Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cool Stuff

Hero Worship

July 23, 1888 - March 26, 1959

On July 23, 1888 Raymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago. After moving to England with his mother at age 12, he received a classical British education and embarked on a somewhat erratic life of failed careers, alcoholism, and clinical depression. By 1913 he and his mother were back in the United States and living in Los Angeles.

Chandler's alcoholism led to his losing a lucrative position as an executive with an oil company, so Ray took a shot at writing as a way to support himself and his wife Cissy.

For a variety of reasons he chose to concentrate on the genre of mystery stories, publishing his first pulp magazine short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," in Black Mask magazine in 1933. That began an illustrious career as an author and literary critic that led him to be considered one of the best American writers of the 20th century.

1971 Ballantine paperback

My first encounter with Chandler was in the fall of 1972, in a college English course which focused on mystery fiction (the instructor's passion). The class read Chandler's first Philip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep.

I enjoyed it so much I promptly went to the best bookstore in Kansas City at the time, on the Country Club Plaza, and bought every Chandler paperback they had in stock. In 1971 Ballantine Books had re-issued all of Chandler's novels and story collections in paperback editions, with beautiful cover paintings by Tom Adams. I read and re-read all of those books until they disintegrated (cheap paperbacks in those days were not designed for longevity). I still keep an eye out when I'm in used bookstores for copies
of that particular series.

I also own a much nicer collection of Chandler's books, on acid-free paper in what are called "quality paperback" editions. The problem is, the current publisher doesn't include all of the material that was in some of the original story collections, and some titles of those collections have been changed also. The same is true of the Kindle editions of his books. It isn't easy be a Chandler completist.

There are only one or maybe two other writers who have had as much influence on
my own writing as Chandler. Aside from his fiction, and his famous analytical essay
"The Simple Art of Murder," Chandler left behind a rich legacy of letters and other writings where he expounds on the writing process.

I'm not the drinker that Ray was, but much of the rest of his life resonates deeply with me. He is definitely my favorite curmudgeon.

"So, this is the guy who's responsible for you being so sarcastic?"

No, I was always sarcastic, even as a kid (blame Bugs Bunny if you must), but Ray certainly taught me to express that side of myself with a polished vocabulary and a sardonic wit...Philip Marlowe is my hero...

Pitcher's Duel

Last night my beloved Kansas City Royals opened an important three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Kauffman Stadium, winning 3-1 in a game dominated by the two starting pitchers.

Now 6-1, 3.14 ERA

Royals starter Danny Duffy turned in another strong outing, limiting the Rangers to a single run on just four hits in his 6 2/3 innings of work.

RHP Luke Hochevar and All-Stars Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis only allowed a single base runner over the final 2 1/3 innings.

Batting leadoff again, SS Alcides Escober had two hits, a walk and a run scored to lead the offense, which scored single runs in each of the first three innings.

All-Star 1B Eric Hosmer and 2B Whit Merrifield has RBI singles, and 3B Cheslor Cuthbert hit a solo home run to complete the Royals' scoring.

It wasn't a great offensive performance, but it was good enough. The Royals are now 2-2 on the current homestand with five games left against the Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (their official, dumb team name).

"I hope the win again tonight with Ventura. I hate it when you're grumpy on the weekend."

I have no idea what you're talking about...

A Summer Favorite is Born

On July 23, 1904 Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi was selling waffle pastries from his cart at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (also referred to as the St. Louis World's Fair). A vendor named Arnold Fornachou was selling ice cream right next to him, but had run out of paper dishes.

Hamwi rolled up some of his waffles into cones and gave them to Fornachou to serve his ice cream in. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of history, I wouldn't bet my life that this particular origin story is 100 percent true, but I'm sticking with it, in part because it is a story I first remember reading in a sequenced reading program in elementary school.

Nice View

1945 newspaper ad

On July 23, 1945 the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad (also known as the Burlington Route) introduced the Vista-Dome passenger car, a type of car which featured 360 degree sight lines for travelers.

The first Vista-Dome was added to the consist for the Twin Cities Zephyr, but before long all of the famous streamlined Burlington Zephyr trains featured the service. Those trains ran until 1971, when Amtrak took over rail passenger service.

Any Regrets, GOP?

From the incisive pen of Michael Ramirez, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

I have always had a somewhat complicated relationship with the British-American band Foreigner. Their first album was released in the spring of 1977 and was instantly all over rock radio. At the time I was interviewing for my first teaching job. By the time the album's first single, "Feels Like the First Time," peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart my first wife had died.

I bought a cassette of the album to take with me to listen to on my Sony Walkman when I traveled by bus to Seattle for that year's National Speech and Debate Tournament
(by that time I had accepted my first teaching position, which would start a few weeks later). It was a tumultuous time of my life emotionally, and several of the songs on that album touched on what I was going through. I still enjoy the album even today, and several of its songs are in my iTunes playlists, but I can't listen to them without experiencing a mix of emotions, not all of them pleasant.

Original 1977 45 rpm single sleeve
On July 23, 1977 the group released "Cold As Ice," the third single from their multi-platinum eponymous debut album. It came close to repeating the success of their first single, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song quickly became one of the band's concert staples, and has remained so ever since. It has also figured in such cultural landmarks as Saturday Night Live and the popular video game Rock Band 3.

Today's send-off is the band's official "lyric video" of their hit, from their VEVO channel. Enjoy...

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