on my mind right now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Busted

Kari Byron
One obscenely hot woman
If you haven't watched the show Mythbusters on the Discovery Chanel, I don't know what to tell you. You should probably go do that.
On Mythbusters, a group of relatively unattractive men and one obscenely hot woman take myths and urban legends* and tests them out to see which are true and which aren't. 
Sometimes, they test out popular expressions and cliches. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Like a bull in a china shop: turns out hoofed creatures have amazingly versatile legs that allow them to maneuver more precisely than mere humans. When the Mythbusters dragged a bunch of shelves and filled them with china from a thrift store, they found that a bull tiptoed delicately about, careful to break nothing. This expression, according to World Wide Words, has been around at least since the early 1800s. Also according to this site, many, many languages have a similar idiom, except that most refer to an elephant, rather than a bull. Although, a boy elephant is called a bull, so perhaps the expressions aren't different after all.
  • You can't polish a turd: The Mythbusters used dorodango, the ancient Japanese art of polishing balls of dirt and water, and successfully polished some dried turds. Doro in Japanese means mud, and dango refers to a rice dumpling.
    This is not poop. But it is an example
    of dorodango, and pretty damn cool.

  • Cold feet: The Mythbusters showed that our feet actually may become cold when we're afraid. This has to do with the fact that your body, when it goes into its fight-or-flight response, gives up on non-essential tasks, like keeping your feet warm. That may be a bit of an over simplification, but I can tell you that one condition caused in part by cold feet is called chilblains. Chilblains comes from the words chill, meaning cold (obviously) and blain, meaning swelling.
  • Beer goggles: This expression, which dates from the 1990s, refers to the condition of having had so much to drink that Conan O'Brien starts to look like Kari Byron. The Mythbusters found that some people do start to find people more attractive the more they drink. 
  • That'll go over like a lead balloon: The Mythbusters created a balloon out of lead foil, and sure enough, it floated. A related expression, "that'll go over like a lead zeppelin," may have given rise to Led Zeppelin's band name, as we learned in this post.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Octopussy

Augh - forgot to tell you my favorite octopus fact! Octopedes are super smart - roughly as smart as your average house cat. They can solve puzzles and apparently predict the outcomes of soccer games. No word yet on whether they are like cats in that they live to puke on everything you love.

That is all.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In the octopus' garden in the shade

Today, my mom, who is pretty damn smart in addition to being the prettiest lady in the world, told me something I didn't know. Apparently, the plural of octopus is not octopi. It's octopuses. The reason is that octopus doesn't come to us from Latin, it comes from Greek, from okto, meaning eight and pous, meaning foot. The Latin word for octopus is polypus, meaning many feet, even though the Latin word for foot is pes and not pus. In Greek, the plural of octopus is octopodes. Which makes me wonder why we so often use the Latin pluralization for Latin words when we don't usually use the Greek pluralization of words. 
And come to think of it, there are tons of words that come straight from Latin that we don't use the Latin plural for - the plural of status isn't stati, virus isn't viri, the plural of iris isn't iri (especially since the plural for iris in Latin is ires).
My favorite pluralization fact, which I've mentioned here before: a boy who graduated from a high school is an alumnus of that school, where a girl is an alumna. A group of people who graduated from a high school are alumni, unless every member of that group is a woman, in which case, they are alumnae. However, if even one member of a group of alums is a boy, the whole group becomes alumni. Which makes absolutely perfect sense in Latin.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who was that masked man?

An average day in the Brockway household
Today I went to the library at lunch. I've taken to going there and just reading a random magazine off the shelves. Today I read History magazine and learned a bit about pulp fiction.
Pulp novels were a popular form of entertainment from the turn of the last century until about the 1950s. So called because they were printed on cheap paper with heavy wood pulp, pulp novels were famous for their over-the-top storytelling and lurid art. Characters introduced to us through the pulps include Zorro, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Tarzan, and Conan.
Pulp novels were usually anthologies with stories by lots of different authors. Since the cover sold the books, the cover was considered the most important bit, and often the cover was created first, with the story authors being asked to produce content to go with the covers. 
Pulp fiction was the descendant of the penny dreadful, a cheap publication, also printed on pulpy paper, popular in Great Britain in the 1800s. They were usually lurid serial stories, the most famous of which being the tales of Sweeney Todd.
Even though pulp fiction was considered worthless filth in its day, some pretty famous folk wrote for the pulps, including Isaac Asimov, William S Burroughs, and Tennessee Williams.
Eep. Must go find some pulp fiction to read. Now.





Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun with Word Association

Koala is from the Aboriginal for no water. Koalas don't drink water, they get all the liquid they need from the eucalyptus on which they nom.  
According to the Nutrition Diva, we don't need nearly as much water as folks would lead us to believe. We've all heard that you need 8 glasses a day, and pretty much everyone on earth is dehydrated all the time, and if you don't drink a gallon of water over the course of your hour-long Zumba class, you will die. Not so. You can actually get most of the water you need just from a diet rich in fruits and veggies. There's nothing wrong with drinking lots of water, and it's certainly better to be wetter, in general, but you really don't need that gallon jug of Dasani at your side all day either.  
Dasani is a product of the Coca Cola company. The name doesn't mean anything - Coke just made it up. Focus groups thought it sounded pure. Dasani, like most bottled water, is just tap water; however, it's so heavily filtered that they then add minerals and stuff back to it. 
Tap is from a Germanic word for a cylindrical peg that produces water or somesuch. I'm not 100% clear because I keep getting bored halfway through the sentence. It is, however, etymologically unrelated to the verb tap, meaning strike lightly. And we know how much I love homonyms that are etymologically unrelated to each other. At least I think it's etymologically unrelated. The etymology for that version is boring too.
A homonym is a word that is spelled and pronounced identically to another word with another meaning. Technically, two words that are homonyms are also, by extension, homophones (words that mean different things but are pronounced the same) and homographs (words that mean different things but are spelled the same).



