May 28th, 2008

beachy

Happy Birthday, ursulav!

For your present, here's today's Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk):

Pitt's picture


A window stopt up on the inside to save the tax imposed in that gentleman's administration. Party wit.
—Francis Grove's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1796


The Window-tax was first imposed in 1695, and was frequently re-imposed, not withstanding its injurious effect in offering an obstacle to good ventilation. It was repealed, and the House-tax substituted for it in 1851.
—Sydney Low and F. S. Pulling's Dictionary of English History, 1904


Birthday of William Pitt (1759-1806),


English politician and statesman. He was never sent to grade school but instead prepared for the political world at home, entering Cambridge at fourteen. On November 18, 1777, he railed against Britain's attempts to stop its American colonies from breaking away, warning the House of Commons candidly, "You cannot conquer America," before adding emphatically, "If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms — never, never, never!"

Because, you know, that would render 'im armless.

-The Gneech
Writing

The Day I Almost Changed My Mind

I walked around the office gingerly, trying to figure out where would be the best place to sit, not too close to anybody, but not completely removed either so that nobody would think I was snobbish. Everybody took me in without directly looking at me, the way you do with people thrust into the same situation you're in without wanting to actually engage them in conversation. Eventually I found a spot, picked up the magazine I was least disinterested in, and flipped through it looking at the ads until my name was called.

There was some small talk with a person who took my weight, temperature, blood pressure, and all of the metal items I was wearing or carrying. Then I was put into a small office with more magazines and asked to wait. I had just gotten comfortably asleep when the door opened and I sat up again, greeted by a man slightly older than myself but much wealthier. He asked me how I was ("okay, I suppose,") and looked at his notes.

"So," the doctor said. "Are we changing your mind today?"

"Well..." I said.

"Well what?"

"I don't really want to," I said. "Isn't there any other option?"

"You don't want to keep going around with that mind you've got now, do you?" he said.

"Well it's not like I'm that attached to it," I said. "But I don't really want to change it."

"Look at all the trouble it's caused you. And it's only going to get worse."

"I know, I know."

"Then what's the problem?"

"I'm used to my mind," I said. "It doesn't work very well, I know, but a new one is such a hassle. Getting a new one I have to reset all my preferences, tweak all the settings, all that jazz. And honestly, I'm not convinced a new one would really be any better than the one I've got. I mean really, this one does pretty much everything I want it to."

"But a new one would do it so much faster," said the doctor. "And let's face it, the one you've got now isn't going to be supported much longer. Sooner or later you'll have to change it, you won't have a choice. Why put up with all that difficulty? If you change your mind now, you'll get all the benefits of a new one right away. It's not like it's really that hard to get used to. By this time next week, you'll be wondering how you got along with that old mind all this time."

"I don't know," I said. "I want to think about it before I change my mind."

The doctor gave a sigh and a shrug of resignation. "Okay," he said, "if that's really the way you feel. But it's going to be harder to change your mind later, and probably cost more in the long run."

"Well, if that's the case, I'll just deal with it then. But I don't want to change my mind before I'm ready."

"If that's what you want, that's what you want," said the doctor. "I think it's a mistake — a man your age will probably need to change your mind more and more as time goes on. But it's your mind, you'll have to decide when to change it I guess."

"Yeah," I said.

"If you do decide to change your mind," the doctor said, "just call and make another appointment. We'll be glad to take care of it for you."

"Thanks," I said. "I'm sure I'll change my mind eventually. But not today." I got up and went out, collected all my metal objects, and went home.

-The Gneech
beachy

The Day I Almost Changed My Mind

I walked around the office gingerly, trying to figure out where would be the best place to sit, not too close to anybody, but not completely removed either so that nobody would think I was snobbish. Everybody took me in without directly looking at me, the way you do with people thrust into the same situation you’re in without wanting to actually engage them in conversation. Eventually I found a spot, picked up the magazine I was least disinterested in, and flipped through it looking at the ads until my name was called.

There was some small talk with a person who took my weight, temperature, blood pressure, and all of the metal items I was wearing or carrying. Then I was put into a small office with more magazines and asked to wait. I had just gotten comfortably asleep when the door opened and I sat up again, greeted by a man slightly older than myself but much wealthier. He asked me how I was (“okay, I suppose,”) and looked at his notes.

“So,” the doctor said. “Are we changing your mind today?”

“Well…” I said.

“Well what?”

“I don’t really want to,” I said. “Isn’t there any other option?”

“You don’t want to keep going around with that mind you’ve got now, do you?” he said.

“Well it’s not like I’m that attached to it,” I said. “But I don’t really want to change it.”

“Look at all the trouble it’s caused you. And it’s only going to get worse.”

“I know, I know.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I’m used to my mind,” I said. “It doesn’t work very well, I know, but a new one is such a hassle. Getting a new one I have to reset all my preferences, tweak all the settings, all that jazz. And honestly, I’m not convinced a new one would really be any better than the one I’ve got. I mean really, this one does pretty much everything I want it to.”

“But a new one would do it so much faster,” said the doctor. “And let’s face it, the one you’ve got now isn’t going to be supported much longer. Sooner or later you’ll have to change it, you won’t have a choice. Why put up with all that difficulty? If you change your mind now, you’ll get all the benefits of a new one right away. It’s not like it’s really that hard to get used to. By this time next week, you’ll be wondering how you got along with that old mind all this time.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I want to think about it before I change my mind.”

The doctor gave a sigh and a shrug of resignation. “Okay,” he said, “if that’s really the way you feel. But it’s going to be harder to change your mind later, and probably cost more in the long run.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I’ll just deal with it then. But I don’t want to change my mind before I’m ready.”

“If that’s what you want, that’s what you want,” said the doctor. “I think it’s a mistake — a man your age will probably need to change your mind more and more as time goes on. But it’s your mind, you’ll have to decide when to change it I guess.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“If you do decide to change your mind,” the doctor said, “just call and make another appointment. We’ll be glad to take care of it for you.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m sure I’ll change my mind eventually. But not today.” I got up and went out, collected all my metal objects, and went home.

(Originally posted to my LiveJournal.)

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

Keitaro Holy Crap

My Actual Doctor Appointment

Back to the neurologist today. Since the Gabapentin is making me dotty, he told me to stop taking it for a few days, then switch to Cymbalta (i.e., Duloxetine), which is primarily an antidepressant but is also used for peripheral nerve pain. Hopefully I'll stop flubbing my words, dropping everything I touch, and generally thinking through pudding. I just hope it does something for the pain.

Anyway, back to work. :)

-The Gneech
  • Current Mood
    working working
Archie do

"The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler

I've had Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep on my bookshelf for a long time, but never read it. Seen the Bogie/Bacall movie, of course, about a gazillion times, but never actually read the book. A couple of weeks ago, however, laurie_robey and I happened to catch an episode of the classic old-time radio series The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, and since then I've been going on something of a binge with it, so I decided that now was the time to actually go to the original source.

The Big Sleep was published in 1939 and at the time the hardboiled gumshoe genre was just coming into its prime, although it had been maturing in the pulps for a good decade or more. (Chandler himself published his first story in 1933 in "Black Mask," a thriller pulp.) So it would be kind of silly to talk about The Big Sleep being full of clichés (such as the first person narration with a world-weary and battered would-be idealist hero whose forays into the seamy underside of the rich and glamorous are as jarring as a bad simile … or something like that). After all, The Big Sleep and its siblings are where the clichés were born.

On the other hand, for a book that's going on 70, The Big Sleep is remarkably contemporary. Los Angeles is recognizable, the people talk and for the most part act like real people ... add cellphones and the internet and it could have been written yesterday. I was also surprised at how close the Bogie/Bacall version followed the book for most of it, right down to the snappy patter. Hollywood in the '40s was not a place where things like "an author's vision" or "fans on hand to make sure it's done right" were done.

However, the two creatures — the book and the movie — are not the same, no matter how closely related they are. The first real hint of it is when "Geiger's Rare Books" is a front for a porn shop; the next is when Carmen Sternwood has her first of multiple nude scenes. The fact that Lauren Bacall's character is "Mrs. Rutledge" in the movie and "Mrs. Regan" in the book is a subtle shift, but points at the kind of changes that were made. There was a kind of systematic pruning of the seamiest or roughest bits, cleaning it up so it would play in Peoria, as they used to say.

I was fine with all of this and having a great time until somewhere in the middle, where Marlowe has got the drop on Carol Lundgren and takes him back to Geiger's house — at which point Marlowe suddenly turns very ugly. Geiger and Lundgren were a gay couple it seems (also left out of the movie, or at least discreetly not mentioned), for which Marlowe beats the crap out of Lundgren after goading him into a fight by throwing slurs at him. Like when I'm reading R. E. Howard and find myself cringing at his forays into creepy racial attitudes, finding this scene in the middle of what had until then been a breezy detective thriller put me off in no uncertain terms. (Oh, and apparently, Lundgren was completely unable to fight, 'cause y'know, pansies have got no iron in them. Cripes.)

However, the book was written when it was written, and unfortunately that was the prevailing mode of the day. Eventually, with some effort, I got past it and kept on reading. I even eventually started enjoying it again, helped by passages such as:

"Mr. Cobb was my escort," [Mrs. Regan] said. "Such a nice escort, Mr. Cobb. You should see him sober. I should see him sober. Somebody should see him sober. I mean, just for the record. So it could become a part of history, that brief flashing moment, soon buried in time, but not forgotten — when Larry Cobb was sober."

That's the kind of moment when The Big Sleep is at its best, making fanciful asides or turning clever phrases. Not played so broad as to be a comedy, but not letting its mean streak show through, either. And in a strange way, that almost fits with a recurring theme of the book — being light and breezy on the surface but having a dark side that pokes out unexpectedly and leaves you feeling vaguely disgusted.

One last observation, for the moment: I commented on how close the movie follows the book, with a few noticeable variations. This is true up until the moment Marlowe gets caught in the garage in Realito — at which point the book turns right while the movie takes a sharp left. Hollywood, of course, had to "get the bad guy," and so the final scene in Geiger's house was created whole cloth and tacked on from there, putting in lots more Mrs. Regan/Mrs. Rutledge in order to put Bogie and Bacall together for the big finish (and with Mrs. R* being a wholly sympathetic character). I don't want to spoil anybody's reading, but I will go as far as to say that ain't what happens in the book. You do find out exactly what happened to Regan, however, and how. From what I gather, Chandler fans tend to prefer the book ending to the movie; I'm not sure one way or the other, myself.

I do wish that either version had made it clear who killed Owen Taylor, tho.

-The Gneech