WEIRDLAND: May 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Inheritance – Poisoned Fruit of JFK’s Assassination, Computer Predictions


In 1973, near the height of the ‘population bomb’ panic, a computing programme called World1 offered up some predictions for the future. It anticipated a grim picture for humanity based on current trajectories. Tracing categories such as population, pollution and natural-resource usage, World1 calculated that, by 2040, human civilisation would collapse – a century after the best year to have been alive on the planet: 1940. This film was originally broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News as part of a report on predictions for the coming decades made by cutting-edge computing technology and leading thinkers of the time. “What the computer envisioned in the 1970s has by and large been coming true,” claims Paul Ratner at Big Think. Those predictions include population growth and pollution levels, “worsening quality of life,” and “dwindling natural resources.” In the video at the top, see Australia's ABC explain the computer’s calculations, “an electronic guided tour of our global behavior since 1900, and where that behavior will lead us,” says the presenter. The graph spans the years 1900 to 2060. "Quality of life" begins to sharply decline after 1940, and by 2020, the model predicts, the metric contracts to turn-of-the-century levels, meeting the sharp increase of the “Zed Curve" that charts pollution levels. (ABC revisited this reporting in 1999 with Club of Rome member Keith Suter.) Source: www.openculture.com

The Inheritance – Poisoned Fruit of JFK’s Assassination (2018) by Christopher and Michelle Fulton with an Introduction by Dick Russell. The Inheritance concerns some of the most important and significant records and evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy that remained out of government control for a long time, and crushed the lives of everyone who crossed paths with it, including RFK, Evelyn Lincoln, Robert White and Christopher Fulton. Only Fulton is left alive to tell the story and a convoluted one it is, but one that is factually well-documented and confirmed by other sources, at least the key aspects we are concerned with. The list of coincidences between the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy first garnered my interest, one being Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy and Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln. The basic facts that can be acknowledged and elaborated on is that RFK knew that his brother was the victim of a conspiracy, one that was being covered up by the federal government, and he began collecting evidence and records on the assassination he wanted kept out of the government's control and left them with Mrs. Lincoln. We knew that RFK didn’t even trust the National Archives when he instructed the secretary at the National Photo Interpretation Center (NPIC) to collect, box and deliver the NPIC records on the assassination to the Smithsonian, instead of the NARA where they belonged. Fulton says that because the Cartier watch was only inches from JFK's head when he was shot, traces of the mercury coated bullet that exploded JFK’s head could be found on the watch, proof of conspiracy. Source: jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.” -John F. Kennedy

"When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness.” -Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit


Happy 102nd Anniversary, John F. Kennedy! JFK: “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end where all men and all churches are treated as equal where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

“That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the Nation or imposed by the Nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Source: www.irishcentral.com

Gene Tierney dated John F Kennedy in the late '40s. Emotions have always showed better in B+W than color. It is the way most people's brains are wired. The color distracts from the emotion (or more precisely, the brain processes more of the texture and brightness differences of the photograph in B+W). You see it very strongly in still photography. Look at the same picture in good B+W versus good Color and the B+W will almost always provide a stronger emotional feel to it.

Joseph McBride, a professor at San Francisco State University’s School of Cinema, wrote the Frank Capra biography The Catastrophe of Success (2011). McBride is also the author of Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit (2013).  Journalist and historian Joseph McBride, a volunteer in JFK's 1960 Wisconsin presidential primary campaign, began studying the assassination minutes after it happened. In 1982, McBride launched his own investigation. Both epic and intimately personal, Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit incorporates rare interviews with key people in Dallas, archival discoveries, and what novelist Thomas Flanagan, in The New York Review of Books, called McBride's "wide knowledge of American social history." McBride chronicles his evolving skepticism about the official story and shines a fresh, often surprising spotlight on Kennedy's murder and on one of the murkiest, most crucial aspects of the case, its "Rosetta Stone," the Tippit killing. 

McBride: I think we’ve declined a lot in American films since what we call the Golden Age. I think the 1920s might be the best period in American film, but I’ve also written about filmmakers of the 1930s and ’40s — Howard Hawks, John Ford, Ernst Lubitsch and others. Things started going haywire in the 1960s, when the big Hollywood studios were breaking up. It was really a factory system. Although the old studios had their flaws, it was easier in some ways to make a good film in those days. Today, it’s more difficult to get a good film financed and made through the system. Today, with the blockbuster mentality, film has been dumbed down. There are fewer films about people. That’s what I’m interested in, dramas and comedies about people instead of explosions and superheroes. All the trailers today look like the same movie — a $200M superhero spectacle.

McBride: Frank Capra’s films are complicated ideologically. Capra was confused; he was always a Republican but during the Depression era he was something of a social critic, and he worked with a lot of left-wing writers, which got him trouble during the blacklist period in the late 1940s and the ’50s. He was angry with America because after the war he was accused of being disloyal to America. After he had worked with the government during the war making propaganda films, they then denied his security clearance. During the Red Scare, he blamed his writers and sort of blacklisted himself. He moved to Fallbrook and lived on a ranch. He was consumed by self-loathing and doubt. Capra went into a tailspin. He was never the same after the blacklist. It shattered him.

-Capra, an Italian-American immigrant, did so much to craft the positive and enduring mythology that 20th-century Americans embraced about themselves — with films such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Did the immigrant experience influence his filmmaking?

-McBride: That’s a big part of my story and it was a key thing to his experience. He was a man who embraced America, and waved the flag fervently, but was also aware of the flaws in the system, which made his films complex and interesting. Being an immigrant was part of his drive, and he felt compelled to prove himself worthy as an American. (Film professor and author) Jonathan J. Cavallero wrote that Capra’s films are disguised immigrant stories because they’re often about a person who comes from the country to the big city and is confronted with corruption; there’s a conflict between naïve goodness and harsh reality, which makes his films fascinating. Capra's heroes were not Italian, they were WASPs like Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. He was a self-made man and looked down on his own family and fellow Italians. There were many contradictions in Capra, who was a truly tragic figure, a Dostoevskian figure. 

