It’s been increasingly hard for me to find the time to write these entries of late.
Too much time spend working and, frankly, I’m really weary. Like trying-not-to-fall-asleep-as-I-type-this weary.
The daylights savings, of course, didn’t help, as each time this happens, whether we move forward or back, it seems my body has a harder and harder time adjusting to the changes and wonders just what the hell I’m up to out there.
Last week in particular was extremely grueling, though I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say someone went on vacation and I had to handle the slack… and it seemed like everything conspired against me to make every day they were gone absolute torture.
Despite this, we’re out of the fire now and most of the issues have been dealt with.
I’ve scratched away whatever time I can get to work on the latest Corrosive Knights novel, which will be book #8 in the series but will hopefully be good enough to stand on its own.
These last few days I’ve felt myself on fire, moving through what I feel will be one of the better, more suspenseful parts of the novel and moving into the second and last half… ish.
There are still plenty of things up in the air regarding that second half of the novel but at least for the first half I feel like I’ve accomplished mostly what I’ve wanted to. I’m cautiously optimistic many of these parts of the book will not require too terribly much in terms of revision and corrections but, once again, we’re still rather early in the process so who knows.
This is the second draft of the book I’m working on now and while there are still holes here and there that need to be filled, the bulk of the story and characters are figured out.
So its off to get myself a cup of coffee and off to work.
I saw the movie Fuzz only once before, a very, very long time ago and, once again, today (free time and all…!).
I saw the whole thing before. I had to have, because I recalled elements of the film from the beginning, middle, and end. Thing is, I couldn’t recall the movie’s plot too well and though I recognized this scene or that scene, the movie as a whole was rather “new” to me.
At least with regards to the story told.
Based on the Ed McBain (ie Evan Hunter) 87th Precinct novels, Fuzz has a screenplay by Mr. Hunter along with a pretty impressive cast for the time.
Playing Detective Steve Carolla is Burt Reynolds, in the movie he did quite literally right before he hit the stratosphere with Deliverance (also 1972). We’ve also got Rachel Welch as Detective Eileen McHenry, Tom Skerritt as Detective Burt King, and Jack Weston as Detective Meyer Meyer.
As the big bad, “The Deaf Man”, we’ve got none other than Yul Brynner as the mastermind extortionist/killer/blackmailer whose set his criminal sights on getting a fat payoff by scaring the city’s big politicians into giving him lots of money for not killing them.
Here’s the movie’s trailer:
As should be pretty clear from the trailer, the film is often played for laughs, presenting us with a police department which is barely functional as such, with a host of screw-ups and oddballs that in many ways seem patterned after the same oddballs and screwups we saw two years before in the movie version of M.A.S.H. Its worth noting that movie featured one Tom Skerritt in it as well.
The laughs, alas, are often forced, as in the case of Corolla and Meyers inexplicably dressing as nuns while engaged in a stake off in a park (yeah, a set of nuns that look suspiciously like two men in a park will gather no attention whatsoever, amiright?!). Worse, after that part is over, they keep the costumes on for the interrogation of the suspect once they’re back at the station! I guess they had no change of clothing?
I can’t help but think the director thought it hysterical to have Burt Reynolds dressed up as a nun and therefore kept the joke going for longer than it probably should have.
There are no less than five stories -probably more if I were to dissect things more fully- going on. The biggest involves the “Deaf Man”, and for the most part the others wind up folding into each other by the movies climax.
Well, most of them.
The story involving Rachel Welch’s McHenry winds up being something of a strange one. She’s new to the station and was brought in to serve as bait to catch a rapist. In the meantime, she has to put up with boorish, sexist attitudes of others (I must say, seeing this sort of stuff today is rather uncomfortable) while trying to do her job. Eventually she’s romanced by Skerritt’s Detective King but her story winds up concluding well before the film’s actual conclusion.
