Passionate Kisses

Hello there, Tuesday, how’s the wife and kids?

I forgot to mention yesterday that I also watched Spiderman: Far From Home over the course of the weekend, and while I’m not entirely certain it was as good as Spiderman: Homecoming (I can say without any equivocal doubt it was NOT as good as Into the Spider-verse, which was simply brilliant, and probably the best super-hero film I’ve ever seen), I did enjoy it. It’s hard not to like Tom Holland; and I shall repeat again, I had no desire to watch his debut film as Spider-man/Peter Parker until I saw the clip of his Lip Sync Battle performance as Rihanna doing “Umbrella”, and I also like the way they’re doing MJ, with Zendaya taking the role. It did have some funny moments, some very cute moments, and one can never go wrong with Jake Gyllenhaal; but there was just something off about how they explained away the whole Thanos /half-the-universe disappeared etc.; there are more holes in that explanation (as there inevitably always are when it comes to time-travel and so forth) but it couldn’t be unexplained, and by glossing over it with barely a mention or any explanation…I guess that made it go down easier for fans? But I’ll continue to watch Tom Holland in the role–I’ve never seen any of the Andrew Garfield Spiderman movies, and I didn’t enjoy the Tobey Maguire one I did see, so stopped watching them. But it was entertaining enough, and it held my interest…but while super-hero movies can be fun, I am really getting bored with the BIGGER and BETTER effects, and the fight scenes….they all begin to seem the same after awhile.

It’s kind of why we stopped watching Arrow, despite my passion for Steven Amell.

I wasn’t tired yesterday, per se, although I felt sort of out of it all day; like my brain had never completely woken up. It was strange; it was like a part of my brain never completely woke up so I was sort of sleepwalking through the day despite having full awareness? I can’t really describe it other than that, it was weird and I wasn’t a fan, actually. Last night I slept very deeply and well; I feel very rested this morning and my mind is sharper than it was yesterday–a very low bar, to be sure–but I also managed to get a lot done yesterday despite not feeling completely awake. It was rather strange, to be sure; but I cannot argue with successful production.

But this morning I feel more alive and awake and alert than I certainly did yesterday, so we’ll see how this day is going to turn out. I was curious how the return to the gym, coupled with an early morning, would turn out yesterday; I don’t think that was indicative of how things will be from hereon out, though. My body was just trying to adapt to something new, a change in routine. Last night’s amazing and deep sleep was perfect, and I feel terrific this morning, which is lovely. How I will feel at the end of this day remains to be seen, but I am confident it won’t be that bad. I wasn’t tired at all last night when I got home from work–I even stopped at Rouse’s on the way home–and tumbled into bed relatively early, after an episode of Sex Education. There’s only two episodes left, but it occurred to  me last night that each episode of the show actually is sex education; I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but with each student/client, some aspect of sexuality is discussed and covered and destigmatized; for example, last night’s episode’s sex education had to do with anal douching and hygiene for gay men; one of the gay characters was afraid to have sex for the first time with his boyfriend because he didn’t know how to douche and was worried about what would happen if he didn’t….which turned into a lovely lesson about speaking to your partner, being completely honest about your feelings, and ultimately, Anton lost his anal virginity.

The show is actually a sex education course cleverly disguised as a comedy series about teenagers and their relationships, so the title is even more clever than one might think.

I also managed to figure out how I am going to have to schedule myself through parade season so I get my work hours in without having to use any vacation time–I have to save my vacation time for my trip to New York for the Edgars, and the train ride down to Malice Domestic for the weekend after. Not sure how vacations the rest of the year will play out, other than Bouchercon in Sacramento; but I definitely need to let the vacation time start accruing again. One good thing about the day job–my vacation time accrues relatively quickly, but I am near rock bottom right now with very little time left at the moment. Tomorrow is Pay the Bills day, and I also need to get my tax stuff together and off to the accountant–the sooner I get the return filed, the sooner I’ll get my refund, which undoubtedly will be less than last year.

And on that note, I’m going to get ready for the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

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Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I hit the wall yesterday during Iris. I came back home to rest for a bit before Tucks arrived, and was so exhausted from everything that I decided that it was wiser to just stay in the house and rest, otherwise there was no way I’d make it to any of today’s parades. There are four today; Okeanos, Mid-City, Thoth, and Bacchus. I usually make Okeanos and Mid-city; but am too tired for Thoth and Bacchus. I’ve never seen Thoth; we used to go to the Quarter in the afternoon on Sundays, and then I worked outreach during Thoth. The last few years I’ve not done outreach on Sundays I’ve been too tired; and I don’t think I’ve seen Bacchus since Drew Brees reigned. I’m going to give it my best shot today.

