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After sleeping on one of these I can safely say it has neither amphetamines nor hallucinogens.

Kindle Death Watch

March 20, 2015 — Leave a comment


A few days ago I had setted in for the seat warming slog at my lady doctor with my portable literary sampling device when I noticed a spanking new hairline crack in the bezel at the corner of the screen. According to several e-reader message boards and a few threads on Amazon itself (the usual “LOL U STUPID CLUMSY” trolls notwithstanding), this is a known issue with my particular model, the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Some users said that the screen on their units had failed outright soon after developing the bezel cracks.

It is a fact of my life that my devices of choice will be afflicted with almost all known issues mostly after the warranty has comfortably expired, leading me to think that I should start being less careful with my things to make my disturbingly regular upgrade cycle a bit less expensive. It would, however, injure my pride to give an inch to the “U DROPPED IT LOL” club.

Several posters on the various boards said that Amazon customer service sometimes cut those with expired warranties a break, so I contacted the mother ship’s support to see what my options were. After a delightful email exchange with one woman and a phone call with another person who had a better command of English straightened out the exact terms, I had been offered a refurbished Kindle Paperwhite without advertising on the idling display (the one without “special offers,” which is where the confusion arose) for a decent discount. The other fact of my life is that every time I have bought something refurbished or second-hand it has cost me in the long run, so I’ll sit tight with my plasti-brick of a slightly ventilated 3G and review the possibilities again once upgrading becomes necessary.

I thought I could get a laugh from my husband, who had the misfortune of having an instructor in high school who thought it was a good idea to make kids learning English as a second language read James Joyce’s Ulysses, by putting a copy of the book with his actual Christmas gift in the same Amazon package this year. I did get a nervous look and some relief on his face when I said Ulysses was for me, and set about opening my own gift from him, which contained a copy of David Cronenberg’s Consumed and the Avon romance What I Love About You, by Rachel Gibson. I had asked for a copy of William Gibson’s The Peripheral, which has far fewer bleached and Photoshopped smiles on the cover:

“I, uh, I did Facebook that to you, right? William Gibson?”

“Yeah, but I was in a rush.”

“Are you telling me that Thalia has a romance section in the English books?”

“It was a surprise to me, too.”

“Huh. I guess I’ll look this up on Smart Bitches.”

“I’m really sorry. I think I still have the receipt.”

“Nah. I’ll get around to reading it.”

“OK. In the meantime you should try this,” he said, presenting me with a purple paper bag which revealed the satisfactorily grey cover of The Peripheral in trade paperback on the initial tear. Even worse is that I did not expect Ulysses to be that thick and with such fine print.

Only “The Girl”

November 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’m a longtime admirer of Samantha Geimer’s well-spokenness considering she became the victim of what can still be called one of the crimes of the century when Roman Polanski raped her at age thirteen, while on a photo shoot in 1977. I was too young to understand or remember the news coverage at the time, but in the intervening years, whenever interest in Polanski flared, a camera would invariably find its way in front of Ms. Geimer and I would listen as closely as I could trying to make sense of the crime from her perspective, in that she has refused to neatly fit the media-friendly label of sad, destroyed victim. Her memoirs, The Girl: a Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, paints an interesting picture of a young woman navigating a nascent understanding of her own sexuality and pursuing ambitions of stardom while in a situation that no-one should face, and an aftermath that continues to defy logic over three decades later.

In the usual morning show author interviews, Ms. Geimer has continued to be intelligent and media savvy while facing a new barrage of criticism for wanting to be left alone while putting out a book, but after reading her memoirs her reasons for both wanting to be left alone and for telling her side of the story both seem supremely reasonable. In 2009 a new chapter was added to the Polanski saga when authorities tried to extradite him to the U. S. to stand trial for his crime after fleeing before the formal court proceedings could start in 1978; this time with the added five-thousand channel universe talking head punditry and the 24-hour judgment pipeline that is the Internet. Samantha Geimer has already complained repeatedly of how she had been characterized by the unimaginably slow pre-Internet media as either some sort of vile slut temptress being pushed by a demanding stage mother into entrapping one of Hollywood’s most esteemed directors of the day; or as the weak, helpless, voiceless child victim. Ms. Geimer has made it abundantly clear that the mischaracterization of her mother was particularly hurtful and unfair, and the mass opinion-go-round of Internet commentary still has many things to say on every aspect of the case, whether grounded in fact or not. I can imagine why now it would be more important for Ms. Geimer to add her own voice to the fray than it had seemed before.

