February's over already? It was yesterday? Oh dear.


Modern Times (1936)

The biggest flaw in this movie is Paulette Goddard. She's too damn beautiful. She's great! Don't misunderstand me! But it doesn't matter how much dirt you smudge on her face, the way she's made up and the clothes she's in (even when they're rags) plus her actual damn self. She's just too beautiful.

Plus, she's obviously 26 but she's supposed to be . . . fifteen? And their relationship. Is he a father figure? Are they in a burgeoning romance? I'm not sure why this choice for ambiguity.

Anyway, the moment the Little Tramp appeared on screen, our 5yrold started giggling. All he's doing is tightening bolts and she can't stop laughing.

I'm always up for some Chaplin. I mean, who isn't?

library dvd
Sing Street (2016)

What a mad fantasy this is! I mean—the movie doesn't lie to us: they could very well be dead as the credits roll–but it embraces art and joy and hope even is depressing-as-hell-as-ever '80s Ireland.

It also kind of snuck up on me. I thought I knew what kind(s) of movie it was (and I was right), but I missed the primary theme until the epic conclusion. But, just in case I missed it, the dedication drove it home. Which dedication was, frankly, sweet.

Props to Kohl Glass for the recommendation. Props to me for finally (finally following that recommendation.

This seems like a movie that will better and better on rewatching. Even on first view the music delved right into my soul. Makes me all the sadder I still (still) haven't watched Once.

link+ dvd
Private Benjamin (1980)

So . . . it was fine?

Lady Steed and I agree that it must have been a movie for its time. It did feel 1980 in the sense that it had a 70s vibe with some set pieces that would soon become tired elements of 80s comedy. We couldn't agree that it was a gag-a-minute sort of laff-fest and it's feminism is very pre-this-wave, but it was enjoyable enough.

I guess there's a reason everyone was still talking about it thirty years ago but less so today.

I just wish I could remember what I read or saw that prompted tracking it down earlier this year. Dang.

The Imposter (2012)

Terrific, thrilling movie. I will admit, parts of it hit differently in the QAnon era.

In the end, the people who come off the best are the most victimized. Because at least they maintain their humility.

There go any of us, should be so unlucky. We're not better than them.

Snowball Express (1972)

Arguably my favorite childhood films, it's still a lot of fun although some of the choices were not, shall we say, made for realism. But a strong cast and a fun plot with some slapstick a classic lines keep this one a winner, all these years later.

I had tried to show it to the kids before (long enough ago, none of them remember it), but that was on dvd. And I don't know if you've ever tried watching Snowball Express on dvd but I have, twice, on two different dvds, and the sound and the video are out of alignment. Which makes for a MADDENING experience.

I've been nervous to try streaming Snowball Express for fear they just lifted the dvd transfer but I'm happy to say that, at least on Disney+, it is correct. (But this higher res does make the lighting rather absurd now and them.)

Ford v Ferrari (2019)

So while we waited to watch this movie the first time with Grandpa, this time we watched it with Poppa. For similar but distint reasons. Grandpa is a Shelbyphile and a proud owner of a car signed by the man. Poppa is just a car car whose knowledge of the era's cars is about as deep as any layman's. Plus, one of the key settings is in his backyard.

Both men enjoyed the movie and, frankly, it was a lot of fun to share the movie with each of them. Although the things they felt important enough to talk over the movie differed, the general experience both times was like a gift handed across generations.

Plus, it's just a really good movie.

The Voyeurs (2021)

So this movie is supposed to be the descendent of Rear Window (which I love and admire) and Body Double (which remains a few slots down my De Palma watchlist) but it didn't seem worth serious attention so I sped through it at fast speed and, meh, it's okay. The couple we meet at the beginning is great. The descent into obsession works well. When the twists start coming, the begin with a kind of dumb one then leap from newly obvious to even dumber. Ah well.

Previous films watched


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













Books, beginning at twelve


012) Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished January 28

BCC Press accepted this almost two years ago and they keep delaying its release so I decided to do another pass. In part because I was getting paranoid about its quality and partly because another pass never hurts. I weeded our a few typos and a couple grammatical errors, tightened a couple things. The total differences are probably under a hundred words (as it currently stands, the manuscript stands at 37,000 words even, a nice number and a short novel—a novella, in fact, were it eligible for a Nebula or Hugo) but this draft is better than the one they accepted in April 2020. So hey!

