Monday September 25

This is my first entry in what I plan to be a weekly update. Just an overview of last week, my plans for this week, and some talk about living in Fairbanks, Alaska, movies, books, and maybe the occasional home improvement project. Read at your own risk.

September 25

The view from my office window at 5pm today

This morning the sun rose at 7:46am, and it set at 7:39pm. The high temperature was in the upper forties with a low in the upper thirties. And it rained, straight down, all day.

Last Week

Metropolist

I showed Jason the movie Metropolis (Amazon affiliate link), and he enjoyed it. This movie gets better every time I watch it. Like most older movies, it’s reassuring how much things haven’t really changed.

Wonter Womyn

We rented Wonder Woman (Amazon affiliate link) from Blockbuster. It’s the best DC movie I’ve seen since The Dark Knight, but I wasn’t exactly blown away. It felt very paint-by-numbers to me. Enjoyable but forgettable.

And I see James Cameron’s point about it being a step backwards. Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley were heroic badasses who paid no attention to their appearance and were attractive anyway. Every Amazon lady in this movie looked like she was styled for a magazine shoot. Sort of like the airbrushed abs in 300. Hey, I understand the aesthetic. Pretty people are much easier to look at. But I don’t think a gorgeous woman running and wearing an outfit like that is especially groundbreaking, let alone a victory for women everywhere.

Debt Mtn

I wanted to read this book, Dead Mountain (Amazon affiliate link), ever since Caitlin Doughty (of YouTube’s @AskaMortician and on Instagram @TheGoodDeath) recommended it.

It’s the story of nine mountaineers who died mysteriously on a mountain in Russia in the 50’s. Was it aliens? Government conspiracy? Yeti? Alien yeti working for the government?

The local library has the ebook to borrow via Hoopla, and I happily checked it out. Then I found out that Hoopla isn’t available on my Kindle. So I got the app on my phone, opened the book, and the margins cut off the first few letters of each line. No big deal right? Adjust the margins and read! Until I turn the page and the margins move back. Again. And again. Every time I turn a page. Crap.

I don’t know if it’s the way this ebook was formatted or if it’s a Hoopla thing. If anybody knows how to make Hoopla behave on the iPhone, please let me know. Or better yet, if you know of a way to get Hoopla books onto Kindles, I would love to hear it!

In the meantime, I started re-reading the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. Once I start reading that series I compulsively burn through all thirteen books. So I’m forcing myself to only read it while walking on the treadmill.

Yes, I have to trick myself into exercising.

Last week we sold our old Volvo. We bought it when we got here in March. It was going to take nearly a month for our Civic to get up here, and then it wouldn’t be ready to drive until it warmed up. A rental car would be incredibly expensive (Alaska!) so we bought a twenty year old Volvo. It was still pretty nice and took great care of us, and even though stuff kept breaking Jason was able to keep it running. But when the transmission started to fail, that was too much. I was worried we’d have to just scrap it, which would be like putting down a pet, so I’m glad Jason found a buyer. And yes, the guy knew exactly what he was buying.

I also attempted the keto diet last week. I didn’t make it past the keto flu. I have a very tender tummy and irritable bowel. Any change to my diet is tough, but trying to eat so much fat was just too much for me. Oh well.

 

This Week

Settling into a new place seems to take longer the older I get. We’re nearly settled into this house…seven months later. Our bedroom closet is the last real disaster area. It’s the only place in the house truly off limits to the cats, so it’s overflowing with all kinds of junk. The bad thing is, there’s a single shelf with a single bar, and that’s it. It’s a good sized walk-in closet, but the space is wasted (which was definitely this house’s theme).

I’m going to empty it out, try to get rid of the stuff we never wear, find new cat-proof homes for the breakables (my poor knitting needles and yarn!), and see if I can’t make better use of the space.

Next weekend is our twelve year wedding anniversary. So far the plan is to finally go see It and then go to our favorite restaurant, Taco King. Fairbanks is not known for great restaurants, and this little Mexican place is so far the very best we’ve found. Who doesn’t love tacos?

 

Bye!

Book Review: Dizzy & Jimmy

Dizzy & Jimmy by Liz Sheridan.

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Here’s the first part of the very long blurb from the dust jacket:

A long time ago, when I was a young dancer in New York City, I fell in love with Jimmy Dean and he fell in love with me.

So begins this beguiling memoir of Liz “Dizzy” Sheridan’s passionate yet ill-fated romance with the young, magnetic, soon-to-be-supernova James Dean. The year was 1951. Dean had recently arrived in Manhattan in search of Broadway stardom. Sheridan was a tall, graceful aspiring dancer. They met one rainy afternoon in the parlor of the Rehearsal Club, a chaperoned boarding house for young actresses–and before long Dizzy and Jimmy were inseparable. Together they hunted for jobs, haunted all-night bars and diners, and gloried in the innocent rebellion of early ’50s bohemian New York. Dizzy Sheridan and James Dean were lovers; they lived together; as even ardent Dean fans may be surprised to learn, they were engaged to be married. But when Dean began to find success on the Broadway stage and then was lured to Hollywood, the couple parted amid tears and broken dreams–dreams that would be dashed forever when Dean died in a car crash in 1955, not long after seeing Dizzy for the last time.

