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.

Sunrise

Oh, it is so nice to get up after the sun comes up. The one lovely thing about having to get up so early Monday thru Wednesday is that normal days feel like sleeping in, which makes some sense but not a whole lot. I get the same amount of sleep every night–eight hours, if I actually do sleep and don’t have insomnia–but for some reason getting up to an alarm at six seems like an entirely different thing than waking up on my own at 7:30.

Go figure.

The sun is trying to come out from behind a cloud cover this morning, which is promising after several days of gloom. It stopped raining for a while yesterday afternoon, and then started again last night after I got home. I was going to go to the gym last night, but decided the chance of being caught in the rain on the way home was far too likely for me to want to walk–and I was right; the downpour came right around the time I would have been walking home–and being caught, or going walking, in the rain in New Orleans just wasn’t what I was in the mood to deal with. (Umbrellas only slightly help, and you inevitably get soaked from the hips down, and it’s also brutal on your shoes.) So I am going to go today after working at home; condom packing and data entry and so forth. I am thinking of taking a personal day tomorrow, as I have a ridiculous amount of errands and so forth to run, and I really need to spend the next three days focused on the book. I am, of course, going through the same thing I always go through when I am writing a book and being this close to the end; the inevitable mental struggle of oh my God this is utter garbage to this may be the best thing I’ve ever written, flipping back and forth between the two with a high degree of regularity. The Lost Apartment also needs some work done to it–and I may start the process of going through the books stored in boxes; that’s a chore that will feed my OCD beautifully and will be enormously satisfying.

The Tennessee Williams Virtual Festival technically began last night, and will run through this weekend. Paul is exhausted–he also had another project that needed to be finished yesterday, so he inevitably stayed up all night Tuesday getting it done, and so when I got home from work yesterday he was clearly running on accessory, and I made him go to bed relatively early so he can get the sleep he needs. He pushes himself very hard and it worries me; he ignores self-care all too often when he is under pressure/stress, which worries me; I do not have the ability to stay up all night to work on anything–even when I was in college I never pulled an all-nighter (unless drugs and alcohol and partying were involved), and just the idea now fills me with dread.

I don’t think I could possibly survive an all-nighter, to be completely honest.

I am debating whether I want to watch the Snyder cut of Justice League while I am making condom packs today. I saw the original–I think I streamed it when it became available for streaming, but it really left no impression on me. I’ve always loved the Justice League comics, and I wanted to love the movie…I didn’t. I don’t even remember much of it, to be honest; the plot didn’t stick with me and, well, I was enormously disappointed in the under-utilization of Flash and Cyborg to the point I wondered why they even bothered including them in the movie? (especially since, in my memories of DC comics, Cyborg was on the Titans team rather than the Justice League–and I just remembered there should be a new episode of Superman and Lois from this past week! Huzzah!) As a completist, I know intellectually I need to watch this version of the movie, but Christ, four hours? There are any number of lengthy classic films I’ve never seen because of such excessive length….but on the other hand, it will solve the dilemma of choosing what to watch.

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

Crystal

Friday!

It’s gray outside this morning; and the temperature has dropped since the rain of the other night. Yesterday’s high was in the 60’s; today’s apparently will be as well. I don’t mind this–surprise!–because I was a bit concerned about it already climbing into the 80’s in March already, which didn’t bode well for this coming summer. So this cool break is a bit nice–and it’s also nice to not go get into my car and start sweating because the sun’s been shining into it all day plus it being hot outside. Yesterday was also a bit nice because 1) Paul was able to get his second vaccination for COVID-19, and I spent the day making condom packs and doing other, various work-at-home duties. As my fingers and hands worked through the condom packing, I spent some time thinking through what I need to do with the book this weekend, which is always helpful. I also got caught cup with this week’s episode of Superman and Lois, which I am greatly enjoying; the television adaptations of DC Comics continues to outshine the film universe. I am debating where I want to spend four hours watching the Snyder cut of Justice League–four hours is a big commitment–and I also discovered, browsing through my many streaming apps last night, any number of films to add to my watchlists.

