2020-10-29

Fearreantum

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All my time this month (after I came up with the idea) has been spent putting together Fearreantum, my first issue of Irreantum as editor. It was a lot of work (a lot of work) but joyful work. Man, if I could make 90K editing Irreantum . . . .

Anyway, it's live! Click the image! Do some reading! Share it with your friends! And, of course, feedback is appreciated.



2020-10-21

LDSiness vs Excellence

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Late one night, unable to sleep, I picked out some bands which one might reasonably expect to contain a certain amount of LDSness in their content. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Arcade Fire
Haun's Mill
Imagine Dragons
The Killers
Low
Moonpools & Caterpillars
Neon Trees
Olea
Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband
Sunfall Festival

I picked these bands because I like these bands and because I feel reasonably familiar with their body of work (I own albums by all these bands---all the albums of some of them---except Imagine Dragons; but their singles are inescapable so whatever). You'll note no solo artists. This was intentional.

As I lay there unable to sleep, I tried to rank these bands according to both their LDSness of content and their excellence. Obviously, both these rankings are subjective according to my own interpretation and taste.

Anyway, this is what I decided (remember, I like ALL these bands, so being low on the excellence is purely a matter of ranking and not of absolute value):


These rankings were not easy. For instance, although Haun's Mill has a higher percentage of their work fall into my favorites, I must admit that C'mon and Christmas are albums I love as much as Haun's Mill's two albums (where's the third, guys? I kickstarted that baby!) and Low has lots more music to love besides, so, you know, subjective math.

Speaking of Haun's Mill, just by their name alone I want to put them at the top of my LDSness scale, but it's not an easy thing---once you start looking, LDSness is everywhere, but not everywhere equally.

And what does "excellence" mean, even subjectively? Judged by Had the Biggest Impact on My Life, the Moonps are the clear winner, but even thubjectively are they actually more excellent a band than The Killers or Sunfall Festival? It seems hard to argue.

So let me restate the obvious: These numbers are merely rankings exclusive to these ten and not absolute value. Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is one of the best albums of this millennium and yet the bands here are so, so excellent that I can't in good conscious get them into the top half. They're not a "5" band---they're just the sixth most excellent (in my opinion) out of these ten options. And no one plays with more skill than Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband, yet I put them below Arcade Fire! #subjectivity #wouldbedifferentnexttime

But just to see them listed out doesn't really show whether or not there is any correlation. We need a chart.


Hey! Wow! There's a clear trend line! Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband are an outlier, but otherwise, wow! The more LDSy the more excellent! I honestly thought it would look like birdshot on a stop sign, but I stand corrected. Go forth and do likewise, fellow Saints!

But this isn't science.

Not yet.

So I asked Lady Steed to make the same listings.

However, she does not spend as much time thinking about LDSness and so that scale of her LDSness rankings are often based on things like where the bands are based and not, say, their lyrical content. Keep that in mind.


Okay. Yes. This looks much more random, but, unless I am mistaken, that line is still true. If I were better at the maths, I could figure out where the trend line is. It's certainly less clear and less steep, but I think it's there.


I think.

ps: although I posted this in October, I wrote it in late July

2020-10-19

Whole lotta comics
(four)

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After coming around on Beto Hernandez with that reread of Marble Season, I found myself on the Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics websites just nosing around. I saw a Beto book I wanted to read and a book we heard about at Comic-Con that Lady Steed had wanting to read and some other temptations so I hopped over to the library website and found one of those two and a bunch of other interesting things and put them on hold, the first batch of which has now arrived.

In other news, I'm looking forward to January so I can rethink how I make these things, now that Blogger's rearranged itself.



087) The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke with Dave Stewart, finished October 9

What a dream team this is! Beto, Darwyn, and one of the top pitchers of the last A's World Series win who, incidentally, has done some fine color work on Hellboy in the past. Beto does the writing and Darwyn the drawing and we're off to the races. It never passed through my mind before, but Darwyn's art is not that far from Beto's. Even though it was obviously Darwyn's work, it wasn't hard at all to see the Beto shining through.

