Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Evening Desire

It's 7:58 p.m., and the daytime has just finished conferring briefly with the approaching darkness. California is the only state I know of thus far where the daylight and the night sky meet amicably ever so briefly in the evening at this time of year.

If I had a car, and a confident sense of direction, I would go on an impromptu trip to Las Vegas right now, sure that America's Best Value Inn off the Strip, on Tropicana Avenue, next to Hooter's, would have a room available. An hour and 37 minutes, according to MapQuest, from here to Victorville where Richie's Real American Diner is, and I'd stop there for something big. Maybe a steak, maybe that five-count stack of pancakes, as big as the dinner plate they serve it on. Definitely a shake to accompany whatever it would be.

Then off to Vegas, nearly three hours to get there. I wouldn't mind driving in the dark. I'd get there around 2 or 3 a.m., hopefully get that room at America's Best Value Inn, and then crash until about 10 or 11 a.m., ready to start the day in Vegas. A late breakfast first and then hedonistic exploration. Caesar's Palace, the Luxor, the MGM Grand, and Mandalay Bay, to the high-scale restaurant row they have there, which has my favorite architectural design that I would live in if I could. I would actually put a bed there, a bookcase, a big-screen TV provided there was an electrical outlet close enough, a DVD player, I would.

I would undoubtedly go off the Strip as well. I'd want to see if the Eastside Cannery casino on Boulder Highway improved since our first visit. It appears they've gotten rid of Sweet Lucy's Tableside Buffet, which never worked, not even from the start. You'd get tossed salad and homemade potato chips at the start, then order your entrees from the table, as many as you'd like, or as many times as you could get the waiter to your table. Fortunately, we had a friendly waiter, so it was easy. But the food was too salty and not at all to anyone's taste. An unimaginative chef in that kitchen. I can see why the casino closed the place and reopened it as Cannery Row Buffet. The more foot traffic you can get there, the more people that eat and move on and the more people you can get in rather than sitting at the table, waiting. And I'm sure the food would get to the buffet faster as well. No individual orders to keep tabs on for many tables, no hassle.

I'd need a Las Vegas Review-Journal too. Can't visit Vegas without that, and despite the steady downfall of newspapers across the country, the Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun will not falter, because that's all there is in the DESERT. That's what keeps those two newspapers alive. You can't get news from anywhere else about Las Vegas. The sales will always stay level.

I'd also want to see if the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio is still the best in Las Vegas, though I'd save that for dinner. More than enough to eat to carry me through the evening, and a late-night snack, though I don't know where that would be. A lot of options, though.

And seeing The Amazing Johnathan at the Harmon Theater near the Miracle Mile Shops. There we go. That would be a perfect impromptu trip.

But I've never been that adventurous, so my mind will make the effort for me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

These Lives. How Many Pages for These Lives?

I shouldn't be blogging, especially when I've got a great workload sitting heavily on my shoulders, but I am amazed at the resources available for my research. I've discovered that Time Magazine's website keeps a free archive, which is a great help when there's information to find about the actors I'm writing about, and The New York Times has articles available from the 1910s. But go over 1921 and you have to pay for whatever articles you wish to read. $3.95 per article, or $10.95 for a 15-article pack. Too pricey for me. If it was one actor, maybe. But not at least 13 actors thus far. Fortunately, for the modern-day late actors, the website has free articles from the late 1980s on. I've downloaded 56 articles from The New York Times on Fatty Arbuckle alone, most about the sensationalized three trials he endured. I've still got to organize them by date in a separate Word file. They're .pdfs, but a reading order would help.

