Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Despot on the Pot

This is Brainiac:

At least, that’s one particular version of Brainiac, the genius would-be-world-conqueror who has bedeviled Superman since the late 50’s. Superman existed as a comicbook, cartoon, radio, tv and movie serial character for almost twenty years without this particular foil, but nowadays Brainiac is considered an indispensable top-tier villain in the Last Son of Krypton’s rogues gallery. He’s gone through some significant overhauls through the decades since 1958, both in terms of a reinvented and reimagined backstory and a redesigned look. His original look lasted the longest, from his debut in Action Comics #242 right through the Super-Friends cartoons of the 70’s/80’s, where he looked like this:

Then in the mid 80’s, in the comic books (as well as the nascent SuperPowers action figure line) he got a complete makeover and wound up looking like this:

Then in the 90s for a while for some reason he looked like this:

But by the new millennium he went back to looking more like this:

Or an occasional throwback appearance like this:

The basics stayed more or less the same. Brainiac’s deal is that he has a computer brain and he’s ruthlessly evil and he’s not of this Earth. Back in the space age, that was explanation enough, but of course as science-fiction became more and more codified people expected more of an explanation about how this alien could even have a computer brain: was he a robot, an android, a cyborg, a psychic entity with a telepathic connection to a planetary mainframe? The 80s look above is one I’ve always thought was pretty rad, but it’s clearly the outlier which comes down mega-hard on the YES HE’S A ROBOT answer. So setting that curve-wrecker aside, we’re left with the common recurring elements: green skin to indicate his extraterrestrial origins, sartorial choices leaning towards pink and purple (even Robo-Brainiac features pink amongst all the chrome) because, honestly, in comics the green/purple color combo is always a visual signifier for “arch-foe”, glowing nodes on top of his cranium to indicate something technologically enhanced about his mental apparatus.

(The other major outlier - SHOCKER - is Smallville:

Where they chose not to blow their SFX makeup budget on the character. But at least they dressed him in purple and green. And when James Marsters is involved, I will cut much slack.)

So, this Brainiac:

is from Superman: The Animated Series from the late 90’s. And it’s a perfectly valid riff on the character, even if it’s fairly different from the original baseline standard.

I’m going to great pains here to make sure everyone’s on the same page as far as recognizing a specific instance of Brainiac goes, and I also want to make sure everyone understands Brainiac’s place in the Superman mythos. As I mentioned above, he’s pretty much pure evil, all the moreso because he’s completely inhuman. Part of him is a cold, logical, calculating machine, and the organic part (if there is another part) is fundamentally alien. Superman obviously already had a wicked genius adversary in Lex Luthor, but Lex has a certain tragic nobility to him, and can be merely misguided just as often as he’s venal and vainglorious. Lex would never blow up the Earth, because if he did where would he keep all his stuff? Brainiac, on the other hand, might do just that, or something worse. Brainiac is Lex minus any and all redeeming traits or sympathetic emotional profile. He raises the stakes for Superman. He’s terrifying.

Or, he should be. Is it possible to humanize Brainiac? If it were possible, could my own son perhaps find a way to make it so? I discovered the answers to these questions the other day when I walked into the kids’ bathroom and happened upon this tableau:

And from another angle:

I don’t usually post personal pictures on the blog, but since this doesn’t provide much in the way of identifying details, I think I’m pretty safe.

Of the many questions which are raised here, perhaps one of the most urgent is: why do we have a little toy toilet in the house? A few years back we noticed the little guy taking great interest in dollhouses when we visited other families, and so we got him a playset (NB: it is totally a dollhouse) which is allegedly a combination firehouse/police station but which, along with the fire engine and police motorcycle for the garage, came with beds, couches, a treadmill, a kitchen dinette set, a bathtub and a toilet. So.

I also find myself asking what term to use to describe this particular combination of toys. Is it too much to call it a diorama? Or an exhibit, a narrative installation? Because it is positively fraught with provocation. Behold the intergalactic subjugator, the instrument of destruction spawned from circuits of pure malice somewhere beyond the stars! He seeks only to control, to fulfill his programming, and regrets nothing, fears nothing, feels nothing. And yet, from time to time, even he must heed certain imperatives. Even Brainiac, now and again, must drop the gestational subroutines off at the aquatic recreation complex. A tyrant has need of more than one throne.

