2019-01-21

Books, books, the magical fruit

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006) SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, finished January 8*

Sony's put out the final script for Spider-Verse, one presumes as part of its awards-push. And so I read it.

It's so good, guys. Reliving it on the page was nearly as emotional as watching it on screen. It's a fine piece of writing. I wish I knew more about the process, as I doubt it was just assign writers who show up at studio with original completed unchanging script. But it's smart and well written and seems more manageable on paper. A lot of creativity followed this step, that's for sure. But this in and of itself is good stuff.
two days


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007) Latter-day Laughs by Stan and Elly Schoenfeld, finished January 16


This was originally published in 1963. Mine's a seventh printing, 1970. And it belies the claims that Pat Bagley and Cal Grondahl showed up like Venus in the foam and made a new world. That's a fine article, don't get me wrong, but it overstates the miracle of their arrival.

These Schoenfeld cartoons are softer, sure, but they're doing the same thing. It's even the goal (or, more likely, preemptive excuse) as stated on the copyright page:
Latter-day Saints are a happy people, ad good humor has always been enjoyed as a part of our lives. Many of our best loved Church leaders have used bits of humor to encourage us or to effectively illustrate a point.

As Matthew Cowley said on one occasion: "In my life, the people who have done me the most good and who have done more to inspire goodness in me have been those who have had a sense of humor rather than those who have depressed me."

By being able to smile at our own mistakes and at some of the problems experienced by us all, we can maintain a healthy outlook on our work and association together in the Church.
Incidentally, here's where the Schoenfelds lived, via Google Street View:

My favorite thing about this book, however, is its dated elements, which are legion. We no longer have building funds, and there are multiple jokes about these. And it's general midcentury Americana is charming and gone gone gone.

I'm glad to have found this book. If you're a Mormon-comics scholar, you should have one.
not much more than moments


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008) All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World edited by Miner, Palicki, Chin-Tanner; finished January 19

A recent issue of Wired included some short fiction intended to imagine the future of work.The stories were high-concept and interesting in terms of their ideas, but with one exception, they weren't very good. The one that was good takes place in a universe already invented in novels---which gets to why the others were lesser. Trying to make a short-short carry ideas better weighted for a novel is a surefire path to bad fiction.

The same thing often happens in comics anthologies. I bought this collection on Kickstarter because I'm pro-utopian fiction and would like to see more positive futures explored. I have lucked out on Kickstarter before, but plenty of this worlds' comics anthologies are more like that Wired issue: underbaked ideas painted in the colors of fiction.

All We Ever Wanted is a particularly egregious example of that kind of bad anthology. It's largely a mess of hippie propaganda without much story to go along. Even the ones that start promising often self-destruct in search of a moral. Three of the best stories appear near the end. In the spirit of positivity, I'll talk about them.

Good Time (words: Vasilis Pozios | Pictures: Zakk Saam)
One of the secrets to getting across an idea in the story is to let the story lead. And you let the story lead by letting the characters lead. Let them be themselves. Many of the AWEW stories have characters saying things it makes no sense for them to say just so we the audience can be persuaded to think the thought the authors want us to think. This story avoids that trap by having the only explanations given to a character who genuinely needs them.

The story begins in prison. A man who has lost thirty years of his life to the crime he committed. He is aging. He is regretful. His sins have been burned away.

And then he awakes. In one half hour, he has lived a virtual sentence of thiry years. Those years will always be with him---the memories, the suffering, the regret, the self-discovery. But instead: he has paid for his sins and then is reunited with his wife and daughter as a new and better man. It's high-concept; it's six pages, it's honest and true. It's good comics not because of its utopian ideas but because of its stellar storytelling.
Day at the Park (words: Eliot Rahal | pictures: Jason Copland)
This one also wins by being simple. A girl and a robot fly a kite together. No attempt to squeeze in a manifesto. Just a spot of joy.
Two Left Feet (words: Eric Palicki | pictures: Eryk Donovan)
Although the landing stumbles a bit (though I do think it is the correct landing), this is one of the most original superhero concepts I've seen in some time. I would love to see this expanded. I'm not sure what makes it utopian other than lesbians (many of the stories seem to think that a same-sex couple is sufficient to qualify a work as utopian), but it's hella cool.
today


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009) Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, finished January 19

I suppose I saw this on some best-of list, but the memory is lost. Anyway, the library got it for me and I have read it. And I am glad I did.

