Sex scenes: leave out the parts I’ll skip

Having finished Watchmen yesterday, I turned to a book without pictures: The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard, a novel set in 1920’s Oklahoma during the oil boom era, prohibition, and in a time when people robbed banks and U.S. Marshals hunted them down and killed them. I like crime fiction, the more hard boiled the better. Leonard eludes the hard boiled label, he’s always a little too whimsical, but whimsical works too.

When I finish a Leonard novel, I always wish I had written it. One of my favorite quotations about writing came from Elmore Leonard. When asked about his style he said, “I try to leave out the things people skip.”

A good example of this is his sex scenes. He does not waste a lot of time telling the details. That’s good because reading about someone else’s sex in a fast paced novel is about as interesting as reading about them chewing food. It slows the narrative to a crawl. Leonard lets you know what happened shortly before people got in bed and what happened after they got out. Occasionally, you will get a short paragraph from the female character’s perspective that adds to the character development of both partners and moves the story along.

I am enjoying The Hot Kid. Leonard did not put in anything I want to skip.

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Come on, Cubs. Win one for me before I die.

The Cubs clinched a playoff spot in the baseball playoffs last night. You do not need to remind me. State Street gave them up for dead last May. We must revise the way we plug the parameters into our Monte Carlo simulations. But that ain’t happening today.

The Cubs will possess the worst record amongst the teams in the playoffs. That does not bother me. St. Louis won the World Series last year and had the worst record going into the playoffs. The baseball playoffs seem like a coin flip on each game rather than an event where the best team often wins. I suppose hockey fans know the feeling.

The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. Golly, that seems like a long time. I have been cheering for the Cubs for 50 years and have yet to see them in a World Series. I may never. Just think of all the Cubs fans who have been born and died between 1908 and now. I wonder how they coped.

The Cubs are in the playoffs. I will not let them break my heart this time around, no matter what happens.

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Kisses

We get kisses. Some say I love you; others say I could have loved you had you not been you.

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Identity theft, love, and longing

I was sitting in the back of a cab going to O’Hare airport on my way to Las Vegas at five AM in the morning, when I became concerned that I was a victim of identity theft. I was checking my e-mails. I had four from Western Union saying that my transfer of $250 was complete. I had not made any transfers with Western Union. I did not even have an account with them.

I checked with Western Union after getting my boarding pass at the airport. The transfers had been made against a credit card held by another person with my name living in the United States. The customer service person at Western Union recommended I check my credit cards for charges all the same. I did not have time to do it before I boarded my flight. That ruined the flight because all I could think about was having no credit when I got to Vegas and only a few hundred dollars in traveler’s checks and cash in my pocket. Once in Las Vegas, I checked my bank balances, and called my credit card companies. I was safe.

That left me free to think about whether I would see her, the love of my life, in Las Vegas after many years of being apart. She is notorious to me for not showing up. I did see her; I was surprised.

Now, I cannot get her off my mind this morning. I would give anything if she were thinking about me, if only to satisfy my desire for company as I sort my way through these confused and sorry thoughts. I do not fool myself; she does not.

My life is a long list of things left incomplete or undone. There is no sense in giving her top priority atop the mess. Whether love comes again, or with her, is not high on the priority list. Love is where you find it and you never know when or where you will find it.

The racket from the demolition across the street has started again. It quashes my concentration. I have a feeling it will obliterate memories of her soon, for at least the day anyway.

Published in: on September 28, 2007 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The demolition of State Street as I knew it–part 2

It is not a new idea or feeling. Maybe, we are often times random sentence and paragraph generators. The notion and feeling happens most to me when I am embedded in a boisterous crowd and victimized by listening overload.

Writing, at times, may serve no other purpose than to force solitude and reduce the randomness and cacophony, as if they emanate from one unique subject.

It’s shortly after 10 AM on State Street. The construction workers are on break. The noise abates leaving an eery silence. I await the next plunge of the wrecking ball into the building across the street. Then thoughts of my contingency and randomness will retreat into experience.

Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

The demolition of State Street as I knew it

With all the demolition of buildings and construction of new high rises, I had to generate a few random paragraphs about it. And pretend they were meant for a poem.

The demolition of State Street

When can a turntable explode with State Street?

The explosive swears around a comic

anagram. Construction Worker coppers

a guilt next to each anagram. A species

experiments with State Street. State Street

impresses the nasty injury.

