March 2017

So March. That sure was some kind of a month, huh?

If you want, you can skip ahead to the stories and books and movies and music I read, watched, and listened to this month. Otherwise…

I turned forty at the end of last month, which I’m not entirely sure is a move I can heartily recommend. My birthday itself passed without particular incident, for good or bad, but this whole “being middle-aged” thing…I just don’t know about it. I also don’t know if anybody at forty is where they expected to be, but I sure as heck am not.


Weirding me out even more, perhaps, is that I spent several days right before my birthday revisiting Penn State, after an absence of almost thirteen years.

It was very strange being back, in some ways exactly as I remembered, and in many others not anything like what I remembered. When you find yourself asking someone, “Is this building new?” and they tell you, “Well, it was built about a decade ago,” you know you’ve been gone for a while. And in some ways, it was the things that hadn’t changed that weren’t strangest of all. (Like, seriously, the downtown movie theater I used to go to is now a Chipotle, but that hole-in-the-wall Chinese takeout place is still there? Well, it is a college town.)

I also don’t know anybody in town anymore. My old boss, I found out recently, passed away this summer, and he had retired a few years before that at any rate. My friends when I left in 2004 were exclusively students, now graduated, which might have factored into my decision to leave. (I think I’m friends with one or two of them on Facebook still, but the same way I’m friends with most people on Facebook, in that we never talk there and I barely use Facebook.)

I did have a very nice dinner my last night with a Twitter acquaintance, but I didn’t see anyone else I knew, and I didn’t have many old haunts to revisit. (The couple I did were either just weird or actively disappointing.)

It was like wandering around in a place built on the bones of what was one time your home. Like revisiting a place that isn’t there anymore. I didn’t expect it to have stayed like a bug trapped in amber, unchanging…except maybe I did?

It was a reasonably good trip, but an odd experience, and I recognized that I’m not nostalgic for there, but for then. And then isn’t there anymore.


Another thing that happened in March is that my parents got a new dog.

His name is Finn, and he’s a mix — we’re reasonably sure of Labrador retriever and Pharaoh hound. He’s also still very much a puppy, which is an adjustment, to say the least. He’s lovable, but also ridiculous a lot of the time and not terribly well trained yet. I’ve lost at least one pair of socks and a T-shirt to him, for instance, and the carpet has been christened too many times by his bladder.)


And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. The books, stories, movies, and music I read, watched, and listened to last month.

(I don’t know where Miss Saigon on Broadway fits into that, but I also went to see that with my parents. It wasn’t bad.)


The stories

I think I read thirty-one short stories in March, but I simply can’t remember one of them, so I’m going to keep the list at thirty. That’s very close to my regular one-every-day habit.

Here are the ones I particularly liked:

  • “Daisy” by Eleanor Arnason (F&SF)
  • “The Lion” by Mari Ness (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Two Ways of Living” by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Toymaker’s Daughter” by Arundhati Hazra (F&SF)
  • “Crow Girl” by Lynette Mejia (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “The Ones Who Know Where They Are Going” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s)
  • “Drift Right” by Wendy Wagner (Pseudopod)
  • “Attending Your Own Funeral: An Etiquette Guide” by Erika L. Satifka (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “Crown of Thorns” by Octavia Cade (Clarkesworld)
  • “Terra Nullius” by Hanuš Seiner (translated by Julie Nováková) (Strange Horizons)
  • “When First He Laid Eyes” by Rachael K. Jones (reprinted at Pseudopod)

The books

I read an unprecedented — well, in recent memory — four books in March. Three of them were rather short, and the fourth I listened to as an audio book on my long drive to and from Pennsylvania. But still, four books in a month isn’t half bad for my recent track record.

They were The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Long Walk by Stephen King (read for my book club), and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

That last is the one I listened to on my drive, and it was a good accompaniment to the road. I’m not overly familiar with Norse myths in general, but I enjoyed Gaiman’s amusing retellings.

The King book, meanwhile, is exceptionally bleak, but it’s surprisingly effective for how very much it’s a first novel. (The version he published as Richard Bachmann is a little polished-up, but he started writing the book as an 18-year-old college freshman, which is kind of amazing.) It is not a fun book by any stretch, but it speaks to some very real fears. They’re maybe more a young man’s fears — did I mention I just turned forty? — but I really enjoyed the book club discussion we had about it. (I did not, however, love reading it on my library’s ebook app.)

