Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

23 May 2019

Only the Dead Know Brooklyn

by Eve Fisher

A friend who knows me well sent me the following article -  Weegee's New York City by Christopher Bonanos - in New York Magazine, chock-full of crime-scene photographs from the 1930s.  (Thank you, Betty!) 




April 18, 1937: Spurned Suitor Clubs Violinist to Death!  (The trail of blood is where the body was dragged...)  

May 5, 1937: The corpse everyone is checking over is that of Stanley Mannex, a 47-year-old Turkish immigrant, found in the ivy behind the New York Public Library.  (I'd love to know that backstory.)





April 20, 1937: Tony Benedetti was a single father of four from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, underemployed in New York during the Depression. Under a newly passed New York law looking to reduce the number of public charges, his family became the first in the state to be deported — put on a train at Penn Station back to Fayette County, where they were received by local welfare officials.

Two points:  the kids are crying, but dad is smiling.  Is that to cheer them up or what?  And I'd love to know what the local welfare officials did with him and his kids when they got there...



Date unknown, person unknown, location unknown.  But it's New York.  Everyone's wearing hats, and no one looks surprised.  I'm still amazed at how the corpse's hat ended right side up and in apparently perfect condition...

These are a few of the photographs taken by Weegee, a/k/a Arthur Fellig, the legendary crime-and-mayhem photographer of mid-century New York. In 1938, he became the only New York freelance newspaper photographer with a permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio. Weegee worked mostly at night; he listened closely to broadcasts and often beat authorities to the scene. When other photographers asked him about his technique he supposedly answered, "f/8 and be there".  By the '40s he had pictures in the Museum of Modern Art and had been curated by Edward Steichen.  (Wikipedia)

Weegee's first book of photographs was Naked City. Film producer Mark Hellinger bought the rights to the title from Weegee and made the movie The Naked City in 1948 - which I have not seen - and the police drama of the same name - which I have seen.  I remember all the episodes ended with "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."  BTW, here's the opening of the episode "The Fault in Our Stars" starring a very young Roddy McDowall:


But back to Weegee's photographs - they're everywhere on the internet, from the above to this site where they have been colorized to add to their gruesomeness:  

Pre-Weegee, someone also took these photos from 1910s New York City, and if you continue to scroll down, more Weegee:  

And Paris has more than Murders in the Rue Morgue here:

Now, I'm not into gore, I admit it.  I don't watch autopsies, gory movies, or read torture porn.  But there's more than one way to look at a photograph.  Like the last photo above, the hat lying by itself, looking perfectly fine despite the fact that the dead guy's face was either bashed in or shot and there's blood everywhere.  The other thing that struck me about it, was how the uniformed cop and the detective (?) with the flash camera are leaning, trying to see what the other detective is showing them as he straddles the body.

Straddles:  "See?  Someone came up on him, and shot him, point-blank range, and he took a step or two before he fell."
Uniform:  "What're ya talking about?"
Straddles:  "Look at the trail of blood.  He moved after he was shot, ya blind bat!"
Flash:  "Want me to hit it with a little more light?"

Another aspect of all the dead body shots I've shared here is that there's a lot of bending over in police work.  None of this Sam Spade looking down at his partner's dead body and pointing around.  No, these guys are all getting their faces right in the action, talking with their hands and their mouths.  I'm sure that at least one of them has a flask in his hip or coat pocket, and that they're all smokers.  And I still can't get over how they all manage to keep their hats on.

There also aren't any women standing around.  Which makes sense, because back then, the only woman around at the scene of the crime would be the victim.  And there are a lot of those.  From the woman lying in bed, back to her beloved (?) who just blew her brains out before killing himself, to the girl who was found lying looking calm and drained as if a vampire had shown up moments before...

All of these snapshots are a trip back in time - except that the only thing that's changed is the clothes.  Murder stays the same.  The motivation stays the same (love, jealousy, greed... same old, same old).  The blood stays the same.  The fascination with the crime stays the same.  And that's why we're all here.

BTW, click here to read "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn" by Thomas Wolfe, the New Yorker, June 7, 1935.  Maybe the big guy was Weegee.









09 May 2019

A Toast to The Survivors

by Eve Fisher

In "The Kindest Cut" (from the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish) the immortal Patrick F. McManus writes about how much hunters love to talk about how they got that scar.  Endlessly.
"I have heard some scar stories approximately the length of Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples, but such brevity is rare."
The trouble for the hunters is, to get a chance to talk about a scar, etiquette (yes we're back to that again) requires that
(1) someone ask (most experienced hunters know better),
(2) it be relevant to the conversation (and most hunters apparently can make it relevant - "Speaking of boats, I've got quite a story about my thumb...") and
(3) it be visible.
Pity the poor person (like Retch Sweeney) who gets a scar on his hiney - no one's going to ask, it's embarrassing to mention, and hard to display, even in unmixed company.

But one thing doctors are good at, is asking about old scars.  I have a story (you knew it was coming) about my shin.  I was having x-rays on my knees (arthritis), and the x-ray technician asked me if I'd ever been in some kind of, uh, well, brawl?  Or had an accident?  Because I've got a half-inch dent - he showed it to me - in my shin bone.  Answer:  Field hockey.  Generations of hysterical middle-school girls, armed with hard sticks and even harder balls, but without shin guards, have been, are, and will be cheerfully sent out in one more attempt to cull the herd.  Someone slammed a hard ball right into my shin, and I was out of the game for the rest of that day.  But back then nobody x-rayed it, just checked that I could actually move my ankle, and I was back to out on the field the next week.  Just left a permanent dent - in my bone - to mystify my future doctors.

I have a few other scars, but most of them are from falling - off a fence I was trying to climb (split my lip on some barbed wire on the way down), down a trail, on a rock, into a mess of cactus, etc.  Nothing dramatic.  And that was the norm for most of the people I knew.

That changed when I started volunteering in prison, where tattoos and scars rival each other for commonality.  But inmates generally don't brag or even talk about either one.  Occasionally I'll ask.  One inmate I know well - a big, burly guy - has a scar on both sides of his forearm, running one-quarter to half an inch deep, 2 inches wide, and running about 4-6 inches long.  He's had tattoos over it, but they certainly don't hide it.  One day I finally asked him if it was a burn.  Nope.  Gunshot.

