White Christmas

Well good morning, Constant Reader, and I hope your Saturday is off to a lovely start. I actually missed blogging yesterday–I had started the entry, but wasn’t able to finish before I had to start my work-at-home start time, and by the time I was finished for the day, it was time for the gym, and somehow I never got back here to finish. Deepest apologies, Constant Reader.

It’s chilly this morning in the Lost Apartment, but the sun is bright and shining and it looks absolutely beautiful outside this morning, which is kind of cool. I don’t have to leave the house all weekend other than the gym tomorrow, which is lovely, and I’m hoping to get some good work on the book done today. The last two days I was low energy and unable to think about getting much done, let alone do anything, so today I really need to press my nose to the grindstone and push myself to get back on track. Chapter Eighteen is proving a very tough nut to crack, but I am very pleased with the book (for a change) and am looking very forward to getting back into the groove with it.

LSU’s final game of the football season is today, against Mississippi (I refuse to call them ole miss anymore) and this can go either one of two ways: the Tigers can show up ready to play, for each other, Coach O, and the fanbase; or they can be cocky and overconfident after the Florida win, and get punched in the mouth. I’ll be watching, laptop in my lap, under my electric blanket (honestly, last night I honestly felt that human evolution, progress and civilization all culminated in the invention of the electric blanket), and hoping for the best. It’s a rivalry game called the Magnolia Bowl, and Mississippi hasn’t beaten LSU since 2015, so you know they’re hungry under their new coach, Lane Kiffin. LSU loses and they have their first losing season since 1999; win and they finish 5-5 in a crazy season.

But whatever happens, nothing can take away that win over Florida and ruining their season last weekend, which I am just petty enough to really enjoy.

We finished watching The Flight Attendant Thursday night, and the final episode was perhaps the best one of the entire run; as I have mentioned before, Kaley Cuoco is quite charismatic and likable, like Jennifer Aniston, and even though her character is primarily not very likable, she always is, and that’s an important quality for an actress…although I am rather curious about their flight schedules, because unless things have changed, I don’t think flight crews would work Rome flights as well as Bangkok. There was also a really convoluted secondary subplot that apparently only existed as a reason for one of the other flight attendants to have a gun which he needed to have, in the season finale (it was an incredible length to go to avoid the appearance of contrivance, actually; one almost has to respect the authorial commitment to it), but all the main story was properly wrapped up by the end of the finale, and there was even an opening left for a continuation of the show–also not probable, but it was kind of a nice bow tied up on the final package.

And of course, last night was the conclusion of The Mandalorian. No spoilers, but it was a pretty epic way to end the series, and I am really looking forward to The Book of Boba Fett. I think the series is now officially over–they certainly tied everything up neatly and concluded the story of the Child and Mando–and that pleases me if it is the case; the show was absolutely perfect, and as someone said on Twitter last night, “The best Star Wars movie is The Mandalorian” and I cannot disagree with that sentiment.

It’s hard to believe Christmas, frankly is next week; but this entire year has been a weird one, time has seemed to drag more than any other time, while at the same time it’s almost a relief to have made it this far. 2020 was a deeply unpleasant year, but there were some bright spots. I see everyone doing their “best of 2020” lists and I frankly can’t remember what I’ve watched and what I’ve read, other than I enjoyed almost every bit of it. I had long dry spells where I didn’t write anything, and long spells where all I wrote was the first 500 to 1000 or so words of short story before being stopped dead in my tracks. I still need to get this book revision finished so I can finish my story for the MWA anthology submissions deadline. This final part of the book is the hard part, so I suppose it’s not a surprise that it’s kind of kicking my ass.

This week was a double-feature for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, beginning with The French Connection, an Oscar winning film (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Gene Hackman) which doesn’t, I’m afraid, play well through a modern lens. I can see why the film was so impactful and impressive back in 1971, but now it plays like a lesser episode of NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues. It was a gritty, dirty, almost documentary-like movie about a drug investigation, based on a book about a real drug bust–with the cops’ names changed to protect them. Gene Hackman is terrific as Popeye Doyle; Roy Schieder is equally good as his partner..but all I could think as I watched was, “well, that’s a violation of their civil rights” or “ah, nothing like glorifying police brutality” or “well, that entire scene was a fairly accurate depiction of racial profiling.” Popeye is an unashamed racist; the n-word pops up every now and then, and of course ethnic slurs abound–Little Italy is referred to as “Dagotown”, there’s some anti-Semitism, and of course, the French are referred to as “frogs”–but it does also have some great moments: the chase scene involving Popeye trying to catch a fugitive on an elevated train was pretty impressively shot and edited. Hackman is terrific in the role, even if Popeye is the kind of cop who would think nothing of killing a suspect in his custody….The French Connection ultimately is a pro-police violence film that tries to justify the behavior of cops who violate civil rights and are violent and abusive as necessary, and that, to me, is problematic. As far as awards go, among the films it beat out for the Oscar are The Last Picture Show (which is one of my favorite movies of all time), Fiddler on the Roof (the kind of big-budget, lavish musical that would have won the Oscar a few years earlier), Nicholas and Alexandra (another big budget extravaganza I started watching but quickly got bored with–and would have been a shoe-in for Best Picture in the 1980’s) and of course, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Second up was the 1974 film version of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die, which was the eighth Bond film and the second novel in the series. It’s also one of the few Bond films I ever saw in the theater, and was my first Bond film. It was Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond, and it was also when the tone and tenor of the Bond films switched, IMHO–I’d have go back and watch the Connery ones again to be certain. But while Connery occasional got off the clever quip or one-liner, the films were very serious and almost grim; Moore had more of a comic sense of the character and with him in the role, the character became more cartoonish and the films more outlandish (Moonraker was completely absurd) and there are many moments in Live and Let Die where, if you think about them too long, don’t make sense: how did he know to bring a deck of tarot cards with him in which all the cards were “The Lovers,” and where did he get that deck in the first fucking place? (And this doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that he basically manipulated Solitaire’s belief in the cards to get her into bed–which is rape because she was deceived into giving consent, PROBLEMATIC) There are any number of these contrivances in the plot of the film; but at the same time Live and Let Die also gave cinema it’s first Black Bond Girl, Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry) and Bond’s first interracial romance, as well as the series’ first Black villains. The movie isn’t nearly as racist as the book–but it’s not exactly an achievement the Bond series should be proud of, either. But it gave the under-appreciated Yaphet Kotto a good role as Prime Minister Kananga, and introduced Jane Seymour to the world. I think I may need to read the book again–I should revisit the original Bond series, really–but one thing about Live and Let Die I do appreciate is that parts of it were filmed in New Orleans and along Bayou Des Allemandes; Louisiana looks beautiful, as does the Quarter–and this is one of those early influences on my youthful mind where I first felt the pull of New Orleans and Louisiana.