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This is James Dean. Unless you’re interested in him (or Liz Sheridan herself), this book probably won’t be interesting to you unless you really enjoy memoirs about young love.

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Ms. Sheridan, “Dizzy”, was a dancer and an actress. You might recognize her from Alf or from playing Jerry’s mom on Seinfeld.

Dizzy and Jimmy were best friends and lovers for over a year, and this book is her memoir of those times. It is fantastically classy and tasteful, relatable, funny, and romantic (aching heart, tears flowing, warm romance). She shares personal moments and the intimate details of their relationship. Because the book was published about fifty years after the romance there’s no way the included dialogue is verbatim, but one never really forgets the way another person spoke or behaved. And it’s those little details that really made me feel like I was living through the romance with them. This book, more than any other I’ve read, really helped me to understand what spending time with a man as complicated as James Dean would have actually been like.

As a great big James Dean fan, I’ve read several James Dean biographies in the last twenty years. Most of them leave a lot to be desired. But what was always conspicuously absent from those books was Dizzy Sheridan. Typically they would give her what amounted to a footnote: “Oh yeah, he also, um, dated Dizzy Sheridan for a year and they were engaged.  Moving on!” She wasn’t even featured as a character in the James Franco movie based on his life. This always bugged me. Those biographies would be filled with anecdotes from random people who only met Jimmy once in passing, but the biographer didn’t even bother to speak to Dizzy?

But now I know–she didn’t speak to them. Their relationship was theirs, and not for the public. When James Dean died so suddenly, only one of his movies had been released. And as Rebel Without a Cause came out, and then Giant, the public were in a frenzy to get everything James Dean they could find. The studios capitalized on this and produced all kinds of photos and fictitious interviews, even an entire movie, anything they could conjure to satisfy the public. But Dizzy remained silent.

I don’t know why she finally decided to write about her relationship with Jimmy, but I am grateful to her and I hope she doesn’t regret it. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for her, both to experience Jimmy’s passing and then to write about it. Hopefully writing it down brought her some kind of peace or closure. After finishing the book, I think Dizzy would be a wonderful person to know, and I completely understand why Jimmy was in love with her.

If you’re interested in reading about James Dean, this book would be a great place to start.

Book Review: Vivien

Vivien The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker

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I picked up a copy of this biography of Vivien Leigh years ago when I was going through a biography kick. Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite movies, and I always wondered why she didn’t appear in many films after that. I knew she suffered from bipolar disorder and passed away at a young age due to tuberculosis, but that was as far as my knowledge of Ms. Leigh went.

After finishing this book, I know that Ms. Leigh didn’t make many movies because she preferred performing in the theatre. The book also told me about her two marriages and her daughter, along with a chronological listing of the main events of her life.

But, I didn’t learn anything I couldn’t have easily discovered on her IMDb page or her wikipedia page.

The book is divided into three sections: Leigh (her first husband), Larry (her second husband), and Jack (her male companion at the end of her life). Frustratingly, the book reads more like an ode to these men rather than a biography of Ms. Leigh. In fact, I suspect the author really wanted to write a biography of Sir Laurence Olivier (aka Larry) but couldn’t get a publisher to pay him for that due to the many already available Olivier biographies, not to mention Sir Laurence’s autobiography.

And so this book feels like a lengthy anecdote regarding Olivier’s second wife and how she affected his life. Here and there you catch a glimpse of what Ms. Leigh might have been like herself, but these moments always came across as detached and offhand. She had a great many friends and admirers, and was not without her eccentricities, but all of this was told through the eyes of men agonized by being in love with a woman with bipolar disorder. And, the author seems to presume that anyone reading this book is already well aware of Ms. Leigh’s diagnosis and personality. It’s the rare biography that was written for her friends and family instead of her fans.

I’ve read many biographies, but this is the first one that felt voyeuristic to me. Despite the book’s missing personal details, I felt as though I was invading Ms. Leigh’s privacy. If this book taught me anything it was that she was acutely aware of her fans and her public persona, and that maintaining her proper, graceful image was terribly important to her. So really, why should any respectful biography of Vivien Leigh contain any personal details?

And why should I read biographies, anyway? Just because someone is famous does not mean their privacy is forfeit or that I have any right to know their life story. I stopped buying magazines years ago because I got so tired of my dollar funding paparazzi photos. And now I can’t help but think that biographies are just another part of that intrusive industry.

I pulled the rest of the unread contemporary biographies from my shelves. They’ll go to Good Will with this one.