Month: May 2002 Page 2 of 3

The Maltese…Chicken?

I read www.epicurious.com regularly. I get the newsletter.

Included in this week’s recipies…The Maltese Chicken.

“At the beach in Malta, the locals eat fried rabbit, rather than burgers, with fries. I’ve adapted the recipe by using chicken and sweetening the gravy with a touch of honey.”–From Bon Appetit Magazine.

Stuff.

Oh, please please please…

It looks like I’m going to be able to take Tai Chi classes once a week.

Yatayatayatayata! Ladies and gents, the world’s first tap-dancing tai chi

grand master!

Bad jokes….

One of the people that I work with (over e-mail; she’s located in another

state) is leaving to go back to school today. I’m trying to come up

with involved pun jokes to send her. I know some good ones, but I’d rather

make her a couple.

(Her last one: “What do you get when you cross a turtle and a

porcupine?”…”A slow poke!”)

Hm…

Reviews. The Big Sleep, Red Harvest, Ghormenghast, From Hell.

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler.

I’ll try to say something other than “Dashiell Hammett is better.” (He is.) Here goes…Chandler is better at classical plotting: the ending delivers what the beginning promises. Chandler is better at making vivid characters, sometimes garishly so. I could go on…but it’d be an effort. The Big Sleep is genre writing, very good genre writing, the way Agatha Christie is good genre writing, and Asimov is good genre writing. But. I’m a Dashiell Hammett fan.

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammet.

D.H. is bona fide. He spent umpteen years as a detective for Pinkerton’s, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was in the Army. The thing about crime fiction is that it likes to sneak philosophy in, more so than any type of mystery or suspense fiction. (Chandler, by the way, does it, too.) Hammett’s philosophy is dark and strange: you can’t believe anything that anyone tells you. You shouldn’t let anyone know everything you know. You can never get at the truth, if there is a truth. And, in the end, no matter how good your intentions, the violence gets to you. If Chandler is about plot twists, Hammett is about surprise, a differnt thing: with Chandler, you have a chance to guess the ending, but you probably won’t. With Hammett, it doesn’t matter whether or not you guess the ending, because even if you do, there’s something….surprising about the way it ends. Hard to describe. Red Harvest, even more so than Maltese Falcon, is my favorite out of all of his stuff that I’ve read so far, the best written and developed.

I’d recommend Hammet to anybody of a philosophical bent that thinks most philosophers can’t write for crap. But I’d recommend both to anybody that likes crime fiction, mysteries, suspense…that sort of thing.

The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake.

This was a real pleasure to read. I’ve also seen the BBC miniseries of it, and I’d recommend that, too, for a select audience. Please note that neither I nor the BBC bothered with the last book of the trilogy…if you’d seen the end of Ghormenghast, the second novel, you’d understand.

Have you ever heard of these books? No? Have you ever heard of Stephen King? It seems pretty obvious to me that S.K. has heard of Ghormenghast; I’ll have to ask him the next time I see him. The series was written after WWII, the same era as 1984 and The Lord of the Rings. It reads like a scathing criticism of European culture pre-WWII set in a fairy-tale kingdom, written with consciously and tastily purple prose and tongue in cheek names (Flay, Swelter, Prunesquallor, Steerpike, Groan, etc.). I believe this is the original story–or at least the archetypal story–about disfunctional families, and disfuntional cultures. I can’t say just how much of an understatement that is. The author, Mervyn Peake, is also an illustrator, and the edition that I read had sketches of some of the characters in it. His powers of description were merely amazing until I saw the sketches of the characters: the sketches were exactly what I’d imagined. Yes, the guy described them that well.

The only warnings I can give you is that the wrong people die, and the books are much more over the top than the miniseires. (For example, in the BBC series, one of the characters, a man of the education field, dies by falling out of a wheelchair onto a flagstone court two stories below. In the book, he flies straight up out of the wheelchair, turns 180 in the air, and lands head-first on the floor, crushing his skull so that his body stands up–er–downright. His assistant throws himself out the window into the midst of a poetry reading below.) This is one of those library books that I considered “losing” — except that I do NOT want to piss off the books gods. Put it on my Christmas list, I guess.

From Hell.

I haven’t read the comic/graphic novel.

I recommend this movie as a thriller-mystery. As horror, don’t bother. I could tell what the writers–at least of the movie script–intended for me to feel this or that emotion (pathos, horror, etc), but it never came. On the other hand, at one point in the movie, Lee stopped the tape, we turned to each other, simultaneously said, “So…” and proceeded to guess the plot. Precisely upon pressing play, one of the characters shot our theory all to hell. What timing!

The weirdness of the movie was increased by the poor quality of the tape we got; the soundrack warbled constantly after the first fifteen minutes, sparing us for what was probably an unbearably cheesy soundtrack. My nerves were shot by the end of the movie, and I think anybody making horror movies should seriously consider laying down a constant level of near-subliminal distortion to the soundtrack.

And Ian Holm (I think that’s his last name, anyway, the guy that played Bilbo in Fellowship) was in it; I’ve liked him ever since I saw him in The Fifth Element.*

*Quintessence means, literally, “the fifth element.” Cool.

