Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the undead

Safety manager in workplace says,
When injury rate is a little high,
OSHA says it's bad because people are being injured.

And when the injury rate is a little lower,
OSHA says, "What's the deal? Are you hiding something?"

-- "Are they ever happy?"
-- "No."

Maybe OSHA has not read The Power Of Positive Thinking.

There was an episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" where Mary tries to interview a member of the Mafia. He refuses the interview. She says to Mr. Grant:

-- They think the press only publishes negative things about them. He said, "Why don't they write about all the people we don't kill?"

It would be like -- Why doesn't OSHA talk about all the people who didn't get injured?


Monday, January 30, 2012

"f" is for "fighting"

Three images of fighting
entered my consciousness, weekend - through - today.

The movie Duplicity has, at the beginning, a scene on the tarmac at an airport, where two men who are top executives of two huge world-wide companies yell at each other, face-to-face, then get exasperated and start fighting with each other, physically. They are wearing suits. Each has an entourage -- cluster of people, some with umbrellas, standing, waiting, near the planes.

The fight is filmed in slow motion -- really slow motion -- and you see, while watching the seconds unwind like hours, how stupid fighting is.

And you really don't expect it -- the behavior -- from "top executives," whom we assume will be dignified, classy, and understated.

So it's funny.
And weird.
But -- it's only a movie.


Reading short stories by Raymond Chandler -- "I'll Be Waiting," "The King In Yellow," "Pickup on Noon Street," "Smart-Aleck Kill," and "Guns At Cyrano's" -- encountered several fighting scenes. Bad guys routinely take a shot at Chandler's private detective heroes, with fist, "sap" (blackjack), or butt end of a gun.

There, it's part of the story, part of Chandler's style -- and I know it's fiction. No need to call the emergency room.


Then today, heard someone at work discussing problems with his son, who has gotten into trouble by fighting. Now, that's not fiction, or dudes wearing suits in a movie -- it's a bummer for the parents.

I wonder how people go about teaching their teenage sons to organize their aggression into productive, society-sanctioned channels. ...

(I'd like to get that kid a job in the next Julia Roberts movie...He could pretend to beat people up, while wearing a suit...)

Julia Roberts herself is rather terse in Duplicity, which is a welcome departure from the usual gooey luuuuhhhhh-vv-e stuff in some of her movies that leaves you feeling like you're trapped in quicksand mixed with sugar-frosting and you're getting sucked ever-downward. ...

Although even in this hard-edged movie about lying, stealing, cheating, tricking, trapping, spying, and general bliccchh in modern upper-corporate "world," there's still a part toward the end where it's:
(Julia Roberts): "I love you."

Oh-kay. Yadda-yadda-yadda.

(Julia): "I love you."
(Julia): "I really do." [I reeee--llll--yyyy---dooooo -- bleah]
Clive Owen: "I think about you all the time."

Those lines are in every freakin' movie where people are supposed to be

come up with something original or just play some music instead --

There are two actors, besides Julia Roberts, who were also with her in the film Charlie Wilson's War -- the station chief in Pakistan who tells Charlie Wilson, "A sudden influx of money -- and new weaponry -- would draw attention..."
Charlie Wilson: "Draw attention...! I don't even know what that means. This is the Cold War! Everybody knows-about-it!..."

And the really smart weapons expert from C.W. War is also in DUPLICITY --
looking them up --
Denis O'Hare! -- is Harold Holt in CW War & something in Duplicity,
Christopher Denham -- is in both films.

Julia Roberts is sort of the Ingrid Bergman for our time.
Liked best: Erin Brockovich.


Friday, January 27, 2012

secure the scene

Tired all week, now is Friday.
Want to
rest my hair,
watch the movie "Duplicity" and figure out what it is about.

(Playing it on TV in bedroom while in bathroom showering and getting ready for work has not provided clarity on the plot, or the point, of this movie.)

A quality assurance person at the place where I work said she never has a "list" of things to do, on the weekend.

I'm modeling that.

In my notebook on my desk outside kitchen, I don't even have a page marked "Saturday" or "Sunday" now. The next page after Friday is Monday, and during the weekend I can just set things on top of the notebook.

No list.

Oh, writing about this makes me remember an episode of "Friends" where Joey is re-reading The Shining, & when it gets too scary he puts it in the freezer.

Then he reads Little Women, on Rachel's recommendation, & when he's getting worried that Beth, who is very sick, might die and he's getting emotional, Rachel asks him, mom-like, "You wanna put the book in the freezer?"

I could put my notebook of Lists Of Things To Do -- in the freezer! Just for the weekend.


that makes me remember when I was in about fourth grade a girl at school gave me a book of scary / spooky stories, and they were too scary, really for children -- something about slime, I don't know -- and I took the book down into the basement and put it in a big box of stuff, way down at the bottom, so it was underneath all of the stuff.

And -- presumably -- couldn't ... --
I don't know...
get out...

ohmygosh, cannot stop laughing -- that is so weird; I can't believe I did that!

So I have options -- I can take my notebook of Lists of Stuff To Do and --
put it in the freezer, or
put it in basement box, under stuff in box, or --
set things on top of it.

Strategy. Method. The art of war.
Or -- security. Like, protecting yourself from your own lists and all that they represent.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

trouble is my olive oil

I sprawled, but I never knew when I reached the floor. The fist with the weighted tube of nickels met me in midflight. Perfectly timed, perfectly weighted, and with my own weight to help it out.

I went out like a puff of dust in a draft.

I sat still for about five minutes and then my pipe got too hot.

