Feature Film: May2019


Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I'll try not to give anything away although this won't be posted until May 31, and by then, you should have seen it already....

The first-act twist caught me totally offguard and suggested (correctly) that all my clever assumptions would be wrong.

The reality (as opposed to my assumptions) was better. I'm impressed.

Endgame rewarded me for all the frickin time I've spent watching Marvel movies.

'Twas a satisfying conclusion to this ten-year arc.

And it cost what I had expected the cost to be in Infinity War.

Marvel has had a consistent honesty and cost to its movies, even here where so much is "repaired," it is done so in a way that doesn't take away all the costs. Scars remain. I like that. I trust them by this point, and this is a movie where they certainly could have lost me.

I didn't think the cg was as successful here, by which I mean that it had more failures than usual. Which I assume means the Hulk here (frinstance) was a much more complicated task than we've seen in past movies.

The film offered many successful emotional payoffs, though a couple scenes didn't quite pay off as I felt they should have. Perhaps they will work better when I see it the second time with Lady Steed. Or perhaps they will develop into true holes. Too soon to say.

ALL THAT SAID, how about a bit of storytime?

I was only able to see Endgame today because a bomb threat closed the high school early today. We evacuated to the football field during third block, then to the elementary school during fourth (the final block). Eventually all the students were released, and early enough that I assumed we were still on for Wednesday meetings. But not so. I got to campus and turned around and walked back home.

So we went to Endgame. Which was pretty great.

We did have a couple annoying kids on our row, but they were basically ignorable till the Return of the King-like multiple endings when they got super annoying. People in front of them were telling them to shut up. Then I threw my chocolote wrapper over, hit them in the head, they demanded identity of the thrower, when everyone told them to shut up and I shushed. And then they were quiet the rest of the time.

Finally, I think they lack of extracredits scenes was appropriate. Classy even, perhaps.

(Now I need to hurry back to the theaters and give some money to Missing Link before I miss my chance. They weren't even in the top ten last weekend!)

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

I've always wanted to turn Cinema Paradiso's quotations into a viewing syllabus. Some IMBd user has put together a list which may be comprehensive (who knows), and I'm not doing too bad, I suppose. 11/42 isn't embarrassing, especially considering how many are old Italian films and likely difficult to find.

I experimented with opening my yearending writing-about-film unit with this movie, the idea being I would have them write a short personal essay regarding their relationship with film. We'll see how it turns out.

A few of them were very disappointed by the unresolved Elena storyline. I'll have to watch the longer cut someday and see if that resolution is, as Ebert felt, even better.

Silence (2016)

This is my fifth time seeing this movie (1, 2–5) and it no longer has the power to leave me utterly destroyed. (I did, however, remain speechless the rest of the night to give Lady Steed space, this being her first viewing.)

Which is not to say I don't find the film moving anymore. I was moved, and greatly. But now I can hold the entire thing in my mind at once, I can see all pieces and angles simultaneously. Movies, rewatched, put us in the mind of God, in a way. And the only solution to the chaos of Silence is that given by Jesus himself within the film: love, peace, forgiveness---but not understanding.

It's still a hard movie. But the more I see it, the more it delivers peace and the less it delivers confusion.

One Week (1920) / The Boat (1921)

Due to some weird scheduling, I had to come up with a last-minute film-related ninety minutes, so we watched Every Frame a Painting and these two films that may or may not have been intended to be one film. Watching two was a good choice. The first film was purely introductory: this is how silent comedy works. The second they fully engaged with. So that's good data to store away.

The running gag they took most notice of was Buster's tendency to solve every problem with a hammer and nail. By the end, that's how they explained his hat staying on his head.

One thing they could not do, was read his lips for the last line of the movie. Of course, they didn't get the joke the first time it showed up either....

Short Term 12 (2013)

I've seen the short film more than once, but not since the feature was released and that's been a while. I'm not sure how closely they track. Not that it's a terribly important question.

The feature is solid. Great work from Brie Larson---one is not surprised to learn an Oscar is in her future. And although Marcus is a bit role, the attention he's gotten recently from a bit role in Get Out and leading Sorry to Bother You? You can see that worthiness here. The short, incidentally, was shot local to him when he was a kid and is what led to his career.

