Close Range

And suddenly it’s Friday.

Our weather is taking a turn–not quite as horrific as all y’all up north with your ice storms and blizzards and below zero temperatures, yet it still a turn nonetheless. There was a quite nasty and wet thunderstorm that passed through here yesterday afternoon, and the temperature began to drop precipitously and noticeably. The governor made an announcement of some sort yesterday–severe weather alert or something of that sort–and it’s probably something I should research a bit more, I am slowly realizing as my first cup of coffee kicks in. If we’re in a severe weather alert of some sort, I should probably know more about it than this vague recollection of something I saw in passing somewhere on social media yesterday. And if that is indeed the case, well, it’s just as well the parades were cancelled ahead of time anyway.

Parades aren’t as much fun when it’s cold and raining.

Not, of course, that cold or rain would stop us from going out to the corner.

Okay, so I looked and I don’t see anything; I’m not sure what the governor’s message or whatever it was I saw somewhere was about, but at least for today there is no threat of severe weather in New Orleans. It’s forty-eight degrees–it doesn’t feel cold in the Lost Apartment, but one never knows; the interior temperature is not always an indicator of the exterior–but it is gray and grim outside. It rained most of the night too–a thunderstorm woke me up in the middle of the night (never fear, I was able to return to sleep quite easily) and so everything outside looks wet. I don’t think I am going to go outside much today–I will go to the gym tomorrow–as I have to work at home today and once today’s work-at-home duties are over I have to dive headfirst back into my book–and so shortly will have to head back into the spice mines. I haven’t decided what film to watch during my condom-packing duties, but I am starting to lean toward the teen movies of the 1980’s. I had thought Risky Business was free to stream somewhere, but I couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday…but Prime suggested Taps to me, and since the idea was to view early Tom Cruise films performances (at least the ones before Top Gun), and he was in Taps–in fact, I think it was Taps that first got him a lot of attention–and I had never seen Taps, I thought, why not? So I clicked play.

I wsa vaguely aware of the film at the time of its release, and knew vaguely what it was about–military school being closed, cadets seize control of it–but had never seen it. I also knew that it was Timothy Hutton’s first star vehicle after he won an Oscar for Ordinary People, and that it–like many other teen movies of the early 1980’s, had a bunch of early-in-their-career stars in it who made good impressions on critics and audiences–Tom Cruise in particular. I’d forgotten that Sean Penn was also in it (if I ever knew; I think this preceded his breakout role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High; I seem to recall his follow-up to that was Bad Boys, which was set in juvie, and after that he was on the fast track to stardom), and I don’t think I’d ever known that Giancarlo Esposito was in it as a beautiful young man. There were any number of other faces I recognized–one of the younger kids I’ve seen in other things, but I couldn’t place him or his name while I watched and I still am not completely sure who he was (a quick google search turns up the name John P. Navin Jr., who played one of the cousins in National Lampoon’s Vacation)–and another was Evan Handler, young and with hair, years before he joined the cast of Sex and the City.

I’m really not sure why I never saw Taps, either in the theater or on cable, to be honest. I’ve always liked Hutton, and (surprise!) I’ve always been drawn to stories about all-male environments for teenaged boys or young men. I loved Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline (the book is a favorite; I’ve never seen the movie) and also Lucian Truscott IV’s Dress Gray (again, the book and never watched the film); I’ve always enjoyed seeing the group dynamics play out in those environments. But watching the film, I couldn’t help but reflect how dark the movie was in tone–it’s very anti-military, really–and is actually very attuned to our present day world, which the film can be extrapolated to expose and perhaps even be seen as a warning. The devotion that the headmaster, General Rache, (played by George C. Scott) and the school inspires in the young boys under his watch is very disturbing–particularly given what we know about cults and how they operate nowadays. The boys’ rebellion to save their school is misguided from the very beginning; a decision is made that they do not agree with and decide they are not going to abide by it, even if it means violence and seizing control of the school. They are obviously breaking the law–and as the movie went on, I couldn’t help but think yeah, this movie isn’t going to end well–a lot of these boys are going to wind up dead…

