Superman

So, on National Coming Out Day this past week, October 11th, the current Superman—Jonathon Kent, son of Lois and Clark—came out as bisexual. When I saw the New York Times piece I literally gasped out loud. This wasn’t some minor character in a team comic; this wasn’t even a second-tier lead of a less-popular title. This was fucking SUPERMAN, the Big Blue Boy Scout, the tentpole character on whom all of DC Comics, and the DC television and film franchises, are built around.

I literally had tears come up in my eyes. This was So. Fucking. HUGE.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much that would have meant to me as a deeply closeted and terrified gay teenager in the Chicago suburbs and later, small town rural Kansas. I really don’t know how best to explain what this meant to me as a sixty-year-old gay man, but here goes.

Oh, Superman. You are the ubiquitous comic book character; since your debut back before the second world war you have become the default; the super-hero every other super-hero is judged against. It’s even right there in your generic name: you are the super man, hence you are Superman.

Superman is kind of the Bill Jones or Joe Smith of comic book heroes: basic, simply named, and the best of them all.

I was a kid when I first started reading comic books about super-heroes. Before I bought my first Action Comics (all I remember is that Lex Luthor was the issue’s villain), I read Archie in all of its iterations; I also read Millie the Model, Dot, Little Lotta, and some others that have faded from memory. The Jewel Osco where my mom used to buy groceries when we lived in Chicago had a comic book vending machine near the entrance, right next to a soda machine dispensing cans of Pepsi and its variants. You put in a dime and two pennies into the appropriate slots, and pushed the appropriate buttons for the comic you wanted; the metal spiral thing holding the comics would spin and drop your comic down, so you could reach in through the door and pick it up. That particular day I wanted a Betty and Veronica, which was A5 but I was in a hurry and accidentally pressed B5 instead; voila, I got an Action Comics instead, much to my bitter disappointment. One of the local independent stations, Channel 32 (which also showed repeats of The Munsters, among other black-and-white classics) aired reruns of the old Superman television show; which I thought, even for my unsophisticated childish palate, was cheesy and silly. I remember grousing about it to my mother—whose response, “Boys read super hero comics anyway” was the kind of thing that usually would guarantee that I would never read a super hero comic book, but I picked it up after we got home and I started reading, certain that I would hate it.

It probably should go without saying that I didn’t hate it.

And it opened an entirely new world for me. Sure, it got a little frustrating from time to time for me (Superman was such a goody two-shoes, but that was kind of his job) and Lois being so desperate (and jealous) to either marry and/or expose his secret identity was annoying; especially because Lois otherwise was such a kick ass woman. There were any number of Superman or Superman-adjacent titles, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen had their own titles; Superman often appeared in (and was definitely a charter member of) Justice League of America; there was also Superboy (“Superman as a teenager!”) and Supergirl…it was like the comics readers couldn’t get enough of Superman and his world. I eventually moved on to other DC Comics titles, too—everything Batman (Detective Comics was always my favorite, because there was a mystery to solve) and Flash and Green Arrow and Green Lantern and…yes, my dollar allowance every week for a long time went to comic books (Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were $1.50 and my allowance was $1 per week; and no, I couldn’t wait until I had two dollars to get one; I always needed to spend my money as soon I got it on Thursday—Mom’s payday—at either Jewel Osco or at Woolworth’s…because I could always talk Mom into buying me a book if there were Hardy Boys or Three Investigators to be had). When we moved to the suburbs the Zayre’s didn’t carry comics, nor did the grocery store in town; the 7/11 only carried Marvel (I tried with The Mighty Thor, but the continuing story aspect Marvel used irritated me because I would inevitably miss an issue), and when Zayre’s finally started carrying comics, things had… changed. Wonder Woman was no longer an Amazon, and was just an every day modern woman running a boutique (somehow she’d given up her powers). Supergirl had been poisoned, which meant her powers came and went without warning; one moment she’d be super, the next she wouldn’t. It was an attempt to modernize the books, of course, make them appeal to the newer, more sophisticated modern audience of the 1970’s; some of them started addressing social issues and became a lot more adult in theme. (Green Arrow actually became my favorite book during this time; he was drawn naturally—had curly chest hair AND nipples—and he had no powers other than being an expert archer and skill at hand-to-hand fighting). I eventually moved away from comics because I started spending my money on novels—Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, etc.—and comics were, I thought, really for kids.

Later on, when we moved to Kansas, I got back into comics again, and things had changed yet again. Some of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ costumes made them look like strippers (male and female); the drawing of the characters had become more natural and realistic (Superman, for example, went from being barrel-shaped to having a narrow little waist and abs showing through his skintight costume), and Wonder Woman was an Amazon again. This was my Howard the Duck period, when I also started delving into Marvel a bit more. Comics always remained of interest to me throughout my life, with me going through periods of collecting and reading in large volumes at different times…before moving on from them again. I am not an expert on comics by any means; I know the names of some artists and some writers, but for the most part, I always paid more attention to story and character (go figure). But I’ve always maintained a love for the characters; and yes, the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie (which I rewatched recently for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival) indeed made me believe a man could fly.

I’ve always had, and always will have, a soft spot for Superman.

To me, Christopher Reeve was Superman–the prior versions of the character, including the popular television show (which I watched religiously) always seemed, to me, to be an actor playing the part; Reeve somehow just was the character. He was so insanely and ridiculously handsome; the body was just right, and he had the right mix of charm and charisma the part demanded. Reeve’s Superman could never be seen as a threat–and he also made it completely believable that no one could tell Clark was him, with different hair, glasses, and street clothes; he physically changed how he stood, his posture, everything about him that was Superman, when he was playing Clark.

Reeve never got enough credit as an actor, frankly.