But it also boasts one of the best Bond theme songs, by Paul McCartney (or rather, Wings); it was the first time a pop band was selected to do the theme song, and it was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Song.

Yesterday I got my copy of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler in the mail yesterday, which is the final piece (or one of the final pieces) of Chlorine background research I need to get started on the outline/plotting. My main character is a pretty boy with not much discernible talent who has a Henry Willson-like agent, whom he shares with the murder victim; I have to say the entire story of Willson, his pretty boy clients and their sexuality, endlessly fascinates me, and I am really excited to be writing a period piece gay Hollywood noir–well, eventually, at any rate. I started dipping into the book some last night and am enjoying it thoroughly. I also got a copy of Lawrence Block’s anthology From Sea to Shining Sea, which is crime stories inspired by ‘great American paintings’, and am really looking forward to digging into that. I also got a copy of Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, because you can never have enough ghost stories around to read.

And on that note, I have some laundry to fold, a dishwasher to unload, and writing to do–so if you will excuse me for a moment, Constant Reader, I am going to head back into the spice mines.

Silver Bells

Still aglow from the big LSU win Saturday night.

Sadly, the Tigers clearly used up all of Louisiana’s football juju, because the Saints played terribly against the Eagles and lost yesterday afternoon. It did occur to me that one of the reasons I dislike the NFL–at least in comparison to college–is because players I rooted against can wind up on the Saints, and LSU players are drafted to other teams and play against the Saints. It’s hard for me to root against LSU players. And while Jalen Hurts wasn’t a Tiger–he played against us several times and I rooted for him to lose each time–I was a fan of his; I could recognize ability and talent on the field, and I also thought how he handled the whole Tua situation at Alabama was pretty damned classy. So, while I wanted the Eagles to lose, I also wanted to see him play well, and he did, and then I felt like a traitor and I do not have these kinds of conflicts watching college football damn it.

Well, at least not so much anymore. The LSU-Auburn game was a tough one for me until Katrina. After that, I was all in for LSU.

It’s back in the fifties today, and we are in a “high wind alert”–gusts up to 35 miles per hour until around seven, which is fortunately around when I have to get in the shower before heading to the office. It doesn’t feel all that cold this morning in the Lost Apartment, which is interesting; usually when it’s that cold outside it’s even more cold inside, but while I did have to put a ski cap on this morning because my head was cold, other than that it’s not so bad this morning. I slept pretty well (obviously, didn’t want to get out of bed at any point once the alarm started going off) and so feel pretty good this morning. I wound up not going to the gym yesterday, which means having to go this evening (which is fine; I’ll be reluctant and tired, undoubtedly, when I do go) but that’s all right, I can deal.

Yesterday I fully intended to work on Chapter 18, but realized that it probably needs to be mostly tossed and completely rewritten from the start, which is something I was really afraid of having to do–and tossing and starting over means I have to redo the ending of Chapter 17–which I actually realized on Saturday night, while I was thinking about it during the LSU game; the ending of that chapter doesn’t make sense, rendering the eighteenth chapter was completely off the rails, which is going to delay my completion of the revision more than just a little bit. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out how to redo the chapter, and I think I have it down now–we shall see when I get home from the gym this evening, won’t we?

John Le Carre died yesterday–or rather, his death was made public, at any rate–which came as a surprise to me because I had figured he had already died. It was strange that he died around the time I finally got to read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but deepest sympathies for his family, friends, and professional colleagues. Truly a great writer, the book won an Edgar for Best Novel and Le Carre himself was named a Grand Master in 1984; deservedly so. He was nominated three other times–The Little Drummer Girl was nominated for Best Novel; he was nominated for Best Short Story for “Dare I Weep? Dare I Mourn?” in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968; and for Best TV Feature or Miniseries for A Murder of Quality. I am really looking forward to exploring more of his work in the years to come; I am still reeling a bit from the brilliance of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold–and have been assured by others whose opinions I respect that the other novels are just as brilliant and well written. I’m only sorry it took me this long to get to his canon.

And so another week dawns; another week of seeing clients and getting writing done and going to the gym and hoping against hope that I will stay rested and motivated and fresh all week to get everything done.

Have a happy Monday, Constant Reader.

Christmas Must Be Something More

Christmas came a little early last night for LSU fans and Louisiana.

