A STAR IS BORN

A Stra is Born

Who needs another remake? It turns out we do. As a rule, I generally eschew remakes. In this case I made an exception. The trailer looked good so I gave it a chance. And friends, I am glad I did. This film is fresh and original in its interpretation. Bradley Cooper proves himself an adept director and makes a lot of smart choices in the presentation of this material. Lady Gaga is a wonder. The thing about Gaga for me has been she always wears a mask and we never get to see the real person behind the persona. Here we do. A very satisfying portrayal of an insecure character with a lot of personality and a load of talent.

Bradley Cooper is very good as the alcoholic country rock star who is in decline and fighting his own demons. The chemistry between the stars is palpable and their love story believable.

I liked the camera work and the production values are superb. It’s not an unqualified success, but Bradley Cooper hits this one out of the ball park. Two thumbs way up!

First Car

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I am a great believer of synchronicity and love to connect the dots. My first car was a 1954 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission, which I purchased for $300 from a salesman by the name of Grundy Hayes in 1965 at Broadway Chevrolet, in Louisville, Kentucky when I was seventeen years old. I will never forget that day or that purchase. Grundy wore a pale green suit and a brown straw fedora hat. He had a smiling face and a gravelly voice.

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Fast forward 50 years. I’m reading a book of short stories called Sad Stories of the Death  the Death of Kings. It is a book of vignettes written by Barry Gifford about a boy growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s. I’m pretty sure the boy Roy is a stand in for the author himself.

In the story, “Roy’s First Car,” Barry details a 1955 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission which the boy Roy purchases for $300. Boom!

How’s that for a coincidence?  When I read that passage it about blew my mind! But wait, it gets weirder.

In 2015, I’m standing in a car dealership shooting the shit with a “lot boy” named Joe. Joe was actually was about 70 years old. He was an old colored gentleman with white cottony hair. I was a car salesman at the time. We were both standing there gazing out the show room windows surrounded by new cars. I was reminiscing about the past.

“Yep, my first car was a 1954 Buick. I bought it off a guy name of Grundy Hayes back in the 60s at Broadway Chevrolet.”

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“Yeah, I know Grundy.” Says old Joe.

“What? Really? You do? Is Grundy still alive?”

“Yeah, I believe he is….”

As usual, fate took a hand.

Bad Motherfucker

 

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Winter: You are a bad motherfucker, Benn, unless I am totally mistaken.

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Benn: Well, that’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a while…. Reach down in that bag and get my wallet would you?

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Winter: Which one is it?

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Benn: It’s the one that says: BAD MOTHER FUCKER

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Cards Against Humanity

Used panties….

 

Cards against humanity

 

Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people.

Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.

The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a Black Card, and everyone else answers with their funniest White Card.

Here are the players:

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Elle Noir, Lingerie Model

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Downtown Abbey, Stripper

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Victoria Secret, Ninja Turtle

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Ghost Dog

Now,  I guess you are wondering how this old dog got mixed up with this bunch of 20 year old somethings playing a wild game of Cards Against Humanity. I dunno….just lucky I guess.

 

Blue-Wig

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 “Get up Angel. You look like a Pekingese.”

 

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“Let’s get out of this rotten little town.”

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This is the way love feels….

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 On the way downtown I stopped at a bar and had a couple of double scotches. They didn’t do me any good. All they did was make me think of Blue-Wig, and I never saw her again.

Caught Out in the Rain

So I went to the bus station to pick up my young friend Victoria who was travelling from Nashville back to Louisville. It was about  8:00  in the evening on a cool spring night. It wasn’t quite dark yet.

Since we were downtown we thought it would be a good idea to have drinks at the 21C Hotel bar.

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I drove the six blocks or so to the the hotel and parked out on the street. 21C was a favorite of ours. We really weren’t dressed for the place but in Louisville that didn’t really matter.

We entered through the restaurant and made our way to the bar and sat on a couch on the rear wall.

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“Just like being in our own living room,” I remarked.

“Yeah, but better because of the people watching,” she said.

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I ordered a Jack and soda and she had a Rum Coco. Something she had started drinking since she came back from Cuba a couple of months ago.

We had our drinks and some nice conversation about her latest trip to Missouri. She went there with her mother and grandmother to visit her uncle who was doing eleven years in the federal penitentiary in Springfield.

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We looked the menu over but we didn’t see anything we wanted to eat so we decide  to go the the Tavern in old Louisville to round out the night and get a late night snack.