The setting: a house for kids who are dealing with too much (generally mental illness or, related, trauma of some kind). A place they can live out their minorhood until age 18 shows up. A stressful place, you can imagine. The lead characters are a couple who both work on the floor, but the kids characters are also real and lived in. Little details keep dropping which make the difficulty of their lives more plain. But it also has moments of beauty. A scene with a foster family that must be what the foster family in Shazam! hopes for fifteen years from now.

It's a film about relationships---of many kinds---and it delivers. The octopus alone is worth the price of admission. I wish that book existed....

BASEketball (1998)

So...I don't like Matt and Trey. I never have. But this film has always been in the back of my head as the one thing they've done that I thought I might possibly be able to like. And now, twenty years later, I've finally watched it. And it's crap. Hardly any of the jokes land, largely because the story and characters are largely empty.

(For what it's worth, Stone is much better on screen than Parker.)

The movie, for all its failures (and they are nearly unanimous) sinks under its South Park, pleased-with-itself R-rated tendencies. Every women is a T&A package, low jokes about, say, race or sexuality are never allowed to pass by unplucked---the entire sports milieu seems designed for juvenility and crassness. In other words, its hella lazy. And that laziness undercuts the ittybits of intelligence and satire that you can sometimes almost see.

The sad part to me, and what attracted me to the movie all those years ago, is that part of Matt and Trey's motivation was to immortalize a game they had actually invented and played. And it seems like it could be a pretty great playground game.

If they had hired better writers and thought about the kids market, they might have actually succeeded.

(Note: they did succeed in immortalizing late-90s late-90sness---from the hair to the music. So...nostalgia, I guess?)

(Note 2: I started writing this when I thought the movie was a few minutes from ending. There was still half an hour.)

Cinema Paradiso (1998)

I just watched the last fortiyish minutes of the director's cut as my understanding is that all the additions are in his return to Sicily.

(Part of the runtime addition, I'll assume, is the addition of at least four more actors with speaking roles to the credits.)

I agree with Roger (essentially) that the shorter cut is preferable. But I do see room to argue. Is the film about Toto's relationship with cinema or is it about the sacrifices required by art or is it about the attractions (slash dangers) of nostalgia or is it about the proper place of the past or is it about the sanctity (or shelflife) of love or or or or or?

You kinda have to answer that question to really know which is better.

I am startled that the additions changed the rating from PG to R. In fact, I doubt that very much. I think it had more to do with the changing standards of the MPAA. It's not really a provable question but, if it were, I'ld put money on it.

Bambi (1942)

Bambi is such a provocative film when you watch it closely. Disney was such a provocative filmmaker when he wasn't trying to make a quick buck. Here's a new view of it I just read: Five Reasons Why BAMBI is Disney's Most Hitchcockian Film. He ain't wrong.

And the music! I don't know if there's a film whose music I love more. I rather doubt it. Maybe equally, but more? Nah.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Curious experience, watching it the second time. On the one hand, the (depending on your perspective) pathetic/operatic staging of splash pages and the Buster Keatonesque use of camera gets a bit much. On the other, knowing what emotional beats were coming made them much more effective.

I don't know if I'll ever watch it again, but I don't regret watching it.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

(Note: this guy is exactly right and Endgame is full of evidence.)

A Goofy Movie (1995)

How happy was I to come home and see my kids about to start a movie I love? Pretty happy. Aren't you?

Holy moly has this film aged, though. Photographers in department stores. Videotape cameras. Pay-per-view? Wow. (Did you know there are only four payphones left in Manhattan?)

But it's still one of the great father/son movies made. And---I know I mention this a lot---is it proudly a cartoon movie and not, as Siskel & Ebert noted in their review all those years ago, an "animated film." Good on you, Goody Movie. You'll be pleased to know cartoon movies are doing okay here, almost twenty-five years later. Spider-Man just won an Oscar.

Good Time (2017)

Lady Steed heard about this movie from Fresh Air (I thought it was an interview, but I can't find an interview so maybe it was this review?) and really, really wanted to see it. Then she forgot all about it, doubted she'd ever been interested, and declined watching it. But she'd sold me on it. What made me take the plunge, however, was the most popular tweet I've sent out in some time, quasi-defending Robert Pattinson as Batman. I felt kind of obliged, after that.

The movie is an intense crime film, as Robert Pattinson jumps from frying pan to fire to frying pan over and over again. He is not a great person. Quite a bad person, in fact. But he is complex. He has moments of goodness. But they never stick.

