PCR past banners Nolan's Pop Culture Review--now in our seventh calendar year!
PCR #303 (Vol. 7, No. 2) This edition is for the week of January 9--15, 2006.

Deadguy's Dementia

La Floridiana Lite: Florida Tidbits. More Names of Counties. Charlie Carlson Update.  by William Moriaty
"Hostel"  by Mike Smith
The Case of Blight on Tampa, or Where is the Public Art?  by Vinnie Blesi
A Million Half-Truths  by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
The Coffeehouse/Tampa Film Review  by Mark Terry
Th Cost of "Freedom"  Dylan Jones
Rex's Rant: Abramoff....Pat Robertson....Howard Stern...."Hostel"  by Nick King
Birthday Boy....The Rondos Are Here!!!...Does Jesus Christ Exist  by Matt Drinnenberg
Dedicated To....Passing On....Speaking of Baseball....My Favorite Films--Chapter 2  by Mike Smith
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A Million Half-Truths

Book author James Frey, is being credited with pulling a scam on Oprah Winfrey, and her staff. Apparently, his book was selected by the Oprah Book Club as a "best of the month" pick. The book is called "A Million Pieces", and is a chronicle of a character as he makes his way through recovery in a drug rehab clinic, learning to control his crack/heroin addictions, and essentially straighten out an anger management problem. It's a very visceral account that often uses sentence fragments and coarse descriptions to illustrate high levels of intensity with regards to anger, pain and painful emotions.

Inspection of the book cover indicates that this book is supposed to be a true account of the author's own life with names changed, etc. This was also how the book was presented to Oprah Winfrey, and subsequently how she presented it to her loyal viewers, my wife included. I don't know about women in general, but it seemed as though the fact it was supposed to be a real account automatically made the book twice as interesting. My wife loves to read True Crime stories about serial killers and suchlike, and this book fit nicely in there as almost a criminal's perspective.

She also reads fictional true crime novels, but they don't get her as excited. In the case of this book, she was spellbound by it. She kept telling me I'd like it, and telling me over and over, that it's a true story. So I gave it a shot. Quite a few people liked this book, and I'm one of them, but as I read it, I noted quite a few points where I had to stop reading and say, "OK, THAT's not very realistic". Mainly it had to do with the way people reacted to the main character. It was kind of like watching a movie where the main character is a Holywood Icon and the other characters all seemed to know it and tried hard to affect him instead of acting normal. They often reacted strangely, and they often just felt like plot devices rather than actual people with their own agendas. There were other things too, but I can't recall the specifics.

It just didn't have the ring of truth about it. That didn't make my reading any less enjoyable though, it just made me aware of the fact that there was quite a bit of baloney thrown in with the rest of the story. I realized, even before seeing that the auther had noted it, that some of the events were altered for dramatic considerations. I suspected that there was more than that, but really, I liked the book, and a full investigation seemed like it'd be a waste of time, considering that I really didn't care about the veracity of the story.

So...fast forward to a few days ago, and it turns out that someone else thought an investigation was in order. The website called "The Smoking Gun" decided to go after the facts. It's hard to tell just WHY they decided to investigate it, but knowing the type of content they carry, they probably wanted to scoop up the available mugshots, and perhaps piece together a rap sheet and various legal documents on the author. In theory, it would have been an interesting backup to the author's story.

They contacted the author, and the author helped clairfy some of the events that took place in the book. It's likely that he was unaware they'd use the info to investigate his past, but once that came to light, it appears that he quickly became less than helpful. One thing is for sure, he stopped agreeing that parts of the story were changed around and stuff to add a dramatic feel to it. He stressed that dates and names had been changed, etc..

In a normal person, this isn't questionable behavior, but in this man, it seemed contrary to everything he stood for. It didn't make much sense until hard evidence of information that conflicted with the book started coming out. I won't go into the details on what Smoking Gun found because they ran 6 long internet pages of material on the subject, but it WAS interesting to discover that a crime in which the character drove onto a curb hitting a police officer, and having a blood alcohol level that topped all existing records in the county, had been the completely ridiculous exaggeration of an arrest where a cop spotted him hitting a curb.

