Saturday, October 29, 2022

Hotel Metropol - Moscow

 I never would have thought that I would ever have wanted to go to Moscow.

But after finishing last night A Gentleman in Moscow I want to go there and stay in the Metropol.

It's too bad that I have said so many things critical of Putin the Diminished.

If not for that I would be looking for train tickets from Paris to Moscow.

Since I will be in Paris for the next 30 days, why not just add a month and thousands of miles?

I love train travel.

But Novichok on the doorknob is distasteful tourist attraction. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Follow On To My Initial Reaction To "A Gentleman In Moscow"

 Recently I posted a post about this book.

I tried to put it into the context of what I knew and what I had read so far to that point and what I had thought about those things.

And I tried to compare it to three other authors whose works are of high importance to me.

I had never heard of Amor Towel.

In fact, I was reading the book because my sister had said I should read it had and loaned her copy to me so I could.

Read it.

So now I have.

Read it.

And now that hopelessly vast deep and wide feeling of sad loss that always accompanies the completion of a really great book - now it's done, now it's gone - has beset me.


In this case I have immediately gone into denial mode.

I have created a silver lining.

This email to my sister documents that state of denial and silver lining that I have created.

"I will never be able to thank you enough for loaning it to me. Let’s have lunch after I get back so I can return it. It screams to be a trilogy. I don’t think he could get it done with only a second book. I vote for George Clooney to play the Count in the movie - if the makeup folk can handle the 30 year old segment."

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Munich And Peace In Our Times - Again

 History doesn't repeat itself we are told.

We are told that constantly.

And we are told that because that is generally true.

I was appalled, horrified and shocked by yesterday's withdrawn letter to President Biden from the US House of Representatives Progressive Caucus instructing the President to enter into negotiations with Putin for the termination of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

That Caucus - that 30-member group of Democrats, my party of choice - became in one day of infamy, united forever with Neville Chamberlain, a well-intentioned British Prime Minister who gave the last card in a temporarily winning hand to Adolph Hitler.

At Munich.

"Peace in our times" the banner he unfurled.

Then Hitler invaded Poland.

Then he took France in a couple of days.

Then he ...

Then we ... almost lost Western Civilization.

After he had lost his final turn at the table 'dolphie ended his life with a Luger and, along with his - whatever she was - female accomplice, was burned in gasoline down to only his jawbone that sycophants, few though they continued to be, put in a box for posterity.

We have never heard if Eva had any bones in the charred mix.

The lives lost and treasure wasted on that ultimate result - a charred jawbone in a box - was hardly worth that result; and that result was occasioned because Chamberlain thought appeasement made any sense.

History doesn't repeat itself we are told.

But if President Joe had taken that letter seriously it would have.

Repeated itself.

And what gave Pramila Jayapal the idea that that letter, and its Munich-based message, was a thing that America, or the World ought to sign on to?

In a slice of time in which I really believe that America as it has been for 240 years - a Washingtonian-Peaceful-Transfer-of-Power sort of country is dying, I can't even begin to say how disheartening is that Progressive Caucus letter.

Having seen how they really think, I have no one to respect as bearers of the banner of America anymore.

And what gave them the idea that Joe Biden could negotiate en lieu of Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy?

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Ephemeral, Vaporous Black Caped Beings Are Back

 Remember in the movie Ghost?

Right after Carl has met his end by being impaled by a massive falling shard of window glass?

Remember, then an entity, apparently Carl's spirit was beset and gathered up in the arms of a hoard of ephemeral, vaporous black-caped beings that had risen out of the sewers?

It turns out that the movie had a lot of foresight.

Maricopa County republicans have unleashed their cadre of ephemeral, vaporous camo-clad beings to accost the practicing voters of the greater Phoenix area.

Carl was kind of a bad guy; the voters of Maricopa County are mostly good guys just trying to exercise their citizens' right to vote.

But republicans really don't want that shit going on around there in their county. 

So they have deployed their goons.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Book That I Am Reading

 A Gentleman in Moscow.

