2016-02-08

Lost Songs: Everything She Wants

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One thing I'm fascinated by is how little Lady Steed's and my respective knowledge of '80s music overlaps. She knows George Michael's solo work (I don't); this song was just on the radio and she had never heard it before. I know country and saccharine; she knows new wave and hair bands. We do overlap here and there of course (Bon Jovi, natch), but not a lot.

How horrible not to know this song! (And holy crap: this song is really long.) As Lady Steed points out, it has no proper chorus, just an wordless bit between parts where a chorus would normally go. It's still a fully hooks-laden song however, just like folks want now, even though it's about as transgressive as, I don't know, "Hey Jude."

Which are strange observations to have now. As a kid, this was a song I simply loved. It was one I hated to interrupt, one I wanted to listen to all the way to the end. I think what holds up is the almost minimalist use of '80s extravagance---everything's reduced to a series of beats with soaring nonsense and hardluck overlaid.

Or, you know, whatever.

2016-02-06

Practicing (attempting?) occasional poetry, week two

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Wife crashes her own funeral, horrifying her husband, who had paid to have her killed

February 5, 2016



Surprise! I’m still alive!
In olden times, when your brains were out,
you died. But do they now rise again?
Which of you have done this?
You cannot say I did ought.
I stand here. I see her.
This is more strange
than any murder—
I do forget.

Surprise! I’m still alive!
But do not muse at me, my most worthy friends.
Give me wine! Love and health to us all!
Let us drink to my dear wife, Noela,
whom we miss. And do not see.
Would she were here!
Quit my sight, fiend,
your flesh is cold,
marrowless. . . .

Surprise! I’m still alive!
Take any shape but hers, and my nerves shall yet—
Cold breath gives shape to the heat of deeds. . . .
Hence, horrible shadow! I am free of you!
Hence, unreal thing—! They too see?
Credit not my strange self-abuse
to being steeped in her blood.
I am her man! Sit still,
bloody Noela. I—

2016-02-02

AML AWARD: fiction nominees

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As you may recall, all I really want in life is an AML Award. This dream cane true in 2011 when I was awarded an editing award for the Sunstone comics issue. As is the way with humans, however, I then discovered I was not satisfied. I still wanted one, but in my true field: fiction.

Well, this year I'm taking a step closer, having been shortlisted. Shortlisted, I might add, against some incredible competition. In fact, the entire list of fiction nominations in all three categories is a Venn diagram of great writers and good friends, with plenty of people in the middle.

Let's start with my category, short fiction:

Remainder” by Spencer Hyde
Someone new for me to discover! Delight!
The Naked Woman” by Theric Jepson
I'm quite proud of this story but it never occurred to me it might interest the judges. I know who one of the judges is and I'm immensely flattered that a writer of his quality thinks well enough of my story to nominate it, notwithstanding its lack of explicit Mormon content.
Absolute Zero” by Scott Parkin
I haven't read enough of Scott's work. I take this as an appropriate upbrainding.
An Immense Darkness” by Eric James Stone
Eric's willingness to participate in Monsters & Mormons was one of the major immediate lendings of legitimacy to the entire project. I haven't read this one, but it's online, so I'll get on that.

Short-story collection:

Dark Watch and Other Mormon-American Stories by William Morris
I love William, I have this collection, have read much of it in the past, but haven't read it straight through yet as a collection.
Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction by Steve L. Peck
I love Steven, I have this collection, have read much of it in the past, but haven't read it straight through yet as a collection.
Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives by Karen Rosenbaum
I love Karen, I have this collection, have read much of it in the past, but haven't read it straight through yet as a collection.
Seriously. They could not be nominating three people I admire more.


Novel:

The Agitated Heart by J. Scott Bronson
I've been hearing about this book for years. I didn't know until just recently that it was finally available.
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
I think I have an ARC of this book. I haven't started it yet because I was lent another Correia book by a friend which I . . . am having a hard time getting through. Maybe this one would've been a better place to start.
His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison
I like hanging with Mette on Twitter. Here's my take on the book.
Sistering by Jennifer Quist
Her fist book was one of my favorites of recent history so I bought this as soon as it came out. Still haven't read it though . . . .

2016-01-30

Rattle: Poets Respond

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The online poetry magazine Rattle has a cool weekly feature, a poem responding to current events. Rattle overall is a pretty great little zine, but I like the challenge of a weekly response-to-now and so I'm going to try and submit every week. I'm not in it for the fifty bucks, though---I'm in it for the craft.

This first week's submission just got rejected, so I'm going to share it here. I'm not surprised it wasn't chosen; besides the over-a-hundred-competitors-a-week thing, it just wasn't all that great. The sort of poem you let lie fallow for a few weeks before returning to it. But that wasn't an option!

Here you are:


A Sonnet for Iowa

The apocalypse is scheduled for Monday,
she says outside her usual channels of irony.
The apocalypse, she says, starting in Iowa. And who
could have seen that coming? I mean—trampolines
were invented in Iowa, sure, and I'm not alone in my
broken-boned childhood, but the only existential
concerns I recall are those I shared with Michael Collins,
1969, as he flew alone around the moon.

The rapture is near. He smiles as he changes channels,
searching for more good news. He will caucus as he waits,
not because it will matter but because, come judgment,
he wishes to declare that he has done his share, disregarding
that no mere man can return the lost to innocence and glory.
Touch me. Touch me, Son of God.

2016-01-28

Lost Songs: "Everything for Free"

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I was scrolling through a list I made on Spotify of the music I listened to largely the year before and the year after my mission. I made this list early in my Spotify run thinking I would frequently be nostalgic. In fact, I've barely touched it since. But glancing over it, I felt like spending some time with K's Choice.