And while my memories of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane aren’t fond ones–I thought she was a fine actress, but miscast–overall, the first two Reeve films were good ones. They could have stopped there, but didn’t–and the last two weren’t good. I enjoyed Lois and Clark (despite what Dean Cain turned into) and Paul and I eventually succumbed to the simple pleasure that was Smallville…but I wanted to see Superman back up on the big screen, where he belonged. I was very excited when they cast Henry Cavill in the part (I’ve been crushing hard on Cavill since first noticing him on The Tudors)….and then came the movies. I enjoyed them for what they were, and I did think some of the changes made to update and modernize the story (how would Americans today react to the discovery of a super being from another planet?)–and you can never go wrong with Amy Adams, either.

But…they forgot the most important thing about Superman: his kindness and genuine concern for people. In the quest to make the DC Film Universe of all that is dark and angsty like the Batman movies–the direction Batman has gone in since the comic mini-series The Dark Knight Returns–was a bad one. Patty Jenkins got Wonder Woman so fucking right–and it was the same basic formula as Superman. Superman used to be derisively called “the world’s oldest Boy Scout”, but that can work with the character, and with the right actor. I think Cavill has the charisma and the charm–and the extraordinarily gorgeous smile–to pull that off; I just wish they would have let him have the chance.

The new show on CW, Superman and Lois, is also excellent; I absolutely love it, and I do think that Tyler Hoechlin is one of the best Supermans of all time, frankly. (The entire cast is stellar, frankly.)

So, as I said earlier, I was pretty fucking jazzed the other day to see the piece in the New York Times earlier this week about Superman “coming out”–on National Coming Out Day, no less–and even if it turned out to not be Clark Kent, but Lois and Clark’s son Jonathan (in the comics they have the one son; on Superman and Lois they have twin sons, one of whom is named Jonathan), and while I, in my white gay male privilege assumed this meant that he was gay–he’s actually bisexual. But he is attracted to other men, and even has a boyfriend.

There was one particularly noxious piece posted on Medium, which the homophobic piece of trash who wrote it proudly posted on Facebook (I reported his post on Facebook as well as the piece on Medium as hate speech; the Medium piece came down, but the last time I looked, of course Facebook had done nothing about it). I read the whole thing–poorly worded, not grammatical, would have given a C- grade on the construction basics level alone–but the part that I couldn’t get past, the part I can’t forget, was him saying this: But why take one of the few heroes left for the “Straight World” and make him abnormally offensive to us?

Abnormally. Offensive.

I guess I missed the massive closet exodus for the DC and Marvel Universes? Let me see–right off the top of my head, at DC aren’t Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Nightwing, Cyborg, Aquaman, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, the Question, Beast Boy, the Elongated Man, and Shazam, all straight? (And that is just off the top of my head., and only DC.) But you know those people who are so afraid of the queers–you know, like the piece of shit who wrote the Medium piece–they just can’t help themselves or keep their fucking mouths shut. Oh, no, Mr. I’ve Never Brought a Woman to Orgasm just can’t let us have anything without letting us know how much it offends their delicate, needle-dicked sensibilities. You know, the same kind of guy who undoubtedly always complains about “cancel culture” and “social justice warriors” and “wokeness” and I don’t have a problem with gay people but why do you have to exist? Those kinds–sad, bitter little men with so little joy in their lives they have to spend their precious time on this planet letting everyone else in the world know how much they object to our existence.

But he has a right to his opinion and we are oppressing him if we call it out for the hateful trash it is…and him for the piece of shit he is.

As my editor at Kensington wrote on a note he included with a copy of a bad review of one of my books, this just reeks with the stench of failed author.

This guy claims to be a crime writer, and claims to work for a publisher (I’ve never heard of it or him before this moment)…but after reading this piece and another one he published on Medium, the real crime is his actual writing.

Fuck off, dude. And know that bisexual Superman is going to have way better sex than you could ever pay for, no matter how long you live.

God knows I have.

I Drove All Night

Friday and the first day of my four day weekend! Woo-hoo!

And I got my new computer yesterday–and practically wept for joy once I had it set up (which literally took NO time at all). It’s so fast, the picture quality is stunning (I played the 2019 LSU-Alabama game on it thru Youtube while I did the dishes, and the picture quality is better than my television’s. And yes, that game is one of my main happy places, sue me.) It’s been amazing so far; but I also need to remember to enjoy these it’s amazingly functional and fast days for the inevitable day when the spinning wheel starts showing up again, or programs start freezing or locking up, and the whole hellish Mac computer thing starts all over again.

Today is a Gregalicious day; I had already decided earlier this week that would be what today would be for me. I have a spa appointment at twelve thirty (for a waxing, if you want to know, and sorry about the TMI if you didn’t) but it’s all a part of the new attitude towards celebrating being sixty, and part of my personal wellness journey. There was just something about going to the gym the other night for the rebirth of Leg Day into my life that switched my mindset around, or flipped a switch in my head about working out; maybe it was the tiredness of my legs the last two days around here, which means I am aware of the work my body is doing? While I have been going to the gym and working out fairly regularly since we joined the new gym, it’s not like I’ve been enjoying the workouts, or even had much of a goal going forward with it–more of a I am doing this to be healthier and to try to be in better shape. I’ve not wanted much to mess with my eating habits/diet; I’ve never rearranged the way I eat for weight control, choosing the workout path on its own entirely. Maybe I should do something about my eating habits; trying to eat healthier, or something. I want to lose some fat weight–I had gotten down to 200 but am now back up to 211 again, and i’d rather be around 200, possibly even as low as 190. It’s possible and I am going to work my way up (down?) to that goal. Part of the issue with the working out is that I didn’t have a set goal–before, as I have said, I always planned my goals around peaking at the holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Carnival–and while I have no intentions of ever running around at those events next to naked again under any circumstances, maybe it’s not a bad idea to use those dates as goal dates…my mind is already wired that way.