Reading up on the film, I found that Rachel Welch refused to do any scenes with Burt Reynolds. The two co-starred in 100 Rifles in 1969 and, apparently, she developed a dislike of Mr. Reynolds. There is a grand total of one scene where the two characters are in the same vicinity/room, but they never exchange dialogue and I wonder if the actors were even there filming at the same time (I don’t believe they’re ever in the same frame together, though I could be wrong).
Even worse, Ms. Welch’s role is so minor -she reportedly worked a grand total of 9 days on this film, which amounts to an extended cameo- that it could have been cut from the film without really affecting the main story. In fact, if she had been cut from the film it might have helped to focus more on the “Deaf Man” and what he was up to. Regardless, her story within the film abruptly ends when (MINOR SPOILERS) she captures, singlehandedly, the rapist and that’s pretty much that. She’s not involved in the movie’s main climax at all and essentially disappears while the movie still has some 15 or so minutes left!
Still, when viewed as an artifact from another era, Fuzz does offer some interesting oddities.
It’s rather refreshing the way they attempted, for example, to show that a station filled with “professionals” whose job it is to capture criminals succeed in spite of everything they do. The movie’s message is humorously cynical: Sometimes its just dumb luck that allows you to succeed rather than brains or dedication.
Fuzz isn’t a great film nor do I feel it will be rediscovered at some future point as a lost classic, but it is competently done with good acting by the principles and enough stuff happening to keep your interest, even if when all is said and done it might not amount to all that much.
Recommended for fans of 1970’s era crime dramas and fans of either Burt Reynolds, Rachel Welch, or Yul Brynner.
A few days back Bernie Sanders did incredibly well in the primaries, specifically scoring a decisive win in Nevada and looking for all to see like he’s got a near lock on the Democratic Presidential Nomination.
There are those who are ready to pronounce Sanders the official Democratic candidate for the Presidency and, based on how he’s doing so far, this isn’t a terribly out there position to take.
Welp, looks like good ‘ol Joe Biden proved, following Super Tuesday yesterday, that he’s far from done and over.
In fact, one could say that Super Tuesday was essentially Joe Biden’s coming out party and at this point he has the larger number of delegates, though to be fair we still don’t know the ultimate results of California.
Regardless, Joe Biden did extremely well. Was it a result of several other more “moderate” candidates dropping out? Was it the result of people fearful of Sanders’ campaign?
Hell if I know.
The pundits have been flummoxed, it seems, since Trump’s run and eventual win to figure out the mood of the country and who will eventually be the Democratic candidate for the Presidency.
Regardless of who it is, I suspect there is a damn good chance whoever it is will win against Trump.
Because 1) He barely won to begin with and 2) unlike 2016, the Democratic base is not just energized to kick him out, they seem to be super-energized.
That’s not to say the Republican base and those who want more of Trump won’t show up, either.
It’s just that if the margins stay roughly as they were, which seems possible given Trump hasn’t done much to expand his base, we’re going to get roughly the same amount of Republican votes and perhaps a more enthusiastic Democratic vote, which could (that being the key word) work against him.
As with so many things, we’ll see.
After all, it seemed like just yesterday Bernie Sanders was a lock to be the Democratic Presidential Nominee…
It was just yesterday.
Regardless, I believe we now have a two person field: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
In many ways, Mr. Cussler is responsible for the author I am today, even if I haven’t read a single one of his books since probably the very late 1980’s or early 1990’s.
His first four released novels featured intrepid hero Dirk Pitt and were, in order: The Mediterranean Caper (1973), Iceberg (1975), Raise The Titanic! (1976), and Vixen 03 (1979). He wrote one novel, Pacific Vortex, before these others but it wasn’t formally released until 1983.
But for me, the novel Vixen 03 did things to me.
For one, this was the first “adult” book I ever read cover to cover, and very likely in 1979/80. I still carry a tattered, beat up copy of it:
It isn’t the actual copy of the book I had way back then (I suspect not, anyway), but it is exactly the same print/year as the one I originally had and read.
So delighted was I by the book that I had to get my hands on the other Clive Cussler novels which, at that time, were limited to the three others I wrote about up above.
