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“These are bad times for people who like to sit outside the library at dawn on a rainy morning and get ripped to the tits on crank and powerful music.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Songs of the Doomed
Today, July 18th, is Hunter S. Thompson’s 73rd birthday, or at least it would be if he hadn’t shot himself dead 5 years ago while his grandson played in another room of the rambling log cabin that was his home in Woody Creek, Colorado.
Based on those credentials, Hunter S. Thompson might present himself as an unlikely candidate for hero, literary or otherwise. Suffice to say that this lowly hack does have literary heroes, including figures as jumbled and miscellaneous as Lord Byron, Douglas Adams, Evelyn Waugh, William S. Burroughs and Oscar Wilde, and Hunter S. Thompson is one of them. That’s despite the fact I’m a cynical and jaded veteran of the journalistic trade and aware there are a lot of criticisms you can level at Thompson and his legacy. For one thing, he has become the poster boy for an awful lot of readers who cnta evne slpel tiher nwo nasem, let alone tell you for example the name of the current vice president of the United States. Well at least they’re reading something I guess.
Also, a parsing of any of Thompson’s numerous biographies and one quickly becomes aware of just how out-of-control the author of Hells Angels could get. At his worst, he must have been a fucking nightmare. A great screaming and shouting physical brute demanding expenses and room service and bottles of Chivas Regal sent up to his room so that he could finish his goddamn column. But it was even worse than that – it seems he beat his long-suffering first wife Sandy, and made a lot of other people suffer in the shadow of his savage temper. There was if we are honest, a little something of the ‘Mel Gibson in the night’ about the so-called good doctor.
And yet. However enthralling or appalling his antics were, the reason he had stood out in the first place was that at his best he wrote the same way a Cheetah can run. “A man of vast syntactical resources” as William F. Buckley put it. In the 2006 biopic ‘Hunter S. Thompson on Film’, Buckley also reads this piece by Thompson aloud.
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Or at least it has according to the Washington Post and other news sources who have reported that two planes arrived in Vienna early Friday to transport deported Russian spies back to the Motherland and arrange for some convicted Russian informants to defect, presumably to the good ole US of A. With a stopover sightseeing tour of Madame Tussauds and Harrods along the way.
The Post suggested the “rapidly arranged spy swap …stirred memories of Cold War intrigues”.
Really? It has seemed more like an episode of House Swap to me. I mean, it all went by the book. Just a brisk 90 minutes after landing, a Russian Yakovlvev Yak-42 was whisking the 10 agents back to Moscow, while a Boeing 767-200 took off with the four Russians, apparently headed to London.
The Washington Post mentioned that “some analysts” had been perturbed by the catch-and-release policy of the American government. If those analysts were to include stateless, expatriate barflies living in Budapest, you’d have to count me in.
The article infers these same analysts feel making espionage seem so consequence-free might not send out the right signal to potential recruits. I’d say they have a point. Read More »
Russian spies plead guilty opening way for spy swap: All 10 Russian spy suspects have pleaded guilty in a move that could open the way for a possible spy swap deal between Russia and the US. The defendants each announced their pleas to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. An 11th defendant was a fugitive after he fled authorities in Cyprus following his release on bail. It is thought prosecutors were going to drop the more serious charges of money laundering as long as the group pleaded guilty to acting as agents of a foreign government. In return, they will have to leave the country.
via Russian spies plead guilty opening way for spy swap – Telegraph.
I’ve always wanted to be a secret agent. Now more than ever. (Only now, in my rich fantasy life I can’t figure out if I want to be a Russian spy in America, or an American spy in Russia. I don’t think there’d be all that much difference frankly.) Anyway, I want that job. I mean, who wouldn’t right? It’s a glamorous existence with a great exit strategy. And I’m more cut out for it than most. For what is a spy if not an actor, with some journalistic instincts? I hear a lot of talk, but I can keep a secret. (Which is why I hear a lot of talk).
Hell, I’ve even played a Russian secret agent living in Washington for TNT. That’s me in character below, getting out of a Soviet era limousine, a thing of great beauty – unlike the bloke in front of it.