It's no less fun, to be honest, to pick up a book and really enjoy it, even though I wrote it.

Look for it soon*!

*(whatever that means)

a week

013) The Art of Description by Mark Doty, finished January 28

This too is not the one I first asked the library for. That was The Art of Intimacy and I don't know if I didn't enjoy its first chapter enough or if I had become too excited to consider description, but I returned it and dove into this one instead. (Incidentally, I have two or three more, as well, waiting for me beside the bed.)

And this one delivered! My biggest takeaway is one of those insights that seems so obvious once stated but that I can't be sure I'd ever coherently thought before. Namely, that description reveals not only the world, but the perspective that gave us that particular view of the world. Of course!

The second half of the book is an abecedary of description. You can get a sense of Doty's play if I give you the entry titles:

A to Z

certainly more than a week probably more than two

014) Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê and Andie Tong, finished February 5

This one was not great for reading out loud. It was also just so-so in terms of introducing and developing characters. But it made one brilliant, brilliant choice that makes it maybe my all-time favorite Green Lantern debut. And I'm going ahead and spoiling this now, so buckle up.

The first thing to know is that our new Lantern, Tai, is just a kid. Thirteen years old. The ring moved from his grandmother to him, which perplexes John Stewart but hey---the ring wants what the ring wants.

Anyway, Grandma dies and Tai's mentors are both largely offworld. But a charismatic billionaire moves into that roll, having known Grandma, and before you know it---oh no!---he's a Yellow Lantern. Gee whiz.

Yellow plays on Tai's feelings of being apart and alone but Tai plays back by using the ring not to make a giant hammer or pie or mecha but his family. And those projections stand with him and give him strength and you know what? It's really beautiful.

So while it's not a very good book, it made one really wonderful decision that made me cry. Well done.

one morning

015) Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, finished January 9

I'm aware of Cope because of her poems collected in a Norton (this one). All her poems collected there are brilliant and they were all lifted from Serious Concerns (1992).

I have now read Serious Concerns and it is consistently delightful. Some recurring themes (darn men, heart-skipping love, the absurdity of professional poets) and some poems sing louder than others, but I don't see how anyone could fail to be charmed.

None of my favorites seem to be online, but a short google will reveal to you the wonders of Wendy Cope. I commend to you the exercise.

three or four noncontiguous days

016) The Art of Mystery by Maud Casey, finished February 11

These books are great. I don't know if I would have enjoyed them as a younger writer as they're moving around in near-pretentious air, but they are sincere and personal and I've dug all the ones I've read, and appreciated the ones I've skimmed. Pick one that attracts you and give it a shot

This one is about the ineffable and the liminal, the unseen and the haunting, the unknowable and the only-felt. In other words, the stuff fiction does best. Because no matter how closely we look, a good book leaves room for the reader.

You can see some of what I liked by seeing what I added to Wikiquote today. Here's something that can't really be added:

 "The poet and critic Yvor Winters one said of a poem that it should contain both paraphrasable and unparaphrasable content, and the same holds true of fiction.

I also owe this book for pointing out that l'amour and la mort are homonyms. Something I don't know how I have not noticed. I mean—how.

since the last one

017) The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter, finished February 13

This book was fascinating. And delightfully catty. He has no qualms and lambasting other translations and calling them out for their literary and artistic (and occasional scholarly) failures.

And I'm glad he did because it explained to me just why, for all their additional modernity and "clarity" they just felt less . . . biblical. I never thought it could just be that new ≠ holy, but what was it?

Alter persuasively argues that the issue is fidelity to the Hebrew. The King James translators felt the Bible was inerrant and thus tried to capture all the weird quirks of ancient Hebrew, to the point of italicizing the little words they had to add for the sake of English grammar. Modern translations have made a point of rejecting that in an attempt to be more vernacular, to the result that any sense of style the original writers possessed is lost. Alter, in his translation, makes effort to capture as much of the original style as possible.

I picked up his Five Books of Moses from the library (a heft volume, more notes than text) and it is excellent. It feels literary. It feels scriptural. It feels serious. And it's a dang good read. It maintains much of what is excellent about the KJV while bringing it into our century.

