The numbers don't add up for the financing of a film production because it's really a front for human trafficking and drug dealing. An uptight bank investigator gets framed for the crime he is investigating.
We expect him to be no match for the Russian mob and their psychopathic enforcers, but he applies his analytical mind to each situation and beats them at their own game.
Michael Keaton deserves a lot of credit for pulling this off. The easy choice would have shown this numbers nerd discovering a side of himself he never knew existed and becoming an action hero. Instead Keaton remains the same guy throughout the film. He's just solving different kinds of problems. Very cool.
Michael Caine is predictably wonderful as the star of the fake film and Judith Godreche provides credible support in the always thankless role of the girl in the action film.
This film from 2003 went "straight-to-video." Back then no theatrical release meant no one believed in the film enough to back it. Fortunately it's still around for streaming. It's a conventional thriller with more light moments than usual. I found it entertaining.
Next stop: Japan.
Oceanside cliffs are common in and around San Francisco. This one is just around the corner from the Golden Gate. It's kind of awesome to stand here and think that if you head due west, the next land you reach will be Japan.
The National Park Service has placed the Land's End Lookout here so you can have a cup of coffee and a sandwich while contemplating the immensity of the globe.
You can also learn a bit about the history of this spot or pick up a sweat shirt in case you came here thinking all of California is sunny and warm.
On a really clear day, you can see three tiny triangles on the horizon. They are the Farallon Islands. The water between here and there is the Gulf of the Farralons. It is home to the largest population of great white sharks in the world.
This is a great place to be glad you're on dry land.
San Francisco's historic cable cars are popular but misunderstood.
They are not trolleys. Trolleys are powered by electric lines overhead. Cable cars are powered by a system of cables that move constantly in channels beneath the street. The gripman operates a clutch that grips the cable, causing the car to move, and releases the cable to stop the car.
They aren't used for transportation any more. There used to be fourteen lines fanning out over the eastern portion of the city. They were invented because there were accidents involving teams of horses pulling heavy loads up the steep hills in the city.
Now there are just two lines. The Powell Street car runs from Market Street, up and over Nob Hill and winds up a Fisherman's Wharf. At either end you can watch a turntable turn the car around to go the other way. It is hugely popular with tourists
The California Street car (pictured above) starts near the Embarcadero, runs up and over Nob Hill and ends at Van Ness Avenue. The latter half of the ride is mostly residential and there's no tourist destination. Usually there's no waiting in line for this one. Just hop on!
I suppose every now and then someone rides them just to get from here to there, but mostly they are museum pieces, and delightful ones at that, although they are expensive.
Three years ago, I read Lawrence Block's Writing the Novel from Plot to Print. I read it again in 2018. In 2019, I re-read in more than once and found useful tips to keep me going.
When I saw that Block had published an updated version with "to Pixel" added to the title, I wasn't interested. The original, published in 1978, addresses all the fundamental problems a novelist must solve. Those things don't change. I didn't think a guy who has been traditionally published since the 1950s could have much to say about digital publishing. I was wrong.
In the early 2010s, Block began experimenting with self-publishing on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and others. He speaks from experience. This updated version contains everything in the original plus three new chapters: "The Case for Self-Publishing," "The Case Against Self-Publishing," and "How to Be Your Own Publisher." His analysis is valuable.
Writing in 2016, he says repeatedly that digital self-publishing will continue changing, and indeed it has in the last three years. But here again he focuses essential problems---things that don't change. If your thinking of upping your game as a novelist, it's worth getting this new version.
I've also tried Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. It's good, but there's a lot of overlap with Writing the Novel. Just get the 2016 expanded version and be done It is one of my three essential writing craft books.
Like The Thicket, this tale is set in East Texas during the Great Depression. In a small town that has grown up around a saw mill, the mill hands work long hours for low pay. But they are lucky. The migrants who work the farms sometimes get cheated out of their pay.
Not only is there poverty, there is also racism and sexism. Lansdale depicts the lynchings, the beatings, the physical and psychological abuse, and does so in the language of that time. He does not filter words and phrases we no longer use.
Also like The Thicket, this is a tale of a team---a band of brothers and sisters---who come together out of necessity and oppose the overwhelming cruelty of their world.
Sunset, a woman so named for her flaming red hair, becomes constable of the mill town through a series of unlikely events and pulls together an unlikely crew of deputies and enforcers.
The horrors of this violent world become bearable because these people do what they can to oppose it. They do so, not because they are idealists, but because they want to survive.