Archive for March, 2012

Wedgies Hurt (Locker Room Violence Prevention Coalition, 1983)

Smoking. The Cool Kids Are Doing It. So Should You. (American Tobacco Promotion Council, 1970)

Stifled Farts: The Socially Acceptable Killer (Physicians for Abdominal Health, 2000)

Creepy Uncles Are Family Too (National Creepy Uncle Association, 1991)

Long Pig: It’s What’s for Dinner! (American Cannibalism Promotion Council, 2007)

Shut Up! You Don’t Know What the Fuck You’re Talking About So Just Shut the Fuck Up! (Belligerent Alcohol Consumers of America, 2003)

Aliens in Human Form: The Menace Among Us (National Alliance of Paranoid Schizophrenics, 1985)

There’s Only One You (Americans for Self-Evident Platitudes, 1976)

You’re Harshing My Buzz, Dude (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 1992)

Those Frosted Tips Make You Look Like a Douchebag (Sensible Fashion Choices Now!, 2007)

Relax (Frankie, 1984)

You’re Almost 30 and Your Band Sucks. (Federal Put Slackers to Work Initiative, 1995)

If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle, Be a Sweetie and Wipe the Seatie (Aryan Nation, 2010)

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NEWS RELEASE: SOCIETY ANNOUNCES NATIONAL PASSIVE AGGRESSION WEEK! YOU DON’T CARE.

The U.S. Passive Aggression Society has announced that March 11 through March 17 will mark National Passive Aggression Awareness Week.

“We ask all Americans to be particularly passive aggressive this week, and do what they can to promote passive aggression in their communities,” said USPAS executive director Michael Laughner. “Unless they’re too busy with something that’s obviously much more important, even though we’ve put so much work into this.”

Laughner said the theme for this year is “Mad? No, I’m not mad. Is there some reason I should I be mad?”

Regional chapters of the Passive Aggression Society will stage a number of local events throughout the country, culminating with a rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday – despite the board of directors being told repeatedly that it will conflict with St. Patrick’s Day but apparently they know something the rest of us don’t so whatever.

Laughner said he expects this year’s rally to attract as many as 10,000 people, which would double last year’s attendance. Although 10,000 were expected last year, only about half that number showed up, with the rest claiming afterward that maybe if somebody had checked to make sure the scheduled time and date worked for them it would have been easier to get there.

“This year, we tried to get around that logistical hurdle by implementing a longer general comment period for our membership,” Laughner said. “Because obviously three entire months was far too short an interval for somebody to just write down a suggested date and time for the rally on a prepaid postcard and drop it in the mail.”

Special musical guests will be “Deep Blue Something,” the artists responsible for the 1995 hit “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that people were still listening to as recently as 1997.

“We’re very excited to have ‘Deep Blue Something’  on board,” said entertainment committee director Carlos Rodriquez. “We might have been able to line up somebody else if my budget had come in at anywhere near what I requested, but it is what it is.”

For more information, see uspassiveaggressionsociety.org, assuming the Website is actually functioning for once.

OK, I just patched a big, gaping hole in my cultural literacy. I read my first Ian Fleming James Bond novel.

Wow! I was pretty blown away. It wasn’t at all what I expected. That’s both good and bad, but mostly good.

I started at the very beginning with “Casino Royale,” the first Bond novel written in 1952.

Aside from any inherent merits of the work itself, which were considerable, I found it interesting in much the same way as when I first read “Dracula,” or a collection of Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard.

In all three cases, I was dealing with characters who had gone on to saturate modern pop culture. I’d taken in derivations of those characters. Interpretations by other writers and filmmakers. But I’d never checked out the source material.

I found out that James Bond, like Conan and Dracula, was a considerably different character at his inception than the guy who emerged from a decades-long stay in the pop culture echo chamber.

You could argue that Bond was the most influential of the three. Ian Fleming virtually invented the modern thriller. 007’s influence persists in everything from action/adventures like “The Dark Knight,” to spoofs like Austin Powers, to works that fall somewhere in between, like Scott Pruden’s “Immaculate Deception.”

So how does the original Bond, James Bond (yes, that phrase is in “Casino Royale”) stack up?

Let me give you a warning, in case you intend to read “Casino Royale.” Some minor spoilers are coming.

So if you just want to know if you should read the thing, my answer is yes. The stories are very different, but in some ways I see “Casino Royale” as comparable to Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.”

Like “Straw Dogs,” it’s very much a product of its time. Like Peckinpah’s film, it’s problematic, and those problems pretty much begin and end with its treatment of women. But the two works are so skillfully done, so gripping and suspenseful, that you can almost tune that out.

Now, on to the review.

I grew up watching James Bond films. I loved the Roger Moore movies when I was a kid, but considered them too lightweight as I got older. Although I still enjoyed the Sean Connery movies, even those I basically considered to be frothy, male-fantasy escapism. A sharp contrast to John le Carre’s works, which explored the gritty side of espionage.

Le Carre and Fleming, I should note here, both drew on professional experience in espionage for their works.