Now I honestly did not know that getting shot could leave that big a scar for that long.  I don't think most people know that (non-military, non-EMTs, non-police).  I think most people get their information about gunshots from TV and movies where, as Doolin' Dalton (Brian Thornton) pointed out in his "Shoulder Wounds", all gunshots are flesh wounds that leave no scars at all and don't slow anyone down.  But that is total BS.  Let's start by checking out this article from New York Magazine, complete with pictures.

This is Anthony Borges, shot 5 times, and still wearing a colostomy bag.  He "barricaded a door to a classroom to protect other students, saving as many as 20 lives. Was the last of the injured to leave the hospital."  From his words:

"I was in the hospital for like two months. I wasn’t bored — the pain wouldn’t let me get distracted. It was all over my body, not just where I’d been shot. Imagine that someone stabbed you with a knife and wouldn’t take it out, would just push it in.  The physical therapy is helping a lot. A lot of the exercises are like the things you do before a soccer game. Still, I can’t feel my left foot. I’ve gotten skinnier, and when I stand up, I have trouble breathing. The goal is just to be able to move my entire body normally. I can’t run, and I want to run."

I hope you can run some day, Mr. Borges.  And that the pain will stop.  And that nothing bad ever happens to you again.

According to the CDC, every year about 80,000 people survive gunshot wounds, about twice as many as actually are killed by gun violence.  Jeff Asher - New Orleans reporter and crime analyst - wrote, that "Shootings are a better measure of gun violence than murders are. There is a lot of randomness in what happens once a bullet leaves a gun — whether someone lives or dies depends heavily on luck. Focusing just on murder leaves out all the people who could have died. And it ignores the life-changing injuries and emotional trauma that often accompany nonfatal shootings."   (HERE)

Sheriff Israel visits victim Anthony Borges.[62]
Speaking of life-changing injuries, did you know that gunshot wounds require a lot of inpatient care, follow-up surgeries and other treatments, mental healthcare, rehabilitation and skilled-nursing care, durable medical equipment, personal care, and living costs while the patients are not able to work?  And that very little of this is covered by health insurance?  See Modern Health Care to understand how dire your situation will be if you ever become a victim of a shooting.

Reminder:  We live in an age of very high deductibles and coinsurance requirements, which is fine when you don't have much in the way of health care troubles.  That can change quickly.  Look at Mr. Borges.

And it is indeed random.  The inmate I spoke of earlier wasn't shot in the course of committing a crime.  He was the victim of a drive-by shooting.  And, lest you think that all drive-bys involve punks and druggies standing around on a street corner, looking for trouble, I bring to your attention the 13-year-old girl who was injured in a drive-by shooting back in January in Houston, Texas.  In her bedroom.  In her bed.  As an officer pointed out, "We can't even say wrong place because she was in her room, at home, at nighttime, where she should be as a 13-year-old." Article here

Randomness is scary.  I think one of the reasons people read mystery and other crime fiction is because most of the randomness gets filtered out - ideally there's a motive, an investigation, an arrest, a conviction, and people come out of the tale feeling relieved that once again - good triumphed over evil. Or something similar thereto.  Even my characters do that.  In one of my (as yet unpublished) stories, Officer Grant Tripp's boss replies to the suggestion that a shooting was random, with, "Random?  In Laskin?  If it is, I'm moving to Gann Valley and raise sheep."

The truth is, most people I know can't bear the heavy weight of the reality of sheer randomness - luck - in life.  It's too frightening.  I know.  I agree.  And I have lived a wildly improbable life, with such levels of randomness and luck (how else do you go from homeless teenager to university professor?) that I can't ignore it.  I am, and have been, very, very, very lucky.

I know too many people who literally, through no fault of their own, if they didn't have bad luck, wouldn't have any luck at all.  And that terrifies me.  Because... it makes no sense.

And I also know others who have, in the immortal words of P. J. O'Rourke, "farted through silk" their entire life, with the result that they know that bad things only happen to bad people, and that they will never be in that kind of situation, because...  well, because they're delusional, but I never say that to their face.

And these very lucky people are usually the ones who say stuff like:

Memorials to victims outside the Tree of Life synagogue
Wikipedia
"Well, they must have done something to deserve it." (Going to church?  Or a synagogue?  Or school?)
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time." (See above.)
"The shooter is/was mentally ill."  (SO WHAT?  Even if this is true - and I rank all mass shooters and suicide bombers at the same level of pathological toxic rage, which should be its own category under the DSM - it's still no excuse to kill people.)
"If I'd been there with a [insert weapon of choice here], I'd have stopped him."  (I don't trust 99% of the people who say this to actually do anything but pee their pants.  In fact, I don't trust anyone who actually says this, because you know and I know they're fantasizing out loud.)

The truth is, every day, a certain number of people in this country are shot.  Among those are survivors, left breathing, but with wounds that will scar them, affect them, hurt them, for the rest of their life.    Since apparently this is going to continue to happen for the foreseeable future, we need to come up with something more practical than just thoughts and prayers.  "Relatives and friends of many mass shooting victims, even those with good employer health benefits, have had to set up GoFundMe crowdsourcing donation sites to help with the bills. This raises the broader issue of how to enable people who are partly disabled to continue working, rather than giving them no alternative but to apply for Social Security Disability and Medicaid."  (Modern Health Care)

We need to face the fact that people who get shot are going to have aftereffects for years.  Hell, I'm getting cortisone shots now for the knee I blew out sliding down a mountain at 25, that no longer has any cartilage in it.  When I fell off a fence at 12 and got cut by barbed wire, that caused nerve damage that to this day lets me know when freezing cold weather is coming.  If that's what it's like for the little scars, what are the survivors of Parkland, 9/11, the Boston Marathon, etc., going through?

We need to come up with health care plans that won't bankrupt people like Mr. Borges and leave him in debt as well as scarred for the rest of his natural life.  Maybe a new sub-chapter of FEMA that would cover mass shootings in the same way that fire, hurricanes, and other disasters are covered.  A mass shooting is a disaster - just not a natural one.  Or is it?

Meanwhile, let us raise our glasses and toast:

"To all the dead - may they never be forgotten.  
To all the survivors - may they heal in body, mind, and soul.  
To all of us - that we may help the survivors on their path, remember how fragile life is, 
and do all in our power to make the victims fewer every year."

