#8 of 501: The Maltese Falcon

Bogart didn't fire a gun in this movie
Bogart didn’t fire a gun in this movie

Last night Cindy and I watched The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Elijah Cook Jr., and others (including the favorite of Cindy’s mom, Ward Bond [inside joke]). The movie was released in 1941 and is one that I watch every year or two. Cindy has seen it before as well, but agreed to watch it anyway. We both like the movie.

The movie script was based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, adapted by John Huston. Huston also directed the movie.

I was surprised to learn (thank you Wikipedia) that there had been two previous movies of this story, one in 1931 and one in 1936.

As I said, we liked this movie. However, I do have one problem , and that is with Mary Astor’s acting. In my opinion, much of it is over the top. My real problem is that I haven’t seen many movies in which she had been, so I don’t know if this was par for the course or not. I think there are three possible reasons for her performance.

1) She is a bad actor. I believe that is unlikely since she had a starring role.

2) It was an acting decision that she made. If so, it was a bad decision.

3) This was the performance that John Huston wanted. I believe that it is the most likely reason for the performance.

One other complaint I have with th movie is the dialogue Mr. Huston puts in the mouth of Elijah Cook Jr’s. character, Wilmer. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if Huston quoted directly from it, but I doubt it. All of the other characters have reasonably good dialogue, but not Wilmer.

So, I had two complaints. They aren’t major complaints, so I’ll watch the movie again in twelve to eighteen months.

Yesterday’s mystery solved

The remains
The remains

This picture is the reason I had to go to the bank yesterday. Enigmatic, no? I’ll explain and tell you about the mystery I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The pile of scrap in the picture is the remnants of a wooden play set; you know, swings and slide and rope and such, that the former owner of our house had built for his kids. We maintained it (the yellow paint and indoor/outdoor carpeting specifically) for our grandkids, but some of the wood had started to rot, the rope was fraying, trees were taking root in the sandbox, and it was getting to be too much bother for too little use. So we decided to get rid of it.

On Thursday afternoon our doorbell rang. When I answered the door I expected to shoo away somebody who was selling something. But there stood one of Cindy’s second cousins. He told me that Cindy wanted him to tear apart something in the back yard…he wasn’t sure what. Well I called Cindy because I knew what she wanted, but I didn’t know she had contacted her cousin. It turns out that she hadn’t. She had talked to his mother and said that she was thinking about calling him. The mother called her daughter who called her brother, the cousin, and told him to come to our house. Is that convoluted enough?

Aside: We have had mixed results when Cindy decided to go outside the professionals and to hire a relative or a friend’s relative to take on a something that we wanted done. Cindy once hired a friend’s relative to wallpaper our bedroom. Have you ever awakened in the morning and found the wallpaper peeling down from the top of the walls? It looked a bit like a Salvador Dali painting.

So, I walked the cousin to the back yard and explained what we wanted done. He looked things over, thought about it, and quoted a price. It was a price that we both thought was reasonable and I set a time for him to come to the house Friday morning (It was a two-hour window because he had to borrow the tools). I told him I would wait for him to arrive and get started, and then I would go to the bank for his pay (he wanted cash…they always want cash).

He arrived and started unloading his implements of destruction, including a chain saw. I went back in the house to work on yesterday’s post. Every ten minutes or so I would look out of the window to check his progress. There was none. He was attempting to start the chain saw, but he wasn’t succeeding. After half an hour of watching futile attempts I left for the bank.

When I got home the cousin’s vehicle was gone. And thus the mystery. Where was he? I looked in the back yard and found the playthings intact. Hmmm. Curious.

I had finished eating my lunch before he returned. He came to the front door and explained that he couldn’t get the chainsaw started, so he had taken it back to the owner to get some starting tips. He was ready to get the job done now.

Twenty minutes later he again left, without starting the chainsaw. It was going to be a long day. But he returned about half an hour later, telling me that the carburetor had been “gunked up” and he had needed to clean it. Can you do that in half an hour?

Well anyway, to make a long story shorter, he finally got the chain saw started and proceeded to cut the sucker into pieces. He also carried everything to the street for the street scavengers and ultimately for the city disposal crew. Once started he made quick work of the job.

I paid him the agreed upon sum, and gave him a little extra because he did do a good job (once started). I may revise my thoughts about not using the Yellow Pages. But there is still that wallpaper thing.

Me and Mysteries

In need of repair
In need of repair

I took this picture this morning on the way home from the bank. But that is a post for another day. And there is a mystery involved that has yet to be solved.