We started watching the new season of Titans last night on HBO MAX–I’ve always loved the Titans; they were amongst my favorites in the DC Universe, and Nightwing has always been one of my favorite heroes in that universe–and was surprised/not surprised to see the Joker killing off Jason Todd before the opening credits of Episode One. As I explained to Paul, back in the 1980’s as a publicity gimmick, DC ran a contest about killing off Jason Todd/Robin, fully expecting the readers to vote to keep him alive. They didn’t; and I will be the first to admit I voted for him to die daring DC to actually pull the plug on a major character in the Batman universe; DC called the readers’ bluff and killed off Jason in the now famous “A Death in the Family” story, which was also around the time the Batman stories took their turn toward the truly dark and noir.

Today I am going to, as I said, have a spa appointment. I also have to pick up another box of Scooter’s insulin syringes and get the mail. Obviously, I am trying to figure out the most efficient way to do the errands, as always, and think I’ll start with the spa day and go further afield uptown from there before coming home and spending some time with The Other Black GIrl. I also need to head to the gym at some point today, preferably before five (when it starts getting crowded again) and I will probably spend a goodly amount of time playing with my new computer, which is always a fun way to spend time. I’m going to spend the rest of this morning probably cleaning out my email inbox, as well as doing some other neatening/straightening up around my office area; I don’t have to be at my spa appointment until twelve thirty. I would like to get phô today, but with the gym and the protein shake I may have to put off the phô until tomorrow, alas.

I’m also going to possibly–just possibly–do a little bit of writing work today–I know, that’s not a Gregalicious Day Off thing, but I do need to get that short story revision typed up, and I also need to get my notes for the revision of #shedeservedit typed up, and I should probably spend the weekend going over that manuscript and making corrections to be input while I am on vacation in two weeks in order to get it all finished by the end of the month.

So, yes, I have a lot of plans for the rest of this month that really need to get done absolutely; and the first thing in order to be certain it’s all going to get done is to make sure that I have a to-do list in place….and so that’s what I am going to do for the majority of the rest of this morning; getting a bit organized. And yes, that does count as a Gregalicious Day Off activity; because it will relieve my mind and help me relax.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday the 13th, everyone!

Working Overtime

FRIDAY! Today I am taking what we can a personal day, or a Mental Health Day, or whatever you want to call a day when you really have a lot to do at home–chores, errands, writing, cleaning, etc.–so you dip into your dwindling supply of paid time off and snag some hours so you can get that shit done. It’s gray again outside this morning, and the sidewalks wet with a fractional amount of standing water in low places, so I am not really sure what the weather is actually like outside. Yesterday the high was 78–insane for late March, which doesn’t bode well for summer when it arrives in a few weeks (yes, summer is usually here by mid-April)–and I haven’t yet checked today’s weather. The gray cloud cover, however, kind of says it all, really.

I finished off a journal last night, filling the final few pages with thoughts about the current book, what I need to get done with it, and how precisely I want to get that done. Time is, of course, slipping through my fingers, as it is wont to do, and the extended deadline expires on Thursday of next week. Of course, it’s also Easter weekend, that is Good Friday and a paid holiday (thank you, deeply Catholic state of Louisiana), so I am debating whether to go ahead and get it turned in on Thursday, taking that nice long weekend to relax and recuperate from the exhaustion of finishing a book, or using that time to painstakingly go over the entire thing one last time….or desperately try to revise the end one last time. (I think we know what I am going to inevitably end up spending next weekend doing, don’t we?) I also need to get to the gym today later this afternoon.

I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League yesterday while I was making condom packs. I hadn’t wanted to for a number of reasons (four hours being the primary, to be fair, and I’m also kind of over “director’s cuts” of movies I’ve already seen; the few times I’ve watched these kind of things they never seemed to improve the original movie that much, or made a significant amount of difference to the film that warranted a rewatch; I’m afraid I’ve been burned that way a few too many times to be much interested in ever viewing a director’s “personal vision” yet again…but then, I realized yesterday, this was different–the movie I watched was patched together, rewritten, and reshot to create an entirely different film; so this Justice League would have some similarities to the movie I’d watched and mostly forgotten, but wouldn’t be the same film), but yesterday I thought well it’s four hours, watching this will save me the chore of having to decide what two movies I want to view while I am doing this, and so, with no small amount of trepidation, I queued the movie up and hit play.

Four hours later, as the end credits rolled, my first thought was wow, Warner Brothers really shit the bed by bringing in Joss Whedon to make that piece of crap instead of just releasing this.

DC Comics was my jam when I was a kid; I move on to DC from Archie Comics and never looked back–although I am very fond of Archie, even watching the first few seasons of Riverdale and absolutely loving The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–and even though I eventually came around to include Marvel in my super-hero reading, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for DC–how can you go wrong with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? DC changed over the years–the transition from the old school heroes in an attempt to modernize them all in the 1970’s had mixed results (I can’t be the only person who remembers that Wonder Woman gave up her powers and became mortal for a while in the early 1970’s?); but the 1970’s also meant a move toward more realism in the way the characters were drawn, and an attempt to make them more three-dimensional and human. (Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow is the first DC hero to be drawn hyper-realistically; I distinctly have a memory of Oliver standing at a mirror with his shirt off–and seeing not only nipples but a navel and some curly body hairs and defined muscles). DC rebooted their entire universe in the 1980’s with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was an epic undertaking, and kind of brilliant–getting rid of, for example, the Kryptonian super pets like Krypto, Streaky, and there was even a super-horse, if I remember correctly; they also got rid of the myriad rainbow colors and types of Kryptonite and only keeping the deadly green–my favorite was always red, because how red Kryptonite affected Kryptonians on Earth was unpredictable and never the same…which meant it could also always serve as deus ex machina to explain away strange, out of character behavior, like Superman or Supergirl or Superboy–who had his own comic series as well: “oh, I was exposed to red Kryptonite”–the effects only last, I think, for forty-eight hours.

