Hello, Saturday morning! I slept in a bit this morning, and am slowly but surely getting my groove on. Paul is sleeping on the couch with the French Open on, I'm now eating a lovely breakfast of yogurt and blackberries as I finish my last cup of coffee for the morning, after which I am going to clean the kitchen and get my own self cleaned up, preparatory to diving into the pile of work the fatigue has allowed to accumulate during this past week. Fatigue is a bitch, and then some, seriously. I think my body is slowly but surely adjusting to the medication--yesterday I wasn't tired all day; it came and went, in waves. I'd be good for an hour or so, then tired for two, then another wave of energy would come back. It was quite odd, frankly, but I did manage to utilize the waves of energy.
So, it's progress of a sort, methinks.
Today is going to be a writing and editing day as well, and later on this evening I am most likely going to read for a couple of hours before we get caught up on Orphan Black. While waiting for Paul to get home last night I rewatched Attack of the Clones, which was much better than I remembered. Visually, it was quite stunning, and the plot made a bit more sense than I remembered. I do think it was a bit longer than it needed to be; it could have easily had at least a half an hour cut out of it, minimum, and Hayden Christensen wasn't nearly as annoying and whiny as pre-Darth Vader as I remembered, either. I do think, had the part been written better and the cast better directed, the film could have been much better. It seems now like a directorial fail; as though the really impressive cast wasn't given much direction--even Samuel L. Jackson came across as kind of wooden. The only person who really seemed to inhabit his character was Ewan MacGregor as Obi-wan.
Character, character, character. If we don't care about the characters, it doesn't matter how amazing your effects are or how big your story.
I've been thinking a lot about character lately. I am teaching a class in September for the Sisters in Crime symposium, and so I have to come up with an interesting, informative lecture. I've done this before, numerous times--most recently at Sleuthfest in 2013--and yet it's never easy, and you also never want to recycle things you've done before. Plus, being a writer is a never-ending educative process; you're always learning new things, absorbing methods and ideas and tips you pick up from other writers, conversations, and reading other people's work. The best books, to me, are the ones that teach me something about craft in addition to telling a good story and entertaining me, the ones that make me think, give me a new perspective not only on reading but on writing.
The thing with writing short stories--and why I struggle with them so much--is the compactness; how tightly you have to not only tell a good story but create a character and set a scene; my novels aren't long by any stretch of the imagination; I think the longest one I've ever done is around a hundred thousand words, and I think I've only written that long a couple of times. But even in a ridiculously short novel, you have more room to breathe, to create character and set the scene and tell the story, find the voice.
All right, I suppose it is time for me to stop delaying the inevitable, and get back to the spice mines.
I am, in the interest of the upcoming summer Olympics, going to mix things up a bit and start exploring the beauty of male athletes other than just the Men of Rugby. So, today, here is a water polo player:
Friday! Only a half-day in the office before a lovely, three day weekend--although I will be spending most of it in the spice mines in a desperate effort to get caught up on everything. I realize that my joy of the weekends makes it sound like I don't like my job, which couldn't be further from the truth; I love my day job. But it's the structure I resist; the needing to be somewhere for a set amount of time at a certain time that always gets to me. I mean, it's a job, of course; there's a reason it's called work and not fun; but I love what I do, and that makes a significant difference. I also am really lucky in that all of my co-workers are rock stars (don't tell them I said that). I cannot imagine how awful it would be to be trapped in a forty hour a week job that I absolutely loathed; it's been a long time since I've been in that kind of a hell, and I hope to God I never wind up in another one of them.
The other night I was thinking about how lucky I am--despite this horrible fatigue side effect, which has put me behind on everything--because I have a pretty charmed life, overall. I love my day job, I get to be a writer, I have a great partner, I don't have to worry about paying the bills or buying groceries, my cat is pretty awesome, and I know the greatest people in the world. Life is pretty good.
Who AM I?
