You Choose

So, we finished watching Dark last night.

It is, quite frankly, superb.

Netflix is, frankly, killing it with their original programming, and since I’ve finally conquered my issues with subtitles, the foreign language Netflix shows we’ve been watching–from Boy Toy to Elite to Dark–are far superior to the shows from American Netflix (with, of course, the exception of the magnificent Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the original seasons of Stranger Things).

Dark was being suggested to me regularly by Netflix–because it’s the kind of thing I would enjoy, obviously–for years now; but the German language/subtitles thing always made me choose not to watch. The premise of the show also seemed, well, a bit on the cliche side, frankly; a small German town where kids disappear in the woods. Was it a mystery show about a serial killer? A horror show, like Stranger Things? What precisely was it? Finally, last week Paul and I decided to give it the old “one or two episodes” rule, and within minutes, we were completely sucked into it.

It begins as a mystery; a teenage boy has gone missing without a trace in the small south German town of Winden. Our main character, Jonas, has recently returned home from what was essentially a brief stay in a mental hospital after having a breakdown upon finding his father’s dead body earlier that same year (his father hung himself). While Jonas has been gone, his girlfriend Martha has started dating another guy in their friend group, Bartosz. One night, the group of friends decide to sneak into the woods nearby; the missing boy Erik was a drug dealer and Magnus (Martha’s brother) and Bartosz believe they know where Erik kept his stash; stuffed into an abandoned reclining chair near the cave. The town main industry is a nuclear power plant. Magnus and Martha’s parents are a police detective and the school principal; there is also a parents’ meeting townhall at the school on the same night; the babysitter is sick, so Magnus and Martha are forced to take their younger brother Mikkel with them into the woods. They find the drugs; there’s a weird, scary sound from inside the cave and their flashlights go on the blink. They all take off running–but eventually discover Mikkel isn’t with them, and they can’t find him anywhere.

Is there a serial killer out there preying on young boys, or is something even creepier going on?

It also rains a lot in Winden. An awful lot, and no one ever seems to mind being caught out in it–so much so that I started commenting on it.

Jonas, Martha and Bartosz

But the problem with talking about Dark is the issue of spoilers; part of the joy of the show is being surprised when the twists come–and they literally are so surprising that each one completely changes the show and how you watch it. It turns out, of course, that there is a thirty-three cycle of young boys disappearing–kind of like It–and it is all connected. It’s confusing in the first episode or two because there are so many characters and so much going and two different timelines, but once you get used to it, it’s fascinating to follow.

Everything is connected, so you really do have to pay attention.

One of the things I love the most about the show is how it depicts small town life–how grudges from childhood can last for decades; how everyone’s lives are interconnected; and all the dark secrets everyone is keeping. It’s also filmed and scored beautifully; the camera angles are surprising but visually stunning, and the writing is incredibly smart. The acting is also terrific, and so is the casting. It’s amazing how they were able to find talented actors to play the same roles as younger and older who actually looked like the older version of the younger character and the younger version of the older character. I do highly recommend the show; it lasts for three amazing seasons, which is precisely how long it takes to wrap up the story.

Leave it to the Germans to do a crime/suspense/thriller/horror/scifi show based in logic, reason, science and philosophy that is compelling and impossible to stop watching.

The View from Your Balcony

And here we go, Sunday and a new week. Huzzah, I suppose.

Yesterday was actually a very good day. Not only did I manage to get some work done on the Secret Project, I got some excellent work done on the Secret Project. It was quite a relief, actually; I’ve tried this first fucking chapter I don’t know how many times and could never get it right; plus I could never get the voice right, it seemed. I despaired, in fact, that I would ever get this under control. But yesterday I opened the most recent draft of the first chapter, started reading it, and thought oh no this will NOT do at all and started fixing it; reordering things, and finding the character’s voice in the process. Before I knew it several hours had passed and not only had I gotten the first chapter under control and whipped into shape, I’d managed to do the same with the second.

This was, as you can imagine, an enormous relief. I can’t speak for other authors, but I always fear it’s going to go away–the ability to construct decent stories and realistic characters and how to write something good, quite frankly. It’s why lovely feedback, like I got recently with the two short stories I sold, is so beneficial and helpful; it also always seems to come around when I need it the most.

