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A Man With a Camera Rides a Wonder Wheel: Movies Viewed

Reading Documentary led me to watch THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929) in which Russian director/cameraman Dziga Vertov chronicles a day in the life of the USSR: trolley rides, industrial workers, sports competitions, a magician at a kids’ party, young women with parasols and crowds rushing two and from work. Vertov hoped to create an international language of pure visuals, without the use of intertitles; an impressive job, though constantly filming his camera crews at work undercuts the realism.

Given Woody Allen’s nostalgic streak I’m surprised the 1950s-set WONDER WHEEL (2018) isn’t a Radio Days-style tribute to Coney Island’s past. Instead, it’s a Tennessee Williams-style psychodrama in which lifeguard Justin Timberlake narrates how he came to have an affair with Kate Winslett, only to have the arrival of her stepdaughter Juno Temple (fleeing her mobster spouse) throw everything into chaos. Not only does Timberlake fall for Temple, Winslett’s husband Jim Belushi finds himself siding with his estranged child over his wife, all of which culminates in tragedy and heartbreak. A hamfisted drama with characters who are way too self-aware and dialog too self-consciously theatrical (Timberlake explains that away as his fallible memory but it still doesn’t work. And like Blue Jasmine this has echoes of Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter and not in a good way (once again everything would have been fine if the Mom wasn’t such a bitch).“What power — to tell a tragic story about the human condition and how we have to lie to ourselves to live!”

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Did I soar like an eagle this week? A small hawk, maybe

So last Friday I said I was on the brink of finishing Southern Discomfort. I was wrong. Things got slightly crazy that weekend starting on the Friday; nothing cataclysmic, but enough little distractions that I decided I’d do a better job postponing until Monday.

And Monday, I did it. Southern Discomfort is now done!!!!! And formatted, which is tougher; as Apple’s stupid Pages software can’t seem to set up a standard manuscript I had to save in Word, open my old laptop (old enough it still supports Word, unlike the current model) and format it there. As the old laptop’s touchpad is getting a little wonky that took a while (it might be worth paying to get it fixed, just so I can convert things easier).

Tuesday I plunged into short stories. I finished up an old flash fiction, Rabbits Indignateonem, and finally ironed out the plot problems with No One Can Slay Her (I’ll give it a final review next week).

Wednesday I switched to novels (as I mentioned New Year’s Day, my novel-writing plans for the year are absurdly ambitious). My initial replotting of Let No Man Put Asunder became more complicated than expected. I’m a much better writer than the last time I worked on it, and the plot and character arcs need a lot more work. But the ideas I threw in look promising.

Thursday I started the rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This went really slowly. Partly the changes I’ve decided on are more significant than expected, so that means more thought in the rewriting. And partly, I just didn’t have as much time as I expected. It took a lot of time to finish Southern Discomfort Monday, more than expected. That threw everything else off. And even though I worked out how much time to spend on different projects, I didn’t really stick to the breakdown. That’s a weakness of mine. So I put in much less time on Impossible than anticipated.

The week’s schedule has generally been a little weird. TYG’s been working from home and taking some time off, which is good (I wouldn’t have finished on Monday if she hadn’t been handling the dogs), but throws my usual rhythms off a little. Yesterday she left for an alumni event and won’t be back to Sunday. As I’ll be spending much of today and Saturday at Illogicon, we boarded the pups rather than have Plushie spend most of the weekend in a cage.

As a result, I spent yesterday completely by myself, today too. Much as I love my family, it’s very nice to occasionally enjoy a solitude staycation.

Anyway, because I had the car and didn’t have to worry about penning the Plush dog, I wound up working on a nunber of errands yesterday, which cut further into writing time (though I still made my quota for the week). I took a ton of stuff to Goodwill, bought food for next week, did some extra cleaning. Today I just took the day off and did more errands (taking my bike in for a tune-up for instance) and more cleaning. I also slept late, which I rarely do, and read a little extra.

(Trixie checks Wisp out through the blinds).

Next week I’ll be back to a regular writing schedule, with Leaf article returning to boot. Fortunately I’d already factored them into the amount of work I can potentially get done in a month.

And this weekend, Illogicon. My panels include:

5PM today: The Past was a Different Country. How do we convey the strange customs and oddball perceptions of the past to modern readers when we’re setting fiction in historical times?

6PM: Author dating game. A twist on the old TV Dating Game where each author comes on as a character from one of their books.

8PM Curses! Coming up with profanity for fantasy settings.


10AM: Panel on the worst SF movies. I suspect mine will involve Time Travel.

Noon: How What we Read for Fun Sculpts Us. How does our reading influence our attitudes?

1PM: Networking for Introverts

4PM: I give a reading (from Atoms for Peace).

