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2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.

Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.

Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.

You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.

At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.

Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.

Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.

Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have their books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.

John Kennedy Toole

Stieg Larsson

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)

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ON THIS DAY IN 1943

October 23, 2017 Leave a comment

The life I had been living was to change forever. I was an only child, and I was told that Mommy was coming home with an 8-day old brother for me. His name was Neil, and we grew to be very close. When he was a baby, he had a babble language of his own, and only I, at seven years of age, could understand him. Neil would babble something at Mom, and she would ask me what he wanted, and I could tell her.

As Neil became a toddler, I became his horsey, and sometimes I was his tiger that would protect him. He named me Tykie, when I was the tiger. In later years, I taught him to ride a bicycle, and swim, and some bad things too. Some weekends I took him to Saturday matinees at the Nortown, or the Eglinton, or the Avenue, all on Eglinton Avenue in those days. I took him tobogganing, and skating. In later years, he was on my pit crew when I was racing sports cars.

The relationship gradually faded when Mommy brought home another brother, Steve. Neil’s and Steve’s ages were closer than Neil and I, and they bonded more closely. My life took me to outside activities, and I grew closer with Steve when we were older, because there’s a 10 year gap.

Sadly, Neil passed away some years ago. The truth is, the Neil who is always with me is the kid that hung around with me for some years, and to whom I passed on both good and bad things about myself. Neil’s my brother still, because the years of shared learning and winning and losing are always with me, and I sometimes wander through them.

The Destructive Drive for Wealth

October 19, 2017 Leave a comment

When ‘maximized profits’ is the goal, someone or something is going to suffer. How can a marketer maximize profits, while it’s already doing everything possible? One can make the product more cheaply and charge more for it. When a corporation’s goal is to get rich no matter what, its staff, suppliers, and customers all lose out.

Companies fight to keep employees’ wages and benefits low so the company can flourish. At the same time, the employees are the energy that manufacture, deliver, and perhaps sell the product. Why would an employer not appreciate the employees? Because employees cost a lot of money, and companies don’t like to part with any money at all.

We ‘normal’ people might be unable to understand how a company can deny living wages to its employees while awarding huge bonuses to senior executives. Well, perhaps those greedy people have a weakness in their spirit that enables them to be selfish at all times.

Personally, I would reject the life of the wealthy, because it doesn’t suit me. I was raised in a wealthy family, and felt out of place. The quiet life among simple people suits me better. At the same time, I enjoy a great deal of intellectual stimulation on social media. The Internet is also a great creative stimulus that helps me to live comfortably.

Sometimes we can tell.

October 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Sometimes we can tell that an individual is going to be a troubled person later in life. Right from childhood, the kid that will bend logic and law to suit personal priorities. I remember two examples.

A boyhood friend I’ll call Gordy was collecting ‘All Wheat’ cards. It was a breakfast cereal that offered a number of collector cards in each box. I think they were sheets of six cards that bore the colour photos of military equipment or athletes or something like that. It doesn’t matter. The point is, Gordy couldn’t wait to enhance his collection by enjoying the cereal over time, and gather cards in that way. The way I was doing it.

Gordy stole money from his mother’s purse and used it to by many boxes of All Wheat. In a vacant lot at the end of the street, he tore open all the boxes, retrieved the sheets of cards, and left the empty cereal boxes and a lot of All Wheat flakes strewn about.

I don’t know what kind of trouble, if any, he got into for that stunt. I remember it because in later life he became a lawyer. He also became a gambler – a gambling addict, in fact – and indebted himself to organized crime. He couldn’t pay his debts to the mob, except to do some things for them.

He laundered money for the mob, and even passed counterfeit money for them. He got busted, convicted, and did some time. I saw him on the street one day, making a delivery from his little courier company car. Disbarred of course, and lost his family too, I imagine. A naughty kid is a bad person.

Another bad boy, Joel, was just a brat. I didn’t know him well, but I know he was trouble. Our cottages were on the same beach. My brothers and I would make sand castles and dams and so on, in the summer sun. Invariably, Joel would come along the beach and gleefully destroy our sand structures and sculptures.

In later life, Joel also became a lawyer. He used money from escrow accounts and client investments for his own use, was caught, did time, and disappeared.

Sometimes we can tell.

The Future Of Entertainment

September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

All of the deliberately contrived adventures that serve as our entertainment will be even more contrived in the future. By contrived, I mean scripted, performed, and recorded for public entertainment. Similarly, documentaries and sporting events which are less contrived will nevertheless be altered in the future. We can only hope that the thrill of the chase, the euphoria of victory, and the heartbreak of defeat will continue to stimulate society in more contrived forms.

