The Survivors

So, let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why, shall we? Especially now that I’ve discovered the amazing treasure Netflix had waiting for me that is the Spanish show Elite. (There will be much, more more on its magnificence to come, rest assured.)

If you’ve not watched the show–its final season or any of its previous, or still might want to read the book–you should move away at this instant because there are spoilers a-plenty a-coming. You’ve been warned.

I got sucked into this show in its initial season, and even then, it was problematic to me on several levels. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching–even as I rolled my eyes from time to time and hated myself for not switching it off (Really? A box of cassette tapes the kids passed around between each other without anyone outside the group finding out? I also read the book after I watched the first season–and the cassettes were archaic and a jarring note in it, and it was old by the time the show aired). But the young actors were all appealing, it was pretty well written if a bit contrived at times (see box of cassette tapes–oh, and a thirty year old Walkman that still works. Please. I was lucky if one of mine lasted a year), and there were some surprises that caught me off guard, and its sentimentality was actually earned. The show began going off the rails in the second season, sort of redeemed itself (while still off the rails) in its third, and in its fourth–well, let’s just say it was time for the show, its cast, and its viewers to be put out of our collective misery.

Ani, the annoying and insufferable new character they inexplicably wove into the third season to humanize their monstrous rapist/serial assaulter, Bryce, for some unknowable reason, was left out of a lot of the fourth season, and wasn’t a major player at all; so what was the whole point of her character in the first place? Oh, yes, she served as a plot device; the incredibly smart stranger who came into this messy high school, got to know everyone, and somehow got all of them–keeping deep, dark, criminal secrets–to not only confide in her but allowed her to use her intelligence to help them cover up everything and frame a dead kid. To add insult to injury, they bring in yet another almost complete stranger in the fourth season to essentially to play the same role of plot device. This is Winston, the pretty, artistic, dreamy-looking gay boy from Hillcrest–the school Bryce transferred to after his rape trial. If you will recall, Winston hooked up with one of Bryce’s asshole football buddies at a Hillcrest party–this would be Monty, who came to the party looking for Bryce–and then, after the hook-up, beat the shit out of Winston in front of the entire party. Winston and Monty somehow after that became a thing–because yes, I agree; the closet is a terrible place but to self-loathingly beat the shit out of a kid you just hooked up with–and then the kid doesn’t hate and loathe his basher but sleeps with you again?

How is this different from the romance novels where a rape victim falls in love with her rapist?

And falls in love with him, to the point that he decides to give up his education at elite Hillcrest and transfer to Liberty-a much shittier school–to find out who actually did kill Bryce–the murder pinned on Monty, WHO WAS JAILED FOR SEXUALLY ASSAULTING ANOTHER MALE STUDENT WITH A BROOM–since he knows Monty’s innocent. Because he was with Monty when Bryce was murdered.

Sorry, I get that Monty’s situation was terrible. But apparently, in season 4, no one at Liberty has an issue with gay students anymore.

Charlie, Bryce’s nice football player friend, who eventually sees and understand what monsters Bryce and Monty are, is apparently bisexual–although we never saw this before, but apparently everyone knows. Alex, whose story arc of being so in love with Jessica that the thought of everything that happened to her in Season One drove him to try to take his own life? Also is now apparently bisexual–kissing first Zack (but Zack is so gay-friendly it doesn’t affect their friendship at all), then getting involved with Winston, and finally, Charlie woos him against his will and they become a couple–and not only that, they are elected Prom Royalty because nobody at Liberty is a nasty homophobe.

So why the fuck was Monty so deep in the closet and hate himself, and his own desires, so much that he would sexually assault one boy and then physically assault another? IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. Yes, his dad is an abusive asshole and probably homophobic, but truly if no one at Liberty has a problem with it…even Diego, the new football star who came out of nowhere but was also supposedly so close to Monty that he’s willing to try to “date” Jessica to get her to tell him the truth, IS FINE WITH IT WHEN WINSTON EXPLAINS HOW HE KNOWS MONTY DID’T KILL BRYCE. He just shrugs it off as nothing.

And remember–the peeping tom photo of Hannah kissing another girl which was one of the reasons why in season one? If it was not a big deal to anyone, why was Hannah so humiliated? She was mocked; it was yet another major “Hannah is a slut” moment. I guess we’re all supposed to believe that after Hannah killed herself, all these kids at Liberty grew? The ones who never heard the tapes and didn’t know any of the truth about what was happening, or what had happened?

Contrived, contrived, contrived.

Even writing out these brief sketches of things that have happened over the years on this show makes me realize just how ridiculous any of this. But that was part of the problem. The show was this insane, improbable storyline that just kept getting more and more melodramatic and tragic, trying to outdo previous seasons, but with a slightly moralistic tone to it; always pulling back, become a “very special show” like when sitcoms in the 1980’s would try to tackle a current issue and teach a valuable lesson, that inevitably included some inane guest star in an insane attempt to boost ratings and win Emmy nominations. (They rarely, if ever, did.)

And Winston falling in love with his gay-basher wasn’t even the craziest, most contrived part of season four (nor was Alex’s out of nowhere bisexuality; and let me be clear here: I don’t have a problem with bisexuality. But bisexual representation deserves better than what they got here). That would be the sudden discovery that Justin–poor old hard luck, heroin addicted Justin, who had finally gotten his shit together, gotten adopted into a family that loves and accepts him (the Jensen), and even got accepted into Berkeley–has HIV/AIDS after he collapses at the prom, and is dead within a few days.

