Monday, November 30, 2009

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Chamber”

“You know, I really don’t belong here,” said the prisoner.

“Oh really?” asked the attendant.

“Yes. There’s been some mistake.”

“Is that so?”

“Of course, it is!”

“You don’t have to shout.”

I’m sorry. I...I just get carried away at times. Especially when I see you’re about to punish an innocent man.”

“Oh, really? What innocent man?”

“Why, me, of course. I don’t deserve this.”

“You are Mark Johnson, aren’t you, of 1705 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas, Texas?”

“Yes.”

“Then there’s no mistake. You are the person scheduled for punishment.”

“Oh, that’s not what I meant…I don’t deserve this punishment. I’ve already paid for my crime.”

“I hardly consider what you went through to be an adequate recompense for your crime, Mr. Johnson. Even if I did, I don’t make the rules here. My superiors do. They have passed judgment upon you, and it is my job to carry out their sentence. I’m only following orders.”

“Sure, just like Adolf Eichmann.”

“That’s not fair, Mr. Johnson.”

“Of course, it’s not fair,” said Mr. Johnson. “Condemned men are never fair.”

“Just step this way, Mr. Johnson.”

They entered a stone chamber. Inside was a rack.

“You’re not going to chain me to that thing, are you?” said Mr. Johnson, pointing to the rack.

“Only for a little while,” said the attendant. “Your sentence will be over sooner than you think.“

“That’s easy for you to say.”

“Please lie down, Mr. Johnson.”

Mr. Johnson did so. As the attendant began to attach chains to his hands and feet, he heard a flapping sound from above.

“You don’t have birds in here, do you?” he asked.

“You’ll soon find out,” said the attendant. “Just like Prometheus.”

“Who?”

“No one important.”

The attendant surveyed his handiwork. “Very well. Goodbye, Mr. Johnson.”

“Wait! Don’t go yet. Tell me please...What did I do to deserve this?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No.”

“You ran over a young girl.”

“Oh, that. I can explain. That was an accident.”

“So you said at your trial. Goodbye, Mr. Johnson.”

“Wait. You don’t understand. I was acquitted. By a jury of my peers.”

“I see.”

“No, you don’t see.”

The flapping sound grew louder.

“It was dark,” said Mr. Johnson. “Late at night. The girl had no business crossing in the middle of the street in the first place.”

“I understand, Mr. Johnson.”

“No, you don’t. If you did, you wouldn't be doing this.”

The attendant started to leave.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

“I must leave now, Mr. Johnson,” said the attendant. “I have other people I must attend to.”

“No. Wait!”

“I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“Rules are rules.”

“I stepped on the brakes as hard as I could. The car just wouldn’t stop in time.”

“Goodbye.”

“For Chrissakes, the girl wasn’t even in this country legally.”

“I know.”

The attendant left the room, but not before hearing one final scream behind him.

“For the love of God!”

The attendant stood in the hallway outside the torture chamber, pale and shaken.

“Yes, Mr. Johnson,” he said, for the benefit of no one but himself. “For the love of God.”

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hey, I Remember This Show: Star Trek

One of these days they really should make a movie based on this series. I bet it would be great...

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Pop Song of the Week: “L.A. International Airport”

It took me a while to warm up to this homemade video that someone made for Susan Raye's “L.A. International Airport.” On one hand, it has one of my favorite country songs from the early 1970s. On the other, I generally prefer to imagine my own images when I'm listening to this song.

But eventually I came around. And anyway, the song is too good not to post on this site. I especially like the way songwriter Leanne Scott managed to add so many visual details to the lyrics without distracting from the song itself.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Nothing in the world is any good unless you can share it.
--Robert Mitchum, Out of the Past (1947)

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TV Quote of the Week

Well, just look at them. They all work really hard everyday and they’re dissatisfied. I mean, I can be dissatisfied without hardly working at all.
--Caroline Dhavernas, Wonderfalls, “Wax Lion”

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “I'm True to the Navy Now”

Oh, great. I just started getting over my crush on Ginger Rogers and now I'm starting to get one on Clara Bow. It must be that mischievous grin of hers. You're never quite sure how much of it is acting and how much is genuine but it certainly is appealing.

However, to be fair, her singing and dancing abilities aren't too bad, either. But I must admit I watched this video several times before I realized they were spelling out her name towards the end. I guess it's a good thing they never remade this number with Scarlett Johansson.

But, seriously, folks...

Anyway, this week I present Ms. Bow's “I'm True to the Navy Now” from 1930's Paramount on Parade.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trailer of the Week: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I always thought this was a good movie. However, if Anne Baxter likes it, it must be a great one...

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Magazine Cover of the Week

From November 22, 1993, comes an issue whose cover asks the question to which many of us are still awaiting an answer.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Meeting”

The six of them were running down the street and as usual, the kids were way ahead, chasing an old rubber ball which seemed cursed with perpetual motion.

Bob stopped to catch his breath -- his job had left him unused to such exertion -- and finally caught up with the kids halfway down the hill. As was the manner of kids everywhere, the children had stumbled upon another group of children playing in the street and now both were trying to reorganize a game of basketball the former had interrupted with their impromptu arrival. Bob’s golden-haired companion promptly waded into the mess in an effort to sort it out. Tiffany -- the only girl, of course -- as usual wanted to play center and the two oldest boys -- David and Tony -- of course wanted no girls on their team. The other side did not want any new players and the youngest boy -- little Emilio -- stood in the center of the street, slightly dazed by the hubbub of events.

Bob smiled and rocked back on his heels, enjoying the sudden respite from the days’ activities. Then he glanced to the side and saw her.

She was standing in the small front yard of an apartment house, separated from the street by a black steel fence. The gate in this fence was open and nearby was a table and chairs. The woman had cinnamon-colored hair and her casual wear was quite a contrast to Bob’s suit and tie. Only a white sweater would have separated her from the older kids on the street yet there were signs in her face and hands which indicated she was way past the age of high school. In fact, she was about Bob’s age.

He was still trying to suppress a double take when the woman glanced in his direction.

“Your kids?” she asked, nodding towards the street.

“At least four of them are,” he said.

“Oh.” The woman looked distracted for a moment, and then she said, “Your wife seems quite capable.”

“No, that’s my sister,” he replied. “My wife is out on a shopping expedition.”

“Ah, the old house husband routine,” said the woman.

“Not really,” he said. “I just volunteered to watch the kids for a while, and she took advantage of the opportunity.” He smiled hesitantly. “It doesn’t happen all that often, I assure you.”