The rain held off yesterday until Endymion; I was ensconced in my easy chair streaming Spiderman Homecoming when the thunderstorm arrived and it was a beaut. The thunder was so loud and long the house shook; and the downpours so intense that there was some street flooding (nothing major, like in August; but still it sucked for both the Endymion riders and the folks out there watching).

I also watched, in my ongoing quest to rewatch as many of the disaster movies of the 1970’s as possible, Earthquake, which was, without a doubt, one of the worst movies ever made. The whole point of the disaster formula was to see how people–character archetypes, really–placed in extraordinary circumstances having to experience physical difficulties and hardships and emotional distress, to see if they can overcome this and survive; and at the end, some do: the damaged plane lands safely, the fire is put out, they get off the sinking ship. But by it’s very nature, making a film about an earthquake doesn’t end with the characters getting to safety; therefore there is no way to end the film on a satisfying note for the viewers. So, Earthquake merely ends with the camera pulling away from the characters who’ve just escaped the flooding tunnel, showing a ever expanding view of the ruins of Los Angeles, where many fires are still burning; a most unsatisfying end to the film. But it’s not like we cared about any of the characters in the first place, particularly the main character, played woodenly by Charlton Heston. Heston was never the best of actors to begin with; his idea of acting was over-acting under the best of circumstances and at worst, woodenly reading his lines with absolutely no emotion whatsoever. The casting choices made for the movie were also curious; Lorne Greene was playing Ava Gardner’s father and Heston’s father-in-law, despite being only seven years older than the former and eight years older than the latter; his current love interest was played by Genevieve Bujold, who was only thirty. I’m a fan of Gardner, to be honest, but she’s terrible in this film. Everyone is terrible in this film, from the afore-mentioned stars to the rest of the cast, which includes Richard Roundtree, George Kennedy, Victoria Principal, and Marjoe Gortner. Even by 70’s standards, the special effects are particularly bad; and there really isn’t a cohesive story for any of the characters, so the actors have no center for their performances. It was just an attempt to cash in on the success of the Airport movies and the disaster movie craze of the time; with the end result that it’s a terrible, terrible film.

Spiderman Homecoming, however, is just as charming on a second viewing as it was on the first; and Tom Holland is so appealing, as are all of the diverse young actors who play his friends, or frenemies, at his high school. Michael Keaton makes a great bad guy, and the guest appearances by the other Marvel heroes–Iron Man and Captain America–successfully weave the character of Spiderman into the Marvel/Avengers universe. Also, by not  making it an origin story–we already see Peter with his powers, his uncle is already dead–and instead making it about him trying to adapt to his powers while juggling his life as a high school teenager, made it a much stronger film. Well done, Marvel.

After that, we watched the Olympics. I also did some reading, getting back to the Short Story Project, and then I slept deeply and well; I even allowed myself to sleep in, and this morning other than some slight aches in my lower back I feel terrific. Okeanos starts in fifteen minutes; I am not sure which parades I’ll be watching today. There’s rain again in the forecast, and this morning the windows are covered with condensation, just like yesterday. It does seem bright out there, but there’s an awful lot of cloud cover as well. Paul is still sleeping, so there’s that as well. 😉 I don’t like waking him up on the weekends, and besides, Okeanos won’t be here for another hour at least. Iris kept stalling yesterday; despite moving up an hour it still wasn’t finished passing here until almost one thirty.

I don’t have to work tomorrow; Paul’s going into the office for a bit, so I will most likely make a grocery run in the morning and try to get some work done around here as well. I need to get back to work on everything; just because everything in New Orleans comes to a screeching halt for Carnival, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world does not.

Ah, well. And I need to clean the kitchen again; I’m hoping to cook out today, should the weather hold.

Here’s a hunk for your Sunday:

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Skidmarks on My Heart

Last night, we abandoned The Mist in the midst of episode 4. I wanted to like it, but the characters weren’t likable or relatable; and the mist itself is completely different from what Stephen King wrote in the original novella and what was translated to the screen for the original film. I can understand the need to reboot  a concept once it’s gotten overplayed and tired, but I don’t think The Mist was either of those; I don’t think the movie was seen by all that many people (it may not have been a flop, but it wasn’t an enormous runaway success, either). I’ve seen some theories (maybe even from the producers/writers?) that the show is actually a sequel to the film, years later; there are references occasionally that intimate ‘this has happened before in local legend[‘, or some such. In either case, the show isn’t working, and about halfway through last night’s episode I was done with it once and for all.

