Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts

18 September 2022

Woo-Woo!


villab
Extraordinary Attorney Woo

I've fallen in love. She's Korean, smart, attractive, lovable. My previous Asian dalliance didn’t fare so well, but I’ll discuss that shortly.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

The first ‘she’ is a television show available on Netflix, Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Wow to Woo. Characterization is fantastic. The settings give a limited peek into South Korean city life and village peace, but most interesting was a temple. The plots were consistently clever and well executed. And… this is the only time I include a food review with a telly review, but I wanted to try what he had… and she and that guy over there.

I’ve given to understand the Korean title of Extraordinary Attorney Woo leans closer to Strange Lawyer Woo. The present translation is better than the original. The Woo in question is a fresh-out-of-law-school attorney and she is extraordinary.

She’s also autistic, which makes tasks small and large difficult for her. The story line counters her autism with a dose of savant, statistically not typical but it works. She remembers everything she reads.

Although she graduated top of her class, she couldn’t find a job until her single father called in a favor, winning her an internship in the second largest law firm in Seoul. Her dad is a bit of a mystery, a man who also trained in law but chooses to run a luncheonette.

Employees at Woo’s firm are wary of her, but after initial doubts, her supervising attorney takes her under his wing, mitigating some of the office politics. And wow, their law office makes that Northern despot crackpot seem like an amateur. Colleagues refer to one of Woo's fellow interns as a ‘tactician’, which I gather imputes a sly and devious plotter, one determined to oust Woo from the firm.

Two other colleagues are of interest, one of them her romantic interest, the boy all the girls love chooses to hang with Woo.

The most fascinating amongst her associates is her former classmate, Choi Su-yeon. All through university, Su-yeon helped Woo navigate campus life just as she helps her integrate into the corporate workplace. And, just like Su-yeon constantly came off academic runner-up in the shadow of Woo’s first place, Su-yeon finds herself exasperated she’s repeating the same pattern in the professional world. And yet, Su-yeon can’t help herself. She’s kind, selfless, and fond of Woo at her most helpless and hapless. She’s a beautiful character portrait.

In case after case when all seems hopeless, Woo makes a mental connection and resolves the current court battle. She astonishes the legal world and comes to the attention of the city’s largest firm. Indeed, the two largest firms in Seoul are both run by the smoothest of women. They that reminded me of a real-life supervisor at a large Central Florida theme park. Fellow cast members in her way never felt the sharpest of blades in their backs but wondered where the pool of blood came from.

Heartless Seoul

I’d previously watched the wildly popular Squid Game. Once the series ended, I stood under a long, hot shower, brushing my teeth and tongue to get the bad taste out of my mouth. Visually, it’s fascinating and I enjoyed the M.C. Escher quadriplex. But psychologically, it’s a sick ƒ. Give me Silence of the Lambs any day.

Frankly, I don’t think of Squid Game as a horror show although hints of horror break the surface from time to time. Perhaps its most interesting scene is a short ripoff of Eyes Wide Shut, that did it better and didn’t leave the audience wanting to scrub off their skin to get clean. And after the show should have ended, we had to endure an anticlimax as the tale petered out. It's a parable, see, like the Book of Job, which requires lots of slowwww explanation.

Without doubt, my distaste of perfidy factors into my opinion. Squid Game brings us 455 (actually more) examples of betrayal… and death. Rumors that Leader Kim Jong-un hung over his toilet bowl might be slightly exaggerated. But as I said, it is extremely popular and Leonardo DiCaprio will join the production for its second season. Let me guess– he might crack open the secret organization.

One opinion, of course. Your mileage will vary.

Heart in Seoul

I’ve talked about everyone except W우우 Young-W우우. Her name is a palindrome as she remarks at every introduction. She eats the same lunch every day, gimbap (seaweed sushi). She counts to three before skipping over a threshold. She converses almost exclusively about Cetaceans (whales, dolphins). She tends to wobble instead of walk. She’s terrified of revolving doors… and I have sympathy for her.

But we, like her colleague Su-yeon, see her beauty. She’s moral and ethical, which sometimes conflicts with the law. She’s vulnerable. She tries to fit in, and she wants her father to let her make her own mistakes. She worries she won’t be able to fall in love and please a husband. She’s bloody smart. And every so often dimples pop out of nowhere.

Producers waited a year to land the actress for the rôle and they chose well.

Watchers in Korea criticized the last two episodes of Season 1. (Yes, there will be a Season 2.) Her supervisor has cancer. When Woo visits him in the hospital, someone comments that the odds of survival are good. Woo corrects them, rattling off dismaying probabilities and percentages. Viewers were offended, saying, “How insensitive. My Uncle Ted got cancer and…”

That was part of the point, of course, that autistics often misread the room. Instead of watching Woo with social horror, they should have noticed her supervisor, smiling from his hospital bed. He understood she meant no harm and showed her concern by visiting.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo cast
At first blush, it might appear an overhanging vine, but look again. It’s Woo’s obsession.

I can’t emphasize enough how clever, kind, smart, smart and charming the program is. I’m noted for detesting SOS (soap opera shite) that so often appears in series as dying shows drag on. Woo profides a surfeit of personal drama, but it never crosses the line in jump-the-shark melodrama.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo. I give it 114 stars and six thumbs up.

04 September 2022

Florida News Part 2


Florida ashtray with misspellings

Continued from last time…

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

An Alaska Airlines plane was isolated at Orlando Airport after a 10-year-old lad with an iPhone radioed the plane had been hijacked. Fun fact: The minimum age for federal crimes that usually apply to planes is 11.

