ramblings

Arrival

A podcast I listen to recently discussed Arrival, then added a spoiler-ridden section at the end of the episode for listeners who had seen the movie and wanted to hear more. I saw it, rolled it around in my head a few days, and wrote one of the hosts with my ideas about it. It turned out to be a long email, and I thought I’d post it here for anyone’s who’s seen it and would like some speculations on it.

Do note that this is absolutely filled with spoilers! Stop now if you haven’t seen Arrival and intend to see it.


Thanks for recommending Arrival. I went to see it so I could listen to the last part of the Film Vault episode. I wasn’t as blown away by it as a lot of people seem to be, but appreciated the thought that went into it.

It does give you plenty to piece together in retrospect. It was a couple of days before I realized that we’re seeing things from Louise’s non-linear point-of-view from the beginning of the movie, not just seeing ordinary flashbacks. “Come back to me” (baby) links to “Come back to me” (deathbed) in the same way that hearing someone in the war room say “zero-sum-game” allows her to say it to her daughter when she’s going up the stairs.

I think the title refers both to the aliens and to her daughter. As the movie opens, she says she’s trying to pinpoint when her daughter’s story begins. When did she arrive? The very first thing we see is what we later know to be the night she and Ian decide to have a baby, and she thinks it might start there. Then she moves through time to her daughter’s birth, and wonders whether to call that the beginning. By the end of the movie, she’s decided that it starts with her and Ian’s first embrace after the aliens leave. But she doesn’t really believe in beginnings and endings anymore because it all flows together for her now.

You missed that he asks whether she wants to make a baby on a night well after the alien encounter, maybe even after they were married. She sees it, though, during a similar embrace the day the aliens leave. She smiles at the thought of her little girl, even though her decision to say “yes” to him will destroy their marriage when he finds out she knew their daughter would die young.

I thought it was interesting that she couldn’t seem to see anything from earlier in her life, before learning the aliens’ language. Everything she saw happened after that. She couldn’t move through time and share information with her younger self.

I also thought the bomb subplot was under-developed, but it gave a chance to show that Abbott knew when to hit the barrier, knock Louise and Ian out of the room, and close the blast doors to save them. It also means they probably knew all along that Costello was going to die.

The questions I had after the movie were:

  1. Can Louise tell Ian their daughter will die, or is it set in stone that it she won’t? (Or would they not have her if he knew?) When she asks what he would do differently and he says “I would talk more about how I feel,” I thought the writers were leaving open the possibility that she would take it as a lesson and tell him. On the other hand, the aliens didn’t prevent Costello’s death, so it seems they can see the “future” and use it to interact with the “present”, but can’t change what they see. How much free will she had was the biggest open-ended question for me.
  2. Couldn’t she teach Ian the aliens’ language so he could see his future, too?
  3. How do the aliens know they’ll need humans’ help in 3,000 years? Does that mean they live that long, and can see that far into their individual futures? Or can they talk to their children in the “future”, and their children can talk to their children, and they can pass messages up and down the whole lifespan of their species? Now that humans have the weapon/tool and can teach it to future generations, will they be able to do the same?

Also, why wasn’t he at their daughter’s deathbed? They may have been divorced, but he would have been there for his daughter, regardless of how tricked or betrayed he felt. I assume this is just for plot reasons, since the film can’t show him there at that point in the story. Or are we told that he’s died, and I’ve forgotten?

Watch it again from the perspective of knowing the aliens (presumably, all the aliens in all the ships and all the aliens back on their planet) know everything that’s going to happen. Why 12 ships? Why in those locations? Why do they let Costello die? Because that’s how it happens? They can see what happens and use information from the “future” in their current actions, but can’t change how events occur? Or do they see that placing those ships exactly so provokes the world crisis that leads to world peace (saving humans to help them)? Does Costello know he (“he”?) has to be sacrificed because the first human to learn their language needs that one last second to fully internalize it? (They’re finally able to give her the whole “weapon” just moments before the bomb goes off.)

