Journal Entries (June 22–28, 2012)

Friday, June 22nd–At some point in the morning I woke briefly, screaming in pain with a charley horse in one leg. Or was that yesterday? I was awakened at 9:15am by a Mexican laborer tearing the wall of my balcony down, something I was first threatened with back in March. He was very loud, but finished the job in ten minutes. I wonder how long it’ll take him and his fellows to finish the job and add the ugly, flimsy, privacy-denying metal railing.

I pissed, washed my face, walked and fed Belle, brushed my teeth, shave, shat, and warmed up my breakfast, and still had running water. Did they fix the plumbing problem between 8 and 9am, or does the trouble start later on?

I called the Food Stamp people to ask about that meeting with a MAP counselor I had back in April, and to tell them about my attempt to get in with DARS. The operator said I seem to be in compliance with them right now, and that it’s still several months before I have to renew my services. We’ll see if my Case Worker sings a different tune in August or September.

I ate more of my soup–it still tastes odd–and read some in Garner.

………………….

Well, the Siege of B____ seems to be over at long last. The work crew assembled the new balcony railing and put it into place in less than an hour. I wasn’t thrilled about losing the privacy the wall afforded, and some of the hollow horizontal pieces don’t have end caps attached to them, leaving rough edges that are unpleasant to the touch. But Belle seems to enjoy being able to go out onto the balcony and see the outside world–instead of just the sky–so if Belle’s happy, I’m happy.

I quickly brought my flowers pots and other balcony stuff out of storage in my bedroom, then vacuumed all the potting soil I spilled on the carpet in the process.

And I never suffered any loss of water today, so maybe they worked on it first thing in the morning.

Later on I watched “Herb and Dorothy.”

Saturday, June 23rd–I forget when I got up.

Belle seems to like the new balcony set-up. She napped out there for awhile. Still, I worry about leaving her out there unsupervised, as it wouldn’t surprise me if that asshole from upstairs or someone else might try to hurt her.

I finally finished “The Garner Files.” I’d first heard about this around the middle of last year, and read it was to be released in November. I never saw it at my neighborhood Barnes and Noble, and have been too broke to order it. The Downtown Public Library doesn’t have it.

I came across it by accident Wednesday in the Little Walnut Creek Branch Library, and though a previous reader had deface this copy by wiping his bloody boogers on the pages, I checked it out and began reading it that day.

There are some forms of entertainment that we want to surprise us. Others give us pleasure by being exactly what we expect them to be. “The Garner Files” is a case of the latter. James Garner’s voice rings very clearly in the pages, and his personality does not disappoint either.

He discusses his difficult childhood, his youth and military experiences, his early years as an actor, his miserable time as a Warner Brothers contract player (where he gained fame on “Maverick”), his film and TV career, including of course “The Great Escape” and “The Rockford Files,” his political involvement (he attended Martin Luther King’s March on Washington), his fondness for golf and auto racing, his health and legal troubles, and of course his views on life.

He speaks a little bit about his long marriage, but I got the impression he likes to keep his private life private. He mentions his past vices frankly and succinctly. He has sharp words about a few actors and entertainment executives, but the book is not the collection of scandals and bitter settling of scores that some reviewers would have you expect.

Two sections interested me especially. One was his account of the physical toll an action series takes on an actor. I had no idea it was that tough.

The other section described his beating in 1980 by a fellow motorist. I remembered the incident, but not the details. The curious thing is that when Garner tried to go after his assailant, he was held back by a bystander, who happened to be the chauffeur of MCA/UA head Lew Wasserman. A few pages later Garner describes how MCA/UA and Wasserman had, through “creative bookkeeping,” screwed him out of substantial profits from “The Rockford Files,” leading Garner to pursue lengthy legal actions. Though this may be jumping to conclusions, I had to wonder if Garner’s beating had been ordered by Wasserman.

The books ends with the reminiscences of Garner’s friends and family, and his own comments and ratings of every film, TV show, TV movie, or mini-series in which he has appeared. There’s a few films and shows Garner mentions which I’ve not seen, but now will add to my watch list.

Overall, a fast, fun, and in parts even moving read.

I skimmed an article about how hard it is nowadays for middle-aged people to find work. Naturally, this depressed the shit out of me.
I watched the documentary disk of “Frank Lloyd Wright’s House & Studio,” but when I tried to use the CD-ROM, it wouldn’t work, and fucked up my computer.

Sunday, June 24th–I woke up very depressed, a little before 3pm. I spent a good deal of time farting around online. I didn’t watch any movies or do any tutorials, though.

I had two rounds of reading in Jack London’s “The Road,” started Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale,” and continued in Welch.

