Do you remember? All the films that I watched this September?


library dvd
Romancing the Stone (1984)

This was a family favorite when I was a kid. Which is crazy because one of the only images I recall is, ah, family-awkward.

Anyway, I remembered it but hadn't really thought about rewatching it until the 80s All Over guys gave it a rapturous review a couple years ago. And they liked it so much (and told such an interesting/tragic story about the screenwriter) that I had to rewatch it. It just took this long.

Anyway, it is a very fun movie. It's not a masterpiece or anything but it is an excellent pop song. Terrific. You can play this baby at full blast and have a terrific time. So play it loud.

A Town Called Panic (2009)

A family favorite! And, when I recently noticed the sequel on Kanopy, I knew we should watch it. But, since the baby hasn't seen the original, that should happen first. A brother showed it to her but she said she didn't like it. So we all watched to together to teach her how to laugh. And so, the entire film, she explained to us what would happen next and outlined her favorite parts, one by one.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it, this is the most surreally insane thing I've ever seen. And I love it so. It's hilarious.

our dvd
Snoopy, Come Home (1972)

I haven't seen this since I was a kid and I had conflated it with the Very Special Episode. But the music has never left my head. Ends up there's a good reason for that. Schultz decided to take a break from Vince Guaraldi and try out a more commercial, Disneyesque sound, and, thus, naturally, hired the Sherman Brothers. It shows.

There are some scenes where the background is more Guaraldi-like, but largely the score follows the Shermans' lead. And it works, pretty much. The visuals are still pure Bill Melendez/Lee Mendelson goodness and they even get experimental with some moving cameras and forced perspectives. Visually, it's a treat.

So I don't know why this is the sole Peanuts feature to bomb. It's great. Critics agree. It's hilarious and jerks tears. What more do people want?? Maybe the 1972 boxoffice was more competitive than I realize? Dunno. But when you get Thurl Ravenscroft to sing a running gag, you're doing SOMETHING right.

A Town Called Panic: Double Fun (2016)

So. Ends up it's not a movie. It's a collection of shorts. In English. With inconsistent voices. Some by Aardman which shoulds fine but they end up tasting Aardmany. (It's true: I thought so before we got to the credits.) And although the insanity was present it didn't feel quite so insane. I suppose with the exception of the journey into Pig's brain.


Still hope to see the original tv show, though! Someday!

library dvd
"Crocodile" Dundee (1986)

For years, we've been thinking about showing this movie to the kids. Sure, because we liked it as kids but especially because everything there's a knife around, we want to quote the movie. And they won't get it.

Anyway, I finally put it on hold after learning it has been nominated for an Academy Award—screenplay! Well then! It deserves a watch.

It's a very 80s sort of movie. I mean–who wears a swimming suit like that on a hike? But largely it still holds up. The kids enjoyed it.

I like him even more after reading he was unhappy that some people saw his character as a Chuck Norris or Rambo type:

"The movie scene is screaming out for the movie hero who doesn't kill 75 people...less of those commandos, terminators, ex-terminators and squashers. Mick's a good role model. There's no malice in the fellow and he's human. He's not a wimp or a sissy just because he doesn't kill people."

library dvd
The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Most of this movie works as well as the first. Even with the original writer dead, they managed to capture, largely, the wit and motion of Romancing the Stone. That said, I have complaints.

Let's do the technical stuff first. The cuts and the sounds design, especially in the climax, are often lazy cliches.

Now, culturally, I don't know. I don't know how well the various African cultures were represented, but I have my suspicians that people might not love their representation. And the replacing of native music with very 80s very American music shows how uncertain the filmmakers were to represent accurately, even if they're close. And the way black, tribal breasts can be shoved into a PG movie, but not white breasts, is also suggestive of some othering.

I'm not the least worried, however, how the fascist, would-be emperor is displayed. Seemed more or less like fascist would-be emperors the world round.

UPDATE: Just learned the screenwriter died six weeks before the movie's release. So she just didn't write it. Don't know if that was her choice or not.

UPDATE: She hadn't been avaialble because she was writing Spielberg's Always and what might have become the third Indiana Jones film. In other words, she was busy. (Still: Don't drink and drive, kids.)

ANYWAY, I do wonder if these movies didn't influence the 80s quite a bit. Would Crocodile Dundee (see above) have come out without Romancing the Stone? What about Ishtar without Jewel of the Nile?

library dvd
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Finally! This is a movie I've been meaning to watch for a long, long time. And it was worth the weight. The kids didn't watch it but want to see where the badgers line comes from so want to fit it in.