By Amor Towles.

Before I say anything about that I - to make whatever it is that I may say about this book be in some sort of context, a context that is important to me if not anyone else - I need to talk briefly about the book I had just finished before I started reading A Gentleman in Moscow.

That book that I had just finished was East and West.

By Sommerset Maugham. 

That was a thousand-page tome consisting of 30 short stories by the author,

The first four or five stories were OK, pretty good, but not up to Of Human Bondage, not even remotely.

Or so I thought as I read them.

They were all set in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness place: Borneo or Singapore or Malaysia or maybe even Indonesia; I don't really know, and I'm of a sort that I really don't care.

A year in Saigon was all I had in me for that sort of thing; I wondered why Maugham was subjecting me to fairly banal stories set in a place that I would prefer to forget.

I did notice however that each story seemed to point forward - a thing I could only know by reading the next story - and backward, a phenomenon that I am not brain-dead enough - yet - to have missed.

Then there was a loud literary clang.

About story six Maugham returned to his home field - England - and began unleashing his mild, entertaining and utterly beguiling invective about the British system.

Those stories were page turners.

And they all pointed forward, and pointed backward, and just made lines in the sand for their very transient existence; a plot was unfolding.

Which was when he switched to spy stories.

I can't find the words to describe how entertaining those stories were; I didn't want them to end; but they did end; he started writing mysteries; they were so fun that I forgot about how much I had wished the spy stories to continue.

And then he finished it off with a bunch of fairly bitter little tales, all of which pointed forward, and pointed backward, to the final words: THE END.

I had just read a novel that was built out of short stories.

I was dazzled.

But not surprised.

Maugham is the last of a set of writers that for some reason are perfect writers for me.

Trollope was the first.

I possess and have read - some more than once - about twenty of his sixty or so novels; I love them all.

Sometime after discovering Trollope, I started reading Thomas Hardy - Jude the Obscure - and I wandered off on that track for another pile of books (I am fairly convinced that The Belton Estate by Trollope is Hardy's inspiration for Far from the Madding Crowd) that I have in my larder, all about furze, mist, heather, and heaths and dark clouds and dark things happening to humans and cows.

Fairly quickly I realized that Hardy was telling tales parallel, if not identical, to the tales that Trollope was telling.

Just some years later.

And then I discovered Maugham.

In desperation for my next book a few years ago I picked Of Human Bondage off the bookshelf in the jumble of disparate things that we have dubbed "the office" on Lopez Island and started to read.

Same tales, clock moved forward.

I have only also read Cakes and Ale.

But when I can get back to Powell's, I will fix that paucity of inventory.

To have one of those tales told via the vehicle of a thousand-page collection of short stories.

What can I say?

Genius, I guess.

But back to A Gentleman in Moscow.

Towles, as far as I can tell after 75 pages is not a writer.

He is a magic painter who, with frighteningly few verbal brush stokes, tells tales present, points to tales past, and presages tales future.

I have never had so much fun reading a book.

He may be the fourth in my personal pantheon: Trollope, Hardy, Maugham - and now - Towles.

Britain: One Down, Unknown Number To Go

 Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has removed himself from consideration for being Liz Truss' replacement as Prime Minister, the office that Liz Truss assumed after Boris resigned it earlier this season.

That having occurred hours ago, there is a new groundswell of conjecture that Boris may be un-removing himself from consideration after learning that his previous supporters have all moved their current support to the now seriously contending head of lettuce.

"I'll be damned if I will concede the legendary office of British Prime Minister to an un-made salad" the recent ex has been saying, giving more gravity to his reputation for sublime wordsmithmanship and - apparently - his desire to re-join the fray after hours only off the pitch.

Britain: The Candidates Gather

 With the head of lettuce having outlasted Liz, the major contenders for her replacement have begun their campaigns.

Boris is in the mix, but it's hard to really figure who is who.

It should be noted: the head of lettuce is rising fast in the polls.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?

