Thursday, April 17, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

     How about a vampire movie with no biting, no sex, and no thrill-a-minute action sequences, but where the millennial-old vampire lovers sleep a lot, don’t comb their hair, but really really love each other?  Sound like a hot date movie?

Wait, there’s more. Well, kind of more. Yeah, these vampires sleep a lot during the movie, but it’s Tilda Swinton, whose natural vampiric good looks require little enhancement, and Tom Hiddleston, both sleeping naked atop a chaste coverlet. Your heart rate might go up just listening to their light snores, but only if you’re a Jarmusch hipster and so totally cool that you feel his aesthetic. If so, Only Lovers Left Alive is the vampire love story for you.

A testimony to Adam and Eve’s eternal love is that although they live apart–he, in the abandoned and economically desolate suburbs of Detroit; she, in a surprisingly clean Tangiers–they keep in touch via Skype. “I want to see you,” Adam says to Eve. She presses the video display on her iPhone. Yes, Eve has the Apple. Adam does it his way. He’s using a gigundo dinosaur of a cell phone with a pull out antennae, then connects a few wires and aims an equally ancient remote at a TV console similar to the one my grandma owned. Eve’s face appears. He looks momentarily happy; this soon passes. He’s embraced technology, but not the latest thing. He’s stuck in a vinyl world of classic 45s and bemoans the loss of the Packard plant.

The tree of bummed out vampires is vast and includes Louis in Interview with the Vampire, Angel in Buffy and even Bill Compton in True Blood, but they were known to glory in the occasional bite or have sex with the woman they loved. Adam puts the bleak dollop of mope on brooding. If he had a lawn, he’d be screaming at the kids to get the hell off it.

          Only black market blood is good enough for Jarmusch’s vamps, and not because they’ve morally put aside their predatory ways. “It’s how they treat their world,” Adam says, explaining his disillusionment with humans and their self-destructive lifestyles. He calls the humans zombies.

“Who you calling a zombie, bro?” I longed to hear those words from some soulless musician in the nightclub Adam and Eve deigned to visit.

I’m sure Adam and Eve sucked blood from the occasional syphilitic or plague ridden human in the past, but in Jarmuschland, vampires no longer tolerate diseased blood. Or, is it that like many humans who prefer bottled to tap water, these vampires are the ultimate consumers? They like their human blood bottled or packaged and with advance hype. In Eve’s words, “The good stuff.”

Adam and Eve are mismatched lovers, proving that opposites attract.
She’s more books, art and using the latest technology, he’s more music and scientifically inventive. She maintains contact with others, he prefers cruising Detroit’s abandoned manufacturing hub, its decaying buildings etched in moonlight like Roman ruins. She’s intent on surviving into the next millennia, he’s stuck in the past and contemplates suicide with a wooden bullet. There is an upside to all of this: the music is very good and my favorite scenes involved those nighttime cruises through Detroit.

Only Lovers Left Alive is not a story so much as a whimsy, and a conceited one at that. Their snobbery is dangerous. It leads to estrangement from all that they value. Creativity and destructiveness are part of humanity, their life source. If they lose that connection, what good is their art?

An acute appreciation of irony is at the core of their aesthetic, as it must be with all intellectual snobs. In the end, they must return to their primitive state and prey on young lovers in order to live. “What choice do we have,” Eve says.

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Yorick Le Saux; edited by Affonso Goncalves; music by Jozef Van Wissem; production design by Marco Bittner Rosser; costumes by Bina Daigeler; produced by Jeremy Thomas and Reinhard Brundig; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
WITH: Tom Hiddleston (Adam), Tilda Swinton (Eve), Mia Wasikowska (Ava), John Hurt (Marlowe), Anton Yelchin (Ian) and Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Watson).
 Vampire Musings and Reviews: 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday, 4/13/14

Los Angeles Festival of Books,

Booth 464
:  Signing The Sandoval Sisters @ noon

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A 70's Redux

     Met my friend Peggy at Venice Beach this past Sunday. 

My friend is a loving grandmother, and she'd come out from Arizona to visit her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who were meeting some college friends at Venice Beach. They dropped her off so Peg and I were able to talk alone and without inhibition. Not that inhibitions were ever a big concern in our circle. Or being inappropriate. Or politically correct. 

We were roommates in graduate school.  I had been living in the graduate dorm at ASU, which was a converted motel complete with an outdoor pool in the center of the complex. Since I didn't know how to cook, dorms were no problem for me, but I wanted a cat. 

Felines were fine with Peg, but she wanted to be completely honest with me. "I date black guys," she said. "That's okay . . . I date women." It was 1974, Black Student Union was active on campus and the Women's Movement was in full blossom. Hawkish Senators, batshit crazy Governors and Border Patrols were aspects of Arizona we didn't encounter. Experimental was the catch-word, at least for me. We bonded over disco and went dancing at least three nights a week. I got a job in academia, but eventually moved over to the business side. Cut my hair, moved to California. Peggy remained in Arizona.

