Instruments of death that fit snugly into the palm of your hand were gleaming dully in their showcases lovingly caressed by blue velvet. Oiled wooden handles jutted from solid blue-black bodies. There was a faint odor of oil and metal lingering on the air-conditioned atmosphere of the room. The soft sound of creaking leather reverberated through the reverential quiet as the clerk tenderly, ever so gently, eased a delicately balanced, but heavily weighted .357 magnum pistol out of its holster. Firmly, but gently, he gripped the butt of the gun in his right hand. He placed the web of his thumb over the hammer of the awesome black revolver and slowly began to exert pressure on it. The man’s hands trembled slightly and he closed his eyes. Small beads of perspiration began popping over his upper lip. A little metal clicking noise emerged from the gun as the hammer went through it first cocking phase. A slight smile appeared on the lips of the clerk as he continued to pull back on the heavy hammer and another click emerged – the gun was half-cocked – the clerk began breathing heavily now and rapidly and his face grew flush. He slid his thumb to the edge of the hammer and applied the tip of it to the ridges cut deeply into the top edge. He pushed down hard and fully cocked the revolver. A tiny teardrop appeared in the corner of the clerk’s eye. The gap between the ridged head of the steel hammer and the body of the gun was a chasm. It looked like the jaws of a primordial reptile. It was powerful and it was frightening – the stored-up energy of the hammer begged to be released. He pulled the trigger. Snap! I jumped. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and a shiver ran down my left arm. The clerk placed the gun back into its holster. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew clouds of tobacco smoke across the room. He had a distant look in his eyes. I turned on my boot heels and walked out of the store into the bright afternoon sunlight.
Written and directed by David Mamet, starring Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna. This movie was pretty much universally praised when it came out in 1987. It is currently rated 7.3 on IMBD. Roger Ebert, no less, rated it four stars out of four and gave it a glowing review. I’m going to give it a six out of ten.
While I liked the film, and had a favorable impression of it when I first saw it in 1987, I don’t feel like it stands the test of time. It is well crafted, but so is a finely made piece of furniture. I can see the seams and joints and that seems to take away from my overall impression. I want to get lost in the action of the picture and not see the woof and worf.
House of Games is about a den of con artists. And while it is fascinating to see the cons work their magic, I couldn’t help but notice seeing them coming. And it is hard to imagine the central character being so gullible, after having participating in a con herself, not seeing the con being played on her. But I guess that is the beauty of the con, it’s human nature to want to believe it.
I loved how the film looked. Very noirish. Seattle at night with neon lights reflected in puddles of water and steam rising from man hole covers. Nice atmosphere!
Lots of Mamet’s patented rapid-fire dialogue, which can sound a little stilted and stagy at times. If only Mamet had succeeded in conning me into believing what he was selling. He already conned me out of my money for the price of a ticket.
House of Games is part of the Criterion Collection and is available on Amazon.
Buddhism by the Numbers
The Noble Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Thinking
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Diligence
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Buddhism by the Numbers
The Four Noble Truths:
- There is suffering in the world
- Suffering has a cause
- There is an end to Suffering
- There is a path leading to the end Suffering
I stopped into the strip club out near the race track early on a Friday night. They had just opened so there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. Strippers sitting in little clumps here and there. I sat down at the bar and ordered a Budweiser. This is de rigueur for me at strip clubs because its an easy drink to order, it’s cheap, and doesn’t call a lot of attention. Usually a good way to change a twenty and get a lot of singles for the strippers. Strippers love singles.
“What’ll it be Bud?”
“I’ll have a Budweiser, please.”
“This Bud’s for you.”
She opened one of the glass paneled doors covering the refrigerated room back of the bar and retrieved a bottle of beer and set it down before me.
“Just a minute,” she said when I tried to pay her.
They were still opening the joint and she and another barmaid were hovering over the cash register counting money and signing in. It was OK with me. I was in no hurry.
