Monthly Archives: June 2021

Monday Miscellanea, 6/28/21

Let’s Talk About the Weather

Week before last was super hot. We had a record six days in a row of 115+F heat. That’s a tad warm for June. Thankfully, last week was cooler with a day of clouds and a smidge of rain on Wednesday. This week looks to be a repeat. Yay!

Spent Time On

On Friday night, I realized that I had never created a spreadsheet for my dice collection. (Has a geekier sentence ever been written?) I’ve been gaming since shortly after I met Eric and, in the past 23-ish years, I’ve accumulated quite a few dice sets. As I took stock, it occurred to me that the loose d4s and d6s that were generally “damage dice” would be better served in their own dice bags. That way they could be table dice; for use for whoever is currently playing a fireball-slinging wizard.

A selection of dice sets which Katherine owns.
Two crocheted dice containers.

In retrospect, I suppose I could have used one of the many plastic containers I have around. Instead, I broke out my supplies and googled “crochet dice bags.” Instead of bags, I ended up with two open-mouthed containers based on a potion bottle dice bag and a dragon egg dice bag. I hadn’t crocheted anything in probably over a year, but both came out pretty okay. My fingers and eyesight generally survived the experience.

Getting Back to It

I think I finished the first draft of the story I’m writing. Tentative title: “Beside the Gem-Colored Sea.”

What Am I Promo-ing?

Today, I’m not promo-ing anything I’ve written. Instead, I’m promoting Entangled Tomes. Currently, there are four Tomes:

  • Two are anthologies of short fiction that I edited:
    • Our Past in the Uncanny Valley – automaton stories.
    • Happy Halloween from The Black Cat – spine-tingling stories from The Black Cat magazine
  • Mephisto, the Marvellous Automaton – a nice, clean format of a historical pamphlet about a chess-playing automaton.
  • David P. Abbott in The Open Court – a collection of articles and letters written by magician and skeptic David P. Abbott for The Open Court magazine.

If any of these sound interesting, click through! All are available for free from my webpage in several different formats. I consider myself a fairly proficient formatter, so if you’re an author, you like the look of these files (or any of the ebook I have self-pubbed at Amazon), and you’re in need of a formatter, let me know. Maybe we can work together!

Cinema Saturday, 6/26/21

Judy & Punch

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rated: Not Rated

Director: Mirrah Foulkes

Writers: Mirrah Foulkes, Tom Punch, Lucy Punch, Eddy Moretti

Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Daisy Axon

Initial: Saw promotional materials on Hulu and said, “Well, that looks like a movie for me!”

What Did I Think: (spoilers possible below)
Enjoyment of this movie is fairly dependent on some knowledge of traditional Punch and Judy shows. Being American, I was only vaguely familiar: it’s a puppet show, usually done with marionettes; Punch carries a stick and (as the Wikipedia page puts it) other characters are “felled by Punch’s slapstick.” But that wasn’t enough to keep me from being felled by a few WTF moments due to my not being familiar enough. I understood going in (though I hadn’t watched the trailer) that there was going to be a fantastical aspect to the setting and time period. I suspected that there was a meta aspect to the story. I just wasn’t quite prepared for a more or less live-action Punch and Judy show.

Like the also inverse-named Gretel & Hansel (2020), Judy & Punch is more about the female half of this pairing. Judy is co-artist, wife to the “genius” Punch, and over-worked mother. The final straw to her liberation is pretty extreme. She delivers retribution to her husband by the end of the tale, though I wish it would have been a little more grounded. Earlier, Judy is shown to be a talented magician (in the stage magic sense) and I wish those theatrics would have been more solidly used. It’s a beautiful film and well-cast, but slightly misses the mark for me.

Review ~ The Hypno-Ripper

This book was provided to me by the editor in exchange for an honest review.

The Hypno-Ripper: Or, Jack the Hypnotically Controlled Ripper; Containing Two Victorian Era Tales Dealing with Jack the Ripper and Hypnotism, edited by Donald K. Hartman

This is the second anthology in a series looking at the use of hypnotism as a fiction device in Victorian/Edwardian fiction. I reviewed the first volume, Death by Suggestion, back in 2019. (Which, yes, seems like a decade ago…)

As the extended title says, The Hypno-Ripper includes two tales, one on the longer end for a novella, the other on the longer side for a short story: The Whitechapel Mystery by Dr. N. T. Oliver and The Whitechapel Horror by “Charles Kowlder.”

Most of the stories in Hartman’s first anthology were mystery/crime stories in which hypnosis was often used to control someone into committing a horrible act, rather than as an information gathering device (as I would have expected). The Whitechapel Mystery (and Horror) are no different.