Anyway, I’ve always rooted for DC Comics and its adaptations–loved, for a while, The CW’s series with lesser known heroes, like Green Arrow and the Flash and Batwoman. I even like the Brandon Routh version of Superman in Superman Returns. (Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds was enormously disappointing; I loved the Lantern Corps, I also love Reynolds, but the whole thing was just a big mess.) I enjoyed the first rebooted Henry Cavill as Superman movies (questioned the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, to be honest) but I also agreed with critics who felt those films were missing something at their core; they came very close to getting Superman right but didn’t quite get there. And while this version of Justice League clearly fucks with the continuity of the DC Universe–particularly with Aquaman–I would strongly suggest Warner Brothers use this movie as the template for the Universe moving forward and just ignore those continuity errors. Joss Whedon definitely did both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller dirty in his revision; the parallel difficult relationships between Flash and his wrongfully imprisoned father played against the antagonistic relationship between Ray and his father are really at the heart of the film, and give it an emotional depth and complexity that the Whedon version truly lacked. The Whedon plot merely served as a device for action scenes and explosions; the Snyder film actually has a plot, fleshes out the characters of the heroes more, and is truly an epic on the grand scale of the Richard Donner Superman films of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s–not an easy feat.

And can we just give the Amazons their own movie already?

I went into it skeptical, and when it was finished, was absolutely delighted to have had such an enjoyable experience that I didn’t even once notice that it was four hours long. And yes, I get that could have been a problem for a theatrical release, but outside of some things at the end–the dream sequence for Batman–I really can’t think of much that could have been cut from the running time. I also liked that the movie ended with the Darkseid cliffhanger, and the permanent establishment of the team. I don’t know what they are going to do from here out–I think both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller are out, as well as Affleck–I don’t really pay much attention to casting news and things like that, nor do I care enough to go look it up, but it’s a shame. Both were perfectly cast, and while I can also see some issues with Miller anchoring a Flash film, I think he had the charm and charisma to pull it off if he had a great script.

And on that note, my errands and chores and writing aren’t going to do themselves, so I will talk to you tomorrow.

Style

Friday morning, and I had an absolutely lovely night’s sleep, thank you for asking. It’s the final day of the work week, the weekend looms, and as always, I have a million and a half things to get done before Monday. I somehow managed to fall behind on the writing again–by the time I was finished with my work-at-home duties yesterday I was exhausted again–and as such, didn’t write another word. So I need to get my writing going again today, knowing I am at least two chapters behind that need to be caught up, and yes–NO PRESSURE THAT AT ALL, is there?

I have some copy edits for an essay that dropped into my inbox this morning, which shouldn’t be too terrible an issue to deal with over the course of the weekend–then again, I’ve not really looked at them, either, so it could be absolutely horrifying once I open the document–but again, I don’t see that I won’t be able to get caught up on everything that must be done this weekend. What I really need to do is make a to-do list; I’ve been meaning to all week and yet somehow have not managed to get around to it yet. Gah. But that’s the kind of week this has been; 2020, after dragging all fucking year, seems to have now speeded up time now that it’s coming to a close, continuing to prove itself to be a shit-bag of a year.

Given how much optimism we all had for 2020 and what we ended up receiving, I am a bit afraid of 2021, to be completely honest.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, and I managed to watch Superman whilst making condom packs yesterday; the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve. I hadn’t seen the movie in years–I saw it originally in the theater and then watched again when it was on HBO in the early 1980’s–and wasn’t really prepared for the impact it would still have, many years later, on a rewatch. As I watched, my nimble hands breaking off condoms in groups of four and shoving them into little plastic bags, along with a packet of lube and instructions on how to properly use them, I found myself catapulted backwards in time and remembering the time period. The movie’s slogan was You will believe a man can fly and you also have to remember the late 1970’s was when films–and special effects–were changed forever after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Superman was the acme of super-heroes; perhaps the most famous, the most loved, and possibly the very first comic-book hero with superpowers, and bringing him to the big screen with a huge budget and special effects to make it look like he actually had powers was a huge deal. It was a huge hit, set the stage for several sequels, and showed Hollywood that comic book heroes were big-ticket items–it can easily be argued that there would be no MCU, no Arrowverse on television, and no Batman movies had there never been Superman first. The first sequel was also a huge hit, but the franchise began to run out of steam with the third, and the fourth was misbegotten from the very beginning.

On this rewatch, Christopher Reeve was even more perfect than I remembered, and Margot Kidder, whom I always believed was miscast, actually fit the role much better than she had in my memories. But what made the movie work–just as how the Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman worked–was how Reeve, at that point a complete unknown whose biggest role had been on the soap Love of Life, fit the role like a hand in a glove. He looked the part, had the right body for the part, and he just was Clark and Superman–and the physical differences between the two different characters–entirely dependent on how Reeve held himself, stood, and his posture–I could see how you wouldn’t see one as the other. Obviously, there were some flaws–how on earth did Lois Lane afford a penthouse with that glorious view and patio deck on a reporter’s salary? How did reversing the Earth’s spinning turn back time so he could save Lois–and didn’t turning the clock back change a lot of other things as well? DC was still in its Golden Age–the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot was still some years in the future–and so this film fits into that comic book era; they were trying to update the comics and giving their characters more of modern flare and new costumes for the most part at this time, before realizing their universe was so convoluted and confusing they needed to start over. This was the period when Wonder Woman had gotten rid of her powers; when Supergirl was poisoned, which led to her powers becoming unreliable and actually coming and going beyond her control; when two more Green Lanterns turned up on earth in addition to the original; and Green Arrow going more in a Batman-like grim direction.