So, here I sit on Friday morning, drinking my coffee and shining the laser periodically so Scooter can chase the red dot. I am waiting for the laundry to finish so I can fold it and take it upstairs so i can get ready, run my errands, and so on. I've checked off many things on Ye Old To-Do List, added some more to it, and need to get everything packed and ready to go for the office today, and I also want to get all the things together that I need to get done this weekend. I have this unrealistic hope that come Tuesday morning when I get up to go to work, I'll have everything on that list crossed off--hope springs eternal. But there really isn't a lot of things to watch on television this weekend (Paul will be watching the French Open for the most part) and so I can sit at my desk and listen to music and clean when I need to get up and away from the screen.
That's me, living large.
It doesn't get much more exciting than this, does it?
Ah, well, perhaps I shall be interesting this weekend.
Odder things, after all, have been known to happen.
Last night, as I waited for Paul to get home so we could finish getting caught up on Showtime's Penny Dreadful (which is amazing; Eva Green alone is worth watching for, and the fourth episode of this season was an absolute tour de force for her), I was reflecting on some things, and I couldn't help but recognize what a charmed life I lead. We so often tend to focus on the negatives and the unpleasantness we face daily, weekly, monthly, in our lives that we tend to take the good for granted, or look at the good from a negative perspective. Take, for example, my own career as a for instance: I've been getting stressed out and worried about the fact that I have so much to do in such a short period of time and my blood pressure medication makes me tired all the time (I slept for over eight hours last night and still am tired, didn't want to get up), when I should be thinking about how wonderful it is, in this day and age, that so many people want me to do work for them, and that I actually have to turn away work from time to time. There are any number of people who would love to be in this position, really.
Yesterday, I downloaded the new DC Rebirth comic from Comixology, which is sort of a Kindle for iPads/computers/etc, which I really like.
I'm not as big a comics geek as I once was; money and time play a big part in that, of course, and storage space. I watch the movies and the TV shows, and enjoy them thoroughly, and periodically I'll get an email from comixology that will convince me to download a couple of the books here and there. This latest DC reboot--I've lost track of how many they've done since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths back in the 1980's--looks incredibly promising, I will say that. I wasn't a big fan of the concept of the original reboot; although the Crisis was really well done. I didn't like losing things I loved, like Supergirl for one, and Barry Allen for another. I was always a big fan of the Flash, but I have to admit that the reboot of the Flash, which had Barry sacrificing himself to save the universe at the end of Crisis was pretty amazing and well done; plus having young Wally West (another favorite) step up from Kid Flash to become the new Flash was terrific. The new Flash comic series was also very well done, and one of my favorites.
My main concern with the reboot triggered by Crisis on Infinite Earths was that once you've taking the enormous step of rebooting the entire DC Universe (which had existed for almost fifty years without change) it becomes incredibly easy to do it again. I think there may have been even another one before the most recent, which resulted in The New 52. Neither particularly interested me, but this most recent reboot was apparently a disaster--with the end result that DC decided to do it again..
But I read a review of the new reboot comic, DC Rebirth, recently on-line and it was an absolute rave. So, when I got the email from Comixology yesterday that it was finally available for sale, I downloaded it.
I don't know what the last two reboots were like--I didn't read ann of them--but I absolutely loved DC Rebirth. It's an exceptionally well done story, and the artwork is amazing.
The fact that it focused on Wally West and the Speedforce was just another bonus.
One of the things I felt that DC did very well, and why I really liked DC, was their heroes may have had flaws, but they were heroes; genuinely good people who always did the right thing. I know that's part of the problem people have had with the cinematic reboot of Superman; I enjoyed the films in spite of the changes to Superman and his ethos. But this latest book--and remember, I've not really read many comics in decades--was not only involving but beautifully written; I got teary-eyed several times while I was reading it...and I cannot remember the last time a comic involved me so emotionally.
So, I have to say, even though I initially rolled my eyes at the notion of yet another DC Universe reboot, DC Rebirth really sets an amazingly high standard for the reboot; so high that I am seriously considering getting my comic geek back on and continuing to read.
Well done, DC, well done.
And now back to the spice mines.