(In the back of the book are Beto's character designs. The variations between the two are about what you would expect.)

The story is like Twin Peaks in Puerto Rico. It's got the expert from out of town, the otherworldly strangeness, the unwillingness to properly resolve anything---even a Red Room equivalent.

Mind, I'm not accusing this book of copying the others. I don't think that's the case at all. But it's the shortest cut to letting you know what to expect.

And, if you don't require clean resolution, I think you'll love it!

one day


088) Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez, finished October 10

Having made the Hernandez/Lynch connection, I had a new key to unlock Sloth and you know what? The key fit. This one's less Twin Peaks, however, and more Mulholland Dr.

This teenager wills himself into and out of a year-long coma, see? And his girlfriend is studying local legends, see? And then, a la the legend, all the characters change rolls and we do it again!

Honestly, that surprise of organization is the biggest spoiler I could have given you, but I don't think it will ruin the experience. It a little gem of surrealism.

(And, am I crazy, or were there references to Mike Allred here and there throughout?)

one over-midnight sitting


089) Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim, finished October 15

I hadn't heard of Findakly before and didn't realize until I was reading the author bio in the back that she's married to Trondheim. This doesn't really matter.

What matters is how wonderful this book is. Clear-eyed nostalgia is not an easy feat, but Findlaky pulls it off. And Iraq---a country we have not been able to stop thinking about for thirty years, but which we have never really understood---is sketched out in living detail.

This is like travel. Only with substantially lower risk of running into Daesh. You should check it out.

under a week


090) Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers, finished October 18

I love most aspects of this book. It's another window to world other than my own. And having read about Black women's hair before (and seen the movie) I knew enough to know that I know very little about the specific aspect each story in this collection touches on.

But the writing and the characterizations feel real and true and lived-in.

The art though is hit and miss. It's cluttered and messy, often to the point of near illegibility. In other words, it is a very easy to see the influence of Flowers's mentor, Lynda Barry. Who is also a good and fascinating writer whose art is mostly ugly to the point of maybe not being worth the parsing?

I know, I know. Heresy.

two sittings

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2020-10-17

The Phorbe

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Like all poets who do not despise form, I invent forms. Usually they are one-offs (this variation on the sonnet, for instance), but I think I 've now come up with one I will actually revisit and rework and play with, plumbing its depths. I suspect it will play to my strengths and I think it will be a road that leads me to some destinations I've been meaning to visit but have never been able to find the way. Dramatic monologues, for instance. Or the kind of stories ballads traditionally told.

I suppose the first phorbe I've written is of this latter sort. But first let's talk about the form itself.

Phorbe (pronounced FOR bee) is derived from the English phrase 4x4, but 4x4 is too unwieldy to say and the fancy faux-Latin look of phorbe is pleasing to my sense of perpetual joy in being annoyingly faux-clever.

Here are the rules:

It is written in quatrains.

The first line of each quatrain consists of precisely four words.

Those four words, in order, are also the first word of each line in the quatrain.

That's it.

I came up with the idea this morning, half awake, and I wrote down parts of two stanzas before falling back asleep for an hour. (Always have paper by your bed.)

I've become a fan of the new zine Perhappened. I've enjoyed reading it, and I've submitted a couple times. They published my "A Barn in Livermore," which combined me being surprised at how close ranches still were (still are?) to the interstate in Livermore with various childhood memories, mostly of my grandfather's barn, but also of various other hideyholes in Montpelier and Nephi that I still wonder about.

Anyway, their next issue is themed FAIRYTALE and, to my surprise, I don't have any unplaced fairtaley stuff lying around. Needing to write a phorbe led directly to something I will now submit to them.

But I want to write more phorbes, andwhen I have a set, I think I'll send them to POETRY. I haven't shot that high in a while, and it's important to always reach further than your reach.

Examples are always better than rules, so here are those first two stanzas, in nearly finished form:

Once upon a time,
upon a heath,
a cloud crossed the sun.
Time enough for a chill and a shudder....

There—is a girl,
is a red cloak wrapped tight, is
a basket—all for her, the
girl’s, grandmother

Based on one poem's worth of experience, I feel it's safe to say that the second line is the trickiest.

