Watch me read on Sunday, then go for tea at William Franklin’s mansion
Plucking Around for the week of May 9th
This Sunday I am one of twelve authors reading from our stories in Low Down Dirty Vote Volume 3, an anthology edited by Mysti Berry to benefit voting rights. I will be reading from “Joey Cucuzza Loses His Election,” where my mob fixer finds himself in a conundrum about the Newark mayoral election, and a masseur who might talk…
Here’s the Crowdcast Link for the reading at 3:00PM Pacific-6:00PM Eastern. Click the link and enter an email address, and they’ll send you an email to click on when it’s time to join. They’ll even send a reminder, if you want. No app required, works from phones, tablets, and computers, and it’s so much better than Zoom! And here’s the link for the earlier session with Sarah M. Chen, Travis Richardson, and others.
You can pre-order the book here through your local bookshop, or through your favorite online retailer. I’m thrilled to be a part of this one, this series has consistently gotten raves from reviewers.
So, I ventured into theaters for the first time in over two years, to see The Northman. I loved it! From Robert Eggers, who directed The Witch and The Lighthouse, and written by Sjón, author of The Blue Fox and Moonstone, all of which I loved, so that was expected. Like the infamous The Witch, this Norse saga and revenge tale takes its mythology at face value. When the Norns tell our wronged fella he must avenge his father in darkness, they mean it! The All-Father Odin ain’t a metaphor here, and unlike Troy they don’t even bother trying to make the story fit our current worldview. It’s brilliant, dark, beautiful, fierce, weird, and powerful viewing. I felt that it dragged a little bit in the third act, but maybe the seat was just hurting my ass.
I had an assigned seat that gave me a row to myself when I bought it, but I found myself surrounded by an entire row of unmasked Karens discussing their lust for the immense trapezial muscles of Alexander Skarsgård. I moved to a less crowded spot and kept my mask on. I managed to travel the other week without catching the ‘rona, and I ain’t getting it now, even if governments are ignoring the pandemic and dropping mask mandates. Stay safe out there. I know a lot of sick people.
The other day I wrote about Heat and the North Hollywood shootout like one was inspired by the other; Heat is inspired by an earlier robbery. And apparently, someone has finally invented a solar camper van! I mean it’s a prototype and in the Netherlands, but maybe we’ll get hybrid electric motor homes.
If you dug Questlove’s documentary Summer of Soul—and if you haven’t watched it, it’s just a wonderful slice of history, cutting between music acts and speeches at the 1969 Harlem culture festival and the young people who went there—you should rent Wattstax, a documentary on the 1972 benefit concert held by Stax records to commemorate the Watts uprising. Lots of great music, cut with discussions by Richard Pryor. You can stream both. The perfect double feature.
Being Evel is another documentary I watched thanks to The Dollop. I had an Evel Knievel stunt motorcycle toy, and his name was a household one. E.g., “What are you doing on your Huffy bike? You’re gonna bust your head open like Evel Knievel!” I distinctly remember the Snake Canyon jump, a debacle that nearly killed him, and the documentary gave me all the details I was sorely lacking as a child of the ‘70s. All I knew was that it failed, not that they’d barely tested it, he was rightfully terrified, and probably saved his life by either intentionally releasing the dead man’s handle or being forced to let go by the immense force of the launch. It’s a very kind love letter to the irascible daredevil, narrated by acolytes such as Johnny Knoxville, but it’s impossible to gild the lily; by the end, Knievel was a violent jack-ass who attacked his PR man with a baseball bat and broke both his arms—while goons held him. Now, if he had slapped the guy like Will Smith, or even thrown a punch, I’d have a little sympathy. He was after all a loudmouth showman with a reputation to uphold. If you want to see who Will Ferrell and Danny McBride are mocking when they play unbelievable blowhards like Ricky Bobby and Kenny Powers, here’s one source. At least it was entertaining watching him injure himself repeatedly.
Much more enjoyable is The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, which I am still reading, and savoring. It begins in 1969 when four Jewish siblings visit a Brooklyn fortune teller rumored to tell you the exact date you will die. She does, and… well, that would be telling. It’s a high concept premise executed with great literary chops, and doomed characters I can’t help but love. (It’s sort of everything I expected from The Shining Girls, which left me wanting.) I’m only two thirds through the book, and I love it. Stage magicians, fortune tellers, dancers in the Castro, lab scientists and even a lovestruck FBI agent, what’s not to love? Give it a read and tell me what you think.
When Better Call Saul started back up I wasn’t sure if my interested could be rekindled, but they managed. Mike Ehrmantraut and Kim Wexler are my favorites, and they always get a chance to shine. Lalo Salamanca is no slouch either, and the actor who’s playing him, Tony Dalton—who resembles a cold-eyed George Hamilton—hopefully has a big career ahead of him. Because he needs to star in the reboot of Zorro, the Gay Blade. He’s uncanny. I mean, tell me I’m wrong:
If you are unfamiliar with the campy spoof masterpiece, get thee to a streamery and rent that thing. Like Hamilton’s other spoof Love at First Bite, he’s goofing on a role Frank Langella played straight (and there’s nothing straight about Zorro’s other alter ego, Bunny Wigglesworth). I incorrectly assumed that the TV series Zorro and Son from 1983 was a spin-off of this, but that comedy flop apparently was Disney’s cash-in on the brief Zorro resurgence of the time. I am not going to watch old episodes to find out.
One of my favorite local news reporters is Brian Donohue, of Positively New Jersey. (I may be a little biased, because he featured me in a segment when I was reading Leaves of Grass at Crystal Spring, where Walt Whitman was inspired to write some of it.) Brian always finds something positive and interesting to report, and this time he donned a powdered wig for tea at the Proprietary house, where William Franklin, son of Benjamin, was royal governor of New Jersey for a time. The historic royal governor’s mansion building not only still stands, is mostly original, and offers tours, but you can stop in for tea on weekends! The building has reopened to visitors, and I will be going.
Some good news since the world remains a hellfire:
California ran 100% on renewable energy for the first time. A big milestone.
Scientists have the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
A coastal storm has once again revealed the abandoned railroad line along the shore of Cape May.
You need more ducks in your life.
Okay, anyone else think this was called The Norseman but the executive producer has a lisp?
I’m probably lying.
Definitely not lying.
I really liked The Northman too, especially the weird, mystical bits. I’m eager to see it again now that I know what the deal is with it.