Honestly I have no idea what the little guy was up to when he perched his little toy Brainiac on the little toy crapper. I never asked. Sometimes it’s more than enough that my kids do delightfully weird little random things that crack me up.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ancestry

This past weekend my wife was hit pretty hard by the bug that’s been afflicting our younger children. The good news was that the kids themselves were doing better and better, getting back to being able to eat regular food as opposed to the all-bland/all-beige diet of bananas and rice and toast and applesauce they’d been on. The bad news was my wife’s weekend was a bit of a washout.

When in whatever-it-takes-to-survive mode, we often find ourselves loosening our usual restrictions on how much screentime the kids get. So the little guy and little girl watched quite a bit of Disney Junior the other morning, including an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse where the gang goes on a long strange trip.

To Mars, that is. But the show on the television merely formed the backdrop for an elaborately expanded narrative masterminded by the little guy and expressed in the form of running and jumping all around the den, where he and his sister joined Mickey and company on the interplanetary voyage, along with Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the cowgirl as represented by the trusty deluxe doll versions thereof (in case you were wondering if Buzz III were still in one piece - yup, so far, knock on plastic). I overheard only bits and pieces of it, but I did laugh at one point as my children had to debate whether or not Jessie could survive in outerspace since she lacks a pressure suit and breathing helmet and whatnot. I think they ended up agreeing to pretend she had one of Buzz’s spare helmets so her eyeballs wouldn’t be sucked out of their sockets.

Anyway, cute is cute and all but the thought of Jessie in outer space also provided me with an epiphany that I can’t believe it took me this long to realize:

FACT: Toy Story is essentially the tale of how a spaceman and a cowboy find common ground.

FACT: Joss Whedon is one of the credited screenwriters for Toy Story.

FACT: Whedon + outer space + cowboys =

FACT: Firefly is a direct spiritual descendant of Toy Story.

Man, if Toy Story didn’t have a prominent place of honor in the ol’ personal pop culture library before (NB: it totally did) you best believe it does now.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Grab Bag(s) of Unfinished Stories

I had started composing the SGB post for June 14 around the middle of last week, with the intention of finishing it on Friday at work and setting it to auto-publish the next day. But then of course that was Friday the 13th and a full moon and the bino was up for 3 solid hours starting at midnight the night before, so I bailed on work, the blog, and just about everything else (with the exception of the little guy's end-of-kindergarten show). As it happens, now that another whole week has gone by I have a few more items to add along similar themes, so I now present double the grab bag! Bear in mind, then, that all references to days of the preceding week in Part One actually refer to dates between the 9th and 13th.

PART ONE:

Another one to file under Fortuitous Timing: so on Tuesday night, the day after I finished reading Mr. Mercedes (probably several days after the more maniacal Stephen King superfans stayed up all night to finish reading it the day it was released), King announced via Twitter and Facebook that the novel is actually the first installment of a proposed trilogy. I'm just slightly on the positive side of indifference on the announcement itself; I liked the book but didn't feel like my life would be incomplete without further adventures set in that world (which, again, is basically the real world). But I am extremely glad that the announcement didn't come until after I had finished the book. I'm firmly of the opinion that the way I read a book, and my expectations and suspension of disbelief and emotional investment and whatnot, are all very different when I'm reading a stand-alone work as opposed to the opener of a series. I can imagine some of the specific ways my experience with Mr. Mercedes would have been different had I known about the trilogy plans, and as I say, I'm glad I went into it thinking it was a one-and-done.

+++

Speaking of ongoing current series ... I mentioned, a while ago, that as far as prestige tv shows that are going concerns right now and which my wife and I are following as fans, it's a pretty select few. Actually, it was only two (Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones) and my wife has pretty much given up on Downton Abbey so it's just GoT. So there's a bunch of stuff we (or I alone) might get into someday, playing catch-up as grand finales approach, or even well after they've come and gone: The Americans, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad (not current, I know, but ended recently enough), and so on. And because all of those shows are on my "maybe" list, but very much part of the discussion in online forums, I tend to steer clear of a lot of articles about them to keep myself relatively unspoiled.

However I did read a piece about Orange is the New Black this week and I was gobsmacked by the fact that apparently the prison in the series is called Litchfield. Mainly because I had been rolling around that archaic word in my brain more than usual recently. I've been toying with a horror story idea about dealing with the undead (zombies, vampires, etc.), and whether or not most monster movies let the protagonists off too easy in their ability to "kill" the undead. Maybe the best humans could hope for is to somehow contain these monsters that can never really be destroyed. They'd have to build some kind of special maximum security cemetery or something. My working title for this proto-story was "LICHFIELD, INC." because lichfield is just a cool-sounding old term for graveyard. I say 'was', you'll note, because now that I know Litchfield is the prison in OITNB, I don't want to seem too derivative. Don't worry, I've already thought of a new working title. But I do wonder how many regular viewers of OITNB are cognizant of the play on words there.