Movie theaters will be replaced by Holo theaters. Those will be hologram theaters, in the round. Full dimensional events will perform before the 360 degree audience. The holograms will rotate slowly, so the entire audience will see the entire chain of events from every angle.

Automobile racing of every kind will die off as popular sports. Cars will not need cockpits, as in single-seater Formula One and Indy Cars. Stock cars will be flat sleds. All will be driverless, as artificial intelligence will guide the vehicles. There will be no flaws, no differences, no competition because the spirit of humans will be excluded. The public will quickly tire of the flawless predictability of most anything.

Everything from basketball to football and baseball will be afflicted with the same predictable perfection. Horse racing, stage shows, and carnivals will lose their luster because the imperfect senses of participants will be removed. The populace will live virtual lives with their eyes covered by virtual reality goggles, and all will be bland.

THE SZENTENDRE TRAIN – part 5 of 30

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

He was not there.  I walked home on the dusty road, unlocked the front gate and carefully locked it behind me before I went up the stairs to the door and let myself into the house.  I felt like a real idiot, going on like this about nothing.  I was obviously emotionally screwed up, or I wouldn’t feel weak as a kitten just thinking about…who?  Thinking about this stranger who is young enough to be my child.  I had to do something to keep busy or I’d go crazy, so I got a bunch of vegetables out of the refrigerator and cut a slab of beef into cubes and made a pot of goulash.

I left it to simmer.  Meanwhile, I ran a bath and undressed while the tub filled.  I poured in a good deal of vanilla scented bath foam and prepared to soak my silly stress away.  I paused in front of the full-length mirror and turned this way and that, looking at my naked body with a critical eye.  I had not really looked at myself in a long time.  I had not looked at myself with the intent to see what someone else might see.  I wanted to see what that gorgeous young man would see if I was naked before him

I was encouraged.  I was not that bad, for almost forty.  My tits were still quite high, because I’d never been pregnant.  I was a bit meaty, but still, my waist was small and my hips smoothly rounded.  My skin was not too bad, except that it was two colours.  Working in my garden, I got tanned from my shoulders up and from my thighs down.  From my tits to my thighs, I was ghostly white and smooth except for the triangle of curly, black, thick pubic hair.  I wondered if the young man liked dark, thick pubic hair.

I lit a few candles around the bathroom and switched off the light before I stepped into the warm tub and sank down into the hissing foam.  The warm water enveloped me in vanilla fragrance and I lay back and gazed up at the shadows dancing on the ceiling.  They swirled and shivered as the candle flames trembled in the moving air.  While I watched, the swaying shadows became two figures, dancing a dance of passion and desire, of mating and parting.  I couldn’t keep my imagination from the young man – I hesitated to call him a boy, because he is at least twenty.  In a way, a boy, I suppose.  But something in the way he looked at me, something in his gentle, hazel eyes told me that there was an exciting man inside that young body.

THE SZENTENDRE TRAIN – part 4 of 30

August 22, 2017 Leave a comment

The week dragged so slowly, I was insane with impatience for the Friday evening train to Szentendre, so I could see the young man again.  By Wednesday afternoon I was beside myself.  One of my students even asked if I was feeling well.  I hadn’t realised that it showed.  I was building up a volcano of curiosity, a lava flow of desire, a fantasy of romance that was ridiculous and I knew it.  My mind was filled with visions of myself in my studio, the young man naked on a platform while I drew him and sculpted him and painted him.  I saw myself walking around and around him, casually viewing his legs, his ass his arms and chest and finally, his manhood.

Suddenly, in the middle of my final Wednesday class, I had a thought: maybe he didn’t take the train back and forth only on Fridays and Mondays.  Maybe he took the train back and forth every day.  It’s only a half-hour each way.  I spent my weeknights in the city because the University provided a living allowance that almost covered it, and the house was just too lonely to live in alone all the time.  At least I could occasionally enjoy a good restaurant meal, or a concert, or just walk anonymously among the strangers in the square.

The final class ended, and I impulsively rushed to the train station and got there just in time to see the train boarding.  I looked everywhere for the red jacket, but could not find it.  I decided to board the train anyway, and go home for the evening.  Maybe the young man had taken an earlier train on Wednesday.  Maybe he would be on the Szentendre platform in the morning – with me also there… on the platform.  I went up and down through every car on the ride home.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t looking for anyone, in case I saw him.  It was ridiculous of course, because what other reason could there be for a foolish old woman to be wandering up and down a whole train, if not looking for someone?