2020-10-08

Blogger tried to make things easier but now I just have ugly code and it takes me longer. So thanks? (a books post)

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077) A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished September 19

This is a slight book and an easy read, but it had the misfortune of being my car book when all carring came to a close.

It's fine. I can see why people like it. But I feel genre storytelling has moved so far past this era of pulp that its this-happened-then-this-happened-ness can get a bit dull, the marysueness of our hero can get eyerolling (not only is he stronger and faster, he's also a finer linguist, psychic, animal trainer, and lover), and the nature of the magic is as scifi as an Edward Eager novel.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. I'm glad I read it. But I doubt I'll read another. And I don't care enough to engage in any of the things whose aging might be much more interesting to discuss like tropes of races and sex, which are a bit more complicated than they seem but not that much more so.

Anyway. Barsoom.

Now I've read it and I can continue my own Mars stories without embarrassment. 

well over a year



078) Echo by Terry Moore, finished September 21
 
You may recall me marveling over the plotting in Rachel Rising a couple days ago. How, I wondered, did Moore keep so many balls in the air and have them all* fall so satisfactorily after so many hundreds of pages?

I'm sorry to say he was not quite as successful with Echo. It's still an enjoyable book (and, counted like Rachel rather than as this omnibus, six volumes rather than seven). I think what happened is he started a ticking clock and things accelerated so quickly that there just wasn't time to make everything work. For instance, Julie's kink was set up as A Big Deal and Part of the Solution and ... it wasn't either. I'm not sure Moore ever even figured out what her kink even was. And the the Scary Assassin Guy (and Ivy's youth) (and most of the plot) is lost in a reasonably well set up deus ex machina (see Stephen King's On Writing for a good explanation of what makes such a deus not cheating) (I really need to reread that book...) but not all elements of that great final moment have been properly set up and so it doesn't quite work. And although I enjoyed the Cain stuff and it does help for the future combining of Echo (why this title, anyway?) and Rachel, ultimately it doesn't really fit into this harder scifi world.

I suppose you should know this. This is superheroey science fiction. And it's good. Way better than average. But reading it right on the heels of Rachel Rising, it was sure to disappoint. Alas, alas.
 
about five days



079) Bone by Jeff Smith, finished September 21
 
The baby's latest long comic is truly long---a 1300-page epic I last finished reading to the boys nine years and twenty-three days ago. And it's so great.
 
If you haven't read Bone, it's high fantasy, but it has a hint of something like Narnia as the Bones, Pogo-like creatures, have lost their way and, unable to get back to Boneville, fall into a story with dragons and speaking bugs and lost princesses and racing cows and stupid, stupid rat creatures.

It's a delight to me as an adult and it's a delight to even small children (though a couple moments are pretty frightening and may require some crisis management).

Seriously. What are you waiting for?

(ps: I recommend the blackandwhite edition over the color, but I've always been a traditionalist)


about a month and five days
 
 
 
 078) The Resisters by Gish Jen, finished September 22


Let me tell you about this book.
 
It is a near-future dystopia where basically Amazon's algorithms run AutoAmerica. A girl from the Surplus side of society has a knack for baseball and might be able to pitch her way into a revolution.
 
If that sounds like a book tailor-made for a reader like myself you are absolutely right. It certainly does sound like that.
 
What if I added on that Ann Patchett blurbed it was a stone-cold masterpiece?
 
Or that I heard a terrific longform interview with Jen on some NPR show about the book?

Well, all the more reason to expect me to love this book.
 
(I did not love this book.)
 
In fact, I spent most of the book struggling to keep reading it. It ... it's not good.
 
The problems it has with point of view are maddening. Gish knows baseball reasonably well, but some of what happens is borderline nonsensical and her publisher should have found an editor who knows the sport. (It's just little moments, but casually mentioning a no-big-deal-triple-play in passing is the sort of things that doesn't happen). Some of its witticism (eg, character names) aren't that witty and frankly are more confusing than anything else. It's like some of the characters came out of a mideevel allegory composed by someone with a fragile grasp on the rules.
 