I thought all of them were quite good, but it was Raise The Titanic! that seemed to really make Mr. Cussler a star. In fact, in 1980 a movie version of Raise The Titanic! was released. The movie wasn’t all that good, taking away most of the suspenseful subplots involving the Soviets racing to raise the Titanic on their own…
The movie’s making and eventual release seemed to sour Mr. Cussler on Hollywood adaptations of his works and it wasn’t until twenty two years later that another movie adaptation of his novels, the 2005 Matthew McConaughey starring film Sahara, was released…
This film also didn’t sit well with Mr. Cussler and all kinds of lawsuits followed because he claimed the studios were holding back on profits.
Regardless, Mr. Cussler became something of a regular on the Best Seller lists, churning out novel after novel after novel, though in more recent years he always seemed to have a co-writer, which to me indicated maybe the co-author did more of the actual grunt work in creating the work.
Getting back to my original point, I loved the first four Dirk Pitt novels. They excited and inspired me to pursue my own literary pursuits.
However, something happened after those first four books were released: He released more books and I began to realize he was essentially writing the same novel over and over again.
Vixen 03 was followed in 1981 with Night Probe!, then Deep Six (1984), Cyclops (1986), and Treasure (1988). Treasure would be the very last Clive Cussler novel I’d read (he has 25 Dirk Pitt adventures listed over on Wikepedia, along with a voluminous amount of other series).
The Dirk Pitt novels which came after Raise the Titanic!, including Vixen 03, seemed to have the same general plot: We start in the past with some kind of historical event (the sinking of the Titanic, the crash landing of the Vixen 03, the derailing of the train in Night Probe), then fast forward to the “near future” (Mr. Cussler’s books were light science fiction, usually taking place a decade or so after the date of each novel’s release), and Dirk Pitt and company are in a race against time and some very nasty bad guys to get whatever cargo was in the lost vessel we witnessed sink/crash/etc. in the opening act.
To me, the repetition became too much and I left the books, never to return. Many years later my wife, at my recommendation, read Vixen 03 and was turned off by the way Mr. Cussler wrote the character of Dirk Pitt. She said he was what people nowadays view as a “Mary Sue”, only in this case Dirk Pitt was a male “Mary Sue”: A character who can do no wrong and is rough and tumble and gets all the pretty ladies while always being right about everything.
I can’t help but feel Mr. Cussler viewed Dirk Pitt as his alter-ego as he too was involved in similar underwater activities before hitting it big as a novelist. Frankly, I find it amusing even if it is all rather silly.
But Clive Cussler was certainly not the first -or last- author to repeat stories over and over again, but he was the first in my case where I realized this is what was being done.
Thus, Mr. Cussler did two very important things for me as I was growing up and thinking of writing myself: 1) He inspired me to write as well as I felt he did (I may have to go back to those original four novels and see if they still “read” as good as my very young mind felt they were!) and, equally importantly, 2) He made me realize that as a writer I didn’t want to became a repetitious storyteller as I felt he became.
For this is the secret to becoming a writer, whether good, bad, or otherwise: You read others’ stories and analyze what works and -sometimes even more importantly- what doesn’t and you make novels/stories that follow the good while avoiding what you view as the “bad”.
Mr. Cussler taught me, through his writing, the importance of creating exciting stories but also taught me it can go bad if you decide to repeat yourself. Sure, he made a ton of money off his books, and there is a lot to be said about that, but he lost me as a reader and I didn’t want to create works that featured the very same elements time after time.
In the end, though, its sad to read of Mr. Cussler’s passing and one day I hope my novels are even a tenth as popular as his were.
Rest in peace, big guy.
Even if your later works didn’t appeal to me, those first four books have a special place in my head… and heart.
Have to say, I wasn’t particularly interested in catching this film. I suppose there was nothing outwardly wrong with the concept: Two rather ditzy American women, Audrey (Mila Kunis) and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) become involved in Audrey’s ex-boyfriend’s affairs… completely against their wishes.
See, the boyfriend is -I’ll give you no more than three guesses here- a spy.