I took Belle out for a very late walk and we went over by the mailboxes. It was in the wee hours of the morning, when all the other residents of the complex are asleep.

Out of the shadows near the road came a disheveled-looking young black man, looking very much as if he didn’t belong there, and walking in an uncertain manner. I was seized with a feeling I’ve only had a few times before in my life, that something seriously bad was about to happen, and that I might be killed in the next few seconds.

I just had time enough to utter a quick prayer and draw Belle’s leash in closer. I hoped he wouldn’t try to hurt her.

He came closer. I saw he had on earplugs and was listening to music. He was nodding along with the music. Was he wearing a white shirt and black pants? Was he a waiter? Was he waiting on a ride, and if so, why at such a late hour? He looked at Belle and gave a sort of stoned smile as I clucked to her, “Come on, Belle. Come on, B. Come on, girl.”

I had to pass within ten feet of him. Would he make a move then or after my back was turned? I continued to pull Belle along behind me. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the guy or indeed even notice him.

We passed the guy and I tried to pick up our speed as we walked along the east front of the complex, near the street. I was ready to yell for help if I needed to. But we went on our merry way unmolested. I made furtive glances over my shoulder, then turned left towards my own section of the complex, checking to make sure we weren’t being followed.

Once inside I made sure and locked my living room patio doors, even though my apartment is on the second floor, can only be accessed by a bridge, and the balcony is at least thirteen feet off the ground, overlooking a dry moat.

It’s just that intuition that we were in mortal danger that rattled me so. Something happened like that several years ago at the Arbor Cinema. I’d gone there on a quiet night when they had almost no business. I was early for my movie, and didn’t want to sit through the annoying twenty minutes of product and TV show ads they run prior to the movie trailers, so I was sitting at a table out in the lobby.

Another young black man came into the lobby and started talking with the employees behind the counter and behaving in a very erratic manner. I got a strong sense that he was about to pull out a gun and rob the place, and started trying to think how I could make my escape if he started shooting. Could I run out an exit door, or maybe hide in one of the auditoriums?

I couldn’t shake the idea that something very bad was about to happen, but nothing did. However, a few weeks later, in the early afternoon, just as the place was opening up, the theatre was indeed robbed.


Monday, June 25th–
I woke after 2pm, earlier than I wished. I didn’t think to call DARS with questions, but I did remember to check and see when my library books are due.

I returned to the Atomic Learning tutorial site for the first time in a few weeks and learned that there was a procedure whereby I could print up a certificate saying I’d completed the Picasa course–assuming, of course, I had a working printer. I think the next course I’ll take is Microsoft Outlook. I half-heartedly watched one lesson. The course has a great many parts.

I puttered well into the mid-evening. Late at night I read in London, Fleming, and Welch.

Tuesday, June 26th–I woke before 2pm–again, much too early. I took Belle out for a walk, but it was so incredibly hot out there that the pavement was burning her feet, and I had to pick her up and carry her part of the way back to the apartment. I wound up really fucking up my back that way.

Then when I got inside I read of yet another fucking cop killing a family dog.

Later, I heard this noise by my front door. I assumed they were just attaching the monthly invoice onto the clip by the door jamb, but then I heard rubbing sounds. I looked through the keyhole and saw a Mexican laborer wiping my door off–for the first time in at least eight years–preparing to repaint it. Another guy was doing the same for the door opposite mine.

I opened my door in order to help the guy reach the spots hidden by the door being closed, but he didn’t understand what I was doing, glanced quickly into my living room, then pulled the door shut again. Shortly thereafter, he repainted my door. Since the temperature outside is 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more, I’m sure it’ll dry quickly.

……………………….

I hope I live to see the day when other people will come to regard the topic of sexuality as tiresome and trivial, the way I do.

…………………………

James made some ridiculous claims the other day–not that there’s anything new about that. I had observed it’s been over six years since I’ve visited San Antonio. He claimed he offers to take me places all the time, but that “You won’t travel and you have a special-needs dog.”

As for Belle, I said she doesn’t have special-needs, she just doesn’t like me to be gone for long (well, she doesn’t like me to ever leave), and she barks and howls if I stay out late. The neighbors call the front office and complain if she barks after, say, 10pm.

“But she can’t be put in a kennel!”

Nonsense. I put her in a doggie daycare place for a week when I went to LA in 2010. I merely was unhappy with the place. There are other boarding facilities in town. I would need to get her updated on shots and get someone to drive me around to the other boarding facilities to see what they are like. Belle just can’t be put in a cage is all. She freaks out and hurts herself when confined that way. I suspect it has something to do with her early life.