I recently finished revising that dark story I had the idea for in Las Vegas; I rewrote another dark story I’ve been working on for a couple of years; and I am in the process of revising probably the oldest short story I’ve ever written and never published—it was originally written back in 1983. Yes, that story is now thirty-three years old, which is kind of a frightening thought on so many levels.
I like when I go into a creative mode; not sure whatever triggers it, but when it happens I tend to just roll with it, ride the wave as long as it lasts. It’s always a lot of fun, and I have any number of short stories I’d like to write to submit to anthologies that are looking. I don’t have much luck with short stories, as you may well remember, Constant Reader, but I am pretty pleased with the ones I’ve recently worked on. It’s also weird, because the blood pressure medication I am taking is making me tired a lot more—Saturday night I went to be around eleven and didn’t get out of bed until almost noon on Sunday (which never happens; I never sleep that long or late)—yet at the same time I am going through this really intense creativity spell.
It figures—my most creative spell in I don’t know how long, so of course I am taking medication that makes me too tired to take full advantage of it. It’s hard out here for a Gregalicious.
But I am enjoying the work I’m doing, and the other projects are going well, so…
Last night, while I waited for Paul to get home from a dinner meeting, I rewatched The Phantom Menace, aka Star Wars Episode I. As Constant Reader knows, I am a big Star Wars fan, and I was so excited when I found out they were making another trilogy…and then I went to the theater and saw The Phantom Menace. If someone would have told me before I saw that movie the first time that I would hate it—that it was even possible for me to hate a Star Wars movie, I literally would have laughed at them. But I did. I absolutely hated it. I thought it was visually stunning, enormous in scope, but it was…dull. I didn’t understand it very much, either—and even the second time I watched it (I gave it a second chance), it still wasn’t clear. Yet with the release of The Force Awakens, which I absolutely loved (and now own), I began reading things on the Internet—articles, both for and again, the second (first? It’s so confusing) trilogy; and thought, you know, you watched the original trilogy again, still loved it, and loved the new one, why not give the old one another shot? So I bought them from iTunes, and last night, too tired to read my Christopher Golden book (which I am greatly enjoying, by the way), I thought it might be a good time to watch The Phantom Menace a third time.
And….I still didn’t like it.
It didn’t hold my interest at all. The basic premise of the story—the Trade Federation’s dispute with some planets over taxation on trade routes, resulting in a blockade of Naboo—was…well, not compelling for a space adventure, like the original trilogy, and the first of the third trilogy (this gets so confusing, doesn’t it?). The politics behind the fall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Empire, to be fair to Lucas and his screenwriters, is not an easy sell to an audience expecting ships travelling at lightspeed and space battles. Even the back story to how Obi-wan and his master, Quai-Gon, met young child Anakin Skywalker which also spawned the romance the resulted in the birth of Luke and Leia, and Anakin turning to the dark side, was kind of dull. Padme, destined to be Luke and Leia’s parents, just happened to be Queen of Naboo when the Trade Federation started all of this, which just happened to result in her escaping from Naboo in disguise with Obi-wan and Quai-Gon, and they just happen to land on Tattooine, which is where young Anakin is a slave….a whole bunch of coincidences you could never get away with in crime fiction? And Darth Maul with his double light-saber, perhaps the coolest villain this side of Darth Vader—and let’s just kill him off in the first movie. And of course, the whole point of this movie is for them to find Anakin, get Obi-wan to be his trainer, and introduce him to Padme, so they can eventually fall in love—and oh yes, the Trade Federation’s attack on Naboo has been completely set up by a Dark Lord of the Sith, who also happens to be Senator Palpatine of Naboo in the Senate—who set this whole thing up as a part of a convoluted plan to topple the Chancellor and take his place, so he can eventually seize absolute power as Emperor.
As one of the articles—well, several of them—said, this movie can be completely skipped and doesn’t need to even exist. Everything I’ve just said above can be revealed in conversations and as backstory in the next film, Attack of the Clones, which I also didn’t like….but am going to give another chance.
