Oh Elon…

The latest news about Tesla and their vehicles is… not great.

There have been pretty significant layoffs, including the entire staff behind the wonderful Superchargers (I’ll get into that in a moment), following the news that sales during the first quarter of the year were slow/stagnant.

Is Elon panicking?

Unlike so many others who speculate about internal issues such as this, I genuinely don’t know but feel incredible sympathy for those laid off. Maybe there was an urgent need to tighten the proverbial belt around Tesla and maybe the release of the Cybertruck wasn’t quite as successful as hoped or maybe Tesla simply needs to provide a new “wow” product beyond the refreshed Model 3…

If I was to speculate, though, regarding the stagnant sales, I would say that Tesla may well be a victim of its own success. I’m a big fan of the cars (can’t say the same about Musk himself) and, frankly, I love them.

In 2019 I bought a Model 3 and in 2021 bought my wife a Model Y. Because of those stagnant sales and discounts offered following the disappointing first quarter sales, I wound up getting curious and decided to check our local Tesla dealership as to the cost of trading in my Model 3 for a Model Y. I was frankly shocked that, with the $7500 EV credit and a $22,000 trade-in value for my car, I could buy myself a brand new 2024 Model Y for a grand total of… $19.9K!

If that isn’t a great deal on a new car, I don’t know what is, so I took advantage and took it.

Going back to what I said above, though, is the idea that maybe Tesla is a victim of its own success. Granted, some of the batshit crazy stuff Musk has been saying since buying Twitter has turned many people who might normally be interested in buying his cars very off.

I don’t blame them!

But the reality is also that the Tesla vehicles are IMHO superior to pretty much everything else I’ve ever driven and I could have easily kept my Model 3 for several more years without a second thought. The only reason I decided to trade it in is because the offer was simply too good to not take advantage of.

There is this story told here and there online that the quality of Tesla cars is terrible and I know there are those who have had the vehicles and have had problems with them (this tale of woe has appeared for the Cybertrucks of late) but for me the reality is that the now three Tesla vehicles I’ve had and driven have all been superior rides and given me absolutely no problems.

So if we are to remove those who are so turned off by Musk’s craziness and therefore refuse to consider a Tesla, I wonder how many people are like me: People who enjoy their Teslas and are perfectly content to keep them for many years before even thinking of trading them in or getting a new vehicle.

Again: The only reason I got rid of my 2019 Model 3 was because the deals available to get a new one were simply too good.

It does raise the question of the future of Tesla and electric vehicles in general.

If Musk and company feel they have over-extended themselves and must now pull back and lay off people, one wonders just how deep the resources of Tesla are. There is also the threat of Chinese vehicles eventually making their way to the United States. The tariffs are keeping them at bay but my understanding is that considerable investment has been made in Chinese EV products and there are many that could easily threaten not only Tesla but all the other car companies out there.

As for me?

Well, I still love my Tesla and can never see myself returning to gas powered vehicles again.

I’ve noted before that EVs are not perfect. They are two innovations away from being truly magnificent (maybe 30-50 more miles of “real” range and cutting down full charging by maybe 10 minutes) but as they stand today they’re IMHO far and away better vehicles to own.

Understand: Since getting my Model 3, I have not had to do any work on my car. Obviously no need to go to a gas station or get the oil changed. I still go get gas for my daughter’s car if I’m up early enough on the weekend and its surprising to me the awful smell of a gas station… especially when one hasn’t had to go to a gas station with any regularity!

There have been reports of tires wearing out quicker but, frankly, I haven’t seen that either. If you drive like a maniac and like to “punch it” with the EV -and its acceleration is spectacular versus the gas powered cars!- then don’t be surprised if your tires wear out quickly. However, if you drive normally, the tires will last.

In the end, I hope Tesla has a rebound. I hope those who were laid off find work again quickly. I also hope -though don’t expect- Musk to have an epiphany and realize the crazy shit he’s been saying these past few years haven’t done him any favors. On the contrary, it actually turns off the type of people who may be more interested in buying EVs… his included.

One can dream.

End of the beginning…

…beginning of the end?