Sunday 1pm: Get Your Facts Straight. Making sure historical/scientific/whatever information is accurate.

And Sunday TYG comes home. We hope to pick up the pups but we’ve paid through Monday morning just in case.

Here’s a better picture of Trixie to finish with.

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A traitor to humanity’s god: W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee

“It is the punishment of the South that its Robert Lees and Jefferson Davises will always be tall, handsome and well-born. That their courage will be physical and not moral. That their leadership will be weak compliance with public opinion and never costly and unswerving revolt for justice and right. it is ridiculous to seek to excuse Robert Lee as the most formidable agency this nation ever raised to make 4 million human beings goods instead of men. Either he knew what slavery meant when he helped maim and murder thousands in its defense, or he did not. If he did not he was a fool. If he did, Robert Lee was a traitor and a rebel–not indeed to his country, but to humanity and humanity’s God.” — WEB DuBois



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One challenge for this summer will be finding ways to use all the herbs TYG is growing outside.

So far we have basil, sage, rosemary, cilantro and fennel. Tomatoes and peppers but they’ll take a while to be ready.

Rosemary’s simple enough. I’ve been making rosemary roast potatoes every week since it grew. Last week I added rosemary herb bread. As TYG loves the roast potatoes that should take care of it.

Basil goes into lots of vegetarian dishes, so that’ll be simple enough. Next week it’ll be basil and mozzarella panini.

Sage is a little tougher. However I found a cornbread recipe with sage to go with chili next week. And the Penzey Spices website has lots of sage (and other herb and spice) recipes I can adapt. I’ve used enough of their recipes to know they’re a reliable source.

Cilantro? Haven’t found anything that grabs me (it’s not something I use as much as basil). Ditto fennel greens, as I don’t want to cut up the bulb yet.

The herbs are growing so fast, though, that I’ll probably have to freeze lots of them. No surprise: last time TYG made basil, I froze it with olive oil in small cups and ate pesto dishes for months. Fortunately we both like pesto. I may also ask if our neighbors can use some of the herbs for their own cooking.

I shall start freezing some rosemary and basil this weekend. There’s more than enough.

It’s a little extra work at times, but the results are worth it.

Photo of rosemary sourced from wikimedia. #SFWApro.


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An exhausting Thursday with zero writing

By choice. I took the day off so I could catch up on unrelated stuff. I didn’t get it all, but the important stuff got done:

•Depositing our tax refund.

•Straightening out a problem with our HSA.

•Sending my niece a birthday card with money in it.

•Cleaning the fridge. Much overdue.

•Getting another plumbing fix done. This one wasn’t urgent, but it should prevent problems down the road.

•Reviewing proposals from other contractors.

•Measuring our bathroom windows for screens.

•Looking up herb recipes online. TYG is back in the container-gardening game (that’s how we almost adopted that kitten) so I have basil, sage, rosemary, cilantro, and fennel to make use of.

Plus I put in some extra exercise. I’d hoped to take a long bike ride, but it got hot too early this morning. Tomorrow, perhaps.

I feel quite pleased. Have a photo of Plush Dog.


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Fewer bad things, not more

So my odious Senator, Thom Tillis, recently sent out an email to voters about how he’s fighting on behalf of Andrew Brunson, an Americn missionary detained in Turkey for supposedly being part of a secret conspiracy to create a Khurdish Christian state. He’s been held close to two years and Turkey’s authoritarian government is holding him based on secret testimony in closed court hearings.

From what I’ve read of the case, it sounds like Tillis is on the side of the angels in this one. Which is kind of ironic, or hypocritical as Tillis also voted to confirm CIA torturer Gina Haspel as CIA director. Holding Americans unfairly? Bad. America torturing other people? No big. Similarly, some of the interviewees quoted at the first link above spoke about how ““As an American, the presenting of this type of ‘evidence’ in a courtroom by secret witnesses is alien” — but it isn’t since 9/11. Heck, W’s administration asserted it could hold people, including Americans, without presenting any evidence in a courtroom, just on the president’s say-so. And I doubt Senators Tillis or Richard Burr would protest. (Tillis objected to Obama releasing Guantanamo detainees).

The thing is, that doesn’t make Tillis wrong in the Brunson case. Having Americans unfairly detained or tortured doesn’t somehow balance out America detaining other people. It isn’t justice — okay maybe if someone like Haspel or Dick Cheney were the victim it would have a poetic justice, but even that’s a stretch. What balances the scales is America not torturing or arbitrarily detaining people. The same way that wanting cops to treat blacks and whites equally doesn’t mean I want cops gunning down unarmed whites. It means that blacks shouldn’t be gunned down either (as this story notes, cops have no trouble notwhite man with a gun shooting a , wearing a bulletproof vest).

