Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Tales of an Unwieldy Library, pt. 3

Getting Distracted Along the Way

Photo by Guilherme Rossi on Pexels.com

Cataloging the books in the backroom/office has been a slower process than dealing with the rest of the apartment and the books I have in “storage” for the following reasons:

  1. Shelves: I don’t have many shelves and the ones I do have are often double stacked. Unshelving and reshelving books is a pain.
  2. Dust: I open the windows often and Arizona is a very dusty place. Books in boxes in the closet were not surprisingly not dusty.
  3. Desk Space: I lugged the closet books to the kitchen, which is right next to my big, beautiful frontroom desk, where I have my laptop set up. In the backroom/office, I have a very nice dual monitor desktop, but very little space for shifting books about. I end up with stacks on the floor, which is less convenient.
  4. Harlan Ellison: I was going along, adding books to Library Thing. I had worked through the paperbacks in the shoe boxes, my collection of Richard Laymon books, my collection of magic history and magic-related fiction. No problems. But then I reached my Harlan Ellison collection. And I realized, I had no idea what of Ellison’s I have and haven’t read. I have collections and anthologies and omnibus editions. I’ve read a few volumes straight through, but which? And are those stories collected elsewhere too? Maybe I should just read all of the books I have. Maybe I should try reading all of Ellison’s works (that I own) in roughly chronological order. Which would be a hassle to determine if I didn’t have the internet. Several spreadsheets later, I still haven’t gotten past my meager stack of Harlan Ellison books, but I have a new reading project.

Fine, it’s not entirely Ellison’s fault. I love my books. I love making lists. I had until now avoided getting too distracted by deciding what I wanted to read next. (Spoiler alert: It’s never the book I’m currently reading.) In this case, I couldn’t resist the detour.

Books cataloged: 632
Books unread, ± Harlan Ellison: 333

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

#AtoZChallenge 2021 Theme Reveal

Horror Movies A to Z

Ever since last April, I’ve been looking forward to celebrating Halfway to Halloween. I had randomly decided to do an unofficial horror movie A to Z challenge last year and late in the month realized that April is actually halfway to October.

This year, I’m officially joining the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge and will post another horror movie A to Z along with a few other Halfway to Halloween festivities. I plan to stick to movies that are new to me, but I might include an old favorite or two if I’m feeling burnt out.

I have started my list of “maybes” over at Letterboxd. If you have any horror movie recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

{Book} Bedbugs

Book cover for Bedbugs

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

Long ago, I won the second book in Ben H. Winter’s Last Policeman trilogy. I had not read the first one, don’t usually get involved in series, and don’t have much taste for apocalypse literature. But I’d heard from readers I trust that The Last Policeman was pretty good. And it was! Hank Palace, the titular last policeman, quickly became one of my favorite characters ever. Eventually, I was pretty bummed that there are only three books and no much chance of sequels, because, well, apocalypse. I promised myself that I’d visit more of Winters’ works. Fast forward to 2020 and Cathy @ 746 Books mentioning Bedbugs.

The strength of Winters’ writing is his relatable characters. While I am not a mother or as upwardly mobile as Susan, our protagonist, I could relate to her anxieties. She’s trying to be an artist while her husband works, often feels guilty for getting her way, and is occasionally overwhelmed by the emotional labor of being a wife. Both of Susan and I are more neurotic than we’d like to admit. For me, Susan is a character fairly grounded in reality.

So, when the world around her starts to skew, I was with her, wondering what the heck was going on. Alas, Winters doesn’t quite stick the landing here. Things get weird, and then sort of mundane, but also maybe still weird. Are there bedbugs? Or just badbugs? I have other questions that I will avoid asking for the sake of spoilers. Still, this was a creepy, unsettling tale. I’m glad Phoenix rates as #45 of Orkin’s Top Bedbug Cities.

Down the TBR Hole 31

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

This book is over 20 years-old, but I feel that it’s probably the foundational work of skepticism that should be more widely read. That said, I haven’t read it! KEEP.

HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia

HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia by David Saltman

I really do enjoy books about magic history, but man, am I over Houdini. GO.

You Will Not Have My Hate

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

This is very possibly an important book about not letting one tragic event dictate life. But I’m going to be honest: I’m never going to get to it. I’m never going to be in the mood for this book. GO.

Beartown (Beartown, #1)

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I’m kind of on the fence about this one. For some reason, I thought it was nonfiction. But it’s by the guy who wrote A Man Called Ove, which I haven’t read, but is liked by pretty much everyone I know. I think I’ll KEEP Beartown for now.

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson

I will also admit that I’m a sucker for a historical serial killer, especially one that takes advantage of outside circumstances. KEEP.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

The Black Cat, No. 14, November 1896

Welcome to the 14th issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

There is a gap in my Black Cat reckoning. I did read issue 13, but I never blogged about it. The stories were not good and, after a year of working on the project, I needed a break. But I’ve missed it too! So, I’m jumping back in with No. 14. This issue features five stories with five authors new to the magazine.