To my surprise, I found that “Casino Royale” was far closer to Le Carre’s stuff than I had imagined. It wasn’t quite as psychologically complex or intellectually rigorous. But it was a lot more raw and dark — flat-out bleak at times — than I’d expected. In tone, it was more like the 2006 version of “Casino Royale,” the “gritty reboot” of the franchise starring Daniel Craig (which I really liked).

I might as well address this now. The sexism in the book was very over-the-top and very off-putting.

Look, I’m no politically correct scold. I’m not going to pick up a book written 60 years ago and expect it to conform exactly to modern sensibilities. And the James bond franchise has never been renowned for its enlightened attitude toward women, so it’s not like I was expecting “The Feminine Mystique.”

But the James Bond in this novel is not the double-entendre-spouting charmer that Sean Connery and Roger Moore portrayed. He’s a sneering misogynist with an overweening contempt for women.

To be fair, Fleming doesn’t present this as a sympathetic trait. And as the book progresses, it becomes clear that Bond maintains that attitude toward women as a psychological shield, because getting too close to someone is a potentially fatal mistake in his job.

But it’s hard getting around cringe-inducing moments such as Bond’s speculation that sex with a female character will be enjoyable because her emotional inaccessibility will give it “the sweet tang of rape.”

Still, one thing that surprised and impressed me about the book was the extent to which that job exacts a physical and emotional toll on Bond. He’s far from the stoic, indestructible hero. More like a man desperately trying to maintain his stoicism in the face of overwhelming tests.

Sure, it starts out as pure male fantasy. Glittering casinos. Beautiful women. Big money and cool spy tricks. You see how seductive the job can be.

Then the book veers sharply away from male wish fulfillment territory.

The villain, Le Chiffre, kidnaps Bond. Then he takes Bond to his sprawling, underground headquarters, where he straps him into a fiendish high-tech execution device. He explains to Bond his plans for world domination, then exits the room to carry it out and leave Bond to die. But Bond cleverly escapes by …

Actually, that’s not what happens. What really happens is that Le Chiffre brutally tortures Bond by beating his genitals. It’s a long, harrowing scene that rivals the sodomy from “Deliverance” for disturbing, sadomasochistic intensity.

He ends up in the hospital, because this Bond doesn’t take a beating and then show up in the next scene looking impeccable in a dinner jacket. There, he tells a colleague he’s thinking about retiring, because he can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys anymore and the memories of the men he’s killed weigh heavily on him.

Does this sound like anything you’d see in one of the Roger Moore films? Not exactly.

I’m not going to give away the ending, although it won’t surprise you if you’ve seen the 2006 remake. I’ll just say it ends with Bond back in the game, but at the price of even greater emotional isolation.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fun, campy romp, don’t read Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale.” But if you’re looking for a good book, by all means do so.

If you’re in the York, Pa., vicinity this weekend, Mike Argento will be making a couple of appearances to promote his book, “Don’t be Cruel.” As I’ve mentioned here before — if you find Carl Hiaasen a bit too dry and academic, this is the book for you. I lifted the following from Argento’s Facebook page:

“Book stuff this weekend: Saturday, I’ll be at Bookland on South Queen Street in York signing and whatnot. The store is at 2114 S. Queen and I’ll be there from 11 to 2. (Bookland has about the best magazine selection in town. So there’s that.) And on Sunday, from 10 to 1, I’ll be at the Spring Pennsylvania Music Expo at the Continental Inn at 2285 Lincoln Highway East in Lancaster. If you need to pick up a copy of Shatner signing Metallica covers, this is the place to be…”

And since he mentioned Shatner …

Early lesson as a reporter

Posted: March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sorry the blog hasn’t been very active lately. I recently started a new job, which entailed a move from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, and I’ve been pretty busy. For the first time in more than 20 years, I’m not working as a newspaper reporter or copy editor. I’m surprised at what a big adjustment it’s proving to be, working a normal nine-to-five job in an office that isn’t a newsroom.

So what did I learn as a journalist? Man! I could write volumes on that subject. Instead, I’ll share with you an embarrassing anecdote about a useful early lesson I picked up.

I was a cub reporter, about 23, and covering my first murder. I was talking on the phone to the police detective investigating the crime. He’d given me the basics. The location of the body. The likely cause of death, pending an autopsy. The time range when the killing occurred.

After taking down those details, I thought to myself: “OK, let’s take this interview to the next level.”

I asked: “When you’re trying to track down a killer like this, is there a certain mindset you have to get into?”

I expected him to say something along the lines of: “You put yourself in the mind of the killer. It’s a chess game, see? But you gotta be careful. Because if you look too long into that darkness … well … a man can lose himself out there.”

I’d seen enough movies to believe that police actually said things like that. What I got instead was a long, irritated sigh and a response of: “Sir, I have NO idea how to answer that question.”

Real life, it seemed, didn’t look a hell of a lot like the movies. And I’d go on to spend the next 20-plus years seeing that principle play out again and again.

It’s been quite a ride. I think I’ll miss it.