+++

On Wednesday this week it was rainy, and usually even if it's not actively coming down but there's lots of puddles on the sidewalks, I just walk through the underground from the train station to my office building. I'm equally likely to take the subterranean route if I have to stop off at the post office first thing in the morning, since that sidetrip puts me underground anyway, and that applied this Wednesday as well because I had both a Father's Day card and a Netflix dvd to mail. But the dvd in question, which I had just finished watching, was Terry Gilliam's Brazil. So you better believe that after slipping it through the mail slot in the post office lobby, I headed back out into the muggy air beneath the cloudy sky, because I pretty much couldn't bear to be closed in by cinderblock walls and low ceilings. To say nothing of the exposed ducts!

+++ +++

PART TWO:

This week my wife and I put in some quality time with our Blu-ray player, and watched an episode of Game of Thrones one night, and an episode of Buffy the next. We are now halfway through Season 3 of GoT! By mid-summer or so we should be done with that and then just counting down for Season 4 to come out on disc.

We're almost halfway through our rewatch of Season 3 of Buffy, as it happens, one episode shy at this point. Which means the episode we watched, on a day when it hit about 98 around here, was the Christmas episode, aka Amends, aka the backdoor pilot for Angels' spinoff series, aka one of my wife's all-time top 5 favorite episodes of Buffy, aka many other cool things which were much more apparent to me on this rewatch than the first time we tore through the complete series. In addition to the seasonal irony, it's significant enough to merit a mention because part of the whole point of re-watching Buffy is to simultaneously watch Angel for the first time, and now it feels like we're getting close to actually implementing that phase of the grand campaign. Huzzah.

I also should acknowledge the weird bit of trivia that Amends contains the first appearance of, um, The First Evil, a cool (and supremely Whedonesque) concept which wouldn't resurface again until it returned as the big bad for the final season of Buffy almost four years later. This got my wife and I talking, after the credits, about the long mythology of Buffy and the relative merits of the Big Bads over the course of the series. I was holding forth on the way that each Big Bad builds up the threat level from the previous one, until of course Season 4 which I pointed out all right-thinking fans consider the weakest season. My wife agreed with that assessment by way of an all-consumingly aggrieved epic eyeroll. I have to admit I find that irresistibly adorable, that eleven years after Buffy went off the air my wife can still have sincerely passionate reactions to how disappointing a certain season of it was. I fully cop to being the one in the relationship who's usually obsessed with some pop culture minutiae or another while my wife is the more grounded one, but she has her moments, and I wouldn't have her any other way.

+++

And on a final note, this week marks the anniversary of the theatrical release of the Green Lantern film back in 2011. You could refer to that movie as the first part of a trilogy, but while that may have been the original intent, clearly you'd be lying to yourself if you still thought two more sequels were going to happen. (Which is why I am not calling it that.)

No, clearly what is much more likely is a reboot of some sort. And as faithful readers of the blog will know by now, I have softened quite a bit on the acceleration of the reboot cycle between one iteration of a franchise and the next. I used to think one set of movies per generation was about right, but now I know that the interval can be much smaller without feeling too much like a second verse, same as the first.

Usually it's the successful franchises that get rebooted after they run themselves into the ground, not the franchises that failed to launch with the premier installment. But, Warner Brothers is pretty clearly desperate to catch up to Marvel Studios and the Avengers phenomenon, so I still think it's a safe bet that we'll see more Green Lantern movies sooner than later. How soon? Well, again, that's hard to calculate given that all the other precedents were moneymakers and not flops, but for simplicity's sake let's assume we're comparing apples to apples.

Superman Returns came out in June of 2006. (Point of fact, basically every big DC Comics superhero movie comes out in late June, so from here on out I will refer to years only and the June part will be implied.) Man of Steel rebooted the series in 2013, seven years later. Batman and Robin came out in 1997; Batman Begins, in 2005, eight years later. The Spider-Man franchise rebooted after five years and change, as did the X-Men series (except now that Days of Future Past is in continuity, First Class isn't really a reboot, just a prequel, but let's not get sidetracked) and I concede that those are Marvel properties and maybe oranges to DC's apples, but they still add some weight to the argument that a franchise can re-invent itself in as little as half a decade. WB tends to be a bit slower, but who knows, maybe they'll speed things up going forward in the Great Superhero Franchise Movie Wars of the 2010's.