But his primary motivation is helping his mentally disabled brother. He's not right about what his brother needs, but he's trying to help him. Even if that involves robbing a bank together.

The movie's first scene is the brother with a therapist. The final scene---including the credits, allowing it to play on and on---is the brother at a school where he will be with his peers. It's a moving scene. And it complicates everything that comes before.

Because this isn't just a rah-rah crime-is-fun movie. It's preventing anything from being obvious or easy.

I don't know that I'm convinced Pattinson should be Batman, but I'm certainly interested in seeing what else he's been up to. He's no slouch.

One last observation. The soundtrack is a wild, 80sesque synthesizer bonanza. But it doesn't feel satricic like Turbo Kid's or aged like Ladyhawke's---if feels wild and pulsing and contemporary and vital. And the final track with Iggy Pop is a fitting finale.

***HOLY-COINCIDENCE-BATMAN UPDATE*** coming from having just seen The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

That movie's director's previous short film (his calling card that led to Last Black Man) was based on this bankrobber. Which, quite obviously, was also the inspiration for the bankrobbery in Good Time. I had no idea it had been based on anything. The more you know!

(Discovered here.)

Psycho (1960)

The most effective moment in Psycho for today's youths is the entry of the violins followed closely by Mother at the top of the stairs. It's the biggest jump, for certain, and likely the biggest chill as well, although the basement swirl and the shower are second and third.

One thing that really struck me this viewing is that, sure, macguffins just exist to move the story along and don't matter of themselves, but here Hitchcock is aggressively dismissing their importance. All those first-act guns are left unfired, as the artillery sounds all around.

The Godfather (1972)

First time! And let me first compliment whoever it was that started out as a handsome and winsome young man yet slowly developed, over the course of the film, to Al Pacino. (In other news, I never was quite able to recognize Diane Keaton, even though I knew she was in the movie.)

The film is good. The baptism sequence is excellent---one of the best ever, I would say. While long, the film doesn't feel long, even when it takes extended times to slow life down and play in the garden. It does a fine job balancing family and suspenceful mobbery. But it is one of the greatest films ever made? I dunno, man.

It's film club's latest selection and before June 11th we (Lady Steed and I) hope to watch the other two film and rewatch this one (I would say the bonus disc as well, but I already feel like I'm kidding muself).

We have the multidisc collection released c. 2001 and which we have owned since c. 2004 (yes, unwatched; every time I wanted too, it was too much of a commitment for Lady Steed; every time I suggested I watch it alone, she was horrified I would even think such a thing).

I think Lady Steed liked it more than I do, though she's the one insisting we watch it again before film club in order to really decide how she feels. I also would like to watch it again though, to be honest. When you don't love a film that is, by consensus, one of the very great films, it deserves another chance. (Usually. I'm willing to make exceptions. I'm looking at you, Shining.)

Lady Steed's biggest comment this round is: You can always tell when a period film was made in the Seventies.

I suppose that's true.

Wolf Children (2012)

Add this to the list of films I've watched thanks to Every Frame a Painting. I'm glad I did, thought it's not exactly what Tony led me to expect. I checked it out intending to watch it with Lady Steed and the kids for Mother's Day. That didn't work out, but it's more a movie for grownups. They'll appreciate it more a few years from now.

I didn't realize the film would be so literal. There are actual (were)wolf children in this film, and the simple literalness of how this is done opens the door to so many great metaphors. And that's a nice thing to point out: the film is at times extremely figurative---not literal at all in its use of camera and image, etc. It embraces the fact that it is animation, and that's pretty great.

Sometimes the symbols get a bit heavyhanded, but I suspect that's due to the English translation which often turns to American cliche to get characters' meaning across. I suspect much has been lost.

Rushmore (1998)

I've had a rougher time than usual selling movies this go-round. I think it's a mix of me weighting assignments wrong and a rushed final-grade deadline from the admin team.

That said, I certainly enjoyed it. It is kind of a bummer watching students who've seen a million riffs on Rushmore dismiss it as cliche, but whatever. Maybe I should start offering a more recent Wes Anderson option....

Play It Again, Sam (1972)

Because it's a Woody Allen movie, I didn't recognize San Francisco. Not until they were leaving the City to go to the beach---and then I wondered why they didn't have an airplane-flying shot to symbolize cross-country. There's always an airplane shot!