Image result for a toast

25 April 2019

"The Retort Courteous to One You Have Forgotten"

By Eve Fisher
(with necessary help from Dorothy Parker)

I have collected, over the years, a lovely large library which is just eclectic enough that I can find some information about almost anything.  I have everything from history (of all kinds/eras) to potboilers, plus a few weird volumes that I just read and don't try to explain to anybody.  One of the many things I prize is my 1926 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette, which was happily for us all reviewed by Dorothy Parker in the December 23, 1927 edition of The New Yorker

Let's let Dorothy speak for a while, because she can certainly review it better than I can:

Young Dorothy Parker.jpg"Emily Post’s “Etiquette” is out again, this time in a new and an enlarged edition, and so the question of what to do with my evenings has been all fixed up for me. There will be an empty chair at the deal table at Tony’s, when the youngsters gather to discuss life, sex, literature, the drama, what is a gentleman, and whether or not to go on to Helen Morgan’s Club when the place closes; for I shall be at home among my book. I am going in for a course of study at the knee of Mrs. Post. Maybe, some time in the misty future, I shall be Asked Out, and I shall be ready. You won’t catch me being intentionally haughty to subordinates or refusing to be a pallbearer for any reason except serious ill-health. I shall live down the old days, and with the help of Mrs. Post and God (always mention a lady’s name first) there will come a time when you will be perfectly safe in inviting me to your house, which should never be called a residence except in printing or engraving.

"It will not be a gruelling study, for the sprightliness of Mrs. Post’s style makes the text-book as fascinating as it is instructive. Her characters, introduced for the sake of example, are called by no such unimaginative titles as Mrs. A., or Miss Z., or Mr. X.; they are Mrs. Worldly, Mr. Bachelor, the Gildings, Mrs. Oldname, Mrs. Neighbor, Mrs. Stranger, Mrs. Kindhart, and Mr. and Mrs. Nono Better. This gives the work all the force and the application of a morality play.

"It is true that occasionally the author’s invention plucks at the coverlet, and she can do no better by her brainchildren than to name them Mr. Jones and Mrs. Smith. But it must be said, in fairness, that the Joneses and the Smiths are the horrible examples, the confirmed pullers of social boners. They deserve no more...  Mr. Jones, no matter how expensively he is dressed, always gives the effect of being in his shirt-sleeves, while Mrs. Smith is so unmistakably the daughter of a hundred Elks. Let them be dismissed by somebody’s phrase (I wish to heaven it were mine)—“the sort of people who buy their silver.”  These people in Mrs. Post’s book live and breathe; as Heywood Broun once said of the characters in a play, “they have souls and elbows.” Take Mrs. Worldly, for instance, Mrs. Post’s heroine. The woman will live in American letters. I know of no character in the literature of the last quarter-century who is such a complete pain in the neck."  (D.P.)

Mrs. Emily Post painted by Fuchs
Brooklyn Museum
Personally, I believe that Mrs. Worldly is Mrs. Post, in her upbringing and determination to be the arbiter for generations on the subject of Polite Society.  Daughter of Bruce Price, the architect of (among other things) Tuxedo Park, Emily Post was born with enough wealth, beauty, and position to enable her to divorce her banker husband, Edwin Main Post, when he took up chorus girls and was blackmailed.  No wonder Mrs. Worldly freezes occasionally at the sight of young women.

Again, from Dorothy Parker:  "See her at that moment when a younger woman seeks to introduce herself. Says the young woman: “ ‘Aren’t you Mrs. Worldly?’ Mrs. Worldly, with rather freezing politeness, says ‘Yes,’ and waits.” And the young woman, who is evidently a glutton for punishment, neither lets her wait from then on nor replies, “Well, Mrs. Worldly, and how would you like a good sock in the nose, you old meat-axe?” Instead she flounders along with some cock-and-bull story about being a sister of Millicent Manners, at which Mrs. Worldly says, “I want very much to hear you sing some time,” which marks her peak of enthusiasm throughout the entire book."  

Mrs. Post got out of the divorce with her money and position intact.  It was after her children grew up that she decided to become the Petronia Arbiter of her day, with Etiquette.  It was an immediate, and long-lasting hit.  She covered everything from how to write notes and letters, deliver calling cards, dress, balls, luncheons, teas, and dinners, as well as formal occasions like weddings and funerals.  There are chapters on "The Kindergarten of Etiquette" (you need good nannies, nurses, and servants for this one) and "Every Day Manners at Home" (behave yourself at all times, and never "dress down").  

My personal favorite is "The House Party in Camp", when Mr. and Mrs. Worldly, along with the Normans, the Lovejoys, the "Bobo" Gildings, the Littlehouses, Constance Style, Jim Smartlington and his bride, Clubwin Doe and young Struthers all accept Mr. and Mrs. Kindheart's invitation to spend a few weeks at the Mountain Summit Camp. There they all rough it, with only dozens of servants in forest-green livery to bring them hot water and breakfast in their rustic cabins, build their fires, and cook their meals from food shipped in from the Big City, and struggling to survive on only one cloth napkin a day to remind them of their former glories. Granted, Mr. Worldly does bring his valet, Ernest, because "He has never in the twenty years since he left college been twenty-four hours away from Ernest." [Doesn't that sound a little... strange... today?] And Mrs. Worldly spends the entire time "wearing a squirrel fur cap in the evening as well as the daytime; she said it was because it was so warm and comfortable. It was really because she could not do her hair!"  (Etiquette at Gutenberg)

Saint-Simon portrait officiel 1728 détail.png
Of course, it's not just the Gilded Age that combined power, money, position, and domestic helplessness.  The Duc de Saint-Simon (1675-1755) was in the exact same boat back at Versailles, whenever he and his fellow nobility had to go to one of the lesser manors or war.  They brought their valets and they couldn't do their own hair, either.  But the Duc's memoirs are soaked in an etiquette that surpasses anything Mrs. Post could have dreamed of, rigidly enforced (and totally exemplified, to give him credit) by the Sun King himself.  

But it is important to remember that the Sun King had crammed every nobleman in France into Versailles, where they were kept virtual prisoners because of their greed and his charisma.  And they were all touchy, proud, easily insulted, and armed with swords.  Etiquette kept the endless arguments (about who could sit, and when, and where, and who could go to Marly and who couldn't, and who could be a mistress, and who couldn't, etc.) down to a minimum of violence.