It also helps that I wasn’t distracted, and could absolutely focus on what I was doing. Focus is so crucially important, and I have so little time where I can actually sit at my computer, ignore the cat’s whines for attention, and focus on what I’m doing; whenever I can I see everything so clearly and the work is so much better. The times, alas, this year when I have that ability, that clarity of focus, to write, seem to be few and far between.

I did also realize this morning as I lay in bed lazily waiting for the mood to get up to strike, that I am well on my way to having another collection of previous published short stories ready. Granted, some of them haven’t seen print yet–and might not until next year–but some of them have: “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”,”This Town”, “The Carriage House”, “Night Follows Night”, “The Dreadful Scott Decision”–and there are three more still out on submission, although one has already been accepted, but I have no idea when that will ever see print–“A Whisper from the Graveyard”–and the other two–“Moves in the Field” and “This Thing of Darkness” will inevitably and undoubtedly be rejected; those two were submitted to literary fiction markets and we’ve already ascertained , numerous times throughout my life, that I am not a literary writer. There may even be more that I am not even thinking about right now–I’m still on my first cappuccino, don’t you dare judge me–but that’s nearly ten stories, and I generally think of a collection being somewhere between sixteen to twenty; unless there’s a novella included. (I’ve decided that “Once a Tiger,” the Chanse short story, is really a novella, and if I ever do finish writing it–and the other novellas–I’ll probably just bind them all into one volume.)

Last night we finished watching Dark, which is superb (it’s so good it deserves its own entry) and then we watch Andy Samberg’s Palm Springs on Hulu, which was a cute little piece of fluff with some truly funny moments, and then moved onto another Mexican crime show, Dark Desire, which also stars Alejandro Spietzer, the gorgeous actor (pictured below) who was also the star of The Club–and is also dating Ester Exposito, who played Carla so superbly in Elite. It’s quite interesting so far–we’re two episodes in–and will continue with it. It’s so weird how we pay more attention to foreign language shows because of having to read the subtitles, while if whatever we are watching is in English, I’ll periodically reach for the iPad.

I’m also having dinner with a writer friend tonight who is in from out of town; so I need to make sure I get all the chores finished and get the rest of these chapters done on the Secret Project, so I can start writing the proposal and then it’s out of my damned hair.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Receta-HOT-Ensalada-de-manzana-al-estilo-Alejandro-.jpg

One Thing Leads to Another

Oh, Elite, what a magnificent ride you were. And how I hate having to wait indefinitely for season four.

For a very long time, I resisted watching shows or films with subtitles. I tried once, many years ago–I went to an “art house” theater, to see a rerelease of Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, and it just didn’t work for me. So, since then, I’ve pretty much avoided anything subtitled–which, of course, was robbing me of a lot of enjoyable film and television viewing. Ironically, my addiction to British crime television programs was what got me past the hurdle of subtitles; my hearing isn’t that great–never has been–and as I continue my slow descent into the grave it’s gotten progressively worse. I was having trouble understanding what was going on with a British show due to the accents–perhaps Broadchurch, or maybe Torchwood–so I turned on the closed captioning. Not only wasn’t it an issue, it was enormously helpful; and this was able to follow what was going on. It took a while for the lightbulb to go on that hey, if you don’t have a problem with closed captioning, you can probably handle subtitles–which led us to the marvels that are Spanish Netflix series. Toy Boy was amazingly fun; White Lines a little less so; and after we finished the final, incredibly disappointing season of 13 Reasons Why, someone suggested Elite to me. I know the kids at work watch–it pops on my Continue Watching queue all the time (they use my Netflix account on the big television in the meeting space), and so I suggested it to Paul; we decided we’d give it our old “one or two episodes” rule.

As if. Within ten minutes we were completely addicted.

It literally has everything.

That’s my girl Carla there in the front.

And by everything, I don’t just mean beautiful young women and gorgeous young men–although it definitely has that.

I mean…

I love the serial form; soap operas are simply continuing stories, and so are mystery series. I’ve always preferred ones that followed characters as they grew and changed and lived their lives; I read every Perry Mason book cover to cover and loved them all–but Perry, Della and Paul Drake were always the same in every book, nothing ever changed, and there was never anything personal about them. Maybe that would have spoiled the books, I don’t know–but series books which also followed the personal lives of the series characters were always my favorites; why I think the first six Trixie Belden books are better than the ones that followed, and why I think, overall, the Judy Bolton series was superior to Nancy Drew.