"I always take champagne with mine," he said. "A third of a glass of brandy under the champagne, and the champagne as cold as Valley Forge. Colder, if you can get it colder."

I skinned through the door and made a fast break through the gap in the hedge and up the hill, half expecting lead to fly after me. None came.

I jumped into the Chrysler and chased it up over the brow of the hill and away from that neighborhood.

We were sitting in a room at the Berglund. I was on the side of the bed, and Dravec was in the easy chair. It was my room.

Rain beat very hard against the windows.

She looked up and smiled and said: "How do you like the mountains?"
I said: "Fine."
"It's very quiet up here," she said. "Very restful."
"Yeah. Do you know anybody named Fred Lacey?"

I went back towards the living room, stopped in the doorway to take another pleasant look around, and noticed something I ought to have noticed the instant I stepped into the room. I noticed the sharp tang of cordite on the air, almost, but not quite gone. And then I noticed something else.

------------- [excerpts, Trouble Is My Business / Raymond Chandler.]

One day, making my salad at work, head of my dept. told me some "extra virgin olive oil" isn't really olive oil, they put other kinds of oil, like maybe peanut oil or something in a bottle, & label it "extra virgin olive oil" because that sells because the health & fitness people often recommend it.

I was like, that's not fair, that's cheating, that's not Truth In Advertising. (Not even advertising -- labeling!)

Then read about topic on internet, promptly became more confused. Various opinions & assertions out there, but no "bottom line," it didn't seem like.

And then another co-worker told me the whole "maybe it isn't really ex. virg. olive oil unless it comes from CA and has a certain "seal" on the label"-'drama' is possibly cooked up to "scare" us into buying their particular kind of olive oil. (I now have the kind from CA, with seal, & dark bottle. ...as mentioned in some of the internet articles. ...)

Am disliking duplicity.
Fake olive oil.
Or -- a fake scare about fraudulent olive oil, to make us buy theirs.
I don't like it when they ("they") try to get us to buy something by scaring us. If their product is really good, they could sell it honestly without scaring people.

And thought of Raymond Chandler's classic mysteries, and wondered, what would his "first person" private eye (Mr. Carmady; Philip Marlowe...whomever) do about --
a) fake olive oil, &
b) fake stories about fake olive oil to try to trick us into buying their brand...How would he approach the issues?


I sprawled, but I never knew when I reached the floor. The fist with the bottle of extra virgin olive oil met me in midflight. Perfectly timed, perfectly weighted, and with my own weight to help it out.

I went out like a puff of dust in a draft.

I sat still for about five minutes and then my olive oil got too hot.

"I always take olive oil with mine," he said. "A third of a glass of brandy under the olive oil, and the olive oil as cold as Valley Forge. Colder, if you can get it colder."

I skinned through the door and made a fast break through the gap in the hedge and up the hill, half expecting olive oil to fly after me. None came.

I jumped into the Chrysler and chased it up over the brow of the hill and away from that neighborhood.

We were sitting in a room at the Berglund. I was on the side of the bed, and Dravec was in the easy chair. It was my room.

Olive oil beat very hard against the windows.

She looked up and smiled and said: "How do you like the olive oil?"
I said: "Fine."
"It's very quiet up here," she said. "Very restful."
"Yeah. Do you know anybody named Fred Lacey?"

I went back towards the living room, stopped in the doorway to take another pleasant look around, and noticed something I ought to have noticed the instant I stepped into the room. I noticed the sharp tang of olive oil on the air, almost, but not quite gone. And then I noticed something else.


("And then -- I noticed something else."
That's why he's The Master.)

Trouble is my -- business.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

hello there

[excerpt, "The Curtain," story by Raymond Chandler. Collection: Trouble Is My Business, Copyright 1939, Curtis Publishing Co.]
---------------- The minutes passed on tiptoe. Long, sluggish minutes. Then feet crunched outside and the door was pushed open. The light hit pencils of rain and made silver wires of them. Art trundled two muddy flats in sulkily, kicked the door shut, let one of the flats fall on its side. The rain and fresh air had given him his nerve back. He looked at me savagely.

"Seattle," he snarled. "Seattle, my eye!"
The brown man lit a cigarette as if he hadn't heard. Art peeled his coat off and yanked my tire up on a rim spreader, tore it loose viciously, had the tube out and cold-patched in nothing flat. He strode scowling over to the wall near me and grabbed an air hose, let enough air into the tube to give it body, and hefted it in both hands to dip it in a washtub of water.

I was a sap, but their teamwork was very good. Neither had looked at the other since Art came back with my tires.

Art tossed the air-stiffened tube up casually, caught it with both hands wide, looked it over sourly beside the washtub of water, took one short easy step and slammed it down over my head and shoulders.

He jumped behind me in a flash, leaned his weight down on the rubber, dragged it tight against my chest and arms. I could move my hands, but I couldn't get near my gun.

The brown man brought his right hand out of his pocket and tossed a wrapped cylinder of nickels up and down on his palm as he stepped lithely across the floor.

I heaved back hard, then suddenly threw all my weight forward. Just as suddenly Art let go of the tube, and kneed me from behind.

I sprawled, but I never knew when I reached the floor. The fist with the weighted tube of nickels met me in midflight. Perfectly timed, perfectly weighted, and with my own weight to help it out.

I went out like a puff of dust in a draft.
* * * *

It seemed there was a woman and she was sitting beside a lamp. Light shone on my face, so I shut my eyes again and tried to look at her through my eyelashes. She was so platinumed that her head shone like a silver fruit bowl.

