Underneath my yellow skin

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Resting My Little Grey Cells With Hercule Poirot

People who know me might or might not know something rather strange about me–I am a rabid Hercule Poirot fan. I say it’s strange because my tastes run more towards the contemporary and what some would call noir or ‘gritty’. Poirot is none of those things, though later in the TV series, they tried their damnedest to make it so. I want to make it clear that I read the stories voraciously when I was a teenager, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I’ve read each at least three or five times, and some up to dozens of times. My two favorites are The Big Four and Curtain, and I’m trying my own hand at writing a Poirot story. It’s dashed hard, though, to write in someone else’s voice and not make it sound like parody. There is someone who has written two new ‘Poirot’ novels with the blessing of the Christie estate (money already running dry?), and I tried to read the first one. It wasn’t Poirot at all, and I didn’t make it past the first few pages. I didn’t even try to read the second one. Anyway, writing a Poirot story has been a good exercise, but I don’t know if I’ll finish it.

Back to the books. I loved Poirot’s finickiness, his preciseness, his ego, and his little grey cells. I didn’t care how ludicrous his denouements were. In fact, the more ludicrous, the better. I love modern murder mysteries, but I do have to say the insistence on verisimilitude can get tedious. I love the internet, but it makes it far too easy to check up on the details. “There’s no such place as Shop and Cop in Boston!” Who cares, really? It’s funny, but it even happened in the days before the internet. Agatha Christie had a character in her later novels named Ariadne Oliver whose famous detective is a vegetarian Finn named Sven Hjerson. Ariadne is clearly a stand-in for Agatha Christie, and she’s always lamenting about how she shouldn’t have made him a Finn and that people in Finland have too much time to read. It’s hilarious, and I’m quite sure it was Dame Christie’s way of venting her frustration because it’s said she came to hate Poirot by the end of her career.

I started watching the Ustinov movies, but he never really was Poirot to me. Funny note: David Suchet played Chief Inspector Japp in one of the Ustinov movies, and, um, let’s just say it wasn’t the right role for him. He IS Hercule Poirot, and there shall be no other. Yes, I will watch the (ugh) Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, but I won’t like it. The trailer is atrocious, Kenneth Branagh couldn’t be more wrong for the part, and everything about is wrong. Then again, all three of the prior versions of the movie are terrible, too (including, sadly, the David Suchet version which got all Catholique at the end), and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better as a novel. Interestingly enough, even though it’s one of the more famous novels, it’s not one of my favorite. It’s too convoluted, even for a Poirot novel, and there’s no way to cram it in an hour and a half to two hours. Anyway, I don’t think there should be any more Poirot portrayals unless it’s done by an actual Belgian. It’s time to let it go and let David Suchet remain the gold standard.

I know as I watch that there are problems with the series. One, the way they portray the working class, often making them appear thick, slow, and conniving. Another is using English actors for other nationalities. Speaking of which, Dame Christie had some pretty provincial ideas about other nationalities, which is one of my least favorite part of the books. In watching the series again, I’ve been wincing at some of the portrayals (both as how they are written and the English actors portraying them). The biggest strength is also the biggest problem, and I hate having to talk about it, but talk I must. It’s David Suchet as Poirot. Now, my admiration for Suchet as Poirot knows no bounds. I am currently watching the first episode, and how he grew into the part until he embodied the character is amazing. He is Poirot to me that any time I hear him speak in his regular voice, I am jarred. It is a performance of the lifetime, and I adore every aspect of it.


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Too Tired to Think–and Dark Souls III

I’m writing this on Christmas, and I’m feeling out of sorts. Not as bad as in past years, but there’s still a vague ‘I should be celebrating, but I’m not, and that makes me a bad person.” As I said, it’s much more subdued than it has been in past years, but it’s still there. I like to say I’m immune to advertising*, but there is still enough societal pressure that makes me low-key feel bad for not celebrating.

I still feel like shit with congestion and cotton in my brain. My ears are scabby and gross, and if I pick the scabs (I know, I know), pus oozes out. My lymph node is almost not-swollen any more, which is good, and it’s barely tender. I’m still going to go to the doc after the holidays, though, because I need to get a grip on this. I also need to get my thyroid meds checked, which may help with the sinus crap.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve cut out gluten and dairy, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it–except for cheese. God, I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back. As Tim Minchin says, “I cannot Camembert any more.”

Why does cheese have to be so goddamn delicious???? And why is it so hard to duplicate? “I love cheese, but it’s plain to see, that cheese doesn’t love me. I am such a fool in love; I just cannot get enough, but it’s an unrequited love!” Sing it, Tim! The rest of it, though? Not. I’ve gone back to my Taiwanese roots and reacquainted myself with rice. Which, by the way, smells so delicious while cooking. And, PSA: rice cooker all the way for a perfect cook every time. Anyway, rice is way tastier than bread, and it’s way more versatile. I’ve also discovered non-gluten tortillas, bread, and bagels which are all nearly as good as the originals.

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Engaging My Little Grey Cells

but of course, mon ami
Using my little grey cells!

“You must use the little grey cells, Hastings!” How often have I read that in a Poirot story? More times than I care to count. I’ve been entranced with Hercule Poirot since I was a kid, reading every novel and short story I could get my hands on. I devoured them, reading each at least ten times and some up to a hundred. I’ve read other books by Agatha Christie as well, but none have captured my imagination as much as that little Belgian fusspot with the magnificent mustaches and OCD traits.

I have loved detective stories since I first learned to read. Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, to name a few. I wrote my first mystery when I was in fifth grade, and I illustrated it myself. It was atrocious, but there was a glimmer of the twisted, torturous mind that I would soon fully develop.

Back to Poirot. Many years ago, I started watching the Poirot movies, starting with the Peter Ustinov versions. I didn’t care for them much because I didn’t think Ustinov was the right actor for the role. I can’t exactly explain why, but he was too big, too bluff, and too…much. He was smug and condescending, and, yes, Poirot is both of these things, but not overtly so. I also watched the Albert Finney version of Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (which was a cavalcade of top-tier stars). He was dreadful, though I read that Dame Christie said he was her favorite version. I think she was pulling everyone’s leg. She fairly hated Poirot by the end of her career (as evidenced by her writing the character Ariadne Oliver, a writer who’s fed up with her Finn detective), and she probably rued the day she created him.

I started watching the David Suchet series on PBS, and I was hooked. In the early days, they were fairly faithful to the books, though they had to make adjustments for cinematic purposes, of course. I thought the casting as pretty near perfect with Hugh Fraser as the bluff, hearty, auburn-haired woman-smitten, and dim but loyal Captain Hastings; Pauline Moran as the austere and efficient Miss Lemon, and Philip Jackson as the dour, sardonic, and dogged Inspector Japp. I do have a problem with the way they made Miss Lemon more warm and less like a human robot, but I still quite like Pauline Moran’s performance.

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