Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Last week I posted a Hemingway quote where he lamented on the longevity of writers: “Greatness is the longest marathon ever run; many enter; few survive.” Well, I think it’s safe to say after 150 years, Edgar Allan Poe is one writer who has gone the distance. His poems and short stories are still read by people from all walks of life. I own the complete works of Poe myself and find it’s one of the books that I regularly reference.

Nevermore is a graphic novel that gives a fresh lease on life for nine Poe classics, like The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death. This collection separates itself from numerous comic books in the past that have attempted to delve into the author's psyche. Nevermore succeeds.

A highlight is The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar by screenwriter Jeremy Slater and artist John McCrea. Valdemar wishes to avoid the pain of a slow death, so he hires a hypnotist who ends up placing Valdemar in limbo. He appears dead but his body doesn’t deteriorate and Mr. Valdemar can be heard saying eerie things like: "Everything is dark and cold! And there are things in here with me! I can hear them moving!" Mr. McCrea’s strong panels with Mr. Slater’s re-imagining made this fresh for someone that knows what the shocking final scene holds.

The Oval Portrait is also updated by writer David Berner who adds a nice twist in making the original painter into a photographer and the doomed model a movie star. Liliana Kuschke poses for Jed. Months later, he finally captures her “life” on film. Natalie Sandell (Carson City) does the fine artwork for this lesser known Poe piece. (Oscar Wilde was a fan of this story and used the "deadly painting" idea for The Picture of Dorian Gray).

For the final pages, Laura Howell pens a nifty biography with some interesting Poe facts. He was buried in an unmarked grave for twenty six years when funds were finally raised for a more appropriate memorial. The body exhumed from the grave was not Poe and later found to be a soldier named Philip Mosher. Poe’s body has never been located.

The cover of a slumped-over, blood-spattered raven draws attention to this well done adaptation. And with Roger Corman’s inspired forward, I’m hoping for a follow-up. This graphic novel proves Poe’s 19th century macabre tales are timeless.


Death of Edgar Allan Poe from Wikipedia contradicts Nevermore's take on Poe's remains.

Women Of Mystery's Terrie posted a great My Town Monday on Poe's NY cottage with a link to a NY Times article about the possession of Poe's bones.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stamp 'Collector'

Whenever I’m at the post office and see a personality on a stamp, I’m compelled to buy ‘em. I’m not sure why because I’m not a serious collector. I end up placing the stamps on my book shelf or between the pages of the family Bible. I’ve accumulated quite a few over the years, and just this week, I added Sinatra to the list.

Well, these stamps got my mind in a rambling mode and my fingers surfing. I thought about Frank’s 1968 film The Detective (based on the book by Roderick Thorp), which I owned on laser disc back in the day. I played the old movie for a bunch of hardened MPs at Ft. Campbell Kentucky and they ended up thinking Ol' Blue Eyes was pretty cool. (Hard to believe that was 15 years ago!)

What I didn’t realize before my Internet search was The Detective spurred a 1979 sequel by Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever. This book was made into the movie Die Hard starring Bruce Willis. Two other Thorp novels, Devlin and Rainbow Drive, became TV movies.

Of course, Sinatra contributed quite a few movies to the detective genre including: Tony Rome (1967), Lady in Cement (1968), and The First Deadly Sin (1980). He also turned down some interesting parts. He was scheduled to star in Harper (1966; based on Ross MacDonald’s The Moving Target) and as a San Francisco Police Department detective in Dirty Harry (1971). My favorite Sinatra hard boiled role was on the small screen in Magnum PI. Sinatra plays retired New York City cop Sgt. Doheny whose granddaughter is sexually molested by two sadistic sexual predators. Doheny traces them to Hawaii where one is run over by a bus while Doheny is chasing him. He enlists Magnum’s help to find the other but he informs Magnum (Tom Selleck) that he will kill the other murderer and Magnum accompanies him, hoping to find the killer first and spare Doheny from a murder charge. The episode, titled "Laura", was featured in the seventh season.