-Are there parallels between the difficulties you encountered with the Capra book and the JFK assassination, which you’ve also written about?

-McBride: It’s a very destructive thing for a country to live a lie. With the JFK assassination: most of the country doesn’t believe the Warren Report. The official lie is really damaging to the people’s trust in government and the media. The public—give them credit because they’re smarter than some people think. Source: www.localnewsmatters.org

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood and Sharon Tate

'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood': In 1969 Los Angeles, a television actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry. Featuring a large ensemble cast, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood weaves "multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age." Release Date: July 26, 2019. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood finds a pulp-fictionally redemptive take on the Manson nightmare in late-60s California: a B-movie loser’s state of grace. Margot Robbie presents Tate as a free-spirited young actress at the beginning of her career, wide-eyed and excited about what the future might hold for her. And although the film deals with the events of 9 August, 1969 in its own way, Charles Manson is by no means its focus. Tarantino soaks up the atmosphere of a magical Los Angeles slowly going to seed, the movie mecca of buzzing pool parties and glittering hot spots being invaded by the wild grass of youth culture and drugs. It’s a decadent town slowly rotting away.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood really belongs to a figure who gets less screen time than either of the male leads but who fills the movie with light. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and in the movie’s most stunning sequence—set in February 1969—she comes upon a theater, the Bruin, that’s showing her most recent film, The Wrecking Crew, one of those spy joints starring Dean Martin. She goes up to the box-office booth to buy a ticket—and then it occurs to her that if she explains to the ticket girl that she’s actually in the film, she might be able to get in for free. DiCaprio’s Rick looks mischievously boyish, though you can’t help noticing the tiny crow’s feet marking the skin around his eyes, etched there by dried-up work and dwindling bank accounts—there’s an alluring, Robert Ryan-style weariness about him. Tarantino addressed the public’s continued interest in Charles Manson: “I think we’re fascinated by it because at the end of the day, it seems unfathomable. I’ve done a lot of research on it. How he was he was able to get these young girls and boys to cement to him seems unfathomable. The more you learn about it, the more information you get, it doesn’t make it any clear. It makes it more obscure.”

Rick and Cliff are basically nonentities in Hollywood, the only difference being that easy-going Cliff has no ego to bruise, no ambition to nurse. But their marginal status is transformed by Tarantino’s parallel-universe comedy, a piece of bloody mayhem which leads to a bizarre denouement which might well have you replaying the entire film in your head. It’s entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant. In real life, no one could save Sharon Tate. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino and Robbie restore life to her. The magic spell lasts only a few hours. But no one has ever brought her closer to a happily ever after. Source: time.com

Margot Robbie is the heart and soul of this film. Her Sharon Tate is the most humane and resonant character of the entire movie. Almost every scene she's in is heartbreaking to watch. Tarantino told me, “This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction.” What that means, I can’t reveal. But what that means in terms of structure is this: Think multiple characters (some real, some imagined) and story lines that are seemingly unrelated . . . until they intertwine in surprising ways. This film, Tarantino says, is also “probably my most personal. I think of it like my memory piece. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L. A.” It’s 1969, a year of tremendous upheaval, not just in America’s streets but also on the backlots of Hollywood. The Golden Age is ending. The original studio system, which has been a source of stability and structure for fifty years, is collapsing as the counterculture rejects traditional plotlines and traditional leading men. It’s the year Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy break big—films that celebrate the antihero and upend the definition of what a matinee idol looks like. 

It’s against this background that we meet Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a declining star and a veteran of TV westerns. Joan Didion famously wrote, “the sixties ended abruptly . . . the tension broke . . . the paranoia was fulfilled.” Tarantino says: "‘How does the Manson Family fit in?’ It’s like we’ve got a perfectly good body, and then we take a syringe and inject it with a deadly virus. Through the whole movie, we’ve been hanging out on real Hollywood-western soundstages where phony versions of this kind of masculine drama are being played out for cameras. Then we end up on Spahn Ranch, on this dilapidated western backlot, and those masculine rituals are played out—but this time with real-world consequences, and no one’s acting. This is a Hollywood movie in the same vein as, like, The Stunt Man or Singin’ in the Rain or any other movie about Hollywood. And there’s a good-hearted spirit to it. Then you ask, 'How does the Manson Family fit in?' Well, that’s the trick. And that is, actually, how it is supposed to work: 'How does this rancidness figure into everything?' And I want the audience asking that question, and I hope that’s one of the things that helps lead you to the theater." Go in asking yourself, “What if that era had never ended? What if that awful, murderous night hadn’t crushed that balmy social heritage that still sends so many into a dreamy fit of nostalgia? What if we had found a way to presently thrive in its tranquil ethos?” It’s clear that Tarantino would rather live in a world in which we had found it. Source: wwww.esquire.com

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"The Moral Adventure of Liberalism" (A Thousand Small Sanities) by Adam Gopnik

It’s a myth that liberalism is obsessed with individualism, a myth that liberalism doesn’t have a rich imagination of common fates and shared values. Adam Smith, though today he’s been appropriated to right-wing think tanks and even right-wing neckties—Milton Friedman always wore one—thought in terms of cities and of how they share sentiments before he thought of individuals and how they price goods. It was the victory of the Union that helped prod the democratization of Britain, and the vindication of republicanism in the United States and Britain that played a large role in re-moralizing the French republicans. The greatest monument of modern liberalism began precisely in that moment, as a gift from nascent French republicanism to triumphant American republicanism. Liberalism accepts imperfection as a fact of existence. Some imperfections can be remedied. Many can’t be ever fixed. Fixing cruelty is hard work. Liberalism’s task is not to imagine the perfect society and drive us toward it but to point out what’s cruel in the society we have now and fix it if we possibly can. We don’t know what is good, but we do know what is bad. Cruelty is bad. State murder is bad. This kind of liberalism extends the French humanist tradition, turning pessimism about “truths” into optimism about acts.

