A Black Cat, ButtonEyes

and a Locked Door

A locked door is a mystery, and many readers love a good mystery. If you are one of those readers then Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is worth a read. Don’t let the fact that Coraline falls into the YAL genre dissuade you from giving it a read. It may not have the intensity of Clive Barker or detail of H. P. Lovecraft but Gaiman’s novel is a well written piece of supernatural fiction with a handful of awards (once you read the novel you’ll get why I used ‘handful’).

Gaiman’s novel follows the fairy tale tradition of foreboding and magical places, but we all know the foreboding is often mysterious and inviting. Coraline passes through a magical door into world that is just like her own, only a little bit better. The danger of blindly wanting and/or chasing after something that is better than what you already have simply because it is better can be viewed as one of the novel’s themes (if you want to get critical and such). While in the alternate world Coraline must confront a witch who has buttons for eyes. Her primary tools in this battle are bravery, wits and the assistance of a black cat (read my criticism of Gaiman’s “The Price” if you like cat stories). The novel’s well developed protagonist and engaging plot will keep you turning the pages, and Gaiman’s ability to turn a phrase will have you rereading them.

Coraline Book Cover v2
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline has all the aspects of a well developed supernatural story with a touch of mystery. The novel addresses the possible dangers of desiring something simply because it is just a little bit better than what you have. Gaiman also show us that even though you may pass through a doorway that does not mean you cannot come back.

-K-

Coraline (2002) by Neil Gaiman.

Dose of Dr. Gonzo

“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-

Some Thoughts on Doorways

The Physical and the Metaphor

Grand entrances and quiet exits. We arrive and we depart through a variety of doors, both the physical and the metaphorical. There is the thrill of walking through a doorway for the first time, and there is the relief of walking through a doorway for the last time. Doorways are a part of our lives.

Bus Stop Doors (Optio-edit)
“Bus Stop Doors”

Life is full of doors. Some doors have welcome signs while others tell us to keep out. There are doors that are closed to you due to who you are or what you’ve done. There are doors opened for you because of who you know. There are doors that open to empty apartments at 3:00 in the morning and doors to cold doctors’ offices. There are also doors to family homes you can always walk through without knocking and doors to friends’ apartments that will gladly open for you at 3:00 in the morning (sometimes with the disapproving frown of a spouse). Some of these doors are real to the touch an others are ideas.

Whether they are physical doors or doors as metaphor we pass through many of them in our lives. This month is about those doors, and more importantly, what is beyond those doorways.

-K-

The Photo Finish

The Desire for a Second Chance

There is a cliché out there on stickers, shirts, and signs that states, “Life happens.” Life does happen, and it happens quickly. We react to life and often make decisions with limited information and frequently based solely on emotions. These reactions and decisions don’t always work out how we wish they would, and we’re left with a desire for a second chance. As the month on gambling draws to an end I’m thinking about photo finishes and second chances.

Photo Finish #4 (D5300-j24.62)
“Photo Finish”

I’ve had a few winners overs the years that were decided by photo finishes. I’ve had a couple of losers too. I’ve also known some gamblers who made the mistake of throwing their wagers away before “Photo Finish” was posted on the tote board (Nelson Algren’s essay “Stoopers and Shoeboard Watchers” addresses this issue). The photo finish is second chance. The horse you bet $20 to win that posted second may actually become a winner if the tote boards flashes “Photo Finish” and the officials’ decision goes in your favor. The photo finish is a chance to go from second to first place. Isn’t that what we want, not just from the ponies but from life? We want the opportunity to move from loser to winner, but that opportunity may require a second chance. Second chances in life are a lot like photos finishes, rare.

Life has a way of not just happening but happening in ways we don’t expect. Sometimes we react to life in ways that result in wishing we could have a second chance. Sadly there are no photo finishes in life; tote boards are final and second chances are few.

-K-

That feeling of being totally in control and so at the mercy of fate.

-K-

A McQueen-Newman Daily Double

The Cincinnati Kid/The Hustler Double Feature

If you are in the same situation as me, which is the same situation as most people these days, you are staying home more often than usual. Staying home does give us the opportunity to watch more movies. Since the focus of this month is gambling I would like to suggest a pair of outstanding gambling movies from the 1960s, The Cincinnati Kid and The Hustler.

The Cincinnati Kid Cover v2
The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid and The Hustler are as much about gambling as Field of Dreams is just about baseball. If your interests are cards and pool then these movies are worth a watch, but they are so much more that their titles and subject matter would suggest. These movies are about card sharks, pool hustlers, high stakes games, and the lives of two upstart gamblers. These are also detailed characters studies of hubris and the frailty of human relationships.

Steve McQueen’s Eric “The Kid” Stoner and Paul Newman’s “Fast” Eddie Felson are young men at the top of their respective games of poker and pool. Both men display a singular drive and determination in their quests to defeat the reigning champions, Edward G. Robinson’s “The Man” and Jackie Gleason’s Minnesota Fats, in order to be recognized as the best players of stud poker and straight pool.  The hubris each man displays while seeking this recognition impacts not only himself but also each man’s friends and lovers.  These movies are more than stories of poker and pool.  These are stories in the tradition of Greek tragedy.

The Hustler Movie Cover
The Hustler

If you find that you have more free time than usual to watch some movies then The Cincinnati Kid and The Hustler will make for a great double feature. These are much more than two great gambling movies. They serve as two insightful character studies of the impact of hubris.

-K-

The Cincinnati Kid (1965) with Steve McQueen, Ann Margaret, Tuesday Weld, and Edward G. Robinson. Directed by Norman Jewison

The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott. Directed by Robert Rossen.

Dose of Dr. Gonzo

 

“A little bit of this town goes a very long way.  After five days in Vegas you feel like you’ve been here for five years.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-

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