23 point underdogs. Only 54 scholarship athletes–one more than required to field a team–and then lost four more players in the first half to injury. Starting true freshmen all over the place on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback starting his first time ever. Playing the team ranked sixth in the country , arguing they deserve a spot in the play-offs, and scheduled to play Alabama next week in the SEC title game. An LSU team that had just lost to Alabama 55-17 last week, and has had offensive records broken against it all year long. Probably the worst LSU team in twenty years, a possible losing season for the first time since 1999, and all of this coming one year after having one of the best teams and seasons in college football. No one, including me and Paul, gave LSU a chance last night.

And in true LSU fashion, they somehow managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets in LSU football history, one of the biggest ones of the season nationwide, and destroyed any hopes Florida had of backing their way into the play-offs. You’re very welcome, Ohio State. It was one of the craziest, wackiest, most insane games I’ve ever seen–and as an LSU fan, I’ve seen some pretty fucking wacky, insane games over the years.

GEAUX TIGERS!

The game started looking like it would be the same as every other game all season, and while I held out desperate, long-time fan hope that LSU would somehow rise to the occasion–I couldn’t believe my delighted eyes as I watched the game unfold. LSU’s defense–beleaguered all season, beaten up and bloodied–somehow managed a goal line stand to open the game. Exciting, but probably not going to happen again, I thought. Sure enough, LSU had to punt and Florida marched right back down the field to go up 7-0. Then–LSU’s true freshman quarterback Max Johnson took the Tigers right down the field to tie it up, 7-7….and on Florida’s next possession, an LSU true freshmen defensive back managed a Pick 6 to put the Tigers up 14-7. Another completely insane interception on the next Florida possession–and thanks to another defensive stand, Florida was later held to a field goal, 14-10. The Gators scored next to make it 17-14–and then more insanity. LSU scored to take the lead back 21-14, forced a fumble in the closing seconds of the first half and kicked another field goal, LSU 24-14. LSU got the ball first in the second half; another field goal: 27-14. And then Florida took control…three possessions, three scores: 31-27. LSU scored another touchdown, and Florida kicked another field goal: 34-34, with time running out. LSU’s drive stalled on third down–and I thought, ah, well, we gave it a good shot, they’ll get a field goal for sure…but wait. In a moment of complete insanity that will go down in college football history, the LSU tight end’s shoe came off, and a Florida player (I won’t name him, since his name will go down in infamy and this moment will be replayed, over and over and over again, for years to come) threw that shoe twenty five yards down the field….for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 15 yards and an automatic first down. Some questionable play calling put the game on the foot of kicker Cade York: 57 yards, longest of his career and an LSU record. He nailed it, 37-34. Florida tried desperately to get their own in the closing seconds–but missed a 51 yarder and LSU escaped the Swamp with a major upset.

In the fog.

And stunned an entire nation of college football fans.

And when it was all over, all I could do was shake my head. This is why I love LSU football so much; even in mediocre seasons, they will always manage to pull off a signature win and a major upset (10-7 over number 4 Mississippi in 2014; 26-21 over top ten Auburn in 2017 after losing to Troy, the 28-21 upset of Number One Florida in 1997, and there are so many others), and not only knocked Florida out of any shot at the play-offs, but also probably cost Kyle Trask his shot at a Heisman trophy–and going into the game, I thought it was for sure between either him or Mac Jones at Alabama.

As someone said on Twitter last night, “Florida just lost to a the worst LSU team in twenty years’ BACK-UPS.”

LSU still has to play Mississippi this coming weekend; Florida is off to the SEC title game to face the Alabama juggernaut–which could go one of two ways: Alabama will either blow them out, or Florida–playing with nothing to lose–could rise up and smite the Tide. The East has only won the SEC once since 2008 (!), so who knows? I didn’t have much interest in watching the game, frankly, but I might now.

So, yes, it was a lovely Saturday in the Lost Apartment. I finished reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold–loved it–and also wrote; I didn’t do a lot of cleaning or anything else, but I got some work done on the book which was lovely, finished reading a book, and got to watch LSU beat Florida. The Saints play today–I think at three?–which will give me some time this morning to get some emails answered, some work on the book done, and even a trip to the gym out of the way.

And I slept deeply and well, which was also quite marvelous.

And on that note, tis time to go back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Me!

Hey there, Saturday! It’s gray and raining here in New Orleans, which explains why I slept so deeply and well last night–there’s really nothing like the sound of rain to put me to sleep. (I wish it would rain every night, quite frankly.)

I didn’t write at all yesterday. After I finished work I went to the gym and did my workout, then came home and was quite tired, both physically and mentally. I repaired to the easy chair with a bottle of Sunkist (I’m trying to reduce my caffeine by not drinking as much Coke, but I also like sugary fizzy drinks, so non-caffeinated Sunkist works just fine as a substitute; I am also considering 7-Up) and switched on the television, going into a loop of Ted Lasso reviews, clips, etc. Everyone is already starting to prepare their Best of the Year lists, and I wish that I could do the same, but trying to remember 2020 isn’t particularly easy. I know I didn’t read as much as I usually do, and most of what I did read I’ve forgotten already–even forgotten that I read them, to be completely honest. I also really can’t remember much of what I watched on television or what films I watched or what short stories or documentaries or movies. But Ted Lasso continues to stand out for any number of reasons–it also helps that I regularly recommend it to people who then wind up loving it as much as Paul and I did. I know a book I read early in the year–Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture–is making a lot of Best of lists; I read that before the pandemic shut down when the world changed, and literally, it seems like it was a million years ago when I read it.

Then again, I also don’t limit myself to things that came out during the calendar year when I make a best-of list; my list is the best things I read or watched during the calendar year, regardless of when they were actually released. My list, my rules. So, at some point I guess I will go through my blog entries and find the things I enjoyed enough to talk about on here, and will thus pull together a list of what I enjoyed most in 2020. (I know that television is going to be a three way tie between The Mandalorian, Schitt’s Creek, and Ted Lasso–and I am also going to have to come up with a foreign-language television so I can mention Dark and Elite and Toy Boy.)