As a film, this isn't as interesting as you might think. It's been a long time since I've seen Annie Hall or Purple Rose of Cairo, but I wager they are much more successful at making the surreal metaelements of the storytelling filmic. This is obviously a former play---and obviously a former play by someone coming out of standup and essaywriting.

It's a big chance for Woody Allen to show off his influences, and the recreated Casablanca ending is probably the most effective scene in the play. But Bogie's not all for influences. The dancing scene for instance? Woody is clearly channeling Groucho.

The hardest thing about the movie now though is its sexual politics. It's grappling with what was wrong with '30s and '40s sex and I guess it's making steps in the right direction, but it's obvious it's closer to those days than hours. And Woody Allen's current reputation makes those awkward moments extra icky.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

I just came from a preview (OPENING JUNE SEVENTH) with the director and cowriter and a bunch of the cast and Boots Riley. I'm still thinking about the film.

First: it's good. Stylistically, it's kind of a cross between Wes Anderson and Terrence Malick and if that doesn't compute, good. It does at time feel a bit like we-better-get-everything-in-here-because-we-don't-know-if-we'll-get-to-make-another, but I'm okay with that. I like ambitious firsts.

The key relationship is a male friendship that's unlike anything I've seen on screen before, and the film constantly surprises inasmuch as it evades all the cliche endings that could have taken over.

You should go see it.

I'm excited for you to do so so we can talk about it. For instance, I want to argue that this movie is spiritually related to westerns, the American genre that most deals with issues of masculinity, how coupling identity with place is both a human necessity and counterproductive, and how these things crash together. It's Shane without shootouts, without blackhats and whitehats. Anyway, let's talk, June 7th.

(Pop back up to Good Time to read a bit about the Last Black Man team's earlier short.)

Casablanca (1942)

Again, the combination of grades-already-turned-in and distracted overwokeness minimized the odds of film appreciation, but, dammit, *I* liked it.

Part of it, I think, is that Casablanca is great art. And one of the definitions I'm flirting with is that art is great when it rewards rereading/viewing/whatevering. Revisiting makes it better. Poorer art does not do that. One and done. Sometimes less than one and done.

As Ebert says of this film, "Seeing the film over and over again, year after year, I find it never grows over-familiar. It plays like a favorite musical album; the more I know it, the more I like it."

A Day at the Races (1937)

Although it's too long and drags at parts, it has some of my favorite sequences (Tutti frutti! might be the most-quoted sketch around these parts).

What I find most interesting, however, is the scene I always expect to end the movie even though that would leave all the major "plot points" openended (scare quotes, as this is a Marx Bros. movie, intentional). Plenty of 1930s movies had non sequiter musical numbers, and perhaps even numbers featuring African American performers were in vogue in 1937, but combine that number with the chaos inherent in Marxian comedy, their obvious Jewishness and film techniques such as the sudden introduction of dutch angles, and this number feels truly radical. It feels to me like an anarchic overthrow of America's racist heritage. Even the blakface seems to be doing something very different in this scene than when, say, Al Jolson does it or Amos & Andy. I don't know what the literature says, but that's my semi-educated take. This is a sign that racial egalitarianism is destined and ol' sheriff and the rich, white capitalists better be careful where they stand. They may win today, but the final victory is ours---all of ours.


Previous films watched

jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec








Elevator Pitch: Harold Pinter's Aquaman


041) The Birthday Party and The Room by Harold Pinter, finished May 6

My edition was published when these plays were still fresh and new and Pinter was still the dangerous young man. I've never read him before, but have long been meaning to. When I finished The Birthday Room all I wanted to say was WHAT THE HELL and I didn't feel it was at all what I had been expecting. but then I thought about what I had been expecting and what I had been expecting was not, in substance, that different from what I read. So good job at being Pinteresque, Pinter.

The violence in The Room was even more startling and unexpected, largely because the direction of it was quite opposite to the expectations created by the dread building up to it.

My first observation, reading The Birthday Party (before suddenly things got Dangerous and Weird), was how much the lead couple's was how much their conversation reminded me of the couples in Raymond Briggs. These are true working-class Brits, it would seem. And both Pinter and Briggs take that normalcy and do straaange things with it. There's a dissertation in here somewhere.
three days for the first
and two days for the second
but the third day of the
first and the first day of
the second were the same day
and there was a weekend between
that day and the final day


042) When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer, finished May 11

I don't remember where I picked this novel up, but I was intrigued by the copy on the cover stating


I'll admit to a bit of skepticism. For one thing, it has two authors. This makes me a snob. For another, based on the backcopy, this book seemed to be a completely different sort of book than either of those British classic, and that made me think those writing things on the cover didn't really know what they were talking about.