Here's the conceit: each chapter is about Brás and in each chapter he dies. perhaps in his thirties, perhaps in his childhood. The final two chapters disrupt this pattern a bit, but they remain true to the greater shape of the novel.

Visiting Brás at these different milieus of death means seeing how one life matters as seen at different angles. Sort of like multiple versions of It's a Wonderful Life.

While I didn't land as ecstatically as some of the blurbs (including from such luminaries as Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, and Craig Thompson), I can recommend this book without hesitation. Were I a poster guy, I might put the letter from the final chapter on a poster. It's a thing of beauty.

week


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010) Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Steven L. Peck, finished January 20

Blair sent me a copy of this before it came out, with the hopes I would review it for Motley Vision, speaking more of its literary merits than feeling obliged to debate its science and philosophy. I happily agreed.

The book came out in October 2015.

AMV's blog shut down two years later.

And only today am I finishing the book.

(Sorry, Blair.)

My intention was to read it quickly, followed by Steve's short-story collection, which I had recently purchased, then write about both together. (Cue laughter.)

The thing that went wrong is that I just do not often read nonfiction quickly. I don't. I take my time. So Evolving Faith was consumed in bursts. Sometimes I was in over my head, sometimes not. I was always impressed and always walked away with things to talk about and share. Sometimes it affected Important Stuff I was writing or thinking (example). It was always provocative and wise, and Brother Peck is a kindly guide. As soon as I finished, I handed it over to the Big O who intends to follow a path in the sciences something along the lines of Professor Peck---only almost certainly without the professor part. I hope he reads it. In the essay-writing group I'm starting in our ward, I've already slotted on of the essays from this book.

All this and good writing too.

In other words, it gave me everything Blair hoped I would find. I'm just a little let sharing the good word.
over three years


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2019-01-20

The New Irreantum

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Disclaimer: Irreantum is the literary journal sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters of which I am currently president. I am also slated to edit the third issue of this reboot.

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Irreantum 16.1 was released earlier this week and I have been making it last. I read the poems first, then the essays. All of which ranged from good to very good. I have saved the short stories for last. I have now read one of them, "Next of Kin" by Karen Rosenbaum, and I must write about it.

Karen's work is beautifully written, always. And she has this incomparable grasp of how long and close relationships work. This story concerns marriages and siblings, relationships within and across generations; and follows them over decades. This is the sort of thing one only expects to see in a novel. But Karen does it in 4,734 words.

This is not the critic lauding a short story because it feels like a novel and novels are the superior artform. They are distinct. They do different things. Karen is a master of the short story and nothing about "Next of Kin" is unlike an excellent short story. It's just that it's encroaching on the subject matter of great novels---and making us wonder why novels get all the credit.

Karen's work is often about relationships and moments that are definitional. This one deals with mortality over three different decades (the 1980, the 2000s, and the 2010s) and finds moments that are seamless within their decades and reflective over the decades.

Karen is one of my writing heroes, in part because of the role she has played in my own life. She was the first editor who really worked with me on a work of fiction (and arguably the last---the age of editors is ending). Then I moved into her ward. And she's wonderful, she really is.

It's nice to know the genius she shows of humanity and her love for humanity is reflected in her person.

If you don't know Karen, you can at least know her work. Read "Next of Kin."

2019-01-06

Starting the year off right. With itty-bitty books.

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001) Thornhill by Pam Smy, finished January 2

What if I told you you could read an entire 500-page gothic novel in about an hour? And that it was good? Would you say yes?

I certainly hope so.

Thornhill has two parallel narratives: diary entries from 1982 and full-spread images from 2017. How these stories will come together is not clear for sometime. And when it finally does, the deliberate references to Jane Eyre, Secret Garden, and Rebecca all feel like red herrings. This tale is much more akin to Wurthering Heights. And how.

Sure, this is a "YA novel" with teenaged protagonists, blah blah blah. But I found it utterly compelling. I refused to let anything break its spell and read it in one go. I imagine you will too.