Lots to ponder, and I did appreciate the optimistic view that if we just had the right tool, we could save ourselves.

By the way, the best story I know in the “ships hovering over cities” genre is Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (co-writer of 2001). (There’s an audiobook of it on Audible.)

It’s fantastic. It’s not at all the book you think it is at the beginning. By the end, it’s gone off a million miles from what you thought it was. You definitely can’t see the twists coming in it. What you think is a stupid reveal halfway through turns out to be remarkably clever in the end, and the end is poignant and moving in ways you would never have expected. Can’t recommend it enough.

Thanks as always!

Jeff

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ramblings

The Inevitable Good

img_0051The closest I ever came to being gaybashed was at a convenience store in the late 90s. I came out of the store and got into my car, and just as I started it, two teenagers appeared, one at each of my windows. My window was halfway down, and the kid on my side leaned in and started talking about the rainbow sticker on my bumper. He was saying something about “It’s ok, man, we’re like that, too…” Their demeanor said there was no chance they were a couple of gay kids looking to connect with someone. He was keeping my attention until they could make their move. I hadn’t locked my door yet, and I started thinking about whether I could make it back into the store if he yanked it open and pulled me out. I wondered whether the clerk would chase them off and call the police, or not want to get involved and let them knock me down and kick my teeth in right in front of the counter.

Not taking my eyes off the kid’s, I put the car in reverse and pealed out before he could see what I was doing. I swung the car around and got it back on the highway. They only made a half-hearted effort at chasing after me, shouting something I couldn’t hear, aside from “faggot”.

Al and I are on a cruise. We booked it with a gay group, and have dinner with four other couples. A couple of nights ago, two men stopped by and said, “You’ve really been the topic of conversation. What is this? It’s unusual to see a table of men all together.”

Don, who was nearest to them, joked that we were a bunch of gay veterans, and invited them to join us. They said they already had a table, that they were part of two couples celebrating 35th anniversaries. Don congratulated them and pointed to his husband Bob beside him, saying, “We’ve been together 52 years.” “52, huh?” they said, and there was something odd in it. They continued staring around the table. They didn’t seem in any rush to move on, and Don pointed to a couple of empty seats and again said they were welcome to join us. “No,” they said, “we have a couple of wives waiting for us.”

That was when I realized what was odd. It was the way they emphasized wives. We have a couple of wives to get back to. That was what was in their reaction to Don and Bob’s 52 years. They dismissed it. It was a joke. Not “Congratulations!”, but “52, huh?” They were staring around like they couldn’t wait to get back to Straightland and say, “Can you believe this? They’re acting like their ‘marriage’ is the same as ours.”

Don looked around when they left and said, “Well, that was weird. What kind of balls does it take to come up and ask a table full of guys why they’re together? I wonder if they would have done that with a table full of women.”

It did feel weird. At first, it felt like a friendly “Hi! Who are you guys? How’s it going? Enjoying your trip?”, but it took a turn. It took on a clear sinister undertone. It became an accusation — Where are the women here?

Someone said it might be unusual in their world, but for him, being out with a group of other men was the norm. I thought that if I were straight and saw a table full of men, I’d probably assume it was a gay group. Maybe they did. Maybe they were coming over to confirm and to let us know they knew. Would they have done it with a group of women, or just called it “Ladies Night Out”? More importantly, I wonder if they would have done it a year ago.

Trump has changed the conversations, and the expectations. We’ve passed through a time when it was understood that you don’t make a point of “You’re different from us, and we want you to know we don’t like it.” You could be as racist, homophobic, and/or misogynistic as you wanted, but you knew better than to say anything outside your circle of fellow bigots. Trump undid all that. When they see him spout the vilest filth imaginable and be elected to the highest office in the land, why should they hesitate to tell it like they think it is?

People have been seeing us around the ship for two weeks, and have figured out that we’re a couple. We’ve made straight friends who love spending time with us, especially Cath and Mike, the English couple Al met through frequenting the smokers section. But I’ve started feeling the need to watch my back again.

