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Showing posts from 2016

RIP Carrie Fisher

Dammit. 2016 has been an absurdly bad year for personal heroes and icons of mine and nearly everyone I know. This time though, the death of Carrie Fisher at only 60 years old is particularly hard to process.
I loved her. I mean it, as a small child I loved her and even today I do because of what she meant to me then. It's a love like the kind you share for an old friend, someone who inspired you through all of the turmoil life threw at you.

Her quick and razor-sharp wit influenced my own acerbic and self-deprecating nature.

Carrie Fisher practically started it all for me. Star Wars has been a part of my life since almost my first memories. She was the first badass woman I can remember seeing in film or anywhere outside my own house. My mom is very much like Carrie: funny, fierce, and fiery.

I found out later that Carrie had bipolar disorder. Her writing and interviews were always entertaining and honest. She was open about all of her struggles and I always found her inspiring for…

Give all the toys to the little rich boys

In the spirit of the season, let's blast the Kinks' "Father Christmas." That's an annual tradition in our house, so why not do it here too.

Happy holidays to all of you little elves and Krampuses.


It Came From the '90s: Against the '70s

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

"The kids of today should defend themselves against the '70s."

Fewer lyrics better encapsulate growing up in the '90s than those in Mike Watt's "Against the '70s" (shrewdly sung by Eddie Vedder). We teens and young adults of the decade were often subconsciously measuring ourselves against the mustard-yellow, shag-carpeted "Me Decade." We expended an awful lot of energy raging against and fetishizing the 1970s.

The '70s provided several underpinnings of the '90s, including of course the notion of authenticity. In the '90s it was enormously important that we be, above all else, authentic. As authentic as Bowie or Springsteen or Scorsese were in their '70s work that we idolized. We were utterly obsessive about not selling out, about keeping it real. Maybe it's because so many Gen Xers were born in the '7…

Barely Making a Dent: More December 2016 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

Currently reading
I'm still reading China Mieville's Kraken, and slowly I might add. It's a lot of fun, filled with as much crazy sci-fi/fantasy fun as Mieville can pack into each page. But its that density of information and jargon that's slowing me down. Plus it's December and we're rushing towards the holidays so I'm busier. Finding time to read before I pass out each night is tough right now.

Recently read

I did polish off Ed Brubaker's most recent (and possibly final?) trade paperback collecting the last five issues of his terrific 1970s spy/thriller series Velvet. This one's been a personal favorite of mine for the last year or two and I'm sad to see it end. But is it actually ending? I suppose I could Google to find out but I think it might just be going on hiatus until Brubaker has time to return to …

It Came From the '90s

If you've been paying attention around here then you know I'm one of those misanthropic Gen Xers, a 1990s kid raised on a combination of irony and sincerity. I spent most of the decade in school (high school and college). I listened to a lot of grunge and punk rock. I wore flannels and corduroy paints from thrift stores that were at least one and often two sizes too big because that's just what you did. I worked odd jobs in retail during those school years and went through a series of dating misfires. I spent a summer as a cater waiter that wound up being the most cinematic of my life. I met and began dating my wife during the decade.

The links in the previous paragraph prove I've written about my time in the '90s a lot around here. I wasn't intending to do that when I started the blog. It's turned out to be a fruitful period to excavate for my writing though, so I keep finding myself drawn back to it. This is likely out of some attempt to make sense of it…

Writing Roundup: Holiday Horror and Classic Sci-Fi

How do you celebrate the holiday season? If you answer with anything other than, "Why, watch Black Christmas, of course!" then you need to reconsider your priorities.
Okay, I understand we all have family obligations this time of year. Still, I implore you to take some time out and watch this 1974 cult classic, considered by many to be the birth of the slasher film genre. I wrote about it for The After Movie Diner this week, but the long and the short of it is this: I've seen an awful lot of slasher movies in my lifetime (I'm a child of the 1970s and 1980s, after all), and while several have been as good as Black Christmas, none have been better. I've long held John Carpenter's Halloween as the gold standard for horror/slasher movies, but now I'd slot Black Christmas in right alongside it. Amazingly I hadn't seen the film before this year. Oh I'd been hearing about and have meant to see it since I was a teenager, at least. Why it took so long is …

Barely Making a Dent: December 2016 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

The new, six-foot tall bookcase is assembled and in use, each of its five shelves now packed tightly with books. It's a sight to behold. Sometimes I even catch myself staring at it for several minutes, basking in it's elegant majesty. I've always associated being a serious bookaholic with having at least one fully stocked, enormous bookcase that serves as the perfect representation of your reading life. Finally achieving this goal feels like the culmination of decades of book nerdery.

It's certainly helped to organize our books; between it and a smaller bookcase positioned next to it, we can keep the majority of our books in one room now. Of course I filled the new one with our best books—you know, the ones you want on display to wow visitors with your impressively eclectic tastes. Rearranging and re-shelving everything helped me …

Ctrl+Alt+Del

Is interrupting each other simply what we're meant to do? Is anyone really listening anymore? Every passing year we all seem more like those lunatics screaming over and around each other on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

We constantly interrupt ourselves, for god's sake. Finishing a thought in your head is nearly impossible. "The kids need new winter clothes...wait, where are my glasses...what was that she said earlier...when the hell am I ever going to find time to see Rogue One...?" And on and on, again and again, ad infinitum.