K's Choice is one of my favorite '90s bands but, like the Cranberries, say, not a band I listen to anymore. And since they're not on the radio, that means I just never hear them anymore. I suppose I may have heard "I'm an Addict" on a tv show or something, but it's literally been years since I've listened to K's Choice. Even more remarkably, they seem to have fallen out of rotation on the ol' internal jukebox.

My favorite K's Choice album is Cocoon Crash. And having spent the last two days reliving it, rightly so. While some of the lyrics are a bit inane ("Too many happy faces / I wonder what that means / Are you personally offended by an iron on your jeans / Too many happy faces / is that more than you can bear? / Or is it part of what you should be / Lack of hygiene in your hair"), overall these foreigners' use of English has a certain purity that I imagine is somewhat like reading Beckett in French.

The first K's Choice song I ever knew came on a Lilith Fair cd and in the point of view of a girl at a mental institution (I've never seen the video before):


I could write about every song on this album as something that matters too me and is a shame I haven't heard in ages, but I'm reacting against my Ronnie Milsap post---and "Everything for Free is emblematic of what's great about just about every song on this album.

Starts quiet and gets loud? Check.

Fun to sing in a car while speeding and the speakers about to explode? Check.

Emotionally resonant with perfectly balanced lines? Check.

Slightly insane? Skip the slightly and check!

In fact, "Everything for Free" being about insanity makes it all the better. These balanced lines can be interchanged and swapped around and the sense of barely holding onto sanity is only emphasized.

I thought putting this album on would get old quickly, but I haven't grown out of K's Choice. I hope I never will. Next up: their new album.

2016-01-23

A Year of Checkbox Reading

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2016

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This year I'm planning on doing something a little different with my book reading. Most of the books I record every year are books I started not long before finishing them. Here's the times from 2015:
six months
week plus
about under a mouth
three or four or more weeks
17 days
one evening
about nine days
maybe fifteen hours
most of a week
twoïsh weeks
week
under a week
four days
month and half
minutes
about two weeks
TIME
literally years
mere minutes
two or three weeks
two nights
two days
one lying-in-bed
half a week
under a month
maybe three weeks
two or three days
three days
about a month
i dunno maybe a month
two days
one evening and past midnight
one evening and past midnight
fourish days
about five days
two or three days
four months or so
two nights
a month or two
since spring training
a few months
maybe two weeks
two and from school
under a week
under a week
a couple days
two days
two nights
two days
one night
one day
two days
two days
two or three days
about a week
about nine months
a few days
five days
TIME
during our drive south
a small number of weeks
one day
two days
maybe five years
a week
morning
TIME
just over three months
not long
ishly, two weeks
weekish
a few days
two weeks max
four days
three days
six days
over two weeks
less than a month
evening
two nights
over a month
two-plus months
one morning and afternoon
maybe two weeks
over two weeks
one day
TIME
an evening
over a month methinks
maybe two weeks
over two months
took me one week
under a week
four days
four weeks
five days
five days
about a week
a few days
a couple weeks or so
five months or more although the bulk of the book in about two weeks
about eleven days
early afternoon
briefly
eight of ten days
off and on on an evening
a few weeks
morning
a few measured, treasured weeks
perhaps two weeks
two days
one eventide
two days
two days
ten days
TIME
maybe as long as six months
maybe three weeks
an hour
dunno but let's say an hour again
Yeah, baby. That's the finest of found poetry right there.

What I notice first is that I surprisingly frequently forgot to record how long I'd spent reading something. The second surprise was a typo. Shameful.

Anyway, the point is that most of those times are quite short and only two broke a year. This is misleading. I'm probably in the middle of a couple dozen books I've been working on for over a year. Me not finishing things is a problem. I started Rejected Books and Unfinished Books to officially give up on books, but many many more books am I still technically "reading."

So this year, 2016, I am going to focus on books I've already started. I've done this before, but this year the plan is to not start anything new all year long (with some exceptions to be noted later). This will almost certainly means 2016 won't be a century year because, you know, Don Quixote will take longer to read than half a dozen comics collections picked off the new shelf at the library. But that's okay. I loved the first fifty pages of Don Quixote when I read it at my cousin's house when Lady Steed and I spent a month with him in 2000. Now that I finally have my own copy, I'm looking forward to finishing it.

Don Quixote is unusual though in that it doesn't already have a bookmark in it and that I'll feel like I should restart at the beginning. Most of the books lying around I'm in the middle of aren't like that. For instance the one, two, three, four, five, six, seven . . . eight . . . nine . . . ten . . . at least ten short-story collections I am currently "actively" reading. I also have a few novels I've hesitated to declare either Unfinished or Rejected. Now I will have to either finish them or not. This will be a year of cleaning house.

Eleven! At least eleven short-story collections. And half as many poetry collections.

Right now I'm thinking I may make 2017 a year in which I am only allowed to read books I own but haven't opened. And maybe 2018 I can try actually rereading for a change! But we'll see. Those years are still a ways off.

Now for the exceptions to this rule:

Books I've already spiritually begun: Primarily by this I mean books in series. For instance, I will read the next two volumes of the Complete Peanuts this year and I may knock out a couple more volumes of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone books as well. Anything I checked out of the library before New Years also fits in here.

Recently published books that are in my wheelhouse to review: Mormon comics, Mormon fiction. Books publishers mail me. That sort of thing.

Books I can't get out of being lent: If someone presses a book on me and I feel obliged to take it, I will read it. (Also includes books I should have returned long, long ago but never started. Mostly we're talking Wodehouse here.)

Now let's examine the first four finished books of this year, shall we?

001: MEETS CRITERIA

002: checked out of library before new year

003: checked out of library after new year but before making this resolution

004: in my review wheelhouse

(I'll get better.)



