James and I Go Way Back
I was a student at Dartmouth College when I first saw Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962). The film hit me right between the eyes, as if it had been fired at me from 007’s Beretta. Here was a guy with the ultimate cool: He was a bon vivant, handsome to women, and pitted against enemies who were the ultimate in evil. In Live and Let Die (1954), the second novel in the series after Casino Royale, Bond came up against the massive Mr. Big, a gargantuan Negro with not only pretensions to Voodoo (as Baron Samedi himself), but an operative of SMERSH, short for Смерть шпионам, “Death to Spies,” a Soviet counter-intelligence agency named by Joseph Stalin during World War Two.
The second part is dangled before us, but we don’t see any real Soviet spy business; and its role in the novel is negligible and could have omitted entirely. As with most of the Bond novels, it’s pretty easy to see what’s going to happen: The plot twists are well telegraphed. When 007 is preparing an underwater incursion on Mr. Big’s Jamaican hideaway and we are told that it would take 48 hours for the shark and barracuda repellent to arrive from the States, well we all know what is about to happen: Underwater feeding frenzy!
I must have read most of the Bond thrillers during my college years. It was candy for the mind and great adolescent wish-fulfillment. I guess that, into each life, some froth must fall.
It Barely Lasted the Three Days It Took to Read the Book
It is always sad whenever I have to throw out a book, especially when I enjoyed reading it like this one. Over the years, I have red about two dozen or more Georges Simenon novels, and loved most of them. This old Signet paperback had glued signatures using cheap pulp paper. Even as I read it, it started shedding little triangles of paper from the cover and the interior. So now I’ll just throw it out before it ends up as a random pile of kipple on my bookshelf.
Whence comes this love of books? I think I got it from my mother. I have vivid memories of lying in my crib while she read stories to me. When she didn’t have enough time to stop in at the library, she made up her own story, usually about a fairy princess in a dark European forest. From the earliest age, I was hooked.
Now my apartment contains literally thousands of books. I love reading them. I even love handling them. Alas, Georges Simenon’s The Bells of Bicêtre has come to the end of the line. No more will someone want to pick it up and gently turn the pages. Requiescat in pace!
I’m on the Mend!
I hope these knitted bones tell you something. Okay, I still can’t drive, and my left arm is still in a sling; but I can buckle and unbuckle my seat belt, put on my socks as well as all my other clothing (though I still can’t tie my shoes). On Thursday of this week, I get a new set of X-Rays at Santa Monica UCLA Hospital and —hopefully—the go ahead for the next steps forward, including losing the sling, starting physical therapy, and maybe even driving.
For the last two weeks I have taken the bus to and from work. At first, I was afraid that I would fall and injure myself even more severely. The good news is that UCLA has been closed for spring break, but that ends soon; and I hate to rely on the good will of strangers for a seat near an exit.
More good news: My computer is fixed! My friend Mike came by yesterday and installed the new UPS (uninterrupted power supply) unit and fired up my machine.
I’m beginning to feel something like a human being again.
My Blogs Will Be Back Soon
With luck, my home computer will be back online tomorrow. As for tonight, I’ll just ice my shoulders, thank you! I’m not having much of a pain problem with my fracture—except when I’m trying to sleep. Then it throbs and various pains emerge along my arms and legs. Not at all pleasant! A week from today, the orthopedist will see me again and rule on my progress, if any.
Now My Computer Is Dead, Too
Yesterday, when I got home from work, I noticed that my computer would not turn on. The culprit appeared to be my UPS (uninterruptible power supply) unit, which looks very much like the above, and which just emits a sick squeal when the button is pressed. So I called my friend and system consultant Mike Estrin and asked when he could drop by and replace it. Until then, I will probably not write many blog posts. So it goes….
Original French Poster
Because of my broken shoulder, I took today off from work. (Tomorrow, I’ll work half a day and see the orthopedic surgeon in the afternoon.)
Fortunately, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel was playing Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 Le Salaire de la Peur (better known in the U.S. as Wages of Fear). In the whole history of cinema, there are relatively few action films that can hold their own with the classics. Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai is one of them, and I can think of several Westerns, including Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo that are real action classics. Think of Wages of Fear as France’s contribution to the genre.
Starring Yves Montand, the film is set in some unspecified Latin American country in which there is an oil well fire. The American Southern Oil Company hires four foreign drifters to drive two trucks full of nitroglycerin over horrendous washboarded roads on the theory that at least one of the trucks will make it. They are to drive half hour apart in case one of the trucks explodes.
Along the route, they meet a number of obstacles that up the excitement level to the boiling point. These include a sharp right turn forcing them to back over a half-finished bridge full of rotten boards, a huge boulder in the middle of the road, and crossing a huge puddle of petroleum formed when a pipeline is ruptured.
There were two remakes, including a fairly decent one by directed William Friedkin called The Sorcerer (1977) with Roy Scheider. But the French original is much better.
Yechhhh! I Did It Again!
I went halfway around the world in 2006 to break my right shoulder by slipping on the ice in Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra Del Fuego. Last night, I did it again—this time to my left shoulder—right across the street from where I live in West Los Angeles. Last week, the city had scraped off the surface asphalt from the street in order to lay down a fresh layer, eventually. Unfortunately, the street surface was wildly uneven, and it was dark. While returning from a Persian restaurant across the street with my friends Bob and Suzanne, I stepped off the curb all right but missed the second step-down. My body twisted and I fell down hard on the street.
Fortunately, my head did not make contact either with the street or a nearby parked car, but my left knee and right hand got bruised. Suzanne, who is a nurse, immediately suggested I go to emergency; and they kindly drove me to the ER at Santa Monica UCLA Hospital.
Tomorrow morning, I will have to make an appointment with an orthopedist. Although my left shoulder is disrupted in several different directions and I may require surgery, the pain level is tolerable. I won’t be able to drive for a few weeks. Actually, my bruised knee bothers me more than the shoulder; and I’ll have to have that looked at as well. (In the ER, as Suzanne explained it, my shoulder trauma prevented my knee pain from throbbing .)
So it goes.