The last fiftyish pages get better---the unexpected turn into dementia is surprisingly affecting---but the sudden departure from the slavish p-o-v rules established earlier threw me off and the ending is written as if it should have great emotional weight, but it barely even holds together.
 
It's a novel with craft and soul, but the two really aren't on talking terms.
 
And I really thought I would like it.

about three weeks
 
 
 
079) Knight's Castle by Edward Eager, finished September 26
 
I finished book one and son three immediately provided book two. And I think it may have been even better. The juxtaposition of yeomanly speech as a 1950s kid might imagine it and the kids' speech themselves---not to mention the heightened danger and the silly traits of kidplay. There's just such an honest view of childhood as lived by children in these books.
 
I don't know if I'll read more since son three has already given me something else to read, but now I'm really curious how the books will connect. Book two here stars children of the children who started in book one, but I doubt that trend will continue or book seven won't start till halfway through the next century.
 
Special shoutout to the illustrator. Although his covers have been replaced, the interiors are still terrific. They have a certain calm whimsy which perfectly matches the text.
 

week or two
 
 
 
080) Drama by Raina Telgemeier, finished approximately September 28
 
I read this three years ago and quite liked it. I wasn't planning to read it to the baby, but she got fed up with storyless Charlie Brown and one of the brothers, remembering she likes Sisters, handed us this. So there we went.

I was right. It was way over her head. Middle-school politics are not for three-year-old. That said, I think she might also be entering a stage where she wants to ask questions and understand things. I suppose this was good for that---for receiving answers, that is. Not necessarily for understanding the world much better.

three or four or five noncontiguous days



081) Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore, finished October 2

Like Echo, I read this as part of the Covid Comics Extravaganza, in which I am reading all the comics I own but have not yet read.

I got this book the summer of 2019 (or possibly 2018) as part of the local library's summer reading program. The boys and I were late showing up to the library and the offerings were pretty picked over by the time we got there. Of the prose and comics and after much agony, I chose this because of Simone's reputation, even though I haven't been totally impressed by her in the past.

I liked this one less, I'm afraid.

Leaving Megalopolis is a parody of dark superhero comics. If you're looking at this image and thinking to yourself it doesn't look funny, you're rights. It is a jokeless parody of dark superhero comics.

The superhero characters of this parody are paper thin and the people are similarly flat with occasional melodrama for flavor.

Here's the plot:

A few hours prior to the book's beginning, some eldritch thing came out of a hole in the ground here in the world's safest, most superheroed city. And that thing turned all the heroes into villains, utterly disgusted with the humans they once protected, and with a jones to kill.

We follow some normal people trying to escape the city and they bump into mad heroes and lordoftheflies groups of gentrifiers, etc etc.

The writing is not the only problem here. To pick one obvious example. one character, who is short, is described as and treated like a child by the other characters. But, shortness asides, she is the shape of a fullgrown woman. We even get some sideboob to emphasize the point when she is first introduced.

Anyway, it's not hard to see what the story's trying to do (and it stinks of ambition) but it's just not very good. It's just not.

This was crowdsourced so I'm wondering if the editing was weaker...?

Anyway, this volume ends with behind-the-scenes, making-of stuff and that stuff made me feel bad about not liking it. They worked really hard on this!

(Sorry.) 

three or four days


082) Don't Hassle Me with Your Sighs, Chuck by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 2

After finishing Bone, the first next book I attempted to sell to the three-year-old was this Peanuts collection. She likes Charlie Brown (specifically, the holiday specials). But the book didn't really speak to her. She didn't get the jokes and there wasn't much plot.

And although I'm traditionally a big booster of Peanuts, and although this book shares some strips with a collection I had and read and reread as a kid, I was a bit underwhelmed myself.

I was a bit sympathetic, for the first time, to the Snoopy haters. And although the Seventies are, by many opinions, the high point, I wasn't feeling it.

Maybe this was just because I was reading it with someone who was not terribly impressed? Dunno.