When can a message refresh State Street?

The flat space mates Construction Worker.

State Street folds Construction Worker against

the pigeon. Construction Worker abides outside

the turntable. How will the nonsense offender

peer under Construction Worker?

Construction Worker peers near a kernel.

State Street prosecutes opposite an employer.

“Oh Mama, can this really be the end?”

Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

GM strike and labor solidarity

I was talking to two guys who belong to unions yesterday afternoon. They were siding with GM management over the auto workers in the GM strike. They complained that the auto workers had many more benefits than they did in their respective unions. They said the excess made it more difficult for them to negotiate contracts.

I was surprised to hear their attitudes and rationales.

Published in: on September 26, 2007 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

The War by Ken Burns

Watched the third installment of The War, WWII, put together by Ken Burns. Mr. Burns is the epic historian of our time. I should argue more to back up that claim. Watch his stuff beginning with his splendid Civil War series; you decide.

Published in: on September 26, 2007 at 12:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Bad Listener Sandwich

One of the signs of a bad listener is someone who asks you a question, immediately cuts you off when you start to answer, gives a long winded answer to their own question, and when they are finished, asks you the same question again. OK, you can handle that by sort of not listening to them talk and thinking about other things.

What happens when you are sandwiched between two people like that for many hours at a time? You get disoriented as they ask questions and then compete to give their own long winded answers. You think about how glorious and delicious it would be to be alone even though a day of solitude might be required to recover from the dissonance. (When one of them is a woman you would screw in a heartbeat it’s even worse.)

Then you wonder how those people manage to live together and the only thing to think is that they do not talk to each other at all. Sad.

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest.

Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 12:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Equality of conditions: right and wrong

In the opening sentences of Democracy in America Tocqueville says this:

No novelty in the United States struck me more vividly during my stay there than equality of conditions. It was easy to see the immense influence of this fact on the whole course of society. It gives a particular turn to public opinion and a particular twist to the laws, new maxims to those who govern and particular habits to the governed.

I soon realized that the influence of this fact extends far beyond political mores and laws, exercising dominion over civil society as much as over the government; it creates opinions, gives birth to feelings, suggests customs, and modifies whatever it does not create.

So the more I studied American society, the more clearly I saw equality of conditions as the creative element from which each particular fact derived, and all my observations constantly returned to this nodal point.

Beyond giving a clue about how the book should be read and interpreted, the passage gives rise to questions about where the United States has gone since that time. The magnitude of the gambling industry provides a clue. During my recent trip to Las Vegas I observed casinos as the great leveler. When you stand at the craps table or sit down at the blackjack table or slot machine, you are no better or worse than the people next to you. You are all pitted against some giant corporation whom you cannot beat at their game.

The woman who bets $10 on the turn of some cards is no different than the man who bets $500. Skill, or lack thereof, and chance happeneth to them all. Equality of conditions hold, yet it is a wrong equality of conditions which give rise to an illusion. The United States has become a country devoted to the illusion of equality of conditions whether derived from the bland and easily manipulated pronouncements of big media or the corporations that provide our escapes and entertainment such as the gambling industry.

Right equality of conditions such as decent and secure housing, sending one’s children to college, affordable health care, and the ability to perform one’s duties as an informed citizen in the political process have disappear and have been replaced by these wrong conditions of equality. The political battle lines are drawn between how much to tax the billionaires who cannot possibly spend their fortunes in their own lifetimes. Some would like to hide the amount of governmental resources expended and required to keep those fortunes growing and intact. They say these are self made men and deserve what they have. That is the great myth of the United States; it is possible to be self made. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch; what keeps someone extraordinarily rich takes from those less fortunate such as the resources to maintain their equality of conditions.

Let us say that I begin going to the Off Track Betting parlor tomorrow to bet on the horses each day. I accumulate a vast fortune counting in the billions through a combination of skill and luck. My fortune has arisen through equality of conditions. You had the same chance I did to do it.

What of my fortune? I only want a nice condo overlooking Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago and a two bedroom condo on the beach in Kauai and season tickets and the time to attend all the Cubs and White Sox games each year and some whip out cash to gamble with some more. What should I do with all the rest of that money? What should the state do with it?

Well, it should never have gotten that far out of hand . My fortune should never have arisen from wrong equality of conditions in the first place.

Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Random paragraph; random poem

I generated a random paragraph at Creativity Tools. I used the primary word baseball and secondary word luck. Then I generated a second paragraph. I broke the text into a poem and gave it the title Baseball Luck. Then halted.

Baseball Luck

This enthusiasm breaks beside luck.

Baseball shouts underneath a yard. Will the cry

object above baseball? Luck embeds

an expenditure near the mundane

arrival. The glowing radius scares

baseball. The barrier rots near the laughter!

Will baseball shine with my rumored bookshop?

How does a drastic foam starve over

a syndicate? Luck despairs. The gorgeous

counterexample cracks. When can the thesis

cry the ambiguous midnight?

Consider good or bad human or machine poetry. If we can tell the difference, then how?

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 8:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Control?

I am currently reading the graphic novel Watchmen. (I know, I am a little late to that party.) I am also reading Horse Race Betting for Dummies. They fit together in the sense that I can easily flip between them.

They also fit together in a way I cannot explain, yet feel. It may have something to do with a complete retreat from reality, or immersing myself into a small slice of reality I have done my best to avoid. How does one bet on the future–not just the classic gambling games? What will happen before my death? Can I control it, or am I fooling myself?

Of course, I can control it (else I’d go mad), but my mind is too numb to put it together today as I was out drinking with out-of-town friends for ten hours straight yesterday. They attacked me in two relays. That’s not fair. They won’t get away with it today.

Published in: on September 23, 2007 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Drunk on Blue

The sky is clear and grows a deeper blue now that the day is wearing on. The days wear on until one day I will have wasted them all. But still, I have this blue sky outside my window even though new condo buildings across the street will crowd it out by this time next year.

Today, I drink the last of the wine–drunk on blue.

Published in: on September 19, 2007 at 3:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Those eyes, that chest, and Vegas Real Estate

Here is my take on real estate prices in Las Vegas: the Strip is expensive and out of my league, but places close to the Strip are immanently doable.

I have been thinking during this early AM that my fascination with Las Vegas is not as much about gambling as it is about periodically immersing myself into the gambling culture. I can do all the gambling I want on the computer, but I can’t see the faces of the winners and losers who are doing it with me. I can also go to the local casinos in the Chicago area and get a taste of the gambling culture. But it ain’t Vegas.

The games in a casino provide a contrast in styles and emotional needs. The craps table is usually inhabited by swarms of men fueled by testerone. It’s a violent and greedy place. You must keep your eyes on your chips at all times since men lose track of what belongs to them and what belongs to you. When you win, the loser standing next to you can easily convince himself that your winnings are actually his. If you are playing craps properly, you might have 14 bets on the table. That’s a lot of bets to keep track of. It also requires a serious bankroll. Things happen fast in the game. One bad roll of the dice and all 14 bets are swept off the table. It’s a punch to the ego and it hurts. Losing a bet on the turn of a card is one thing. Losing 14 bets when you roll a seven while trying make points quite another.

The blackjack table is entirely different. It’s a social game designed to make the experience last longer and to enjoy the company of the players and dealer. My trip to Vegas this last weekend made me appreciate that aspect of the game. However, social experiences in bad places have their good points and bad. Early in the AM on Sunday morning, I was sitting at the blackjack table with an attractive couple from Los Angeles. The woman sat next to me. She was spectacularly beautiful. She was not wearing makeup; she had no need. She wore tight jeans and a low cut blouse. I could feel her body heat. I was smitten in the stupid way I get when I have been drinking in the bar. Of course, I was drinking at the table and had been drinking hard for 72 hours, which added to the fatigue of not sleeping for 72 hours either. My Vegas induced adrenaline was running low.

So anyway, the woman did not know how to play the game. She wanted her boyfriend or husband, whatever he was, to explain the game to her. He wouldn’t. She left the table miffed and frustrated. Her husband made some excuses for her even though he should have been making excuses for himself. He had a thousand dollars worth of chips in front of him and he was betting the $10 minimum per hand and doing it quite ineptly. The woman did not know it, but she was lucky he was not teaching her how to play. Quite frankly, I would have sold my soul to teach her the basic strategy.

The woman came back to the table and sat across from my spot at third base. She did not play. She watched me play. Each time I looked up I was staring into her eyes. Well, at her chest too. It was a handsome chest. It unnerved me. It bothered my card play.