Lavender Lights

Mood lighting has come to Central Florida streets. For reasons authorities don’t understand, more than 600 malfunctioning LED lights have turned purple from their original white. Locals are now asking for disco balls and dance music.

Another Day, Another Gator

Social media marveled at a bicyclist calmly waiting for an alligator to cross the road. A person remarked that the cyclist must be local. Unfortunately the Bureau of Tourism appears to have removed the video, perhaps from fear of scaring away visitors. If gators are going about their business and you stay out of their way, they’ll leave you alone. Last year a bike rider was bitten– he’d fallen off his bike and landed virtually on top of the startled reptile.

And Yet Another

Alligators up to four, less than five feet (~1⅓m) are manageable, but after that, a human is outclassed in mass and strength. Imagine an 11-footer (more than 3⅓ metres) in your swimming pool. Nuh-uh, that’s a bit much even for me, especially during mating season. And crocodiles… Yiii! I avoid.

alligator

And Another

My friend Thrush sent me this item. B-b-b-bed? Seriously? Look, when raised young, they can make good, clean, quiet, protective pets, not a girlfriend. One of those arguments, “Brr. Your feet are freezing,” might not turn out so well.

And Another

The headline, ‘Florida man dies while searching for frisbees in a gator-infested lake,’ might sound of levity, but the story is sad to the extreme. We're talking pricey frisbee golf discs, and homeless men wade in lakes, hoping to retrieve enough to sell for food.

Bearly Here

Bad enough Floridians find alligators lazing in their swimming pools, but some, like my friend Thrush, put up with bears. Given a choice, I’d rather deal with a gator than a bear as this video demonstrates.

Bearly There

What‽ I have no idea how to caption this: grocery store, pitchfork, whip, stabbing an SUVAdditional information made it worse. How do you link teddy bears to pitchforks and whips?

Hog Haven

And if wild bear isn’t enough, what about wild boar? The retirement community of Sun City is supposed to offer drama-free living, but feral swine have settled in.

Homicidal Sand Dunes

If you’ve managed to avoid alligators, wild boars and bears, watch out for murderous sands. The strange fact is that lovely sand can be dangerous, even deadly, and the lethal physics of wet sand, dry sand, and dunes are all different and life-threatening in different ways. Dry sand might be the worst because you will almost certainly require outside assistance. Here are survival tips.

Another Reptile

A jewelry store owner averts a multi-million dollar diamond theft by locking the would-be perpetrator in the vault.

Hot Pursuit

Motorcycles in Florida… it’s a thing in a state where Bike Week lasts three hundred and sixty days. Osceola reportedly receives a complaint bikers are harassing motorists and waving pistols at them. Deputies follow a random rider who appears oblivious to the drama and pulls into a Kissimmee service station. They guy uncorks his tank, starts pumping fuel, and wham!

A deputy tases him. The ‘suspect’ erupts in a fireball ‘cooking him alive.’

Gasoline → fumes → spark → explosive, right?

The taser-happy deputy may have been denser than the oak of a nightstick, but he wasn’t trying to kill the guy. The victim suffered devastating burns over more than three-quarters of his body and survival is still touch-and-go. But here we have a problem.

After ages of no apparent reaction and refusals to bring in FDLE (Florida’s state police), the sheriff announced he’s charging the victim with four counts despite no evidence he was associated with marauding bikers and casually took time to top off his tank. No gun was found on or around the victim, nor anywhere on gas station premises. At this point, locals express doubt the victim was involved with an crime, suggesting Osceola County might be trying to forestall a liability lawsuit. Police should have considerable video coverage from air and road, but the Sheriff's Department is not responding to FOIA requests nor releasing video.

Rick Voldemort Scott
Senator Rick Scott

What Did You Expect?

The Republican Senate Campaign fund is missing tens of millions of dollars– perhaps a couple of hundred million– including tens of thousands for private air charters buried in a Waffle House line item. Only one man knows for sure and he’s on a yacht elsewhere. Florida’s Rick Scott who masterminded the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history. His fine alone was $1.7-billion, that’s Billion with a B. So when the GOP wanted a financial genius to care for precious donations, who did they put in charge? Wait, you peeked!

Twerking While Intoxicated

An arrest warrant was issued for a woman who invaded a McDonald’s, partially trashed the place, and then, er, twerked upon exiting. Fortunately we do not have video.

Driving While Distracted

A couple crashed into a FedEx truck whilst engaged in an, uh, moving violations. (So many possible puns.) I cannot improve upon the observation of the Yahoo reporter: “The only package harmed was the one being attentively gift-wrapped by the passenger of the SUV.”

21 August 2022

Florida News Part 1


Florida postcard

Like Whack-a-Mole, the Sunshine State germinates and hatches weird news stories faster than a journalist can pursue them. The delay… yeah, the delay is the coronavirus’ fault. The stories had to go into quarantine. Yeah, that’s it. I can’t keep up, so the best I can say is that these are ‘news’ since my previous installment. We’ll begin Part 1 with privilege and politics.

Movie Theatre Murder Update

In 2014, we reported retired police captain Curtis Reeves murdered Chad Oulson and wounded his wife who, during previews, was sending a text message to their babysitter. Movie previews. The captain pled self-defense, which seemed farfetched even in this shoot-first / stand-your-ground state of insanity. But lo and behold, a jury earlier this year acquitted Reeves, who claimed he’d been in fear of being attacked… by popcorn.

Matt Gaetz Privileged Driving Award I

Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse was driving one fine evening when a tree, apparently intoxicated, leaped in front of Kruse’s Ford truck. Commissar Kruse did what any sensible man of means would do, he phoned his wife. After a little more thought, he phoned police. By the time deputies arrived, Kruse was sitting in his wife’s car. We’re not here to say he was drunk, but when he exited the car he was schlurring shyllables and schtumbling and schtaggering. Wifey blamed the “shitshow asphalt,” whatever that means.

