Monday, August 31, 2020

Still Here

 More gorgeous weather. So glad I can get a walk in every day. And out at 8 on a Sunday and the streets were filled with walker and runners. Everyone is getting into shape for the next round even though this one isn't over. Even the dogs look like they have muscled up. It is already fall here basically. The smell of it, the look of it, the temps. Early fall but fall.

Friends took me out to an outdoor restaurant this week and although it was a little iffy mask-wise, I really enjoyed it. First time since March I have been out to dinner. And other friends brought food in so it was a really good week. And then Josh and family brought takeout from Potbelly so boy, am I lucky. Of course, now I have used up all my friends' good will for a while.

Reading Easy Rider, Raging Bull about the changes in the movie business in the seventies, The Memory Police, which has a fascinating premise if she pulls it off, The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See for my book group. The date is supposedly 1988-90 but it seems more like the 1500s. Is it invented
? I am not sure. 

Watching the old Morse's which seem better than most anything since. John Thaw is certainly a large part of it and certainly Dexter's writing but they allowed the story to unfold more gracefully, I think. They included art and music and architecture. Did Morse ever turn down a drink?

Watched a oldie-History is Made at Night with Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer. Very romantic but a really nasty villain that was bit over the top for the era. Tried The Vow on HBO but it is too dark for me. Watched Wild Bill (Brit Box) but there were only four episodes. That is too few. Maybe they got sidelined by the virus. Really enjoying The Last Dance about Michael Jordan. Don't know why it works for me so well. Well, yes I do. Because it tells stories. 

I am concerned about how seriously kids are going to treat school given the way it will be this year. Somehow they have to understand they just can't slide for eighteen months. Which is the attitude I am seeing. Like they are getting away with something instead of being deprived of something.

What about you?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Summer Jobs

 This is the ice cream menu at the restaurant where I worked in 1964-65. (I was 16) It had an extensive regular menu too. We were expected however, as waitresses to prepare the ice cream dishes ourselves. We also served each table a relish tray, which were highly prized by the patrons and a huge pain for us because they got sloppy very fast. One dish had a kidney bean salad, one a corn salad, and the third, cucumber. The restaurant was outside and on gravel by the Delaware River so carrying any food was a chore. I lost fifteen pounds the summer I worked there, coming home at 90 pounds. My mother shrieked when she saw me. The hamburgers sold for $2.00 which never failed to get hostile comments from people just beginning to frequent McDonalds and getting them for $.15. 

Did you have a summer job during high school and college. I also worked at Vic's Pizza Place where every chore was mine except handling the cash register.

Friday, August 28, 2020

FFB-THE STAR MACHINE, Jeanine Basinger


This is a lengthy study of the measures Hollywood studios went to to promote their actors. Of course, the studio system broke up in the fifties-sixties but from the 20s till then, an incredible amount of time and money was invested in making sure their stars became STARS. Basinger chooses actors who the studios were successful in promoting and played the game and others who fought the system or failed at it. It was not uncommon for an actress to appear in several stories in the same issue of a magazine. The studios had a lot to say about almost every facet of their "property's" life including marriage partners, wardrobe off the set, what activities the star engaged in, where they spent Saturday night, pretty much everything. Defying their edicts often meant less pictures (movies), smaller parts, even shunning them completely. It was very hard for an actor to have success without the backing of a studio and the ones that were successful were hugely successful stars before attempting it. Lots of fun facts and extensive research in this book.

A fun and relaxing read.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Whitey on the Moon

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

As summer fades...

Every year, around now, I'd tell Phil, we should have done more summer things. He'd always laugh and list the "summer things" we did: Tiger games, picnics, trips to Northern Michigan, to Pennsylvania, to Ocean City, NJ, attended art fairs, carnivals, went swimming at our local park, sat outside until the mosquitoes got us, hiked, went to fireworks, outdoor concerts, an occasional trip abroad. So many things. And, of course, this year there was none of this. It's a long winter in Michigan and not much to do so there will be less to miss than in summer. But that's little conciliation.
What did you miss most this summer? What's the first thing on your list for next summer--if we get one?


