DEUTSCHE BANK & CASABLANCA

DEUTSCHE BANK & CASABLANCA

Deutsche Bank has had a bad reputation for a long time. Almost eighty years (80) ago in the movie Casablanca Rick is at his chess board monitoring patrons allowed to enter the gambling room in the casino. It is not long into the movie when the follow exchange happens. Please excuse my missing a line, a bit of description of action or a word from the dialogue.

Rick sees a Well-Dressed Man wearing a flower at the entrance and shakes his head no. 

Doorman: Sorry, Sir, this is a private room.

Doorman steps out and closes the door behind him. 

Well-Dressed Man (incredible): Who do you think I am? I know there is gambling in there! It is no secret. You can’t keep me out of there.

Well-Dressed Man pushes on the door; it opens.

Rick steps out.

Doorman: This gentleman—

Rick Yes, what is the trouble?

Well-Dressed Man: I’ve been in every gambling hall between Honolulu and Berlin. 

(pulls out wallet, hands card to Rick) If you think I’m going to be kept out of a saloon like this, you’re very much mistaken. 

Peter Lorrie (holding cigarette) bushes through door congestion.

Lorrie: (To Well-Dressed Man) Excuse me please. (Looks at Rick) Hello, Rick. 

He gets nod of approval from Rick.

Rick looks at card and rips it up. He gives it back to the Well-Dressed Man: You cash is good at the bar. 

Well-Dressed Man: You know who I am?

Rick: I do. You’re lucky the bar is open to you. 

Well-Dressed Man: This is outrageous! I shall report it to the _____. (turns stomps off, tosses pieces of card in the air.) 

Rick returns to his table. Peter Lorrie intercepts him.

Lorrie: You know, watching you just now with the Deutsche Bank, one would think you’ve been doing this all your life.

Rick: What makes you think I haven’t?

Lorrie: Oh—–When you first came to Casablanca, I thought —

Rick: You thought what?

Lorrie: What right do I have to think?

elizabeth warren/sarah palin

Today’s Sarah Palin is Elizabeth Warren. This revelation arrived after watching Saturday Night Live: Preppy, smiling woman utters nonsense but offers life advice. Trillions of dollars are fantasy figures like spending the money before winning the lottery.

I’m not certain that Elizabeth Warren knows where Russia is, but Sarah Palin does. I hope Elizabeth Warren’s trademark sweaters are not of foreign origin, like Canada: Never wear a stain-collecting sweater twice. I have yet to see Elizabeth Warren’s family, whilst Sarah Palin’s family was foisted upon us. The names of children were somewhat natural: Branch, Leaf, Root.

There is a difference between the women. Sarah Palin is a master of adjectives. Using adjectives to explain policies supports a variegated life. Great or Grand is a question of the ages.

Elizabeth Warren likes incomprehensibility: Use antitrust laws to break up tech companies. Question One: What is the monopolized market – Intellectual Property? Decades back a British newspaper warned in a April 1 headline that a media mogul had purchased all intellectual property in the world. Human beings not laughing were terrified. Prove that the barriers of entry for intellectual property have risen so high, become burdensome and are noisome and onerous that Americans have stopped thinking and expressing themselves.

So Sarah and Liz, go to it Girls!

SEA OF CORTEZ

John Steinbeck

For a month Steinbeck joined an Exhibition to collect species of fauna in the Gulf of California, once known as the Sea of Cortez. It is not a travel book, although the parts where the author breaks into travel are the most interesting. 

This is mostly a go-out-and-find-a-new-species book. It some ways it is like Moby Dick, Melville writing about whales and killing them with heavy political overtones. It is also like Theodore Roosevelt’s book about traveling up the River of Doubt(?) or the River or No Return, in the middle of the Amazon in 1913. Roosevelt almost killed himself and everyone else. That story became repetitive – one portage after another, shortage of food, equipment lost, people missing, everything what should happen in the jungle did. It was tiresome reading. I stopped halfway and flipped to the end.

Likewise, Steinbeck has days where everyone searches for species. One collection day is like other collection days. I didn’t care if it was Easter Sunday. He observes about some scientific writing (Chapter 10) “In some reports it is impossible because of inept expression…” Steinbeck does write adequately, but the reader really has to love species. Steinbeck takes another shot in Chapter 17: “The literature of science is filled with answers found when the question propounded had an entirely different direction and end.”

