Books I read that you could read and
then we'd have something in common


046) Jumpers by Tom Stoppard, finished September 6

More than the other Stoppard plays I've read so far, Jumpers seems very much of its time, from its explanation in the stage directions of "a television set remotely-controlled by an electronic portable switch" and excitement about the existential questions raised by men on the moon, It's also wordy in similar but nonidentical ways to, say, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern---this time the philosophy is less about people working out real life and more about a philosopher working out philosophy. And yet---

I still liked it. I will still be reading more Stoppard in the future. I will still teach him. Times are good and Zeno proves that God is doing okay.
while subbing and otherwise waiting


046) Dark Watch and other Mormon-American stories by Williams Morris, finished September 5

I had read most (all?) of the stories before so I hadn't been in a big rush to pick it up, but I did and I enjoyed it and found a couple I hadn't read (didn't remember?) which were also striking.

A recurring theme as the stories move into the future is imagining an underground Mormonism in unfriendly cultures.

I have a lot more to say about this book, but I need more time to plot it out---and I haven't decided where to publish it yet either, so, you know, time.
about a month and a half


044) Pariah Missouri: The Promised Land by Andres Salazar and Jose Pescador, finished August 29

See what I have to say here.


043) Pariah Missouri: Answering the Call by Andres Salazar and Jose Pescador, finished August 28

See what I have to say here.


042) "I" is for Innocent by Sue Grafton, finished August 25

One of the best ones yet!

Previously in 2016


At this rate, even with cheats,
I won't finish have the usual
number of books.

Thanks a lot, plan.


041) The Devil Is Due in Dreary by David Parkin and Allan Jefferson, finished August 19

This was given to me by Parkin at Comic-Con and we went to dinner together later and talked more about sundry related topics.

I intend to write a longer look at the book for Motley Vision, so when that link works, you'll know I've succeeded.

In the meantime, this.

two days


040) No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, finished August 1

Finally finished my final audiobook from the Comic-Con trip. And it was as good as I expected. The reader was excellent (it's almost like the Coen's cast actors to match some of his characters). It goes on longer than the movie (which is coming to Prime soon and therefore I'm looking forward to rewatching), but that's okay. It does what only novels can do. It gets into thoughts and symbols etc. The nature of audiobooks is such that when you zone out for ten seconds, that part of the book is just gone, never to return. And so it goes. (At least I didn't have to deal with McCarthy's punctuation.) But instead of rereading it, I think I'll go to Blood Meridian next....
eleven days


039) Lady Killer by Jamie S. Rich & Joelle Jones & Laura Allred, finished July 30

Eisner Exception

Wow! What a bloodbath! Even with its '50s gloss, this is pretty horrific stuff. This first volume doesn't let us get inside the protag, but it promises that we'll get inside her soon. I hope so. Although fun in its way, it's a bit soulless.

under a week


038) Tribute to Sparky, finished July 25

Every time we've been to the Charles M. Schulz Museum I've spent some time in the gift shop with this volume. I read all the strips and one-panels comics artists made honoring Schulz back when he died in 2000 and they choked me up then. This is the first time I've read the book all the way through. It's also the first time I've cried in a museum gift shop. Tears on my cheeks and everything.

I think we need a couple centuries to figure out how important Charles Schulz was to human culture. But this book gives a hint.
long enough to embarrass fellow shoppers

Previously in 2016


The Tick (2016)


So I've seen the full live-action run and several of the cartoons and read a handful of hundreds of pages of the comics. Thus, a new series excites me.

I just watched Amazon's pilot and I'm going to vote for it (I laughed sufficiently if not abundantly), but I do have a few reservations to share here:
Why go for the MA rating? The Tick should be something I can watch with my kids. A few extra swears to make it [whatever swears are supposed to make it] is value subtracted.

The costumes---Arthur's in particular---are a bit too cool.

I worry about the people-think-Arthur's-crazy element.

The Tick's metaphors can be cranked up even more. You'll never get all of them to hit, but it should be, let's say 75%. But I trust you here!
That's all.


Lost Songs: Old Hippy


This is always available in the ol' Internal Jukebox. It came up today and I decided to look it up on YouTube and play it for the kids and darn it if they didn't enjoy it. Good song.

Holy crap though but the Old Hippy is thirty-five.

Holy crap.