Monday, August 24, 2020

Still Here

I have never understood how to line up graphics on my blog, so I am putting them all at the bottom.
Finished THE DUTCH HOUSE, as read by Tom Hanks and it was a wonderful experience. He is just a superb reader. Read on kindle, SUCH A FUN AGE, which was an unusual look at racism that doesn't seem like racism until you really study it.. 
Now reading THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, or listening to it. Also still reading THE STAR MACHINE.
Saw the movie SUN DON'T SHINE, which was pretty darn dark but well done. Watching THE LAST DANCE about Michael Jordan-although ten episodes may be more than I want to know. Still watching HALT AND CATCH FINE and finishing up I MAY DESTROY YOU. Last episode of ENDEAVOR tonight, which seems like not enough although it hasn't bee particularly compelling. I remember the MORSE's as being so much better but maybe I am remembering them wrong. Tempting to sign up for BRIT BOX and see. 
Went to a zoom birthday party which didn't really come off well because we spent the majority of time trying to get everyone on board. Someone needs to figure out what you can do for fun at a zoom birthday party too. 
The weather has been hot but so sunny. I don't remember a sunnier summer ever.
Things are quiet. I think everyone is pretty exhausted with Covid and Conventions and Chaos.


Friday, August 21, 2020

FFB: VANISHED, Mary McGarry Morris

Vanished by Mary McGarry Morris

I don't know if anyone saw this book as crime fiction on its publication. It certainly is noir and straight out of the Woodrell universe.
A laborer is lured into helping an attractive woman he sees o
n the road. He deserts his family and embarks on an odyssey with Dotty, who is a femme fatale of the highest order. She has kidnapped a baby and the three cobble out a life on the road over the course of the next five years. Their fate is further complicated when they run into an ex-con and his family, who come up with the idea of demanding ransom. This is one dark, often heart-breaking tale and amazingly Morris' first novel. Highly recommended. Her other novels aren't bad either.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Still Here

"The Past is a Foreign Country. They Do Things Differently There.” L.P. Hartley

. Rewatching movies: THE GO-BETWEEN was made in 1971 with Julie Christie and Alan Bates in the two lead roles. This version by Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter emphasized "class" rather than romance. I am not sure the book would not have allowed for a bit more romance. I read it back in the day, but can't remember if you got any feel for them as romantic couple. If you don't remember, it is the story of a twelve-year old boy who becomes a go-between for two lovers and how it affects the rest of his life. It was very hard to watch the behavior of this ultra-rich family. Of course, that is the whole point. If the story is about people you aren't meant to like, you can't fault that in it. But sometimes it is hard not to.

But I am still interested in seeing the newer BBC version

 Also rewatched A SINGLE MAN, which was gorgeous to look at and very sad. It's the story of a man who loses his male partner is a car accident. Julianne Moore is beautiful in it although her character didn't quite work for me. 

Still working on reading the Pandemic book (PALE DRIVER), the book on how Hollywood made stars (STAR MACHINE) and novels that I don't seem to finish. I read Laura Lippman's MY LIFE AS A VILLAINESS, which alarmingly had a multitude of words missing letters. How does something like that happen?

Watching HALT AND CATCH FIRE and RITA on Netflix. Trying to follow GIRI/HAJI. Plus ENDEAVOR on PBS. 

What about you?

Friday, August 14, 2020


THE NIGHTINGALE takes place during World War 2 in France. It's the story of two sisters who spend little of the novel together, but nonetheless are called upon in ways peculiar to their personality to help in France's resistance to the Nazi occupation. Hannah does a great job of making the pages turn. The sisters are very different and separated by age, personality and place. Isabelle, the younger and more rebellious, immediately finds her way into to the resistance movement. Viane, a mother and wife, takes years to come to a belief that she must do something too.

The contrast between them was well done and well explained. The setting is excellent. The cast of characters is very satisfying.