Upon arriving in La Paz Steinbeck gives warning to California, which no one has heeded: “On the water’s edge…a new hotel…before long and the beautiful, poor, bedraggled old town will bloom with a Floridian ugliness.” That is the California’s coast line from San Francisco, south, looks like: plastic, cement, steal and glass along with the old, reliable El Camino Real. Today, Steinbeck might agree that Cannery Row has become a hippie, freak Disneyland.

Steinbeck writes about Mexican youth: “At last we stopped in front of a mournful cantina where morose young men hung about waiting for something to happen. They had waited a long time – several generations – for something to happen.” (Chapter 9)

Further on, Steinbeck wonders: 

“It would be interesting…to explain to one of these Indians our tremendous projects, 

our great drives, the fantastic production of goods that can’t be sold, the clutter of 

possessions which enslave whole populations with debt, the worry and neuroses that go 

into the rearing and educating children who find no place for themselves in this world: 

the defense of the country against a fanatic nation of conquerors, and the necessity to

become frantic to do it; the spoilage and wastage and death necessary for the retention of the crazy thing; the science which labors to acquire knowledge, and the movement of 

people and goods contrary to the knowledge obtained.” (Chapter 21) 

Avoid the species but read this book.

A RUSSIAN JOURNAL

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck got an assignment from the New York Herald-Tribune to visit the Soviet Union, and to take, photographer, Robert Capa with him.

There were incidences of deprivation, some caused by Soviet society and authorities – can’t see something, can’t go somewhere or permission arrived too late. Other inconveniences arose by being in remote Moscow (suspicious of the West), in the Ukraine, Stalingrad or in Georgia. Note that Steinbeck had to travel to each location from Moscow. He could not go from the Ukraine to Stalingrad. There is a sense that neither Steinbeck nor Cape knew much history, sociology or psychology of Russia or of the Soviet Union. Yet, Steinbeck’s observations ring true.

It is a writer’s notebook. He strives to put together a story, an understanding of the great nation and its people. Everyone works but removed from political power with no ambition, most citizens of the Soviet state present the feel of human beings everywhere. None mentions internal politics, complains about officials (harvests are good), or fears the Secret Police. People dance and sing. In the country and in the smaller cities (Kiev was mostly in ruins in 1947) there seems no disparity in income, no flashiness of individuals, no errant ideas coming from any source. There is no free marketplace of ideas. Everything is collectively harvested and lumped like rye gathered from a field. 

Steinbeck disapproved: 

I believe one thing powerfully – that the only creative thing our

species has is the individual lonely mind. Two people can create

a child but I know of no other thing created by a group. The 

group ungoverned by individual thinking is a horrible destructive

principal. The great change in the last 2000 years was the 

Christian idea that the individual soul was very precious. 

Page XXV. 

In the absence of the individual, arts in the Soviet Union were withering. Before 1917 the Russians had a thriving musical community: Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Stravinsky departed. Prokofiev returned and left, and in the mid-1930s he stayed. But great performers and conductors left as the Communist regime oppressed. Think about Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff being criticized and controlled by Stalin and his bureaucratic goons, like Khachaturian, Shostakovich and Prokofiev were denounced. 

Among writers every city and town had an organization or union. Steinbeck is not complimentary of Simonov, playwright of The Russian Question. The American stopped interviewing after the first try. Questions were two paragraphs long, the first part being unconnected to the second. Steinbeck asked for a translation from the Russian of an answer he had given. It wasn’t close to his response. 

Steinbeck wonders, “We had made contact with many Russian people, but were the questions we had wanted answered actually answered? I had made notes of conversations, and of details…But we were too close to it. We didn’t know what we had.” (Chapter 9) “[W]e had to see something every minute…We were living a life which for virtue had only been equaled once or twice in the history of the would.” (Chapter 8) 

Steinbeck felt constrained. His assignment with photographs rushed into journalism was incapable of being told, except to tell of experiences and observations of the Russian people: Moscow everyone seemed afraid and could not act without multiple authorizations that something could be done or photographed. And in the country where few restraints hampered Steinbeck and Capa – yet they were among citizens, common and surviving and somewhat happy with no ambitions, no knowledge, no ideas and no dreams.