***

I should probably begin with Sherlock Holmes. I probably read other mysteries before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great creation, but I couldn’t tell you what they were, or who wrote them. And I’ll also admit that my first memory of Sherlock Holmes was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of him. Those movies are still some of my favorites. But this post is supposed to be about the writing and my reaction to it. I’ll probably write a post or two at sometime about movie and television mysteries.

I own all of the printed Doyle stories about Sherlock, both in paperback and in an omnibus hardback edition. I still pull out one of the books and read a story or two for the pleasure of it.

I also have all of Raymond Chandler’s  Phillip Marlowe stories in paperback. I think I was in college when I bought my first book of his stories. And again, I occasionally pull out one of those books and read with pleasure something that was written before I could read. Good writing is forever. Think Beowulf if you doubt me.

I just realized that my first two examples are of detectives who are better known, to most people, than their creators are. A large part of that is because there are more than one story available with that character. How many one-shot detectives can you name? I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Who are some of the other crime solvers whom I’ve read? (OK, I don’t know if it should be “whom” or” that” since I’m writing about fictional characters.) There is Lew Archer, Ross Macdonald’s creation; Nero Wolfe and Archie, created by Rex Stout; and more recently Stig Larsson’s Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. I like them all, but for different reasons.

I find Lew Archer to be somewhat similar to Phillip Marlowe in that he is a tough guy who thinks about more than the simple case he is working on. He dives in beyond the facts.

Nero Wolfe never seldom leaves his apartment. Kinda quirky, right? I like quirks.

Mikael and Lisbeth aren’t detectives. He is a journalist and she is…well, she is damaged. He does some of the leg work and puts a lot of the puzzle pieces together. She is the muscle and the angel of retribution. It is so sad that Stig Larsson has died. I came to love his writing.

Who else do I like? There is Martin Cruz Smith, James Lee Burke, Craig Johnson, and Bill Moody (mixing jazz with mysteries is bound to pull me in). If I sat here at the keyboard I’m sure that I would have other names popping into my head, but I’ll settle for, “and many, many more.”It seems like I’ll be reading and rereading mysteries for a good long time. Gosh. I just made my day.

Music Memories 15: Bonnie Raitt

Sweet Forgiveness
Sweet Forgiveness

Trying to explain this memory becomes more convoluted the more I think about it. Let me try to explain from the beginning.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I have been a big Bonnie Raitt fan from the first time I heard one of her records. I went through a period, starting back when I lived in Auburn, when I bought all of her back albums and then everything new that she released. This album was probably the third or fourth that I bought. As usual, I was blown away the first dozen or so times that I listened to it, and then settled into a happy familiarity with all of the music. Of course I had a few favorites on the album. This song, About To Make Me Leave Home was one of those favorites.

You may be thinking, “So, where’s the big memory? Nothing special here.” That’s true. But let me continue.

There was this pretty blonde woman, who shall remain nameless, with whom I really wanted to have a relationship beyond the friendship that we had. Get my drift? Well, one evening she and her roommate, who will also remain nameless, were over at my apartment, eating snacks, drinking wine, listening to music and talking. They didn’t like any of the music that I was playing. Frank Sinatra? Forget it. Too old and slow. Iron Butterfly? What is that crap? David Bromberg? Are you kidding? Then I put on Bonnie Raitt’s Sweet Forgiveness album and things settled down.

Well the pretty blonde’s eyes go slightly out of focus and she tells us about a cross-country car trip she and a friend took a little over a year earlier. To hear the blonde tell it, they made the trip with a big bag of corn chips and a cassette tape of the Sweet Forgiveness album which they played over and over again.

Love of the album was something we had in common, but the relationship never blossomed. There wasn’t enough in common. My idea of a fun evening out was a movie or concert and dinner at a nice restaurant. She preferred going to honky-tonk bars and drinking shots of tequila with strange men. And don’t get me started on her roommate. That’s a whole ‘nother saga.

Why does anybody read this blog?

Picture windows
Picture windows

This is another picture from yesterday’s stroll through the library’s neighborhood. I am always afraid that people will think I am spying on them, or casing their house for a break-in, so I don’t usually take time to zoom in on details. I do that when I get home and upload the picture to my hard drive. Consequently, I lose some clarity in the final product. I wish I could tell what exactly is taped to the windows. They appear to be cut from magazines. Are they taped there so the occupant can enjoy the other side of the pages, or are they for the passer-by? The windows are on the second floor.

***

Let’s face it, with a few exceptions, I have no idea why anybody reads this blog. Oh, sure, there are a few friends whom I’ve known for years, and some family, and I guess a couple of bloggers who do it to be gracious because I’ve commented on a post of theirs or followed their blogs. But other than those few people? I can’t account for the other seventy+ people who follow Classical Gasbag. I know that seventy to eighty followers is a low number in the blogosphere, but it is at least seventy more than I expected when I started doing this.

