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Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/23 - Tres Bien

Robert Bresson began as a painter. He directed his first film at 42, and did only 14 despite living until 98 (1999). Last night I watched his last, L'Argent (1983), translated as Money on the Netflix DVD. It is the story of a young oil delivery worker who is given a counterfeit 500 franc note as payment. It instigates a downward spiral that sees him lose his job and family, and leads to far, far worse. Based on Faux Billet (The Forged Coupon), a short story by Tolstoy, it is a bleak but fascinating depiction of mankind. Since it is only 85 minutes, I turned to a video essay in the special features section, hoping it would be illuminating. It was. The narrator, obviously a cinephile, has seen the film many times. He goes into great detail in what he thought Bresson was trying to accomplish in many shots. Although the story is solid, this is clearly a work for filmmakers to study. Bresson is quoted as saying: "Cinematography: a new way of writing, therefore of feeling." The technique is unusual, the focus often on hands and feet, the action, violence, taking place off screen, background sounds amplified, frames influenced by still life art. To someone so focused on story such as I, these aspects go unappreciated, if not entirely missed. Bresson also used non-actors to achieve a flat, real life feel. He succeeded in that respect in L'Argent. Christian Patey has only three titles under his name at IMDb, Vincent Risterucci three, and Sylvie Van den Elsen eleven. All three debuted in L'Argent. For his effort, Bresson was named Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. It is unique storytelling, perhaps purist cinema. Fortunately, L'Argent is captivating despite its grim view of humanity. And it isn't obviously arty. I've seen at least two other of Bresson's works and have only a vague though positive recollection of them. 5000+ users at IMDb have rated L'Argent, forging to a consensus of 7.5 on a scale of ten. I wouldn't argue with that. I'm glad I didn't allow the views of its detractors on Netflix dissuade me from adding it to my viewing list. Here's a still of the now ancient ATM used in the film:

From Yahoo's Odd News, in my own words: A Colorado Springs police officer heading to an accident scene had an unexpected passenger - a raccoon. It jumped onto the front windshield and stayed there until the officer pulled over.

My thanks to the gentleman who purchased The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fishing Basics by Mike Toth, and to the elderly woman who bought two paperback thrillers. It may be fall on the calendar, but it sure felt like summer.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/22 - Heroes & Villains

According to Wiki, E.R. Frank earned a degree from Vassar and works as a social worker and psychotherapist. She also writes novels. I just finished America, the second of her five books, published in 2002 and still selling modestly. It is the first person account, told in non-linear form, of a troubled teenager. Born to a drug-addicted mother, he is sent to a foster home at five. America has the great fortune of being in the care of a loving elderly woman. Unfortunately, her nephew, who at first treats the boy very well, eventually takes advantage of him sexually, another blow to the kid's sense of trust. The court then orders him on a weekend visit to his natural mom, who disappears. He is lost in the system, living with two older brothers who lead him astray, who frown at his not being black enough. He runs away and lives for a time with a young, kind-hearted pot dealer. When the latter is busted, America is sent to a psychiatric facility. Having repressed his inner rage for so long, he entertains thoughts of suicide when the memory of the violence he perpetrated begins to come to the surface. His male therapist doggedly tries to help despite the abuse America directs at him. Most of the narrative is grim. Of course, all humans suffer periodically throughout life, but not to the degree a handful do. The majority would rather not think of what those unlucky few experience. Fortunately, there are certain individuals, heroes really, who try to help. The narrative smacks of authenticity. The prose and dialogue are solid. The 242 pages read like considerably less. Only the hardest heart would not root for America. Although the conclusion is open-ended, it is hopeful. I don't believe the protagonist's name is meant to signify all of America, although it would be understandable how someone who works in such a field and witnesses such horrors daily might think so. 39 readers at Amazon have rated the novel, forging to a consensus of 4.1 on a scale of five. I wouldn't go that high, perhaps because I would rather not think of such things at this stage of my life. Kudos to those who have the resolve to face and do something about them.

The following were gleaned from today's NY Post: In his sports betting column, Stitches cleverly refers to New York's pro basketball team as the Titanknicks... In the Fast Takes column, Fox News reporter Marc Thiessen comments brilliantly on the cost of security for the recent speaking engagement of Ben Shapiro at UC-Berkley: "...leftists succeeded in imposing a $600,000 tax on conservative speech."... Texas state representative Dawna Dukes (D) has been indicted for spending $51,000, $1000 per month, of taxpayers' money on a psychic. Looking into my crystal  ball, I bet she gets off with a slap on the wrist.

