30 December 2010

Random Thoughts for a New Decade AND The Monster of Florence!

Random thoughts for a new decade...

  • In the next year no ten year-old will have spent a second in the 20th Century. The United States has been at war your entire life if you are 17 years old.

  • The Stanford women’s basketball coach is quoted this week: “This was a real important game for our team. I’m really proud of how everyone prepared. Everyone really knew what we needed them to do.”

She could have added “And they really came out and really did it.”

  • Let’s say you are one of those people thoroughly tired of constant power outages. Let’s say you go out and purchase a home generator. I was one of those people. Once we had our generator installed we stopped having occasion to use it. It always seems to work that way.

Same goes for umbrellas, firewood, and flashlight batteries. You’ll only need these if you don’t have them. This is really how the world really works. Really!

  • In the past year various speakers modified the word “unique” and this must stop in 2011. Unique is one of a kind. You can be Number One. You can’t be Very Number One.

  • Take literally. If the box is literally full of writhing snakes you mean one of two things: The box is full of snakes, in which case you don’t have to add the word literally; or you mean it was AS IF the box was full of writhing snakes, in which case you do not mean literally full of snakes. Got it? The mind boggles at this point in time.

  • Once again we remind you that “at this point in time” is irritatingly overstated. “At this time” is enough. This reminder brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.

  • Now, those newscasters who use the adverb “now” to emphasize how “live” they are must cease this in the New Year. Now I’ll hold my breath until now goes away. Really.

  • On NPR this morning I heard a reporter say that defeated Senate candidate Christine O’Donnel “was refuting FBI claims” she misused campaign funds. No she didn’t. To refute is to prove something false or erroneous. She didn’t refute the claims; she denied them.

  • While you are wondering at that, wonder at this: The Feds are being urged to allow increased shooting of sea lions from land or boat near Bonneville Dam in Washington. I say save the salmon: eat the rich (with a nod to P.J. O’Rourke’s book of the same name). That will also save fish.

Turning to literature, I have a book to recommend for fans of serial killer literature, tales set in Italy, and mysteries without resolution. “The Monster of Florence, A True Story” was written by two journalists, one Italian and one American, who themselves eventually came under suspicion for involvement in a series of gruesome murders.

Douglas Preston (the American) and Mario Spezi (the Italian) call their book a “true story” I’d imagine because it is impossible to know where the story is true, and where it’s fiction. The authors detail decades of investigative reporting. They uncover self-serving bureaucratic nonsense. They assess questionable evidence derived from mishandled police investigations. Both writers are fairly sure who is the Monster of Florence, but can’t finally prove anything. The police are not interested in their conclusions, and in fact have accused Spezi of being the murderer himself, and Preston of interfering in the ongoing investigation, such as it is.

Spezi spent months in prison. Preston has been effectively banned from returning to Italy by threat of arrest. He explains in an interview, “having seen the arbitrary exercise of judicial power in Italy firsthand, I’m not inclined to take the risk of going back.”

That’s Italy for you: a really, really, interesting place to fail to solve a bloody bunch of unsolved murders.


Slate discusses “literally”

There’s literally a blog on literally, not recently updated but fun.

“The Monster of Florence, A True Story” by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Grand Central Publishing paperback $14.95. ISBN 9780446581271.

Interview with Douglas Preston.

Preston's home pages...Author website.

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