Yes, as a sex worker and drug addict he was at high risk. Yes, drug abuse can weaken the immune system and the disease can progress even faster as a result. He could have gotten infected from one of his sex-work clients, or from sharing a needle–although it seemed whenever he was using he did it by himself–but even so, in this day and age, a young white teenager with access to health care, even if he was undiagnosed and his HIV had progressed to an AIDS diagnosis, will most likely not die, nor would the hospital and the doctors just shrugged and given him up for dead so quickly. (And don’t think I didn’t notice the lesions that started showing up on his neck and hands and so forth several episodes before; living through the 1980s’s fucking trained me to notice that shit, so I kept thinking, as we went through the last few episodes they better not be giving him AIDS, they better not be giving him AIDS…and guess what? They not only gave him AIDS, but they let him die from it.

And that kind of pissed me off.

Rather than go with a good message for the mostly young audience of the show (get tested! It’s important! Use condoms!) they chose to use this storyline as a scare tactic instead, and further stigmatize HIV/AIDS and those who live with it. They didn’t even emphasize the need for testing to catch it early. Nope, just “you can’t get tested without giving consent” (it’s true still in most of the country),and nothing else.

It just felt…contrived. Let’s kill off one of the main cast as a tearjerker to close out the show and somehow let everyone heal! Bitch, please.

And of course, when Jessica–who may have been exposed–and Diego–whom she slept with and might have put at risk, get tested…they talk about how she and Justin “always used protection.” WHY is so fucking hard to say condoms? It is fucking 2020, call it what it is. CONDOMS. It sounds so forced, so unrealistic, so jarringly wrong to hear a teenager–anyone, really–say “we used protection” when they would say “We used condoms.”

And for the record, condoms aren’t 100% at blocking HIV infection, either.

We deserved better than what we got with this show, and yes, I should have stopped watching. But come on.

Watch Elite instead.

Miserabilism

Sunday morning. I slept really well again last night, but my stomach is still quirky this morning; I am not enjoying this in the least and it really needs to stop sometime soon, thank you very much. I do appreciate the deep sleep I’ve been getting these last few nights, but there’s still fatigue in my muscles and joints and it might be dehydration still; I am going to have to drink more fluids today than I have been before and see if that improves things at all. I still haven’t gotten my test results back yet–then again, my phone expired last night and I forgot to charge it, so there may be a missed call or something there. I’ll check when I finish writing this, I suppose.

I also started writing up my detailed critique of 13 Reasons Why last night and it’s failures; which were made all the more evident when Paul and I moved on to yet another show from Netflix Spain called Elite, which is precisely what 13 Reasons Why could have been. Elite is more soapy, but they actually lean into it unashamedly, and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining and better written. The cast is also spectacularly good in their roles, and we are unashamedly addicted to it–and there are three glorious seasons to indulge in thus far. That should get us through until next weekend, right? And I am looking forward to it! We truly enjoyed Toy Boy, and even White Lines, uneven as it was. Shows from Spanish Netflix are truly amazing; and I’m also really glad I got over my aversion to subtitles, which opens up a whole new world of film and television for us.

I took it easy yesterday, reading my emails and reorganizing the books while i could and straightening up a bit around the Lost Apartment. I also took a folder of partial stories to my easy chair and started reading through them. A lot of them of course are story fragments, just the opening paragraphs, and while they were sketchy and not particularly in depth; I could see the potential in them. I am very pleased with how “Closing Time” starts and rereading those paragraphs tipped me off on how to continue with the story; the same goes with “One Night at Brandi’s Lounge” and “Please Die Soon.” Today I am going to–once I finish some things here on-line that I need to get done today–close my Internet browser and focus on writing; the things I had planned to get done this weekend I haven’t, and that’s in part due to this disorientation feeling that comes from not being at 100% physically, which I rather dislike.

Then again, I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick, other than those with Munchhausen’s Syndrome.

I also was thinking about the Kansas book yesterday and making notes; both shows were making me think more about it, and I do think it’s a great idea and has the potential to be a terrific book, if I can ever get back to work on it. But I’m never going to get back to either it or Bury Me in Shadows until I get this other stuff finished…so I really need to try to focus today and get to work on it.

I also was reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower yesterday when I didn’t have the energy to do anything else–the energy drains is the worst part of this whole thing, quite frankly–and I really do love Tuchman. I’ve never read The Guns of August, which I really should, and would love to eventually would like to work my way through her entire catalogue. Oh, how I wish I’d majored in History and Creative Writing in college! I generally don’t waste my time with regrets about anything, and as I am extremely happy with my life right now any change to my past would have altered my life completely and I wouldn’t be where I am today. But oh, to have learned how to comb through research and find the proper materials to write about history intelligently and responsibly! I think I could have written history the way Tuchman did–compellingly, by being entertaining as well as educating at the same time. As I have mentioned many times before, I’d love to do the sixteenth century much the same as Tuchman did the fourteenth in A Different Mirror; but focusing on the rise of women to power. I do think that century had more women in power than any other century before or since (perhaps the eighteenth might compare); Isabella f Castile; England had three regnant queens (Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I); Scotland had Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, the regent Marie de Guise; France of course had Catherine de Medici pulling the strings of power; and there were any number of Habsburg women who ruled as regents in the vast array of their Imperial lands. Women in that century also were responsible for shifts of power–Juana of Castile brought the Spanish empire into the Habsburg realms; the struggle between Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn changed England forever; Margaret Tudor brought the Scots royal family eventually to power in England through her descendants; and there were powerful women lurking everywhere, from Jeanne d’Albret to Margaret of Austria to Marie of Hungary to Marguerite de Valois–and of course, the great mistress of Henri II–Diane de Poitiers. These women influenced the shape of the history that came after them, and changed the world.