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We finished our drinks and walked out through the bar to the restaurant exit out onto  the street. To our surprise it had started raining. It was really coming down and it was a cold rain. We ran the two blocks to car and got soaked. Once we were safely ensconced inside I was huffing and puffing from the exertion.

Victoria ventured, “I’ve never seen you run before.” And she let out a little laugh. 

“Well it is is pretty unusual,” I said. “It doesn’t happen very often.” And I laughed too.

I caught my breath and drove to the Tavern where we had more drinks and shared an order of wings.

On the way there I was put in mind of a song I like by Beth Hart: Caught Out in the Rain.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

The Big Sleep – Book Review

 

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I have been having a lot of fun lately reading the annotated version of the Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The text of the novel appears on the left side of the book while the notes are on the right. This book was annotated and edited by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Dean Rizzuto. Much of the material in this review is gleaned from their notes.

Raymond Chandler wrote, as Ross Macdonald said, like a slumming angel. His private eye, Philip Marlowe, was portrayed as a knight errant, searching for adventures and rescuing damsels in distress. He embodied the chivalric code.

In The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler wrote: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything.” He also said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

The Big Sleep, like all of Chandler’s novels and short stories, is of the hard boiled, pulp fiction, detective story genre. But Chandler was a cut above the rest. Heavily influenced by Dashiell Hammett and Ernest Hemingway, he improved upon a category of fiction that was mostly known for its lurid and salacious subject matter.

Another reason I like this book is that it gives the history of Los Angeles during and around the time period (1930s) of the novel. It also goes to great lengths to explain Americanisms, colloquialisms, slang, and genre jargon.

The Big Sleep, while a great read and a ripping good story, has a complicated plot. In this version the editors give us some guidance into Raymond Chandler’s intricate and labyrinthine novel.

I quote liberally from the novel as Chandler’s writing style is the best part of his work and the most entertaining. His use of hyperbole and exaggeration is a real gas. Also, I will be dropping some interesting asides about LA.

Los Angeles in the 1910s was the fastest growing city on earth. The population exploded 400% between 1910 and 1930. It went from 310,000 to about 1,250,000, with the greater LA County area housing 2.5 million. The Los Angeles Aqueduct was built to steal water from the Owens Valley 250 miles away. Corruption was rife. Politicians and the police often worked together with organized crime. Los Angeles was also known as a “Sin City” much like Las Vegas, with booming prostitution and gambling. According to journalist Carey McWilliams, “Los Angeles was the kind of place where perversion was perverted and prostitution was prostituted.”

“I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.”

Marlowe cracks wise throughout the novel. The term wisecrack dates from the 1920s and is associated with tough guy or hard-boiled fiction. The queen of the wise crack was the dame of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker, who was known to have said, “The first thing I do in the morning brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

Carmen: Tall, aren’t you?

Marlowe: I didn’t mean to be.

Carmen: What’s your name?

Marlowe: Reilly. Doghouse Reilly.

Carmen: That’s a funny name. Are you a prize fighter?

Marlowe: Not exactly. I’m a sleuth.

Chandler considered it his duty as a writer to affirm life and liveliness against the deadly and the dull. A sentiment I have always lived by myself.

She put a thumb up and bit it. It was a curiously shaped thumb, thin and narrow, like an extra finger, with no curve in the first joint. She bit it and sucked it slowly turning it around I her mouth like a baby with a comforter.

Chandler used blackmail in fourteen of his short stories and five of his novels. Blackmail was very common in LA in the 20s and 30s. As headlines show: “GIRL TRIES BLACKMAIL! CAUGHT IN POLICE TRAP!” “FUGITIVE SEIZED IN EXTORTION CASE.” “FANTASTIC PLOT AGAINST POLA NEGRI BARED” “EXTORTION PLOT SUSPECT TAKEN: STANDARD OIL MILLIONAIRE’S EX-CHAUFFEUR ACCUSED.” W. Sherman Burns, head of the Burns Detective Agency, said in 1922, “Blackmail is the big crime in America today.

The 1939 WPA (Works Progress Administration) Guide calls Los Angeles the fifth largest Mexican City in the world.

In 1904 Lincoln Stephens wrote an expose called, The Shame of American Cities. In it he states politics is business. In America, politics is an arm of business and the aim of business it to make money without care for the law, because politics, controlled by business, can change or buy the law. Politics is interested in profit, not municipalities, prosperity, or civic pride. The spirit of graft and lawlessness is the American spirit. Raymond Chandler wrote in 1934, “The typical racketeer is only slightly different from the business man.”