I described this in Screen Saver; this is what is left of a rather large lake that manifested itself during the monsoon; I saw this on my first day is Saigon; I took the picture on almost my last.


Saigon had great bread; there were some tooth-breaking snail shells in it on occasion, but it was so good that i just didn't care; I was young and really wasn't sure why I needed to have teeth; Adrian Gobel made amazing sloppy joe sandwiches with these baguettes as base; I have never forgotten them. 

This was how the Generals' cars were kept dust free.

I named him Frank.  There is a section in Screen Saver about him.  The Smothers Brothers had a character called Frank the Hiking Chicken.  That's how Frank got his name.

Don't be misled by the beautiful blue; that is just a reflection of the sky on tar-like liquid masquerading as water. 

Saigon fast food.

They were my neighbors; I have always wondered what must have happened to them.

I guess this set the stage for my latter-day love of French markets.

This is a picture from the roof of the building I lived in for a year; it is also the cover of my mini-memoir, Saigon 1967.

I've always felt kindred to fishermen.

Ao Dai means, I was told, "long shirt".

I don't want to talk about the chickens.

Maybe my parrot fascination started here; this market had all sorts of other creatures for sale.

Street scene 1967

Hard to get telephoto on target in time to get what it is that's hurtling by; it's a lot like trying to get a picture of a great blue heron landing on the tombolo on Lopez Island.

My friend again

Not quite rue de Rivoli, but close

We always had cucumbers and sliced onions in vinegar in the officer's clubs' salad bars; I ate a lot of cucumbers that year.  They had really big seeds - something to spit into the nether regions of the dining room.

So French

Somehow this always puts me into the middle of Good Morning Vietnam.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Britain: You Must Be Kidding

 On the BBC just now, I heard that one of the candidates to replace Liz Truss is Boris Johnson.

I can't shake a vision of that little bitty car out of which jump an apparently unlimited number of clowns.

Prime Minister Update

 I guess we're not gonna have Ol' Liz Truss to kick around anymore.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Premiere Of Britain: First And Last?

 Robert Walpole was the first.

And Hapless Liz: the last?  

King Charles is pondering that question as we post. 

The argument for a Republic seems rather weak right now, but something must be done, I suppose.

I doubt it's her.

Hopelessly Hapless; Haplessly Hopeless

Those are words that I have never heard applied to a British Prime Minister.

In fact, I haven't yet heard them applied just now either.

In further fact, I just thought up those couplets.

But, in spite of their youthful exuberance, I think their time has come; and here is why.

Non respective to party, and equally non respective to specific policies, the British Parliamentary System has always acted as a white-hot forge producing fire-hardened leaders.

Dating back to Walpole, that has always been the truth of things British.

Somehow Liz Truss missed that process.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Pictures En Lieu Of Invective

 Occasionally I post some images to offset my fake news outbursts and unfair attacks on donnie the dildo.

Here are some more.


Somewhere in some church.

On Iceberg Point on Lopez Island: every March/April a desert portion of the island comes alive with pinks and maroons and yellows and blues.  Butterflys and bees abound. and all is good.

There are, however, other inhabitants of Iceberg Point.

And back in the woods the orchids show themselves.

Outside a church in Santa Fe

Paris 2006: 22 rue Guénégaud

A crow in le Jardin des Plantes

They are not native to America; this one was in le Jardin du Luxembourg.

Henri IV, not far from le Jardin du Luxembourg, on Pont Neuf, which he commissioned to be built as a bridge for the people of Paris: no buildings on it; a place for promenade and contemplation; it still is that to this day.

Screen Saver's theme

l'Institute de France after dark

A family in le Bois de Boulogne

Some friends and family

Where RER stop St Michel meets le Départ St-Michel: the naval of the Universe

I wrote a time travel blog post about this image.

I take myriad pictures of roses in Paris.

A magic place recently re-purposed, I suppose

A sushi lunch gone awry

The dildo in Paris

Trees and clouds can fringe on magic.