Which is a large part of the original reason for etiquette.  Humans living in close proximity to each other need some kind of a code of behavior.  Hunter-gatherer societies have as much etiquette as anyone else, although theirs is based more on spreading the wealth (food) than exhibiting it.  And writing down the rules started a long time ago.  

The earliest book of social rules we have is Ptahhotep's Maxims, which I have not read.  Confucius' Analects could also be considered a work of etiquette as well as philosophy, since under the name of filial piety, he covered not only government, but topics like dress, meals, funerals, and music.  My favorite story is that of a philosopher who, upon being told of disorders in the countryside, had the emperor stand, facing the South, and, as he performed certain rites, all disorder ceased. 

In the Renaissance, Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier, which has been overshadowed by Machiavelli's The Prince.  Both tell a person how to get on in society, but the first is a book of manners in order to rise, and the second is how to use those manners to keep power by any means necessary.
NOTE:  This is not the first time that either approach was or would be written, but perhaps the best example of combining both in the same book is Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.  The fictional devastation of Newland Archer - or of Lily Bart in The House of Mirth - is a masterclass in how to wield absolute power by speech and ceremony without a sword drawn or shot fired.  And this, my dear readers, is the world in which Emily Post was raised.   
During the Age of Enlightenment, in England, the Fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) wrote Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman.  A sample from Wikipedia: 
The Fourth Earl of
Chesterfield
"I would heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill-manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition, and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that since I have had the full use of my reason nobody has ever heard me laugh."  (Wikipedia)
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who believed more in the necessity of etiquette than the practice of it, said that Chesterfield's letters taught "the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master."  No, it was not a compliment.  But what Johnson objected to was that Chesterfield made it plain that he had to teach his son manners, when they were supposed to come from the heart.

There is a tendency today to downplay, mock, or get rid of etiquette, manners, civility.  The phrase "political correctness" has become an excuse to say an amazing number of rude things, although I've noticed that the people who do practice being politically incorrect, generally demand the other party be surprisingly politically correct - i.e., polite, if not absolutely silent - back.  But Mrs. Post would not approve:

Etiquette, Chapter 29:

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF GOOD BEHAVIOR

Far more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how "polished," can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles; he is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless, and the champion of justice—or he is not a gentleman.
Decencies Of Behavior
A gentleman does not, and a man who aspires to be one must not, ever borrow money from a woman, nor should he, except in unexpected circumstances, borrow money from a man. Money borrowed without security is a debt of honor which must be paid without fail and promptly as possible. The debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister, or grown child, are assumed by honorable men and women, as debts of honor.
A gentleman never takes advantage of a woman in a business dealing, nor of the poor or the helpless.
One who is not well off does not "sponge," but pays his own way to the utmost of his ability.
One who is rich does not make a display of his money or his possessions. Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him.
A very well-bred man intensely dislikes the mention of money, and never speaks of it (out of business hours) if he can avoid it....
A gentleman does not lose control of his temper. In fact, in his own self-control under difficult or dangerous circumstances, lies his chief ascendancy over others who impulsively betray every emotion which animates them. Exhibitions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity, are all bad form in public. And bad form is merely an action which "jars" the sensibilities of others... 
A man whose social position is self-made is apt to be detected by his continual cataloguing of prominent names. Mr. Parvenu invariably interlards his conversation with, "When I was dining at the Bobo Gilding's"; or even "at Lucy Gilding's," and quite often accentuates, in his ignorance, those of rather second-rate, though conspicuous position. "I was spending last week-end with the Richan Vulgars," or "My great friends, the Gotta Crusts." When a so-called gentleman insists on imparting information, interesting only to the Social Register, shun him!
A gentleman's manners are an integral part of him and are the same whether in his dressing-room or in a ballroom, whether in talking to Mrs. Worldly or to the laundress bringing in his clothes. He whose manners are only put on in company is a veneered gentleman, not a real one.
A man of breeding does not slap strangers on the back nor so much as lay his finger-tips on a lady. Nor does he punctuate his conversation by pushing or nudging or patting people, nor take his conversation out of the drawing-room! Notwithstanding the advertisements in the most dignified magazines, a discussion of underwear and toilet articles and their merit or their use, is unpleasant in polite conversation.
All thoroughbred people are considerate of the feelings of others no matter what the station of the others may be. Thackeray's climber who "licks the boots of those above him and kicks the faces of those below him on the social ladder," is a, very good illustration of what a gentleman is not.
A gentleman never takes advantage of another's helplessness or ignorance, and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him...
The Instincts Of A Lady
The instincts of a lady are much the same as those of a gentleman. She is equally punctilious about her debts, equally averse to pressing her advantage; especially if her adversary is helpless or poor.
The Hall-Mark Of The Climber
...All thoroughbred women, and men, are considerate of others less fortunately placed, especially of those in their employ. One of the tests by which to distinguish between the woman of breeding and the woman merely of wealth, is to notice the way she speaks to dependents. Queen Victoria's duchesses, those great ladies of grand manner, were the very ones who, on entering the house of a close friend, said "How do you do, Hawkins?" to a butler; and to a sister duchess's maid, "Good morning, Jenkins." A Maryland lady, still living on the estate granted to her family three generations before the Revolution, is quite as polite to her friends' servants as to her friends themselves. When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn't come a very long way from the ground herself.
*****
Not much more that I can add to that.

PS - What is "The Retort Courteous to One You Have Forgotten"?  Well, Dorothy Parker has one answer (check out the link back at the beginning, and go down to the end of the review).
And then there's classic "I'm sorry, but I didn't recognize you with your clothes on."  But I don't think Mrs. Post would approve.  




11 April 2019

Arthur and the Avengers

 by Eve Fisher

I watched PBS' Secrets of the Dead:  King Arthur's Lost Kingdom, a couple of weeks ago, and loved it.

Now I'm an Arthurian enthusiast, which is a polite term for freaking fan!  I've read as many of the patchwork of legends and stories and (barely) histories of King Arthur as I could get my hands on, from the Historia Brittonum (around 828 CE) the Annales Cambriae (to sum it up:  Battle of Badon, Arthur v. Medraut a/k/a Mordred and a 21 year later rematch at the Strife of Camlann) to T. H. White's brilliant The Once and Future King (which invented the whole idea of Merlin living backwards) and many, many more.