So that’s how my mind wanders and how I've become a pseudo-stamp collector. I see Bette Davis has a stamp unveiled this week. My carpal tunnel challenged fingers are already typing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? into the keyboard...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

This is a scene from Hud (1963). Damn, he was such a fine actor. Rest in peace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Books: High Lonesome by Louis L’Amour

A hen pecked at something in the street, a dog rolled in the warm dust. Several horses were hitched to the rail. One by one he checked off the things he saw, glancing once, sharply, at the bank from under his hat brim, then he tilted it back on his head once more so they could see his face. He wanted to be recognized... they must all know he was in town.

He is Considine, and he and his wild bunch intend to rob the bank in the town of Obaro where Pete Runyon is sheriff and married to the woman Considine once loved. The plan is simple: Considine will create a distraction by challenging Runyon to a fistfight while the rest of the gang robs the bank. It goes off without a hitch. Considine and company escape, heading for Mexico. Along the way, they discover that an old acquaintance, Dave Spanyer, and his beautiful daughter, Lennie, have wandered into Apache territory. They decide to do the right thing by going to the top of High Lonesome to save them. L'Amour writes:

Nor were they free of the images their own minds held of themselves. The man on horseback, the lone-riding man, the lone-thinking man, possessed an image of himself that was in part his own, in part a piece of all the dime novels he had read, for no man is free of the image his literature imposes upon him.

And the dime novel made the western hero a knight-errant, a man on horseback rescuing the weak and the helpless. Never consciously in their thoughts, to these men without words the image was there-and more. For Lennie was the sweetheart, the sister, the wife, each one of them would have… if only in daytime dreams.

Wonderful writing style. You don't need to be a fan of the western genre to know the name L'Amour is synonymous with excellence. I have always been aware of his status and didn’t realize what I had been missing until I read this book. After reading High Lonesome, I won't pass up a chance to read another L’Amour classic.

Click here for more of Friday’s Forgotten Books courtesy of Patti Abbott...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ricky Gervais

Those of you who've followed my blog for awhile, know I'm a diehard Ricky Gervais fan. Gervais's Extras is just about the funniest show of recent memory. It's unlikely I'll ever watch the US version of The Office even though it's suppose to be an excellent program because the original British comedy is a masterpiece. I'm disappointed that Ghost Town isn't playing in my area since it looks to be a funny movie. I stumbled on Ricky Gervais Politics Tour Live which is a riot. The British accent may be a little swift for American ears but listen carefully for a good laugh -- it's worth it. Also amusing is this year's Emmys where he takes back the award from Steve Carell who accepted it in his absence last year.

Ricky Gervais Politics Tour (part 1):

Who Wants a 21st Century Man?

Here is a scatter shot post if there ever was one...

My friend Guillermo loaned a book to little d called Ending Aging by Aubrey de Grey. Dr. Grey believes aging is a disease that can be cured, or at the very least slowed, by preventing certain types of cell damage. He hypothesizes that life can be extended by 900 years.

His research was the springboard for a story idea I came up with (that’s temporarily stalled) called Who Wants a 21st Century Man?

Taking a break from writing, I googled my original title of 21st Century Man and found it’s very popular with musicians, like ELO, Nigel Clark, and the more quirky "21st Century Schizoid Man" by progressive rockers, King Crimson. What really stood out was their album cover for In the Court of the Crimson King.

The funky cover art, reminiscent of Munch's The Scream, is by Barry Godber (his first and only album cover). Godber was also a computer programmer. He died in February 1970 at the age of 24. The original painting is owned by Robert Fripp.

King Crimson - Live at Hyde Park (1969)

Ok, enough surfing, back to work...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Mentalist

I just finished watching The Mentalist. I read Robert Blanco’s review in the USA Today this morning and thought what the heck.

I have not watched episodic television since Seinfeld went off the air ten years ago. That’s not to say I don’t watch television shows. I will buy season 1 of ‘this’ and season 2 of ‘that’ but waiting every week for your favorite shows seems so archaic in this day and age. Besides TV, for the most part, is just god-awful.

Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of magicians, in particular mentalists like Max Maven, that I decided to give this show a try. The Mentalist stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a former psychic ala John Edwards, who, after the horrifying death of his family at the hands of a serial killer, decides to work for the police in solving crimes.

His intuitive gifts come in handy in the opener where he deduces from a few pictures and a wife’s distance from her husband that the husband molested and killed their daughter. The wife isn’t completely sure but with a little prodding and guidance from Jane, she realizes the husband is lying, grabs a gun and blows her husband away. Only in TV land, he’s back on the job a few days later before a review board has even investigated.

The show sets up a continuing story line of Jane vs. the serial killer. I’m intrigued enough to tune in next week. The show, as Blanco pointed out, is familiar ground but Simon Baker definitely has star power and the strong supporting cast includes Robin Tunney (Prison Break) playing his boss. I liked the show and will wait seven days to watch the next episode and even sit through the commercials. Ugh!

Reviews: USA Today | Entertainment Weekly

Ernest Hemingway Quotes

I finished reading The Good Life According To Hemingway by A.E. Hotchner. For an enthusiast, this book contains numerous black-and-white photos and unique quotations/witticisms that, in most cases, had never before been published. Here are a few colorful quotes:

Back in the days when American billboard advertising was in flower, there were two slogans that I always rated above all others: the old Cremo Cigar ad that proclaimed, “Spit Is a Horrid Word-but Worse on the End of Your Cigar,” and “Drink Schlitz in Brown Bottles and Avoid That Skunk Taste.” You don’t get creative writing like that anymore.

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

I hate plays. Did you ever listen to the dialogue of a play with your eyes shut?

A book you talk about is a book you don’t write.

The only truly good novel, maybe great, to come out of World War II is The Gallery.
I say “maybe great” because who in the hell can tell? Greatness is the longest marathon ever run; many enter; few survive.

In New York birds fly, but they are not serious about it. They don’t climb.

The only two I could sit through were The Killers and To Have and Have Not -- I guess Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall had a lot to do with it.

I read about the movie version of The Snows of Kilimanjaro and how there was only one minor alteration-the man is rescued and lives instead of dying-a very minor change, don’t you think?

Death is just another whore.

What if you can no longer measure up, no longer be involved, if you have used up all your fantasies? A champion cannot retire like anyone else. How the hell can a writer retire? The public won’t let him. When a man loses the center of his being, then he loses his being. Retire? It’s the filthiest word in the English language. It’s backing up into the grave. If I can’t exist on my own terms, then existence is impossible. That is how I have lived and must live-or not live.

The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Books

I was at a flea market in Opelousas, Louisiana when I spotted The Crime of Colin Wise by Michael Underwood (pseudonym of John Michael Evelyn, 1916-1992). This 1964 hardcover was in good shape and, priced at $2, it was a steal.

This great little crime thriller follows a television repairman, Wise, who steals and forges a check of the affluent Geoffrey Goodwin. He then invites Goodwin to his house under the false pretense of selling the rich man one of his paintings. Wise murders him by strangulation, carefully dissecting the body in his bathtub and disposing the pieces in various spots around the countryside. Colin Wise is a meticulous self-controlled killer who believes he has committed the perfect crime, but Goodwin left the directions to Colin’s house in the car glove compartment on the night of the crime. Enter, Inspector Manton who finds this evidence and uses it to prove Colin was the last person to see Goodwin alive.

I was expecting this story to take the predictable path of cat and mouse between Inspector Manton and Colin Wise leading up to an inevitable conclusion. Instead, Wise is put behind bars early on and the story becomes a courtroom drama. The police build a case on circumstantial evidence, which results in a hung jury. Just when the plot seems to be drawing to an end, a twelve-year-old boy walking his dog makes a gruesome discovery. One more twist awaits before The Crime of Colin Wise concludes.

This was an enjoyable find, and based on this work alone, I would recommend it or any other Michael Underwood books you might happen to come across.

