The Gates of Hell

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

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Th Gates of Hell, Auguste Rodin

The Gates of hell is a sculpture by Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from Dante’s The Divine Comedy. There were three bronze casts made; they reside in The Musee Rodin in Paris, The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, and the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

This photo was taken in Philadelphia.

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Little Sister

Top 10 Best Lines from Raymond Chandler’s Little Sister

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  1. She had a low lingering voice with sort of a moist caress in it like a damp bath towel.
  2. She looked almost as hard to get as a haircut.
  3. She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.
  4. She picked a cigarette out of a box, tossed it in the air, caught it between her lips effortlessly and lit it from a match that came from nowhere.
  5. “Shut up, you slimy, blackmailing, keyhole peeper!”
  6. She put a couple of cold blue bullets into me with her eyes.
  7. She looked as if it would take a couple of weeks to get her dressed.
  8. She reached up and pulled a fingertip down the side of my cheek. It burned like a hot iron.
  9. Marlowe, a private detective. Not the brainiest guy in the world, but cheap. He started out cheap and he ended cheaper still.
  10. It could have been a beautiful friendship. Except for the ice pick, of course.

Bonus Dialogue

“Do you always wear black?”

“Yes. It is more exciting when I take my clothes off.”

“Do you have to talk like a whore?”

“You do not know very much about whores, amigo. They are always most respectable. Except of course the very cheap ones.”

 

 

Bury

Palmer Cemetery 1

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”

-William Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar

Of Cell Phones, Lap Tops, and Books

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Young Parisian couple, about a generation apart, one reading a book the other a cell phone.

Before there were cell phones there were laptops. Before there were laptops there were TV screens.  Before there were TV screens there were books.  I’m reading a book right now, which is what I am usually doing. You would be surprised  how much trouble I used to get into just for reading books. I have been called anti-social. Bosses didn’t like it.  One of my wives tossed my books out into the backyard into a mud puddle. And my own mother come into my room one day, and tipped my bookcase over, spilling my books out onto the floor. What was a poor boy to do?

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Most of the time nowadays people don’t seem to care much if I am reading a book. They are too busy with their own noses stuck into their cell phones.

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Next time you get a chance, try reading a book. Remember, Mark Twain once said, those who do not read have no advantage over those who can’t read.

 

Julius Caesar

Shakespeare in the Park

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An excellent production last night of Julius Caesar. It comes at a most propitious moment in time. Lots of parallels to what is going on in our own political landscape. Director Matt Wallace continues to produce some of the most exciting Shakespeare that you are ever likely to see. I have been going to see Shakespeare in the Park since the 1970’s and I can say without reservation that it just keeps getting better and better. The acting is first rate, the direction and staging are superb and the technical aspects such as lighting and sound are first class. Kudos to the costume designer! Kentucky Shakespeare continues to break records for audience attendance. Do yourself a favor and catch one or more of the shows this season. Keep Will Free!

Bridge

Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I have always loved bridges….I have been photographing them my whole life. This in one of my all time favorite bridges in the world which spans the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden. Informally it is known as the Ben Franklin Bridge.   Work began on January 6, 1922. At the peak of construction, 1,300 people worked on the bridge, and 15 died during its construction. The bridge opened to traffic on July 1, 1926, three days ahead of its scheduled opening on the nation’s 150th anniversary. At completion, its 1,750-foot span was the world’s longest suspension bridge.

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The Gambler (2014)

Movie Review

Gambler 2014

The Gambler (2014) is a remake of the classic 1974 film of the same name. That film, directed by Karel Reisz, was loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella, The Gambler. It is interesting how life imitates art and how art imitates life. The 1974 version was written by James Toback, who had a gambling addiction at the time, came from a wealthy family, and taught creative writing at New York City College. It was his first screenplay and he based it on his own true life experiences with more than just a nod to Dostoevsky.   Dostoevsky was addicted to gambling as well and wrote the novella, based on his own experiences, in 26 days to pay off a gambling debt.