The protagonist of Mystery, an American detective investigating a bank robbery in New York, falls under the influence of nefarious Dr. Westinghouse. He follows Westinghouse back to London and they (maybe together, maybe only under Westinghouse’s influence) perpetrate the Jack the Ripper murders. That the tale starts in New York and involves an American is interesting; this might be because the author is American. The last fourth of book, in fact, is a biography of Dr. N. T. Oliver, or as he was more commonly known, Edward Oliver Tilburn. Tilburn is quite a character and his life as a con man is well worth the time. Oliver/Tilburn’s writing starts a little dry. The bank robbery stuff goes on a little long. In the style of news coverage of the time, the telling of the Ripper’s crimes gets pretty lurid.

The premise of The Whitechapel Horror is nearly the same. This time our protagonist is Charles Kowlder, an American who goes to London and, while there, has a mental breakdown. Kowlder self-hypnotizes into being a maybe partial/maybe full participant in the Ripper murders. This story is much shorter; it made the rounds of newspaper syndication under the guise of an unknown author. Hartman conjectures that Tilburn might also be the author of this piece as well. It would not be beyond Tilburn to self-plagiarize and publish this anonymously. I think it’s just as likely that, in the wild-and-wahoo world of 19th century copyright law, another writer could have adapted the longer work and pawned it off on newspapers wanting a sensational tale.

In writing quality, I wouldn’t say that either of these stories is particularly outstanding for the era. They are worthwhile for their subject matter, both as tales of hypnotism and as Jack the Ripper fiction that is contemporaneous to the events. If you’re a fan of Victoriana, do check it out.

Cinema Sat…er…Sunday, 6/20/21

Saint Maud

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 24m
Rated: R

Director: Rose Glass

Writer: Rose Glass

Stars: Morfydd Clark, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Jennifer Ehle

Initial: Saint Maud has been recommended to me by a few people. I’m expecting something fairly mind-bendy.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Saint Maud was more straight-forward than I expected, probably because I put Maud/Katie into the category of unreliable narrator pretty early on in the film. That said, it’s a well-made film. This is the feature debut for writer/director Rose Glass and her cinematographer Ben Fordesman. Maud’s world is alternately dream-like/nightmare-ish and grungily real. The movie hangs on the performance of Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle, and both actresses nail their characters with nuanced performances. I’m really interested Rose Glass’s future projects.


Extraction

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 56m
Rated: R

Director: Sam Hargrave

Writers: Ande Parks, Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Fernando León González

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda

Initial: So I added a bunch of movies from different to-watch lists and randomly picked. First pick: Extraction.

Production Note: This movie was sort of a big deal when it came out last year, becoming a kind of proof-of-concept for a “big” film opening on a streaming service (not that it had much choice).

What Did I Think:
After Eric watched this movie, on my recommendation, he described it thusly: “It’s like a reverse trolley problem. There’s one person on the main track, but this plot switches rails to kill sixty people on the other track.” He’s not wrong…

This movie felt very retro to me, very 80s actions movie. There’s lots of violence. The bad guys are Evil. The good guy is honorable. There’s pathos! There’s humor! There’s an extraction team that doesn’t seem to be a very good extraction team… And there’s also an 10 minute “no-cut” action sequence. I am not a fan of the super rapid, choppy cutting that happens in many 2000s action films (the Transformer films stand out to me as being fairly egregious), but I’m on the fence about long, no-cut POV scenes too. On one hand, the lack of cut builds tension. On the other hand, it can fall into feeling like video game play. No doubt, stitching 36 scenes into one continuous sequence (which is what Hargrave does here) is a feat, I’m just not sure it completely serves the movie.


1BR

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: David Marmor

Writer: David Marmor

Stars: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols

Initial: Random movie #2!

Production Note: The second feature debut of a writer/director in this post.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
First off, I’m tired of women getting tortured in horror films. It’s probably a trope that I just need to avoid. I’ve come to find it distasteful and lazy. Could the premise of 1BR work with a 20 year-old guy? Yeah, more or less.

Maybe you can fault me for this not being a good-faith argument, but Sarah (our protagonist) is doing fine at the beginning of this movie. She’s moved to Los Angeles on her own. Sure, she didn’t immediately break into costume design (she hasn’t been in LA long), but she has a job and she’s looking for an apartment. Other than lying about her cat, she doesn’t have any notable sins/vices that require cult-like reprogramming. Is the message of this movie that if you don’t have immediate success, you’re so broken you need intervention? Also, are apartment showings like that in LA? A dozen people milling around a one bedroom? It seemed bizarre to me. The bright spot is Nicole Brydon Bloom. She really does a fine job with the role.

A similar, better movie: The Invitation (2015).

Reading Notes, 6/17/21

Finished Reading

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury

A reread for me. I’m 90% sure I originally bought this books in college at UNL’s University Bookstore. Despite that I continually call this book Zen AND the Art of Writing

This was a good reread for me. I’ve been flailing around with my writing and my thoughts about being a writer. Leaving writing behind hasn’t seemed right for me, but I’ve also developed some fairly toxic attitudes toward what I should be doing instead of just enjoying writing. And writing can be difficult, so “enjoyment” is often not quite the right sentiment. Bradbury’s sheer enthusiasm is the kind of infection I need right now. I do wish the book would have presented these essays in chronological order. I think I might leave myself a note to read it that way the next time I reread it. And, no doubt, there will be a next time.