If I were to find a flaw or two with the novel, small though they may be, it is that the sisters, both having had difficult childhoods, are a bit too noble, a bit too self-sacrificing, a bit too able to undertake successfully their difficult tasks. They seldom feel sorry for themselves.

Secondly, I felt we retread the same ground a bit too much. Two Nazis live with Viane for instance. One would have been enough.

However, these are small flaws in what is a very fine novel and well worth your time. By chance I took this book with me to Berlin and Poland and my trip to Auschwitz was made more real and more horrifying by the story I was reading.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Still Here

 From the 1918 flu. I like the WEAR A MASK or GO TO JAIL sign.  And now in Lake St. Clair, 20 minutes away.

Megan's latest news.

Rewatching movies: BEING JOHN MALCOVICH-which held up wonderfully for the first hour and then descended into chaos. At least for me. Also watched THE HOLIDAY, which is the kind of romantic movie I usually stay away from but it was so relaxing. Nothing much at stake in a movie like this. 

Reading THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS (Erle Stanley Gardner). And still muddling through the Pandemic book and THE STARMAKER. 

Getting hot here this week. 

What about you?

Thursday, August 06, 2020

All About Penns River-or Dana King's new book.

I’m not a good person. Patti offered me this space weeks ago and I’m just now sending something. That’s inexcusable. I started blogging partly because of reading this blog, and her flash fiction challenges tightened my writing considerably. I owe this blog and I owe Patti, and I’m sorry for futzing around.

While my procrastination is inexcusable, there is a reason. The original plan was to write about the fictional town of Penns River, the setting of my police procedural novels. I based the town on three small cities where I grew up, so I know the area and people well. It’s a perfect setting for me.

The problem is that Pushing Water is the fifth Penns River book and, while I’m not anywhere close to running out of story ideas, I am running dry on what to say about the place. There is nothing inherently interesting about Penns River except how it shapes characters best described through their actions. Most of them are cops.

If only there was something topical to say about cops.

I’m not James Ellroy, writing about systemic corruption in a police force. I’ve worked in enough hierarchical organizations to know they all have inherent weaknesses exploitable by those with ill intent. Police departments are special because those exploitations can blossom into matters of life and death in a heartbeat.

I’ve planned for a couple of years to evolve the Penns River police from a close-knit small town department taking its cues from avuncular chief Stan “Stush” Napierkowski into something with a harder edge as the economy remains stagnant, crime became more entrenched, and the department’s personnel turn over.

The degree and intensity of crime has worn down some of the older cops who signed up to serve a far different city. The younger men and women who will replace them trained in 21st Century academies, or honed their craft on far meaner streets. This creates friction with the local population, as people they don’t know and who don’t seem to care as much about them replace cops they’ve known for years.

Penns River cops are the good guys. Flawed, not corrupt. That will evolve, but the core of the department will always have a compass. I have no desire to write them any other way. Several of my acquaintances are, or were, cops. Some have become good friends. None of them—not one—are anything other than fine and fair-minded people. Just as my experiences growing up in “Penns River” precludes me from depicting it as either the South Side of Chicago or Beverly Hills, my personal knowledge of cops prevents me from portraying them as brutal racists. As the current meme says, I am pro cop and against brutality and corruption. The positions are not mutually exclusive.

Are there brutal and bent cops? Absolutely. More than I care to think about and way more than should be wearing badges. The time has come for Penns River to reflect this.

I’m proud of my friendships with law enforcement, several of which came about because they respected how well I captured the life of a cop, even though I have never been one. My most flattering moments as a writer have come when someone with a law enforcement background assumes I have one, as well. They run toward trouble when everyone else runs away, and my cops will always show that.

Just because one runs toward danger doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole. Or a racist. Or bent. Any number of unsavory things. I’d do good cops a disservice if I ignored that. So there will be more of both sides.

The book I really want to write is one I am both qualified and not qualified to write: the effects of the blue wall for good and ill. I understand why it exists, I understand its benefits, and I understand the damage it does by protecting those who are unworthy. I can already hear, “Who’s he to write that? He was never a cop.” Maybe it’s the kind of thing that needs a sympathetic outsider’s perspective. It will have to be well researched and fairly written and it’s at least two books away.