I could write an essay on it right now, having read a lot about it having discussed it at film group, but, having discussed it at film group, that energy is spent. Suffice it to say it holds up.

I do wonder if the decapitated head footage still exists anywhere in this world of ours.

library dvd
Discovering Treasure: The Story of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre (2003)

A fine documentary of a classic film. I haven't much else to say about it.

(image source)

library dvd
John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick (1989)

I had no idea 1989 was so long ago! The host of the doc, Robert Mitchum, always has a cig in his fingers. Everyone's wearing glasses I thought went away in the 70s. Dead people are alive and old people are middle-aged.

The film was made a couple years after Huston's death, but there's plenty of interview with him to use. It talks about the films that are still important and the ones that have now slipped into (ore-or-less) obscurity. They weren't sure in 1989 which were which.

Weird sexism that a hagiography would try to erase today or, perhaps, look at directly. Here it's just the air they breathe. Vocabulary of geography and peoples has evolved a lot since 1989.

So while it's a solid documentary, it's just as interesting as a time capsule. Maybe more.

Scotland, Pa. (2001)


I knew it was a while ago, but I was guessing a decade. It's wild to me that I've had my eye out for this movie for TWENTY YEARS. That's a long time.

I suppose, given that in twenty years the only poster on IMDb is still the Sundance poster goes to show how lost it's been, but that is a long time.

The write-up(s?) I read at the time made me expect a much harder R film that what we have. And the little I knew of the plot made it hard to imagine how it could come together into a decent pastiche of modern times and Macbeth but I am very happy to say that is EXACTLY what it is.

I enjoyed this immensely. I think it might be my favorite Macbeth film. And I've seen a few.

It made me laugh several times and it kept me on edge through out. Brilliant adaptation.

I'm glad it's finally popping up to stream.

library dvd
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (2018)

A few good jokes and a story that tries hard to pack in a lot of exposition and morality (though what kid needs the lesson, "no one needs this much power"?) and an overreliance on already liking the characters?


Fine, but not for the picky.

library dvd
Emma. (2020)

Remember March 2020?

My AP Lit class and I had decided to have an Unofficial Field Trip to the Albany Twin where we would together watch Emma in celebration of finishing our discussion of Pride and Prejudice But before that could happen the schools shut down. And before we could decide whether to go see it anyway the theaters shut down. And that was that.

I had just finished reading Emma (which I like much more now than I did then and hope to someday reread). I don't know if it's better or worse than most of two years has passed since then, in terms of my movie-watching experience, but I certainly did enjoy the movie.

It started slow for me, but some of the emotional beats were as moving as any in recent memory. Emma's picnic destruction is so great in fact that the stripped-down apology and growth that follows did not seem at all sufficient. The reconciliation fo Emma and Harriet was wonderful. So yes, I cried both from happiness and sadness in this film.

Plus, it was lovely to look at, the music choices were apart from the norm but quite right, the casting and costuming and acting and the engagement of the camera were all marvels. Plus, it finally made me see why people like Bill Nighy. A wonderfully made film.

I'm certain, when I watch it again, that it won't have a slow start at all, but that I will be engaged from go.

Previous films watched


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
















The two I expect to remember are In and Ursula's


090) Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale, finished on September 4

My son brought this home from the middle-school library. It had an amusing title and he said it was good, so I decided to read at least the beginning, and I'm glad I did.

Although it's aimed at a young audience, this comic could make a genuinely terrifying movie. It would only require four physical sets (school, city streets, taco shop, green-screen room) but the CG sets would be elaborate.

It's a dopey horror setup worthy of the most absurd 50s b-flick, but the explanation of what's happening takes a wonderfully long time to arrive. Long enough that we get to experience the terror and confusion of the unknown, but not so long that the arrival feels like it flushes everything we've experienced down the toilet.

In short, the shape of the plot and the madness of the concept are perfectly balanced. If you're the least bit interested in this sort of thing, this is for you.


091) In by Will McPhail, finished on September 4

Abebooks has a 50 Essential Graphic Novels list and I was checking out how many I'd read. This one (new this year) I had not, but it had a striking cover and my local library could provide it so I picked it up.

I think I was also attracted to his name because the similarly named David McPhail is a solid picture-book creator. I do know this other McPhail's work from The New Yorker but I hadn't learned his name.

Anyway. I had no idea what to expect. But what we have is an urban fellow probably around age thirty who is connected to his environment, but not in any meaningful way. And he's seeking more meaningful connections. And he begins to find them. But will it be enough? Will it be in time?