I, on the other hand, am perfectly willing to travel despite my social anxiety. I just refuse to travel without money. That last LA trip was a cluster-fuck since I had inadequate money. And I refuse to live with lowered expectations or in celebration of poverty like James does. I can’t have fun without money.

And I have to have a destination I actually care about visiting.

………………..

I finally finished Jack London’s “The Road,” which was a collection of magazine articles about his days as a hobo. The stories are fun, full of picaresque adventures and details, but London ladles on the hobo slang and railroad terminology rather heavily, and as often as not doesn’t bother defining it, and often the context doesn’t help the reader figure out what he’s trying to say. Even the modern end-notes are few, selective, and inadequate in that regard.

In the edition I read–a 2006 reprint–there was a lengthy introduction by a historian who seems to have specialized in the study of American hobos and homelessness. He describes London’s life and career in brief, his hoboing period at length, and also provides an overview of the socio-economic conditions prevailing in America in the 1890s and how they led to the rise of hobo culture. It was disturbing for me to read how much my career situation parallels London’s prior to his hoboing days, and how much the economic depression of the 1890s resembles that of the 2010s.

Wednesday, June 27th–I woke a little before 4pm. I had an IM discussion with James. Later, I watched “Inglourious Basterds” (sic), though I paused for several hours in the middle of it.

[SPOILER ALERT]

While I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino, I didn’t think too much of this film.

I am so much of a grammar Nazi that I just can’t abide misspellings for any reason. I’ve read some of Tarantino’s scripts, and he can’t spell worth a damn. Yet in most of the publicity I’ve seen attached to him, he always boasts of a genius-level IQ. Also, I heard a fairly believable account of his rude behavior at a film festival he held in Austin a few years ago.

So despite the fact I enjoy and in some cases love his work, I’m not so sure I’d especially like him personally. And, though you might try to argue this with me, in my opinion, anyone who can’t spell his own native language really has no business trumpeting himself as a genius.

Plus, I know several people who have lousy spelling, and they are rather obnoxious about it. They think correct spelling and grammar don’t matter. And they cite as examples how the computer culture, with its misspellings of words for company names and products, the misspellings so characteristic to texting, and of course the abomination of camel case, has created a society where misspelling is not only being allowed, but is being glorified.

Nevertheless, I say it’s wrong. And it always will be.

QT has given rather bullshit explanations of his title. He said he’d never explain it. He said the spelling is how the title is pronounced. He said the spelling is the “Quentin Tarantino spelling.” (The title was taken from a long-forgotten action film, with a correctly-spelled title, made decades ago.)

So I have to ask, why didn’t a creative guy like QT just come up with another name that conveyed the same qualities, or, for that matter, just call the film “Inglorious Bastards”? There have been at least two major films made in the last twenty years named “Crash,” and not too many years ago there was a film released called “Twilight,” which starred Paul Newman and had nothing at all to do with sparkly Mormon vampires. So it’s not unheard of to have several films with the same name.

Films often ask the viewers to suspend their disbelief. And while I accepted that E.T. could make a bicycle fly, I could not accept that a group of commandos killed all the Nazi leadership and ended World War II a year or two early. Whereas in a similar, and far superior, World War II commando movie, “The Dirty Dozen,” Lee Marvin and his commandos go behind the lines and kill a bunch of important but entirely fictitious German officers at some chateau in France. The viewer shrugs, “It could’ve happened,” and sits back and enjoys the show.

Even “Fatherland” has a fairly believable premise (I only saw the cable movie; I understand the book is different.): It’s 1964, Germany won the war, Hitler has lived to a ripe old age, and Nazi appeaser Joseph Kennedy is President of the United States. The story falls apart at the end, though, when it’s revealed that the big secret fueling all the cloak-and-dagger shit throughout the story is…The Holocaust. It’s hard to shock and surprise your viewers when that surprise is the 800-pound gorilla that’s been sitting in the room the entire time.

But to get back to “I.B.,” I also thought the main female character’s name was anachronistic. “Shosanna” is more the kind of name you’d find for a Jewish-American Princess born around 1983–not a European Jew from the time of World War II. Yes, it is a Hebrew name and dates back thousands of years, but to give it to a character in a World War II movie is about like naming a knight in a Middle Ages epic “Sir Brad.”

“Nation’s Pride,” the Nazi propaganda film-within-a-film that plays such an important part in the story, can be seen as part of the DVD extras. Unfortunately, the style in which it is shot is not in keeping with any of the cinematographic styles of the era, in Germany or anywhere else. It’s much too contemporary-looking. I would’ve thought a film buff such as QT would’ve known that.