Ernest Hopkins wrote in Our Lawless Police, 1913, “Nothing so clearly marks our policing traditions in American cities as the use of extreme and unlawful force. In LA there exists a theory of law enforcement more openly opposed to the constitution than any I have yet encountered.”

“A life is a life.”

“Right. Tell that to your coppers next time they shoot down some scared petty larceny crook running away up an alley with a stolen spare.”

There seems to be a connection between French Existentialist writers and hard-boiled fiction writers like James Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond chandler. Albert Camus may have been influenced by the private investigators appearing in American detective novels like Philip Marlowe, as his portrayal of the quintessential alienated outsider Meursault in his own novel, The Stranger, clearly shows.

“I was fired for insubordination. I test very high on insubordination.” Marlowe

Marlowe is not an outlaw, but he does live by his own code, and he sometimes breaks the law by so doing. Jean-Paul Sartre says in Being and Nothingness: “Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on none but himself; that he alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than to the one he forges for himself on this earth.” Marlowe understands this and accepts the challenge.

Some of my favorite lines and quotes from the novel:

  • “What does Carmen say?”

“I haven’t asked her. I don’t intend to. If I did, she would suck her thumb and look coy.”

“I met her in the hall. She did that to me. Then she tied to sit on my lap. I was standing up at the time.”

  • “I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.”
  • The general spoke again, slowly, using his strength carefully as an out of work showgirl uses her last pair of good stockings.
  • The next morning was bright, clear, and sunny. I woke up with a motorman’s glove in my mouth, drank two cups of coffee and went through the morning papers.
  • “Well, how’s the boy?” He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.
  • Vivian: “Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first. See if they’re front runners, or come from behind…I’d say you don’t like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the back stretch, and then come home free.”
  • “She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a business man’s lunch and tilted her head to finger a stray, but not very stray, tendril of soft glowing hair. Her smile was tentative but could be persuaded to be nice.”
  • Marlowe: You’ve got a touch of class, but I don’t know how far you can go.

Vivian: A lot depends on who is in the saddle.

  • The giggle got louder and ran around the corners of the room like rats behind the wainscoting. She started to get hysterical. I slid off the desk and stepped up close to her and gave her a smack on the side of the face. The giggles stopped dead, but she didn’t mind the slap any more than last night. Probably all her boyfriends got around to slapping her sooner or later.
  • The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street Tunnel, but I didn’t move. Not being bullet proof is an idea I had to get used to.
  • “Get up Angel. You look like a Pekingese.”
  • “You’re broke?”

“I’ve been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate.”

  • “Go fuck yourself”

“That’s how people get false teeth.”

  • I made myself a drink and was drinking it when the phone rang.
  • Listen hard and you will hear my teeth chattering.
  • I was thinking of going out to lunch and that life was pretty flat and that it would probably be just as flat if I took a drink and that taking a drink all alone at that time of day wouldn’t be any fun anyway. I was thinking this when Norris called up.
  • I was catching up on my foot dangling.
  • I got out of my office bottle and let my self-respect ride its own race.
  • …even if they didn’t strap him in a chair over a bucket of acid.
  • “Two coffees. Black, strong, and made this year.”
  • “That makes you just a killer at heart, like all cops.” Vivian to Marlowe
  • “Let’s get out of this rotten little town.” Vivian
  • A smell of kelp came in off the water and lay on the fog.
  • I braked the car against the curb and switched the headlights off and sat with my hands on the wheel. Under the thinning fog, the surf curled and creamed, almost without a sound, like a thought trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness.
  • “Hold me close you beast.” Vivian to Marlowe
  • Her eyelids were flickering rapidly. Like a moth’s wings.
  • “Killer,” she said softly her breath going into my mouth.
  • She took her right hand from behind her head and started sucking her thumb.
  • I didn’t have anything really exciting to drink, like nitroglycerin or distilled tiger’s breath.
  • She’s a grifter, shamus. I’m a grifter. We’re all grifters. So, we sell each other out for a nickel. Okay. See you can make me.
  • “Let’s dip the bill. Got a glass?”
  • Canino driving fast through the rain to another appointment with death.
  • …bare as hell’s back yard.
  • Fate stage managed the whole thing.
  • “A man has the right to live his own life.” General Sternwood
  • He looked a lot more like a dead man than most dead men looked.
  • You were sleeping the big sleep.

And the last line of the novel:

  • On the way downtown I stopped at a bar and had a couple of double scotches. They didn’t do me any good. All they did was make me think of Silver-Wig, and I never saw her again.