Stories

“Silas F. Quigley – To Arrive” by Lewis Hopkins Rogers

Silas F. Quigley, from Oxford, Ohio, arrives at a hotel in New York City to find a letter already waiting for him. The problem is, until midway through his trip he hadn’t even decided which hotel to stay in! Was this letter and the offer of work inside meant for some other Silas F. Quigley? Things get even stranger when Silas decides to take the work offered: writing short stories for a magazine. How hard could it be? This was a decent little mystery of a story, though I found the ultimate resolution to be a bit ornate. It was my favorite of the issue.

Google turns up a Lewis Hopkins Rogers who was a “statesman” and one the author of a patent for an apparatus for the production of gaseous  ozonides. Not sure if either penned this tale.

“The Polar Magnet” by Philip Verrill Mighels

Mesmerism weighed heavy in the minds of 1896 readers. In this story, we learn the secret behind an incredibly life-like sculpture. Don’t worry, we’re a few decades away from something like Dorothy L Sayer’s “The Man with the Copper Fingers” showing up in an entertainment magazine.

Philip Verrill Mighels was a prominent in the establishment of the “Sagebrush” school of American literature, encompassing writers of the west and southwest. “The Polar Magnet” is from fairly early in his career.

“Fitzhugh” by W. Macpherson Wiltbank

Lots of clowning in this story, both textual and meta-textual. When Fitzhugh is assigned to be a clown during a community circus, he decides to make sure he’s the best clown there. Or at least someone is the best clown there.

I didn’t find any biographical information on W. Macpherson Wiltbank, but he’ll appear again in later issues of The Black Cat.

“The Passion Snake” by Ella Higginson

The story is written from the POV of a female snake. She falls in love with a human and he’s in love with her, so she thinks, until a human woman he loves shows up and says, “Eeek! A snake!” Allegory, sure, but not my thing,

Ella Higginson was a fairly well-known author of the Pacific Northwest in her time. She was also the campaign manager for Frances C. Axtell, the first female state legislator in Washington.

“Professor Whirlwind” by Allan Quinan

“Professor Whirlwind” is set up to be funny. The titular character is a strange looking man whose two prized possessions are a locket of a with the picture of a lovely young woman and the portrait of a living, feather-less chicken. We’re given an adventure set up: he and the young woman were in a balloon trip gone wrong. There are trills! But then the story ends abruptly, seemly only in utter tragedy.

Boo, Mr. Quinan, boo.

Advertisements

Lots of advertisements in this issue, which makes me wonder if someone had just (gasp) not been scanning them! Along side ads for Prudential Insurance and Funk & Wagnalls Dictionaries was this piece for The Black Cat‘s short story contest.

The entry fee was a year subscription to The Black Cat (50¢)

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 14, November, 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Horror Films A to Z ~ The Field Guide to Evil

The Field Guide to Evil

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 57m
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes
Writers: Robert Bolesto, Elif Domanic, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes, Silvia Wolkan
Stars: Marlene Hauser, Luzia Oppermann, Karin Pauer

A feature-length anthology film. They are known as myths, lore, and folktales. Created to give logic to mankind’s darkest fears, these stories laid the foundation for what we now know as the horror genre.

Initial: That is a really clumsily written summary… This seems ambitious, but I’m definitely up for more global horror. I wonder if they’ll do some kind of wrap-around.

Production Notes: Produced by Legion M, which is a “fan run” production company that often crowdsources funding for films. A Field Guide to Evil was green-lit after an equity crowdfunding campaign.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Yes, quite ambitious. No, no wrap-around narrative. Instead, the stories are only connected by the opening of a book and the flipping of its pages. Btw, the opening/ending titles are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The book is in the same style.

The stories are weighted toward Europe with stories from Austria, Poland, Greece, Germany, and Hungary. The other three stories were from the US, Turkey, and India. Most of the stories were light on dialog; I assume to appeal more broadly to the US audience which is unwilling to read too many subtitles. There was also often a dearth of narrative. Obviously, when you’re fitting eight stories into a two hour movie, some exposition gets dropped. Horror is a genre that can bear a lot of ambiguity and I only really wished for more story in one case: “A Nocturnal Breath” (dir. by Katrin Gebbe from Germany) felt like it could use the tiniest bit more explanation. (Though also, I wonder if my German grandmother had been familiar with this folklore and it was part of her hatred of rats and mice.)

Other notes:

“Haunted by Al Karisi, the Childbirth Djinn” (dir. by Can Evrenol, Turkey) was my second djinn in a week and both involved children and parenthood.

The first two segments “Haunted by Al Karisi” and “The Sinful Women of Höllfall” (dir. by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Austria) have only female casts.

The US segment “Beware the Melonheads” (dir. by Calvin Lee Reeder) included the only actor I recognized: Michael J. Anderson from Twin Peaks and Carnival. (Of course, I’m quite face blind, so, take that how you will…)

My favorite in terms of style was “Cobbler’s Lot” (dir. by Peter Strickland, Hungary). Like Errementari, it is very Grimm’s Tales. It was shot as a silent film with dialog placards. The cinematographer is Márk Györi and I might have to find some of his other movies.