All right, on that note I am going to close this and head back into the spice mines for the day. Wish me luck with my work and my stomach, Constant Reader! Have a lovely Sunday.

King of Rome

It’s Saturday, and I am feeling better. Yesterday was much better than Thursday; I drank a lot of fluids and didn’t seem to have any stomach issues; the headache came and went, and I coughed what probably was a normal every day amount of coughs–something in my throat that needed clearing–and while I did still have some fatigue and chest tightness, I was able to do some things as long as I took a break after. I did the dishes, and watched The 39 Steps. I did some laundry, and spent some time on Youtube. I moved necessary information from my old journal (now full) into my new one. We also watched Knives Out last night before retiring to bed, which we also enjoyed.

I did try to read, but it was tiring–awful, really, when you are required to stream for entertainment because it’s less taxing mentally–so I wasn’t able to do much of that. So, I put my fiction novel aside–Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich, and took down The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman, which is quite good; it’s her study of Europe in the generation/decades leading up to World War I. I had started it years ago and never finished–I don’t remember why, quite frankly–but was able to pick up again and read it here and there while I could focus. The lovely thing about non-fiction, and history in particular, is that you don’t have to worry too much about what came before where you’re reading if you pick it up again years later…history is history.

I also downloaded a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I have never read, and thought perhaps that I should; how does the book that many historians consider partly responsible for the outbreak of the Civil War because it so enflamed abolitionist sentiments in its readers (never, ever doubt the power of fiction to help bring needed change) hold up today? I’ve read some interesting pieces on Gone with the Wind–book and movie, both for and against lately–and that put me in mind of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I had reread a novel about the Civil Rights movement a few years ago that I read when quite young (The Klansman, by William Bradford Huie, a native Alabaman who taught at the University in Tuscaloosa; and the title was definitely a play on The Clansman, the novel Birth of a Nation was based on) and thought it even more powerful now than I did when I was a child; I saw the justifications of the horrific racist white people for what they were and it was plain to me, even as a child, that they weren’t the heroes of the story, even though they were the central characters of the book. So, I went to Project Gutenberg and downloaded a PDF of the book, and as I started reading the first few paragraphs…well, let’s just say the writing style is very dated and leave it at that. There’s also the use of the N word right there on Page One–which of course was common usage in the 1850’s and pretty much up until the 1950’s or 1960’s…and I started thinking that maybe someone should–since the book is now in the public domain–rewrite it and update for modern times? Or perhaps someone could do something like Alice Randall/The Wind Done Gone with it? Or perhaps it should best be left alone? The debate over these old books, primarily focused on Gone with the Wind lately, (and really, it’s mostly about the movie, not the book) and what should be done with and about them, is one I cannot make up my mind about. There’s probably a blog entry on that coming as well.

So far so good this morning. I don’t know if the fatigue is gone, but I slept for a very long time and very deeply. I still have a headache and my stomach is still bothering me this morning, so I am going to try keep putting in fluids since the dehydration issue seems to still be going on as well. There really are fewer things I loathe more than not feeling well, quite frankly. The weird issue with my stomach is that it literally feels tight and sore, like I did some kind of way too intense, way too long abdominal workout, and everything feels kind of bloated and gross? I’m not making that as clear as I should–use your words, writer boy!–but I’m not really sure what’s going on with it. I keep hoping it’s not anything serious, but…it’s still quite strange. The headache is coming and going; I’ll feel it for about fifteen minutes, and then it goes away before coming back. It’s not excruciating, more of a throb than anything else, and then it’s gone. Not enough to even take Tylenol over, frankly, but maybe I should; it might control it and keep it from coming back.

I’m hoping to have both the energy and the focus to write today; failing that, to at least read for a bit. When I finish this I have some emails to address–when do I not have an absurd amount of emails to answer–and hopefully can get most of that resolved before moving on to a highly productive day. One can dream, can’t one?

I have to say, I was really impressed with The 39 Steps. Yes, it was filmed in 1935 and yes, it’s rather dated now; but you can see how masterful Hitchcock was as a director. There’s not as much suspense in it–primarily due to the datedness of the movie–but it’s interesting, and I’ve always wanted to read the novel. I also found it interesting that Madeleine Carroll, who played the lead, was also the kind of icy beautiful blonde heroine Hitchcock gravitated towards for most of his career. But the concepts of the film–a man (played by Robert Donat) who unknowingly stumbles onto an espionage ring, and a female agent is murdered in his apartment, he is blamed and no one will believe the story he is telling; which she told him when he basically rescued her, and so he has to unmask the conspiracy in order to clear himself of the murder, is also Hitchcock’s favorite kind of story: what I call the “right man in the wrong place at the wrong time” kind of thing. Bourbon Street Blues was originally conceived that way, and let’s face it, almost all of the Scotty books really boil down to that simple concept–Scotty keeps accidentally stumbling into trouble. I do recommend it; other than being incredibly dated it’s quite fun to watch.