So, my bold prediction is that the Green Lantern movie reboot will come out six years after the original. (In June, of course.) And it's been three years since the original, which means we're already halfway there! Three years is still a fairly long time in Hollywood, though, and thus I'm not going to go so far as to say who I think will play Hal Jordan in the next go-round; it's entirely possible that it will be some young stud who's relatively unknown as of today. Which makes this probably my one and only chance to post this piece of fan art miscasting the role in an utterly awesome way.

Please note the judges would accept Dwayne Johnson as Kilowog, however.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Background sounds

I’m kind of a sucker for a good listicle (a good one, mind you, not just some lazy slapdash rundown of the first eight things in a random category that popped into someone’s head) and I’d say that this qualifies: The 99 Best Soundtracks Of The ’90s. I’m asserting that it’s an objectively good read, certainly a nigh-exhaustive one, but at the same time I admit there’s a lot of subjective, nostalgic appeal in it for me.

I was in college during the early-to-mid 90’s, which was probably the height of my musical awareness (the combination of getting outside the bubble of my childhood environment, which impacted the movies I saw, books and comics I read, everything, plus the fact that music is the pop culture that can be consumed at the same time that you are studying, or road tripping, or out socializing at the local watering hole, etc.) and I can certainly attest to the fact that I listened to movie soundtracks a lot. I fully endorse the implicit thesis of the listicle, namely that the 90’s were basically the golden age for those sonic compilations of songs from or inspired by motion pictures, and so the overlap of the pinnacle of the phenomenon and my dorm-dwelling days is a happy coincidence for me.

If you haven’t already checked out the link, I’m going to spoil some of the contents of the list here by acknowledging that quite a few of them were in heavy rotation in my college quarters, particularly The Crow, Singles, The Commitments, Mallrats and of course, Tank Girl. The author of the Buzzfeed piece correctly points out that a great movie soundtrack album is like a great mixtape, and of course numerous tracks from these beloved compilation CDs ended up getting further propagated onto actual mixtapes my roommate and I made for our friends. The author dings one of the innovations of the Mallrats disc thusly: “All of the random Mallrats clips scattered throughout the soundtrack, which is a cute idea until every teenage boy in the world thought it was cool to put those dialogue clips on all of their mixtapes.” In my defense, while I admit to being inspired by the dialogue snippets, my friends and I didn’t simply copy those Mallrats tracks onto mixtapes, we figured out how to isolate exchanges from other movies (say, Planes Trains and Automobiles) and sandwich those between songs on CD-RWs.

Have I ever told the story of the time we threw a post-college house party and one of my friends had taken charge of making the mix CD for it, and as the night wore along I kept stopping in my tracks as each new song would start, so that I could tell whoever was within earshot “I love this song!!!” as if it were fortuitous serendipity influencing the whims of a DJ, and not a mix my friend had specifically put together based on solicited input including my own? Good times.

Anyway, the bittersweet part for me in reading a 90’s rundown like this is how those musical artifacts are gone from my life now. Because they were never really mine to begin with. One of the things I really like about the typical American college experience is how communal everything is. If one person has a car, then a circle of, like, four to seven friends has access to transportation as needed. Most roommates are pretty good about sharing the comforts of home, which was definitely true in my case, and lucky for me that it was. I never really acquired a ton of stuff as a teenager, and I prided myself on being able to move back and forth from campus to my parents’ every a few times each year with a minimal load of belongings. My roommate was kind of the opposite, and he had every dorm amenity imaginable: a tv, a nicer stereo than mine, a video game system, a VCR, a microwave oven, a mini-fridge, &c. &c. With the exception of my clothes and my books, everything in our dorm room not furnished by the office of residence life belonged to my roommate, from the halogen floor lamp to the Brita water filter pitcher. And that was fine by me! I was welcome to use any and all of it (assuming my roommate wasn’t already doing so) and at the same time I was traveling light through life. I thought it was a pretty good deal.