Since police couldn’t place him in the wreckage of the truck, he was let off, but took swings at his critics, claiming he is the victim of a political witch hunt. Unfortunately authorities utterly failed to investigate or interrogate the tree.

Matt Gaetz Privileged Driving Award II

Flagler County Commissioner and Vice Chairman Joe Mullins likes to drive very, very fast in his red Ferrari and his Mercedes, and he pulls his privilege card whenever stopped for speeding, more than 90mph twice in the month of June alone. Even when cops give him a break by knocking a few mph off his speed, he warns them not to make any career-ending moves and informs them he “runs the county.”

Charming fellow. He helped arrange bussing of protestors to the January 6th insurrection, although afterwards he claimed he feared getting too close to the crowds storming the Capitol. When asked to resign as Commissioner, he refused. Then he was accused of fraud and racketeering, selling counterfeit Masters Golf Tournament tickets and phony badges to a travel company, a scheme that approached and might exceed a million dollars. Once again, the perpetrator claims it’s a political witch hunt and remains in office.

Ron DeSantis Abuse of Power Award

But guess who doesn’t remain in office? An elected State Attorney that Governor DeSantis stripped of his title following critical remarks about abortion laws. Previous Governor Rick Scott once attempted to remove Orange County’s elected State Attorney whom he didn’t like, but stopped short, merely taking cases away from her. In this case, State Attorney Andrew Warren is suing the governor, citing free speech and blatant abuse of power.

Matt Gaetz Jeffrey Epstein Award

Which reminds me, Matt’s ‘wingman’ (his words, not mine) in the world of teenage lust, Joel Greenberg, would finally, absolutely, most certainly be sentenced this month. Except he won’t as cooperation continues in what Gaetz considers a political witch hunt. Greenberg’s next sentencing date is 1 December.

If our (allegedly) corrupt politicos are correct, nary a hunted witch or warlock shall remain in Florida, not even Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. How do we manage to keep electing these creatures?

07 August 2022

Grammar Nazi


Even the best of us make grammatical mistakes although it’s difficult imagining Stephen Fry flubbing floating phraseology. He manages to educate without being overly pedantic. He doesn’t belittling lecture like grammar police.

TL;DR: If you’re in a mad rush, jump to the second video featuring grim Gestapo grilling, gore, and gunfire, but if you have 6½ minutes, the fabulous Fry makes an entertaining case for not being too… er, Fryish.

But what if Goebbels or Göring controlled the language? Imagine no more. A comedic critic has done exactly that. Picture The Producers language coach. So with apologies to Mel Brooks and almost everyone else (you may have to turn on sound in the lower right), we bring you:

24 July 2022

Bed, Bath, and Beyond: The Rooming House, part 2


Tales from the Rooming House

Last week I introduced you to the cast of the guest home were I rented a room rather than stay in a hotel for a six month project. I bring you a little more about my landlady, God love her.

Kitchen Computer

The kitchen held a computer for the landlady and anyone else who needed to use one. One day when the house had emptied, she shyly approached me.

“Will you, um, see uh, I have a prob… er, I shouldn’t ask, but… well, I made a mistake and, uh, no, never mind, I just felt… if you… you work with, um, computers, right? No, it’s not fair… to ask, you know, I’m sorry, see. Forget it.”

“Tell me what the problem is.”

She sniffled into a tissue. “Well, um, I went on a web site… or maybe two sites or so. And uh, I gave them my credit card number, er, and I can’t get it back. They um, keep charging me.”

pseudo-porn
“Okay. No sweat. Let’s sit down and figure it out.”

Poor lady. She flushed fifty shades of red. She’d worked up considerable courage to ask me. Respecting her vulnerability, I strove to be kind, gentle, and non-judgmentally professional.

She trembled too much to type the URL, so she slid over while I drove. I didn’t flick an eyelash when she spelled out the address of an ‘enticing teen boys’ porn site. Miserably, she said, “The other’s a bisexual-lesbian teen site.”

“We’ll do this in two steps,” I said. “First we’ll terminate your account and billing. See, that’s done. We’ll do the same thing on the other site, and bingo, that’s done. But to be safe, let’s tell the credit card company not to accept payments from these guys.”

She didn’t say anything, but dabbed her eyes with a soggy Kleenex. I’ve developed a habit of being deliberately incurious about personal matters. Humans are born naturally inquisitive creatures. No one should be punished for lifting the lid of their own curiosity.

I said, “I can set up a secret folder where you can store personal things, you know, bank information, private letters, and uh, home movies and the like. Only if you want.”

“Oh yes. Could you help me set my profile on a singles site?”

Her bio was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, but she wouldn’t let me change them. “No one will care,” she said. I thought it might restrict her potential dating pool, but kept my opinion to myself.

Other than confirming her credit card charges had ceased, neither of us mentioned those web sites again.

The Bickering Fair Ones

I wasn’t used to breakfasts amid mere acquaintances lounging in underthings, but I like to think I handled it with panache. Then I worried; were they treating me as one of the girls? Whew. Fortunately not.

“Jesus, Jill. Can’t you hook your own damn bra?”
“Yeah, Jill. What did you do before he arrived?”
“Shut up, sluts. You’re just jealous of these.”
“Wait til she asks him to do her front clasp.”
“Oh ♩♫Leeeeigh. Can you stuff these in for me?”
Ƒ you. What about Gail’s flash dances?”
“What? Me?”
“Dashing between rooms with only a tea towel.”
“It’s a bath towel.”
“For a hamster. I have hankies bigger than that.”
“Don’t be so mean. You’re so…”
“Aw shit, Gail. We didn’t mean to make you cry.”