What perplexed Steinbeck was not the difference between city and country folk. It was the dreams of people – most people have dreams and imaginations. He could not observe those, work and hope for the future. Perhaps Steinbeck needed more time and exposure – he had a trip to Tchaikovsky’s home but found little inspiration there. In the Soviet Union as happens in all totalitarian states inventiveness and originality is suspected and shunned. Steinbeck likely saw these circumstances and was frustrated.

AMBROSE BIERCE, OOPS

This nineteenth century person is known in California and in journalism and by dictionary readers. When a Library of America volume of his writings came my way, I bought and read.

Bierce (mostly revised and published in 1909) cherishes Nineteenth Century expression eschewing advances in the language and literature by Melville, Twain and others. He wasn’t  journalistic, using excess words per sentence and attempting to create structures, possibly parallel to one another within a sentence. That today is eliminated by using the correct verb. (It’s his style, right?) When writing a Memoir, what sort of author has the parenthetical, If memory serves me correct?

Having read books about the Battle of Shiloh, Easter Sunday, 1862, I was interested in Bierce’s first-hand account. A lot of men died at Shiloh. For a reader of a battle it is important to know direction – north, east, south, west, or ahead, left, right, behind, or the time on the dial of a clock. Bierce tell little of that or the intensity of the fighting – I never learned whether 20 bodies were piled up before Bierce or whether he looked out and saw 50 bodies covering a field. Where did the shooting come from? Was anyone in command?

Anyone writing about battles, military maneuvers and placement of men and armies runs into the excellent Autobiography of US Grant (1885)  There is no nonsense on any battlefield; there is none on paper. Straightforward facts allow irony, humor, social commentary to rend the reader’s imagination. Grant conveys, A Union unit of African-American teamsters and cooks were ordered to do something by their general in early May 1864. The General left. Grant conveyed further, that General did not see those teamsters and cooks until July 1864. What happened to that unit seems obvious. Any officer of rank came across them and gave a new order, or countermanded orders, and the Unit was under his command. An entire story can be told of that unit, while the Union Army fought from Northern Virginia to the James River.

If anything like Grant’s few sentences every appears in Bierce, it is hard to find.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AUTOBIOGRAPHY

DeCapo

This engaging book is an example why political autobiographies rarely succeed. e.g. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography stops where he begins to discuss politics, policies and persons. There is always slippage, the author confusing his own ego, ideas and proposals with the will of the people. It is seen every day on TV – politician XY or XX bellows that this, that or the next thing is what Americans want.

TR (Theodore Roosevelt) succeeds mostly because he writes well, he states his reasons and logic and he hits issues face on. During his Presidency, opponents labelled him a Socialist. He goes after this issue whilst complaining about persons like Debs, Haywood and others, on one hand, and also disclaiming persons like Harriman – not a good citizen. Whether the reader agrees with TR, he advances his ideas and his deeds. He takes on the Columbia-Panama-Canal issue vigorously. He somewhat solved the Anthracite Coal Strike by changing titles of members of a Presidential Commission. 

The first half of this life is filled with intimate tidbits. Who knew TR admired Jane Austen, unlike his contemporary Mark Twain: “…it is too bad they let her die a natural death.” Which readers have seen eld used, hoary eld in the book; the right stuff apparently is a term of the nineteenth century. Before the big policy issues of the Presidency, TR writes intelligently and efficiently about a number of issues, including, New York City; ineffective men in politics; party patronage; newspaper editors; women’s rights; slum labor; pardoning the wealthy; reading by statemen (or people with power); unequal justice; sociological justice; etc.

There are reasons why Theodore Roosevelt is on Mt. Rushmore; some are found in this volume which I recommend. He looked to the future, not the past, as the salvation of the country, and he discussed issues clearly and intelligently. Any person committed to be a progressive or an activist would do well to read and use thoughts and ideas in this Autobiography:  Why? Because everyone knew that Theodore Roosevelt was a plain, simple, outright Commie!