The Uncanny Adventures of Mrs. Kurtz, Part One (Continued, ep. 2)

Actually, it wasn’t that long; the message cycled after three minutes.

The voice was male and pitched very softly, almost in a whisper or moan:

You probably aren’t familiar with my name, but it’s Jim T. Biggins, and I’m one of the national directors of Omega, The Last Word in Cable. I supervise human resources, and I’m responsible for–I know there’s nothing I can say to make you believe me, but Omega Cable isn’t what you think it is anymore.

YOUR CALL IS VERY VALUABLE TO US. YOUR EXPECTED WAIT TIME IS TWENTY MINUTES. ALL CALLS ARE ANSWERED IN THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY ARE RECEIVED. DO NOT HANG UP AND CALL AGAIN, AS THIS WILL ONLY EXTEND YOUR WAIT TIME. YOUR CALL MAY BE MONITORED FOR QUALITY PURPOSES. THANK YOU FOR CALLING OMEGA SERVICES, THE LAST WORD IN CABLE!

It’s being overrun by aliens. From outer space. I thought…I thought I was doing the right thing. Our stock was going down because we couldn’t hire staff quickly enough to keep up with the demands of good customer service.

IF YOU ARE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH AN INTERNET E-MAIL PROGRAM, CLOSE OUT OF ALL YOUR PROGRAMS, SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTER, WAIT FIVE MINUTES, AND REBOOT YOUR COMPUTER. IF YOU CONTINUE TO HAVE PROBLEMS, PLEASE STAY ON THE LINE.

“Did you tell them our Internet was broke like I told you?” Marcus yelled from the back door, where he was up to his elbows in dirty motor oil and spilt beer.

“Shaddap!” Mrs. Kurtz yelled. “This is getting weirder than the public access channel at two a.m.”

Blame this one on Dale, who complains that we haven’t sent out enough jokes lately.

(Also from my brother Matt)

A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office wearing only underwear made of Saran Wrap.

The psychiatrist says, “Well… I can clearly see your nuts.”

Rejection.

Clean Sheets doesn’t want my porn. I’m offering it to them for free, and they still don’t want it. Dang. That makes two stories back home that need to go out again. Too many.

Bad Joke, my Brother. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Just try.

There are many stories related to the sinking of the “Titanic”.

Some have just come to light due to the success of the recent movie.

For example, most people don’t know that back in 1912, Hellman’s mayonnaise was manufactured in England.

The “Titanic” was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after New

York City.

The people of Mexico were eagerly awaiting delivery and were disconsolate at the loss. So much so that they declared a national day of mourning which they still observe today.

It is known, of course, as “Sinko de Mayo”

Oh, well.

I got stuck on Beauregard again. I think he’s going to turn one of my murder victims into a love interest. Stupid git. So I’m abandoning him for a week or two. Here’s the first part of the new story, mainly written as black-humor escapism from the Really Black Humor of Beauregard:

The Uncanny Adventures of Mrs. Kurtz, part one: On Hold.

Mrs. Kurtz kicked aside piles of dirty laundry, copies of Cosmopolitan, half-empty cans of Diet Coke (sticky and as infested with flies as week-old corpses), and couple of cats to find the phone. The phone! When was the last time she used the damn phone?

She had internet.

She had cable modem.

She had.

She dialed the 1-800 customer service number with rock-steady fingers. It was taped to the monitor; in the early days she’d dialed it daily.

“Your call may be monitored for quality purposes…Your expected wait time is twenty minutes. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. Please do not hang up and dial again; this will only lengthen your wait time. Your call is very valuable to us; please stay on line.”

What followed were 18 minutes of terror.

….and this story, you might say, contains some non-fictional elements.

Writing notes, and an epitaph.

I’m still working on Beauregard. I had to stop doing the first draft on the computer and move to longhand, because Ray won’t play by herself long enough to make it worthwhile.

One of the things that I’m doing in the story is laying down little false leads. Beauregard does the right thing for four or five paragraphs. Happily ever after. Oops! That’s not what really happened…

Anyway, every time I sit down to write, the plot changes. I’ve been planning to murder someone since page one…nope. Not dead yet. Hm…I can’t really explain how many changes I’ve made to the plot without wrecking it for the people who’ll read it.

If I haven’t changed it by then.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ARE Dead.

Crap. Everyone at work knows the question game. None knows the movie. Damn “Who’s Line is it Anyway.”

So I brought in the script to R/G and made people read about the game of questions. People who are my age and older, for Christ’s sake. I told them it was like hearing someone say the base line from “Ice Ice Baby” was original.

snippet: Portrait of a Player

My guess is that he went along as a boy. He lacks the natural ease with which a true philanderer sports the appearance of a gentleman. The true philanderer may be a gentleman, a lover of women, skin, sweat, sex, variety.

He doesn’t. He isn’t. He isn’t a lover; he’s an accountant. Or is that fair? He seems, in spite of his calculated haircut, wardrobe, and heavy steel jewelry, nice enough, just a boy who went along with the role of the ladies’ man, because he had a talent for it, the way some boys go along with the role of Byronic poet, banker, fire chief, or father.

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