The development and complexity of King Arthur's court at Camelot, his knights and their adventures, the increasing romance and chivalry combined with constant warfare and strange witches and magicians, the astounding character of Merlin, the literally bewitching Morgan le Fay and the fairly boring Guinevere (adultery and constant rescues - not my style.  Although I have to admire the aftermath in Tennyson's Guinevere, which has one of the saddest lines in all of poetry:  "Will no one tell the king I love him though too late?"),,,  The Arthurian legend is so old, so multi-cultural, and written over time by so many authors, that is perhaps one of the greatest legends in all of history, with immense mysteries, tangles, and knots that have never been solved, and perhaps cannot be solved.


King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.jpg
But that's not what I want to talk about right now.  I want to talk about the Marvel Universe.

Just the other day I saw a press conference, surrounding by a lot of trailers, for the new Avengers movie, Avengers:  Endgame.  Now I can't be the first to have noticed that everyone in the entire Marvel Universe is apparently turning up in what were stand-alone comics/movies, and there are more and more of them all the time.
NOTE: And before that, in everyone else's comic books. I remember Batman and Superman duking it out, at least on the cover. (I was never into either of them. My personal favorite comic book as a teen was Killraven, but that's another story.) 
The Fantastic Four have hosted the Hulk, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and the Silver Surfer. The Avengers originally consisted of Ant-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and the Wasp.  That changed over time, and by the time we get to the first movie version we have Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, the Black Widow, and Hawkeye joining forces to save the universe.  I remember when the first four all had their own comic strips. Now they work together. The next movie - more superheros! The Guardians of the Galaxy! Black Panther! Scarlet Witch! Falcon! Winter Soldier! God only knows how many more superheroes are going to join in the latest one.

Image result for avengers endgame junket photo
Avengers: Endgame Junket Press Conference
https://filmreviewonline.com/2019/04/09/avengers-endgame-surprising-reveal-at-press-conference/
Now at a certain point I was muttering things like, How in the world does each one get a line, much less a whole action sequence, much less a whole backstory?  I kept thinking about an old Doonesbury - "Jim, I got 46 other stars here. Next!")

Yes, I know, obsessive comicons know each and every character and their backstory, future story, occasional love interest(s), quirks, foibles, weaknesses.  I have sat in a van with a bunch of college students who discussed when/how Superman's cape changed for four hours.  So I get that.  But still, 16 superheros out to save the universe still seems like a lot, compared to the old days (yes, I'm getting old and nostalgic) when one - or at most four - were all that was needed to save Gotham, the planet, the universe, and whatever else was out there.

But wait!  It finally occurred to me that the Arthurian universe is exactly the same!  Not in armor or superhuman powers.  But in the fact that over the long, long, centuries and multiplicity of writers, every hero from almost every European culture got included in the Legend.  So here are some highlights from the major players:

Arthur Tapestry in The Cloisters, New York
King Arthur begins as straight Briton legend and moves on to become the Great King.  But his wife, Guinevere, is Welsh, according to the medieval Welsh Triads.  Her name in Welsh, Gwenhwyfar (or Gwenhwyvar), can be translated as "The White Enchantress", which would indicate that somewhere along the line, she had a story of her own.  And old one.  And perhaps - since Arthur as Christian king goes back to the Historia Brittonum, when he carried an image of St. Mary on his shoulders (or on his shield) - it could be a record of the Christian Briton King marrying the Welsh Pagan Princess.

We'll get into Guinevere's fling with Lancelot in a minute, because there are a lot more Welsh Pagan Princesses out there, including Morgan Le Fay.  She and Morgause are Arthur's older half-sisters.  Morgan is a witch, and (before some later legends made her evil) was Merlin's ally and friend.  She's also one of the ladies who take the dying Arthur to the Isle of Avalon, where he is waiting for his time to come back to save Briton.  (Note to Arthur:  Brexit needs you now.)

Morgause is much more problematic from the get-go.  Oh, the hell with political correctness:  she's a villain.  Married to Lot, the King of Orkney (one of the northernmost islands of Britain, and a far piece from Wales or Cornwall), they have four sons:  Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris and Gareth, all of whom become knights of the Round Table, most of them heroic.  She also has a fifth son with her half-brother, King Arthur, under circumstances that allowed them both to declare they didn't know their relationship at the time.  This story-line is proof, BTW, that
(1) Alcohol and darkness are a very old plot device to make sure the wrong people end up bedding each other and
(2) In the great sagas, ignorance never equals innocence.  Or at least, not freedom from consequences.  That fifth son is Mordred, who will eventually come to Camelot and destroy it.

Gawain and the Green Knight
illustration from original ms.
Wikipedia
But Gawain is a noble knight, one of the great heroes of the Arthurian sagas.  Pure Celt, but is he British?  There are indications that Gawain was co-opted from the early Welsh superhero Gwalchmei.  Or it could also be  - as Sir Bors says in White's The Once and Future King, "I suppose, they would have pronounced it Cuchullain in the North? You can't tell with ancient languages." Cuchullainn is, of course, the great Irish superhero of the Táin Bó Cúailnge ("Cattle Raid of Cooley").  Either way, there's a definite crossover.  Gawain stars in many adventures of his own, the best being Gawain and the Green Knight.
There's nothing quite like a green giant showing up at Camelot at Christmastime, demanding - as a boon - a beheading contest with a knight.  Gawain takes him up on it, and after being beheaded, the Giant picks up his head and demands that Gawain show up at his castle to reciprocate.  Adventures ensue.  It's one hell of a tale.  Among others, Dorothy Sayers and J. R. R. Tolkein did wonderful translations of it.  
Kay is one of the oldest characters in the legends.  Arthur's foster-brother and seneschal, i.e., steward, he's kind of the Arthurian Hulk/Bruce Bannon:  sometimes he's boorish, violent, rude, and sometimes he's a great warrior. He has superhuman powers: no one is able to brave fire or water like him, he can go nine days and nine nights without the need to breathe or to sleep, he can grow as "tall as the tallest tree in the forest if he pleased" and has the ability to radiate supernatural heat from his hands.

Meanwhile, Lancelot is probably a then-modernization (yes, every age has always thought we're the most modern on the planet, and we've always been right) of a tale that has been told for millennia:  A royal infant, stolen by a water fairy (du Lac), grows up, and is presented to the world of warriors at a tournament (war games), where he fights three consecutive days in three different disguises, wins every time, and later, he rescues the queen (or princess) from a prison.  The love affair with Guinevere is a later addition, probably was introduced in the 12th century, perhaps at Eleanor of Aquitaine's Court at Poitiers (well known as the haven for troubadors), where they practically invented romantic love.

