The State of the Art

Way back when I was just a kid (1962 to be precise) my folks and I went to a movie called “Experiment in Terror.”  It made a big impression on me, and though I hadn’t seen it in nearly 50 years, I remembered quite a bit about it.  So when TCM showed it the other night, I made it a point to watch, at least in part because it starred the late, great Ross Martin as the antagonist.

I have to say it surprised me.  I still found it tense and kind of disturbing, but after almost half a century of movie-viewing, there were things about it that left me thinking “That’s it?”  After giving it some thought, I realized that thrillers in particular have upped the ante for movie audiences over the years.  Each one has to be bigger, more tense, have more violent action.   I think there’s still room for films like “Experiment in Terror” in part because it was tight, well-written and well-acted by a damn fine cast that included Lee Remick, Glenn Ford, a very young Stephanie Powers, and a gaggle of familiar character actors who formed the backbone of so many films in the fifties and sixties.

Ross Martin’s portrayal is central to the film.  Without him or someone equally convincing in the role of Red Lynch, this film wouldn’t have been half as good.  He’s just threatening enough, just creepy enough to terrify without getting into Hannibal Lecter territory.  And Remick’s Kelly Sherwood was a surprisingly tough, resilient woman who was going to go down fighting.  She needed help from the FBI but she didn’t need rescuing.  There was not even a hint of a romance between her and Glenn Ford’s Agent Ripley which was very refreshing.

Where the film seemed dated to me was in the action segments.  When the agents were trying to find Toby Sherwood, she was in the first place they looked.  There wasn’t a lot of double and triple-think going on.  They did their detective work and found her.  And in the climax of the film, Lynch attempts to take the money and run, and is almost immediately gunned down by the feds.  There wasn’t any enormous shoot out, no killer with explosives strapped to his body, no hostage situation, no killer who keeps on coming at you after he’s been shot fifty times, just a guy who tried to take money that wasn’t his and paid the price.  Frankly, while the emotional me thought it felt a little flat, the thinking me said “Well done; an honest thriller without a lot of the hyperbolic BS that movie studios seem to crank out these days.”

But in the end, I don’t know that there’s any sort of solution to this dichotomy because we are both thinking and feeling creatures who watch movies not just to be stimulated in one way or the other.  We want to think (Many of us do anyway) but we also want to be emotionally engaged, and that doesn’t always happen via a smart script and solid performances.  Sometimes the thrill is what we crave, even if it’s a stupid one.

All of which sort of brings me around to talking about “Inception” which I went to see on Saturday with Glinda and Jim.  Let me say right upfront that I liked it a lot, and I’d enjoy seeing it again, in part because there were things about it that keep gnawing at me, things that felt either inexplicable or just plain wrong. (About which, more in a bit.) But it seemed to me that “Inception” is one of those high-stakes films which have upped the ante to almost unbearable levels.  Where do you go from a film with multiple timelines any or all of which might be false?  I confess I don’t know.

I’m not complaining.  It was intriguing to try to sort out the facts of each timeline in order to figure out exactly what was happening.  But as I said, there are things about it which bother me, and the most bothersome of them all are the scenes in the hotel with Mal.  (I’m trying not to spoil anyone, and I doubt that you’d understand a thing I’m about to write if you haven’t seen the film, but just be warned here. I have no patience for people who start whining about being spoiled after being warned.)  In the first of those scenes when Cobb and Ariadne meet Mal in the hotel room, the first thing I noticed was that it seemed that the room had a mirror image.  If you look out the window and through the window on the other side, the room you see looks like the room you’re in.  Okay strange, but it’s a dream, right?

Then when Cobb tells Ariadne what happened to Mal, how she died, we return to that room, and see Mal sitting on the window ledge of the mirror-image room.  Several times Cobb asks her to come back in, and gestures to her to come to him in the original hotel room; he actually gestures to her to come across the gap between the buildings.  The only way that can work is if that scene is a dream, too.  And if that scene is a dream, then it throws into question the reality of the entire film.

Fair enough, maybe everything we see is a dream, but in effect that damps down the emotional content quite a lot, for me at least.  So I’m a little curious about what other people think about it.  Is it all a dream (which throws the whole film into an excercise for the thinking self.)  Or does that scene mean something else?  Is it not what I think it is, and is the emotional content then left intact?  I really don’t know what to think.

IO9 has an post about the screenplay which is worth looking at.  I’m not big on this sort of fannishness anymore, but I really am thinking seriously about getting the book of the screenplay just to suss out a little more about the film.  In the end, I suppose, it doesn’t matter what the truth is or how far this film takes us into strange new territory.  If it grabbed hold of you, then it’s done its job.

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I sold my first novel!

Yes indeedy, this is occasion for dancin’.  Yesterday evening I got an email asking for publishing rights to “Suffer the Little Children” a late-Victorian era murder mystery.  I owe a lot to Glinda and Karen for their help and encouragement on this one, which is why it’s going to be dedicated to them.  Also, I need them to help with the sequels.

I don’t currently have any more information on it; I haven’t even signed the contract yet.  At this stage it’s just going to be published as an ebook, but I hope that it’ll see print in the future.

Mr. Snickers



Mr. Snickers, originally uploaded by dargie.

No, Basement Cat has not come to visit. Mr. Snickers belongs to Glinda’s sister. He’s staying with me while Glinda and Laurie are attending to family matters. He really is one of the sweetest little men. And he sounds just like Caddy.

I’m also taking care of the Phews. I’ll prolly go upstairs tomorrow morning and spend some time with them after I scoop their box and feed them.

Yes, my life is one mad whirl.

