Monday, April 24, 2006

The Unexamined Zipper Is Not Worth Riding

I remember my dad took us down the hill to Centennial Park on the bay. Every year, toward the end of July, the carnival would set up on the withered yellow grass beside the marina. There was cotton candy, and a virtual space shuttle, and a long slide which you rode a burlap sack down, and fake tattoos, and enormous badly-sewn teddy-bears and, most importantly, even bigger than the ferris wheel, there was a zipper. Very brightly coloured, gold, red, green, and rust. I pleaded for a ride and convinced my younger brother to come along and my parents gave us a couple of yards worth of pale pink tickets to pass to the guy who pushed the buttons. "Keep your knees straight," the man said, locking the steel mesh door down on us. "See that bar?" he yelled. "Hold onto that!" My brother and I grabbed onto the bar running across our chests and stiffened our knees and the little carton we were in lurched upwards. Please God, I thought, Please don't let this thing turn upside down. And it turned upside down. My jelly knees crumpled and I slumped to the ceiling-now-floor of the little metal box. I became aware that the roaring I could hear was my brother shouting through his gritted teeth. "Shut up! Shut up!" he said, but I could barely hear him over my howling. And then something happened to the damn zipper and we were hung upside down on the top of that ride for what seemed like an hour. My brother still hasn't recovered.

"Ecoutez Bien" + Eux Autres This is walk-away music, sunlight-shining-through-your-windshield music. Remember that scene in The Big Lebowski where The Dude finally gets his car back and everything has gone to hell but that CCR casette is still in the deck? And he pounds the ceiling of the car because it's perfect music and he's driving his car away, yes, PERFECT. That scene is very nearly this song. Also, this song is eating an orange. Slice by slice, beside the hockey rink, outdoors. Where are you going to toss the peel? Also, this song is dark sunglasses and low-income but not-poor suburbs outside of Paris (obviously) and walking at, like, eight o'clock in the morning beside a girl who's wearing high-heels on the crappy sidewalks of those suburbs, because you've both been up all night and where would she have changed her shoes? Oh, you're crazy!

Also, I quit my job at Banana Republic.

"The Five Orange Pips" + Arthur Conan Doyle Just a note to the story, is all. I'm still reeling from reading my big burgundy Conan Doyle. So I was noticing (maybe I'm making to much of too little) a few things. The beginning of this story—and it's not that good a story for a Holmes story, slip-shod, really—lays some pretty fierce groundwork. The sinister equinoctial storm, much more troublesome on sea than land, is washing over London. Watson, reading one of Clark Russell's sea stories, muddles reality with fiction—""the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text". This confusion on Watson's part is both in character and a forethought to the end of this story. The sinister nature of the sea is born out in the death of the client who comes to Holmes in that storm—John Openshaw dies by drowning. He drowns in a canal ouside of London. Holmes solves the mystery, in part to avenge his dead client, but he is too late—a storm takes the murderers of John Openshaw to a very wet grave in the sea when the ship they booked passage on is wrecked in a storm. Thus, although Holmes clears up the mystery, he fails to bring the killers to justice—a very muddled ending to this story, very Watsonish, one could say.

I'm not saying all of Conan Doyle's stories are this dense with symmetry. I'm not even saying this is a particularly good story—Conan Doyle himself ranked it seventh in the collection of twelve it appears in. But what I am saying and what I have noticed is how even in a throw-away piece of Victorian pulp-fiction like this one, Conan Doyle is a very fine writer indeed. And very worthy of critical praise.

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