But the downside, as I say, is that when school was over and we went our separate ways, the big binder full of CDs with the movie soundtracks and the old Monty Python comedy albums and the mid-90’s output of R.E.M. and all certainly wasn’t coming with me. I have my own area rugs and coffee maker now, but those things strike me as grown-up necessities. I could, in theory, go and electronically purchase and download (or, if I was feeling ambitious, physically locate and obtain) as many of the classic mainstays of the old college soundtrack as I care to, but that on the other hand strikes me as an indulgence too far. Ah well. The memories will have to suffice, which is fine, since I know all the words to all the songs by heart.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Macabre Menace (The Unknown)

When I was a kid, I was kind of obsessed with Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney, Jr. This was long before I was any kind of amateur cinephile, and in fact predates the explosion of the home video market that enables so much of my current explorations of pop culture history. I have always loved movies on some level, even when my opportunities to see them were limited to occasional theater excursions, special showings at school, and the capricious programming schedule of HBO. Whenever none of those three venues were available, I did what any hungry young nerd would do: I went to the library and checked out books about movies. And given my love of Halloween and my fascination with moviemaking as a form of stagecraft, including practical special effects, it’s little wonder that I would be drawn to the books about the golden age of monster movies, about Karloff and Lugosi and, of course, the Man of a Thousand Faces.

If anything, I thought Chaney was the most compelling of them all because of his professional sobriquet. The idea that he could be so good, and so innovative, in creating grotesqueries in makeup and prosthetics that he would not be associated with a single, iconic role, but dozens, blew my tiny mind. I never saw the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame, or the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, but I saw black and white still photos from those movies so many times (I basically checked out the book on monster movie makeup every other time I went to the library). In the early 80’s, with Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees just starting to make their own names and indelible imagery known, Lon Chaney was a legend. The Phantom of the Opera was a character I would recognize on sight with the same unconscious cultural acuity as Ronald McDonald or Mickey Mouse.

(Also, this may go part of the way toward explaining my inherent disdain for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s tragic, trite, slightly-disfigured-yet-still-elegant Phantom. That’s not the real Phantom of the Opera, nosirree.)

(Also-also, getting namechecked in a Warren Zevon song only helps bolster the Chaney pater et fils’s standing, imho.)

At any rate, all of the above is (in my typical stemwinder style) a long roundabout way of saying that I always admired Lon Chaney for his technical skills as an effects designer without having any firsthand knowledge of his (arguably primary) talents as an actor. That is, until I saw The Unknown, which happens to be the selection of the week for the current installment of the 1001 Movies Blog Club. A 1927 silent film starring Chaney as a member of a gypsy circus troupe, one who happens to be freakishly disfigured (except he’s really not) (except in a different way he kind of is) although his face is unmarred. It’s the unadorned features Chaney was born with which have to do the work of building his character, Alonzo, and convey his tumultuous inner life. And Chaney conveys the crap out of it.

The conceit of the story is that Alonzo was born with two thumbs on his left hand as well as various criminal and antisocial tendencies. He commits robberies and acts of violence, then hides in plain sight as a member of the circus known as Alonzo the Armless, hiding his most distinguishing identifying characteristic by binding his arms tight under loose clothing and performing a knife-throwing and sharpshooting act using his nimble feet. I will stop right there and let you go see the movie for yourself right this very second, if you haven’t already, because no doubt you realize I have just described the most amazing premise ever. And I haven’t even gotten to the midget imp Cojo who assists him by lacing and unlacing the harness restraining his arms, or the beautiful assistant Nanon (played by a very young Joan Crawford) Alonzo yearns for, or the strongman Malabar the Mighty who also vies for Nanon’s affections, or the twisted psychological games Alonzo plays with Nanon to keep the upper hand (rimshot) over Malabar.

It’s absurdly overwrought and melodramatic stuff, and that’s just at the outset, as the plot proceeds to include murder and blackmail and illegal medical operations and all the elements necessary for an accidental dismemberment-by-horses. I don't want to detail the narrative too much because it's so much better to experience it firsthand and unspoiled, but suffice to say it’s as if Tod Browning took very seriously the challenge to start with a creep who throws knives with his feet, and then top that. And he succeeded.

Assuming you can embrace and enjoy (or at least politely overlook) the gothic and outrĂ© elements, it’s Lon Chaney’s performance that gives The Unknown a reason to be remembered. Oftentimes when we consider an actor in a given role we talk about the layers and nuances of their performance. In the silent era, nuance was an impossible luxury, since low fidelity film stock and an absence of vocal cues and various other factors all meant that the actors had to pantomime clear back to the cheap seats. Chaney lays it on thick, but to his credit what he’s laying on indisputably contains layers. Alonzo is at heart a con man, trying to hide from the authorities, and trying to win Nanon’s love through despicably underhanded (rimshot again) means, and trying to control everyone and everything around him, including himself, volatile as he is. There are moments where Alonzo is a hateful man with two good arms pretending to be a gentle soul with no arms, and also pretending to be happy for Nanon when she finds sources of happiness separate from Alonzo, while inwardly seething with jealousy, and Chaney brings out every element without saying a word, in the twitch of his eyes or the quiver of a lip as Alonzo struggles, partially but not wholly successfully, to keep his composure. It’s not nuanced, as I say, it’s everything turned up to 11 and thrown together to fight it out across Chaney’s expressive face, but it’s still remarkable. And a worthy inclusion on The List.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A wee bit poxy