She wore a green traveling dress with a mannish cut to it and a broad white collar falling over the lapels. A sharp-angled glossy bag stood at her feet. She was smoking, and a drink was tall and pale at her elbow.

I opened my eye wider and said: "Hello there."-----------------[end excerpt]


Monday, January 23, 2012

you mean t' tell me...

The summer after senior year in high school I worked as a waitress (pity those customers!) at a summer resort: park service men would come in for coffee almsot daily. The coffee was some outstandingly low price, like 10- or 20-cents per cup. And of course most of them would order breakfast. (Is that the principle of the "loss-leader"...?)

The park service men would tell stories about tourists. (Since tourists supported the local economy, making fun of them was a bit of a pre-requisite...!?...) [All in fun; all-ll-ll in Fun.]

Buffalo roam the state park, following their own obscure "schedule." Their massively-maned, prehistoric heads fronting mysterious bodies, powerful in their stillness -- chocolate-brown, ageless eyes watchful.

The park service men often had a sense of the herd-movements of the buffalo -- they would be -- over to the west, or "in the trees." (It seemed like park service guys never said "woods," or "forest" -- they would refer to -- over in the trees, or "up in the trees," meaning -- up, on the side of the mountain, amongst the trees, or in the forest. ...)

One of our park service fellows told us once, there was this tourist from the east coast who approached him one day with what seemed almost like a demand -- to see some buffalo.

(Like -- we've gotta see the buffalo, take some pictures, and get-the-hell-outta-here, so we can get on to the next tourist thing on our list. ...)

("Hey, you're on vacation.")
But some "Type A" sorts don't adjust to that schedule so quickly. ...

Wondering how he would explain to the imposing east coast tourist that buffalo were not exactly ready-on-demand, our park service guy stalled for time, saying in his low-key style, "Well this morning, I think the buffalo --" (looking over to the thickly forested hill) "--are probably up in the trees."

Abruptly frowning and staring up into the branches of the nearest tree, the tourist's expression rapidly hit quizzical, then amazed, then incredulous, as he turned back to Park Service and said, "Do you mean to tell me, that those big animals get up in the trees??!...!"

We waitresses thought that was pretty damn funny.

"Buffalo -- climbing trees!"
"Roosting in the trees..."
"Swinging from branch to branch!..."
"Merrily swinging from branch to branch...!"

---------------------- I wish I had skill as a cartoonist: I would draw some trees with buffalo: two standing on the ground nearby; one climbing a tree; one sitting on a tree branch, and one or two -- swinging between the branches...

I told that story to tables of tourists all summer long, I think.


Friday, January 20, 2012

we collide with Mars

Have you heard? It's in the stars

Next July we collide with Mars.

Well, did you evah?

What a swell party, swell party

Swellegant, elegant party this is!


[Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, in
the film, High Society]


Thursday, January 19, 2012

own a cigar butt

A banging on the door woke me.

--------------------[excerpt from Playback, a book by Raymond Chandler. The "I" of the first-person narrative is private detective Philip Marlowe. Setting: California. Marlowe was hired by an attorney to follow and protect a young woman traveling alone. Attraction and aggravational tension between the private eye and the woman, who is nervous and fearful, leads to the two of them spending a night together in his motel room.]

----------------------- A banging on the door woke me. ...I got out of bed and pulled a bathrobe on and went to the door; I didn't open it.
"What's the matter? I was asleep."
"Captain Alessandro wants you at the office right away. Open the door."
"Sorry, can't be done. I have to shave and shower and so on."
"Open the door. This is Sergeant Green."

"I'm sorry, Sergeant. I just can't. But I'll be along just as soon as I can make it."

"You got a dame in there?"
"Sergeant, questions like that are out of line. I'll be there."

I heard his steps go down off the porch. I heard someone laugh. I heard a voice say, "This guy is really rich. I wonder what he does on his day off."

[later down at the police station]:
"Is this being recorded, Captain?"
He nodded. "Every word."
"All right, Mr. Cumberland. There's more, I take it."
"Naturally. I have a great deal of influence in Westfield. I own the bank, the leading newspaper, most of the industry. The people of Westfield are my friends.

["The people of Westfield are my friends."
I'll bet.]

The people of Westfield are my friends. My daughter-in-law was arrested and tried for murder and the jury brought in a verdict of guilty."
"The jury were all Westfield people, Mr. Cumberland?"
"They were. Why shouldn't they be?"
"I don't know, sir. But it sounds like a one-man town."
"Don't get impudent with me, young man."
"Sorry, sir. Would you finish?"

"...The judge was senile.
...He voided the verdict and discharged the defendant.
I told her that she had murdered my son and that I would see to it that she had no place of refuge anywhere on this earth. That is why I am here."

I looked at the captain. He looked at nothing. I said: "Mr. Cumberland, whatever your private convictions, Mrs. Lee Cumberland, whom I know as Betty Mayfield, has been tried and acquitted. You have called her a murderess. That's a slander. We'll settle for a million dollars."

He laughed almost grotesquely. "You small-town nobody," he almost screamed. "Where I come from you would be thrown into jail as a vagrant."

"Make it a million and a quarter," I said. "I'm not so valuable as your ex-daughter-in-law."
Cumberland turned on Captain Alessandro. "What goes on here?" he barked. "Are you all a bunch of crooks?"
"You're talking to a police officer, Mr. Cumberland."
"I don't give a good goddam what you are," Cumberland said furiously. "There are plenty of crooked police."

"It's a good idea to be sure -- before you call them crooked," Alessandro said, almost with amusement. Then he lit a cigarette and blew smoke and smiled through it.