We have allowed the Statue of Liberty to be subsumed into the narrative of American immigration, and understandably, so given that for many millions of American ancestors this French thing was the first American thing they saw. But it was first imagined, in that pivot year of 1865, as a tribute to the shining light of the republican ideal at a time when it still seemed impossible in France. It was an imaginary dream figure celebrating the vindication of liberty in America with an eye to its eventual vindication in France: you’ve married her; we will, too, some day. She is a crucial figure, in which modern liberalism is mostly forged. The hallucinatory photographs of the statue rising in a small Parisian atelier remind us of its impossible conception. It ought to be, like the dream of liberal democracy itself, left in the large dustbin of unrealized projects, like Tatlin’s later Monument to the Third International. It isn’t. It’s there. It shines. Liberty’s light beams out from her lamp—infinite gradations of radiance, a flood of illumination at once encompassing and specific. Liberty in liberal imagery is a field of energy, which makes us see all that’s there around us. The first fully realized theory of electromagnetism—of light, like liberty, as a field emitted, as we know now, by countless particular waves—was published by James Maxwell exactly in our magic year of 1865?

The search for radical change by humane measures, far from producing a dry, atomizing, and emotion-less doctrine in which all social relations are reduced to the status of a contract, makes liberalism one of the great moral adventures in human history. Far from being fatuously materialistic and profit driven, the rise and triumph of liberal ideas is the most singular spiritual episode in all of human history. The essential point of Montaigne’s great, foundational essay “On Cruelty,” in which he considers the emotions of a deer being hunted, is that when it comes to cruelty, we should second all other reasoning to the essential fact of the stag’s suffering. We can always rationalize our way past someone else’s suffering. Reasoning past suffering is not reason at all. This side of Montaigne’s work had an enormous influence on Shakespeare, who read Montaigne in a beautiful early English translation by John Florio. He adapted his thoughts on cruelty and put them in the mouth of his wise misanthropic character Jaques in As You Like It. The urge to commit atrocities is standard to all human systems; the institutionalized urge to amend them is not. Removing aboriginal kids from their homes is wrong; it is not on the same wavelength of wrongness as murdering thousands of dissidents without trial or starving whole nations into submission. Liberalism without vision is, indeed, merely comfortable, but radicalism without realism will always be blind—and then surprised by the next great catastrophe. Radicals who have not learned the necessity of liberal institutions have learned nothing at all from history. What liberalism can say on its own behalf is that no system of power in human history has tried so hard to inject a corrective conscience into its institutions.

The idea of sympathy as the glue of good societies is one that began to have an especially intense life in the eighteenth century. Indeed, the idea of sympathy is at least as important to the birth of modern liberalism as the practice of science. What’s called the Enlightenment—in France it’s called the Lumières, the Enlighteners—obviously plays an enormously important role in most histories of how liberalism happened. Adam Smith wrote two great books: the first, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is lesser known; the second, The Wealth of Nations, is canonized by right-wing libertarians—but without knowing a thing about Smith’s theory of morality. In both books, Smith suggests that it’s normal for human beings to want to live in a prosperous society, but that it’s also normal for them to want to live in a just society. Their desire for self-improvement was rooted not in greed but sympathy and was inherently social. What moved men to make markets was their love of pleasure and happiness. Who, he wondered, could live happily in a society where all of the wealth has been confiscated and kept in a few hands? Smith believed not that markets make men free but that free men move toward markets. The difference is small but decisive; it is most of what we mean by humanism.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." In presidential ranking polls conducted in the United States since 1948, Lincoln has been rated at the top in the majority of polls. Generally, the top three presidents are rated as 1. Abraham Lincoln; 2. George Washington; and 3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lincoln was a "moral visionary" who deftly advanced the abolitionist cause, as fast as politically possible. Liberals are not afraid of revolution. But liberals will remain reluctant revolutionaries. It is one reason why the American Revolution went so much better than the French one. What is liberalism, then? A hatred of cruelty. An instinct about human conduct rooted in a rueful admission of our own fallibility and of the inadequacy of our divided minds to be right frequently enough to act autocratically. A belief that the sympathy that binds human society together can disconnect us from our clannish and suspicious past. A program for permanent reform based on reason. The opposite of humanism is fanaticism; the opposite of liberalism is not conservatism but dogmatism. Liberalism is an evolving political practice that makes the case for the necessity and possibility of (imperfectly) egalitarian social reform and ever greater (if not absolute) tolerance of human difference through reasoned and (mostly) unimpeded demonstration and debate.

The Byrds were an American rock band from California who were the first to wear long hair, play electric guitars, and have hits with electrified (guitar and bass, plus drums) versions of Dylan songs, including “Mr. Tambourine Man.” It was said at the time that they were Dylanized Beatles, but the great rock critic Ellen Willis pointed out that they were Beatleized Dylans—from the same background as Dylan who had heard the Beatles and gone electric. It was a crucial point in rock music history. It justified the preference for highly artistic pop over folk protest singing. The difference between Dylanized Beatles and Beatleized Dylans seemed small but meant everything. Love is love and kindness is everything. They’re true. Entirely true. The Beatles say so, which ought to be proof enough. I fear to hear radical-minded people talk about key liberal institutions and practices—the insistence on pluralism, the respect for a free press—impatiently. They speak as though these institutions and practices are the self-evident ground of social life, ones that can be depended on to renew themselves, or easily reconstructed after a revolution, rather than as the immensely delicate, hard-won, and historically unique things they really are. The contemporary left can sometimes seem to have an insufficient respect for the fragility of the very same liberal institutions that allow its views to be broadcast without impediments. The left makes an unfortunate alliance with right-wing authoritarians when it deprecates those institutions. It does this sometimes with impatience, sometimes with the illusion that things have to get worse before they get better. Marxists called this “heightening the contradictions” of the system. But no good has ever come from heightening these contradictions. All that happens is that the institutions get weaker, and authoritarians become stronger in the weakened spaces.