Their sniping revealed a drama I wasn’t aware of. With my nose in technical manuals, I had been studying and oblivious. The landlady explained. Apparently Gail, the youngest of the group, wore less than usual when I was in-house, so to speak.

“They’re teasing her because she wants the attention of the only male in the house. Her heart was just broken and she craves validation.”

“Validation… I don’t understand.”

“She just wants you to notice her. Be a friend, that’s all. Be kind. She’s more fragile than she thinks. Neither of you needs rebound romance. Just buy her a rose one day. That will do nicely.”

I had been clueless sixteen ways from Sunday. I humbly felt as if our local High Priestess of Womanly Wisdom had guided me on a path where otherwise I would have fallen flat on my face. Or put another way, guys can be dumb and she saved me from myself.

bedroom floor plan

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

After my initial months of exemplary behavior, the landlady switched me to a larger room at the end of the hall across from hers. A mirror hung at the end of the corridor between the landlady’s room and mine, convenient for the women to check their makeup before heading out in public. Unlike the rest of us, she usually left her bedroom door open and I paid no attention to the darkened expanse of her doorway.

Because my schedule meant I was the last to rise and depart, the landlady asked if I would let her dog out for a bound around the garden before I left for work. No problem. I agreed.

Now, I sleep nude. Don’t judge me. Just sayin’. I don’t have patience with bedclothes.

Once I felt comfortable that only I remained in the house each day, I clambered out of bed naked, immediately let the dog out, and hit the shower amid its rain forest canopy of panty hose. Bras and knickers obscured the steamy mirror, so after bath, I stepped into the hall. Still starkers, I brushed my hair reflected in the mirror. No issues, I always made certain I was alone.

One morning I let the dog out, shaved, showered, brushed my hair before the hall mirror, dressed, let the dog in, threw on my jacket, dashed out the door, and…

There in the driveway stood my landlady’s car.

But where was the landlady? I’d already locked up and didn’t have time to investigate, but that evening, she looked at me speculatively.

I said, “Did you stay home today?”

“Uh-huh. I called in sick.”

“Er, this morning when I got up, uh, my back and forth to the bathroom, brushing my hair in the hall mirror, um, you saw all that?”

“Yes.” Her cat-licking-cream smile hovered between impish delight and giggly satisfaction.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond logo

“Everything?”

“Oh, yes. Every bit.”

“Your room was dark, I didn’t realize…”

“I know.” Her smile turned gleeful. “I know.”

We never mentioned that again either. She might have shared that little adventure with the other women, but I think not. Maybe she appreciated I’d kept her secret, but really, she was just a good person.

My contract ended not long after, but for a guy without sisters, the ladies educated me in record time.

17 July 2022

Bed, Bath, and Beyond: The Rooming House, part 1


How many landladies does it take to change a light bulb?
None. She bills you for a 25-watt bulb and lets you replace it.
buckeyes
Ohio buckeyes

A conversation with Melodie Campbell brought me back to a landlady in Columbus, Ohio. I’d travelled to America’s heartland for a six-month consulting project. Usually I stayed in hotels or occasionally in a company-owned apartment, but this time I opted to stay in a guest home, the only male in the house, the first time this landlady felt brave enough to accept one. For dialogue and character study, the house made a great observation post.

Roommates

Initially, I was assigned the smallest room, fine with me. It was a place to bathe and sleep, not socialize. As roommates came and went, the landlady upgraded our rooms depending upon seniority.

The house's female population varied fluidly depending upon who was upset at whom, who said the wrong thing, and who was going out with someone else’s man. Hostilities simmered and sometimes erupted. Everyone was very pleasant to me as internecine animosities and alliances came and went.

Snatches of conversations went:

“Who used up the half-n-half?”
“Um, you?”
“Slut.”
“I’m late again. My boss will have a cow.”
“Of course he will, the moment you arrive.”
“I’ll ignore that.”
“Hon,” (speaking to me) “Darling, hook my bra, please.”
“Why bother, Jill. You’ll only beg him to unhook it later.”
“Bitch.”
“Slut.”
“Did you pick up my dry cleaning?”
“Did you find it in the closet?”
“Bitch.”
“Shut up.”

I avoided much soap opera by working late into the night and setting my alarm after others left for the day. Occasionally one or another of the ladies snagged me to pour out her heart, typically a grievance with another of the tenants, usually man-related.

At the center of much angst was naturally a guy, a jerk. He’d gone out with at least three of the women including the landlady. The ass pitted them against one another and made outsized demands to prove they were worthy. They should have buried him in the back yard, but at that time of year the ground was frozen and snowed over. They’d have to wait for spring.

Maluku postage stamp

Bath

I grew up without sisters. Even though I’ve lived with girlfriends, they shared my residence one at a time, not in a group. I wasn’t prepared for a bathroom decorated with a dozen pairs of pantyhose and other bits of underwear strung on the shower rod, the sink, and the mirror.

I can’t deny I haven’t come face to face with micro-bikinis (shut up, Eve!), but in those circumstances I wasn’t paying much attention to those thongy things. In the harsh, florescent light of a bathroom, either a geometry mystery or an engineering marvel emerged. For folks who’ve been distracted by the higher level events in our world, thongs consist of strings and a tiny triangle the size of a Moluccan postage stamp. My inner anatomist turned all geek, calculating an inch and a half per side does not a covering make.

A = ½ W × H

The bathroom was loaded with bottles and aerosol cans of hairsprays, deodorants, creams, powders, and many, many mystery items. I sought space for shampoo and shave cream, finally putting my razor on the highest rack in the shower.

