Lazy Saturday Reads: True Detective and A Bit of Real News

hbo-true-detective-trailer-618x400

Good Morning!!

Since it’s the weekend and most of us can probably use a little escape from reality, I thought I’d begin this post by writing a little about my latest obsession–the HBO show True Detective. Have you been following it? I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I had been hearing good things about this show; and a few days ago I decided to take the plunge. I ended up watching the first five episodes in three nights. Episode 6 will debut tomorrow night at 9PM, and HBO will repeat Episode 1 tonight at 10PM. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. I’ll post some interesting reading and try not to include too many leave it up to you if you want to read them now or later. I guess I’m hoping some other Sky Dancers will be interesting enough to watch the show too, so we can discuss it here.

True Detective combines two elements that have always fascinated and attracted me–mystery stories and occult horror. The story is set in Cajun country–south-central Louisiana. The two main characters are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. Cohle and Hart are homicide detectives who catch the case of a lifetime–a murder that combines sadistic cruelty with bizarre symbolism. Cohle is convinced from the beginning that they are dealing with a serial killer who has likely committed previous murders and who will commit more in the future if he isn’t stopped. They are then drawn into a 17-year investigation that powerfully affects both of their lives.

Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto

The show’s creator, writer, and producer is Nic Pizzolatto, a Louisiana native who, until 2010 was a professor at DePauw University in Indiana.  According to the Indy Star,

In fact, DePauw University in Greencastle served as a launch pad for his Hollywood career….

Before he moved west, Pizzolatto held a tenure-track post as a DePauw English professor. In 2010, his book “Galveston” was published. That summer, he decided he could not return to academia, he has said in interviews.

“I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings,” Pizzolatto told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. “The preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”

The award-winning novelist sold the film rights to “Galveston” [his first novel] and moved his wife and young family to southern California to try to break into another industry, not known for its own lack of preciousness and fragile personalities.

I want to thank Dakinikat for getting me interested in watching True Detective.  Awhile ago, I had sent her a long article about a series of murders in Louisiana: Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? (I recently posted the link in a morning reads post too, but I don’t know how many people saw it.) Dak said she thought True Detective was based on those cases. Here’s another article about the murders–still pretty long: Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police

Pizzolatto kind of confirmed that by tweeting the link to the article on January 28. So you might want to take a look at it. The author, Ethan Brown describes a series of murders of 8 prostitutes, some of whom knew each other. The police have investigated the cases as if they were committed by one serial killer, but Brown argues that there is more than one murderer and what connects the cases may be that members of law enforcement were involves in each of them. Similarly, there are hints in True Detective that powerful people may be involved in the cases Cohle and Hart are investigating.

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

As I mentioned above, the show is in some ways a typical police procedural that explores conflicts between two homicide detective partners with very different personalities. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is a seemingly ordinary guy, married with two daughters, who acts self-destructively by getting involved with other women and neglecting his family. Rust Cohle is a strange fellow who hasn’t been with the police department very long. He drives his partner and other detectives nuts with his obsessive approach to the case and his tendency to spout bizarre nihilist philosophies. But with each succeeding episode, the series moves more into the horror genre, as the detectives try to understand the bizarre symbolism that keeps cropping up in their cases–such as repeated hints about a “yellow king” chasing people through the woods and a spiral tattoo that appears on victims’ backs–and as the show reveals more about Cohle’s past history.

Now for a few reads that will give you a sense of why True Detective is so fascinating. You could endlessly chase the literary connections that Pizzolatto has planted in his tale. Start with this interview with author Nic Pizzolatto in the Wall Street Journal: Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of ‘True Detective’. It turns out Pizzolatto is a connoisseur of the weird horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his predecessors–as well as modern practitioners of the genre.

Horror and mystery go hand in hand on HBO‘s “True Detective.”  The hit series…is rich in dread similar to the kind inherent in the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it has featured words and imagery derived from Robert W. Chambers‘ story anthology “The King in Yellow.” As a result, the show has opened up the worlds of weird fiction and cosmic horror to broader audiences.

Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto, responding through email, commented to Speakeasy about some of the more ominous literary and philosophical influences on  ”True Detective,” as well as some of his favorite horror writers.

yellow king

Read Pizzolatto’s recommendations for further reading at the link.

A couple more links on the literary references in the show:

Allyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: The Crazy Mythology That Explains ‘True Detective’

Lincoln Mitchell at Buzzfeed: A “True Detective” Reading List: dark, weird, and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO’s True Detective should read.