But it was an uplfiting movie, putting a clear-cut hero on the screen, and it is to Reeve’s credit that he made Superman’s integrity, code of ethics, and kind concern for all humanity from a two-dimensionality to a fully fleshed out, completely believable character that you root for. The John Williams score was excellent, and it really was perfectly cast–I apologize to Margot Kidder for hating her performance for all these years. It was also interesting to see the New York of the 1970’s (passing off as Metropolis), and remembering the way the culture saw the city in that decade (the Cynical 70’s Film Festival has also done a really good job of this); in some ways the perception of New York hasn’t really changed much since then, but it isn’t the same city today that it was back then. It was, I think, in the latter half of the 1970’s that Hollywood began to turn away from the cynicism of the decade and began making movies with happy endings or that were more uplifting in general–Star Wars, Superman, Rocky–the melding of those polarities in film deeply influenced the films of the 1980’s.

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

Call It What You Want

Well, LSU lost, which certainly cast a pall over my day yesterday. The game was also early–11 am start time–and after that sucked all the air out of my day I struggled, frankly. I know, it’s silly to put so much emotional energy into being a fan of any sport, but I can’t remember ever seeing LSU play as badly on defense as they have so far this year. I feel bad for the kids, and I don’t know what the problem is–I didn’t expect them to have another record-breaking season, but I certainly didn’t think they’d have a very strong shot at going 1-9, either.

Heavy sigh. It seems to be a very weird year for college football–the Alabama-Ole Miss score was 63-48, with Ole Miss gaining over 600 yards; that’s the most points ever scored on a Nick Saban Alabama team–and Mississippi State lost to Kentucky, with Florida falling to Texas A&M; Arkansas almost beat Auburn, so clearly defense is no longer a thing in the SEC, a conference once known and respected for it. Georgia and Alabama are the only unbeatens left in the conference, and they play next weekend…yes, a very strange year in college football.

I did manage to get some work done yesterday–not enough, of course–but progress was certainly made, and I feel confident I’ll be able to get it all taken care of tomorrow. The Saints are playing on Monday night, so there’s absolutely no need for me to turn on the television at all during the day tomorrow, and the French Open final will be on so early I doubt Paul will get up to watch. This year is seriously shit, you know? All the joy from sports has been sucked out of them, and crowd noise, it turns out, increases the enjoyment of the game significantly when you’re watching at home–who knew?

So, I licked my wounds and thought about the things I need to write, and how to get them done, and how to improve everything I have currently in progress. That’s a win, frankly, and I refuse to feel guilty about not getting everything done yesterday. Sure, it means I have to get it all done today–but as I said, I am certain I can bang it all out and get it all done, and then I can go into the first three day work week of the clinic since March with my head held high and start focusing on the other things I need to get done–the manuscript for Bury Me in Shadows, a couple more short stories–and of course, getting the email situation back under control. I feel like this final quarter of the year, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world, is a time when I can turn this ship around and set to rights.

I especially hate that I somehow fucked around and managed to go a year without having a book out. How in the holy hell did I allow that to happen? What was I doing in 2019 that I didn’t get a book written? I turned Royal Street Reveillon in around Carnival of 2019, and it came out last October, a year ago. What in the name of God was I doing the rest of the year? I know I was working on Bury Me in Shadows, but seriously? I honestly don’t remember, but whatever the hell it was I was doing, one thing for sure I wasn’t doing was writing. Sure, I sold some short stories, but I honestly think most of the story sales were this year, not last. Part of the reason I signed contracts with deadlines so tightly on top of each other was partly to ensure I wasn’t going to go another year without a novel out.

Gregalicious, you need to start getting more focused.

I saw the trailer for the new version of The Stand, and I have to say it looks good. I liked the original mini-series from the early 1990’s–that chilling opening when Campion runs and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays over the opening credits as the camera moves through the Army base and all the dead bodies within still gives me chills (it’s on Youtube). I love The Stand, and generally consider it my favorite Stephen King novel. It used to be one of my primary comfort reads; I think I’ve read the original dozens of times. Despite some issues, overall I approved of that initial attempt at filming it; the final episode was the weakest, overall, but they did a pretty good job. This version has a terrific cast, and it looks like CBS All Access spared no expense on putting together a great show…but–the whole Mother Abagail thing really doesn’t hold up well after all this time. At least they’ve added other people of color to the cast this time–in the book and the original TV version, apparently most people of color succumbed to the pandemic.

It’s also interesting that when I was reading plague fictions and histories earlier this year, I didn’t pick up either The Stand or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which are both favorites. I think both–which feature almost the entire human population dying–were probably more than I could handle earlier this year.

And I do think that was probably the wisest course.

I read two more stories by Nathan Ballingrud, from his collection North American Lake Monsters: Stories yesterday while the Alabama-Ole Miss game played on the television–“Wild Acre” and “S.S.”–and both were superbly written. Ballingrud does a truly great job writing about desperate people–financially desperate, emotionally desperate–and his use of the supernatural and how it affects/impacts the desperate people he writes about it is stellar. “S.S.” isn’t really a supernatural story; it’s set in New Orleans and is more about a desperate young man, a loser, who turns to white supremacy to try to find a place where he belongs, and it’s an ugly little story, yet compelling at the same time. The horror of his own life–he’s a dishwasher at a small restaurant in the Quarter, his mother was severely injured in an accident, can’t work, and is now mentally deranged; their power has been turned off for non-payment–makes him an easy target for white supremacy and hate; it’s terribly sad, and makes a surprising turn towards the end. The interesting thing I am learning from reading Ballingrud is that the premise of his work is the real horror comes from humans, not the paranormal or supernatural.