Free bonus! Letting YouTube play through, I heard "Pancho and Lefty" and, lost song, Waylon Jenning's "Luckenbach Texas." This is a melody I still hum, but I never knew he was saying luckenback texas. The song makes way more sense now.

Next up: "Good Hearted Woman." I like this autoplay list.


Les books


037) Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, finished July 22

I only recently became aware of this book and, frankly, I'm surprised I picked it for my trip. The recording the library provided was . . . imperfect. Some stories I skipped over for a variety of reasons (scratched tracks, noise issues with my car, one terrible narrator), but I listened to almost all of it and it was terrific. Reminded me a lot of Spoon River Anthology---its basically the short-story-collection twin of SRA, really. But it's like other, similar books as well. Dubliners is the most famous example, but I liked this much better. (Joyce: the most overrated writer of the Twentieth Century? Yeah. Probably. Even if he's good, he'll still probably win that race.) All three of these books, incidentally, were published in three years. So something was in the air. I've been trying to think what the modern version would look like, and I'm just not sure.

It's a small Ohio town and the people that live there. They lean towards the sad and lonely, but that doesn't prevent the telling from finding beauty. It's not a rejection of this image of Americana, but it does examine it very very closely with a squint.
all the way to sdcc and much of the way back


036) UR by Stephen King, finished July 20

Audiobooks from the library for my 1000-mile journey alone! Book one: this one.

King really is the master of making small, everyday things otherworldly. I wouldn't call this a horror story though it has many of the trappings.

Here's the conceit: Guy gets a Kindle with the ability to download books from alternate realities. Imagine access to books your favorite writer only wrote in another world. Yeah. I know.

Anyway, that's the idea. If it sounds good to you, this might be the best king to start with. Not scary. Short. The perfect starter drug.
first leg of my drive to sdcc


035) Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver, finished July 13

Fante is a truly pathetic fellow and, best I can tell, his good intentions notwithstanding, a genuinely bad writer of the sort unlikely to improve. When you can plagiarize an entire novel without realizing you're doing it, you might not be the sort of idea-generator who can make it as an artist.

But that's how he loses.

Noah's treatment of him, however, is much kinder. Sure we see him honestly, but that honesty prevents us from hating him. For all his pretension, ego, silliness, hacksterism, etc, Fante's a real person and we feel for him. We don't hate him for his social and artistic blunders---we're embarrassed for him. And that's a much kinder angle.

nominated for an Eisner



034) "H" Is for Homicide by Sue Grafton, finished July 12

Most of the time, Kinsey Millhone is in situations that might be dangerous and so maybe something bad could happen at any moment. In this novel, every moment is definitely dangerous and so the maybe-something-bad-could-happen-at-any-moment is exceedingly more stressful and worrisome. Beware accidentally going undercover with organized crime. Beware!
over a week, maybe over two

Previously in 2016

31 – 33
033) Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet by Victor L. Ludlow , finished July 5
032) Sistering by Jennifer Quist, finished July 1
031) Sayanora Slam by Naomi Hirahara, finished June 6

26 – 30
030) Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished May 30
029) Best American Comics 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem, finished May 30
028) G Is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton, finished May 21
027) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North & Erica Henderson, finished May 20
026) "F" Is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton, finished May 12

19 – 25
025) Soldier Dog by Sam Angus, finished May 6
024) Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll, finished May 1
023) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, finished April 30
022) Little Robot by Ben Hatke, finished April 26
021) What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsun, finished April 26
020) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, finished April 23
019) The Only Child by Guojing, finished maybe April 21

15 – 18
018) 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor, finished April 21
017) Fidelity by Grace Paley, finished April 20
016) The Jam Jar Lifeboat & Other Novelties Exposed by Kay Ryan, finished April 15
015) Work & Days by Tess Taylor, finished April 1

11 – 14
014) The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo, finished March 29
013) Forgive me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine, finished March 26
012) Fences by August Wilson, finished c. March 14
011) The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, finished March 19

010) Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card, finished March 9

5 – 9
009) The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim by Robert Beck, finished February 29
008) Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, finished Feb 20
007) Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry, finished February 16
006) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 14
005) Dream House on Golan Drive by David G. Pace, finished February 5

1 – 4
004) Mormon Shorts, Vol I by Scott Hales, finished January 23
003) Shirt in Heaven by Jean Valentine, finished January 18
002) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, finished January 14
001) Spy School by Stuart Gibbs, finished January 9


* most recent post in this series *


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


As William Tell said,
Bookety book bookety book bookety book book book


033) Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet by Victor L. Ludlow , finished July 5

I'm done! I finished it! Alleluiah!