I’m already working on it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

My Year Of Rewatching Movies

I am only rewatching movies I originally liked and it is unpredictable what I will think now. And I have to wonder if 2020 events is influencing my enjoyment.

1. Three Days of the Condor-just as good as ever. It doesn't feel dated at all even though the whole plot would go off the tracks if Redford was able to use a cellphone and a lot of other technology. You don't miss it and in fact, it keeps him isolated and thus it's scarier. Dunaway is adequate but not sensational. It is really Redford's movie.

2. After Hours. It sure seemed to take a long time to get going. The pacing was different then. Four kooky women was perhaps too many and they were all kooky in the same ways. But hey, that is the point of the movie. It was not as good as I remembered it, but it was fun (enough) once it got going.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-Boy, I guess this idea has been too much copied. Or Jim Carrey gets on my nerves more than he did fifteen years ago, or this is too full of gimcrackery segments. Didn't finish it. Central idea is interesting but the playout doesn't work for me. I may not be a Charlie Kauffman fan.

Age of Innocence-Better than it was thirty years ago. It was so good I sent away for the screenplay with commentary. Pristine, is a good word for it. The ending crushes.

5. Pygmalion I have seen My Fair Lady many times and I have seen stage versions of this movie, but I am not sure I ever saw this. It held up well considering its advanced age. Leslie Howard is a dead ringer for Phil's Uncle Tom. Wendy Hiller is amazing but not as much as she is in "I Know Where I Am Going."

6. The Commitments, The music is delightful but the story surrounding it is so hectic. A bit of a disappointment.

7. The Fisher King. I know I saw this but remembered very little of it. When I watch Robin Williams now I just think the tragedy is already in his eyes and he sure plays a tragic guy in this. This was neither better or worse than I remembered but made me want to watch Brazil. (Terry Gilliam)

8. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Maybe I never saw this before but I thought I did. Moody, sad, ahead of its time in its theme. Great acting. Anxious to see Glenda Jackson in her forthcoming movie Elizabeth is Missing.

What have you rewatched lately and did it hold up?

Monday, August 03, 2020

Still Here

Somehow I am reading four books at once. One at lunch (Star Machine), one in later afternoon (Pale Rider) one when I walk or clean (The Lives of Edie Pritchard) and one at bedtime, the Ferrante book. I watched three movie this week and like them all. The Nighy one was on Hoopla from my library and so too the Larry Watson audiobook. What a great deal Hoopla and Kanopy are.

Pale Rider is really scary. But at least the 1918 flu took breaks. This one doesn't seem to and I think the third scenario, where is it never lets up until we get a vaccine, is the most likely now.

Watching Dark and Halt and Catch Fire on TV. As well as the HBO shows.

Finally some rain and boy do we need it.

What about you?

Sunday, August 02, 2020


Forty years ago. Three of them gone now.  This is probably at a place we stayed in Ocean City, N.J.  We never stayed at fancy places so this looks about right. We would go back to Philly for a week or so (to visit my grandmother) and then the "shore" as Philly people call it for most of August. Phil usually taught a summer class that ended about then.

Sometimes we would meet up with my brother and his wife and son in Rehoboth, DE. And sometimes we would visit Jeff in Springfield, VA. Unlike most Michiganders we rarely vacationed up north. Having grown up on the east coast, only a beach by the ocean would do. And we needed a boardwalk to entertain  us at night. The kids would ride on small scale ferris wheels and such, we ate fudge, we bought small treats from souvenir shops.  And when it got late, we went back to our rental and played yahtzee or risk and tried to get Tiger Baseball on our radio. WJR had a pretty powerful signal. Twice we went to Cape Cod or Cape Ann instead of NJ. I had gone to college (briefly) there and loved Rockport, MA. The week we spent in Cape Cod, it rained every day. Ugh.

Did you take a summer vacation as a child or as a parent with children? Where did you go?