Today I plan to write all day–or most of it–around doing household chores and so forth. There’s literally no need to turn on the television and watch football–although as a diehard LSU fan I’ll have to tune in to the horror that will be the Florida game tonight–and so I might as well take as much advantage of a free-from-football day to write and get caught up on the book. Two chapters a day this weekend will take me to Chapter 21, with only five left in this draft, which will–again, as I have reiterated over and over–give me some down time to let it rest before going over it one last time before turning it in. I am also very excited about the prospect of getting back to work on the Kansas book one last time before turning it in and calling it a day on it as well.

I also want to spend some time reading The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. John LeCarre is widely considered one of the greats when it came to spy novels–or whatever the genre is called–and while it has been quite some time since I read Ian Fleming, Helen MacInnes, Robert Ludlum, and Alistair MacLean, I am very interested in reading LeCarre. The first few chapters of this book haven’t exactly grabbed me, but I do appreciate the writing. One of the things I love the most about the mystery genre is there are so many fascinating and interesting subgenres–the broad spectrum of what is routinely considered mystery fiction is quite vast; everything from traditional mysteries to romantic suspense to police procedurals to international intrigue. (I also want to finish it so I can move on to the new Alison Gaylin, and I also have the new Lisa Unger–and I think I have the new Ivy Pochoda as well) Spending the rainy morning reading really sounds like a lovely way to spend the morning, does it not?

Yesterday I watched The Ruling Class while I was making condom packs for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. The film hangs entirely on yet another award-worthy performance by Peter O’Toole as the fourteenth Earl of Gurney, who is completely insane–and yet because of the terms of his father’s will (his father was into auto-asphyxiation, which finally went terribly wrong and he hung himself while wearing a military jacket and a tutu) the entire estate is his–and any attempt to break the will means everything will go to a charity. So his vile family cooks up a scheme to get him married and produce an heir, after which they will promptly have him committed. It’s a satire, and occasionally the cast will suddenly break into song-and-dance; which was disconcerting the first time it happened, but after that I went with it. Coral Browne–most famous for playing Vera Charles to perfection in Auntie Mame–is also a standout here as his grasping aunt-in-law; she really should have had a bigger career. When we first meet the new earl he thinks he’s God and insists on being called “J.C.”–and as the family continues to try to either cure him or have him committed, O’Toole could easily have started chewing the scenery and gone over the top; yet he is remarkably restrained and completely believable in the part. He was nominated for an Oscar (losing to Marlon Brando in The Godfather), and deservedly so; his great misfortune as an Oscar contender was to always be nominated against performances that became legendary. The film is quite a send up of the British class system and how it rotted and how it really didn’t make sense from the very beginning–noblesse oblige, indeed, and yes, cynical. It would be interesting to see how a remake/reboot could work, with one of our fine British actors of the present day in the role–but I also can’t see how anyone could ever outdo O’Toole.

And now, I am going to repair to my easy chair with John LeCarre, get under my blankets and hope that Scooter joins me for some kitty cuddling–if he hasn’t gone back upstairs to bed with Paul. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

White Horse

Monday and another week has begun.

Christmas draws ever closer; but it doesn’t seem quite real. No holidays have actually seemed real this year, and this is going to continue, methinks, deep into 2021. No Carnival parades, no in-person literary events all spring (Saints and Sinners, Tennessee Williams Festival, Edgars, probably no Malice Domestic or Left Coast Crime) and even summer is questionable. Heavy heaving sigh.

Yesterday was lovely. The Saints hung on to beat the hated Falcons in Atlanta, which was nice, and I spent some time with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I’m not as in to it as I would have hoped, but I suspect once the story kicks into gear that will change. It’s exceptionally well written–I can see why it won so many awards, and LeCarre is held in such high esteem–and of course, there’s that whole disconnect with the Cold War. Can you believe there are people in their early thirties now who have no memory of the Cold War? The USSR officially collapsed and began breaking up, and the Berlin Wall came done, about thirty years ago. There are, for that matter, kids in high school who weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened; tweens are too young to remember Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans directly after. That’s kind of staggering, in many ways, to imagine that seminal life-changing paradigm shifting events occurred so long ago that the young of today aren’t old enough to remember. I, of course, don’t remember the JFK assassination–I was only two when it happened–so I myself was too young for some seminal, life-changing, paradigm shifting moments myself.

We finished the new season of Big Mouth last night–it’s so funny and filthy and brutally honest about the awful age when you go through puberty (it’s a wonder more people aren’t horribly scarred)–and we also caught the finale of Murder on Middle Beach, which ended without a resolution. I looked at Paul–the episode pretty much closed with the documentarian winning his Freedom of Information lawsuit to gain access to the ten year old police files about his mother’s murder–and said, “Um, I think they finished the documentary too soon–what did they find out?” This was annoying in some ways–but I also didn’t expect the series to solve the murder, either. It was like an incredibly unsatisfying crime novel–a murder divides a family, the kids grow up and try to solve their mother’s murder which has aversely affected their lives, only to have the book close without resolution?

Not nearly as disappointing an end as The Undoing, frankly–we’ll go a long time before we see another series that ends so badly and disappointingly as that.

But now we have to find something new to watch, heavy sigh.