Click here for more of Friday’s Forgotten Books courtesy of Patti Abbott...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


When I was in Texas, I purchased Longarm and the Pine Box Payoff at Waldenbooks. I was looking forward to reading it, knowing that it was written by James Reasoner (under the pen name Tabor Evans like all Longarm novels), and I wasn’t disappointed… the story was skillfully told and a joy to read. It encouraged me to look for more, and recently when I was at a used bookstore, I found a stash of old Longarm paperbacks (along with a bunch of Luke Short, Jon Sharpe, Max Brand, etc). I bought ten books for about fifty cents apiece and so far I’ve read two others that I would recommend with The Pine Box Payoff

Longarm in the Indian Nation (1979) is the fifth in the series and I’m assuming written by Lou Cameron who helped create the character, and, according to Wikipedia, wrote a number of the early books in the series. The back cover of my dog eared copy reads: "One Nation, Under Greed… It was bank robbery and murder that brought Longarm to the wild-spirited borders of Oklahoma, Land of the Redman-and anyone after a quick, illegal fortune… It was cattle-rustling that kept him there. Gold-grubbing Indian agents. Gunslingers. And a beautiful bounty hunter, with a sharpshooter’s eyes-and away of flashing them at the least convenient times."

Longarm and the Dragon Hunters (1980) is #26 (unsure who wrote this): "What Kind Of Buried Treasure Could Drive Men To Murder? At Dragon Bluff, rival archaeologists warred for a cache of priceless dinosaur fossils… angry Arapahoes rose up to protect their land andits riches… and hired guns were primed and ready, for sale to the highest bidder. Longarm rides into the 'Great Dinosaur War' to put an end to the violence -and enjoy the favors of a fiery teamster who claimed to be more woman than any man could handle!"

And here’s the blurb from the aforementioned Longarm and the Pine Box Payoff, which is #352 in the series: "Coffin Up The Dough. Some dame with expensive tastes and many names hasn’t left any tracks, but she has left a pattern. Seems she shacks up with rich hombres, then takes off with lotsa loot-and it’s up to Longarm to find her. But when he catches up with the mysterious lady, Longarm hears her side of the story. And when a scuffle with a posse leaves men dead, he finds himself owing her his life. But a treacherous uncle -an undertaker- ain’t happy, and he hopes Longarm and his woman wind up as his next clients…"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is anyone prepared?

Republicans are making fun of Barack Obama’s experience as a community organizer and Democrats are questioning Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience. It made me think of a passage from a book that’s always within my grasp, The Education of Henry Adams (1918).

In the following excerpt, Adams reflects on the pivotal year of 1861, bemoaning the fact that no one wanted the Civil War nor were they prepared for it, including the newly elected President Lincoln:

Had young Adams been told that his life was to hang on the correctness of his estimate of the new President, he would have lost. He saw Mr. Lincoln but once; at the melancholy function called an Inaugural Ball. Of course he looked anxiously for a sign of character. He saw a long, awkward figure; a plain, ploughed face; a mind, absent in part, and in part evidently worried by white kid gloves; features that expressed neither self -satisfaction nor any other familiar Americanism, but rather the same painful sense of becoming educated and of needing education that tormented a private secretary, above all a lack of apparent force. Any private secretary in the least fit for his business would have thought, as Adams did, that no man living needed so much education as the new President but that all the education he could get would not be enough.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Town Monday: Life in West Africa

Some African Proverbs and their meanings : Mr. Boh sent some humorous and poignant proverbs for this My Town Monday...

He who brings kolanut, brings life --- It is a showing of gratitude because kolanuts are considered a very big gift, and where one brings out a kolanut to a stranger, it is considered as a source of life.

The one who swallows an odala seed must consider the size of his anus --- Do not attempt doing what is above you.

He who brings home ant infested faggots (a bundle of sticks) must expect the visit of lizards --- If you call for trouble, expect its consequences.

A person who has never submitted himself to anything would soon submit himself to the burial mat --- Even if you are as strong as a lion, you will still die one day.

We shouldn't bother throwing stones at a tree that has no fruits --- No use seeking help where it will never come.