(Aside–they are hanging new gutters on the house next door and I can see them going up and down those shaky, rickety extension ladders–whose bases are braced against the wooden fence between the properties. As they go up and down the ladders shake–which is one of many reasons I will never climb an extension ladder–and watching the corresponding movements/shaking of the wooden planks in the fence. I should also add that Michael, our neighbor to the front with his partner John, has retired from his job and has started working on the flower beds that run alongside the fence, which have been disaster areas ever since Katrina, and is doing a very nice job making them look pleasant and appealing and all cleaned up.)

As I looked through HBO MAX looking for something to watch for the rest of my condom packing, I came across Inside Daisy Clover, a film from the mid-60’s that is supposedly one of those “gritty insider looks at Hollywood”. It stars include Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Redford; and I vaguely remembered Ruth Gordon was nominated for an Oscar for it. I also had a vague memory that the character of Daisy Clover was, in theory, based on Judy Garland, so I thought what the hell and queued it up. This morning, I cannot believe I sat through the entire thing–it was really that dreadful and pointless–and it really was squirm-worthy. When the story opens Daisy is fifteen, leaving in a trailer along the boardwalk at Angel Beach with her not-quite-all-there mother (Ruth Gordon) who has a great natural singing voice, records it and sends it to Swan Studios. Daisy has basically, for all intents and purposes, been raised by wolves, has no manners or filters, and while she is quite pretty beneath the grime and strange haircut (those eyes! Natalie Wood was so beautiful), her getting signed by Swan Studios and being groomed by studio head (Ray Swan–played to odious perfection by Plummer) seems a bit of a stretch. She is marketed as “America’s Little Valentine” and immediately becomes hugely successful. She also becomes involved with another star, Wade Lewis (Redford), who is heir to a vast fortune and a completely one-dimensional cad–which becomes really creepy on two levels–first, she’s supposedly a teenager (Wood was at least in her late twenties by then) and Wade is in his late twenties/early thirties, which is creepy to say the least (studio head Swan refers to her as “America’s Little Jailbait” in one cringeworthy scenes), and then, after he deflowers her, is ordered to marry her or be arrested for corruption of a minor. (The second creepy part is Wade lives on a sailboat anchored just off the coast; seeing Wood on a sailboat or heading to and from one on a motorboat, given how she died, is foreboding and squirm-inducing) They do marry; they spend their wedding night in a motel in some remote location in Arizona, and when she wakes up he’s left her there without a word, stranded. After her mother’s death, she has a breakdown of sorts on set and is unable to continue working, which delays the picture and puts her at odds with the studio–which has spoiled and indulged her so far, but not anymore. The movie’s ending is neither a conclusion or an actual resolution, not a real end; it just….ends. We don’t know what Daisy is going to do–but again, it’s cringy. Inside Daisy Clover could have been a chilling and realistic exposé of the old studio system; it could have shown how an innocent but strong-minded young woman is corrupted and changed and turned into a monster by the system because of her talent–the film does none of these. Daisy is still the same impulsive, emotionally needy mess at the end that she was at the beginning, and such an incredible waste of Wood’s talent. She plays the character without any depth or interior; she plays her like an uncontrollable brat, and the performance doesn’t really ring true. All I kept thinking as I watched was that Wood was miscast–the lip-syncing was especially bad–and about half-way through I thought, this script is terrible and the direction equally bad, but Liza Minnelli could have killed in this part; it was perfect for her. The truth was the title was a misnomer–at the end of the movie we’ve not gotten “inside” Daisy at all but rather skimmed over the surface….and to make matters worse, by the end of the movie she is only seventeen.

America’s little jailbait, indeed.

It is a shame; Hollywood did some amazing films that exposed stardom and the Hollywood machine quite expertly; think of Sunset Boulevard and even though it was set in the theater world, All About Eve. Quite frankly, both book and movie of Valley of the Dolls handled the same subject–the coddling of talent resulting in the creation of a monster–much better.