I didn’t write this weekend nearly as much as I should have, but I reread all my notes from the entire writing process, and reread the final fourteen chapters, so I have an idea where I need to go and what I need to do from now on, so that’s a win, methinks. I also went over the copy edits on an essay, and got that finished. I also went to the gym yesterday, which was lovely. My body seems to be adjusting to exercising again–and it’s starting to respond to it. My muscles are getting firm again, and starting to get bigger again. I suspect this is going to wind up being yet another repeat of every other time I’ve gotten into the swing of working out my entire life–I am never going to feel sufficiently lean, will always think I’m carrying too much fat weight, etc etc etc ad nauseum ad finitum, and I am preparing myself for that particular neuroses. Plus, I am sixty–time to let go of the extreme vanity and the need for reassurance from other people.

I’ve also had some second thoughts about Bury Me in Shadows, but they are quite literally the same ones I’ve had almost this entire time since I started writing the damned thing. I spent most of the weekend in the weeds on this book–rereading chapters, rereading notes, looking at things I’ve deleted, trying to figure out if I am doing a good job telling this story or if I’m being too lecturing in places…I don’t think I can remember the last time I’s second guessed and doubted myself as much on a book as I have with this one. But that’s, I hope, a good thing? We shall see. I can’t wait to see the final cover.

And on that note, it is back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday.

Invisible

Sunday morning and a lot to get done today. I was horribly lazy yesterday; I wound up doing very little other than reading–I finished The Bad Seed and then moved on to The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (I’ve never read John LeCarre, and am trying to get better read in my. genre’s classics, both titles and authors) and got some chores done, but other than that–not a goddamned thing. So today I I have to play catch up as well as go to the gym and somehow pay some attention to the Saints game, which is at noon. (I’ll most likely do some things around here, go to the gym around elevenish, and then come home and do things while the game is on.) The LSU game went about the way I expected it to last night–55-17 final score–so congratulations to Alabama’s players and coaching staff; I can’t imagine there’s a better team in the country this season, so it’ll be fun watching y’all go all the way again. LSU has to play Florida next weekend, which will most likely be another horror show like yesterday’s, but at least at that point the season will be over.

This football season is yet another gift the year 2020 has given me. Thanks, 2020, thank you.

It feels cold again this morning in the Lost Apartment–I have my space heater on and a cap on my bald scalp–but it doesn’t look so bad outside, really. Lots of clouds hiding the sky and the sun, but this week is supposed to be warmer than last, so I think I’ll be able to hang this week after last week’s cold spell.

Once I finish this I am going to make a to-do list for this week–I really need to make a point of doing that every Sunday, so I have a roadmap for my week–and also so that things won’t slip through the cracks and be forgotten. This has been a really bad year for me to try to remember everything I have to get done–I keep forgetting things, which isn’t good–so I am trying to be ever so much better about this. The whole year I’ve felt like I’ve been in this weird state of limbo, just drifting and trying to get by, keep dog-paddling and keeping my head above water, and it’s not been easy. (It’s not really been an easy year for most people, I suspect.)

Last night as we binged Big Mouth after the LSU game, I was trying to remember the highlights of the year–the good things that happened that I am grateful for, and realized that, sadly, most of the things I was thinking of was television or movies I’d watched, or books I’d read and greatly enjoyed. I had a pretty good year at the beginning of the year in selling short stories–I sold quite a few this year, continuing a trend from last year, to the point where I keep forgetting story sales I made, which is so weird–but also means that in 2021 I am going to have some stories appear in anthologies or publications, which is terribly cool. I know I stretched myself as a writer–hell, I wrote a Sherlock Holmes story this year, and created a Sherlockian world in 1916 New Orleans–and while there were anthologies and things I tried (and failed) to submit to, I have some terrific stories now that are in some state of writing that could turn out to be something interesting. I am looking forward to spending some more time with both “The Sound of Snow Falling” and “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–and there are any number of others I’d love to dive back into. The problem being, of course, that I have limited writing time, and for the rest of this month I have to focus on finishing the one book and then the first two months of 2021 finishing the other. I’m not really sure what I want to spend the rest of 2021 doing; I know I am co-editing the Minneapolis Bouchercon anthology and that’s going to take a chunk of time to read all those submissions and make decisions and then edit them all, but let’s face it, it’s also not my first time at the anthology rodeo. I want to try to write another Scotty at some point in 2021, and I know I also have Chlorine to work on, but…I guess we’ll just have to see how the year pans out.

I know I want to pull another short story collection together, too, and of course there’s the novellas…

I also polished off a journal last night, so I get to start a new one this morning, which is kind of fun. I’ve been blasting through journals at a pretty good pace since I started using them again, and while I cannot say that they’ve been enormously helpful in keeping my act together and keeping me on track with any of the writing I’ve been doing, they’ve been wonderful for me to jot notes and ideas in, and I’ve been doing much better about going back into them and rereading them and getting the unpolished jewels out of them. I have a really nice one that has a magnetic clasp that I got at Garden District Books, and then got a pack of three the last time I went to Costco, so I am certainly set for journals for the year.

I’ve also got to get the copy edits on my essay finished.

I also spent some time yesterday slowly but surely pruning the books. I’ve done a great job of pruning them already, so much so that there’s slim pickings for getting rid of things I will most likely never read–I always stop myself and have to think, long and hard, about whether I should get rid of an unread book–but I also need to keep making room for more–because at some point I’ll start buying books again. Not sure when that will be financially feasible–right now, books are filed in the “luxury item” column, especially when I already have so many on hand that I’ve not read–but I have quite a list of books that I want to get when I can.

There are never enough books, frankly.

And on that note, I need some more coffee as well as fold some laundry. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!

