Monday, September 09, 2013

Derivative Miscellany

This, as it happens, is our countdown week for a trip to France. I am already feeling the stirrings of mild panic. We leave on Saturday evening from Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on an Air Transat flight that will deposit us in Marseilles at 1140 local time Sunday September 15th. One of those dreadful try-and-get-a-few-hours-sleep in a tiny airline seat at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. Been there, done that, as the trite saying has it. And more than once. One wishes for the development of the fabulous Star Trek gismo that has one saying something like "Beam me over there, Scottie!" And have the croissant and piping hot café-au-lait waiting for us on arrival. Please?

Well, that won't happen. We will however hope to be conscious, and even sentient, upon arrival, able to navigate ourselves and our overstuffed suitcases to our hotel. And then able to explore the old city of Marseilles during the afternoon - an on-and-off bus tour of the city is one possibility - before settling down, sevenish, for a sumptuous dinner of Mediterranean seafood and a crisp cold bottle of white wine. And then, hopefully, a good night's sleep. On that part of the wish list, I will see my friendly MD on Wednesday and request a prescription for mild sleeping pills to ease my way through the otherwise sleepless night in the aforementioned tiny aircraft seat. They do help, these little chemical wonders. The trick, of course, to be able to titrate the dose and wake up and face the new day on the other side of the Atlantic, sans fuzziness of brain.

One item we will be bringing with us is the original Word version of Mary Lou Longworth's guest blog entry on the New/Old Marseilles, from June 15th this year:

It was very clever of me to arrange that, I think, although the original motivation for the guest blog was a positive review of Mary Lou's most recent mystery novel in the Times by Marilyn Stasio. In any event, we will have in hand a detailed guide to Marseilles.

As an aside to that part of our trip, at brunch yesterday, my daughter Kristina asked why we had decided to start our trip in Marseilles, rather than Paris. My response? That this was the place where Jason Bourne (aka Matt Damon) came ashore, lost in an amnesic fog, from his near-death experience at the hands of an African despot in the Mediterranean, before being rescued by a French fishing boat. One of my fave films, by the way.

Yes, that was the original motivation, odd though it may seem. But I already knew, of course, that there would be a lot of interesting things to see in Marseilles. (Think also about The French Connection, with Gene Hackman, which also starts in Marseilles. So much of my life is governed by films.) And additional research has proven this to be true.

In preparation for the trip - to perform a riff on several recent Type M posts on the horrors of rapidly-advancing technology - I took myself out last Tuesday to purchase a new notebook to take on the trip. The one I settled on was a Hewlett Packard 2000. It was the cheapest one available at my local Best Buy store. I was told it was the "entry level" unit, but it seemed nonetheless to have about twice the computing power of the first Lunar Lander, and was equipped with Wi-Fi, and the latest bit of Microsoft Magic, Windows 8. And of course that proved to be almost totally incomprehensible. When I fired it up the screen was plastered with all these weird Windows 8 tiles, almost none of which did very much for me. Except inspire panic.

I emailed a very tech-savvy friend who told me he had no experience with Windows 8 and could not help me. The same with my tech-savvy daughter, the aforementioned Kristina, who also had never worked with Windows 8, but who had heard that it was really different from Windows 7, with which I was reasonably familiar. A deep gloom descended upon me. Sleep was lost. I considered chewing my fingernails, but as I have never done that, there was no relief to be found there.

Suzanne came to my rescue. Some months ago, she had clipped an article from a local paper on a small family-owned computer outfit. I emailed them and two days later a very young lad in a ball cap appeared on the doorstep. (They are all so young!) An hour later my new notebook had been whipped into shape. The dreaded and incomprehensible Windows 8 had been reconfigured to look and act like Windows 7. Peace of mind had been restored. All that remains to be done now is to purchase a wireless mouse to override the machine's touchpad, which is proving to be way too "touchy-feely" for my liking.

So, I am good to go to continue working on Stride #4 during the trip. I will also be able to post my blog from France on the 23rd. And send and receive emails.

A final bit of derivative stuff before I close. This morning, before starting this post, I read Charlotte's most recent post, Bought Off. Interesting research she has done on black history in Kansas. More or less in that context, Suzanne and I sat down last night to watch a now-classic film from 1967 - which shockingly is starting to look like semi-ancient history - In The Heat Of The Night; with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.

In a real sense, the film is a slice of black history in America. Although I have to add that it was directed by a Canadian, Norman Jewison. (As another aside, Rod Steiger won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Sheriff of Sparta, Mississippi, where the story takes place. A body of opinion holds that he should have gotten the same Oscar for his role in an earlier, 1964, film, The Pawnbroker; but that film was very controversial, and the controversy worked against his being chosen for the award. Instead, Lee Marvin got the Oscar for his role in Cat Ballou, a comedic western.)

I think it might be a bit of a shocker for a young person today, who has no direct memory of the 1960's, to watch this film, and see how things have changed. Similarly, I think this year's film of the Jackie Robinson story, 42, would have the same effect.

And that's where I will leave it for this outing. The next offering will emanate from France; Paris, probably.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

As to Windows 8--it's unbelievable. For some reason, they won't let the user alter or insert different tiles, so a lot of apps look just like Internet Explorer. I have a new HP that included HP QuickStart. It's a godsend. You can't exit anything in Windows 8. Start by disabling Bing. It's seriously evil.