I BEG TO DIFFER … Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Differ

Garry casually dropped into the kitchen and said, “Jeffrey Epstein is dead.”

“Seriously?” I said.

“Really?” said Ben, who is visiting from Arizona.

“Well, that’s what the headline said” Garry reiterated.

Jeffrey Epstein, Probably Dead

When I finished making coffee and muffins and finally made it to the computer, I had to go through most of my email until I finally found the headline. Frankly, Fandango’s “How convenient,” seemed a better explanation.

Not like we are all getting paranoid, but it is awfully convenient. Frankly, I was looking forward to a long, involved trial that would really improve the quality of late-night television comedy.

I had a list of possible people who would stand up, take oaths on the bible, then lie like crazy in court, all of which would be followed by a  multi-part television serial.

CBS? Fox? Netflix? HBO? Originally I thought a two-parter, but when I added up the witnesses — for both the prosecution and the defense — I realized at least a three-parter and who knows? Four? Two complete seasons?

It had serious television potential.

Now the show will be authored at attempts to unravel the paranoia of his “death.” I mean … is he dead? Was he spirited away to a secret paradisical island?  Lifted away by rogue CIA agents who are water-boarding him in a black room in Guantanamo?

How about carried away by enraged women and lord only knows what THEY are doing to him. Secret cameras anywhere? Oh, this could be really too hot even for our media to handle.

I’m not at all sure he was spirited away to a lovely little tropical island. I beg to differ. I think he might have been taken away by parties who intend to show him the real meaning of suffering, thus to go through a far better punishment than any court could arrange.

I just wish I’d been invited to the party.

THERE’S A CODE FOR EVERTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a code for everything these days. Every item in the shop, every village in the world.

There’s a code for every telephone. Bar codes float through the air like fireflies. We are all zipped up. Where once we needed our name, today we need a passport, email address, social security number, and zip code.

But, life on earth existed before codes. Before zip codes, cable television, and calling codes. Before bar codes were printed on every product. We used dial telephones which worked pretty well as telephones than the phones we use now.

In small towns, you only needed the last four numbers to place a call.

We mailed letters and remarkably, they got delivered. Television was not as diverse or intense, but it was interesting and often funny. We enjoyed it, or at least some of us did. If we didn’t, we could read a book!

We had conversations with each other. That’s right! Imagine it, for a moment, groups of people getting together and talking about all kinds of stuff. History, books, and the state of the world. No one became enraged and charged from the room with blood in his or her eye.

Oh, did I mention that most of us were polite?

We said things like “excuse me” and “thank you” and “please” … and no one felt diminished or belittled by talking like this. Politeness made many of the small things in life easier to manage.

Not that the world was perfect. Far from it … but manners helps smooth over some of the rough parts.

Much was broken and is still waiting to get fixed, but as a whole, we were nicer to each other. Personally, at least. We weren’t nice because we were whiter or browner or some shade in between. We were nice because we were taught to be like that. By our parents. Because civilized people were taught to be polite to adults and each other. It was the grease on the squeaky wheel of civilization.

As I watch kids today sitting together in groups busily texting each other, I have to wonder how they will develop human relationships with any depth.

If they don’t know how to have a conversation, how are they going to build a life? Maybe the passion for electronics will fade with time. After which, folks will remember how talking and laughing used to take up that space in their world.

You never know. It could happen! Of course, walking around with loaded military-grade rifles and murdering people who you think are the wrong color is both uncivil and extremely rude. We might try doing something about that while we are busy worrying about manners.

Civility is all well and good, but killing people is worse.

VIOLENCE OF THE SENSIBLE KIND – Marilyn Armstrong

The thing about “senseless violence” is that it implies there’s some other kind. The sensible kind.

Everybody talks about senseless violence … but what about the other kind of violence? How come no one talks about sensible violence?

sensible violence

Sensible Violence: Good reasons to kill


“He needed killing” is still accepted in some American courtrooms as a defense against a charge of murder. If he needed killing and you kill him, you have committed an act of sensible violence.

“No one was supposed to get hurt.” You found yourself short of money, so you held up the bank. Using automatic weapons. You had a perfect plan which went unaccountably wrong. “But your Honor, no one was supposed to get hurt!”