Nancy Drew never had to juggle marriage to an FBI agent and child care with trying to solve a mystery–but Judy Bolton did it and did it well. Nancy was an ideal, while Judy was real.

So, I thought I would enjoy Elite going into it. Set at an extremely expensive excellent school for the rich in Spain called Las Encinas, I was expecting teen angst and high school drama; Riverdale in Spanish, maybe, or Gossip Girl, which I never had any interest in watching. Sure enough, the opening episode, the traditional prep school conflict was set up, one we’ve seen a million times: the poor scholarship students vs. their wealthy snob classmates. An added touch is the scholarship kids are there because their public school collapsed due to shoddy construction, and for public relations purposes the construction company responsible set up the scholarships. The owner of that criminally negligent company is the father of Guzman, the stunningly beautiful Big Man on Campus. His direct opposite is poor waiter Samuel (in Spanish Sam-OO-well, and Samu for short). I’ve seen this is so many teen movies and shows–storylines recycled over and over again, with the subliminal message rich spoiled kids bad, struggling poor kids heroes.

Both are beautiful young men, aren’t they?

Samu’s two friends, Nadia and Christian, are the other two scholarship students. Nadia is a Muslim; her family are Palestinian immigrants who own and operate a corner store. Christian is a very pretty, devil-may-care muscleboy who just wants to have a good time, and isn’t a very good student.

Nadia is forced to remove her hijab while she is at school–one of the rich kids, determined to make the new kids’ lives miserable, has complained–and Christian’s clothes are stolen while he showers…so he puts his hands over his genitals and walks down the school hallway looking for his clothes. It’s a great scene, and when someone throws his clothes at him, he uncovers his genitals and rather sassily says, “This is what you want to see?” before going back and getting dressed.

The only rich kid who is nice to the new kids is Guzman’s sister, Marina.

She looked familiar to me–but I couldn’t place her; Paul figured out–recognizing her voice–that she played Triana in Toy Boy. But Marina, who the other rich kids derisively call a “hippie”–has her own problems and issues, particularly with her family and her father’s responsibility for the school collapse. Eventually, she and Samu begin a romance, that is complicated by the fact she is also attracted to Samu’s older brother, Nano–who has just gotten out of prison for drug dealing.

Nano

Guzman’s two best friends are Ander, who is a tennis prodigy and whose mother is also the headmistress of the school, and Polo. Polo’s has two mothers–and this isn’t a big deal to anyone, which is quite refreshing. Ander is very introverted and doesn’t really want to play tennis anymore, but his father keeps pushing him and he doesn’t want to disappoint his parents. Polo has some issues of his own…

Polo’s girlfriend since childhood is Carla, whose mother is a marquesa, a Spanish grandee, and their money comes from wineries. Both families are quite delighted that Polo and Carla are in love, and look forward to their eventual wedding. Despite being in love, Polo and Carla are looking to spice up their relationship–which they feel is getting a bit stale–and this launches one of the best storylines I’ve ever seen on a television show like this. Carla, who starts out kind of bland and undefined, soon became one of the most complex and brilliant female characters I’ve ever seen on television–the actress who plays her, Ester Exposito–is pitch perfect and amazing in the role.

The two remaining cast members are Lucrecia, who is Guzman’s long time girlfriend, and Nadia’s brother Omar, who is still going to a shitty public school.

Lucrecia is the bitch of the show; and originally comes off as unlikable. She always has an insult at the ready, has no problem with being a bitch just to be a bitch, is a snob, and hates that these “riff raff” kids are now at her school. She also is a bit of an exhibitionist–and that tendency also kicks off one of the major stories on the show. She likes to have sex with Guzman in public places where they might get caught–and in the first episode, they are in the girls’ locker room showers doing it when Nadia walks in on them. Since this is an honor code violation–and Lu is the top student in the class, vying for a chance to win a year at a school in Florida, which goes to whoever the best student is–she comes up with a plan to keep Nadia quiet: Guzman will seduce Nadia, and unless she keeps quiet, they’ll tell everyone. At this point, I knew how this would go–this is a classic teen storyline–but Elite subverts and turns all of these cliched plots and characters and makes them entirely original, with twists and turns–there is literally no way to predict what is to come; it’s brilliant.

