Friday, July 01, 2005

“When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”

The Movie: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo), 1966 (Age, Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone, screenwriters; Sergio Leone, dir.)
Who says it: Eli Wallach as Tuco, the Ugly
The context: A one-armed bounty hunter (Al Mulock) breaks in on Tuco in his bath, and gives a long speech about his long, difficult hunt for Tuco. Tuco just pulls out a gun and shoots him.
How to use it: To cut to the chase.

I know nothing about guns. Would this scene be possible? Will guns fire when wet?

Today I've hit that point in every extended trip when I really would like to be home again. As lovely as this trip has been, and as gracious as my hosts are, and as glad as I am to see all my friends (and I still won't see everyone on this trip, sorry, sorry, sorry), I miss my own bed and my own stuff. I feel anxious about my mail. I think I emptied my kitchen trashcan before I left -- I'm sure I did -- except I'm not completely sure I did, and wonder if the neighbors have called the police about the stench.

Nevertheless, we press on. Tomorrow I go to Annapolis and then to Virginia Beach, and I won't be back in Maine until Wednesday. The mail must wait, and that bad smell should only last about 48 hours, right? How long did the bad smell last in "A Rose for Emily"? (Oh, I just checked. A week or two. Well, we'll hope for the best. I'm sure I threw the trash away. I'm sure I did.)

And this is What I Read This Week, which includes two audio books.

The Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel. I mentioned this last week; it was one of the audio books I listened to on the drive from Maine. Fans of romance novels will know who the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel is almost from the moment we meet the character, but only because every romantic adventure since The Scarlet Pimpernel has stolen this plot device. If you can get past the anti-Semitism -- and I'm not sure we should, regardless of the different cultural values of its time -- it's very entertaining.

Richard Matheson, I am Legend. I read this novella in high school, and it bored me -- I didn't get it. Twenty years later, on audiotape, it scared me silly. In suburban Los Angeles, Richard Neville seems to be the only survivor of a plague that turned everyone else into vampires, or into vampires' victims. He manages to stave off both insanity and the vampires, but his own loneliness makes him vulnerable to a different sort of destruction. If I taught high school government or sociology, I'd assign this book; it works on so many different levels, and the allegories are as powerful now as they were in 1954.

Donald F. Terry and Steven R. Wilson, editors, Beyond Small Change: Making Migrant Remittances Count. Remittances -- the payments that migrant workers send home to their relatives and loved ones -- are the human face of the global labor market. Every year, here in the United States, the poorest of the working poor send more than $45 billion home to their families and friends in Latin America alone. This book is a collection of articles that explore the remittance phenomenon and ask what changes are necessary to improve the economic lives of the people sending this money and the people who receive it.

Carl Hiaasen, Flush. Hiaasen's second novel for young adults is the story of Noah and Abbey Underwood, who need to prove that a casino boat owner is dumping raw sewage into the water off the Florida Keys. They care about the environment, but it's also the only way they can keep their dad out of jail and their mom from suing for divorce. Flush is great for kids who have graduated from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. It's more than a little ironic that I kept thinking, as I read the book, what a perfect 1970s-era Disney movie it would make.

Julia Spencer-Fleming, To Darkness and to Death. This series has already won almost every award available to mystery writers, and the books just get better and better. In this book, the fourth in the series, Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson gets called out to help with the search for a missing heiress. That disappearance, however, is not what it seems, and over the course of a single day -- actually, 21 hours -- a proposed land deal becomes the impetus for a terrible series of crimes. The day is also police chief Russ Van Alstyne's 50th birthday, and he and Clare face a crisis point in acknowledging their mutual attraction. What's so great about Julia's books (she's a neighbor, and a lovely person) is that she is absolutely true to her characters, even when it's inconvenient for her plot. Go read this series, already.


JJ said...

Yes, they will fire when wet because the cordite (gunpowder) is encased in the bullet. They won't fire underwater because they need oxygen, but a wet gun will kill.

Actually, I should say wet guns don't kill people, wet people kill people, but you get my meaning.

Anonymous said...

The answer to the gun question is sometimes, maybe even most of the time. I'm not sure that I'd want to bet my life on it like the Ugly does, but he didn't have much to lose!
Allow plenty of time tomorrow because the traffic is horrible already. I wouldn't try to come down the Eastern Shore unless you are confident you can cross Chesapeake Bay quickly. The Bay Bridge at Annapolis has its own problems. The Richmond group is planning dinner at my place about 6 PM. We will be at the Lake Taylor Hospital before that. Call my cell if you need directions.

Anonymous said...

For JJ - Smokeless gray powder (all modern firearm cartridges) do not need outside oxygen to burn. The oxidizer is contained in the nitro compounds in the powder. As long as the cartridge is sealed and water has not leaked into it, yes it will fire underwater. The additional chamber pressures generated by pushing the column of water out of the barrel could cause a rupture, but it will discharge!