Not only that, he hid some kinda McGuffin in Audrey’s place and the girls have to get themselves to Europe to deliver the item while avoiding assassins, other agents, and double-agents.
Again, it certainly could have been a decent film, but I was not terribly impressed by the trailers…
When your film is supposed to be a comedy and you mostly see mayhem and stunts/explosions/shootings, one can’t help but wonder if maybe the humorous elements weren’t all that strong, no?
Regardless, I had a few spare minutes and the wife and I were watching anything in particular and the film was on the DVR, yadda yadda, so we put it on and…
…it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared it would be.
Having said that, I can’t say it was terrific either.
Mila Kunis does well as the semi-depressed Audrey, the woman whose boyfriend, she comes to find, is a spy. He’s dumped her (hence the movie’s cryptic title), and with her 30th birthday, is pretty much falling into a funk. Enter her friend Morgan, who is determined to get her friend out of her sadness.
I usually love Kate McKinnon’s antics. She’s a terrific comedian and often plays these types of “wacky” characters quite well. However, this time around she wasn’t given quite as much good material to work with as I was hoping. While she does have some very funny scenes, my disappointment in how her character was ultimately handled is best described by the movie’s climax, where the writer really strains any adequate justification for her character being on a trapeze (!) in a Cirque Du Solei situation.
I mean, that should have been funny but given the film’s penchant for showing some very brutal -and sometimes quite bloody- deaths, it felt too much to have her quite literally going out on such a limb, regardless of how “wacky” she is.
Having said all that (redux), the film was not that bad.
The plot might have been by the numbers but it moved along nicely and while ultimately Ms. McKinnon may not have been used to her full potential she was used well enough and, along with Ms. Kunis’ “straight (wo)man”, made for an engaging fish out of water team.
Further, Sam Heughan proved interesting in the role of Sebastian, a MI-6 agent who may -or may not- have the girls’ interests at heart.
There’s one more element I really loved about the film and, alas, they showed entirely too little of her: Gillian Anderson (that’s right, Scully from X-Files, among many other things!) was delightful in her three or so scenes as Wendy, the head of MI-6 (or whatever agency is after what the girls have). Gillian Anderson does so much with so little screen time and I truly didn’t think she had it in her to do deadpan comedy like she did!
In sum and after weighing the positives and negatives, I offer a mild recommendation to The Spy Who Dumped Me. Yeah, there are better comedies out there and, yeah, they maybe could have done better with Kate McKinnon, but in the end the film was far from a bust and did have several very funny scenes.
Nevada had their caucus and Bernie Sanders pretty much stole the show.
There are those who are ready to pronounce Sanders the official Democratic candidate for the Presidency and, based on how he’s doing so far, this isn’t a terribly out there position to take.
There are pundits who are absolutely out of their minds with regard to this possibility, many of whom are on the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC network, including Hardball’s Chris Matthews, who made a dreadful analogy between Sanders winning and the Nazi’s running over France.
There are many analysts who look at the possibility of Sanders winning the nomination all but assuring us of another four years of Donald Trump.
To which I say: Weren’t many of these same analysts absolutely certain that Trump would not only not get nominated for the Republicans, but would never beat Hillary Clinton?
Which is to say -and using screenwriter William Goldman’s most famous line- Nobody knows nothing.
It seemed absolutely certain to every analyst that the lowly Miami Dolphins, in the final game of the regular NFL season, would go into the Patriot’s hometown and the Patriots, who desperately needed a win to assure themselves of home field advantage in the playoffs, would easily wipe the Dolphins off the map.
And the Dolphins won.
Can Bernie Sanders, if he should get the nomination (not a guarantee yet!), win against Donald Trump?
I’ll say this much: One thing I see that he very much has going for him is enthusiasm. I don’t see crowds as enthusiastic appearing for the likes of Biden or Mayor Pete, Warren or Klobuchar. For that matter, even Bloomberg with all his many billions of advertising doesn’t seem to grip people, but instead is offered as a “moderate” alternative to the more left leaning Sanders.