Most of the book is mostly black and white with gray washes—like his New Yorker cartoons—but the moments of breakthrough become full-color digital paintings flooded with metaphoricality.

It's a moving book. And if it weren't for some explicit sex, I would push it on my teenagers.

I worry about the pandemic generation's capacity to connect with each other.

And I worry about their ability to know about this lack.

about fifty minutes

092) Deadpool Does Shakespeare by Gerry Duggan and Ian Doescher, finished on September 4

The Shakespeare part had plenty of fun play with the plays but, ultimately, and as per usual, I find the Merc with a Mouth dissatisfying. I wish it weren't so.

Although, note to self, Deadpool did, whilst going Elizabethan, use the contraction "I'ld." Add this to the list.

watching my daughter rollerskate

093) WE3 by Grant Morrison, finished on September 4?

So the government picked some lost pets off the street and turned them into a cyborg murder team. But they're still just a dog and a cat and a bunny that have learned to live together. So, when they get decommissioned and manage to escape, they try to incredible-journey their way to a new life.

It's not a perfect success and there's hella blood and guts (and teeth and spleens) along the way to what is, largely, a happy ending? I guess?

a sitting

094) The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished on September 21

I picked this novel up because I wanted to consider adding it to the dystopia list I use for an AP Lit assignment. I'll need to think about it a bit longer before I decide but I think the answer is no. It's a brilliant novel  but it deconstructs the whole utopia/dystopia dichotomy so thoroughly that I think it would end up difficult for students to apply to the assignments. I mean—they could definitely do it but they would spend so much time stressing over basic questions like just what is the dystopia here that the whole process would end up focused on the wrong things.

ANYWAY, the point is, this novel is brilliant. And because of its backtrackingly complexitous engagement with the genre, maybe my favorite utopia/dystopia.

For one thing, I love that the failing of the utopia is what allows it to prove that it is, in fact, a utopia.

Among other things, I'm impressed how well Le Guin predicted her world. I'd wondered if Terra was in fact our Earth and now I know for certain that it is. But that Earth falls apart after hitting nine billion people and the collapse is caused by things I can find by reading the news or by looking out my window. She even describes the effects of plastics as we think of them now. I had no idea these thoughts even existed in 1974.

As I was reading, oh, maybe thirty, fifty pages from the end today, leaving campus, as the possibility of utopia was being reborn in one timeline just as it was being crushed in the other, I realized there's a nice parallel with another book I'm currently reading, the new biography of Eugene England.

One of the complaints people (including Bob Rees, who should know) are making about that book is that the author, Terryl Givens, is calling Gene naive and a dope for failing to sufficiently (properly) suckup to Church leadership. I'm not deep enough in to take a stance yet but I'm certainly leaning toward agreement with the criticisms. What I'm seeing (and maybe this is some form of projection?) is a man who consistently gave others the opportunity to do the better thing, even when the alternative could be damaging to himself. I can understand that motivation.

And it's a motivation we see in Shevek, the hero of The Dispossessed.

Even before I made the Eugene England connection, I had been thinking about the Anarresti in terms of Mormon parallels. What if the Saints had been isolated long enough to truly form a separate ethnicity?

They Anarresti invent a language (ie, the Deseret alphabet; although actually, I assume, the recreation of Hebrew) both designed to be more accurate to their philosophy and to keep outside ideas outside.

A great religious leader whose greatest, most radical ideas seem absurd and impossible to outsiders.

A sexual and relationship reimagining that, let's face it, is hella queer by contemporary standards.

Although the differences to Mormon stuff are at least as great as the sames, it was impossible for me to read The Dispossessed without imagining glorious what-ifs. 

***Incidentally, a couple Mormons-on-Mars novellas (Steve Peck's Adoniha and my Prophetess) build on similar themes in an extremely Dispossed way with actual Mormons and I recommend them to your consideration.***

This is a wise novel. Wise and provocative, in all the best ways. This is a world important for us to imagine.

But I don't want to do it alone. Even if (or because) the book does tell us that "An artist can’t hide behind the truth. He can’t hide anywhere."

under three weeks

Previously . . . . :


How to read Theric in 8 short paragraphs


One thing I am notoriously bad at is self-promotion. One of my hopes for Thubstack is that the sense of immediacy it implies will encourage me to announce new work. So that's what I'm doing now.

Some months ago, I was sent a gratis copy of Merrijane Rice's new book, Grace Like Water. I found I had something to say about it, so I wrote a review and tried to decide where to send it.

