Final Favorite Films (for foreseeable future)

If you need to search a little to find these, I think it’s worth it.

  1. THE THIN MAN (1934).  The camera makes its way through the tuxedoed gents at a posh bar to find our leading man, William Powell, the most elegant of them all.  So what if the character he plays is such a consummate alcoholic he can hardly stand?  Or if he’s living off his rich wife and sprawls across the sofa Christmas morning to amuse himself with his new BB gun by shooting the ornaments off the tree?  None can match this couple’s gentility with the possible exception of Astor, their dog.
  2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944).  Sizzling tale of insurance fraud.  Possibly the classic film noir of all time.
  3. DEAD RECKONING (1947).  Speaking of noir, this one with Humphrey Bogart includes Lizabeth Scott, the queen of noir.  I just hope I remember Bogie’s advise at the end when it’s my time to die.
  4. BLADE RUNNER (1982, original theatrical release with the old gumshoe-detective voiceovers).  Moving right along to neo-noir and in anticipation of Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to be released in October, please don’t miss my all-time favorite film for many years.  Director Ridley Scott’s steamy, deliciously exotic but grubbily believable future haunts me still.
  5. THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (2003).  Worth it for the artistry of the animation alone, but a delightfully weird romp overall.

Further Favorite Films

You may also need to search for some of these.  Again, in my opinion, it’s worth it.

  1. GUNGA DIN (1939).  Not to have seen this rollicking, Saturday-afternoon-matinee-style tale of British India isn’t an oversight; it’s a crime.  Afterwards (spoiler alert), treat yourself to both the Rudyard Kipling poem it’s based on and its 1939 movie review in The New York Times.
  2. D.O.A. (1950).  Starts with a guy staggering into a police station:  “I want to report a murder.”  Cop:  “Who was murdered?”  Guy:  “I was.”
  3. HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959).  Nothing has ever illustrated with such accuracy the nutty, optical-illusion-like reality shifts in a relationship.
  4. NIGHT ON EARTH (1991).  When I saw the Rome sequence with Roberto Benigni the first time, I laughed so hard I honestly feared choking.
  5. HORATIO’S DRIVE:  AMERICA’S FIRST ROAD TRIP (2003).  Folksy, fun and imaginatively convincing reconstruction of the true story of the first person to successfully cross the United States in a car in 1903.  The best part is that Horatio had no qualifications whatsoever to do this…starting with only a whim, a $50 bet, and no car.

 

Five Favorite Films

You may need to search for some of these.  In my opinion, it’s worth it.

  1. PICCADILLY (1929).  What could be better than seeing a gorgeous black-and-white exactly as it was seen in 1929?…which is to say not in black and white.  This rare theatrical-release version is tinted blue for the exterior shots at night, where stately vehicles discharge elegantly clad customers in front of a posh London nightclub.  The interior sparkles with warm, peachy brilliance from its amber tint.  The absolutely luscious Jameson Thomas, as the swanky nightclub owner, drips elegance with every move.  Anna May Wong, the immigrant kitchen worker who claws her way from rags to riches, is the consummate femme fatale.  Finally, the newly composed music for the soundtrack is magnificent.
  2. NOTORIOUS (1946).  Hitchcock directed this sizzling noir with a notorious Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains.
  3. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947).  Poor Orson Welles is no match for Rita Hayworth.
  4. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950).  How can you resist a film that starts with the camera looking up from the bottom of a swimming pool at the main character…who’s floating face down, dead, and about to tell us how he got that way?
  5. LIMELIGHT (1952).  You thought The Little Tramp was a soulful charmer in silent films?  Wait till you hear Charlie Chaplin talk!  He wrote and directed this story of a fading performer that fits him like the proverbial glove.

Boomers for the Stars Kindle version now on sale for a mere 99 cents

Okay…I did get a little carried away fancying up the paperback version of my latest sci fi novella, the result being that it’s retailing for $14.99 on Amazon.  But now that it’s available elsewhere, including a 99-cent Kindle version, do you forgive me?  Hmmmm?