A review of the first episode by Daniel Lefferts at Policymic:

‘True Detective’ Premiere: This is the Next Great American TV Show

More detailed reading about the “yellow king” mythology (some spoilers in these)

Gilbert Cruz at The Vulture: True Detective: Who Is the Yellow King? Here Are Some Theories

An outstanding article by Michael M. Hughes at io9: 

The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate ​True Detective. An excerpt:

Two episodes into the series, True Detective dropped a reference to one of the strangest, most compelling tales in the canon of weird fiction: Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895. Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series.

This collection of stories has influenced writers from H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, to Robert Heinlein, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. The King in Yellow and his legendary city of Carcosa may be the most famous character and setting you’ve never heard of.

In fact, the more of the show you watch, and the more carefully you pay attention, you’ll find a number of Easter eggs aimed squarely at hardcore fans of the weird fiction genre. I’ll touch on a few of the more prominent ones, but I have a feeling the rest of the series will be a bonanza for true detectives of strange fiction.

Video:

Watch the official trailer here.

The music on True Detective is fantastic!

From Policymic: The Secret Sauce of ‘True Detective’ is its Awesome Soundtrack

There is tons more stuff out there, including great discussions by “experts” as well as amateurs in the comments sections of reviews and other articles. I have a feeling people will be talking about True Detective for a long time. The show will continue into a second season with different actors and a new storyline.

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Now, before I run out of space, here’s some real news, in link dump fashion.

Washington Post: Obama to award Medal of Honor to two dozen veterans, including 19 discrimination victims

WFTV.com: Florida man shocked to learn of Medal of Honor

USA Today: Team USA vs. Finland: How to watch Olympic bronze medal showdown

NY Daily News Ukraine Live Blog: Kiev, Ukraine: Protesters versus police in civil war revolt

CNN: Is Vladimir Putin really the puppet-master in Ukraine’s crisis?

Newsday: In Ukraine and Syria, Vladimir Putin wants to work with dictators

Radio Free Europe: Yanukovych Denounces ‘Coup,’ Not Resigning

BBC News: Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro seeks talks with Obama

Christian Science Monitor: California in six easy pieces? A bid to let voters decide. 

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your mind?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve almost gotten shy about going out to search for links these days.  Most of the political and economic news is disheartening so I thought I’d try to mix it up today with some good stuff and disheartening stuff.  Hopefully, you can find some things to share with us too.

You may want to start out your day arming yourself with “Five Myths about Planned Parenthood” in case any one in your sphere of influence starts spewing some of the ridiculous memes passed around by the right wing. This was in WAPO over the weekend and was written by Clare Coleman worked for America’s best known provider of family planning and health services.  I liked number five.

Three million patients each year visit Planned Parenthood’s more than 800 health centers in every state, in big cities and small towns. In some areas, Planned Parenthood and the Title X-funded system are the only sexual health providers for hundreds of miles.

We screen people for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; we counsel them about smoking cessation and obesity; we connect them to other primary-care providers and social services. The huge response to the attack on family planning and on Planned Parenthood — hundreds of thousands of Americans signing petitions, showing up at rallies, calling Congress – is extraordinary. But it doesn’t surprise me. One in five American women has gone to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, for respectful, compassionate, quality care. And now those Americans are going to have our back.

I feel like I’ve turned into an IMF groupie by putting up yet another link to them shortly after featuring one of their studies on the dominance of the finance sector, but here I go again.  I do spend time gleaning data from their site so maybe it’s just that I keep bumping into things.  The IMF says we have a Global Job Crisis.

At the end of his magnum opus, The General Theory, Keynes stated the following: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes”.

Not everyone will agree with the entirety of this statement. But what we have learnt over time is that unemployment and inequality can undermine the very achievements of the market economy, by sowing the seeds of instability. In too many countries, the lack of economic opportunity can lead to unproductive activities, political instability, and even conflict. Just look at how the dangerous cocktail of unemployment and inequality—combined with political tension—is playing out in the Middle East and North Africa.

Because growth beset by social tensions is not conducive to economic and financial stability, the IMF cannot be indifferent to distribution issues. And when I look around today, I am concerned in this regard. For while recovery is here, growth—at least in the advanced economies—is not creating jobs and is not being shared broadly. Many people in many countries are facing a social crisis that is every bit as serious as the financial crisis.

Unemployment is at record levels. The crisis threw 30 million people out of work. And over 200 million people are looking for jobs all across the world today.

The jobs crisis is hitting the young especially hard. And what should have been a brief spell in unemployment is turning into a life sentence, possibly for a whole lost generation.

In too many countries, inequality is at record highs.

As we face these challenges, remember what we have accomplished. Under the umbrella of the G20, policymakers came together to avoid a financial freefall and probably a second Great Depression.