Omar, Nadia’s brother, is the one the entire family burdens with everything; from working in the store to expectations of marriage. Omar is dealing drugs so he can get enough money to move out and live his own life…and through the drug dealing (weed, mostly) to the rich kids and a hook-up app, he and Ander find themselves outing themselves to each other–which kicks off yet another major storyline for the show, and probably one of the best depictions of a gay romance I’ve ever seen on a television program.

Much like How to Get Away with Murder, each season deals with a crime the kids are all involved with. The first episode opens with a shot of a stunned Samu, spattered with blood, walking up to a glass window. On the other side of the window the police are dealing with a dead body, and he places his bloody hand up on the glass–which brings the cops running to him; and then the show flashes back to the beginning, when he, Christian, and Nadia first arrive at Las Encinas. Unlike American shows, we learn who the victim was about halfway through the first season, and it’s a complete and utter shock. I have never seen a show that was so cleverly and intricately plotted, that kept my attention so fully, and kept surprising me.

And the quality–and excellent casting choices–never let up. In the second season we get some new characters: Cayetana, Valerio, and Rebe (Rebeka).

Valerio is Lu’s half-brother; Cayetana is apparently a jet-setter with a ridiculous amount of Instagram followers, and Rebe is a rough-around-the-edges girl whose family won the lottery. But all three of them are hiding secrets they are desperately trying to keep from their classmates–but are also great characters and do not detract from the brilliance of the show but rather add to it.

And each season has a crime at the heart of the story; and does the terrific back-and-forth in time thing to ramp up the suspense and keep you hooked.

The show has everything, literally: murder, kidnapping, drug dealing, sex, polyamorous relationships, gay relationships, incest, parents pimping out their kids, blackmail, cover-ups…and it’s so beautifully done, so brilliantly acted, that you care about every character as you learn more about them and why they are how they are; the love triangles are heartbreaking because you actually feel guilty for rooting for one couple to come together because you know how much the left out one will be hurt. Even the ones who do bad things–you feel for them.

I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing. It was literally the highlight of every day we watched; I looked forward to every evening sitting down in my easy chair with Paul on his couch and tuning into Elite. It’s already been renewed for another two seasons, and I frankly can’t wait.

Love, Etc.

Saturday morning and I am hoping to have a good writing day today. I usually don’t respond to emails on the weekends–read them, just don’t reply–because I try to spend the majority of my free time on weekends writing or reading and not getting sucked into the endless bottomless pit that is social media and/or emails.

It also kind of helps keep me my sanity (on which my grasp is often tenuous) going.

Yesterday was the first time in a very long time where I felt good, and felt like my brain was working clearly and not through a fog of some sort. I think that might be some kind of PTSD thing; it’s hard to describe but whenever I am dealing with something horrific, I am able to function but it’s like this dark curtain has dropped down over my mind, and I see myself actually functioning but from a distance, almost like I am watching someone else. I guess it might be a sort of dissociative state? But yesterday it felt like the veil had lifted and I could see things clearly; I also wasn’t tired at all and was able to go up and down the stairs without resting. I also slept really well the last few nights, so hopefully the insomnia stuff is a thing of the past.

Ha ha ha. As if.

I worked from home yesterday and actually was able to get a lot accomplished. I finished all my data entry work and then started folding inserts for condom packs–very exciting, I know, but it is what it is. Our STI clinic is open again on a limited basis–Mondays and Tuesdays only–so I am getting back into the swing of my regular work again. I think that helps me both emotionally and intellectually; routine is very key. Today I am going to work on the Secret Project for a little while–trying to get as much done as I can, to try to make up for the lost weekends when I was so exhausted and/or sick over the last few weeks or so; tomorrow I am going to polish and revise my Sherlock story again–it’s been a week since I revised it based on the edits I received, so I think it’s sat long enough for me to look at it clearly and divorced from attachment.

We did finish watching Elite last night, and I am still saddened that it’s over for now–no word on when Season 4 will drop, but it was actually renewed for another two seasons. I am literally obsessed with the show now; I am writing a very long blog entry about the show that I started writing last night after we finished watching, and even went into a deep Youtube wormhole about the show for a good long while. Heavy sigh.