Once they left the table I was alone. It was 3 AM. I left too. I went to a restaurant and ate eggs benedict and drank coffee.

Now, I am sitting in the dark writing and thinking about her and this other woman and wondering about the rest of my life. Will I gamble on real estate in Vegas. All the wrong reasons nag my mind.

Published in: on September 19, 2007 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Not Counting

The anniversary of this blog is sometime around today. I don’t care to look up the fact or count the number of years I’ve kept it going. After all, it is a sometimes journal and scrapbook of letters and postcards born from fear, anxiety, anger, amusement, trust, reverence, and love.

I should say more about this, but I don’t need to. So I won’t. It is better to get out into the last of the summer sunshine–feel the warmth as deeply as possibly.

Published in: on September 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Las Vegas Hangover

The sound of slot machines still ring in my ears. The image of her in that tight skimpy black dress occupies my mind. Sitting here alone today, I discover my mind itself has been made skimpy from it.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Published in: on September 18, 2007 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Las Vegas: two major victories

I spent 48 hours in Las Vegas this weekend. The sum total of my sleep was two one hour power naps. I maxed out my playing time. I lost less than 20% of my gambling budget–always a major victory when you are in Vegas.

I also hung out with a former girlfriend who I had not seen in six years. Damn, she’s even more beautiful than the last time I was with her. Now, I am never going to get over her. However, the fact that she wanted to see me counts as another major victory.

Published in: on September 17, 2007 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

The Sex

I’m off to Las Vegas in a few hours. It’s not really for the gambling; I can do that here. One way or the other, it’s about the sex. And the condo too for that matter. And watching all those people gamble–the ones who gamble well and the ones who don’t.

And just being there rather than here.

Published in: on September 14, 2007 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Projects always deferred

I watched a fair amount of the Petraeus and Crocker testimony before the Senate yesterday. With many Presidential candidates jockeying for position on Iraq on the committees, the questions and answers were quite tame. Petraeus may have been answering questions posed by a future boss.

What I find interesting are charges that political leaders use Iraq for political purposes and gain. I do not understand why they should not. Iraq, for instance, is the defining event that determines the nation’s domestic and international agenda and its capabilities and limits. The nation, as a whole, is deeply divided about what to do. How else can one gain the requisite power to change the policy in Iraq if one did not use the issue for political support and gain? Is that not what practical politics is all about? Lamenting the fact that partisan politics exists is like lamenting politics exists. Politics does not mean eschewing sober analysis and deliberation. But, come on, politics is about power and how to wield it for the common and universal good.

However, politics is also about projects which always seem deferred. Political projects are never completed. Their end time is always on the horizon, a horizon that remains elusively distant. I have been rereading The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, and Democracy in America. The Constitution and the Nation itself are projects chronically and habitually deferred. Any partisan, no matter what party, can note areas of progress and regression.

As part of the first wave of baby boomers, I look back at what was accomplished politically by my generation. It is an embarrassing and humbling set of reflections. The sum total of my life seems to be encapsulated in this computer on which type and the iPhone that stands beside it. I have come far. My parents didn’t even own a TV until I was about seven or eight years old.

Now, the good things about the Constitution in its original intent and formulation are under assault, the social programs that helped create prosperity are being rolled back, job security is a thing of the past, and our approaches to international affairs create never ending states of exception and emergency.

Conservatives are wont to call liberals of my generation spoiled indulgent brats. If we on the left are so, then the conservatives of my generation are every much so too. What’s that expression from the Eighties? “He who has the most toys wins.” You can imagine it coming from the mouth of conservative as easily as you can a liberal.

Whatever, the American project was supposed to be at the beginning of my generation, it is definitely a project deferred. In fact, I am hard put to see it on the horizon.

Let’s say that politics has grown more rough and tumble during the past two decades, an assertion I doubt. (I remember Nixon and Watergate.) So what? Maybe it is time that a new generation got more engaged and combative. Blatant partisanship might show that the nation still has a soul worth fighting for.

Maybe, some deferred projects for the nation’s general welfare will show some progress instead of vanishing over the horizon. Let the ranks of the partisans swell.

P.S. I might note that some who appear as the most extremely partisan are merely money making tools. I grant Ann Coulter that honor. I leave it to my conservative friends to provide appropriate names of those on the left, for there are many to choose from.

