Intelligence Briefing: “Window”

Such fortuitous timing: It is summer, it is hot, and she can’t work in her yard because at the moment it is filled with piles of gravel (She’s having her driveway re-done). What else can she do but read? And she has excellent reading material in Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe.

This book. THIS BOOK. Wow. Until this book, she didn’t think it would be possible for her to be so engaged in reading about the destruction of a German city during World War II (Because — depressing, right? Besides, a lot of other things happened during World War II. Such as the death of two uncles, all the way across the world, in the Philippines. And the horrible hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Manila. Nevertheless)

What Mr. Lowe is really good at is painting a picture, putting the reader in scene. Just look at how he describes the night before the British aerial attack on Hamburg — important because, as the pilots were told, Hamburg was “Germany’s main center of submarine production.” There was distribution of a quantity of “brown paper packages” filled with “silver foil strips” called “Window.” Window was going to give the British aerial supremacy over the Germans. Window was going to win the war!


Intelligence Officer: “You will already have been told how to drop Window. It has been worked out as carefully as possible to give you maximum protection, but there are two points which I want to emphasize strongly. Firstly, the benefit of Window is a communal one: The Window which protects you is not so much that which you drop yourself as that which is already in the air dropped off by an aircraft ahead. To obtain full advantage, it is therefore necessary to fly in a concentrated stream along the ordered route.”

“Secondly, the task of discharging the packets of Window will not be an easy one. You are hampered by your oxygen tube, intercom connections, the darkness, and the general difficulties of physical effort at high altitudes. Despite these hardships, it is essential that the correct quantities of Window are discharged at the correct time intervals.”

The officer “went on to explain that Window was considered so important the Air Ministry was already developing machines to ensure a steady flow from the aircraft. In the meantime, however, it was up to the airmen themselves to maintain a machinelike regularity when dropping the bundles down the flare chute.”


Unfortunately, the dropping of “Window” did not exactly work out as well as visualized! The long strips of foil got tangled, especially at high altitude, and sometimes blew back into the plane, filling the interior with strips of foil that hampered the crew’s visibility . . . oh Lord, this was hilarious!

btw: Is there any system stupider than the new WordPress block system, which won’t let self indicate that the previous paragraphs are a quote. And if you try contacting WordPress customer service, they will tell you to e-mail. She really doesn’t know why they had to change the old system, when no one complained. And they applied the new system without giving anyone a heads-up. Who’s in charge of decision-making over there?

Anyhoo, they are a quote from pp. 74 – 75 of Inferno.

Stay cool, because self isn’t.

The Dialogue: Kendra and Rhys

The pace is picking up.

Linwood Barclay writes good dialogue.

For example:

They found a nearby Denny’s and demanded coffee immediately. Kendra ordered a veggie omelette, Rhys went for the steak and eggs.

“You know, I usually work alone,” Rhys said as he sipped on his first cup.

“Same,” she said. “But the client was right, figuring this was a two-person job.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Different.”

“So, Rhys, you got a real name?”

“I do. But how do you know it isn’t Rhys?”

“No one would really want to be named Rhys. If it was your name, you’d change it.”

“How about Kendra? Sounds like you walked out of a Chanel ad.”

“Okay, so I’m not Kendra and you’re not Rhys.”

Rhys raised his mug and smiled. “To us, whoever we are.”

— p. 173, Find You First, by Linwood Barclay

Things Self Liked: A Quiet Place, Part II

John Krasinski, such a sly one: makes a sequel that still puts him on-screen despite his character dying in the first. But it makes complete emotional sense.

This is a very stylish horror movie. Mebbe not Alien level, but still. It’s very stylish.

Another thing that shows Krasinski’s slyness: he introduces us to ugly Cillian Murphy. Think about that for a minute. UGLY CILLIAN MURPHY.

The actress who plays his deaf daughter is absolutely amazing, and there is of course Emily Blunt.

Emily Blunt. Emily Blunt. Emily Blunt.

Even when she’s running, she looks like a ballet dancer.

Also, the filthiest feet (But why does Cillian Murphy’s character wear boots when EVERYONE ELSE IS BAREFOOT)

Also, clever use of an oxygen tank.

Self loudly gasped at least once.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

My Love to Director Luke Holland

It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. There were signs all over downtown reminding everyone to wear a mask, the marquee on Fox Theater announced that Malala Yousef was coming to speak in October.

I did not have high expectations for Final Account. I’ve seen every Holocaust movie of the last three decades, including Quentin Tarantino’s. I didn’t read any reviews; I only wanted to get some respite from the glare.

Two things: there were other people in the audience. Perhaps eight other people? I assumed they were seniors. They usually are, at the movies I see. Towards the end, someone to my right clapped. It was after the interview with the man who had been one of 23 SS at the Wannsee Conference (1942) when The Final Solution was decided on. I looked to the right, saw bare feet up on the seat in front (which is a very American thing to do, it’s almost summer hey) and assumed the feet belonged to a young person. Much to my surprise, when the lights went up, it was a tall woman whose grey hair was cut very short, like a boy’s. She was wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops. She walked quickly out of the theater after the movie ended, faster than I’ve seen any person, young or old, move.

The film was a series of interviews with the last surviving members of the SS (identifiable by a small mark, a tattoo), and with others who worked for the Nazis, male and female. It started with those who were inducted into Hitler Youth in the early 1930s, moved all the way up through Kristallnacht (1938) and into the Allied Victory.