The Friday Five and other time wasting

I haven’t done the Friday Five in ages so let’s lead off with some fairly pointless questions:

  1. How picky are you about toothpaste? — I’ve become more so in the last few years.  I want good, simple, natural paste without a lot of extra crap, and I want one that hasn’t been tested on animals.
  2. What’s the best cooked dish you’ve had that included mint? — Probably tabbouli.  Honestly I’m not a big fan of mint in anything but drinks and occasionally dessert, but I like it in my tabbouli.
  3. How far would you have to go from where you are right now to get a breath mint? — A little over half a mile to the nearest 7-11.
  4. Got any gum? — Sadly, no.
  5. What’s something you keep in mint condition? — My brain.  At least I try to.

I’m kitty-sitting this weekend.  Glinda and her sister have to fly out to Seattle for a family thing, so of course I’ll be taking care of The Phews upstairs, but Laurie is leaving Mr. Snickers down here with me.  It’ll be nice to have a cat in the house again, and maybe it’ll give me a push towards getting one of my own.  Or not.  It could help me decide not to.  However since I’m going to be dealing with a litter box again for a few days, I put off cleaning the bathroom today.  Not that I needed a big push in that direction.

I just finished updating my website.  Somehow the “About Me” page rest itself to the default for the theme I’m using, so I had to redo that.  And I added a links page.

I submitted “Suffer the Little Children,” finished the story for “Healing Hearts,” submitted it and had it accepted, and I’ve done the edits for “Waiting for the Moon.”  Now I feel sort of unfocused and at loose ends.  I have tons of things I need to do and even want to do, but I’m having some trouble with the motivatin’.  One thing I have to do is decide what I want to do for NaNoWriMo this year.  I’ve learned that if you’re going to bang out 50,000+ words in 30 days you have to have a plan or by mid-month all you’ll have is a mess.

Consequently I’ve been looking through my folders of ideas and half-finished work to see if there’s something I can knock into shape.  Nothing firm yet, but I’m thinking that an old romance that never went anywhere might well work if I broaden its scope.  It seems always to have wanted to be a menage romance, and prior to getting into online publishing, I never thought that would sell in traditional media.

I’m also trying to finish rewrites on two romances to submit.  Harlequin didn’t want them, and I sort of see why in both cases (subject matter in one case, awkward writing in the other) but I’m going to give them another shot once the rewrites are finished.  I keep wanting to do something for some of the story calls, but nothing is occurring to me.

Argh, it’s too hot to think.  Thank goodness Eureka is on tonight.  And I hope Glinda will bring home something good to eat.

Go me, go me, go me…

It has been a long time since I built a website.  When I say that I was building them back in the 80s when all of this was really new, some of you may grok what I mean when I say that things have changed.  A whole freakin’ lot.  So after bashing around with free web design software and producing one boring site and one that was incredibly cheesy, I finally downloaded CoffeeCup Visual Site Designer, which at first made me want to put my fist through the screen.  But it’s frequently that way with new software, so I know to push on past the this-thing-is-stupid-and-useless-and-I-hate-it reaction.  And lo, it was good.  I’ve got a brand new look to the site which I like very much, and I’m actually starting to understand the program.

Quel horreur!Apart from all that, I’ve been working on a short story for a charity anthology.  Today was the deadline and I got it in late last night.  Now I wait to see if they want it.  My next project is to brush up two m/f romances to submit to a publisher and finish the novel I wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo.    And then it’s down to doing an outline for this year’s NaNo.  Work, work, work.  Slaving away over a hot computer day and night.  Oh the unspeakable horror of the writer’s life.  (Image is from “The Unstrung Harp” by Edward Gorey, possibly the finest book about writing ever written.)

On Saturday Glinda and I went to visit an elderly neighbor.  Her niece and brother-in-law are on vacation until the beginning of the week, so we though it would be good to look in on her.  We brought her fruit on Wednesday and on Saturday a book.  She seemed happy to see us and we agreed that we need to go visit her from time to time even when her family comes home.  Later we took a walk around the block, watched Eureka and had Italian beef for supper.

Today, brunch with Jim, Pam and Chris at Patty’s Diner (Yum!) a lot of shopping and supper on the terrace.  Generally, a nice day.  I ended up with two jars of jalapeno-stuffed olives from Cost Plus, which are easily the best jalapeno-stuffed olives ever, a new bracelet and a couple of really bright throw pillows for the living room.

Unfortunately Glinda came home to a phone message that her brother is not doing well, so she and her sisters are going out to be with him now.  I’ll be taking care of the kitties (Glinda’s and her sister’s) for a few days.  That should be… um, interesting.

One of Mr. Earbrass's better days.

No coding ninjas here

Many moons ago, I made a lot of websites.  It was fun, I did a lot of silly things like Mountains for the Midwest (Let’s get a mountain range here in Illinois!) some fannish ones like my Lance Henriksen site which had the significant honor of being referred to as “not stalkerish at all,” and some informative ones like my sites about Jean Cocteau and Colette.  And yeah, I posted pictures of my cats.  This is the internet; it’s some kind of law that you have to post pictures of your cats.

So yesterday I finally bought a domain for my writing.  It’s called tracyrowan.org The decor is a bit haphazard just now, and there isn’t much in the way of furniture, but I will be posting links to all my published work and any news I might have.

Persimmon Frost has taken up residence on this site, and I’ll continue to use it as the place where I blither on about life, the universe and everything.  If you have the old WordPress site bookmarked, please update it now to:  http://www.tracyrowan.org/persimmonfrost.  If you’re reading this on Facebook, you probably won’t notice any change at all since I’ve already made the changeover there.

That’s about it for now.  I really will try to make things look a bit nicer, but it’s been a hella long time since I coded anything, and CSS?  Please.

I'm tellin' ya, it's the law