Boomers for a mere 99 cents HERE

Even if you did pay $14.99, please keep your fingers crossed for me that SFWA’s featuring Boomers for the Stars a couple of different ways at the upcoming Nebula Awards Conference is enough to get it a Nebula Award for 2017…

But mostly I just hope you enjoy this sometimes tongue-in-cheek tale of how future generations deal with freakishly ancient Baby Boomers as much as I had fun writing it!

Check out my newly released sci fi novella, Boomers for the Stars!

BOOMERS FOR THE STARS:  Another sci fi novella I had a lot of fun writing, which will be featured on a big banner at the May 2017 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference.

In a dystopian future Baby Boomers…kept alive far too long by the first, clumsily imperfect advances in the science of longevity…once served as guinea pigs for the fledgling science of interstellar travel.  Now things are even worse…

I’ve just released it in paperback on Amazon:

Boomers for the Stars (paperback) BUY ON AMAZON

I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available elsewhere and when the Kindle version is available for a mere 99 cents.

Tumbleweed

For those of you curious about where I got the inspiration for my most recent book, Rococo, here’s the flash fiction from whence it came…on one of the many days in which I found myself thoroughly disgusted by self-help books.

Toeing an anti-depressant wrapper, she loitered at the western edge of a northsouth.  The alternating rubble and reclaimed farmlands of New Jersey twinkled in the twilight…visible through a Westside airbus clearing.  From the east, through the dip in the moonscrapers created by the Chrysler Building Museum, a battered airbus buzzed in for its landing.  Flashing silver amidst its graffiti, its landing gear descended like the pincers of a huge, battle-worn beetle.  It dopplered over her head, spraying her with a cloud of urban dust that smelled vaguely of discarded electronics, and slid into its clearing.

She sneezed, turning as a rustle announced another observer of the setting sun, and found her voice.  “Trixie, you slut, what an angelic smile.  And who had to slap you silly to get you to wear something that’s even thigh-length, let alone not leather?  That dress…  How can you even walk, let alone clear a doorway, with all those ruffles?

A cloud of dotted Swiss twirled before her.  Eyes full of pastels and spring widened.  “Were you addressing me?”  There was just the faintest hint of a Southern drawl.

“Well excuse me.  We’ve only been best friends for 20 years.”

Trixie looked blank.

“Does the name…oh never mind my name…does the name Trixie mean anything to you?”

Trixie still looked blank, but rallied.  “Pooh!  I’ll recall names in a minute.  Just see if I don’t.  Why, I just now came out from under the machine at the Nupersonality Discount Outlet up yonder.  You call 2121-8347-11572 to make an appointment.”

“Remarkably selective, those memory wipes…”

“Well yes…yes, I do truly believe they gave me a partial memory wipe while I was there.  They were most considerate and very reasonably priced.  They helped me understand how it would be ever so much easier for me to adjust to my Nupersonality that way.”  Ringlets jiggled as Trixie threw her head back.  “They were uncommonly helpful and the memory wipe costs next to nothing if you’re getting a full personality reconstruction.  If you call now they’d be just tickled to give you an additional 20% off if you get a full personality reconstruction before Mars Day.”

“Trixie, I don’t believe you did this to yourself again.  And I was just getting used to your hooker’s personality.  Of all the shoddy…”

“Whatever you could be talking about, dearest, I really cannot imagine.”

“Fuck.”  She clapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.  “What are you this time, the video-game version of Scarlett O’Hara?  Their languatician should be shot.”

“Don’t be cross at poor lil’…  Trixie!  That’s my name!  See?  A person’s always a little foggy after memory work.  You know they take away a little too much memory on purpose, because some of it comes back, but I’m mighty glad I did it.  You all can be, too!  Their offices are right over yonder at…”

“No, thank you.  You can keep your discount personality houses to yourself.  At least, when you bought your hooker personality from Spice of Life, they had the decency to do their research.  For myself, I’m having enough trouble with reputable therapies.  I went to Sachs for a Feelings Flush yesterday and I still can’t get rid of all this fucking anger.”  She shook, breath whistling through clenched teeth.  Knowing it wasn’t Trixie, she plumbed her depths in search of the something to be angry about.

Birdlike, Trixie tilted her head to watch.

As usual, she came up empty-handed.

Trixie spotted her own image in a mirrored pole and pinched her cheeks till they were rosy.