On day two, the shampoo level of my Head & Shoulders startled me. The new bottle was now half full… or half empty. Oh well. I lathered up and then… I was pretty sure I left the cap on the Barbasol, but a white snake of foam across the tub suggested Goldilocks of the Three Bears had helped herself. I slathered on shaving cream, picked up my razor, and…

“¡Ye-ouch! Holy ƒ-ing #¥‡€¢§¶™ Mother of a G.” Someone used my razor to shave the three bears, the house dog, and a sisal door mat.

Some problems I solved by purchasing shampoo and shaving cream with hyper-masculine ingredients like diesel fuel, saddle soap, gun oil and names like Strike Force Command, the man’s manly man products with 20% more testosterone.

Bathroom conversations went:

“Don’t touch my Pantene, ever. It’s mine.”
“Twit.”
“Twat.”
“That’s what I meant.”
“If I find who stole my conditioner…”
“Who used up the Redken?”
“Janet, goddammit. Will you stop leaving hair in the tub?”
“Not me. I didn’t shampoo.”
“I didn’t say you shampooed, I said you left hair in the tub. Shave that thing somewhere else.”
“Bitch.”
“Slut.”

I became aware of two important things.

  1. I was lucky to be accepted by a houseful of women.
  2. If the rôles were reversed, a women in a house of men wouldn’t find it any easier.
Ohio State Buckeyes
More Ohio Buckeyes

Kitchen

The resident’s kitchen featured only a small table and three chairs, plus a community refrigerator. I needed room only for milk and juice. Three days after buying milk, it disappeared. I bought another. Then the orange juice and milk disappeared. Now we had a problem.

Complaints of office mates nabbing bits from the common fridge occasionally happened, but I hadn’t expected food theft where I rent. I approached the landlady.

She said, “It wasn’t one of the girls. I threw it out.”

“What? Why”

“It had been in the fridge three days already.”

“Okay. Why?”

“Because they were three days old. The expiration date was coming up.”

“I’m confused. The milk and juice weren’t sour, they hadn’t come close to the sell-by date, and you tossed them? I don’t get it.”

“Because of the date stamp. I don’t want anyone getting deathly sick.”

“You’re saying the expiration date means you’ll expire?”

“Absolutely.”

“Drink expired juice and you’ll die or something?”

“Certainly. I don’t want responsibility for sending anyone to the hospital. They put those date stamps there for a reason. The nearer you get to it, the more certain you’ll get sick. I don’t want oldness germs infecting other foods. Milk or any crap in there more than two, three days goes.”

My dear landlady was a lovely person, but she lived in fear of best-before dates. She was convinced expiration dates meant personal expiration by black death.

Beyond

And yet, I was oddly honored to be accepted by the house.

Next time: The Naked Truth

03 July 2022

More Boxes, More Idiots


This column drafts in the wake of John’s article yesterday regarding favorite series on the Harlan Coben channel, aka Netflix. I love a great plot but what I tend to remember are characters. John, I, and others have mentioned Queen’s Gambit. It is one of the few shows that I give its rating a slight edge over the novel. It’s that good.

Elise Wassermann, Karl Roebuck
Elise Wassermann, Karl Roebuck

The Tunnel (and The Bridge and The Bridge)

Two series I recommend are related, The Tunnel (French) and The Bridge (Mexican). I've not yet seen the original Scandinavian version. The Bridge is good, but I especially liked The Tunnel. The heroine reminds me more than a little of a French friend. Elise (actress Clémence Poésy) is probably on the spectrum, as folks say, and she’s constantly surprised that people like her. The wrapup is a shocker.

Behind the scenes, producers added a touch of class. They presented every Chunnel (Eurotunnel) employée with DVDs of the series as thanks for their time and effort in advising and assisting the film crew in a highly secure site.

cast members of family
The family: Chema, Mariana Lazcano, César Lazcano, Alex, Sara, Rodolfo, Elisa

Who Killed Sara

I haven’t seen the new season, but this Mexican production is particularly well cast and well acted. The characters, particularly César Lazcano, the primary bad guy, are complex with diverse motivations. He wistfully mentions he wishes he had a son like his adversary.

It’s become de rigueur to insert gay characters in gratuitous spots and then draw attention to them. (“Hey, look who we included!”) Sara takes the time and effort to flesh out the Lazcano son Chema, a fully realized character from childhood crush to, well, adult crush. The viewer might not be gay, but he (or she) would have to be one cold-hearted bastard not to feel Chema’s heart break.

Fletcher Ice Pick Nix
Fletcher 'Ice Pick' Nix

Justified

SleuthSayers agree. This is Elmore Leonard’s modern old-fashioned Kentucky cowboy quick-draw Federal Marshal whereupon we happily suspend disbelief, including disbelief the series will reprise as Justified: City Primeval. You’ve probably seen Justified, but if not, it’s catching its breath over on Prime.

I kept rooting for the bad guy, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), wanting him to find the right path. No matter what Crowder does, he’s shunted to the dark side. Both good guy Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Crowder are brilliantly cast.

Another cleverly cast baddie appears in the first episode of season 3, Fletcher ‘Ice Pick’ Nix, assuming of course anyone still knows what an ice pick is. The kind of guy who brings a knife to a gunfight is chillingly portrayed by Desmond Harrington in an ingenious plot tactic.

It’s too easy when you’re the good looking lead, and I say that with all modesty. But one other wonderful character is Constable Bob (actor Patton Oswalt). Bob Sweeney looks like a small man with a trashbox car, but he’s huge on the inside. Unlike hero Givens, he’s not the fellow most guys would like to be; he’s the fellow most guys need.