004) Mormon Shorts, Vol I by Scott Hales, finished January 23

I'll be giving this a more significant review on A Motley Vision.

two days



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003) Shirt in Heaven by Jean Valentine, finished January 18

This book felt valedictory. Valentine spends a lot of her wordcount dropping names of friends and colleagues and peers and heroes. The collection is held together in a handful of connected series, but I just read through it once. Her phrasings are a pleasure to read, but it feels a bit too me-and-my-buds for me to get too excited about rerereading to get all the details down.
maybe a couple weeks



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002) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, finished January 14

Parts of this book are achingly beautiful. To pick an example I'll wager does not get talked about much, take Park's relationship with his father. Park's a teenager and thinks his dad is, like, the worst, and so it takes us a while to uncover how strong and healthy it is. The moment they speak before Park leaves near the end of the book is achingly wonderful. So sure this is a book about two teenagers falling in love, but it would not work as well as it does were the supporting cast not as truly drawn as they are. Another example from near the end of the book would be the revelation that the seemingly bullies aren't that way in their own minds---and they have a chance to serve as the good guys without realizing they are behaving any differently.

In short, I think this is a book about teenagers misunderstanding the world.

Which is a fun discovery because near the beginning Eleanor dismisses Romeo and Juliet as not being about. She thinks it's Shakespeare making fun of young love. And she's not wrong, but that doesn't mean she's exactly right either. Is Shakespeare making fun of the obsessiveness and everythingness of young love? Yes. But he does so in a world with real people fully drawn whose tragedies are real. So is Rowell.

Now, she's not really "making fun" of young love, but she does recognize that it is both fleeting---and something that can change you forever.

And so it is.

And so when ever her villain progresses from a bully and a jerk to an abuser to someone with a potential for kindness to someone truly evil to someone merely pathetic---you can see she knows the man. She has compassion for him. He may be a failed human, but he is a human.

And so I'm not going to worry too much about my complaints about the book. Some (such as some seeming anachronisms) aren't that important, really, to the novel as a work of art. Others get overwhelmed by the what the book does right.

My only real complaint is a personal one and I recognize it has more to do with choices I made as a teenager than anything to do with Eleanor & Park.
maybe a week maybe more maybe less but about a week



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001) Spy School by Stuart Gibbs, finished January 9

My son loves this book and lent it to me a long time ago---I think two summers ago? when he got it from the library's reading program?---but I didn't get that far before Lady Steed cleaned our room and it and another book I was reading disappeared until about a week ago. But now I've finished it!

It . . . was fine. It's a kids book. Which I don't mean exactly pejoratively, but kind of I do. It's a good introduction to spy fiction and it's twist is that it takes place at a 7-12 school for spies. It has, you know, a pretty girl and a bully and stuff.

It also has, within ten pages, this: THE PROTAGONIST HAS BEEN IN THE DARK FOR HOURS WHEN HE IS SUDDENLY ATTACKED! IN A FEW MOMENTS WHEN HIS EYES ADJUST....

So there's stuff like that.

That said, it was a fun enough book. I sure I would have loved it when I was my son's age. I'm glad he loved it. (And I'm glad he has picked up and is reading Lord of the Rings. His world is about to get much, much bigger.)
approximately seventeen months




_____________________

* most recent post in this series *

__


final booky posts of
2015 = 2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007



2016-01-07

Lost Songs: Ronnie Milsap sings "Any Day Now" /
(special Ronnie Milsap edition)

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Lost Songs is a series in which I consider songs that matter to me for some reason but which I have not heard in at least three years.

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On the last post in this series, my nine-years-younger brother said, "Whenever you go country in these posts, I see huge overlaps in our musical past." Which doesn't surprise me when we're in the 90s, but I am surprised when I go back further in time. I don't remember country radio in California having much sense of history (and yes, for those stations, the 80s was history). But then some of these songs are only country because that's how they identify, genitalia be damned. This song ain't all that country.

Anyway, it's permanently lodged in my internal jukebox. Any phrase composed of the words any, day, or now can set me off for the better part of an hour.

Interestingly (to me), this isn't the original rendition of the song. In fact, this version is the way it is in part to set it apart from the previous best-known version, which I'd never heard before (I think) until right . . . now !


Yup. Although the instrumentation reminds me of some other sweet 60s songs, I don't think I've heard this before. Pretty nice!

Back to the country thing. One reason I do go country about half the time in this series is because I live in a major metro area without a country station and, really, I hardly ever think to pull up country on the ol' Spotify. Country is a huge part of my past, but it's not that significant a part of my present.

Ah, time.

When you search YouTube for "ronnie milsap any day now," after a few vids of that song, this next one comes up. I don't think I know the title, but what do you want to bet I know it and like it and haven't heard it in at least three years! #LostSongs!


Ohhhhh, yeah. Definitely know this one. Record seems to have a skip though....

Man, I love this song.

File it under songs i didnt know have sex in them until i was much older.

Hey! Now in the side bar is this old favorite! I don't think I've heard it since c. 2000 when I included it on a honeymoon roadtrip mix cd because I found it in my fiancee's parents' record collection! And below that's another beloved! And there's another Ronnie Milsap below it! I have no idea what it is but bet I know it too! Let's listen to 'em all!


Cool noir stylings. Very nice. Love the final image. Witty. Song still songy.


Initial impression: eesh. Bit . . . sentimental. I don't know what I expected. Consider that title.

I'm remembering that it was one of the songs I used to hope would come on the radio so I could feel something....

Hoo. Those songs could make a whole post. I would have to cut up my irony card.


Oh, wait! I know this one too! Clearly I had a Ronnie childhood. Although I'm not sure this is the only version I know. Checking the 50s.... Oh yeah. I know this one better. (I miss 50s music so much.)