Sir Percival, a/k/a Parsifal, is the original Questor for the Holy Grail.  Chrétien de Troyes wrote his saga (while on the First Crusade, apparently), basing it (he said) on an older manuscript belonging to his patron, Philip I Count of Flanders.  The original manuscript is the first mention not only of Percival, but the Quest, and the Fisher King (which is a whole, mysterious, and beautiful legend in and of itself).

But the true Grail hero is, of course, Sir Galahad - the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine.  Some people think that Sir Galahad comes from legends of the Cistercian or other monastic orders (although I'd say he sounds more like a Knight Templar), with his absolute virtue and great martial skills.  "My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure" (Tennyson, Idylls of the King).  Galahad is the greatest knight, the purest knight, and he is the one who not only sees the Grail but is accepted by the Grail:  he gets to take it to heaven and neither ever come back.  (Sorry, Dan Brown.)

And Merlin.  Merlin Ambrosius, in Welsh Myrddin, enchanter, wizard, conceived by a demon, born of a woman, who sees the future, who perhaps goes mad, who lives backwards in time, who knows what will happen and cannot stop it, who has superhuman powers, and who is seduced and locked away by a woman, Nimue...  There are many traditions about him, and each author chose only a few. 

And that is only a handful of a huge, multi-national, multi-ethnic cast, with powers that range from simple military ability to supernatural powers.  Each new writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, Thomas Mallory, Tennyson, Charles Williams, T. H. White, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and on and on and on have added a new layer, and often new characters to the Arthurian Universe.  See the Camelot Project at the University of Rochester, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and King Arthur and the Holy Grail, for a nice combination of starter sites.  Oh, and read the books.

Sadly, imho, most of the movies about Camelot and Arthur have been pretty lame.  Mostly because, instead of embracing its richness and complexity, they try to contain the entire King Arthur story in 2 hours.  No, no, no.  What we need is a Peter Jackson version.  Three, four movies at the very least, maybe endlessly, like the Star Wars saga, the Star Trek saga, the Marvel Universe saga.  It would be wonderful...


28 March 2019

Florida Man

by Eve Fisher

In case you haven't heard, there's a Florida Man Contest out there, where you Google "Florida Man" for your birthday or some such date and see what comes up.  Jack Holmes at Esquire provides quite a list: FLORIDA MAN 2015.   But every state has its own crazies.  So I thought I'd add a few from South Dakota to the mix.  Only one of these is not a true story!

Florida Man Covers Himself in Ashes, Says He's a 400-Year-Old Indian, Crashes Stolen Car

Florida Man Puts Dragon Lizard in His Mouth, Smacks People with It

Dakota Man Known for Exposing Himself, Takes His Talent to Florida

Florida Man Killed 5 Gators, Ate Them for Super Bowl Dinner

Drunk, Machete-Wielding Florida Man Chases Neighbor on Lawnmower

Ride Naked, Ride Quiet, Ride An Indian [to Sturgis, SD]

Florida Man Tries to Sell 3 Iguanas Taped to His Bike to Passersby as Dinner

Florida Man on Bath Salts Head-Butts Car, Slaps Fire Chief

South Dakota Man Sentenced for killing Bald Eagle in Nebraska.

Drunk, High Florida Men Post Video to Facebook of Themselves Driving Around at 3 AM with Wounded, Possibly Endangered Owl

Aliens Converge on Sioux Falls, SD.

SD Breastfeeding Bandit Sneaks Into Home and Suckles Stranger's Baby

Florida Man Impersonating a Police Officer Pulls Over Real Cops

Florida Man Advertises "Legit Counterfeit $" on Craigslist, Is Arrested


South Dakota Man Gets $190 Fine for Snake Without a Leash

Florida Man Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn to Demand Campaign Finance Reform, Is Arrested

South Dakota Man Sues Over Burst Exercise Ball

Florida Man High on Meth Jumps on Strangers' Cars, Surfs Them

Florida Man Interested in Getting Tased Runs Through Airport in Underwear Waiving Nunchucks


Identical Twin Florida Men Arrested After Getting in Brick Fight

Florida Man Arrested for Grand Theft After Trying to Walk Out of Store with AK-47s Stuffed Down His Pants

82-Year-Old Florida Man Slashes 88-Year-Old Florida Woman's Tires with an Ice Pick for Taking His Seat at Bingo

Florida Man Dances on Top of Police Cruiser to Ward Off Vampires

Clark, SD, Home to World Famous Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest

Florida Man Rips Hole in Store Ceiling, Steals More Than 70 Guns, Flees on 3-Wheel Bicycle

Florida Man Dressed as Pirate Arrested for Firing Musket at Passing Cars

Doing Black Hair at Home No Longer Illegal in South Dakota

Florida Man Steals Operating Table from Hospital

Florida Man Steals $2 Million in Legos

Crack-Smoking Florida Man Drinks Capri Sun to Rehydrate During Police Chase

Florida Man's Fishing Trip Interrupts Weather Report

SD man stuck in tree bites firefighter during rescue.

Florida Man Flees Library on Scooter After Smelling Woman's Feet

Dakota Man Accused of Stripping, Getting Into Holy Water Fountain

Florida Man on the Lam Butt Dials 911, Is Arrested

Dakota Man Found Asleep in Truck in Miami With an Arsenal of Guns

Florida Man Too Drunk to Be Honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Florida Man Catches Shark That Bit Him, Pledges to Eat It

Florida Man Crawls into Cracker Barrel Bathroom Stall to Proposition Occupant for Sex

Florida Man Crashes Car into Business While Trying to Time Travel




I'll post the answer to which one is fake in the comments section later.

Enjoy!

14 March 2019

Conspiracy Theory 102: Hot Housed

by Eve Fisher

Shtisel - Courtesy IMDB 
We've been watching Shtisel on Netflix - and if you haven't, I highly recommend it.  See the IMDB Link HERE.  One of the top rated shows in Israel, currently in its third season (2 are available on Netflix), it's about a Haredi family in Geula, Jerusalem.  For the most part it ignores politics, just follows life in a religious, internet-free, television-free, almost radio-free neighborhood. The community follows strict haredi customs and the youngest son (and our hero) Akiva (on the left in the photo), is an artist, which means he's considered a "screw-up" by most, including his father.  We love it.

