We all have hopes that ride through life on a tandem bicycle with dreams. Those two wispy wants make up a big part of what makes us human, and vulnerable, and fearless. They give us courage when the starless night is too dark and strength when the last can of our proverbial spinach has expired. They’re different for every gloriously individual one of us, and especially so for writers.

The old man down the street hopes for even one more day that could match the best day ever of his long life. The little girl on the other side of the world hopes for a desperately needed gift of rain. The desperate housewife in suburbia hopes for one romantic spark from her husband of three decades. The soldier in a wartorn land hopes for the blessed sound of silence. The loyal hound longs for the loving stroke of its master’s hand along its shining coat.

These are all small portions of everyday lives. Hope wielding writers experience them in their own day to day journeys, and also through the characters they create. (The great science fiction author Fredric Brown wrote a wonderful story from a dog’s point of view that I’ve never forgotten.) Writers live their very own parallel lives, you know…the one they move through and the one that moves through their heads. They also have hopes “regular” people escape.

The writer hopes for inspiration. For a day’s high word count. For ideas and fortune and fame. For the mailbox/inbox not to be empty. Again. For the reviews to be good. For a few words of praise from an admired editor. From any editor at all. For the voices in their heads to never stop. To die with computer keys tapping beneath their fingers.

Hoping is a valuable aspect of human nature. It makes us strive, and reach, and live as if we can almost see an elusive tomorrow. Hoping is an artform. Writers take hoping to new and different heights. And hoping drives writers through the world they live in and the worlds that live in them.

My recent post about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty got me started thinking about another movie that made me want to visit Iceland. The older movie No Such Thing showcased that country’s stark beauty, juxtaposed with the strangely compelling nature of the the monster at its heart. Mostly sea, sky, and bleak landscapes, the scenery nonetheless beckoned to this wanderlust struck viewer. As did the story of lovely young journalist Beatrice and the monster she set off to find.

Her boyfriend had travelled to Iceland to seek out a monster of vicious repute for a story, and never returned. So brave Beatrice wins the permission of The Boss, played with reptilian cunning by the always fabulous Helen Mirren, to go on her own personal monster quest and bring back a sensational story. Was the monster real? What did it do to her boyfriend? What might it do to her? 

No Such Thing takes us on Beatrice’s journey. Or does it? I’ve never been sure. I watched her go to Iceland, with considerable difficulty, and track down The Monster. He’s…shall we say…cranky. With good reason. Turns out he’s pretty ugly with a dash of dashing potential, sports horns in the expected places, and hair that could use some work. He’s also illtempered, downright evil, murderous, and very, very jaded. Immortality sucks, after enough time is more than enough.

After much posturing and threats to kill a strangely unafraid Beatrice, The Monster strikes a deal. He’ll tell her what she wants to know, if she kills him. They don’t meet cute. They certainly don’t act cute. Yet, somehow they’re mesmerizing together. A little bit Buffy and Angel, a lot Beauty and the Beast, they’re a surreally charming train wreck waiting to happen.

And happen it does.

This is where I lose my confidence that I’m sure what the movie is really about. It takes a road and a road not taken… I think…almost simultaneously… I think.

It’s revealed that Beatrice is in a terrible plane crash on her way to see The Monster. In hindsight, she would have been safer taking Air Yellow Brick Road. She’s paralyzed and only an excruciatingly painful procedure offers any chance of recovery. She chooses to torture herself with the procedure, in hope of a normal life.

In more monsterness we learn she’s brought him back to civilization with her. The Boss has him dressed up in a well cut suit and plans a big shocking reveal that he’s real. He’s miserable, but charming about it, in a curmudgeonly monstery kind of way. Beatrice is the go between and, hating his misery, eventually helps him find the one scientist who can end his wretchedly immortal existence.

After much intrigue and rigmarole, The Monster lies hooked up to the equally monstrous machine that will end him at last. Beatrice gazes mournfully into his tortured yet grateful features, as colored lights flash, and are reflected onto her own tight features. Or are they?

Here’s where I either go completely off the comprehension rails, or figure the thing out. I think the way the scene cuts back and forth between The Monster’s demise and her pain indicates that she never got to the oddly industrial building The Monster called home. Instead, her miraculous survival of the plane crash circumvented the rest of her quest and all we knew of The Monster was created by her mind to enable her to survive the procedure.

I’ve never come across anything to confirm or contradict my conclusion. That’s okay with me, because in spite of all the confusion and convoluted maze of a plot, I loved No Such Thing. Adored it, even though I have no idea if I actually understood it. I don’t know if that says more about the cinematic telling of a monster story or my reaction as a movie-goer. What it does for certain is highlight the collaborative nature of movie watching. I got from it what I got from it, regardless of what the people who made it intended. It was an awesome movie watching experience, and that’s the goal from both sides of the screen.