Season four of Gotham began last night. The Penguin has cut crime by 57% - by killing many criminals. He makes a deal, Pax Penguina, with the mayor on a license to steal. Anyone who holds one and is caught in the act of theft must be released by the GCPD. It's an interesting theme, although I'm not sure if it will fly. The episode was so-so. Here's Robin Lord Taylor in the part it seems he was born to play:

I received a royalty from Amazon that covers the reading of pages by online visitors. In this instance it was for my rock n roll epic, Rising Star. Someone read - or at least looked through - 300 pages or so. That amounted to a disappointing payment of four cents. I have to remind myself that the company needn't do this at all. It's a no lose situation for a writer. It's up to me to steer readers to my work, to get more people to read pages, to buy a book.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books, in English, Russian and French (grammar), on the last day of what has been a spectacular summer in NYC in terms of weather. Fall arrived at 4:02 PM.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/21 - Pinnacles

RIP boxing legend Jake LaMotta, 95. He turned pro in 1941 at 19. His record was 83-19-4. His six bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson, regarded by many as the best boxer of all-time, are legendary. He won only one, the second, although a few were close. He knocked Robinson down several times through the years, but was never taken off his feet by him. In 1949 LaMotta defeated Frenchman Marcel Cerdan to win the World Middleweight championship. He lost the title in 1951 to Robinson in what was dubbed The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, stopped after 13-rounds of a brutal beating. LaMotta then fought for a while as a light-heavyweight, the results mediocre. His memoir: Raging Bull, My Story led to the uncompromising, critically acclaimed 1980 screen adaptation by Martin Scorsese. He was married seven times and had several brushes with the law and boxing officials. He is known to have thrown at least one fight. Despite his sins, Ring magazine named him one of the ten best middleweights of all-time, and he is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Here he is putting Robinson down:

The world famous Woolworth Building in Manhattan has an apartment at its top. The asking price, in case you're interested, is $110 million. There are 34 condos in all. The Penthouse, called The Pinnacle, covers the 50th to the 58th floor. It has a terrace. Here's the outside:

And here's one of its rooms:

As I expected, CBS has done it again. As it did with Under the Dome and Zoo, it failed to end Salvation definitively after its 13-episode summer run. I will not be watching if it returns next year. I abandoned the other two after their first seasons.

I feel fortunate for having made a little money selling books on this major Jewish holiday. My thanks to the two women who bought four novels in Russian between them, and to the gentleman who purchased non-fiction by a beat generation writer with whom I was unfamiliar and whose name I neglected to write down. My thanks also to the woman who donated a bag o'books, half in Russian.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/20 - Another Day

I loved President Trump's bluntness in his address to the U.N.. How refreshing.

A new health car bill has been proposed. Senator Rand Paul, who is eager to repeal Obamacare, is a physician. Here's an excerpt from an article at on why he opposes the new measure: "... Even the bill’s authors and proponents, using what I’m sure are rosy numbers, admit that their ObamaCare Lite bill will spend 90% of what we currently spend on ObamaCare. Other estimates are closer to 95%. Either way, did anyone go out to vote so we could repeal only 5 or 10% of ObamaCare? I didn’t..." The piece goes into detail on where Paul believes the bill goes wrong. I sense many Republicans, including the President, want to get any bill passed simply because they campaigned on the promise of repeal. That's politics, not good government. And, if it flops, Democrats will be relieved of blame, which will fall to the GOP. Passage is a long shot, so the argument is probably moot. Of course, Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders and company are warning of armageddon, the loss of health insurance by millions. That too is politics. They have no solution other than higher taxes to the runaway costs that will force people to drop their plans. At least the new bill eliminates the individual mandate, the most unAmerican measure ever instituted. Its most egregious misstep is not allowing people to join health co-ops, which seem so promising. I guess it's dumb to expect the same body that instituted the ACA to come up with a better solution.

Lately, people have been buying very little fiction from the floating book shop, despite fantastic selection. Here's what folks purchased today, which demonstrates the great variety on hand at present: Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer and Stephen Jay Gould; The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers by Margot Anand; Lose Those Last Ten Pounds: The 28-Day Fool-Proof Plan to a Healthy Body by Denise Austin; Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond; one on heart health, one on gardening and three non-fiction books in Russian. My thanks to those who bought.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/19 - Enhancements

There's a lot of good stuff in today's NY Post: From the Weird But True column, an 111-year old Brit, Grace Jones, reveals the secret of her longevity - a shot of whiskey per day... Also from WBT, a guy in Kentucky was caught on camera breaking into a funeral home and donning the clothes of the deceased. The blurb does not state whether he stripped the poor soul. The thief also took the guy's jewelry and the keys to the parlor's limo... Nancy Pelosi held an event in California in support of protection for "Dreamers." She was heckled by a group incensed that she'd worked with President Trump on DACA. The ridicule got so intense she was escorted away by security. A liberal badgered by her own constituents - I love it!... Authorities in Geneva, Switzerland are investigating a mystery. $100,000 in high note denominations backed up the toilets of three restaurants. The legal tender is believed to have come from the pipes of a nearby bank.