Today, April 15, 2024, Donald Trump, ex-President and current Republican candidate for the Republican party, is in court facing his first actual, honest-to-goodness criminal trial.

Criminal.

Oh, and if it isn’t obvious… BEWARE… THERE BE POLITICS DISCUSSED HERE…!

So much crap has happened since he first announced his first candidacy against Hilary Clinton some, what, five thousand years ago now? Won the Presidency (thanks to the electoral college… he actually got less votes than Ms. Clinton), was impeached several times, had a disastrous presidency (I know there are those who don’t think so but… seriously?!?!), then lost to Joe Biden but refused to accept that fact and started his “I wuz robbed” campaign which continues to this day.

He’s already been found liable in two civil trails, one in which he was formally found guilty of sexual assault and another involving lying about the values of his properties and thus not paying the taxes owed. Between those two civil trails, he’s in the hole by nearly $250 million and counting. If the tax trail -on appeal though the monies proffered for the appeal are questionable and may wind up getting him in even more trouble (if that’s even possible)- ultimately loses its appeal, Trump will then owe somewhere north of $350-450 million on that trail alone…!

But here’s where the rubber hits the proverbial road.

In this case, which involves campaign financing illegalities -specifically paying off Stormy Daniels to deny an affair during a time where such an admission might have cost him the first election- Mr. Trump may well wind up being actually found guilty of criminal activities.

Remember: Trump’s one time attorney Michael Cohen served time in jail for elements related to this case.

So buckle up kids…

…I suspect we’re in for one hell of a ride. And it could well be the start of the end for Mr. Trump.

Artistic tropes…

Since discovering eBay (yeah, I know, really late to this party and all) I’ve been on something of a tear picking up books I either used to have back in the day or wanted and never got or, if I’m being honest, simply buying stuff that was released at a time I found the stuff around it fascinating.

Now, I’m not going to say it’s all top tier stuff. It’s not. But, dammit, I like it.

As I’ve been picking up horror titles released by DC Comics in the 1970’s (favorites of mine), I came to a realization and, as I’m on a Facebook group devoted to horror titles, I posted this realization. I find it fascinating enough to reprint and expand on it here.

Even if you’re not a fan of the titles released back then, I hope you find this stuff interesting!

Below are four covers to DC’s The Witching Hour! horror book. From left to right, we have Witching Hour 45, 31, 52, and 55.

I’m sensing a pattern here!

The first two Witching Hour covers -both drawn by the incredible Nick Cardy- were so similar as to almost be identical. I was very familiar with the first but until a couple of weeks ago didn’t realize the second with the witch, actually came out first.

When I saw that “witch” cover, I immediately realized it was virtually identical to the one with the red demon-like character. Hell, even the dialogue is virtually identical in both covers. Both illustrations are by the incredibly talented Nick Cardy and upon realizing they used similar tropes, a subsequent realization hit me…

There are many DC horror titles released during the 1970’s which feature this particular trope of a person coming through a door/threshold (often they are on the left side of the page) and, beyond that door/threshold is something “evil”. The evil things is often presented on the right side of the page.

With this realization I started going over my collection and found the trope in several other titles. The two Witching Hour covers below the original ones, for issues 52 and 55, use that trope well. Again, your “innocent” coming through a door/threshold on the left and, on the right, something sinister and evil which they are about to run smack into.

Below are a few more examples and, in this case, I wanted to highlight how the trope is used but minor modifications are also added to it. The first cover below is for The Unexpected #131. This cover follows the trope exactly: You have your “innocent” character on the left, a door they’re about to go through, and the “evil” they’re about to encounter on the right side of the page.

The other three covers, however, show mild variations of the trope. The second cover, from Ghosts #27, modifies the trope a little. The “innocent” character is roughly in the middle of the page and the evil they are encountering after passing through the door/threshold is all around and in front of them. Of note too is the fact that often the innocent is about to encounter the evil but hasn’t yet (anticipation, I suppose!) but in this case, the characters are already reacting in horror to what they see in front of them.

The last two covers, for The Unexpected 154 and The Witching Hour 46, share minor modifications from the original trope. The “innocent” character is on the right side of the illustration and going through the threshold. The evil thing is on the left side of each cover. As before, the innocent character is about to be shocked but isn’t quite there yet.