The one thing I hate about this research thus far, and possibly the only thing, is doing my preliminary research through Wikipedia. I don't get right into the books that I've checked out from my library. I prefer to start with Wikipedia, because as I've learned, the facts aren't all there in those articles. Either the writer doesn't know of any other resource from which to find the facts and post them in the entry, or they don't care, or there are no other facts. For nearly all of these actors, there are. That's where the experts and historians come in. It's tedious reading each Wikipedia page on each actor and typing out facts I need to know. But, the questions keep me going, questions I ask in between the facts. Like with silent film actor and D.W. Griffith associate Robert Harron, he was one of nine children, and saw Griffith as a substitute father, which seems to be the proper term, according to the foremost expert on Harron, whom I've talked to by e-mail recently. So the question here is: Where was Harron's real father? Working hard enough to support nine children that he didn't have a great deal of time to spend with Harron? I'm sure there aren't definitive answers for every question I have, but it leads me somewhere. I'm trying not to write the beginnings of these essays until I get well into the lives of these actors through my research, but for some, I can't help it, based on what I've learned on my own in the past when there wasn't a book to write, and when I was just reading movie history and biographies for pleasure. Not to say that this isn't pleasure, but there's a lot more to do now than just reading.

I am curious about these actors. I want to finally understand the appeal of James Dean. I see part of it just by his appearance, but what else? I want to learn about the transformation of Norma Jean Baker into Marilyn Monroe and understand as best as can be understood through various historians about how it affected her. I want to pay proper tribute to Chris Farley, because even though I don't like "Tommy Boy" as I did when I was 11, I remember how hard he worked to make people laugh, on Saturday Night Live as well. He's the only one I'm confident about on what he might have done in movies had he not died. "Shrek" would have been vastly different.

I've written movie reviews for nine years, and I know when to end each review. This is new territory. I don't want to ask for a word limit or a page limit. I think I will know when to stop. Just enough detail in each actor's biography/career overview to give the reader a full-enough view of the actor so there's an easy transition into the speculation, mainly led by the experts and historians who've agreed to talk to me about these actors. It'll work.

Here it is again: 4:49 a.m. and I'm doing exactly what I did at this time yesterday morning. Still in Wikipedia, though I've gotten further because I finished my preliminary research on silent film comedian/writer/director Larry Semon yesterday afternoon, Mabel Normand a few hours ago, and I'm still working on Fatty Arbuckle. I don't think I want to go into such detail about the three trials, since there's enough writing on them already, but I am curious about certain elements, such as William Randolph Hearst's zeal for them, which sold a lot of papers. Was it just the selling of papers that attracted him and made those tabloids sell well? Or did he have personal animosity toward Arbuckle? A lot of questions, but again, those questions should help a lot.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Hair There? I'll Get It Cut When It Stares at My Eyebrows

I admit: I'm a hermit. I usually only go out on Sundays to the library to pick up my weekly 18-wheeler-load of books. That's followed by shopping at Ralph's and any other stores we need to go to. On Tuesdays, I go with my dad to pick up my sister from College of the Canyons, the only community college in the Santa Clarita Valley, as her classes end after 8 p.m., and no buses run to our area by then.

I have everything I need in this house. There's movies to watch on the Tivo when I'm compiling job listings for a five-day-a-week freelance writing newsletter (owned by someone else, so I get a paycheck), there's jazz I haven't yet listened to, there's Netflix for titles I need to review for ScreenIt as well as research for my first book (a documentary on D.W. Griffith to come, for research on silent film actor Robert Harron, as well as "True Heart Susie" from 1919 for the same purpose), and there's stacks of books to read, including the ones I need to read for research. There's not much reason to go out in this valley since there's nothing anyway. To really find anything to do, you have to get out of this valley and go to the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles proper. I don't do it often. In fact, I don't even drive, even though I have my license.

That's why I thought it strange when my mom asked if I could wait possibly another two weeks for a haircut. I'm the only one who really looks at my hair. There are days when I let it go wild and it matters to no one. I've no social reputation to maintain. The only problem I have with my hair is when I take a shower before bed at 5 a.m. Even if I dry my hair well enough, there's always a part in the morning that stubbornly sticks up, no matter how many times my comb rampages through it. That's the only frustration from my hair getting longer.

Two more weeks? I can wait. I don't have to impress anyone. Unless the trees are picky about appearance.