Intimacy/Intimidad

Intimidad is a Spanish political mystery drama set in a city I so wish to visit, Bilbao. The title should translate more like Privacy than Intimacy, but it’s more about intimidation.

Two threads involve the illegal sharing of private sex videos. In one plot line, Bego deals with the suicide of her friend Ane, and in meeting Investigator Alicia, crosses paths with Malen, a smart and clever politician who has just been appointed Mayor pro term of Bilbao. Videos of Malen, who is married, surface. Her lover turns out to be the reckless son of a major businessman, killed in an auto accident.

The question arises: Who paid the lover to seduce Malen, and then beat and subsequently kill the lover?

Here we run into a problem where the producer believes in characterization at the expense of plot. We come to admire Investigator Alica and Bego (Begonia), and we ache for Ane. Malen is made of sterner stuff and the fallout from her public indiscretion affects her husband and child as much as the politician. As a bonus, the series presents a believable insight into politics.

But the dénouement presents a major problem. The designated bad guy previously had mere moments of screen time and the weakest of motives. Indeed, Inspector Alicia and others seem to apologize profusely, trying to explain away why this particular guy masterminded this dastardly plot.

As mystery readers and writers, we have expectations. Authors don’t pick a perpetrator out of thin air and appoint a bad guy, not without good reason, not without clues. And Intimidad had so many choices! Seriously.

Cast of Intimidad (6 women)
Cast of Intimidad: Ane, Bego, Malen, Leire, Alicia, Miren

Have you seen Intimacy/Intimadad? What say you?

Let us know. Thanks to John for initiating this train of thought and chain of events.

19 June 2022

The 7 Lives of Léa


7½

7½ months or more ago, Rob and I wrote about an unusual English manor mystery, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Much of the surrealism comes from what we’re not told. We’re given damned little in framing and a backstory.

Compared to the British title, The 7 Deaths… both Rob and I prefer the American variation, The 7½ Deaths. The novel left an impression– Four years after publication, I’m still yakking about it. But this isn’t about that.

The 7 Lives

When NetFlix presented a French miniseries, The 7 Lives of Léa, based on the novel, Les 7 vies de Léo Belami by Nataël Trapp, I couldn’t help comparing. Like 7½ Deaths, each day the protagonist in 7 Lives finds herself jumping from one body to another, trying to learn what is happening, trying to figure out who killed Ismael, a nearly forgotten boy thirty years earlier.

Think of it as a French episode of The Twilight Zone.

Raïka Hazanavicius
Raïka Hazanavicius as Léa

Conceptual Issues

Hard sci-fi proudly embraces the physics of its world, whether real-life or a well-defined fictional model, the science in science fiction. Time travel novels and films may or may not succeed in the redefined reality of their new world. Laws of physics disallow a traveller meeting a past or future version of himself. A traveller must be careful not to alter his ancestral line that might preclude his own birth… while sometimes trying to disrupt the lineage of an adversary.

The average time travel story earns perhaps a C. I’ll award Léa a B-/C+, reasonable for the tale in question. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.

The 7 Lives of Léa follows a recent pattern of recasting male leads as female. Some reimagining works better than others. Without having read the book, I felt comfortable with a heroine instead of a hero. And indeed, the story zeroes in on unsung heroism.

The multi-generation actors of 7 Lives seemed to have been cast while wearing blindfolds. Virtually no teenage character resembles its much older adult version, which made it trickier to track the plot.

Léa manages to squeak past a couple of incestuous make-out close calls. Perhaps the funnest part, so to speak, occurres when she lands in the body of Pye (Pierre-Yves), the town’s rich kid, who’s not only popular but a snobbish bully. Léa alters the timeline to make a clumsy fool of him (with the result of making him somewhat endearing), but hooks him up with Jennifer, the school’s picked-on homely girl. Time travel should be built for anti-bullying alone.

Although a suspected murder is involved, The 7 Lives of Léa isn’t truly crime fiction, but it is an enjoyable journey into an imagination Rod Serling would have been proud of.

05 June 2022

Happiness is a Warm Gun


Obsessives make me cringe– drugs, religion, politics, hero worship. The literal meaning of idée fixe suggests the rational brain has locked up and passion has seized control.

In gun control arguments (the late, great ‘debate’ was strangled in its sleep), I haven’t seen admissions about feelings and the emotional relationship of gun ownership. Denial of feelings represents a fundamental dishonesty.

May 1968 American Rifleman

A rare exception is the Beatles’ song, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ on their White Album found in an ammoerotic movement called ‘The Gunman’. Inspiration came from a May 1968 NRA American Rifleman article called, what else, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’.

Happiness is a warm gun.
Bang, bang, shoot, shoot
When I hold you in my arms
And when I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because
Happiness is a warm gun.
Bang, bang, shoot, shoot

I bring this up because from a young age, I felt comfort, I felt empowerment when I holstered cap pistols and later, a Peacemaker Colt B.B. replica. I didn’t grow up with the television exposure David Edgerley Gates wrote about, but I absorbed it in school. I’d tramp through forest and farm and field unafraid.

Industry lobbyists and politicians promote that illusion, that a gun keepa you safe, it protecta you. They like to forget that when you rode into Tombstone or Abilene, you checked your guns. The Earp brothers understood that, but a century and a half later, we fail to internalize the simple concept that we’re not safer.

1839 Colt Paterson
1839 Colt Paterson

American engineering in the latter 1800s was brilliant and Colt Arms was no less so. The 1839 Colt Paterson had one of the cleverest safeties; the trigger remained invisibly tucked inside until the hammer was cocked. The 1847 Colt Walker that followed set the blueprint for the Navy Colt and Army Colt, and the six-guns that won the West.