Today, we need a similar full force forward response in ensuring that we get the recovery we need. And that means not only a recovery that is sustainable and balanced among countries, but also one that brings employment and fair distribution.

This is part of a speech given by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund. He argues that financial sector reform is central to the problem of getting back on track.  It’s worth reading the entire thing or you can watch the video here.  Occasionally, I remember why I thought it was important to study economics.  This is one of those times.

The so-called “Gang of Six” is still anxious to put social security on the bargaining table. I still can’t figure out why every time some politician wants to talk about the Federal Deficit--in this case Senator Mark Warner–they mistakenly include the stand-alone program.

Including Social Security in the Gang of Six package appears to be a concession by Democrats made in exchange for agreement to raise some revenue by Republicans. But liberals in the Senate and House have made clear they will not stand for any cuts to benefits.

The 2012 budget passed by the House on Friday does not include reforms for Social Security. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) instead called for a trigger in the budget whereby the president and Congress would have to propose solutions once the Board of Trustees certifies the program is in trouble. Presidet Obama in his 2012 budget and in a speech last week did not lay out plans to reform Social Security.

Warner said the Gang is “very close” to an agreement that includes spending cuts and tax increases such as be eliminating the home mortgage tax deduction.

“We are going to make everybody mad with our approach,” he said.

Warner made clear he is opposed to the House Republican 2012 budget’s reliance on cuts to Medicare—he called it a “massive transfer of responsibility onto our seniors”– but he did not say how the Gang of Six will approach the massive entitlement program.

Please join me as I scream.  How stupid do they think we are?

Ninety-one year old Pete Seeger will be joined by David Amram, 80, and Peter Yarrow, 73 on the stage to inspire young people to be active in political and social justice movements.  Yarrow had just returned from a series of rallies in Wisconsin.

The three artist-activists say they are fired up by recent protests — from Egypt to Wisconsin — and by the enthusiasm of their youthful kin, who will join them onstage.

“I do have the feeling that the kind of energy we felt in the ’60s is in the air now,” Mr. Yarrow said. “That energy seems to be reigniting itself.”

That concert should be a treat.  It’s nice to see these guys seem to never tire of singing songs of justice. It’s important that a new generation hear these truly American songs.  I was interested in reading that many kids and grandkids of these folk singers are now in the family business and may show up on stage with them now and then.

Okay, this is something that kinda surprised me from the WSJ: “Greenspan Steps Up Call to End Bush-Era Tax Cuts”.  I still haven’t figure out why any one thinks he’s still relevant, but oh, well.  At least, he’s on the right side of this one.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is stepping up his call for Congress to let the Bush-era tax cuts lapse.
In an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.

“This crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire. That is a very big number,” he said, referring to how much the U.S. government could save from letting income taxes go back up to levels last seen under former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Greenspan was talking about re-imposing the taxes for all Americans. The Treasury has estimated that a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts would cost $3.6 trillion over the next decade. Allowing taxes to increase on those in the top income brackets would take the cost to the government down to $2.9 trillion, according to White House estimates.

CBS news has done some data gathering on taxes as part of its Tax Day coverage: Wealthy Americans see drop in federal taxes; High-earning Americans pay less in taxes than in previous years; nearly half of U.S. households will pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

The row of shotguns featured on the first season DVD set of Treme are set to be demolished as blight.

New Orleans is abuzz with the second season of Treme about to start up on HBO.  I have to admit that I have not watched it since I’m still working through my dose of PTS from Katrina and the aftermath. However, for those of you that are fans of the show, you can get it now on DVD and you can get a bit of a taste in what’s in store for you in season two from this story from the TP.  The show evidently ended last season with the city’s evacuation.  That’s something I will NEVER forget.  The show has been great for the city, overall and it’s producers have taken on a lot of causes around here including a fight to save some historic properties featured in the series’ promotions.  Just thought I’d add some insight into what the production brings to the city including its musicians.  Here’s a little drama from Hollywood South.

… production money is being spent daily in New Orleans for locations, for equipment, material, labor and talent. In the first two seasons, for example, about $2 million in music licensing money was paid for the rights to songs by New Orleans artists, alone. Such expenditures — with or without any charity component — are the crux of the real economic relationship between a film company and the community in which it works. It is a straight-up transaction. We come here to shoot a movie. We pay a variety of local vendors, government fees and individuals to do it. And for virtually every other movie shot in Louisiana, that is it — end of story.

Thought I’d end with a treat from Pete Seeger to get you through your coffee:


What’s on your reading and blogging list today?