Smy did a fine job planning this---each page that has handlettered text passing across the spine is scheduled to appear in the middle of a signature. I wish more comics artists planned so well. I hate it when stuff gets lost, swallowed by the spine. Not here! We're in the hands of a generous professional.

i dunno maybe an hour


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002) How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis, finished January 3

I've read at least two (I think three) of these stories before in Best American Comics. They are actually better surrounded by their compatriots. The title is perfect for the collection---each story, with the light of How to be Happy upon it, seems to tell us truths about our emotional lives. Some are essentially unchanged by the light, but some reveal facets that otherwise may have remained hidden.

Davis is a challenging artist. I just read another of her books last month, and this too is good at asking questions while resisting clear answers. These are stories that take a long time to digest. Cud them up all you like, they will still savor.

one day


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003) Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, finished Janaury 4

I first paid attention to this play at an AP Lit training I attended. The instructor teaches the play to her students and recommended it because of all the math and science as a way to get kids who prefer those subjects to invest deeper into its literature. Plus: Tom Stoppard.

I bought a copy two and a half years ago then almost immediately came across a free copy in a more convenient shape. I'm finally reading it now because a friend recommended the Shotgun's production out now and because she also recommended reading it first. Which was probably good advice, although I feel like my personal interests and the shape of common knowledge has developed such over the last twenty-five years that much of the heavy lifting in this play I have already done (ask me about heat death; I dare you).

Anyway, it does, of course, being Stoppard, do interesting things with space and time and the stage. I don't know that *I* want to teach this play, personally, but I would like to see it and seeing it could well change my mind. I usually read plays in class, but I think I would have to send this one home.

More than the math and science, however, the play takes its truest aim at history, with fun little shots off at class and culture and artists and poets and fads and etc etc. It's got a lot going on.
one day


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004) Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love by Melissa Leilani Larson, finished January 6

I've long since first read "Little Happy Secrets" which I published lo these many years ago. "Pilot Program" I knew about but had never read. "Little Happy Secrets" didn't feel quite as revolutionary as it did all those years ago, but it is still excellent. "Pilot Program" kept pushing deeper and deeper, but in unexpected (read: plain and realistic) ways. The plays make what feels like a necessary pairing, each directing its energy toward LDS sexual mores though at quite different angles.

Other notes:

Each play relies on a minimum of characters and setting.

Each play uses a single narrator welcoming us into her inner life.

Even with that onrunning soliloquy gluing the scenes together, the moments we see into characters most deeply are in the liminal, silent moments of conversation. Each play includes, as part of its production notes, this: "Sometimes silence is everything."

Each play ends on an unfinished, unsettled note that emphasizes the lived reality of these characters' lives.

I haven't seen either produced, but the intimacy of every moment of each play demands skilled actors, to be sure. Although, perhaps in contradiction, I also feel these plays would work quite well as impromptu readers theater among friends.

My favorite aspect of both plays is how, by the end, the characters' pain is my own, and I feel they are friends of mine and that I must be there for them. This sort of empathy may be what art is for. I pray we take it with us back into our relationships with the living.
a day for one play, a day of none, a day of one play


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005) Fox 8 by George Saunders, finished January 6

This is, I believe, only the second thing by George Saunders I've read (outside a couple on-writing things I've bumped into online). The other was a short story in The New Yorker which I liked and was surprised by. Surprised because Saunders is A BIG DEAL and usually that means, in my experience, Rothlike or Updikelike or something along those lines. But he was full of fun. Completely changed my level of attraction to his BIG DEAL novel. I now would like to read it. But this slim volume cut in line.

It's just a short story---small pages and big type and illustrations are what turn it into a book---originally published digitally only but, I assume, released now on paper to capitalize on the success of the BIG DEAL novel. And why not.

It's a letter from a Yuman-speaking fox to the Yumans. It's fun and larky for quite a while until a tragedy sends the fox's life swinging in a new direction. To get his life back on track, he needs some answers. That's it. That's the conceit.

The book has wit and our narrator's charming. His foxish mispellings have a delightful logic one step up from most misspelled fiction. In all, a fine read.
before and after a birthday party




_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

_____________________


final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012
2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018

* the most recent post in this series *


2019-01-02

Some unfinished books to begin the year

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I've been giving myself permission not to finish books with regularity this year, from high art to low art. I wanted to plug these three books in particular though because I did enjoy them and because they have so much in common.