Anyway, I’ll say it again. I want to be a spy. I want to go to clandestine meetings in nightclubs brimming with leggy supermodels and exchange briefcases under the table. I want to speak with a devastatingly sexy accent and be tempted into a honeytrap with a woman like Anna Kuschenko, I want to have wives in three different states, I want to speak English, Russian and American and fly Gulfstream from Moscow to Miami where I gamble at casinos all night but still somehow keep enough money aside for a little (okay very large) dacha in the country when I retire in a few years. Read More »
An artist’s impression of Edgar Allan Poe’s “aerial machine”, the Victoria.
The Heene family aren’t the first to come up with a balloon-based con, writes Aida Edemariam in the Guardian. Apparently Edgar Allan Poe did it in 1844, when he misreported the crossing of the Atlantic by a hot air balloon. Let’s have Ms Edemariam pick up the narrative: As “the Heene family of Colorado …contemplate possible criminal records for conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, they can at least take comfort in the fact that they have distinguished company when it comes to balloon hoaxes.”
Ms Edemariam is to be congradulated on being erudite enough to come up with an Edgar Allen Poe angle on the balloon boy story that, you’ll forgive me, has been inflated beyond all proportion. It is also the second headline to mention the ‘divine Edgar’ in the last seven days. The first was the ceremonial burial of an effigy of the great writer in a Baltimore cemetery, 160 years after his funeral.
In any case, during his lifetime it transpires Edgar Allen Poe was quite the prankster, perpetrating a handful of other such hoaxes. But I don’t think it appeared anywhere on his criminal record. For that matter, 100 years later in 1938; when Orson Welles broadcast War of the Worlds; I don’t think he was hauled in for questioning and told he was a threat to national security.
Seems to me the official response here has been a bit …heavy/wrong handed? I don’t know much about the Heenes, maybe they are all Morris dancing Satan worshippers, but they look harmless enough to me. In fact, in what looks at this distance to be a blase and defeatist climate, Balloon Boy is about the closest thing America has had to a Charles Lindbergh for a long time. Well, we live in a tatty age of reality flotsam and celebrity jetsam. So no need to give the Heenes a medal, but putting them through Court TV looks off too. Let’s face it, if this was a movie by Disney or Spielberg, the Heene family would be the heroes.
Anyway, here’s the full story from the Graunian. Yes, I know I said Graunian: The Heene family aren’t the first balloon-based hoaxers: Edgar Allan Poe did it in 1844 | The Guardian.
Ed Pilkington in New York. By the standards of any age, it was a miserable way to go. Edgar Allan Poe, dark romantic writer and poet credited with inventing the genre of detective fiction, enjoyed a death far more Gothic and gloomy than any of his stories. It began badly when he was found, aged 40, wandering the streets of Baltimore, penniless, raving unintelligibly, dressed in someone else’s clothes, possibly having been beaten up. He died four days later, on October 7 1849, in hospital, having uttered the final words: “Lord, help my poor soul.”
via Writer Edgar Allan Poe gets proper funeral – 160 years on | Books | guardian.co.uk.
Well, I suppose it is all over bar the quoting now, but at 1130am Sunday, a ‘life size replica’ of Edgar Allen Poe was carried from his Baltimore home on Amity street to the Westiminster burial ground. One wonders, what Poe himself have made of the fuss? He’d already been reburied once, in 1875. Walt Whitman was present, and Tennyson sent a poem: ‘Fate that once denied him, And envy that once decried him, And malice that belied him, Now cenotaph his fame‘. Quite right. Any Poe biography is inevitably, depressing stuff. His literary gift was only matched by his talent for misfortune.
But what happened to the fake cadaver, one wonders? Was it actually interred six feet under ground? Without setting out to, it seems to this writer that the divine Edgar helped beget a certain kind of Gothick kitsch, of which authors like Stephanie Meyer are distant heirs. But even with her kajillion-selling page-turners, one wonders if in 160 years Twilight aficionados dressed in early 21st -century clothes will fill the need to rebury her replica? Time to stock up on personal tragedy and laudanum, if you’re playing the long game for posterity.