  My Student ID

She married a white guy and had two daughters. I married a man and had two sons. We've both managed to stay married and except for the intense years when our children were young and our careers surging at full force, we've stayed in touch.

Peggy has maintained the luminous essence of her youth. We weren't maidens back then–we shirked that veil with joy–but curiosity about the world and our part in it, is still there. Not all of my friends have that quality. Some of them have rushed into cronedom with relief, it seems.

Our afternoon came to an end all too soon, and we met up with her daughter and two of her girlfriends. "This is my friend, Sandra," Peg said, introducing me to the young women. "When we were roommates she used to walk around the condo naked." The young women studied a crack in the sidewalk. She wasn't finished. "Sandra is an author and her book won two prizes, plus she was on a list with Sonia Sotomayor!"

"Nudist's Who Know It All," I said. They looked stunned. "Just kidding, guys. Her autobiography and my historical fiction were on the same top 10 list." They'd been holding their breaths and laughed with relief. I said goodbye so Peg wouldn't volunteer any other info, and believe me, she knows too much.

I used to rollerskate at Venice. Now, it's all about skateboarding.

 Shadow of a skateboarder about to take flight.

Only female skateboarder that afternoon.

On the walk back to my truck, I stopped at a Vintage Clothing store. The rack of jean shorts brought back memories. Short shorts were the rage back-in-the-day and under the hot desert sun. I texted Peg to tease her. "Remember your thong jean shorts? Those babies were just a seam and lots of air!"

Not sure she'll share that piece of history with her daughters. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Poop of the Matter

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.* 


Let’s discuss the influents and the effluents. 

That’s right, you high school graduates–the poop flows in­–that’s the influent. 

What empties 5 miles out into the Santa Monica Bay, what is ground up, dehydrated and sifted for fertilizer, and what you personally contribute if you live in Los Angeles, is the effluent. And it’s all managed through chemistry and engineering at the Hyperion Treatment Plant.

Pipe carrying effluent to the Bay

The morning I toured Hyperion seemed like a slow sewage day for a plant that treats 300 million gallons of raw sewage a day (900 if it’s peak tourist season, the day after the Oscars, or your Uncle Lloyd is visiting from Minnesota and just can't back away from the Mexican/Sushi fusion trucks.)

Headworks – where the big stuff is captured: I don't have a picture of this, but I like saying it. 

These are the largest wastewater-related Archimedes screw pumps in the world. 

This is the pump at work. Archimedes invented this circa 290 B.C.

Solids removed during primary and secondary treatment are pumped to these huge, egg shaped vessels.  

Good to know: The biosolids that are processed here are considered Exceptional Quality.

It didn't stink at Hyperion. At one point we even smelled barbecue. 

Trivia: *The original one word was "plastic" and the quote is from a 1967 movie. Post below if you know the name of the movie.

More kind-of-icky-makes-you-wonder trivia: The Hyperion Treatment Plant was used as a set for a key scene in the 1973 film Soylent Green. It's where they "pretended" the bland yet nutritious "Soylent Green" wafers were manufactured.

STEM Trivia: There are few women working here, but the few who do work in the marine biology and chem labs.

For a virtual tour and much more detail visit:  

Direct access to Dockweiler Beach across from the Hyperion Plant

The P.I.
Poop Inspector

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Date Night With the Empty Nest Folks

               The waiter at our favorite restaurant brought a bowl of water for Joey. He told us about the Shar Pei his roommate had rescued. Shar Pei’s are the large dogs with all the loose skin folding around their faces. The original dogs came from China and look nothing like the designer dogs the West has produced. “They have all sorts of health problems,” he said, “blindness, renal failure, yeast infections in their ears.”
               “All because of human interference in the breed,” I said. He nodded and left with our order.
               “Poodles are the same way,” my husband said, “if you don’t shave their butts, they can’t take a crap.” I’ve wanted a standard poodle for a long time, but Gerald always nixes that idea. His mom had a poodle. One of his childhood laments is how shaving the dog’s butt was his responsibility. “They’d die without humans caring for their butts.”
               “Poodles living in the wild would groom each other,” I said.
               “There are no poodles living in the wild.”
               “If there were, they’d clean each other’s butts. It’s like alcoholics and their enablers,” I said. “You enabled your mom’s dog to not clean his own butt by paying too much attention to that area. Own it.”
               “That makes no sense.” He looked away, but not before I saw the teeniest smile.
               “It’s perfectly logical.” 
               The waiter brought our dinner and Joey sat at attention for his share.              

Shar Pei: the western version

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Icing Twins

The old man’s hooded eyes focused on the photo of two teenaged girls smashing their faces into slices of birthday cake. He tapped the picture and said, “Snuck up on them for this one, but they heard me coming. Yep, last picture of the girls we have.”

