Category Archives: History

Monday Miscellanea, 9/20/21

Yellow leaf on green-gray background.
Photo by hiwa talaei on Pexels.com

Getting Back to It

We’re just a couple days from the equinox as I write this. The weather this summer has actually been pretty nice, but the cooler nights are wonderful. I’ve had my Halloween decorations up for a while and have been enjoying the fall reading events. (And watching events. ‘Tis the season for all things perilous.)

College football is back, and I’ve been harried the last couple weeks by fall frisbee league registration. Eric and I will be playing this time. We haven’t played in a league since spring of ’20. Summer league had a few games at the park in my neighborhood, so I picked up with them. Eric joined once too. We’re relying on the effectiveness of the vaccine as well as the ultimate community’s general good sense.

Watching

There hasn’t been a Cinema Saturday post in a while. 80s in August transitioned to my using Saturdays for RIP bingo posts. Here are a few notes on some movies that probably won’t get a full post. Title links to a trailer.

Dark City (1998) – rewatch. Dark City has a great style. Directed by Alex Proyas with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who worked together on The Crow (1994), it also heavily pulls from Lang’s Metropolis (1927). It came out a year before The Matrix and the two movies have a lot in common plot-wise, but one thing the latter does so much better is exposition. You can info dump in movies, but you have to balance it very carefully with story. The Matrix does a very good job, while Dark City doesn’t. (Don’t quiz me on how the Matrix sequels managed their exposition. I’ve seen them once and that was enough…)

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) – I alternately find the character of Harley Quinn grating and charming, so occasionally Birds of Prey annoyed me somewhat. But it was also kinda fun. It’s very ridiculous, but clever here and there. In fact, I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would.

Ford v Ferrari (2019) – If I have a guilty pleasure, it’s long movies about a group of men doing things. The Right Stuff (1983)? Love it. Zodiac (2007)? One of my favorites. (See also, sports movies.) So, yeah, this was the second movie I watched with my brand spankin’ new HBO Max subscription. (Also, it was “leaving” the service on the 18th…) This is a well-made movie, dramatic and grand.

Reminiscence (2021) – I like Hugh Jackman. I like Thandiwe Newton. Unfortunately, Reminiscence doesn’t entirely work. It too is burdened by its exposition with Hugh Jackman’s voice-over filling in details that don’t really need filling in. Also like Dark City, this film bares ill-comparison to a film that is quite a bit like it: Strange Days (1995). Both plots rely on “playback” of events that uncover corruption as well as solve a crime (in typical noir style).

Reading Notes, 8/19/21

Finished Reading

Cover: The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow

The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow

This is the fourth book of the Horus Heresy, a long, still on-going series of novels detailing the events that lead to the Warhammer 40K gaming setting. Despite that possibly ignominious designation, the books I’ve read in the Horus Heresy are pretty good. They are military science fiction, a sub-genre I don’t read much of, but I like the occasionally conflicted characters and the Gothic-punk aesthetic. (When I say Gothic here, I mean Visigoth, not Hot Topic goth.) I have in the past commented that often in women’s fiction there is a lot of attention paid to clothes and hair and makeup. Those books have nothing on the descriptions of armor, heraldry, and weaponry in these books. And I kind of dig it!

Searching through my old posts, I find that I read the previous installment back in…2010. I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize it had been that long. On the plus side, I was worried about the shift in characters after the initial trilogy of books. Since I didn’t remember much about them, Book #4 was painless to get into.

Deal Me In

Started a Twitter thread for short fiction including Deal Me In stories:

Currently Reading

Cover: Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane Anders

I intended to start reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Ward Radcliffe this week during Bout of Books, but I wasn’t in the mood. Luckily, a pending ARC request bailed me out. I’m reading Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories by Charlie Jane Anders. Considering I’m trying to get back into writing and dealing with a bit of anxiety, it seemed like a book I might be interested in.

Also reading quite a few short stories.