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Iraq: the problem without a good solution (or children behave)

The Petraeus testimony was a yawner. What else could it be given the hype it has been given for so long. He guardedly claimed that the Surge might work. The troop presence in Iraq will stand at 130,000 this time next year, the number before the surge. After the surge, we have returned to the status quo. Some call that progress.

At the same time, the BBC/ABC/NHK opinion poll of Iraqis indicates that Iraqis feel less secure since the surge began and are more pessimistic about their futures. Yet some claim the Surge is working. We have progress even though the dead and displaced indicate a large humanitarian crisis.

Pulling all the troops out of Iraq is not a pretty solution. Things might get worse. Just how much worse is the question.

Letting Iraqis determine their own fates is not considered progress by some, for Iraqis are children and need the protection and splendid guidance of the Bush Administration to help them. The U.S. Surge strategy is supposedly a humanitarian mission. That is paternalistic politics at its finest, not to mention imperialism. Calling the Iraq Occupation a humanitarian effort at this late date merely obfuscates the geopolitical maneuvering and face saving policies.

Pulling troops out of Iraq and providing real humanitarian aid to Iraqis are the best solutions even though the bloodshed will not magically abate because of this. Nobody has a solution for the violence. That’s for the Iraqis to decide.

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Love and Death and Postmodernism

Woody Allen’s Love and Death is playing on TCM. Perfect for the mood I’m in. The movie I consider his best.

It fits of a piece with thinking of what Postmodernism might have been. So many thinkers and so many ideas. The collage makes any broad categorization flimsy–no, empty.

I keep telling myself, “don’t bother with depth, handling the surface level is hard enough.” What’s surface level though?

It’s something fragmentary–like this. Maybe.

Published in: on September 9, 2007 at 9:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Should we stay or should we go?

George Packer’s article in The New Yorker, Planning for Defeat: how should we withdraw from Iraq?, provides a chilling and sobering assessment of the Iraq situation. If there is a solution, nobody knows it.

My take is many more will die no matter what happens. That bet is off the board, since there could not possibly be any takers for the contrary side.

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Too corrupt and sectarian for survival

Suppose an independent report stated that the Chicago police force was infected with corruption and sectarianism. So much so that it needed to be disbanded and started anew. Chicago residents would rightly be much disturbed and ill at ease with the prospect. All other pronouncements about progress in taming and containing violence would ring hollow. Yet when the same is said about the Iraqi police forces, it comes as just another sound that does not quite register in perception or imagination.

One grasps for a life jacket when the boat is sinking. Finding a life jacket does indeed seem like progress. The real problem persists: the boat is sinking. In fact, it is the passengers and sailors who have cracked the hull.

Is the analogy between Chicago and Baghdad apt? If the goal is impressing a U.S. style democracy and economic system on Iraq, then it is entirely apt. If the U.S. is to bear the burden and brunt of security for Iraq, twice the number of troops need to be there for an indeterminate time. How long does it take for sectarian violence to burn itself out? More than a few months or years.

However, the burden lies on Iraqis to provide for their own security. Iraqis despise the occupiers yet call for soldiers to stay and die trying to protect them from sectarian violence. The demand does not reconcile with the hatred.

The hope is always that murderous religious fundamentalism will mutate into a benign strain of belief. The hope is not warranted. Violent religious wars exhaust themselves. The will to kill and die remains after the body tires and can no longer do it. A decade or two from now, when the body is exhausted and impotent, there will be peace. Until that time people will be the victims of their most cherished religious beliefs.

For the religious skeptic that is just not good enough.

Published in: on September 7, 2007 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Not half bad chronicles: orange soda and lemonade

When you go to McDonald’s, the kind that let you pour your own drink, try some orange soda mixed about half anf half with the lemonade. It ain’t half bad.

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Viva Las Vegas

I think I’m going to Las Vegas the weekend after this next. A long lost friend will be there and has invited me to meet her.

I also plan on doing some advance scouting on condos there. Getting a condo in Vegas is now on my plan “A” list now that I have sold a house. Why not. I can turn my money over to a friendly face at the casino instead of a computer screen.

If and when I buy, friends are free to use it when I am not there. And here’s my gambling advice to those hitting the casinos: get lucky at the beginning and stay lucky until you leave.

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 3:13 pm  Comments (1)