“I see,” said the woman.

By now, his sister had separated the mass of children into two teams and was making a mock gesture of exhaustion when she noticed the two sets of eyes upon her.

“Well, you were certainly a big help, Bob,” she said, coming in off the street.

“Couldn’t help it, Evelyn,” he replied. “You were doing such a wonderful job. I just had to stand back and watch.”

Evelyn just shrugged and turned to the other woman. “My brother the helpful observer,” she said.

The woman nodded and then Evelyn blinked. “That’s funny,” she said. “You look awfully familiar. Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

The woman glanced at Bob. “Why, yes, you did. You used to see me at the store where Bob and I worked together. My name is Miriam.”

“No shit?” asked Evelyn. “You two really did work together?”

“Yes, we did,” said Miriam.

“For seven years,” Bob added.

He and the woman glanced at one another. Then the glances broke.

“Who would have believed it?” asked Evelyn. “I know I wouldn’t. Will wonders never cease. I‘m sorry I forgot meeting you but you know how life can be sometimes...”

She drifted into silence and, nodding her head absentmindedly, walked off to supervise the basketball game.

“She’s right, you know,” Bob added as Evelyn walked out of hearing range. “It does seem like quite a coincidence.”

“It certainly does,” said Miriam. “But is it my fault if your sister doesn’t remember me?”

“A lot has certainly happened since then,” said Bob. He glanced at the children. “I suppose you’re married now?”

“Actually, I’m common-law.”

Bob raised an eyebrow.

Miriam smiled. “Mark and I couldn’t afford a conventional wedding or anything fancy like that so we settled for common-law. It wasn’t exactly the thing my parents approved of but it was better than nothing. And at least there’s no doubt whom the kids belong to.”

She glanced at the pavement. “How about you?”

“Oh, nothing much. I left town for a while.” He paused, bit his lip and then continued. “I went down south for a while, then came back and finished school -- actually, continued school -- and then I got my master’s and finally got that big computer programming job I always used to talk about.” He glanced in her direction. “And of course, I met my wife Sylvia and had four kids. How about you?”

Miriam broke out in a smile. “Well, it’s sort of obvious what I’ve been doing.” She glanced toward the children again.

“Mark doesn’t let you work?” Bob asked.

“He doesn’t believe in it,” said Miriam. “If we can’t afford to make it on one paycheck, we simply do without.” She nodded absently. “It’s something we’ve had plenty of practice in. Plus I kinda liked staying home for a change.”

“What if you two need extra money?”

“Oh, Mark can always work extra hours at the plant and I, of course, can always babysit. It’s not exactly an easy life, but we get by.” She smiled. “Mark has too much pride in himself to put up with a working wife so I guess we just have to learn to live with it.”

“That’s good,” said Bob.

He paused a moment, then continued. “Of course, our old friend Teri used to be a working wife too.”

“Yeah, look what happened to her?” Miriam said.

“Oh, yeah. Right.”

The two of them fell into a long silence, their eyes blank as they relived mutual memories.

Then Evelyn walked up. “I hate to break up old times but it’s time we get this bunch back home for lunch.”

“Oh, right,” said Bob absentmindedly. “Sylvia will be coming back home soon, anyway.”

“Right.” Miriam glanced at Evelyn. “It’s been good seeing you again. I hope I have the opportunity to see you again sometime.”

“Perhaps we will,” Evelyn replied absentmindedly.

Bob fidgeted. “Well, I’ll see you around sometime, I guess. If I ever come by this way. I don’t exactly live in the same neighborhood anymore.”

For a moment, he stared into the distance. His mouth seemed to open and close involuntarily. Then he turned and said, ”It’s been nice seeing you again.”

“It’s been nice seeing you again too,” said Miriam.

“Yeah,” said Bob.

He turned and ran to catch up with Evelyn and the kids. They were halfway up the street by the time he caught up with them and for a few minutes, he walked besides them in silence. It took a long while but he finally gave in to the impulse to turn around and look at the apartment house with the iron gate. Miriam’s kids were still playing out in front but there was no adult watching them from the front yard.

She must have gone inside, he thought.

He walked on in silence.

He was halfway home when he thought once more of Miriam and realized he was still in love with her.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trailer of the Week: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Oh my! All this and Jean Arthur too? I'm in heaven.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Hollywood Party”

I wish most workplaces were as fun as the one in this clip seems to be. Ah, those pre-Code days...

From 1934's Hollywood Party, it's lead singer Frances Williams and company with the title song.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Yeah, I know those bluenoses. Their ancestors refused to come over on the Mayflower because they didn't want to rub elbows with the tourists... so they swam over!
--Robert Williams, Platinum Blonde (1931)

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TV Quote of the Week

I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.
--Hilary Momberger, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

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Rimplegars Rule!


Oh my! In this movie I've just seen, a family matriarch lost her entire fortune in the stock market while another family member speculated on the possibility of selling the family homestead -- and the impossibility of doing so in the current economic climate. If that is not bad enough, one family member collapsed due to hunger and overwork while another faced the choice of either meeting her boss after work for a “date” or losing a badly needed job. In other words, it was a movie just full of situations that most modern people can identify with all too well -- and yet it is set in the 1930s.

I'm referring to the 1933 film Three-Cornered Moon -- one of the first screwball comedies* and very easily one of the least known. The most famous member of the cast is Claudette Colbert who went on to become far more famous in films like It Happened One Night and Since You Went Away. Lyda Roberti of College Rhythm fame played Jenny, the linguistically-challenged Polish maid who does not speak much English -- and inevitably mangles what little she does know. The rest of the cast is not so well known as these two but they were entertaining as well in a story that illustrates what a lot of upper-middle-class families had to go through when they lost their money in the Great Depression.

It would have been very easy for the filmmakers to make this flick another “unlikable rich people get their just desserts” type of movie but to their credit, the rich family -- who go by the name of Rimplegar -- are actually quite sympathetic. Not only are their struggles likely to seem all too familiar to people like myself who have done their share of job hunting, but their plight moved me in a way that the plights of many characters in more recent movies did not.

The one scene that most struck home with me was the scene in which Colbert's character (Elizabeth Rimplegar) literally begged her boyfriend Ronald -- an aspiring novelist -- to help out the family by condescending to take an office job. However, the boyfriend -- despite having lived with the Rimplegars rent-free for quite a while and eating his share of groceries -- chose not to pursue the job offer -- not because of cowardice or ill health -- but because of his “artistic integrity,” apparently preferring to let his beloved's family work their fingers to the bone rather than help out with anything that does not involve his novel.