I have several issues with this book. I guess these are the main three:

1. The book unabashedly comes at Isaiah from an LDS perspective, which is legitimate, but it does so at the usual expense of other perspectives unless those perspectives offer a remarkable second witness to a specifically LDS standpoint. I would like to be challenged a bit more to consider others' thinking.

2. The book is maybe a bit too much of its time. The book was first published in 1982 and thus Spencer W. Kimball, it seems, is the likely target of many of Isaiah's prophecies. This also doesn't bother me too much (the nature of poetry and prophecy is often multiple applications) but it does make the book seem rather dated and provincial.

3. The book mentions the controversy over multiple Isaiahs but doesn't take it seriously. It recognizes the scholarly position but then just fights it with testimony. (I'm overstating this slightly.) I was hoping for some insight into the issue, not a feinting.

But there's a lot to like here as well.

Ludlow's narrative persona is avuncular---wise and welcoming and a bit longwinded.

The text incorporates ALL of the book of Isaiah (except for one chapter, weirdly, which quotes extensively from 3 Nephi instead), and for each chapter Ludlow selects the translation that seems to him to best capture the original. This is quite lovely, actually, to visit seriously so many different translations (including, for one chapter, a new translation of his own making).

Ludlow is a true scholar of deep reading, learning, and understanding. I don't blame him for sometimes adding more than is strictly necessary, but if you buy this for yourself rather than a course, feel free to skim portions.

And lest #1 up there get misinterpreted, I appreciated the LDScentric look at Isaiah (I just wish it hadn't been to the near exclusion of other perspectives).

It was a long, long read, but I made it. I don't know if I would recommend it over whatever the competition is, but if you want an LDS-based 1980s look at Isaiah to round out your Isaiah library, this is a good choice.
eight months


032) Sistering by Jennifer Quist, finished July 1

This is one of the books on my nightstand I was specifically thinking of when I made the exception to the no-new-books-rule for books I should review. I had planned on taking Karen Rosenbaum's new book with me to girls camp but I couldn't find either of my copies, so I took this instead.

And I loved it! Although thematically it tastes a lot like Quist's other novel, stylistically, it's much different. For instance, it swings through five different points of view and balances a large number of major characters. And does so beautifully, I might add. Everyone is very much recognizable as themselves. I spilled a lot of red ink on its pages and should really write a serious essay on it, but I have so many options when it comes to things to write about and so few people urging me for an essay (not to mention several utterly unrelated writing deadlines looming) that I'm not sure I'll get to it.

But if you're, say, one of Shelah Miner's students and want to write a killer essay on Sistering, here are some options that I would consider were I you (some will be better at supporting the weight of an essay than others):
The novel's about women's relationships with their sisters and with their mothers-in-law. But not until the very end does it really begin to address the two, obviously missing types of relationships: women and their mother, women and their husbands.

This novel uses language (words and phrases, for instance) to wrap through and around the text, touching disparate moments and connecting them.

"But when it comes to family, what does what we deserve have to do with anything?" (216)

How necessary is physical, geographical closeness to emotional, familial closeness?

This novel has a curious and subtle way of jumping forward in time without lurching. Discuss the mechanics of this.

The use of color!

Although perhaps not usually obvious, this novel shows the same aversion to naughty words that Dean Hughes's books show. Is that purely because it's appropriate to the book's aesthetic, or is this Quist's Mormon showing?

Although hardly a laugh-riot, the book is ridden with humorous lines, presentations, and situations.

Quist is the Queen of Death. This second novel establishes her as one of the great modern explorers thereof. Book One was explicitly Mormon if you know the codewords. This one isn't. [How] Does that change the results?

What, if anything, does family "owe" one another?

We all fill different roles---both for others and for ourselves.

Suzanne escapes "all that horrible justice"---should we be satisfied by that? If we are[n't], what does that say about us?