That which the dog sees and barks, the sheep sees and keeps quiet - threats like those of a toothless dog ---

No matter how it rains on a tiger, the spots on its skin would not be washed away ---

The stubborn grasshopper will finally end up in the gizzard of a fowl --- If you don't heed to advice, you would end up in trouble.

One who refuses to listen to the voice of thunder would soon be soaked in rain --- If you refuse to heed to advice, you would soon find yourself in trouble.

One who listens to elders is like one who goes to the diviners --- The voice of the elders is the voice of wisdom.

No one can steal the drum and beat it without being caught --- If you commit a crime and go into hiding, you will soon be exposed.

The rock that is in the middle of the sea does not fear rain --- It is just like a corpse never refuses to be put in the coffin.

Click here for more My Town Monday courtesy of Travis Erwin...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem

The US audience has long identified Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. He made an indelible impression that has lasted sixty plus years. In the mid-eighties, I heard about Jeremy Brett's portrayal of Holmes, and critics were saying that Brett had made the role his own, becoming the definitive version of the master sleuth. At that time, my family was renting a VCR along with two VHS tapes for $20 at the local video shop, and selections were scarce, so it was difficult to get my hands on copies of the Brett movies. It was almost ten years later (about a year before his death) when I finally was able to watch these films.

I’m posting here one of my favorite stories, The Final Problem, starring Brett as Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

I know... the part where Holmes and Moriarty are struggling on top of Reichenbach Falls looks stagey but the fall itself gets me everytime.

The producer intended to film all sixty stories, but Brett had only filmed forty-one before his unfortunate passing. These movies are without a doubt the most faithful rendering of Doyle’s original yarns.

According to Wikipedia, Doyle ranked The Adventure of the Final Problem fourth on his personal list of the twelve best Holmes stories.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oops, we're doing it again!

For the second time in two weeks, Denise and I are on the run from another hurricane. For a couple of New Yorkers, this is definitely an adventure. This time instead of running to Texas as we did for Gustav, we are in Mississippi to wait out Ike. We stopped in a little town called Kentwood, Louisiana for gas and, knowing Britney Spears is from the area, we drove around a bit. Sure enough, we found this welcome sign...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I’m not mechanically inclined like my father or most of my uncles who all had the gift. I do, however, appreciate ingenuity when I see it. Over the past few weeks, with everyone talking about soaring gas prices, a coworker of mine decided to do something about it and built his own hydrogen fuel generator.

The picture to the right shows a regular Mason jar with plexi-glass inside wrapped with a stainless steel coil. The wires go to the battery and the vent hose runs to the intake of the vehicle.

Basically it works by breaking down molecules in water to produce hydrogen gas.

The mixture in the jar is roughly two tablespoons of baking soda and filled with water.

Disclaimer: I don’t recommend doing this and I jokingly told this country boy that if he blows up his truck, I'll be thinking of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..."

The joke appears to be on me. My Jeep Wrangler continues to guzzle gas and according to this mechanically inclined southern gentleman with his new 'hybrid' pick-up truck, he has seen a 30% increase in savings.

For both sides of the 'does it work' debate:
The-Shocking-Truth-About-a-Hydrogen-Car-Kit, ezinearticles.com

Water-Powered Cars: Hydrogen Electrolyzer Mod Can't Up MPGs, Popular Mechanics

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tales from the Crypt #4

I never read the original 1950s EC comics Tales from the Crypt, but I was a fan of the 1989-1996 HBO series. Crypt, like other anthology series (The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits), has embedded itself in my noggin. One episode, in particular, where a woman’s corpse in various stages of decay continues to haunt the man that (I believe) killed her with the final scene of a snake-like tongue coming outta her skull, is seared in my memory.

In the graphic section of my local Books A Million, I spotted an affordable hard cover of Tales From The Crypt #4. It features the work of Joe R. Lansdale who along with John L.Lansdale (writers), Chris Noeth (artist), and Bryan Senka (letterer) created "Moonlight Sonata" about a mugger who kills a wealthy man in a dark alley with the intention of robbing his house. The thief finds he has bitten off more than he can chew when he encounters two caged werewolves at the eccentric man’s house.