I was sitting there on my bar stool swigging my beer and swiveling around on the stool to check the place out. Back behind me there was a large main stage with two stripper poles. Music was playing in the background. Kind of low for a stripper place I thought. There were tables and chairs in the space between me and the stage. The lighting was low and seductive and of course mirrors everywhere. I had turned back around to the bar facing the mirror on the back wall when I noticed a thin young girl with long brown mousy hair wearing a black athletic jacket heading in my direction. She was wearing black heels. Under the jacket was a nice lingerie set of matching black bra and panties. She was distinguished from the other girls because one, she was wearing a jacket, and two because her lingerie was nicer than the rest. The panties were high waisted and the brassier was rather full, more like a bustier, and while she looked good, she really wasn’t that sexy.
“Hi. What’s your name, cowboy?” She asked.
“Philip”, I answered. “What’s yours?”
She lowered her head and got closer and got a silly grin on her face.
“My real name or my stripper name?” She purred into my ear.
“Well, I always like to know a girl’s real name.”
“We’re not supposed to tell what our real name is.” She dropped her head and laughed. “It’s Crystal. My stripper name is Bella.”
“Oh, Bella! That’s a pretty name!” I was wondering if she knew what it really meant.
She smiled. “Thanks! Yours is pretty too.”
I smiled back.
“I don’t usually do this. I only work a couple days a month. Just enough to make a little money to pay the rent. I’m a single mother. I have a six-year-old daughter at home I have to take care of. She’ll be six in August.”
“Oh really? What day?”
“The ninth. August the ninth.”
“Wow! Really? That’s my birthday too!”
Her smile got bigger.
“Really? You’re a Leo?”
“Yep! Just like your daughter. What’s yours?”
“Oh! The most dangerous sign in the universe!”
“Do you study signs?”
“A little bit. You?”
She nodded her assent.
“Are Leos and Scorpios compatible?”
She laughed and allowed that they were. “I’m very passionate.” She said.
Then she went on about how she didn’t’ drink but that she smoked a lot.
“Yeah. Buy me a drink?”
“I thought you just said you didn’t drink.”
“I don’t. Except when I come here. I couldn’t do this unless I drank.”
“How much are they? I don’t usually buy girls drinks because they jack the prices up and I don’t like that.”
She grimaced. “I really don’t know. Get me a shot of tequila. I’m going over here to talk to my friend to make sure she is alright. I’ll be right back.”
So, I ordered a shot. I figured if the barmaid thought it was for me, she would just charge me regular price.
“Silver or gold?” She asked.
She poured a shot and set it down in front of me.
“Lemon or lime?”
“You want salt with that?”
“That’ll be seven dollars.”
In a few minutes Crystal drifted back over to where I was sitting and spotted the shot of Patron sitting on the bar.
“Where’s your shot?”
“I’m drinking beer.”
This seemed to satisfy her. She picked up the shot of tequila and poured it down her gullet and then sucked on the lemon and made a face.
“Oh, that was awful!”
“No, the tequila. I told you I didn’t drink.”
The she proceeded to tell me the story of her life. “You know, when I was younger, I was pretty wild and I did a lot of bad things. My boyfriend was killed right in front of me.”
“Bad drug deal?”
“Yeah. We were sitting in the car together somewhere in the west end and they just shot him right then and there.”
“Yeah, that was kind of a wakeup call for me. Ever since then I have been trying to get my act together and turn my life around.”
“How’s that working out for you?”
She lowered her head again and smiled.
“Hey! Don’t go anywhere. I’m going back over there to check on my friend again.”
So, she walked back over to her friend who was sitting at the other end of the bar.
I figured she be back for another drink but it looked like she got caught up in the conversation with her friend and some others who joined them. Thought it might be a good time to blow so I took the air.
Note: I published this story once before, but this is a new and revised version.
A challenge by Elisabeth from A Russian Affair
I am no literary scholar but I do like to play around the edges some. So, in the spirit of playing around the edges, I submit the following for your consideration.
First of all, I would like to thank Elisabeth for introducing me to Alexander Pushkin and this delightful verse novel, Eugene Onegin. I had of course, heard of Pushkin, but never read him. So, it was a pleasant surprise.
