Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In the "What Are You Thinking?" Department

CNN MONEY foodstamp report.

Seriously. Our government -- completely out of money -- is currently ADVERTISING to get MORE people to sign up for food stamps.

The above article is from CNN, not a crazy right-wing blog.

According to the USDA:
At the end of fiscal 2011, the federal government spent $75 billion on food stamps.
At the end of fiscal 2008, the federal government spent $34.6 billion on food stamps.

I don't know my math, but that's OVER a 100% increase in just 3 years.

To be completely fair and accurate, George Bush also had a "recruitment" campaign for new food-stamp recipients, starting in 2004. During his 8 years in office (2000-2008), food-stamp payments from the federal government went up 63%. (Not quite as bad as over 100% in 3 years, but bad.)

Just a personal anecdote: While I was in elementary school, my family---with my father's low enlisted-man-military salary---qualified for free school lunches for me. We didn't take that, because it was EMBARRASSING to know that we even qualified for it, and we certainly didn't want to admit that publicly. Maybe it's time for the "Embarrassment Factor" to be brought back in to the public discourse about getting food stamps. As in, "What kind of loser can't even pay for his/her own food?"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Worst Movie EVER??

Friday night while trying to go to sleep at 2am, I was channel-surfing and came across a very blond Richard Thomas (of later Waltons "John-Boy" fame) emoting on a beach. And then Barbara Hershey turned up. And then it turned out that there were TWO blond beach-boys hanging around with Hershey, until a nerdy girl (a la Kim Darby, but not Kim Darby) showed up to question their pigeon-killing "fun," for instance.

Based on the boys' haircuts, I'd guessed it was from '67. Turned out to be from '69, called, "Last Summer."

When I first came across the crappy thing-of-a-movie, the trio were on a beach and had a seagull attached to a string and were shrieking, "Fly, fly!" at it. The seagull, obviously attached to a string, kept tumbling back down to earth. "Come on, come on," they'd then shriek as they tossed it back in the air. It tumbled down again, obviously (since it was attached to a fucking string!). But they kept on doing this 4 or 5 times, all the while wondering why it wouldn't fly.

A nerdy girl in the film then showed up on the beach, wondering what they were doing with the bird. I had some hopes for the bird then, but when the trio went off swimming, they told the nerdy girl to "leave the bird alone." She watched them swim off and then just looked at the bird. (Set the thing FREE, dipshit!)

A few minutes later, there's a cut from that scene to another creepy beach scene with the bird. This time the trio DO cut the string and, voila, the bird actually does fly off! Only then, it comes right back. (NOOOOOOOO, bird!) The Barbara Hershey character then gushes all over it: "You flew, you flew!" And then the thing fucking bites her--as well it should have--and draws blood. And then Hershey gets to go on: "You're so ungrateful, bird!"

Cut again. We see a bloody pulp of a bird lying on the beach. (Hershey's character has obviously killed it. For its ingratitude, I assume.)

This tediousness went on and on and on and on.... And then there were multiple other tediousnesses before I, gratefully, fell asleep:

(1) The trio (ominously, given the seagull that has just been murdered) teaching the nerdy girl how to swim. (God, who was more annoying? The dykey Kim Darby-wannabe expressing way-too-verbally her fear of swimming, or Richard Thomas way-too-phonily being patient with her? His acting was so bad, I couldn't tell if it was his phony character or just his own bad acting.)

(2) The trio first "learning" how to smoke pot. (Good lord, a 50-year-old studio hack must have written this.) Like the seagull-fly scene and the teach-the-baby dyke-to-swim scene, this went on and on and on. Culminating in the mutual WASHING OF HAIR. Filmed in a horribly "joyful" way. Need I say it: Who the fuck gets stoned and then decides to go wash each other's hair? Oh my goodness, how utterly stupid.

Thanks be to God, I fell asleep at this point. I don't know what ending up happening. I assume that the Kim Darby-like baby dyke got murdered. (I don't even care if she did, since she was so annoying. But then the other 3 were equally annoying, so I hope they got caught and fried. But, oh, since it was 1969, they weren't going to get fried...)

Before I went to sleep, I made a mental note: "REMEMBER THIS. This is one of the worst movies ever made."