The Post-Teeth Pull Recovery List

On Thursday morning, my mom has to get two wisdom teeth pulled. Every time she's gone to a doctor for something, including the operation she had on her sinuses, I've always been there for support. This isn't going where you might think it would, since I might go again, not only for the usual support, but also because it's at 9 in the morning, and I could stand getting up early at least once this week, particularly with the minefield of work now laid out before me. Yesterday at the library, I picked up 27 books, 1 DVD (disc 1 of the Noel Coward Collection again), and 1 CD (Eartha Kitt: Greatest Hits - purr-fect). 10 of those books are research for "What If They Lived?" I'm a speed-reader, but I've no idea how detailed research works. I know I have questions about these actors that I hope will be answered. I know that there's details in their lives I want to know about. I want to know what Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle liked in his life outside of making silent comedies. I want to know, if possible, what caused Robert Harron to squeeze that trigger in suicide. Was it only D.W. Griffith paying less attention to him? It's known that Harron saw Griffith as a father. Not as a father figure, but apparently as a father, though I'm not really clear on that yet, as to how much attention his birth father gave him. But a poor Irish-Catholic family that included 9 kids, there most likely wasn't a lot.

I want to know more about the easy, good-natured rapport Arbuckle and Mabel Normand had together onscreen. Did it remain that way offscreen? What made Normand become such a physical silent film comedian? What did she like about the work?

There's so much to know and I hope there's a crush of questions enough that I don't have to think about how to begin each essay. I'll just find something within each person that sparks something in my mind and off I go. But those historians and experts I've contacted will be ultra-valuable because I still need insights into what these actors might have done in their careers had they not died. I read that Normand had retired from movies, before she contracted tuberculosis and died a year later. Well, she retired. Wouldn't that be the end? The public had begun to welcome Arbuckle back into movies, and then he died. Now that is something to consider.

What do I do? Do I just read and hope something grabs me by the throat, demanding that I write it down? I'd like that. I'm not a masochist, but that would help. There I go again, though, overthinking the whole thing. I love all this and I should just concentrate on what can be accomplished each day, while being mindful of the deadline in late January of next year.

So on Thursday morning, I'm also thinking of going because it'll get me up early enough and let me produce something on a full day. More time to read, more time to consider, more time to write down pertinent information.

Then comes my mom's recovery from this teeth extraction. My dad wrote down a list of what to pick up from Von's and Ralph's. It's all that I like too:

- Apple sauce
- Ice cream (no detail on what kind)
- Chocolate milk (more is always better)
- Jello (pkg) Straw/Banana - Powdered strawberry/banana Jello that my sister will make
- Pudding cups (in red on the list: Mixed chocolate and vanilla) - Chocolate on top top, vanilla in the middle, chocolate on the bottom.
- Cottage cheese - Didn't pick up any yesterday because it was too expensive. $4.49? Mom goes for that more than I.
- Hawaiian bread - Hard to find a good loaf of bread in this valley, or at least one to stick to for more than a week.
- Gatorade - Fierce Strawberry - Didn't find it in Ralph's yesterday, but they did have my kind, Fruit Punch.
- Ginger ale (in red: individual bottles)
- Crackers - soup - Oyster crackers, I thought, but she said that the last kind we got was too salty. Geez, how long ago was that? I'm guessing the soup will likely be chicken noodle. It's a reliable standard.
- Iced tea - What other kind of iced tea would she need? We've got Lipton Cold Brew bags in one of the cabinets, and I have to make more this week anyway.
- Yogurt - She likes fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts. I used to like the blended kinds, but now I like working for the fruit. However, my absolute, no-change favorite is the Yoplait Thick and Creamy, which I was fed as a baby, when it was called Custard Style. I wish it still was. And I wish they had kept the strawberry drawing on there, which was a lighter red, it had an outline, and the seeds were more prominently shown.

And this is the week. Up to Thursday, heavy research. I hope it'll be easier after I write my essay on Robert Harron. I have to also remember to read more, and not just what I have to read. Inspiration is always useful in big projects. This is the biggest I've had in my life so far. Today, we also have to clean the birds' cages. Then Thursday, keeping tabs on Mom after the teeth-pull, while also still concentrating on the research.