The haredi world is a closed world, and closed worlds fascinate me.  I've written before about cults, of which I saw so many back in my California youth.  But there are lots of closed worlds.  The Amish.  The current Facebook / internet world where the algorithms are designed to lock in to your politics, tastes, fears, and [obsessive] interests and give you nothing but more of the same.  Prisons.  The streets.  Some neighborhoods.  Clubs.  Anywhere that people are so isolated (by chance / choice / force) that they really have no contact with the outside.  This leads to some very interesting - and often very wrong - ideas of what's going on in the rest of the world.

An example:  A few years ago, I heard from someone who'd been living on the streets for a decade or so that Texas was a much better place for the homeless than Georgia, because the cops treated people a hell of a lot better in Texas.  As long as you were white, you were welcome.  I'm sure you can unpack all the fallacies that went into the making of that little dream yourself.

Another example:  One of the guys at the pen had to go to the hospital the other day.  The next day, everyone was spreading the word that he was dead.  He wasn't.  He was returned alive and tired.

A rioting-in-the-streets example: Just a few months ago, someone posted on-line about how young Somali men ran amok at a ValleyFair in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 22, 2018, hundreds of them, and the police had to be called, and it turned into a dangerous riot. And the main stream news media wasn't even covering it! (Their emphasis, not mine.) So I checked it out. First, their source: USA Really - one of the more unreliable sources in newsmedia - "According to eyewitnesses who were at the park that night to celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, “a group of nearly 100 Somali men mob rushed past security and amusement park staffers at the front entrance and proceeded to run through the park and instigate fights among themselves and with guests.  Cliff Hallberg, who was inside the park with his children at the time the fights broke out said it was very frightening for his children. 'I saw about 60 Somali teenagers push their way through lines and scream at guests.  This looked like a targeted attack on law enforcement,' Hallberg added."

What USA Really neglected to mention: It was ValleyFair's "Valleyscare" "Halloween-Haunt" night for adults and teens, so there shouldn't have been any children there, and that while multiple fights did break out, that happened at 11:00 PM, with scheduled closing time at 12:00 Midnight anyway, and the police mopped it all up pretty quickly.  No injuries, no property damage, and only 3 people arrested for minor offenses.  (MPR, CBS, and multiple other news outlets.)   Personally, I suspect that alcohol was involved more than race...


Anyway, I posted the news reports, and was told that I'd just proven their point - the news media was covering it up!  They'd even changed the time!  They had eye-witnesses!  Look at the video!  I pointed out that there was no video, and I was told, semi-ominously, "It's coming!"  It never did.

No, I'll take that back.  It did.  For those of you who like exaggeration and labeling, here it is.  All I can say is, if you think this is a riot, you've never been in a riot.  (I have, in L.A.  A riot is an unmistakable occurrence, and it's not a thing where someone says, in a rather bored voice, "we're never gonna get out of here.")  Again, the videographer never mentions "ValleyScare", "Halloween-Haunt", or that this is all happening after eleven at night.  But of course, the videographer is Laura Loomer, a notorious Internet conspiracy theorist.

(BTW - this does not mean there's no gang violence in Minneapolis. See the National Gang Center, where you can also look up your home town and see how you're doing. White, Somali, Hmong, Native American - there's a lot of gangs. Same as in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and every other big city.)

Back to prison for a get-rich-quick-scheme example: "An inmate hands me what looks like a 15th-generation photocopy, asking about the Social Security benefits available to him when he gets out. The piece of paper promises years of free financial benefits from the government.  This is another prison folktale: the myth of a lucrative handout, post-incarceration. The Social Security Administration is aware of such misinformation and has published brochures explaining how Social Security really works for inmates returning to society.  “But the paper says you will deny this program exists,” the inmate says, after I hand him one of those very brochures.  I am at a loss for words. He leaves my (accurate) brochure behind when he exits the library, a cruel reminder that people hear what they want to hear." 
(Conspiracy Theories in Prison)

A fatal example:  The Heaven's Gate cult, which firmly believed that the Comet Hale-Bopp was the mother ship coming to take them home - after they'd killed themselves.  So they killed themselves.

A harmless (?) example:  When I was teaching history up at SDSU, a student came up to me and asked, "Is it true that your parents were CIA agents who got killed in a car wreck in Europe?"  Well, who am I to stand in the way of a good dorm legend.  So I asked, deadpan, "Who said it was a car wreck?"

Extremely dangerous examples:  Pizzagate, White Supremacy (including all its variations from Aryan Nation to KKK), The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a/k/a anti-Semitism), Reptilian humanoids, the Flat Earth Society, George Soros, the assassination of everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Diana, Princess of Wales, the Illuminati, Chemtrails, Black Helicopters & UN concentration camps & the barcodes on the backs of traffic signs, Birthers, QAnon, and, of course, the "Truthers" who declare that various things (from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook) never actually happened.  (Thank you WIRED for a list and a portal.)

My favorite BS financial example: "Sovereign citizens" don't have to pay taxes because of the “straw man” theory. According to Richard McDonald, a sovereign-citizen leader, "there are two classes of citizens in America: the "original citizens of the states" (or "States citizens") and "U.S. citizens". 
McDonald asserts that U.S. citizens or "Fourteenth Amendment" "citizens have civil rights, legislated to give the freed black slaves after the Civil War rights comparable to the unalienable constitutional rights of white state citizens. The benefits of U.S. citizenship are received by consent in exchange for freedom. State citizens consequently take steps to revoke and rescind their U.S. citizenship and reassert their de jure (something that exists in reality, even if not legally recognized) common-law state citizen status. This involves removing one's self from federal jurisdiction and relinquishing any evidence of consent to U.S. citizenship, such as a Social Security number, driver's license, car registration, use of zip codes, marriage license, voter registration, and birth certificates. Also included is refusal to pay state and federal income taxes because citizens not under U.S. jurisdiction are not required to pay them."  (Wikipedia)  
I've run into them on a regular basis up here - in the court system and outside the court system - and every one of them has not only been convicted and imprisoned, but no one from the Sovereign Citizen movement (which charges considerably for their Sovereign Citizen ID cards) has ever shown up to support them in any way, shape or form.  