They were also peculiarly seductive. The heft seemed natural. The grip fit either hand without effort, better than today’s pseudo-ergonomic designs of, say the Colt Python. I surmise its grip’s rear convex curve may help it not snag on clothing if you’re rushing to shoot your wife’s lover, but the concave tang of an 1800s Colt grip feels more secure in the hand. Like I said, seductive.

1847 Colt Walker
1847 Colt Walker

Some people take that literally. I'm pretty certain a squirmy little security guard at a client found great excitement and, er, pleasure in his acquisition of a dodgy Saturday Night Special. And we've written about a Florida woman who also took great pleasure in a motel parking lot with a loaded, yes, loaded automatic. If people fetishize bridges and bicycles, the leap to a Beretta might be smaller than we admit. Nothing like proximity to death to get the blood pumping.

1851 Colt Navy
1851 Colt Navy

Then there's the religiously obsessed, the true believers who massage warm oil into their current love and find it impossible to converse without bringing up the latest gadget to convert their AR into a fully automatic rifle. In chat rooms, they discuss which ammunition they should use to liquefy brains or flay muscle from bone, because hollow-points and explosive tips are so last season. There was a type of shotgun round that spread in flight, a whirligig of sharp metal and tiny wires that was touted to inflict incredible damage to the human body. But let us not forget the holy grail of gunnery, finding a way to encapsulate a drop of mercury in a lead slug for theorized maximum expansion.

1860 Colt Army
1860 Colt Army

Many of these wishful warriors look forward to eliminating 'libtards' from the landscape, without being certain quite why. Hate radio, of course, and the venerable NRA American Rifleman regularly feature articles about 'the war on guns' or some such fear.

Most listeners and readers don't realize thirty years ago, the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution was treated very differently. While it was never uncontroversial, a couple of events changed the terrain.

Weapon manufacturers took over the NRA hobbyist club, turning it into a political lobbyist powerhouse. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reinterpreted the 2nd Amendment to mean open season.

1980 Colt Python
1980 Colt Python

With a math and science background, I’m more likely to regale readers with the horrifying bullet points of American gun ownership, • how we kill nearly a thousand of our fellow countrymen a month, • how we average more than a multiple/mass shooting every day of the year (we’re way ahead this year, 233 mass shootings in 150 days), • that the US population is 330-million but every American man, woman, and child owns a total of 400-million guns– twice as many as the armies on the planet combined.

But gun control advocates overlook the heartfelt feelings of gun ownership, the deep-seated relationship between a man (or woman) and his/her gun. Statistics aren’t meaningful for them because he– or she– is different. The averages don’t apply to them.

Yet the spilling of visceral feelings are a frighteningly small step from spilling one’s viscera.

The TL;DR summary means we need to find a way to deal with the deep emotions of gun ownership.

And when I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because
Happiness is a warm gun.
Bang, bang, shoot, shoot

22 May 2022

Euphonics


Not Eurythmics

Long before I began to write, I realized some words have soft forms and others hard edges, even harsh, jagged teeth. The letter G has a soft feel that alliterates with J, but the hard G means serious business. For example:

glare, goat, glum, gormless, gut, gash, gears, glut, gangster, garage, gag, gasp, guttural, gale, gaffe, gaff
Combine the G with the letter R, then Gr… can sound overly masculine, even violent.
grit, gravel, grind, grubby, grungy, grumpy, grate, grill, grotesque, grab, grope, grease, gross, grim, groan, growl, grunt, grrrr

The sounds– the letters– that follow can soften a word. Examples include:

glen, glade, gorgeous, glorious, giggly, glamorous, girl

The Sound You Hear…

Not Ebonics

The understanding and practice of sounds is called euphonics. It comes to us from the realm of music and poetry, and it refers to the sounds of words. Some words work well together where one word seems to naturally follow another. Contrarily, other words don't sound right when harnessed together. Poets and lyricists treat euphonies as one of their best tools.

Authors also use euphonics, although they may not be aware of it. I pay a lot of attention to names: ethnicity, meaning, type (occupational, place, etc) and the sound. I often try to fit a name with a character’s personality: Is she smart, sly, sensible, seductive, sensuous, soft, sordid, staid, straight-laced, stalwart, or staggeringly strong? I strive to reflect that in the name.

Positive About Negatives

Thanks for a tip from ABA and Sharon pointing me to an article by Joslyn Chase. Chase drew my attention to a book, Euphonics For Writers by Rayne Hall. Among other topics, they point out words beginning with N tend to impart a negative tone. I might add that many, many languages have this same characteristic:

no, nay, nix, non, nein, ne, nee, nej, nie, não, nu, nyet

Not only do words have meaning and inflections carry meaning, but the sounds of words also affect readers and listeners.

If you’ve read Rayne Hall’s book, what is your impression?

15 May 2022

¿Quién mató a Sara?


John Floyd Bad Guy Award

Not every miniseries on Netflix is a Harlan Coben story. Astounding, yes, I know, even though I enjoy them sprinkled amongst other series.

My Netflix favorites tend toward foreign productions. European shows dominate, but occasional works slip in from South Korea, South Africa, Venezuela, and Mexico. And Mexico is where the murder mystery Who Killed Sara? is set.

Many of its actors appear in telenovelas, i.e, Hispanic soap operas, sexy soap operas. Cultural tip: Pretty much everything on Telemundo and Univision is sexy, good motivation to learn Spanish.

So, because a number of these actors are cast in daytime dramas, Who Killed Sara? was miscategorized as another telenovela and dismissed. Creator José Ignacio Valenzuela never expected the show might become a global sensation, and misjudging the series as a mere soap serial seemingly sealed its coffin, limiting its impact within Latin America.

