Monday, April 15, 2019

What I Watched: March 2019

I didn't watch this movie or read this book (now available in French!!) !in March. But I sure look great and sound brilliant in the bonus feature interview.

 Not a gigantic list, but nearly as much viewing as January and February combined.

1. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Kim is an avid listener to NPR. She listens on her commutes, while cooking, while working out--if Kim was as obsessive as I was about listing and categorizing all of the media she consumes, it would likely be an extensive list of NPR podcasts and programming. And I'm very thankful for this, because she has clued me in to a number of life-enhancing books, programs, and recordings. She became interested in this Netflix show after hearing an interview with Samin Nosrat, the host and author of a book of the same name. Ms. Nosrat's enthusiasm for food and cooking, and her delight in the people that share similar passions, is certainly infectious, and we watched the first three shows on successive Sunday mornings with coffee and crepes. The crepe pan is one of the best gifts I ever bought me I mean Kim.  Maybe we will watch Heat  in April.

2.The VVitch--Director's commentary.
I loved The VVitch when I first saw it and like to watch the director commentaries of movies I love (and sometimes movies I hate), usually finding the experience enlightening and inspiring, especially if the director goes into the particulars of creative choices they made.

3. Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Like many Xers I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and a great deal of Public Television. The Electric Company, Zoom, Sesame Street, New Zoo Review--and my somewhat obscure favorite, Thinkabout. I was fortunate as a fourth or fifth grader to have been selected to participate in the Montville School District's Enrichment program, and once a week would pile on a bus with the other so-called "gifted and talented" kids to go to another school crosstown (the one where all the tough kids went). Those sessions ran until around dinnertime, and despite (ok, because of) the extra schooling, those classes were some of the happiest moments of my grade 4-8 years. I recall in the first year of the program we would gather around a television to watch Thinkabout and then discuss the moral and educational implications of the topics presented. I didn't remember much of Thinkabout's content when I got older (not even after buying some bootleg copies of the show off eBay--I am really, really weird), but I could remember every pixel and note of the show's opening, which I would visualize and hum during the many stressful moments of the rest of my schooling:

Looking back, it is clear Thinkabout's Liquid Len-ish opening spurred my pervasive and enduring love of Hawkwind.

I watched Won't You Be My Neighbor with Kim and learned a few things--I had no idea Fred tried to do a show aimed at adults, for example. Spoiler: this isn't an exposé, so those hoping Mr. Rogers turns out to be a child-hating fiend will be sorely disappointed. And the clip of him appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications should be watched by anyone who...well, anyone who communicates, really. If only political/economic/ point of view disagreements today could be solved with such grace and aplomb. I think the clip in the movie is truncated; you can watch the whole testimony here:

4. Colette
I watched this on the plane to Seattle and really enjoyed it; I love Paris and the Paris period scenes (I am writing this now to distract myself from the heartbreaking news coverage of Notre Dame in flames) as well as those set in the French countryside. I also like Keira Knightly and Dominic West, and found many things interesting about the film, most especially the idea that Colette was writing for Willy's syndicate under his name when she started her professional career. I wasn't aware of the history prior to starting the film (woefully ignorant on French literature, sadly), but it seemed as though some synchronicity was involved, as I started the film to take a break from reading Girl Sleuth, Nancy Drew and the Women that Created Her. 

The universe has spoken; I now shall create a writing syndicate. Applications welcome, no prior experience necessary.

5. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Two: Episodes 1-8 
I looooove this show. We didn't watch the final two episodes until April, so I will reserve my comments attempting to articulate why I love this show and this season until next month.

And as always, I will encourage you to buy one or several of my books, you can find them HERE

Only one of these is a movie. So far.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What I Heard :March 2019

The soundtrack of my life?
March was a big month, music-wise. It typically is, because

A. My birthday is in March, and people in my life know they can rarely go wrong with music or books

B. My birthday is in March, so I tend to treat myself

C. Kim and I try and squeeze in some road trips in March, and all roads tend to lead to record stores eventually

D. Baby, it's cold outside, and so I'm probably sitting in front of the fire browsing on eBay--for music and books.

So, March's haul starts with the record pictured above

1. Various Artists, Daniel Waters 50 Years and Still Undead
This record is one of the most thoughtful, unique, and awesome gifts I've ever received. A good friend of mine had this bespoke record created by sifting through interviews I've given over the years where I've mentioned music I listened to for inspiration and/or while writing and having the songs burned onto wax. Apparently you buy the tunes off a digital platform like iTunes and tell the company what order to put them in and go and create your cover art, which in this case features ghostly black, white, and red images of the beautiful Hyperion-Disney editions of my first two novels. Clearly, there was some expert curation behind the creation of the album, as the A side is the "horrorpunk" side and the B side is the "metal" side. The gift kept giving, too, because the version of Blitzkid's "Pretty in a Casket" was different than the one currently in my collection, and such things are important to me.

