Little Big Annoyances

Yesterday, we watched the first two episodes of Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman:

Screen capture of IMDB home page.

Within moments as the first episode opened, this program felt gratingly familiar. If you are new here, you might have missed where I explained (wow, almost 2 years ago now) how The Affair that was not exactly my favorite program – and why. I got through about 3 or 4 episodes of it before I gave up.

And The Affair has apparently been a success on Showtime in the U.S.

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Worried Novelist Walks Through Hitchin

Almost there. Actually, “there” is one of my multitude of tiny problems. 130,000 words and at the point where major changes are essentially impossible, I’m fussing now over single words and individual – but not quite exactly what I wished they were – sentences.

It is that maddening creative moment when you the writer are down to the level of anguishing over the likes of “I’ve used ‘there’ too often in those two paragraphs.” Or “Rather than three sentences, perhaps make it one sentence joined together with semi-colons?” Or “That is supposed to be ‘at’ not ‘as’. Spell-check missed it! Ugh!”

As you get “there,” you also need to pause, breathe, take an extra-moment or two, and maybe see some ducks:

Because it is difficult not to think “Eh, there be monsters out there…” I find I am increasingly consumed with worry. As I correct issues of “as” that should be “at,” I confess even to having moments of despair. “All of this effort,” my mind races as I look yet again at the screen, “and what if it stinks? I may have to jump into that water in Hitchin town center. But I suspect it may not be deep enough…”

To be a writer is to be forever in some self-doubt.

The last thing I’ve been doing is daydreaming about conquering the universe…

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Viewed From This England

We’ve been watching the political-melodrama U.S. TV series Madam Secretary. But you don’t need to know the details of the program to get this post. I thought I’d use it as a basis for some “fun” today – it’s Friday – mostly due to the episode we just saw and because, as you probably know, my wife is English (and we have been married for, uh, quite a few years).

In that episode from its 3rd season, the U.S. Secretary of State’s twenty-something spoiled, mouthy, annoying pain in the neck for the previous two seasons and now continuing to be so apparently daughter has returned to Washington recently after a summer in Oxford with her English fiancΓ©.

In the kitchen, unexpectedly she gets all emotional and reveals to Mom (the Secretary of State, I repeat) that she was like wow really unhappy with her English husband-to-be when they were in England. Suddenly, she announces she doesn’t want to live there. She says she hated the place.

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My “Gone With The Wind” (I Laughed)

When you have finished the rough draft of your latest book one day earlier than you had targeted it for completion, what do you do? Well, I sat there stunned and shattered. Later, I watched an old film and decompressed:

And I went for a quick walk:

I did not go inside. I resisted. I had thought, though, maybe…

Earlier, I had also “freed” my book at last from the confines of a PC file and printed the ENTIRE manuscript for the first time. In its three dimensional form it’s now 516 pages (double-sided printed, of course) and it took the printer about three hours to work through it all. At last I could point to it and say, 13 months of work (so far):

Conventions: The Garden At Paris. The manuscript. It is no longer just an abstraction sitting in a PC. [Photo by me, 2017.]
Conventions: The Garden At Paris. The manuscript. It is no longer just an abstraction sitting in a PC. [Photo by me, 2017.]

I was so pleased, as you see I took a photo of it. As I looked at it, I thought as well that I still couldn’t believe it. All of that had once been merely an “idea” bouncing around vaguely in my head.

Soon the “editor” – she may well be reading this post – will receive a copy. Now the truly scary part commences. I hope she has a spare month or so of reading time!

I have just Facetimed my wife in Portugal and waved it at her: “My Gone With The Wind,” I laughed.

She came back, “Let’s hope it sells like that!”

Indeed, and as I look again now at that huge pile of paper, my uncle comes to mind. If you are a regular visitor, you know he died in October 2015. He had been a crime novelist published starting in the early 1980s by “big name” companies.

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“There’s The Girl”

A bit of an “unserious” post at times. It’s Wednesday. A brief change of pace.

We sat through Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, on Sunday night.

I like science fiction. I like superheroes. I like being entertained.

But while watching too often I found myself asking: What the heck is going on?

The film is based on the characters from the famous comics, of course. As I watched, it dawned on me as well that lots of books today are also rooted in the supernatural or the essentially “unbelievable.” The number of indie authors alone who write fantasy – and often really good stuff, too – is enormous.

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A Chilly English Winter Morning

I was writing yesterday late morning when I noticed no heat was on and the house had started to feel cool. Venturing downstairs from my office, I discovered the boiler was out. Next I saw gas workers outside.

National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]
National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]

There was a gas problem on the high street and National Grid had turned up with what seemed like a dozen vehicles. They’d had to shut off service to quite a few houses. Water from a burst pipe up the road earlier somehow got into the main gas pipe.

“Uh, not good,” one of the workers told me.

“So this is the water company’s fault,” I laughed.

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The Most Serious Action Of All

Our Christmas house guests have returned to London. They landed at Heathrow several hours ago. Fortunately, they got on the upstate New York roads and down to Newark Airport yesterday before…the snow hit:

So we’re not really going anywhere today. And we have a few days of “peace” ahead here before we too have to return to England. Time to get into some presents:

Back on Monday we headed to the small Windham cinema and saw Rogue One with one of those house guests – my youngest nephew. He’s 14 and a Star Wars fanatic. I thought it was a better film overall, in my humble opinion, than Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

On Tuesday night, eight of us sitting in front of the tele, we happened to catch Bogart in The Maltese Falcon on TCM. I told that nephew that Falcon is THE detective film of all time. Every detective film since then pretty much owes its existence to The Maltese Falcon.

The Maltese Falcon on DVD. [Photo by me, 2016.]
The Maltese Falcon on DVD. [Photo by me, 2016.]

Unsurprisingly, he’d never seen the film. Afterwards, on another channel we watched a much more recently made Marvel Captain America. I don’t recall which film it was exactly; I admit I lose track. One scene I recall saw Scarlett Johansson running around on a bridge, guns in both hands, spraying bullets at bad guys amidst bystanders’ cars crashing and bursting into flame and people running for cover.

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First Class Christmas

For Christmas, we flew to Newark yesterday from Heathrow. We decided to make this trip special.

We used Avios (BA air miles) and went first class. I grabbed that photo above in the Concorde lounge “outside” deck at Heathrow. And naturally, as we all do nowadays, I put it on Instagram.

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The Holiday (Film)

What a ludicrous hour to be awake on a Sunday. We’re going to church early. Like many of you, we’ve been spending the weekend preparing for Christmas:

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New Friends From “The East,” c. 1994

The other day we watched Steven Spielberg’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies. You may know it stars Tom Hanks, playing the idealistic American he can portray so well. The film also well-conveys the tenor of its times – the espionage, mistrust, and especially pain, suffering, and even brutality, in a Germany divided between non-communist West and communist East as the Berlin Wall is erected in 1960-61, leading to the separations of friends and loved ones that would last often for nearly thirty years after.

Flag of the Soviet Union, 1922-1991.
Flag of the Soviet Union, 1922-1991.

Much of the film is historically reasonable. Yes, some minor plot points drift a bit from the historical record. For example, the episode involving the American graduate student arrested in East Berlin by the communist East German authorities deviates somewhat from the experience of the actual student.

But inaccuracies like that do not diminish the film’s contribution. With action taking place on screen as we watch and that reality making it difficult to show concurrent plotlines, and jammed into two hours viewing time or less, nearly any film that attempts to be 100 percent “history book” precise will probably be unwatchable. The key to a good historical film is it must capture the essence of the characters of the day and the spirit and general flow of events being dramatized.

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