"Take it easy, Mr. Cumberland. You're a cardiac case. Prognosis unfavorable. Excitement is very bad for you. I studied medicine once. But somehow I became a cop. The war cut me off, I guess."

Cumberland stood up....He made a strangled sound in his throat. "You haven't heard the last of this," he snarled.
Alessandro nodded. "One of the interesting things about police work is that you never hear the last of anything. There are always too many loose ends. Just what would you like me to do? Arrest someone who has been tried and acquitted, just because you are a big shot in Westfield, Carolina?"

"I told her I'd never give her any peace," Cumberland said furiously. "I'd follow her to the end of the earth. I'd make sure everyone knew just what she was!"
"And what is she, Mr. Cumberland?"
"A murderess that killed my son and was let off by an idiot of a judge -- that's what she is!"

Captain Alessandro stood up, all six feet three inches of him. "Take off, buster," he said coldly. You annoy me. I've met all kinds of punks in my time. Most of them have been poor stupid backward kids. This is the first time I've come across a great big important man who was just as stupid and vicious as a fifteen-year-old delinquent.

Maybe you own Westfield, North Carolina, or think you do. You don't own a cigar butt in my town. Get out before I put the arm on you for interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties."

Cumberland almost staggered to the door and groped for the knob, although the door was wide open. Alessandro looked after him. He sat down slowly.
"You were pretty rough, Captain."
"It's breaking my heart. If anything I said makes him take another look at himself -- oh well, hell!"

"Not his kind. Am I free to go?"
"Yes. Goble won't make charges. He'll be on his way back to Kansas City today. We'll dig up something on this Richard Harvest, but what's the use? We put him away for a while, and a hundred just like him are available for the same work."

"What do I do about Betty Mayfield?"

"I have a vague idea that you've already done it," he said, deadpan.

"Not until I know what happened to Mitchell." I was just as deadpan as he was.

"All I know is that he's gone. That doesn't make him police business."
I stood up. We gave each other those looks. I went out.

------------------------------ [end excerpt]
{Playback, by Raymond Chandler. Copyright -- Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.}


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

oh, don't ask why

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah

We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side

C'mon, yeah

I found an island in your arms
Country in your eyes
Arms that chain
Eyes that lie
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through, oww!
Oh, yeah!

Made the scene
Week to week
Day to day
Hour to hour
The gate is straight
Deep and wide

Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through
Break on through
Break on through
Break on through
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

a joyful noise

Yesterday I was thinking of Mineral City, Ohio -- a very little town I lived in from before kindergarten through first third, or half, of Third Grade.

At that age I -- and the other little kids -- could walk or ride our bikes anyplace in the town. We could go anywhere, and there was no worry of kidnapping or etc.

And thinking about third grade made me remember Mrs. M. who lived in a house that fronted sharply on our street -- like, you looked up, and there was her front porch, wham, above you, it seemed like, because of being built on a hill.

She had a parrot that could say things.

And the story I remember was, one day the Catholic priest was going to the Cs' house, across the street from Mrs. M., and as he approached their door, the parrot squawked out cheerfully, "Hello, Sweetie!"

And the priest was said to have turned around and looked straight up at Mrs. M. on her porch, in surprise. And Mrs. M. was flustered, believing that the holy man thought she had called out the unexpectedly flirtatious greeting....

Oh dear! GAL (giggling-a-little)
Such "problems" ...

And that town had Steiner's Bakery -- a sweet aroma like a million happy kitchens came from there & covered the town like a pleasant rain.


Monday, January 16, 2012

I'll be seeing you

"I'll be seeing you some more. Maybe in heaven."
That's what the icy platinum blonde says to the private detective (the first-person "I" character) in "The Curtain," by Raymond Chandler.

I was thinking about that Friday when I typed it in my post.
And I remembered when someone said something like that to me, once.
When I was in third grade, my family moved during the school year -- in the fall, I think, but cannot be sure. I went to school on moving day, and my parents finished the whatever at home & picked me up from school in middle of school day.

A weird way to leave -- with the school-day interrupted, and all the students looking at me, and even the teacher.
Everyone said, "good-bye" in a group of voices, & this one kid named Ted who always used to talk to me, or more like "at" me, 1st - third grade, in a challenging way -- kind of intimidating, so I tried to stay inside safe shell ... he called out, separate from the rest of the kids, "See ya in heaven!"

At the time, did not know what to make out of that. (Was not sophisticated enough, in third grade, to know that if a boy "bothers" you in a harmless way -- teases you, it could be he likes you...)

"See you in heaven."
Hmmh. Was Ted reading Raymond Chandler stories, in the third grade?

The other thing I could remember about Ted was one day outdoors he called out to another boy something about, "Who's driving the bus tonight? Is it Earl?" Eagerly, like he wanted the driver to be Earl, because that would be more fun than if the driver were anyone else.

And I was struck that Ted could call a grown-up man by his first name. I would not have been allowed to do that. I would have had to find out "Earl"'s last name -- (Stravinsky, whatever...) and then refer to him as "Mr. Stravinsky." Or..."Mr. Whatever..."

Ted seemed sort of grown-up, and daring and even commanding because he referred to the bus driver as "Earl." Earl the bus driver in Mineral City, Ohio.
Ted, the third grader.

See ya in heaven.


Friday, January 13, 2012

change of direction

{excerpt from "The Curtain," a story by Raymond Chandler}----------------------------------
"You're lying, Carmady. Just to scare me. Get out. I'm not afraid of Lash Yeager. I'm his boss's wife."