The first is essays on great animated films, the second on great science-fiction films, the third science fiction and fantasy fiction that holds up to rereading. With all three books I largely focussed on the movies/books I had already consumed. Book one gave me intelligent discourse. Book two's emphasis was more on Fun Facts which, of course, I also enjoyed. Book three was largely one woman's personal responses. And her responses made me continue this ongoing discussion I have with myself as to whether I should be a bigger rereader myself. Unlike Jo Walton, however, I do not read 500+ books a year. If I did, I think rereading would be much easier to fit in. I do agree with her that you haven't really read a book (or seen a movie, for that matter) until you have read it twice. I feel that lack a lot.

Book two was a big hit with my youngest son who has turned it into a personal must-watch list; I'm considering buying him a copy after I return these to the library.

In short, if you are interested in these types of movies/books, these are wonderful volumes to browse. If you are an expert in your own right, their editorial decisions will be delightful to rail against. Consider consider consider.

2019-01-01

Thbiblio

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Since thmazing.com is down (and at risk of having to be bombed into oblivion as part of its salvation), I thought I would reproduce its list of publication credits here. It's the only clean list I have.

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Novels
•Byuck (Strange Violin Editions 2012) *buy*

Novellas
•Perky Erect Nipples (Antemoff Ebookery 2015) *buy*

Short stories
•Armageddon, Burning, And, Hell (The Looking Glass 1994)
•Afterlife (Quantum Muse March 2006) *read*
•The Widower (Dialogue Paperless June 2007, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Summer 2009) *read* *read offsite*
•The Oracle (Nossa Morte February 2008) *read*
•Happy St. Patrick's Day (Arkham Tales May 2009) *read*
•Blood-Red Fruit (with Danny Nelson, The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•How Long Till Two Times (The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•Along with the Rainbow (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Solomon's Reprise (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Them Bones Them Bones Gonna—Walk Around (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Ezra's Inbox (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•The Avon Lady (Pandora's Nightmare 2010; Faed 2015) *read* *buy*
•17 Facts About Angels (Irreantum Fall/Winter 2010) *read* *buy*
•Davey Dow and Lala (Wilderness Interface Zone October 2011) *read*
•The Legend of Boitown (Scars.tv May 2012; Children, Churches and Daddies August 2012; the Mission (issues) May–August 2012; After the Apocalypse: Prose Edition February 2013) *read offsite* *buy*
•Lovely, Fearful Symmetry (Surreal Grotesque Magazine June 2012) *read offsite*
•Swallowing Bones (Windmills 2012 Ninth Edition) *buy*
•Stars Were Gleaming (Sing We Now of Christmas 2012) *buy*
•Maurine Whipple, age 16, takes a train north (Everyday Mormon Writer October 2012) *read*
•The Dancing Monkeys of Blackpool (Windmills 2012 Tenth Edition) *buy*
•Bearing Testimonies of Death (Lowly Seraphim 2013) *read offsite*
•Laurel Wistian and the Adventure of the Dangerous Mice of Dr. Mortimus Alexander Fitzbottom, PhD, AlcD (Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2 March 2013) *buy* *read offsite*
•Do Not Open Until Christmas (Carol of the Tales and Other Nightly Noels 2013) *buy*
•Out for Santa (When Red Snow Melts 2013) *buy*
•The Great Mormon Novel of the 21st Century (Antemoff Ebookery 2013) *buy*
•Yes, Snow White Ate the Apple. It Was a Suicide. (MicroHorror January 2014) *read offsite*
•Then, at 2:30. . . . (365 Tomorrows February 2014) *read offsite*
•A Laurel's First-Night Fantasies (longlisted in Mormon Lit Blitz 2014, Dialogue Summer 2016)
•All Right, Have It Your Way – You Heard a Seal Bark (365 Tomorrows January 2015) *read offsite*
•An Excerpt from But Very Little Meat (Modern Mormon Men February 2015) *read offsite*
•The Naked Woman (Pulp Literature Spring 2015) *buy*
•Angry Sunbeam (Mormon Lit Blitz May 2015) *read*
•The Swimming Hole (Redneck Eldritch April 2016) *preview* *buy*
Duties of a Deacon (Dialogue Fall 2017)
Stanl33's Silver Spaceship (longlisted in Mormon Lit Blitz 2018)
The Prophetess of Mars -or- the Modern Prometheia (forthcoming in Press Forward, Saints)