So, today is the day I am going to get a lot of work done, trying to start getting caught up on everything. I slept deeply and well last night, which is always a plus, and so am feeling relatively well rested this morning. Once I’ve had my coffee and finished writing this, I am going to get cleaned up and dig into finishing my essay and then move on to the website writing before the revision of my short story. This will possibly–probably?–take most of the day, so I doubt that I will get around to Bury Me in Shadows today (but one never knows; I could go into the zone and get a ton of shit done today). We watched three episodes of The Boys last night, and I have to say, the primary problem we (Paul agrees with me on this) have with the show is the character of Butcher. He’s really supposed to be the character we root for, leading the resistance against the proto-fascist tendencies of the super-heroes and Vought, the company they work for, but he’s so routinely unpleasant and unlikable it’s difficult to care–and if you excise him and his personal story from the show you wouldn’t really be missing anything; I don’t care about his him or his wife or their situation, frankly, and the fact that almost every sentence he utters includes the words “cunt” and/or “twat” doesn’t help. I realize the words are more commonly used in England and don’t have the unpleasant misogynist implications they do in the United States, but the constant usage is like the writers were all “Oh, he’s British so he can say cunt and twat all the time!” like junior high school boys rubbing their hands together in glee about getting away with something. I do like that the show subverts and looks at super-heroes with a wary eye, exploring the dangers of super-powered beings who are arrogant and don’t really care much about people, but Watchmen also explored the ethics of this, and did it much, much better. Still…for the most part, we are enjoying it, and will continue watching. We only have three episodes left, and so will probably either finish it tonight or tomorrow–there’s also a new episode of The Vow dropping tonight; even though we are slowly losing interest in it, we’ll probably continue watching and see it all the way through.

Although I have to give props where it’s due; The Boys has gotten me thinking about Superman, and why the DC films with Henry Cavill about Superman have been disappointing, despite a stellar cast, because they really don’t get the essence of Superman–and why on earth would you make a movie about the greatest comic book hero of all time when you don’t understand the purpose of the character and why he is a hero? Hero is the key word there; and if Marvel could manage to do Captain America and make him believable, Warner certainly could have done the same with Superman. Watching the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies would have been a huge help, frankly; Superman isn’t angsty or tortured the way Batman is, and using the film version of Batman as a blueprint for Superman, I think, was the first mistake.

Look at Wonder Woman, for that matter.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines and get this day off and running. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Behind Closed Doors

I only managed about seventeen hundred words on the WIP last night. (Hangs head in shame.) But in fairness to me, it’s a difficult transitional chapter which sets up some important stuff in the final five chapters, so I am trying to get it just right–which is, by its very nature, the definition of insanity, as I am obviously going to have to revise the fuck out of it eventually.

Heavy sigh.

And so it goes.

Yesterday, despite sleeping relatively well the previous night, was relatively unpleasant.  I had a toothache–which has sort of subsided this morning, but we’ll see as the day progresses–and there’s nothing worse than tooth pain. I’ve been putting off seeing the dentist for quite some time now; I suppose I need to go ahead and make a plan for getting in to see my dentist and then start figuring out how to pay for all the work I need to have done in my mouth. It was so  bad yesterday chewing was difficult–it’s a molar–but this morning it feels, while still not terrific, much better than it did yesterday. I suppose we’ll see when it’s time to chew something, I suppose. But ugh, mouth pain is the worst.

I suppose I could also blame the tooth for how difficult it was to pull those words out of my brain last night and get them down on the page, but that seems kind of cheating. I also did something Saturday–I’m not sure what–but my back has been sore and making me uncomfortable since Sunday morning when I got up. I generally attribute these aches and pains that come out of nowhere with just getting older, but sometimes I get paranoid and worry that it might be something important I’m ignoring and blowing off. I’ve never been much of a hypochondriac–I generally dismiss things and hope they’ll go away so I don’t have to do anything about them–but sometimes it gets too bad and I don’t have a choice (remembering the day of the three abscessed teeth) but this toothache seems to be just that–a toothache–and will probably go away. My gums aren’t swollen, neither is my cheek, and that makes me tend to think that an abscess isn’t going to be the problem this time around.

Fascinating, right?

We continue to watch The Boys on Prime, and it’s getting darker with each episode. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman sort of touched on this notion that super-powered beings cannot really be trusted, and the comic book ideal of “great power means great responsibility” is just precisely that: an ideal. Even the super-villains of the comics, their antagonists, are rarely more powerful than the heroes (Magneto in X-Men being one of the primary exceptions to this rule), because obviously the heroes always have to win out in the end (one of the reasons I always loved Detective Comics was because Batman usually had to use his brain to outwit the criminals; obviously, one of the reasons I was always a Batman fan was because he was, before The Dark Knight Returns, known as The World’s Greatest Detective…I really was destined to become a mystery writer), otherwise why else would people read comic books about super-heroes? Sure, they suffer and go through angst as part of their character-building arcs, but the point of being a hero is to surmount challenges and difficulties.

And actually, my tooth is much better today, so there will be no blaming of the tooth for not being productive today. I am still trying to get a handle on this enormous, time-sensitive project I’ve been handed; I got some work on it done yesterday, but after awhile–particularly when I’m in tooth pain–I can only deal with Excel spreadsheets for so long, you know?

But I am feeling so much better today–even my back isn’t achy, more just reminding me periodically that I did something it isn’t happy about–that I feel certain I can continue marking things off my to-do list without a problem.

Go, Gregalicious, go!

I also hope to read some more of Steph Cha’s terrific Your House Will Pay. I certainly had to put it down at a place where I really didn’t want to put it down, so there’s that.

I also think today needs to have an appreciation moment.

So, today I am appreciating Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. When I was a kid, I became a huge fan of Ellery Queen from watching the television program, with Jim Hutton. I also remember being disappointed that the character in the books–Ellery Queen novels in the third person point of view by Ellery Queen–wasn’t as much like the sort of absent-minded incredibly intelligent goofball from the show. Anyway, I remember reading my first issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine when I was a teenager, and have read it, off and on, ever since. It was always on my bucket list to have a story published in their pages, and that finally happened in 2006, when they  did a Katrina-anniversary New Orleans focused issue, and it included my story “Acts of Contrition.” That was a really proud moment for me, as was my second appearance some five or so years later with “The Email Always Pings Twice.” I love being able to say I’ve had two stories published there, and hope to someday say three rather than two. Every experience I’ve had with EQMM and its staff has been absolutely lovely.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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Special Lady

Happy Sunday everyone.