"Joe Mesarvey is a handful of mush," I snarled back. "The only time a girl like you goes for a wrong gee is when he's a handful of mush. Let's drift."

"Get out!" she said hoarsely.
"Okay." I turned away from her and went through the door.
She almost ran past me into the hallway and opened the front door, looked out into the black wetness. She motioned me forward.

"Goodbye," she whispered. "I hope you find Dud. I hope you find who killed Larry. But it wasn't Joe."

I stepped close to her, almost pushed her against the wall with my body.

"You're still crazy, Silver-Wig. Goodbye."

She raised her hands quickly and put them on my face. Cold hands, icy cold. She kissed me swiftly on the mouth with cold lips.
"Beat it, strong guy. I'll be seeing you some more. Maybe in heaven."

I went through the door and down the dark slithery wooden steps of the porch, across gravel to the round grass plot and the clump of thin trees. I came past them to the roadway, went back along it towards Foothill Boulevard. The rain touched my face with fingers of ice that were no colder than her fingers.

The curtained roadster stood just where I had left it, leaned over, the left front axle on the tarred shoulder of the highway. My spare and one stripped rim were thrown in the ditch.

They had probably searched it, but I still hoped. I crawled in backwards and banged my head on the steering post and rolled over to get the manacled hands into my little secret gun pocket. They touched the barrel. It was still there.

I got it out, got myself out of the car, got hold of the gun by the right end and looked it over.

I held it light against my back to protect it a little from the rain and started back towards the house.
--------------------------------[end excerpt]

{"The Curtain," written 1936; published in collection titled Trouble Is My Business, copyright 1939.}

"...and started back towards the house." Ooooh.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Long "I've heard this"

Reading Raymond Chandler novels, The Long Goodbye, The Little Sister, and Playback -- kept getting feeling of -- "I've heard someone say something like this before."

"I've heard this."

It's weird -- can hear and picture Humphrey Bogart because even if a person has only seen -- part -- of one -- of the Philip Marlowe movies, Bogart inhabited and owned that character so you totally picture him while reading. (Other characters H. Bogart played in films that were not based on Raymond Chandler novels -- Key Largo, To Have And Have Not, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon -- were similar, so the essence of that Type resonates and bounces around in memory and dominates.)

So while reading this collection of Chandler works, a pervasive sense of familiarity lives in your head, and you feel like, "Oh. Yeah. ...Yeah."

And some of it sounds like the way I've heard actual people talk -- especially Playback, the last thing he wrote in 1958. -- Expressions, turns of phrase. People I've known actually said some of those things, not so much now.

And -- unexpectedly enough -- some of it -- (the Chandler text) sounds like the 90s TV show "Friends."

I'm not kidding.
Just -- random, certain little phrases, ways of saying things, some kind of style -- it seems strange, but I knew I picked up on it. (At end of book, thought, now why didn't I write that down?)

And really -- Not so "strange" -- I noticed the same thing reading On The Road, by Jack Kerouac -- a couple of little spots, ways of using words, expressions -- and I'd be like, "Why does On The Road sound like "Friends"?

But of course it's the other way around.

On The Road and all of Raymond Chandler's writing is classic & well-known: I thought, Why wouldn't the producers and writers of a comedy show read the same stuff I read -- the same things lots of people read, that's how it got to be "classic." ...

There's a passage in The Little Sister where the character is asked for the spelling of something and he answers, with each letter, pausing to say, "...as in __________" -- with every letter, and the words he uses to illustrate which letter it is, are kind of unusual. And I went, "I don't believe this" -- because there's a "Friends" episode where an interviewer for "Soap Opera Digest" asks Phoebe for the "correct spelling" of her name and Phoebe says, "Yes, ok, P as in Phoebe, h as in heebie, o as in obie, e as in eebie, b as in beebie, and e as in -- 'ello there, Mate!"

all of the above...? But when I read something similar in The Little Sister, thought -- OK, I've only heard a joke like that in two places. The "Friends" writer must have been echoing, or taking inspiration from this Raymond Chandler novel.

And since one of the characters on "Friends" is named Chandler -- I'm thinking that is maybe the producers' (Kaufman, Bright, Crane) homage to the mystery writer.

There's one episode (in Season 4, I think) where Phoebe is expecting triplets & the people for whom she's a surrogate want her to name one of the babies. Joey and Chandler get all competitive: Joey wants Phoebe to name the third baby Joey, and Chandler of course wants her to name it Chandler.

Joey says that "Chandler" isn't even a real name. "Name one person besides you who's named that!"

Chandler: "Raymond Chandler!"

Joey: "OK, somebody you didn't just make up!"

{Yes, think someone in the "Friends" writing room was definitely a Raymond Chandler fan.}


Monday, January 9, 2012

yo-yo yoga

ohmygosh last week the New York Times brought 'em out of the woodwork with a food column featuring vegan recipes; this week, it's: "yoga can be bad for you!"...something like 750,+ comments...! Similar to the food issues, many people think they have the answers...Everyone's got a mat and a pair of leggings...!

Here I thought yoga was something I could practice (and I said practice, not excel -- just "do" and "be") and now this alarmist article warns me not to stand on head or crack spine.
(Ehrm...shall try to avoid...)

Really, if someone as strongly aspirational and at the same time utterly un-athletic and non-talented as myself can follow yoga videos (mid-first-millenium-decade) and drawings on sheet from magazine (now) and not get "injured" it's difficult to realistically see any danger.

(At first, thought -- Oh No! Another thing am not supposed to Do! And like Pooh when he got the honey jar stuck on his head, thought, "Bother!" and "Oh, help!")