Whale Road Review are a friendly bunch and I actually use a poem I found there frequently in AP Lit. (I've also submitted poems a goodly number of times, but no dice quite yet.) I published a review there four years ago and thought it might be a good place for this one as well. (Which may well make WRR a top-five publisher of Mormon poetry reviews, I just realized.) (It's not hard to break into the top five, tbh.)

Anyway! I sent the review in and now it's up: "How to Read Grace Like Water."

As I was adding it to thbiblio, I noticed this is my third publication with a title beginning "How to." The other two are "How to Get Over It" (originally written for Byuck but first appearing in The Fob Bible) and which, in the Dialogue review, was given a nice comparison to Shouts & Murmurs, which puts me in the only company I've ever craved.

The other is "How to Become a Mormon-Comics Snob in Five Easy Steps," the introduction to Sunstone's comics issue, which I edited.

Come to think of it, all three of these show another of my often-dos: lists. I love breaking things into pieces. And I often number those pieces and lay them back out.

Anyway. I wrote a review. And someone else said it so I don't have to:


Atheists are the new Christians


It doesn't happen very often, but I have had some kids take religious exemptions to my classroom texts. It even happened with one LDS girl who found me less willing to accept her reasons for refusing to read Slaughterhouse-Five or Nineteen Eighty-four than her other teachers had been. Essentially, she just wanted to make her own syllabus for every class she took and, until me, had little trouble steamrolling teachers.

She's the most extreme (and only Mormon) student I've had who spoke up for themselves on their own initiative to refuse to read books that conflicted with their religious standards. The most frequent complaint has come from my Jehovah's Witness students who don't like reading ghost stories. I now just have an alternate assignment ready to go when I do that unit. They also don't like it when I cover the propositions, but that's usually their mothers who contact me.

Anyway, it's not a regular problem. In fact, it's irregular enough that I often don't recognize it when it's happening. A few days will pass and then I'll think to myself, ohhhhh....... Jaydubs Got it. That's why they talk about current events around the table but don't believe in "things like this." It always confuses me. Part of my job, as I view it, it to make a literate citizenry, and I'm confused when parents don't seem to agree.

The stereotype of this interaction is the crazy liberal teacher upsetting religious conservatives and their fragile values, but in my experience it tends to be one person's insecurity threatened by a text that's outside their comfort zone. It's hard for me (with, granted, my Latter-day Saint bias) to accept that any knowledge is forbidden or that any literature is inappropriate. The world's knowledge is ours and I, as a high-school teacher, am a guide. I teach kids how to navigate this stuff. And the "dangerous" stuff might be the most important for me to cover. Modeling how to navigate letters is a vital part of my job and so I find it deeply upsetting and frustrating when students opt out. I push back then I accept it then I'm annoyed and just try not to think about it. I suppose part of it is that I feel I have somehow failed to build enough trust to be their guide.

Anyway, this past week I had my first interaction with a student as bullheaded about their religious feelings since my Mormon girl who despised reading about violence but had Captain Moroni as her email handle and thought Heart of Darkness would be a safe replacement text. And, friends, the newly nervous group of religionists is the atheists.

With sophomores the last . . . four years, maybe? I've been doing a Greek-myth-and-the-Bible unit. I have a list of forty stories from each tradition. Kids sign up for one of each and give presentations on their stories during the semester. As part of the presentation, they need to a) explain the story, b) show how this story has echos in other mythologies or modern stories or whatever—one-story stuff, and c) find an example of how the story appears in the modern English language (eg, tantalize or the writing's on the wall).

About every other class, one kid asks if the bible isn't verboten and I say no. I say I can't tell them to believe in it, but as a part of our literary heritage, it's pretty dang important. Before last week, this satisfied everyone.

I don't want to risk giving any identifying details about this student and so my story will be pretty bloodless going forward, but the moral is: once again I didn't realize that a kid was bringing me a religious complaint. He came in armed with bad logic and "worries" about lawsuits and an irrelevant Supreme Court case and so I thought he wanted to engage on those terms. It didn't take long before the nature of the conversation changed under my feet and, after it was too late to correct, I realized that was all a cover. The real topic was his feelings. As an atheist, he found the Bible as dangerous as my Witnesses found Poe or my homeschooled Mormon valedictorian found Vonnegut. It was entirely a religious argument. But, unlike Captain Moroni, he doesn't just want to define his own curriculum—he thinks I should cave in and do what he says.

In other words, instead of banning Harry Potter, my righteous atheist wants to ban the Bible.

And he thought his religion had enough local power to terrify me into compliance.

So, in other words, when I say Atheists are the new Christians, it's not a compliment.