But then I remembered they were majority white, and breathed a little easier…because of course the National Guard and the police would never use violence against privileged white boys. The tragic denouement of the film is in perfect accord with the darkness of the plot and its warnings about how easily people can be indoctrinated and what mass delusion can look like and how dangerous that can be certainly are timely in our present day America. It’s definitely an anti-war film–more specifically, an anti-military film, and in that regard is more of a Cynical 1970’s Movie than it is an 80’s teen movie; and again, it’s a lot deeper than my original impression before watching it led me to believe. Timothy Hutton is fantastic in the lead role–all of the boys are terrific–and there’s this wonderful moment with George C. Scott, when he’s talking about how military leaders are often considered “mad” because of the decisions they have to make, knowing that the men under their command could die or be permanently maimed or injured but having to make those decisions….how can it not drive you mad? It was also interesting seeing Scott play the scene, considering he won an Oscar for playing Patton…and thought, they cast him specifically for this speech, didn’t they?

And of course, now it has me thinking about a long dormant crime novel idea I had set at an all-boys military school.

And yeah, on that note I need to head back into the spice mines.

Stray Dog

Well, top of the morning to you, Constant Reader! It’s a gray Saturday morning here in New Orleans and so far, so good–my arm still hurts like a son of a bitch, but the debilitating fatigue from yesterday (I took a nap in the early afternoon, another in the early evening AND went to be around ten) seems to be past–at least so far, at any rate. I don’t remember being exhausted yesterday morning, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t. I do recall thinking at several points during yesterday that if this was how people with chronic fatigue syndrome felt, ye gods! But today is another day, the enormous amount of work I have to do has not magically disappeared–it’s just a little more dusty this morning. As I glance around the kitchen/office this morning there’s a lot of clean-up to be done around here–not the least of which is filing and organizing, chores I always dread and put off, yet am alway find satisfying to do once I actually get started on it.

Go figure.

I tried out the air fryer yesterday on chicken nuggets in the afternoon for lunch (then again for dinner; I wasn’t hungry but made nuggets for Paul) and it works just fine, frankly. The nuggets were good if different–and I realized the difference was the lack of greasiness and if they were a little drier than usual, that was the lack of grease. It’ll take a while for me to get used to the lack of grease in things like nuggets and so forth, but I deeply approve of this new healthier alternative to deep-frying, and I am going to see about using it for other things, like Brussels sprouts and asparagus and other healthier things. I may eventually have to get a bigger sized air fryer, but the one I have will certainly work for now. As one of the goals for the year was to work on being healthier over all, this is an excellent first step.

We did watch Uncle Frank on Prime last night, and while it was enjoyable on some levels, it was painfully difficult to watch in others. Perhaps it hit a little too close to home for me in some ways, but at the same time, while it was about the main character’s relationship with her gay uncle and his partner–and his estrangement from his family because of his father’s homophobia–there were some horrific scenes of familial homophobia and the emotional/psychological abuse that comes with it. I thought it was going to be more of a comedy–at least that was how the trailer made it seem–but it most definitely was not a comedy, although there was some humor. I’m not certain that the audience for the film was really gay men–it seemed, particularly towards the end, to be like Philadelphia–a movie about gay issues that was really for straight people, and that really can make a difference in how the story is told and how the characters are presented. I do recommend it–it really recaptures that early 1970’s feel, both in South Carolina and New York City; some of the homes and settings in South Carolina (as well as the performances of the actors) made me feel like I was a kid visiting relatives again; and since some of the in-progress works (short stories and novellas) I have are set in the 1970’s South…it was interesting to see and triggered some memories for me. But one thing that was delightful about the movie was it sort of had a happy ending–sure, the two gay characters had a lot of suffering to get through to get there–but neither one of them died, so that was lovely, and the 1970’s setting meant the specter of HIV/AIDS was long in the future. I also couldn’t help wondering, though, as I watched, if either of them would make it through the 1980’s alive, and just having to wonder that about fictional characters is rather sad.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the new Russell Davies series, It’s a Sin, when it drops on HBO MAX next month. (I much preferred the original Queer as Folk to the American version, quite frankly. I’m curious to see if they do an American version of this one, as well…but since it’s airing on HBO MAX I tend to rather doubt it; but I don’t remember how Americans watched the original Queer as Folk either.)