I started reading The Russia House by John LeCarré yesterday while I waited for Paul to get his shot and then wait to make sure there was no reaction to it; it’s quite good–the writing in particular and voice are exceptional; it’s also world-weary, snarky and funny–and am really looking forward to getting back to spend some more time with it. It will depend on how the work goes, of course; my priority around my day job is going to have to be the book until April 1. (although…April 1 is the day before Good Friday and in theory, I could use that three-day weekend to finish the push to finishing the book; or I could finish on time and spend that weekend relaxing and preparing myself for the next project on the list)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow morning.

Radiophonic

And somehow, another week is finished and here it is, Friday morning again.

This was a good book week–Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng; Lot by Bryan Washington (Lammy winner); The Chill by Scott Carson; The Zimmerman Telegram By Barbara Tuchman; The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright; and If It Bleeds by Stephen King all are now in my hot little hands, and while I really didn’t need more books (as I will never finish all the ones I have on hand) I had points that were expiring and the only place they were valid where I had any use for them was the Evil Empire, much as I hate to give them anything–but they also didn’t cost me anything, so there’s that–thank you, credit card points. I’ve been wanting to read the Ng for awhile, and having greatly enjoyed the television adaptation, I am really looking forward to the book. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Lammy winner for Best Novel, Scott Carson is the name Michael Koryta is using now to write horror, and of course, one can never go wrong with Stephen King and Barbara Tuchman. The Steven Wright is a debut, and my friend Laura highly recommended it to me; now I need to finish the Woolrich so I can move on to some of these.

It’s truly unbearable how far behind I am on reading, and there’s nothing worse than being too tired (or exhausted) to read.

Perhaps this weekend, I shall have the time to get everything–oh, who am I trying to fool? I’ll get done this weekend what I have the energy to get done. I need to finish revising my Sherlock story, which I haven’t looked at this week, and of course the Secret Project glares at me from its file folder balefully every time I sit at my desk. I’m hopeful that since I’ve been relatively healthy all week–still drinking the electrolytes and the water every day carefully–that this weekend will be restful enough to give me the ability to power through everything, and head into next week fresh, happy and rested, while feeling powerful from getting everything done. It’s also a short week leading into a three-day weekend, which is even more lovely.

I cannot really decide what to read tonight for Queer Noir at the Bar. I don’t really get the opportunity to read from my work; and while on the one hand it’s lovely to do so, on the other it’s always quite stressful for me; and doing it on-line means that I can literally see myself doing it. I generally prefer not to spend much time looking at myself, and of course, on-line means it’s usually recorded and I loathe the sound of my voice. It’s strange, and I do think that once someone hears me speak the lightbulb goes on and, without me having to explicitly state it, most people tend to know I’m gay. That’s not why I don’t like my voice–I am gay, after all, and why not make it easy for others, after all; personally, I think my voice sounds strange. It’s deep, in a lower register, yet somehow high-pitched at the same time–like it cannot make up its mind which tone it wants to be, which probably doesn’t make sense because I don’t have a strong grasp of vocal terminology and cannot explain it more clearly. I also am always terrified I am going to make a poor showing of it; that people in the (virtual) audience will be clearing their throats, shifting in their seats, taking a drink or doing anything to help make the time pass so this hellish experience will end.

I feel like I slept well last night, and hopefully that rested feeling I am experiencing right now will last throughout the day and through the reading tonight. I also am a bit groggy this morning–I could have stayed in bed easily for another few hours at the very least, but I was also awake and Scooter was hungry and thirsty so I went ahead and got up. It’s weird looking outside again this morning–I guess the Saharan Dust Storm is here; I got an emergency alert about it yesterday, which explains the weird conditions out there and why I feel like I am smelling dust this morning.