Now, just to be clear: Not every cover of every DC horror book employed this trope. Enough of them did so as to make me realize it, but this wasn’t something you saw in every horror book.

Secondly, I point this out not to put down the artists -frankly, I absolutely LOVE all this stuff!- but rather to examine the types of covers and tropes used during that time.

Clearly this type of cover was a success for DC comics and the reuse of the trope further shows this to be the case.

Either way, I’m loving picking up all these books and stumbling upon this particularly fascinating -to me anyway!- realization.

O. J. Simpson (1947-2024)…

Today comes the news that O. J. Simpson, running back extraordinaire for the Buffalo Bills back in the 70’s, then parlayed that to becoming an actor in both movies and TV commercials, and then…

…and then…

June 12, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson’s wife, and her friend Ron Goldman, were found stabbed to death.

The police investigated Simpson and ultimately were about to arrest him when we had this…

I vividly recall being at home and watching the infamous “Bronco chase”. O.J. Simpson, in the back seat of the car, chasing Al Cowling, Simpson’s friend and the driver, and supposedly a despondent Simpson saying he was going to end things.

He didn’t.

What followed was his capture, a trial that said more about us than him, and ultimately an acquittal… even when the evidence was incredibly strong as to his guilt in this brutal murder. There were names that came out of this farce, including the name “Kardashian”. Yup, the father of the Kardashian brood, Robert Kardashian, was a friend and “lawyer” for O.J. Simpson. It was speculated -and we can know no more- that he did this because he might have had knowledge of what Simpson did but as his lawyer he was couldn’t be forced to testify.

Robert Kardashian would die of cancer in 2003. He had long before -supposedly after the trail- stopped talking to O.J. Simpson and, once again, one can speculate as to the why.

After the trail, it felt like most people -even those who seemed so ecstatic that he was found not guilty- belatedly realized he likely was indeed guilty of this heinous double homicide.

Simpson found himself a pariah and the Goldman family pursued him in civil court and won big… though I wonder if they ultimately got whatever monies were awarded to them.

Simpson found himself in jail for nine years after being found guilty of 12 counts of armed robbery and two counts of kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in Las Vegas in 2008.

It’s all such sordid, sordid stuff.

Somewhere along the line Simpson was supposed to release a book entitled If I Did It which supposedly was a “hypothetical” account of what “might” have happened the night of Nicole and Ron Goldman’s murder. There was understandable outcry when this book was supposed to be released and it wasn’t.

The Goldman family, through their lawsuit against Simpson, acquired the rights to the book and eventually released it. They retitled it If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer and it was released in 2007.

With the news of Simpson’s death, I feel absolutely no sympathy. He was, to my mind, guilty of the killings and the fact that he “got away with it” is one of the grand tragedies of recent times… as well as a shining example of how the legal system can be twisted and turned and where the sharp use of publicity and age old grievances -real though they may be- can be used to one’s advantage.

Having said all that above, one thing that has become better known since those murders is the issue of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

In recent years we’ve come to know much more about this and have also come to realize CTE can very much have an effect on people who suffer from it lives. There are ex-football players who have exhibited extreme behaviors and emotions following the end of their playing days. One player, Junior Seau, committed suicide shortly after his career in football ended. In 2012 he shot himself in the chest and an autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE.

Did Simpson suffer from this as well? Did it affect his mood and/or possibly contribute to what he may have done with his wife and Ron Goldman?

In the coming days, perhaps there will be an autopsy and perhaps it will be found that he also did suffer from this.

Either way, it doesn’t excuse his actions and it doesn’t make up for what happened to two innocent people back in 1994.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend…

The above line is from the John Ford directed film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The point of the quote is that sometimes a legend, or myth, becomes repeated so often that it essentially becomes fact… even if it isn’t true.

My feeling is that often these stories are just so good to the teller/audience that they have no problem accepting them because of that fact, even if a little investigation would result in upending the “legend”.