I have a large vinyl collection. And a new favorite record.

As though that wouldn't be a thoughtful enough gift, my friend also researched albums that hit Billboard's #1 spot the year I was born, so I also received

2. Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at San Quentin
3. Original Broadway Cast, Hair Soundtrack
4. Blind Faith, Blind Faith
5. Blood, Sweat and Tears, Blood, Sweat and Tears
6. Supremes & Temptations, The Original Soundtrack from TCB
7. Tommy Roe, Tommy Roe's Greatest Hits

His birthday is also in March; we tend to go overboard. Any guesses as to which of 2-7 is my favorite?

Then there were a couple iTunes purchases:

8. Buckcherry, Warpaint 
Buckcherry is an artist I buy new releases from on release day. I love Buckcherry and have probably seen them live more than any other band in the last decade or so
9. Cheap Trick, The Epic Archive Vol. 3
Cheap Trick is another artist I'll buy on release day, and I bought this after seeing them in concert a few weeks prior. Many, many years ago I was on some promotional live internet chat with Rick Neilson and Robin Zander, and I asked if the band was ever going to compile all of the songs they had on soundtracks--"Mighty Wings" from Top Gun, "Up the Creek" from that stellar movie, etc. I'd tracked most of them down (many were vinyl only for a long time) but there were a few that proved elusive. Rick answered me, "Yeah, someday we should do that." Someday has come, and I finally have their cover of "Money (That's What I Want) from the Caddyshack II Soundtrack.
One of my favorite bands, the only one I have seen in four different decades, surprisingly.
10. Kate Bush, Never For Ever I don't know how I lived this long without having this one; I've got all her others and some weird non-catalogue stuff besides. "Delius (Song of Summer)" is now one of my favorite songs of hers.
11. Various Artists,  Ultra Lounge:Organs in Orbit 
I loved the Ultra Lounge series even before I joined AARP (that's a joke, so, I say it's a joke!). I've got fourteen of them and will add one whenever the mood strikes. This one isn't one of my favorites--I'm partial to Mondo Exotica and Rhapsodesia, but the quest for new sounds continues.
Now playing in my space-age married guy pad

Then my eMusic purchases:
12. The Adverts, Cast of Thousands
13. The Adverts, Crossing the Red Sea
14. Coleman Hawkins, The Acetate Masters Collection
15. The Sun Ra Arkestra Under the Direction of Marshal Allen, Live at Babylon
These were all great, but I worry that eMusic doesn't seem to be pulling new labels like they used to. Almost everything in my "Save For Later" list disappeared by the time I went to make my selections.

Then a couple record store purchases:
16. Bill Callahan, Live at Third Man Records
No clue how I missed this when it came out in November. Add Mr. Callahan to the list of artists I (try to) buy on release day. I've probably listened to Dream River and Apocalypse a couple times a month since I discovered them a few years ago.
17. Jimmy Page & Black Crowes, Live at the Greek

And then there's this:

18. Sin Theta, Sin Theta EP
The band sent me this; I wrote heavy metal album reviews for Metal Express Radio for almost two years, leaving at the end of 2018. Sin Theta made my top eleven metal albums of the year list (find it on MER HERE with a one song demo, "No Allegiance", that was how much I loved that song and the promise I saw in this new band. So when they sent me their debut five song EP, I came out of retirement to write a review which you can find on MER HERE, and if you hop around the site you can find my other reviews--nearly a hundred of them! I love, love, love, this band--the music is like a blend of Shadow's Fall and Fates Warning and is also completely it's own thing. You can buy the EP directly from the band on the Facebook Page BUY SIN THETA HERE

You can also buy my books HERE, and if you like my record reviews or are intrigued by my listening tastes, you might especially like AURAL HISTORY, my novel where I distilled much of my love for music (and ghosts). Only $4.99 in the kindle store!
Actual records from my collection
 Quite a haul for March...and Record Store Day is only three days away!!!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What I Read: March

I read this. What a cover

My reading in March was mostly comic books and the continuance of my chronological stroll through the entire works of James Ellroy, with a couple random nonfiction titles, one of which made a deep impression, thrown in.