RIP pro wrestling legend Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, 72. According to Wiki, he dropped out of school in the eighth grade to support his mother and grandmother. He began his career in the sport of kings at the bottom, carrying bags and jackets for the wrestlers, and selling refreshments at events. His first big break in the business was as a manager of heels and wrestler in 1965. In his first appearance in the AWA in 1974, he adopted his famous nickname. Along the way, he became an entertaining broadcast color analyst, working smoothly with the legendary Gorilla Monsoon, real name Gino Morella. Here are a couple of quotes attributed to The Brain: "I'm a legend in this sport. If you don't believe me, ask me." And: "I know all about cheating. I've had six very successful marriages." In truth, he was married to the same woman from 1966 until his death. Although he billed himself as being from Beverly Hills, he was born in Chicago and raised in Indianapolis. Well done, sir. Thank you. Here he is with one of his protégées, The Brooklyn Brawler, Bensonhurst's own Steve Lombardi, one of the all-time great whipping boys, known as "enhancement talent" in the business:

While on my morning walk I observed two interesting sites along the Sheepshead Bay promenade. Using a wide stance, a young man was repeatedly slapping the palm and fingers of his right hand at what seemed a bag of rice propped on a backpack. I assume he was in the midst of a martial arts workout. I found it curious that he wasn't using the edge of his hand. Further along, there was only a lone fisherman on the pedestrian bridge that spans the lower Bay - an Orthodox Jew. I took a gander into a bucket he'd filled a third of the way with water, and spotted a few snappers swimming in it. The baby bluefish begin leaving the area about this time of year. He was standing about 20 feet to the right of the lamp post below:

My thanks to the local home attendant who bought up my inventory of cook books, to the woman who purchased a beautiful, large children's book in Russian, and to the gentleman who selected a novel in that language. As I was waiting for customers to come along, I was surprised by an advertisement on the side of a city bus. It offered breast enhancement for $3900 and sported a picture of a bosom, reasonable by today's standards, covered by a bikini top.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/18 - Charged

The Chargers' move from San Diego to L.A. has not altered their penchant for heartbreaking last minute losses. Last week a 44-yard field goal attempt that would have forced overtime was blocked. Yesterday another 44-yarder, which would have won the game, went wide. Their kicker, Younghoe Koo, 23, is a rookie. So far he has made only one of his four attempts. It looks like future Hall of Fame QB Philip Rivers, 35, will never get to the Super Bowl.

From Yahoo's Odd News, in my own words: An Indiana man robbed a gas station convenience store, making off with food, drinks and cigarettes. A short time later a state trooper found him stranded by the side of a two-lane highway, his vehicle out of fuel. His blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. Although a authorities have not issued a photo of the hapless thief, it is not either of the two in the pic below:

Although the floating book shop is inundated with inventory, certain circumstances lead me to accept more. Such was the case twice today. A gentleman approached and asked, in a heavy Russian accent, if I wanted books in his native tongue. I was hoping he would bring them to me. No such luck. He wanted me to get them. Fortunately, Herbie was present and agreed to mind the display. Two large bags in tow, I was led to the third floor apartment of a woman who had been placed in a nursing home. I filled each halfway with books and CD's. The guy asked if I wanted anything else. Although everything was clean and in good condition, I wasn't tempted. When I returned to the shop Herbie said that a Russian woman went away disappointed in the selection, which was mostly sci-fi. I spent the next 20 minutes moving stuff around so that I would have a separate box for the new additions. Fortunately, a woman who used to buy large sets of Russian classics from me happened by. I asked - and she was nice enough to give me a rundown on the cache. Only one was fiction, the majority focused on health issues, and a few were handsome children's books. I expressed my thanks by allowing her to take one on herbs. A short while later Luis, the porter of the building where I set up shop most days, approached pushing a handcart that had a large box on it. We laughed. Fortunately, he wasn't miffed when I asked to be selective. All of it was English, and many were marketable. I kept about half, separating many I intended to leave in the lobby of our building. I did the same with the Russian books that were in poor condition and the home-made CD's. I hope they make people happy. My thanks to the donors and to those that bought, especially the hard-nosed Russian gentleman who purchased four of the most recent additions as I was closing shop. The trunk of the old Hyundai is filled to capacity, and there are four large boxes on the back seat. Fortunately, I scored the most advantageous parking spot, so I didn't have far to haul the stuff. Still, my back was fatigued - but uninjured, so I'm still ahead of the game.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 9/17 - Rich & Shameless

Here's the first paragraph of an article in today's NY Post: "Five New Yorkers in wheelchairs are behind nearly 400 lawsuits brought against small businesses for lacking handicap access." Most of the cases are settled out of court, which makes it seem the filers are more interested in fleecing cash cows than in the rights of the disabled... Another article cites a new NYC trend. "Social media stars are striking deals with real estate developers and managers in which they trade their influence - shilling to show their fans how great their pads are - for rent money or even a place to live." Kudos to these folks who find ways to make the web work so well for them... Barbara Hoffman profiles the "Lifestyles of the Rich & Shameless" through the lens of documentary filmmaker/photographer Lauren Greenfield. There is a great shot of a 100-foot limo no longer in use, and one of the home of one of China's nouveau riche, a replica of the White House. The guy also has one of Mount Rushmore in his back yard. The heads are 20 feet tall! Here's a pic of the house:

My thanks to the woman who bought five novels, and to the elderly woman who did a three-for-two swap of books in Russian.