The Archer

It’s always something, isn’t it? If could go back in time and tell my younger self anything in the way of advice or assistance in dealing with life, that’s the lesson I would try to get through: it never stops, there’s always something, and sometimes you just can’t get away from things–but you also can’t get away from dealing with these things. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they will be minor and small annoyances; but they will inevitably include things that are an enormous pain in the ass, and if other people are involved….well, inevitably they will make things worse rather than better.

You rarely will go wrong underestimating the intelligence of others. Sometimes, rarely, they will surprise you–but those moments are both lovely and rare.

This has been a week, of ups and downs and emotions all over the place and irritations and trying to fix things that shouldn’t need to be fixed in the first place; another thing you can never go wrong with is assuming that no one will ever take responsibility for their mistakes, their incompetence, or their stupidity. I am very glad to have reached Friday with the shreds of what’s left of my sanity somewhat intact; I intend to spend this weekend cleaning and writing. I had, in a conversation with a writer friend yesterday, one of those marvelous epiphanies about why my writing has stalled or is taking me so long to get this manuscript finished; which is that I am trying to make it perfect–and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with striving to write a book that is perfect, there’s also no such thing as the perfect book; it’s an impossible standard to reach, and what I really need to be doing is focusing on writing the best book that I can.

The weather yesterday was beautiful; there wasn’t a lot of humidity, so it felt lovely and cool–even though according to the weather when I got home from work, it was 83 degrees outside and “felt like 90.” It really did not; I wasn’t even mildly hot or sweaty carrying things out to the car in the morning on my way to work or out to the car on my way home from work (condom packing supplies; and condom packs on the way in), and it didn’t feel either hot or stuffy in the house once I got inside–which it always does, when it’s miserably hot and humid out.

I also looked at the forecast, and we are getting low 80’s/mid-to-high 70’s next week; it looks like fall has arrived in New Orleans and the heat may have broken. MAYBE. Possibly. Could be. Maybe. It’s gray and hazy outside the windows this morning; thunderstorms in the forecast for the day, and a tropical system of some sort out in the Gulf off the coast of Mexico trying to form and become something. With any luck today I won’t have to even go outside, and if I do, it won’t be for very long. I do have condoms to pack today–not sure what today’s film will be, either; I may break with the Cynical 70’s Film Festival and may start another–the Problematic 80’s Teen Movie Festival; Fast Times at Ridgemont High is available on one of the ridiculous amount of streaming services we subscribe to, and since it was really one of the first teen movies of its type, it seems like the perfect place to start. Has anyone ever written a book about the development of the teen movie, from its origins in the Andy Hardy films up through the sex comedies of the 80’s and to what we see today? That would be interesting.–especially in deconstructing the underlying messages imbedded in those 80’s movies we all grew up with and loved.

Which reminds me, I had an interesting point about Grease I’d intended to make when talking about American Graffiti, and never made; and of course, now I can’t really remember what it was–something along the lines of how American Graffiti, while nostalgic, was also dark; and Grease was the other extreme–nostalgia taken to the point where everything was presented as harmless…but if you look past the gloss, Grease itself is a pretty dark film as well. My point is in there somewhere, I suppose.

This week wasn’t a good one for reading; I didn’t read anything outside of the occasional email or website. I think Babylon Berlin might be a little too densely written for me to get into right now, so I am going to put it aside and read some short stories–the Short Story Project has, in fact, been idle for far too long, and I have all kinds of gems lined up to get into. I also may reread one of my long-time favorite comfort reads, either Rebecca or In Cold Blood, something like that, or perhaps a Mary Stewart ebook already loaded into my Kindle app. I definitely need to spend some more time reading and writing; I think the absence of both from my life this past week has been part of the emotional downturn i’ve been dealing with.

We’re still enjoying House of Flowers, but are now into the second season, and the changes between seasons is quite startling and may take some getting used to. We’re going to go another episode or so before giving it up; but that first season is absolutely golden, and again, there on a Mexican show is inclusion of bisexuality and transgender representation, which is quite marvelous.

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

I Know Places

This has really been a most unsettling year.

Remember as 2019 was coming to a close and we were all looking forward to that hellish year ending and a brand new start in 2020? Yeah, that’s why I am pointedly not looking forward to this year ending and a different year beginning for 2021. I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

And at least in 2019 we had the greatest LSU football season of all time to enjoy from September through January. (And yes, I still go back sometimes, when I am feeling down, blue, or depressed, and rewatch games from that wonderful season. And I won’t feel bad about it, no matter how much you try to shame me, primarily because I’m not ashamed of it.)