Needless to say, the Rimplegars were not too happy with Ronald's Rousseau complex and Elizabeth was especially unhappy. And although I have known enough people who had struggled to appease both Mammon and the Muses -- including myself -- I could not bring myself to sympathize with him either. Perhaps because most of the struggling artists I have met were unable to make the same choice in good conscience that Ronald made.

In any event, should not a true artist have felt some responsibility to help support the people who were supporting him -- or should he -- like Ronald -- have chosen to play grasshopper to the more plebeian worker ants? And what point is there in artistic integrity if it does not translate into sympathy for the people around you? In an age when it is becoming more and more common to see celebrity misbehavior excused on the grounds that so-and-so is a great artist and therefore not obliged to abide by the same rules as ordinary folk, I find this an intriguing question.

Anyway, even if you disagree with the movie's philosophy, I suspect that you would find this to be an entertaining movie.

* Yes, you read that right. It is a comedy.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hey, I Remember This Show: The Prisoner

Just in case some of you out there in cyberland have forgotten how a TV show called The Prisoner is supposed to start, I've taking the liberty of posting this.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Magazine Cover of the Week

From April 1971:



I guess it's a good thing that things are so different now...

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book of the Week



When I started reading Spider Robinson's 1985 novel Night of Power, I was not sure what to expect. Sure, his Callahan's books were great but they were not perfect -- and the last one was definitely less than perfect. Plus this particular book came out more than twenty years ago so it seemed sure to be dated. Moreover, it was written by Spider Robinson, a known aficionado of Robert Heinlein (the man who wrote the controversial novel Farnham's Freehold) -- so I had every reason to expect something on the order of Farnham's Freehold II.

Yet by the time I got to the end, I was surprised. Contrary to what the cover implies, this is actually quite a thoughtful book which takes a premise that seems ripe for jingoism -- an impending race war in New York City -- and then uses the plot to ask some genuinely poignant questions about American race issues. Robinson does not shrink from showing the more violent developments in such an event but he does not go on to pander exclusively to his more xenophobic white readers either.

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Russell Grant, a retired white engineer with a black wife and a white daughter. (The daughter is from a previous marriage.) On their first day in New York City, they are almost the victims of a racially-motivated assault that is only broken up through the intervention of a mysterious figure named Michael. Michael proves to be the leader of a local black power movement -- sort of a community organizer, so to speak. But he is not presented as a stereotypical black supremacist and most of his tactics seem to be more reminiscent of the tactics used by the heroes of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress than of the ones used by the black tyrant in Farnham's Freehold.

When Russell gets word that Michael will be the target of an assassination attempt, he tries to save his life by warning him, only to become more involved in Michael's plans than he anticipated. Michael turns out to be organizing a revolution against the U.S. government that would lead to the secession of New York State and Pennsylvania and the founding of a free black republic. Russell is not sure he approves of such a revolution but circumstances force him to go along with it.

Things get violent and Russell, his wife and his daughter are all forced to make hard decisions to survive. Towards the end of the book, Russell has a long written conversation with himself in which he tries to reconcile his various experiences -- both positive and negative -- with both blacks and whites and come to one firm conclusion about how he should deal with the new regime.

I found this part to be most intriguing because it would have been very tempting for Robinson to pull his punches and come down on one side or the other. But such a choice would have been simplistic and there has been quite enough simplistic items written in regard to race. Instead Robinson tries to grapple with questions that have yet to receive a definite answer even in the Age of Obama: What is racism? How do you fight it? How can one not be racist if one lives in America and possesses a white skin and what obligation does such a person have to make up for the sins of his ancestors? Can such a person make up for the sins of his ancestors? How is an honorable white person supposed to respond to black bigotry? How much of such bigotry is justified and how much fueled by the same less than noble emotions that fuel white bigotry? Does black separatism have a chance or is it just a pipe dream?

To his credit, Robinson does not pretend to know the answers to these questions. Nor does he end the saga on a predictable note. It could be noted -- at the risk of being a plot spoiler -- that the book ends on a more positive note than the above cover might suggest. But then again, Robinson cannot help having Grant speculate about what would happen to the revolution if Michael ever passed away. And the conclusion he comes to is not a very positive one.

So, in the end, it could be said that the true end of the book is up to the individual reader to decide.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

R.I.P. Edward Woodward

British actor Edward Woodward, best known for playing the title roles in the movie Breaker Morant and the TV series The Equalizer, is dead at age 79.

He will be missed.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Twilight Zone (1985): “Button, Button”

From the Reagan-era version of the classic series comes an episode based on a classic short story by author Richard Matheson, a key contributor to the original Twilight Zone. This episode is about a young couple with money problems who are presented with a mysterious box. If they open up the box and push a button, they end up killing someone they don't know. But they also get a lot of money.

But they do not really want to kill anybody.

Yet they can really use the money.

But they do not really want to kill anybody...

As you might guess, this episode was inspired by the same short story that inspired the recent Cameron Diaz movie The Box. And though the episode is not that long, it seems to stretch things out to the point I am almost scared to see what the movie adds to the storyline because even the short version seems way longer than it really needs to be.

It does not help that the show portrays its two main characters more unsympathetically than the short story does -- thus removing a key element of suspense from the ending. Thus, instead of wondering if the young couple will resist the urge to give in to temptation, I could not help but wonder what was taking them so long. And since they were so unlikable in the first place, it was a bit hard to worry too much about what would happen to them -- and that is not really the type of reaction I should have been having if the episode had been made correctly.

Gee, I miss Rod Serling. He may have been a bit heavy-handed at times when he was writing the original Twilight Zone, but at least he knew how to hire writers who knew something about storytelling.

And think that this episode was part of the same anthology series writer Harlan Ellison was involved with. What happened?

Edited to add:

Apparently Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay for this episode but was so dissatisfied with the version that eventually aired -- especially its new ending -- that he had his name in the screenwriting credits changed to Logan Swanson. After seeing this episode, I can understand why.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Office (U.S.): “Murder”

Oh, my. It is yet another episode about the possibility of the people at the Dunder-Mifflin paper company losing their jobs. I do not know how the good folks in TVland can possibly expect me to relate to that.

Okay, I am being unduly cynical. But I am not sure that the show's decision to endorse Michael Scott's “bread and circuses” approach to bad news -- he reacts to a rumor the company might declare bankruptcy by holding an impromptu session of a mystery role-playing game in order to distract his employees -- is all that good an idea --even when Jim Halpert -- ordinarily the most logical guy in the office -- chooses to endorse it as well.