I only regret that buying his entire bible runs close to a hundred dollars and it's split into three (too-heavy) volumes only.

Nevertheless, I want it.

some weeks

018) No Longer Human by Junji Ito, finished February 15

Having just rediscovered the brilliant Jinji Ito, I put everything else by him the library had on hold (it wasn't a lot) and started by reading this adaptation of a classic Japanese novel.

I didn't know that was the case until it was almost over and started putting some pieces together and read the back flap where both Ito and the original author were identified.

In short. There's this kid. He is sexually assaulted by two of the family's servants, one male, one female. While there may be more to it, these experiences lead him to be utterly disconnected from humanity. He has no real capacity for maintaining positive feelings toward other humans. Though he has moments of really trying, largely his inability to connect just leads to disaster. Incest and suicide and murder and all sorts of terrible stuff.

He ends up moving from woman to woman and from professional failure to professional failure. The lives he ruins are legion, but most notable are the series of women he finds himself in bed with—most of whom are dead at the end of the affair. But before their deaths, they move from beautiful humans, inside and out, to hollow shells for whom death is a release. Only one of these women dies before her inner destruction. Our protagonist, with his inner damage and his fears and his insecurities and his addictions, destroys them each. Not intentionally, but he is poison. And slowly he destroys them, no matter his intentions.

It's not a happy book. And I can't speak to the (apparently great) original. But Ito's presentation of this story is relentless. His mastery of face and body and expression and line drag us down into the horrors these characters suffer. His other books of supernatural horror are terrifying, but this–notwithstanding its (possibly) supernatural elements—is a story that feels possible. And that is so much worse.

A beautifully told story of realism. A horror story. And the least arousing panoply of sex I've ever come across.

perhaps a week

Previous Posts 

Let's start the year off with some old friends
001) U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton, finished January 4
002) Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin et al, finished January 7
003) Joseph Smith and the Mormons by Noah Van Sciver, finished January 7
004) The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, finished January 11
005) The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani, finished January 11
006) Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation by Nick Bruel, finished January 12

Comics (not that comical) and a novel (pretty comical)
007) Remina by Junji Ito, finished January 15
008) The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
009) The Tea Dragon Festival here by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
010) A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, finished January 18
011)  Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon & Dean Hale and Victoria Ying, finished January 26

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021



Thelf-promotion, at which I am very bad


I was thinking about a tweet an hour ago and realized that, the short story it mentions, I have absolutely failed to promote in this space. Which got me wondering what else I'm overdue to mention. So here are some things.


Lucky Wounds

You can see why the tweet remains on my mind. Another friendly tweet describes the story as "an old gunman doing movies, thinking about past wrongs" and I think that about covers it. It's not very long! You've got time!

Still in that Moment

After I realized it was a little late in the season to promote a Christmas anthology, I decided to wait until next November. Which almost guarantees I'll forget to do it in 2022 as well. So let's throw it out now.

This is a kind of story I've long wanted to add to my repertoire. But I'm hiding my hand for as long as possible as to what kind of story it is. And so I'm not sure how to promote it since I don't want to even give you its genre.

Fwiw, not only is this one of the rare pieces of thephemera my father has read, he has been effusive in his praise. Apparently, this is exactly his favorite kind of thing?

Today I Will Comb My Hair

I don't write poetry in wild shapes and yet I still have a hard time getting them to look right on websites. What a difficult life I lead.

I wrote the poem about some climate news. It's not super-Mormony but I'm glad Bristlecone Firesides gave it a home. It feels like the right place.

(the bees of course don’t know it)
zzyzx road

Speaking of stuff that's not super-Mormony but is environment-minded, these two poems appeared in a really cool collection you should all most certainly pick up. It's loaded with terrific writers.

These two poems are autobiographical, referring to incidents, respectively, about fifteen and twenty years ago. Also, they both involve driving in California. So if you love poetry and you love driving in California, wow are you in for a treat.

Genetic Isopoint, Gentleman Broncos, and Thou

I've been digging the resurrection of Ships of Hagoth and I'm delighted to finally write something for them. The title, I think, covers it. If you love genetics, weird movies, and/or yourself, swing by.

How to Read Grace Like Water

Just remembered I have already promoted this one. Good for me.