Today is a strange day, in which I am either working at home or taking a personal day of some sort; I haven’t really yet decided what I am actually going to do today; I have condom packing supplies and as long as I have Internet access I can do work-related things. I wasn’t quite sure what precisely I was going to wake up to this morning; the dreaded Cone of Uncertainty kept shifting gradually more and more to the east as yesterday progressed, until when I checked before going to bed New Orleans, and in fact all of southeastern Louisiana, was no longer in that dread Cone anymore. That bullseye was squarely on the panhandles of Mississippi and Alabama, and the storm had also slowed; landfall moved from the wee hours of tonight/tomorrow morning to tomorrow evening, possibly Wednesday morning. My heart breaks for that stretch of the Gulf Coast, and my friends in harm’s way–and of course, we still don’t know what to expect here. Ah, the lovely, unbearably bearable stress and suspense of hurricane season–and there’re even more systems out there in the Atlantic basin.

Hurray!

But now that I’ve checked, I see that we are going to be missed; it continues to creep forward with now landfall projected to be sometime tomorrow night, and we’re back down to merely a tropical storm warning. It’s a relief, of course, but horrible for where it’s coming ashore, as I mentioned earlier. The weather here is weird and hazy, yet still sunny; the sun is behind some haze, making it seem grayish-yellow outside my windows this morning, but there you have it.

We started watching a most delightful Mexican dramedy last night on Netflix: The House of Flowers, or La Casa de las Flores, and it is absolutely wonderful. We probably would have stayed up all night watching; fortunately, Paul had the strength and fortitude to stop the binge in its tracks.

As I was making condom packs yesterday afternoon, I continued with the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, watching American Graffiti and Marathon Man. That might seem like an odd pairing, and one might not think American Graffiti actually fits into the Festival, but I remembered the one time I saw the film, decades ago, and remembered it being rather a dark film. It’s debut brought on a wave of nostalgia for the 1950’s in the 1970’s–the music, the clothes, the things the teens did in the movie–but the movie was actually set in 1962, not the 1950’s, but most of the music was from the 1950’s. American Graffiti‘s success led to another revival, for example, of the Beach Boys; eventually led to the series Happy Days (which also starred Ron Howard–although in the movie he was billed as Ronnie Howard, a holdover from The Andy Griffith Show); and sparked that 50’s nostalgia trend I mentioned earlier. The movie really doesn’t have much of a plot, other than it’s the last night in town for Steve and Curt, who are leaving the next morning for college in the east somewhere. Steve is dating Curt’s sister Laurie, who is head cheerleader and will be a senior when school starts, Curt is having second thoughts about leaving for college; Steve cannot wait to get away from the unnamed town, which was director/writer George Lucas’ hometown of Modesto. These three are played by Thomas, a very young Richard Dreyfuss, and Cindy Williams. Basically, the movie follows them and a few of their friends throughout this last night, as Steve and Curt decide about their futures. It’s really about growing up and making decisions about who you are and what your life is going to be, and while rather light-hearted in tone for the most part, there are dark elements to the movie as well–and the end, with Curt flying east, and as the plane is silhouetted against the clouds, a scroll lets us know what happens to the four male characters: Steve is an insurance salesman, Curt is a writer living in Canada, Terry is missing in action in Vietnam, and John was killed by a drunk driver. There’s a definitely 50’s feel to the movie, even though it’s set in 1962–some say the 50’s didn’t really end until the JFK assassination–but it’s not as “feel-good” as one might think. There’s sadness and poignancy in the movie, as well. And of course, it’s the film that launched numerous careers, including Lucas’; the afore-mentioned stars, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers, Harrison Ford, and Kathleen Quinlan, among others. It wasn’t as heavy drama as The Last Picture Show, which was another dark film about teenagers in the 1950’s, but it’s still darker than most people think of it.

Marathon Man definitely belongs in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. William Goldman adapted his novel for the screen–I read the book, never saw the movie (although the sadistic dentist scene is legendary; it was much worse in the book)–and now that I’ve seen the film, there’s no question about it. The film opens with an old man going to a ban and checking his safe deposit box; his car stalls, which starts a road rage incident with another old man, with the two men swearing at each other in German and the second man realizing the first man is anti-Semitic, if not an actual Nazi, and so begins a car duel between the two that ends with both of them crashing into a fuel truck and being killed. The film then cuts to Dustin Hoffman, who is training to run a marathon. He is also working on his PhD in history, trying to clear his father’s name–his father was smeared during McCarthyism in the 1950’s and ruined, finally killing himself. Because his brother, played by Roy Scheider, works for a mysterious secret agency for the government (doing the things in that gray area between the FBI and CIA), is somehow involved with actual Nazis who escaped from Germany at the end of the war (we never really learn why our government helped those Nazis escape–although that’s actually true; in most cases it was scientists we set to work on the space program), Hoffman actually becomes involved peripherally with this case through no fault of his own, and people are now trying to not only kill him but torture him as well, trying to find out “if it’s safe”, and he has no idea what they are talking about. This is the ultimate paranoia/conspiracy movie: an innocent person being stalked and his life threatened and he has no idea why, and all he can do is try to stay alive and figure it all out (this is also the underlying story of some of Hitchcock’s best films, and many Robert Ludlum novels), and there is quite literally no one he can trust: not the woman he is seeing, not his brother’s fellow agent, and certainly not any of the Nazi henchmen. It’s a good thriller, but I don’t think it would make it today because of the pacing and the slow developing plot, but once it starts rolling it really goes quickly.

