Lace, pottery, and leather anniversaries

18 November 2000 was one of the most important, special, unforgettable days of my life. That was the day I bought my own copy of The Who’s masterpiece Quadrophenia, after having known about it for years from my parents’ small record collection. I’d been so curious about it, but I was too hung up on trying to interpret Jimmy’s story and the lyrics to understand how simple it really was. It’s a story about the pain and frustration of not fitting in and feeling at odds with everyone and everything, no matter what you do. If you can’t relate to Jimmy’s story, your life is too perfect, and I probably don’t like you.

I was so blown away I had to listen to it twice that day. For years I’d been scared of someday hearing “Dr. Jimmy,” because of the line about raping a virgin, but when it finally came time, it didn’t bother me that much. Jimmy has reached the end of his rope at that point. He’s not thinking straight, and is saying he doesn’t care anymore what he does. The real Jimmy isn’t saying he wants to go around raping women! He’s under psychological duress and is severely depressed, and he never actually rapes anyone in the story.

There are so many awesome, killer tracks, it’s hard to pick just one favourite. However, I’ve always been very partial to “Cut My Hair,” “The Punk and the Godfather,” “Helpless Dancer” (Roger’s Theme), “Sea and Sand,” “The Rock,” “The Real Me,” and of course “Love, Reign O’er Me” (Pete’s Theme). There are so many perfect, poignant moments all throughout, the entire album being a total masterpiece, not a wasted note or song. And I love the recurring water motif.

Everything segues together perfectly, particularly in “The Rock,” where the four themes appear separately first, then gradually start blending into one another, first tentatively, then faster and faster, until the breathtaking beauty of “LROM,” starting with the healing sounds of rain and ending with perhaps Keith’s last truly great, most flawless performance.

17 November 2004 was the first time I saw my beautiful Rudy Valentino in motion, in 1922’s Blood and Sand. I still remember how my heart literally skipped a beat at that first moment. He was so beautiful, both inside and out. The next day, I played The Sheik (1921) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). And after that, I had to get all the rest of his surviving films which were commercially available at the time. Some of them were on DVD, others on VHS. I’ve now seen all his surviving films, even the pre-stardom ones from 1918-20.

You can never get back that special, Magickal time when you’re first just getting into a band, an actor, a writer, etc. Everything is so new and exciting, all these special first-time experiences that come only once, excitedly getting to know the songs, films, books, etc. You want to absorb everything you can, one thing after the next, but it’s also important to savour this special time. I imagine it’s a similar feeling with watching your baby’s milestones. I know it’s been really fun to watch my rabbi and rebbetzin’s youngest kids going from newborns to their own little people.

On my tin anniversary with Quad, 18 November 2010, I bit the bullet and went back to Little Ragdoll. I’d carried Adicia’s story around in my head for 16.5 years and never forgotten it. It had really begun to obsess me, where I was even dreaming about this long-hiatused story. Several storylines and the character of Sarah actually came back to me in these dreams. It was just time to reconstruct the story from scratch and memory, and not stop this time. I felt like that real-life girl never would’ve forgiven me if I’d never resumed my imagining of her story, and like I really would’ve regretted it when it came my time to drop the body and pass from the material world.

This was truly a case of a book writing me, instead of me writing a book. I wrote the first draft of 397,000 words in three months, from 18 November 2010-10 February 2011. Everything just came gushing out so naturally, without any blocks, doubts, or breaks. It was a similar experience for The Twelfth Time, the first draft of which is 406,000 words written over five months.

Everything arrives at the right time, to paraphrase a line from “All Things Must Pass.”

For Keith and Rudy, Whenever I May Find Them

It’s 23 August, so it’s time for my obligatory yearly tribute to Keith Moon and Rudy Valentino. Moonie was born on this date in 1946, and Rudy was taken from this life on this date in 1926.

There was a reason Keith almost never sang lead, but when he did, he just put his whole heart into it and did the best he could with the vocal chords he was given. It’s the same way with how Ringo isn’t the world’s best singer either, but just has such a great personality that you don’t really care. The voice just matches the personality. “We Close Tonight,” in which Keith trades vocals with John, is probably the most on-key he ever sounded!

Each bandmember has his own theme on the masterpiece Quadrophenia, and “Bell Boy” is Keith’s. It’s such a natural fit for his voice and personality. Going on 13 years after I finally first heard it, it’s still my favouritest album ever, of all time. There are so many wonderful moments all throughout, but I think my favouritest moment remains that point in “The Rock” where the four themes appear separately, slowly first, then faster and faster, until finally they merge into one. Jimmy’s no longer at war with himself. He’s finally at peace, just in time for the breathtaking conclusion of “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

So sad how Rudy didn’t live long enough to make even one talking picture. These songs are the only known surviving recordings of his voice, though he frequently did radio broadcasts. It would be awesome if there were recordings around somewhere of all those old radio shows! The voice recording technology he used in 1923 wasn’t really accurate or representative of one’s true voice. Had he stepped back into the studio to try again in 1925 or ’26, we’d have a more realistic idea of what he sounded like.