(Fun fact. Did you know Guns N' Roses recorded this too?(

(I take it back. That fact wasn't fun at all.)

Okay. One more I think I must know:


Remember it? Yes. But it wasn't that great. And I gotta stop.

Ronnie Milsap!

2016-01-06

A svithe-like post on lesbian. No, the other L word.

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It's a well established fact that I'm about the most orthodox Mormon available, and so I've no doubt that screams of mansploitation are forthcoming were I to say I'm about to set straight those crazy ex-Mormon lesbians in Slate. But that's not what I'm doing. So take a breath and join me in exploring how we as a church have failed these lesbians.

(Of course, the real story in today's news of people misinterpreting their own Mormonism [says I] is those nuts in Oregon, but they're self-evidently crazy and even the Church has stepped in to comment, so I'll let them rattle around on their own.)

I'm going to quote lines from the article and then push back against them. To be clear: I'm not claiming that these women did not experience Mormonism as they say they did. What I'm saying is that we failed them by presenting them a Mormonism that looks and feels the way they saw and felt it.

Here's the illustration from the article to get us started:


Mormonism doesn’t tolerate deviation from dogma.
No child should be taught this. No convert should be taught this. The nature of being human means we will fear others will not tolerate our deviations and so what we as a Church must do is emphasize to everyone---young, new, ancient---that we've room for you and all your pesky deviations. You show me a Mormon without a deviation and I'll show you a lying deviant.

If you take one brick away, the whole tower [of Mormon doctrine] collapses, which is horrible architecture for an actual tower....
Based on the article, I would guess this woman was still new in college when this happened to her, but I've seen it happen to friends well into middle age. Too many of us are not taught how to navigate a world and a doctrine and a history that's more complicated than a Primary manual. I've had friends whose testimonies collapsed because Joseph Smith was a polygamist or because [insert tonedeaf gay moment here] or hat translation or other single items, but our faith should not be a flimsy tower subject to collapse when one brick slips. Except---except that for a lot of people it is. How are we failing in the teaching of our doctrinal framework such that our fellow Saints don't have the intellectual and/or spiritual skills necessary to work through new information? We must do better.

And, because Mormonism is such an all-encompassing religion, it also destroyed my sense of self.
This one I'll just agree with. If my faith were to collapse as did her tower of faith, I don't know what I would be. Figuring out who I am would have to wait for that first question to be answered. With the Church so integral part to identity, we have a responsibility to build towers more structurally sound. We can't be lazy and pangloss others' (potentially existential) worries away.

Girls are often asked to write letters to their future husbands, which church leaders hand back to them on their wedding days. A woman’s highest calling is to be a mother and support her husband.
Ew. Don't do that, don't say that---just don't. Gross.

Mormonism also gives gay people convenient ways to explain away their feelings. You are meant to find the one man you were married to in the “pre-existence,” before you were born on Earth. Ambivalence toward the other few billion human men makes sense.
We've been in an all-out debunking campaign for forty years on this one-and-only bullcrap and yet it still survives! And now we see that it's not just bad doctrine, it hurts people in ways I'd never even considered before. Stomp it out. Show no mercy. If you must, put out a hit on de Azevedo before his Saturday's Warrior reboot.

Heavenly Father sends us temptations, to test us.
Woah. Who is telling kids this? Holy crap, people. JOSEPH SMITH RETRANSLATED THE BIBLE TO TAKE THAT IDEA OUT.* If you see kids suggesting their heavenly Parents are playing gotcha, maybe chuckle gently and offer an alternate understanding?

“I lost every friend I had ever had.”
“We lost everyone,
The !@#$%# people. No. No no no no no. You are failing at Mormonism specifically and Christianity generally. Give a lesbian a hug for heaven's sake.

I turned off CHVRCHES and turned on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
MoTab's great. Noel's one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums. But no one should have to turn off CHVRCHES to listen to them. I'm so sorry.



previous svithe

2016-01-03

Gah.
One more book for 2015.

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So in church today I was flipping through a notebook and found an untypedup book review from back in September. Can you believe that? Geesh.

Anyway, here it is. So embarrassing.

The lucky thing is, in my original numbering I skipped ninety-five, so this didn't take much renumbering at all.

Just scroll down to the scandalous poster of a recent English production and you can see what I thought.



Book one hundred twenty-SEVEN

126) The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht (English book by Desmond Vesey, English lyrics by Eric Bentley), finished December 26


Book one hundred twenty-FIFth to one hundred twenty-SIXth

125) Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët, finished December 23
124) Miss Don't Touch Me, Vol. 2 by Hubert and Kerascoët, finished December 23


Book one hundred-twentieth to one hundred twenty-third

123) His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison, finished December 21
122) I Was a Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan, finished December 18
121) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, finished December 18
120) Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser, finished December 16


Book one hundred-sixteenth to one hundred-nineteenth

119) This Is Portland: the city you've heard you should like by Alexander Barrett, finished December 10
118) Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Able, finished December 9
117) Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert & Kerascoet, finished December 8
116) Kids Say the Darndest Things! by Art Linkletter, finished November 29



Book one hundred-eleventh to one hundred-fifteenth

115) Men, Women & Dogs by James Thurber, finished November 21
114) Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allen Crow by James How, finished November 21
113) Oh The Moon by Charlyne Yi, finished November 15
112) Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët, finished November 14
111) "E" Is for Evidence by Sue Grafton, finished November 13



Book one hundred-seventh to one hundred-tenth

110) The Complete Peanuts: 1993 to 1994 by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 10
109) Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp and George O'Connor, finished November 7
108) Magic Trixie Sleeps Over by Jill Thompson, finished November 6
107) "D" Is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton, finished November 5



Book one hundred-second to one hundred-sixth

106) The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra, finished October 18
105) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, finished October 27
104) Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson, finished October 18
103) Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires, finished October 17
102) Humor, Horror, and the Supernatural by Saki, finished October 15


Book ninety-eighth to one hundred-first

101) 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, finished October 14
100) Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle, finished October 5
099) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished September 29
098) Johnny Cash — I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist, finished September 26


Book ninety-seventh

097) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, finished finished September 24


Books ninety-third through ninety-sixth

096) North 40 (volume one) by Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples, finished September 23
095) Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar, finished September 17
094) Castle Waiting Volume 2 by Linda Medley, finished September 15





093) She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, finished September 11 (took me one week)
I can't remember the last time I read something so apalling to my modern/American sensibilities.