Paul is off to the office later today so I will have the house to myself for the most part until this evening, which is nice but also going to be a bit weird. I keep forgetting that the festivals are looming, so of course he is late getting home every evening and will disappear on Saturdays; it is the time of year when I become a Festival widow. I of course should use this time productively, and am actually planning to go read for a bit once I finish this, spend some time straightening up in here, and will sit down with the manuscript later on today to see what needs to be done and get organized with it as well so I can plan out my writing and editing needs for the rest of February. Hmmm…thinking about organizing and getting stuff done hasn’t fatigued me–we’ll see how that goes once I start actually moving around and trying to do things, shall we?

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday wherever you are, Constant Reader!

You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

Not that the day of the week matters anymore, frankly; yesterday I thought it was Friday all day and even when corrected (I sent an email to the MWA Board of Directors and opened with HAPPY FRIDAY!) I still continued to think it was Friday.

I’m stubborn that way.

We finished watching We Are the Wave last night, after I did one of those on-line promo reading/discussion things for The Faking of the President. I recognize that these things have become a part of what is reality these days, but I’m still uncomfortable doing them. I hate the sound of my own voice, and being able to see myself staring back at me from the computer screen is far worse than any mirror I’ve ever looked into. But I suspect that even once the pandemic has come to its inevitable end–even bubonic plague eventually ran its original course–these things will become part and parcel of promotion for writers henceforth. For one thing, publishers would much rather you “tour” virtually than having to pay to send you, for one, and for the vast majority of writers, virtual touring is much more, obviously, affordable than an actual tour.

But last night I slept extremely well, which is lovely; I actually feel very rested this morning and not tired, mentally or physically, and it’s been a hot minute or two since I could say that. There are some errands I have to run today–most importantly, a prescription refill that needs to be picked up–but I am going to be spending a lot of the day doing my day job stuff here at the Lost Apartment, and yes, that includes more hours of condom packing, which means finding some movies on HBO MAX or Disney to watch. The TCM app on HBO MAX is quite marvelous, actually; there are a lot of wonderful films on there I’ve always wanted to watch, and since I spend several afternoons a week making condom packs, I can now watch them while my hands work. Alas, there are a lot of films I want to see that aren’t on there; there’s some great Hitchcock movies (I really enjoyed Foreign Correspondent, despite how dated it was) and there are some lesser known Hitchcocks which will be fun to watch as well (I could also go through Amazon Prime, but their app on Apple TV is not user friendly in the least). I was looking to rewatch Rebecca and Notorious the other day, but neither were on the TCM app, and neither was Suspicion, which was my next default. I think Shadow of a Doubt is on Prime–that’s the next one I’m looking for–and there might be some on there that aren’t on the TCM app.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the films of the 1970’s a lot lately as well; watching Eyewitness made me think more about that decade, and we talked about it some on the virtual event last night–and there are some terrific films from the 1970’s I’d like to rewatch or see for the first time. I’d like to see Chinatown again, despite my aversion to Roman Polanski and his work–which is a whole other conversation, the old artist vs. the art thing–and there was a darker, grittier aspect to the films of the decade, despite it also being the decade that gave us Star Wars. I’d actually like to watch Cruising again, and numerous other Pacino/De Niro/Scorsese films of the decade.