I’ll never forget how my heart literally skipped a beat the first time I saw Rudy in motion, 17 November 2004. I’ll admit he sometimes looks a little weird or stilted in still pictures, like Theda Bara. He’s one of those moviestars who has to be seen in motion to really be appreciated and understood. Rudy is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, and he was beautiful on the inside too. I’m told the great-grandma who died two months before I was born (and who’d really been looking forward to meeting me) loved him too, looked forward to going to Pittsburgh on weekends to see his movies.

I’m now older (though not by much!) than either Rudy or Moonie ever got to be. It’s a kind of sobering reminder of one’s own mortality, and kind of embarrassing when I think of how much they’d already accomplished at such young ages. But I’ve been kept alive for a reason. I really think I’ll end up a dark horse winner like George Harrison, one of my fellow Quiet Ones.

My Cinnimin, one of my quintessential characters, ended up with a 23 August birthday. I assigned her that birthdate quite a few years before I ever became a serious Who freak or Valentino fan! It were like I knew, even before I knew. I later gave all 10 of her kids that birthdate as well, along with quite a few other people in town. It’s now become a bit of a running joke and great continuity at how a good percentage of the neighbourhood shares that birthday!

Cinni was born on Rudy’s fourth Jahrzeit (death anniversary), and I later wrote it in that her young aunt Lucinda got to pick her middle name. It would’ve been Rudolph had she been a boy, but Lucinda was such a fan, even four years on, that she found a way to honour Rudy in a roundabout way. Cinni’s middle name, Rebecca, also has seven letters and starts with the letter R. Hey, that’s the rationale I’ve heard a good many Ashkenazim give when claiming a child is named after a relative with a much different name. Some people only use the first letter or a similar sound. I personally think it’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever.

Top 10 Movie Countdown Blogfest

Top 10 Movies

Ninja Captain Alex is hosting another of his popular blogfests. This one is a reprise of his first-ever blogfest, favorite movies. Participants are naming their ten favoritest movies.

Mine are:

1. The Inner Circle (1991). I discovered this film in July ’96, back when the History Channel still showed Movies in Time and hadn’t yet become such a joke. (Seriously, I doubt their founders envisioned programs like “The History of Root Beer” and “God Is an Alien.”) It’s based on the memoirs of Stalin’s film projectionist, Aleksandr Ganchin, renamed Ivan Sanchin in the film. I’m so glad I was able to tape it before the History Channel stopped showing movies. It’s one of those films that stays with you for always, with so many haunting lines and scenes.

2. The Confession (1970), another amazing drama I discovered through Movies in Time. It’s set in the former Czechoslovakia and takes place during their show trials after the war. It shows how people who were loyal Communists were betrayed by the system they loved and believed in, and were suddenly put into the shoes of their former oppressors and enemies. It ends with a haunting scene of the protagonist going back home during the Prague Spring and seeing this beautiful short-lived freedom brutally crushed by tanks. The final shot is graffiti on a wall, “Lenin, wake up, they have gone mad.”

3. The Juggler (1953), another treasure I found through Movies in Time. It’s set in 1949 and follows a psychologically traumatized Shoah survivor who has just arrived in Eretz Yisrael. He’s lost his wife and child, and feels very guilty he lived while they and so many others died. At one point he attacks a policeman so badly he puts him in hospital with a broken arm, thinking he’s a Nazi. He finally breaks down and admits he’s sick and needs help.

4. A Day at the Races (1937). This is my favorite Marx Brothers’ movie, and the ending always puts a smile on my face. I kind of guessed, the first time through, how it was going to end, but that didn’t take away my delight at seeing it happen. My first two Marx Brothers’ movies were the worst possible ones for a newbie, Love Happy and Room Service, so it took awhile for me to warm up to them and start to love them. This is one of their films I’d highly recommend to a potential new fan.

5. Modern Times (1936). This is my favorite Charlie Chaplin film, and the last time the dear Little Tramp appeared. Though it was the last major American silent, there are sound sequences, with a twist. The only speech comes from machines, and later, when the Tramp speaks for the first and only time, it’s in a nonsense song. The ending is so bittersweet, knowing we’ll never see this beautiful cultural icon ever again and that now he’s a race memory who lives in each of us. At least now we know he’s got company as he walks into the sunset to face the unknown, and that wherever he may be now, he’s doing just fine.

