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The Lusty Month of May

Today is the first day of the ancient Celtic summer. Happy Beltaine.

I’m so glad the weather in Pittsburgh is warming up in spite of itself. I’m trying to weed and my feed my lawn. Applying this stuff is like some kind of GRE logic question. The grass must be wet but it can’t be wet from watering it. It must be wet from a recent rain or dew or something 🙄. You must wait 2-4 days after mowing before applying, after a rain, but only when the weather forecast says it won’t be raining in the next 2-4 days.

Screw it. I’m applying it this evening.

The good news is I’m getting a new driveway this week. Yay!! The driveway was already in rough shape when I bought the house 9 years ago but I ran out of money and couldn’t get out of post 2008 financial crash plus pharmageddon precarious employment hell for a long long time. I’m fact, it’s only in the last couple of months that I realized that I will probably not have worry about unemployment that way again. But that means my home improvement projects had to be put on hold for an extended period of time and it’s all catching up with me now. My furnace needs to be replaced. That’s next. Then there are some windows that need to be replaced. So even though my employment woes are over, I need more money to do all of this work. I’m always running the numbers in my head. It drives me crazy because it looks like I’ll have to postpone my vacation for another year so I can pay for having heat this coming winter.

But when I DO go on vacation, I’m going to be able to wear nice shorts again because…

I’m inching (literally) closer to that 5K run. It looks like there is going to be one locally in June, which sounds great except, if you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh then you know that the run could include some soul crushing hills. I live on the hill I used to climb on the way to middle school for a semester and it crushed my little 11 year old soul every morning. If the route includes that hill, I’m going to start looking for a 5K in Iowa.

But I am running. I’m on week 6 of Couch to 5K with my coach, Johnny Dedd. He’s a Walker of the “icepick to the base of the brain” variety. Last Thursday, he got me to run 20 minutes straight. Then I took a couple days off to do other things, like mowing. You’d think mowing one’s lawn would help condition the heart. Alas, Johnny had me doing intervals this morning and it was a killer. Omg. I need a nap.

On the playlist this morning were the usual. I can now run all the way through Jessica without stopping. But I’ve changed it up in the cool down. Today, I revisited two old favorites.

Short skirt, long jacket. This takes me back to lusty months of May past:

And a little tribute to Johnny Dedd:

Tolerance Can Be a Virtue

I am losing track of these stories. My girlfriend finds them and sends them to me, because she finds these as upsetting as I do, for the same reasons, but then I get more upset, particularly because in a larger sense, they just give fodder to the jerks on the Far Right, and their complaining about “cancel culture.”

I’m not on the sets of these movies or shows, and I don’t know what happened in this case or that, but even if I were there and saw the events, there would still be the issues of different stories, depending on one’s perspective.

First, I read that the fine actor Frank Langella was removed from the making of the series. “The Fall of The House of Usher,” which is to be a kind of mix of various Poe tales, and he was to play the lead character Roderick Usher. I actually wrote an essay here about that great story, which I think is one of the most atmospheric horror stories ever written.

Probably this series would not have been too good, much like the other horror mixes they had put on CW. But Langella, famed for his role as Dracula, would have given it a real presence. But he will not, because he was removed from the production, following what appears to have been an actress, maybe the female lead, but I am not sure, complaining. The complaints seem to be that he made a joke which she found offensive; and that he brushed against her leg, and said, “Did you like that?” At least that is what was first reported.

Now, Langella is 84. It is hard for me to imagine that an 84-year old man was so offensive by a joke, and by brushing against her leg, as to warrant being removed from the production. But this does appear to reflect the new times, where it seems that virtually any male on a set survives only if he does not offend some female on the set.

I certainly am not encouraging boorishness, and certainly not graphic and unwelcome advances. But I seriously doubt that Langella made the latter. I actually read his semi-autobiography, which was essentially various light stories about his experiences in acting with various famous actors, mostly women, but some men. The stories were not prurient or graphic at all, but it certainly seemed as if he wanted to impress the reader with how desirable he was to various famous women. After a while, I got tired of reading the vignettes. I was also put off by his very brief remembrance of the wonderful actress Susannah York, where all he could say was that he met her at some event, and thought that it was too bad that her hands looked so old. That was all he had to say about her?