“Trixie, do you think it was that Assertiveness implant I got last spring?”  Her fury was bubbling to the surface again, as faithful as a geyser.  Compulsively fussing with her already perfect hair, she spotted a truly pathetic homeless boy, dressed in torn plastic, who was watching her closely.  “I felt so good, so strong and powerful at first.  But maybe it was of poor quality and turned on me later.  They say that can happen.  Or maybe it didn’t mix well with that second Positive Thinking I got.”

Trixie was staring past the poor homeless boy at the sun setting over the Jersey cornfields.  “Don’t think of that now.  Don’t let anger and ugliness poison you.  Not when everything’s all misty and warm and sweet.”  The glare of the setting sun off Trixie’s impossibly perfect white teeth as Trixie smiled was blinding.

She was alone, except for Trixie and the homeless boy that kept staring at her.  A rage filled her, then the deepest imaginable sorrow, which slowly subsided with the day.  She wasn’t able to identify a reason for either.

Trixie curtsied deeply and fluttered off, a dotted Swiss tumbleweed weaving with the wind through the steep canyons of the city.

She was left shuddering against a cold that didn’t exist.  Staring into the deep wells of the poor homeless boy’s eyes, a sense of vertigo touched her.  Her own words to Trixie came back to haunt her, reverberating through her bone marrow as they tumbled about the canyons of her mind:  “Does the name…oh never mind my name.  Never mind my name.  What…exactly…is my name?”

The sun popped under the horizon, leaving her alone in utter solitude with a complete stranger.  It wasn’t the homeless boy; he’d left long ago.  Only the sound of his final conclusion about her lingered on forever, echoing through her mind.  It was a long, hard laugh.

Follow the Flavor

Guest Post by Sondra Fink

I love food.  I love that vegetables need vinegar or lemon to break down their cell walls so your body can absorb their nutrients.  They need whole fats too – your vegetable’s nutrients are fat-soluble.  Fats carry those nutrients to your cells so your body can use them.  Don’t believe the hype: the consumption of nothing but raw vegetables is not, in fact, an ideal diet.  You need fats and acid too.

Trust the flavor.  Might that be nature telling you something?  Too much fat, and the flavor deadens.  Too much of anything and the flavor deadens.  Your mushrooms want some barley, your beef wants some parsley, your broccoli wants some lemon, your ice cream wants some crunch, just the right amount.

Mild afternoons are worlds better after a recent rain.  Spring only matters when winter preceded it. From seasons to cuisine, the beauty and flavor are in the combinations.

The concept of holism is based on the need to address the interrelated variables that compose anything that resembles breathtakingly complex reality.  So your bubble – my bubble – the comfortably limited little echo-chamber you or I reside in – is on par with a mini-mart burrito: tasteless.

What about people?  If I draw out my analogy, I must conclude that a holistic combination must include a few assholes, no?  I’m already a fan of a certain kind of diversity.  The reason I love NYC is because of all the different people, all colors, shapes, genders, religions, ethnicities, languages, traditions, orientations, levels of ability.  But does my tolerance extend all the way to ideologies?  That’s a tough one.  There are ideologies I loathe.  Then again, I also loathe liver, until I can unlock the secret of making liver taste good.

I read recently that men are in decline. Specifically, uneducated men.  Their skill-sets are simply bad fits for what the world now needs.  They attend college in fewer numbers than women, and advance less successfully into higher-paying employment.  But they’re not going anywhere.  And they mostly voted for Trump.

I’m part of a women-owned small business focused on holistic skincare.  Back to holism: the theory that parts of a whole are in intimate interconnection such that they cannot exist independently of the whole, or cannot be understood without reverence to the whole.  From a holistic skincare approach, you don’t just have acne.  You have your skin acting as an organ of elimination and a few too many toxins that your body, in defense of your total health, is working to eliminate.  In a holistic (read: realistic) approach, rather than torture your skin into submission – and likely fail or prompt an even worse reaction – the common-sense move is to treat the whole body.  Start with your insides and work your way out, gently, methodically and patiently.  Treat your skin topically in a way that is supportive of what it is already trying to do.  Change your diet and habits.  Use natural, gentle products that do less, not more.