So if Sanders can attract people with his message and get them to the polls (I don’t know if the numbers bear out that he’s bringing in new blood), and there is certainly a high level of interest in getting rid of Trump, then why couldn’t a Bernie Sanders knock Trump out?
All this, of course, is raw speculation and, as I said above, Sanders hasn’t yet gotten the nomination.
News came out this past weekend that “Mad Mike” Hughes, a Flat Earth proponent who was creating and launching his own rockets to… I dunno… prove the Earth is indeed flat (?) died when his latest rocket test malfunctioned and the rocket crashed to Earth.
A part of me is intrigued by a man -and a 64 year old!- who is quite literally following his dreams and pursuing rocketry.
On the other hand, we’re talking about a very, very, very dangerous pursuit and it comes as no terribly big shock that he should meet his end this way.
Mind you, I’m not trying to sound super cold here and lambast the man’s dreams and/or smirk at his death.
I feel that the passing of anyone, regardless of how they go, is a deeply tragic event to their family, their friends, or their associates and the feeling is a dreadful one to go through.
I’ve had more than enough of my share.
But, again, we’re talking about a very dangerous pursuit, whether the goal was to prove the Earth was flat or perhaps just to quench some thrill he was seeking for himself.
Worse, his death was caught on film as the article above notes he was part of three stories regarding self-financed rocketeers who were being followed by a TV show intended to air on the Science Channel.
It’s a sad thing to read yet a most curious story.
Humanity’s history is certainly filled with stories of those who tried to push the limits of what can be done, and paid for it with their very lives.
The bird is a horned lark and the reason we’re finding fairly well preserved -and ancient- animals like this is because of global warming.
The fact is that as the ice melts in areas like Siberia, areas which haven’t been seen in, say, 46,000 years are being exposed and with their exposure, carcasses and artifacts from that era are revealed.
What’s incredible is seeing the carcass of an animal -remarkably well preserved- that is 46,000 years old!
And scary… given that it reveals the extent global warming is ridding the world of its cold areas.
Incredible stuff, regardless!
Have yourselves a very pleasant weekend. I’m looking forward to getting plenty of rest…!
Release a couple of weeks ago and, sadly, underperforming at the box office, Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (the full title of the work, though it is my understanding Warners has decided to cut it down) features -you wouldn’t guess it in a million years- the further adventures of one Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, doing essentially a Looney Tunes-esq character).
First seen in the abysmally written, yet oddly decent -if only for the strong cast/acting- Suicide Squad (2016), Harley is this time around done with her boyfriend, the Joker, and we see what happens next.
It ain’t pretty, at least as far as Harley is concerned!
For the underworld has given Harley pleeeennnntty of space to do her wacky stuff because of her association with the Joker, who is feared throughout Gotham’s criminal underworld.
But when word gets out she is no longer tied to him, the restraints are off and Harley has to deal with plenty of aggravated criminals who want their piece of flesh.
The movie is presented mostly through Harley’s viewpoint, and as such we get a non-linear story, showing elements from the past, then future, then coming back to the past, building up a story that, incredibly, maintains its coherence through the ending.
As a writer myself, color me very impressed!
Yes, the storytelling is messy. Yes, it is at times very much non-linear. But that totally makes sense given the story is mostly told through a near-crazy character’s point of view.
And best of all, it does come together by the end and that is quite a writing feat, whether one comes away liking the story or not.
I happened to like the story, as well.
During the course of the film, we meet up with several other comic book characters. On the “bad guy” side we have Ewan McGregor’s charming -and unhinged- Roman Sionis, aka The Black Mask. His right hand man is the fearsome -and murderous- Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Early in the film Harley gets in their way and, once untethered from the Joker, is forced to do their bidding… or else.
The latter three characters wind up being the “Birds of Prey” of the title, and the movie serves as essentially an “origin” story for them as well as a story that documents Harley Quinn’s “emancipation” from the Joker while finding her path in the mean streets of Gotham City.
The film was at times very funny and it was interesting to see how the various characters interacted and, eventually, were forced to get together to take on both Sionis and Zsasz.