I remember one of my FB friends (his posts are now blocked) argued after the 2016 election that Dems had no grounds to complain about Russia interfering with our election because we’ve interfered with elections in other countries for years (I do not, by the way, believe he was arguing in good faith and would have taken that position if the Russians had hacked for Clinton). While true, that doesn’t mean Russian tampering for Trump balances the scales – the goal should be more fair elections, not less.

I admit there are a few circumstances where I’d feel some real schadenfreude if bad things happen to bad people. Paul Ryan has worked to roll back restrictions on banks passed in response to the 2008 financial meltdown. It would be perfectly appropriate if the next time the banks tank the economy, he lost all his money and then had to struggle to find health care (he’s also done his best to gut the ACA). It would be a sort of justice if Tillis, who voted to gut the ACA while insisting he wanted to improve it, had to struggle for health care. But let’s face it, it’s better to live in a country in which everyone, even all the Trump voters who support his efforts to gut ACA, have affordable healthcare available.

As a general rule, the total amount of suffering needs to go down, not up.

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Wonder Woman, a Wonder Dog, Lucifer, Deadpool and More: Graphic novel reviews

As last weekend’s activity didn’t give me much in the way of movie-viewing time, let’s review some comic-book TPBs instead:

Tired though I am of retelling Wonder Woman’s origin, Renae de Liz’s THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN: Origins makes it work. This has a mix of classic elements (Steve, Etta, WW II setting) with some of the more recent ones (Diana’s awkwardness adapting to man’s world, sinister evil lurking under Themyscira’s surface) and pulls it all together quite well. I really liked little details such as Diana catching a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and being horrified at the portrayal of Hippolyta (“This is how the world remembers my mother?”). Alas, the writer/artist had a falling-out with DC so we won’t be getting any more.

DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG by Adam Hines has lots of glowing reviews, but I must confess I couldn’t finish it. Part of the problem is that while the third I managed to get through has many great scenes, they’re outnumbered by the boring ones. There’s also the mechanical problem that Hines uses really, really small lettering in the word balloons and it was an effort to read. I’d say what it’s about, but frankly I don’t have the slightest idea how the different scenes fit together.

Mike Carey’s LUCIFER: Book One was another disappointment. It’s not that it’s bad, and if I’d never read anything from Vertigo before, I’d probably be blown away by this story of Lucifer’s adventures in Hell, Earth and other realms. But I have read it, and it reads like what Sandman, Hellblazer and Swamp Thing were already doing but with less spark. It doesn’t help that Lucifer seems to have the same personality as John Constantine. On the plus side, that’s a lot of subsequent volumes I won’t have to read!

DEADPOOL VS. THANOS by Tim Seeley and Elmo Bondoc was one I read as prep for my Thanos team-up Screen Rant list. Thanos and Deadpool are both in love with Death (Thanos is closer to an obsessive stalker), so when she disappears and people everywhere stop dying they reluctantly join forces to find out whodunnit? I lost interest in Thanos a long time ago, and Deadpool I can only talk in small doses. That said, this series wasn’t too bad, though I doubt I’d have bothered without the Screen Rant incentive.

NIGHTWING: Blockbuster by Seeley (again) and multiple illustrators reintroduces crime boss Roland Desmond, AKA Blockbuster, to the New 52, Nightwing reuniting with Huntress to stop some Spyral agents gone bad and Dick’s love life once again going south. Seeley’s work on the series has gone wildly up and down (see this review, and this one) but this one’s on the up side. However while I liked Dick’s conversation with girlfriend Shane about how he’s rejected Batman’s path of revenge, his argument she’s still mired in angry doesn’t convince (it’s certainlly not how she comes across). Overall, good.

GREEN ARROW has had similar highs and lows under Benjamin Percy’s writing, but not as high. The Rise of Star City should have been way more of a win, pitting Ollie Queen against an arrogant capitalist/objectivist who’s taken over Seattle and renamed it Star City, in line with a mystic secret discovered by Oliver’s ancestor (I’m curious what Seattle-ites make of this — it’s the kind of history usually attached to Gotham or Opal City, not a real place). Unfortunately it never catches fire and there’s way too much effort to make this look closer to the TV show (like the big reveal of the Ninth Circle’s leader). Ultimately, thumbs down.

