Great News, Bad News & Even Better News

I just looked at the date of my last posting: October 24th, 2014. Well, at least it was in this year. Here’s what’s been happening since then. Good news first.

I Finished My YA novel,  Monkey’s Wedding!!!

Zimbabwe sunset

In my last posting, Weirding OutI wrote that I was thirty pages from the end and that I wanted to get it done by that Thursday, which was November 1st. Well, it didn’t happen. Instead I got the shingles. That’s the crappy news.

Overnight, a gang of little gremlins carrying blowtorches and hat pins took up residence on my left hip and my stomach, and have been burning and stabbing me for most of the day, and with all they’ve got after midnight. Oh, and then there’s the itch. The rash isn’t even there anymore. It’s all the nerve endings under the skin, which those little bastard gremlins are playing like a harp, discordantly of course. I’m told this can go on for two years. I’m all nerved out. I can’t concentrate. Everything hits me wrong.

Except for Monkey’s Wedding. Working on it gave me a focus I couldn’t find doing anything else. It made me feel less helpless. It gave me back some of my power. The only thing, though, I found myself changing the story completely. Now, the ngozi, you know, those powerful fire spirits in my story, instead of being controlled by the witchdoctor Anesu, and vanquishing evil Karari at the end, they take her over and set him free. And then they kill Elizabeth and Tururu and take over the world. Wait a minute! Those aren’t gremlins under my skin with blowtorches! It’s the ngozi. They must’ve disguised themselves as shingles and have taken control. Oh, well, I think this new version sounds a helluva lot better than my stupid, family/political/mystical/coming-of-age drama, don’t you?

10 Picks From My Netflix Five-Star Movie List

I love Netflix. They pretty much have my choice in movies pegged: indie, quirky, comedy, drama, and foreign movies, as well as British TV series. I trust their ratings (from my input of course). They know better than to suggest animal stories where some poor creature gets hurt and/or dies, or anything to do with abused/kidnapped kids. Here goes in no particular order, except for the first one, which remains one of my favourite movies of all time.

1. Wings of Desire (1987)

This Wim Wenders film centers around the story of two angels wandering in a mixture of post-war and modern Berlin. Invisible to humans, they nevertheless give their help and comfort to all the lonely and depressed souls they meet. Finally, after many centuries, one of the angels becomes unhappy with his immortal state and wishes to become human in order to experience the joys of everyday life. He meets a circus acrobat and finds in her the fufillment of all his mortal desires. He also discovers that he is not alone in making this cross-over, and that a purely spiritual experience is not enough to satisfy anyone. Stars Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk looking like he wandered in from the set of Columbo. The first clip is of him, the second a better one of the beginning of the movie.

2. Blood Simple (1984)

A bar-owner in Texas is certain his wife is cheating on him and hires a private detective to spy on her. This is just the beginning of a complex plot which is full of misunderstandings and deceit. Ethan and Joel Coen’s first feature film. Need I say more, except that it stars Frances McDormand along with M. Emmet Walsh.

3. Fargo (1996)

Another Coen brothers film, a black comedy set in the north Dakota city of Fargo with Ms. McDormand playing a pregnant police chief who investigates a series of homicides and William H. Macy as a car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife, played by Kristin Rudrud. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare play the criminals and Harve Presnell the salesman’s father in-law. Many residents of Fargo were not fans of the film’s dark humor, not to mention the heavy accents. But the fame and cash from the movie eventually brought many Fargo residents around. Now, 16 years later, Fargo awaits the debut of a new cable television show by the same name. And many residents are less apprehensive about how their hometown will be portrayed this time around.

4. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Coen Brothers as producers again, this one written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! It tells the story of a gold miner-turned-oilman on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It stars Daniel-Day Lewis and Paul Dano. Wow!

5. Seven Samurai (1954)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, one of Japan’s greatest directors, this is the story of a veteran samurai, who after falling on hard times, answers a village’s request for protection from bandits. He gathers six other samurai to help him, and they teach the townspeople how to defend themselves. In payment, the villagers supply the samurai with three small meals a day. The film culminates in a giant battle when 40 bandits attack the village. Seven Samurai is described as one of the  greatest and most influential films ever made, and is one of a select few Japanese films to become widely known in the West for an extended period of time.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This is a story of evolution. Sometime in the distant past, someone or something nudged evolution by placing a monolith on Earth (presumably elsewhere throughout the universe as well). Evolution then enabled humankind to reach the moon’s surface, where yet another monolith is found, one that signals the monolith placers that humankind has evolved that far. Now a race begins between computers (HAL) and human (Bowman) to reach the monolith placers. The winner will achieve the next step in evolution, whatever that may be.  Stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.

7. Chinatown (1974)

A screenwriter friend gave me the script for this movie, said it was considered the perfect screenplay. I still have it somewhere. JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city’s water supply. Stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Diane Ladd, and Roman Polanski as “Man with a knife.”

8. Around The Bend (2004)

In LA, Jason Lair is recently separated, living with his grandfather and his son; he’s a banker, tense, with a limp. Grandfather Henry, an archaeologist, wants to take the family van on a trip to Albuquerque. His plans are interrupted when Turner, Jason’s father and Henry’s son, appears after years of absence. Henry wants to celebrate family, as does Zach, Jason’s son; Jason is angry and distant, Turner seems detached and says he’s got a bus to catch in the morning. This prompts Henry to put in place an elaborate plan that will send his “tribe” on that VW bus trip to New Mexico sorting out relationships and digging up a crippled family history. Dust and dogs figure prominently. Stars Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas and Jonah Bobo as the kid. An unexpected pleasure was watching Christopher Walken do a solo dance scene. Did you know he know he initially trained as a dancer?

9. Chocolat (1988)

No, not that Chocolat with Juliette Binoche. This one is set in Africa and based on director Claire Denis’s childhood memories. The story examines the devastating effect of French colonialism through the eyes of a young girl coming of age in 1950s West Africa. When a plane makes an emergency landing in the isolated colonial post where 8-year-old France (Cécile Ducasse) lives, a diverse group of whites and Africans is stranded and must stay with France’s family, forcing sexual, social and class tensions to arise. This reminded me so much of my life albeit without all the sexual tension, but the colonial situation did and the countryside. Excellent.

10. Bob and Rose (2001)

With both humor and drama, this hit Britcom romantically pairs a most unlikely — and highly controversial — duo: gay man Bob (Alan Davies) and straight woman Rose (Lesley Sharpe). The two meet, fall in love, and are bewildered by what has happened … as is everyone around them. Handling sensitive material with grace and humor, this award-winning series transcends gender issues to look at the fundamentals of life, love and relationships I loved it. This video is from Episode 2.