From Poopypants to Mormon Bloggers to a Really Great Southern Novel to Kermit


017) Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers by Dav Pilkey, finished February 22

Dav Pilkey, let's just say, is extremely good at what he does. God bless him.
three days


016) Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub, finished February 18

I read this MBtFH method, but I can assure you it's an excellent overview of Henson's life and career---perfect for kids, with interesting little sides on Disney and whatnot (the one on the Women's Movement was a bit odd though). Even speedreading, the part where he dies brought back that sense of loss. He should still be with us today. He should still be with us today.
at the store


015) The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier, finished February 15

Posts up now! on AML! AMV! MMM!

Anyone want my copy of the book? It was given to me by the author and it's now heavily marked up but I'm happy to share.
coupla months i suppose


014) The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell, finished February 14

I've never read Woodrell before, but I did like the movie made of a previous work. This novel too is set in a South so real it feels almost foreign while thoroughly American. It has a couple throughlines, but many of the stories are just a couple pages long---just long enough to make you fond of its characters---before killing them in the dancehall explosion.

The novel is short, but it took me most of the pages to find my footing. But no question it's an excellent work of art, and I secretly lust to teach it.

And then there's the language. Here are a couple passages from pages 126-127 and 128:
"Dad, Bill and Speed aren't the ones who steal our milk---don't you ever even once in a while wonder about Grandpa Buster?"



"Your grandpa Buster was a bum."

"Just because you're a bum doesn't mean you're bad."

"You're right, son. It doesn't. I stand corrected. It absolutely does mean you're a bum, though." He tossed a few dollars on the bar and scooped his cigarettes, left the change. Rita said, Come back soon, John Paul, and he winked like he might and led me to the door and out. He squinted in the sunlight, yawned, stretched, yawned. "I've got two goddam tests coming this week---Modern Business Theory and Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's the one I'm worried about."

"We haven't got to him yet."

"That flowery fart has things to say, but he sure doesn't make it easy to get what he means." We walked along the old warped street toward our wheels and paused to stare at the river when we were between buildings and could see the water and all the way across to the next thicket. "But when you do it it, it was worth the trouble." Dad slid into the Mercury wagon on his side and me on mine. It started right up at the turn of the key, which was an only occasional result, and we pulled into traffic to drive six blocks up Derby Street to home. At the first stop sign Dad paused with his foot on the brakes and stared ahead in reverie down the uneven bricks of Main. "I think I like Speed."

* * * * *

Trains have haunted the nights in West Table since 1883 and disrupt sleep and taunt those awakened. The trains beating past toward the fabled beyond, the sound of each wheel-thump singing, You're going nowhere, you're going nowhere, and these wheels are, they are, they are going far from where you lie listening in your smallness and will still lie small at dawn after they are gone from hearing, tolling on singing along twin rails over the next hill and down and up over the next onward to those milk-and-honey environs where motion pictures happen fore real and history is made and large dashing lives you won't lead or even witness are lived.

Obviously, those two beautiful bits could not be more different.

Yet both prove the trains wrong: these little, lost, unheralded lives are the ones worth witnessing.
a coupla weeks

Previously in 2014 . . . . :


Books by people who make books


013) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, finished February 12

My students have been requesting a John Green parody from me for years.

This is not a John Green parody.

Props to John Green though, pulling a Stephen King and turning an ultraboring name into a major brand.

i dunno three weeks maybe more maybe less


012) Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, finished February 5

I'm so happy for Jeffrey Brown. He deserves to get the attention these Star Wars books are bringing. I hope parents are checking out his other work.

Incidentally, this volume is charming, but the other ones are hilariouser.
about a week


011) The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, finished January 27

I wish I could have read this book for the second time first. Like, say, Turn of the Screw, I imagine the real pleasure of this book will be in analyzing the quality of the pov's narration from the vantage point of knowing how it all turns out. But it's way too long to just read over and over again, and I'm not sure it's good enough to justify the effort. (Though, srsly, props to the author for cranking this out while simultaneouly working on her dissertation.)

