" /> I write: April 2011
Curmudgeonalia
I see I taste I write Links What?
April 26, 2011

A Treasury of Deception

Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers etc.
Michael Farquhar

Any tract which leads by wholly discrediting Nostradamus has my attention; he was, after all, the "master of avoiding specifics," and a still quoted fraud who has endured for the ages. His end of the world predictions first went awry in the 1800s, but they're renewable thru 7000 A.D.

This volume is one of four such written by Farquhar on related things; all are absorbing. In it he exposes and explains varietal "humbugs" and their equally varietal chicanery, some serious and some just April Fool's jokes.

Operation Mincemeat, one of the greatest deceptions of WW II is reviewed, balanced by the lies and fraud of the Third Reich. On a lighter note there is a description of the housewife who gave birth to bunnies. (Well, of course, not really.)

Snake-oil salesmen in the age of medical quackery? Included. Medieval hucksters selling pieces of "the true cross"?, yep. So's the shroud of Turin. Of course the Piltdown man receives an honorable mention.

There is an excellent discussion of the witch craze in Europe in which he observes that over half of all executions took place in Germany alone. One village was left with only one woman; another eliminated an entire family; still another burned forty-one children. Perhaps this was a dress rehearsal for the Nazis?

Then there's the lie's of Lenin (not Lennon folks) and his distrust of Stalin. Shame old Vlad didn't have "Uncle Joe" shot before he became the chief. There are mentions of creative escapes from military prisons in the age of the Greeks, from the Tower of London, and from the Nazi fortress of Colditz. All if them intriguing.

He wraps it up with a series of 10s.
• 10 "tricksters" from scripture
• 10 deceptions from Greek mythology
• 10 liars in literature
and lastly:
• 10 egregious examples of modern American doublespeak; this without even mentioning Nixon's "I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

Read it. It's a hoot. And informative, though more within the framework of Trivial Pursuit.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 3:26 PM

April 22, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Michael Connelly - 9780446616454

It's no secret that Connelly is my favorite crime fiction writer. With this book he introduces a new character and a slightly altered genre. Written in 2005, it has drawn new interest because of the 2011 movie now in theatres. Instead of the usual detective, Mickey Haller is a criminal defense lawyer who practices at the margins of the law; aggressive, creative, cynical and tough. There is little Haller cherishes after 10 years of dealing with innumerable denizens of the planet, guiding their cases thru the miasma of present day law which long ago became a game having little to do with truth, justice, or even honesty; eroded "like the faces of statues from other civilizations." Law is now about manipulations, negotiations and the art of the deal. Avoid trial, especially if the client has little money; sell him a shorter sentence and count on an early out. Find a wealthy client and drag out the proceedings to create more billable hours; ride the gravy train. Cops and lawyers cheat, money is a principal driving force, even judges get paid for influencing trial outcomes. Wanna be a judge? Get a piece of paper from some law school, pass the bar, make the proper contributions to the right people and you might just be in. Ideals have been downgraded to notions, and notions themselves are frequently optional. Overall, it's an earthy, accurate and well deserved critique from the inside of contemporary law, from a man who knows; a little disparaging, perhaps, but not really that far off of the map.

What I find most interesting is that Connelly's writing keeps improving. Most writers get stale, formulaic and boring--even sloppy. Some prominent writers take in subordinate partners to do most of the writing which is then sold under their famous names. Not Connelly. This might just be his best novel, and he's passed 20 at last count.

Another reviewer commented that the plot has more curves than Mulholland drive (L.A.s famous serpentine.) He's right. It is a creative, artful plot by a talented, experienced writer. Mickey acquires a high profile, wealthy client facing a serious charge. He sees his chance to author a really big payday. Along the way, however, he discovers true evil and the purity of true innocence; he comes nose to nose with his legendary father's axiom that "there is no client as scary as an innocent man."

In order to free an innocent he risks his license, even his freedom by working behind the scenes to set up another client who personifies pure evil. Along the way, between the covers, is a satisfying page turner. It's not that you can't put it down; it's that you don't want to, and resist the urge except for otherwise unavoidable activities.


Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:03 PM

Spoiled Rotten

Affluence, Anxiety, and Social Decay in America
Brian Goff & Arthur Fleisher III - ISBN - 9780813397573

This pair of dedicated rationalists take on the prevailing "leftist" attitudes and statements that there have been no material improvements in the U.S. since the 70's (that's Jimmy Carter times, folks, for those not keeping track.) The insistence that personal incomes have stagnated, and that the middle and lower classes have "suffered" because of the advance of the wealthy is, for the most part, balderdash; and they set out to prove it with data.

The left isn't so much about facts; they don't want to debate outcomes or data; they just want to "feel better" about what they are doing and be "more moral" about the whole thing. Social justice, don't-cha-no? It's more correctly about "perceptions," or relating to the "dynamic" of the purported situation which matters and sets them apart from the documentable reality.

All of that said, this is neither a "rightist screed" nor a "hatchet job" on the left. It is a straightforward explication of a host of interrelated data which supports their contentions; amongst them that the "seeming imbalance between impressive gains in material wealth and widespread discontent is not a paradox but an irony--the same increases in economic well-being that have made American lives so comfortable in many ways have simultaneously helped to foment some of society's most dangerous dilemmas."

One desperately needs to avoid conclusions without precise interpretation of accurate data. What we commonly experience is politically colored--even twisted--information which is either incorrect or incorrectly interpreted (or reported) to satisfy the agendas of people with specific goals and a definitive rationale for representing what they do, as they do. Beware. Politically both sides are capable of distortion, but in the matter in question, it is the left which distorts.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:00 PM