STATE OF EXISTENCE

At the beginning of September 2019 the Wall Street Journal interviewed Salmon Rushdie.  He’s getting on and has a novelistic fearsome perspective: “I have no idea what’s coming next, but on the basis of what we see, it doesn’t look great.” Later in the interview/review, he says,”Nothing goes according to the old rules anymore.”

That is a plausible perspective. But were the old rules any good, and can anyone ever figure the future?

Today, Americans and everyone in the world who want a change need talents in disciplines beyond literature, Molecular and Cell Biology, software programming and law.  Knowing all four is a good start, but having one discipline and being financially secure makes that individual unfit and likely to pursue any idiot ideology, or an abnormal cult, or follow a way of life offered by a guru from Gordo. Something in every human spirit and being must accept communication and compromise – so sprinklers are redirected to avoid spraying a neighbor’s drive.

If I got it right, Rushdie’s new novel, Quichotte, is a retelling of Don Quixote. Research for this book included watching The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and shows of that ilk. I doubt if I’ll ever read a rewrite of Quixote, but anyone looking for love from TV shows is at a loss. It’s like getting instructions from Trump University on love, all the while knowing Don’s PSA reading is .15. No one can get more real than that, although it sounds like a jolly lie.

Many citizens no longer read. They are attracted to sound. Music is jumping, but what to make of company and incomprehensivensss: Big money, little minds.  Thinking, thought, pondering, ruminating and other activities keeping human beings connected to the world best and attached to one another begin with one individual. Conversing, discussing, talking, saying need another person. Is that difficult? 

FREE SPEECH IN AMERICA

The excellent THEODORE ROOSEVELT AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the Republican Party in 1900 tells, 

…the monotony usually attendant upon such a campaign of political speaking was diversified in vivid fashion by occasional hostile audiences. One or two of the meetings ended in riots. One meeting was finally broken up by a mob; everybody fought so speaking had to stop. Soon after this we reached a town where we were told there might be trouble. Here the local committee included an old and valued friend, a “two-gun” man of repute, who was not in the least quarrelsome, but who always kept his word. We marched around to the local opera-house, which was packed with a mass of men, many of them rather rough-looking. My friend the two-gun man sat immediately behind me, fixing his gaze with instant intentness on any section of the house from which there came so much as a whisper. The audience listened to me with rapt attention. At the end, with a pride in my rhetorical powers which proceeded from a misunderstanding of the situation, I remarked to the chairman: “I held that audience well; there wasn’t an interruption.”

To which the chairman replied: “Interruption? Well, I guess not. Seth had sent around word that if any son of a gun peeped he’d kill him!”

Chapter 4, p. 129-130; New York, DA CAPO, 1985. 

AMERICAN PROMETHEUS

KAI BIRD AND MARTIN J. SHERWIN

This J. Robert Oppenheimer biography attempts to tell the physicist’s story and exonerate him completely. I agree with the conclusion: Oppenheimer should not have lost his Clearance for being a security risk. 

Most of the book proves otherwise, and the text makes it difficult to understand fully. The number of physicists worldwide capable of doing work on the gadget is small. Yet this book fails to describe this community in the 1920s and 1930s. Readers learn how productive and helpful Oppenheimer was, but a sense of the physicists and their activities is sparse or non-existent.

A sense of the brilliant physicists, as persons, is also not told. Because they are brilliant in one field, does not mean they are at all capable in another, e.g. human behavior, society and politics. Like Oppenheimer they may have knowledge in other disciplines or have a passing acquaintance. That does not mean they fully appreciate politics, ideologies and how they played out in human society. The physicists work and produce in a discipline that begins with inductive reasoning – general to the specific.

Countering espionage and conducting a police probe prize deductive reasoning: collecting many, many facts and putting together pieces of the puzzle: Specific to General. It is the best way to arrive at the truth in human problems. This book tells that Oppenheimer failed to admit facts – sound equipment is recording everything – or nothing bothers him and the investigators should not worry. I don’t know if Oppenheimer’s judgment was correct or not. The rub between investigators and the physicist is making sure the investigators don’t arrive at the wrong judgments based upon partial facts (known to Oppenheimer), jumping to conclusions or thinking Oppenheimer was just plain wrong. Sometimes the investigators could not tell. Oppenheimer seemed to be hiding something.