We're in the 1920s. It's a Prohibition tale starring two typists at a New York police precinct, one of whom runs a speakeasy. It seems to be about the casual sociopathy bred into the very rich, but that (and other seeming "points") are undermined by the "twist" at the end. Scarequotes because, cmon, it's hardly a surprise and indeed I doubt Rindell intended it to be. The problem isn't the confusion, but that the last chapter goes beyond asking how unreliable our narrator is to undermining the novel entire. Fortunately, the poorly designated "Epilogue" does a good job of redeeming the bulk of the text from the occasional but frequent missteps in the previous chapter. Then there's another attempt to twist in the final two paragraphs.

In other words, we have a pretty darn good debut novel that worries it hasn't been trying hard enough and slips all over the ice at the close.

So if you like the sound of women during Prohibition written in a vintage voice and just the right amount of description of clothes and dancing and a weekend at Gatsby-lite's place on the sound, you're going to love this book. If not, just remember the author's name for next time.
over a week


010) The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 25

I think 1987 must be the funniest year yet. And 1988 was none to shabby either. The assault-weapons gag was certainly fresh and topical.

I also liked Garry Trudeau's humble introduction. It's certainly one of the better ones.

Upsettingly, I'm pretty sure the next volume is the one I wanted to write the intro for. Alas, I did not become famous quickly enough.
just under a month

Previously in 2014 . . . . :


Oscar-nominated Live-action Shorts
as seen in theaters



The actor playing the dying kid is a pretty good actor, but besides getting sweaty, he always looks ruddy and healthy. Makeup could have tried harder. The actor playing the janitor who befriends him is also good. The effects creating the afterlife they imagine together are pretty decent. But in the end, this movie doesn't really say anything we haven't heard before.

The Voorman Problem

Martin Freeman has become one of my favorite people to see on the screen, but that's not the primary reason I wish this had been longer. I wish it were longer, because the "twist" was not worthy to end a movie---it's the start of a movie! The earlier surprise was bigger, more startling, more impacting, more weird (in the classic sense). The second surprise is petty in comparison. More should have done with this concept. (Although: cool website.)

Avant que de tout perdre

Just Before Losing Everything

This one sped up my pulse as the abused family escapes father. But I can't tell French vans apart, so I'm not sure how to interpret that final shot. That opening shot though? A thing of beauty. Any frame from that shot could hang in a museum.

Aquel no era yo

That Wasn't Me

Watching this is a shortcut that I think can make anyone (at least, anyone who's been a boy) understand how someone becomes a child soldier. Not quite as horrifying as City of God, but close. I don't understand the controlling conceit though, of the story being told my a former soldier. Were the filmmakers concerned that if we didn't see other people's eyes tearing up, we wouldn't recognize the horror? I didn't feel manipulated by the conceit, but I'm not convinced it added anything. And the possible interpretation of White Woman Saves Black Man could send some viewers down a road the filmmakers probably didn't intend. Still. Affective. This is the one I'm most likely to remember.

Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa?

Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?

This is like a seven-minute sitcom---like one storyline in an episode of Modern Family---but I think I like this Finnish version better. Although some of the moments are sitcom-heightened, the family looks like normal people and the slapstick has more verisimilitude and if that ends up meaning less laughs, at least the laughs are also more honest and real.

animated nominees


Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts
as seen in theaters


Nominated animated shorts:

Get a Horse!

I appreciate the technical whatsit and the use of vintage voices (when did Disney himself last star in a Mickey cartoon?) but I didn't like the 3D modeling and I just don't find the short as entertaining as everyone else does. Which makes me sad. But hey---all's not over for Mickey---those new tv/online shorts have been pretty great.

Mr. Hublot

The world-design is cool. The character's OCD is up there with The Aviator among the best ever committed to film. But it's all put to use in one more predictable dog story. Pity.


This was, visually, my favorite of the films. I would use this in my classes. I enjoyed the ambiguity of its unanswered questions, but I suspect the filmmakers asked more questions than necessary to hide the fact that they weren't sure which of the questions they were asking were the important questions.


Did not care for the visual animation here. The story was okay, but it's hard to imagine this was one of the best shorts of the year.