I have to say, I was really hoping I’d been wrong, and much too harsh on this movie originally…but no, I really wasn’t. I started fiddling with my iPad and checking Facebook about forty minutes in…and while the pod-racer scene was playing, I was reading an article on the iPad, occasionally glancing up and thinking, this scene still isn’t over?
So, I can’t say that I’m sorry that I bought the movie from iTunes; but my original opinion still stands.
And now, to make up for it, I am going to go do some google-image searching of rugby players shirtless.
I am very interested in seeing the new documentary Strike a Pose, which is about the dancers from Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour; featured in her "Vogue" video as well as in the documentary about the tour, Truth or Dare.
I had an enormous crush on one of her dances, Salim Gauwloos. There was this moment in the video where he went from being very aloof, distant 1940's style Hollywood glamour:
And then looked up at the camera, and smiled. Every time he did that my heart melted.
So handsome. And he could dance.
He was also one of the dancers when she performed the song at the VMA's, using a Dangerous Liaisons theme; it's one of my favorite Madonna performances.
"Vogue" is one of my favorite Madonna songs, if not my absolute favorite; the song seems timeless; whenever I hear it again it sounds just as fresh and new as the first time I heard it almost twenty-five years ago. The video is gorgeous--very 1940's Hurrell style Hollywood glamour, and of course, there was Salim (who goes by Slam).
I remember renting Truth or Dare from Blockbuster when it first came to video; this was during the period when the initial Madonna pop culture revolution was starting to die down and people were beginning to talk about her being 'over-exposed'; Madonna has always been the kind of star whose pop culture presence ebbs and flows. Truth or Dare, many felt, was a misstep on her part; there was the famous quote from Warren Beatty that almost every film and pop culture critic picked up on and used to flagellate her: "She doesn't want to live off-camera." The documentary itself was the first time any celebrity had given that kind of access to anyone; it was, if you will, the first celebrity reality show--and no matter what you thought of her, you had to admire that she didn't mind coming across badly on camera. It was very definitely a 'warts-and-all' film. (People often call The Real World the birth of reality television; I would posit that reality television owes an enormous debt to Truth or Dare.)
I've always been interested in dance, and dancers; my recent obsession with ballet is yet another step on this lifelong passion of mine. I wish I'd been trained in dance when I was a kid; it is one of the few regrets of my life (it never would have happened, of course, dance wasn't masculine and so it would have been verboten; I have always enjoyed dancing), and so I am really looking forward to meeting Madonna's dancers from Blonde Ambition again, to see where they've gone and how their lives have turned out. My favorite parts of Truth or Dare were the parts about the dancers; they were so unabashed about themselves and their lives and their openness about their sexuality during the plague years was kind of inspiring.
I wonder how many young gay kids were inspired by this film to become dancers?
Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this movie. I have some other deeper thoughts about it--and Madonna--but they shall have to wait until another time.
Oh, and he aged very well.
Another Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment, and I am surveying the damage wrought by a Costco trip yesterday. I have an abundance of berries and pineapple; cherry tomatoes and mozzarella salad like it's going out of style, a rotisserie chicken, and an absurd amount of Pellegrino. I also got a bottle of Chardonnay I may have opened last night and rather enjoyed. (There's still a half bottle left; I'm not quite the drinker I used to be--which, all things considered, is a good thing....) I have a lot to do today and I fully intend to do it all. Paul is going flea marketing with our friend Lisa; so I have the house to myself today and absolutely no excuses not to get everything done.
My reading ADD is all over the place lately; I am reading three non-fiction books (still reading In Cold Blood before bed every night; started Peter Gay's Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider; and am also reading Edna Ferber's charming autobiography A Peculiar Treasure, which is charming, self-deprecatory, and witty--and I just realized this morning that people don't really write autobiographies anymore; they write memoirs...which would make for an interesting discussion at some other time), and am still reading two novels--Christopher Golden's Dead Ringers and Cornell Woolrich's Night Has a Thousand Eyes--and I really need to focus and read just one.