That reminds me. There's a few thank-you e-mails I have to send to a few people who've agreed to talk to me, including director Richard Shepard, who's known for "The Matador," starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, but who also made a documentary about actor John Cazale. That's going to prove very useful once I get to researching his life.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

1:46 a.m. - The wandering night

1:46 a.m.:

- Watching a movie, "The Adventures of Mark Twain," which I Tivo'd on Thursday from Turner Classic Movies.

- Was outside earlier, looking up at the stars, as much out of the glare of a burnished-orange light that remains on near the pool, even with no one there. Never understood that, not even with keeping the underwater pool and spa lights on. It's not like there's anyone who would sneak around that area anyway, being that this neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods are so quiet at this time of night, you could swear that they were either just built and awaiting new residents, or the real-estate crunch had caused their downfall. However, there's two ducks on occasional nights who sleep in the pool, and they're at least quieter than the residents set to use the pool in the coming weeks, when it opens back up.

- Recently recorded on the Tivo: "Chinese Box," starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li (credited as "Li Gong"), "Camilla," starring Jessica Tandy and Bridget Fonda, and "Funny Girl," starring Barbra Streisand. I deleted the first a few months ago to conserve space, the second I recorded because of Jessica Tandy, and the third was because if you live in my house, then you know all about Streisand, whether you want to or not. I like her as a singer and actress (partly genetic, since I have my parents' musical tastes, with the addition of jazz, electronica, and some techno dance music), and had never seen "Funny Girl," so there you go.

- From what I can tell, this Tivo box in the living room is called "DirecTV Plus." There might be a newer version, but why can't this one retain actors' names and years of release after a movie or TV show has been recorded? Before something is recorded and during it as well, you can find that information on the guide. After, you're left only with a synopsis, what you recorded, the genre, whether it's closed-captioned, and what it contains (in the case of "Camilla," "adult content" and "adult language," abbreviated as "AC, AL." I know I can get that information online if I want, but I like having it right there.

- I remain connected to Las Vegas through the websites for the Las Vegas Sun, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the blog of VegasRex (, who has made known his intention to run for mayor in the coming election. He's ready to disclose financial details and every other kind of detail that's dredged up in these elections and he's serious about it too. Not sure how much publicity he'll get, what with Oscar Goodman, a former Vegas mob lawyer, wanting yet another term (I heard something about there being term limits on that, but he wants to eliminate that), but Rex has fans, myself included. One of the other ways I remain connected: Every week, I call the automated line for the movie theater the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder City, which is three miles from Hoover Dam. I've never forgotten the view from the mountain adjacent to the casino. Every dream I've ever had in my life so far seemed like they combined to create that view. They wait for about two weeks or so to get prints of what were then first-run movies. For example, "Monsters vs. Aliens" was reduced to one showtime, while "Fast & Furious" gets three. Cheaper rates for prints I'll bet. It shows, with "Hannah Montana" and "Duplicity" beginning there on May 1st. But with tickets at $3, why not?

My mom has become more pushy about Las Vegas, and with good reason, considering that we've lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for a little over five years, and last year wasn't by choice. The Clark County School District had stopped hiring teachers, and then the economy tanked. I got to thinking about Florida as well, and whether we might move back there. Not possible, because of the insurance rates for hurricanes and all the other high-priced insurance that goes with living in Florida. It was then that I realized Las Vegas was it, finally. That's where I belong. I know it's going to be home, and the word "home" will actually mean what it's supposed to mean this time. Not as fluid as "Let's go home," where "home" is just where you live, as it is for us in Saugus. But "home." As is said in a lyric from the song "Home" by Simply Red: "Home is a place where I yearn to belong." I have that in my Facebook profile. I know I belong in Las Vegas. I've felt it every time we've been there and I know it'll be different living there than just visiting, but I can get used to it.

