Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mid-summer summary

I was talking last week about something of a lull in my pop culture consumption, but I have to admit that was not an entirely accurate characterization of what I’ve been up to. If anything, I’ve been gorging myself on books and movies which all fall under the SUMMER SCHOOL heading, throwing myself into that theme with reckless abandon. What I’ve been struggling with is focusing and finishing. So today I just wanted to give a brief overview of what I’ve been amusing myself with, and maybe some explanations as to why none of it has qualified as post-worthy material so far.

MOVIES: A few weeks ago I watched Looper, the Rian Johnson sci-fi time travel flick with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same character at different ages. Not exactly a summer movie (it was released in late September last year) but close enough! I had been meaning to see it for a while, and one thing that really tipped me in that direction was my father mentioning that he had seen it recently and found it moderately mind-blowing and wanted to talk to me about it. I promised him I would move it up in my Netflix queue and watch it soon. And I liked it well enough, but my mind remained unblown, so what I really wanted to do was close the loop (pun!) with my dad and talk the flick over with him and then post about what insight (if any) that conversation might yield. So the stumbling block here clearly is that I am a terrible son and I haven’t called my dad yet. When I do, assuming I remember to bring up the flick, I will report back.

I also did some make-up work for ROARING 20’S MONTH, which coincides with the 1001 Movies Blog Club, and I will actually be featuring that review tomorrow, better late than never.

TV: I’ve been working my way through Smallville; I can’t recall the extent to which I ever specifically addressed it around here, but my goal really is to get all the way through the last episode of the final season by the end of 2013. In theory this would have meant finishing up Season 9 in the first six months of the year and Season 10 in the latter six months. Here we are in late July and I have a handful of Season 9 episodes to go, so I’m once again in make-up work territory. As far as the show itself, it continues to be what it has always been, silly and mildly exploitative in a way I find irrationally endearing, nothing I haven’t said before, nothing new to hang a ruminative thoughtpiece on. Ditto for Supernatural, which I’ve gotten as far as the opening salvos of Season 3 on. Fun summer-light stuff to watch, but not fun enough to blog about.

Just a couple mellow dudes, havin' a couple brews

BOOKS: A couple weeks ago I started reading Damn Yankees, a collection of essays about my beloved baseball team, which was a combination of yet again doing make-up work (for the BASEBALL MONTH that never really came together) and also looking for something more enjoyable than following New York’s actual box scores. The nice thing about an anthology by different essayists is that you can read a few pieces, and put the book down at any point between essays and come back to it any length of time later and not feel as though you’ve lost the thread. The bad thing is that you can put the book down at any point between essays, which is of course what I seem to have done.

One reason I set Damn Yankees aside is because I had ordered a bunch of used books (and one new one using an old gift card I found cleaning out my wallet) and they all showed up on my doorstep in rapid succession and I felt obligated to at least crack open one of them. The one I settled on was James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere, which is kinda sorta summer-y reading (although I selected it for a specific reason not at all connected to traditional beach read lists or the like) but is also a demanding, challenging novel (which is not at all a bad thing, just time-consuming). I am very nearly done with The Big Nowhere (finally) and will no doubt blog about it soon, and then finish Damn Yankees, and then move on to some really trashy books. Good times.

COMICS: I read one compilation of comics recently, as well: War of the Green Lanterns. It was actually quite the refreshing palate-cleanser after the disappointment of Green Lantern: Sleepers Book Three, because despite being a crazy kitchen-sink cosmic shoot-em-out with the usual ongoing series hallmarks of promising that nothing will ever be the same and then reverting back to the status quo by the end, at least the main characters behaved, you know, in character (according to my own subjective-yet-informed-by-decades-of-fandom expectations).

When I was reading comics regularly, buying several titles every month, there were two kinds of books I followed: long-game and short-game. Short-game is also commonly known as “written for the trade” which meant the monthly newsstand issues might have cliffhangers and various incentives to get people buying them regularly, but they also tended to tell essentially self-contained stories which started and ended every six issues or so, thus making it very easy to reprint #’s 7 through 12 and slap the storyline title on the spine and sell it as a trade paperback. Long-game, on the other hand, tended to have just as many elements which persist and play out over the years and beyond any given moment’s horizon and woven into crossovers with other titles as they have elements which can be isolated into narrative chunks. I always considered Green Lantern a long-game kind of book, which was one of the complicating factors when I decided to stop collecting the monthly issues of comics altogether and only occasionally pick up trade paperbacks with good online buzz. It was easy enough to latch onto special projects, a mini-series here or a run by a guest writer there, but I never did figure out how to devotedly follow Green Lantern in a non-monthly real time way. War of the Green Lanterns was my first what-the-heck attempt to jump back in, and as I suspected the split was about 80/20 between material self-contained to the story at hand and passing references to other ongoing matters which I’m no longer making the effort (or spending the money) to stay current on. 80/20’s not bad, though, all considered.

So yeah, those are the crumbs from the bottom of the SUMMER SCHOOL backpack. I never promised I'd break world records for organized thinking, after all.

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