For healing to occur, balance must be restored.  Healing proceeds from a place of equilibrium, which is the best kind of strength, a secure foundation for the body or spirit or body politic to restore itself.

Analogously, then, what do we do with all those balance-tipping straight, white, cis, uneducated men?  What to do with those Breitbart readers?  What about white women, that discouraging 53%?  What about evangelicals?  I begin to realize that I cannot will any of these infuriating people away, nor can I control their opinions and outlook.  The most I can offer is a persistent defense of my own opinions and outlook, and if my convictions are strong, then attempt to persuade.  That’s called discourse, but only (ugh, I almost can’t make myself say it) if there is also listening.  Listening to stuff I hate, like taking a bite of liver, and then imagining what might make it better.  In holism, when you attack a disease, you only drive it deeper.  It pops up elsewhere, often where you least expect it.  What do a bunch of frightened white men do when their demographic shrinks?  They elect Trump.  Fuckers.

They are part of us.  Ugliness springs from fear, but can prompt originality.  We have to let go of the “us and them,” or at least I do.  As much as it hurts, I think we are all part of each other.  We need to own all of it, taste the stew, and stopping short of poisoning ourselves, figure out what little-known technique or unexpected ingredient it needs to shine.  Compassion is hard but necessary.  Trust the flavor, and pass the salt.

Read more witchy rants on Sondra’s blog:  www.psycho-girl.com 

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 23

Martin was sweating, slobbering, begging.  Bloody hell.  Bloody fucking hell.

Was it another dream?

Bollocks.  No dream could be as realistic as this.

Martin watched the fountain of blood twist and turn.  Insanely, its motion triggered a memory of how the water had gurgled out of his father’s garden hose when he watered the flowers back in Canterbury, Kent.  Until a twist sent the blood splattering all over Martin’s face and into his screaming mouth.

He awoke to find he was drenched in sweat and his phone was ringing…somewhere.  His starburst wall clock said it was 10 o’clock, but it was still light.  Funny, this wasn’t Scotland…

He found the phone under his thigh.  Strange that it wasn’t vibrating.  Even stranger that it wasn’t ringing.  And it wasn’t his phone…

Broad daylight…

Shit!  It was 10 o’clock in the morning and they were calling because he was late to work!  He must have dozed off.  But why that literally bloody nightmare and whose phone…

Then he remembered Karen, and Frank.  He clung to Jennifer’s phone, trying to figure out how he’d know if the cops had responded to the anonymous tip he’d called in on her own phone and picked Jennifer up for the murders he had committed.  Or at least caused indirectly in Karen’s case.  But what matter?  One murder was enough…  Martin broke out in another sweat, shuddered, shivered, and finally cried.

His phone again.  Wherever it was.  Then a short pause.  Then Jennifer’s phone, still in his hand.  He jumped, dropping it as if it was the murder weapon.  It must have hit something just right.  It answered.

“Jennifer, pick up.  Pick up!”

Martin was silent.  He didn’t even breath.  But, damningly, his phone started to ring again in the background.

“Jennifer!  Pick up!”

Martin knew who it was:  Ms. Morales, their boss from work.

“Jennifer!  Dios mio!  We have to find Martin…”

Ms. Morales trailed off.  Martin could hear a man screaming something in the background.

“Jennifer,” Ms. Morales whispered, “there’s a tall man with a goatee here looking for Martin, and some guy named Frank.  Do you know who he is?  He’s got a gun!”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 22

Jennifer was still shaking, and it wasn’t from sitting outside for so long.

“The officer is gone, Jennifer.  And I think I convinced him you hadn’t been in the storage-space building.”  The homeless woman’s voice…already the most beautiful, melodic stuff Jennifer had ever heard…resonated with the richness of a new dimension when she lowered her voice.  “Not even last night.”

Not even last night?  Jennifer darted a look at the homeless woman before returning to the seemingly endless job of cleaning the blood off her shoe.  But Jennifer was in the storage-space building then; it was only this morning that she hadn’t made it into the building because she’d tripped over this already blood-covered homeless woman.

Was this woman so out of it that she thought she’d been awake all night to vouch for Jennifer instead of passed out in what was undoubtedly a drunken stupor?  Or…  Was that why she’d dropped her voice before saying, “not even last night,” because that was her way of letting Jennifer know that she knew that part wasn’t true?