It’s a pity, because I had high hopes for the show. I didn’t care for Haven, either, which was (very) loosely based on The Colorado Kid. That show ran for several seasons, so it obviously had an audience; I just wasn’t a part of it. (I also didn’t get very far into Under the Dome.)

I slept very deeply last night and very late this morning, which was actually kind  of lovely. My muscles aren’t aching and tired, and neither are my joints; I am going to stretch again this morning in a moment or two; perhaps when I finish this entry. Later this evening we are going over to our friend Susan’s to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones and eat pizza; we used to watch True Blood with Susan (we all agreed on Pam as our favorite character, and it was fun watching with her).

As I mentioned yesterday, we went to see Spiderman Homecoming last night. The time of the show we wanted at our usual place, the AMC Palace 20 in Elmwood, wasn’t convenient, so we tried out the Palace at Clearview Mall. I wasn’t overly impressed with this theater, so I doubt we’ll go back there again–except for convenience. (The Elmwood location is really quite nice.) So, what did I think of the movie?

I’ve watched two or three of the original Spiderman films with Tobey Maguire, which were okay; pleasant entertainments and a nice way to whittle away some time. I’ve not seen the second iteration with Andrew Garfield; the reviews weren’t great and it was never convenient for me to watch them, nor was I particularly interested in carving out the time to watch them (I might now, honestly, simply for the sake of comparison).  I decided I wanted to see this version–despite an original lack of interest–because Tom Holland, the young man playing Spiderman this time out, won me over with his stellar performance of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” on Lip Sync Battle:

How could I not see the movie after watching that?

As I’ve said before, I was a DC kid growing up and didn’t really read much Marvel until I got back into comics in the 1980’s; and the Spiderman books quickly became my favorite Marvel books, and one of my top favorite superheroes. I loved the character of Peter Parker, the brainy nerd who accidentally becomes super-powered; who comes from a poor background and struggles in his private life while not truly getting the superhero cred he deserves, either–which was such a huge departure from the DC mentality, and one that I really liked. (All of Marvel’s superheroes have their detractors and aren’t universally loved in their universe; probably the most astute and brilliant thing Stan lee did with the superhero genre.) But ultimately, Peter was a nice guy who understood ‘that with great power comes great responsibility.’ And I was never able to put my finger on what it was that made me not love the original films as much as I loved the character.

Now that I’ve seen Spiderman Homecoming, I can tell you exactly what it was: Toby Maguire didn’t quite embody that Spiderman ideal; the geeky, smart, nerdy unpopular kid who is actually a hero in disguise. Tom Holland, though, has nailed the role perfectly. He’s likable and you root for him; the crushing disappointments of how he misses out on the things that are important to the private person while trying to become the hero he feels he should be. It was also a stroke of genius to not only not make this an origin movie (he already has his powers, obviously, since his cameo appearance in one of The Avengers movies), but to take Spiderman back to his mid-teens. I didn’t read the original comics (I wasn’t old enough to read when Spiderman first was published, obviously) but I’ve always believed Peter got his powers when he was a teenager; and by taking him back to his teens means Holland can play the role for at least another twenty years, if not longer (of course, he might lose interest, the series could run out of steam, any number of things could happen in the meantime), and it will be fun to watch Spiderman/Peter grow up and evolve into the great hero he’s meant to become. The key to Peter is he is a good guy, who always wants to do the right thing but sometimes fails, and feels those failures deeply; Holland nails that youthful earnestness perfectly in what is undoubtedly a star-making role. I thought that several times while watching the movie: This kid is going to be a major star.

One of the film’s other strengths is its diversity; there are many characters who could have easily been cast with white actors but instead the roles were given to a multi-ethnic cast, seamlessly integrated into their roles so beautifully that I didn’t really notice it until after the movie was over; on the way out to the parking lot I realized there were a lot of people of color in this film, and it worked beautifully.

Maybe because people of color are fully integrated into the society in general?

Pay attention to this, film makers. THIS is how you do it.

The weakest–to me–part of the movie is the mentoring relationship with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark; I’ve been a fan of Downey since I first saw him in Weird Science thirty or so years ago (he was the best thing in that execrable Less Than Zero movie, along with the brilliant Bangles cover of ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’) and I am glad he finally has the blockbuster star career I always thought he should have, but I’m not really a fan of the Iron Man movies; his presence in the movie also made me wonder, every single time Spiderman was in trouble, if Iron Man was going to show up and help him. Michael Keaton was terrific as the villain; and Marisa Tomei wasn’t given enough to do as Aunt Mae (just called Mae in this iteration; it was a bit of a shock to have a younger, much hotter Aunt Mae). I wasn’t really sure why Zendaya was in the movie, either–although she was terrific, and the “a-ha!” moment late in the film made me really, really happy; again, well-done, Marvel Films, well done.