But the lesson I take is that it's time for me to start rereading The Complete Peanuts.

about two weeks



083) The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis, finished October 2

This 2019 book brings us to the year 2022. Zuckerberg is president, the U.S. engages in chemical warfare at home and abroad, megaphones are made illegal---

Honestly, reading it, it's hard to believe this book came out last year. It's near-future but it feels now. Some things are impossible (Zuck can't be president in two years and polar bears should last more than two years, for instance), but the story feels incredibly timely. Davis is a prophet.

I've enjoyed, to some measure, two of her other books (Art, Happy) but this one might stick with me longer. The story of a woman who lives in a truck out in the woods with her man where they intend to build a house. Professionally, she provides in-home care to an elderly woman and the rest of her time is spent in activism, fighting against the violence of the American government.

The relationships are complex and meaningful. The people are natural progressions of people around today. It's a bit accelerated, but this is a 2022 that could, largely, arrive on schedule.

Let's do what we can to keep that from happening.

But the book is not a downer. She an activist because she believes in the future and for all the ugliness around her, she lives for the future too.

bedtime



084) Smile by Raina Telgemeier, finished October 8

Having read Sisters first, I assumed this books would be similarly constrained in time. but no! This covers a big chunk of adolescence, takes her from sixth grade through half of high school. And in terms of theme, it's probably more like Drama although she certainly does have some favorite concerns.

I can see why it's so popular and we do owe it for creating the genre. And now she's a gazillionaire, so it was all worth it!

about four days



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2020-10-02

September Cinema

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HOME
Amazon Prime
Fat City (1972)

I followed a link from Bright Wall/Dark Room to watch the opening scene of this film and immediately noticed a kinship with Sylvio---a film I've seen, oh, six times? (By the way, I was totally right. But, although the lyrics are different, it's weird Kris Kristofferson didn't get a credit. Also, all of Fat City's songs were early-70s awesome.)

Stacy Keach is a mostly washed-up boxer pushing thirty but looking ancient whose big victory comes against a man who can barely walk and pisses blood. Jeff Bridges is young and sober and going places---or, rather, is boxing will take him somewhere, he's going somewhere; otherwise, forget it. Good kid though he be. If you doubt it, just consider that doubly ironic Graduate-esque ending again.

I don't normally watch boxing movies. Boxing is awful no matter the circumstances. But the Sylvio connection and the near-local locale won me over.

As it ends, up, not a bad choice for Labor Day weekend. Nor a bad choice to watch after some at-work anti-racism training. In other words, the more things change....


HOME
Kanopy
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)

Although this is a postapocalyptic story about demon possession, you might be forgiven, since the character design is cut animal anime with some Oyster Boy for flavor, to imagining it's not that dark.

Ha ha ha!

It's that dark.

Think of the darker moments of Miyazaki or Rankin/Bass or Don Bluth and then imagine a movie almost unrelentingly those moments. Maybe...imagine a nonanthology, cute Heavy Metal? That's warm anyway.

But it has everthing. Drug addiction, abuse, street violence, brutal cops, schoolyard bullying---it all feels like an allegory, but it doesn't reveal itself that easily.

Maybe the secret is in the original Spanish title, which seems to reference this and, by virtue of following word one with a comma rather than a colon seems to suggest that all the characters are psychonauts and not just Birdboy. But I dunno.
Anyway, glad I didn't watch it the first time with the three-year-old. If anything is nightmare fuel, this movie is nightmare fuel.


HOME
Amazon Prime
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

If I had heard of this film as a kid, I certainly would have wanted to see it. But I did not and so when I did hear of it, I chose to be skeptical. Then, as I was reading about Barry Levinson, I was persuaded it might be worth my time.

Directed by Barry Levinson: a plus.

Produced by Spielberg/Kennedy/Marshall: a plus.

Written by Chris Columbus: oh dear.

Although it was a fine ride, I can't recommend it. It's mediocre at best with bad use of voice over, expired orientalism, so-so pacing, predictable turns, and a stumbly conclusion. Although! It did have a post-credits sequence setting up a sequel! So that's pretty cutting edge. And it did have the first wholly digital character (created by Pixar). As a thing of it's time, it's pretty cool. As a movie you're choosing to spend a hundred minutes of life watching, you could do better.