Which world[s are] made possible only by forgiveness" (296)?
It's a really good book, guys.
four days


031) Sayanora Slam by Naomi Hirahara, finished June 6

If this had been, say, a library book instead of a gratis-for-review copy, I probably would not have finished it. But by struggling all the way to the end, I have the answer to the question I've been asking: is Sue Grafton actually any better than her competition? The answer is yes. Hirahara is an Edgar Award winner and this book was hard hard hard to get through. First, I didn't care about the mystery. I really had no interest in whether it was ever solved. The interweaving of some history I'd never heard of (and isn't easy to find a good webpage thereon) couldn't save it. Nothing about this book intrigued. Most of the characters didn't live, the transitions made me think the author was just checking boxes on her outline, and the baseball was absurd. Would you, for instance, in the bottom of the ninth, send a pitcher to the plate? Of course you wouldn't. And a boneheaded error like that can make me question everything else (even if I hadn't been already). Nothing rang true in this book. It read like a film treatment rather than a novel.
couple weeks

Previously in 2016


The second quarter's films, showing my exquisite taste and shameful lapses thereof


In theaters:

The Station Agent (2003): We went to see an interview with the writer/director as part of the San Francisco Film Festival (our neighbor got us in free). We hadn't seen the movie since it was brand new (though we haven't stopped talking about Peter Dinklage since) and I've been talking about us rewatching it for several years now. So it was nice to finally watch it again. It's a great movie. It captures so well simply being human. Quiet moments, glimpses of pain, loneliness, connection. Plus, movies watched with an audience have an advantage---I doubt we would have laughed as much at the funny parts had we not had a couple hundred other people to laugh with.

Finding Dory (2016): I cried a lot, but let's face it: it last that spark of original genius that was delivered by Finding Nemo.

Love & Friendship (2016): Very funny. Never having read Lady Susan I can't comment on it as an "adaptation" but a lot to like here. But then, I like Will Stillman (the little I've seen of him). The writing and acting and images are superb.

At home:

Ant-Man (2015): This was fun to watch with the kids, but after a single viewing, the cleverness and fun can't overcome the sort of dopey silliness that pervades the heist elements. But they enjoyed their first Marvel movie and now I've agreed to let them watch the first Captain America movie. We'll see if that one holds up any better....

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Although, sure, superpowered superheroes are inherently silly, this film holds up better, I think. With its period / WWII / buddy / Dirty Dozen elements, there's too many genres balanced together to NOT work, strangely enough. Balance is a marvelous thing.

The Tree of Life (2011): One of the most astonishing pieces of art I've experienced in some time. It's like . . . a gallery show, with a film against one wall. It is truly epic; it is truly small. Probably the most moving exploration of Job I've ever watched. It made me want to be a better father, a better person. It might me want to renounce my ambitions. It humbled me. It changed me. Remind me remind me remind me to watch this again. Its vastness did more to capture time than Boyhood did---at least for me. It did a better job capturing the chaos of childhood than either Boyhood or Moonrise Kingdom. And I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that captured both the highs and lows of parenting. Or, in other words, parenthood's moments of wonder . . . and its constant failures. Oh, how I saw myself. And it's the most faithbuilding film I've seen in some time as well. It recognizes that it is neither areligious nor antireligious to ask who God is or if God loves us or if God is---those aren't areligious or antireligious questions, those are religious questions. In fact, that's meditating on Job is all about. Again!

Ex Machina (2015): I didn't anticipate how beautiful this film would be. Nor how much it would mess with my expectations. From the moment we reached the house, I knew what fairy tale this would be---then I completely forgot until near the end as this is one of the most startlingly new takes on that fairy tale I've seen. (And I'm an aficionado of this particular fairy tale.) It also does new things with AI while staying very much in the tradition. Loved it.

Extract (2009): Well, it's no Office Space. It certainly has its moments, but it never quite comes together. In short, Mike Judge made a more working class Office Space or Silicon Valley---which sounds like it match up with King of the Hill, but doesn't. Still. I'm glad we finally watched it.

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013): A little bit like Zelig and a lot like Forrest Gump and really nothing like either of those movies at all, this is a story told by the eponymous old man of his history of blowing things up through history. He's an unusual example of a munitions expert / double agent because he has no testicles. Generally, I got the historical references in this film, but this wasn't universally true. I'm sure there were elements too European for me. My favorite parts in terms of hahaha were those involving Albert Einstein's idiot brother. One thing: the trailer for this film is delightful and will make you want to watch it immediately. But you might want to pause before doing so because the trailer has no respect for your desire to have certain elements of the plot reveal themselves in due time rather than preemptively.