I was right.

Perhaps the book could have been more highly regarded when it originally appeared (1932) and perhaps even when my copy was published (1973), but less so now.

The main issue is the authors' completely unexamined racist and sexist assumptions. Well, maybe that's not the "main" issue, but it's the one that would be easiest to write an outraged thinkpiece on. Because the book is a mess---a mess!---of completely unexamined racist and sexist assumptions. You'll have to be pretty damn ignorant and pretty damn WASPy to miss them in 2019.

But they are, in some ways, merely symptomatic of the even more fundamental issue: Wyler and Balmer cannot write believable human beings. They are terrible at writing characters. Everytime I had to read scenes with characters I wanted to pluck my eyeballs out. They are awful and unbelievable and the laziest, crappiest, most unexamined mix of sterotype and cliche I've read in ... a long time, maybe ever.

So why, you might reasonably ask, why oh Theric, did you continue to read?

Great question. And I have an answer: because the scenes without characters were amaaaazing.

Here's the set-up: a pair of lost planets that have somehow been sent hurtling starless through the galaxy are on a collision course with the earth. On their first pass, the larger of the two will pass so close to the earth that the tides will be hundreds of feet high and lava will erupt from the Earth's crust and the Moon will be demolished. On its second pass, the Earth itself will be destroyed but, luckily, the second (and potentially inhabitable) planet, will survive and be sent in motion around our Sun while the large planet continues on its hyperbolic path to deep space, ne'er to return. If we can just get to Bronson Beta, humanity may continue.

And so we get a bunch of Strong Men and Brilliant Men working on inventing space travel etc etc while there's still a chance. They are, none of them, really worth mentioning.

What is worth mentioning are the scenes of destruction. They are captured with such realism to take my breath. People dying, helpless, by the millions. The planet we know and love as home tearing apart under our feet. The utter helplessness I felt as I read this passages is on par with any work of horror or disaster, book or film. Sadly, they were all followed up with more Tony and his perfectness and token anxieties. Ugh.

The novel wants to do interesting things. Perhaps the Brave New World comparison was inspired by the (scientifically sensible) idea that the survivors on Bronson Beta should not reproduce according to such now-expired ideas as love and marriage, but through carefully planned matches to assure the next generation will be as genetically strong as possible (though the authors are way too invested in conventional morality to really explore the idea outside the most timid teeheeing). I'm curious if they really attack the sex questions in their sequel, but not enough to pick it up. I suspect it'll all be character stuff. And I'm not willing to take that chance. Let me perish on the Earth with real people like Dorothea Brooke and Kade Chance.
about eleven months


043) Aquaman: Sub Diego by Will Pfeifer / Patrick Gleason / Christian Alamy, finished May 18

This is a 2015 collection of a 2004 "classic Aquaman story." Oh, yeah.

Half of San Diego has sunk below the sea and there are survivors---only now they breathe through gills and cannot return to land although they still possess the instinctive drive to get above water and breathe air they cannot breathe.

The art, at times, is distressingly ugly. By which I largely mean that the way they look in any given panel is not the way they ought to look given the demands of the story. But at least they'll have breasts and/or muscles and definitely buttocks. So that's good.

The concept and everything is fine and maybe it'll go somewhere in a later volume of Sub Diego, but the main thing I got was an answer to the vital question---spoiler alert---can Aquaman talk to plankton?

two or three days


044) The Tragedy of King Leere, Goatherd of the La Sals by Steven L. Peck, finished May 22

I don't know if it's Peck's additional ethos by virtue of being a working scientist, but I have never read a climate-change near-fiction novel that feels quite so likely as King Leere. The heavy referencing to Shakespeare also adds to the books intellectual heft (I did just read Lear---which I actually liked more than my lazy review suggests). And although the book is a fun and quick read, it's never lightweight.

One of the joys of near-future novels (this one's older folks are probably younger folks today) is picking up on details that don't now exist but that make sense---that can easily be extrapolated by the attentive reader. Peck also peppers the book with cool tech that seems feasible but that I, at least, haven't heard of before (guns that make bullets from carbon pulled from the air, for instance). Leere also experiments deeply with different points of view and design quirks (robot thought, demon thought, blank verse*), much like The Scholar of Moab.