So my plans for today clearly include writing, cleaning and getting organized, and relaxing for the most part. We need to find a new gym, but I am leaving that in Paul’s hands; I found St. Charles Athletic Club seventeen years ago, and since he pays for our gym memberships, his input is what matters the most. We are looking at a place in our neighborhood on Magazine Street, in the block just before the intersection at Jackson Avenue, and this will be a rather nice change in my usual regular routine if we do wind up joining there.

I really do need to explore this city more. I just wish I had more time.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

Only the Wind

While the official first day of the summer season isn’t here quite yet, it’s already summertime in New Orleans–with everything that means. The thick heavy wet air that clings to you like a warm wet wool blanket; the beautifully bright and yellow sunlight that burns your skin red as it pierces through the windows of your car; and the climbing electric bills as your air conditioning unit desperately tries–and only occasionally succeeds–to keep the temperature livable and breathable inside your home. Tourists who come to New Orleans often complain about the extreme difference in temperature from going inside to out and back inside again; how cold it is everywhere in doors; that the shorts and tank tops, soggy and wet from sweat, aren’t enough covering as the they dry in the cold frigid inside air. It is really impossible to know how to dress in New Orleans when it’s hot; but those of us who live here are used to it, but you never get used to how just existing and moving around outside sucks the energy right out of you, and sometimes–like when you’re lugging all the shit you bought at Costco in from the car–you have to just sit for a spell, chug some cold water or Gatorade (or a daiquiri if you planned ahead), and collect yourself.

That was my yesterday. As you may have noticed had you paid close attention, I had been unwell for a while; primarily from forgetting that I have to be more cautious dealing with heat and more careful and mindful of the maintenance required for my older body. This whole thing started with me being unable to sleep for several nights in a row, and the moved on to severe dehydration and exhaustion and stomach issues. This led to another COVID-19 test, being sent home from work, and a slow recovery. But after days of drinking lots of water, avoiding caffeine (much to my own detriment when it comes to productivity), and good sleep–as well as staying inside as much as possible–I am finally, this morning, feeling like myself once again; energetic and creative and ready to go. I took two more vacation days this week–Wednesday and Thursday–to continue my rest and recovery, and it seems to have done the trick (I was really worried about the Costco trip being a setback; but I am stubborn and I wanted to get it out of the way; but I downed lots of water before I went, took a Gatorade with me, and had another after I got home).

And this morning, yes, I feel like me again for the first time in what seems like an incredibly long time.

I’m working from home today, which means data entry and making condom packs while streaming things on the television; I should finish the first season of Jonny Quest today, since the episodes are only about twenty-four minutes long; which makes me wonder if that’s why it had such a short run on Saturday mornings when I was a child–not enough time left for commercials. Scooby Doo Where Are You? episodes are 21-22 minutes. Money is key, and despite some problematic issues with the show (it was produced in the 1960’s, after all) it still holds up pretty well. It did put me in mind of another kids’ book series I read when I was younger–the Rick Brant Science Adventures by John Blaine, which was yet another one of the many Grosset & Dunlap series. Like the Ken Holt series I talked about recently, the Rick Brant series was never as popular as the Hardy Boys (nothing ever achieved the popularity of Nancy Drew), but were much more interesting, more action-packed, involved actual detective work, and were far better written. The similarities between Jonny Quest and Rick Brant are staggering; the Quests live on an island; Rick and his family also lived on Spindrift Island, separated by tidal flats from the coast on New Jersey. The Quests sort of adopted Hadji, who became Jonny’s best friend; Rick’s best friend is Don Scott (Scotty), and the Brants unofficially adopt him into their family. Jonny and his family go all over the world having adventures and solving mysteries having to do with science, for the most part; Rick and Scotty do the same. Jonny’s father is world-famous scientific genius Benton Quest; Rick’s father is world-famous scientific genius Hartson Brant.

