“Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness.” ― Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Month: November 2020
Queen’s Gambit Declined
Back during my Halcyon days when I was not half bad at chess my favorite opening with white was Pawn to King four. This is the old fashioned chess notation which is now known as e4. Now I learn the most popular opening is pawn to queen 4 (d4). Black’s usual response is d5 followed by white’s move to c4. This is what is known as the Queen’s Gambit. Black’s play is either Queen’s Gambit accepted or declined. Thought you would want to know.
Fun chess fact: In the 1927 match for the world championship between Alekhine and Capablanca the Queen’s Gambit declined was played 32 of the 34 games.
Beau Travail (1999)
Beau Travail (1999) Directed by Claire Denis. Starring Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, and Gregoire Colin. A brilliant retelling of Melville’s Billy Budd, only instead of a British frigate the action takes place in the desert on the Gulf of Djibouti near the Horn of Africa. Instead of sailors the men involved are soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. This is a movie about military discipline, routine, and codes of honor. A new recruit is introduced and tension develops with the second in command. There is not much of a plot or narrative arc but this is an extremely visual film and you get all you need to know from the visual story telling. The photography is spectacular.
There is an unmistakable undercurrent of homoeroticism swirling around just below the surface as Denis directs our gaze to the half naked young men going through their ritualist exercises and bonding together as in a slow moving ballet. It is an examination of military culture and the masculine mystique.
This movie can be seen on the Criterion Channel.
The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
I just finished watching the series The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, which just might be the best show on TV right now. I highly recommend it. Not only does it showcase the world of chess during the cold war years, it is a fascinating character study of its protagonist Elizabeth Harmon. She is a child prodigy raised in an orphanage, adopted by an eccentric mother and is a brilliant chess player driven to win. She also has a built-in self-destructive streak that she struggles mightily with. The actor who portrays Elizabeth Harmon, Anya Taylor-Joy is remarkable.
As I was watching the credits roll by after the last episode, I happened to notice the author of the novel the series was based on was Walter Tevis. Snap! I realized at that moment that I had actually read that book years ago. 1987 in fact. Tevis is quite a good writer who seems to like to write books about games. Several of his of his other books were turned into movies. Some quite notable and one an American Classic: The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. The Color of Money (1986) also with Paul Newman. And one of my all-time favorites, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) with David Bowie. Not surprisingly, Tevis was raised in Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky where he obtained a degree in English Literature. A nice little epiphany for me.
New Harmony, Indiana
New Harmony, Indiana is a great place for a weekend getaway. It is an easy two-hour drive from my home base of Louisville, Kentucky (135 miles).
Maureen and I set out about eleven am figuring to get there in time for lunch. Only made one wrong turn but, discovered my mistake quickly enough that it didn’t really result in any loss of time. Yes, I have GPS but I usually only consult it as a last resort. I like the challenge of finding places on my own after an initial consultation with the map. I seldom get lost but sometimes I am surprised by my destination. And Maureen was no help as she would be the first to admit she has no sense of direction and seemed to be proud of it.
So, there I was on my own with no navigator. Well, I always say, Id’ rather have a navigator than an alligator. But lucky for me, Maureen was neither of these things. She was a fine traveling companion and lover as well. I had prepared a mix tape to listen to on our drive and we sang up every song we both knew and were in New Harmony before we knew it.
New Harmony is a small town, a village really, with a population of 850, situated on a stretch of the Wabash River. It was originally settled by a communal German religious group known as the Harmonists in 1814 wo attempted to create a Utopia. This worked for a while and then their leader, George Rapp, took them back to Pennsylvania, where they originated, in 1824. They sold the land to a socialist visionary named Robert Owen who believed in workers’ rights, an eight-hour work day, and communal living. Owen believed in a secular utopian socialism. He rechristened the community New Harmony in 1825. The Owenite community failed in the late 1820s.
The third utopia can be attributed to Jane Blaffer Owen (1915-2010). During her time in New Harmony she brought modern architecture to the town, such as the Roofless Church, the Atheneum and many public art pieces. She created serenity with Tillich Park, Church Park and the Cathedral Labyrinth and has left behind a legacy all her own.
While this is not a true Utopia, New Harmony truly is a unique experience. The village is very aware of its history and has done a good job in retaining its historical character and charm, and maintaining a state of genuine peace and tranquility. It features, public art and architecture, gardens, shopping, fine dining, a wonderful inn, live music, museums, a brewery, coffee shops, nature places, and an abundance of history.
So, like I said, we arrived right at noon, with the time change, just in time for lunch. I parked my car in front of the Bread and Breakfast where we were staying (The AC Thomas House) and we walked into to town. The first place we went was jammed packed so we made our way across the street to Sara’s Place. It is a coffee shop on one side and a pub on the other. We got into the long line to place our food order to the overworked barista and finally made our order. I had a panni and Maureen had a grilled cheese sandwich which is her “go to” choice in such situations. We carried our food out of doors to the patio, that’s when I noticed the pub. Say, I said, would you like something to drink? Sure, I’ll have a Hendrick’s gin and tonic, she said. So, I marched back inside to place our drink orders only to discover they didn’t serve hard liquor, only beer and wine. So, I, ordered a Stella and beat feet out to Maureen to see if she wanted a wine. She declined. We had a pleasant lunch out there on the patio under the warmth of a golden sun. A few minutes later her friend shows up with his daughter in tow and we make our acquaintances and exchange pleasantries. We are going to meet up with him and his partner later on that evening at the Red Geranium for dinner. Until then we were on our own.
We walked around the town a bit and visited a couple of the unique shops along the way. Maureen bought something to wear for later on that night at dinner. We moseyed on back to the AC Thomas house to unload the car and get unpacked. Her friend was going to pick us up on his golf cart a little later and take us back to his house for drinks before dinner.
Dan and John own an art gallery in town with many pieces of lovey art. We would visit their store tomorrow. Meanwhile it was drinks at their stately mansion on Main. Then we all piled onto their golf cart for the short ride to the Red Geranium for dinner.
The Red Geranium is known for its fine dining and congenial atmosphere. We ate out on the terrace. Food was delicious and the company was solid. We had a lot of laughs as Maureen caught up with her friends. David and John were from Louisville and thy had just moved to New Harmony a few year ago to open their art gallery and to lead a more tranquil life with their daughter. They had started coming to the village as a weekend getaway and fell in love with the place and decided to move there permanently.
After dinner we walked around the town a bit more. It was surprising how different everything looked after dark. Things took on a more sinister aspect and even the religious art had a pagan look to it. When we got back to the B&B we were exhausted. We quickly disrobed and climbed between the sheets and fell to sleep listening to the strains the mixtape I had prepared which I was able to play on my cell phone. The last thing I remember was Toni Braxton singing Unbreak My Heart before drifting off to La La Land holding Maureen tightly in my arms.
Next morning, we were up bright and early as our hostess prepared our breakfast of coffee and quiche. It wasn’t bad but not as good as expected. Today we would explore the village a little more before heading back to Louisville. We walked out to the labyrinth and wandered around there for a while then we came back to town to visit John in the art gallery. Of course, I took copious amounts of pictures which I will now share with you, dear gentle reader.
Dinner at the Red Geranium