Other things that are etymologically unrelated to things:







Gooses, meese, and mongeese
Crap on my desk

Friday, June 3, 2011

Uncanny

Does the fact that I own a blog entitle me to write movie reviews? I don't feel like it does. And at any rate, if I told you that I loved X-Men, First Class, would it matter much? I have, I'm forced to admit, lost all objectivity I might ever have had when it comes to comic book movies. After all, I actually liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Not for the reasons I was supposed to, mind you. I spent the entire time pointing at the screen and laughing uproariously, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 
I can tell you that I was not, at any point, pointing at the screen and laughing at X-Men, First Class. I can tell you that it was smart: while you don't need a knowledge of WWII and Cold War history to enjoy the film, it helped. And you most certainly don't need a knowledge of the comics or even the previous movies to enjoy it. They chose unusual, out-of-the-way characters, like Banshee, Darwin, and Havok, and didn't bother much with safe choices like Wolverine and Rogue. Also, when the hell did this happen?
Things that make me feel like a filthy old leach. 
So speaking of the fella who is the best there is at what he does, I'd like to talk about Wolverine for a minute, because, well, he's an interesting phenomenon. Wolvie first shows up in a Hulk comic back in 1974, way before anybody at Marvel had any idea what they had on their hands. He shows up again in issue 1 of the All New, All Different X-Men when he thrills audiences by smoking a cigar and clawing off Professor X's tie. With that bit of bad boy action, Wolverine was off and running.
So here's the thing about Wolverine that's kind of weird. Creators didn't love him. They thought about dropping him. But Wolverine soon grew bigger than his creators, growing into an obnoxiously ubiquitous star that audiences couldn't get enough of. He became one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and Marvel's biggest cash cow. He was everywhere, and not just on merchandise. He was on, at one point, like four X-Men spin-off teams at once, in addition to his own title. By the early 90s, he was selling issues just by showing up on the cover of comics he wasn't even actually in. You'd think, given they created the one, Marvel could create another character just as popular, just so poor Wolvie could take a vacation or something. But he was lightning in a bottle. They've never managed to create a character that even comes close in popularity. Even though some of his adventures are downright redonculous. 
Interesting. How do you create a character who takes on a life of his own like that? The dude seemed to happen by accident, and yet he can't be stopped. 
Point of interest: Kermit kind of did the same thing. They didn't necessarily intend him to become the flagship Muppet. In fact, I seem to think he wasn't even originally slated to be the host of the Muppet show, but I don't remember details.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Curses! Foiled again!

Jeremy's playing LA Noir, a video game in which you gather evidence and solve a murder. As Jeremy puts it, it's the bastard child of Grand Theft Auto and Alone in the Dark
Which is interesting because I just finished Dashiell Hammett's The Dane Curse. Aside from being a tiny bit racist, what with it being written in 1929, it was pretty damn good. I've been reading a lot of mysteries, as you know, what with the fact that I've been writing a mystery, and this one did the least cheating of any I've read.
Murder mysteries cheat, in my book, when any of the following happen:

  •  The murder turns out to be some random dude we've never met, ala some of Patricia Cromwell's stuff.
  • Having mysteries solved by science that doesn't exist, ala CSI. As in, I promise you, the security camera from an ATM cannot catch the license plate of the getaway car by catching its reflection in a passing rear view mirror. Or some such nonsense. Obviously a favorite trick of Ian Flemming. Ian Flemming is allowed because it's James freaking Bond, and if I complain to much, James Bond will kill me by replacing my lipstick with a cleverly disguised scorpion. (Joke's on you Bond. The three days a year I actually think to wear lipstick, I can never find any. Unless you've got an immortal scorpion on your hands... oh hey, I found some lipstick!)
  • Have the killer do something obscenely stupid to cover up the murder which, if they hadn't done it, they'd never be caught. Like some episode of Monk where the murderer framed himself so that detectives would discover the fact that he'd been framed, thus exonerating him. Actually, that kind of sounds like every episode of Monk, come to think of it. That's okay, though, his loving portrayal of a person with OCD was, thought not always accurate, really kind to people with mental illness. Ms. Sue Grafton is often guilty of the overly contrived crime, but that's okay as long as Stockard Channing keeps reading the books on tape. 
  • The dramatic leap ala Sherlock Holmes: There's a boot missing. Therefore there's a dog involved. I try this at home when I can't find the TV remote all the time. Loki is morbidly obese and likes eating plastic. Therefore the remote is obviously in his food bowl. It is never, ever in his food bowl. 

To get back to my main point, this novel beat me fair and square. I was sure I knew who did it, sure Sam Spade* was a dupe and in dire trouble. Beat me fair and square and then rubbed in my face. Hard. It was pretty rad.

*No, the main character of this story was not actually Sam Spade. This was another unnamed main character. However, he was damn well Bogey in my head. Smelled like an ashtray and everything. 

Related posts:






ShareThis