The scary thing is we're basically wired now to do this and we barely even notice. It's like somewhere along the line we were networked to our computers and devices without realizing it, and the interface is now so seamless that we don't know where the electronics end and we begin.

This is all mostly just sound and fury, signifying nothing. We're knee-deep in it now, no going back. Oh sure, we can try to go off th…

It Came From the '90s: Not For You

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

Generation X. Alternative Nation. Slackers. Kids in flannels.

In the early and mid 1990s, teens and young adults of a certain age were given all of those monikers, and several others too. Full disclosure, I was one of those kids. Every generation goes through a period like that—when they're the up-and-comers trying to break free of the previous generation, A period of endless media and societal fascination leading to unfair stereotyping and marginalization.

Pearl Jam's "Not For You," from 1994's seismic blast of an album Vitalogy, seemed to be directly addressing this divide between the members of Gen X and their elders. Vitalogy was the most anticipated album of the year. Kurt Cobain killed himself that spring, leaving Pearl Jam alone at the top of the rock mountain, whether they wanted to be there or not. They were the biggest band in the world d…

Joan Didion

Joan Didion turns 82 today. As an essayist, novelist, and cultural critic, Didion has long been one of the finest chroniclers of American life over the course of the last half of the twentieth century and beyond.

There is much I could write about Didion, a writer whose work has affected me deeply over the years. I'll save that for another day, when I have more time to write. For now I'll just share this from her seminal essay, "Goodbye to All That:"
I had never before understood what “despair” meant, and I am not sure that I understand now, but I understood that year. Of course I could not work. I could not even get dinner with any degree of certainty, and I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner, that I could meet him at Michael’s Pub or at Toots Shor’s or at Sardi’s East. And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and tol…

Rank 'em: The X-Men Films

My last post about X-Men: Apocalypse started me thinking: how would I rank all of the X-Men films to date? Ranking pop culture stuff is always fun, after all, so let's do this. Note, these are my wholly subjective opinions and the list is more about which are my favorites or least favorites than trying to measure their quality objectively. That list would probably look very similar to this one anyway. But then I think about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film I can't objectively call "good," but that I enjoy nonetheless. And yes, I'm including the solo X-Men films in this list because they're all part of the same cinematic universe.

1. X2: X-Men United

X2 has long been considered the best of the bunch and while I'd like to offer a contrary opinion, I tend to agree with that assessment. It's the most taut and cohesive film of the franchise, probably because it keeps a relatively narrow focus throughout. The basic premise, inspired by the classic God Loves,…

Random Observations on X-Men: Apocalypse

I finally saw X-Men: Apocalypse recently. After reading so little positive feedback about the film since it released in May, my expectations were low. They were lowered further by my lukewarm response to the X-Men films. If X2 is the apex of the franchise (and it is, no question), then Last Stand is the absolute nadir. It's been ten years since I saw it but I'm still can't talk about it without raising my voice and swearing. It shat upon my favorite comic book story of all time, after all. So, I like some of these films, dislike others, but tend to find something entertaining in nearly every one of them—except for Last Stand. No way.

As for last entry in the series, Days of Future Past, I enjoyed it fine. As with most of the films in the franchise though, when I apply even the slightest bit of critical scrutiny to it, the entire thing falls apart like a house of cards. So I'm not sure I'd say it was a good film, but I found it entertaining. After seeing Apocalypse

Barely Making a Dent: November 2016 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

I broke down and ordered a tall five-shelf bookcase earlier this week. It's nothing fancy, but it should help consolidate some of the backlog of books from around the house. Now we can set aside one of our smaller bookcase for the kids' room, too. I'm antsy for it to be delivered so I can make some progress with the book piles. Note, in this instance "progress" means "Moving books from one place to another" as opposed to "Getting rid of any books." Baby steps, right?

Currently reading

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Having read and been perplexed by this book in college, I haven't revisited it since. But it's lingered with me all these years. In college I may have been too young to grasp what she was doing here, but I was certainly fascinated by it. I hadn't read anything quite l…

Five Years

I saw it written and I saw it say Pink moon is on its way And none of you stand so tall Pink moon gonna get ye all
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When you hear the words, "It's cancer," your mind seems to burst open, as if every thought you've ever had is rushing back into your brain at once, each crowding for space until finally your head can't contain them all. That lasts for several seconds, followed by the arrival of an eerie tranquility: you've gone numb. I experience this first hand in October 2011. It's at that moment that my life is bisected into two halves: the years before and after cancer. I'm scheduled to have surgery to remove the tumor quickly, in just over a week. The next several days are surreal, I'm walking through my life but there's a giant, ever-expanding hole in it now. I can feel the vast blackness of it creeping closer to me every minute of every day. I only tell certain people what's going on, mostly because I have no idea how to talk abo…