One of my favorite authors is Raymond Chandler. During his career, he wrote a number of short stories and some seven novels. The novels all featured detective Phillip Marlowe and many of them were subsequently made into films. Perhaps the most famous are the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film The Big Sleep

Also well known is the Robert Altman directed The Long Goodbye

The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel, released in 1939, and it took elements of various short stories he had written before and its a freaking spectacular novel in my opinion. The Long Goodbye was pretty much Chandler’s last Marlowe novel, released in 1953 and is also a spectacular book which shows how the author matured and faced death. Supposedly, the novel was written as his wife was dying and his grief informs much of what happens in the book. Chandler would release one more novel, Playback, in 1958 but it was an odd work, an adaptation of a script and… it doesn’t feel like a full throttled Chandler book. He would start one more book, Poodle Springs, but passed away in 1959 with only four chapters written. Years later Robert B. Parker would finish the novel and… it’s only ok IMHO.

As Chandler’s novels became big successes, audiences and critics noted the stories he presented were often very complex. In fact, that became something of a source of ribbing by some people and critics and, I strongly suspect, some of the ribbing had an edge to it.

See, Chandler was also something of a gruff person. When his works gained prominence and he started writing scripts in Hollywood (his most famous screenplay is probably for the film Double Indemnity), I strongly suspect he rubbed some people there the wrong way. It didn’t help that he was a very heavy drinker and maybe very moralistic and, perhaps, even repressed. Yes, there were rumors he was, despite being married, secretly closeted or possibly bisexual. Interestingly, the novel The Big Sleep did at times present a moralistic view of sexuality… and frowned at deviancies.

One story that has circulated for many, many years now involves The Big Sleep and that story, it seems to me, is the proverbial legend that supplants what are somewhat easily verified facts (you knew I was going to get back to that eventually, no?!).

So it has been noted by many The Big Sleep’s story is so complicated that even Raymond Chandler himself didn’t know who murdered one of the characters, the Sternwood’s chauffeur.

Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart and co-star in the famous film version of The Big Sleep, at one point stated that while she and Bogart were going over the movie’s screenplay, Bogie supposedly had this revelation and stated “Hey, who killed the chauffeur?” and that this was when the studios -and Lauren Bacall implied people in general- realized the chauffeur’s murder was unsolved in the story.

Actor Robert Mitchum has a curious story, too. He stated that one day he was in a bookstore and Raymond Chandler was there. The store’s phone rang and it turned out the studio was calling for Chandler and Mitchum overheard the phone call. They were, according to Mitchum, trying to figure out who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep and Chandler supposedly said: “I have no idea”.

Cute stories, both of them, but I wonder if either is true.

There have been many others who have echoed the sentiment that The Big Sleep is a great story in spite of the fact that “it is so complicated even Raymond Chandler didn’t solve one of its murders”, referring, of course, to the Sternwood chauffeur’s death. It feels to me many of these stories, as I noted before, have a sharp edge to them. It’s almost like these critics are saying “Raymond Chandler writes so well but gives us such a labyrinthian story to tell that he doesn’t even realize he’s left a murder unsolved! What a bozo… amiright?!

…only…

No. That’s not right.

And it takes only a little bit of research, actually pulling out a copy of The Big Sleep novel, to realize this legend is just that.

The following comes directly from The Big Sleep. For those who don’t know, the Sternwood chauffeur is found dead in his car, which had run through a pier, smashing it, and was submerged in water at some point that night. When detective Phillip Marlowe shows up, the car has been found and been brought to the surface and the chauffeur is inside, dead. There are several people/police around, including Bernie Ohls, the D.A.’s chief investigator and a friend of Marlowe’s.

From the book:

The plainclothesman scuffed at the deck with the toe of his shoe. Ohls looked sideways along his eyes at me, and twitched his cigar like a cigarette.

”Drunk?” he asked, of nobody in particular.

The man who had been toweling his head went over to the rail and cleared his throat in a loud hawk that made everybody look at him. “Got some sand,” he said, and spat. “Not as much as the boy friend got— but some.”

The uniformed man said: “Could have been drunk. Showing off all alone in the rain. Drunks will do anything.”

”Drunk, hell,” the plainclothesman said. “The hand throttle’s set halfway down and the guy’s been sapped on the side of the head. Ask me and I’ll call it murder.”