While We're Young (2014): First, I haven't seen a bad film from A24 yet. Granted, I've only seen three of them, but so far so good! I never have high expectations from Noah Baumbach, which isn't really fair since I've at least kinda liked everything he's done, but we gave this a chance having forgotten it was his and on the advice of our neighbor whose taste is impeccable. And she was right. Although some of the jokes were broad, they were never unfair. This look at people a bit older than us hanging out with people a generation below us had a lot of truth to it. A good use of its actors, as well.

Chi-Raq (2015): I've never read/seen Lysistrata, so I can't say how much this follows/diverges, but it's a striking film regardless. It has some powerful emotional moments, notably the climax. It's visually interesting. It also features some failed ambitions, such as Wesley Snipes's performance and some of the hyperstylized moments. Hyperstylization is key Spike Lee (and I certainly have nothing against it, cf Coens, Wes Anderson), but it has to work in context. The rhyming dialogue works. The colors work (usually, sometimes their purpose was pretty tough to fathom). The chorus (Samuel L. Jackson) mostly works. But a lot of things didn't work. Although the worldwide sex strike helped accomplish the resolution, it never really rang true. The black-people-in-position-of-civic-authority issue was left hanging in a troubling way. I never did figure out why John Cusack needed to play his role (he did fine but . . . why him?). So a lot of things didn't work. But I'm all for rewarding ambitious failures with attention. And maybe it'll grow on me in memory. (ADDITION: I keep having more I want to say, such as some of the filler scenes worked great and some were head-scratchers. One of the former might be my favorite scene in the film: the insurance salemsman. But that just reminds me how disappointed I am that the film never really adressed black-on-black abuse outside of bullets.)

Playtime (1967): This fascinating, monochromatic, plotless comedy has about as much regard for dialogue as The Meaning of Life or for structure as Eraserhead. The elaborate sets are astonishing and beautiful and cold and soulless. This is much more what the future is supposed to feel like---the future you know from The Double or the first twenty minutes of Joe Versus the Volcano---that future, only benign and a little more charming. If there is a main character here, it's Monsieur Hulot, played by the director. I was wondering if he was old enough to have been a holdover from the silent era. The answer is no, but none other than Keaton himself called Tati (the director/actor) the inheritor of the silent tradition. And "silent" is, metaphorically, right. Very little dialogue (and what dialogue there is hardly matters). One entire, lengthy, sequence is shot from outside the building wherein it takes place, the only audible dialogue an irrelevant line from a passerby. I would love to know what the modern American version of Platime might be. Three parts Wes Anderson, one part David Fincher, and a whole lot of I'm just not sure.

Gone Girl (2014): The book was supposed to be a ride. The movie was supposed to be terrific. I've reached a point where I feel like some stories I'm just fine consuming the more bite-size version, and this was one. And holy crap! That was amazing. One of the wildest rides I've been on in some time. And although I have no problem, still, not having read the book, and although I think the movie was terrifically satisfying alone, I certainly see why there are sequels. And they certainly are tempting.


The Big Lebowski (1998): This was a seen-once-and-never-again Coens experience that has never deserved mention as among my favorites. In part it was the language (Lady Steed is greatly bothered by language and we watched it together) but largely it just didn't stick with me. But it's become the most cultish of all their films and so I've been meaning to go back. Now I have and, well, it's a great Coens film. I laughed a lot, for one things. And it has an elegance and beauty developed through its mix of realism and artificiality that is very Coensy. So I guess, like every critic in the world, I've changed my mind about The Big Lebowski.

Casablanca (1942): I find it incredibly gratifying to turn on the lights to a classroom filled with red-eyed teenagers. Also, Claude Rains.

The Great Dictator (1940): This is a first for me. Although I've always wanted to see it (or, more accurately, for ten years I've meant to finish it), I did not expect that Chaplin's final speech actually would be as moving as advertised. Although I certainly do not regret the films immediately proceeding this one, he transitioned so nicely to talkies, I wonder why he didn't do it earlier.

Horse Feathers (1932): One student told me that the final football game was the first sports she's ever enjoyed. And everyone laughed. A lot. Even though they took some moments to believe what they were seeing and thought the musical interludes went a bit long. Can't wait to see what happens when I make them write about it. (Incidentally, I'm all depressed having learned that the original pre-Code version of this film has been lost.)

Young Frankenstein (1974): Ends up this is a pretty great one for teaching film. By being self-consciously old-fashioned, the techniques (irises, that final zoom) become even more easy to note and discuss. Plus. It's funny. This is the only Mel Brooks film I like and I like it a lot. Like, a lot.