As I was reading, Eugene Onegin, I heard some echoes of Poe, and Shakespeare. There were of course, dozens of other literary references throughout the work, which were richly detailed in the appendix. I was put in mind of Poe’s, The Raven, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Although the meter was quite different, there were similarities such as the generous use of alliteration, the rhyming scheme and some of the same words rhymed. Poe and Pushkin were contemporaries and I could not help but wondering if their paths might have crossed or if one influenced the other. So, I did a little digging and found some interesting references.
There is an account of Poe and Pushkin mentioned in the novel, Time, Forward, by Soviet writer Valentin Kataev. The novel’s American character, Ray Roupe, says, “Certain of Pushkin’s poems had kinship with the stories of Edgar Poe, which is of course paradoxical, but quite explicable. When still a youth, Edgar Poe travelled to St. Petersburg on a boat. They say that in one of the taverns there he had met Pushkin. They talked all night over a bottle of wine and the great American poet made a gift of the plot, Man of the Crowd, to Pushkin.” So, I guess I wasn’t the only one who imagined that.
The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, has internal rhyming and a general rhyme scheme of ABCB BB. Meter is Trochaic Octameter which is one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed or Dum-da, Dum-da, Dum-da.
Eugene Onegin consists of 366 14-line stanzas that more or less meet the definition of a sonnet but which serve as paragraphs in the verse novel. There are over 5000 lines of poetry. The meter is Iambic tetrameter. An iamb is a beat in a line of poetry where one unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable, that sort of sounds like this: duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH with a rhyme scheme of ABAB; CCDD; EFFEGG
Here are some examples of similarities and references to Poe and Shakespeare:
Pushkin: “I’d seek to borrow – languid sorrow”(Chapter 3 Stanza 30)
Poe: “Vainly I had sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow.”
Tatyana’s letter to Onegin: “There’s no one else I adore. The heaven’s chose my destination and made me thine for evermore.”
“My life til now has been a token in pledge of meeting you, my friend, and in coming, God has spoken.
You’ll be my guardian in the end.”
Poe: “Nevermore” is used throughout The Raven. “That God we both adore,” “Leave no black plume as a token of the lie thy soul has spoken.”
Pushkin (Chapter 5 Stanza 11):
And what an awesome dream
She’s been dreaming
She walks upon a sunny vale
All around her dully gleaming.
Poe: “All the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.”
Pushkin: (Chapter 7 Stanza 15)
“…Of fisherman were dimly gleaming
Tatyana walked, alone and dreaming,”
Pushkin: (Chapter 8 stanza 20).
“Was this the Tanya he once scolded
In that forsaken, distant place?”
Poe: “By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,”
Pushkin: “Our lives were weary, flat, and stale.” (Chapter 1 stanza 45)
Shakespeare: “The world is weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” (Hamlet, Act 1 scene 2)
Pushkin: “Poor Yorick!” (Chapter 2, stanza 37)
Shakespeare: “Poor Yorick!” (Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 1)
In Chapter 1 I became convinced Pushkin my have had a foot fetish:
“I love their feet-although you’ll find
That all of Russia scarcely numbers
Three pairs of shapely feet…And yet,
How long it took me to forget
Two special feet. And in my slumbers
They still assail a soul grown cold
And on my heart retain their hold.” (Chapter 1 stanza 30)
I also found it quite interesting that Pushkin foreshadowed his own death in his description of the duel with Lensky. That was a bit of a chill!
All in all a very fun read! Thank you again for this marvelous challenge!
The Juniper Tree (1990), directed by Nietzchka Keene, starring Bjork, Bryndis Petra Bragadottir, and Valdimar Orn Flygenring.
This extraordinary film, based on a Grimm’s Fairy tale, is shot in Iceland, and takes place in medieval Iceland. The stark landscapes stand out brilliantly as photographed in delicious black and white. I see echoes of Bergman here but this is a truly unique film of women with supernatural powers. Bjork is radiant in this her film debut as one of the sisters who has visions. Highly recommend!
Directed by Jean- Pierre Melville, starring Alain Delon, Richard Crenna, and Catherine Deneuve.
