Wednesday, December 30

Holiday Tidings -

What happened to me? Where have I been?

Sorry about the Blog Hiatus! I had to find a new Internet Provider. The Clear company was acquired by Sprint and went out of business. I had been using a Clear Stick which looked liked a thumb drive and plugged into my laptop. I decided to continue with mobile broadband and had to make other arrangements.

I believe this was my longest hiatus away from my Blog since I started it. Not to worry - long time Bloggers don't just walk away from their Blogs and leave their readers hanging.

So, let's do a bit of catching up . . .

The long-awaited new episode of the Jesse Stone TV movies finally aired on one of the Hallmark cable channels this past fall. For aficionados of this series, it was like revisiting old friends, since the movies feature a continuous core ensemble of characters.

This series is more similar to the British TV Mystery Detective programs such as Vera, Inspector George Gently and DCI Banks than to current American versions of the genre.

The Jesse Stone stories are set in a small New England town which is a satellite of the Boston metropolitan area, comparable to the traditional English village settings. And there is a moody, atmospheric regional landscape featured, enhanced by the musical background.

The stories unwind in more than the usual American hour, affording more time for the exploration of motives and plot twists.

In contrast to the current American emphasis on technical evidence, this more old-fashioned approach relies more on human intelligence.

It is the only TV series I am inclined to binge-watch when the movies are aired one after another.

# Christmas was blissfully quiet in our house - for a change. We had a turkey with the traditional fixings and a sumptuous chocolate cake for dessert which one of the women baked.

A local TV chef shared her special recipe
for chestnut soup, which sounded interesting.

# There were the usual reruns and holiday movies on TV with only one surprise: a couple of obscure cable channels aired Hugo as a children's movie.

It is beautifully crafted cinema, but rather long, and I'm not sure it can be appreciated that much by children.

# Another surprise occurred Sunday evening on the CBS 60 Minutes program which featured an interview with Joaquin Garcia alias Jack Falcone. Who was Jack Falcone? He was like Donnie Brasco.

I must admit that I found it a bit unsettling to see him on national TV unexpectedly. Joaquin Garcia touched my life in a peculiar way. He led a special sting operation in my old neighborhood here in South Florida which extirpated my neighborhood cop and a few others.

One of the results of the ensuing mess was my tour of duty as a Neighborhood Crime Watcher in a rather blighted and dangerous area.

It is also notable because any mainstream media record of the episode is being inexorably erased from the Internet.

Archives of the local newspaper which covered the story, for example, may be removed from the Internet after a limited number of years.

Soon, there may be no trace of it for journalists, historians, or scholars to reference at all.

# A new fad seen around here this Christmas was a whimsical touch on automobiles - putting on a pair of stuffed brown reindeer antlers and a red nose on the front grill or hood ornament.

+ I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Let's try to count our blessings.


Friday, October 23

Mez: A Scottish Twist? -

The Meredith Kercher Murder Case . . .

Most of the American Public has already turned the page on this case; these days they are preoccupied about whether Caitlyn Jenner is going to date men or women.

Yet, there are still some who continue to discuss Jack the Ripper, as well as other cases for which there have not been any clean, clear, and crisp resolution.

Catching up with the latest developments in this case, the Italian Supreme Court has finally issued its long-overdue written verdict, although its translation into English is not yet complete. I am basing my impression and interpretation of it mainly on Barbie Nadeau's descriptive report.

In the American system, we are used to either one of two verdicts in a murder case: Guilty or Not Guilty. But the Scots are a fiercely independent people and maintain a number of legal constructs in their system which are at variance with the U.K. and the U.S. systems. One of these constructs is a third verdict option: Case Not Proven.

Hitherto, I was not aware that this Scottish-style option was available in the Italian system, but strangely enough, this is the outcome the Italian Supreme Court seems to have delivered to us. Initially, I was incredulous, but when I looked it up at Wikipedia, I was surprised to read there that the Italian system has had this third Scottish option available to it since 1989.

What does this kind of verdict mean? From my interpretation, I would contend that this is an acquittal which does not exonerate the Accused.

The Court accepted and affirmed the presence of Knox and Sollecito in the house, but wasn't satisfied with the evidence presented to them that the two could be placed within the murder chamber.

The Court - under their system - might have been able to stipulate that Knox and Sollecito were engaged in passive complicity, acting as accessories, conspired to pervert the course of justice, failed to properly dispose of human remains, or some other more Italianesque illegality.

Instead, the Court claimed "insufficient evidence" which means that the Prosecution did not make their case to the Court's satisfaction - i.e. Case Not Proven.

Thus, only time will tell whether Amanda Knox ever picks her feet in Poughkeepsie.


Monday, October 12

The Globalized Neighborhood -

Wonderful news this past week reveals that many residents of Havana are now able to connect with the rest of the world via the Internet using new Wi-Fi hotspots, as reported by Mimi Whitefield and Patricia Mazzei at the Miami Herald.

Are you a flaneur?
Or do you have any interest at all in the activity?

"Walter Benjamin described the flaneur as the essential figure of the modern urban spectator, an amateur detective and investigator of the city."

Fort Lauderdale is not a very walkable city, but more "eyes on the street" promotes better Public Safety, and the Police Chief here wants to re-introduce Community Policing.

Despite a plethora of neighborhoods sprawled out hither and yon, his goal may be very difficult to achieve any time soon.

Locally, police are seeking information about the death this past week of 67-year-old Robert Regan, which has been characterized as a homicide. Reagan was known in his neighborhood as a community activist.

It is believed that he came in contact with drug dealers who have been targeting Fort Lauderdale lately by flooding the city with a dangerous designer drug called Flakka, much of which seems to originate in China.

