you are not shakespeare

I admit I laughed out loud today. Several times. In a way that might have sounded, to an objective observer (listener, I guess) somewhat unhinged.

From the New Yorker interview with Fran Lebowitz:

Q: One thing that’s been going around is this idea that Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” while he was under quarantine for the bubonic plague, as a way of inspiring people to use their time productively. Have you felt any of that pressure?

A: Other people have tried to put that pressure on me. For instance, I’ve already read and heard this thing about Shakespeare fifty times. I’ve heard it from writers, and I’ve had to point out to them, “You are not Shakespeare.”

Well, that settles that. 🙂

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comfort, though not comfortable

No major updates from me.

It seems that — according to newspaper reports — a lot of people are looking for new TV shows and movies and whatnot to binge and stream and so on.

I’m finding the opposite. I’m returning to old favorites. Comfort food, I guess, if you can refer to Resident Evil (zombie apocalypse) movies as “comfort food.”

But, going back to the RE movies after a while, for “comfort” (hey, it’s my all-time favorite movie franchise), what I hadn’t really thought about is that the series is really about a global contagion.

It’s about a zombie plague (transmitted by blood), and there’s a lot of emphasis on infection, and staying clear of infection, and helping, and hoping to cure, those who become infected. So, it’s more topical than I would have thought.

For other media:

Radio: News radio (1010WINS) as always during a crisis (and also when there isn’t a crisis — I was basically raised on 1010WINS). Very helpful and informative, and also some amusement from the commercials (they apparently book commercials well in advance, resulting in a lot of ads for things that people aren’t doing or can’t do right now — like, for example, going out and meeting other singles without going to bars!).

Music: Still Tangerine Dream. A lot of Tangerine Dream. Oh, and a special playlist that I made up based on Lorde’s final concert on her last tour (I like the sequence much better than her last album).

TV: Nope (other than four selected episodes of Game of Thrones, for some reason)

Other movies: Some. Still re-watching Clue, and Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Just bought Knives Out.

Social media: None.

I’ve written around 3,000 words of my next story — I’ll start posting it as soon as I figure out the answer to one question.

Also, this just in (I got a notification as I was writing this):

Fiona Apple Unveils Release Date for New LP ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’

For background:

Fiona Apple’s Art of Radical Sensitivity

Ironically, I’m very excited about this, though I know I may not listen to it much under current conditions. Ms. Apple is seldom, if ever, comforting.

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information, some more useful and some less

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of information about the current situation, and I found this to be particularly clear and helpful:

How to Practice Social Distancing

And it links to this:

How to Wash Your Hands

Other than that, I’m working at home, and going out for walks when I can. Keeping informed without drowning in information (I learned that after 9/11 — keep the radio on for a while, then turn it off for a longer while). I thought I’d want music when working, and sometimes I turn it on, but I’m also fine with silence.

I’m still thinking about my new story, and I plan to start posting it soon.

One thing I’ve been enjoying is a movie called Clue. The TV Tropes website said it’s “[q]uite possibly the best movie based on a board game ever made in 1985.”

What can I say — sometimes you want a carefully constructed, thoughtful, well-acted murder mystery. Other times you want to see Martin Mull get hit on the head with an ironing board.

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file cards are fun

I’ve written using file cards before, and it never lasts. I buy a stack of new file cards, sometimes in different colors, and use them to write plot points and scenes and ideas, which I can then sort and reorder as the story develops. Vladimir Nabokov wrote at least some of his novels this way.

It never lasts with me — at least so far. I always set up a system with the cards, sometimes a fairly elaborate one, and then I move on, often right away, to develop the project on paper or on the computer.

But right now I’m getting a lot done with a new set of file cards (and a couple of nice new gel pens, too). I’m working on the third in my current series of Jan Sleet stories, set in Claremont, Massachusetts (check out “The Marvel Murder Case” and “The Town Hall Mystery“).

We’ll see if I stick with the cards this time. So far I’m getting a lot done on the new story (which does not yet have a title — it involves a possibly-haunted house).