Yesterday, we got in a packed elevator, and though we smiled and nodded, there wasn’t a friendly face looking back. A few genuinely glowered at us. I got the old feeling. The chill on my skin that tells me I’ve just been clocked. Stared down. Pushed from Acceptable to Other.

There’s a knot in my stomach I haven’t felt there in decades. Not since the days of the kids outside Royal Farms.

There are always false positives. Some of it’s people distracted about something else. Some of it’s just the people who frown disapprovingly at everyone. But some of it is homophobia, and you can’t always spot it before it’s too late. When you have a physically vulnerable partner, you’re always a little on edge. And that’s no way to live.

All this from atop the tower of my white male privilege. I have means. I have anonymity. In a life-and-death situation, I can pass and hide. If I’m feeling this much fear, imagine how scared and vulnerable some Muslims and Hispanics feel. Transgender people thought their time was coming. Now calls to trans crisis lines are hitting record highs. Black high school students are asking their teachers whether slavery is coming back.

The flurry of columns and podcasts about “What do we do now?” have emphasized ways we can pick up the balls the government drops. We can take in refugees. We can volunteer at community centers. We can teach English and help immigrants feed their families. We can open our ears to our neighbors who voted for Trump because he listened to them when we wouldn’t. Those of us who are out can stay out. Holding Al’s hand in public has never felt like such a political act.

Above all, we can support the free press that gives us our best shot at finding out what’s going on and stopping the worst of it. Buy a subscription to the New York Times. Fund ProPublic. This is the worst possible time for investigative journalism to die with the newspapers. The (literal) bully pulpit will all-too-quickly fill the vacuum.

I’m encouraged by this line of thought. It’s positive and productive in the face of despair. The government has the power to do so much harm. The legacy of 4-8 years of Trump and many more years of his Supreme Court will be monumental. It will be the greatest stress test for our constitution since shots were fired at Fort Sumter. With vigilance and effort, maybe we can come out the other end still bending toward justice.

I’ve also taken heart by realizing how many admirable goals have moved to the private sector. They may even have gained enough momentum to be immune to government interference. It’s still business as usual for many — the pharmaceutical industry still develops drugs, then tries to price them out of the reach of the people who most need them. But many companies are finding ways to align corporate interests with the public good, to forward human progress instead of retarding it.

The development of self-driving cars is on track to become the greatest life saver in the developed world, and it’s happening almost entirely through private endeavors. Space exploration, which was wholly the domain of governments thirty years ago, is now advancing through startups. The biggest company in the world finds itself defending our privacy against our own law enforcers, and now against the first presidential candidate to invite foreign powers to hack our intelligence agencies.

Individuals can take up the slack of government. We may have found the first good reason to think of corporations as individuals. How much could they counterbalance government action and inaction? Trump can pull us out of climate change treaties, but what if companies develop renewable energy sources that make more financial sense than expensive fossil fuel operations? Could simple market forces pull us to safety despite vested interests? How many of our human goals can be checkmated by greed and stupidity? How many have already crossed the threshold to becoming the inevitable good?

In the coming years, we’ll be watching the government and holding it accountable, not looking to it for moral example and the best path forward. Let’s talk to one another — all of us, no us and them — and work for the betterment of us all. It’s in our hands more than ever.

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stories

Top Men

[This is the beginning of a story which is available for purchase on Amazon.]

Lee stared at the checkerboard tiles of the coffee shop floor until they grew crisp and unnatural and he didn’t really see them, every thought draining out of the bleakness in head. A long-forgotten cup sat cold beside him. A pair of legs appeared. He followed them up, and found Mike looking down at him. He managed a little laugh and a rueful grin.

“Good morning,” he said. “Come to stare into the abyss with me?”

“You do look lost. What’s wrong?”

Lee gestured to the seat beside him and pushed a copy of Variety across the table.

“Coup de grâce,” he said, tapping his fingers on a headline.

Mike sat and read, “Stoltz Signs On Two More Future Pix”.

“Oh, man,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Lee, really. But you knew it was coming.”