No Such Thing Trailer

Sometimes a random sunset will stop me in my tracks to make me pull out my phone and take some pictures. I waited until I’d finished loading groceries into my trunk, hoping I could catch the peak colors. I got lucky. Turning your back on a sunset can leave you with  dark gray clouds devoid of colors.
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This way cool article about the most beautifully, shockingly, horrifyingly delicious series on TV gives the first truly indepth information I’ve ever seen about the characters, the episodes, and why things are so different from Thomas Harris’ riveting novels about the devious doctor we so love to hate. The bit of most interest to me is that they may eventually be able to obtain the rights to use Clarice Starling in the series. That intriguing possibility immediately started chasing itself around in my head. It’s impossible not to wonder how they would fit Clarice into the life of a Hannibal we think hasn’t met her yet. I’ve been fascinated by the ways his macabre dance with Bedelia seems to mirror the Hannibal and Clarice dark duet of Harris’ novel Hannibal. Though it sounds like mystique is the underpinning beneath the surface of Hannibal’s actions regarding his own shrink, I’m in for the ride, wherever it goes. It took some time, but I’ve come to accept the TV series Hannibal as its own, unique Hannibal Lecter vessel. They know what they’re doing. The fact that I don’t is part of the attraction to this character driven, beautifully executed moving still life of a horror show.

Hannibal Season Two — Trailer

I started watching NCIS from ep one for one reason. I fell in love with David McCallum’s looks and acting, when I watched him as Sydney’s father in the excellent but largely unsung science fiction series VR.5. In addition to its fabulous cast, it was absorbing and a little too far ahead of its time. So McCallum’s addition to another great cast drew me in and I’ve been watching NCIS from ep one.

McCallum’s character, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, has gone through many experiences over the course of the long running series. He’s always been charming and a bit eccentric. As his character progressed, we learned that, in addition to his keen intelligence, he is resourceful and a good man to be in danger with, if in danger you must be. It took his involvement with a figurative fallen angel to begin to show his romantic side. Then last week’s episode expanded on that and more.

We now know why such a handsome charmer never married the love of his life. Actually that there was a love of his life. Even that he doesn’t like bow ties, and why he wears them anyway.

What we don’t know is why the much younger Alice Krige was cast as said love. With her unusual beauty tweaked, it worked. Star Trek: The Next Generation tweaked her right into scaring us to death as the Borg Queen. So turning her into a Ducky contemporary must have been a piece of cake compared to that. Particularly since David McCallum certainly doesn’t look 81! Maggie’s acerbic demeanor contrasted beautifully with her softer attitude toward “Donnie”. They made a lovely and believable couple that might have been. So much so that I hope we haven’t seen the last of her, or of the dreamy romantic side of Ducky, as fully revealed in their final scene.

NCIS Clip: Over My Dead Body

You would think one crush on a longdead celebrity would be more than enough. I’ve adored poet Rainer Maria Rilke from across time for…um…ages, and eventually he was joined in my way-cool-people-no-longer-with-us mental files by Nikola Tesla, as I kept learning fascinating stuff about him. This article has a lot of info any Tesla fan will find interesting, cool, and surprisingly charming. Some of the details are obscure and personal, and left me feeling as if I attended a dinner party where friends of the dapper scientist told stories only they knew.

Some of them made me smile, such as his sense of humor. Quite the practical joke he played on Mark Twain. Not sure where his aversion to pearls falls on the scale from endearing to a little crazy. And it’s intriguing that he had wealthy friends and lived in the Waldorf Astoria. Tales of his later life with which I was more familiar make it too easy to forget that his scientific genius paralleled the excessive drive and its resulting wealth of men like Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan in the Gilded Age.

The one that stunned me was the way he reached so far toward the future…our present…when he envisioned the smartphone and wireless internet. He didn’t call his ideas by those terms and they were distinctly Teslaian, but he was spot on with his intentions.

If only he could walk our modern streets, and see so many of us with our personal devices so similar to his own ideas practically glued to our heads, he would revel in our embracing of technology, communication, and connectivity. Sometimes I wonder what our world would be like today, if he lived now instead of then. It’s absolute tragedy that a man so far ahead of his time died a man so misunderstood as he lived. Alone and largely unsung, with pure genius sparking from his mind like the lightning bolts leapt from his Tesla coils.

YouTube is great for many, many tastes. Finding that music video or movie trailer you just have to watch a half dozen times in a row, marveling at a new scientific discovery, watching supercute animals do something supercute…and it can be used as a sort of time machine. By mood, on a whim, the product of obsessive trawling for perfection in all its guises, a world of visual coolness awaits. Today I started looking through Fred Astaire videos on a whim.

Dancing on the ceiling and in the midst of firecrackers, tap dancing with Eleanor Powell and ballroom dancing with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire is always elegant, slightly selfdeprecating perfection. And then there’s this performance .  He’s also apparently a talented drummer. I came across this clip from A Damsel in Distress, and was wowed. What an awesome performance! Drumsticks and shiny shoe tips do their thing on the drums, interspersed with the staccato percussion of his dancing.

Three things kept occurring to me as I watched. One–What an incredible gift that man had. Two–How much he must have practiced to get that entire sequence so perfect. Three–Those drums were surely reinforced somehow to withstand so much kicking!

Fred Astaire. Dancing on air or kicking the heck out of a great big  drum set, he remains a phenomenon to this day.

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