Funny, but when I looked the movie up on the Internet today, found this WONDERFUL review at the time by Roger Ebert! The man is fucking nuts. How in the world did he go on to get a national film-reviewing job? He writes: "Cathy Burns, as Rhoda, clearly deserves an Academy Award nomination. Barbara Hershey's character, Sandy, seems easier to play but there is a marvelous subtlety in the way she gradually alters her relationship with the other three, Richard Thomas, as Peter, and Bruce Davison, as Dan, perfectly capture the ambiguity, the self-doubt, of, adolescence."

This movie was one of the absolutely FALSEST and DUMBEST things that I've ever seen onscreen.


Last Summer
Release Date: 1969
Ebert Rating: ****
By Roger Ebert / Aug 15, 1969

From time to time you find yourself wondering if there will ever be a movie that understands life the way you've experienced it. There are good movies about other people's lives, but rarely a movie that recalls, if only for a scene or two, the sense and flavor of life the way you remember it.

Adolescence is a period that most people, I imagine, remember rather well. For the first time in your life important things were happening to you; you were growing up; what mattered to you made a difference. For three or four years, every day had a newness and unfamiliarity to it, and you desperately wanted to act in a way that seemed honorable to yourself. Even if you didn't read Thomas Wolfe you were more idealistic than you were ever likely to be again.

But on top of the desire to be brave and honorable, there was also the compelling desire to be accepted, to be admitted to membership in that adolescent society defined only by those excluded from it. Because you were insecure, like all teen-agers still groping for a style and a philosophy, you tended to value other people's opinions above your own. If everybody else disagreed with you, then how could you be right? And so sometimes you repressed your own feelings, rather than risk being shut out. And yet, inside, there was still the strong force of that idealism, and occasionally it occurred to you that the way you handled these years might decide the worth of your life.

Frank Perry's "Last Summer" is about exactly such years and days, about exactly that time in the life of four 15- or 16-year-old adolescents, and it is one of the finest, truest, most deeply felt movies in my experience.

As "Last Summer" opens we are introduced to three affluent teen-agers, two boys and a girl, who are spending the summer on Fire Island with their parents. Sandy, the girl, is more familiar and experienced with sex than the boys, or so she would have them believe. The two boys are, naturally, unsure of themselves. They are not men and yet must be concerned with manhood. In the hot sun, during the long summer, the three friends circle the knowledge of sex like skittish colts.

But the movie is not really about them. It is about Rhoda, a plump and painfully idealistic girl from Ohio, who is also staying on the island. She forces herself into the group, her loneliness overcoming her shyness. And although she seems the most insecure of them all, she is the only one who knows her own mind and whose decisions are not determined by insecurity.

What happens then -- how the story is brought to a conclusion -- is not really important to the greatness of the movie. Indeed, the sensational last scene doesn't strike me as particularly valid. A quieter conclusion would have made the point.

But the movie makes its point anyway, with dialog, with exquisitely drawn characterizations, with a very accurate examination of the adolescent character. Some months ago I attacked a lousy movie, "The First Time," because it demonstrated no knowledge of how teen-agers really talk and think. Godard tells us that the only valid act of film criticism is to make another movie; "Last Summer" will serve as the definitive criticism of "The First Time."

One scene: Rhoda has just been taught to swim by her friend Peter. They rest on the beach, and she talks about some of the things she believes in, and then he does, and then with infinite delicacy they realize they "like" each other.

Another scene: Sandy and the two boys sit on the beach, drinking beer, fooling around, skirting the awareness of their own new sexuality. During this scene the friends become unequal; Sandy is now in control.

Another scene: A rainy day. Sandy, Peter and Dan experiment with pot. On an impulse, they wash each other's hair. They talk. They kill time, Rhoda arrives and feels excluded by the camaraderie. They convince her to tell "the worst thing" in her life. Reluctantly, she does; in a brilliantly acted monolog, she describes the death of her mother by drowning. The way Rhoda's ambiguous feelings are presented makes this the best scene in the film.

There are many other things I want to say about "Last Summer," but I don't want to diminish your experience in seeing the film for the first time. So a longer article will have to wait. But let me add that the performances of the four teen-agers are the best that could possibly be hoped for; Cathy Burns, as Rhoda, clearly deserves an Academy Award nomination. Barbara Hershey's character, Sandy, seems easier to play but there is a marvelous subtlety in the way she gradually alters her relationship with the other three, Richard Thomas, as Peter, and Bruce Davison, as Dan, perfectly capture the ambiguity, the self-doubt, of, adolescence.