And on top of that, in the opening credits of “Nation’s Pride,” the name of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is misspelled! I can understand that QT might be illiterate, but surely he has someone in his production company who knows how to spell.

In this film it seems QT gave himself a project–to see if he could create scenes of excruciating suspense, in the Hitchcock manner. He succeeded. But he did so at the expense of other elements.

For example, clearly–because QT has such transparent thinking processes–he gave Shoshanna a black lover because that was just the sort of thing that would outrage Nazis. He shows the two of them kissing, and unless you’re a racist yourself, you’re probably not going to have much of a reaction to that. So does QT do anything with this? Does he rub this inter-racial relationship in the Nazis’ faces? Nope. He just drops it. So what was the point in the first place of even showing the relationship?

More importantly, he makes no effort to make any of the protagonists sympathetic. QT seems to think the cultural and historic baggage the viewers bring with them is enough, that we’re to like the Jewish characters because of their sufferings and hate the Nazi characters because they are genocidal racists. But it doesn’t work.

I felt nothing for Shoshanna. She seemed one-dimensional, like most of the characters in the film. We see her family briefly at the beginning of the film, hiding in darkness under the farm house. We assume they all died painfully, but we never see that happen. We’re given no reason to like them, to feel sorry for them, to want their deaths avenged. This is because they are so unreal. And if Shoshanna exists only to avenge her family, a family that feels unreal to us, then her motivation as a character is even less real.

(I didn’t even like the farmer in the first section of the film. His dirty, grubby hands disgusted me. The fact that he betrayed his neighbors only made him more despicable.)

The Basterds (sic) are described as crazed killing machines, but we only briefly see them in action. They also are one-dimensional. I asked a friend who saw the film long before I did why in every still, poster, and clip Brad Pitt has that annoying expression where his upper-lip is curled up, as if he’s smelling something vile, and he said, “Oh, that’s Pitt’s way of playing stupid. The character is supposed to be stupid, so Pitt does that with his lip to convey that.”

I was not impressed.

Indeed, the only character that I liked or found interesting at all, was the main villain, Colonel Hans Landa, the “Jew Hunter.” In spite of my cultural baggage, I found him charming. And it seems to me that if QT’s goal was to create an anti-Nazi revenge fantasy film, but the main Nazi was the only interesting and mildly likeable character, then he surely did something wrong.

Another problem is that with many World War II films in which historical characters are used, the Casting Directors and Makeup Departments often fail very badly in getting actors to look like the historical figures they are playing. So an actor is stuck into a uniform, given a funny moustache and a forelock and told to scream a lot, and he’s supposed to pass for Hitler. Put a fat guy in a fancy uniform and he’s Goering. Put a fat Englishman in a suit with a bow tie and a cigar and he’s Churchill.

I suppose the average viewer doesn’t notice these short-comings, but I have a problem with historical characters who come across merely as cartoons. That was certainly a problem in this film. Rod Taylor’s Churchill was too tall, too slim, and much too old, and he didn’t even have much to do in his one scene.

Now one thing I did like is in the pub scene when the German soldiers were playing games they discussed Karl May. That was a nice touch. May was a German writer of grossly inaccurate Old West adventure novels, and Hitler’s favorite author. I believe May is still popular in Europe and there are even a few May theme parks. But he is almost completely unknown in the United States.

(And yes, I picked up on British spy Hicox’s faux pas with the three fingers long before the Gestapo officer brought it up.)

So, to sum up, I think Tarantino wasn’t trying hard enough with this one. He’s set high standards for himself, but with this film he seemed to think its errors and sloppiness could be hidden by the blinding reflected glare from his better works.

Regardless of the fact that this film was conceived as a revenge fantasy war movie, the premise can’t work if the viewer isn’t sufficiently motivated to hate the villains and root for the heroes.

I finished the film feeling neither pleased, disgusted, vindicated, excited, nor entertained. Indeed, the only emotion the film stirred in me was a strong desire to eat strudel.


Thursday, June 28th–
I woke after 6pm–closer to 6:30.

I continued to worry about the DARS thing and my future. I did 14 Outlook tutorials. I made another blog post.

I was listening to two Damien Rice songs–“9 Crimes” and “Accidental Babies”–both of which remind me of that period before, during, and after Fred’s death, a period covered in that blog post. When I heard a particular line, I completely lost it and suddenly began sobbing violently, just as I did in the months following Fred’s death. But I’ve been needing a good cry for a long time now, due to all the stress I’m under.

I took Belle on several walks, but she seems more interested now in finding cat shit and chicken bones to eat than relieving herself. (The latter seem to be consumed by the construction and grounds workers every single fucking day they’re here.)

I watched “Resident Alien” again.

I read some in Fleming and Welch.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s