The author refused a breathalyzer test and was taken downtown, where he blew a .21 rather than the record-breaking .39 that the book character did. Rather than the extensive list of charges that the character faced (including made-up charge names like "felony mayhem") and the extensive jail term, he was given a simple fine and released within 20 minutes because he had chicken pox at the time. Smoking Gun, of course, has a picture of his chicken-pox-covered mug shot.

In any event, there's more material there, and the author decided to sick his lawyer's on Smoking Gun. Smoking Gun published the lawyer's letter, despite the letter stating that doing so would be a violation of copyright. It basically said that Smoking Gun needs to shut up because calling the author a liar was a slanderous allegation. It also went on to threaten that the author had film deals and a second book deal in the works, and that if Smoking Gun continued its slander, it would be likely to adversely affect those deals, thereby putting awardable damages in the multi-million dollar range. They're claiming that Smoking Gun found a lack of information on the subject, which doesn't count as evidence of the author being a liar.

The book was originally presented as being fictional, and thrown away 13 TIMES, by various publishers, before the manuscript was reworked a bit, and it was resubmitted as factual material.

Whatever, the entire thing seems a bit silly to me, except for the fact that there are people walking around out there that have the charaacter's "hold on" mantra tattoed on them as a result of being fans of the book. Other fans wear "Hold on" T-shirts.

Detractors of the book state that the author made their institutions look bad, and that they were horribly misrepresented, including a church in Paris that the character visited while highly upset about something. He was looking for guidance, and solace/compassion/yadda/yadda. According to him, a priest took advantage of his vulnerable state and almost immediately proceeded to go for his crotch. The book states that the character clubbed the priest, possibly to death, and fled the scene immediately.

So...if the book is non-fiction, that's basically a murder confession, or it's slanderous, but apparently there aren't any priests missing. That doesn't matter for some reason, perhaps the statute of limitations thing (in France?), I dunno'.

I guess in legal terms, it's got to be determined if the representation of the book as non-fiction can be construed as product misrepresentation, or false advertising. Likewise, if a non-fictional book is called false, then does that automatically make movie remakes and stuff nonviable, and therefore their failure be attributed to the people that claimed it was false?

Anyways, which is more important, author misrepresentation, or enjoyment of the book?

I keep thinking that movies like Return of the Living Dead are obviously works of fiction, but they carry a line in the introductions that state the movie is based on a true story. Is that kind of misrepresentation going to be considered illegal in the future? Or if the radio news station ran a segment claiming that Return of the Living Dead was indeed based on a true story, even though the original story wasn't able to be proven, wouldn't that get the news company in trouble? I think it would, considering that it would suddenly become a spoofed news broadcast, which is illegal or something, isn't it, after the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast thing?

As a side note. What is partial truth, but a perspective after all? If 90% of a story is true, but the rest is made up, is it a true story anymore? What about 50% true 50% false? How do you quantify the percentage of truth versus fiction in a story anyways?

If I said "a 30-year-old man died today", and one word in there was a lie would it be 6/7th true and 1/7th false? Would it be untrue if it turned out the guy was 31? what about 18? Better yet, what if he didn't die and the word should have been tripped? Or instead, what if it happened yesterday, is it now a less false statement?

"... He betrayed and murdered your father" versus, "He betrayed US and IS your father." [Star Wars character] Obi-Wan called that "the truth, from a certain point of point of view," but I think most folks would agree that it was a lie calculated to get the reaction he wanted from Luke.

Or it was a play on words meaning that Vader betrayed himself and destroyed all remnants of the kinder, more caring, Anakin Skywalker he used to be. That's correct then.. it is the truth as explained from a certain viewpoint. So now, is he a liar? The difference seems to be pretty drastic, but the only change is the way in which the sentence was interpreted. Personally, I wouldn't have considered the statement to be true unles it clarified itself and gave a clearer understanding of what actually happened: "Vader used to be your father, but he betrayed himself and you, to the dark side... The OLD him would have been proud to pass down his lightsaber to you, but the NEW him would probably prefer it if I didn't arm you against him. Perhaps he might even want me to trick you and have you ignite the blade while holding the saber backwards. I dunno, but in any event, what he doesn't know won't hurt him."

"Deadguy's Dementia" is ©2006 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott.  Webpage design by Nolan B. Canova.  The "Deadguy's Dementia" header graphic and background tile are creations of Mike Scott.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.