Almost (?) harmless examplesThe Berensteins, the non-existence of Finland and Australia, and Shazaam the Movie (not to mention other movie conspiracy theories - see HERE).

Daily examples:  They're different.  They're weird.  They do things wrong.  They are wrong.  "Thank you, Lord, for making me the right _____  !"  Fill in the blank for yourself.

All of these - and many more - are examples of hot housing / echo chambers / isolation.  But the world is greater than that.  For that matter, the entire human body is greater than that.
"Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” - 1 Cor. 12:14-21


We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. - Desmond Tutu


Enjoy it.  

28 February 2019

Why There Always Has to be a Virgin

by Eve Fisher

A quick rundown by yours truly of the oldest characters in storydom comes up with the following:

  • The Hero
  • The Villain/Villainess
  • The Virgin

You've got those three, you've got a story.  Oh, sure there are variations out the wazoo, and there are always extra characters:  The Hero can always use a Sidekick (from Dr. Watson to Mary Lou) or a Wise Counselor (Gandalf to Jimminy Crickets), and Villains generally have to helpers (from Orcs to gang members).  Virgins - well, somebody has to give birth to them, but that's all.  In fairy tales the mothers usually die off pretty quick.  Snow White, Cinderella, almost every Gothic Romance heroine - they're all orphans.  And even if Daddy survived, he gets hitched up to the Evil Witch, and there you go, Cindy might as well be an orphan.

So you really, really, really need a virgin.  And a virgin is always female.


“[N]o language has ever had a word for a virgin man.” 
― Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage


(1) How else are you going to get a unicorn?  They're only attracted to virgins.

DomenichinounicornPalFarnese.jpg
Wikipedia fresco
by Domenichino, c. 1604–05 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome)
(2a) The marriageable hero has to have someone to rescue, and in olden days this was always someone young, beautiful, pure and (when in serious trouble) often naked (it's okay because she's a virgin).  (See Perseus and Andromeda)

(2b) The older hero has to have someone to rescue, with whom it's no struggle to stay paternal and platonic.  Think Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross; Ripley and Newt (Aliens); also almost every Shirley Temple movie ever made.

(3a) The villain has to have someone to threaten, someone pure and (when in serious trouble) damn near naked (again, it's okay because she's pure).  (King Kong and Fay Wray, and every single horror movie made until today, and beyond, which leads to:

(3b) The Horror Movie - only the virgin survives.  Read the excellent Death by Sex article on how the best way for a girl to get killed in a horror movie is to have sex.)  So when you hear weird things in the night, make sure you're a virgin, and everything (might) be okay.

Kong33promo.jpg
Wikipedia;  (WP:NFCC#4)
(4) The hero has to have someone to marry, and he certainly can't marry any of the stepsisters, etc.  Indeed, sometimes the hero gets two virgins to choose from, like in Ivanhoe, where Rebecca and Rowena waited, breathlessly, for him to make his choice, but you know from the get-go it's going to be Rowena, because, well Rebecca was dark-haired and Jewish, while Rowena was blonde Anglo-Saxon, and that's the way things rolled in Sir Walter Scott's shire.
NOTE:  I remember the only fairy tale where the hero didn't choose little Miss Goldilocks was The Twelve Dancing Princesses:  instead, when they asked him which princess he wanted to marry he said, "I am no longer young; give me the eldest."  
(5) The hero has to have someone to moon over - and with that, we get to noir.


“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” 
― Mae West


(6) NOIR.  One thing that runs through all noir is the theme that "Love Hurts".  I mean, that's pretty much what makes noir.

There's the noir hero, who's always getting punched, kicked, shot, tortured, and generally mutilated in the course the novel/film.  But he gets back up, and after some cold water and whiskey (the noir all-purpose medication and disinfectant), he's back for the next brutality in his search for truth, justice, and his client.

All that's missing is the virgin...
Women often fare worse.  From the memorable scene in the beginning of one of Mickey Spillane's novels (I just can't remember which one it is) where Mike Hammer punches the girl and then has sex with her to the "Rip it!" scene in The Postman Always Rings Twice, it's tough being a woman in a noir novel.  Even if the guy's nuts about you, willing to kill for you, chances are you're going to get slapped, punched, raped, shot and you've got a damn good chance of getting killed or going to jail.  But at least you do get to have sex.  Often with the hero.


"Every Harlot was a Virgin once."
-- WILLIAM BLAKE, For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise


The virgins don't.  In noir, virgins are the muse of our (more or less) alcoholic detective - the victim's daughter (Lola Dietrichson, in Double Indemnity), the hero's secretary (Effie Perrine in The Maltese Falcon), the kid next door, all of whom the hero wants to keep pure, even from himself.  (I think the longest running obsession with unsullied virginity was Mike Hammer's with his secretary Velda, who had to wait a few decades for them to get together.)  They're the contrast to the slutty Gloria Grahames who give a guy what he wants when he wants it.  Just like in horror movies, one of the best ways for a noir woman to get jailed or killed is to have sex, especially with the hero.

Virgins are for marriage - or used to be.  Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons and two daughters, thereby founding the royal house of Mycenae, and (eventually) Persia.  Nick and Nora Charles.  Inspector and Mrs. Maigret.  Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.  Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy.  Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (who might as well have been a virgin - by all accounts her one lover was lousy at it.)  Fruitful, happy marriages that didn't interfere in any way with the investigation of crime.

But, things are different on TV.  From soap operas to westerns, to detectives to cops, the basic theory is that marriage is boring, and while you can have a wedding it's got to end so that the hero can get on with rescuing more virgins.  Or mooning over more noir women.  (I can't help but wonder if this theory is part of the reason why Elizabeth George killed off Inspector Lynley's wife.)

This goes back a long way:   how many times did one of the Cartwrights on Bonanza get married, and she died almost immediately?  Pa Cartwright alone went through at least 3 wives, because there's the boys, and not a mother among them.   Getting engaged on that show - and many others - was the absolute kiss of death. 


“Good girls go to heaven and bad girls go everywhere” 
― Helen Gurley Brown


(7)  Climate change.  You've got to have a virgin because, as the climate changes, and there are more disasters, you're going to have to have someone to sacrifice, and the last I heard volcanoes didn't accept old politicians or middle-aged billionaires.  (Otherwise, do I have a list for them...)  Virgins it has been, virgins it shall be.