Reading the book, some of my own suspicions about Polanski’s crime were confirmed, and other assumptions I had made were handily refuted. Still refusing to fit labels or misrepresent the truth as she saw it, Ms. Geimer bravely makes several admissions that could possibly play into her detractors’ image of her. After she stated that her family did view Polanski as a ticket to stardom she could have told me she went through a brief period in the 1990s where a perfectly-formed second head had sprouted from her shoulder but would only communicate in show tunes and I might have believed it.

With the many other crimes of the century one thing is clear: celebrity changes everything, and Polanski’s case, still unresolved, is easily one of the phenomenon’s most famous case studies. To hear Ms. Geimer and her legal counsel tell it, had Polanski’s case gone to trial it would have made the O. J. Simpson proceedings look like a shining example of American jurisprudence. Polanski’s celebrity and his reputation was obviously a factor in the police’s handling of the case, and the book hints mightily at the idea that bruised sexual egos might have been an added problem for the case and everyone involved. The presiding judge was a man named Rittenband who fancied himself a specialist in celebrity justice and also had a taste for inappropriately younger women, just like Polanski.

Polanski did serve forty-two days in prison while undergoing a psychiatric evaluation for the rape of Samatha Geimer, and his lawyer had arranged had a plea deal with the judge and Ms. Geimer’s family which was famously broken. One of the most stunning yet overlooked aspects of the Polanski case is the extent of the judge’s malfeasance, including taking public and press opinion into account for sentencing, granting an interview about an ongoing case to People magazine, and giving the prosecuting and defending lawyers stage directions at what ended up being the final hearing of the case; stage directions which were followed. After reneging on the plea deal, the sentencing scheme that Rittenband proposed would have resulted in an indefinite sentence wherein Polanski would have been detained at the judge’s and his image consultants’ pleasure, up to a theoretical maximum of fifty years. In the three decades since Polanski fled, a victim’s bill of rights has been passed into law in California, but these rights will not apply to Samantha Geimer because the still-dangling cap feather of being the one who finally jailed Polanski still has the magic power to grant its wearer fame, prestige, and possibly public office.

Throughout her memoirs, Ms. Geimer describes her early teenage looks in less than glowing terms, but the question left unanswered is whether or not she thought the photos Polanski took of her, featured throughout the book, revealed a girl of determined poise who would become the woman she now is, despite and because of the events of that day with Polanski and the occasional madness of the decades following.

I finally finished reading The Maltese Falcon. It’s been over a decade since I saw the movie that everyone rightly remembers with everyone who should have been in it. Movie adaptations almost always diverge from the source material out of necessity, but the unsavouriness of the novel makes me wonder how different the original pre-Hays Code 1931 film adaptation is from the book and from the later version. Sam Spade on the page is brilliantly unlikable and Dashiell Hammett’s prose is far looser than Raymond Chandler’s, which is the best way the story could have been told. The production code gave a few films more than a thorough mangling (I still dream of the day the footage of the boathouse scene in Rebecca as shot by Hitchcock with the proper unfolding of events is found in some dusty warehouse or abandoned bus station locker) and finally seeing Fritz Lang’s Metropolis opened my eyes to the fact that major-studio nudity on film was not more than likely invented by Otto Preminger sometime in the sixties. I suspect that the pre-code Maltese Falcon also has a similar unsavoury truth to it that Huston’s masterwork, for all its grandeur, lacks.

My next adventure in things I should have already done is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.