Seven

Saturday morning and it’s rather chilly in the Lost Apartment . The sun is shining and there aren’t many clouds in the sky–I see plenty of blue up there at the moment–and I haven’t checked the weather yet. All right, I just looked and it’s currently forty-nine, with a high of fifty-three predicted for the day. Sounds like the kind of day when one just wants to stay indoors all day and under a blanket, does it not? I have a lot to get done this morning–the sink is full of dirty dishes; more than will fit in the dishwasher, so I am going to have to do two loads–and of course, there’s filing to do and organizing to be done; notes to be read on the work-in-progress as well as chapters to be revised; and I’d like to be able to read some more of The Bad Seed, if not finish reading it today. LSU is playing Alabama tonight, and it’s not going to be pretty, but at least it won’t be disappointing. It’s very weird, there’s always a minor hope, even in bad years, that we might beat them, but not this one. I love my Tigers and I’ll tune in–but I am under no illusions that they’ll pull off a major upset here. Our only hope is a sustained three and a half hour miracle, really; but this entire football season has been such a wash anyway–I really think it should have been skipped, which is what I’ve thought all along–yet here we are.

I do occasionally think that LSU having one of the greatest football teams and seasons of all time last year somehow broke the world, and if LSU having a shitty season is what it takes to reset everything, I can live with that sacrifice.

Yesterday was a good day. I had to swing by the office because I had run out of lube for the condom packs–I brought home flavored–so I had to swing by there to pick up regular lube tubes–and then after returning home, I made condom packs while watching Logan’s Run, yesterday’s entry into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. I had never before seen it; I, of course, remember what it’s plot was–a world where everyone dies at thirty; the title character is about to turn thirty and he runs. Well, turns out that was a vast over-simplification; Logan, played by a stunningly beautiful young Michael York (I’ve waxed euphoric over his beauty before; I had a major crush on him throughout the 1970’s; have continued to appreciate his work as I got older; and he came to the Williams Festival one year, so I not only got to meet him but was delighted to find he was very charming), is a “sandman”–in the future, after over–population and depletion of resources and so forth, society collapsed and a utopian human city was built under a dome, and all humans devote themselves merely to pleasure, and when they turn thirty, they are renewed; in a ritual, everyone gathers to watch them sacrifice themselves, to be reborn–someone has to die in order for someone to be reborn. The “sandmen” are those who hunt down the ones who decide they want to live and run for their lives. When caught, they are killed and are dead forever–no chance of being reborn. Logan actually has about four years left before he turns thirty, but he is given the job to search for Sanctuary–a place all the runners try to get to safely–and the controlling computer also speeds up his life, turning the life clock in his hand all the way up to almost time for him to die. Jenny Agutter plays the love interest who can help him get to Sanctuary; they run, and it becomes very weird once they escape. The special effects are pretty bad–the movie was pre-Star Wars–and so are the sets and costume designs. It does, I decided, fit into the film festival because the film itself is kind of cynical; it basically took American youth obsession and created a world based entirely in youth; and it’s interesting they chose thirty as the end point of life–after all, the youth movement of the 1960’s always said “never trust anyone over thirty.” As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities they couldn’t explore in a two hour film–and thought, you know, this show could easily rebooted as a mini-series that could go into all of those explorations–the collapse of society, who built and created this new world, who actually is in power in this utopian paradise, how did they get the initial buy-in necessary–and so on and so forth. And with our country growing evermore obsessed with youth and beauty–yeah, this could be really good. Logan would be a good role for someone like Nick Jonas or Alexander Dreymon or any number of beautiful young actors in the business today.

The lovely thing about HBO MAX is they are continually adding more and more films to their TCM app–you can only imagine my delight to see the delightful Peter O’Toole film The Stunt Man was recently added; The Ruling Class is already there. I am a huge Peter O’Toole fan–the fact the man never won a competitive Oscar despite giving career-defining performance in those two films, along with My Favorite Year, The Lion in Winter, Becket, and Lawrence of Arabia never ceases to amaze me. Both The Stunt Man and The Ruling Class certainly fit into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival–they have also added the original The Omega Man and Soylent Green, both of which I intend to watch despite the fact both star Charlton Heston, the king of over-acting. But…both definitely belong in the Festival, and I really wish they would add Serpico.

I also would like to watch Cruising again–to see it from a present day perspective.

The Mandalorian continues to delight as well, and our favorite raunchy junior high puberty comedy, Big Mouth, also came back yesterday.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Love Story

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today. I have some errands that simply must be run this morning–fortunately I only have to work a half-day today–so once I get this posted and get my own act together, it’s off to the errands so I can come home and do data entry/make condom packs. I think I am going to rewatch the Christopher Reeve Superman–it’s a 1970’s movie, after all, and I don’t know yet if it will deserve a place in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; I don’t think so, but I think it could be a fun reread while working with my hands.

I was very tired when I got home from work yesterday–so tired that I skipped the gym (!) and didn’t work on the book. Tonight when I finish my condom packing I am going to have to get back to the book, and figure if I can get two chapters done in one day I’ll be back on schedule. LSU’s lamb-to-the-slaughter game against Alabama isn’t until Saturday evening, so I should be able to get several chapters finished during the day that day, and maybe even more. Who knows? There’s a plethora of possibilities.

I slept late this morning–I did wake up at six, again at seven, and finally at eight. I feel much better: very rested, relaxed, my muscles feel good, and my back also doesn’t hurt at all. This is, needless to say, quite lovely, and while it is cold this morning, the cold is nowhere near as bitter as it was the last few mornings, so I can handle it. I haven’t even put on a cap to keep my head warm, which is a lovely thing. It’s very gray outside–the sky is covered with clouds, so it’s kind of grayish-gloomy; like winter mornings I remember from my childhood in the Midwest. I ordered electric blankets the other day–a friend on Facebook suggested it when I was complaining about the cold, and had one of those wow it never ever occurred to me to get electric blankets moments when I truly wonder about my intelligence and intellectual capacity. But in fairness to me, I don’t think I’ve ever owned an electric blanket, and we certainly didn’t have any when I was growing up….but thinking about it this morning, what a difference that could have made that bitterly cold winter I spent in Minneapolis twenty five years ago….