“It should have been ours. It was ours, just for the taking. They wanted Michael,” he said, bringing his hand down on the table in a series of little karate chops marking off the path to his undoing. “Michael wanted them.” Another chop. “Life is bright and beautiful.”

“Lee…”

“Gary won’t let Michael out of Family Ties. Chance of a lifetime, goodbye.”

“Lee…” Mike tried once more, but knew he was going to hear it all again.

“They go with Stoltz. I get sick of the whole mess and take off for two weeks in a little cabin in the woods. Bob leaves messages. Michael leaves messages. My idiot call service can’t put two and two together and figure out they should call me.”

“You could have left better instructions…” Mike murmured, knowing it would just get swept under the flood.

“I come back, I return calls. Bob was trying one last time. He was willing to scrap it all and start over if there was any chance Michael could do it. They were willing to throw away millions if they could have him. Michael, meanwhile, is calling to say Baxter’s coming back to the show, and he’s going to have time if I can get him any side projects.”

“I know, I know…”

“Too late then! They were too far in with Stoltz. Damn it, I could have made that deal,” he said, the whole hand coming down flat this time, the sound too loud in the almost-empty shop. “If he had to work 24/7, if he had to live on NoDoz and adrenaline, Michael would have done it. Now he’s moved on to new management — can you blame him? He could have had the biggest thing since Star Wars, and all I got him this year was Teen Wolf. Back to the Future mopped up the whole Summer, Stoltz’s face is on every magazine, and I’m the town joke.”

He looked up hopelessly at Mike, realized how long he’d been talking, and softened.

“I went Captain Exposition again?”

“Little bit.”

“Sorry…” he said, sinking back in his chair. “I just don’t know if you understand how bad this is. I was on my way with Michael… and a few smaller clients. I was making a name for myself, a solid reputation in the business. Now I’m poison. I’d be in Carson’s monologue if it wasn’t so Inside Baseball. I couldn’t get a fourth grader in a school play. I don’t see how I ever claw my way out of this.”

“You’re blowing it up. It’s just a setback, Lee, it could happen to any of us. It could be me tomorrow, it’s not like I have tenure. You’ve just got to take time to regroup and get back in there.”

“It could be you? How? Unless you blow up a chem lab, you’re never going to be the kind of pariah I am. You’ve got security. Me, I’ve got to… Wait, speaking of that, shouldn’t you be teaching?”

“I took a sick day.”

“A sick day? You look fine.”

“I am.”

Lee looked at him closely, and a smile spread across his face.

“Mike… ? Mikey, playing hooky? My world is upside down.”

“Something came up, something important.”

“It would have to be.”

“I could use your help. I am sorry about all this, really I am, but right now we have worse problems than career troubles. Much, much worse.”

“Oh, that’s perfect. How did you guess? I could use worse. Worse is just what I was hoping for.”

“Can you come with me? I’ll have to show you something.”

“Why should I? Where were you all those times I wanted to cut classes?”

“Where were you when any of your cool friends came around?”

“Mike, I was a stupid kid. We’ve been through that a…”

“Right. So just come on. Just give me a couple of hours of your time. Please.”

He thought it over. Mike looked earnest, but then, Mike always looked earnest. Still, what was the alternative? Go to his office and listen to the phone not ring all day? He shrugged, and got up and went with him.

Mike drove into the hills and up side roads that made Lee more uneasy with each twist and climb. They came to a dead end alongside a set of railroad tracks which led onto a trestle bending around a canyon dropping far below. They got out, and Mike got a couple of things from the trunk.

“What’s here?” Lee asked.

“Nothing,” Mike said, “it’s just out of the way. This line ran to a mine that was abandoned years ago. No one will be around to see us.”

“To see us doing what? And… why the pumpkin?”

Mike was holding an impressive specimen of the species under one arm.

“Come on, I’ll show you,” he said, starting for the bridge.

Lee stiffened and held back.

“Um, no, you go ahead. I’ll watch.”