Ohls looked at the man with the towel. “What do you think, Buddy?”

The man with the towel looked flattered. He grinned. “I say suicide, Mac. None of my business, but you ask me, I say suicide. First off the guy plowed an awful straight furrow down that pier. You can read his tread marks all the way nearly. That puts it after the rain like the Sheriff said. Then he hit the pier hard and clean or he don’t go through and land right side up. More likely turned over a couple of times. So he had plenty of speed and hit the rail square. That’s more than half-throttle. He could have done that with his hand falling and he could have hurt his head falling, too.”

So, in a few paragraphs, Chandler offers three theories as to what happened to the chauffeur: 1) He was drunk and ran off the pier. 2) He was murdered, hit on the side of his head and the car run off the pier with him in it to make it look like an accident. Finally, 3) He committed suicide.

Note that Chandler goes into the greatest details with the suicide and further, it makes the most logical sense.

See, cars back in the 1930’s were not like cars today and they required more effort to skillfully maneuver.

The chauffeur being drunk is dispatched almost right away. The car drove “straight” through the pier and at a very high speed. Tire tracks in the rain water indicate this. So… not drunk.

The murder option, based on the explanations offered, would imply the killer would have had to be inside the car driving it very fast and straight down to the pier, then smash through that pier at high speed to then land upright in the water.

The killer would then swim out and leave the chauffeur’s body behind.

Now, this is a very dangerous thing to do, no? The killer could have just as easily gotten him/herself injured when smashing through the pier and falling in the water. Hell, they could have gotten themselves drowned.

So we fall to option three: Suicide.

Now, I will admit this much is true: The Big Sleep novel offers no absolute answer to what happened to the chauffeur. However, Raymond Chandler, far from being befuddled and not knowing what happened to the chauffeur, offers a very logical explanation for how he died… and it likely wasn’t a murder after all.

Within the context of the story, is it possibile he committed suicide? Absolutely. He was infatuated with Carmen Sternwood, one of the two “wild” daughters (Vivian Sternwood was the other daughter and she was played by Lauren Bacall in the movie). Carmen, we find, was being blackmailed and because he couldn’t help take care of that nasty business, he might have been distraught enough to commit suicide.

So, yeah, everything fits.

Going back to my main point, though, the legend turns out to be just that. It’s clear Chandler thought very hard about what happened to the Sternwood chauffeur and offered an explanation as to why he found himself dead.

Rather than the author being befuddled and having “no idea” who did him in, he very clearly had a strong idea of what happened.

More New Novel Update…!

So as of today I’m roughly 1/5th or so of the way through putting the revisions made in red ink into the computer file and… I have to say, I’m finding this stuff moving along really nicely.

The book has lingered with me for longer than I wanted but I think in part this happened because of a general depression. I don’t want to keep coming back to it, but if you’ve read my entries you know what happed to my parents and it has impacted me. How could it not?

At times I’ve felt like I’ve been running at half speed… getting things done but not really putting as much energy into them like I did before.

Reading through the book to get to this point felt like it took me forever… but I’ll be damned if the process didn’t allow me to come to understand what I was writing and how I was going to present the various characters and situations.

So far, putting all this stuff into the computer has proven a far easier task than that readthrough and red marker revision. The book has essentially two “introductory” parts before the novel proper begins and both of them, I feel, are pretty close to be complete and done. I’ve now moved into the novel proper as of today and these initial pages are also flowing wonderfully.

It’s a satisfying feeling to see the work taking shape and -to the extent it can being only words on a page- life.

I’m happy with it and I’m eager to get through it!

More to come!

Trumpian Monday…

POLITICS… Beware!!!

So I wrote a few days back about Monday and the bond Trump has to pay -which was supposed to be $464 million dollars and… it was reduced by the New York appeals court to $175 million and he was given ten days to secure this amount and…

…I don’t get it.

I suppose there are many who don’t either. I thought the whole point of posting the bond was to secure the judgment amount while the appeals process was playing out.

Assuming Trump can get this lower amount of money for the appeal and further assuming he has the rest squirreled away somewhere, what’s to stop him from trying to burn through it while the appeal process goes on?