But this gets to an important distinction between Moab and Leere. Moab was finished. Leere is a mess of typos and design errors and boneheaded mistakes no self-respecting copyeditor would let past. It's possible this is not from a lack of effort (Peculiar Pages accidentally released the penultimate edit of Monsters & Mormons at first, later corrected, very embarrassing), but I'm suspicious that BCC Press is just taking good books and putting them out as they were delivered. And so Publishers Weekly assumes they're seeing an "uncorrected" proof when actually that's what the final version actually looks like. Largely it's just eyerolling stuff, but sometimes it really matters. The most obviously problematic recurring problem was a lack of consistency with how the blank verse was formatted resulting in problems determining which character is talking. Design matters!

Anyway. Disappointing, but don't let it keep you from the novel. Just know it's annoying and, if you're the empathetic sort, embarrassing.

The narrating demon, near the very end of the novel, directly calls out our slowness to address climate change (he lives at our time and speaks to us---but he is not attached to time as we are and tells us a story of the future). Like a Shakespearean tragedy, our favorite characters are probably dead by the end, but, even worse, we don't have much hope for a better world, either. Even the pequeninos, which survived, are likely doomed. What hope is there? The demon is direct:
I can see that I've gone too far. You want subtle hints that the ecosystems of the world are crashing. Bold statements of that reality trend you away from the subdued and masked literary allusions you so enjoy. You want to see it from the side, to pretend you see the hidden message of what I'm saying. You want it wrapped in metaphor that only those in the know will see. But I just state it. You are dying.
He's right. I want to feel smart, and special because I'm smart. And I also want to keep our pending doom easily hidden away in less used corners of my mind. Don't we all?

The real enemy is, ultimately, not humans, however. Something we no longer control, no more than a dissatisfied bee controls the hive.

This might be the most fun I've had reading a Steven Peck novel. It might also be the least happy one has left me. And there's competition.
eighteen days



Eat Book for Good Health


034) King Lear by William Shakespeare, finished April 13

As a teenager, this play really did not work for me. I blamed it on being too young.

If I am no longer too young, methinks I am also not old enough.
four days


035) Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith, finished April 13

I probably would not have read this when the boys brought it home from the library except ... it's by Jeff Smith! Apparently his first work after finishing Bone (?), it does read and look like Bone in some ways if you're looking for connections.

I know very little about Captain Marvel, but apparently the movie's take is one of two. In the movie, Captain Marvel is just Billy Batson in a bigger body. The other version (as here) has Billy as sort of a magic lamp with Captain Marvel as the genie. (And possibly just future Billy all grown up?) It works well here, but that seems like a version that could get very dark very quickly. Sort of like the Hulk, only ... worse somehow.

I don't think that version of Captain Marvel has ever been done. But, again, I'm no expert.

Anyway, back to this Jeff Smith book, fun read! It's truly for kids, but it's also written and drawn in a way attractive to an adult audience. If he had ever done more, I would be interested. (The series sort of did continue, but without Mr Smith.)

Ultimately though I think Captain Marvel has to be for kids. It's a silly concept (even for a superhero) and with young Billy as protagonist, moving away from work-for-kids would lose its way quickly. I imagine. It does seem like Black Adam is a character they like to turn dark, but again: I'm no expert.
the thirteenth


036) The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men by Carol Lynn Pearson, finished April 15

I'm not sure I'd realized, really, how much thought I've given this topic---especially because I haven't thought about it much in a long, long time. Perhaps I had blocked out thinking about polygamy because it can be an exhausting topic. But certainly it's on my mind. "The Widower," The Youngest Wife, some poetry forthcoming and as yet unaccepted---even "The Prophetess of Mars" is framed like a polygamy story, someone recently told me to my surprised agreement.

I think the biggest revelation Carol Lynn's book provides is this: I am free to reject polygamy. I think, after Lady Steed has read the book, and we can talk about it together, this will be a great weight lifted from us. I suspect this weight explains some things I've never quite been able to discern clearly.

I hope people are listening. This is an important book, and a true book---a necessary book and a difficult book.
three days


037) Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, finished April 19

My kids had checked out at least this volume of Phoebe before and I had ignored it, thinking it was a Wimpy Kid-style book. Even had I known it was a syndicated strip, I might not have cared. This not precisely a golden era, after all. I don't mean to knock the strips being done, but they don't feel like a priority.