HOME
library dvd
Clueless (1995)

I saw this movie in theaters shortly before my mission on the enthusiastic recommendation of Siskel & Ebert Me and Myke went together and...totally did not get it. I didn't find it funny or even particularly interesting. All I remembered about it was the cold-feet moment. But after reading Emma I thought I should give it another shot.

Then we went on lockdown and it took a while to get the dvd from the library. But now I've finally reseen it (with Lady Steed who has seen it "many" times.

And I can get in line with ol' Gene and Roger. This is a solid film.

And it's also a solid Emma adaptation.

But it was also solid in two respects I did not anticipate: the soundtrack and understanding the transition from early high school to late high school.


HOME
Kanopy
La Cigarette (1919)

I was reading a lot about Germaine Dulac earlier this year (can't rememeber how I got started) and her important career in film. This is the first of her features that still exists and already she is confident with the camera and the editing. her characters are natural in what is, frankly, a melodrama. It's rather sweet even though the twin spectres of suicide and deception haunt the film from the very beginning.

I know her later work is more experimental and I'm intrigued to check it out, but this right here was a solid introduction to her ouevre.


HOME
Amazon Prime
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)

The kids were completely satisfied. I liked it, but I don't feel ready to pass judgment. The first movie and two thirds are truly excellent. And this one was really fun---well cast and funny in several different ways. What I really want to know is how lived in the family relationships will feel after I've seen the movie three times. (They want to rewatch the entire trilogy this weekend; if that happens, I may have a more fleshed out opinion for you just a few inches down.)



HOME
Kanopy
The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923)

The is the only other of Germaine Dulac's films on Kanopy, so I went here next. The plot is simple, as many movie plots are, but rather than expanding it outward it instead drives inward, stretching the frame and reality to match the characters inner lives.

To stick with the silent era for my examples, I'm used to comedy breaking reality (for instance as by Buster Keaton) or horror breaking reality (for instance as in Dr. Caligari) but not drama. The rules seems to be that the more Serious the drama, the more realistic the drama. They are equal.

This film shows that need not be.
I liked it. I'm glad it slipped in under an hour but it was good and it does suggest other directions film can take.

Maybe it's for the best that most experimentation takes place in shorter movies, but I'm certainly into seeing more regardless.


ELSEWHERE
library dvd
All Is True (2018)

I learned from the special features that the writer, Ben Elton, an old friend of Branaugh's, had been doing a sitcom about Shakespeare and Branaugh, impressed by all he had learned, told him to write a dramatic script. He did and from suggestion to festival appearance clocked under a year. Which is remarkable. Even for a bad movie.

This isn't a bad movie. All the visible elements are excellent---from the acting to the setting to the etc. It's a heavy film with much silence. Enough of it is true, it could be very easy to forget how little of it may be true.

But it's not a great movie. Just good.

I think you'll enjoy it more, the more you know of the era. Maybe I would enjoy it more on a second viewing, not having to guess that was Ben Jonson, for instance.

As a period family drama, I actually did like it a lot, even if I'm not proposing any "greatness."

But it does have great elements. Here's one example:

Branaugh and McKellan take turns reciting Sonnet 29 and make it sing different songs. Tell me that is not cool.

HOME
library dvd
The Terminator (1984)

I've never seen this before. Lady Steed thought she had, but she was wrong.
It's a classic, of course. Line on the AFI's top quotes, the terminator is one of the AFI's top villains.

I wasn't expecting the synthesized score, and the light effects and the creature effect didn't age as well as I'd anticipated.

So it's good, but, not having grown up with it, I wasn't all that impressed. Will it still be watched in thirty years? I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical.


HOME
family dvd
Chicken Run (2000)

Twenty years. Can you believe it? It certainly holds up, but I was surprised just how many of the jokes rely on outside the film knowledge---and not just of movies like The Great Escape or Stalag 17 but also films as diverse as Braveheart and Brewster McCloud and first-run Star Trek. And that's not counting jokes based on knowing who Mel Gibson is or Tintern Abbey. This joke assumes serious cultural literacy and the kids did not laugh as much as I initially expected because, frankly, they just don't know this stuff. I mean---even I haven't seen those movies (exception: a friend made me watch the first three and a half Star Trek movies one Saturday in junior high) (I would like to see three of the others, though).