Room on the Broom

But if THIS was one of the year's best shorts, oh boy. Let's just assume it's not, shall we? Boring. I fell asleep for a minute or two. Lady Steed tells me I missed the emotional climax of the story, but no way would I watch it again to catch that moment. I suspect this is the Academy nominating who's been nommed before and who included famous voices. Would YOU put it past them?

Not-nominated but still highly-commended animated shorts

A La Francaise

Crazily, I just watched this. It's lovely to look at and okay as a film. You can decide for yourself.

The Missing Scarf

Probably my favorite. Certainly the short I would most likely incorporate into my teaching. I love how it starts out so sweet and spirals into existential horror. Plus, visually? This one's just an all-around winner. Best of show.

The Blue Umbrella

I like the animation of everything except the umbrellas. I like the music. The umbrellas are cute, but they don't match the world and, frankly, I've seen them before in bubblewrap. And the love story? It's like the opening sequence of 101 Dalmatians without making much sense. Nice to watch once; nothing to return to.

Additional thoughts

Perhaps I am a snob, but certainly I am a connoisseur (we miss you, The Animation Show!) and I have to say this batch of films was disappointing. And those who know about What's Happening Now in Animation agree with me.

This is an exciting time for animation. The Oscar nominations should reflect this. These were fine films but, generally, they were not exciting.


live-action nominees


From existential dread to buckets of blood: poetry


Well, it's happened again. Therious Literary Artist has gone and published some genre poetry. You might almost think he doesn't care about his therious reputati"on."

This time I got on the cover, though. Or Eric W Jepson did. Whoever he is.


Rifflection on the Climax of “The Monkey’s Paw”
In Memoriam: B
The Young Amateur Imagines the Editor’s Pen, ca 1997


Have a Very Byucky Valentine's Day


Look what I found on the Internet yesterday!

[NOTE: the applicability of these to valentine's day may vary]


Recent publications


I am surprisingly terrible at announcing publications here at Thutopia.

But here are a few from recent months I've neglected (more are in the pipeline):

"Then, at 2:30. . . ." at 365 Tomorrows
The talk-show of the future will cover celebrity problems of the future.

"Yes, Snow White Ate the Apple. It Was a Suicide." at MicroHorror
Hardly an original idea to rework Snow White as a horror story, but I hope where I'm standing results in a different view.

"Overall free" at 無μ Magazine
This poem is . . . probably about . . . something . . . or other.

"Accidentally Deleted" at Quantum Fairy Tales
Considering all the science-fiction poetry I was writing back when I was an Asimov's subscriber, it's nice to see some end up in print.


Just hours after I posted this, look what went up:
"Inappropriate Book Illustrations Redeemed Through the Glory of Dance" at Red Fez
(self explanatory)


Creation svithe


What CREATING teaches me about the CREATOR

After today's sacrament meeting ended the bishop leaned over and asked how does it feel to create sacrament meeting topics. I had to admit I love it.

Today's topic was inspired by last year's Arts Sunday. I had to wear a hat more appropriate to keeping my eyeglasses clear of rain, but I did bring my black beret with me to which I have added twenty Mormon Arts-themed pins as you can see here.

I began my introduction to the topic by talking about the end of my mission, and my frequent rereading of Elder Ballard's 1996 talk on the arts while eating corndogs and getting desperately ill. (Good times.)

Then I talked about the beret and the work of some of the artists featured on it who are connected to our ward (see the other post for related contest information).

And then I shared this quote from then Elder Thomas S. Monson:
God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.

And then I let them rip. I'll put brief notices of the talks in the comments section roughly three hours after this post goes live.

previous svithe


A Forbidden Fruit Svithe


Here's a thought. Both options were good options. The better choice also was the choice that seemed like the lesser choice.

Perhaps that's a lesson for us. Sometimes the Lord may expect us to choose what seems like the lesser choice.

For instance. Turning down a calling is never the right thing to do. But what if, in this circumstance, the Lord has provided an opportunity for you to do the more important thing even though accepting the call seems like what you should always always do.

Of course, this line of thinking doesn't reflect well on Abraham. . . .

previous svithe