Chapbooks
•After Chadwick (Antemoff Ebookery 2015) *buy*

Poems
•Chores (From the Asylum June 2007)
•Morning Walk, Spring 2009 (Wilderness Interface Zone March 2009)
•Maher-shalal-hash-baz (The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•Gomer (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•My Latest Trip to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens (Wilderness Interface Zone February 2013)
•Rifflection: “To His Mistress Going to Bed” by John Donne (Psaltery & Lyre May 2013) *read offsite*
•Completely Static Account (3by3by3 June 2013)  *read offsite*
•Goal Stunning Goal (3by3by3 June 2013) *read offsite*
•God (Psaltery & Lyre July 2013) *read offsite*
•A Hymn for Mother's Day in Long Meter (first accepted to be published as part of "Our Mother Who Art in Heaven" in A Mantle of Stars December 2013; first published on A Mother Here) *read offsite* *buy*
•Sponsored Funeral (Quantum Fairy Tales May 2013)*read offsite*
•Amtrak to SAC (Psaltery & Lyre July 2013) *read offsite*
•Being a High-School Teacher Is a Great Disguise (Psaltery & Lyre August 2013) *read offsite*
•Accidentally Deleted (Quantum Fairy Tales October 2013) *read offsite*
•Overall Free (無μ November 2013) *read offsite*
•Rifflection on the Climax of “The Monkey’s Paw” (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•In Memoriam: B (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•The Young Amateur Imagines the Editor’s Pen, ca 1997 (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•Enough Is (The Poet's Haven March 2014) *read offsite*
•Solstice (Boston Literary Magazine March 2014) *read offsite*
•The Fiberglass Giraffe in Davis, California (Epigraph Magazine April 2014) *read offsite*
•Some seduction this— (Psaltery & Lyre July 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Jesus Fishing the Styx (Psaltery & Lyre August 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•After Party (Psaltery & Lyre October 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Creator (Psaltery & Lyre November 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•If I had a Book of Mormon Broadway show (LDS.net Poetry Contest Finalist February 2015) *read offsite*
•Vulnerability / Intimacy (Quatrain.Fish 2015, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Sheep (have poetry) (After Chadwick 2015, forthcoming in Wilderness Interface Zone) *buy*
•Appreciation to the first poet (After Chadwick 2015, forthcoming in Wilderness Interface Zone) *buy*
•Doline (Califragile September 2017) *read offsite*
•El Niño (Califragile September 2017) *read offsite*
•If Joseph Smith Had Been Born in California (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Domestiku (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Sonnet—for Solstice (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Working Theory (American Journal of Poetry January 2018) *read offsite*
•Sixth Mass Extinction Event (Califragile May 2018) *read offsite*
Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together (Mormon Lit Blitz 2018) *read offsite*
Girls Gone Wild (Queen Mob's Tea House August 2018) *read offsite*
Sex with Tina (Queen Mob's Tea House August 2018) *read offsite*
•Sweater (forthcoming in Dialogue)
•New and Everlasting (forthcoming in Dialogue)
•Reading May Swenson (forthcoming in Inscape)

Comics
•Mormons by the Bay (SF Weekly Dec. 12–18, 2012) *read*
•Inappropriate Book Illustrations Redeemed through the Glory of Dance (Red Fez February 2014) *read offsite
•Served: A Missionary Comics Anthology (editor 2018)