It also reminded me that another element of the 1970’s was actual Nazis; Israelis were still hunting down and exterminating war criminals, and the war and the Holocaust were still in recent enough memory that it was still very much in the public consciousness. War novels still proliferated (this was the decade Herman Wouk published both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance), it also brought forth William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice and Ira Levin’s brilliant The Boys from Brazil. Ludlum’s career also got rolling in the 1970’s, and one of his first novels dealt with Nazis–as I always say, you can never go wrong with Nazis as villains, with the Vatican a close second; one of my favorite Ludlums, The Gemini Contenders, used both.

And now back to the spice mines.

Sara

Sunday morning, and the time change has me bleary-eyed and irritated. I hate losing an hour, absolutely hate it, and would gladly give up that extra hour of sleep in the fall that makes up for it being taken away now. It’s always disorienting, and it’s been hard enough recovering from the one-two-three punch of the Great Data Disaster of 2018 followed by the weeks of Carnival followed  by the Laptop Death of 2019. Seriously, I am so not in the mood for this.

But I suppose it’s a sign that spring is on its way, with the blasting heat of the summer right behind. I need to get caught up on my homework for the panel I’m moderating–I did have a lovely experience yesterday at the car wash while reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister while I waited for them to finish cleaning my car. I spent most of yesterday being a trifle on the lazy side; I was worn out and the rest was kind of necessary, although I probably should have read more. I did do the laundry, ran the errands that needed running, and wound up back home extremely worn out, and made the perhaps not good decision to simply relax and rest for the rest of the day rather than doing anything constructive.

I watched American Graffiti again Friday night for the first time in decades; it’s available on Starz, and as I scrolled through the available options I thought why not? The movie itself, which was a huge deal when released, made a fortune, and got a number of Oscar nominations (including best picture), was one I remembered a bit fondly, and in all the hubbub of George Lucas/Star Wars, people tend to forget American Graffiti was the hit movie  that actually made him, and made Star Wars financing a possibility in the first place. I think he was even nominated for best director? I don’t recall. But American Graffiti was notable to me as a young teenager because it triggered a nostalgia wave for the 1950’s at the time; the soundtrack was hugely successful, and anthology albums of hits from the 1950’s became all the rage. (The irony that the film was actually set in 1962 was lost on everyone.) It’s actually kind of a dark film, really; while it reintroduced Chinese fire drills and cruising and sock hops and the music of the period to teenagers (the Beach Boys also came back to prominence; their double album greatest hits compilation Endless Summer was released during this nostalgia craze) rewatching the film now, the darkness is plain to see. Vietnam is on the horizon, and the ‘innocence’ of these teens, on the brink of adulthood, isn’t all that innocent, really. There wasn’t really a cohesive plot; it was just a mishmash of interconnected characters with their own stories sometimes bisecting others–very Robert Altman-esque in that way.

And as I said earlier, it did lead to a 50’s nostalgia craze, which eventually led to shows like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, which also wound up starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, as the film did. Richard Dreyfuss also has a lead, and this was before Jaws and his Oscar for The Goodbye Girl and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The movie kind of launched quite a few careers. It was also one of the first “teen movies” to be quite so dark, a big change from the silliness of the Disney films for teens at the time or the beach movies of the 60’s. An argument could, in fact, be made that American Graffiti set the stage for the 1980’s teen movies that redefined the genre.

I’ve also always kind of thought that the kids from Graffiti who went off to college became the adults in The Big Chill, but that’s just me. (There was a sequel, More American Graffiti, that was made in 1979, but the less said about that the better.)

I also rewatched Play Misty for Me, which is also available on Starz. Play Misty for Me was the original Fatal Attraction, also was Clint Eastwood’s first film as a director (he also starred), and scared the crap out of me when I was a kid; we saw it as a family at the drive-in, part of a triple feature with another Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter (which I think is his best Western), and a really bad low-budget movie starring country singer Marty Robbins called Guns of a Stranger–which was so laughably bad it became kind of a benchmark/joke for my family for years. I’ve never seen Play Misty for Me again, and so was curious; I remember Jessica Walters played Evelyn Draper, the “Alex Forrest” of the movie, and was absolutely terrifying as the psycho woman obsessed with Clint Eastwood’s Carmel deejay (I also recognized a lot of the locations as the same ones used for Big Little Lies). It doesn’t hold up as well on a rewatch some forty years later, alas; it has a lot of “first director-itis”, and kind of has a “made for TV” feel to it, but it was a pretty adequate little thriller, and was groundbreaking in its way–it was really the first movie to deal with a stalker situation.

I seem to have also developed some kind of a strain in my right calf muscle; I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it’s not incredibly painful or anything; but I am always aware of it when I’m walking. Crazy.

So, I have lots of plans for today now that my coffee is starting to kick in; I’m looking forward to doing some cleaning today, writing some, and of course, reading. Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister is quite good, and I can’t wait to get caught up in it later today when I finish my chores and to-do list.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

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