But we will see. I once thought a certain subplot last season would be bad and it ended up surprising me so maybe they will pull off a similar trick this time.

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte IV

I spent most of the past month wondering if I was going to turn into the protagonist of George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying because like him, I was finding myself becoming more and more obsessed with money, class issues and missed opportunities. On the bright side, I do like to think I treat my sister better than the guy in Orwell's novel treated his, but then if you have read the novel, you know that is not saying much.

Anyway, today I finally got a callback on one of my job applications only to make the mistake of trying to answer the phone with my mouth full. Whereupon the caller promptly hung up. I am not sure if I blew the job altogether or whether there is still a chance I will get another callback but so far... No news. And I have been wanting to kick myself all afternoon for acting like a stupid sitcom character at that one moment that I really did not need to act like one.

I may actually get an unemployment check next week. But I dare not count on it too much. And anyway, I do not really want to be on unemployment. I would rather have a job.

Lately it seems that everyone I know has been in the middle of a bad soap opera. In fact, I am still waiting to hear from one female friend who had to take a drug test last week and who was positively frightened at the idea that she might flunk it and lose her job. In the past, I would have been a lot more judgmental about such a person, but having seen how responsible this person acts in the other areas of her life -- especially when caring for her children -- I must confess that I am quite sympathetic towards her. Not because I believe in illegal drug use; just the opposite. I can be as militant about drug dealers as anyone but I also tend to be skeptical about the notion that the war on drugs is going to be won by punishing the heck out of some poor single mom who has a few tokes with her friends on her day off. But then poor single moms do not tend to be big campaign contributors so I do not see that type of drug policy changing any time soon. Unless she moves to California. But that is obviously not an option at this point.

Oh, well. I have plenty of reasons to keep my fingers crossed this week. Isn't it such a good thing that the recession is over?

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hey, I Remember This Show: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

Ah, it's Saturday morning and a young* man's thoughts inevitably turns to cartoons.

For example, this one from the early 1970s, which, long before the advent of Buffy or Xena or Lara Croft, introduced the children of my generation to the concept of the action heroine. Inspired by the "cliffhanger" serials of Pearl White, this cartoon lives on in my memory a lot more than it probably should.

But at least it seems a bit more healthy to watch than one of those new-school horror films in which some innocent blonde girl gets chased by some malevolent fiend, right?

Er, right?



* Okay, youngish...

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte III

I've been too depressed to update this series too often.

Suffice it to say that I'm still looking and I should be officially collecting unemployment this month. I didn't mean to put it off this long but I honestly thought I'd find a job by now. And, of course, the search for one hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be.

Well, they say the recession is officially over now. But then they say a lot of things.

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A Banner in the Works

In case the few of you who browse this site haven't noticed yet, I've been using homemade banners on my site.

Please feel to comment on any of them, pro or con.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “I Enjoy Being a Girl”

From 1961's Flower Drum Song, it's the one song that annoys PC types even more than anything from my beloved West Side Story. And yet I can't help but notice that we have not been exactly deluged with musicals about Asian-Americans since then, either from the people who admire this movie or from the allegedly more enlightened people who hate it.

Anyway, I'd like to think that Nancy Kwan's appearance in this number has an appeal in this number that transcends race. However, I wish her voice wasn't dubbed.

Oh, well.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Nothing as dignified as that. I'm a banker.
--Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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TV Quote of the Week

You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not goin' around saying, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.
--James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs”

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pop Song of the Week: “The Man in Black”

This song may not be the most appropriate song to post on Veteran's Day but I suspect it should be.

From a 1971 episode of The Johnny Cash Show, it's a song that should be all too familiar to any American country music fan.

I hope you all like it.

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Trailer of the Week: The Best Year of Our Lives (1946)

Don't spend all week in front of the computer.

Be patriotic and go out and support the American movie industry.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Cuento de Mi Id

“Eating Disorders”

“Dammit,” Callie said. “I keep buzzing and buzzing and no one ever comes.”

“They never come,” said Debbie from the next bed over. “Not when you want them to. I should know. I’ve been in this hospital for a long, long time and they never come when I push that buzzer.”

“But this is a hospital,” said Callie. “They’re supposed to come when they hear the buzzer. Suppose someone is having a heart attack or something?”

“They wouldn’t care,” said Debbie. “They’re a pretty heartless bunch around here.”

“I don’t believe that, “ said Callie. “The nurse who attended me in the room I was in last night seemed pretty nice.”

Debbie showed her a closed-lip smile. “Take it from me. The nice ones never stay here long. It’s only the nasty evil ones who hang around here in the long run. So what are you in for?”

“An eating disorder. And you?”

“I guess you might say I have a slight drinking problem.”

“And they put you in the hospital for that?”

“Well, I do tend to go over my limit…”

“But still...Aren’t there private clinics and stuff like that for that?”

“Not for what I’ve got,” Debbie said. “The doctors say I‘m quite an unique case.”

“Well, I’m getting hungry.”

“I thought you had an eating disorder.”

“Well, I do. But if I don’t eat on a regular basis, well, it gets worse.”

“I know the feeling.”

“For years they’ve been telling me to eat more, eat more. Now I’m finally at the point that I’m willing to eat more and now they’re starving me to death.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Debbie. “You won’t starve to death. I won’t allow it.”

“You won’t allow it? Since when do you have any say-so?”

“Since my daddy owns this hospital. He’s quite a rich man. I’m sure the nurses will listen to me once I remind them of that. They’d be crazy not to.”

“Well, my father’s not a rich man.”

“I know.”

“You know? How do you know?”

“They showed me your medical records just before they brought you up here.”

“They showed you my medical records?”

“Is there an echo in here?”

“But how? Isn’t that illegal?”

“Sure, it’s illegal. But then a lot of things that go on around here are illegal. Your suicide attempt, for example.”

“That was quite a few days ago.”

“And the scars still haven’t healed, have they?”

“Well, no…”

“And you haven’t heard from your parents yet, right?”

“Well, I have been wondering about that…”

“That’s because they think you’re dead.”

“They think I’m what?”

“There goes that echo again.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, I’m quite serious,” Debbie said.

“You must be joking,” Callie said. “So why were you looking at my medical records?”

“The same reason I glance through everybody’s medical records.”

“And what reason is that?”

“The same reason you keep glancing at that dinner menu they gave you earlier.”

At that point, Debbie reached up and unhooked her IV with the greatest of ease.