The day before the Americans arrived at one of the camps, the guards started stuffing people into the crematoriums, as many as they could. And then they slunk away. One woman told how she successfully hid her fiancee, a prison guard, for nine months. Her companions were surprised. I guess they’d never heard her tell this story? They also sounded a bit incredulous.

(I started the movie eating popcorn, out of habit. Can you imagine?)

The interview with Hans Werk, a member of the Waffen S.S., one of those who sat around a table in Wannsee and discussed The Final Solution, was a true punch to the gut. He was engaging in some sort of open discussion with students seated around a table. Get this: the student’s faces were blurred out, to conceal their identities, when you would think it would be the other way around. After all, what would students have to hide?

One wore a T-shirt that said “La Familia”??? They were all male, and all white. But it was Werk who stared directly into the camera and said, “I belonged to a murderous organization.” At which the students sitting around objected and said, “Must we live with this shame all our lives?” And then I understood why the students’ faces were blurred. They criticized Werk for his “lack of honour.” (!!!???)

Two of the interviews were with ex-SS who were still proud of their membership in this “elite” organization (and why was I not surprised that those two men seemed to have the nicest living rooms). The last interview, however, was in a very humble room, and I thought: “This was why this was selected to be the last interview. He’s going to go all-out about his shame.”

But no! He was with Hitler to the end! He was PROUD of Hitler! I was soooo surprised.

Oh bravo, Luke Holland.

One interviewee said they were “partially complicit.” But at what point does complicity start shading into guilt?

Most were ashamed and most said they “knew nothing.” That was their way of covering up their shame, but it leaked out in their eyes.

What. A. Movie. Five stars.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 148: SPOTS AND DOTS

Yayoi Kusama is queen!

But Renzo Piano is king. Here is the living roof of the building he designed to house the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. They laid sod six inches thick on the roof in 2008. 13 years later, this is the result:

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Lean, Mean, Killing Machine

Jason Statham is back in his own star vehicle, Wrath of Man. The man who The New York Times‘s Michiko Kakutani once called a “bullet-headed looker” is back.

You know who else is back? Josh Hartnett. Yup, that’s right, Josh Hartnett, who self hasn’t seen on the big screen since The Faculty (1998!). When not required to be a heartthrob, the guy can act. Self means, really act.

And you know who else is in this movie? Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood. Who plays the badest badass she’s ever seen in a movie in a while. The kind of bad guy you’d cheer to see vivisected. Good turn, Scott Eastwood! (From certain angles, she swears she almost thought it was Clint)

The final set-piece, self didn’t think she took a breath once. It was all action, and the action had the remorselessness of a yakuza movie. Or of The Raid.

Who is that actor who plays Jason Statham’s son in the movie? Self has never seen him in her life, but he is well cast. She looks him up later — he has that kind of fey quality some British actors have when very young, but the actor turns out to be from OREGON. Big surprise! Turns out Americans are capable of turning out their own fey, young actors. LOL

There is no “closure,” not really.

Self would say she still liked Mortal Kombat better, since Wrath of Man is so unrelentingly grim. But she liked it ever so much more than Here Today, which put her to sleep.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Sentence of the Day: Shuggie Bain

  • She got her teeth from her daddy’s side and the Cambpell teeth had always been weak, they were a reason for humility in an otherwise handsome face.

Even though she’s just starting, self can see why this novel won the 2020 Booker Prize. It’s the voice.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Eight Days on a Fishing Boat from Newlyn

Lamorna Ash is a beautiful writer. Self appreciates the precision in the following description, especially “they will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come”:

Dressed in their oilskins, the men head out onto the uncovered deck to spread the nets ready for the first haul. They will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come. The ancient, bird-like being heaves her wings back up, pulling the chainmail-clinking nets high up into the air above us, before dropping them down into the water with a smack. They break its surface and disappear beneath. The nets will remain sunken for the next few hours, stroking along the seabed, gathering fish into their cod-ends.

The salt-licked wind makes my eyes red . . .

Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town, p. 33

And since self has so many pictures from her own trip to Cornwall in 2019, she’ll just throw in one more, why not?

Self Wishing She Could

frame p. 505 of A Promised Land because everything you need to know about Lindsey Graham is there in two paragraphs.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Next book: a young woman decides to spend a year in Cornwall after a life drawing class in which the model is a fifty-something fisherman. Self heard the woman writes pretty well, too: Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town, by Lamorna Ash.

Sentence of the Day: A Promised Land, p. 38

44 writes too, too well. Self can see it now: a sentence of the day two, maybe even three, times a day.

This (2nd) sentence of the day comes right after a scene where Obama flies to LA at a friend’s invitation to attend the 2000 Democratic Convention, finds that he can’t rent a car to the Staples Center because his American Express card is over its limit, manages to get over there anyway (though he doesn’t spell out how), then finds himself “haplessly” circling “the perimeter” and “watching the festivities on mounted TV screens” because “the credential my friend had secured . . . didn’t allow entry to the convention floor.” He flies home in a “dark mood,” fuming about being “almost forty” and “broke.”

Without further ado, THE SECOND SENTENCE OF THE DAY!

  • I recognized that in running for Congress I’d been driven not by some selfless dream of changing the world, but rather by the need to justify the choices I had already made, or to satisfy my ego, or to quell my envy of those who had achieved what I had not.

In the above sentence, Obama makes multiple uses of the Oxford comma. Use this sentence as Exhibit A if you are ever doubtful of the power of a correctly placed Oxford comma!

Stay safe, dear blog readers, stay safe.

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