But then, think -- just another yo-yo selling books.

...Yoga teachers might not approve of Frost / Nixon DVD as accompaniment to my Yoga poses -- with Frank Langella (as Nixon) saying, "The thing that makes life worth living is a fight! A battle, a struggle! Hell--even if ya don't win..." but everyone has own path to Relaxation and Higher Consciousness....


Friday, January 6, 2012

come a long way


I went up to the office and into the little reception room. There were two of them this time, Carol Pride and a blonde. A blonde with black eyes. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

"I kissed you in that ambulance," she said. "If you remember, don't take it too big. I was just sorry for the way you got your head bashed in."

"I'm a career man," I said. "I wouldn't build on anything like that. Let's go riding. I have to see a blonde in Beverly Hills. I owe her a report."

I was breaking a new pair of shoes in on my desk that morning when Violets M'Gee called me up. It was a dull, hot, damp August day and you couldn't keep your neck dry with a bath towel.

"How's the boy?" Violets began, as usual. "No business in a week, huh? There's a guy named Howard Melton over in the Avenant Building lost track of his wife. He's district manager for the Doreme Cosmetic Company. He don't want to give it to Missing Persons for some reason. The boss knows him a little. Better get over there, and take your shoes off before you go in. It's a pretty snooty outfit."

Violets M'Gee is a homicide dick in the sheriff's office, and if it wasn't for all the charity jobs he gives me, I might be able to make a living. This looked a little different, so I put my feet on the floor and swabbed the back of my neck again and went over there.

I saw the big guy standing in front of Shamey's....He was looking up at the broken stencils in the electric sign, with a sort of rapt expression, like a hunky immigrant looking at the Statue of Liberty, like a man who had waited a long time and come a long way.

[Like The Great Gatsby: "He had come a long way to this blue lawn..."]

[excerpts from stories in Trouble Is My Business collection. Vintage Books, Random House, New York]

Raymond Chandler, in the Introduction:
Possibly it was the smell of fear which these stories managed to generate. Their characters lived in a world gone wrong, a world in which, long before the atom bomb, civilization had created the machinery for its own destruction, and was learning to use it with all the moronic delight of a gangster trying out his first machine gun. The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power. The streets were dark with something more than night.

He wrote that in 1950. The stories were written mostly in the 1930s, and maybe 40s, I think.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

anything can happen

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.
-------------------- [from the story: Red Wind. From collection: Trouble Is My Business. Written by Raymond Chandler. Copyright, 1939, the Curtis Publishing Company. First Vintage Books (Random House, New York) Edition, July 1988.

In Episode #146 of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary becomes enthusiastically involved in writing a story about her grandfather. She shares the idea with her boss, Lou Grant, and receives an unexpected response. She sort of wants, from this authority figure, encouragement to match her enthusiasm.

But he's not into it. (Can't remember if he reads her story & doesn't think it's good, or if he refuses to read it in the first place because he thinks he knows it isn't going to be good, and doesn't want to tell her that, and let her down.) Something like that -- she gets disappointed and hurt -- he gives her this intense talking-to: something like, "Everybody thinks they can write, but they can't, and if you were going to be a writer you would have done it already...you want me to read this and like it, and I'm not going to like it, because I am a conoisseur of good writing, and I know how this is gonna end...and I don't want to go there..."

He's like, Your story isn't going to be good, and I don't want to lie to you and say it's good, and I don't want to hurt-and-disappoint you by telling you the truth.

Something like that...

And then he takes a book out of his desk drawer, and reads aloud,

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

He looks up from the book and says to Mary, "Now that's writing."


I remember when I saw that episode for the first time, I felt a couple of different things: I thought Mr. Grant was being a little mean, and discouraging. Also -- how does he know Mary can't be a writer? He doesn't know. After all, like Raymond Chandler himself says, "Anything can happen." Plus I also thought Mary went to the wrong person for encouragement and inspiration. (A lot of writing books advise writers to not tell people they're writing, or to be careful who you tell, because some folks like to be discouraging about things like that, for whatever reason, and the writing-advice-people usually say, Hey no point in wasting your time on 'em, much less allow them to succeed in discouraging you...Just do it!...or whatever.)

And I also felt, while watching that episode, that Mary's story about her sweet old grandfather probably was corny, and of interest only to members of her own family, if that. ...
(But then, how did I know that? Now see, I was being terrible. ...Is there a competitive tendency in human beings to disparage the effort of another, to make one's own efforts somehow more noteworthy?) Also there's the reflexive pessimistic negative thinking: if I look down my block, how many of my neighbors are writing symphonies to uplift the human soul? How many people who try stuff are going to succeed? yada yada yada...Screenwriter William Goldman says, "Nobody knows anything." Referring to Hollywood where business guys try to figure out what type of movie will Make Money, and so end up basically doing same stuff over and over, copying something which Made Money. Goldman wrote that self-appointed "experts" say, This is what sells! Here it is! I can tell you!

But, said Goldman, no one really knows. They're just selling themselves, to make money.

"Nobody knows anything."

And that was true of the Mr Grant character. He didn't know anything. He didn't really know if Mary could be a writer. He just knew that he had not yet seen her, or known her, to be working at writing -- it kind of came out of the blue -- and so he was -- unconvinced of her seriousness of purpose, maybe. And rebelling at being asked for kind encouragement when he wasn't in the mood. Which he would not often have been. Mr. Grant was a gruff and often grumpy character.