“You can watch out there with me, you’ll see better.”

“No, I’m fine here. Really. I can see.”

“Look, it’ll just take a minute…”

“No!” Lee shouted.

Mike stared at him. Lee held his gaze for a minute, then looked at the ground, red with embarrassment.

“You’ve got the wrong guy,” he said. “I have to call somebody to get on a chair to change a light bulb. I can’t get anywhere near that, unless you want to drive me to the E.R. with a heart attack.”

“What? When did this start?”

“Oh… Around the time I was born, I guess.”

“We’ve been friends since grade school. Why am I just learning this now?”

“You remember grade school? And high school? Would you want it to get around?”

“No,” Mike said, thoughtfully. “I guess not. At least not with that crowd you ran with.” He looked at Lee, then down the tracks. “This may be a problem. Ok, just watch from here for now. And I mean watch. Don’t take your eyes off this pumpkin for a moment.”

He said it with a gravity that almost stifled Lee’s spontaneous laugher, then reinforced it and shoved it out in a snort. Mike glared. Lee tried to straighten himself and look apologetic, then wondered what he was feeling sorry about. I mean, come on.

Mike sat the pumpkin on the ground and squatted down to attach the other thing he’d gotten out of the trunk. Lee eyed it curiously. It was a small device like a Walkman, but not much bigger than a deck of cards. It had a couple of dials on the front and a switch on top, but was otherwise unremarkable. A metallic silver belt was fastened to the back of it, and Mike used this to secure it around the pumpkin. He twisted the dials and flipped the switch, and a red light started blinking on and off in the upper right corner.

Mike stood up with the pumpkin, and said, “Lee, I’m serious, you’ve got to watch what happens next. It’s important that you believe it.”

Lee thought he shouldn’t worry. Whatever was going on, he had his attention now.

Mike walked alongside the tracks until he came to the trestle and stepped on the narrow walking platform. He went almost halfway down the span, then turned and held the pumpkin over the edge. He looked back at Lee, who nodded and inched forward just enough to have a clear view of where it would land, next to the creek far below.

Mike opened his hands, and down it went, faster and faster, the little red light blinking at Lee all the way down. It reached the spot where Lee had predicted it would hit, and smashed into the ground.

Lee stood for a moment with his brows knit, like someone trying to work out a magic trick. What was he supposed to have seen? He couldn’t see a single thing out of the…

Then his body jerked to a start and he felt like something was crawling all over his skin. Mike was coming back to him now.

“Why didn’t I hear it hit?” he asked, and, looking down again, “And why is it black?”

Mike nodded. “Come on,” he said, and started down the side of the ravine.

Lee only fought with himself for a moment, curiosity overwhelming his instinctive fear, and carefully made his much-slower way after him.

The pumpkin was in a tidy pile. Instead of scattering pulp and seeds in every direction, it had left the ground around it untouched, and had fallen inward in a dark, gooey mess. Mike grabbed a bottom edge and lifted it, showing Lee that, where it contacted the ground, it was still intact, and just a paler shade of orange than it was before it fell.

“Ok,” Lee asked, “So what’s the riddle?”

“It’s rotted.”

“Rotted? Since you let go of it up there?”

“No. Since it landed here. It’s been sitting and rotting for a month.”

“Oh, ok,” Lee said. “Sure. And Arnold Schwarzenegger’s the governor.”

“Look… Come sit down,” Mike said, walking towards a couple of rocks nearby. They sat, and Mike took a long breath.

“Last year, when you were trying to make a deal with Zemeckis and company, they mentioned that they needed a technical consultant to punch up their time travel mumbo-jumbo. You passed my name along, and I gave them a couple of pages to work with.”

“Sure. At least one of us got something out of that deal. They used it almost line for line, they were really happy with it.”

“They should have been, they got a lot more than they payed for. They wanted something that sounded vaguely plausible, so I based it on some real research I’d done for my dissertation. Some real research that turned out to be too real. It kept coming back to my mind after I saw the movie. I got out my old papers and sat down with them for a few days and… It works. Lee, it actually works.”