And if you haven’t seen Knives Out, you absolutely must. The crime is so amazingly Agatha Christie-like and complex that it’s like she wrote it herself, and the cast is magnificent–like those wonderful all-star film adaptations of Christie they started making in the 1970’s, like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile (which I want to rewatch but can’t find it streaming anywhere). The cast is absolutely perfect–every last one of them–and I do hope this signals the return of these kinds of films.

And now, I am going to go to my easy chair and wrestle with Woolrich for a bit before answering emails and writing.

Nervously

I didn’t get as much writing done yesterday as I would have liked; but I get some of it done. Yesterday was one of those days where I questioned everything I wrote–which is annoying, because it’s part and parcel with imposter syndrome. I hate doubting myself, but at the same time I think I want this to be good so badly that I am being much harsher with myself than I usually am; I guess being in the midst of a tropical storm didn’t help matters much, either.

I finally gave up–I did make some progress, which I’ll settle for–and retired to my easy chair to read around three. I made some good progress on Night Has a Thousand Eyes–Woolrich was a master at setting mood–and then last night we started watching the final season of 13 Reasons Why–which is kind of silly, as the actors playing the teenagers have all aged over the course of the series but haven’t on the show, and, as I said to Paul last night, “they should have called this season 13 Reasons Why: Grad School.” Not to mention the fact that over the course of the show’s run these kids have been involved in first, covering up a sexual assault; proceeding with charges for the sexual assault; another sexual assault; stopping a mass shooting and covering that up; a murder; and on and on and on….it seems to me like all of their parents would be a lot more deeply concerned about their mental health and their response to the trauma they faced; college is going to be an interesting experience for them all. But it’s entertaining–they certainly have dealt with a lot of issues for teens, including coming out; bullying; sexual assault; bodily autonomy; and suicide–which is what kicked the show off to begin with.

Tropical Storm Cristobal passed over us last night as well; it wasn’t so bad here around the Lost Apartment as we had feared it could be; it rained pretty steadily all day, and we certainly had off-and-on rain all day, but the walk and yard never filled up with water (we’ve had more rain from just a regular thunderstorm) and I don’t think any streets in our neighborhood flooded at all; I’ve not checked the news to see how bad it was in the city. I know the coastal parishes got some storm surge flooding, and I do hope those folks are all okay. That’s the thing about tropical storms, depressions and hurricanes–the mix of relief and guilt; relief that where you live didn’t get hit that hard; guilt because somewhere else did and you kind of wished it on by wishing it away from you.

Incidentally, it just started raining again, which will make the trip to and from work a lot of fun, he typed sarcastically.

I was tired pretty much the entire weekend; I’m not really sure what that is all about, but I didn’t sleep well any of the three nights of this past weekend, nor did I sleep well last night or most of last week, which is making me very tired and punchy, and also is contributing to my general sense of exhaustion, I think. I slept well last night–I only woke up a few times–and am a bit lethargic this morning (the endless cycle of ‘didn’t sleep-need caffeine to wake up–can’t sleep–more caffeine is draining, frankly); but am hopeful to be able to kick it into a relatively high gear soon.

And on that note, best to get to it, I suppose. Have a lovely Monday wherever you are–and stay safe.

In Denial

And now we enter that eerie period of waiting and anticipation; as a storm hovers over the overly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and decides which way north to follow. It appears that the eye of Cristobal is going to pass over Houma on it’s way ashore; Houma is about an hour drive from here, but southeastern Louisiana geography and direction is confusing. You do, for example, have to drive west out of New Orleans, out past the airport, to get there; and you cross the river on the way (I have a horrible story about coming back from doing an HIV testing event out there, but I’ll save that for another time). It’s more due west and south of New Orleans, and it’s levee backs up to what used to be wetlands, but because of coastal erosion the Gulf is on the other side. There’s a native reservation out there as well–Houma is named after the Houma tribe–and it’s one of those places we will undoubtedly lose to the encroaching Gulf at some point. Nicholls State University is also there. Some day when I have time I would love to go out there and explore the town more; when we used to test at Nicholls State I used to think about writing a story set there a lot. There’s a lot of sugar cane fields in the surrounding area as well.

It’s gray outside my windows this morning, which is to be expected; it’s going to be periodically raining and of course, there is the potential for flash flooding as always. I stopped to make groceries on my way home from work last night so I wouldn’t have to go out in it this weekend at all; I am going to go to the gym (I’ve not gone once this week, which is terribly disgraceful, but I was exhausted on every level all week) in a little bit, after which I am going to come home and write and clean the kitchen. My kitchen is absolutely a disaster area–I cleaned up in here on Thursday night, and it’s shocking how quickly it can again look like a bomb went off in here.