Cast & Credits

Sandy Barbara Hershey
Peter Richard Thomas
Dan Bruce Davison
Rhoda Cathy Burns
Anibal Ernesto Gonzalez

Allied Artists presents an Alfred W. Crown and Sidney Beckerman production, directed by Frank Perry from a screenplay by Eleanor Perry. Based on the novel by Evan Hunter. Photographed in color by Gerald Hirschfeld.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"We're Gonna Try to Get Along"

Kennedy Center Honors George Jones (2008)

Ted Hughes wrote back to me personally and said he liked my poems.
And George Jones made eye contact with me when he played at Stubb's in Austin.

I'm good.

The Unknown

Last week I read in Austin's weekly paper about an upcoming showing tonight of the 1927 silent film "The Unknown," starring Lon Chaney and, most importantly to me, Joan Crawford, in one of her earliest films.

If it had simply been a screening downtown, say at the Paramount or someplace, I could have/would have just gone and watched. But this thing was a SHOWPIECE! :) The film, plus a live original score, plus a fancy dinner, PLUS an aftershow of "hired knife throwers, circus performers, hula hoop artists, and even a klezmer band (Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour)"! THAT is EXACTLY my idea of an interesting and fun Friday night! A JOAN CRAWFORD silent + a live score that I'd never heard before + a dinner that I'd never tasted before + the way-out circus stuff happening afterwards!

Can't just go to such a thing by yourself, though. :( I missed out.

And then, just getting on Twitter tonight, saw a candid pic from before the event, from local film critic Harry Knowles (of "Ain't It Cool News" fame):

I liked seeing all of the older people in the picture; old-school Joan admirers, as opposed to those interested primarily in irony. (Though I'm sure the latter were in the audience, too.)

A lot of the time, I don't mind being alone. But tonight's event was one example of something I wish I could have gone to with someone.


The initial article from The Chronicle last week describing tonight's event:

Wading Into 'The Unknown'
A live score, fancy eats, and circus feats accompany a silent film masterpiece
By Rachel Feit, Fri., June 15, 2012
Wading Into 'The Unknown'

There's a scene in Tod Browning's film The Unknown in which Lon Chaney plays the guitar with his feet. This scene got the Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League, who played classical guitar as kid, thinking about a guitar-based score to accompany the film. The 1927 silent takes place in Spain, and Chaney plays a knife-throwing circus performer with no arms. The film only gets stranger from there.

League asked Matt Hinsley, president and founder of the Austin Classical Guitar Society, if he might be interested in writing an original score for the film. The idea had appeal, but Hinsley was not sure he wanted to take on the task himself. However, he had just hired the Europe-based guitar duo, Les Frères Méduses, to perform in Austin over the summer. A partnership between Randall Avers and Benoît Albert, Les Frères Méduses is known for its light-hearted humor and playful theatricality.

"Randy has an uncanny knack for comedy in music, and Benoît is a true composer who also has a feel for dance and performance," says Hinsley. He reasoned that if anyone could write a score for a movie set in a traveling circus, they could. He sent them a copy of the film and asked if they would be willing to take on the job. Their response was an emphatic "yes."

Things fell into place pretty rapidly from there, as good ideas tend to do. Avers and Albert were thoroughly energized by the project. The score that they wrote features some of their own original compositions, as well as variations on well-known guitar pieces like Joaquín Rodrigo's "Tonadilla." Violinist Will Fedkenheuer, of the Miró Quartet, will accompany them on a gypsy-inspired romp into a bizarre film world of mystery and freak shows that makes Water for Elephants look like a Ringling Bros. commercial.

Meanwhile, Hinsley, ever the ringmaster, has concocted a complete circus ambience surrounding the event. He's hired knife throwers, circus performers, hula hoop artists, and even a klezmer band (Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour) for the aftershow.

John Bullington, the Alamo Drafthouse's executive chef, developed a menu of passed appetizers and plated dishes to be served before and during the screening. Working within Hinsley's general parameters (vegetarian options and gluten-free friendly), Bullington's menu is an homage to Spain's vibrant flavors. Roasted summer vegetables accompanied by romesco sauce, citrusy squid escabeche, and mushrooms stuffed with manchego and chorizo are among the culinary delights designed to transport guests into the weird world of The Unknown. For the more carnivorous among the guests, there will be smoked beef with blue cheese and Vidalia onion jam. Wines have been chosen to pair with the meal. The entire event promises to be brimming with musical fantasy, film, food, and fun.

The Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow, Austin Classical Guitar Society, and AMOA-Arthouse will screen The Unknown at Laguna Gloria on Friday, June 22. See www.drafthouse.com for ticket info.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What to do with extra money?

With a decent income coming in (as "income" is wont to do) for the past few months, and for a couple of months to come (and paying for a few months after 'til the end of the year), I've had extra money floating around and was wondering: What in the world do people do with a whole lot of extra money?

I mean, I'd been clothes-deprived for 5 years or something, so I had a mental (and blog) list of stuff I needed. Which all came to under $1000. And I'd felt music-deprived, so I bought a ton of used CDs to get my music collection back to where it was 6 or 7 years ago. (Maybe $400 on those.)

And I've got money set aside for a new laptop ($1000) and new love-seat ($375) and iPod ($200?).

But that's about it. My $20 Craig's List TV is fine with me. I don't need a car for anything. (Bus takes me straight to my job and the supermarket and the occasional library and mall trip. Though I am considering paying for a monthly subscription to Car2Go, just so I don't have to CARRY those groceries post-bus a half-mile every time!)

I guess the best thing about extra money every month would be paying for a nicer place to live. (I don't mind living in a SMALL place; I just mind living in a LOUD place with obnoxious neighbors. My current $600-a-month one-room apartment is, for the most part, decent, but there are always Outbursts of Loud in the complex. And I just dislike being around Hipsters and Slackers in general. My immediate goal: A garage apartment, sans any neighbors, for about $850.)

While I was pondering all of the above, came across this news article today about a woman who had pilfered $10 million (!) from her employer over 7 years.

58-year-old employee steals $10 million from company over 7 years.

Some of the stuff (below) I thought was actually a GREAT way to spend extra money! I mean, the lady liked food, so she had the special food preparation. She was a Catholic, so she got the special Vatican and Sistine Chapel tours. She liked Broadway shows, so she got the special "Phantom" and "Kevin Spacey" treatment. Sports? Deluxe SuperBowl treatment! Books? Special "Harry Potter" edition!

It was all kind of personally meaningful expenditures, not just random stupid stuff! And her jail time is "only" 78 months. Perhaps the eternal memories of the incredibly fun stuff she got to do with the money might actually be worth the jail time.

"...$32,500 for a luncheon for six people prepared by Food Network star Ina Garten at her barn in East Hampton, NY; $5,000 for "The Vatican Package," which included Mass in Papal Audience with VIP seating, plus airfare for four, VIP tour of the Vatican Museum with a private tour guide, and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel alone with family before it is open to the public; and $2,500 for a Phantom of the $2,500 for a Phantom of the Opera experience, including costume fitting, wig fitting, escorted on-stage during the Hannibal Opera sequence, and four seats for the performance; $10,000 for a Ralph Lauren showroom tour and suit; $52, 500 for six club level tickets to the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas; $5,600 for autographed first America edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with signed book plates by J.K. Rowling, $11,100 dinner with Kevin Spacey after his performance in Richard III...."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love 15

I was in love with this girl (now insanely huge woman) when I was 15! When she left my public high school to attend a private Baptist school, I cried and cried and cried and BEGGED my mother to let me go to that private Baptist school with her!

At 14, she starred as "Sarah Brown" in our school's production of "Guys and Dolls." To great brouhaha, and many dates from even flashy athletes afterwards (which trickled off when word came back that she really was a "good girl" and didn't put out).

She sang BEAUTIFULLY. She was clearly special and star-like in "Guys and Dolls." And didn't want any of the recognition then. And then, obviously, let herself go beyond all recognition in the subsequent years.

Seriously, what makes someone absolutely GIVE UP like this? I cannot even fathom appearing in public looking like this---most especially when you'd once been a stunner.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dream and Pink Pants

A combination of a Russ Meyer and Frankie-and-Annette film, but all in Technicolor:

4 buxom beach girls, circa 1960, are carrying on a tarp/platform 4 beach-boys, one on each corner. The boys are flexing, the girls smiling back at the camera, which is pointed at them as they make their way toward the ocean.

Then you see a small yacht coming in, heading right toward the group as they continue to parade toward the edge of the water. Close-up of the thin-lipped, grim, blonde middle-aged captain, wearing a stereotypical captain's hat. He keeps staring straight ahead, making no attempt to stop the boat as it heads toward the shore.