Yesterday’s post caused me to put some thought into the title question. While there was only one comment, from my good friend Bob, three strangers clicked on Like, and two of them started following the blog. My question is, why?

OK, I’ll set modesty aside for a moment and admit that I think there were two or three good lines in that post. But really; I was just putting words together to keep in the habit of composing. I’ve published many things that I think are better, as well as some dogs that even I don’t like.

I sometimes think that people whom I don’t know, read a post because of the tags or categories I use. Over the years I’ve noticed that when I use the tag Art, I get a small uptick in my statistics. The same is true when I use Movies or Music. I can kind of understand that, but I seldom stick to one category for any extended length of time.

I recently changed avatars, and chose a picture of me that was taken ten years ago (I’m now older, fatter, beardless, and only wear glasses for reading) I should probably use an updated photo. But let’s face it, nobody is going to real this blog based on how I look, either then or now.

If I were a business person I would do a focus group. Instead, I’ve added the form below so that you can give me feedback. I want to know why you may like the blog in general. Feel free to get specific and tell me things you like and/or things you don’t like. My inquiring mind wants to know.

Move along, nothing to see

Litter
Litter

When I left the library this morning I decided to take a stroll around the block. I put my check-outs in the car and set off with my camera because I knew I needed a picture for today’s post. This building sits just west of the library. I’m not sure if the building is occupied or not, but it seems evident that the basement door hasn’t been used recently.

***

It isn’t quite writer’s block from which I’m suffering. My problem is that I’m not inclined to write about anything in particular. But, I think I want to compose. What’s a boy man to do?

I went to my four unpublished drafts and looked them over, but they weren’t suitable for a number of reasons. The first draft was ungainly and unreadable because I couldn’t corral my ideas and lead them up to the ramp to…well, there, I still can’t find the right way to approach the subject.

Two of the drafts were similar to a post that I recently published, and I don’t want to appear bereft of new ideas…even though this post seems to be saying that I’m bereft of new ideas. I’ll continue to hold them until enough time has passed to make them seem fresh. That could be some time from now. (Can you believe that I used bereft twice in the same sentence?)

The fourth draft will probably never see the light of day. I wrote it to rant about a number of things that upset me, but that I don’t want to share. I really am trying to be a kinder, gentler person…in public. No, I’ll not be publishing that draft, but I will keep it and add to it as a release for the vitriol that I occasionally feel.

After checking my drafts, I went to the list of ideas I keep on my cell phone. I found some dumb ideas on the smart phone. I won’t be sharing those ideas, at least I won’t today. I’m saving one that is not dumb for next year, because 1) I need to research the topic, and 2) I had planned on using it on Father’s Day, but completely forgot about it. I should check my idea list more often.

Others on the list are simply a phrase or a sentence that came to me while watching television, sometimes they were based on something that was said on the broadcast, some seemed to come out of the blue. They all need more time and work than I’m willing to spend today.

I guess it just boils down to the fact that I was too lazy to work on a post yesterday and this morning. It may also be true tomorrow.

Quiet Sunday morning

Creases
Creases in the wrong place

Sunday mornings are usually quiet in our house. I try to be quiet because Cindy likes to sleep late. 98% of the time she has been out late Saturday night playing cards with troops, and chooses to sleep in the family room so as not to wake me up. I try to return that favor by watching TV or doing other quiet things upstairs, venturing down only to refill my coffee cup. And so it was this morning.

On most Sunday mornings I pop in a DVD and watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica, the newer version. And after that CBS’s Sunday Morning comes on. By the time that show is over Cindy is usually awake.

This morning was a little different. I woke up earlier, watched not only the episode but also the version with the podcast commentary. And still I had an hour to kill before Sunday Morning. So I decided to do some ironing.

No matter the garment, its permanent press attributes are never permanent. So every six or seven months I will have accumulated enough clothes that it is worth setting aside time to iron. I ironed half a dozen shirts this morning. I have a lot of shirts in my closet. I should probably iron more often because each time I take a hot iron to a garment, it is like I’m teaching myself all over again.

I consider it a victory if, after I’ve ironed a shirt, it doesn’t look like I’ve slept in it. We take our victories where we can. Observe the picture at the beginning of this post. I can’t iron a shirt, whether long or short-sleeved, without adding creases to the sleeves. I could iron for hours on one shirt, and never end with a uncreased shirt sleeve. I’ve given up trying.

I realized that people can tell that I’ve at least made the effort. So, I don’t fret over a few unwanted creases. I give up sooner than I used to. People perceive that I tried, and perception is the same as reality.

That’s how I spent this Sunday morning.