James Bond and Me

James and I Go Way Back

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.

The End of a Book

It Barely Lasted the 3 Days It Took to Read the Book

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 B-a-a-a-c-k!

I’m on the Mend!

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.


Just Icing My Shoulders

My Blogs Will Be Back Soon

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.

Wouldn’t You Know It?

Now My Computer Is Dead

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….

Favorite Films: The Wages of Fear (1953)

Original French Poster

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.

A Matched Set

Yechhhh! I Did It Again!

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.


Tropical Iced Tea? Gack!

Not My Cup of Tea

Not My Cup of Tea

The following post is a reprint from my posting on Yahoo! 360 on June 28, 2007:

No one I know loves iced tea as much as I do, especially when the hot days follow one upon another. And I like fruit juices, though I prefer to eat fresh fruit with all the pulp and fibers included. But the one thing I will not abide is a mix of fruit juice with iced tea.

Los Angeles in particular is replacing regular iced tea with what is called “tropical iced tea,” consisting of tea mixed with essence of raspberry, passion fruit, kumquats, or turkey giblets. Today, I had lunch at the Noodle Planet in Westwood, where an excellent China Mist iced tea was typically on hand. But no more! The cute young waitress informed me that their China Mist was replaced by a “tropical” iced tea. She sidestepped with remarkable agility, I thought, as a three-meter flame roared out of my mouth and singed several adjoining tables.

I asked her, “How would you feel if I sprinkled some banana or coconut juice into your coffee? or if I spiked your Coca-Cola with essence of oregano and nopal cactus juice?”

The way I see it, there is a tendency to making everything tutti-frutti, whether soups, snacks, steaks, fish, beverages, or—where I do not generally object—desserts. If that is the main contribution of Southern California to haute cuisine, then I say, “Back to the basics!” Henceforth, I shall wear a brown turban and gather around me other iced tea fundamentalists. We shall strike terror into the hearts and pocketbooks of those who would adulterate tea.

Let’s face it, instead of fruit, the additives taste more like refined petrochemicals, at the same time killing the refreshing, slightly acidic taste of the tea itself.

In the end, I had to settle for water. At least, they haven’t gotten to that—yet!

NOTE: I make an exception for fresh slices of lemon, lime, and occasionally orange. This way, I can control the taste of the tea. No oil company or coal tar manufacturer is allowed to tinker with my tea!

Be Cool, Be Stupid

Looking at How People Cross the Street

Looking at How People Cross the Street

Right outside the building where I work is one of Southern California’s busiest intersections, featuring a four-way crossing that makes for an interesting sociological laboratory. There are two behaviors that I would like to note at this time: First, some people jump the gun each time because they think they know how the signal works.Usually, they have to duck out of the way of the ten or so cars turning left onto Wilshire because they thought that the walk sign would come on right away. It doesn’t, and the Real Cool Guys showing how much they know risk getting flattened by motorists who just don’t care.

Even if the RCGs (Real Cool Guys) got the signals right, the signal occasionally does a “Crazy Ivan.” If you’ve ever seen the movie The Hunt for Red October (1980), you’ll know this is a major plot point, in which the Adam Baldwin character establishes his intelligence cred by predicting that, at regular intervals, Russian submarines do a 180 degree turn to flummox any pursuers. Sometimes the pedestrian crossing signal does the traffic equivalent by not letting any cars turn left during that cycle.

Much less dangerous is the cool persons’ sins of omission: One has to push the button for the pedestrian crossing signal to engage. One cannot rely on people crossing Wilshire on the other side of Westwood because that’s a separate system. Today, as I was coming back from lunch. A large woman was bogarding the crossing button without pressing it. That cool individual then had to deal with the sardonic leers of other pedestrians who must wait for the next cycle to cross. The coolness metamorphoses into shame which I occasionally make worse by commenting aloud, “Looks like someone forgot to press the button” while staring at the bogarder.

Tarnmoor’s ABCs: Tea

Looks Good: I Think I’ll Have Three Cups

Looks Good: I Think I’ll Have Three Cups

All the blog posts in this series are based on Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him.

My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland, Patagonia, Quebec, Scotland), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, and Borges); locales associated with my past life (Cleveland and Dartmouth College), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), foods I love (Olives), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This blog entry is my own humble attempt to imitate a writer whom I have read on and off for thirty years without having sated my curiosity. Consequently, over the weeks to come, you will see a number of postings under the heading “Tarnmoor’s ABCs” that will attempt to do for my life what Milosz accomplished for his. To see my other entries under this category, hit the tag below marked “ABCs”. I don’t guarantee that I will use up all 26 letters of the alphabet, but I’ll do my best. Today the letter is “T” for Tea.

Ever since I was a small child, I have preferred tea to coffee. I don’t even like the smell or even the look of coffee, let alone its taste. You won’t find me asking for a Venti anything at Starbuck’s. Barristas would have a difficult time making a living if they had to depend on people like me. What they do at their place of work, I could do more satisfactorily in my kitchen. And then, as my pot of tea cools, I have several additional glasses of iced tea.

While my favorite variety is Darjeeling, I will occasionally switch to Ceylon or Assam for variety. I also love green tea and several non Camellia sinensis local varieties, such as Té Manzanilla (chamomile) in Mexico or Yerba Mate in Argentina. People talk about herb teas as if tea is not an herb, but it is. I generally avoid more flowery teas, though a good Chinese jasmine is not bad on occasion.

While others spend many hundreds of dollars a year on coffee, my total expenditure on tea is considerably less than fifty dollars for far more tea than I can drink. A pound of loose tea leaves makes 240 cups of tea. By contrast, how many cups of coffee does a pound of beans make? Nowhere near, I’d wager.

Tonight, as I finish reading a book of Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić ’s essays, I will have a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea made of Ahmad of London’s loose Ceylon blend.