"Writing about Place
in the Age of the Global City"

was an interesting recent panel discussion featuring
Luc Sante, Vivian Gornick, and the LAT's David Ulin, who talked about the role of cities in an age of globalization.


Monday, July 20

In Broad Daylight -

A Florida Murder Mystery and More . . .

It's been a year since FSU Law Professor Dan Markel was murdered, but it appears that little progress has been made toward solving the crime. Police seem to be pinning their hopes on an automobile of interest. We can only guess that it was a well organized crime by someone who had studied Dan Markel's daily schedule and circuit of whereabouts.

:: Reporter Jennifer Portman
gives us an update from Tallahassee.

:: And a local update was aired on NBC Miami.

# Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History by Gary Lawson.

:: An entertaining review by Alfred Soto.

# Christopher Fowler shares his ten
Favorite Forgotten Crime Writers who
have vanished from today's bookshelves.

# Mike Ripley's July 2015 column.


Tuesday, May 26

Weaponized Celebrity -

Blasphemy from
Charlie Hebdo to The Fashion Police . . .

It didn't take long for the Blasphemy Demagogues to move from cartoons in Paris to red carpet glamour on American TV, because that's the way wolves operate.

Wolves attack the periphery of the flock, so the supposedly frivolous topics of cartoons and Tinsel Town evening gowns were irresistible targets.

We are living today in America surrounded by a "Gotcha!" Culture in which anything you say can be twisted around to seem sinister and reviled by some anonymous lynch mob.

The Blasphemy Demagogues wasted no time in concocting a fake racist incident attributed to the commentariat ensemble on The Fashion Police TV episode reviewing the Academy Awards red carpet parade.

It all started, of course, with a Big Lie that something was said challenging whether it was appropriate for a young actress to wear a hair style featuring dreadlocks with an evening gown. But that wasn't what was said.

Instead the question which was raised was whether the size of Zendaya Coleman‘s hairdo was disproportionately too large and overpowering for her choice of gown and overall silhouette - a legitimate topic and not at all race-specific.

Their chatter prompted me to mentally shuffle through a series of remembered images from The Pre-Raphaelite Movement.

I hadn't noticed anything racist in the ensemble's chatter; nevertheless, there were immediate vociferous calls for The Fashion Police to be cancelled.

And one of the most painful consequences of this fake racist incident was watching Giuliana Rancic apologize in a video clip which evoked the horrors of watching tortured Korean War GIs confessing to imaginary sins.

Soon the incident was further exploited by self-styled activist celebrities who insisted that The Fashion Police must be eliminated from television fare unless the ensemble includes African-American commentators. But is this really necessary?

In a previous era, when there were only three or four TV networks, advocating to shoehorn into a television show a minority celebrity for the sake of affirmative action could have seemed like a plausible rationale. Today, however, there are plenty of TV channels, talk show ensembles, minority commentators and discussions about the entertainment industry.

And there is already a Black TV fashion talk show called Fashion Queens on Bravo. I hope neither TV show is cancelled for Blasphemy; I think there is room for both and more. I've caught Fashion Queens a couple of times, and it looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Thus, it has now become our responsibility as TV viewers to sort out real racist incidents from fake racist incidents.

I think some people need to pause and take a deep breath before lashing out at anything they don't like by calling it racist, which can effectively shut down any further conversation about the subject.


Wednesday, April 29

The Not So Lush Life -

Profuse apologies for my unexpected blogging hiatus, but I got unusually busy. We had a cascading phenomenon at our house; viz: three women in rapid succession relapsed, got drunk, went berserk, and became combative.

Two of the women tried to assault me, and the third woman tried to hit my male boss with a frying pan. I didn't suffer any serious injuries, and they are all gone now. But while this was all happening, there was much chaos and turmoil, so I couldn't get much writing done.

Why continue doing this? Well, one wants to make a difference, help people, make the world a bit better, etc. It is a response to the classic question: what is a good life?

Entre nous, I have never directly witnessed women behaving so badly. And this is all attributed to Demon Rum? I have never been much of a drinker myself, but my impressions of alcohol have certainly changed over the years.

When I was a young adult, living in Greenwich Village, alcohol was regarded as merely a social lubricant, although it was the nemesis of many a writer. One of the songs which became part of the soundtrack of our lives was Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life.

You could hear it over the jukebox in restaurants, cafes, bars, and other establishments. It provided a poignant and sometimes nostalgic musical background while waiting to meet a friend. It seemed to have a romantically tragic aura around it.

But not anymore . . .

One can never predict which British detective series some PBS governing board will select for local consumption. Lately, I've enjoyed Vera and Inspector George Gently. I was quite surprised at the arrival of John Banville's Quirke.

Nevertheless, there he was in three episodes in our living room. I'm in no mood to critique John Banville, who has certainly been far more productive than I in the writing department of late. But why he became fixated on The Fifties completely confounds me. I didn't like that decade at all, not the music or the clothing or anything at all. And who else would portray such a figure but Gabriel Byrne, of course - surely, the casting of Byrne as Quirke was a no-brainer.

The one issue in the drama which disturbed me considerably was Dr Quirke's alcohol problem. After being deeply immersed in this issue 24/7, I'm not favorably disposed to tolerate much of it in my evening divertisements, too.

Even so, I remain curious about Banville's Philip Marlowe venture being shopped around for a possible movie. And the jackpot question: who will portray Marlowe this time round?


Tuesday, March 10

A Moving Eye -

As an increasing number of police officers are being equipped with body-worn cameras, access to the video footage is being thrashed out in Florida, according to this report by Susannah Nesmith.

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Cara Black, author of the Aimee Leduc detective novels, writes about Simenon, Inspector Maigret, and Paris.