Tarascon Stagecoach

Tarascon Stagecoach (La Diligence de Tarascon)

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Vincent van Gogh, Dutch. 1853-1888

October 1888. Oil on Canvas.  On long-term loan from The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, to the Princeton University Art Museum. Currently on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston Texas.

In a letter to Theo on October 13, 1888, Vincent refers to one of his favorite books, Tartarin de Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet, with “the old Tarascon diligence….Well, I’ve just painted that red and green carriage in the yard of the inn.” The stagecoach stopped at Arles, midway along its route from Nimes.

Here is a life size sculpture reproduction in the yard at the Grounds for Sculpture at Hamilton New Jersey.

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Taracson Stagecoach – Hamiton New Jersey

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SERVICE DE TARASCON

 

 

 

 

Electoral College

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Recently a couple of my Facebook friends have used Prager University to support their political points. Once in reference to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and once in reference to the electoral college. In response I would make the three following points:

  1. Prager University is not a University but rather a right-wing propaganda mill. As such it has no credibility in academic discourse.
  2. The United States is a federal republic and a constitutional representative democracy. To say it is one and not the other is simply wrong.
  3. The electoral college was driven in part by slavery. The 3/5’s compromise was enacted to count slaves as 3/5’s of a person in order to give slaveholding states more power based on population, although these slaves couldn’t vote. The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution which reads: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The electoral college is a shameful holdover from these times. It is said to protect minorities, but in modern times this means protecting whites from being ruled by people of color. Either way it is based on a racist outlook, is morally reprehensible, and must be abolished in order to provide free and fair elections by the majority of the people. One has to go no further than former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, who said that white people would be hurt if Maine joins other states in an effort to reduce the impact of the Electoral College. “Actually, what would happen if they do what they say they’re going do is white people will not have anything to say,” LePage said during an interview with WVOM radio. “It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.”

Five times a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election. Andrew Jackson in 1824 (to John Quincy Adams); Samuel Tilden in 1876 (to Rutherford B. Hayes); Grover Cleveland in 1888 (to Benjamin Harrison); Al Gore in 2000 (to George W. Bush); Hillary Clinton in 2016 (to Donald J. Trump).

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t Life Ironic?

Once upon a time, not long ago, I took my young friend Victoria to see Bonnie Rait at the Louisville Palace. While waiting in line to get in we stood outside next to a picture of Tony Bennett who had been a featured performer at the Palace in the past.  I remarked to Victoria that I had seen Tony Bennett at the Palace back before she was even born.

She looked up at me with her smiling eyes and said, “Isn’t life ironic?”

 

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The Palace Theater

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Bonnie Rait

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Victoria Meadows

 

 

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Tony Bennett

ELECTION 2020

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Well, we are in a new presidential election cycle. It seems only yesterday that the monster Donald Trump was foisted upon us.  There is literally nothing more important than removing him from office, either through the ballot box or otherwise. We have a rather large field of Democratic candidates. Should be an interesting primary season.

My favorites include Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke,and Julian Castro. Any combination of these candidates would work for me. Of course, the most important consideration, in my view, would be electability and the ability to defeat Trump. Although I do think it might be questionable if Trump lasts long enough to run. If he does, we are all in danger.

I believe the electorate needs and wants a female candidate and a person of color on the ticket. I think it is high time we have a woman president or vice president. There is no question that Hillary Clinton was robbed last go round.

Joe Biden has the most experience, has the most gravitas, and is the most presidential. He would restore much needed decorum to the office and the land. However, he has some drawbacks. He has some things in his past which will bear scrutiny when his record is examined. Also, his age and gender might work against him. Do we really need another old white guy in the Oval Office? But, if he agreed to one term and chose a younger running mate, it might work.

I like Kamala Harris. She impressed me by her intelligent questioning in some of the congressional hearings that she has taken part in. She has an impressive record and background and I agree with her on many policy issues. Also, of all the candidates, she has got social media down to a science. A necessary ingredient in today’s world.

Cory Booker appeared on my radar while I was living in New Jersey and he was mayor of Newark. Quite an impressive fellow and a man to watch. Elizabeth Warren has the best record on consumer rights of any candidate and of any congressperson ever. This is a subject close to my heart she gets extra point for this.

Beto O’Rourke reminds me of a young Bobby Kennedy and he brought democrats together in Texas. He could turn the state Blue and would be a valuable asset on a ticket.

We will just have to see how all this shakes out. Can’t wait for the debates. Let the games begin!