Again: Wasn’t this amount supposed to essentially lock up the judgment amount so that if the appeal fails, the victim(s) of the fraud perpetrated by Trump would get their restitution?

I dunno.

I did see some pundits say the amount is very high and, to be clear, many of his properties are in the United States and, specifically, within New York and perhaps because of this -and the fact that there are people overseeing Trump’s finances now- they felt there was no way he would get around this judgment if and when the appeal process is exhausted. Prosecutors could then just take over the properties and -hopefully- that’s that.

And I suppose $175 million is still a pretty high amount.

So why do I feel like Trump has yet again gotten something no other defendant gets when facing the legal system?

I have to say… the moment we no longer have to deal with Trump and his… stuff… anymore can’t come soon enough.

The final countdown…?

Warning: Politics!!!!

If you’ve followed the news even a little nowadays you know that Donald Trump is facing a whirlwind of legal challenges even as he’s running for President yet again under the Republican ticket.

He’s so far been losing judgments yet at times “winning” by having trials be delayed.

On May 9, 2023, Trump was found liable for defamation and sexual abuse against author E. Jean Carroll and she was awarded $5 million in damages. Trump, never a shrinking violet, went on to talk and talk and talk about this verdict to the point where she sued him a second time for defamation. On January 26, 2024, Trump was found liable for defamation against Ms. Carroll and awarded a whopping $83.3 million in damages.

Trump appealed this verdict but, to do so, he had to produce a $91.6 million bond… which he did. In New York, you see, you can appeal verdicts but you have to put the money (plus some 10%) down in case you lose the appeal. It’s a way of ensuring the victims know the money is there for them the moment the appeal is exhausted and does not allow the guilty party to forever stall and appeal the verdict.

In other words: Pay up before you appeal or else you can’t appeal.

There were plenty of people wondering if Trump had the money to pay for this appeal but he did manage to get it… even as very quickly the company who provided the bond was exposed and, apparently, that caused enough consternation within the company, Chubb Insurance, the CEO was forced to defend the action…

Chubb CEO defends backing Trump appeal bond in E. Jean Carroll case

The fact is that Trump -whether you like or loath him- is increasingly being viewed as a financial risk and there are those who invest in Chubb that viewed this bond as a financial risk.

Welp, Trump had another case go against him, this one also from New York and involving civil fraud. Mr. Trump lost the case and was ordered to pay $454 million. This case involved years of questionable financial dealings and, once again, if Mr. Trump wants to appeal the case, he can certainly do so… provided he offer a $454 million bond.

This bond is due March 25… a whopping four days from today, and…

Trump’s lawyers say it is impossible for him to post bond covering $454 million civil fraud judgment

It would appear, according to the above article, that there is no bond company willing to cover this amount and Mr. Trump doesn’t have the liquid assets to cover it himself… this despite boasting under oath during one of these cases (I forget which) that he had some $450 million in such assets.

So the clock is ticking and, should Mr. Trump not be able to post this bond, by Monday New York Attorney General Letitia James, the woman who successfully prosecuted Trump, can start seizing his assets.

It’s a fascinating fall for Mr. Trump, whether he manages to post that bond or not, and one can’t help but note that the man brought this all on himself.

Like it or not, getting into politics shines a bright light on you. Running for, and being elected President shines an even brighter light on you and you really, really must make sure your past is clean because inquiring minds will start to look through your past…

I wonder if this is the start of the end for the Trump financial empire. It’s possible, certainly, he finds a way to wiggle out of this and gets someone -maybe someone close to him- to pay the bond.

But $454 million dollars is an awfully large amount of money and there are other cases -criminal cases- to come.

All while Mr. Trump runs for President.

There was a time even one of these scandals was enough to fell any potential candidate. Mr. Trump, to his credit, seems to know no shame and pushes on despite everything falling around him.

I’m damned curious to see what happens Monday.

New Novel Update…!

Seems like forever since I’ve been able to do one of these.