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Early urban fantasy, Superman riffs and a fallen angel: books

The cover of THE SHADOW PEOPLE by Margaret St. Clair (cover by Jeff Jones) may look like a Conan variation but it’s actually a 1969 urban fantasy novel. Protagonist lives in Berkeley with his girlfriend, who’s kidnapped and dragged into Underearth by cannibalistic dark elves (apparently like Morlocks or Robert E. Howard’s Worms of the Earth they’re humans who’ve devolved into something subhuman). Our hero rescues her but gets tricked into downing some fairy food which is something like ergot-infested wheat; he spends several chapters and three years alternating stoned and in withdrawal before returning to the surface to find Berkeley turning into a police state (it’s a dsytopian law-and-order setting familiar from a lot of stories in that era). And the elves are following …

Unfortunately while Underearth is a spooky place to visit, it gets boring in larger doses; the elves are little more than animals so the endless wandering through the tunnels fighting them off wears out its welcome fast. Plus the sudden appearance of real magic at the climax is jarring, as it doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen to that point. While a lot of reviews paint this as a lost classic, I’ll have to thumb it down.

NEW SUPER-MAN: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic worked much better than I expected. Kong, the protagonist, is a dimwit teenage bully who winds up getting recruited by a covert government program creating a Justice League of China. As the new Super-Man Kong has powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals, but he’s still an idiot, and now he’s an idiot in the middle of a sinister conspiracy. Most of the elements of this are stock (any 21st organization that gives people superpowers is bound to have a hidden agenda) but Yang tells a good story and the Chinese setting makes it fresh.

LOVE AND CAPES: Do You Want to Know a Secret? by Thomas F. Zahler is the first collection of his Love and Capes webcomic. Bookstore owner Abby is shocked to discover the nerdy accountant she’s dating is secretly the Crusader, Earth’s mightiest hero; can she cope when her biggest rival is the Needs of the Many? Or learning that Mark’s ex was Amazonia (Wonder Woman, natch)? This is a delightful, funny romcom; I’ve already read the whole series online, but I was glad to pick up a hard-copy version.

KISS ME SATAN: New Orleans Is a Werewolf Town by Victor Gischler and John Ferreyra is readable, but not great; in a New Orleans dominated by werewolves, an unfortunate vision puts the city’s chief witch and seer at odds with the alpha wolf. Can Barnabus, a fallen angel working to earn redemption, keep her alive? This feels way too much like The Originals on the CW for me to get excited about it.

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The answer is “No!”

As No More Mr. Nice Blog says, Trump voters in rural America will stick by Trump even if his trade war hurts them. As noted in the post and the comments, Republican voters didn’t give Obama credit for boosting the economy; I remember in the 1990s, conservative pundits routinely credited Reagan for the booming economy, while ignoring that this would make him responsible for the Bush I recession. (It’s not just the working/middle class; the business class may dislike Trump but they’re still supporting him).

As several bloggers have pointed out since 2016, opposition to Trump that consists of being “troubled” or not approving of him doesn’t mean shit if you continue to support him. Rep. Matt Gaetz may be more rabidly supportive of Trump, but grudging support’s not any better. But why would they oppose a guy whose policies are solidly conservative?

I also agree with NMMNB that no, Trump’s corruption isn’t an issue either: “drain the swamp” means to get rid of liberals, not to actually fight corruption or stop Scott Pruitt cutting deals with people he regulates (though crossing his boss may soon make Pruitt a non-person). Liberals took away the glorious white male supremacy America used to bask in, so everything liberal is bad, including environmentalism.

Heck, right-wing pundits still blame liberals for Trump’s election. And many on the right are still seething that David Hogg got some of radio conservative Laura Ingraham’s advertisers to drop her (David Hogg, he’s so vicious! And he may have been working with the shooter!). Or that liberals have criticized Roseanne for being a Trumpite (I may post about this again, but I must say I liked the first episode). I’m sure conservatives’ commitment to free speech means they’ll criticize Sinclair Broadcast Group’s enthusiasm for propaganda. Haha, of course they won’t. Just like they’d still be ruining the country as much as possible if Clinton won.

Anti-gay activist Brian Brown wants us to know that the suffering he’s experienced for opposing gay marriage is just like Jesus. Right-wing pastor Chuck Baldwin thinks owning an assault rifle is a Biblical commandment. Alex Jones … well it’s scary people listen to him.

To end on an up note, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has conceded he has to hold special elections even if Republicans lose them. And an alt-right activist says the movement is falling apart. For example, one particularly nasty group is collapsing because some Nazis object to being Satanists.

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Some good covers, and one bad one

The great thing about comics is that there are times you actually have to ask “how do you stop a human killer whale?” Art by Marie Severin.

Art is uncredited. I think it’s a neat one, though IIRC Anthony Gilbert’s writing just annoys me.

Jeff Jones doing his best Frazetta riff

Uncredited. The one I don’t like. It’s not bad, but it’s very generic Gothic; given the premise of Conjure Wife is witchcraft in a modern college town, I think a more mundane setting would have fitted the book better.

By Valigursky. I like the little alien dude.

Uncredited art.

Len Goldberg’s work.

E.K. Bergey offers a take on Hamlet and Yorrick.

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