- 27 books to return to the library today. Have to. The books I need for my research have come in and now the research officially begins, even though I've been stockpiling resources for the past two weeks, mainly in experts and historians to interview and quote in my essays. I've seen a few silent film comedy shorts that Fatty Arbuckle has starred in and directed, and he knew what he was doing, despite what his appearance may indicate. No clumsiness there at all. Just playing a middle-class man often stuck in farcicial situations, and guaranteed he falls on his back at least once in each film. I told my sister that this is harder than I had hoped. Not that I'm dreading the opportunity to research some of these ghosts of cinema's past, but there's so much to read, though I am looking forward to many of the movies I plan to watch to remain relatively well-informed. My sister reminded me that this is my first book, so of course it's going to be hard. 21 essays to write, and hopefully it'll get easier after the first one.

Time to disengage. Have to gather the books I intend to return, and also load many in the trunk that likely won't fit in a full tote bag. Then a shower and bed. Seems about right for a Sunday. Back to the routine of it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

3:59 a.m. newspaper delivery

From inside, on this computer, doing preliminary research for "What If They Lived?" (i.e., Wikipedia before I check out from the library on Sunday the first hundred books I need on four silent film actors), I hear a car (or maybe it's a van) pull up to my next-door neighbor's garage door to throw today's L.A. Times at it. In my head, I'm already at the door, at the car, just desperate to talk to this person for a minute or so, just to know their take on the night hours, how early they have to get up, if they notice certain details of the night that no one in my neighborhood sees. Or maybe it's just a job for them, as I'd expect.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Want Ainsley Hayes.....and Muriel Pritchett...and Celine

I'm tempted to state that I don't know what I was thinking. Looking through the personals on Craigslist, that might well be true. But at the time, I had found the barren Facebook listing of a girl who had deeply impressed me when I was 7 years old, whom I knew throughout all the years I had lived in Casselberry, Florida (so close to Orlando that my parents and I (and later my sister) had annual passes to Walt Disney World that we used every weekend and sometimes during the week just for dinner), and who I think might have been the perfect one had I remained in Casselberry, instead of moving to South Florida and then Southern California (not my choice, though, at a young age). But I wonder if I might be idealizing her today based on a few experiences where I couldn't believe that a girl, any girl, could be this playful, this daring, this fun. I admit to being a relatively reserved person. I'm not uptight, I'm not repressed, but I'm usually quiet, sometimes introverted. Not so introverted as to be shy or self-centered, but if it's just me, I'm ok with that. Anyone who has great personality, flamboyancy, playfulness as Kelli did back then, always makes an impression. I want to get to know that person more. I don't know if it's a matter of wanting that person's energy to rub off on me because in conversation, I'm a sociable talker. With Kelli, it might have been yin-and-yang. I found aspects of her personality that I wanted in my life and I might have hoped that she found things in my personality that she would want in her life.

So what happened? Well, moving puts a damper on a lot of that. There was at least one time she and her parents visited my family and I in South Florida. I remember spilled soda at a table at a buffet restaurant that I didn't dare help clean up, and I don't know why back then. Today I still don't know. But as I recall, she still had that gleam. Not only in her eye, but it was all around her, like Tinkerbell had gotten drunk and went on a pixie-dust bender. I don't mean like that scene in "Wayne's World" where Wayne sees sparkles all around Cassandra, but that energy Kelli had was still there.

Comes the end of 12th grade and the approach of Grad Nite at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and for some reason, my dad was on the phone with Kelli's mom and somehow, I got word that she liked me. Liked me. I'd never known that any girl might like me. But apparently, she did. We talked on the phone, and I expressed my hope that she might be able to spend time with me at Grad Nite, since her dad worked at the theme parks, and there must have been a way that he could have gotten her there, even though she wasn't with any of the schools that would be at the park.