I've also gotten a lot of new books lately (so much for my 'not buying more books until I get caught up on the TBR pile' pledge; I think, though, that no one believed that, even me), amongst which are the entire collection of Catriona McPherson stand alones; the new John Hart; the new Steve Hamilton; a really juicy looking history of the Romanovs; and some others as well. Paul brought home some books for me that were sent to him at the office as well--publicists often send him books, hoping the authors will be included in the Festival, and he gives them to me--so there is a rather embarrassment of new riches around the Lost Apartment.
But one of the new books I've purchased is one that I already have numerous copies of: The Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon, also known as the first book in the Hardy Boys series.
This is the new back cover:
The original version I read when I was a kid was the revised text version with the blue spine and back cover, with brown end papers:
I am, of course, a collector of the old Stratemeyer Syndicate/Grosset & Dunlap series for kids (I also collect other kids' series; The Three Investigators and Trixie Belden weren't part of the afore-mentioned groups), and was always a fan of mysteries as a kid. I first read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden--before they were forbidden. My parents didn't think I was boyish enough, whatever that means, and decided that if I was going to read, I needed to read books about boys and history about men. As always with me, forbidding me to do something--or telling me I can't do something--only makes me want to do it all the more; this made the girls' series all the more interesting to me. But obediently I read the Hardy Boys, even though they weren't my favorite of the boys' series; they were just easier to find, and of course once my OCD kicked in I have to have all of them.
The Tower Treasure was the first Hardy Boys mystery, as I said earlier; my parents got me a starter set that included the first three, so it also included The House on the Cliff and The Secret of the Old Mill. I originally planned on reading them all in order, and collecting them all in order; unfortunately, that didn't happen, because when I was a Toys R Us and allowed to buy a book, the pyramid included on the cover design of The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior convinced me to get that one instead of The Missing Chums (Number 4), whose cover wasn't nearly as enticing and I hated the title. And it didn't really matter if you read the books in order, so from that point on I bought them as the covers appealed to me. I don't want to imply that I didn't like the Hardy Boys books; I did. I think had I been left alone to find them on my own--and I am sure I would have, just as I did The Three Investigators, Ken Holt, Rick Brant, etc.--I would have liked them even more. But every time I bought a Hardy Boys book, I felt like I was conforming; buying something I had to rather than something I wanted to, if that makes sense, which took away some of the pleasure I found in reading the books themselves. There were also issues I had, oddly enough, with the Hardy Boys and masculinity; issues I didn't have with the other boys' series books.
But I am getting off topic.
The Hardy Boys, regardless of how I started reading them, are a pleasant memory of my childhood; I still have all my copies and I continue to haphazardly collect them. I love this new cover design, and hope that all the Hardy Boys mysteries will be reissued with these new style covers, like with the latest reissues of the Nancy Drew books, with their new stylish and beautiful covers as well. The text hasn't been revised or updated in these new editions, so Frank and Joe and Nancy still don't have cell phones, the Internet, or computers--which is interesting. I did notice, when I read them originally, that some of the older books seemed dated (the original texts in particular; they weren't all revised at once, so the new ones were rolled out slowly but surely; so you could buy a copy one week that was original text and then the next time you went to the store the new text version was there) and certainly that cover of The Tower Treasure I originally was gifted was dated--for one thing, Frank and Joe looked much younger than eighteen and seventeen (even as an eight-year-old, I thought so) plus the slacks and sweaters over a dress shirt was rather formal; rather 1950's television teenager rather than a reality for the 1960's; how older adults would dress teenagers rather than how they would dress themselves.
I always thought, as a kid, that I would write them differently; try to make them more realistic. But you don't really mess with success, and no one can argue that the Hardy Boys weren't enormously successful.
I've never abandoned the idea of writing a mystery series for kids, similar to the Hardy Boys; it's gone through many iterations over the years, but those ideas are always in the back of my head. I've thought about writing a gay parody of the Hardy Boys, even though others have done it already and Mabel Maney probably did it the best (The Ghost in the Closet, with Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys, is hilarious). On my bucket list is to ghost write an actual Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book.
Hey, you never know.
And now, back to the spice mines.