6. Blood and Sand (1922). This was my first Rudy Valentino film, and I still remember how my heart literally skipped a beat the first time I saw him in motion. He was such an amazing actor, throwing himself into all of his roles, even in his less-than-stellar films. If you’re interested in finding out what all the fuss was about, this is a great place to start. Do NOT see The Sheik as your first Valentino film! It’s probably going to give you a horribly wrong idea about his talents.

7. Anything by Laurel and Hardy, just about. Some of their shorts aren’t as great as others, though, and their post-Hal Roach feature films are hit and miss. Their new handlers didn’t really know what to do with them, and so put them into a number of films not worthy of their talents or special comedic personalities. Some of their 1940s films seem better-suited to a team like Abbott and Costello.

8. Just about anything from the Three Stooges’ golden era, about 1937-52, barring the last year or so of Curly’s time in the group. It’s so painful to watch most of the shorts made after Curly got sick, and I never want to watch Half-Wits’ Holiday ever again, knowing what happened to that dear sweet man shortly after he walked off-camera. Harry Cohn actually made Moe and Larry continue filming instead of going to the hospital with him. What a scummy slavedriver.

9. Ben-Hur (1925), one of the greatest silents ever made. This isn’t just a film, but an emotional experience you need to wind down from after watching. Ramón Novarro was so handsome and talented. His performance here is worlds better than Charlton Heston’s a generation later!

10.Metropolis (1927), quite possibly the greatest silent ever made, and the quintessential masterwork of the great director Fritz Lang. It was even more meaningful and powerful to me when I watched it again after becoming a Marxist-Socialist.

Favorite Famous Couples

My Heartbreaker post is here.

Express Yourself

This week’s topic of the Express Yourself meme is favorite famous couples, real or fictional. Here are a couple of my favorites:

1 and 2. Stan and Ida Laurel and Oliver and Lucille Hardy. My favorite comedians weren’t very lucky in the marriage department until their respective last marriages. These later-life couplings proved to be their happiest, the ones they’d been waiting for all along. The last Mrs. Laurel and Mrs. Hardy were even there for their husbands during their respective final illnesses, taking care of them in sickness as well as in health. Sometimes the best relationship and one’s soulmate is only found later in life, not in the first attempt at marriage or dating.

3. Isidor and Ida Straus, who died together on the Titanic rather than be separated or take seats away from children or younger people. Prior to that, they wrote to one another every day when they weren’t together, much like my fictional Cinnimin and Levon, during Levon’s various deployments in Korea and Vietnam.

4. Harpo and Susan Marx. Susan was actually the one who proposed to him, and they were married for 28 years, until Harpo’s death. With the exception of the early-retiring Gummo, Harpo had the longest, happiest, most successful marriage of any of his brothers. I also love how they adopted all four of their kids and never considered them anything but their real kids. Harpo was almost 48 when they got married (Susan was 20 years younger), and really nervous about making such a big life change, but he was more scared of living the rest of his life without Susan. He finally accepted the third time she proposed. (At least his response to being proposed to wasn’t to say nothing, start jamming the ring on his finger, and then say, “It’s stuck. I’m very upset.”)

5. Charles and Oona Chaplin. It took a long time for him to find his true soulmate, and there was a huge age difference (she was 18 to his 54), but it was a true love match, his happiest and most stable relationship by far. When there’s a true meeting of the minds, so long as you’re both legal, age doesn’t really matter.

6. One of my favorite screen pairings is that of Rudy Valentino and Nita Naldi. They were together in Blood and Sand (1922) and Cobra (1925), and slated to be leads in the never-filmed project The Hooded Falcon. Their chemistry was incredible, even if Nita always played the Vamp role, not the “good girl” Rudy’s characters were married to or courting.

7. I also love the frequent screen pairing of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, two of my favorite silent stars. (I’m far from the only person who prefers Garbo’s silents to her talkies!) They were together in four films—the incredible Flesh and the Devil (1926), Love (1927, a terrible screen adaption of Anna Karenina complete with happy ending), A Woman of Affairs (1928), and Queen Christina (1933). Their chemistry was even more incredible because they were involved offscreen as well, though they never married, much to Jack’s disappointment.

8. Moe and Helen Howard. As a huge Three Stooges fan, I’m not alone in finding it rather sweet and charming how the boys were quite the opposite of their screen personae in real life. They were all devoted family men, and not violent, mean people at all. Moe and Helen (a cousin of Harry Houdini) were married in 1925 and stayed married till Moe’s death in 1975. Helen died not quite 6 months later. I once read an excerpt of a love letter Moe wrote to her, in which he thanked her for letting him be her sweetheart for so many years.