The day of Grad Nite, while standing near the buses, I called Kelli and her mom answered, saying that Kelli didn't feel well and wouldn't be able to join me there. Disappointment? You bet. Questions? A few, but none that bother a writer with many theories. The one that stands out the most is that maybe she didn't want to go through with it for whatever reason. But I'd prefer to believe that she was genuinely ill. Nothing further after that, no contact, but imagine yourself 7 years old and this bold, vivacious girl comes into your life. I was never one of those boys who, when young, believed that girls were icky. I knew there were lots of things different between the sexes and I was interested. But her, well, I've never forgotten her, not even up to the past few weeks where I've come upon that Facebook profile that isn't even a profile. More like links to send her a message if so inclined, or add her as a friend. No profile to be found after sending a message because she hasn't built one yet, and seems not to have logged into her account in so long. Yet I've sent 5 messages over the past two-and-a-half weeks. Hope, I suppose. Maybe she'll log into her account one day and find me again. I'm always on Facebook. I've built up my profile enough that I could never leave. Everything in it is me.

I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. For now, just to re-connect, to page through our separate lives over the years if she wants. Maybe to get a different vantage point of me when I was 7. I know what I was like, but I do wonder how I looked to someone else.

So why the personal ads on Craigslist? Stupid to begin with, since 80% of them are crap, but that wasn't my intention. Especially since my family and I hope to leave the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California and move to Las Vegas. That is, if the Clark County School District begins to hire teachers again, most importantly my dad, who teaches business education, and being that Las Vegas is a cluster of service industries, it seems natural.

After I had sent my latest collection of thoughts to Kelli (just stories about what's been happening in Southern California, and observations about the time spent here), I was curious about what stood for personal ads around the Internet. Now, I haven't dated since the 7th grade. I can sense lots of adjectives being pulled out right now: "Pathetic" comes to mind, followed by "male spinster," but I've never really had the taste or skill for it. I looked through these ads and it didn't feel right. Not that I was cheating on my past, but, I don't know, maybe it's that I've never really opened up. I even found two ads that looked interesting and wrote to them, but even when I was writing them, I felt foreign to the experience, like I shouldn't be doing it. I never got an answer from either of those women, but that's just as well.

Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to date and go through all that's necessary in relationships? To be honest, I hear about it requiring effort and more effort, and patience, and lots of other kinds of work to make a go of it (and I've lived through 23 years of my parents' 26-year marriage), and I blanch at the thought of all of that. I've already got enough work. I'm planning to take online courses soon from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics. I don't know what I want to do yet for a career, but I know so far that I want to work at an airport. I'm also co-writing a book with a good friend and fellow film critic, one that's guaranteed to be published because of this friend's contract with a publishing company that specializes in Hollywood biographies and other books about movies and television. There's already enough work to be had from those.

But, I'm looking in from the outside, from the fog of inexperience. What do I know anyway? And I also tend to overthink things. When I was taking driving lessons, the instructor told me that I overthink what I have to do while driving. When my friend asked if I'd like to be the co-author of his book, I freaked out about the research and overthought how to do it. Once I got into it properly, and began deciding which actors I wanted to write about, then it became more clear. Not necessarily easier, but easier to handle.

I don't know if I want a relationship. I feel better as myself, with myself, working for myself. When I was in 7th and 8th grade at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, I hated when teachers wanted us students to work in groups on something. I always felt I could do it better and get it done faster by myself. In fact, my favorite hours for writing are 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., when there's no one awake, when I have the entire world to myself, when I can claim ownership of the trees in my neighborhood or the clouds in the sky and no one objects. I can play connect-the-dots with the stars with no regard for constellations. I can listen to the loud snoring of my portly neighbor next door and wonder what he could be dreaming about. For the past few weeks, I've also watched a pair of ducks sleeping in the community pool, which is not yet open to residents for the season (our large patio faces the community pool). I love all this. I live for all this. I don't know if I'd want to share this with anyone else. My eyes, my brain, are trained on all that's around me in the dark. Isn't that enough?

I don't wonder that based on society's trends. I wonder that for myself. Even though it sounds like I'm fairly confident that I make a perfect couple on my own, I do wonder. It stems from my genes. My mother is a romantic, even though my father has tried that aspect of her for decades. I've always thought my father to be indifferent to such things. So my genes have it out on these matters.