Here's a quick summary of this 1773 comedy:

A rich young man has been deceived into believing that the house he was seeking---to court the daughter of his father's friend---is an inn. Therefore this man, famed for his honor and modesty, treats his potential father-in-law abysmally orders him about and committing all manner of rudenesses. Even worse is how he treats the man's daughter, thinking her a barmaid, grabbing her, and attempting to kiss her.
HASTINGS.
But how can you, Charles, go about to rob a woman of her honour?
MARLOW.
Pshaw! pshaw! we all know the honour of a barmaid of an inn. I don't intend to rob her, take my word for it, there's nothing in this house, I shan't honestly pay for!
Yup. He's an aristocrat and they ain't so everything is his for the purchasing.

Look: similar gags appear in Shakespeare's comedies, but Shakespeare has a subtlety Goldsmith lacks. Plus, Shakes develops poor characters as well as rich.

Reading this also helped me understand Darcy better---and how remarkable Austen's characters are as well.

Anyway. Horrible stuff. Cannot recommend in 2015*.

Two lines to share though:

"Ask me no question, and I'll tell you no fibs." ---I wonder, is this where this comes from?

"I vow, since inoculation began, there is no such thing to be seen as a plain woman: so one must dress a little particular or one may escape in the crowd." ---Tell your antivax friends THAT!
* or 2016




Books ninetieth through ninety-second

092) Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien, finished September 5
091) The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink, finished September 5
090) The Animal Family by Randall Harrell, finished September 4


Books eighty-seventh through eighty-ninth

089) Zenith: Phase 1 by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, finished September 4
088) The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay, finished September 1
087) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished September 2


Books eighty-second through eighty-sixth

086) A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by , Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, finished August 31
085) Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, finished August 30
084) An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy, finished August 30
083) Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact by Neylan McBaine, finished August 30
082) The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's Forgotten Heroes by Gary Cieradkowski, finished August 25


Books seventy-fourth through seventy-seventh

081) Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver, finished August 20
080) That A Guise, John? by Brace Pannier, finished August 19
079) A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett, finished DATE
078) Revival Volume Four: Escape to Wisconsin by Tim Seely and Mike Norton, finished August 16


Books seventy-fourth through seventy-seventh

077) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, finished August 15
076) Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, finished August 6
075) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, finished August 4
074) The Erotic Spirit: An Anthology of Poems of Sensuality, Love, and Longing edited by Sam Hamill, finished July 28


Books seventieth through seventy-third

073) Dial H: Exchange by China Miéville et al, finished July 27
072) Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman, finished July 24
071) "C" is for Corpse by Sue Grafton, finished July 22
070) Isle of 100,000 Graves by Fabien Vehlmann and Jason, finished July 19


Books fifty-ninth through sixty-ninth

069) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, finished July 17
068) Dial H: Into You by China Miéville et al, finished July 15
067) Benny Breakiron: The Red Taxis by Peyo, finished July 15
066) Bossypants by Tina Fey, finished July 14
065) Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature by Marden J. Clark, finished July 12
064) The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope and J. T. Petty and David Rubín, finished July 12
063) Battling Boy by Paul Pope, finished July 11
062) The Last Days of Video by Jeremy Hawkins, finished July 6
061) Arabel's Raven by Joan Aiken, finished July 3
060) Templar by Jordan Mechner and Alex Puvilland and LeUyen Pham, finished July 2
059) Heaven Knows Why! by Samuel W. Taylor, finished June 26


Books fifty-sixth through fifty-eighth

058) Itself by Rae Armantrout, finished June 21
057) Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims and David Mason, finished June 19
056) Matilda by Roald Dahl, finished June 15


Books fifty-second through fifty-fifth

055) Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil, finished June 14
054) Star Wars Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika by Mike Kennedy and Carlos Meglia and whoever, finished June 12
053) Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City by by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (et al), finished June 11
052) Deadpool's Art of War by Peter David and Scott Koblish, finished June 10


Books forty-sixth through fifty-first

051) Men of Wrath by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney, finished June 10
050) X-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey & Salvador Larroca & al., finished June 9
049) Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, finished June 9
048) Miracleman Book 2: The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore (not credited by name) and a bunch of other people, finished June 6
047) Coffin Hill: Dark Endeavors by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 6
046) Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 4


Books forty-second through forty-fifth

045) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished at midnight so either June 2 or 3
044) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami and translated by Ted Goossen, finished June 2
043) The Round House by Louise Erdich, finished June 1
042) Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud, finished May 31


Books thirty-seventh through forty-first

041) The Brothers K by David James Duncan, finished May 18
040) Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, finished May 18
039) Skandalon by Julie Maron, finished May 1
038) The Final Story by Jeff Shaara, finished April 29
037) Shutter Volume 1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca et al, finished April 29


Books thirty-second through thirty-sixth

036) The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis, finished April 27
035) Zero Volume 1: An Emergency by Ales Kot et al, finished April 22
034) Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender, finished April 19
033) Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species by Jeff Lemire et al, finished April 17
032) Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder by Charles Soule et al, finished April 15