"Jumping the Shark" by Arie Kaplan (writer), Mr. Exes (artist) and Mark Lerer (letterer) is an enjoyably dark tale about a producer’s assistant who gets in over his head after he kills his ruthless boss out of anger and then is given the producers job on a reality show only to discover what it takes to remain #1.

I enjoyed all the stories and artwork in this collection enough that I just may hunt down some of the original comics to see how it all started.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Town Monday: Life in West Africa

The Rayne Frog Festival was rescheduled for November, so unfortunately there are no pictures of frogs dressed in jockey uniforms to post today. But it is the perfect time for another post from Mr. Boh, who sent a great piece on the heart and soul of the Kom people. He starts off with an African proverb that perfectly suits this (he has sent a long list of terrific proverbs that I'll have to post one of these days). Mr. Boh writes:

AFRICAN PROVERB: No obstacle in the forest can make the snail not to find its way; meaning, no matter how fast you run, justice will still catch up with you (for a crime committed).

THE 'AFO-A-KOM' (Kom's Property)

The AFO-A-KOM is a statue that was carved by one of the rulers of Kom called FOYN YUH FUNKUIN (Foyn is the paramount ruler of the Kom people, otherwise called Fon in most parts of the north western grass fields of Cameroon). Foyn Yuh ruled the Kom people from 1865 up to 1912. The Afo-a-Kom statue weighs about 200Kg and is about 1m80 in height. It stands on a pedestal holding firmly to its chest a baton (baton of command) with its two hands. It is naked and its manhood clearly exposed. Its body is plated with about 600 cowries and each of the cowries stand for the Kom people who perished at Babessi before the Kom people moved to where they are presently located. No one knows how long it took to have the statue completed because no one ever knew any such thing was in the making. In fact, people only knew of its existence when the fon came into the palace and ordered that some palace guards should follow him in to the forest surrounding the palace and carry it home. When it was being carved, the fon would get up in the morning and in his privacy move into this forest, which is very rich with medicinal plants, and spend the entire morning period there and would only get back to the palace late in the afternoon. In its completion, it was displayed in the palace museum amongst many others. It little occurred to anyone how important this statue was until...

One day, a Kom elite sneaked into the palace and made away with the statue. It was later sold to a stranger, and how it got to America no one really knows. However, it was sold into one of the American famous museums. While in that museum in America, it felt nostalgic and started portraying certain strange signs. The museum would close its doors at the end of the day and when everyone had gone home, Afo-a-Kom would start a kind of wanton destruction of the other pieces of art also in the museum. The following day when they would open the museum, they discovered that everything had been knocked down with the exception of the Afo-a-Kom which would be seen majestically standing on its pedestal as though nothing had ever happened. It continued like that for some time and soon the guards at the museum began complaining about cries at night were becoming unbearable. This started drawing the attention of many tourist and the rest of the population as the museum authorities were looking for ways to have it returned. One day a curious Cameroonian happened to have come to see for himself the talking statue and as he got in, behold, here was Afo-a-kom. Recognising it, he quickly informed the authorities at the Cameroon Embassy at the US. Negotiations soon opened on how to get it back to Laikom...

When its full identity had been obtained and it was certain that it was from Cameroon, the Cameroon embassy at the US together with the museum authorities who were anxious to make a name shared the responsibilities to fly it back to Cameroon. It had a hilarious welcome by the population and the Prime Minister who personally represented the Head of State. From the airport, it came into town escorted just like they do the Head of State and that same motorcade escorted it to the Kom palace despite the bad conditions of the road at that time.