Yesterday was a bit of a revelation. The other day (yesterday? Who knows? My memory has more holes than Swiss cheese) I was talking about how the Internet is such an enormous distraction, and one of the terrific things about the old dial-up modems was the process of signing onto the web was such an irritating process that it wasn’t a big deal to shut it all down when I had other things to get done and couldn’t be distracted. So, yesterday I did precisely that: I closed down both browsers when it was time to work, and guess what? Not only did I get some work done on the Scotty, I got the page proofing for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories form filled out, cleaned the apartment (the living room still needs work) and made shrimp creole for dinner. I also wound up watching the final three episodes of Titans last night (which were quite excellent, I might add), and read some more Walter Mosley before going to bed. So, this morning I am going to finish writing this blog post before cleaning out my email inboxes, after which I am going to shut down my browsers and get to work. I want to finish cleaning the living room, have some dishes and laundry to do, some minor touches need to be done in the kitchen, and then I am most likely going to make potato leek soup for dinner in the slow cooker.

Pretty cool, huh? I felt really good in getting that work on Scotty done yesterday, and I think it’s good work. I am most definitely pleased with myself. I also need to make a list of things that need to get done this week.

I have to say, shutting down the Internet on my desktop was a pretty genius thing to do. I couldn’t believe how much free time I had yesterday to get things done. I will admit I occasionally checked my phone every few hours or so, and last night while I was watching television I also pulled out the iPad occasionally, but over all it was terrific. I had already, years ago, came up with a new rule to not answer emails over the weekends (emails always beget emails), and limiting the Internet is actually kind of genius.

I was very pleased with the entire first season of Titans. This is how you launch a television series about a super-hero team; a continuing story arc where you get to know the characters as they work together or meet each other, with back story episodes mixed in here and there to deepen and enrich the viewer’s understanding of the characters. The actors are all good in their roles–they are gorgeous and can act–and the main character arc–the growth of Dick Grayson from sidekick Robin into himself as an individual rather than what Bruce Wayne/Batman wants him, has been grooming him, to be–is very compelling, as is trying to solve the mystery of who amnesiac Kory is, and who Rachel actually is and what the source of her power is. Kudos for an excellent first season.

Friday night I watched two episodes and resisted bingeing the rest…and discovered that the pilot for the Aquaman series the CW had considered doing during the run of Smallville was available on DC Universe, starring the incredibly handsome Justin Hartley as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. (He now stars on This Is Us.) The pilot is terrible, really terrible, and I can see why the CW didn’t pick it up. Hartley went on to play Green Arrow on Smallville, which was how I came to be a fan of the handsome actor with the phenomenal body. But as I watched Titans, the actor who plays Hank/Hawk (of Hawk and Dove), Alan Ritchson, looked familiar. Last night it hit me: he played Aquaman on Smallville! After the Aquaman pilot failed and the show cast Hartley as Green Arrow, when they brought in Aquaman he was played by Ritchson, who now plays Hawk on Titans–and does a great job of it, too. And of course later, when Greg Berlanti (also involved in Titans) rebooted Green Arrow as Arrow, he cast Stephen Amell as Arrow rather than spinning Hartley off, which also worked. So, how confusing is all of this? Pretty confusing. Hartley played Aquaman and then Green Arrow; Ritchson played Aquaman but now plays Hawk; Amell now plays Green Arrow. Whether Titans will cross over with the other DC Universe shows on the CW–Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl–remains to be seen.

But I have to give it up to this rebooted television DC Universe. And this isn’t even getting into the film DC Universe.

Right? It’s a lot.

The nice thing about the DC Universe subscription is you can also read comic books on the app for free, so I don’t have to buy them anymore. Also a really good thing, because I still haven’t read all the comics on my iPad that I’ve bought. There’s never enough time, quite frankly.

All right, on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday.

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Sleigh Ride

Today we’re going to see Aquaman. I am very excited for this, if you couldn’t tell by me pretty much mentioning it every day for the last week. I didn’t discover Jason Momoa until Game of Thrones (I know, I know, bad gay), but have been a huge fan ever since. And while my initial reaction to the news of his casting was problematic (but Aquaman is blond!) I got over it pretty quick. I’ve always been a fan of Aquaman–yes, I love Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but have always had a place in my heart for the ‘lesser’ heroes–Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, etc. So I am excited to see Aquaman get his own movie, and I do hope someday they give Green Lantern another shot.

I slept in this morning, later than usual–last night I even fell asleep in my easy chair, showing how tired I was (although that’s happened twice this week), and I feel very rested this morning. I have to run to the post office this morning, and I have some things to get at the grocery store (the Saturday before Christmas! Hurray!) before we head out for the movie. I did work a little on Bury Me in Satin a little bit last night, but I also had dinner with some friends in from out of town, which was lovely, and then we also watched the Schitt’s Creek Christmas special. I do want to talk some more about this show, but I am going to give it, I think, it’s own entry because it deserves it. Seriously, people, if you aren’t watching this show you need to. It’s hilarious, but incredibly warm and sweet at the same time.

It definitely deserves an entry of its own.

My kitchen is a mess; and I have loads of chores to do this morning. I’d like to, obviously, get as much done today as possible, so tomorrow I can focus on the Saints game and editing the Scotty book, maybe log some time in on Bury Me in Satin, do some reading, etc., and then have both Christmas Eve and Christmas to not only do some writing/editing in the morning, but spend the rest of each day relaxing, which will be lovely. I get a three day work week this week and next (huzzah!) and so here’s hoping that some of that free time will be spent productively.

Or not. We’ll see. Oh! I have to stop at the library today, too. They’re holding a book for me. Yay! I love having a library card, and being able to reserve books on-line. I do think one of these days I need to just go spend a day in the library, though; try to remember what it was like when I was a kid and used to spend whole afternoons in the Tomen Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Pulaski Boulevard. And the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue here in New Orleans is so, so beautiful.

