Last Holiday

[3.0 stars] Last Holiday (1950) on IMDb [Amazon]

A oldie from 1950 that sat in my Netflix queue for a long time. Very British, very dark comedy.

Alec Guinness plays George Bird, a lonely loser who sells farm machinery. A spot of indigestion takes him to the doctor, who x-rays him and diagnoses Lampington's Disease, invariably fatal. Although he feels fine, the doc assures him that's the way with Lampington's: you feel just fine until you slip into irreversible coma and death.

George decides to cash out his life insurance and savings and live it up at a posh hotel. There he becomes acquainted with both the hotel staff and its upperclass guests. To George's consternation, his life actually starts getting interesting, with professional and romantic opportunities. But—oh oh, omens—a mirror breaks, the ace of spades keeps turning up,…I may have missed a black cat or two.

I did mention this was a dark comedy, right?

The credits show "David McCallum" in a bit part as a violinist. Could it have been Ilya Kuryakin/Ducky Mallard in a movie so old? A quick trip to IMDB says: nope, that was David McCallum, Senior in the role. And he was more than qualified to play the violinist: back in the day, among other things, he was Concertmaster violinist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:17 AM EST

A Cool Breeze on the Underground

[Amazon Link] Hey, check out the cover! Unusually sordid, even by my standards.

OK, so I didn't like Don Winslow's recent novel Savages very much, but as fate (implemented by the Perl script that picks books out of my to-be-read pile) would have it, this book de-soured me on Winslow for now. It's Winslow's first novel, published back in 1991; it's also part of a series featuring the character of Neal Carey, sort of a private investigator.

Neal has an unconventional background: raised fatherless by his junkie prostitute mother, he's relatively feral until he rips off the wrong guy: Joe Graham, a one-armed, height-challenged PI. Joe becomes young Neal's mentor, schooling him in the ways of shadowing, searching, creeping, and research. But Neal also has his own interest in classic British Literature, and (as the book opens) is also a graduate student working on his degree.

Joe and Neal are provided their assignments by "Friends of the Family", an organization run as a sideline to a Rhode Island bank. It is dedicated to pulling the chestnuts of its ultrarich clientele out of various fires. In this case, Allie, the wayward daughter of Senator Chase, a prospective Vice-Presidential candidate, has gone missing. Allie is in her late teens, and already has a long history with promiscuous sex, booze, and drugs. Neal is tasked with finding her, and getting her presentable enough to appear as part of the smiling happy family at the upcoming convention.

This takes Neal to London, where (as it turns out) Allie has fallen in with an unusually bad crowd. As the cover implies, it's all quite sordid. But definitely readable.

Consumer note: as I type, Amazon only has the Kindle version for a reasonable price. Which is what I read; unfortunately, it's shot through with what appear to me to be typos, errors in capitalization, and missing/extra/wrong punctuation. But it's cheap!

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:21 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2012-07-29 Update

[phony baloney]

Another week of nothing much to see here:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 22,800,000 +600,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,190,000 +100,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 462,000 +50,000

But, as usual, there's plenty of new phony news:

  • USNews reported that Ben Sarma (an actual human being) noticed something funny on the Twitter:

    [Ben Sarmas]

    That might have made a pretty good scene in a sci-fi movie about an impending clone takeover. But here's the thing: all those other accounts were followers of Mitt Romney. And they were not alone, as reported by Mr. Zach Green:

    Green reported that after Romney's account gained only 3-4,000 new followers per day over the past month, it quite suddenly picked up 23,926 new followers on Friday, 93,054 on Saturday and 25,432 on Sunday.

    Romney's account wasn't getting an equivalent increase in mentions, however, suggesting the Twitter followers were not coming in organically.

    Geez, ya think?

    The obvious theory, notes Will Oremus at Slate, is that Mitt's trying to artificially pump up his Twitter follower numbers. But there's no obvious benefit to that, and plenty of downside, so Oremus (to his credit) also entertains Theory B: " Some Obama supporter surreptitiously bought the followers on Romney's behalf, to make him look bad."

  • The headline is "'Key & Peele' Stars Recall Witnessing Obama Fake His Own Poisoning Death." If you don't know: Key & Peele is a show on Comedy Central, and its stars are a couple of guys named Key and Peele. And they were watching President Obama perform his weekly radio address. After being offered a bottle of water from a bystander,…

    "So she gives him the bottle of water and my man goes like this, 'so we need to...,'" before Peele abruptly slouched over and put his head on his chest to recall how U.S. President feigned he'd just been poisoned, before Obama straightened up with a big grin across his face.

    Gosh, that's hilarious!

  • The Washington Post provides an article entitled "What drives the Obama doubters and haters?"

    My input was not requested for the article, but as one of those "doubters", I'd have to say, … um… it has something to do with Obama's devotion to bankrupt political philosophy, dysfunctional economic policies, unconstitutional power grabs, massive hypocrisy, and non-stop rhetorical mendacity.

    But that's just me.

    Irony of ironies, the Post's article is written by David Maraniss, author of a recent Obama biography that showed, … well, let him tell it:

    There are Obama doubters and haters out there who claim with righteous anger that they are "vetting" the president, something they say the mainstream media never did. Some of them have said that my new biography -- unwittingly, they argue, for I am too dumb to understand what my research has unearthed -- proves that Barack Obama's defining memoir is phony and that his entire life is a fraud.

    Well, close. Here's one reaction:

    The new book by Mr. Maraniss suggests that the real story of Mr. Obama's life was less dramatic -- and more routine -- than the president made it out to be in the memoir.

    This "doubter and hater" was Michael D. Shear, writer for that scurrilous right-wing rag, the New York Times. Generally speaking, Maraniss's book told the story of a guy who pretty much loved to make stuff up about his life, in order to buttress whatever image he was trying to market at the time.

    Maraniss goes on and on about birthers, racists, and related conspiratoid nutjobs. Really, if those folks didn't exist, guys like Maraniss would invent them. Wild-eyed fanatics and bigots fit their narrative so well! For who else would be a "doubter" of our wonderful leader?

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:54 PM EST