So what was the world the physicists lived in, a basic approach to life based upon inductive reasoning? They always understood the major premise, the minor premise, but how does one get human beings and their society – apart from a scientific logic – to change and adopt new ways? Physicists may have a crazy thought, consider what is wrong is right, and say completely stupid stuff. Yet, in the end none believed any of it, yet none knew why.

This book tells much of the investigators’ stories without settings. There is no attempt to describe politics in Berkeley or the campus during the 1930s: This is the place Oppenheimer jumped into when he took a professorship there.

On a biological note there seems little set-up and passing thoughts in Oppenheimer that he will return to Berkeley after the War, and go back to physics. He seemed headed to return to physics, but some schools believed he was finished as a Star. Instead, the book says Oppenheimer  was entering one side of the military-industrial complex and he was right and righteous. He was Oppenheimer; he had overseen the construction of the gadget. He was entering politics, not physics.

American Prometheus devotes much time to what the physicists thought about the bomb, and how they wanted open, free research, exchanged worldwide. No one working at Los Alamos had become a politician. It is difficult to imagine in 1944, the naiveté of the physicists, the airy, free flow of information. It would be disapproved of today, although I have heard but not seen on the Internet plans showing how-to-build a nuclear weapon. Certainly the Soviet Union fought Germany after June 21, 1941, but before that date the Soviets were buddy-buddy with the Nazis, signing the August 1939 Non-Aggression Pact which let World War Two begin a week later. 

Totalitarianism in Stalinist Soviet Union apparently made no impression on physicists. Most people knew or suspected that Stalin was sending millions of citizens to Siberia. There was no reason ever to believe that Western and Soviet science would have a free exchange of information. 

When it was clear that Germany would surrender, some physicists stopped working in Los Alamos as early as December 1944, before the Battle of the Bulge. There was their assumption that the bombs would be dropped on Germany, likely Berlin. When Germany surrendered, physicists asked, why use it on Japan. American Prometheus is short on facts, analysis and history. Some American physicists were pining for a perfect world of international agreements and general education before the bomb was used. 

This is a shortcoming in this biography, not presenting the historical setting accurately: Note after Hiroshima the Japanese cabinet without the Emperor deadlocked on peace or war. In the War the Japanese lost cities before in fire bombings; they got a report from Japanese physicists that Hiroshima had been hit with an atomic bomb. The Cabinet asked, Can you make one for us? After August 6, 1945 the message from Japan was, Let the American destroy Japanese cities.

Drop the second bomb on Nagasaki. The Emperor of Japan showed up at the cabinet meeting and  declared the War should end. He had his people and his nation in his heart. The War that might have ended in 1946, ended in August 1945.

American Prometheus would be better if its authors had put Oppenheimer’s flying blind while proposing nuclear this or that into a historical context. Oppenheimer met Truman in the White House, and was gravely disappointed that the President did not snatch up his International Control of the bomb, some physicists wanted. Oppenheimer was horribly naive, a position the authors hold out as commendable. Yet, it is no wonder why Americans having different slates of facts did not trust Oppenheimer.

 

  

CALL FOR THE DEAD

John Le Carre

This short book is instructive and a delight to read. 

1. For writers who have wondered about the differences between detective stories and espionage tales, this story, having both, is an example.

2.  For writing wondering how much dialogue to put into a story and where, this story    presents  dialogue judiciously well. There are no frills. The dialogue advances the story.

3.  Writers wondering about description by using adjectives, a phrase or a prepositional phrase, the scenery and the characters are further developed by description.

This writing advances each story well until the stories break into their constituent parts. It seems like a free for all, except bad guys (or spies) are identified or caught and the success of the espionage is identified and analyzed. 

The story revolves around the death of a British civil servant who is identified as a possible security risk. An interview with George Smiley causes his East German handlers to kill the civil servant and everyone else associated with him. Murder is committed to insure security (espionage) but some of the acts are unnecessary and criminal. Not much is investigated about each course. Smiley predicts who will be the next victims. I suppose the story does not need Smiley’s report to his superiors in the last chapter: It is a reminder that espionage is a dangerous business.