We’re still watching London Kills, which I do recommend, and we’ll probably finish it off this evening. We tend to watch movies a lot on the weekends as well–last weekend we watched Dolemite Is My Name, and I have to say, Eddie Murphy should have at least been nominated for an Oscar for that; the fact he’s only gotten one nomination over his lengthy film career is a disgrace–and there’s some good stuff on HBO MAX, which, along with Disney Plus, is a treasure trove. I also keep forgetting we have CBS All Access, which means I have all those new Star Trek series to watch as well as Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, and we also have Apple Plus. THERE ARE SO MANY STREAMING SERVICES NOW.

And it’s been so long since I’ve had the energy to pick up a book I had to stop for a minute to remember what I am actually reading, which is Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes. I do think it’s appropriate reading for Pride Month, and then when I finish that I am going to go back and reread Larry Kramer’s Book Whose Title Got Me a Facebook Ban. I am also thinking I might revisit one of my favorite Three Investigators stories this weekend as well.

I got an idea for two stories yesterday–because when don’t I get ideas for new stories, right? One is “Dance of the Burning Fools”, which is something that actually happened in history, as described by Barbara Tuchman in her seminal work A Distant Mirror; a party at the court of Charles VI of France, which descended into madness when some of the costumed revelers, dressed as animals in fur and pitch, caught fire and some of them burned to death; the King was one of the men in costume but was rescued. I’m not sure how the story will take shape, but I just thought that perhaps an investigation into the tragedy after the fact? I don’t know, it’s very amorphous right now.

The other is called “Happy Hour at the Hangover Bar,” which was inspired by my noticing on my way to work yesterday that there is a bar on Claiborne Avenue with that very name: the Hangover Bar, and yesterday they had a Happy Hour sign out on the sidewalk in front, and the title popped into my head, with a vague idea about a story told from the point of view of the bartender, watching something unfold in his bar during Happy Hour.

Many years ago, maybe in the late 1990’s, I had an idea for a series of short stories about gay men that were all interconnected through a central character of a nameless bartender at Cafe Lafitte in Exile; one of my best (in my opinion) short stories was one I wrote with that idea in mind; it eventually evolved and the bartender himself became the main character. The story was called “Unsent”, and in one of my proudest moments as a writer, a friend who’d arranged for a collection of my erotic stories to be published in Spanish (thanks again, Lawrence Schimel!) forwarded an email to me from the copy editor, who’d emailed him to tell him that the story had made her cry. I think about that collection–that I’d intended to call The Bartender–every now and again; but so many ideas, so little time, and so much laziness will leave it on the backburner probably forever.

And now, I have to depart for the gym. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and keep the people of Houma, Louisiana in your thoughts this weekend.

Jack the Lad

And now it’s Tuesday.

Yesterday was a strangely low-energy day for me; it was kind of overcast all day and I never really did seem to kick into a higher gear at all.

I did manage to rewatch Body Heat last night, one of my all-time favorite movies, and am delighted to report that it does, indeed, hold up after forty years. And what a film. I saw it originally in the theater; drawn in by a great review I read in the paper that compared it to Double Indemnity, or said that it was loosely based on it, or something like that. I went by myself–I trained myself to go to see movies alone in my late teens–and it was a matinee so there weren’t many people there. I remember that opening shot, of William Hurt’s bare, sweaty back as he watched a fire in the distance from his bedroom window while his hook-up dressed behind him, sitting on the edge of the bed. I remember thinking how sexy he was, and once the character of Kathleen Turner appeared on screen, I also remember thinking how gorgeous she was, as well. I knew who she was–I knew her from her role as Nola on The Doctors, and I also knew she’d been fired from the show for being overweight….which was incredibly hard to believe as I watched her slink across the screen, saying my favorite line ever from a movie: “You’re not very smart, are you? I like that in a man.” I also knew she’d been replaced by Kim Zimmer–I knew all of this because flipping through the channels one day I stopped on The Doctors because Kim Zimmer was on screen and I thought to myself, she’s really pretty and kind of reminds me of Jane Elliott–who’d played my favorite character on General Hospital, Tracy Quartermaine–and at first I did think it was Jane Elliott. I used to read Soap Opera Digest in those days, and shortly thereafter they did a piece on Kim Zimmer, which was when I learned about Kathleen Turner. (Interestingly enough, there was a strong physical resemblance between Zimmer and Turner as well; Zimmer appeared in the film in a supporting role as well)

Body Heat blew me away that first time I saw it; I watched it again when it debuted on HBO, and I try to watch it again periodically. It showed up when I was searching through HBO MAX, and last night I thought, as I waited for Paul to come home, why not? It was very tightly written as well; although last night I spotted a couple of holes in the plot–but the cast was fantastic an it moves so quickly and inevitably to its climax that you don’t really have time to catch those holes until you’ve watched it numerous times. You also have a pre-Cheers Ted Danson as the assistant prosecutor who is a friend of Ned Racine, the low-rent shitty lawyer played by William Hurt, and a very young and beautiful Mickey Rourke as Freddy, the arsonist client of his who holds several keys to the plot in his sexy hands, and of course, both Hurt and Turner at the peak of their youth and beauty.