I’m resisting a Moby Dick read-through that’s happening on reddit, but I think Bradbury’s Green Shadows, White Whale will be another “writing” book to reread later on in the summer.

This is my second of “10” Books of Summer!

Deal Me In

3♠️: “Black Flowers Blossom” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
I will admit, this story is smuttier than I’m used to. Nothing against it, but my fiction tastes don’t usually run toward the erotic. But, this is a pretty neat little story following an eldritch “horror” and an occult detective through various time periods.

Currently Reading

  • The Hypno-Ripper, edited by Donald K. Hartman – Nearly finished! I plan to review it next Tuesday.
  • The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science by John Tresch – I’ve been thinking some time about the use of sciences in 19th century fiction. This book came across my radar and I had to jump on it.
  • Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert – My Dune saga continues.


Monday Miscellanea, 6/14/21

Watching/Listening

My writing “playlist” has been nearly exclusively David Bowie concerts. Thank you, YouTube bootleggers. One of my favorite things about Bowie concerts/performances of the mid-90s onward is his duet of “Under Pressure” with touring/session bassist Gale Ann Dorsey. Dorsey may be one of the coolest people in existence. Not only is she doing justice to Freddy Mercury’s original vocals alongside David-frickin’-Bowie, she’s also playing one of the most iconic bass lines in rock music.

Getting Back to It (or not)

Weather foracst: Mon: 115, Tues: 118, Wed: 116, Thurs: 118...

I am not ready for summer. Did I mention we recently got a new AC unit? Man, I am happy about that.

Anyway, back around when I got my second vaccine jab, I mentioned that my parents were on their way to being vaccinated as well. In fact, they were not and have no intention of being vaccinated. It’s been interesting to find out where family members, both close and extended, stand on this issue of public (and personal) health and safety. And, by “interesting,” I mean painful in a way that I can only give 2020 credit for.

What Am I Promo-ing?

Cover: Luck for Hire by Eric and Katherine Nabity

Luck for Hire

“If science is a product of observation, then magic is the manipulation of what isn’t or can’t be observed.”

Aleister Luck is a private investigator based in Las Vegas who has his own brand of slightly chaotic magic. He goes where his luck takes him, which seems to be in the path of his ex-girlfriend, a lawyer whose client has gone missing.

Available at Amazon.com.

Last Word On It

On my birthday last year, 116 people died of COVID-19 in Arizona. Coming about two weeks after Thanksgiving, this was near the beginning of the third wave in AZ. For a while, December 14th was the date with the highest reported number of deaths in AZ, surpassing even the summer peak in July. This was at the beginning of a trend that lasted through Christmas and well into the New Year.

116 people died of COVID-19, in Arizona, on my birthday and that breaks my heart. While I was celebrating making it through another year, so many other people were dealing with fresh grief. I don’t know any of the people who died on my birthday, but I imagine a few of them were like me: a wife, a daughter, a sister, an in-law, a friend.

116 people died of COVID-19, in Arizona, on my birthday and that also makes me very angry. More angry and disappointed than I, a social optimist, have ever been because many of those deaths were preventable.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve wanted only two things. One was to not get sick. The other was to do all I could to not contribute to other people getting sick. To not contribute to other people dying.

The CDC recommendation was to social distance and wear a mask. I stayed home. Not everyone has as lucky circumstances as mine, but I wasn’t needed anywhere. Did I want to go places? Of course. I’m not a social person, but I missed shopping trips, the library, the movies, playing ultimate frisbee. I missed holidays and I missed special events. I wore a mask when I did go out.

And the CDC recommendation worked. As long as people followed the recommendation. But by Thanksgiving, people were tired. Following guidelines had become even more of a political thing. Why should people’s freedoms be curtailed? And on my birthday, 116 people died of COVID-19 in Arizona.

As of my writing this today, an estimated 600,000 people have died in the US of COVID-19. I don’t remotely know how anyone is okay with that when we had recommendations to control the spread.

The CDC recommendation now is to get vaccinated. In the United States, we have three safe, effective vaccine options. Even if you’ve had COVID-19, the recommendation is to get vaccinated. A vaccine trains your immune system better than illness. A vaccinated population stops the spread of the virus; if the spread is stopped, the virus no longer has the opportunity to develop variants. A vaccinated population also protects its vulnerable members, people who have immune deficiency problems due to other illnesses and treatments.

And a vaccinated population can get back to doing all the things maybe you didn’t do in 2020, if you followed the recommendations. One of the things I did in 2020 was realize that 116 people died on my birthday in Arizona of a disease we let run rampant.

We can stop COVID-19 from going further. Get vaccinated.