I’ve seen commentary that the movie sort of was a nod to the John Hughes films of the 1980s; there was some of that, and the 80’s music helped with that sense (you can NEVER go wrong with the Ramones, period). The other young actors were stellar, as well; Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned steals every scene he is in.

However, one warning: if you suffer from vertigo/fear of heights, do not see this movie in 3-D.  As one of those who suffers from that, the realism of two action sequences–one involving the Washington Monument and the other an airplace–was so intense that I literally got not only nauseous and dizzy but severely anxious and had to look away from the screen or close my eyes at times; the Washington Monument scene is so realistic it’s like you are literally on top of it; you can only imagine how someone who is terrified of heights the way I am reacted to that scene; it was quite traumatizing for me.

In conclusion, I absolutely loved this movie, and can’t wait for the next Spiderman film. I highly recommend it.

And now, I need to get some writing and cleaning done. Here’s a gratuitous beefcake shot of Tom Holland:

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I’ll Set You Free

This week was so crazy and intense. We were so busy at the day job this week; combined with a couple of not good nights of sleep, and by last night I was like the walking dead. I didn’t have time to blog, was too exhausted to even write when I had free time–my brain was even too fried to do much of anything other than read and watch some television before going to bed and trying to sleep. All of my muscles were tired and sore and aching; this morning before my first workout with Wacky Russian in three weeks I headed over early so I could spend some time stretching first–it was horrifying to me how tight my muscles were! But as I stretched, slowly and patiently, the muscles gradually began to stretch and loosen, knots being released, and as a result, the workout was great and I felt terrific afterwards. I know I am going to be tired later–but after my daily chores and errands, Paul and I are going to go see Spiderman Homecoming (which I originally wasn’t very interested in seeing–until I saw Tom Holland on Lip Sync Battle nailing Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, and became a fan). Tomorrow I have to make a Costco run and we’re going over to our friend Susan’s to watch Game of Thrones and eat pizza.

Moral of the story: I need to stretch regularly. I have always been naturally flexible, and never needed to stretch much; but now that I am older my muscles tighten up without being stretched, so I need to do that on a fairly regular basis. And I should, anyway; because it feels amazing.

Last weekend I not only started rereading The Great Gatsby but also started reading William Faulkner’s crime short stories. They are collected into a book called Knight’s Gambit, and feature County Attorney Gavin Stevens. I always forget Faulkner dabbled in crime fiction from time to time; I was reminded by a piece on the Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine website blog (“Something is Going On”), about how the magazine had published some of Faulkner’s short stories (“A Rose for Emily” would have been perfect for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, come to think of it), and I remembered my copy of Knight’s Gambit, never read, still in the TBR pile where it has been collecting dust for God knows how long. I’ve only had time to read the first story, “Smoke,” which was very Faulkner-esque. It wasn’t “A Rose for Emily” Gothic-good, but it was very Southern Gothic, very rural Southern; it was about the murder of a judge probating the will of a really awful man who owned two thousand of the best acres in the county and was estranged from his twin sons; and how Gavin figures out who the killer was and gets him to confess. It was kind of clever, and kind of reminded me of Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, which I read in my twenties and absolutely loved (another one due for a reread).

It poured while I was running my errands today; I got drenched getting into the grocery store, and while it had stopped raining when I was leaving, the parking lot was near the doors was under about three inches of water. So, my shoes and socks got soaked; which was deeply unpleasant, but hey–summer in New Orleans. It’s rained every day for the last two months, I think, and the humidity has been kind of intense.

