Saturday, August 29, 2009

Los Angeles Essential Book List

Los Angeles Essential Book List

I have a new facebook group and anyone is invited to join and contribute their favourite books about Los Angeles.

Monday, August 24, 2009


This entry features Lee - a girl I used to work with.

Yesterday Lee took great relish in explaining how her ex-husband was having a circumcision. At first he wouldn't tell her then she got Dean, her son, to call him up the stairs and then down again because he walked as if he had crapped in his pants. She also said he warned her 'if I get an 'you know' I will tear my stitches!'
This guy in front of me is wistfully looking up in the air listening to his walkman.
I'm sitting on the 8:02 58 Conway bus and town is very quiet. I've just realised green oranges aren't as nice as red.
There was a girl in town with a blue leather coat, grey hat, white gloves, eating a red apple, it was like watching a painting or listening to a new single she looked so cool.
I hate working alone all day.


I am going to start a new series for this blog. These are diary entries from an old notebook I found.

January 2000


While I was in London I decided to search out the places Newman might have gone to get some idea of how he might have experienced it.
He was born here and there is a plaque on the Bank of England saying this is where or nearabout where he was born. Once when I was sitting at home I saw an OU programme talk about the Oxford Movement and how its legacy was put into All Saints, the opposite of All Souls, an evangelical Anglican church and that it was located directly behind All Souls.
The only problem was which direction was it behind All Souls. And as you can imagine on Regent Street my pocket A to Z was quite crowded.
Amazingly stars on the map representing Post Offices are more visible than the small cross of a church.. It looks quite simple on the map to find the cross on Margaret Street but the streets behind Regent Street are a maze with at least five stories and even street names aren't much good because the streets aren't clearly marked and change abruptly.
I ended up walking for what seemed like hours. It was early on a Sunday morning, there was no one around apart from an old lady walking with a very large and fiersome looking dog.
I eventually found the street but still couldn't see a church. When suddenly, a man came up to me, 'Are you lost?' he said. I smiled and replied,
'I'm looking for a church.'
He was a very prim man, dressed in black he had a wide brimmed black hat and in his limp hand he was holding a long thin cigarette. He said he knew the church and pointed out it was beside two lamp posts. He said he would be going there himself in five minutes and he would meet me.
I went into the church, it was incredibly ornate and the smell of incense hit you as soon as you went in. I went to sit down, said a prayer and left. I put a note in the visitors book saying I apologised, I was the guy in the baseball cap.

All Saints, Margaret Street

Friday, August 21, 2009

What should I read next?

Good site. Clunky but in a good way. This is how I discovered Macdonald, I put in 'In dubious battle' and got Ross Macdonald. In essence very similar to Amazon but certainly worthwhile supporting and you should read about how you can create your own list

Ross Macdonald

Over the last week I have read 'The Barbarous Coast' by Ross Macdonald. An incredible read, I couldn't put it down honestly. I haven't been reading that much crime fiction lately but this guy just comes at you like a blast. Deeper and more psychological than the original hard boiled writers such as Chandler or Hammet - this is what I've been told because I was no expert but it didn't take me long to realise because along with the macho tough guy narratives you get dream sequences such as the following:

"Hollywood started as a meaningless dream, invented for money. But its colors ran, out through the holes in people's heads, spread across the landscape and solidified. North and south along the coast, east across the continent. Now we were stuck with the dream without a meaning. It had become the nightmare that we lived in. Deep thoughts."

All that whilst he had been knocked out by the bad guys and things were about the get worse on what started as a rollercoaster ride and ended up almost flying through space.

Archer the main character has a deeper side to him and in a later passage he gives the following pep talk, (trying to persuade the sister of a victim that she doesn't have to do all the things the bad guys tell her to do) which convinces me to take Las Vegas off my list of places to go:

[The girl says 'they made me feel like life was not worth living'] "That's the way the jerks want you to feel. If everybody felt like a zombie, we'd all be on the same level. And the jerks could get away with the things jerks want to get away with. They're not, though. Jerkiness isn't as respectable as it used to be, not even in L.A.. Which is why they had to build Vegas."

