Ballet and Dracula: Diary, 8/6 to 8/15/21

Blocked by Oliver; Stigmata DVD; Hemlock Club meetings; editing woes; did Ma want a girl instead of me? Reading Tod Browning’s Dracula; a dozen movies dissed; book splurge.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)

{8/6/21}  Weight 215.2 at 6:18 am.

Oliver’s blocking me on Facebook makes my future course clear:  shut up and wait.  Send him nothing. [Oliver is my son, 25 years old.]

I see now that the letters I sent him that were returned could well have reached him.  That seems now the most obvious answer.

I have finished the revision of Kick Me, with the exception of integrating into the text the nine pages of notes, which is text I’ve set aside as being misplaced, or additions that I didn’t want to worry about at the time I wrote them, e.g., later diary entries.  I’ll start on that soon.

Hemlock Club tomorrow.

{8/7/21}  Weight 216.4?! at 5:50 am.

Pablo brought over a package of the first and second seasons of Twin Peaks.  We watched an hour of the first episode.  During the episode I told him my “theory” of mysteries:  I don’t care who done it.  On questioning, he said that future episodes were much like the first, “quirky” and some other word I’ve forgotten.  I decided, reluctantly, that I didn’t want to finish even the first episode.  Surprisingly, he didn’t argue about it.

He is taking a train trip today, theoretically.  He labored mightily to buy a ticket, both online and by phone, and was unsuccessful, giving up after ninety minutes.  Then he had to walk home.

Tried a couple DVDs, both terrible:  George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009), and Carnivore (2001).  Neither one lasted more than twenty minutes; both are worthless.  Survival looked professional but was vastly irritating and boring; this sounds like a contradiction, but so be it.  30% from Rotten Tomatoes.  Carnivore especially looked amateurish and the dialogue was deadly dull, delivered by terrible actors—no RT reviews by critics, 26% audience score.  [8/8/21: I should have mentioned, the monster of the title is very silly looking, like the head of the original Godzilla on a body I didn’t wait around to see.]

Vastly better was Stigmata (1999), though I suspect that many viewers will find it rather lousy.  I mostly enjoyed it.  Stars Patricia Arquette as a beautician suffering from the title problem, that is, wounds appearing on her body.  The church investigates in the person of Gabriel Byrne as a “sexy priest.”  This is pretty standard stuff, but the interesting thing is that the religious angle is based on The Gospel of Thomas, which in the movie is called “The Gospel of Jesus.”  The idea is that the Catholic Church (or at least an Archbishop, Jonathan Pryce) is opposed to the ideas in this book, notably, that “the Kingdom of God is within you,” more or less; the fear is that if this idea gets out, people won’t care about building lavish churches any more.  I think the Protestants pushed the same thought, but don’t quote me.  Leo Tolstoy wrote a book with that as a title, that is, The Kingdom of God is Within You, about fifty years before the Gospel of Thomas was found, so the “revolutionary” idea is nothing new.  Still, the acting is good and some of the special effects are good, but the ending is a letdown.  The real weakness for me was that Arquette’s character suffers through many episodes of epilepsy, visitation, possession, or something, which grow increasingly tiresome, eroding most of the sympathy for her plight.  Too, there’s endless rain, like about three quarters of the movie (seriously), and how can a beautician (with coworker roommate) afford such an enormous and mostly lavishly-furnished apartment in New York, even with a leaky roof?  Not to mention the dozens of candles that Arquette has burning around her bathtub, etc.  Does anyone do that except in movies?  The RT critics consensus sez, “The story is unconvincing and the acting is weak.”  A 22% splat.

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet, as done by the San Francisco Ballet and recorded in 2015, had me seriously choked up during Act 1.  I’ve always loved the suite of the music, though in full it’s quite repetitive.  The choreography by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson is beautiful, but my focus was always on the stunning Juliet, Maria Kochetkova, who dances beautifully but melts you with her ecstatic face.  Yes, of course she’s from Russia.  I’ll likely watch the rest tomorrow.  Ballet, for me, is sometimes difficult to watch because, first, it’s so often slow and very boring, and second, sometimes seeing women on pointe strikes me as absurdly artificial and awkward.  Not so here, fortunately.

{8/8/21}  Weight 215.8 at 5:55 am.

{8/9/21}  Weight 214.6 at 5:50 am.

{8/10/21}  Weight 214.8 at 6:00 am.

{8/11/21}  Weight 216.4 at 5:15 am.

I want to write a book called Practical Wisdom:  Pragmatism, Atheism, and the Good Life.  A Google search, with quote marks, for “practical wisdom” was depressing, though I suppose my unexamined, foolish assumption was that “nobody has written this already.”

Two years ago, my weight was like 224.  So, despite the disappointment of this morning’s weigh-in, I don’t know how to finish this sentence.

I know about the weight because someone on my blog read “Diary: 6/5 to 6/18/19” and I wanted to see what they had seen.  It starts with three dreams about Scout Finch.  That’s weird.  But the thing as a whole was quite interesting and a lot of it seemed intelligent.

I should probably go lie down and restart the morning.  Instead, I’ll get to work.

On 12/19/19 I wrote:  I’ve been thinking of having marginal “reaction shots” of my old-man-face, possibly in addition to illustrative scenic drawings.  But I don’t have forever, eh?