Someone "Mr.-Grant-ed" me once -- I don't think I made the connection then, in the conversation, that it was similar to the MTM Show episode, but I make the connection now! It was just as funny -- it was weird -- I was on the phone with a state senator. We had talked about something -- cannot remember the main topic, but we had finished that, and somehow the topic of writing came up, and I shared with him the fact that I was doing some, and he launched into a whole lecture, beginning-middle-and-end, all points-made-loud-and-clear, to tell me why I could not be a writer. Basically advising me not to even try.

I thought it was strange. He had never read anything I've written. He had no evidence to show that I could not be a writer, or that anything I wrote would not be any good, he was just like -- in Lou Grant mode -- "these people think they can write, everybody thinks they can write, and they can't. It takes a very special talent that's very rare..." something like that...

the thing that had seemed to really set him off was that I might be imagining that I could "do it." That I could write a good story. And he didn't want me thinkin' that...! (?!)

If I had listened to his monologue before the age of 30, it might have really seriously demolished my determination and ambition but I was older than that at the time -- and I try to meet speeches like that with a firm attitude of Emotional Maturity. So I listened to him, sitting on the top basement step, at the edge of the kitchen, & thought about how it was as if I'd put money in a vending machine and pressed the wrong button and stuff was coming out that I didn't want and hadn't ordered.

It must have been more about him than me.

Maybe he's right. Maybe I can't be a successful writer.
He may be right.
He may be wrong.
Makes me no never-mind.
He may be right.
He may be wrong.
Is it going to rain?
Are there any bananas left?

like -- whatever, dude.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

say, what?!

Watching Holiday Inn, it was weird, because suddenly had deja vu...

in my childhood there was a Christmas-time tradition in my family (an extremely informal tradition)where a person opens a gift and holds it up and says, "Wonderful! Just what I always wanted!...What is it?" -- my dad's joke, and people would echo it. ...

and in this film I like to watch at Christmas time, I just caught up with a scene last night where Bing Crosby goes back to NYC to visit Fred Astaire & the agent, and tell them about "Holiday Inn," the nightclub that's open only on holidays...Crosby's character has homemade peach preserves for all his friends, made down on the old farm in Connecticut. He says, "Oh I almost forgot, I have a little Christmas remembrance for everybody..." and he hands Fred Astaire a jar of preserves.

Fred Astaire turns the jar a little in his hands and goes:
(smile): "Gee, this is swell!"
(curious look): "What is it?"
!! - I had to go back into the bedroom and replay that part -- it's the same joke!

My dad probably adapted it from the movie. The film came out in 1942; that year my father would have been 19. He probably went out to see that, before leaving for World War II. (Good to have some singing, dancing, and witty repartee before heading out to tussle with crazed foreign dictators...)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

tree-tops glisten

The character Bing Crosby played in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn was sort of like a "drop-out." But not in a negative way -- as he says, "I just have my own ideas about living."

At the start of the movie, three people --
"Jim Hardy" (Bing Crosby)
"Ted Hanover" (Fred Astaire)
"Lila Dixon" (Virginia Dale)
have a hot song-and-dance act in New York.

But they are about to split up: they all understand the plan -- Lila and Jim are going to be married and sort of semi-retire to a farm in Connecticut where he wants a more relaxed, stop-and-smell-the-flowers type of lifestyle, and Lila agreed with him that she wants it, too.

Except that she's all set to throw Jim over in favor of Ted. She would rather marry Ted (she currently believes, in the first scene) and keep on with her stage career. Bright lights, big city. Da-da-da-da-da.

Jim finds out; his heart is (currently) broken, and he goes ahead and retires to his farm and farmhouse in the Connecticut countryside on his own.

Sometimes people from big cities think farming is "relaxing." LOL. Jim Hardy (Crosby) quickly finds out living on the farm is not less work, it's nothing but work.

The number "Lazy" is sung in the background while you see a montage of Crosby / Jim trying to do all the farm stuff -- a bunch of hay or straw falls down on him -- nothing works out right, it's all hard -- not the "taking it easy" that he had envisioned.

Evry time
I see a puppy upon a summers day
A puppy dog at play
My heart is filled with envy
Thats because
My heart is yearning to pass the time away
Like that pup
cause I'm all fed up
And tho its wrong to be
I long to be
I want to be lazy
I want to be out in the sun
With no work to be done
Under that awning
They call the sky
Stretching and yawning
And let the world go drifting by
I want to peep
Through the deep
Tangled wildwood
Counting sheep
til I sleep
Like a child would
With a great big valise full
Of books to read where its peaceful
While im
Killing time
Being lazy
[2nd verse:]
Life is short
And getting shorter with each day that goes by
And how the time does fly
Before you know, its over
Thats why im
In such a hurry to pack my things and fly
To a spot
Where its nice and hot
And hear the birdies sing
While Im being ...Lazy...
Pretty soon he flips out, with all the pressure -- today, they want to slap us with initials [ADD, ADHD, CTIA -- "can't take it anymore"] & prescribe Drugs -- back then people could go to a "sanitarium" where a person could get help, take a rest, and get their balance back.

Bing Crosby's Jim Hardy character emerges from his "rest cure" at the sanitarium with a new plan for his country place: he tells it to his old Broadway associates -- he is going to open up "Holiday Inn." It will be open only fifteen days a year, on holidays, with dinner and nightclub acts. The rest of the year, he will relax and enjoy life. A reverse schedule from the rest of the working world.

His buddies raise their eyebrows, upon hearing this plan.
"Say, did you get your discharge papers from that sanitarium?" asks one.

The Holiday Inn thing starts working out -- a lovely singing / dancing woman named Linda Mason comes to work at the inn, and Jim Hardy starts falling in love with her.