Essays and Criticism &c.
•Living Literature (flashquake Spring 2007) *read*
•Saturday's Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Novels (Reading Until Dark April 2009) *read offsite*
•Saturday’s Werewolves: The Doctrine that Makes Stephenie Meyer’s Lycanthropes Golden Investigators (Sunstone Magazine December 2009) *read offsite*
•How to Get Over It (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Communion with the Small (Wilderness Interface Zone July 2009) *read offsite*
•The Ambiguity of Excellence: Kazu Kabushi’s Daisy Kutter (Fantasy Magazine December 2009) *read offsite*
•Foreword (foreword to Cetera Desunt by Danny Nelson 2010) *buy*
•Space Opera 101: Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse (Fantasy Magazine March 2010) *read offsite*
•Annie & Kah Leong Poon (Mormon Artist April 2010) *read offsite*
•How to Become a Mormon-Comics Snob in Five Easy Steps (Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Why Church Artists Owe Ric Estrada a Thank-You Card (Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Pow! Zot! Amen!: Mormon Theology in Michael Allred's Madman (with Stephen Carter, Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Ain't No Such Thing: Moving Beyond the First Series of The Lonely Polygamist Reviews (Irreantum Fall/Winter 2010) *buy*
•Orson Scott Card (Mormon Artist December 2010/January 2011) *read offsite*
•Monsters and Mormons and the Deseret Book (Monsters & Mormons 2011) *buy*
•The Bold Spirit of Bryan Mark Taylor (introduction to 200 Paintings by Bryan Mark Taylor 2012; introduction to Bryan Mark Taylor: Cities by the Sea 2013) *read offsite* *buy*
•Connecting the Generations through Disco: A review of David Clark’s The Death of a Disco Dancer (Irreantum 14.1 2012)
•Mormons in Comics (Mormons and Popular Culture: The Global Influence of an American Phenomenon 2012) *buy*
•Marital Matters (Antemoff Ebookery 2013)  *buy (free)*
•What if Mickey Mouse Isn’t Mormon? (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Summer 2013) *buy*
•Our Mother Who Art in Heaven (published as an introduction to "A Mother's Day Hymn in Long Meter" in A Mantle of Stars December 2013) *buy*

•Luisa Perkins (Mormon Artist November 2013) *read offsite*
•Steven L. Peck (Mormon Artist November 2013) *read offsite*
•Denise Gasser (Mormon Artist February 2014) *read offsite*
•Seriously—Why the Hell Can't You Be More Like the Nelsons? (Sunstone Summer 2015)
•. . . then he was like, “Mind if I hang out here for a while?” (foreword to The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two 2017) *buy*
•Foreword (foreword to States of Deseret 2017) *buy*
•Something Outside the Temporal (Whale Road Review Fall 2017) *link*

Presentations/Panels/Lectures/Whatever
•Saturday's Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Novels (Sunstone West Symposium March 2009; Life, the Universe and Everything Symposium February 2010)
•Mormonism and the Arts: Mormon Fiction (Berkeley Institute of Religion December 2009)
•Funny Papers: Sunstone’s Comics Issue (Sunstone West Symposium March 2011)
•Rehabilitating Nephi Anderson, a Mormon Norwegian-American Writer Lost to Assimilation (part of the panel "Nephi Anderson, Mormonism's Norwegian-American Novelist" at the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study conference May 2013) *report*
•Mormon Culture and Comic Books (Salt Lake Comic Con September 2013) *view*
•Mormonism & the Arts: Poetry (Berkeley Institute of Religion October 2013)
•Mormonism & the Arts: Fiction, literary (Berkeley Institute of Religion November 2013)
•Mormonism & the Arts: Fiction, sf/f (Berkeley Institute of Religion November 2013)
•Monsters & Mormons: Reclaiming the Peculiar (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Representations of Mormons and Utah in Comics (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Mormons in Comics (San Diego Comic-Con International July 2016)
•Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Bay Area Mormon Studies Council May 2018)

Plays
•Fuzzy Vision, Straight Aim (The Looking Glass 1994)
•Balaam's Sin (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*

Positions
•President-elect (Association for Mormon Letters August 2016 – 2018)
•President (Association for Mormon Letters March 2018 – 2020)

Peculiar Pages
•The Fob Bible (primary editor) *buy*
•Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project (publisher only) *buy*
•Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets (initiator) *buy*
•Monsters & Mormons (co-editor) *buy*
•Dorian: A Peculiar Edition with Annotated Text & Scholarship (editor) *buy*
States of Deseret (publisher) *buy*
Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (publisher) *buy*

2018-12-31

Final movies post of 2018

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ELSEWHERE
Turbo Kid (2015)

This is a bit of nostalgia porn for people who loved BMX bikes and bad apocalypse and gory horror films. I ... don't much care about any of those things.