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This was also a really good week for books; I got the new Rebecca Chance (Killer Affair) in the mail, as well as The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor and Geronimo Rex by Barry Hannah (a signed copy of the new Bill Loefhelm is waiting for me at Garden District Books; I intended to pick it up today but it was pouring, I didn’t have my umbrella and there was no place within two blocks to park, so I decided to put that errand off until someday next week). I’ve never read Barry Hannah other than a short story in college: “Love Too Long.” As Constant Reader is aware, my very first attempt at taking a writing class in college was a disaster; the instructor basically told me I’d never be published and “if being a writer is your dream, you need to find another dream.” Oy. Anyway, flash forward a few years and I started attending Fresno City College, a junior college in the Tower District of the city, to try to get my GPA back up to a point to where I could get accepted into the California State University system. Bravely, I enrolled in another creative writing class, and the teacher was a man named Sid Harriet. He required us to buy, for the class, two short story collections: Airships by Barry Hannah, and Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver. He asked us to read the afore-mentioned Hannah story, as well as Carver’s “Neighbors.” Both stories were unlike anything I’d ever read before; and I decided to try to stretch myself creatively with the two stories I had to write for the class. The first story I wrote (seriously) was called “Bottles, Booze, and Bette Davis,” about a young couple having a disagreement about their commitment to each other in a diner–and their interactions with their waitress, Marge. It wasn’t a good story by any means, but when critiqued in class, it got some favorable comments and some good criticism, actually. Sid was very supportive, as well–and after my previous experience, this was a revelation for me. The second story was worse than the first, “A Single Long-Stemmed Red Rose” was the title; and it was an alternating point of view story about an encounter between a young college student cutting through a cemetery with a beautiful young widow. Again, it didn’t work; the points of view weren’t delineated enough to justify using this technique and the story itself didn’t work. Sid was highly enthusiastic about my attempt to push myself, though, and he was the one who recommended I read Faulkner’s  As I Lay Dying (which I did, and was blown away; that was, interestingly enough, when I became a Faulkner fan). You were allowed, as a student, to take the class twice; so I took it again the next semester and decided to take full advantage of the class by writing and turning in as many stories as I could–the minimum was two; which is what everyone did. Amongst the many stories I turned into that class were “Seminole Island” and “Whim of the Wind”, which everyone in the class loved; Sid even turned them both back to me with the note, “You need to send these out for submission.”

Manna from heaven for someone who hadn’t gotten any encouragement to be a writer since graduating from high school. I can even remember having a meeting in his office, and I told him what Dr. Dixon said. He just shook his head and said “that man shouldn’t be anywhere near students.”

The funny thing is, I would have told this story years ago but I couldn’t remember his name. Isn’t that awful? The person who, in addition to Mrs. Anderson from high school, was supportive of my desire to write, and recognized my ability was someone whose name I couldn’t remember until today. 

I bought the Barry Hannah novel because it was on a list of ‘essential Southern Gothic novels’; and I remembered reading that story back in 1983 in Fresno. And when I started writing this blog entry, I knew I had to talk about Sid, owed it to him really–and as I started typing his name popped into my head.

Funny how that works.

Okay, I am now going to make some lunch, and get this kitchen cleaned and organized; maybe I can get some work done on “A Holler Full of Kudzu” before we leave for the movie.

Have a great day, Constant Reader!

Be With You

Tuesday morning, and I am not fully awake. I didn’t want to get up this morning–not that I ever do–but this morning was one of those whining, complaining and I just want to keep sleeping mornings. I never spring from the bed fully awake and revved up and ready to go; those days are long past, alas, but this morning was a bit harder than usual. Even coffee doesn’t seem to taste right this morning. It’s going to be, I fear, one of those days.

It was like pulling teeth, but I did finish my first (really bad) draft of “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” yesterday. That’s something, I think. It’s a mess, frankly, scattershot and all over the place, and clocked in at slightly less than four thousand words. Ideally, I think it needs to be between five and six, with me leaning more towards the longer end; but now I have a framework down to fix, so that’s something. I have another idea that I started working on over the weekend–the opening came to me out of nowhere; it’s one of those Alabama stories I like to write from time to time, and I suspect reading Tomato Red and the Faulkner short story “Smoke” had something to do with getting my mind into that particular gear. Unusually enough, it doesn’t have a title; I rarely write anything that doesn’t start with the title, and I haven’t the slightest idea of what the title would be, which puts me way outside of my comfort zone. The story itself is amorphous, a fog in my mind I need to take form, but I am going to start working on the rest of the story this morning. It’s grim–so much of what I’ve been doing lately has been grim–and I have to figure out what I am trying to say with the story. I think I know; it’s a tired old theme, but the beauty of writing is you can make tired old themes new and fresh again. We shall see. I probably have a title somewhere scribbled down that would be perfect for the story.

Uncharted territory! Writing something that has no title! Madness.

We got caught up on Season 2 of Animal Kingdom last night, and this show is very addictive. I don’t understand why it’s not better known, or generating more buzz. Ellen Barkin is fantastic, the young men who play her sons are terrific (and hot) as well, and the writing is pretty crisp. I think we’ll get caught up on Claws next, and then Orphan Black. We can’t decide if we want to give Will  a shot or not. We may be going to see Spiderman Homecoming this weekend, as well.

All right, I think it’s time to get back to my story. Here’s a hunk for your Tuesday:

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