I am still reading both The Bad Seed by William March and Lincoln by Gore Vidal; obviously I was too tired last night to make any headway on either. Paul and I did watch an episode of something that might turn into a guilty pleasure for us….Cajun Justice, about the sheriff of Plaquemines Parish. Louisiana was an enormously popular location for reality television shows back in the day–remember Duck Dynasty?–and since one of my co-workers is moving to Plaquemines Parish (Houma, specifically) she was the one who found this single season reality show…when she mentioned it to me the other day–when we first talked about her move down there, and it’s been a couple of weeks; it was around the time I was looking up Cajun/Louisiana folklore for a potential Christmas horror story, which is when I was finding all those wonderful bayou supernatural legends, like le feu follet and the lutin…which I was able to look up in Gumbo Ya-Ya. The show is kind of, I don’t know, offensive in some ways, as it depicts Cajuns and their culture as an exotic thing; lots of talk about voodoo and black magic and so forth. (This is part of the problem I had with writing about Cajuns and the supernatural; I’m afraid I’ll give in to the stereotypes rather than depict the culture and the people authentically.) I mean, I do want to write short stories illustrating Cajun culture and their interesting folklore and legends (Monsters of Louisiana), but I also want to do it correctly. Gumbo Ya-Ya is an excellent source material, a great starting place, but I am also very aware that its authors were also steeped in the white supremacy and racism of the time in which they wrote and compiled the book, which also makes it harder to decipher what is real and what isn’t.

All right, I’ve got dishes to put away and laundry to fold before I hit the errand trail, so have a happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later.

…Ready for It

And here we are, the last day of my vacation. As much as I hate to see the time off come to a bitter end, I am also kind of ready to get back to the office and get back to work.

It’s rained off and on all weekend, which has wreaked havoc with my sinuses, and it’s rather dreary outside my windows this morning. I slept fairly decently last night–waking up every now and then–but overall, it was a good sleep. I feel a bit sore and tired this morning–I got a blister on my left heel walking to the gym Friday, which is really and truly annoying, particularly since I’ve had the shoes I was wearing for several months and have worn them every day without incident; so why all of a sudden did the damned shoe rub a blister onto my foot? I really don’t need more irritation, and now I am worried about whether walking to the gym today will exacerbate the problem. My back is also sore and my legs feel tired, but skipping today would mean having to go after work tomorrow and Wednesday, and really, neither of those is a really likely option. I prefer my Sunday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, thank you very much. Maybe if I bandage it up well….

The LSU game was terrible, just terrible, on both sides of the ball. Texas A&M didn’t look much better than LSU, frankly, and the announcers kept talking about how A&M could get into the play-offs…and I was all, really? The game just seemed like a lot of offensive ineptitude from both sides. And while both freshman quarterbacks got into the game, neither really accomplished much–and that’s on the offensive line. Nobody was blocking anyone, and when you don’t block anyone, your quarterback ends up getting sacked. The play calling was also a little suspect to me; this has been such a weird football season thus far–the Denver Broncos are coming to play the Saints today without any quarterbacks–the more I think it should have just been cancelled and all players given an extra year of eligibility. I really don’t see how they can legitimately have a play-off and crown a champion when some schools haven’t even played all the limited schedule games they had scheduled. Ah, well. The Saints game should be interesting today, at any rate.

I worked on the book some yesterday and feel a lot better about the whole thing overall. If I can get through this draft relatively quickly–one or two chapters per day–I can then let it sit for a week or so and then go back in with my red pencil and build up the subplot threads running through it as well as come up with the perfect ending to the book; it came to me last night, and I think it is the right ending. We shall see, I suppose.

I also finished reading Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! by Stephen Rebello last night, which is the behind-the-scenes, gossipy look at how the movie version of Valley of the Dolls came to be. I love both book and movie, so I’ll have a separate entry about that book. I read some more of Night of Camp David as well, which is an interesting animal as far as political thrillers are concerned. (Granted, I’ve not read many political thrillers.) I’m over halfway finished with it, which will then lead to the dilemma of what to read next. Heavy heaving sigh.

I fell into an Internet wormhole last night on my iPad during the Iron Bowl (which was just as disappointing than the LSU game; I watch the Iron Bowl because it usually is a good–if bizarre–game full of crazy plays, freakish scores, and the feeling that anything can happen at any time; a trouncing by Alabama isn’t particularly interesting to watch, frankly), and it started with someone posting a picture of a really hot guy on one of the Facebook “hot guy” groups I belong to–I did a little bit of research into the guy, and it turned out he was an actor, did some porn in the 1970’s, and then became a private investigator in Hollywood–someone else had already claimed the title “private eye to the stars” but this is basically what this guy also does. Yes, you can hear the wheels turning in my head, can’t you? As I daydreamed and explored this concept in my head–the games, as I have previously mentioned, weren’t really holding much of my attention–I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether this would be a better series to write about in the 1970’s or in the present. But I really love the concept of the porn-star-turned-private-eye, and even came up with a title for the first story: Slow Burn.

It’s kind of fun feeling creative again, I have to say, and to have finally picked back up the reins of the book at last. I think it’s a good book, too; the story is involving and evolving as I revise this most recent draft. (I’m also amazed and more than a little saddened, at how bad some of the writing is; but that’s what drafts are for, aren’t they?)