The 2014 version stars Mark Wahlberg as the college professor who teaches literature by day and gambles by night. Wahlberg gives a creditable performance as the gambling addicted professor Jim Bennett. Jim gets in trouble with not one but three different mob figures as he courts danger by getting deeper in debt with each one and staying only one step ahead of complete annihilation. At one point he is $240,000 in debt. One of these mob figures is Frank, played to near perfection by John Goodman, who takes a fatherly interest in Jim and drops philosophical axioms on him in every scene they play together. Still, you wouldn’t want to cross him or any of the others.

John Goodman as Frank

Jessica Lange plays the wealthy mother who bails him out one last time. Her performance is out sized, over the top, and a total delight to watch. We see where Jim may have gotten some of his issues. Brie Larson plays the girl. She is gorgeous to look at but doesn’t have much to do.

The 2014 film is directed by Rupert Wyatt who brought you Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).  The screenplay was written by William Monahan whose previous efforts include The Departed which was known for its crackling dialogue and starred once again, Mark Wahlberg. Not quite as successful here, but not bad. As already mentioned, this movie is a remake of the 1974 movie written by James Toback and starring James Caan.

The locations are different and the cinematic style is very different. The 2014 version takes place in the Los Angeles underworld and filmed in a very slick fashion in colors of cold dark blues and reds. The 1974 version was much grittier and took place in New York City.

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It is axiomatic to say that every film made in the 1970’s is better than any film made in the decades that followed. That is certainly true in this case. In my view the 1974 version was much better. James Caan sizzled as the main character, Axel, who strutted around with his shirt half unbuttoned and his hairy chest exposed as cocky as a bantam rooster, or more to the point like an actual erect cock throbbing with energy and enthusiasm. He exudes sexuality and cockiness. Lauren Hutton plays the girl and Paul Sorvino plays the mob guy, Hips.

Axel is into self-destruction and self-loathing.

“What do all gamblers have in common?”

“They’re in it to lose.”

I liked the ending in the 1974 version better as well. In the 2014 version, after Jim just barley pulls out a win at the last minute and squares all deals and saves his ass, he is seen running to meet up with Amy. This is a hopeful ending that, let’s face it, doesn’t make much sense. It is more of a Hollywood ending one might say. In the 1974 version, after Axel pulls off a last minute win and saves himself from certain disaster, we see him heading down into a dangerous section of New York.

“Don’t go down there Axel,” Hips warns, “they’re cannibals down there (which I guess is code for black people). They will eat you alive!”

Axel, following what must be a death wish, goes into a black whorehouse and picks up a girl and takes her to her room. He is followed by her pimp. Axel then tries to rip her off by not paying her. The whore screams for her pimp who crashes into the room brandishing a knife. A fight ensues and it looks like Axel is winning. He knocks the knife out of the pimp’s hand, the black whore picks up the knife and slashes Alex across the cheek with it. Alex flees the room clutching a rag to his bleeding face.

As he is leaving the flop house he catches a look at himself in a mirror and sees the bloody slash on his face that will no doubt be like a Heidelberg scar that he will carry around with him like a red badge of courage for the rest of his life. Roll credits.

In the novella, at the  end, the protagonist, Alexey, is down and out having lost most of his money on roulette. He meets an old friend who gives him news of his love interest, Polina. This gives Alexey hope as he learns from his friend that Polina is in Switzerland and that she does love him after all. But alas, it is a false hope because in the final analysis, Alexey is still a gambler at heart and cannot escape his fate.

 

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

What all three characters have in common is a gambling addiction. In a letter to a friend Dostoevsky says the thing about his gambler, “… is that all his vitality, his strength, his impetus, his courage, have gone into roulette.” Gambling is not just an addiction, but an overwhelming compulsion that seizes its victims by the mind, body and spirit.

This magnificent obsession is on  fine display in both movies and the novella. For my money the 1974 version of the Gambler is the best. Do I get any bets?