This is one of the best maybe the best book I have read all year. This definitely deserves the title - book of note.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Maker's Mark

In Richard Sennett's 'The Craftsman' I am reading about the difference between theory and practice. A craftsman is trained to practice a process - such as making bricks. A theorist has a general level of education which makes him sufficient to study any theory. In the Roman world the lowly life of the slave brickmaker was an anonymous life but a highly significant life considering the majestic building that were built out of brick. When the slave dares to make a mark on his bricks to declare 'his presence' that is a rebellious act:

"The historian Moses Finlay wisely counsels against using a modern yardstick to read ancient maker's marks as sending signals of defiance; they declare, 'I exist' rather than 'I resist'. But 'I exist' is perhaps the most urgent signal a slave can send."

This is the mark of Domitii. The following is a short explanation:

Found in Mugnano in Teverina, a tiny village some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Rome, the furnaces belonged to Tullus and Lucanus, brothers of the Domitii family, as an inscription found on the road leading to the brickfield confirms: "iter privatum duorum Domitiorum" (private road of the two Domitii). The furnaces provided bricks for grandiose buildings such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Market of Trajan and the Diocletian and Caracalla Baths, said archaeologist Tiziano Gasperoni, who discovered the furnaces.

I am also struck by a slight synchronicity here between the mark on a brick of a worker and the workers strike of 'In Dubious Battle' both are the attempts by the worker to let their voice be heard. To proclaim their existence and possibly, their defiance of the big bosses.


I have been reading John Updike's 'The Early Stories' again and have decided to follow the stories 'Too Far To Go' (TFTG). I have reached 'Nakedness'. It covers the realisation of a husband of the 'first' time he really sees his wife naked. There is both the acceptance that we are mere physical bodies but also he draws attention to the story of Adam and Eve and how when they discovered their sinfulness they also discovered the shame of nudity.

It also features this episode when they stray on to a nudist beach and watch what happens when a policeman decides to walk in and have a look:

"The nudists, paradoxically, brought more clothing to the beach than the bourgeoisie; they distinguished themselves, walking up the beach to the point, by being dressed head to toe, in denim and felt, as if they had strolled straight from the urban core of the counterculture. Now as the young cop moved among them like a sorrowing angel, they bent and huddled in the obsequious poses of redressing.
'My God,' Joan said, 'it's Massacio's Expulsion from Paradise.' And Richard felt her heart in the fatty casing of her body plump up, pleased with this link, satisfied to have demonstrated once again to herself the relevance of a humanistic education to modern experience."

Massacio - Expulsion from Paradise

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A life of labour

Good review

Following on from the last post - this book reviewed above looks good.

In Dubious Battle

I continue to read 'In Dubious Battle' and almost every page is delightful. Steinbeck has captured the spirit of the worker perfectly. The struggle between the worker and the bosses is the struggle of this book. The bosses need their apples picked and they only have a certain number of weeks the bosses have reduced the wages and the workers have gone on strike.

Almost every page has something to quote. The plight of the worker, the plight of those who try to help, to improve things is captured in this small quote at the end of ch 8. The person talking here is mac, the hardened communist, down to cause trouble, he is talking to Jim, his newest recruit. Makes you wonder why we do anything:

"Everybody hates us; our own side and the enemy. And if we won, Jim, if we put it over, our own side would kill us. I wonder why we do it. Oh, go to sleep!"

Even now, after 50 years we still have traveling workers, workers who get paid the lowest wages, Mexicans for examplewho travel into US to do the agricultural work.

Physical influence

Along with the power of resources - money, personality, expertise Charles Handy lists physical power, the power of 'might' in the life of an organisation. To be honest I never expected but can understand the last paragraph:

"Whilst physical power is less respectable in our society than all other power sources there are signs that it is increasingly becoming the power of last resort when the other sources appear ineffective, or too closely balanced against opposing sources. Ulster, lock-outs, mass demonstrations are all examples of this phenomenon."