Although Chicken Run was enormously beloved in its time, personally, I never thought it was as good as Wallace and Gromit and I now think the passage of time has firmly established it as midtier Aardman. But I would still rather be midtier Aardman than any tier of half the other animation studios. So yes, I am looking forward to the rumored sequel.


HOME
Amazon Prime
A.C.O.D. (2013)

Lady Steed was just flipping through Prime looking for a movie and happened to see this, starring Adam Scott (Parks and Rec, The Good Place, Walter Mitty), Amy Poehler (SNL, Parks and Rec, Mean Girls),and Catherine O'Hara (Best of Show, Home Alone, Schitt's Creek). That was enough to start it. Then immediately, who do we see? Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind, Mrs Maisel, Best of Show)! Richard Jenkins (Intolerable Cruelty, Burn after Reading, The Cabin in the Woods)! Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim, 10 Cloverfield Lane, BrainDead)! Even Sarah Vowell (This American Life, The Incredibles, Assassination Vacation) gets a couple lines! So even if the movie were terrible, it would not have been painful. And it was not terrible. I can see why it got mixed reviews, but I actually found it very satisfying. Disposable but enjoyable. With a cast like this, how could it not be?

(Well, we both know it might not have been but it was, and that's what matters.)



Previous films watched

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2020-09-18

Excellent comics, black and white all, and two excellent novels---one for adults and one for kids

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067) Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez, finished September 3


My darling dear fixed the kids' hallway bookshelf so, you know, book spines and be seen and books can be found. And yon toddler's immediate response was to find Marble Season and demand a reread. It was a low-quality reread in that we skipped a few pages here and there, but this plotless book still help her attention all the way through.

And rereading it so soon after our last read made me realize that this is a truly excellent book. It's one of the most honest childhood stories I've ever read. And though it is doused in nostalgia, it's kids' p-o-v so it never comes off as mere nostalgia. It feels lived-in in a very now sort of way.

And I got sad that Charles Schulz never got to read it. I would kill to know what he thinks. I suspect he would have really dug it. Alas, alas.

afternoon 

 

068) Half Magic by Edward Eager, finished September 4


Coupla somehows to start this review.

Somehow I never heard of these books when I was a kid.

Somehow boy number three started reading them which led to him getting the first four in a boxset for his birthday. Which led to him pushing book one on me.

 And it was great! It's from the 50s and takes place in the 20s so there are a couple moments that have aged subexcellently but as a whole it's a total delight. If you're looking for something for your kids, not a bad choice at all.

perhaps a week 

 

069) Lux by Elizabeth Cook, finished September 12

When I accepted a copy of this book for review, I was under the impression I was receiving a slim little thing; so when a 400+-pager showed up instead, I was a bit nonplussed. But the original pitch---David and Bathsheba, Henry and Ann, both filtered through Thomas Wyatt, with wisdom and poetry and subtle religion---still attracted me. So eventually I picked it up from the floor under my nightstand and started reading. 

And was immediately enraptured by the quality of the prose. Cook is a marvelous writer.

The first two thirds of the book are about David and Bathsheba and it dances through theirs and other characters' points of view, before largely settling on David as he hides in a cave during the early stage of his penance. It's not until these hundreds of pages pass that we then switch to England where Thomas Wyatt will be our companion the rest of the way. I was perplexed that we had had to wait so long for his appearance. And although in the early pages of Wyatt's appearance we see an elaborate tapestry starring David and Bathsheba which the king has purchased, the connection between the two portions of the book remains ambiguous.

Ambiguous but certain. This is the first time in as long as I can remember* that I have an impulse to immediately start reading the book again because I think I will understand it utterly anew if I do so. But will I?

I've intentionally left it on the bed. I've already told Lady Steed she will like it, so if she jumps right in I won't get the chance. And I rarely reread these days because it makes me impatient. But this could be the exception.