I also am going to spend some time this weekend writing, and I am also going to spend some time with S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland. I also have some anthologies and short story collections I’d like to start dipping into; I hate that I’ve allowed myself to let the Short Story Project collapse by the wayside. I also want to spend some time this weekend trying to get organized; I have so much going on, between various writing projects and volunteerism and so forth that I am always playing catch-up, and I much prefer, as Constant Reader is very well aware, planning; the problem is that I am always juggling things as they come at me (bullets-and-bracelets from the old Wonder Woman comics is a very apt analogy) with the result that I always feel like I am getting dragged down into quicksand.

And don’t even get me started on emails. Jesus.

But it’s a good morning, I have energy and feel rested, and am hopeful this will help carry me through the rest of the day and I can get a lot done.

Have a terrific Friday, Constant Reader.

Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)

Sunday morning. I slept late again–it took me a while to fall asleep last night, but I finally did and slept like the dead, which was lovely.

I finished reading Steph Cha’s exceptional Your House Will Pay yesterday; I reviewed it in a different entry, but will re-emphasize that you should preorder it right now again. I really loved it; I love the way Cha writes, and I also look forward to getting back to her Juniper Song series. There are some extraordinary novels being published in the crime fiction community this year; I myself have read some pretty amazing books this year, and can’t wait to dive into my next one, S. A. Cosby’s My Darkest Prayer.

I also woke to the news this morning that the anthology I was talking about yesterday, the one to which I’d contributed my original story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” to, will be released this October, which is kind of exciting. The cover was designed by Joe Phillips, one of my favorite gay artists (check out right here on his website; the art on my walls in my old office on Frenchmen Street were his calendar illustrations; gorgeous works of art). The title of the anthology is Pink Triangle Rhapsody, and it’s all genre work by gay writers. I’m kind of looking forward to reading the whole thing, to be honest.

I managed to get some things done yesterday, around reading the Cha novel. I cleaned, I ran errands, and I organized; I also made some notes for things I am writing, and then last evening–Paul went out with a friend–I fell into an Amazon Prime docu-series about The Romanovs, actually Russian produced with English subtitles. It was interesting, but now that we’ve reached Catherine the Great I no longer need to continue watching. I’ve read enough about Catherine that I don’t need to watch a documentary about her; and the Romanovs who came after her aren’t particularly interesting other than Alexander I, and he’s only interesting because of 1) Napoleon and 2) he never seemed to have any real interest in women. As this is a Russian production, I imagine the chapter on Alexander I will focus on Napoleon rather than his private life. So, no need for me to continue. The nineteenth century Romanovs aren’t that interesting, and I’ve read and watched enough about Nicholas and Alexandra to last me a lifetime; although I would be curious to see how they handle the last of the Romanovs, to get an idea of how Russians see them now. But again, their sad tale of hemophiliac son, deep abiding love and passion, and Rasputin that ends in a massacre in a basement in Ekaterinburg I know well enough already.

Today I plan on writing, believe it or not; I am going to dive into Chapter 21 headfirst and see what shakes out. I also am going to try to reread the first twenty chapters as well to update the detailed outline I am doing as I go, which will help me restructure the novel when it’s time to go over it a second time and revise the hell out of it. I also want to work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit, perhaps even as a warm-up; deciding that it’s going to be a novella rather than a short story was a good first start on getting it finished. (I am, in fact, still reeling from yesterday’s realization of just how many books, stories, and essays I am currently in the midst of writing) I also need to work on a project today, and there’s definitely some organizing (isn’t there always?) that needs doing. I also need to clean out my email inbox. Heavy heaving sigh, isn’t that always the way?

I’m also still thinking about Steph Cha’s novel, and how good it actually is. One of the things I meant to talk about in my entry about her novel is how it’s about every day people, rather than exceptional ones. Her characters aren’t cops, aren’t professional investigators; just people like you and me and your friends and neighbors, who sadly get wrapped up into a horrible crime and trauma, and how they deal with it. Such a good book, really.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the day, Constant Reader. Hope your Sunday is a lovely and peaceful and relaxing one; I hope mine will be as well as a productive one as well. We shall see, shall we not?

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