The first few Rick Brants I read, like Ken Holt, I obtained off the sales table in the bargain basement at Goldblatt’s in Chicago: The Rocket’s Shadow, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, The Flying Stingaree, and The Flaming Mountain. Over the years, I found more of them at swap meets and flea markets and used bookstores; I think I met have an almost complete set of them now (I did acquire some via eBay after Katrina). Some of the books are now available for download on Project Gutenberg; several volumes from a variety of those old kids’ series–including Ken Holt, Judy Bolton, and Biff Brewster–are there (and yes, I downloaded all of them). I want to start revisiting some of these series, since they influenced me into becoming a mystery writer, and while scientific knowledge has proceeded incredibly rapidly since the Brant series were published and went out of print, it’s kind of fun to go back and revisit the world of cutting-edge science (or what was seen as futuristic science) at the time; The Rocket’s Shadow was basically about how the Spindrift Island scientists (other scientists and their families also lived on the island) were racing to build and launch a moon rocket–the case involved Rick trying to solve the mystery of who on the island was a traitor and leaking secret information about the rocket project to a competitor; Scotty rescues him from the bad guys in the first chapter. Scotty was a military veteran who lied about his age to enlist and fight in the war (World War II; the book was originally published in 1947)–which was glossed over and ignored as time passed and the series continued, which would have aged him. This was twenty-two years before the actual moon landing, so to kids reading this in 1947 and the years after, it was kind of science fiction.

We will finish the final two episodes of Elite that are available tonight, and then will have to wait for season four. They had started filming before the world shut down, alas, so there’s no telling how long it will be before we get another season to binge and love. I also am not sure how the show is going to continue; this season has them all graduating and the crime this season is focusing on occurs at the graduation party. I can’t praise this show enough; it’s completely addicting, and there are never any slow parts. The way they have developed the characters and their relationships with each other make total sense and are completely believable, despite the sometimes completely over-the-top situations they find themselves in. Once we finish watching, I will devote an entire entry to discussing the show. But seriously–you won’t be sorry if you watch.

And now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, everyone.

One in a Million

I feel somewhat better this morning–still a bit off, but that’s okay. It’s something I can deal with, I think. I still need to work on hydration–an on-going process in New Orleans in the summer time, but this is the first year it’s ever affected me physically the way it has this year. I guess that’s another cost of getting old? The worst is having to do without caffeine, as it also dehydrates. I am braving a cup of coffee this morning to see how that plays out. Probably not the smartest thing in the world to do, but I’m not particularly known for being super-smart, so there’s that as well.

I’m working from home today, which I’ll miss when the world opens back up completely. It’s nice to sit in my easy chair with my work laptop or making condom packs or doing data entry in comfort with an old movie playing on the television (or Jonny Quest; I am still working my way through the first season) and being able to relax. We opened the STI clinic yesterday on a limited basis, and it was nice to see clients again. We are, of course, taking every precaution to safeguard me (ironic, since I’ve not been feeling well for going on almost a week; this is apparently my year of ill health). but it was lovely to connect with clients again, and it was even lovelier to see that my blood drawing skill had not gone away in the three (!) months since we closed the clinic; I think the reopening was actually three months to the day. And the lack of caffeine wasn’t exactly the most pleasant thing in the world to deal with at the same time, but I made it through the day. I came home and collapsed into my easy chair, watched some Jonny Quest until Paul got home, and then of course we finished off the second season of Elite, which continues to be absolutely amazing. We have only the third season left–I think there’s a fourth coming at some point–so we have decided to dole it out slowly to make it last longer.

Since I’m working at home today, once I’m finished I’m hoping I’ll be relaxed and rested enough to do some writing before Paul gets home. I hate that I am getting behind on everything, despite the realization that I am much too hard on myself about not writing–counting how many things I have in progress over the weekend was an eye opening experience, and at the same time knowing how much incomplete work I have on hand was also stress-inducing: how can you read or watch television when you have all that work to finish? Add to that all the books I have on hand that I haven’t finished reading, and it all adds up to stress and feelings of unworthiness. There’s also all those ebooks in my iPad, and I haven’t been able to focus on reading, so Night Has a Thousand Eyes continues to languish on my end table next my chair.

My sleep was also odd last night; while one would think two consecutive days of no caffeine plus interacting with clients would have tired me out so I would sleep like the dead, the truth was it took me a while to fall asleep and I also woke several times during the night, and it wasn’t easy to fall back asleep. But I feel–other than the oddness of being slightly ill still–better and rested; who knows? We shall see how the day goes.