“I had no choice.” You could have gotten a divorce, but you were put off by all the paperwork, lawyers, and courts. Not to mention having to share your stuff. So, you killed your husband and shoved his body in the wood chipper and use his remains as fertilizer. Sensible. tidy, and green.  “Your Honor, he really pissed me off. And it wasn’t easy getting him into the machine. He was being really mean to me, so what choice did I have?”

“Anyone would have done the same thing.” Really, no kidding. Anyone. It was the only sensible response. “Your Honor, she burned the roast. I had to kill her. Anyone would have done the same thing.”

“I lost my temper.” You said I wouldn’t like you when you were angry. You were right.

So you see? Not all violence is senseless. If you didn’t mean it, you had no choice, anyone would have done the same thing, or your plan went awry … it’s sensible violence. The good kind.

ALIVE ALIVE OH AS OPPOSED TO DEAD DEAD EW! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Alive

Recently, there was a question in some list of Q & A: “Why is beauty associated with mortality?”

My answer was that being alive was generally more attractive than being dead. Maybe I watch too many crime shows (we are currently re-watching all 20 years of “Midsomer Murders” again), but I always think of CDI (I think) Barnaby asking the coroner “when did he/she/they die” and being told “You know I can’t answer you until after the post-mortem.” Or the same question on NCIS, except then it’s an autopsy rather than a post-mortem.

Either way, corpses are not generally regarded as lovely to look at.

First victim

My theory is that the whole “post-mortem” thing doesn’t make me think about beauty. I’m sure there are some very strange folks who think dead is delightful (funeral home directors?) (serial killers?) (taxidermists?), but I am not one of them. I don’t even like dead flowers and always put off throwing away withered bouquets until they are past withered and have become dried (but nonetheless withered) flowers.

Thus I am always glad I’m alive since dead is less attractive and less entertaining. The only movie I can think of where a corpse made me laugh was “S.O.B.” Otherwise, the non-alive are usual the subjects of a murder investigation.

Just saying. I value aliveness. The older I get, the more I value it. Besides, dying is expensive in America.

BATTLING FOR THE RIGHT TO NOT DRINK – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry has an undying devotion to some really awful old television series. Among many others, he really likes “The Untouchables.” That would be the version with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. It’s the original, where our chief G-man and his “guys” fight (are you ready?) for The Volstead Act.

Prohibition! That’s right.

Prohibition. Booze, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Fighting for the right to have people NOT drink booze.

I’m not a boozer. I don’t drink now and never drank much, not even when I was younger. That being said, I can’t imagine going to war to make booze disappear.

War doesn’t work, not even when it’s a war against drugs or booze or your neighbor or their neighbor. War (which is not the same as protection) is an ineffective tool that does more damage than good. I grant you there have been a few exceptions, but ironically, most “good wars” were fought because of bad deals made following previous bad wars. But what do I know, right?

Back to “The Untouchables.”

What a great show. When the cops are pissed off with you, they can beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. A moving train. You have a problem with that?

You are disposable too.

Ready to blow it up? You betcha!

This version of the FBI is unconcerned with your rights. They don’t believe you have any rights.

First amendment? What’s that? You are dirt under their feet and they treat you accordingly as if you are dirt under their feet. This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist. They never pretended to be fair or worried about legalities.

They said “We are G-men. You will obey!”

Everyone did. It was the FBI at its most pure. These men (there are no women) are not just above the law. They are the law.

Early terrorist attack (1920s) – Wall Street

My favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to international law, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness.

“The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

Since the FBI took over enforcing Prohibition — The Volstead Act — no one has had a drink. Not a single person. These guys were so good at battling beer and booze, the alcohol problem was permanently solved. Some might call this denial.

I call it faith. If you believe, it must be true. Who needs facts when misguided belief is more than enough?

I’m trying to get into our current national spirit.

How am I doing?

THE NEW IBERIA BLUES, BOOK 22 – DAVE ROBICHEAUX – James Lee Burke

The New Iberia Blues:
Dave Robicheaux Series, Book 22

By: James Lee Burke

Narrated by: Will Patton

Series: Dave Robicheaux, Book 22
Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 01-08-19
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio


James Lee Burke never fails me.