As I watched Body Heat again last night, something else about the film struck me: it was the first time I can recall seeing a film where the camera sexualized a man in the same way it usually sexualized a woman. Hurt was shirtless or naked at least half of the time he appeared on screen, and his body–which was, for the time, quite spectacular–was shot lovingly by the camera. One of the sexiest sequences I’ve ever seen on film was one shot, where Hurt’s hook up for the night is getting dressed and he is lying in bed, naked, with a sheet draped over his groin but his left leg is uncovered, and you can actually see his naked hip, and the curve of his ass on the bed; it’s an incredibly sexy shot, and not the kind of thing that was standard for a male in a film of the time. He was meant to be seen as sexy and hot; and I don’t remember ever seeing that before in a movie; men were usually considered to be hot and sexy by dint of just being male in movies…I could, of course, be wrong, but at least that’s how I remember it. And as the 80’s progressed, what I call the “gay male gaze” began to be used to shoot beautiful actors more regularly–think about how Rob Lowe was sexualized in almost every movie he made, and it became more of a regular thing.

Body Heat inspired me to start writing noir, quite frankly. I had already read some James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit), but as much as I loved his books it never occurred to me to start writing in that style. Body Heat, on the other hand, inspired a story I started writing called Sunburn (which was used by Laura Lippman as a title for her own noir homage to Cain a few years ago and is one of my favorite noirs), which eventually was retitled Spontaneous Combustion, and now sits in my files, waiting to be written. When I first moved to Tampa, and went for a drive along Bay Shore Boulevard, the big beautiful houses lining the road also inspired me; one in particular seemed the perfect locale for the story of the middle-aged wealthy widow who falls for a hot young man, which kicks off the story.

I’m reminded of that idea every time I watch Body Heat, and as I watched it last night, I thought about the noirs I want to write–a queer noir quintet–and as I write this I realize Spontaneous Combustion isn’t one of them.

Interesting. And on that note, I am off to the spice mines.

I Want a Lover

Sunday morning and I’m sipping away at my first cappuccino (the cappuccinos went so well yesterday morning that I decided to treat myself to them again this morning) and I feel pretty good. It’s absolutely lovely outside this morning–the temperature is in the low eighties–and bright, sunshine glowing everywhere. New Orleans has the most beautiful sky when the sun is shining, and the light here is exceptionally gorgeous.

It also occurs to me that cappuccinos are probably the most cost effective way for me to get my morning caffeine as well. If I used the Keurig, I can go through as many as four K-cups each day, and even the cheaper ones from off-brands aren’t exactly cheap. But cappuccinos require me to grind beans, and bags of beans are certainly cheaper than boxes of K-cups (I also have the reusable ones, but they don’t work that great; I always wind up with grounds in my coffee, grounds in my coffee and you’re so vain…oops, sorry for the musical interlude) and they also go further. I also only need two of these every morning, and they are kind of delicious.

Yesterday was kind of a nice day, really. I slept really well on Friday night, and so was rested, and of course, the cappuccinos gave me an awesome joly of caffeine that gave me the energy to power through some work I had to do yesterday. I finished that around two, and then went to the gym. I worked out very hard, which felt amazing, and then I came home to do the dishes and laundry. I also intended to do the floors, but my muscles were worn out and tired, and instead I repaired to my easy chair, where I watched the last two episodes of The Movies, and, being kind of mentally exhausted, just curled up with Barbara Tuchman’s essay collection, Practicing History. I do love Tuchman, and I also love that she didn’t really have any background in studying history, yet became a major historian.

I went to bed relatively early last night as well, and again, had yet another lovely night’s sleep. And here I am this morning, with a cup of cappuccino, preparing to answer some emails and try to get my inbox cleared out (for now, at any rate) and then I am going to try to work on the Secret Project for a while. My goal was to get it done and out of the way today, so I can send it off into the wilds tomorrow; wish me luck. Most of this is revising and rewriting, with very little new writing needing to be done. I actually enjoy revising and rewriting, surprisingly enough; it always seems easier to me than writing the first draft, which inevitably is a disastrously written horrible mess. I love making order out of chaos; which also explains why I let messes build in the house and the filing to pile up. I simply love making order out of a mess. I’m not sure what that says about me and who I am, but it’s true.

However, I’m also kind of hoping today that I’ll be able to dive into Night Has a Thousand Eyes. I do want to reread Faggots for the Reread Project, but it can wait, and the Woolrich has been waiting far too long for me to get to. Besides, it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve read something new to me, and I really want to start reading more of the Woolrich canon. I’ve got one of his short story collections on my Kindle, and between reading one of his novels and adding him into the Short Story Collection (which reminds me, I need to read W. Somerset Maugham’s “Rain”, which I started reading a while back), I think I can start developing an appreciation for him, as well as an understanding for his work. I want to enjoy reading them for what they are, but I will also, of course, be looking for that elusive “gay sensibility” in his writing that is most likely there and has been ignored by critics for decades.

It was definitely there in “It Had to Be Murder.”

And on that note, I’m going to head back into the spice mines. The sooner I get the work finished, the sooner I can get back to my easy chair with a book, and is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with a book?

I think not!

Lies

And here we are, Friday morning at last!