Books twenty-eighth through thirty-first

031) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, finished April 6
030) The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, finished April 2
029) The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin, finished March 29
028) Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits edited by John Maloof, finished March 23


Books twenty-sixth through twenty-seventh

027) Passing by Nella Larsen, finished March 18
026) Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, finished March 17


Books twenty-second through twenty-fifth

025) Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, finished March 16
024) Hawkeye: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction and some very talented artists, finished March 15
023) Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and a large number of artists, finished March 14
022) Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja and Javier Pulido, finished March 12


Books twentienth through twenty-first

021) Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan, finished March 11
020) Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished March 11


Books sixteenth through ninteenth

019) The Book of Mormon, finished March 3
018) Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos, finished March 1
017) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, finished February 26
016) Drawings II by Jake Parker, finished February 19


Books twelfth through fifteenth

015) The PreHistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson, finished February 18
014) Nation by Terry Pratchett, finished February 16
013) Fences by August Wilson, finished February 10
012) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished February 6


Books tenth through eleventh

011) Adverbs by Daniel Handler, finished February 4
010) Death by Chocolate: Redux by David Yurkovich, finished February 3


Books sixth through ninth

009) The End of the World by Don Hertzfeldt, finished January 31
008) Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, finished January 24
007) Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, finished January 18
006) Cardboard by Doug TenNaple, finished January 15


Books first through fifth

005) The Complete Peanuts: 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 10
004) City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus, finished January 9
003) Harem Scarem in El Cerrito by Neva Calvert Carpenter, finished January 4
002) iPlates Volume II: Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 4
001) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 3





final booky posts of
2015 = 2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007



most recent post
in this series

2016-01-01

Glimmer Train
Winter 2016

.


Welcome to the new year! Let's look at Glimmer Train's latest, shall we? Just a quick observation or four about each work of fiction.

"Darling, Keith, the Subway Girl, and Jumping Joe Henry" by John Thornton Williams
This is one of the more striking looks at the state of modern masculinity I've read in some time. Darling is a homeless fellow. Keith is a college freshman in the city for the first time. Both have a hands-off love of the girl working at Subway. Both of their identities are wrapped up in some way with how this woman whose name they don't know could give them a sense of identity. This was stated explicitly in a book I read recently, but this and other stories in this issue revolve around the need men have to craft masculine identity around what we imagine women think of us. It's not a new notion to me, but it's troubling both because I accept it as absolutely true in my life and am uncomfortable with that certainty. This story played with my thinking on this issue and in smart ways.

"Full" by Claire Luchette
Huh. I . . . have no memory of this one.

"The Wall Between" by Tamar Jacobs
This was a dandy exploration of OCD up there with the OCD sections of Her Fearful Symmetry. I don't get what the names were supposed to symbolize (Florida? Dakota?), but something about Florida's sad, OCD-shackled life came off heroic here, and I like that.

"Chad Erupts in Strife" by Michael Varga
I could talk about masculinity in this one too, but I no longer want to.

"The Hecklers" by Aaron Guest
This one is very much about masculinity. It's also interesting in that it's the first AA story I've read that's mostly about AAers failures to stay on the wagon. Also these guys are total a******s and make me want stay away from all bars and professional sporting events. Also how do you say clean if you're too fat to reach your own genitals?

"The Bleeding Room" by Veri Kurian
We're back at college, this time with a female protagonist though the men around her are failing in remarkable ways to become men. This issue is fascinated with early adulthood. If you're looking to submit to Glimmer Train, consider writing about university students. Anyway, what is it with college students and alcohol (etc)? I had a teetotalling college experience and every one of the drinking sessions in these stories makes me glad that was so.

"Necessary Animals" by Aja Gabel
I didn't expect to read a werewolf story in Glimmer Train. And this is a pretty good one (even if the dead-girl storyline takes up too much space at the end). If I were making a collection of werewolf stories, I would include this literary gem. It's also---wait for it!---a story about masculinity! (Is this a special issue? Masculinity and drunk eighteen-year-olds?) The werewolf gene seems to be a masculine trait in Ally's family, and she feels left out. But she works out with her brother to compensate.

"How to Survive a Non-Funeral" by S.A. Rivkin
Although, sure, about masculinity, this is more a story about adulthood. Too live-in lovers who have rejected the dreamkilling scourge of marriage and family they've seen overtaking their friends, go visit her family as her grandfather is dying. While there, they have to confront---at least obliquely---that her estrangement from her past family (and from her future family) is nothing but an extended adolescence. It's a very subtle and intelligent piece.

"Affording to Lose" by Emily McKay
This is not fiction. And it's one of the best pieces on struggling with madness I've read, up there with an essay by Steve Peck and a short story by David Foster Wallace.

"A Matter of Twenty-Four Hours" by Andrew Roe
Like the Rivkin story, this is a story about someone trapped in an extended adolescence. He does come home to see his mother die, but whether any of the changes will, this time, prove lasting, is TBD.

"The Afterlife of Turtles" by Lee Conell
This story about a girl at college and her crazy (literally) uncle who calls her all the time hit me close. I have some notalltheres who call me. Would I notice if they disappeared?

"In Search of Absolutely Nothing" by Micah Nathan
Didn't really care for this one. It's rather a mess organizationally, and the story itself is a bit of a cliche, though the individual characters are well drawn and a few bits of imagery were quite intense.

2015-12-31

Final quarter of films
2015

.

In theaters:


The Peanuts Movie (2015): I wrote a whole post on this movie. In short, despite its flaws, I had a wonderful time watching this movie. It made me happy and warmed my soul---in other words, not the bombastic monstrosity we feared. In fact, this film, arguably more than any other Peanuts animation, captured the idiosyncratic line quality of the strip. Not at all what I assumed would be the case when 3D renders first hit the scene all those months ago. So phew. And yay.