I finished up Ellroy's early works and his Lloyd Hopkins novels and am now into his "L.A. Quartet" series. One of the things I love about reading an author's works in the order they produced them is that periodically there is a point when the writing feels as though the author makes a significant leap forward in the mastery of their craft. The leaps could be in style, voice, plot, tension, prose, or any of a number of different literary criteria. I'm not sure I would be able to discern those leaps/improvements if I wasn't "binging" on an author and only reading one of their works once a year or so. In this months' reading of Ellroy, I see two such leaps, one of them profound, the veritable quantum leap forward, and it is exciting to me both as a reader and a writer to be carried along in the momentum of that leap. I always try to imagine what was going on in the writer's life and writing process that enabled/caused such a leap: a change in habits, a change in the time spent writing, a change in personal energy, an editorial change? Will the writer be able to sustain the new level of mastery, or will it fade--and will it fade because of external changes? Did the writer know they were hitting this groove when they were writing it? I, like most novelists, have had stretches where I lean back and say "Where did that come from? I totally nailed it!"; half the time my delusions are exposed in the editorial process, but every so often I'm right--I really did "nail it". Those moments are like magic, like being on an incredibly euphoric out-of-body experience. I wonder if it is the same for other.

I won't say specifically, where I saw these two leaps, but here are the Ellroy titles I read in March:
1. Killer on the Road
2. Blood on the Moon
3. Because the Night 
4. Suicide Hill
5. The Black Dahlia

I wrote earlier how a number of the books I snagged at the Book Barn turned out to be signed--turns out this one was too:

I wonder who the "Slash" was for?

I also read a number of comic books--or graphic novels, if you prefer--especially the week I was sick and just wanted to lie in bed reading with a cup of tea on the night table. I blame/thank Tom King and Neil Gaiman for re-sparking my interest.

6. Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus vol. 1 Wow. I have a massive comic book collection from the 60's, 70's, and 80's, and somehow managed to miss out on nearly all the 4th World stuff despite being a big Kirby fan (I have a complete run of Kamandi, to this day one of my favorite titles). Great reading when feverish.
7. Ice Cream Man vol 1. Rainbow Sprinkles by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Mozarro and others. A sort of horror anthology comic with the Ice Cream Man at the center of the weirdness. I get Warren Ellis's newsletter and he recommended the second volume but I try to begin at the beginning
8. Animal Man Omnibus Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, and others
9. Animal Man Born To Be Wild Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch, Steve Dillon, and others
From my massive birthday haul. The mammoth omnibus, some of which I've read before, is among my favorite runs on any comic anywhere. I'd never read any of the Born to be Wild stories, which did not hit me as much, but maybe I should not have read them so close together.
10. Doom Patrol vol. 1 Grant Morrison and others
Thrilled by my Omnibus reading, I stocked up on some other Morrison titles on my kindle for my road trips, and also I've heard good things about the Doom Patrol TV show so I thought refamiliarizing myself with the characters prior to watching might be a good idea. Delightfully weird, but one thing is clear: I hate reading comic books on my kindle. Yeah, the panel by panel thing is cool, but I just don't enjoy the experience as much as with the analog versions/

Some nonfiction:
11. Traveler's Tales: Japan Donald W. George and Amy Griemann Carson, ed.
Love this series; an anthology of articles of varying lengths about culture, travel, history, etc. The Japan one I particularly enjoyed (though I think Italy is still my favorite
12. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her Melanie Rehak
My other kindle read; my hatred of reading comics on kindle is eclipsed only by my love of reading nonfiction on kindle due to the superior notetaking abilities. I, who have never read a single Nancy Drew novel (but read dozens of Hardy Boys and as many of the Three Investigators as I could) loved this book. I found the business and production aspects of one of the most successful "fiction factories" of all time utterly fascinating, and also inspiring. Books that make me want to drop them and start writing fiction are the best, and I had those moments several times while reading this on the flights to and from Seattle.