(There's no kissing or hand-holding, but he writes songs for her, treats her nicely, and -- looks at her with tenderness.)

Meanwhile Ted Hanover (Astaire), who stole Lila from Jim at the beginning, shows up at the inn -- Lila has since run off with "some Texan from Texas," and Ted gets interested in performing at the inn, then meets & dances with Linda Mason and becomes interested in her...Bing Crosby looks askance -- he's worried...
Ted: "She's wonderful! I feel like I've known her for months!"
Jim: "Umh -- same ol' feeling, huh?"

Jim tries to keep Linda Mason with him at the inn, but since he hasn't got the financial stability he wants, yet, with the new project, he has not asked her to marry him -- and Ted Hanover moves in.

Ted and the agent lure Linda to Hollywood. Out there, in the last scene, she's up on a busy movie set, about to sing the song "White Christmas," but she's sad and lonely, missing Jim out there in Connecticut. Meanwhile, he has flown out to Hollywood to declare his love for her and bring her back with him, if she will agree: when she begins singing, he chimes in and sings harmony -- and she's all surprised, and looking around. Then when she spots him, she cries out, "Jim!" and she's so happy, she runs to him.

Then the camera focuses on the closed door to the set, where Fred Astaire and the agent (having escaped the room where Crosby locked them in, several minutes ago, to give himself a head start) burst through and look around wildly, then see something at the same time. Both men look intently, with surprised expressions, off-stage. We cannot see what they're looking at, we can only see them looking.

Agent (incredulous): "How could he get that far in five minutes?"
Astaire (resigned to his loss, this time): "The lady must have been willing."

The movie features singing-and-dancing routines throughout, all plot-related, & once they're at the inn, it's an act for each holiday. Hard to pick a highlight because they're all such dazzling-good fun, but if I could only bring one to a desert island with me, it would be Fred Astaire's famous "Fireworks Dance" the 4th-of-July number. Expert critics say it is the fastest-moving, most complicated dance ever filmed. I want to dance it, too. ...Ehrm.


Monday, January 2, 2012


A column in New York Times by Mark Bittman, offering some "vegan" (no meat, no dairy) recipes -- oh my gosh what a storm of Commentary: kind of funny because political articles usually draw the most comments, but another column in the same issue hammering at the hammering attack ads for Iowa Repub. primary (attack ads can now come from pacs that don't have to identify themselves, &, due to current supreme court's "Citizens United" decision, have limitless funding flowing from God-knows-where...) drew a total of One -- ONE! -- Comment, while the Food column was peppered with 580+ Comments!

While many people will (I'm beginning to think, intelligently) eschew politics & its related news, Everyone believes they Know Food, by George...
the "I eat meat and cheese and that's the only way to do things!" Comments
and the
"I don't eat any living creature, and P.S. tofu is Delicious!" Comments rivaled, answered, and peppered one another, & badgered, battered away at Mr. Bittman's Jan. 2 entry, for hours, apparently....

(Mushrooms aren't a vegetable! They're a fungus! So -- when eating mushrooms, you're eating an animal!!)

(For us to eat honey, they take the honey from the bee, and that is invasive. And wrong!)

(The reason humans have such large brains -- [and do so many intelligent things...?!] -- is because we EAT MEAT!)

(I'm a vegan except for fish sometimes.
--"If you eat fish, you're not a vegan!")

(Tofu is disgusting and tasteless!
--Tofu is delightful if you prepare it correctly!)

(I went vegan and have never been healthier / slimmer!)

(I went vegan and my hair started thinning. Began eating steaks again, & now my hair got thicker again...!)

Just typing these makes me giggle. It goes on and on. Some of it's the same people, but a lot of the comments are original. Of course it's natural, everyone thinks they know how to eat. ...
Also reflected in many of those comments was what is, to me, the most irritating common thread in all diet / nutrition / fitness advice that I've heard during the 800years I've been alive -- the demonizing of some particular food or food group, and then its later rehabilitation.

And now with internet, seems like everything goes faster, so that nutrition advice (decrees?) touting and/or demonizing some kind of food are lobbed at us almost simultaneously:
Eat nothing but carbs!
Meat will kill you!
You'll die if you don't eat meat!
Vegetables all the time!
But never starchy vegetables!
Red wine!
Dark chocolate!
No chocolate!
Nothing that tastes good, ever!
Never eat a potato, they should be outlawed!
Cholesterol is bad!
Except for Good Cholesterol -- good cholesterol is Good!
No soda, ever, except for Diet!
No Diet Soda!
Whole wheat!
No wheat!
When I was in college there was a movie called "Reefer Madness" that would be shown around campus sometimes -- I never saw it, as I understood it, the routine was, people would get high and then go to the movie and laugh at it -- it is supposed to be something the govt. made, or commissioned, to frighten people so they wouldn't smoke pot...
thinking, now, about all the vegetable advice, like "only eat berries and leaves" I want to informally christen it, "Leafer Madness" ...
One Commenter, Musician in Cleveland, wrote -- "I love dairy. It makes me happy. I eat it, as well as meat and fish, in smaller quantities. I eat well by cooking from scratch, reserving over half my plate for non-starchy vegetables, and regarding sugary dessert as a rare treat. I already keep kosher, adding another layer of absolutism would do nothing for me."

"Absolutism." That is a word to think about.

Cleveland guy -- eats sensibly, and --
"I already keep kosher, adding another layer of absolutism would do nothing for me."

Drawing the line, somewhere.
Leafer Madness