Last night, after the kids were in bed, my wife and I had a late dinner consisting of her homemade chili and a beer for me, wine for her. Ostensibly this was in honor of father’s day but it was a treat for both of us, especially my wife who has been making a conscious effort lately to cut out unnecessary carbs from her diet, and of course alcoholic beverages are very much in that category. But we felt that the treat last night was well-deserved because, oof, what a week last week and weekend turned out to be.

I believe at various points I’ve extolled the virtues of our current, in-home daycare arrangement for the two younger kids, a major one being that without dunking the baby in the petri dish of an infant room on the regular, he’s barely been sick at all. He’s the only one of the three offspring who’s made it to 15 months on this earth without anyone bringing up the subject of surgically inserting drainage pipes in his ears. The other edge of the sword, however, is that he hasn’t really been inoculated against the wide, wonderful world of germs. He will be, since we’re planning on putting him and his sister in a traditional daycare center come fall. And it’s a bit easier (less nerve-wracking) to deal with a sick toddler than a sick itty-bitty infant, so all well and good that we’ve delayed it this long. With the possible exception of this past week.

The little guy stayed home sick from school both Tuesday and Wednesday last week. He had a fever and was a bit off his game, but nothing too major. However, he passed it on to both siblings, and the real fun started Thursday night, when the bino refused to sleep at all between about midnight and 3:30 a.m. I had been planning on leaving work early on Friday, because the little guy had an end-of-kindergarten show at school I wanted to attend; I ended up bagging the whole day because there was no way I could get back up and start getting ready to drive in to work as of 5 a.m. We all ended up making it to the show, and then came back home, and then during dinner the bino got explosively ill. Somehow we got everything cleaned up and everyone to bed.

So our littlest was very sedate on Saturday while the other two seemed more or less fine. We cancelled some dinner plans we had made for Saturday night, and we got the bino to bed early and let the little guy and little girl stay up and watch a movie as per the Saturday night norm. We hoped things would get back to normal on Sunday but by then the little girl had a fever, and tossed up the previous night’s dinner (while sitting on my lap, naturally), then got sick again a couple of hours later, and proceeded to sleep away most of the afternoon. She seemed much better when she woke up later in the day but wasn’t enthusiastic about dinner, understandably. And of course whenever my wife or I would make reference to her being sick and how we needed to get her to do certain things (sit still to have her temperature taken, swallow bubble-gum flavored ibuprofen, &c.) as a result, she would indignantly respond “I’m not sick!” She’s a willful one.

(Incidentally, the ibuprofen was not such a hard sell once my wife flipped the script. The liquid medicine is pink and meant to be measured into and drunk from the little cuplike cap, and my wife told my daughter that it was a tiny teacup like a fairy would drink from at a party. The little girl was right on board with that.)

So, while I’ve tried to avoid delving too deep into the grody details, I rest my case that after three, four, five, six days of one kid or another being sick we felt we were due a little indulgence by Sunday night. (And did I mention that both of the dogs were messily unwell over the course of the week, too? You’d think we were keeping the chosen people of a vengeful deity as slaves the way the multifarious plagues descended on our household.) I’d like to say the good news is that things are on the upswing, but apparently the bino had a bit of a relapse this morning, so who knows. This could be another rocky week and the blog may or may not be running at full speed for the duration. Updates to follow.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

So buzzed

Late last year, it seems, was the last time I provided an update of the goings-on with our household’s multiple Buzz Lightyear deluxe action figures. Since then the little guy has gone through a few different cycles of interest in How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo, and Cars/Cars 2 (again), but recently he’s gotten back into Toy Story in a big way, which brought Buzz back into playtime with corresponding prominence. To review for the click-averse, we got the little guy the Big Buzz for his birthday last fall, and within a couple of months he had broken off the leg, and we just went ahead and replaced it. We also held on to one-legged Buzz.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because since the last report, the replacement Buzz managed to get his arm snapped off. His non-laser arm, which was fortunate, but still. I don’t know if there was any causation in the correlation, but around the time of the second grievous toy injury the little guy was cycling out of his Toy Story phase anyway. So while I made vague declarations about trying to fix Buzz, it wasn’t an urgent issue.