Bass drums, bass trombones. Overall big-band excitedly ominous Russ-Meyer music.

The boat shoots ahead, straight into the group and the camera (me), smashing all.


I woke up at this very second, an hour before my alarm was set, feeling EXTREMELY awake and exhilarated for the first time upon waking in MONTHS. Immediately wrote down:

The lines in the sand that she had drawn
were still there once the tide had come and gone.

And then went and put on the pink pants that I bought over a month ago and have never worn. And my new black pointy flats that I was afraid would be uncomfortable. And my jangly black earrings. And grabbed the gaudy black/white/pink/orange/green Jessica Simpson purse never carried 'til now. And I strutted and secretly posed all day.

Happy 70th birthday...

...to a genius who also somehow managed to keep his angst to himself for all these years and, instead, concentrated on entertaining and on making people happy.

THANK YOU, Paul McCartney.

Maybe I'm a man
Maybe I'm a lonely man
Who's in the middle of something
That he doesn't really understand...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Watership Down


I read this when I was about 10 and, honestly, cannot remember anything triumphant about it. What I most remember is the animal experimentation/torture! (DID the rabbits ever escape completely?)

Today in my office, an editor had her 12-year-old daughter in, who was reading "Watership Down." Another editor came to visit and commented on how mature the girl was for reading such a book at that age. The 2nd editor expounded (though admitting in the meantime that she'd never gotten beyond the first third of the book): "I liked it because the rabbits weren't thinking like people, they were just rabbits and thought exactly like rabbits." (Huh? Of course the book was anthropomorphized! How could it obviously NOT be?)

The 2nd editor talked and talked and talked about the book (saying NOTHING) and then ended with this to the 12-year-old girl: "I'm so happy that you're reading this! And maybe once you finish reading, one day you'll decide to grow up and become a rabbit."

HUH??? WHAT???? And the woman was serious. I thought I was going mad listening to the whole stupid conversation. Until the woman left, and then the girl said to her mother: "What was she TALKING about? I don't think she really read the book. She wants me to grow up and become a RABBIT?!"

Thanks, kid! :)

Cousin Randi Jean meets Gene Simmons

Oh my god! This is my East Texas cousin that I used to play with! Just one year younger than me. And here she is, schmoozing with Gene Simmons (whose KISS face I insisted my mother create on my birthday cake when I was twelve)!

I'm so jealous!!!!

In other "Randi Jean" news: Years ago, back in the late '90s, when I was still talking to my father, he also expressed admiration for her: "She married a lawyer." I'd just gotten my Master's degree then, but he didn't have anything to say about that.

As for me: Wasn't envious of her marrying a lawyer, but I sure am envious of her meeting Gene Simmons! :)

The Cold Hard Truth (for the dead asshole Jim Pettus)

You don't know who I am
But I know all about you
I've come to talk to you tonight
About the things I've seen you do.

I've come to set the record straight
I've come to shine the light on you
Let me introduce myself
I am the Cold Hard Truth.

There is a woman we both know
I think you know the one I mean
She gave her heart and soul to you
You gave her only broken dreams

You say you're not the one to blame
For all the heartaches she's been through
I say you're nothing but a liar
And I'm the Cold Hard Truth.

All your life that's how it's been
Lookin' out for number one
Takin' more than you give
Movin' on when you're done.

With her you could have had it all
A family and love to last
If you had any sense at all
You'd go and beg her to come back.

You think that you're a real man
But you're nothing but a fool
The way you run away from love
The way you try to play it cool

I'm gonna say this just one time
Time is running out on you
You best remember me my friend
I am the Cold Hard Truth....

Obama vs. Romney

My presidential voting record since I turned 18:

1984: Mondale
1988: Dukakis
1992: Clinton
1996: Perot
2000: Gore
2004: Kerry
2008: McCain

2012? Well, since I wasn't an Obama fan the first time he ran, I'm certainly not knee-jerkingly supporting him this time. In 2008, I supported Hillary Clinton, and I was disgusted by how she was slammed in the left-wing media by newscasters who were overtly pro-Obama (including one MSNBC dweeb who said that Chelsea Clinton was "pimping" for her mother). I ended up supporting McCain in 2008 because he had a record of common-sense-ness: campaign finance reform, immigration reform. Obama, on the other hand, had a record of... nothing.