And what a week it was, was it not? I made some progress on the Secret Project–not enough, of course–and got some things done around the Lost Apartment; I have some more things to get done today so I can coast into the weekend feeling good about being able to get some things done this weekend. I will, of course, need to resist the lure of HBO MAX and all its wonderful movies (I could easily go the rest of my life never watching another episode of Friends; I’m not sure why they thought that would be a selling point–I don’t even care about watching the reunion show they filmed). I do, however, recommend the CNN docuseries The Movies, which is on HBO MAX. If you’re a fan of film and film history, it’s an interesting overview of the rise and development of American cinema. If you’re an aficionado, you probably won’t enjoy it nearly as much as it doesn’t get into a lot of depth.

It’s been a draining week, one that has left me very tired in its wake and unable to get nearly as much done as I would have liked over its last few days. Obviously, the world doesn’t stop turning and things don’t stop being due; for me it’s not so much about wanting everything to return to normal (I don’t think anyone understands or grasps the fact that regardless of what happens, the world isn’t going to return to its pre-pandemic state; New York and New Orleans never returned to their pre-9/11 or pre-Katrina states, after all) as it about me wanting to get a routine established so that I can know what to expect from week to week and when I can do this and when I have time to do that and so on and so forth. I am looking forward to a highly productive weekend–there’s not much choice there, really; I either have to get it all done over the course of this weekend or I am really going to be up the creek…I perform well under pressure, but the pressure and how I react to it is so bad that I really don’t want to ever have to perform under pressure, if that makes any sense.

I doubt seriously that I’ll have time to read anything this weekend, alas, and I am really looking forward to digging back into Larry Kramer’s Faggots.

But as the coffee kicks into gear this morning, I am starting to feel a little more confident about myself and what I can do and what I can get done in the meantime, which is always a better mindset to be in, anyway.

One of the weirdest things about me–really, there are so many–is how easily I can get overwhelmed and descend into depression; the depression also makes me snappy, and I’ve learned that when I am in that kind of state the best thing to do is not interact with anyone outside of Paul, Scooter, and my co-workers at the office, and generally I try to do that as little as possible. Yesterday, after working in the garage all afternoon screening–and as our temperatures continue to rise here in New Orleans, you can imagine how lovely that is–when I came home last night I was despairing of being able to squeeze everything in that I need to for the next three days; this morning, after a good night’s rest and some coffee this morning, I feel like, well, I can do this and then I can do that and then I’ll do this in the morning and then I’ll have the rest of the day free to do this and of course you can get everything done, why do you always have to doubt yourself?

And I’m sure the despair/depression thing has come from not having the energy to write the last two days.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Left to My Own Devices

Thursday morning and here we are, with a mere two more days before we can call it the weekend again. I’m not really sure why I am looking so forward to it; I just have to write and clean and do shit all weekend. Yay? But I guess it’s lovely because I am on my own schedule, I suppose?

I didn’t sleep for shit last night, which was highly annoying. Also, convenient because I forgot to set my alarm. Fortunately, my eyes opened at promptly six this morning. Huzzah?

So, overnight my HBO app on my Apple TV magically converted to an HBO MAX app, and I got lost in there for hours last night, just exploring all the options. I doubt I’ll ever watch the eight or nine Harry Potter movies ever again, but they are there, along with all kinds of over things. Scooby Doo Where Are You in its original two series is there–I watched one last night, delighted, before making dinner–and of course TCM is there, and there are so many classic films I’ve either not seen, or haven’t seen in a very long time. One of my all time favorites, Body Heat, is also there; I can’t wait to rewatch, as I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for quite some time. Also a lot of classic Hitchcock films, many of which I’ve never seen, including North by Northwest and several others. Essentially, with HBO MAX, combined with Hulu and Netflix and Prime and Disney Plus, I really don’t think I ever will have an excuse to be bored ever again, as there’s always something I can watch on one of those streaming services. There’s also some very good classic Hollywood, thank to TCM (Mildred Pierce, Laura, Bringing Up Baby, etc.). In other words, I am quite pleased.

Alas, that will undoubtedly cut into my reading and writing time–but better that than Youtube black holes, right?

Larry Kramer died yesterday, and I thought, “you know, I’ve been meaning to reread Faggots for a really long time and perhaps this is the time to do so, as a tribute to Larry and everything he did for us all.” As I took the book from the stack, I also realized this meant pushing Night Has a Thousand Eyes back into the pile, and this was probably the kind of thing that has happened with far too great a frequency and why I’ve never gotten back to reading the Woolrich, so I decided to go ahead and read the Woolrich and then I’ll get back to the Kramer. Faggots was one of the first “gay” books I read after coming out officially (I had read Gordon Merrick and The Front Runner and The Swimming-Pool Library while in the closet. Faggots was recommended to me when I walked into my first gay bookstore, Tomes and Treasures, in Tampa in the early nineties; the incredibly sexy bookseller–on whom I had a major crush–told me I should read it and Dancer from the Dance, so I bought both and read them) and I sometimes joke that “it almost pushed me back into the closet.” The gay sexuality was so in in-your-face, and all the kinks and other variations depicted within the covers of that book–plus the clear misery and unhappiness of the main character, Fred Lemish–kind of was shocking to someone as na├»ve as I was when I first came out.