However, when the cycle began anew in the last month or so, I similarly renewed my resolve. I was about 80% sure that there was a way to take apart the one-legged Buzz and remove his perfectly undamaged arm, similarly take apart the one-armed Buzz and remove the remaining stump of joint in his shoulder, and swap in the working arm. I offered this option to the little guy repeatedly, and he turned me down repeatedly, but eventually he got on board and agreed to let me take a shot at the repair procedure. (It turned out, as I discovered talking to him while he watched me perform the transplant, that he had misunderstood at first and thought I was offering to break off the old Buzz’s arm and then mash together the damaged toy parts somehow, and he was understandably skeptical that anything good would come of that.)

The operation was a success! The little guy was nothing short of amazed. My wife and I always take great pains to explain things to our naturally inquisitive son, and you would think this would at least instill in him a little bit of faith in the breadth and depth of our knowledge. Yet (and I know this is true of just about all kids) he’s very susceptible to getting an idea in his head along the lines of “well, I can’t figure out how to do this, so it can’t be done.” And when we prove otherwise, he is astounded.

So all was sunshine-rainbow-happiness in the house … for a few days. And then the stupid arm got broken AGAIN. As with every other calamity that has befallen both Buzz figures, it was an accident (and ironically it involved affectionate rough-housing that happened a little too close to Buzz but really wasn’t centered on him). Part of the reason I had been so dead-set on fixing the Buzz was because it was already the second copy of the dang toy we had bought, which not only meant we had the viable spare part we needed but also that I was drawing a line in the sand about buying a third one.

The third Buzz came off the UPS truck (which the little guy charmingly calls “the Amazon truck” because that’s the kind of box it brings the sweeping majority of the time) yesterday. Who knows how long this one will last? I’d like to believe a good long while, third time’s a charm and all that, not to mention the good karma I hope I earned by at least trying to teach a lesson about resourcefulness and not automatically treating everything as disposable and replaceable. But I’d settle for lasting until the little guy’s attention wanders off to dinosaurs or construction machines or somesuch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The power of editors

Recently I read the first compilation volume of Grant Morrison's recent (read: issues published beginning in November of 2011, collected some time in 2012, has been sitting on my to-read shelf since middle of last year) run on Action Comics, aka the adventures of rookie Superman. As with most things Morrisonian, I enjoyed it quite a bit. But, of course, I have to nitpick a little.

Here's a panel from issue #3, depicting an industrialist with dubious ethics being interviewed by young Clark Kent. (Sorry about the way the text gets blurry towards the right edge; it's challenging to scan hardcovers.)


Click for reverse-Kandorization

It's a perfectly serviceable exchange of dialogue, except the part where Clark calls out the heartless robber baron on his "redundancies". We don't call them that here in the States, do we? I've never heard them called that. The only reason I even know what that means in this context is because once upon a time I Netflixed the UK version of The Office. Across the pond they call them "redundancies" but us Yanks call them "lay-offs".

Now, Grant Morrison is Scottish, so some form of English is his first language. It's just not American English. And Superman is meant to be an icon of the best in humanity, not necessarily merely a paragon of American exceptionalism (NB: I concede there is room for debate on this, certainly in the overarching historical record, but still). Nevertheless, the rocket landed in Kansas, Clark Kent grew up in the heartland, and Metropolis might be an analogue for New York City or might be its own idealized shining city somewhere in the wherever-the-narrative-demands mid-Atlantic, but either way it's a U.S. city. Clark Kent would say "lay-offs", not "redundancies".

(And not to beat a dead horse but "redundancy" strikes me as one of those euphemistically polite words along the same lines as "downsizing" or "right-sizing" (blurg) and in the context of this story Clark is working for a liberal muckraking paper and actively interested in sticking it to The Man. "Lay-offs" is a bit more of a kick in the gut.)

So where was the editor when this script was submitted? I know Grant Morrison is a godlike rock star in the superhero comics field (you'll have to trust me on that) and Action Comics is a high-profile gig that was surely under incredible deadline pressures. But I still find it odd that dialogue coming out of Clark Kent's mouth with such a glaring Britishism just sailed right through production. I can't really fault Morrison for instinctively reaching for the most natural word to his ear. But I am tsk-tsk'ing the editor for not correcting it.