But if I did want to date, if I didn't feel strange about it, what would I want?

I would want someone like Kelli, if not Kelli.

And that still stands today. On "The West Wing," there was Ainsley Hayes, a Republican lawyer played by Emily Procter. But in the episode "Bartlet's Third State of the Union," she's seen dancing to "Blame it On the Bossa Nova" in a white bathrobe in her office in the basement of the White House (in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue, as it's called), since she accidentally sat on a wet-paint bench and is awaiting a new set of clothes. Just how she dances, how she's so free about it, how, when Sam Seaborn asks her, "Why are you moving like that?", she answers, "I'm blaming it on the bossa nova," and how she says that is what catches me completely.

I would want someone like Ainsley Hayes.

There's also Muriel Pritchett, which Geena Davis won an Oscar for in "The Accidental Tourist." She also isn't concerned about how her sense of fashion might be perceived. She wears comically long nails, and she's not averse to looking at pictures in houses or rooting through things, even though someone's standing right nearby. I love her curiosity, I love her look, I love how she remains so strong even with the illness that plagues her son.

I would want someone like Muriel Pritchett.

And Celine in "Before Sunrise" and, to a degree, "Before Sunset." Passionate, uninhibited in talking about what she believes, and plainly beautiful. In the scene next to the end of "Before Sunrise," when she hugs Jesse tightly, I've lost count of how many times I've rewatched that scene on DVD. But the one scene that gets me is after they've had sex, when the sun is gradually rising and they're walking together, holding hands, and she has her hair in long pigtails. They spot, through a window, a man playing the harpsichord, and they dance slowly, not wanting that moment, or the moments that have already happened, to ever end. In "Before Sunset," it's how she fervently holds onto her beliefs, how she describes her experiences over the past nine years, and that ending that makes me want another sequel, which I hope Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and writer/director Richard Linklater are gradually working on. It's needed.

I would want someone like Celine.

In fact, I would want a girl that's all three of these women. Now, I know this is all television and movies, but I've never forgotten Kelli. I know vivacity exists. My heart knows it too. It flutters whenever I watch Ainsley tell Sam why she's moving like that, and when Muriel waggles her gloved fingers goodbye at Macon (William Hurt) after the weekly dog-training lesson, and when Jesse and Celine are dancing briefly.

But I don't know if I want it. Maybe there's no concrete answer. I actually debated whether to write this entry, and my memories of Kelli won out.

Or maybe it's just how dating is looked upon today. All those websites for people to find the right person. I can't stand going through ads like a menu. It feels so impersonal to me. If anything, I'd love just to bump into that special woman, and for once, be confident enough to say hello. I think I'd like to count on her energy to carry the introduction. I wouldn't mind the woman saying hello first.

I'll give it more time. I'll write my half of that book, I'll take those aviation-centered courses, and then I'll see if I am where I want to be and if there's anything else I want for my life. For as long as I'm alive, I've got time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Love for San Juan Capistrano That Will Never Be Fulfilled

Oh San Juan, San Juan
Footsteps next to the train tracks,
A petting zoo with unexpected ostriches and llamas.
But what makes it Capistrano,
The historical houses,
The quiet downtown area,
I can never have.
For though I have fallen hard for the charms to be had from undisturbed composure,
I can never have you.
I am beholden to another,
Ironically where lights and billboards and loudness are pervasive,
And as crucial as oxygen.
I love what you have offered me,
That chain-locked movie theater with the lone popcorn machine amidst torn-up walls,
The antique store selling envelopes with "Burt Lancaster" mimeographed in blue.
But Las Vegas is my home.
It is what makes each breath of my day worthwhile.
It is not at all peaceful,
But it offers what I have sought all my life:
People in search of immediate pleasures and unashamed of their quest.
Hedonism in unexpected places.
But I will remember you.
In my mind, those streets, those gravel roads, those sidewalks wide enough only for those who intend to stay will be some of my fondest memories.
Thank you for giving me part of your life.
I will hold it close, always.