The cover is a curious thing as well. It's lovelier in person---and stranger as well. It's a peculiar cover and I suspect it's terrible as selling the novel, but I actually quite love it. It's just as subtle and unclear as the title  and it only makes sense if you put some work into understanding it.

Which I'm not sure is the accepted purpose of bookcovers, but still. At least it's utterly different and interesting and pleasant to have around.

Anyway, this novel is a sentence-by-sentence pleasure and is filled with hidden treasures and richly drawn characters and fully plumbed emotions and provocative themes wisely explored. 

The one thing is it not is tiny. Although it did not feel like a slog at all. I enjoyed every page and the chapters are mostly short so it feels not so dissimilar from tiny after all.

a few months

 

070) Rachel Rising 1: The Shadow of Death by Terry Moore, finished September 12
071)
Rachel Rising Vol. 2 : Fear No Malus by Terry Moore, finished September 12

I broke these out because I've been wanting to reread them and because Lady Steed is interesting in picking up some comics (it's been a comics-dry year for her). Although I remember loving them (1, 2---these links good for pictures, too) I didn't remember much in the way of details. And that's staying true. I really haven't remembered anything yet until it occurs. In other words, I'm having the full measure of fun!

a day 

 

072) Rachel Rising Vol. 3 : Cemetery Songs by Terry Moore, finished September 14

Moore's casual shuffling of mythologies with naturalistic and full characterizations are part of what make these books so pleasurable. Getting to know realistic characters as they plumb the chaos of a suddenly greater unreality---this is what, say, Stephen King is good at too.

It's interesting to me how my mind sorts and remembers things. I can read a novel for the second time twenty years later and every moment comes back to me as I read. But this comic that I read only six years ago is a revelation at all times, as if I had never seen it before even though I last read it six years ago.

bedtime


073) Rachel Rising Vol. 4 : Winter Graves by Terry Moore, finished September 15

I know this is probably unfair of me, but I just never expect serialized fiction to be this well plotted. Here we are at the end of Rachel Rising's first arc and what do you know---everything slides together so nicely and with resonance no less!

I haven't read any of Moore's other work (although I own Echo)  but I read today that they are all couniversal and a sequel of sorts exists.

But first, I own three more volumes!

(previous read)

afternoon

074) Rachel Rising Vol. 5: Night Cometh by Terry Moore, finished September 17

I'm a little worried I've never read this before. I can't find a previous review and I can't be sure if I recognized anything. Very peculiar!

Some of the ink work---notably in the early pages---has changed from the earlier volumes. Although the story reached a natural conclusion in 4, plenty of threads are still here ready to be pulled. And I'm appreciating how it's expanding.

My best guess is, having reached a nice conclusion, I kept buying volumes but waited to read them until the story was complete? then forgot I hadn't done so? I'm really not sure.

The other possibility is the post is lost thanks to this weird glitch with Blogger where some posts just never get indexed. It's very strange.

an afternoon


075) Rachel Rising Vol. 6: Secrets Kept by Terry Moore, finished September 17

Yep. Feeling pretty confident I haven't read these last three volumes before.

I think what I love about these books is pretty typically Theric. I like explorations of darkness. I like books peopled with female protagonists. I like interesting new takes on favorite mythologies and I favor no mythology like Eden.

Lilith has been a character since the opening pages of volume one, but only now are we getting her memories of Creation. And they are a new Creation story. But this isn't feeling like a  sneaky switcheroo--these newly revealed details fit into what we already know and have explanatory power.

As I said above, I'm impressed by serialized works that come together like this. I don't know if it was planning or discovery, but it's terrific.

right up to midnight


076) Rachel Rising Vol. 7: Dust to Dust by Terry Moore, finished September 18

The conclusion! Past the halfway mark I could not figure out how he was going to wrap it up, but he found a satisfactory close---then twisted it with some postcredits play.

And, since a sequel proper never appeared, I guess I have to go read this.

(Somehow, explanation unknown or unremembered, this copy o' mine is signed. Curious.)

an afternoon


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