Why?

Jennifer shifted uncomfortably on the hard sidewalk, looking at the bloody woman lying beside her.  Horrible.

Why had this woman protected her?

What did she want?

Jennifer opened and closed her mouth a few times, struggling to find the right words.  Finally they came to her.  It was hard to do, since her expensive shoe still wasn’t free of the blood that would undoubtedly now dry hard and fast, ruining it forever, but she made a point of setting her shoe aside and addressing the homeless woman.  “Thank you.”  The words almost hurt.  But she smiled after saying them, quite proud of herself.

The homeless woman started to smile, too, but stretching her lip cracked open a wound that started to bleed.

Jennifer sighed, this was really, really hard, but she sacrificed the only remaining clean piece of the tablecloth…that could have been used to finish cleaning her shoe…and used it instead to dab at the homeless woman’s cracked lip.  “What’s your name?”

“Amelia.”  Miraculously the name sounded absolutely gorgeous, even half-muffled by the tablecloth.  It was that voice again.  Like an entire symphony orchestra.

Jennifer spotted a twig under Amelia.  Would that help get the blood off her shoe?  She was about to snatch it up.  Oddly, something stopped her.  She looked at the twig more closely.  It had wedged itself into a cut on Amelia’s arm.

Jennifer had an epiphany:  that twig wedged into that cut on Amelia’s arm must be hurting Amelia!

Gently…very carefully…Jennifer removed the twig.

“Thank you.”  That beautiful voice again.

Jennifer refrained from using the stick on her shoe, carefully setting it aside for the time being.  Instead she frowned, concentrated, and then asked, “How did you get to be homeless?”  Too late, it occurred to her that maybe she should have asked about Amelia’s current injuries first, but Jennifer was still delighted by her own kindness.

“Do…you really want to know?”

“Yes,” Jennifer said.  “I…actually…really do!”

“Would that I could provide a rich and entertaining history of a great family gone to ruin.  But what’s great is the mystery, because nothing is known of my family before the birth of my mother in 1898.”

“1898?”

“Yes.  My poor, frail, delicately-wrought mother gave birth to her only child in 1948, at the age of 50.”

“Your father?”

“I was born out of wedlock.  My mother never deigned to mention him.  And she never knew her own parents, or anything about them or any other family members.  She was raised in a nunnery in Switzerland where all, apparently, had been sworn to secrecy.”

Jennifer struggled to remember the original question.  “So…you became homeless because?”

“Possibly my own just desserts for being an incurable romantic.”  Amelia’s injured lip warped her rueful smile.  “But my excuse is my mother’s medical bills.”

“Aren’t there social service agencies that cover those kinds of things?”

“They try.  And they do a lot.  But there are limits.”  Amelia stiffened her jaw.  “My mother’s health was never good.  After my birth it was a disaster.  She once told me our roles had all but reversed by the time I was two.  Prior to her death, at which point I’d already declared bankruptcy, I couldn’t remember a time when my life wasn’t devoted to taking care of her.”

Now Jennifer really didn’t know what to say.  “Well…your injuries…I should get you some help.”  With that she fished into her purse for her phone, but it wasn’t there.  She darted another look at Amelia.

People were so unreasonable.  Somehow, when Jennifer wasn’t looking, this stupid homeless woman had obviously stolen her phone.  Jennifer should have just kicked her again.  Repeatedly and hard enough to silence her forever.  Instead she’d stupidly wasted time bullshitting her with some snow job to try to keep this woman who probably knew Jennifer hadn’t been to her storage unit last night from blowing her alibi.

Jennifer sighed heavily.  All this time wasted…  All this time that could have been spent saving her shoe.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 21

The Storage Space was simply desolated by the whole affair.  It would have languished for months, failing to find consolation in cognac and cigars, if only a building could drink.  If only a building could smoke.  Or, better yet, if only a building could book even third-class passage on even the lowliest tramp steamer and leave this appallingly savage country forever.