The Good Dinosaur (2015): I don't know what this film was like before it was completely rejiggered, but the current marketing utterly failed to sell it honestly. Here's what you need to know: it's a western. Classic western. Disaster strikes the old farm. A young man out on his own. Cowboys and bandits, good guys and bad guys, growing up. It even fits in a wild-animal story while finding a better solution to the inevitable separation than IDONTLOVEYOUANYMORE. Look: the film has flaws (key among them the ungood apatosaurus design), but most of its problems are, in my opinion, bad marketing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): My favorite parts were when Han and Leia were on screen together. In part because they are Han and Leia but undoubtedly because, as they've aged, my father and Han Solo have gotten closer and closer in appearance. (The actors being about the same heights as my parents can't hurt either.) The rest of the film was good and I enjoyed it and look forward to watching it again to discover if I want to watch it again to discover if I want to watch it again to discover if I want to watch it again to discover if I want to watch it again. And if I do, then we'll declare it a worthy successor.



At home:


The Skeleton Twins (2014): Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader transition to drama much better than, say, Jim Carrey (and they certainly make believable siblings). This is a sad tale, but it's grounded in a solid, real relationship and even the most joked-at character finds pathos in the end. Tight script. A joyful drag.

Heavy Metal (1981): I saw snippets of this movie with some frequency during sleepless high school nights, up late, channel surfing, often landing on USA. One memorable time, I watched one of its naked women flying away at a hotel with my mother and she didn't even notice. It being a cartoon, it didn't register to her as threatening. It's been probably more than twenty years since I last saw it, so who knows how correct my memories are, but I'm quite certain a lot got cut from USA's broadcasts. For one thing, there are even more ridiculous breasts. More in the senses of both total number and anatomy. The anthology format is interesting, but---as in many anthology films---ultimately artificial. It's also weird how poorly rotoscoping has aged. And the actions scenes kind of suck, honestly. But there is a sort of adolescent purity to the thing. And now I can lay that piece of my past to rest. (Although I should add that this movie almost certainly inspired my childhood. It's hard to believe the hero of the final segment didn't provide some vital DNA to Masters of the Universe---she looks like the Sorceress and He-Man stole some of her gimmicks.)

UHF (1989): Since last quarter's viewing Son #1 has been quoting this movie relentlessly. And so now it's been seen by all three. Amazing how well this film predicted everything from Adult Swim to YouTube. (Not so good at predicting FCC regulations.)

Frankenweenie (2012): Not quite as good the second time (flaws do rise to the surface...), but it didn't have low expectations going for it anymore. The danger of success. Still: eminently enjoyable.

Bernie (2011): I enjoyed this movie so much, with its sorta-documentary style and really terrific performance from Jack Black. It is funny, but the sad parts are sadder than the funny parts are funny. Because the pathos Jack Black brings to the role makes you feel so much for Bernie that we too can't escape the shadow he's trapped under, even when everyone else is convinced nothing is wrong.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): First time I've seen this since the second film disappointed me and broke my heart and made me swear off pirates all together. Happily, tonight we broke this out to share with the kids and it's still wonderful. Structural elements and details that mirror Star Wars and Indiana Jones and thus show why these things are always awesome when done well. And Johnny Depp. And Geoffrey Rush. And the two pretty characters. And all the character actors along the edges. I will admit this time I noticed a couple flaws, but they aren't the sort of flaws that matter. Like, in Jurassic Park, the goat/cliff problem. These things are storytelling and if the storytelling is done well enough, slight flaws don't matter. Major flaws do, however, and bringing back Barbosa in the second movie is one of those. Yes, Black Pearl made me want to watch all the sequels but, alas, I know better. Shame.

School of Rock (2003): This remains such a pure expression of joy. Hard to imagine it ever getting old.

Enemy (2013): Came out the same year as the last doppelganger film we watched. This one takes itself a bit too seriously and ends up confused about what it's saying. The other film also asked more than it answered, but it didn't fetishize uncertainty. Great acting in this one too, but watch the other one.

Big Eyes (2014): Although, when you start looking, you can find Tim Burtony aspects to this movie, it's most remarkable, as a Tim Burton movie, for its restraint. The acting is good. Amy Adams has the smallest eyes of any actress in the film. It's a respectful biopic. It's a good movie. I'm not sure we'll remember it in ten years, however. I'm not sure that we will.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989): Kids of today produce a verdict of hilarious. I have to say: although it's by no means a "great" movie, I still had a great time watching it too. They're begging for Bogus Journey tomorrow.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991): When I was a kid, I liked this movie more than the first in the series. Having just watched them on back-to-back nights, I have to disagree with myself. Although its higher points may be higher, it's crasser, less guileless, and the third act ddrraaggss. That said, party on dudes.

The Parent Trap (1961): This film runs long by contemporary standards, but I don't find any fat on its bones. It's funny and heartfelt and honest. And, watching it the first time as a parent, kind of great on more than one level.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Finally I have seen this movie. I am one step closer to being able to accept my eventual demise. This is a hard film to write about in just one paragraph. Let's start by saying I won't judge it by how well it responds to the book. Even including a prologue with the Shelleys and Byron, it's making no attempts to be THAT Frankenstein---and rightly so. It's a distinctly noncinematic book---a "true" adaptation is impossible. The makeup and performance of Karloff is terrific. The side characters are great. The religious imagery is moving. The Bride is on screen not nearly long enough. The ending is nonsense and sours the experience for me. Is it a masterpiece? I dunno. I love its use of techniques from both the melodrama and German Expressionism while remaining essentially naturalistic. Parts of the film are hard to enjoy as filmed when your mind's been polluted by Young Frankenstein. Another thing: the pacing and length of this film (quick but able to be slow / an hour fifteen) prove that it's possible to make a great movie using time much differently than modern film. I'm not sure a film shaped and stretched like this one could be accepted today, but I would love to see some attempts made. Anyway, I liked it well enough. And for a gay man, James Whale seems to understand the filming of breasts quite well. Can you say that on Thutopia?