“Mike…”

“Not all of it, it’s mixed in with what they already had, but if you keep going down the same logical path, you get to something that really checks out, all the way down the line.”

“But how? You’re not talking about building a better boombox here, or even a flying car.”

“It’s simpler than you think. It’s not that different from what was in the movie, only instead of forward motion, it has to be motion downward. Gravity plays a part. And you don’t have to hit a specific speed, you just have to travel a minimum distance. Anything 64 meters or over, and the effect is triggered at the bottom.”

“And you don’t go splat because…”

“Because you never actually land, at least not in the now. It’s like those graphs we plotted in high school. You remember how you’d get nearer and nearer to an axis, but never actually touch it? Same thing. You get closer and closer and closer to the ground, but somewhere in that infinity of not reaching it, you slide back in time. Or forward. The momentum you’ve built here doesn’t exist there. Er, then. You just settle to Earth, like when your muscles let go at night and you sink into the bed.”

Lee cocked his head and stared a long beat.

“That crap in the movie was more convincing.”

Mike silently pointed to the mass of pulp laying a few yards from them.

“Right, right…” Lee said, now dazed, his mind racing. He reached over and squeezed Mike’s leg. “You made good, Mike. More than… But what about the rotation of the Earth? Its movement around the sun? Why didn’t the pumpkin pop out one twelfth of the way back around the orbit?”

“That’s all handled in the theory,” Mike said impatiently, hurrying on now that he’d established what he needed Lee to see. “We don’t have time to draw diagrams in the dirt all day. We’ve got to jump on this thing, now. Don’t you see, Lee? This thing makes all the missiles in the U.S.S.R. look like firecrackers. I’m not the smartest guy on the block. If I could figure this out, it’s only a matter of time before someone else notices it, too. Universal’s given this a million times more distribution than Scientific American ever could. I made that thing in my garage. Anybody with just a common knowledge of physics could put one together, strap it on, and wipe out a whole nation with a single shot at its founder. Or bump off Gutenberg before anything rolls off his press. Put the Third Reich back on its thousand-year plan.”

“Pass an Algebra exam he forgot to study for…”

“I’m serious. Once this gets out, we’ve got no way to control it, no way to police it. How’d you like to not wake up tomorrow because somebody stepped on the first fish crawling out of the ocean?”

Lee nodded.

“You’re right,” he said, “This is heavy.”

“Lee…”

“Ok, ok… So we’re sitting on Armageddon here. So what do we do?”

“We go back. We stop this before it starts. We stop ourselves from ever going down this road. And by ‘We’, I mean you.”

“Me? I’m your idea of an action hero?”

“You’re someone I trust. And you don’t have to be James Bond for this.”

Lee shook his head. “Hollywood agent saves the world? Who’s going to root for that? Terrible casting. Besides, why me? You’re more qualified. You’re the only one who’s qualified.”

“Because I’m absolutely sure it will work, sure I’ve worked it out to the last detail, but… Being sure is never a promise of being right. Produce is one thing. It’s never been tried by a person.”

Lee took this in.

“Your mission,” he said, “should you choose to accept it… And you’ve got two kids expecting you to pick them up after school today.”

“It’s not just that. I’ll go back if I have to. Unless someone straightens this out, they’re not going to have a future in any event, with or without me. But if something goes wrong, and I’m not here…”

“Oh, right.” He looked up at the platform towering far above them. “If I step off there, and you see me snap my spine here, or I’ve been laying here rotting like a pumpkin for months…”

Mike nodded.

“I have to be here to know, so I can try again. Because sooner or later, someone has to succeed. Lee, you’ve been my best friend for a long, long time. I trust you more than anyone I know. I wouldn’t ask you to do this, but… I wouldn’t ask anyone else.”

Lee considered puncturing this bit of ego-stroking, but since it was in a good cause, he made a sudden, probably misguided decision, locking himself in before his rational side could start screaming objections.