“Wait a second. You’re not really sick.”

“I never said I was.”

“But you said. . .”

“My daddy owns this hospital. I have privileges here you can’t even imagine...Besides, I really did tell the truth before.”

“About what?”

At that point, Debbie stood up and bared her teeth. Two of them were pointed. Very pointed.

“I really do have a drinking problem,” she said.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Trailer of the Week: The Candidate (1972)

Don't just sit there.

Go see a movie and see how times have changed...

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Comic Book Image of the Week



From the new comic book series Air.

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

“Just wait,” Wentworth said, “till -- oh, say -- the threat of the asteroid impact builds in the years ahead. You would see unthinkable sacrifices quickly embraced by the people as we united the planet to establish a massive asteroid-deflection system in deep space.”

“Is there an approaching asteroid?” Linda asked.

“There could be,” Wentworth said.
--Dean Koontz, The Good Guy

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Take a Number from One to Ten”

Who says we can't learn from the past?

Here, from 1934's College Rhythm, is everyone's favorite German-Polish half-breed Lyda Roberti with a number that puts today's cheerleaders to shame.

Are you ready for some football? After this number, who the hell cares?

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Today, of all the weary year, a king of men am I. Today alike are great and small, the nameless and the known. My palace is the people's hall, the ballot box, my throne. Tomorrow, I will be quite forgotten - a bit of shadow glory, who, like the rest of you, left his mark only in a ballot box. But I will be no less a part of that total greatness because being even the least in a land where strength is so generous, is greatness in itself.
--John Barrymore, The Great Man Votes (1939)

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TV Quote of the Week

And if history tells us anything, it is that you can’t go wrong buying a house you can’t afford.
--John Krasinski, The Office (US), “Customer Survey”

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Castle: “Flowers for Your Grave”

Should I find it a bit disturbing that the creepiest part of this episode came not in the obligatory pre-credit sequence in which a young woman was killed in “colorful” fashion to amuse all the bored TV viewers out there but in the scene in which it was revealed that the victim was seen naked by one of the few people who really should not have been seeing her naked?

For that matter, should I not find it a bit disturbing that co-star Susan Sullivan went from playing a female doctor in the 1978 show Having Babies -- aka Julie Farr, M.D. -- to playing a wacky mother in this show? Granted, TV does not have a whole lot of roles for people Ms. Sullivan's age but then that is not necessarily a good thing now, is it?

Oh, well. It's tempting to see this show as a variation on Bones, only this time it is the man who is the eccentric and unrealistically rich author who helps solves crimes and it is the woman who is on the side of law enforcement.

Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame plays Rick Castle, an eccentric millionaire writer who gets involved in a murder investigation when the investigating police detective Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic) discovers parallels between two real-life murders and similar crimes in Mr. Castle's books. Ms. Beckett and Mr. Castle meet cute, have all sorts of amusing arguments and at last solve the crime.

Of course, the story doesn't end there and Mr. Castle uses his clout to bring about a sequ -- er, a gig as Ms. Beckett's constant companion in the name of “research.”

The result is not a bad series -- apart from the elements I've mentioned above -- but not a terribly exciting one, either. A lot of the appeal of the show depends upon how one feels about the chemistry between Fillion and Katic.

It is nice to see Mr. Fillion star on a TV series for more than one season. And Ms. Katic is nice to look at as well.

If nothing else, this show -- like Bones -- seems to be a throwback to those old movies in which impossibly rich writers with amazing clout threw their weight around in ways that would be more amusing to watch on screen than to experience in person. But, fortunately for all the straight women and gay men who might be watching this series, Rick Castle is a lot easier on the eyes than Sheridan Whiteside.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Parks and Recreation: “The Banquet”

I initially hated this show when it looked like little more than The Amy Poehler Show. Yes, it seemed nice to take the same approach to actual politics that the original Office took to office politics but the show still didn't seem all that appealing. Then I discovered that former Office cast member Rashida Jones was on it and my interest was piqued.

Even when I started watching the actual show, it took a while for my interest to build up. On one side, Amy Poehler's female bureaucrat Leslie Knope was a lot more sympathetic than Steve Carrell's Michael Scott character in The Office. She acted a bit childish at times but unlike Michael Scott, she really did seem to have the best interests of others in mind. On the other hand, the show's writers seemed to initially overestimate Ms. Poehler's appeal for it wasn't until they started fleshing out supporting characters like Ms. Jones' Ann Perkins that the show started to seem worth watching.

The show is still a bit cartoonish and it's hard to believe that a real-life version of Ms. Knope could be as clueless as Ms. Poehler portrays her. But around the time that this episode aired, the writing seemed to be improving and the sight of Pamela Reed playing Ms. Knope's mother made for a nice touch. Plus this episode came up with a valid excuse to put Ms. Jones in a hot evening gown and I can't really find fault with that.

So we'll see.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hey, I Remember This Show: I Married Dora

Wow! I used to have such a crush on Elizabeth Peña back in the 1980s and her role as Dora Calderon (the "Dora" of the title, natch) on this show was one reason why. (Her role in 1987's La Bamba was another.)

Unfortunately, the show didn't exactly showcase her abilities to any great extent. And I suppose it says something about how well it showcased the rest of the cast that I keep forgetting Juliette Lewis was on this show too.

Plus there's the whole "Dora is an undocumented immigrant who has to get married to an U.S. citizen to stay in the country" angle which I could have done without. Indeed, it seemed funny that at a time when I was running into Anglo-Hispanic couples all over the place, the only way network TV could conceive of such a pairing on a prime time show was as a green card marriage. Somehow that doesn't say anything flattering about how far we Americans had come in the 1980s from the days of I Love Lucy.

Oh, well. I've seen worse.

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Magazine Cover of the Week

From October 16, 1978 comes an issue that begs the question: How long is "soon"?

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

More Science Fiction Short Stories I Wish More People Were Familiar With

1. "Babel II" (1953) -- Damon Knight.

Imagine a world where nobody talks and everyone has to write in order to communicate. No, it is not the Internet. It is the world remade after a visit from an eccentric alien.

2. "Beachcomber" (1972) -- Damon Knight.

The ultimate end of the world story, if not the ultimate argument against putting all your eggs in one basket.

3. "Big, Wide, Wonderful World" (1958) -- Charles E. Fritch.

Reality... What a concept! The ultimate “this is your w -- er -- mind on drugs” story.

4. "Or Else" (1953) -- Henry Kuttner.

