Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer's End

There seems to be a rising tide of tension among the mystery community.
Shorter tempers, less tolerance for jokes and careless asides. There’s also a noticeable effort by various newsgroup mavens to clamp down on the amount of “unnecessary” cyber space taken up with repetitious messages and tails. I wonder why that is? Unless of course there is a charge being levied for the amount of space being taken by the Internet messages. And, if that’s the case, wouldn’t a better ploy be to help hunt down and root out the massive spammers who take up far more space than do a few unfortunates like me who forget sometimes to edit the messages we’re responding to?

Maybe it’s my age but I find the restrictions on the quoting of messages to be often so restrictive that unless I am able to follow threads from the beginning—and I am not, having another rich and time-filled life—the truncated messages become impenetrable.

There are a lot of complaints about local and national campaign negativity. More attacks and fewer thoughtful explorations of “issues.” I spent an interesting hour with Science Friday, an NPR program, I commend to your attention, in which a discussion of the psychology of persuasion was deeply dissected. Turns out we humans react much more strongly to negativism. We remember it more and negative criticism of opponents has a much more lasting effect. Must be why attack ads and stories particularly in political campaigns are so persistent.

But I have to say, today’s campaigns are a faint and soft shadow of past and bygone eras. If you want some laughs and a chance to admire some really creative insults, read Shakespeare and then look at some of the treatises from political campaigns of the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

August 30,
Labor day arrives, signaling the end of another summer. After we rebuilt our deck, I installed a couple of outdoor speakers so now on nice days like this one, I can sit in the sun or breezes and work while listening to some good jazz on the radio. It’s a relief from the incessant drum beating of poorly conceived political advertising.

And while I think of it, WARNING rant follows.
I worked in television for many years. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it after the crappy and abysmal coverage of the Democratic convention in Colorado. You just watch, there will be more of the same when the Republican Convention comes to Saint Paul. I asked a radio news producer about that. “We can’t turn our air waves over to the politicians,” he said indignantly.

Well, first, it isn’t his air waves. Broadcasting air space belongs to the people. That was firmly established in the last century. And second, why should the politicians not have a chance to speak to the body politic without filters? Especially since those talking heads have so little of substance to say! Who, you may ask. Here’s a list, in case I miss somebody, omissions are not deliberate. I did watch and listen. I’m a political junky, among other things. In no particular order: NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, MPR, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, who’d I miss?

Coverage, in a word, was appalling. What we got from Charlie, Jim, Rita, Ben, Wolf, George, Cindy, Gwen and the others was mostly blather. Childish squabbles, phony attempts to hype non-events or issues. Interruption after interruption. Long explanations of insignificant issues, endless speculation about wisps in the wind. A good deal of the coverage was Blitzerized, that is, offered in wide-eyed breathless cadence.

Meanwhile, a political leader of some group was speaking to the convention. But nobody outside the hall knows what they said. I was appalled and embarrassed. The arrogance was frightening. Apparently the suits in charge of the media in this nation think we can’t interpret things for ourselves after hearing political presentations. Apparently they think the American Public is ignorant and functioning at a pre-school level. Sorry, didn’t mean to insult pre-school children.

So, just remember when you settle down to watch the Republican convention next week and some fool interrupts the chair, or the president or the mayor of Minneapolis to tell you something you’d already figured out or didn’t need to know anyway, I told you so.

Some years ago, there was a first class sports announcer working in the Upper Midwest. Ray Scott was his name. Why, when he called play-by-play for college or professional football on television, he’d let a whole play go by saying nary a word. I guess he figured viewers could make out what was happening on the field. We got names and commentary between plays. Made it sorta almost like being there.

It’s a really fine novel by Don Winslow. An interesting sidelight is that a thousand years ago there used to be a radio drama called Don Winslow of the Navy. One of the episodes was titled “The Dawn Patrol.”

That has nothing to do with the novel. This is a surfer novel. That is to say its about a small clique of surfers, all with serious jobs, careers even, except for the main character, ex-cop Boone Daniels. He works just enough to maintain his surfing-oriented lifestyle in Pacific Beach, California. Then this hard-ass female lawyer turns up and hires Boone to find a missing witness in an insurance case. This assignment eventually involves Boone with almost every skel or righteous character in the county in some way, And what is so intriguing about this well-written novel is not just the way Boone’s friends become enmeshed, but the effects on the Dawn Patrol.

I’ll have a longer review of The Dawn Patrol at The Mystery Morgue before long. I strongly recommend this novel.

Speaking of things mysterious, did you know The Minnesota Crime Wave has just released an audio version of its anthology, RESORT TO MURDER. It was done in cooperation with a classy outfit called Holton House Audio.

I note that Yuri Nosenko just died. He was a Soviet agent who spied for the US and eventually defected. Our response was to take all he could give us and clap him into solitary confinement, lights on 24, almost no human contact, etc. Sound familiar? There was a man high in the CIA who was sure Nosenko was really spying for the Soviets.
Eventually, after three years of abuse we released him to resettlement somewhere in the southern part of the US, belatedly given money and a new life. Nosenko had access to important Soviet records and is principally responsible for providing evidence that convinced most people that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a Soviet agent. Just before his death he was recognized by this nation for his contributions to our counter-intelligence operations. Nosenko was 81.

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