In 2012, the Reagan debate question of 1980 is first and foremost in my mind: Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

No, I am not.

Personally, I am certainly not. But I don't want to be all emotional in my decision-making, so here are some stats that I also looked up:

Unemployment 11/08 (end of Bush): 6.7%
Unemployment 05/12 (after 3.5 years of Obama): 8.2%

National debt:
Bush built up 4.9 trillion in debt in 8 years.
Obama built up another 5.1 trillion in 3.5 years.

2011: Moody's downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the first time in 70 years, due specifically to the US government's unwillingness to deal with its deficit spending.

Bush was incompetent, but Obama has been even more so.

The alternative? Romney: a socially liberal, good-government Republican of the old (70s) school, despite what he was forced to say during this season's right-wing primaries. Look at how he, as governor, ran his state (Massachusetts) for an example of his actual leadership. I also don't have a problem with his having been a part of Bain, which went in and "cleaned up" financially troubled companies. And his being called in to clean up the 2002 Olympics is also a positive to me.

Obama speaks well and I think he's charming. But he's never accomplished anything, either before the Presidency or during. Most importantly, he was elected when the country was in an economic crisis, yet he had no economic experience whatsoever, nor did he have any relationship with any legislators who did, who could help him.

I'm only pro-Obama when I hear right-wing Republicans go on about birth control and/or gay rights. As a gay woman, I start to circle the wagons when I hear that kind of anti-woman, anti-gay bullshit. But I don't WANT TO circle the wagons! I WANT TO be completely logical in this election's decision!

Wearing White/Suiting Up

Months ago, I bought a pair of white pants, and two pairs of white shoes to go with. But then didn't have a PURSE to go with, so didn't wear. And then finally bought an expensive leather white purse to go with a couple of weeks ago. And then STILL wouldn't wear, for psychological reasons. For some reason, felt too gaudy or something! WHY IS THAT? I'd wake up for work, and if I didn't feel GREAT, didn't put on the white, just the usual jeans/black/earth-toned. No white, no bright orange or pink pants.

Friday, I finally said "fuck it." I didn't wake up feeling great, but I was just tired of avoiding the white pants. Wore them. My boss said she liked my outfit. The lunch lady said she liked my outfit. There we go. Broken in. I felt light and fluffy all day.


The time for wearing white is gone
we grab our steeds and learn to pray
while spider-sound hovers, blade itching our palm
and we find only steel for reflection.

In other white-wearing news: Wearing white is also a pain in the ass. You can't just sit down outside anywhere, for one thing. And with white shoes, you can't just walk anywhere. And with a white purse, you can't just set it down anywhere. (Also, since the white purse was a nice small leather one, I couldn't just stuff stuff in it: water bottle, etc.) My whole day Friday was spent avoiding surfaces because of my get-up!

Price you pay, though. Same minorly irritated thing I felt when I, months ago, started buying new earrings and necklaces for the first time in years and then was ticked off because it took time in the morning for me to choose which accoutrements to put on! :)

Being out of "The Game" is easy. Choosing to be back in it requires "Suiting Up."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"We Are Young"

Every time I hear this song, I get goosebumps. (Here, from SXSW in Austin this spring.)

Cheesily HOT!

Currently on sale on eBay for only $75,000! (Apparently Olivia De Berardinis -- whom I'd never heard of -- is a quite well-known modern-day pin-up artist, with original art in Playboy every month. Her version of Joan is from 1980.)

Another potential birthday gift, people. This and Rob Brezsny's "Pronoia." And a wooden bookshelf. Your pick. Start saving now, please, because August isn't so far away.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doing The Empress

I've been putting the attempt at this screenplay off and putting it off out of FEAR AND IGNORANCE ("What in the hell do I know about Constantinople circa 540???"), but I just need to jump right in and start it!

I first started thinking about the Empress Theodora after seeing a History Channel special back when I was still in Weehawken. (What was the topic of the show? The whole history of the Roman Empire? The Plague's effects? I can't at all remember.) At any rate, there was a mention of an Empress who stood down a rioting crowd of 30,000 at Constantinople's Hippodrome when her husband and his advisors were ready to flee. She prevailed, and he ruled for another 20 years or something, later known as the high point of the Byzantine Empire. (Justinian also went on to became famous for codifying disparate laws of the far-flung empire, based on decisions of both legal thinkers/judges of antiquity and then-ongoing cases. And there was also the ongoing battle between Christianity and paganism... Both of these not major parts of the screenplay I want to write, but necessary atmosphere to KNOW about.)