Anyway, yesterday I finally –finally– finished the read-through and red-marker fix up of my latest novel. This represents my fifth run through the book and, I would add, my most intense. Next up is taking all those red marker fixes and putting them into the computer file of the novel, print the thing out, then its on to draft #6.

It took me a very long time to get through this draft and that really annoys me. It feels like too much has been going on both personally and professionally during this time and I’ve also been working on another side project (more on that to come!) which kept the revisions moving in slow motion.

I will say, though, that this was the first really top-to-bottom, intense revision. This happens with me when I’m revising novels. Some revisions may be more focused on technical aspects, ie making sure sentences are well written and clear while others, like this one, focus on the story being told and making sure I’m telling it the best way possible.

Anyway, it’s done and I do feel like I’ve climbed the proverbial mountain. I suspect the revisions from this point on will be more focused on those technical aspects and will be done quicker.

This novel will be released this year, perhaps in the summer…!

Nostalgia… Part Two

Posting a few of my recent eBay purchases yesterday has opened a flood of nostalgia and… I’m kinda in the mood to talk about things that influenced me.

I’ve written about this before but not very recently, so what the heck…

There are a few monumental experiences I had as a young man which led me into wanting to create my own works. Some of the experiences are vague now with the passage of the years but some remain incredibly strong.

Way, waaaaaay back in/around 1971, when I was no more than five or so years old, I happened to catch this TV movie when it premiered…

The movie, for those who haven’t seen it, features Dennis Weaver as an “everyman” (his character’s name is -wait for it- David Mann) who heads out to some business function or another and, along the way and on a mostly deserted road, encounters a truck.

What follows is some of the most suspenseful material I’ve ever seen in a “mere” TV movie, as the truck keeps appearing before Mann and his intentions turn decidedly homicidal.

I saw the film way back then and it really stuck with me. Years would pass and sometime in the 1980’s, full decade later, I happened to catch the film on TV again… and told my friends they needed to see it.

What I didn’t know back then in the Stone Age of pre-internet times was that this film was directed by one Steven Spielberg and it was, after several TV show episodes, his first full on directed movie.

It was, I realized then, thematically very similar to Spielberg’s first HUGE theatrical release, Jaws. Both films feature protagonists who are chased by a very menacing creature, one a truck, the other a shark. In fact, it is my understanding the producers of Jaws decided to give Spielberg the job because they realized Duel featured the same type of suspense they hoped to achieve.

Here’s the thing though: I saw the film exactly once back in/around 1971. Why, of all the things that I saw back then (and I’ll get into them in future entries) did that one stick with me?

It wouldn’t be until years later and a proper bells and whistles DVD was released of Duel that the answer came to me. Mr. Spielberg, clearly relishing revisiting his first big success, was interviewed as a bonus feature on the DVD and he got into the process of making the film.

One of the things he said about this really stuck with me and explained why such a young man as I was way back then appreciated and understood that this was a story being told to me with a beginning, middle, and end.

You see, Mr. Spielberg originally intended the film to be “silent”. Not in the sense of having no sound, mind you. He used the sound of engines and tires squealing and the crunching of metal on metal very effectively.

No, what Mr. Spielberg was talking about was that he originally intended the film to have no dialogue at all. Effectively, the action and movement, the cuts and reactions of Mr. Weaver were originally all that were intended to be shown.

Universal Studios, however, had no interest in doing this and thus there are bits of dialogue here and there in the film and verbal “reactions” by Mr. Weaver’s character to the situation he’s in…

…which for the most part and in my humble opinion don’t add much to the film.

The fact is that Mr. Spielberg’s original vision is mostly there to be seen and some, perhaps even most of the dialogue we do get could have been excised and the story told wouldn’t have been impacted much.

And there, I realized, was why the very young me not only could follow the story being told here, but actually understood it. I’d seen other films in/around that time (I have a particular memory of seeing Papillon in a theater) but none of the films I saw really stood out quite like Duel did for me and I strongly suspect its because the film was essentially told through pictures and therefore was easy for a young man like me to “get.”

Watching Duel was but the first step in my lifelong passion for films and I find it so interesting it would be a Steven Spielberg film -though one I wasn’t aware until much later he directed- that would be the gateway to that passion!

The Blog of E. R. Torre