Thursday, April 22, 2004

Book: The Turning, by Justin Scott (1978)

Scott’s epic thriller THE SHIP KILLER should have been turned into a movie ages ago; I’m afraid the chances of that happening now, in light of its subject matter, are slim. THE TURNING is about a religious cult’s takeover of a dying upstate New York town, and it reads like the best novel Stephen King never wrote. Great atmosphere, chilling ending, all written with a precision and concision that many contemporary best-selling authors could learn from.

But that’s not why I bring it up.

There are ads in the book. Actual cardboard inserts bound in along with the pages. One of them is for Kent Golden Light cigarettes, your low-tar choice. I’d forgotten that this used to be a common publishing practice. And I think it’s high time it was brought back. As a way of keeping costs down, it’s preferable to the new trend of authors striking product placement deals. If you don’t want to know about your low-tar options, you can simply turn the page.

Do they still make Kent Golden Lights? Brands never seem to disappear any more. Rosemarie was shocked to see Nicolas Cage buying fistfuls of Tareytons in MATCHSTICK MEN. She’d thought they’d gone out of business around the time her mother stopped smoking.

TV: Penn & Teller

The full title of this Showtime series is PENN & TELLER: BULLSHIT! It’s not in bold type because some of you might be reading this at work. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

The Vegas magicians debunk various subjects in 30 minutes or less. They tend to cast a wide net; in the episode focusing on safety, they tackled 9/11 paranoia, mad cow disease, school violence, cell phone anxiety and the futility of using paper toilet seat covers. I guess they have no fear of running out of material.

The best quality of the show is its sheer orneriness. With every media outlet treating alleged experts with kid gloves, it’s refreshing to watch them held up to ridicule. Raw footage shows relationship guru John Gray forcing his tortured Mars/Venus analogy into every single sentence, and catches THE RULES co-author Sherrie Schneider dispensing wisdom to clients over the phone (“Just pretend he’s dead”). Everything is scrupulously researched, then presented with a torrent of profanity.

Something this entertaining should be better known. I think I know why it’s not. The boys are libertarians with a profound hatred of junk science and a belief in nothing other than showmanship. They refuse to be pegged at either end of the political spectrum. They’ve gone after creationists and PETA, draconian drug laws and the environmental movement. Put another way, they’ve used both Ted Nugent and the ACLU as the voice of reason. That pretty much guarantees you a cult audience.

Music Video: Britney Spears, ‘Everytime’

Britney drowns in the bathtub and is reborn as a baby. I think. The sequence of events is a little murky. It turns out to have been a dream anyway. Stephen Dorff plays the abusive boyfriend who gives their room a Johnny Depp makeover. Sadly, I can’t tell if this marks a step up or a step down from his appearance in COLD CREEK MANOR.