The other two books were…well, books. Classics, even, though I’m not sure I got a whole lot out of either one.


The movies

I watched 7 movies in March:

  • Girlfriend’s Day:

  • Sicario:

  • Logan:

  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three:

  • Fences:

  • Society:

  • Solace:


The music:

February 2017

As I said in my last post, I spent the first couple of days of February down in Florida. I was there with my family for a week, visiting relatives, biking, walking along the beach, basically just hanging out. It was fun. And if the weather back in New York wasn’t the rudest of rude awakenings, it was still a lot colder when my plane home landed than when it took off.

Anyway, otherwise it was a pretty uneventful month for me personally. A holiday, a snow day, and the usual assortment of stories, books, movies, and music.


The stories

I read some I liked, some not so much. I’m also busy reading submissions for Kaleidotrope. Anyway, the 2017 originals I particularly liked:

  • “Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum” by A. Merc Rustad (Lightspeed)
  • “Probably Still the Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed)
  • “Run” by C.R. Hodges (Escape Pod)
  • “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Uncanny)
  • “To Budapest With Love” by Theodora Goss (Uncanny)
  • “Milla” by Lorenzo Crescentini and Emanuela Valentini (trans. Rich Larson) (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Dark Birds” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
  • “The Lily Rose” by Emily B. Cataneo (The Dark)

And the reprints:

  • “We Are Not These Bodies, Strung Between The Stars” by A.C. Wise (Pseudopod)
  • “Nilda” by Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her)

The books

I’m including three books here, even though one of them I read most of in January, and another I finished reading on March 1.

I think my favorite was easily Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, which I read for my monthly book club meetup. The easy tagline for the book is “a Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones,” but I think it does a lot of other really interesting things with its characters and the way it develops them. It’s also full of a lot of really nice moments–including, but not limited to:

“Read a lot of books and try a lot of recipes,” Jia said. “When you learn enough about the world, even a blade of grass can be a weapon.”

“I refuse to believe in the futility of change, because I have seen how the lowly dandelion, with time and patience, can crack the strongest paving stone.”

The second of the three was Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll, which was interesting but not exactly my favorite Carroll novel. It includes this nice line, however:

The keys that unlock the heart are made of funny materials: a disarming phrase that comes out of the blue, nowhere, a certain sexy walk that sends you reeling, the way someone hums when she is alone.

I like Carroll’s work, and one of the things I like is that I don’t always know what to make of it. But one problem there is that I don’t always know what to make of it.

The third and final book I read (mostly) in February was Uprooted Naomi Novik, which I also read for my monthly book group. Like most of the group, I found a lot to really like about the book, and a lot that was worthy of discussion, but I didn’t necessarily love the book, or expect to find myself re-visiting it ever again.

There weren’t any particular quotes that spring to mind here, but I did like this little exchange:

“He lived for forty years in a monastery illuminating manuscripts before anyone noticed he wasn’t growing older. He was always a little surprised to find himself a wizard, I think.”


The movies

I watched 11 of ’em. Too many of them were Resident Evil movies. Moonlight and The Edge of Seventeen were my favorites, and the ones my thoughts keep returning to, but John Wick 2 was also a lot of fun.

  • Interview With the Vampire:

  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:

  • Resident Evil: Afterlife:

  • Resident Evil: Retribution:

  • Underworld: Awakening:

  • Finding Dory:

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

  • The Edge of Seventeen:

  • Moonlight:

  • Self/less:

  • John Wick: Chapter 2:


The music

I listened to some of it.

January 2017

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Almost the end of February and I’m finally getting around to posting my monthly round-up for January. What can I say? It’s been a busy year so far, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up. (I mean, a genuine madman in the Oval Office isn’t helping matters anyway.)

But what are you complaining about? You’re just the imaginary blog reader I made up in my head!

Really, though, I have begun to suspect that nobody else is reading these posts, even the few who occasionally did so in the past. But hey, whatever. They help me keep track of things, which is maybe all that matters.