Langella was in a film a decade or so ago, called, “Starting Out in the Evening.” It is a superb film, where he plays a once famous novelist, who has not written anything for ten years, and now is trying to recapture his greatness with a novel. A young and bright woman graduate student wants to write a feature story on him, and they become involved. He begins to feel that she is using him, sapping his creative strength. The movie is very well-written, and Langella gives his role great depth and nuance.

Well, we probably will not be seeing him in any more films, because of his making a joke which offended someone, and brushing her leg. Pfft, just like that. I do not like this kind of thing; I think that in many cases people are using their power to punish someone they don’t like, or who offended them. Now of course men used to get away with all sorts of things on set, and sometimes would get women tossed off films, or directors would bully them. But that doesn’t make this other thing right, either.

Now Bill Murray has been the target of a complaint which has seen production suspended on a film he was to star in, pending an investigation. Murray said, “I did something I thought was funny, and it wasn’t taken that way.” He said that times always changed, and that it is important for “a dog to learn new tricks,” and that he wishes he and the woman who complained could talk about it, and keep working together.

I don’t know what happened, and I don’t much care. Murray is responsible for his own actions. I never was a fan of the early “Saturday Night Live” crowd and their idea of humor. I know that Murray has done some film work which has been highly praised, though I don’t think I have chosen to see any of it. I would like to think that problems on a set are not uncommon, and that they can be worked through. But it seems right now that any male actor is at risk for being removed from a production, if he offended someone. That does not seem to do much to encourage the creative process, from any angle.

I read today that Michael Douglas revealed on some show that he got Debra Winger removed from the leading female role in “Romancing the Stone” because after they and the director had met to discuss the movie, she bit him on the arm as they were leaving. It seems that inappropriately or not, she was giving him a playful bite, but he said that “it broke his skin,” and that he was later screaming in pain. And he told the director or producer that he could not work with Winger, so she was replaced by Kathleen Turner. That is another example of using power in Hollywood, which is unfortunately done too often by insecure or power-addicted people.

Don’t we know that the Langella and Murray stories, and undoubtedly more stories to come, will be exploited by the Far Right as examples of “cancel culture”? In that sense, are we “winning some battles, but losing the war”? I can’t tell actors what to do, and what they should or should not be offended by. Actors are usually very thin-skinned and possibly neurotic people. The thing here is that the producers and networks have become so sensitive to such stories, that they usually choose to just remove the male who offended someone.

We know that the fascists who are trying to ban books from libraries and classrooms, are the real suppressors of art and ideas. And they of course love to project, and to accuse “The Left” of suppressing various people. They made a big thing about some “Dr. Seuss” books being taken out of publishing, though it was the publishing heirs who did it. I never read “Dr. Seuss,” and I could see how some of the drawings might have upset people, but is it worth it to pull the books? I think that the “Uncle Remus” stories were wonderful, but you won’t ever see Disney’s “Song of the South” feature again, and I don’t want to look to see what has happened to the absolutely charming “Uncle Remus” collections of stories.

This is taking us far afield, but in some way it all ties together. The book-burners could get rid of 80% of the library books, and they would keep trying to get rid of every single one which has anything in it that they disagree with. And more actors will be taken off productions for offending a woman, or an ethnic minority, and they will be compelled to confess to heresies, and beg forgiveness, to keep their careers. None of this is good, and yet our society now is so susceptible to it.

I would choose to have almost all books kept in libraries and bookstores; movies and television to not be so predictably socially correct, almost like the Morality plays of centuries ago; and for a kind of Neo-Puritanism to stop its increase in the world of entertainment. Each matter has different facts, but the trends are noticeable. And the more you try to eliminate those who may offend, the more of the less conventional and boundary-testing people you lose, until the actors are as bland as the stories that are written for them.