That said, I've been following the new Nancy since it appeared and the first strip delighted me. I just read an interview with that artist's editor at the syndicate and it mentioned that she also discovered/edits Phoebe and Wallace the Brave---two strips I did not know. Only the former had collections at my local library, so that's what I have now read.

And I liked it.

The introduction to this first volume was written by Peter S. Beagle (!) who compares its protagonist (favorably) to Calvin (!) and Charlie Brown (!) and says it is the best strip since Calvin's. So...impressive.

Having now read the first collection, I think a better comparison would be to Barnaby. Like Barnaby and unlike Calvin, Phoebe's friend the unicorn is unequivocably real. Like Barnaby and unlike Calvin, Phoebe's adventures are not limited t0 a primarily inner world and are certainly not limited to a short set of characters. It's expansively fantastical while remaining grounded in the small of an everychild's lived life. So yes. Phoebe's most obvious antecedent would have to be Barnaby.

the strips are colored in the book and, I suspect, at times the lines are strengthened and, in at least one case, cultural references (eg, Bono) may be written out


038) a novel by a friend, finished April 23

fivish days


039) Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, finished April 27

Every time (or almost so) I read a Terry Pratchett book, I wonder if THIS one is the one I should have talked the school into adding to the textbook room. Rereading it, no. This is great. I find it emotionally moving, it's endlessly funny, and I think I've finally figured out the right way to teach it. (In the past I've taught it, let it lie fallow three years, taught it, etc.) But now? I think I'm figuring it out. The students have only just begun, but it seems to be taking.
perhaps two weeks


040) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, finished May 3

I remember discovering this blog when it was still quite fresh, just as it was blowing up. Lady Steed and I would read it together, but it would take forever to get through as story as we were in literal danger of asphyxiation from all the laughter.

It's still good, but it's not as funny now. I have a few theories as to why:
1. I've read it before.

2. It's optimized for scrolling. Pages mess up the flow.

3. Smaller pictures.

4. We're older. Much of the insane stuff she does, grouchy old me wants to tell her to just stop doing stupid things.

5. It's 2019. We don't laugh at mental illness anymore.

6. I identify much, much more with her parents now. Those poor, poor people.

7. Miscellaneous similar points.
I would still recommend the book, no question, but the blog has a few stories the book does not (and vice versa) and is free. Maybe start there?
fivish days



Endgame spoilers


I've been reading Slate since the late '90s and today I made my first (possibly second?) pitch today. It's about Endgame and timely and I don't really feel like shipping it around and so, as it was rejected in about three hours, I just thought I would throw it up here. If anyone wants to persuade me to write the thing, I'm listening.
We probably have another week in which people are interested in reading about Avengers: Endgame, and although I found the movie satisfying, as it rolls around in my brain, I'm starting to find issues with it.

Ragnarok, for all its destruction (all of Asgard destroyed!), ended upbeat and saw Thor finally growing into his destined role as king.

Infinity War immediately ruined this cheerful close with Thanos's arrival. You could say, That's real life! Sometimes bad things happen! but this is movies and that entire argument is equivalent to arguing Endgame itself shouldn't have been made at all.

(Here, if you think it's appropriate, I could talk about my affinity for the films of Taika Waititi and how I think Ragnarok is a fine example of his personal work, which makes the rest of my take so upsetting to me personally. We could also leave me out it. Although I've been reading Slate since the very beginning, this is my first time pitching you. I don't have much ethos with your readership.)

As Infinity War flushed the Yay! Asgard! portion of Ragnarok, Endgame flushes Thor's personal development.

It's fine that he's been sad for five years and hasn't risen to the occasion. It's less fine that he appoints Valkyrie to be the #1 stay-at-home mom of Asgard (link to Slate's failed-feminism-of-Endgame piece) so he can leave his mancave and spend the rest of his life bowling with Star-Lord, a rabbit, and, one presumes, either John Goodman or Steve Buscemi in Thor 4: Asgardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.

In sum, all of Ragnarok's success and meaning have been rendered moot. One of Marvel's finest movies is now irrelevant. Thanos wins after all.

On the bright side for fantasy lovers, even if you get fat and drunk, we now know you never have to grow up. You can stay an eternal adolescent.


(And, if it fits in naturally, we'll have a Falstaff reference.)
I left out the stuff about my portfolio.