And it’s not like there’s a lot more to report. I spent the last couple of days of January (and the first couple of February) down on Sanibel Island in Florida — which is where the photo above comes from — but otherwise it was a pretty uneventful month. I mean, for the day to day, my Twitter feed is the better place to go.

Here’s just where I keep track of the stories, books, movies, and music I encountered in the month. So let’s get on with that, shall we, gentle (and likely nonexistent) reader?

The stories

I read a few I really liked. 2017 originals:

  • “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur(Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Alexandria” by Monica Byrne (F&SF)
  • “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood” by Sam J. Miller (Uncanny)
  • “Women’s Work” by Amelia Aldred (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Goddess, Worm” by Cassandra Khaw (Uncanny)
  • “The Whole Crew Hates Me” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)
  • “Soliloquy in a Cheap Diner Off Route 66” by James Beamon (Apex)
  • “BlueBellow” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs (Strange Horizons)
  • “The Regression Test” by Wole Talabi (F&SF)
  • “Next Station, Shibuya” by Iori Kusano (Apex)
  • “Still Life With Abyss” by Jim Grimsley (Asimov’s)
  • “Vegetablemen in Peanut Town” by August Marion (Escape Pod)

Reprints:

  • “This Is How I Wish to Be Restored” by Christie Yant (Lightspeed)
  • “Holding the Ghosts” by Gwendolyn Clare (Escape Pod)
  • “The Quiltmaker” by Mike Allen (Apex)
  • “Cold Print” by Ramsey Campbell (Pseudopod)

The books

I finished two books in January, both of which I really liked: Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey and The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. The former was the latest book in the Expanse series, which I believe I am physically incapable of not reading as soon as each new book is published, and the latter was a novella I read for my (now regular) book club. I don’t have a huge amount to say about either book — you should have joined my book club if you wanted lengthy discussion — but I did enjoy them.

The movies

  • Black Mass:

  • The Birds:

  • Bringing Out the Dead:

  • The Visit:

  • The Sweet Smell of Success:

  • The Brothers Grimm:

  • Solaris:

  • Now You See Me 2:

  • Bridge of Spies:

The music

My monthly mix of stuff I heard and liked:

A brand new year

Welcome, everyone, to the year two-thousand-seventeen. I hope you’re seated comfortably. Let us begin.

I’m hopeful for this new year, because…well, because you sort of have to be, don’t you? The alternative really doesn’t do anybody the least bit of good.

Twenty-sixteen was a difficult year, for a lot of reasons — not least of all because of the US presidential election, following (for so many months) on the heels of the disastrous UK Brexit decision. Sometimes I worry about this sorry little world we live in. But hope, and working to make my little corner of it better, is really all I can do in the new year.

I hope you find ways to improve your little corners, too, and I wish you all the very best in 2017.

And now, some music.

I don’t really do “best albums of the year” or anything like that, but I do put together a mix every month of songs that I like. If you’re one of the imaginary people I’m writing this to now, you may have even seen some of those playlists earlier in the year. Then I try to pull together a combined mix, something like two songs from every month.

So that’s what this is. Some of the songs are from 2017, some are just tunes I heard somewhere along the way. Either way, these are songs I really enjoyed and wanted to share as we stumble forward into the new day. Enjoy!

December 2016

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And there it is, the end of the month, and the end of a year. Just a quick write-up of the month. It was mostly uneventful, a couple of weeks at the office (plus the yearly holiday party), and a couple of weeks on vacation. And there was Christmas, which was very nice. I hope yours was too!

As usual, though, there were some stories, some movies, and some music.

The stories

I managed to not finish any of the books — three at last count — that I’m currently reading. I did, however, read thirty-two short stories. Favorites included:

The movies

I watched ten movies in December. (I had some time off.)

  • A Streetcar Named Desire:

  • Don’t Breathe:

  • Don’t Think Twice:

  • The Jungle Book:

  • For the Love of Spock:

  • And the Band Played On:

  • The Lobster:

  • Eyes Without a Face:

  • The Philadelphia Story:

  • Double Wedding:

  • The Thin Man:

  • The Big Sleep:

  • After the Thin Man:

  • Ben-Hur:

  • The Tomb of Ligeia:

  • Postcards from the Edge:

  • Arsenic and Old Lace:

  • The Revenant:

  • Swiss Army Man:

  • The Masque of the Red Death:

The music