“Let’s hope you won’t have to,” he said. “I don’t want you to entrust the fate of the world to your second-best friend.”

Mike smiled, and squeezed Lee’s leg in return.

He went to the pile of goo and started hunting through it. He swished it back and forth, probing it here and there. He felt around carefully, then more vigorously, then stopped, and the blood drained from his face. He padded both his palms all over it. He picked up the bottom of the shell and held it sideways, spilling the guts on the ground. He shifted them around with his foot, then gave them a field goal kick, splattering bits over Lee. They stared at one another, and Mike ran to the creek.

Lee ran after him, saying, “It’s just some kid. Some kid came along and picked it up, thinking it was a toy. He couldn’t get it to work, and he’s thrown it away by now.”

“Or he’s stuck it in a drawer,” Mike said, quickly washing his hands, “where someone will find it in ten years. Or he’s shown it to his uncle, who works for Lawrence Livermore. Or it gets passed around until it gets to someone who can take it apart and figure it out.”

He stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans.

“I didn’t think anybody would be out here. Dammit, Mike, why not a cucumber and three days?”

He rushed back up the hillside, Lee chasing after him.

“We’ve got to get you back, now. The clock’s ticking. The longer we let this play out, the bigger the chance that all hell breaks loose.”


The rest of the story is available for purchase on Amazon, and can be read on a wide variety of devices and in their Web viewer. I wanted to make it available for $0.25, but the least they’ll allow anyone to charge is $0.99. :-\

Please take a look at it here.

Thanks, I hope you enjoy it!

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reviews

Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star

Wisecracker cover

(This is a copy of a Goodreads review.)

An encouraging bit of Pride Month reading of the “Nice to know we’ve always been here” variety. “Openly gay” in the context of the 1920s held a different meaning than today, not an affirmation, but a refusal to lie, evading direct questions with clever evasions (making Haines the “Wisecracker” of the title). That’s bad for the author, leaving him with a lack of primary sources and the need to offer what evidence he can gather to support educated guesses or outright speculation about many important events. Still, he was able to speak with many who where there, and to build a portrait of the vibrant gay social scene in the Hollywood of the 1920s (almost rivaling the one in Berlin in the same period) and how it changed in the face of the more reactionary 1930s.

There’s a lot of name dropping and Hollywood gossip to titillate, but at its heart, it’s a portrait of a good, honest, and much-loved man who lived a life of integrity for more than 50 years before Stonewall and whose 47-year relationship with his partner put all his straight friends and Beverly Hills neighbors to shame. Not essential, but well worth the time. I’m putting the author’s more general survey of Gay Hollywood on my reading list.

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Uncategorized

Kaleidoscope

School picture

The first high school I attended closed at the end of my sophomore year. The rector videotaped events — and many non-events — throughout the year, and made copies for anyone who wanted them to take home. I digitized my copy a few years ago and posted a few clips from it. Now that YouTube allows long videos and upload speeds are reasonable, I’ve posted the entire thing, to commemorate what would have been my class’s 25th anniversary:

This is a 2010 digital transfer of a 1987 copy of a copy of a VHS tape from a 1980s camcorder, so… expect what you should expect. It’s the 80s, so beware the hair, beware the fashions, beware the music. It’s long, it’s slow, it’s fuzzy, it’s muffled, it’s repetitive… but it’s a cherished document of some great friendships.

If you always wanted eight hours of this, it’s yours for the binging!

Enjoy.

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family

More Covey home movies

Grandpa at wedding

While moving our father out of his apartment, we found a DVD labeled “Angevine Video”, which turned out to be more home movies from the 1960s. It must have been a gift to him from my Aunt Pearline’s family. I don’t know whether he’s seen them; I’ll show them to him the next time I’m with him.

There’s a lot of footage of my grandfather and his family at home (and at the mine and cemetery) in Rachel, some of what we think is Bob Hartzell’s wedding, and a brief glimpse of our family in Mannington (15:50). What else can you spot?

I’ve never seen my grandfather in motion before. Many, many thanks to whomever put this together. 🙂

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