9. Simon and Yasmin LeBon. They’ve been married for 27 years now, and have really gotten older together so gracefully, without any scandals in their marriage. I also like how they broke up originally because Yasmin didn’t want to have sex, but got back together later because it was just meant to be. If you’re meant to be with someone, you’ll find your way back together, even if you’re separated or not together. They’ve also gone through problems with having kids before having their three daughters. (I love the name of their middle daughter, Saffron!) Honestly, I wish I had been that strong about waiting, and not given my antique virginity to a guy who wouldn’t even freaking kiss me, but what’s done is done. At least I learnt my lesson and won’t compromise my beliefs again, if I ever find another partner at my age.

10. John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In spite of continued Yoko-bashing by certain immature, mean-spirited people, it’s so obvious these two were such soulmates, creative partners, and a perfect match. As a proud puma, graduated from a bobcat, I also love that John’s soulmate was an older woman. Age and culture didn’t matter, because they were such a perfect match and meeting of the minds. Yes, they had some difficult periods, but normal relationships aren’t always sunshine, flowers, and kittens. Sometimes you have problems, and you have to work to get the relationship back on track.

Re-introduce Myself Blogfest and Memorized Movies

My World Building Blogfest post, in which I discuss Kutaisi, Georgia, is here.

Re-Introduction

Today, 28 January, the Re-introduce Myself Blogfest, the creation of Stephen Tremp, is being hosted by Mark Koopmans, Elise Fallson, and C.M. Brown. Basically, it’s a short, brief way in which to re-introduce (or introduce) oneself to the blogging community.

I began this particular blog in March 2011, though for almost 10 years prior, I’d had a fairly popular website at Angelfire. I’m over the loss of that site now, since losing it (and being unable to recover some of my files) helped me to move on in my writing and my life.

I’ve been writing since 1984, literally as long as I’ve been able to write. It’s just something I’ve always done, not something I began as an adult or in response to some book fad. I began with picture books, then began writing longer stories at probably around age eight. My great writing (and reading) love is historical. I also have some soft sci-fi books on hiatus.

It was kind of depressing to discover, after I began querying again a decade after giving up far too prematurely, that superlong historical sagas, with ensemble casts, spanning many years, in third-person omniscient, and multiple storylines aren’t exactly in vogue anymore.

When I think of historical fiction, I think of writers like Leon Uris, James Michener, and Herman Wouk. You know, LONG books, not stories that are all of 350 pages. I’m not going to hack out hundreds of pages or important subplots and characters just to kowtow and bring my books down to some arbitrary “word count.” They wouldn’t be nearly the same stories anymore.

My tastes have never been in step with what’s current and popular anyway. I love silent and early sound films, classic rock, and classic world literature. Modern things just don’t do it for me. I gravitate towards things that have stood the test of time, and I always know I get into them for the right reasons instead of just getting into a writer, band, or actor because of current popularity.

Even when I finally fell for a band who got famous in my lifetime, that still wasn’t much of a victory, since their debut album is over 30 years old by now. I just can’t win!

Express Yourself

I’m also participating in the Express Yourself meme again this week. This week’s question is:

“What movies do you watch over and over again that you can practically quote them word for word?”

For me, that’s an easy answer. I fell in love with Laurel and Hardy in July of ’96, at age 16, and they helped me through one of the darkest nights of my soul. I will love them till there’s no more breath left in my body. So many years later, I still remember how sad I was, during my junior year of high school, when I found out that both of them had died quite a few years before I’d been born.

I’ve seen a number of their sound shorts so many times I really can recite them backwards and forwards. Examples include Men o’ War (1929, their third talkie) and Helpmates (1931, one of their finest sound shorts). I even know the gags by heart, and their body language and facial expressions.

I’ve also seen my favorite Rudy Valentino film, Blood and Sand (1922), so many times I also practically know it by heart, both by scenes and intertitles. That was my first Valentino film, on 17 November 2004, and I still remember how my heart literally skipped a beat the first time I saw him in motion.

I also know a lot of my favorite movie, The Inner Circle (1991), by heart. I’ve seen it so many times since I first discovered it in July of ’96. I was able to videotape it before the History Channel sadly discontinued Movies in Time. It’s based on the memoirs of Stalin’s film projectionist, and depicts life in the Soviet Union during the Great Terror, WWII, the period right before Stalin’s death, and the horrifying mob scene at Stalin’s funeral.

I proudly own my timewarped tastes.