A visiting alien comes to Earth and interferes with a couple of feuding Mexicans, asking them to break up their fight over a waterhole while doing nothing to resolve the actual issue they’re fighting over. I must admit that I see absolutely no relationship between this story and current U.S. foreign policy. None whatsoever.

5. "Renaissance Man" (1974) -- T.E.D. Klein.

Klein has fun with the old cliché about a man from the future coming back to the past to “enlighten” us.

6. "Sanity" (1944) -- Fritz Leiber.

A classic sci-fi story that poses the age-old question: what is normal?

7. "S.F." (1975) -- T.E.D. Klein.

In a future world, technology allows people to experience something for the first time over and over again. Then the government gets involved and well -- surprise, surprise, there’s a catch.

8. "The Children of Night" (1964) -- Frederik Pohl.

An ad man does P.R. work for an would-be alien invader, only to face an attack of conscience. A story you won't see on Mad Men any time soon.

9. "The Tunnel Under the World (1955) -- Frederik Pohl.

The ultimate triumph of Madison Avenue in yet another story which makes the wildest episode of Mad Men look tame.

10. "You’re Another" (1955) -- Damon Knight.

The ultimate comment on reality shows -- which is odd because the story was written long before the concept of reality shows was created. I always thought it made an interesting thought on the human condition as well, but what do I know?

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Was This Man's Trip to the Land of Women Really Necessary?


Remember the good old days when you watched a movie and you actually sympathized with the main character? Apparently, the guy who wrote In the Land of Women did not.

I found the lead male character in this movie to be infuriating. No matter what other problems the women in his life had--terminal illness, senility, boyfriend problems, etc. -- it always ended up being all about him and not about the women around him.

Even the parts of his life that weren’t so flattering were written in a way that makes him seem egotistical. It was not enough, for example, for the guy to just lose his girlfriend to another guy. He had to lose her to a major movie star. It was not enough for him to inadvertently kiss the teenage girl who lived across the street. She had to kiss him first.

And it was not enough for him to simply lose his girlfriend and then learn to move on. He had to receive a call from his ex-girlfriend at a crucial part of the movie. A call in which his ex-girlfriend naturally confessed to missing him. And, of course when he was interrupted and forced to call her back at a later date, the writer made certain that the girlfriend was not longer all that sympathetic. Never mind that she called him and that he waited several days to call her back. She was still depicted as a bad ex-girlfriend.

Then there was the allegedly heartwarming scene where the protagonist decided to make a gift for his dying grandmother -- and then found a way to once more make it all about him. And by the time his self-serving gift was finished and it came time for him to present it to his grandmother -- well, anyone who had ever seen a movie can guess the next part.

The saddest part about In The Land of Women was not that it was a bad movie. It was because it was a disappointing movie.

Not only did the protagonist come across as a self-centered jerk, he was ultimately a boring self-centered jerk. I would like to think there was a valid lesson about human nature to be learned from his example, but I honestly could not blame anyone for nodding off long before such a lesson came along.

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She Married a Dead Man and Boy, Was He Stiff! But Seriously, Folks...

Cornell Woolrich was one of the most memorable mystery writers I ever read, but I would hardly argue that he is the Frank Capra of American mystery writers. He tended to write about people who were either doomed or trapped, and only a few of his novels had anything close to a happy ending. His novel I Married a Dead Man was very easily one of his darkest books. So naturally when it came time for HBO to make a movie out of it back in 1996, they made it into a romantic comedy.

Stop and think about that. A dark mystery novel with a downbeat ending...gets turned into a romantic comedy. Mrs. Winterbourne, to be exact. (At least they had the good grace to change the title.)

The result was not quite as bad as I feared, but it's nothing to write home about, either. Ricki Lake played Connie Doyle, a teenage runaway who got impregnated out of wedlock by the wrong guy and then discovered that the guy did not love her as much as she thought. She ended up alone and homeless and spent her last dime on a train trip to her father's house. The train had an accident, two people who befriended her got killed, and the movie was off on its way to the perfect feel-good ending.

To be fair, it is hard to expect rom-com audiences to put up with the sort of dark plot twists that Woolrich liked to put in his novels. But then that is why they were not meant to be rom-coms.

Oh, well. At least Shirley MacLaine and Brendan Fraser got to earn a paycheck.

I eagerly await the inevitable musical comedy adaptation of The Bride Wore Black...

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Beckoning Dark One”

If every picture tells a story, then just imagine how many a single photo album must tell.

Granted, they are not always exciting stories. Nor even interesting ones. However, you do tend to come across an odd tale or two every so often -- and in the most unexpected places.

Take my family’s photo album, for instance. One picture shows a young toddler -- myself -- laughing in the foreground while a dark, brooding figure in the background frowns at the camera. The figure is my cousin Miranda, of course, and as long as I had known her, I had never seen her take a particular dislike to being photographed. So why was she frowning in this picture? Had the picture-taker interrupted some private ritual between us? And if so, what kind? Cousin Miranda was only two years older than me so the ritual could not have been that private- - but then I was only a very young child at the time -- and I still don’t have all that many clear memories of that era. To this day, my Aunt Eulalia -- Miranda’s mother -- remembers incidents which occurred at that time about which I have absolutely no memory -- even though I was often a key participant in them. And what happened between me and Miranda when Aunt Eulalia and the other relatives were not around I have absolutely no way of knowing.

After all, my earliest memories of Miranda began when I was five years old. And I was obviously a lot younger than that in the picture. In fact, I did not even know that a picture like that had ever been taken until I had spied it in the family photo album just three years ago -- when I was twenty-seven. Which makes me wonder what else happened back then that I might have forgotten…

Ironically, it was Jane’s friend Lisa -- the most inartistic of our crowd -- who first saw it.

Everyone else at our housewarming party -- or to put it more accurately, our apartment warming party -- was too busy drinking, smoking, listening to loud music or else making dumb comments to Jane and me. My friends preferred Z.Z. Top, her friends, the Cowboy Junkies. My relatives kept voting for Aerosmith -- and being half-Mexican, easily outnumbered the opposition. However, one mischievous soul kept sneaking Amy Grant songs into the tape deck, and where the Randy Travis tapes kept coming from, I’ll never know.

Anyway, everyone at the party was engaged in various trivial pursuits -- including an actual game of Trivial Pursuit -- when Lisa happened to glance at one of Jane’s paintings on the wall and asked, “What’s that?”

“Oh, just a painting I did of some scenery I saw out at White Rock Lake a few years ago,” Jane replied. “Do you like it?”

Lisa frowned. “Not really. It looks kinda scary.”