Liberalism has become passive, planetary, and private. It needs to become passionate, patriotic, and public-minded. There’s nothing in the liberal tradition that makes us believe that private enterprise is necessarily better than common public goods. Liberals should never be arrogant, but they should never be apologetic either. Scientific reasoning can’t give you values. But once you choose your values, it can give you lots of useful truth. There’s really an awful lot of stuff about life now known that once was not. Whenever we look at how the big problems got solved, it was rarely a big idea that solved them. It was the intercession of a thousand small sanities. Skepticism, constant inquiry, fallibilism, self-doubt—these don’t mean not knowing. They mean knowing more all the time. Liberal cities and states are the tiny volcanic islands risen on a vast historical sea of tyranny. There lies the ultimate irony of liberalism and of liberal love stories. Liberalism is a political temperament and a credo that seeks social conciliation as a positive engine of forward movement. But the liberal is condemned and always will be to be the most embattled of all kinds. A liberal of any complexion will forever be in contest with the totalitarian tendencies of the left and the authoritarian brutalities of the right. And that fight will never end. Liberalism is blessed and continues to produce those thousand small sanities in often invisible social adjustments and improvements, moving us bit by bit a little bit closer to a modern Arcadia. And liberalism may be crushed at any time by its own inability to stop the stampede of unicorns that we call the utopian imagination. Liberalism is the work of a thousand small sanities communicated to a million sometimes eager and more often reluctant minds. That’s the work of liberalism, and even if the worst happens, as it may, it is work that won’t stop, can’t stop, because it is also the real work of being human. That’s why the prehistory of liberalism is mostly the history of commonplace civilization, of bazaars and trading ports—all those enforced acts of empathy, where we had to make bargains in the company of people we couldn’t stand—people fundamentally unlike yourself, in order to live at all. "A Thousand Small Sanities" (2019) by Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik does his best work repudiating the favorite hobbyhorse of today’s pseudo-radicals: identity politics. It’s a preoccupation that depends “on forms of determinism and essentialism that have in the past always rightly been seen as reactionary.” The idea that the merit of an argument depends on the origin of the person saying it is, in fact, “the root doctrine of reaction.”  "Liberalism is the movement for reform that began sometime in the 19th century that is responsible for creating the world we live in, the countries we live in here, the United States, Canada, Western Europe, that with all their vast imperfections are more prosperous, and peaceful, and certainly pluralistic, than any societies that have ever existed before, and we should be proud of that legacy. That is the point of my book," Gopnik said. Source: www.wgbh.org


Some rock critics pooh-poohed the rise of so-called “corporate rock” of the 1970s and 1980s — performers with a penchant for melodic hooks, ear-worms and perceived homogenized “product” that appeals to the masses and, therefore, tremendous commercial success. On the other are those critics who champion the obscure, the counter-culture and lyrics that defiantly run contrary to free-markets and representative democracy. Reconciling these two distinctive camps is no easy feat, but now comes “The Dean of Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau, with a salient analysis of rock music as a commercial enterprise in an interview conducted by Brett Anderson. Christgau, a self-avowed socialist, shared his rationale thusly: "The hippie movement was anti-consumption. A great deal of my supposed confrères in the counterculture... It was just a way to be a contrarian. I was listening to everything from Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Clash and Bruce Springsteen and more obscure acts such as the Mekons, the Velvet Underground and Wire. The first group listed above recognized tremendous critical and commercial success while the second mostly enjoyed cult status and critical approbation. Both are equally valid in a free-market." If, as H.L. Mencken noted, art criticism should be a work of art completely separate from the work it covers, Christgau achieved just this end with his analysis over the past 50-some years of popular music. Christgau adds: "When I say push the envelope, when I say push the parameters, that’s the market, right? So what do I do with the Consumer Guide? I got to express ideas that were not popular ideas. And I was working in a newspaper [The Village Voice] which at that time was conceived to serve a market, get advertising, but put out provocative and unconventional opinions. I'm a socialist. But does that mean I think capitalism is bad? No. I always tell my socialist friends rock 'n' roll would not have happened without capitalism. It is a capitalist form, and it’s one of the best things about capitalism. I will tell you one thing I really like about capitalism: The people who make things and really care about what they make. And the guy who owns Barnes & Noble cares about books. Similarly, the people who own magazines should care about music." There you have it, straight from the Dean of American rock critics: Capitalism helped give birth to the predominant popular art form of the past six decades, and it is that same economic structure that continues to provide succor to both the best and worst of the genre. Source: www.mackinac.org

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Neo-noir "Trouble is My Business" (2018), The case of Raymond Chandler

For those who are fans of classic film noirs that came from the 1940s and the 1950s, including The Big Sleep, The Big Combo, and Murder My Sweet, the 2018 film Trouble is My Business pays homage to those classics from yesteryear. Taking place in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Trouble is My Business is a neo-noir crime drama centering on detective Ronald Drake (Tom Konkle). After a romantic evening with Katherine Montemar, he wakes up the next morning to bloodstained bed sheets, leaving him confused as to what happened. Katherine’s older sister, Jennifer (Brittney Powell), arrives on the scene asking him to search for both her missing father and sister. The search ultimately leads Drake down a dark and winding path as he finds himself caught in a nightmarish situation involving several shady characters, including a corrupt police detective (Vernon Wells) and Evelyn Montemar (Jordana Capra), the wicked mother of Katherine and Jennifer.