Last night we started watching season one of Titans, on DC Universe. I had already watched it about a year or go or whenever it was originally current; Paul hadn’t, and since I didn’t really remember a whole lot about what happened and the story, I figured we needed something to watch and I wanted to watch the second season, so I may as well go ahead and watch it again. I like it; I think it’s very well done, fairly decently acted, and the production values are quite good. It’s also an excellent “origin” story for the Titans team; they were my favorite when I was a kid reading comic books back when they were the Teen Titans, which was kind of a junior version of Justice League only for the sidekicks. Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Aqualad were key members–eventually they started adding members who weren’t actually sidekicks for main heroes, and eventually they evolved into simply the Titans. Robin/Nightwing is probably one of my favorite heroes, and the young man they’ve cast to play him in the show is perfect for the part. He’s now ex-Robin on the show, and hasn’t evolved into Nightwing yet; I’m really looking forward to seeing Nightwings’s costume debut. Jason Todd, who replaced Dick Grayson as Robin, is also a character on the show–not a part of the regular cast, but someone who shows up now and again, and he’s just as big a dick on the show as he was in the comics back in the day.

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

Under the Sea

So, we ventured out to Elmwood to one of those Palace theaters and watched Aquaman yesterday.

Oh my God, how much fun was that movie?

I will always say I was more partial to DC than Marvel when I was a kid; I did come to  appreciate Marvel during my second wave of comic fandom as an adult, but I always have a softer spot for DC. As I said yesterday, I was also–while being a fan of the bigger name heroes–a big fan of the second tier heroes: Aquaman, Green Arrow, Flash, Green Lantern, Teen Titans–and so I was really happy to hear they were going to give Aquaman his own movie after Justice League (which I really wanted to like, but I don’t really remember much about the movie–which is kind of telling. I do remember that I still thought Wonder Woman was terrific, and that Flash and Aquaman were well done, and the lightening up of Batman was an improvement, but other than that….not really very memorable) and I had the typical fanboy immediate response to the casting of Jason Momoa–he’s not blond–before I got over it very quickly because, well, JASON MOMOA.

And Aquaman was absolutely what it should have been: highly entertaining, visually breathtaking, and most importantly, didn’t take itself too seriously.

I mean, it’s a movie about people who can speak to each other underwater and can breathe on both land and sea. COME ON.

But it was epic in size and scope and scale, and like I said, the visuals were breathtaking. I am so glad we saw it in IMAX.

Patrick Wilson was stunningly beautiful and deliciously malevolent as the bad prince Orm/Ocean Master, and Yahya Abdul-Manteen II was perfect as villain Manta. This movie managed to do the seemingly impossible–tell an origin story without being boring, as well as having a great adventure. Someone on Facebook or Twitter said Aquaman was a kind of combination of “Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones, and a superhero movie” all rolled into one, and they’re right.

The movie is long, but you never wonder how much longer is this damned movie? I was actually, while satisfied with the ending, left wanting more.

So, I hope the DC Cinematic Universe people are paying attention: Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the way to go.

I also saw the trailer for Shazam! before the movie started, and I have to say, it looks fun and charming.

When we got home, I signed up for the DC Universe app membership, so we can watch Titans. (I love the Teen Titans, and have been wanting to watch this how but wasn’t sure I wanted to subscribe to another app…but ultimately decided to make up my mind after I saw Aquaman. I am really looking forward to Titans now.)

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Lay Your Hands on Me

I managed to get all the errands done yesterday, and didn’t feel exhausted until I was in the process of putting away all the groceries and things. I went to both the grocery store and Costco yesterday; I was rather impressed that I wasn’t worn out much sooner. I did get the bedding laundered as well. But I didn’t get any writing done; I am going to need to do that today.

There are a lot of things I am going to need to do today. Sigh.

I’ve been invited to contribute to an anthology; and I am not certain I have anything ready to send along. I do have this one incredibly disturbing story that I would like to make even more disturbing–that’s just how I roll–and I need to get back to work on the Scotty draft. I’d like to revise Chapter 11 a bit today, get it cleaned up more so it isn’t nearly as sloppy as it currently is, and I want to get these other two stories cleaned up as well. I need to spend some more time with “Don’t Look Down” than I have been; I need to get inside the characters more, understand who they are better, and then I think the story will wind up being a lot more strong. The same goes with the Chanse story; the story is really about his relationship with his brother and that’s not strong enough in the story as it sounds right now. That is also, I think, the problem with the Scotty book. I need to spend some time today with it as well, figuring out motivations and so forth.