But, alas, all the poor Storage Space could do was languish without even so much as a mean, peasant’s pipe and a tankard of warm ale.  All the poor Storage Space could do, helpless as always, was to stand.  Stand while the centuries rolled by.  Stand while the green mists of that thing that was left over from so long ago swirled about inside that poor Karen’s storage unit, reciting his Shakespeare.  Going on and on forever about a summer’s day.

Stand while the cockroaches scurried and the rats gnawed.  Still…

Le Grand Rat was appalling to be sure, but the hideous creature had spotted the hand of the corpse sticking out of that poor Karen’s storage unit.  And, most remarkably, had had the presence of mind to stand between the hand of the corpse and that officer of the law.  It was true that that officer had been decidedly simple-looking anyway.  But with so many centuries…so many more secrets than one mere corpse to hid…the thought of any kind of criminal investigation was simply not to be borne.

Now Le Grand Rat, this Irwin, was returning with…what was that?…some kind of machinery.  And…what did he have in his other hand?  His…lunch?  Of course…  After all, all thoughts of delicacy and proper feeling would be quite wasted on a rat.

Irwin put both the machine and his lunch down just inside Karen’s storage unit, right next to the corpse already there.

With one hand Irwin took the corpse’s hand, which was dripping red blood.  With his other hand Irwin grabbed some French fries, which were dripping red ketchup, and stuffed them in his mouth.  Then he yanked at the corpse, which fell out into the hall with a thud.  Next he plugged the machine, apparently some kind of saw, into an outlet.

Frank, the Storage Space recalled.  Frank was the name of the corpse with that piece of glass embedded in his neck.  His head had been twisted sideways as he died, his mouth open as if speaking to someone next to him on the floor.  But it was the expression of indescribable horror on that corpse’s face that left the Storage Space aching for that tramp steamer to anywhere, even the Amazonian wilds of South America.

And the Storage Space imagined it could see the Amazon, a great green river of mist, flowing rapidly back in through the window.

Irwin picked up the saw, raising it over the corpse…but pausing for another handful of fries he washed down with some water before returning the bottle to the floor just inside Karen’s storage unit.  Then he turned the saw on and lowered it toward the corpse’s neck.

The Storage Space would have recoiled sharply, if only a building could recoil at all.  But just as it thought that it realized two other entities had recoiled.  Both were quivering, horrified rivers of green mist.  One was that Shakespearean actor Edward from long ago that the Storage Space so desperately wanted to forget.  The other, newly returned through the window, was from the corpse…Frank.

Irwin’s saw hit bone.  The motor whined.  Blood splattered all over.  The head, then the limbs, and finally the trunk were reduced to pieces Irwin could fit into the trash bags he now pulled out from the voluminous folds of his clothing.  The Storage Space watched in horror as he hauled these bags full of body parts out back, still chewing on some sandwich.  Did Le Grand Rat make any attempt to conceal these particular garbage bags behind all the other garbage bags he’d let accumulate since his last trip to the dump?  No, instead he carefully arranged the body-part bags so as to conceal some other bags.  The Storage Space refrained from any attempt to even imagine what could possibly be in those bags…

Having returned to the hall outside that poor, unfortunate Karen’s storage unit, Irwin retrieved bleach and a mop from a nearby cleaning cabinet.  To give credit where it was due, he did do an at least passable job of cleaning the massive amounts of blood in the hall…in between bites of his sandwich.  However, Le Grand Rat apparently wouldn’t bestir himself to clean that poor Karen’s unit.  Just as well, perhaps, lest he spot that poor Karen in the back and use that saw on her.

When Le Grand Rat was done, he finally made a mistake.  He frowned, perhaps subliminally aware of something obstructing the ceiling light, and looked up.  They were waiting for him.

One angry, outraged green mist had formed itself into a grotesque caricature of Irwin, complete with a rat’s beady eyes, whiskers, and humped back.  The other angry, outraged green mist had formed itself into the most hideous imaginable monster, which was in the process of eating the Irwin caricature alive.

Irwin looked at this unspeakable horror for a while.  The Storage Space would have held its breath, if only a building could breathe.

Finally Le Grand Rat shrugged.  Then he left.

But, the Storage Space noted, not with a total want of proper feeling.

Apparently even a rat had some delicacy.  Irwin had forgotten to retrieve the rest of his lunch.