I could do this even now; I could create the faces in the evening, as “entertainment.”  The book gets worse and worse the more I edit it, meaning, I’m taking the final pages, what I called “KM Notes,” and inserting the text into the body of the book.  This is good, this is progress, but I don’t take the time to fully consider and integrate the insertions, but this is bad, this will require another read-through.  And then, if Ben wants to work on the book and I can afford to pay him what he wants, I will have considerable time to work on faces (as well as starting the Hemlock Club Novel).  I think that Practical Wisdom can sit on a back burner, likely forever.

Are these “reaction shots” a good idea?  Best try it first, then decide, eh?  I’m always trying to save myself unnecessary work—but I don’t always know what’s unnecessary until it’s done, or at least tried.

I’m way behind on diary writing, which these days amounts to movie reviews.  So here’s the catch-up:

Slither:  surprisingly funny, unsurprisingly gross, from James Gunn.  Worth watching if you’re into such movies.  No, it’s not about snakes.

The Spectacular Now:  couldn’t watch it, too much in the teen movie genre.

The Watcher:  Keanu Reeves as a serial killer.  I don’t watch movies about serial killers, though I might make an exception for a really good one; this didn’t hook me. [Another dog: Silence of the Lambs. Yes, I know it won “Best Picture,” etc.]

The Toolbox Murders:  another movie about a weird architect’s weird building and the horrors enacted therein.  The heroine, who looks strong and independent, reverts to cliché when she needs her backbone most.  Sorry if that’s a spoiler.  Creepy and effective up to a point, but also a stupid waste of time, as expected.

Dead Men Walk (1943):  George Zucco plays evil/good brothers, one of whom is the dead man walking.  Gleefully evil Zucco is one of his best performances, while good Zucco is mostly dull; aided by Dwight Frye, looking quite old, channeling his usual Renfield role.  IMDB reveals that Frye was a devout Christian Scientist; he died in ’43 at the age of 44.  Walk is sixty-two minutes long, included in the generally worthless “Screaming Skull Collection.”  Alas, this one is probably for Zucco and Frye fans only, though half a cut above the usual black-and-white stuff in this vein.

{8/12/21}  Weight 215.4 at 5:40 am.

Finished my edit of Kick Me—yay!  Printed it out to reread.

{8/13/21}  Weight 215.8 at 5:50 am.

In KM I speculated that my mother might have wanted a girl instead of me, a second boy.  This morning, stimulated by a dream of a girl’s hand, I remembered my mother explaining to me how she gave herself a manicure, applied nail polish, and removed nail polish.  Perhaps I was curious and asked about it, no way to know now, but it seems a little odd.  I don’t recall ever thinking about this or even remembering this before.

Perhaps I was primed to dream about a girl’s hand because of two movies, Tormented and Lost Angel.  In Tormented, I noticed that the child star, maybe eight or nine years old, had manicured and polished nails, out of character.  Then, last night I watched most of Lost Angel because I’m a Margaret O’Brien fan, at least a fan of her early movies.  I don’t think there were any closeups of her hands, but one scene impressed me—she was eating spaghetti with both hands, just cramming it in with a fork in each hand.

Finished reading Gary D. Rhodes:  Tod Browning’s Dracula, about the 1931 iconic movie, one of my all-time favorites.  A very good book, though sometimes the detail goes on a bit long.  Good photographs, lots of trivia.  It seems that Bela Lugosi hated the character of Dracula; he never played him again, though he played other similar characters.

Cleaned my closet today.  I was a good boy.

Another Hemlock Club meeting tomorrow.

{8/14/21}  Weight 215.0 at 5:30 am.

Instant Family is a sometimes-hilarious, often annoying and cringey comedy-drama that offers a casebook in how to create characters and use them to advantage.  In addition, actress Rose Byrne looks so much like an older Olivia Cooke that I can’t stop looking at and loving her soulful face.  Overall quite a good movie.

Overdosing on ballet because Pablo is enthusiastic and I have three full-length ballets on DVD.

{8/15/21}  Weight 214.4 at 6:00 am.

It’s no joke when Dracula bites his tongue.

From a dream:  the name, Pawn Bishop.  I saw an email from her which had as a subject, “Waterlogged.”

The Hemlock Club yesterday continued at my place.  Tim Chang drove us here, though he didn’t stay.  I learned that he plays (or played) chess and had a rating of 1700 plus, which likely stimulated the name above. He didn’t mention the car he’s selling me.

We watched the last hour of Swan Lake, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would because the ending was surprisingly powerful and not what I expected.  Nog apparently enjoyed it, Pablo dozed through most of it.  Pablo then wanted to watch Andromeda, but I said that Nog had expressed interest in the Great Courses course on good conversation and put that on.  He dozed through that, too.  At the HC meeting at Panera Bread we mostly talked about Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf.

I spent about a hundred dollars at Barnes & Noble on books about the Sierras and Death Valley.  After everyone went home, I checked out the local possibilities for hiking and camping.  The “better stuff” takes ninety minutes to two hours to get to, that is, Sequoia National Park and Death Valley.  Yosemite is more like three hours from here, alas.  These driving times are substantially greater than I was expecting.  There are closer places to try, like Lake Isabella, but the books I bought don’t cover them.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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