This also made me think about my life in those years prior to my thirty-third, which was when I stopped passively floating through my life and tried to take control of it–to start actively living instead of passively letting my life happen to me. I rarely talk about, or even think much about, my life between moving to the suburbs when I was ten and my thirty-third birthday; primarily because my existence was so completely miserable and tragic and pitiful. There was the duality of living as both a closet case in my more regular day-to-day life (and fooling no one, as I was quick to find out later), plus my hidden, furtive life on the edges of gay world. It’s difficult for me to look back at that twenty-three years and not wince or recoil in embarrassment at what a miserable life I was leading, and how desperately unhappy I was all the time. But that time was necessary, because it was also that same period where I was starting to recognize, and learn, that almost everything I was raised to believe was not just a lie but a horrible one. Unlearning those decidedly terrible values and lessons is an ongoing process to this very day, but it’s also terribly important and necessary to shed all that conditioning in American exceptionalism, evangelical Christianity with its bizarre morality and cognitive dissonance, and the true American legacy of white supremacy. As I thought about this last night–we watched the first episode of CNN’s docuseries The Movies on HBO MAX last night, and I was remembering, not only the unhappy first more-than-half of my life, but started unpacking the rest as well.

And it will inevitably show up in my writing at some point.

ANd now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Leaving

Hey everyone! It’s Wednesday already! HUZZAH!

That’s one lovely thing about three day weekends; inevitably it also means a shorter work week at least once. I know, I am simply doing nothing more than wishing my life away; but so be it. I don’t really mind the day job, really; I just wish I had maybe another hour or two free to write every day. Somedays I don’t write at all; some days I write over three thousand words; some days, like yesterday, I only manage six or seven hundred, and I basically was sweating blood to get those done. The three thousand I did on Monday? In the blink of an eye, without even putting any real conscious thought into it; I simply opened the document, knew where the story needed to go, went back to the beginning and corrected and deleted and rewrote and by the time I got to where I’d left off I was in a groove and I had not only managed to correct and revise about 1200 words, I was able to add 3700 to them. I only need one more chapter, and I honestly do think if I go back over the first two again, I can break it down into three, and revise it again to get them to a fairly proper length. Since the painful six or seven hundred words today were an attempt at a third chapter…well, I’ll just take a look at that document tomorrow, hope that I have more energy, and maybe I can have the same writer’s luck I had on Monday.

I’ve pretty much decided to read Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes next; I can’t think why I didn’t pick it back up once I was done with prepping for moderating that panel, whenever and wherever it was. I think I forgot what I had read–I have a vague memory of it being about a man walking home alone late at night in Manhattan along the river, near a park of some sort, and he starts noticing debris on the path–personal belongings, like things that may have fallen out of a purse. He eventually catches up to the woman whose things they are; I vaguely think that she was on a bridge, or standing by a rail along the water or something, like she was going to jump; instead she starts telling him this strange story–which I don’t remember; I don’t know if I didn’t read that part–I think I may have started; I seem to recall her father, an airplane crash, and a prediction that his plane would crash–but I can’t remember anything else. I do remember that the opening section I was reading was very well done–just as his short story “It Had to Be Murder” was very well done and clever. I think I may embark on a Woolrich Project next, in fact.

I was also thinking I should probably reread Joseph Hanson.

Today’s pay day, and most of the bills aren’t due until next week; so I am thinking I may just wait to pay them until say, the weekend, and bask in the false sensation of having money in the bank for a few days. It’s such a lovely feeling, really, even if it’s entirely false.

We continue to watch White Lines every night; it’s really quite a bizarrely entertaining show. One of the things I’ve noticed about Spanish productions (or co-productions, as in this case) is that when it comes to drama, there’s no limits for the writers. For example, White Lines also features, in one of the warring Spanish/Ibiza Mafia families, an extremely twisted mother-son relationship that is physically inappropriate on every level–but never quite crosses over into full-on mother/son incest. The funniest thing about White Lines is the primary story–in which Zoey has come to Ibiza to find out what happened to her d.j. brother Axel twenty years earlier after his dead body turns up–is the least interesting part of the show. If you simply took Zoey out of the show entirely, you could still do the murder mystery about Axel’s murder (he was fucking both mother and daughter in the bizarrely incestuous Spanish mafia Calafat family, as we discovered last night) and you’d eradicate the least interesting part of the show. Zoey makes no sense whatsover; she had a complete mental breakdown when Axel disappeared, wound up in therapy and institutions for a while, married one of her therapists and has a daughter–she has abandoned both husband and daughter to go to Ibiza to solve this mystery…and is having an affair with the head of security for the Calafats (his name is Boxer and I don’t blame her for this in the least), has gotten involved in a cocaine cover-up and a couple of murders…her motivation doesn’t really make any sense, and she can’t seem to make up her mind whether she wants to salvage the marriage her behavior is slowly disintegrating or embrace the party-hearty freedom of life in Ibiza. Unless there’s a big twist coming, she exists solely so this show is bilingual; partly in English and partly in Spanish.

And apparently, my HBO app today is going to transform into HBO MAX today. I am curious to see what difference that may make. More shows to stream! As it is, I often forget about Amazon Prime–and frankly, their streaming service isn’t the best; primarily because a single show will have each season have its own link, rather than having sub-links per season under a single link for the entire show–probably has to do with some of the stuff needing to be rented or purchased, I suppose, but still annoying.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines and back to work. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone!