The Man In The High Castle, by P.K. Dick

I watched the entire series and then read the book because I wanted to see the changes that were made and if they actually translated Dick’s work and ideas into the film.

In one way they did. In another, not.

Either way, for someone who only wrote novels and short stories (I think 44 and 121 respectively), Philip K. Dick must be the most remarkably successful “screenwriter” ever. At least 13 titles — either stories or novels — have been filmed and a few more adapted to the stage. His themes often play with reality but, weirdly and may a bit scarily, much of what he envisioned has become true. Margaret Atwood was asked how she was able to depict such horrifying dystopias like in The Handmaid’s Tale or Oryx and Crake, and she said, “I just read the newspaper.” Orwell, knowing that the title 1948 would be a mistake, switched the last two numbers to 1984 so that everybody could think it was the future, when what he was writing about was actually starting to take place. In many ways, I think Dick understood what was going on in his own time and managed to fit his vision into the future (as in Minority Report), or into alternative timelines, which this one is.

The main difference between the series and the novel is that object — the MacGuffin. In the novel, the MacGuffin is a novel. In the series, it is a set of film strips — I think 8 mm but might be 16mm I’m not sure. That is a major major difference and it has something to do with the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” In Dick’s book, the Man In The High Castle as he’s called, has written an alternative history called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.” I should have said first, that the United States lost World War II because it refused to get involved in the European theatre. The Nazis conquered Europe, Russia and England, then attacked Africa and finally the United States. On the other side, the Japanese attacked as well and those are the two super powers in the book: The German reich controls the East Coast and the Japanese control the west coast. Much of the mountain area is independent but poor. 15 years later, the American population has adjusted to their new circumstances and, in many respects, accepts and even admires them.

So people in the novel read this Grasshopper book and are intrigued, but nothing leads them to believe that it is anything but fiction. In the series, people watch film clips of the Nazis and Japanese being defeated by a powerful United States and they begin to believe that it may have happened. In the novel, one Japanese character seems to time travel, or alternate reality travel, toward the end of the book, but he attributes it to meditation. In the movie, alternate reality travel becomes one of the central themes and there are several reality travelers. In the book, the Nazis are colonizing Mars and possibly Venus (Dick was writing before anyone knew what was under the Venetian clouds.) In the series they are pursuing time or reality travel.

And this is what the Nazis came up with. The Time tunnel from the TV series.

Both the series and the novel end ambiguously, which is way that Dick liked his books to end.

As always with Dick, I got a little bit tired of the philosophizing, but I still admire him even though he was a homophobe and anti-abortion.

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Horizon, updated

I’m pretty sorry to hear that Horizon Chapter 2 has been pulled from its original August release. I saw Chapter 1 again and it was much clearer the second time around. It still suffers from the basic flaw of not knowing who the characters are when they first appear on the screen. Mare Winningham, for example, goes up to some house, shoots a man in the chest twice, then flees with some horses and a baby in her wagon. First she lets a horse out of its pen and slaps it on the rump to make it run away. That’s the last time we see her until, perhaps, an hour later when Kevin Costner has finally entered the movie. She is living in some mining town which has a corner store and a hotel and presumably a saloon. She has a woman living with her who appears to be a local prostitute. The baby is a bit grown now, maybe 2, and at first I couldn’t fathom what they were all doing together. But it turns out that the prostitute was hired to look after the baby while Mare did other chores. There is a man involved who she doesn’t seem to like too much and he’s got some sort of idea that he can get more money for some land he leased to this pair of brothers. This gets him killed. But after the second viewing I finally understood that these brothers have been chasing her to get back the child. You don’t know what happens to Mare Winningham. But the prostitute ends up leaving the child with some Chinese family and disappearing. The implication is that she is going to go to Horizon and try to make a life there. This is the same town that keeps getting burned, and I’m guessing, over the course of the four movies, the town will be established after a shit load of blood shed. In fact, everything in the first installment, suggests that all these diverse characters are making their way to Horizon. Costner, the prostitute, a wagon train with Luke Wilson, some dipshit English couple and two obvious rapists and an assortment of sod busters. One brother is dead and now the other is trying to find Costner, who killed him. He’ll probably end up in Horizon too. Then it occurred to me why he called this town “Horizon.” Because all roads lead to (the) Horizon.

The music is not as good as I thought, so I have to take that back, although I did enjoy the final montage. But it’s really the characterization that does the movie under. You just can’t figure out who is who. But hey, it will have a small theatrical release and I hope it’s soon. And he’s also shooting the third installment now, so maybe people will come around, the way they came around to Shelly Duvall’s performance in The Shining and a smaller number came around to Michael Cimino’s disaster, “Heaven’s Gate.”

Speaking of (RIP) Shelly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a genuine scream as that moment when Jack Nicholson is chopping at the bathroom door with the axe, and the moment when she sees the entire head of the axe come through the door. Her screams go gutteral and raw just at that moment, as if she hadn’t realized it was really an axe that he was using. It was like she “shone” for a moment, and saw her dead body.

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Resilience, by the elderly

Don’t like to include politics in this web site, read by no one, which is meant purely for me to talk about my thoughts and feelings about books and movies. I don’t allow comments because it seems that if you have any kind of page like this, it quickly turns into an exercise is deleting spam.

But the setback that President Biden is experiencing because of the debate performance, which I didn’t watch, but has been described to me by everyone from 15 to 80, does not freak me out in the same way as it seems to be freaking everyone else out. For one thing, not watching and not reading the 172 negative articles The New York Times published (vs. the 1 article about the Niagara of lies that Trump spewed the same night), is the greatest way to keep your head sane and your mind clean. People are losing it, not because they have an opinion, but because they watched a debate where the moderators did no work (An AI machine could have done as well), and where CNN’s policy was to not fact check — simply a gift to Donald Trump. They are losing it because 90% of the country’s media is controlled by Republican interests, and besides that obvious bias, from a click, share, retweet, repost, meme-creating, declining readership and oversaturated media market, every single newspaper and “social” website, or news website, is hopelessly (and I mean hopelessly) invested in making sure the news is “exciting” or “dramatic” or “historic.” Hence the ceaseless calls for Biden to resign and all the speculation about who is going to run or should there be an open convention and so on.

But I want to go back to when I worked for an gay rights organization that I would say was one of the main organizations to work on achieving gay marriage rights. At Lambda, we had brought a case before the Hawaii court asserting that the denial of marriage licenses to gay men and women was an act of discrimination based on sex. I, personally, was skeptical of this argument, because it asked the judge to believe that gender also included the right to marry the same gender, which I just didn’t think it did. Nevertheless, the judge agreed and was very close to arguing that the state of Hawaii had to start issuing wedding licenses to men and women no matter what gender they were choosing to marry. The decision was weeks away from being issued, but then the Hawaii legislative body quickly passed a law that determined the legal definition of marriage was between a male and female. With that law in place, the judge had no other recourse than to state that the case was moot, and dismissed it.

I remember the office, which was about 45 people at that time in the New York branch, got together in the large lobby of our office and we shared some champagne and Evan Wolfson, who was the leader of the marriage project, offered up a toast that I thought was quite beautiful. He said, basically, “we keep on.” And he should know, too, because he had argued the losing case in the Supreme Court where the court ruled that cops had a right to barge into people’s homes and arrest them if they think sodomy was taking place: that the states could criminalize oral or anal sex. But I realized that day that being an activist and working for progressive things involves not just advocacy and strategy but also being ready for (Edit) [an endless array of setbacks] and continuing on in spite of it.

(Edit). After the Hawaii legislature made a law stating that marriage was between male and female only, we at Lambda watched, pretty much in horror, as one state after another created laws that defined marriage as being between male and female and most states made it a part of their constitution. Then the federal DOMA law was passed and Bill Clinton signed it into law. The case Obergefell v. Hodges nullified every one of those laws, but it’s significant that to this day, only Nevada has written gay marriage rights into their constitution. Nearly every other state still has in their constitution bans against gay marriage.

This is because they will overturn Obergefell if they get their way. The hate is still there. Luckily, Joe Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to recognize same sex marriages performed elsewhere, just as they are required to do with heterosexual marriages.

So in that roundabout way, I’m saying that I am not particularly freaked out about Joe Biden’s age, his gaffes in front of the camera, and I will vote for him even if he’s in the hospital after having a stroke. Why? Because there are systems in place: The Vice President, for one, will become the president if he is incapacitated. The VP as well as the staff can remove him from office if he is incapacitated (something Mike Pence and the other cowards under Trump failed to do). Third in line, after Kamala Harris, is Johnson, the speaker of the house. He would be a problem, but not nearly as much of a problem as Trump. The most criminal of all our presidents prior to this election was Trump. Trump is the most criminal presidents ever, including Warren G. Harding. Prior to Trump it was Nixon. During Nixon, the government was mostly a functional place, But ever since Ronald Reagan decided that it was time to attack, “Liberals,” the right has spent decades persuading their followers to hate the leftists and liberals that they claim are destroying America. We got to this place, not by a natural gravitational pull of one or the other sides, but because the right and their followers began a campaign of hate, to the point where web sites were created to “kill all liberals,” “kill democrats,” and that horrible painted witch Sarah Palin put bullseyes on her web site indicating which lawmakers she wanted to see assassinated. Then came January 6 where the hate was on full display to see. There was no corresponding growth of this hatred on the left. The left never created, “Kill all conservatives,” or “Conservatives must die,” web sites, and we continued to advocate for a ban on AK47 and other absurd weapons.

But basically, right now, July 2024, where we are is in a place of the need to persevere, even if Trump pulls ahead (and despite what the polls say, there is no actual proof that he has pulled ahead. It appears, for the most part, that Pennsylvania will be the deciding state. For the record, this debate was extremely early, it’s high time that the media and newspaper stop referring to it as his “disasterous” or “catastrophic” debate — we all know that — and should start focusing on the lies and their plans for Project 2025. But I think if we can get back to talking about all the horrible things the Trump admin wants to do, Biden will not lose, and enough women and blacks will come out and vote for the old man.

And enough with this garbage of tossing out older people. The body can fail us at any time. A great producer just died (Jon Landau) at the age of 63. But with age and the various infirmities that accompany it, also comes wisdom, unless you’re Trump and have no intellectual curiosity, even about your own death. And mostly that’s because we, the older people, have been through things before. We carry on.

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Horizon, An American Saga, by Jon Baird, Kevin Costner and Mark Kasdan

It’s hard to review a 4 chapter movie that’s only released its first part. But unlike the critics, I actually enjoyed this quite a bit, and in the audience I was with, there was a smattering of applause at the end. I checked rotten tomatoes and sure enough, the critics and public don’t agree.

There are many – and I mean many – problems with the movie. Characters aren’t introduced and as a result, for the first hour we don’t really know who these people are.

Horizon is the name of a town — or at least a potential town — on the bank of a river in the southwest — Arizona to be more specific.

This is Apache country, and because this settlement, which is being sold by someone named Pickering and sounds like a bit of a scammer, is being built exactly in the center of the Apache’s river crossing, it is under constant attack. The first happens when 2 men and a young boy attempt to survey the land and set up division lines. They are slaughtered and later found by a priest who buries them and leaves makeshift crosses on their graves. Apparently, some years later, a wagon train has arrived and set up mostly tents, plus one house on the opposite side of the river from the graves. They decided the grave-side of the river must have been the cause of the previous deaths, but we know that the first three were working on both sides of the river, and a bit later we learn why they were killed (they are driving away all the game).

The settlers have a dance and shortly afterward, the Apaches attack and burn the entire place down, including the wooden house. Mind, we still don’t know who these people are, including the First Peoples. (I prefer that Canadian term to “natives,” or “native Americans.” The word “native” always sounds insulting to me and I dare say, it will one day become an insult. Indigenous, which is the word one of the characters uses, is okay, and in my own family history I have come across documents which describe “negotiations with the indigenous people there.” (This was upstate New York.) But First Peoples doesn’t disparage second, third and fourth waves of immigrants. It just acknowledges that there was a group here who were first. Anyway, this long diatribe of words I like and don’t like has a lot to do with this movie, and its reception.

Simple minded people have written online stuff like, “Manifest Destiny, in 2024? You’re joking right?” “I don’t need to see the genocide of native peoples.” And so on. I think what Kevin Costner is trying to do — and the reason he called it a saga instead of a story — is not really bring back the magic of the western — but retell those stories in a way that is sympathetic to both sides of that war. It’s significant, in my opinion, that most of this movie takes place during the civil war, and there are a few nods to The Union. But this is like the story of the hidden war.

And then he did something quite extraordinary I thought. I was wondering how he was going to end Chapter 1 when we barely could remember the characters and knew almost nothing about them. But then as a team of scalp hunters rides off into the distance, suddenly there is this very long montage of scenes from the next movie. None of those scenes gave away the story, but with the music and a sort of whiff of the next movie, which comes out in a few weeks, it actually finished an open ended movie. Plenty of people were not satisfied with that ending, but I thought it was wonderful.

And the soundtrack is absolutely spectacular. It is beyond perfection. I’m a soundtrack fanatic and I had never heard anything by John Debney, and that’s probably because I would never go see the types of films he has scored. But with this I was constantly feeling the music.

Anyway, I loved it, except for the continuity which was very spotty, and the multiple story lines where I couldn’t tell, sometimes, where we were.

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Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, a biography by Fred Kaplan

It’s always a little bit of a thrill to come to the end of an extraordinarily long book or novel. And with biographies, and how long they take to read, you often feel you are right there, experiencing the death that almost always comes in the penultimate page, with a few more paragraphs summarizing the somewhat dull details of the funeral arrangements.

This took me a long time to read, in part because he lived a life that was pretty dull. And when I was looking for a biography of James, I discovered there weren’t that many.

There are something like 10,000 unpublished letters James wrote to his friends, family and colleagues and the author must have read at least half of them. It seems like he (James) endlessly complained about wherever he was and that he needed to get away to Italy or to Paris or re-visit America or return to Lamb’s House, his eventual final home in England. All of that was and is catastrophically boring. What wasn’t boring was discovering that he had the same troubles and conflicts that all authors have. His first and largest conflict was what we would call his sexuality, or his closetedness. But I think in James’s time, all of what would be called sexuality today, was hidden behind a debate about marriage (to a woman) and family. The question for him wasn’t whether he preferred men, but whether he could commit to a family. And he decided not to — that it wasn’t compatible with what he wanted to do as an artist.

There were definitely conflicts about his sexuality, but by the end of his life, he had settled on being a lover of men in a strictly Greek and platonic way – that he could express his need for other men and his need to love men — but only in a verbal or written way. There is no indication whatsoever that he ever had physical contact with another person and what’s more, knowledge of “the act” isn’t reflected in his writing either.

He struggled with money, but he had an income that kept him afloat. His greatest works: The Ambassadors, Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl, sold fewer copies than the advance given him. He spent a period of time writing for the theatre, thinking that he could tap into the riches that were flowing in the direction of Oscar Wilde. His theatre works were failures but he kept at that for six years, until finally returning to fiction. He was almost 60 when he began his magnificent trio of novels mentioned above and I believe he was about 64 when The Golden Bowl was published. His older brother William James became the father of American psychology and was hugely famous in his own right. There is a mistaken (or misunderstood) belief that Edith Wharton, who was his friend and admirer, paid for the publication of his books. This was a case of bad judgment on her part: because James spent so much time complaining about his poverty, Wharton arranged to have many of his friends donate money to a fund which would be paid to his publisher to publish future James novels. James heard about it and made the publisher return the money. His father was a Swedenborgian and I was going to go look up that particular philosophy but just can’t stand to read about religions anymore. However, that particular philosophy preoccupied his father throughout the James siblings childhoods and was strange and damaging. His father inherited from his own father the sum (in today’s money) of about 125 million dollars. It was mostly squandered on his father’s efforts to publish his ideas about Swedenborganism and other philosophies he had about women. The civil war was a defining event for most of the family. Henry was the last of his siblings to die. He was cremated and the urn was buried beside his mother, father, sister and a brother.

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Tuesday, by Daina Oniunas-Pusic

The preview for this movie makes it seem like this is going to be the biggest tear jerker in a long while, but it’s actually quite bizarre, and that makes it a rather special movie, I think.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Zora, Lola Pettigrew plays her extremely ill daughter Tuesday, and Arinze Kene plays Death. Death, in this case, is a cockatoo of some kind. (Update: it was a macaw.)

The first scene is of the millions of voices of the earth, reflected in a globe and pulling back through clouds and such in the manner of the opening scene of Contact. But this time, we land not in a human eye but in the cockatoo. He is able to hear all the human suffering going on in the world.

Whenever a voice in pain cries out louder than expected, he makes his way over to that person, waves one of his wings over the person and that person dies. He does this for several different people, and then he hears the cries of Tuesday. He immediately flies over to where she lives in London and when he enters her room, she understands that he is Death and she asks, “Are you here to kill me?” He replies in the affirmative and she asks if he can wait until her mother gets home from work. He reluctantly agrees. He’s covered in soot and dirt so she fills up her sink and lets him take a bath. He turns out toe be extraordinarily beautiful. He can also shrink down to the size of a tear duct or expand, like Alice in Wonderland, to the size of a house. All of this becomes important in several aspects later in the movie.

When her mother gets home from work, she is very obviously avoiding the subject of her dying daughter because she tries to go straight upstairs complaining that things went south at work and they have to start some project over. Tuesday’s home health nurse (this is England where they actually have health care), begs her to stop in and say hello to her daughter. At this point, Death is hiding in Tuesday’s ear canal and her mother doesn’t know it, but at Tuesday’s insistence, death flies out of her ear and grows to a normal size bird. Like everyone in the movie who encounters this bird, Zora knows who or what it is, and on some denial-instinct, beats the bird and smashes it with her foot. Death hobbles out the door and into the garden, knocking over plants and things on the way and just before he can recover himself, Zora starts beating him again with a heavy book. Then she pours alcohol on him and lights a match and burns him until she thinks he is dead. While she’s digging a hole to bury him in, he says, “You need to let her die,” and suddenly with that comment, she grabs the bird — about the size of her hand now — and eats him and swallows him down.

Now, in what screenwriters usually refer to as the vast wilderness of Act II, the most difficult part of a script, the mother and daughter actually get to know each other, and it turns out there are significant secrets the mother has kept from the daughter, which the daughter knew anyway. Zora lost her job a long time ago and has been pretend going in to work and sometimes falling asleep on park benches. To get by, she has been selling all the belongings of the second floor of their house, including many of Tuesday’s favorite things, like dolls. Also, the city starts to become strange and weird. There seems to be an uncontrolled fire at St. Paul’s. There is a man with bloody stumps of legs dragging himself across the road, screaming in agony. Reports come over the radio of cows who were “bolted” in the brain (to become meat), just walking around like zombie cows. Eventually you sort of realize that because Zora “ate” death, nothing can die anymore and the consequences are horrible.

During an argument with her daughter about fixing a light, Zora suddenly grows to the size of the house. And then somehow, either her daughter or herself, she realizes that she has the power of death. So she straps her daughter to her back, grows to the height of the trees and starts walking all over the place, waving her hand to help the suffering people (and cows) die.

But this is a temporary illusion on her part — that she has become death. Because while at a beach with her daughter, she runs off to a secluded place to have a pee and suddenly, for the first time, she hears her daughter’s suffering and pain. This makes her run and eventually puke up the bird. They have an argument and from the daughter’s point of view, she can’t tell what they are fighting about. But whatever’s going on, the bird shrinks down and jumps back into her belly. But he says, “If you don’t tell her, I’ll rip you to shreds from the center of your body.”

And it turns out, all she needed to say was that she didn’t think she was going to survive after her daughter is gone. (That’s in the preview.) This scene did not turn out to be so awful after all, though it was indeed very moving. But what I liked about it is how hard it was for her to get to that simple statement, which seems so very true to all of us. I can’t remember whether the daughter dies at Zora’s wave of the hand or of the birds wave of his wing, but it’s irrelevant. Some time later, it’s clear that Zora is not holding on and is probably suicidal. But then death returns, not to kill her, but to see how she’s doing.

Anyway, it was a delightful movie I thought. I don’t normally look at Rotten Tomatoes for scores or anything like that because usually I think who cares, I’ll never agree. But this one has a hugely divergent rating between the critics and the audience 82 to 49%. I’m firmly with the critics.

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Thelma, by Josh Margolin

Once again, the NYTimes has come out with another stupid review of a movie and this time it was Thelma. This review was by Jeannette Catsoulis, who appears to be on the movie staff and not just some rando “media” commentator.

Her big complaint was that it was increasingly absurd and unbelievable: “Barely more plausible than Sharknado,” is how she put it.

The absurdity of complaining about plausibility in Sharknado is is remarkable, since that movie was meant to be a kind of joke, like Snakes on a Plane. But I can guarantee that most people would not be thinking about the plausibility of this movie because it has some heart to it, and when people follow or listen to a story, it isn’t the plausibility they’re thinking about or relating to. Some people, more icey than most, go immediately to the question of “could this happen,” and it’s one of the reasons I myself can’t watch Bridgerton and never will. Additionally, almost all stories are preposterous and implausible. All fairy tales are practically drug induced animal/human dreams that are meant to expose our inner most fears that we are, simply, animals and vulnerable. 3 pigs and the wolf? Goldilocks and the 3 bears? Hansel and Gretel and the witch living in a house of candy? Even with Cinderella, the animals help her — at least in the Disney movie. I don’t remember the original story except that all her horrible sisters cut off parts of their feet to try to fit into the dainty glass slippers. Take another movie that was released this weekend: Kinds of Kindness. Plausible? No. Nobody is going to chop off their thumb and cook it for someone, or cut out her own liver.

This movie didn’t seem that difficult to swallow because there were times, for example, when Thelma, the main character, played by June Squibb, finds herself alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood. This stuff happens, especially to people in their 90s who may or may not be losing some memory. Or when she fell and couldn’t lift herself.

The other reason I hated this review and most of her reviews is that she specifically mentioned the exceptional cast and left out one person — probably the 2nd most important character in the movie — which was the stand in for the author Josh Margolin. This young, sort of rootless character, is played by Fred Hechinger who was first noticed in The White Lotus as the constantly brutalized little brother. He was outstanding. He conveyed love, concern, self loathing and self hatred, and, probably the very common issue of not knowing what to do in this world.

Instead she singled out the performances of, correctly, June Squibb who born in 1929 and will be 95 in November, and, also correctly, Richard Roundtree, who died in 2023 at the age of 81. But also Parker Posey, Clark Gregg and Malcolm McDowell. All of whom might be good actors, but have incredibly small parts. I think Gregg has four lines at the most. It was a slight. A way of saying she didn’t like Fred Hechinger without saying she didn’t like him or that he was miscast.

The movie isn’t a tear jerker, although there are some very moving parts and a woman behind me couldn’t stop sobbing — maybe she had just lost a grandparent. But as someone with a mom who got suckered into sending money to a scam place (she was able to get it back, but I think there was a bank fee involved), this reviewer seemed really clueless about the elderly and the issues they face, including being prey through no fault of their own, having to face the dreaded senior living facility; striving to remain independent; stubbornness and especially memory issues and not really understanding how the world works now. (Malcolm McDowell provides a tirade against Amazon.)

And it was extremely funny. So yes, rent it or, if you’re lucky enough to live where they might have a theatre that runs independent films from Sundance, go see it.

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Nowhere Special, by Uberto Pasolini

Most movies which are tear jerkers or weepers or whatever you want to call them, make you cry during the movie, at some point. This one I didn’t cry at all, until the credits started rolling. I think that’s a really remarkable achievement.

James Norton plays John and his problem is not a complex problem, but almost unbelievably difficult. He has a four year old, Michael, and he, John, has a terminal illness — presumably cancer but they don’t say and it isn’t important. The mother of the boy left them and went back to Russia, abandoning her husband and son, and in fact has cut them off completely.

In any event, as one of the adoption agents points out, it is already too late to try to reunite the son with his mother, even if he knew where she was. He has to find a family for his son before he dies, and to that extent he is working with an agency, and doing some fairly illegal things to boot, to interview various candidates in the hope that he’ll find the right one.

He’s a window washer, and there are innumerable scenes of him looking through windows into other people’s lives, and sometimes, weird constant reminders that he’s not going to be around much longer. The son seems to sense something going on with his father, but I think the main conflict in the movie is that John does not want his son to remember him. He wants his son to forget him and to grow up not knowing he was adopted by a new family. This is a little bit of pipe dream and the adoption agents keep trying to get him to realize that he must talk about it with his son (they have a children’s book called “How the dinosaur dies,” that he can use.) They also want him to create a memory box that the boy will be able to open at a later date, when he reaches the age where he wants to try to reconstruct an image of his father and mother. They remind him, that legally, Michael will be able to request the names of his birth parents when he turns 18. But John is one of those beleaguered world weary types who just wants to be forgotten. So it is essentially an internal conflict — or a conflict of what happens when the inner emotional reality bumps up against the outside world.

He interviews a total of five families, I think, and in the end, he picks the one I would have picked, so I felt like I had judged correctly. And that, ironically, is where the movie ended, the credits rolled, and I suddenly felt like I had a rock stuck in my throat. Very slow and beautiful. Really well done for someone who wrote, directed and produced his own movie.

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The New Life, by Tom Crewe


Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld, by Theo Aronson

Since characters in the fictional book are real people in the non-fictional book, I thought I’d write about both books. In The New Life I only suspected a short way into the book that the characters might be based on real life people, because the sections are given dates and they are marching, unbeknownst to them, into a thicket — maybe even disaster — of events that will change gay rights and gay consciousness for decades to come. That is, the trial of Oscar Wilde for “gross indecency,” which was the legal term for sodomy or sex between 2 (or more I suppose) men. It concerns John Addington Symonds who was famous for a number of things but very importantly, his translations of Michaelangelo’s sonnets to Tomasso Cavalieri, in which he restored the male pronouns that had been made female by earlier editors. He was married and had four children, but he was also gay and he knew it. He also believed it was normal. In this novel, he and another man, Henry Ellis, decide to write down some real cases — a kind of “In their own words,” as a scientific exploration. But then the trial hits in 1895, gay men start fleeing to France for their own safety, and these two, though they are still eager to try to publish their book, get into trouble when the police find a copy.

Anyway this coincides with roughly the same time period as Prince Eddy’s involvement in what was called The Cleveland Street scandal. The non-fiction book about Prince Eddy is quite dense and it took me a strangely long time to get through it. There’s so much that you have to try to understand about life in Victorian England, such as the casual nature of sex between young boys and older men in exchange for money. (Prostitution, duh). But the messenger boys were not allowed to carry their own money so that it would not mix in with the money from the clients. But one day, a kid named Swincow was discovered with 21 shillings on him, and suspecting that he stole it, forced him to reveal how he got it. It happened because he was prostituting at a Cleveland Street brothel where men could sleep with boys.

Anyway, this book, which goes over many years of Prince Eddy’s life, shows, I think pretty conclusively, that Prince Eddy did visit the Cleveland Street brothel and was probably gay. Although he was the eldest son of Victoria’s heir (George, the Prince of Wales), he was lethargic and some say, inept. He would not have made an interesting king or even a competent one. He was engaged to May, but he died before their marriage could take place, so the heir went to the spare, as they say, and George eventually married Eddy’s fiance. They became King George and Queen Mary, and they had their famous sons: Edward, the Nazi sympathizer who abdicated to marry Wallace Simpson, and another George — the one with the stutter depicted in The King’s Speech, who married Elizabeth, the Queen mother. Those two gave birth to Elizabeth, and then in she to the current King Charles, undergoing cancer treatment, his son William and Harry, the pariah, and then I guess another George will eventually come along, If the monarchy survives.

But I think what really comes off well in this interesting study of someone who never became king, and why it’s almost certain that Eddy did enjoy the young men at Cleveland Street, is how much effort the royalists and sympathizers went to make sure there was never a chance that Prince Eddy would have to speak on the matter. The prostitutes were given extremely lenient sentences. They never tried to prosecute the proprietor, who I think had fled the country, and most of the wealthy who were definitely known to have been, were never charged with anything.

It makes you wonder why, in 1895, they did go after Oscar Wilde and there are some suggestions that he caused it himself. He didn’t flee to Europe when he had the chance to. (He ended up there anyway.)

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Eclipse, by science, and for other people, by God.

I drove out to my mom’s condo today, because for some bizarre reason, her home is about 3 yards of the line 0f totality. The line of totality is about 100 miles wide, but there is a singular line which may be called something more than totality. It’s a line, even down to the yards, where the moon will actually be in the exact center of the sun. that means a perfect circle within a circle — not off to north south east or west. It should create the greatest view of the sun.

The most surprising thing to me, was that you have to take off the protective goggles and look at the sun directly. The second surprise was that it isn’t just a black circle like the photos generally show. (Even the great one I copied for this entry.) It’s more like a star sapphire but more diamond like than that gemstone.

In this eclipse we saw a bit of red at the 5:00 angle and some people said, “Oh that’s a solar flair,” but it’s not. It’s a solar prominence. A kind of mountain of plasma and in the one photographed above, 3 earths could fit into that space: a mountain that is at least 45,000 miles high. To compare, Everest is 5 miles high.

But then of course the religious people have to ruin it. Idiots like Marjorie Taylor Greene and my own cleaning woman. The latter texted me and said, “Did you know the first new light after the eclipse is going to land on Israel? I wanted to text back and say, “No, it will land on me and all the people watching with me,” and then add, “plus it never stopped shining on people who weren’t in the direct path.

The other one — the insane politician — tried to explain it to us that it is God’s sign we’d better shape up. “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You.”

Finally, even though the eclipse lasted for more than 4 minutes, it was over in a flash and watching some of the possibly fake animations of the shadow crossing over America, it really does drive home how far away the moon is, and how rarely it casts its shadow on the earth.

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