While my books did not sell in the numbers of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, they did pretty well. You can contribute to the cause by buying them HERE

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

QE Results for March

No more hallucinogens 4 me

In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I where I related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year.  The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye.  And so, an honest assessment on my performance for March in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: "Culture, Confidence, Put yourself out there". I remain at 4.5 stars. I wrote 200 pages, displaying a little obsessive-compulsive grit by nailing the last eight of that number on March 31st late at night. For whatever reason, I've decided 200 page writing and a hundred miles running a month are the goals. As far as fiction goes, I worked on a new project, an old project, and a Generation Dead novella.

Business took me to Seattle for a week, and long hours and long travel made the attainment of those goals a challenge March is also a month filled with the birthdays of people I love, including myself (I turned a half century) and both of my children. Sadly, the bucket list concert I mentioned last month was postponed due to a band illness, but Kim and I still went to Boston for a day to celebrate our daughter's birthday with her, and we did an overnight in  Vermont to celebrate our son's birthday with him. It was Mardi Gras in Burlington, and so I took the photo above of a very entertaining joint performance of a band called Brass Balagan (who I swear played a Sun Ra song) and puppet theater group Big Nazo. I loved how interactive the performers with the audience, especially very small (and very fearless) children who wanted to dance with them 

Also, Break My Heart 1,000 Times/I Still See You came out in France:
Mémère and Pépère would have been proud

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". I remain a two. Wearing my new clothes outside the house and getting out more, generally, but as I write this I realize I'm wearing a t-shirt that is--no joke--twenty-seven years old, and was purchased to a fit me that was forty-five pounds heavier than the me of today.

It is really, really comfortable, though.

BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". A 3, although we finally replaced the leaky shower head in the main bathroom and I somehow managed to repair a Bose speaker that had gone mysteriously silent. But March took me out of my home base physical environment a great deal, so it was hard to realize any actual improvements

ANTONI: "Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others". I'll take back the half point I lost last month for a 2.5 as I did most of the meal prep this month, at least when I was home. I ate out a great deal this month--business trips and lots of birthday dinners--but still kept it pretty healthy. I'm still adhering to a slightly relaxed form of Austerity (see Secrets of Weight Loss, Revealed), which at this point might mean it is now a lifestyle habit as opposed to a time-bound change.

I also finally was able to have one of these, which has long been lauded to me by people who would known as one of the premier craft beers 
It hit me the same way as the hirsute guy on the can
After my battle with Oumuamua (detailed in this True Tale of Terror) I have cut back my drinking of alcohol to next to nothing, and so this beverage really did take the top of my head off as pictured on the can (and moments later I was watching the alien/robot invasion pictured above).

JONATHAN: "Take care of yourself physically" I'll remain at 3.5.  I ran 102 miles, which includes the three mile run I took to push myself over the top, a run taken while still under the effects of the beverage pictured above, which probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world. 

I'm fortunate to have been able to reach that mark, though, because I lost a whole week with some sort of chest/head cold (my massive head was fully clogged the day we were supposed to go to the bucket list show, so perhaps it was a blessing it was moved to September). I didn't run all week, and writing was a chore, but it could have been worse--last year around the same time, Oumuamua was making its way through my personal galaxy and I was wracked with such pain I could barely move. I did "take care of myself physically", though, because A. I did something I almost never do, which is take an actual sick day from work to rest and recover and B. I didn't try and run again until my cold symptoms moved out of my chest and became "neck-up", which according to Dr. Google (that quack) might actually be a very beneficial time to run because of antihistamines, etc. 

This puts me at a 15.5 overall for March, an odd month with a great deal of disruption, both positive and negative. A quick side note, Karamo was speaking at a theater near the restaurant where my daughter worked; she'd been hopeful that he'd dine there but no such luck. We have yet to watch season three.

I'm going to split my reading/watching/listening post for March into three posts as I somehow managed to do an impressive amount of each activity--probably because of the sicky week where I wasn't running or writing much and all the travel.

Speaking of reading, please consider purchasing one or several of my books at the link below. The fools at OMZ Press continue to offer the kindle edition of Generation Dead for $2.99, as though I didn't pour my very soul into that book.

Spend way too little for Generation Dead HERE

Thanks fer yer bizness!