Ah, being a writer. Always such a challenge.

We finished watching Collateral last night, and I was rather pleased with it; it was written by David Hare, the playwright, and you could tell it was written by someone good. Carey Mulligan was terrific, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys complex, multi-layered crime dramas. I think tonight we may watch Justice League, to just to see if it really is as terrible as everyone seemed to think; I didn’t hate either Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman, so I am not going into it as a hater.

I’m also still reading Tinseltown, which I am greatly enjoying. I don’t know a lot about the early days of Hollywood; the early 1920’s and late 19-teens, other than what I know from reading biographies of David O. Selznick, whose father was a producer and tried to build up a studio at the same time Adolph Zukor was building Paramount, and before the big merger that created Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). So all this is new information to me, and William J. Mann is a terrific historian and researcher. (I am more familiar with later periods of Hollywood, but hardly an expert.) I’ve always wanted to write about Hollywood’s past; I have an idea for a noir novel to be set in the late 1940’s, but my lack of familiarity with the nuts and bolts of Hollywood in that period makes it difficult–or rather, makes my already vast insecurity about writing about another period even stronger. Although I’ve already written one short story about that time–an ambiguous setting of the early 1950’s–I don’t know. Maybe I should try it as a short story first, see if I can get the sense of the period?

I don’t know.

I’m also saddened to say that I’ve now finished reading both of Lawrence Block’s art-inspired anthologies, In Sunlight or in Shadow and Alive in Shape and Color, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is putting together another, which is great. So, for today’s edition of the Short Story Project, I am sad to say this is the last story from a Block anthology: “A Woman in the Sun,” by Justin Scott, from In Sunlight or In Shadow.

Could she change his mind? Four steps to the open window, lean out and call, “Don’t.”

Or walk to the window and call, “Go ahead, do it.Good luck.”

Or stand here and do nothing.

He had left her his last cigarette. She had talked him into leaving the gun and he had kept his word. It was still on the night table, wrapped in one of her stockings. She had the time of the cigarette to make up her mind. More time, if she didn’t smoke it. Let it smoulder.

This is an interesting story; in that it leaves more questions unanswered than it actually answers. We never know the characters’ names, nor do we really know what has brough them to this point. All we do learn, as the story progresses, is that both are at the end of their ropes and done, basically; they are both ready to die. The only question is whether she will stop him or will she join him, and this rather uninvolved, distant approach makes the story even more poignant and sad; there’s a very strong sense of melancholy that runs throughout this story, and the reader soon realizes you don’t have to know the whys and hows and whats of their pasts–all you need to know and feel is their now.

Powerful.

I then started reading through Jim Fusilli’s Crime Plus Music, and the next story up was”Me Untamed” by David Liss.

She covered the black eye with makeup, but I could still see it was there, something alien and unaccountable. Like a vandal’s scrawl across a museum painting, the dull outline of her bruise was an outrage. Carla smiled and greeted everyone good morning, defying us to say a word, to let our eyes linger too long. It was, I supposed, how she protected herself.

Jim Baron, the senior partner in the practice, met my gaze and flicked his head toward Carla as she walked past with a stack of case folders under her arm. Carla was getting ready, as we did every Tuesday and Thursday, for surgeries–no office visits on those days, just procedures. The practice felt a bit like a gastrointestinal assembly line, and sometimes I hated how we moved patients in and out, hardly taking the time to look at them, but Jim cracked the whip. It was volume, volume, volume as far as he was concerned. We were there to heal, not to socialize, and the more healing, the better.

The point of view is that of a divorced, shy, quiet Milquetoasty doctor,  who is kind of in love with Carla, or maybe he is not. She’s married to a thug of a guy, a man’s man, who works out and so forth, the kind of man a Milquetoast would hate. And he decides to do something about Carla’s abuse…decides to make himself into the kind of man he’s always wanted to be, the kind of man that he thinks Carla would like and love. This is a terrific story, with a terrific twist at the end that lifts it up even higher in terms of craft. Well done, sir!

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.