As I write this, it is the eve of my 36th birthday.
To celebrate, last night my wife and friends took me out to Totally 80s Pizza. I've been dying to check this place out since they first opened and I must tell you that it was completely worth the wait. From the strip-mall outside, the restaurant doesn't look like much, but once you cross the threshold, you find yourself inside an 80s pop culture museum filled with toys, autographed photos, and prop replicas, all while monitors play music videos, TV intros and commercials around you. This would be enough to earn my seal of approval, but the pizza itself was excellent. So if you're ever in Fort Collins Colorado, visit this gem. It's amazing.
On another but no less personal note, our son has become pretty adept at using the toilet for his human waste, which means that we are incredibly close to eliminating diapers entirely. As I told a friend recently, potty training is occasionally like Trainspotting. Mostly I’ve felt like a zookeeper that has to follow a tiny pink ape around loudly asking where the poop goes.
On a professional note, I have sold a short story to the fine folks at SPECTACLE MAGAZINE! This short story was written as a part of a writer's prompt years ago and made the rounds but never found a home until now. I'm very excited that it's getting published, but I am most excited that it will be ILLUSTRATED. I adore the written word, but am especially attracted to the paring of words and pictures and have purchased new editions of books I already own because of the accompanied artwork. The Books of Wonder edition of Dracula with illustrations by Barry Moser springs readily to mind. Moreover, this story is absolutely begging for artwork and I can't wait for you guys to see why. More on this as it develops.
I have also turned in a play for a competition and am currently working on another one for yet another competition. The first play went better than expected, but this second one is bumming me out*. I’m terrified that I won’t be able to finish in time it even while I’m churning out rejected humor pieces** at a rate of three or four per week.
Frankly, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I sat down to write something neat and share what I’ve been into recently.
I wanted to write about cool movies I’ve seen and books that I’ve read partially because I believe that Facebook and Twitter are terrible which is bad. But I also believe that they are in their death throws, which is very very good. I think the future of digital social engagement will return to email letters, with people sending digital zines and blog posts on weekly or monthly schedules. Humorist, John Hodgman already does a version of this with his “Lifestyle Newsletter”, wherein he tells fans about upcoming shows, but also just shares neat stories and things he’s into. It’s better than anything on FB right now and gets delivered right to my inbox.
Because this has been on my mind recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a weekly newsletter/blog/zine that would get deposited directly into the emails of those who are interested, instead of being obfuscated by the Facebook overlords in exchange for a fee. Regardless, this is the feel that I’m going for with regard to this blog and will probably continue with for as long as I can.
See below for recommendations…
I just finished watching The Ritual on Netflix and strongly recommend hat you do the same. It explores friendship and cowardice and grief and redemption through the lens of four friends who go on a backpacking trip in Sweden to commemorate the death of a friend and run afoul of a monster in the woods. I realize that my synopsis doesn’t make it sound that great, but this film does a lot with atmosphere and doesn’t show the monster until the last possible second…and it’s worth it. It also does what I feel the best horror should do and that is explore humanity. Many of my friends don’t care for horror and that’s because the grew up believing that it was all needless violence. However, with more attention being paid to the film Get Out, hopefully that idea is starting to change. Genres are meant to discuss uncomfortable ideas about our world and I hope more people realize that.
Last weekend, or was it two weekends ago? Regardless, I watched The Shape of Water and fell deeply in love with everything about it. It is a beautiful movie. The characters, the music, the sets and the script are all sewn together so brilliantly, that I really think that this film may have beaten Pan’s Labyrinth for best Del Toro film. Some of my favorite movies are the ones in which the world onscreen is so brilliantly realized, that you just want to live there for a little while. Tim Burton’s two Batman films felt that way when I was a child; the buildings, the clothes, the performances all feel lived in. The Shape of Water does this in spades, it is not the real 1960s America, but it is the best visual parts of 1960s cinema and advertising. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.
I was also able to see Moon, which came out years ago and which I am extremely late to the party on. It is such a great movie. If you like intelligent science fiction that leaves you thinking long after the credits have rolled, watch Moon.
These days I read most of my comics off of my e-reader via a library app called HOOPLA. This handy setup prevents me from spending a ton of money comics and also allows me to try things I wouldn’t normally have tried. HOOPLA recently got an influx of Marvel books and I was able to try The Vision for the first time and I was blown away. These days I’m more of a DC guy, with the exception of a few of the Spider-Man books and of course The X-Men. However, early descriptions of The Vision had me intrigued as it follows the android Avenger and his android family as they start a life in the suburbs. What follows is murder, mayhem and existential dread worthy of Philip K. Dick. Even if you don’t like superhero books, pick this one up.
The James Bond comic series from Dynamite entertainment is really great. These comics synthesize both the films and the books and give espionage fans everything they could want from a Bond comic.
On my way to give up Facebook and Twitter, I took the advice of author and futurist Cory Doctorow and began using an RSS feed to discover new and exciting websites, you know, like we used to in the olden days. On my current RSS feed (Newsblur FYI) is a site called Kotke, which features essays about everything from “How to get yourself out of a funk” to “The History of New Jack Swing”. It’s a lot like BoingBoing.net, which has been a cornerstone of my internet diet for years now. Alas on my RSS feed is We Are The Mutants which bills itself as a “a weekly updated magazine focusing on the history and analysis of Cold War-era popular and outsider culture, with a strong emphasis on speculative (sci-fi, fantasy, horror), genre, pulp, cult, occult, subculture, and anti-establishment media. We cover everything from underground comics and post-apocalyptic fictions to ufology tropes and space disco.” The site has some excellent essays about niche topics like Slasher Film Posters & Disneyland’s debut of The Abominable Snowman on the Matterhorn.
That’s about it for me. I’m back to clacking away at jokes, plays, and sketches. If you think the email newsletter is a good idea, let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org
* EDIT: I think I just finished the play for the competition I’ve been hammering away at for the past two months. The first draft will take some substantial work to clean up, but I think it’s there. It have a beginning, middle and end. It meets the requirements for the competition and with a few tweaks it should be a spooky fun piece unlike much of what they’re likely to receive.
Whew! Regardless of whether or not I get accepted, I just want to make and turn in something that I’m proud of. That’s always the goal. I’ve turned in things that I knew weren’t ready and they predictably didn’t get accepted. But when you turn in something you’re proud of, something you know is good, a rejection isn’t such a big deal.
**It could be that I’m not as funny as I think I am.