Citizen Kane (1941): I'm still not sold on it as a story, but it is unquestionably beautiful. Someone give me some film and a wide-angle lens!

Do the Right Thing (1989): I'm not totally sold on the story of this one either, but it's remarkable to watch alongside Citizen Kane: similar disregard for reality, similarly ambiguous characters, similar gameplaying with the audience. Do the Right Thing is in deep conversation with films past. And boy does it have fun with the camera.

Rope (1948): I get why some people say this is a failed experiment, but without unbroken takes, you can't build suspense quite in the way Hitch does as Mrs Wilson cleans off the chest if you don't do it with one take.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): I've never shown this to students before---a little afraid, I guess, that they would reject it and of what that might mean. Well. I'm happy to say they loved it. Couldn't stop talking about it. This might have even been a pivotal moment for some of these fourteen-year-olds. Right now they're all researching some of California's senate candidates, so perhaps this will provide some synergy in terms of lasting civic sense. (Note: Yes it has its maudlin moments, but it's strong in honesty and weak in cynicism, and so that's totally okay. Really, there's not much of that anyway, especially when you consider p-o-v.)

Vertigo (1958): Funny that, unintentionally, I showed three Jimmy Stewart movies simultaneously to three different classes. It just worked out that way. It's the first time I've seen Vertigo since moving to the Bay Area and that extra frisson was very nice indeed. What a movie.

His Girl Friday (1940): Did you know this film disappeared and was forgotten for some decades before being reenthroned as one of the great screwballs? How about that. Rosalind Russell, by the way, does a great Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Fargo (1996): It's been a long time since the only previous time I saw this movie. (I can still see why I instantly became fans of William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi and started following them.) For such a violent movie, it's impressively quiet and unhurried. The escalation of disaster is still moving. The utter patheticness of evil is clear on display.

Spirited Away (2001): This is a remarkably beautiful film. When I use it in my writing-about-film unit, one of our readings is Roger Ebert's description of Miyazaki's generosity and love for his film and its viewers. It's true. No matter how many times I see this film, there are more details and joys to be discovered. I also think it's telling that my favorite sequence is the train ride---a bit that might have been done with a cut by another director. My favorite moment is when the mouse and a soot reenact the bad-luck-begoning. Something else most directors would never bother to include.

Howl's Moving Castle (2004): This film's less known than Spirited Away but I can now tell you that it is officially lit and that Howl can really pull off those pants. It's a pretty terrific movie, even if it wasn't what the people wanted after Spirited Away. Those people should give it another chance. I watched it focused on character transformations, which is fascinating thing to focus on.

Rushmore (1998): This movie guaranteed to delight teenagers. I've tested it three years running.

Duck Soup (1933): Perhaps I didn't set this up as well as usual, but this one didn't have the top-notch effect for the full cadre as it usually does. Certainly it was a flop compared to Horse Feathers. But . . . it really might have been circumstances. I wish the same class had watched this as had watched The Great Dictator. I need to manipulate that better sometime in the future, and then get their thoughts on a comparison. . . .

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): It's strange, rather, this film and the next one---long enough ago now that, to high school seniors, they're old classics, about the age the first Star Wars is to me. The good news is, they hold up. Although some of the kids couldn't handle the flying, they dug the emotional resonances.

Ocean's Eleven (2001): A lot of the kids already know this film, but for those who didn't, what a thrill for me, the collective gasp, when Brad Pitt lifted his visor! Then we discussed the use of music in film. So much to analyze in film, we can't possibly fit it all into four weeks. A shame. I'll never learn enough to direct my own at this rate. . . .

The Iron Giant (1999): This film approximates perfection. Humor and tears. Even the most jaded can be caught offguard and weep at the word Superman. But don't take MY word for it!

A Hard Day's Night (1964): There are a lot of contextual reasons that may account for this (bad sound, for one), and we haven't had time to talk about it yet, but I was a bit underwhlemed by the class's underwhelming response to "one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies". . . .

The World's End (2013): I always intended to watch these three films in order someday, but this one ended up being hotel-friendly, and Lady Steed's uninterested in Shaun, so backwards is looking likely. Not that it matters. The good news is that this movie was marvelous---all I hoped it would be. One could certainly argue that the ending dragged on a bit, but I suspect it would hold up to rewatching. Anyway, if you know nothing about it, just know it's about a pub crawl, find out nothing else, and want to laugh.