“Scary?” Jane laughed. “What makes you say that?”

“That figure in the corner,” said Lisa. “It looks like it’s watching me.”

“I must be a better artist than I thought,” said Jane. “There is no figure in that painting. That entire area was deserted when I started my sketching.”

“Well, there must been someone there, Sis,” said Mike, my would-be brother-in-law. “I see it, too.”

“So do I,” said another guest.

And another one after that.

“This is crazy,” said Jane. “There can’t be a figure in that painting. I painted that thing myself -- surely I would have noticed a little detail like that.”

I walked over to her to reassure her. I started to put my arm around her shoulder and say something witty. Then I glanced at the painting and my voice died. There was a figure in the painting, all right; it was standing by a tree in the left hand corner. And what was even stranger than that was the fact that it was a familiar figure. But there was no way Jane could have deliberately painted that figure into her painting. Not even subconsciously. It had to be a joke. One of her artist friends playing a trick on her, perhaps. Or even --

“Wait a minute,” said my sister Claudia. “ I know that person. That’s Cousin Miranda.”

And she was right. The figure’s profile did resemble Cousin Miranda’s. But that was impossible.

Miranda had died ten years before Jane and I had ever met.

**********************************************************

I did not have the heart to mention it again until after all the guests had gone home, but I could tell Jane was disturbed.

“It has to be a trick of the light,” she kept saying. “Maybe if I hung it in another part of the room?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Perhaps you just happened to see her face in an old photo album or something and just unconsciously added it to the painting. I’m sure stuff like that happens to artists all the time.”

“Not outside of the movies, it doesn’t,” she said. “And anyway, I completed that painting three months before we even met -- so I could not have unconsciously added your cousin to my painting even if I had wanted to.”

“Perhaps someone altered it,” I suggested.

“Get real,” she said. “None of your relatives have any talent for art -- at least not enough to pull that off. And no one else that we know even knows what your cousin looked like. Besides, the painting does not look like it has been altered. It looks the same as it always did. Except for that.”

She pointed at the dark-haired figure that had looked so much like Cousin Miranda and I noticed for the first time just how much of it appeared to be in the shadows. Granted, the figure was standing in the middle of a wooded area, but it wasn’t hard to see that it was also standing on the sunny side of a tree. Moreover, the figure itself appeared to have moved. When I first saw it at the party, it was standing on the left end of the painting. Now it appeared to be much closer to the center. That was impossible, of course. But still...

“We’ll figure it out in the morning,” I said. “After all, we have more important things to concern us right now -- like, say, sleeping arrangements.”

“Not tonight, honey,” she said. “I have too much to think about right now.”

And think about them, she did. Staring at that painting the whole time that she did so…

**********************************************************

The next morning, the figure was still there. It had not moved, of course. But then it did not have to. It had just gotten larger.

“Impossible,” I said to myself.

Then I ignored it.

After all, I had other things to worry about. Bills to pay and all that Harry Chapinlike stuff. So when I woke up the next morning and saw what had happened...

No, I thought. It was just my imagination. Just a trick of the light like Jane had said.

Perhaps the painting had gone moldy while in storage. Yes, that was it. The blotch on Jane’s perfect landscape which we had all thought was my Cousin Miranda was merely an odd-shaped piece of fungus.

Perhaps that’s why the figure seemed to have changed directions. After all, it’s not as if a painted figure can actually turn its head…

The next few days, everything was normal. I wrote -- or at least, I tried to write -- and Jane painted. Everything appeared to be returning to normal.

No one gave the painting a second thought. Why should we? It wasn’t as if Miranda herself was going to jump out of the painting and strangle us. And anyway, Miranda was dead. Ten years dead. And not one of those Other Side of Midnight-type deaths, either, in which the girl falls off a boat one night and ends up being magically resurrected whenever the author wants her to be. No, Miranda’s death was more definite than that.

I still remember the way my mother looked when she first got the news from my Aunt Eulalia.

“Your cousin Miranda’s dead,” she had said. “She died in a car crash. Her and some other girl. The police tried to save them but…”

Miranda was the first real loss I had ever suffered in my life. Perhaps the only one that ever really counted. All my life I had taken her for granted as my one real friend in the universe. The one girl I could turn to when no one else seemed to understand me.

I had even grown conceited about it -- never daring to date any of the Anglo or Hispanic girls in my own school because they always fared so badly in comparison with my cousin. Not that Miranda and I would have ever married. I know now that was quite unlikely. But it would have been nice to have had the opportunity.

Now we were permanently separated. Not even the most fervent letter or phone call would ever bring her back.

But I did not complain too much. Eventually I moved on and now I had Jane. Jane, the perfect opposite of the little Mexican girl I had once fallen in love with. I had never thought I could fall in love with an Anglo girl until I met Jane. After all, the one Anglo girl I had ever tried to court previous to Jane had ended up conceiving another guy’s child. And God knows I did not want to go through that again.

But Jane was different. Jane was more mature. Jane was more intelligent -- and more importantly, she did not feel it necessary to hide that intelligence the way most Anglo girls do. Jane had had her share of bad romances, too -- an unemployed boyfriend who had driven her into debt, a blowhard fiancé who had tried to pressure her into marriage -- even a would-be date rapist. And yet Jane had survived.

I admired her for that. And I admired her more for admiring me. It had not been easy for me to come out of my shell after my last girlfriend. And it was not easy for Jane to summon up the courage to entice me. But she did. And I enticed her. And now here we were -- the perfect survivors of the romance wars now living together in semi-holy pre-matrimony.

But now this thing had started with the painting.

Why now? I wondered. Why not three years ago when I was still chasing after Ms. Shotgun Wedding of 1990?

Was there something about me which attracted such weird phenomena? I doubted it. After all, the one time I ever tested for psychic ability was back in high school and back then I had flunked. So much for that theory.

Yet every morning when I looked at the painting, the figure that looked like my cousin seemed to me to be a little larger. Moreover, it seemed to be changing its shape every time I looked at it. First it would be pointing in one direction. Then the next time, it would be pointing in a different direction. And one time just before bedtime, it appeared to be pointing right at me.

I ignored it, of course. I placed my word processor in a spot where I would not have to see the painting and attempted to immerse myself in my latest work of timeless fiction. But it was no use. Thoughts of Miranda kept creeping into my head.