In Kom, there is an annual dance that holds every December. This usually is a very festive period in the palace and all works of art that are in the palace museum are displayed for people to see; those who have always wished to see the Afo-a-Kom can take advantage at this time to have a look. It is very important to note here that the only person who is not allowed to see the afo-a-Kom during this time is the Fon of Kom, who can see it only once in a lifetime and this is only when he is being enthroned. After his enthronement, he is not allowed to see it again until he passes away. It is possible that he (the Fon of Kom) might have seen it many times before he became Fon, but from the moment he is crowned, he no longer has a right to set his eyes on it for it is said that the magical powers vested on the fon turn to conflict with the ones vested on the Afo-a-Kom.

Sometime ago in the 1990s, a group of tourists came into Kom, negotiated with the palace authorities and took away the statue back to America; this time it was an authorised visit. It stayed for about a month and was brought back.

The late legend Bob Marley sang one of his songs (lyrics) titled "Buffalo Soldiers" which was interpreted by many back here as referring to the Afo-a-Kom. In this song, he tells the story of Buffalo soldiers in the hands of America; fighting in arrival; fighting for survival; stolen from Africa; brought to America...

The Lost Totem, Time
The Wonders of African Art Explored in 2 Exhibitions, NY Times

Afo-A-kom (Cameroon)
AFOAKOM-USA National Convention, Washington, DC

Click here for other My Town Monday posts on Travis Erwin's site...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

'Belizean' Cuban Art

Terrie's post for Friday's Forgotten Books: Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill reminded me of my love of art, and though I can't paint one brush stroke, I do enjoy browsing art museums and picking up a piece here and there while I'm traveling. I found this painting at Caesar's Guesthouse art and gift shop on the Western Highway in Cayo, Belize in 2006. Initially I wanted to buy local art but this anonymous, untitled piece from Cuba jumped out at me and I couldn't leave without it. Unfortunately, when I shipped it back to the states, I poorly packaged it and the paint cracked in transit. I'm hoping one of these days to find someone who can fix it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” -- Jonathan Swift

Toole’s novel borrows from this Swift quote and, simply put, creates a comic masterpiece centered around the concept.

The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a fat, thirty-year old man still living with his mother. He works on a manuscript most days (which Toole allows us to glimpse humorous pieces of it) and couples his writing with an occasional afternoon movie where he vociferously bellows at the screen.

Ignatius has been referred to as a “Don Quixote” character, but this fit isn’t quite right for someone who abhors society and whose intentions are to 'promote' himself. He is more like a cynical Mr. Magoo on steroids. He bumbles his way through one comical situation after another, almost always coming out unscathed even though others around him may not be so lucky.

Ignatius prefers to remain in his hometown, the French Quarter of New Orleans. He explains, more than once, that the time he traveled to Baton Rouge on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bus was a traumatic experience, and is unmoved by the fact that his friends and family have tired of hearing him repeat the adventure.

His mother, who babied him his whole life, finally forces Ignatius to get a job. The social outcast is able to find work at Levy Pants, where the office manager, Mr. Gonzalez, is a meek push-over, and the office clerk, Miss Trixie, suffers from dementia. An ill-fated employee at Levy is not employed for long as Ignatius sees to it that the person is fired within his first few days. The ground is fertile for Ignatius to plant his demands and he establishes that he will show up an hour late so he is refreshed for work. He spends the workday pointlessly making up banners for the office and the only filing he does is into the garbage can.

The book makes pointed commentaries on modern society (the early 1960s). As Ignatius enters the factory labored by African-Americans, he thinks, "...mechanized Negro slavery; it represents the progress which the Negro has made from picking cotton to tailoring it." Because he’s easily bored and wants to impress an old girlfriend, Ignatius leads the workers in a revolt against Mr. Gonzalez in a "Crusade for Moorish Dignity." Instead of accomplishing the goal, his followers end up disatisfied with him and he ends up unemployed. (His second job of selling hot dogs, where he eats more than he sells, is also amusing. He is able to hang on the job only because the owner, Mr. Clyde, is desperate for help.)

After meeting a colorful homosexual, Dorian Greene, who loves to throw outrageous parties, Ignatius believes world peace could be achieved if homosexuals infiltrated the armed forces and government offices. Dorian agrees and helps out by hosting a rally to kick off the event; of course, politically incorrect comedy ensues.