Previous films watched






40 Tiger Cubs


40 Tiger Cubs

1. This one is Terry

2. and this one is Ted.

3. This one is Betty

4. and all of them dead.

5. No matter whose immortal eye

6. framed their symmetry,

7. Edward and Stanley and Felix and Tom

8. today have mouths crusted in the same stuff

9. that makes me wonder if maybe

10. just maybe

21. I should throw my ice cream away—

22. that stripe of REAL FUDGE notwithstanding

23. it's not going to cure your little man's

24. incapacity to knock up

25. your Chinese wife, haha.

26. Grab Hobbes
27. inbetween
28. inbetween. . . .

29. Vaghadeva! When my own child sucked milk

20. from my wife's breast

31. and we lay there a bit too warm

32. with the windows cracked,

33. California summer,

34. sweat evaporating, these

35. problems .35 Earths away
36. yet to be born.

37. This one is Theo

38. and this one Shun Gon.

39. And this is the last one,

40. the. . . . 


These are some of those book things you've been hearing about


030) Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished May 30

My latest Eisner Excuse, this charming and moving book from the brother/sister team that does Babymouse and Squish features a human, ten-year-old protagonist, but instead of the silly, madcap funfests I associate with them, this is about a little girl coming to grips with her brother's addiction while visiting her grandfather in Florida. It's subtle and patient and darn good.

one sitting


029) Best American Comics 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem, finished May 30

Although he acquitted himself fine, don't you think Lethem is a weird choice for this gig? I mean, come one.

Anyway, I did enjoy a greater-than-average percentage of the work this year. Books I need to seek out and finish:
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Woman Rebel bt Peter Bagge
Little Tommy Lost by Cole Closser
Mimi and the Wolves by Alabaster Pizzo
INFOMANIACS by Matthew Thurber
I may start with Closser....that one was genuinely terrific.

If they ever pick someone as obviously as wrong as Lethem again, say, me, I'll tend to select whole pieces rather than excerpts. As usual, reading a complete piece was always better than reading a piece of a piece. Which only makes sense.
six months


028) G Is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton, finished May 21

The experience surrounding a reading of a book can really influence the experience of reading a book.

I had to read the climax and conclusion of this novel in tiny interrupted pieces and so the ending, which, as I postmortem it, seems perfect, came off sudden and weird. Shame. I like these books. (See below.)
i dont even know like a week i guess


027) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North & Erica Henderson, finished May 20

This volume was even better at getting me to laugh aloud. So: win.
maybe three days


026) "F" Is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton, finished May 12

One of the reasons behind the first exception to this year's no-new-books-started rule was to let me keep working my way through these Kinsey Millhone books. And here's my first fo the year.

I haven't put a lot of thought into why I like these books enough to want to read them all (not a normal feeling for me, to be sure), but here's a couple observations from this sixth entry.

1. Kinsey's very normal. And while she's more able to talk to people than me, she just keeps plugging along until things make sense. And they don't until they do. That's pretty real. And it makes her more fun to spend time together with than my nonbuddy Sherlock Holmes.

2. This one surprised me near they end by getting emotional about father-daughter relationships. I didn't see it coming and so my defenses were down.

Which might be a way of saying that these are some of the meatiest potato chips I've ever eaten.

(But I also recognize that I don't eat a lot of potato chips, so what do I know?)

Previously in 2016


PULP Literature – Spring 2016


What I love about Pulp Literature is its melding of the literary with the genres. This issue took a long time to meld, however---the literary wasn't genre enough and the genre stuff wasn't literary enough. That said, three stories struck me as rather wonderful.

Soul Making by Sarina Bosco
I love fairy tale retellings. Another Beauty and the Beast I frequently use in my classes, and this one too flips the script (as people say) in interesting ways. Beauty seeks out the beast, beauty chooses the beast, beauty prefers the beast as a beast, and as he begins to change (which is gradual here), their implicit deal is cast in shadow. It's a lovely rendition.

Two Twenty-two by Stephen Case
What if moments were incarnate? What would they want? What would it mean to know one?

Black Blizzard by Emily Linstrom
This time, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Told by a girl as the origin story of her family during the Dust Bowl, this one too Flips! the Script! by changing what the story's basic assumptions are. Who, for instance, says that Beauty is the greatest possible outcome for Prince Charming? Are we sure, for instance, that comfort and luxury are life's highest calling?