My gym officially closed today; another victim of COVID-19, which makes me really sad–not least because of the incredible convenience that it was just around the corner and less than a five minute walk, but mostly because I was really starting to get back into working out again before this latest bout of whatever the fuck is wrong with me this year took over again. It was also relatively inexpensive; the nearest gym is a slightly longer walk down on Magazine Street, and it’s considerably more expensive. The longer walk also means that waiting to the last possible minute to go is really not the best option. I’m not really sure what we are going to do; in the over all scheme of things, with a pandemic and everything else that’s going on in the world (not the least of which being the country’s long overdue reckoning on racism), it’s really not that big of a deal; it’s not like I need to worry about my life ending or significantly changing for the worst because my gym closed. But damn, I hate the loss of the convenience, and damn this fucking pandemic.

Gay white people problems, am I right?

The coffee seems to be not upsetting my stomach, so I am going to risk a second cup. Yes, that’s me, living on the edge. (eye roll to infinity) But one of the things I’ve noticed–I got an email from a friend asking me what I’ve learned about myself in the last three months, which made me start thinking–is that my self-absorption, which I thought was always at a high peak and level, has become even more deeper. I’ve always been horribly selfish; and pretty damned self-absorbed. But over the last three months it’s become even more apparent, and deeper. The news has been so consistently horrible for so long that I–someone who has been a political junkie for a long time and followed the news avidly–have withdrawn from it completely. Each day, it seems, has brought more horror–I glanced through headlines yesterday when I got home from work and literally was incredibly grateful to disappear into the world of both Jonny Quest and Elite last night. I feel a little stymied with my career, which is part and parcel of the volumes of uncompleted work I have on hand, and the inability to focus and juggle things–which I used to be so very good at–doesn’t seem to be clearing up anytime soon. My usual go-to (making lists) doesn’t seem to be working because I’ll make a to-do list and then completely forget about it, thereby rendering it completely useless.

But I’m going to make one again this morning and see what happens. Hope springs eternal and all that, you know.

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

More Than A Dream

Tuesday and our STI clinic is reopening on a limited schedule again, so I get to spend the day trying to remember how to draw blood from people efficiently and how to do paperwork I haven’t really thought about much at all since sometime in March. It’s hard to believe this has been going on since March–but on the other hand it seems like pre-pick-your-crisis was a million years ago.

My stomach is still messed up, but I’m trying to take in as much clear liquid as I can. I’ve pretty much concluded that I am dealing with dehydration-related exhaustion, and the answer to all my ails is hydration. I am also hopeful that this slow and gradual return to what I actually do for work during the day will help me stay centered and on course; I’ve felt very unanchored these last few months. We shall see, won’t we?

Yesterday as I worked from home I had Jonny Quest streaming on the television while I sat in my easy chair and worked. I loved this show when I was a kid, and it still holds up relatively all these years later–it’s also weird that Tim Matheson was Johnny’s voice–and it also was a formative part of my childhood; getting me interested in mysteries and the supernatural and espionage, and there’s also the complete absence of females. The family unit on Johnny Quest reads queer, queer, queer: the parents in Dr. Benton Quest, scientific genius and obviously wealthy beyond belief (like Tony Stark) and Race Bannon, former spy and world class athlete who is both bodyguard and tutor to the two boys; Benton’s son Johnny, and the Indian child they adopt off the streets of Calcutta, Hadji. (I also became extremely painfully aware as I watched at just how big of a stereotype Hadji was; and there are other problematic issues on the show…reminding me of that time period, the 1960’s, very viscerally). There’s also Jonny’s dog, Bandit, who is the comic relief on the show; but unlike Scooby Doo Where Are You?, Jonny Quest was serious–people were actually killed on this show. What humor there is, is fitted into little asides that literally serve as comic relief to the serious tone of the show (and yes, it was plenty serious for kids–as I said, there are any number of times in the episodes I watched where bad guys were killed when their car/boat/airplane crashed and exploded right in front of Jonny and Hadji, who nonchalantly just shrug off the deaths they’ve just witnesses). Dr. Quest is totally Tony Stark, the genius who knows everything–he literally is one of only two white men who speak the language of a remote indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest—and Race is a hot muscle daddy if I’ve ever seen one.

As I said earlier, it’s kind of problematic in some ways–the afore-mentioned indigenous tribe is described as “savages” repeatedly in that episode–but it’s still fairly entertaining, and it’s one of my earliest cartoons on Saturday morning memories; undoubtedly it helped push me along my path as a mystery fan and eventually a mystery writer.