Every book he writes is rich, sensual, and powerful. The writing, the feel of the place and mood of the times. Of course, Dave Robicheaux and Clete are my favorites, but I have loved every book I’ve read by James Lee Burke, in and outside of the “Robicheaux” series.

I didn’t think they could get better, but this was better.

Why? Because the characters aren’t the same “kids” they were. They have aged, grown, and changed. They aren’t the same “guns blazing” Dave and Clete.

Life has been hard for both of them. Dave has lost three wives, one to Lupus and two to violence, but he’s not full of hate or looking for retribution. He’s an adult, a genuine grownup.

Both men have moved on with the understanding that life isn’t and won’t ever be exactly what they want. They aren’t expecting perfection, yet they are still involved, caring, concerned for each other and the world in which they live. They are entirely alive and deeply involved.

If you like James Lee Burke’s writing, there’s nothing not to love in this book.

Will Patton is a superb narrator (and a pretty good actor too, by the way). He may even be better than the original narrator who was himself, brilliant. What Patton has going for him is clarity of speech which enables him to use a reasonable southern accent, but clearly enough for we northerners to easily understand.

My only regret is that I read the book too fast.

I should have slowed down and made the story last longer. Maybe I’ll read it again.

Maybe I’ll read the last TWO again.


Note: This review is for the Audible.com version, but reading James Lee Burke as a regular book is just fine and in fact until quite late in the series, I read all his books in hardcover. I have all of the first books in hardcover, first edition. I know it’s sentimental, but I can’t help myself. I still love the smell and feel of a new hardcover book!

THE UNWRITTEN SCRIPT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father studied with Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1921. He was one of the first psychoanalysts to practice the “new” field of psychiatry in this country — in New York City. If you’re trying to do the math, I am not approaching 90. My father was almost 60 when I was born.

One of my Dad’s cases from that time has haunted me. I wanted to write a script based on this story for my audio theater group, Voicescapes Audio Theater. But it involves a hit man for the mob going to a psychiatrist. It was done, with great success and humor in “Analyze This” with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. And of course in “The Sopranos” on HBO.

mobster4The fact that my father’s story predates these versions by over 50 years does not seem to matter. When I tell the story, people are fascinated, but say: “Too bad you can’t turn this into a script – it’s already been done.” I still think it’s a great story, so I’ll tell it to you. With the proviso you don’t try to turn it into a script.


A man walked into my father’s office and said he needed psychiatric help. What was the problem? He couldn’t do his job anymore. It meant a demotion at work and a pay cut.

What was his job?

He was a hit man for the mob and just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger. He talked about the demotion to second story work (burglaries), as any corporate employee would. He complained he was too old now to go back to climbing in and out of windows.

Edward_g_robinson

He was humiliated by his lower status in the organization. So was his wife. She was getting snubbed by the upper level mob wives. She was furious about the pay cut he had to take and was making his life miserable.

My father had a moral dilemma. Should he do his job and help this man go out and kill people again? He only killed other mobsters, never civilians — and did that make a moral difference? Or should he uphold his personal feelings rather than his professional ones, and turn the man away?

He wondered how he would go about stifling the stirrings of conscience in this man, even if he wanted to.

Bullets-or-Ballots

My father was also concerned about his personal safety. He asked the man how he could be sure if he cured him, the man wouldn’t come back and shoot him because he knew too much. The man said: “ Doc, how do I know you’re not going to turn me into the authorities? I guess we’re just going to have to trust each other.”

My Dad was intrigued by the man. His curiosity and professional ethics won. He took the man on as a patient. Unfortunately the story ends pretty much there. My father had several sessions with the man and then the man just stopped coming.

By sir_trees-d6cn6ls
By sir_trees-d6cn6ls

Maybe the story has stayed with me all these years because it ended in mystery. I theorized the man fell out a second story window in the course of a robbery. My father thought maybe he had told someone about his progress in therapy and the hit man who “replaced” him decided he wanted to keep his promotion.

I think this story is different from the whiny mobster and shrink stories already out there. I may yet write a script using this as a part of the plot. But for now, the story is a big hit at dinner parties.

Hopefully, it makes a good post, too.