Un flic translates to “A cop,” but it is a heist movie that features the bad guys as well. Alain Delon is the icy cop who doesn’t mind issuing a slap across the face from time to time to gain cooperation. Richard Crenna is the mastermind criminal and nightclub owner. Catherine Deneuve, who is impossibly beautiful and completely vacuous in this role, is the femme fatale that each man is in love with.
The movie starts with bank robbery in a small French town near the ocean on a foggy day. It is brilliantly conceived and executed with a minimum of dialogue. Another set piece was a train robbery, which features lowering Richard Crenna onto a moving train and picking him up again from a flying helicopter overhead. Wow! Never saw anything like that. Models were used in the filming, but I didn’t care, it was still pretty exciting. When planning the train robbery, the gang calculated a time frame of 20 minutes. When the robbery actually takes place, the sequence is exactly 20 minutes long. Pretty impressive stuff. Not Melville’s best film, but it was his last, and definitely memorable!
Follies of God is a book that came a long at just the right time for me. I had been thinking about Tennessee Williams for a while and had just read one of his plays. He has long been a figure that has fascinated me, both the man and his work.
I was watching YouTube videos one evening and came across an interview with a young man who told a story about meeting Tennessee Williams. It seems he got a call one morning and his mother woke him and said there was a man on the phone who says his name is Tennessee Williams. The young man realized that it must be him because he had written him a letter asking for advice on how to be a writer. He took the call. As the young man related the story, Tennessee asked him to come to have lunch with him. Where are you, he asked? I am in New Orleans, Tennessee answered. But I’m, in Baton Rouge. Well, you better hurry. So, the next day James Grissom drove to New Orleans to meet Tennessee Williams for lunch and thus began the amazing story of how this book came about. Well, I was hooked. I ordered the book that night on Amazon and it arrived very shortly thereafter.
James met with Tennessee Williams and was given a mission. To find the women that had meant so much to him, the women who appeared in his plays and movies, and some of whom were his muses and characters he modeled his characters on or wrote for. He wanted to know if he mattered to them. He called these women, The Follies of God. The characters he created for the stage he called, The Women of the Fog. Tennessee described his writing process as one of creating a mental theater in his mind. The fog rolls in across the boards and a female emerges. “I have been very lucky. I am a multi-souled man, because I have offered my soul to so many women, and they have filled it, repaired it, sent it back to me for use.”
This book is the story of that mission and how it came to be. It also gives us deep insight into the mind of one of the most creative geniuses of the American theater. Tennessee Williams needed a witness and young James Grissom was who he chose.
“Good Lord, can I get a witness? Here is the importance of bearing witness. We do not grow alone; talents do not prosper in a hothouse of ambition and neglect and hungry anger. Love does not arrive by horseback or prayer or good intentions. We need the eyes, the arms, and the witness of others to grow, to know that we have existed, that we have mattered, that we have made our mark. And each of us has a distinct mark that colors our surroundings, that flavors the recipe of every experience in which we find ourselves; but we remain blind, without identity until someone witnesses us.”
During the course of fulfilling his mission James Grissom talked to some of the most important figures on the American Theater scene: Lillian Gish, Maureen Stapleton, Marlon Brando, Elia Kazan, John Gielgud, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, Geraldine Page, and Katherine Hepburn, to name a few. This book is the fascinating account of his interviewing these witnesses and the sometime startling things they had to day. And yes, Tennessee did matter, and so he still does.
On the last day of my hiking trip, I tripped over some vines and fell to the ground. I had been hiking in the Cumberland Falls area for a few days taking pictures. When I fell, I had a tripod in one hand and a camera in the other. Trying to protect the camera I fell hard on my left side jamming my left hand into the dirt as I let the tripod go flying. On my drive home my hand and wrist grew more painful and swelled. I thought I’d better see a doctor. I called my private doctor on my cell phone and made an emergency appointment.
I arrived at his office about an hour later. After a thorough examination he said he didn’t think it was broken, but badly sprained and that it would heal up on its own. Not so lucky with the camera. I had to take it to the shop to be repaired, set me back $200.
This is where I tripped
Cumberland Falls is located on the Cumberland River in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Southeastern Kentucky.