Oh, and the reason that my first comment above is crossed out is because I really like to reserve “I have a love/hate relationship…” comments for situations that really involve love and hate. “Some dislike/some dislike” may be less catchy, but it’s often more accurate.

(I also reserve “LOL” for situations where I actually laughed out loud.)

As I was writing this, Kristan Hoffman wrote a post on her blog about Les Misérables, so of course I had to respond. I’ve written about Les Mis a few times here in its various forms, though I admit that my plan to read the book hasn’t panned out — at least so far…

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three interesting articles

1. “Do you remember LiveJournal? It was an essential part of my teenage identity.

I wasn’t on LiveJournal (though I read the journals of friends there), but this definitely describes the experience of blogging in the years before social media exploded. Writing a blog post was writing, and a lot of bloggers took it very seriously. And your blog post would be read, even if only by other bloggers, and readers would often write thoughtful responses, too.

(This was before WordPress added a social-media-style “Like” button — back when you had to actually respond in words.)

2. “My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend Is Lady Gaga

The article is redundant — it’s pretty much all there in the headline — but I did notice this paragraph:

“Social media in 2020 is so ingrained that it’s no longer a supplement or even an addiction. It’s just an accelerated extension of the way humans have always behaved. We live in a culture of constant updates. You want to unsubscribe? Well, you can’t.”

A little buzzer should go off when you’re reading the last sentence, as if you were on a game show and you just gave a wrong answer.

3. “Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet

Just shows how people used to think the web was going to lead to positive things, and how, in a very few places, it actually did.

(In that same issue, there’s an article called “The Notebook.” The blurb is: “In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg kept his plans for world domination in handwritten journals. He destroyed them. But a few revealing pages survived.”)

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knives out

I’m a member of AARP, for obvious reasons (though I’m not retired), and so I get various AARP magazines. They sometimes have articles about movies, which are usually, “Here are some movies for grown-ups!” (you know, with no superheroes or zombies or space ships).

Even though I’m old enough to be a member of AARP, I obviously don’t have the hang of this “being a grown-up” thing, as I tend to prefer movies with one or more of those elements – particularly if they’re also funny.

(I am, however sufficiently grown up to cringe whenever anybody uses the word “adulting.” In case you were wondering.)

However (back to the movies) I did just see, and thoroughly enjoy, a movie which probably falls neatly into the “for grown-ups” category: Knives Out.

It’s a wonderful “classic” mystery story, with a tricky plot (which generally holds together), wonderful characters (most of whom are terrible people, as many wonderful characters are) and solid acting throughout.

Daniel Craig plays the detective, a very theatrical private investigator named Benoit Blanc, and he carries it off wonderfully. He plays Blanc with a very strong Southern accent, and, as a measure of how much Blanc himself is performing the role of a “gentleman sleuth,” if there’s another Benoit Blanc movie I would not be at all surprised if he uses a completely different accent.

Here’s a good review, and a trailer.

Another thing I like is that it’s self-contained. There’s nothing like seeing a bunch of franchise series films (and TV shows) to make you appreciate a nice, efficient, one-off story. (I’m reading that there may be a second Benoit Blanc movie at some point, but it probably won’t have much connection to this one. Mystery series are mostly standalone stories — unlike series in fantasy and science fiction.)

That’s one thing I like about the mystery stories I’m writing now — I’ve gone back into the early days of my detective and her assistant, so I don’t have to worry about any of back story established in the other novels and stories. These stories happen before any of the others (and I’ve already decided that these stories may end up going in an entirely different direction and never meet up with the other “continuity”).

There’s a reason that Arthur Conan Doyle never bothered with establishing a consistent history and continuity for Holmes and Watson. When was Watson living at Baker Street, and when was he off living with his wife, and how many times was he married, and if his given name is “John” why does his wife call him “James” in one story, and in which limb did he get shot in Afghanistan? The point was to tell a good story.

I’ve been writing about Jan Sleet, in one form or another, for fifty years now (and for exactly thirty years in pretty much exactly the form she’s in now). It’s nice to strip out all the surrounding stuff that’s built up over all those decades and focus on the detective herself, and at a point in her career when she was a bit less confident and experienced.

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