At first, watching this, I thought it was crassly mocking its ancestry. The love didn't come through until about the halfway point. Then it became obvious. And it was all love from there on out.

I will say: granted I don't watch gore-fun movies so this may not mean much, but I don't think I've ever laughed so much at gore. It was ... pretty darned creative.


HOME
My Neighbor Totoro (1998)

This is film group's selection for December and so I chose to finally watch the new dub. It has a lot of advantages over the old Fox dub, but it's not better in every way. I'm also curious if the rest of the film was merely remastered and remixed or if much of the sound and score were rerecorded.

Even though the old Fox dub has many flaws, I'm so familiar with it that even its problems are charming and comfortable. Still. Distractions from the new voices didn't prevent me from crying.

I love this movie so, so much.


ELSEWHERE
The Comedy of Errors (1983)

It wasn't too bad, I guess. I didn't like it. But I've thought a lot these past couple weeks about Comedy of Errors and how I should think it should be staged. And Under an Hour is my primary decision.

But were I to put it on, I would prefer to turn it into a twenty-minute animated short. Sort of in this style. Adriana is a blubbering mess, always wailing and moping and making eyes at a framed image of her husband she carries around. The Ephesian Antipholus is hyperviolent while the Syracusian's violence is minimized.

I have other ideas. No one cares.


ELSEWHERE
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

I absolutely love this movie.

Which probably means it will go down as a lesser Coens film as my opinions don't usually coincide with the orthodoxy.

But I stand by my claim.



ELSEWHERE
North Avenue Irregulars (1979)

This was one of my childhood-favorite slapstick live-action 1970s Disney comedies. I probably have not seen it since the previous century and I've been a tad nervous to see how it holds up. After all, some others have not (Gus, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again...).

The good news is, it's still a fun watch. That helps when you have a cast like Barbara Harris, Cloris Leachman, and Edward Herrmann. They make the places where the writing is lazy slide by fairly easily.

That said, the writing is hella lazy. Lady Steed and I spent a chunk of our six-hour drive two days later discussing how the film could be updated. The concept has potential and this is the sort of film Disney should be revisiting instead of @#$%$#ing Lion King....


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Spider-Man (2002)

I probably haven't seen this since the first time, in my father-in-law's mancave.

It holds up pretty well. It's an easy argument to make, that the superhero renaissance began with this film. And I sort of remember it being a soft open to #2's excellence, but watching them back-to-back, it's hard to argue that one is better than the other.

Let's skip ahead to that one, shall we?


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Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The effects in this film hold up better than those in #1, but for films well on their way to twenty-years-old, they hold up fine. It's also nice to watch them together because the real story here is that of Peter and MJ and it takes two films for them to have a satisfying arc.

This film too I have not seen but the once, this time in-theater, just before we moved back to California. It blew me away and, in my mind, has always been one of the greatest superhero films. On rewatching I still consider it quite a good superhero film, but there's so much more competition now, it's a harder claim to justify. Largely because what a superhero film can be has grown so much. It's happy, in other words, that I'm not sure I still find my old opinion justifiable.

One thing about watching these films? How young everyone looks. Time, it seems, has indeed passed.

One last comment, this about Kirsten Dunst (who, it would seem, has aged the least, which may be more a comment on Hollywood's expectations upon women than anything else). Isn't she great? And I'm not saying that because her nipples get cameos in both films. She manages to be a damsel in distress while remaining strong. She gets her Fay Wray on while seeming fully modern. And Sam Raimi's horror bits throughout the films are never better served than when Kirsten Dunst gets to play the scream queen.

Weirdly though, seeing her here most makes me want to finally watch Melancholia, just to catch some more of her range.


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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's been far too long since I've revisited this film. My kids had never seen it. Now they have. And a thousand parodies now make sense to them. And they thought it was a good movie.

But only their parents wept throughout and sobbed at the end.

This is a movie you admire and are moved by as a child. But it's something else entire when you grow up to be some mix of George and Mary yourself.

This should be the movie we watch every year. It has so much to give.


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The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

This is the greatest of all (known) New Year's Eve films and if you watched something else, you must justify yourself to me. It's perfect.

I cannnot understand anyone who declares this lesser Coen. Have you even seen this movie since 1994?

Come over any December 31st and share in the joys!



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