Elite continues to enthrall us; the second season is even crazier than the first, with three new characters added: a party-hearty half-brother of one of the main characters who has a very weird relationship, bordering on incest, with his half-sister; a girl who works as a maid and whose mother is on the janitorial staff who is working very hard to convince the other kids she is just as rich as they are; and a gangster’s daughter. Paul and I are completely fascinated by Carla, whose mother is a marchioness and owns a wine company; she’s extremely manipulative, so much so that it’s difficult to figure out what she really wants and what she is really after. She’s fascinating. There’s also all kinds of queer characters and relationships on the show, and while the whole point of the show is star-crossed lovers…it’s nice seeing the queer storylines given equal importance to the straight ones. And it moves so fast! So much is constantly happening! It’s excellent.

And now I have to get ready for work, without having any coffee. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Two Divided by Zero

My COVID test came back negative again, so I was right, I guess; dehydration and exhaustion combined in a 1-2 punch to send me reeling and off my game. My stomach is still messed up–sometimes stuff doesn’t go right through me, but most of the time it absolutely does–but that’s just how it is and we have to get on with life somehow. I am really sick of this, and I am going to be calling my doctor’s office later today. My doctor moved away, and I’ve been delaying dealing with contacting their office to get a new one, so now I guess I am in a position where I have to–in other words, moved to action because I have no other choice.

That happens a lot more than one might think, since my usual default is lethargy.

I revised my Sherlock story yesterday, so yes, I actually did get some writing done, and it wasn’t as easy as I might have liked but on the other hand, it also could have been much harder. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and say hey I got something done at least, but forced myself to keep going. Now I’m going to let it sit for a few days before I polish it, and hopefully in the meantime i can get some other writing done. I know part of the weird emotional state I find myself in these days has more to do with the not writing than anything else; when I am not working on some form of writing, I’m always down. After I finished working on the story yesterday I felt fantastic; that adrenaline rush only matched by the one that comes from endorphins after a good workout. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week, either–I’ve neither had the energy nor felt well enough to actually go, plus not wanting to put people at risk…but I am going to have to start thinking about when I can go back again.

As a result of remembering a story I’d started a few weeks ago and completely forgotten about, I decided to make a list of all the stories and things I have in progress at the current time. It was quite eye-opening; eighty nine short stories in some degree of completion; seven novellas in the same situation; and two novels. This is what I mean by my creative ADHD; many of the stories are no more than 500 words (I made a point of not counting the ones that are just a title and an opening sentence or paragraph) but some of them have been through multiple drafts and still others have a first draft completed. I posted about it on social media, and based on the reactions I received, I realized two things: one, that I now understand why people call me prolific and two, the reason I think I am lazy and don’t ever get anything done is precisely because I have so many works in progress that are not completed. Add to that the reality that I constantly get new ideas for stories, novellas, and novels all the time, and you begin to see why I am so rough on myself when it comes to this sort of thing. I am trying to be better about being hard on myself–there’s a strong sense, though, that without being hard on myself I wouldn’t get as much done; but at the same time, I’m not getting much done these days…but I think this shift is necessary in order to delete negativity out of my life. There’s already so much negativity in the world I don’t need to create more for my life and career. But I need to get moving on the Secret Project, and now that this revision is behind me, I have some time to work on it now.

We finished season one of Elite last night and started season two, and I have to say–if you’ve not watched this show, you absolutely must. The story moves like a runaway freight train, the plot is incredibly intricate, intertwined, and complicated. The writing is stellar and the acting–the gorgeous young actors who make up the cast–is also topnotch. It’s so much better than 13 Reasons Why, and its approach to alternate sexualities is much better–considering this is a Spanish show, and I’ve always considered Spain to be conservative and Catholic, again shows how wrong you can be when you make assumptions about values and beliefs. It’s even hard to encapsulate the ongoing storylines on the show because so much happens and it moves so fast. It’s less like Edge of Night in terms of crime/soap hybrids than it is a Spanish, prep school version of How to Get Away With Murder–which we never finished watching the final season of, because it’s plot is so complicated we lost track and literally had no idea what was going on anymore.

And on that note, time to get back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, one and all.

The Survivors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrived, contrived, contrived.

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

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

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

And that kind of pissed me off.

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Elite instead.

Miserabilism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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