Except word got out. People watched. And more people watched. And more. So many viewers, Netflix noticed. And funded a second season. And a third. At one point, it topped their popularity list. Who Killed Sara? had made it.

How Good Are the Bad Guys?

I’m convinced the success of a crime novel hinges upon how good– er, I mean how bad the bad guy is or how complex. The worst of the bad guys should either make your fictional life much more interesting or scare the bloomers off Buchenwald Oberaufseherin Ilse Koch… or both.

Think of any James Bond movie. The best are those with the baddest badass bad guys. The cars or the fancy ass gadgets from Q, might have drawn our curiosity, but remember the scary Colonel Klebb, Dr No, the metallic-toothed Jaws, and pretty much anyone from Golden Eye. Them’s scary!

(A major miscast in Tomorrow Never Dies was media mogul Elliott Carver– the world had yet to meet Rupert Murdoch, an Australian leftist hellbent on bringing the US and Britain to its knees… That’s one hypothesis.)

I previously promoted Hungarian actor Lukács Bicskey as one of the most interesting bad guys in the film Titled Day of Wrath / Game of Swords. Sadly, the movie’s star, American actor Christopher Lambert, sucked the life out of the show, guaranteeing a spot in Film Purgatory.

Who Killed Sara? poster

I present a new nominee for badass bad guys: Ginés García Millán playing César Lazcano, self-made multimillionaire businessman, patriarch of the Lazcano crime family. He’s a charming man who kicks the crap out of his son Chema for being gay and recreationally bangs the wife of his older son, Rodolfo. He and his henchmen are not above murder, including multiple attempts to kill their children’s betrayed friend, our hero Álex. And yet as much as César hates and fears the boy he betrayed, he also admires him. More than once, he is heard berating his kids, telling them he wished he had Álex as his son instead.

Other bad guy nominees might include the OddJob to  Lazcano’s Goldfinger is psychopathic sadist Sergio Hernández, played by Juan Carlos Remolina, César’s best friend and business partner. And Mariana Lazcano, portrayed by Claudia Ramírez, wifely manipulator and enabler. Thanks to her motherly pretense, her insidious nature takes longer to reveal. But César Lazcano…

The plot’s problem becomes not who killed teen Sara, but who didn’t have a motive to kill her? Sara, her brother Álex, and the three Lazcano children were close childhood friends, but Sara was extra ‘friendly’ with everyone. She pretty much jodido’d the entire cast except possibly her brother Álex… I think. Then someone sabotaged a parasail killing her.

To keep his family and their business at arm’s length, César and Mariana Lazcano persuaded the dead girl’s young brother Álex to shoulder the blame, promising at most weeks in jail, a transplant for his ailing mother, and a handsome reward him for his troubles. Álex and the Lazcano children were shocked when Álex was sentenced to eighteen years, and worse, reneged on the promises, including caring for his dying mother. Lazcano even attempted to kill Álex in prison.

Thus the series begins with Álex’s release from a tough Mexican prison. He’s angry, wants vengeance, and is determined to sort out who killed his darling sister, not knowing she had carnal relations with half of Ciudad de México, both Lacano parents and their son Rodolfo, Álex’s former best friend.

And then things change. Fluid situations melt and reform. Alliances shift. César Lazcano and Álex team up and attain a mutual respect, whereupon the second season wraps, waiting for season three, and we’re not much closer to figuring out who killed Sara.

Some of My Best Friends…

Actor Eugenio Siller plays the Lazcano’s middle child, José María ‘Chema’ Lazcano, César and Mariana's middle child, second best friend of Álex… and deeply in love with him, unrequited love. His father refuses to acknowledge Chemo is gay and beats him badly to demonstrate manly virtues of something or other.

Nothing goes right for poor Chema. Minor missteps and the simplest of errors results in magnified consequences. To my surprise, I found my heart breaking for him. His character has tragedy stamped all over him. Second only to the relationship between Lazcano daughter Elisa and Álex, I chewed my metaphorical nails over Chema. The actor and writers reached across the border, the cultural barrier, and the gay-straight continuum shaking up my normal affectionate tolerance similar to Álex’s. Nicely accomplished.

And Now We Wait

This project has been filmed through the pandemic. I can’t imagine what the crew had to go through to avoid infections in this midst of this killer coronavirus. For certain, they have created an innovative story with care worthy characters, at least through two seasons. I’m adding this to my list of pending new seasons. It’s darn well worth it.

Have you seen it?

Update: NetFlix says season 3 will be released on the 18th of the month. Yay!

01 May 2022

Cover Models – Bookface


When the internet isn’t saturating the landscape with Orwellian narratives, you have to admire how the World Wide Web lives up to its name. This time we have a three continent degrees of separation, Africa – Europe – North America. Our long-time friend ABA in South Africa (which has recently suffered terrible storm damage) drew my attention back to a Bordeaux bookstore, Librairie Mollat, in a topic we covered five years ago. For instance:

I admire this exceptionally clever example:

This time we have an official hashtag label, #bookface, and others can take part in the Bookface Challenge. Here then is another list of bookfaces, mostly new, but a few from before. Notice how the technique has evolved and become even more precise:

I've got to love the imagination:

and…

and…

and…

and…

and…

and…

and…

Check out the rest of the lot. Meanwhile below, Leigh needs practice, lots of practice: #birdface


The Terry Gilliam Do-It-Yourself Cover

ABA, always a step ahead, suggested another item, reminiscent of the above.

© 9gag.com

Announcement

And finally, a message to Edgar Winner R.T. Lawton for his story “The Road to Hana’,

Congratulations, R.T!