If I keep reading poems and comics I may make it to a hundred this month


084) Now We're Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizio, finished on August 27

I only knew Kim Addonizio from a very short story and its accompanying photo—but that was enough for me to remember her name and to allow the back of the book to hook me.

I love this collection. The poems are sharp and vernacular. They're recursive in interesting ways (references to Keats, sonnet-like sonnets) and they speak with complexity without pushing away. I enjoyed it immensely. I should have carried a pencil and then I could now be quoting lines.

I did not however. Alas.

Incidentally, I picked this up because it was in my 40ish-strong collection of recent collections that I've been acquiring from my neighbor's Little Free Library (everybody hopes she'll write them a review). For the first time, I dropped this stack of books on my AP kids, just to see what they would think. I'd assumed they would find the poems oppressive and impossible, but they settled right in and read. I had to interrupt them after an hour so we could talk about what they'd discovered. I was hella impressed, to be honest.

Good job, poets.

I only feel bad sneaking this one out for myself.

(Monday it goes back on the shelf for next time.)

two days

085) I Am Young by M. Dean, finished on August 30

Is it a novel? Is it a short story collection?


It walks that line in a slightly more interesting way, however. All the stories are connected thematically (young people in love, with music) as they stretch over the Twentieth Century. One story in particular keeps getting revisited (they meet at a Beatles concert, they end up living together, they end up separated, they keep bumping into each other as Beatles die), largely in the form of letters written (or, finally, not written) to each other, their lives in parallel. Between these looks in, we visit other characters who struggle with mussy relationships.

Anyway, I liked it fine. It did some interesting things with form and color, but I rather doubt I'll remember it. Here the moment after a sudden wedding that should not have happened:

under a week

086) The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye presented by Sonny Liew, finished on August 31


So, first, I loved this book. It's the story of a Singaporean comics artist who has spent his entire life struggling to do great work without money or acclaim. He tries on style after style and, although he executes them all with excellence, he ends up, to my Western eyes, as merely derivative of Tezuka of Pong or MAD or Carl Barks. But although he's borrowing other artists' vernacular, his uniquely Singaporean use of his talents is mindboggling. You want him to find success, even if the recognition comes too little too late ala Jack Kirby. His 1988 visit to San Diego Comic-Con International is particularly heartbreaking.

And through it all, Sonny Liew is our guide. It helps to have a native.

Anyway, it's a beautifully designed volume, generously including swathes of Chan's art through the various stages of his career.

But, it was a brilliant book—until I finished speedreading the endnotes and the acknowledgements and realizing halfway through this was the same author bio on the back of the book—and then I read the copyright page and it changed from merely a brilliant book to a work of genius. But please, don't start with the copyright page. Don't start by reading anything out there about the book. Just start at the beginning and make your way through.

since saturday

087) The Oven by Sophie Goldstein, finished on August 31

It's the distant future. Our heroes, man and wife, arrive at some galactic outpost to live in a trailer park where they will be free to live in the old way. To farm and have children. It's a wild and alien existence for them, even if to us it seems only fifty years past.

Of course, the plot thickens, etc.

I love the orange monochrome of the art. I like the simple character designs—one character always has closed eyes, like a Syd Hoff character. The book is very short, but it finds depth in its ambivalences.

required one bathroom break

088) Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky, finished on September 3

Here's a fantasy novel that knows what themes are important to it but pushes them so hard that it confuses whatever the point was supposed to me. Which is too bad. Witchlight has plenty of cool and interesting elements (my favorite is the candle) but the hiccups in worldbuilding result in a largely confusing exercise.

The best example of what I'm talking about is its excision of men. Except at the very beginning and a couple moments near the end, there are no male characters. All characters are either female or female-adjacent genderqueer. Which could be fine, but then, with the introduction of a male character at the end who inflicts violence and it's supposed to mean something, the meaning is muddled. I could provide a couple interpretations but they would be contradictory.

I'm sure reading Witchlight will give the YA segment it's targeting some good feelings, but intellectually it's a bit vapid.

three or five days

089) Loverboys by Gilbert Hernandez, finished on September 3

This takes place in the same town as Marble Season although it's decidedly less kid-friendly. It deals with a divorced-woman stereotype. In this case, a teacher starts sleeping with men who were here students in their recent high-school past. It's a complicated thing. The most serious of them is the son of the widow who ran off with her husband, for instance.

Some of the moments near the end felt very familiar but I don't have a record of reading this book. Maybe it was excerpted in a Best American Comics.

I do love how Gilbert's smalltown stories feel so real while maintaining the ability to incorporate fantastical elements—sometimes big, sometimes small.

an afternoon

Previously . . . . :