I am also, by the way, in total denial that Carnival is just around the corner.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Woman

I slept really well last night, yet again, which means now over a week of good, restful sleep. I’d forgotten in all the years of not-so-good sleep how addictive sleep can be; how hard it can be to come back from the wonderful, deep slumber and get back to life and reality. But I am determined to shake off the sleep and laziness today and hit my revising goals–and my cleaning goals. I started reading Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress, and I intend to get further along in it, as well.

Yesterday was a lovely day. Five months into owning a new car, and I’m still not used to it, being conditioned for so long with my clunker so that I don’t want to drive anywhere–and then I get in the new car and am all, “Oh, yes, the reason I hated driving was because I hated driving that car” and everything is right with the world again. Yesterday we drove out to Elmwood to the AMC Palace 20 theater to see Wonder Woman.

And it was, indeed, a wonder.

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While I would not refer to myself as a ‘comics geek’, as that implies a level of fandom and devotion I don’t feel I am entitled to, I do consider myself a fan. I grew up with the DC Comics titles, and periodically throughout my life I’ve dipped back into comics–I have a ridiculous amount of them in my iPad at the moment that I’ve not read yet–and I’ve always managed to try to keep up with what was going on in the worlds (universes?) of DC and Marvel; I’ve always been partial to DC because that was my childhood, but at the same time I’m impressed with Marvel and what they’ve done/accomplished over the years. I saw the Christopher Reeve Superman (and later, Superman II) in the movie theater, and yes, I did come out of them thinking that a man could fly. But as good as those two films were, and as good as Reeve was in the role, there was a bottom-line cheesiness to the movies, and some of the roles were miscast (Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was a mistake; with no offense intended to Ms. Kidder, they should have gone with Kate Jackson or Jane Seymour or Pamela Sue Martin; I never believed Kidder in the role and I never believed Superman would fall in love with her Lois Lane–and that’s not even taking into consideration the absolute lack of chemistry between Reeve and Kidder). But I did enjoy them, and was happy to see super-hero movies being made. The Superman movies eventually went off the rails–the last two Reeve-as-Superman movies were terrible, and that was, I feared, the end of that. I wasn’t crazy about the Batman movies, either; they were entertaining enough, but that film series also went off the rails completely in the last two installments. As Marvel began dipping its foot in to waters of film, I liked the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, but didn’t love them; the X-Men movies were just okay (brilliant in moments, awful in others), and while I thought the reboot of Batman with Christian Bale were done really well to begin with–again, as the movies progressed they started going off the rails. I didn’t hate the rebooting of Superman with Henry Cavill as much as everyone else did; I enjoyed the movies, thought he did a fine job in the role, and even Ben Affleck, whose casting as Batman in the new world of the DC Cinematic Universe was, to me, questionable, kind of pulled it off in Batman vs. Superman. I also enjoyed Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, and loved Chris Hemsworth as Thor, but the movie overall itself was just kind of meh. (I’ve not seen the other Thor movies, so can’t judge them.) The Iron Man movies I’ve seen were enjoyable, but not memorable.

But all the movies made money, which is all that matters in Hollywood, no matter what kind of critical roasting they get, and so we were bound to get more of these movies. When they announced who would be playing characters I’ve known and loved since childhood for the  Justice League movie, I wasn’t so sure–I didn’t know who either Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller were, and while I love Jason Momoa (who doesn’t?), I wasn’t so sure about him playing Aquaman. But the brief scenes in which Gadot appeared in Batman v. Superman were luminous, and that gave me hope. I really, really wanted Wonder Woman to be a great movie, because I love the character so much (and always have), and the previews looked pretty damned spectacular. Already people were posting on social media about how much they enjoyed the movie, so that was good–but I was still a bit nervous about it when we took our seats in the IMAX 3-D theater in Elmwood.

Two and a half hours later we walked out of the theater, stunned.

Not only did it exceed my expectations, but it was a great movie, from beginning to end. Origin stories are extremely hard to tell and make interesting, but we get to see young Diana as the only child on Themyscira (which was indeed a Paradise Island), and Connie Nielson was terrific as Queen Hippolyta–although Robin Wright as her sister Antiope stole every scene she was in–who knew The Princess Bride could be such a badass? (Robin Wright has always been under-appreciated as an actress–from her beginnings as Kelly Capwell on the soap Santa Barbara and The Princess Bride–and I’ve always believed she gave the strongest performance in Forrest Gump and should have at least gotten an Oscar nomination as Jenny) Chris Pine is, of course, thoroughly appealing as Steve Trevor–everyone in the cast was superb–but the true success of the movie lies completely in the hands of Gal Gadot.

And she was amazing, absolutely amazing. From her first glimpse of London to seeing an actual baby for the first time to trying to figure out how to get through a revolving door to her first taste of ice cream, she managed to capture Diana’s innocence and naivete without coming across as an idiot–and that is not an easy thing to do. She inhabited the role perfectly, and the film was not shot to sexualize her or make her an object of lust–and that is all due to the superb direction of Patty Jenkins, who should be put in charge of the DC Cinematic Universe. The action/battle sequences never got boring–as they tend to do in most super-hero movies–and there were moments when I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes–the scene where she emerges from the trench at the battlefield in her uniform for the first time affected me so deeply I wanted to stand up and cheer in the theater, but settled for teary eyes and goosebumps. There were many of those moments in this movie.

I think what gets lost, what was missing, in earlier super-hero movies (and most especially in the recent two Superman outings) is that the heroes themselves are symbols of hope, and that they themselves believe in the ultimate goodness of humanity; and they have an innate sense of nobility. That’s the piece that was missing from the Superman movies; that, and the sense of fun. Wonder Woman delivered on both counts, in spades.

There hasn’t been a single super-hero film I’ve seen since the 1970’s that I would be excited to watch again on television, let alone go see in the theater again.

I would go see Wonder Woman again in the theater.

I can’t think of any praise higher than that.

Well done, DC, and everyone involved in this film. Bravo.