Wild (2014): This is an amazing film. The way it's shot, the way it's edited, the way it plays with chronology and memory, the use of color, what Reese Witherspoon does with her face---both with the muscles under the skin and the abuse to the skin itself. The film does a terrific job of showing darkness and pain and distance. I feel I learned about not just hiking, but mourning and despair and depravity and loneliness being a lone woman in a world that threatens to take advantage of you in that state. It's beautifully shot and beautifully paced. I'm happy Witherspoon is still with us. I'm amazed Nick Hornby was capable of writing it. I see now why people speak highly of Jean-Marc Vallée. This movie will probably change a few lives. (The cgi fox, however, c'mon.)

The Mountain of the Lord (1993): Although no one's likely to confuse it with a purely-meant-for-entertainment version of the same story, this is pretty good stuff. Some of the performances are just terrific, especially the guy playing Wilford Woodruff. His performance really is both corner- and capstone of the film. One line ("He was right. He was . . . always right.") is just one of those lines I always have access to. Bit of an obscure reference for most audiences, I suppose. Anyway. The older two kids really liked it. So that's a win as well.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010): [Note: began this elsewhere, finished it at home.] I saw the first short film a few years ago and I may have shared it with you then. This was a successful transition to a full-length film with an actual narrative. In fact, were it not for the penises and the subtitles and the being a horror film, this would be a great film to share with my dad. It's the whole boy-becoming-a-man tale that he digs. And sure, a couple of the story beats are less well developed, but the film is so assured and smart about what it is and where it's going that we're completely willing to forgive it. In short: Santa is found buried under a mountain in Lapland by some nosy Americans and then, well, things get started. (Horror movie.) The film is much less gory and jumpy than I had expected. It's more a story of a family and friends and wilderness hardship---it's almost a western, in that way. Only instead of Injuns or oilmen or something, it's Santa. Some cable station should play THIS movie all day Christmas. That's what I say.

Elf (2003): Maybe it's regular exposure, but that third act gets less terrible with each viewing. Or maybe it's just that the joy of renewing my love for Zooey Deschanel gets me through. In other news, I've arrived at a theory as to why they get publishing so wrong: it's not publishing they're showing, it's an oversimplified version of blockbuster filmmaking. That makes more sense. Anyway, we'll let Will Ferrell's guileless performance cancel out that annoyance and Zooey's cancel out the third act and what's left? Just the funfunfunnest Christmas movie ever.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977): I've been reading a lot of articles from 1977 and so watching it this time, I've tried to experience the film as if it were 1977 and instead of this defining film for me, it's breaking what I think about film. Which was a pretty great way to watch it. Although the 1997 additions really do feel out of place and a bit draggy. Still. IT'S STAR WARS.

Die Hard (1988): I've realized for a while now that I would have to watch Die Hard someday. It's reached classic status and even its role as a Christmas movie has moved past the joke stage. Even this year's Christmas episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is Die Hard-themed. The reason of course is that the first Die Hard movie is that rare action film where the hero could, in fact, die. The hero as played by then-comedian Bruce Willis is mortal, vulnerable, human. And that's the sort of hero that makes for the best action movie. Twenty-seven years in, Die Hard thrills.

Back to the Future (1985): With the younger two kids gone, we're finally getting to the must-see movies of 2015. First one was a hit. I gotta say it holds up. And that I get a lot more references I did when I saw it the first time, at a friend's slumber party. Long, long ago. Anyway. Back to the future.

Back to the Future Part II (1989): Okay. I admit it. There is one pretty big flaw in the time-travel logic. But hey---time travel. Anyway, I love how integrated the sequels are, even if Crispin Glover did sue.

Back to the Future Part IIi (1990): THE END appeared on the screen with 23 seconds left in 2015. What a marvelously satisfying way to end 2015.




Elsewhere:



Hamlet (1990): This is still my favorite filmed Hamlet. I'm ready for a new competitor to win the day, however.

The Bad Seed (1956): Yes! I'm so pleased when a film lives up to its reputation, and this one's only real flaw is one it shares with Psycho (which came out four years later---it was the times) and that's a tendency to over-explain the psychology at work here. Otherwise (other than a few weird time issues that were rather playlike and shouldn't have appeared in a film), this film is awesome. Chilling. Shocking. I couldn't believe what was happening even though I had known coming in what this was all about. It's...just great. I do take issue with its Hays-Code ending, but that hardly takes away from the pleasures. If we can call them that....

Romeo and Juliet (1968): The best way to watch this film is with freshmen who behave like groundlings, overreacting to all the sex and violence.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996): Watch it with the right people, and this is the closest to the Globe you can get.

It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012): Dan Hertzfeldt's feature is a thing of beauty---a melancholy meditation on mortality and madness. And his filmic voice is so unique. I found it moving, and hope to watch it many more times.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015): I was subbing someone else's class and after some false starts and through some interruptions, we were to watch this film. Luckily, the class was right before lunch, so I got an extra 35 minutes of watch time, but to finish before my next class started, I had to watch some of the last bits on fast forward. It's a shame, because the film was good---chilling as a film on this story should be. It's shocking to watch how quickly the guards degrade. Frankly, it's their degradation that says more about humanity than the prisoner's. If you've been wondering if this film does credit to this true story, it does.




Previous films watched

2015

2014

2013