Reading Notes, 8/12/21

Finished Reading

Cover: Heretics of Dune

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

After making it through God Emperor of Dune, I have to say, Heretics is where Herbert lost me. The plot is my least favorite kind: factions scheming against each other. That can work, but I need some characters that are compelling enough to me to be hooks. And I’ve lost interest in the setting/world building. I had enjoyed the interplay between “female” knowledge and “male” knowledge (and how those two things were embodied in the Kwisatz Haderach), but now it just comes down to using seduction and sex as power? Maybe that’s the natural continuation of things post-Leto II, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Chapterhouse: Dune is more a direct continuation than the previous books and that doesn’t bode well. In fact, I think I’m done with the series. I’ve given it go and maybe in the future I’ll read the whole thing again, but for now, I’m just going to wait for the movie to come out and move on with other reading.

Currently Reading

Cover: The Flight of the Eisenstein

Some people might take exception to my eschewing a classic of science fiction for a Warhammer 40K tie-in, but that’s what’s happening here. I plan on finishing The Flight of the Eisenstein before settling into The Mysteries of Udolpho and some shorter works during Bout of Books next week. I have a few short stories/novellas I purchased over the past year that I want to clean up before “fall” reading. Since I’m still doing 80s in August, my BoB updates will be on Twitter.

Reading Notes, 8/2/21

Finished Reading

Cover: All Systems Red by Martha Well

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I’ll be honest, I was looking for a short science fiction book for #TrekAThon and I’d heard a bit about the Martha Wells “Murderbot Diaries.” All Systems Red was fine. A first person narrative, our main character is the self-dubbed Murderbot, a sentient security droid who hacked his governance programing. Murderbot is taciturn, sarcastic, cynical, and a bit lazy when it can be. Kind of like grumpy teenager. Murderbot has a past, which we don’t find too much about, and the story has a mystery, which isn’t entirely solved. This is the first in a series of novellas, after all. I’m not inclined to read the rest because “Murderbot Diaries” isn’t really my thing. I find I’m pretty picky about science fiction.

Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay

From 1994–2000, magician Ricky Jay published a quarterly pamphlet entitled Jay’s Journal of Anomalies. This is a soft bound collection of the 16 issues, lovely typeset and lushly illustrated. Subjects include intelligent dog acts, flea circuses, ceiling walkers, the Mechanical Turk, and the odd association between dentists and traveling entertainments. Magic adjacent subjects. Jay is more interested in the history of such things instead of the debunking of them. The illustrations of broadside, advertisements, and poster are from his own collections.

Summer Challenges Check-In

#TrekAThon

#TrekAThon wrapped up on Saturday. I managed to save six crew members! Hey, I’m terrible at prompt-based readathons, so this is totally a win for me.

  1. Commander Scott: Zhiguai: Chinese True Tales of the Paranormal and Glitches in the Matrix, edited and translated by Yi Izzy Yu & John Yu Branscum
  2. Nurse Chapel: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
  3. Captain Kirk: Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay
  4. Yeoman Rand: Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay
  5. Commander Spock: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  6. Lieutenant Uhura: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

20 Books of Summer

My goal for 20 Books of Summer was ten books. And with a month left, I’ve read…ten books! I don’t really have plans to expand my goal to 15 books. I have two books in-progress that would count (started after June 1st), but I also have The Mysteries of Udolpho, planned for August which is 18th century and long. But, Reverse Readathon and Bout of Books are both coming up; I won’t say “impossible” and I’ll continue to keep count.


Reading Notes, 7/22/21

Finished Reading

cover: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

I had read a few of Zen Cho’s short stories in the past, enjoyed them quite a bit, and added The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo to my TBR without paying too much attention to the story’s summary. As is, I often read a book’s blurb, decide whether the story sounds like something I’d enjoy, and then promptly forget about said blurb. All of the previous stories had some speculative aspect, so I was very surprised that Perilous Life does not. Mostly, this is something of a romance. Jade is a freelance writer in the 1920s who really wants to *live*. She gets into a few scrapes. Mostly she gets out of them. She’s a character I didn’t mind spending time with even if the plot wasn’t my usual thing.