And so it goes with A Confederacy of Dunces where fools can have a profound impact in unintentional ways. Writing funny material takes a natural skill that is apparent with Toole. Donald E. Westlake is the only other comedic author who has made me laugh so hard.

Despite his talent, Toole was never published in his lifetime. He committed suicide in 1969 and his mother brought the Dunces manuscript to novelist, Walker Percy, who was instrumental in getting it published in 1980. A year later, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Thin Man Goes Home

I'm a fan of The Thin Man (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, based on the hardboiled novel by Dashiell Hammett. This film blends mystery and elegance with a charm that only old Hollywood can deliver. The success of the The Thin Man led to five more movies that were filmed every two to three years, imparting a quality that's lacking from other sequels of yesteryear. My charmer had never seen any of the films and I had only seen the 1934 original and its follow-up, After The Thin Man (1936). The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) is the fifth in the series and is perhaps an odd point to pick it up, but, with the accessibility of Google, we watched this one first.

We enjoyed the movie, but I found Nick and Nora's inebriated banter while solving crimes in the first two movies more entertaining than in this film where the pair are on the wagon (his preferred drink being cider) and left to solve the crime completely sober. Even so, their chemistry is still apparent ten years after the original and their playful interaction delivers a raciness rarely seen in the day. I wondered as we neared the end of the movie with just a few minutes to go, if there was enough time to reveal the murderer, but Nick quickly puts all the pieces together nicely and points to the guilty party in a final showdown.

The Thin Man Goes Home reviews

Rogert Ebert: The Thin Man

DVD Review: The Compete Thin Man Collection

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Riding the storm out in Lufkin, Texas has turned out to be the right move. A little rain and wind from Gustav seems to be the extent of it. The hotel accommodations and the generosity of the people have been first rate. Of course, I’ll be heading back to areas that were hit directly by the storm, and as a result, posts over the next week may continue to be light. One good thing that has come out of the storm has been plenty of writing time. I knocked out a short story which I’m now fine tuning. I made time for a few distractions, including some trips to various stores where I found the shelves are well-stocked with the Longarm and Trailsman books. I picked up a couple, and I’m in the middle of reading Longarm # 358. I’ve also begun working my way through the very entertaining A Hell of a Woman, and so far, there’s not one bad story in this anthology.

Out of the Gutter has posted a list of contributors for issue #5 and my name appears on the list. It's an honor to be included with this fine group of writers. Little d's crossword puzzle will appear in the same issue.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Random thoughts while waiting for Gustav

As the storm approaches, Denise and I feel we are far enough away (famous last words), but we will still feel some of the effects. If needed, we have another possible shelter at my sister’s house a couple hours north to fall back on… We are looking at lots of thunderstorms, possible flash flooding and tropical storm winds... We have kept our car topped up as gas shortages are also happening here in NE Texas… The hotel made us sign an agreement that basically says they can kick us out whenever they need too… The last time I was here was in 1989 with my parents. 19 years! Its little d’s first trip to Texas but, unfortunately, instead of sightseeing we are spending the days inside writing and watching everybody’s favorite Weather Channel weatherman, Jim Cantore. When you see Jim show up, you know you’re in trouble. Heavy rain and winds are on tap for this evening and through the night until Tuesday morning.

Gustav and MTM Coming Attractions

While waiting for Mr. Boh’s next piece from Cameroon and in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Gustav over Louisiana, I thought I'd schedule a couple of posts ahead of time in case we find ourselves without Internet.

For next week’s MTM, if all goes well and there are no cancellations due to weather, I'm planning to revisit my adopted town of Rayne for the annual Frog Festival. We’ll try to get lots of pictures of the frog derby, jumping contest and other pageants, as well as some of the musical entertainment.

In the meantime, if posts are scarce or I don’t get a chance to respond to any comments, it means Gustav wasn't so kind to Louisiana or Texas (we are among the Louisiana evacuees who have taken 'shelter' by heading to the Lufkin area of NE Texas). We’re hoping for the best but also want to be prepared.