Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Shrike

Have you ever heard of a Shrike? I haven't till about a month ago. According to it's a bird famous for impaling their victims, these songbirds use a special maneuver to break the necks of small rodents, coming up from behind them. Shrikes are also known as butcherbirds because of their feeding habits. It's no wonder that this bird can be used in literature, movies and TV as a metaphor for a murderer or a serial killer. And maybe it has been mentioned in things I have read or watched in the past and I just don't remember.

A Wikipedia entry says that Shrike is the name of multiple fictional characters appearing in publications from DC Comics.

Then last month I'm listening to an audiobook called Bitter Brew. It's a small town murder mystery taking place in upstate New York where a prominent citizen is killed. The local detective investigates. This is written and read by Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame. A very entertaining book. The town has a couple birds that they love and care for like town mascots and one bird ends up dead. Tom the Shrike he's called. This is the first time I heard this word. Grammer explains that it is a predatory bird. They eventually find who killed Tom the Shrike.

Then I'm watching a great film called The Mechanic with Christian Bale. The camera follows him into his dilapidated apartment right past his building manager's apartment. She opens the door and asks when she's going to get the rent. Tomorrow Mrs. Shrike, he says. Camera pans to the mailboxes on the wall "Mrs. Shrike" it says. I was taken aback. There is that word again.

Then a week ago I'm listening to Michael Connelly's new book called Fair Warning. They are searching for a possible serial killer that picks his victims using stolen DNA. They call the killer, The Shrike. I was like, are you kidding me? I start writing this down now.

Then I turn on a great series on Netflix called Hannibal. There was a character called Garret Jacob Hobbs (also known as "The Minnesota Shrike") who was a serial killer who abducted and killed eight young women. I did a double take.

I say to myself, what the hell is going on here with this word Shrike? You know what it is? Just a silly coincidence. Rim shot.

- JP Myers (still taking notes)


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Michael Connelly's New Book Fair Warning Has an Easter Egg

I finished listening to 10 glorious hours of Michael Connelly's new book Fair Warning. I really enjoyed this new thriller and the reader Peter Giles was great. Connelly's character Jack McEvoy (Mac A Voy) is back as a reporter for Fair Warning, a consumer news website. And joining him is Jack's on again off again girlfriend slash former FBI profiler Rachel Walling. The book takes place in the LA/OC area with the offices of Fair Warning above Art's Deli in Studio City. The subject of the book is DNA analytics and what companies like 23 and Me do with the DNA in an unregulated industry. And of course a serial killer gets DNA info for his bad deeds. It's a very detailed and well written and entertaining book.

The Easter Egg: Then after the audio version of this book is over, there is Michael Connelly speaking. He explains that he is going to do an interview with Myron Levin, the founder and editor of the real Fair Warning website,

The interview is 26 minutes long and they talk about the site and what they do. The site has 12 contributors and an editorial board. The site is news for public health, consumer and environmental issues. Connelly and Levin have known each other for more than 30 years. They worked at the LA Times together. Levin explains that journalism may be headed to the non profit model and that Fair Warning uses that model and takes donations. With Connelly and Levin being friends and Connelly on the board he was able to use Fair Warning in his book. I really like these kind of surprises at the end of a book. I think this site deserves more attention and this non profit model is a definite way to get the public high quality journalism. Maybe a model for the future.

-JP Myers  

Friday, June 12, 2020

Just Mercy

Just watched Just Mercy (2019) with Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, Karan Kendrick and Brie Larson. It tells the true story of Walter McMillian, who, with the help of young defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, appeals his murder conviction. This story was based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2014) by Bryan Stevenson.

I admit I have never been a big fan of Jamie Foxx but his performance in this film is solid. Along with Michael B. Jordan who carried this film, did an outstanding job. When I first heard of the film I noticed that Brie Larson was in it. She's the reason I wanted to see this and she was great. After her performance in "Room" she can do no wrong in my opinion.

Walter "Johnny D." McMillian was an African-American pulpwood worker from Monroeville, Alabama, who was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Based on no evidence and only an eye witness account of a felon who made a deal save himself and frame McMillian. This witness eventually recanted which led to the release or Mr. McMillian.

In the opening of the film it is pointed out that Monroe County, Alabama is the area where the book and film To Kill a Mockingbird took place and where author Harper Lee grew up. And the fact that the white lawyer in the film played by Gregory Peck defends a black man from false rape charge is not lost on me. It seems the local police were not aware of this. They may not be readers or care not to have seen the film. The law enforcement and the community that reelected this sheriff over and over will never be forgotten. This was about pure corruption and racism.

This is a powerful powerful film that I dare you not to cry watching.

I give this an A+ way up

- JP Myers

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Shirley on Hulu

Elisabeth Moss as Shirley

I just watched the film Shirley (2020) on Hulu and I have to say I was quite surprised at how bad it was. I really love these actors, Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, and an actress I'm not familiar with, Odessa Young who is the only real highlight in this film.

Odessa Young

I'm a huge fan of Elisabeth Moss who's been in countless great things like Mad Men, The Handmaid's Tale, Top of the Lake. And Michael Stuhlbarg who's been in Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, The Post, The Looming Tower is a tremendous actor.

Stuhlbarg and Moss

This film is just a bad version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It's a beautiful looking film but with some bad handheld camera work. There is just a very thin story with lots or arguing and drinking. These actors deserve better. 

The book that Shirley (Moss) was writing about may have been interesting if it was fleshed out a bit more, a local girl that went missing. They choose not to do that and left us with a very thin film.

- JP Myers