(An amateurish attempt at the format of a poem, but a start)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

News as Big as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man

I should write soon about what I did on my 25th birthday (I'd place it among the few flawless days I've had in the little over five years I've lived in Southern California), but the changes that have come are far more important right now.

I ran for re-election to the Governing Committee of the Online Film Critics Society, which would have made it my fourth year had I won. I think it might have been my fourth year. I don't know, and towards the end of the campaigning and the start of the voting, I felt like I wouldn't be broken up if I lost. I sent out my campaign e-mails individually, never as one e-mail to all the members, as I'd done it in past years. But there was all that fiery vitriol and what I sensed was a bit of hatred, even though those who gave it tried to play it down. And that was from two of the candidates and what appeared to be their supporters. It was a vicious forum fight and I didn't participate in it because it's not in my nature and not good for my gut. If I did, I would have spent hours online waiting for replies, worried that I sullied my reputation, and wondering how the targets would react. I don't have the time for that.

So I lost with 33 votes. I like that because I could just slip out quietly, find where my private trench was before I went a little bit public, crack it open again, throw out the dirt that landed on the floor, and dig a little bit deeper. There, I could write again, uninterrupted and at peace. If there had been another year on the Governing Committee, I think I would have done it. But having lost, well, why think about it anymore?

This led to something huge in my life, something that came up after good friend and fellow film critic Phil Hall also lost re-election with 44 votes, the second-lowest total. He asked if I wanted to be co-author of his book "What If They Lived?" The core of it is speculation on what various actors might have done in their careers had they not died. Publication is guaranteed since it's the second book in his contract with a company called BearManor Media, which specializes in Hollywood biographies and other books about movies and television. I thought about it for a day, and then accepted, because it would have been royally stupid for me not to, because the opportunity is right there. My first book. A dry run in research for the biographies I hope to write in the coming years. And the opportunity to dig into the lives of Fatty Arbuckle, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, and 17 others, since Phil and I split the list he made. My gut felt troubled over the past few days because I could easily handle the biographical/career overview that begins each essay, but how was I supposed to write the speculation aspect? On my own, based on what I had found out in my research? Fortunately, no. Phil said it would be ok for me to contact experts and historians about their opinions on what these actors might have done. And many authors have accepted my request, which is a relief. I feel a lot better about this project than I did before. But being that this is my first book, I want to make it a decent debut. Plus, it gives me an excuse to see a few Marilyn Monroe movies, a few from generally-forgotten actress Carole Landis, and some others as well. Always good for me.

For the past two days, I've been diligently gathering research material, making lists of websites, articles, and books from which glean information, and it's been a slog. I never thought I could loathe, even with having a folder of 400 links to a varied collection of books, but I do, at least until I'm done with this part of the research. And my local library had better be prepared. If they thought I was obsessed with reserving books before, they don't know what's coming when I get back on the 26th. It's closed on the 12th for Easter, and on the 19th I'm going to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood for the Paley Center screening of the final three episodes of "Pushing Daisies," introduced by creator Bryan Fuller, whose return to "Heroes" has been loudly cheered. I just hope he stays long enough for me to ask him to autograph my copy of the season 1 DVDs of "Pushing Daisies." But after that, my library had better just construct a chute and aim it where my box is. Yes, they have a box at the check-out desk under the far-right counter with my name written in black marker on a sheet of paper, taped to the box. I'm that revered.

Earlier last night, my dad was wondering what my name would look like on the book. I already know how I want to be credited, but I need to write it all first. I've got 20 essays ahead. It's daunting, but I'm where I want to be in my life right now. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, known for his adaptations of the Harry Potter books, wrote "The Fabulous Baker Boys" at 24, my sixth favorite film in that ranked list, and I think he directed it at 28. Roger Ebert began reviewing movies at 28. I'm right where I want to be. I'm still a bit nervous about this project, but I'm happy because of all that I get to do with it.