Who WAS that? The more I learned about her personal story, the more interesting I found her: daughter of a Hippodrome bear-keeper who died, forcing his widow and daughters to beg (and sell themselves) for financial support after being betrayed by the dead husband's political faction (a decision that Theodora later made sure came back to bite them in the collective ass!); later an "actress" (more likely "prostitute" according to Procopius's outrageously salacious "history" of the time period) before attracting and marrying the man in line to become emperor. And then that whole riot scene in which she saved her husband's rule: I could just see the whole thing so clearly and cinematically. (I can also see Procopius --- allegedly trusted advisor, later sleazy betrayor --- as a GREAT character...)

I've written one other screenplay, but there wasn't much research involved. Just a general knowledge of 1950s Hollywood and America needed, which I already knew.

This, though... Like I said above: Constantinople in the 520s-540s???? What the fuck? I mean, I can write emotional scenes, but in this case, there has actually got to be some real historical background and setup. (Stuff like: Why were those city residents, initially gathered in the Hippodrome to watch some chariot races by two teams, suddenly turned into a snarling mob? A mob that INCLUDED the two opposing teams who just as suddenly joined forces and also rushed the Emperor...)

So for the past year I've been freaking out about not knowing enough. Getting a book or two from the library and reading maybe a third of each before they were due back. I finally decided to BUY the books I needed, cheap from either Amazon or eBay. That's not going to solve the procrastination-in-writing problem, but it gives me a sort of psychological safety net. I can just start WRITING the thing, and then when I hit a historical-ignorance snag, I've got 6 books to back me up. Don't have to read all of them all the way through ahead of time, but they're THERE for me to rely on. (Though I DO want to read most of them so I'll be in tune with the time period.)

Interestingly to me, while I was lounging around today browsing through "Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire," I had on the History Channel low in the background (old-school History Channel: alien visits to Earth, as opposed to their trend nowadays of "Ice Road Truckers" or "Swamp People" or whatever stupid thing) --- and perked up when I heard the phrase "Justinian's flea"! In this case, guys positing that aliens dropped a plague on Byzantium, et al. But still: Shades of my first hearing about Theodora and Justinian on that channel years ago, so a good sign! :)

I MISS having a creative project to work on. For the past 5 years, I've basically been just in Bare-Sustenance Mode, struggling for work, struggling over love issues. I'm now pretty much set financially until the end of the year. And I've come to terms with not being loved (well, you know, as much as one CAN come to terms with that!). :) I've very much missed the RUSH of being really interested in something intellectually and creatively. This Theodora project is getting me geared up again.

Sacred Advertisement

Always a fan of Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology:

Even if your heart's not exactly shattered at the moment, it has no doubt been so at some time in the past. I invite you to feel a wave of sadness about your suffering, then move on to this possibility: that having a broken heart is one of the best things that can happen to you.

Why? Because it strengthens your humility, which makes you smarter. It demonstrates to you that you have a tremendous capacity for deep feelings -- far more than you're normally aware of. It breaks down defense mechanisms that have desensitized you to the world's secret beauty. It may also inspire you to treat other people's hearts with greater care, making it more likely that you'll be able to create intelligent intimacy in the future.


From Rob Brezsny's book "PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings." Need this for my birthday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Hell stays open all night long.

My Idaho Home vs. Don't Come Home a-Drinkin'

Ever since seeing Altman's "Nashville" (1975), I can't think of Loretta Lynn without also thinking of the satire by Ronee Blakley and the constant "mama and daddy" stuff (and the maxi-dresses and the hair and the deservedly getting shot for being so smarmy):

But, but... they're actually quite different! Loretta LOOKED like that and, yes, she had a couple of too-much "mama and daddy" songs, and often smiled psychotically sweetly during her performances... like THIS ONE:

But Lynn's songs were most often actually emotionally honest and hard-edged and FUNNY, as well as good (also like the song above), despite the put-on smiles and hair when performing for a national TV audience.

Altman missed the soul and humor of country music in favor of the easy making fun. In "Nashville," he got in his digs, and uncovered somewhat the underbelly, but also missed out on both the ecstatic and the intentionally goofy side, which are very much also the true spirit of the place. (Kind of like John Schlesinger's "Day of the Locust" -- also released in '75 -- another brilliant completely one-sided anti-Valentine to a city and industry, this time Los Angeles/the movies.)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Pill (1975)

I've been listening to "Loretta Lynn: The Definitive Collection" tonight, for the THIRD time in a row!