I kept imagining how she used to look in all her old pictures. Her dark Latin face, her bright ebony eyes, her shoulder-length raven hair, and so forth. Despite Dallas’s own reputation for beautiful women -- and the fact that I was currently living with a girl who put most Barbizon graduates to shame -- Miranda’s face still haunted my memory. Perhaps it was because she was my first real love. Perhaps not. After all, it is always easier to be hopelessly in love with a woman you can’t have. My own experience proved it. And death, after all, was the ultimate barrier. Would I have loved Miranda as much if she had never died? If I had never moved out of my native Chicago? If she and I had gotten married and settled down to raise a family? And what would I have done if I had discovered that I did not really love her? If I discovered that I loved her more as a romantic symbol than as a person? Would I then find myself attracted to someone like Jane?

Questions like that I could not answer. Questions like that I did not want to answer.

Not until the day Jane said she was meeting her friend Lisa somewhere for lunch -- and then Lisa called up thirty minutes later asking to talk to Jane.

“Isn’t she with you?” I asked, not sure what was going on.

“Isn't who with me?” she asked.

“Jane.”

“Jane?”

“Yes, she said she was meeting you for lunch.”

“That‘s funny,” she said. “She said nothing about that to me.” Then she paused for a moment. “Er -- I have to go now. Tell Jane I‘ll call her later.”

She hung up in a hurry -- and I did not blame her. Something was up. I just did not know what.

I glanced at her latest painting. Another landscape. Only this time there was a man and a woman in the background. She and I, I thought.

Then I looked closer and noticed that the man‘s hair was yellow. My own hair was brown. And the girl’s hair was yellow, too. The same color as Jane’s hair. Just a coincidence? I tried to think so.

After all, if Jane was having an affair, she would not be stupid enough to leave such a vital clue in front of me. Or would she? Perhaps this was her way of flaunting her infidelity. Perhaps -- but no. I was being stupid. Jane obviously loved me. I had seen proof of that many times. And she had gone after me. Not vice versa. So it had to be a coincidence.

Even if the figures in the paintings were holding hands, that did not mean anything. It could have been some other people she was painting.

So why did the blonde girl look so much like Jane?

I left the apartment and proceeded to get stinking drunk at the nearest bar. When I came back, Jane was still gone and the figure of my cousin had grown even larger. But I pretended not to notice and fell upon our double bed in a drunken stupor…

When I awoke, I heard Jane whispering to someone in the next room. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but it was something like “te quiero, te quiero.” Now where would she have learned that? I had never told her I loved her in Spanish -- I only told her so in English -- and of course, I had never taught or encouraged her to learn Spanish. Nor did any of my relatives. And in high school, Jane had taken French, not Spanish, for her foreign language requirement.

“Honey,” I said.

The whispering immediately grew silent.

“What is it?” she said.

“Who are you talking to?”

“No one,” she replied.

I could swear I heard a giggle from the other room.

I got up and went in. No one else save Jane was there. She was standing in front of Miranda’s painting in the same blue dress she had worn to lunch, and she appeared to have a guilty expression upon her face.

“Who were you talking to in here?” I asked.

“Why, no one,” she answered.

I resisted the urge to slap her face.

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.”

She seemed sincere. But then so had that other girl I had once dated. And the one before her. And the one before her…

I decided to go out.

“Wait,” she said.

But I did not turn around.

**********************************************************

After that, the arguments grew frequent. I’d accuse her of seeing someone else, she would accuse me of being irrational, and we’d both start throwing things at each other. And that was on a good day.

It seemed quite obvious to me that we were never going to make it to the wedding altar. Hell, we hadn’t even lasted ten weeks in the same apartment. And the worst part about it all was that she was right. I had no right to be jealous of her. It wasn’t as if we were married. Yet in a way -- in my mind -- we were. Then this had to happen.

The final straw happened on November 1. Miranda’s birthday.

Jane had gotten mad at me again and she had stormed out. Then I had started to storm out. Then I glanced at Miranda’s painting again.

I hadn’t looked at the painting for days. But there was no mistaking it now. The figure in the painting had changed -- but it was still Miranda. Only now she was almost a hand’s length in height whereas before she had only been the size of a man’s thumb. In addition, she was looking straight at me. And beckoning in my direction with her left hand.

I turned away and ran out. I knew that I needed a drink -- and bad. My own troubles with Jane were bad enough -- but when I looked at my own dead cousin’s image in a painting and saw her fingers begin to move…

Yes, I needed a drink all right. Several, in fact. So many that I was staggering by the time I decided to return to the apartment. Only Jane had gotten there before I did. And once I saw her there, I really did need a drink.

She had hung herself from a light fixture. She had made a noose from her pantyhose, tied one end of it around her neck, and then jumped off a chair. Just like that. The ultimate reprimand to a jealous lover.

But that was not the worst part. The worst part was glancing at Miranda’s painting and seeing not one but two figures standing among the trees. One was blonde, the other brunette -- and both were female.

I eventually found the other paintings Jane had done. The ones she had never shown me but instead hidden away in the hope that I would never see them. The painting I had seen with the blonde man had been a mistake. The man was obviously a woman with her hair cut short Sinead O’Connor-style. As for the other woman in the painting, her hair too was altered. Jane had changed it from yellow to black. Miranda’s hair color.

Of course, the clues had been there for me to see all along. Jane’s trouble with men. The way Jane had been so obsessed with Miranda’s image. The fact that Miranda had died in the company of another girl -- not a boy. The way Jane had said “I love you” when she was all alone with the painting, and so forth. But that did not make it any easier to take.

Worst of all was the questions that keep echoing in my head. Was it really the picture-taker Miranda had hated in that snapshot I had described earlier? Or was it me?

And if not, why take Jane away from me?

For that matter, if Miranda was going to come back from the dead for anybody, why not me? Had not Miranda and I been friends? Or was that part of my life just one big mentira?

Of course, there is only one way I will ever find out the answers to these questions. That is why I am writing this manuscript. I need to leave behind some record of what happened so that if anything goes wrong, someone will be sure to read it and take the appropriate action.

I hope Mike does it. I have always liked him and I know he can keep his mouth shut. And if not him, then Claudia.

Not that it matters to me exactly who does it. Just as long as it gets done and the painting ends up destroyed.

As for me, I do not really intend to stick around and see what happens. I already got the noose around my neck and any minute now I will be stepping off the same chair that Jane used.

And it is such a perfect day to do it, too.

November 2.

The Day of the Dead.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Trailer of the Week: Day of the Dead (1985)

Don't just sit there and gobble up your leftover Halloween candy. Why not go out and see a movie?

Not this one, necessarily, though I suppose you could do worse. Especially in view of the date...

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