The movie’s standouts, other than Margot Robbie as Harley, are McGregor’s Sionis and Winstead’s sullen Huntress. But, truthfully, just about everyone carried their weight and the film proved to be a very pleasant surprise.
So if you’ve decided not to see the film because you’re all Jokered out (I think the movie may be underperforming because it did come out so soon after the release and success of the Joker film) and feel this movie is more of the same, it isn’t.
The Joker appears for only a few seconds at the very beginning of the film and only in an animated form. His shadow may linger over the initial proceedings, but this is all about the gals, and they’re a hoot to watch.
We come to Valentine’s Day, a Friday, and supposedly the last of the songs that will be featured on the upcoming David Bowie EP Is It Any Wonder?, due to be released on the 20th.
I say “supposedly” because looking around here and there, it appears there will be one more song added to this EP, Fun (Clownboy Mix) and I have no clue what that one is but when you search around the Is It Any Wonder? information, it is listed as a seventh track. Perhaps a “hidden” track to be featured on the album itself and not part of the one-song-a-week release schedule?
Anyway, the “new” song released this week, alas, isn’t really new. That is, if you’ve been a devout David Bowie fan (or a maniac like me) and have picked up his stuff pretty religiously as it was being released. The 6th song in this song-a-week release schedule is The Man Who Sold The World (Eno “Live” Mix) (2020 Remaster).
A bit of history, at least as best as I can remember: When Nirvana did their cover of The Man Who Sold The World on MTV, it was a BIG hit. David Bowie found himself getting love for a song that was in his very distant past, and he would start using it more frequently in his shows. Why not? People loved it and wanted to hear him sing it!
At around that time he did the magnificent album 1. Outside, which I’ve said many times before I consider David Bowie’s best later-year album. However, the album wasn’t met with much love from critics or many fans. They thought it was too much, too dense. Hard to get into.
As it turned out, the years were kind to the album and many now look at it as a damn good work.
One of the album’s better songs was Strangers When We Meet, a reworking of the same song which was released on Bowie’s Buddha of Suburbia, the album that came just before 1. Outside and was one of David Bowie’s least known (and I suppose selling) albums. So it made sense to Mr. Bowie, I suppose, to take that song and rework it and add it to 1. Outside in the hopes of people giving it another chance.
Here is the 1. Outside version of Strangers When We Meet:
What the hell does all that have to do with our last (or is it second to last?) Is It Any Wonder? song?
Following the release of 1. Outside, Mr. Bowie would release a “single” version of Strangers When We Meet on CD and it included not only that song, but a reworking of The Man Who Sold The World, which is pretty significantly different in many ways from the original version (and in some ways very similar), the original Buddha of Suburbia version of Strangers When We Meet, and the 1. Outside outtake Get Real.
I believe that reworked version of The Man Who Sold The World, until now, was only available on that EP CD. Welp, its been remastered and is now part of the Is It Any Wonder? EP and here it is…
I have to say, I like the song quite a bit versus some of the other remade songs which are present on the Is It Any Wonder? EP.
I don’t think its quite as good as the original version.
Then again, the original version is so ingrained in my mind its hard to consider an alternate version, at least for me!
Still, overall I nonetheless like this version of The Man Who Sold The World and am glad we’re now getting it as part of the Is It Any Wonder? EP.
Having said that, what do I think of the EP overall?
I dunno. I still haven’t heard that last song so maybe I should withhold judgment.
If I were to focus on these six songs, though, my feelings are this EP is only “ok” at best. There’s some good stuff here but the remakes of older songs, particularly I Can’t Read, Stay, and Baby Universal, I felt were pretty much all weaker than the original version, with Baby Universal the only one of the lot that approached the positive feelings I have of the original and which engenders similar feelings in me to this version of The Man Who Sold The World.
I’ll likely get the EP when it does come out, so there’s that, but I do feel like there must be other stuff in the vaults worth bringing to light, especially during the 1970’s (ie his Ziggy Stardust, Plastic Soul, and Berlin years).
Perhaps this is the first of many such EPs to come!