As my vacation slowly winds down, I am surprisingly not disappointed by how little I have gotten done over this week. I got some things done; started two new short stories, got the book back in progress, did some absolutely necessary tidying of kitchen cabinets and so forth, and I did get some reading done. I think I can face the office tomorrow without an issue, either–other than getting up early, which is going to take some serious readjusting again–and over all, feel pretty good about everything.

And now back the spice mines.

Treacherous

And it’s Saturday, and my vacation is slowly but surely drawing to a close. Heavy heaving sigh,

It’s been lovely, actually, even if I haven’t been particularly inspired to do a whole lot this entire time. It’s always easy–and kind of a cop-out–to say, well, you needed the physical, intellectual, and emotional rest, but I really need to cut myself a break every now and again. The endless struggle between “feeling lazy” and “everyone needs a break” is an endless war inside my head; inevitably, the things I need to get done will get done and at some point, I’ll forgive myself for the rest.

I had a very strange inspiration for a short story the other day, which I scribbled down and have some vague idea of where the story will go; it’s called “The Sound of Snow Falling” and the first line is: It was the ice storm that finally broke him. I love that first line; whether it will wind up being a good story remains to be seen. But one thing I’ve never mined in my fiction is my utter hatred for cold weather; perhaps it’s time.

I actually worked on the book yesterday afternoon! It was lovely, and while it still needs polishing up some, I am confident that now that I’ve gotten past whatever the fuck it was that kept me holding back from working on it, I am certain I am going to get this done sooner rather than later–which is a very good thing, as time is running out very quickly. Today I have to run some errands, so I am planning on working on the book before I do that. The Iron Bowl (Auburn-Alabama) is today, and LSU plays Texas A&M tonight, so I need to try to get as much done as I can before the 2:30 kick off.

I did go to the gym yesterday and today my back muscles are sore and tight, so I am going to need to use the heating pad at some point today–probably while I drink more coffee and read some more of Night of Camp David, which is kind of scarily prophetic, given it was published originally in 1965. We also watched this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, which did a marvelous job of tying the show into the the original trilogy, the prequels, and the final trilogy–apparently, it also tied the show into The Clone Wars, which I’ve never watched (and perhaps should). We also found out the Child’s name–Gorgu–and as always, the show was enormously entertaining (also: a guest spot by Michael Biehn, of The Terminator and Aliens fame!) and visually stunning and splendid. It did occur to me last night that the show–in which the Mandalorian’s quest is to find Gorgu’s people–can’t ever really separate them, as their relationship is at the beating heart of the show.

The show is really one of the highlights of my every weekend, frankly.

We weren’t ready for bed yet, and were trying to find some stand-up comedian special to watch before hand–to no avail–when Amazon Prime suggested Porky’s to us. I had actually run across the movie when looking for things to add to my watchlist, and the film–from 1981–was a watershed moment in “teen movies”–when they turned from the unrealistic fluff from Disney or message movies to sex comedies. I assumed the movie wouldn’t hold up–I remember thinking it was really funny when I was twenty and saw it in the theater–and I was correct; the humor falls very flat in almost every case; the way women are treated–and the way they are expected to simply put up with it (and do) is horrifying, It’s a comedy predicated on the idea that high school boys are always horny and always trying to get laid–none of the boys have a relationship of any kind with any women–and the only female cast members exist only as potential sex partners–Wendy is the female equivalent of the boys, and despite her easy way with her own favors, (basically the boys see her as a willing sex partner who can be persuaded to have sex with just about anyone) she is actually popular and has a lot of friends. (This struck me as wrong when I originally saw it–she would have had a bad reputation-and none of the girls would have been friends with her) The other women in the cast are Miss Honeywell (a very young Kim Cattrall)–again, everyone calls her Lassie because she gets very aroused by the smell of the equipment room and howls loudly as she gets laid–and an uptight, overweight, gym teacher known as Beulah Ballbricker, that they all call Ball-breaker and I suppose her sexual repression and determination to keep the girl students safe from the lusts and perversions of the boys is played for laughs. She represents the sexual frustration and repression of the time, I suppose, that all the kids are rebelling against; but you also can’t help feel sorry for her in some ways.

The movie clearly doesn’t hold up–there are still some moments that are funny–but it depends entirely too much on very low sex humor for laughs, and its very vulgarity was what made it funny; it was shocking, and you would laugh back then because you couldn’t believe they were doing these things in a movie for laughs. Some forty years later, it’s no longer shocking, so it’s not funny anymore and it’s just plain vulgar. They also tacked on a subplot about prejudice and anti-semitism to, I suppose, give the movie a “serious” message about how stupid bigotry actually is in reality. And yet it–along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House of a few years earlier–changed the teen movie forever, and paved the way for other movies of the 1980’s like Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, and The Last American Virgin. With the enormous success of this low-budget indie film, along with Ridgemont High and Animal House, Hollywood finally got the message that you can’t go wrong with sex comedies for teens–and teen movies, while still kind of extreme in some ways, began to more accurately reflect what life was like for teenagers, as opposed to the Frankie-Annette movies of the 1960’s and the Kurt Russell films for Disney in the 1970’s; or began developing films in which the teens were actually fully realized characters–I’m not sure how realistic the notion of running a brothel from your parents’ home in a wealthy suburb is. (Although now that I’ve said that, Risky Business was probably based on something that actually happened.)

There’s a really interesting essay or dissertation or even book there, methinks, but I’m not enough of a film expert to do such a thing–although it would make for interesting reading.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The caffeine is beginning to kick in, which is most lovely, and I am most anxious to get functional and to work on the book as quickly as I can. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.