Trouble is My Business was also produced by, co-written, and directed by Tom Konkle. Despite being shot on a low budget, it does a remarkable job at capturing a gritty noir atmosphere. It has all the ingredients necessary to make it work well, including femme fatales, dark characters, and disreputable policemen. Konkle appears to have done his homework in capturing the tone and look of a film noir, right down to the outfits that characters wear. The action, while minimal, is still compelling with great dialogue and excellent one-liners. Trouble is My Business arrives in a 2-disc set; one disc featuring the film in color, and the other in black and white. The colorized version is fairly sharp and saturated with good textures. Source: www.thedigitalbits.com

This is one of those rare indie, lower budget films I truly loved. Not just as a good independent film, but as a great film in general. What I ended up getting with "Trouble Is My Business" was a stylized, well thought out production, that captured the feel it was going for perfectly. This doesn't just look like it was based on the stylized concepts of the genre, it plays like the real thing. From the excellent use of cliche shadows, from blinds and fans - and whatever else could possibly make a great looking shadow, straight through to comedic yet believable dialogue... Sayings like "being a flat tire" and dead-pan one liners, fill the sound space and brought a grin to my face. Generally speaking, Tom Konkle and Brittney Powell have penned an excellent script and Konkle himself has done some excellent work directing it.

The down on his luck private dick. The mysterious dame... and in this case, her sister as well. The rivalry of a competing detective and of course, a slew of villainous characters that are either quirky enough to be sinister, or just down right bad. All the characters within "Trouble Is My Business" feel right at home onscreen, meaning that the actors must have felt at home as well. Lines were corny sounding when they needed to be. Witty when it worked for the scene, and everything you expect from a film of this nature. It's just one of those rare indie productions where everything managed to fall in place. I write that rather loosely, since the reality of things "falling into place" no doubt required a "lot" of hard work. Source: www.indyred.com

Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane Greer, Lizabeth Scott, Lauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor. This is pure homage to the stories of Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, Ross MacDonald, and the films that showcased them. Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed. Source: www.altfg.com

“I wouldn't say she looked exactly wistful, but neither did she look as hard to get as a controlling interest in General Motors.” —“Playback” (1958) by Raymond Chandler

The case of Raymond Chandler: To a correspondent who suggested that Marlowe was immature, Chandler replied sharply that if being in revolt against a corrupt society was immature, then Marlowe was extremely immature. The influence of Chandler is far beyond a detective novelist (he admired Dickens, Flaubert, Fitzgerald). Chandler was admired by Auden, Camus, Graham Greene; modern story-tellers as James Ellroy owe him a hefty debt (Frank Miller, Sin City novels' author, described Dwight McCarthy as a 'modern iteration of Philip Marlowe'), although he'd conform with "twenty-five a day and expenses". Blade Runner (1982), unique combination of sci-fi and noir, contains a similar interrogatory structure. Paul Auster: "Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since".

Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy and Eva Green as Ava in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

And then there’s that tough-but-lyrical prose: “The rushing sound of the traffic had died a little and the air from the open window, not yet cool from the night, had that tired end-of-the-day smell of dust, automobile exhaust, sunlight rising from hot walls and sidewalks, the remote smell of food in a thousand restaurants, and perhaps, drifting down from the residential hills above Hollywood-if you had a nose like a hunting dog-a touch of that peculiar tomcat smell that eucalyptus trees give off in warm weather.” Chandler's forte were his wisecracks and similes: “Her eyes became narrow and almost black and as shallow as enamel on a cafeteria tray.” The sun “drops like an angry brick at nightfall”; a night clerk has “one of those moustaches that gets stuck under your fingernail.” The main action takes place in anonymous spaces that seem at once set-designed and decayed. For Fredric Jameson (Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality) the artistic accomplishment of Chandler’s work appears to be its formal evocation of 'the big sleep' itself: “I claim that it is this opening onto the not-world, onto its edge and its end, in the void, in non-human space, in death, that is the ultimate secret of Chandlerian narrative.” 

When MGM purchased the rights to Raymond Chandler's fourth Philip Marlowe mystery in 1945, they asked the novelist to adapt The Lady in the Lake for the screen. It would be the only time Chandler would write a screenplay based on his own work. The result, a rambling 175-page script, was deemed unfilmable and Steve Fisher was brought in for a rewrite. Chandler insisted on a screen credit until he read Fisher's revised screenplay and then wanted his name removed from the credits. While Chandler had issues with the subjective camera gimmick and the deletion of the Little Fawn Lake sequence (a key scene in the original novel), critics were impressed with the film. Newsweek called it "a brilliant tour de force," and The New York Times reported that "The picture is definitely different and affords one a fresh and interesting perspective on a murder mystery." Source: www.tcm.com

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Raymond Chandler and the Hard-Boiled Detective as War Veteran in American Fiction

Raymond Chandler was evacuated to Britain, concussed and “shell-shocked,” where he began drinking heavily. In all likelihood, Chandler’s experience of war caused the author psychological injury, yet because the existing biographical material is vague it does not allow us to comprehend the gravity of Chandler’s war experiences. The First World War was a pivotal moment for the twenty-eight-year-old Chandler. While Frank MacShane believes that the psychological impact of war would make Chandler block out the memory of it, many have overlooked the experience as a key influence upon Chandler’s formulation of Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s only overt depiction of warfare, a short piece of prose titled “Trench Raid,” has generally been cited as the writer’s only attempt to exorcise his demons. Written between June and December 1918 while recuperating in England, “Trench Raid” is the only work in which Chandler explicitly attempted to recount his war experiences. In 1957 he wrote, “Once you have led a platoon into direct machine gun fire, nothing is ever the same again.” Officially discharged from the Canadian Army on 20 February 1919, Chandler returned to America, but quickly became restless. 

He traveled the Pacific Coast, becoming particularly familiar with Washington State, a familiarity that he would later use in his short story “Goldfish” (1936). In 1932, Chandler was dismissed from his job at Dabney Oil Company as the direct consequence of his alcohol dependency and love affairs with secretaries. In hindsight, MacShane believes that Chandler’s novels were successful because “Marlowe was an ordinary Black Mask character: tough, an honest man in a crooked trade. This kind of hero is common in American literature and seems to represent a faith in the incorruptibility of at least part of the population”. In a letter to Edgar Carter in 1957, Chandler expressed: “Marlowe is a character of some nobility, of scorching wit, sad but not defeated, lonely, and never really sure of himself. He doesn’t talk or behave like an idealist, but I think that he is one at heart.” 

In 1946 Ray and Cissy moved to La Jolla, a community within San Diego, in Southern California. The Long Goodbye can be interpreted as Marlowe’s drawn-out farewell to his war veteran friend Terry Lennox. Furthermore, the novel also suggests that it was Chandler’s attempt to rid himself of the psychological symptoms of his own postcombat stress. Despite this valiant attempt, neither objective was actually achieved since the novel ends with Marlowe more disillusioned than ever, being both deceived by Lennox and still beset with an overwhelming sense of desolation. Chandler received his biggest blow in December 1954 when, after long periods of hospitalization, Cissy finally died. It was not until his fourth suicide attempt on 22 February 1955, when Chandler attempted to shoot himself in a drunken stupor, that those closest to him actively responded to his plight. Cissy had been Chandler’s major stabilizing influence on his troubled life. With her death his depression and suffering came flooding back with devastating effect. The remaining five years of Chandler’s life proved to be his most destructive: “life was empty in every respect, and the future seemed completely without purpose”. As Jerry Speir noted, Chandler’s last lonely years “serve as an indicator of the depths of the frustration of this man.” On 23 March, after yet another heavy bout of drinking, he was admitted to La Jolla Convalescent Hospital suffering from pneumonia. Two days later he was transferred to the Scripps Clinic where he died on 26 March 1959. 

Chandler’s lonely existence was echoed in his death. After a funeral service that was attended by just seventeen people, he was buried in a small plot in Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego. It was not until one decade after Chandler’s death that critics such as Wilson Pollock in his 1962 article “Man with a Toy Gun” for The New Republic, began to appreciate the striking similarities between the so-called “low” cultural work of Chandler and the “high” literature of the Lost Generation. Pollock argued that the major difference between Chandler and Hemingway was an artificial demarcation based entirely on the literary canon. Chandler first utilized the modernist style of Hammett, which he then advanced into something new, imposing his own unique stamp on the genre. Hammett’s heroes—the Continental Op, Sam Spade, Ned Beaumont—were violent, but, arguably, that violence was not necessarily sensationalist. Instead, as Philip Durham suggests, “It was rather a kind of meaningful violence, sometimes an explicit description and implicit criticism of a corrupt society.” 

By articulating themes common to the Lost Generation, and in belonging to, as Malcolm Cowley notes, the “World War One generation,” Chandler can be considered alongside this group of distinguished writers. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe define the Lost Generation as the cohort of writers born from 1883 to 1900, who came of age during World War I and the Roaring Twenties. In Europe, they are mostly known as the "Generation of 1914", for the year World War I began. Chandler can justifiably be discussed alongside canonical writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Dos Passos and T.S. Eliot simply due to historical terms and ideology. 

In his essay The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler noted: “Hammett was an ace performer. For all I know, Hemingway might have learned something from Hammett.” As stories became more about the “self,” Stephen Knight notes, “It is through this sense of isolation that the private-eye story is in fact more innovative. The world-weary feeling of the Hammett-Chandler detective seems related to a growing dismay with modern mercantile society, with its sense of lost dreams and the dangers of over-sophistication.” Marlowe’s chivalric persona comes, in fact, from a much darker place, and his inner conflict and sense of estrangement are suggestive of a far more complex cause. The recurring themes in Chandler’s novels are significant indicators of Chandler’s affinity with the Lost Generation, involving numerous examples of both physical and psychological trauma. 

In a similar style to T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (1922) and John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer (1925), Chandler’s novels represent an urban environment as a source of alienation and decay; the city of Los Angeles has been reduced to a hollowed-out void, a colorless place whose inhabitants have been stripped of identity. Feelings of “melancholy, regret and emptiness” are common in the hard-boiled genre. Fragmentation, complexity, and ennui, which are unique to early American crime fiction, are characterized by violent tensions and occasional irreconcilable contradictions. In this turbulent urban landscape, Chandler created a war veteran detective who has been robbed of any recognition of “self” in exactly the same way as he had been robbed of his individuality while serving as a cog in the nation’s war machine. In the same way we observe the parallels between Jay Gatz in The Great Gatsby and Joe O’Keefe in Manhattan Transfer with Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. 

Chandler’s fictional detective is thus an attempt to bridge the gap between the noble ideals for which war was fought and the degrading actuality of contemporary society. Marlowe strives to work to ameliorate society’s ills against seemingly overwhelming corruption because if he does not, he believes his sacrifices will have been in vain. The detective can thus be viewed as a broken and disillusioned man on a quest to find justice and decency in an increasingly corrupt and selfish society. The detective is reconfigured as a Lost Generation character in a hard-boiled crime fiction setting. Marlowe has the appearance of an ordinary yet unusual man trying to restore what he perceives as the balance between “good” and “evil,” often ending with him “trying to mete out simple justice.” 

The transgressors in Chandler’s novels are almost always women—Carmen Sternwood, Velma Valento, Elizabeth Murdock, Mildred Haviland, Orfamay Quest, Eileen Wade—and all of them are helped by Marlowe to avoid punishment for their various crimes, deceptions, and misdemeanors. But this open-mindedness toward female characters is also balanced by the fact that some of Marlowe’s closest personal acquaintances in the novels are women, such as Anne Riordan and Linda Loring. It is no coincidence that Bill Chess, Terry Lennox, and Roger Wade are all men characterized as war veterans, and each is willing to confide in Marlowe and discuss their residual war experiences. Chandler acknowledged: “I don’t mind Marlowe being a sentimentalist because he always has been. His toughness has always been more or less a surface bluff.”

Marlowe shows tenderness at the end of The Long Goodbye, where, after spending the night with Linda Loring, Chandler writes: "We said good-bye. I watched the cab out of sight. I went back up the steps and into the bedroom and pulled the bed to pieces and remade it. There was a long dark hair on one of the pillows. There was a lump of lead at the pit of my stomach. To say good-bye is to die a little." This scene demonstrates that Marlowe is perfectly capable of displaying genuine affection for women, a feature that is evident in his friendships with Merle Davies, Anne Riordan, and his marriage to Linda Loring in the unfinished Poodle Springs (1958). But while Marlowe may occasionally place women on a pedestal, he nevertheless recognizes, unlike other “traditional” hard-boiled detectives, their democratic human value and social parity; a distinct departure from either the highly sexualized femme fatale—for example, Cora in James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, or Effie Perrine in Hammett’s Sam Spade novels. Marlowe demonstrates this empathy when responding to Terry Lennox’s complaint about “women screwing up their faces and tinkling their goddam bracelets and making with the packaged charm.” Marlowe simply replies by saying, “Take it easy. So they are human. What did you expect—golden butterflies hovering in a rosy mist?” 

Jerry Speir argues about Marlowe’s biggest downfall: “he is never able to achieve an understanding of himself as operating within a fallen world.” While this is a reasonably accurate summation, Marlowe certainly does acknowledge on many occasions that American society has let itself slide into immorality and corruption. Society’s fragmentation increasingly disturbed Chandler as it placed the accumulation of wealth and power above all else regardless of the consequences, and to the detriment of moral and ethical values. He used the decaying cityscape as a metaphor for the decline in social accountability, and with it, society’s ignorance and renunciation of veterans. Michael Parish explains that this awareness stood in stark contrast to the social decadence. “In their first sustained experience with a full-blown consumer culture, Americans learned the truth of the ancient poet Juvenal’s observation that ‘luxury is more ruthless than war.’ A consumer society that sanctioned perpetual technological change, the generation of new fashions and the ultimate sovereignty of the market did not respect inherited values or the social status quo.” 

Chandler reserved his bitterness and contempt for society as a whole and those who occupied the upper echelons in society in particular, whom he considered “phoney.” As Marlowe says in The Big Sleep, “To hell with the rich. They make me sick.” Roy Meador observed the disillusioned affinity between Chandler's The Big Sleep and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wraith, also placing them alongside Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust; all of which were published in 1939. However, of these novels, Meador argues that The Big Sleep is by far the most popular because as a character, “Marlowe encompasses the others and reaches out to new dimensions”. As a result, The Big Sleep has, in his opinion, “established as permanent a hold in American culture as Bogart’s twitch.” Marlowe makes a funny reference to Hemingway in Farewell, My Lovely. After detective Galbraith repeats Marlowe’s words, the detective begins calling Galbraith “Hemingway.” He says “Listen, Hemingway, don’t repeat everything I say.” Galbraith asks, “Who is this Hemingway?” Marlowe replies, “A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.”  In letters to Blanche Knopf, Chandler argued that one of Hemingway’s biggest problems was that “ninety per cent of his writing is self-imitation. He never really wrote but one story. All the rest is the same thing in different pants—or without pants. And his eternal preoccupation with what goes on between the sheets becomes rather nauseating in the end”.

As Merle Davies states in The High Window, “People are always telling you to forget unpleasant things. But you never do.” By denying Marlowe a past, Chandler may have been granting the detective a freedom that he himself did not have, a life free from emotional or familial ties. In The Lady in the Lake, after being knocked unconscious, Marlowe says, “Someday it will all come back to you. And you won’t like it.” MacShane argues that Marlowe’s sarcastic dialogue is “not just for the sake of the jokes and wisecracks. It is his chief weapon. Chandler has Marlowe choose his words in such a way as to throw his opponents off base.” In The Long Goodbye, before playing a chess game, Marlowe inspects his pieces. He says, “I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen, and inspected them.” Marlowe describes the game as “seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object… and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.” Speir has suggested that Marlowe’s comment in this scene is one of disdain intended to signal that he no longer holds playing chess in high regard. However, by using chess as a representation of the detective’s cynical view of society, Marlowe’s contempt is reserved not for the game, but for society itself. Marlowe, in his most ambitious case to date, feels as though he has played “seventy-two moves to a draw,” showing how weary the detective has become. He is playing the game to the best of his abilities, but all he can achieve is a stalemate in a social order that thrives on deception. Life itself has become a literal contest of “irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”  —"War Noir: Raymond Chandler and the Hard-Boiled Detective as Veteran in American Fiction" (2016) by Sarah Trott

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Only to Sleep: A Philip Marlowe Novel (2018)

In 1955 Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye won the Edgar Allan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Now Only to Sleep: A Philip Marlowe Novel (2018) has been nominated for a 2019 Edgar Award (Best Mystery Novel). In this brilliant novel, commissioned by the Raymond Chandler estate, the acclaimed author Lawrence Osborne gives us a piercing psychological study of one of literature's most beloved and enduring detectives, told with a contemporary twist. It is an unforgettable addition to the Raymond Chandler canon. The year is 1989, the Reagan presidency has just come to an end, and detective Philip Marlowe--now in his seventy-seventh year--is on the case again. For Marlowe, this is his last roll of the dice, his swan song, and he is back on his home turf. Set between the border and badlands of Mexico and California, Marlowe's final assignment is to investigate the disappearance of Donald Zinn: supposedly drowned off his yacht in Mexico and leaving his much-younger wife a very rich woman. But is Zinn actually alive, and are the pair living off the spoils? Lawrence Osborne's Philip Marlowe investigates. Source: www.amazon.com

In a 1945 essay, Edmund Wilson, America’s premiere man of letters in the 1940s, singled out Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled fiction for grudging praise. Dismissing the novels of Dashiell Hammett as little more than a comic strip, Wilson saw Chandler’s value as atmospheric: “It is not simply a question of a puzzle which has been put together but of a malaise conveyed to the reader, the horror of a hidden conspiracy that is continually turning up in the most varied and unlikely forms.” Chandler, who regarded Wilson as the kind of snobbish intellectual he despised, agreed. Chandler was clear-eyed about the reason Hollywood studios had hired him. He knew it was because of the atmosphere he gave to screenplays. Robert Towne cited Chandler’s description of California as the inspiration for his Academy Award-winning script for the neo-noir film Chinatown. 

Ridley Scott and screenwriter Hampton Fancher summoned Chandler when they made the future-noir Blade Runner, with its burn-out, alcoholic detective played by Harrison Ford amidst a rain and pollution-drenched Los Angeles. Chandler was not crazy about The Big Sleep (he thought he ran his trademark similes into the ground). Nevertheless, the editors of this Black Lizard’s new annotated edition of The Big Sleep, Pamela Jackson and Anthony Dean Rizzuto, regard the novel as a masterpiece. Chandler considered himself “an intellectual, as much as I dislike the term.” Although he followed the prejudices of his day when dealing with gay characters (in The Big Sleep he called homosexuals “queens” and “fags), unlike other mystery novelists such as Jim Thompson or James Ellroy today, Chandler didn’t follow the noir theme of a good, honest man seduced and then brought down by a femme fatale.

By contrast, his female characters were sometimes perverted and insane, like the certifiable nymphomaniac Carmen Sternwood in “The Big Sleep” who, when angered, hissed through her animal-like teeth. Throughout almost all of the novels, Marlowe, in pursuing the task he was hired for, discovers along the way a much bigger crime. In The Big Sleep, Chandler was hired to muscle a blackmailer away from the Sternwood family. But he learns what actually happened to the father’s best friend, Rusty Reagan. Reagan didn’t run off. He was murdered by the spurned Carmen. Critics have often characterized Chandler’s plots as confusing. Chandler himself had no real interest in plotting. But read carefully, his novels did have a distinctive and pioneering plotting. In 1950, Chandler admitted modestly in a letter: "As I look back on my stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published." “Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence,” said crime novelist Ross Macdonald—author of The Way Some People Die (1951), reviewed by The New York Times as: “The best novel in the tough tradition I've read since Farewell, My Lovely and possibly since The Maltese Falcon.” The Chicago Tribune stated:“Ross Macdonald gives to the detective story that accent of class that Raymond Chandler did. His enduring virtue is compassion.”

Frank McShane wrote the first biography of Raymond Chandler: The life of Raymond Chandler in 1986. A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler (2012) is an interesting study by Tom Williams, an excellent examination of Chandler's personality and also provides insight into his style of writing. Judith Freeman investigated—in The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (2008)—Chandler's romance and long marriage with Cissy Pascal. The final chapters are especially heartbreaking following Cissy’s death as Chandler spirals out of control. He’s rarely sober and while he’s often in and out of rehab facilities. Romances were attempted—notably Helga Greene, his literary agent and Jean Fracasse, his secretary—but eventually failed as he was never able to get over the loss of Cissy. His crippling loneliness leads to suicide attempts and cries for help before he ultimately passes away following a bout with pneumonia. "What a man wants and needs... and surely a woman too, is the feeling of a loving presence in the home, the tangible and ineffable sense that a life is shared," wrote Chandler in one of his letters, unveiled by Freeman. "To take care of Cissy. That was his driving life force," Judith Freeman concludes. Chandler turned himself into a crime writer for supporting his wife, while feeling he never "wrote a book worthy of dedicating to her."

Wallace Stegner once referred to California as “America only more so.” Interestingly, the politically correct of Chandler’s day, the American Communist Party, claimed Chandler as an authentic proletarian novelist. In response, Chandler revealed himself to be more politically astute than the dutiful Stalinist Dashiell Hammett. In a series of excellent letters—Chandler was as good at correspondence as he was with fiction—he informed the left that Marlowe didn’t hate the “rich because they take baths.” He hated them because they were “phony.” Politically, Chandler had no sacred cows. He denounced J.Edgar Hoover as inept and dangerous. He bashed the Catholic Church for having “fascist” tendencies. Yet he also was highly critical of Communism. Indeed, in his estimation, Catholicism came off better. Unlike Communists, they were capable of “internal dissent,” and in a typically pithy passage, he wrote that priests didn’t “shoot you in the back of the head for being 48 hours behind the Party line.”

Dmytryk's Murder, My Sweet and Hawks' The Big Sleep not only simplify Chandler's novels but also defuse Chandler's social critique, transforming plot and adapting characters when not eliminating them outright. Chandler was equally critical of other writers. For example, he lamented Hemingway’s poor performance in the late 1940s. James M. Cain, the author of the novel Double Indemnity that Chandler adapted for the screen, was akin to a pornographer. Chandler did, however, praise some writers such as Somerset Maugham, who set the gold standard for spy novels. And he was particularly admiring of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald and Chandler make an interesting comparison. Although Fitzgerald had a much more rosey-eyed view than Chandler, both were capable of poetic atmosphere. Toward the end of his life, Chandler came to feel that L.A. had become a grotesque and impossible place to live. It was a “jittering city,” sometimes dull, sometimes brilliant, but always depressing to him. In his later years, Chandler commented that he felt L.A. had completely changed in the years since he’d arrived. Even the weather was different. “Los Angeles was hot and dry when I first went there,” he said, “with tropical rains in the winter and sunshine at least nine-tenths of the year. Now it is humid, hot, sticky, and when the smog comes down into the bowl between the mountains which is Los Angeles, it is damned near intolerable.” Source: www.judithfreemanbooks.com