This particular song was a big, controversial mainstream deal in '75, when contraceptives -- and the previously "officially" suppressed female desire to NOT constantly have babies -- weren't yet completely "acceptable," especially among the more conservative country fans that Loretta Lynn represented.

Pretty radical, Loretta! :)

Birthday Greetings

My mom and dad (married in 1962, when they were 21 and 22) have been divorced since 1977, but he still calls her every year on her birthday (they're now 71 and 72). I like him much better for that. (Though I'm sure his current wife does NOT!) :)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Luka Magnotta: When Twinks Go Bad

I just watched my first snuff video.

Well, not "technically" snuff: The male murder victim was alive and moving (albeit heavily drugged) at the beginning of the 10-minute clip. And you didn't see him get killed. But he was clearly dead by the time all the mutilation started. And there was a LOT of nasty (and, finally, tediously drawn out) mutilation (to the musical accompaniment of "True Faith" by New Order, which also was featured in the film "American Psycho").

Why I watched: Maybe I was mad because I never could find the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tape online. Or see the "Osama bin-Laden dead" photo. Seriously. I always hear about these things but by the time I look them up, all actual video/photos have been taken down. So this time I WAS going to see something forbidden, dammit.

Once I'd found the clip but before I started it, I was wondering how I would react: Would I get physically sick? Would I be outraged? Angst-ridden? Scarred for life?

How I initially came across this creepy clip was through an (I thought) innocuous small headline on Yahoo's News page today: "Canadian porn star killer's victim identified." Just looking for something to read, I clicked on it.

Lots of weird details followed: The killer's name (after changing it a couple of years ago) is "Luka Rocco Magnotta" --- which, I think, is a really great made-up name. (His real name is "Eric Clinton Newman.") He's a sleazy, ageing (29) gay twink who's done some stripping and escorting in the past (hardly a porn "star" -- just an ageing gay club kid who couldn't even make it as a waiter).

But there's more: It turns out he's invented online a whole persona for himself: porn star, model (with 3 self-created websites featuring photo galleries -- TOTALLY like another ageing twink with equally dead eyes that I know), member of the Russian mafia, victim of both the judicial system and online slander... Oh, and he was interviewed by the "Toronto Sun" a couple of years ago bemoaning the "fact" that since he once dated notorious serial killer Karla Homolka, the media wouldn't leave him alone... (He never dated Homolka.) Wait, there's still more... He's also been posting online in recent years various videos of killing kittens, which led to animal rights groups protesting and reporting him to authorities.

AND... He himself posted this snuff video before MAILING THE BODY PARTS to Canadian officials and then disappearing (he's believed to now be in France).

His murder victim was Lin Jun, a 33-year-old Chinese student who was first reported missing on May 24. An Interpol warrant for Magnotta's arrest was issued May 30. I'm sure there's much more to follow. (Shades of Andrew Cunanan, another twink who went on a killing spree in 1997 and famously murdered Versace before killing himself. All of which I followed avidly on CNN, since I didn't have a computer and online access until 2000.)

How I reacted to seeing the Magnotta mutilation clip: No dramatic running to throw up, just an initial extreme mental nausea and mild physical nausea as the thing went on and on and on for 10 minutes, finally actually becoming mundane, as hard as that is to admit. After a while, the flesh-cutting started to look almost like what you'd see live in the butcher section of any supermarket. And then I, not willingly, found myself thinking, "WHY is it taking so long to cut a chunk out of the buttocks?" Even the little dog at the end lapping at the bloody stumps didn't completely phase me; after all, hadn't I already read about such in "Hollywood Babylon" (actress Marie Prevost's fate)?

Even the New Order song shut off halfway through, so the viewer was just left with silence (aside from a couple of sneezes) while the dull ugliness went on and on...

But I'd vowed that I would be tough and watch it all the way through, just to say that I did. And I did. I've now seen a snuff video.

What I wonder about my own psyche: I knew the links to both the human-mutilation and the kitten-killing. I was willing to go see the human mutilation, but not the kitten-killing. And I'm willing to share the horrible human mutilation link here ("1 Lunatic, 1 Icepick"), but not the links to the killing of the kittens.