This was a slump-buster for me and I fulfilled a prompt for #Trekathon: Nurse Chapel (Head Nurse) — Read a book with a face on the cover. Plus, book #7 for 20 Books of Summer.

cover: Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury

Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury

This is the kinda-sorta account of Ray Bradbury going to Ireland to write the screenplay for John Huston’s film adaptation of Moby-Dick. I first read this book back in 2004, well over a decade before I ever read Moby-Dick, so one is not necessary to read the other, but I had a little more context this time and better understood the end of the book when Bradbury finally cracks the script. Like many of Bradbury’s books, this one is a tapestry of stories that eventually make a whole. Some of them would seem to be quite autobiographical. There was purportedly some friction between Bradbury and Houston and both are characters here. Other stories are quite fanciful, including one obvious fiction digression, “The Banshee,” which I swear has been anthologized elsewhere. Some of the portraits of Irish people are not entirely flattering. Then again, neither are the portraits of the Yanks there making a movie…

Book #8 for 20 Books of Summer!

Deal Me In

Two of my Deal Me In stories lately have been from PseudoPod, an online horror fiction magazine/podcast. I listened to “FFUNS” by Johnny Compton and “Allochthon” by Livia Llewellyn, both of which were very good and, uh, NSFW. I haven’t been reading too much hardcore horror lately, so these were refreshing.

Currently Reading

cover: Jay's Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay
cover: The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow

Currently reading Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay for #Trekathon and just added The Flight of the Eisenstein which should count as a #Trekathon triple beam-up! (…It’s not that I’m not reading Heretics of Dune right now…Maybe if I watch the new trailer a couple more times.)


Monday Miscellanea, 7/19/21

What’s Going On?

Not much. Honestly, Eric and I took something of a Minecraft vacation last week. Every once in a while, we try out a new mod pack. Eric sets up a server and we play in the world together. Much cheaper than traveling! Currently we’re playing Better Minecraft, which seems to be a fairly balanced experience.

A Minecraft house.
Faleigh’s house, in a cold biome—there’s always some snow!

As is probably stereotypical, Eric enjoys adventuring and I enjoy building, though we both do some of both. Our characters don’t do much together, but it’s just nice sharing the experience.

Let’s Talk About the Weather

Summer has been pretty normal this year. We had that super hot week in June, but otherwise highs are around normal and the monsoon storms are blowing through pretty regularly. I’m really trying to appreciate the normality since so much still isn’t.

Getting Back to It

I did send out the short story I wrote. I’m surprised that, in the years since I subbed stories last, some things (like manuscript form and cover letters) haven’t changed much, and some thing have. Most markets have electronic submission forms/services now. Also, the professional rate for genre stories is now 8–10¢ per word! If I sell this story to a pro market, I pay my rent for a month! (Because I have cheap rent…) I’m not getting my hopes up, really, but it’s fun to think about.

What Am I Promo-ing?

Cover for The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress

I’ve written two “One Ahead Mysteries.” These stories feature a fictional version of magician David P. Abbott, who was a congenial skeptic and debunker in early 20th century Omaha, NE.

Both The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress and The Case of the Real Estate Revenant are available at Amazon, but if you’d like to read a short excerpt, those are found on my now correctly-working-again website.

I’ll probably write more of this series if I ever figure out another good mystery.

Reading Notes, 7/15

Finished Reading

Nothing!

Currently Reading (or not)

Yeah, it’s been a couple weeks and I’ve been flailing around with my reading. I started both The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes for #Trekathon, but I’m not getting along with space opera at all. So, I think I need to switch out a few books. My back-up for Nurse Chapel (read a book with a face on the cover) will be The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by by Zen Cho. After that, we’ll see what I feel like next. Still progressing on Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury and Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert.

I’m not going to participate in the CCSpin this time around. I’ll stick to my next planned classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho, for August.

Tales from an Unwieldy Library

I’ve finished adding my Kindle books to LibraryThing, though they are not very well tagged. I have 1,046 books in my library, 561 of those are unread. So that’s a few books. If I finish the books above, well, that will make it 559. (The Bradbury is a reread.)