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.

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


Monday, February 2

Shades of Noir -

I recently watched the neo-noir movie Mullholland Falls again. The first time I saw it I didn't know what to expect except that the opening credits disclosed that the story was written by Pete Dexter, a well-respected writer.

The story started out in a seemingly classic noir place, then seemed to sag in the middle, when it took an unexpected turn into what looked like X-Files territory.

But when I watched it again recently, I didn't notice a middle sag as much. The music was lovely, the art direction attractive, and the cinematography atmospheric. I enjoyed the film much more the second time around.

# Speaking of Noir-ish matters, if you're in London this Thursday, you may want to attend a discussion with John Banville and John Mullan about Philip Marlowe and The Black-Eyed Blonde.

# Sarah Weinman has returned with a new blog-like newsletter called The Crime Lady. Here's a sample piece. Welcome back, Sarah!

# Have you been watching Grantchester? Here's some background on the Grantchester TV series by the author, James Runcie.

# Geoffrey O'Brien reviews the new Pynchon movie.

# And Jonathan Shapiro reviews Perfidia by James Ellroy.


Friday, January 23

French Funnies Fallout -

I was not surprised at the failure of the Obama Administration to send VP Biden to the French Charlie Hebdo Unity Rally because they had been critical of the magazine in the past, just as they had been critical of the Monty Pythons for slandering Christianity.

Oh, wait!
You mean they haven't
criticized Monty Python for that?

"The future must not belong to
those who slander the prophet of Islam."

The remark above was made by
President Obama to the UN in 2012.

I thought that dead people
cannot be slandered under U.S. Law.

Go figure.

:: Charlie in America ::


Sunday, January 4

FL: Recent Social Footprints -

A look back at 2014 in Media
includes this provocative study . . .

How the story of Florida's Trayvon Martin Phenomenon was told by different media via Harvard's Nieman Lab. Includes MSM, Blogs, and Social  Networks, et al.

# The end of an old-fashioned motel.

# Instagram equals Insta-bust for police
in Miami-Dade by David Ovalle at the Herald.


Thursday, January 1

Randy's Random Perplex 2 -

Who ordered the police
to conduct such an operation?

I presume it was the Black police chief. Some of the residents who expressed complaints may have been Black as well. This is part of the DOJ's mission to reduce neighborhood crime. And it represents Public Policy on behalf of the Public Good.

Randy says he "felt humiliated," but he does not specify what Officer Reed said or did which caused his emotional distress. In the absence of any specific evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the officer, I would not want to casually defame Officer Tristan Reed.

The principals in this situation are all Black, but they are of different ethnicities. The police chief is described as Jamaican-American, Officer Reed is described as African-American, and Randy is described as Haitian-American. Sometimes there is cultural friction between these groups.

What is Profiling? It is a term used by the FBI which refers to the extrapolation of information from a computer database.

As far as I know, Profiling is most frequently used here in Broward County for the crime of Bank Robbery.

The FBI collects information on bank robberies which have occurred here, which is entered into a computer database. This data consists of a long list of characteristics of the incident such as the number of robbers, what weapon was used, whether they wore ski masks or other disguises, getaway vehicle description, locations, etc.

Then, periodically, the FBI may query the database, asking the computer to find any cases which share several common characteristics, indicating that those robberies may have been committed by the same suspect or a serial bank robber on a spree.

A Profile consists of a long list of characteristics. A Profile is not composed of one characteristic such as Race.

Thus, "Racial Profiling" is ersatz jargon.

I think it is unlikely that there was racial discrimination or racial stereotyping involved in this complex police operation, but some cultural sensitivities may have been ruffled.

I have provided Randy with a possible explanation for his perplexing mystery here, although I don't expect this explanation will mollify him. I hope my readers have found this situation interesting to explore with me from other angles.

What intrigued me about this story is that it seemed like Randy had fastened onto a fragment of an elaborate police operation and had mistaken his little part in it for the purpose of the entire operation.

This is called a synecdoche.


Randy's Random Perplex -

Racial Profiling in Fort Lauderdale?

Maybe not, because it looks like Randy
may have stumbled into somebody else's movie . . .

Recently, Randy Saint-Jean, a young black Haitian-American had an encounter with the police here which distressed and perplexed him. He reported it to lawyer Howard Finklestein. Howard is the local Public Defender who has a feature segment on local TV which aired the story.

Howard's associate, Patrick Fraser, has written a good recap of the situation which is admirably succinct, so it won't take you long to read.

One evening as Randy was driving his vehicle, a police officer pulled him over and called to his attention that his tag light was out. Then the incident mysteriously morphed into a roadside checkpoint for drugs.

Randy wants an explanation for what happened to him. And he also wants to know whether it was lawful for the police to conduct such an operation.

I'm not a lawyer, but, as far as I know, it is lawful for the police to establish a roadside checkpoint for alcohol or drugs; however, I believe, the law stipulates that the stops the police make should be conducted on a random basis.

Since Randy is an ordinary law-abiding citizen, he is living proof that he was a random driver passing through that checkpoint.

The explanation for what happened
to Randy that evening may be a bit more complex.

It is my impression that Randy happened to stumble into the middle of a Hot Spot Operation in progress.

Hot Spots are generally based on neighborhood traffic patterns. They may be triggered by grassroots complaints from area residents or members of a neighborhood association. A Hot Spot is, in simple terms, an anomaly.

In Randy's case, my sense of the overall situation is: there was a suspected drug dealer around the corner from the checkpoint who was being targeted that evening.

This nearby roadside checkpoint could enable the police to accumulate evidence against the drug dealer which would provide Probable Cause for an indictment against him, because some of the motorists being stopped at that location would include that drug dealer's customers.

The ultimate objective of this process is the extirpation of a dangerous predatory criminal from the neighborhood which would be safer without him.

Part One of Two