The reporter glanced at the picture. “That’s the picture the FBI used?”

The old man sighed. “Lotta good it did them. Change their hair color. Use a different color of icing and all youse got is a headline—”

“The Icing Twins Strike Again!” the reporter said in the exaggerated tones of an anchorman announcing late-breaking news.

“Most successful bank robbers ever!" The old man raised his chin, proud and defiant. "Never been caught. Never heard from them once they began their life of crime.” He looked down at the picture again. His hand trembled. “My granddaughter broke her mother’s heart.”

The reporter consulted his notes. “Debbie and Ellie swore they were twins even though they had different parents?”

“They had a connection. It ran between them strong. You ever seen a dog and an electric fence?” He didn’t wait for the reporter to answer. “It was like that. A line of electricity between them that warned everyone away, like they might get shocked if they got too close. We figured it was just teenage lesbo stuff.”

“Yes, well, according to reports Debbie and Ellie finished each other’s sentences, had the same gestures and facial tics and made the same impulsive decisions.”

“They got tired of people saying, ‘But you don’t look anything alike.’ It made ‘em angry. ‘Nobody sees us,’ our Ellie said. It was then they decided to never have their pictures taken again."

“Why do you think they started their life of crime?”

“If I knew that, mister, I wouldn’t be sittin’ here in my pajamas talkin’ to you. Oh sure, maybe we shoulda told Ellie she was adopted, but how was we to know Debbie was adopted, too?” The old man set the picture down and twisted his arthritic hands together, agitated. “What are the chances of them endin’ up in the same neighborhood? Plenty of folks is adopted and they don’t rob banks!”

“Hmm, do you think Ellie and Debbie, um, became lovers?”

The old man struggled to his feet. “What kind of a sick sumbitch are you? That’d be incest!”

He showed the reporter to the door and went over to the mantle to raise a picture he’d lowered just before the man arrived. He smiled down at the latest photo of Debbie and Ellie. A new one arrived on their birthday every year. This one showed the sisters with their three children. All five of them had their faces smashed down in birthday cake.

Flash written in response to the photo above.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hairy Legs

               Daddy had promised me I could come live with him anytime, so my underdeveloped thirteenth year was spent in East Texas with my father and stepmother. I was skinny and flat-chested, but wore a padded bra my mother had bought for me. My deepest wish was that my period would start before I left New Mexico. No such luck. It descended shortly after my arrival in Longview. 
               The upside of this hormonal landmark was that my breasts grew infinitesimally. The downside was that Daddy had my stepmother tell me I couldn’t wear a padded bra. “Bad girls wear those,” she said. I couldn’t fill the smallest size cotton bra so I was cursed to have a wrinkled mess under all my blouses where the new unpadded but good-girl bra tips folded over. My survival instincts kicked in, and I filled them with Kleenex.

               The other downside of puberty was that the hair on my legs thickened. 

               I was caught between two worlds: for my mother, being attractive to men was a primary goal. To my father, the rules for women he was attracted to didn’t apply to his daughter. The transition from being Daddy’s Little Girl to growing up had begun.

               On Sunday mornings, I snuggled next to my daddy while he read the paper. He'd hand me the comics without a word. Part of our morning ritual was the quiet. Occasionally, he'd reach over and give me a hug or pat my leg. At some point he began to idly pull the hair on my legs. It was an affectionate and absentminded gesture, not aggressive in the least, and I liked it.

                But he wasn't the only male who enjoyed the hair on my legs.

               Eddie, the good-looking boy who sat in front of me in my 9th grade history class reached behind his desk every day to do the same. He’d stroke and massage my calves, ending in a sensuous tug of the hair there. He seemed more focused on the process than my dad and often failed to answer when the teacher called on him. Perhaps my leg tensed and signaled a change because he’d retract his hand as if an electrical charge had traveled from me to him, sit up straight and attempt to answer the teacher’s question.

               All the other girls in 9th grade shaved their legs.  Many of them had also begun to date and shared stories of stolen kisses when their mothers’ backs were turned. One of them, Priscilla, encouraged me to shave. She’d also given me intimate advice on inserting tampons, “Relax. Drink a shot of your daddy’s bourbon first.”

               One night I borrowed my stepmother's razor and eradicated the fur on my legs. At school the next day, Eddie reached behind to stroke my calves, as usual. He stopped and turned to look at me, open-mouthed, questioning. I smiled, smug. 

               My father was another matter. The following Sunday we settled in on the couch. As usual, he reached over to tug the hair on my legs. My new silken smoothness registered and he dropped the paper to stare at me. His lips parted, but he didn’t speak. His expression wasn't as shocked as Eddie’s had been. He looked at me as if I were a stranger he was sad to meet.

This blog also at the Huffington Post

  The Golden Girls on Shaving their legs.