Sunday, October 5, 2014

One, two, three. . . KISS!!

The hottest kiss in movie history!

YES: it's here in gif form, at long last, after seven years of waiting: my favorite scene from my absolute-favorite Harold Lloyd movie, Why Worry?

It's romantic and sexy enough that this is set on a tropical island where a revolution ferments. But it also has a kind of subconscious romance going on, with (ultimately) explosive results. Harold plays a hopeless hypochondriac, a self-absorbed fussbudget oblivious to the longing glances of his gorgeous nurse, Jobyna Ralston. That is. . . until the very end, when something erupts.

In typical wacky Lloydian fashion, he asks her indignantly, "Why didn't you tell me I love you?" But by this time, Jobyna knows he's in the bag. All she has to do is stand there and wait.

And here it is, one of the hottest, most impetuous kisses I've seen in silent film - or talkie film - or ANY film, for that matter. He doesn't just grab, he SEIZES her while she reacts with a kind of violent spasm, resists him (very weakly), then  melts into his arms, even doing a subtle leg-pop that might have been a first in motion pictures. Up to this point, movie kisses were coy, taking place behind screens or during the fadeout, or followed by big happy-happy grins of boyish glee. What makes it even more exciting is the fact that all through the movie there are not-so-subtle hints that Harold is attracted to her, but refuses to let himself know it. She plays him like a fish for an hour and two minutes, then lands him like a pro.

But it gets even better. The camera pans away for a few seconds, as if to let your eyeballs cool off a bit, then comes back to the lovers, who are STILL KISSING. As I researched Harold's life, I came across several references to his affair with Ralson. This was their first movie together, meaning that we have a sort of Bogart and Bacall thing going, with sparks flying that show up onscreen. Her utter confidence in her charms, her adorable boy's clothing, her swivelling hips - well. Harold never was much of one for marital fidelity .We all have our frailties, and in this case resistance was futile.

I had no idea up to now that my gif program could handle an hour-long movie (in fact, it probably couldn't, and must have been upgraded by the site at some point) or that I could set it up "blind" without using the slider, but voila et voici! Now I want to gif the entire movie, and I might just try it, doing it in 10-second installments. There are many great moments in this film, and I still maintain that with its upside-down dynamics and general wackiness, it's the first screwball comedy ever made, the prototype for everything that came after.

And just when I'm tired of Harold Lloyd, or at least tired of the heartbreak of a book that probably isn't going anywhere, something like this comes along.

SPECIAL BONUS PHOTO! Only a few still photos exist of this amazing scene, likely "captures" taken directly from the film. This one is new to me, with Jobyna's right arm registering surprise and her leg-pop at its maximum. The more I look at this, the more eyebrow-raising it is, because it really does look as if their lower bodies are touching. Was Hal Roach asleep that day? Why doesn't anyone say anything about this? I'm sure I don't know.

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Dear sir or madam, will you read my book, take two (or three)


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

Should my books be free? Sure, Bub!

I decided to run a comment (below) which was posted in reply to Russell Smith's Globe and Mail column about the ascendency of blockbuster books (i.e. Fifty Shades of Grey), which have rendered the moderately-selling "midlist" novel practically obsolete. I found Russell Smith's piece oddly comforting because it made me realize (unlike all the other forces around me, which seem to be telling me it's all my fault) that all this is driven by global economic conditions and not the personal failure that has sometimes rendered me suicidal. In fact I  have re-run it a couple of times, as a reality check and to keep me from jumping off the bridge.

But this is the first time I have read the comments. I took the name off this - something I would normally never do - because it's a comment, not an article, and because I'm not maligning this writer so much as demonstrating just how desperate we have become just to get our work out there.

It seems it's now necessary to give our work away in mass quantities, powered by something called (astonishingly) BookBub, in order to eventually take in "hundreds of dollars" by selling our books at the astonishing price of  $2.99! But how to sustain yourself on a few hundred dollars? Is that a living wage? Where has our dignity gone?

What bothers me most of all however is the eagerness, the excitement, the sense of promise, even gratitude for this opportunity, the "next big thing" for writers. No one seems to see the sweating desperation behind it, but maybe that's because nobody feels it any more.  Give it away? Are our stories worth literally nothing, after so many years of hard work, reams of time, careful crafting and praying for opportunity? Must we grovel and scrape and learn to love Big Brother to get anywhere at all, to keep from dropping into the pit of oblivion that swallowed me a long time ago?

I can't keep up with things like this, or with ugly, even grotesque names like BookBub. At first I thought this was satire. It had to be. Then I PRAYED it was satire: Jesus, look at the lengths we have to go to, just to get our work into people's hands and people's skulls! Then, with a sickening feeling of the floor dropping out from under me, I realized it was true. Not only that - you have to PAY them to give your work away, in full knowledge of the fact that in our money-driven culture, free things are generally perceived as worthless, of interest only to garbage-pickers and other scavenger types.

This is what we must do and even what we must feel good about in these shark-infested waters. We must keep up with all the new warts popping up, infestations that ask YOU to pay THEM so that you can get your books out there for free.  I am constantly told, "well, Margaret, that's just what you have to do these days, you don't have any choice, just hold your nose and do it." Open your legs, and close your mind.

No thanks. I'd rather be a no-list writer, keep my dignity, and make my few hundred dollars from actual sales of actual books, bought by actual people. And that's the way it's going to stay - Bub.

Mr. Smith offers us a snapshot of a continuously evolving process. No one knows what publishing will be like a year from now, or two, or ten. We are making it up as we go along.

I'm what the industry calls a midlist author, neither a bestselling star nor a miserable failure. I'm paid (though not very much) for the sf and crime novels and short stories I write, and my readership occupies a definable niche well away from the middle of the bell curve.

To see what the long tail might mean to me, nine months ago I began self-publishing my backlist -- books that had been trade-published but whose rights had reverted back to me -- as well as collections of short stories that had appeared in mass-market magazines. I found I could sell ten ebooks a day, which didn't make me rich but it did give me an income stream from past work that otherwise had no commercial value. 

But then the sales began to trail off, despite all the Facebooking, blogging, and tweeting to which we midlisters are encouraged to devote daily time. So I cast around for another strategy and came across BookBub. It's a service that advertises ebook bargains (free or 99 cents) to more than a million subscribers.

I reduced the price of one of my sf titles to zero, and for $80 BookBub sent an email to 240,000 sf ebook readers. In 24 hours, some 15,000 people downloaded the free text off Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. Now I wait and see how many of those freebie-takers will come back and buy one of my $2.99 titles. 

Even if only one or two per cent do so, I will earn hundreds of dollars from that $80 investment. If ten per cent come back for more, I'll take in thousands.

The thing is, I couldn't have done any of this two years ago, because BookBub didn't exist before January 2012. Now it's a serious player for self-publishers needing marketing support. And next year, or the year after, some bright spark will come up with yet another profitable way to help us authors make money off the long tail.

Because this revolution is just getting started.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

(WARNING: this is a real book, sold for real money. But not too much. I promise you!)

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!