Incidentally, I must be in a real backseat-editing kind of mood lately, because I found myself asking similar questions reading the prologue of Mr. Mercedes as well. Extremely similar, as it happens. A character introduces himself thusly: 'August Odenkirk. Augie. I was recently downsized. That's the twenty-first-century way of saying I got canned.'

Oh, Steve, Steve, Steve. Do you really think people weren't talking about downsizing and well aware of what it meant in the '90's? Or even the '80's? I know by then you were pretty much already a gazillionaire and working at home completely outside the middle class corporate hierarchies, but come on. Augie is supposed to be a guy in his 30's as far as I can tell, but that one snippet of dialogue makes him sound like an old geezer, shaking his head at these kids today and their modern (decades-old) slang. Weird.

Even Homer nods, but that's when editors are supposed to jostle them back to attention, right? To all the editors out there broaching the awkward subject of missteps made by hotshot authors on a tear, I applaud your efforts. And to those who are slacking off riding the hotshots' coattails, I humbly request that you get it together.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dark deepening (Mr. Mercedes)

One of the crazy things about living in the current approximation of the sci-fi future envisioned in my youth is that I can pre-order something on Amazon, pay by credit card, and then forget about it because the money which changed hands was so abstract and the goods won’t be obtained until some moment yet to come. And then one day I come home and the latest Stephen King novel is just sitting there waiting for my on the front porch, and it’s like “oh, yeah, right …”

So Mr. Mercedes is the man from Maine’s most recent offering, and I know I use the phrase “review-proof” around here weirdly often in my reviews, but if that phrase didn’t exist we would have to coin it for Stephen King. I liked the book, but then again I’m the archetypal target audience of “superfans who like more or less everything SK puts out” (subcategory: “except non-fiction stuff about the Boston Red Sox, because barf”). It occurs to me that there’s two broad categories of King’s horror/suspense/thriller novels which most people think of as his wheelhouse (which means leaving aside the Dark Tower epic in its own bizarro category, as well as various other odds and ends):

1. Supernatural terror, which includes everything from The Shining to The Stand to Pet Sematary to Under the Dome and 11/22/63

2. Non-supernatural tales of damaged human beings doing more damage, which includes Cujo and the three novellas from Different Seasons they made movies out of (Apt Pupil, Shawshank Redemption and The Body aka Stand By Me) and Misery

Clearly the majority of King’s bibliography, and what people who know him by reputation but have never read a word would recognize, falls into the first category. Vampires and werewolves and ghosts and government experiments gone awry and aliens with psychic powers and all that, stuff which is scary but ultimately not real (that we know of). It seems almost tautological, that a person with a prodigious imagination would primarily focus on imaginary concepts. It’s also, I believe, a matter of mass appeal: for as many horror fans as there are out there in the world, many if not most of them enjoy the escapism of a good scare that comes complete with the reassurance that the events depicted could never happen in real life.

But then what to make of the second category? Despite confining themselves to a slightly more realistic take on storytelling, the non-supernatural novels (and novellas and short stories &c.) always strike me as significantly darker. Self-explanatory enough, I suppose: whether the evil antagonist of a narrative is a malevolent elder god or a vengeful spirit or the one and only Devil himself, it’s something Other, something apart from humanity, which only calls into question our ability to withstand and overcome such adversities. But when the antagonist is a human being, flawed and complicated but still one of us, then the whole story becomes a meditation on the dark side of human nature and how we are our own worst enemies. And that can get pretty grim.

But before we delve too deeply into the grimness, a bit of humor. King has never shied away from referencing his own works, and in fact there’s a great deal of Easter egg interconnectedness among a certain set of novels. Lots of them tie back to the Dark Tower saga, sometimes in mind-meltingly meta fashion, but others simply let the Constant Reader know that certain stories all take place in the same fictional world, with characters making off-hand mentions of strange incidents they’ve heard about, incidents which kick-off or resolve in other novels. As you might guess, mostly these shared references pop up in the supernatural novels, by necessity, because a universe with one monster is probably a universe with many monsters. Mr. Mercedes makes some references to earlier King works, but explicitly as fictional works, because Mr. Mercedes is among the non-supernatural tales. A clown mask, which becomes a piece of evidence at a crime scene, is noted for its resemblance to Pennywise from IT. And an abandoned car surrounded by the police as if it’s going to start on its own and go on the attack brings up comparisons to Christine. Referring to a couple of his own novels from the 80’s isn’t funny, per se, but the joke is that people bring those cultural touchpoints up as artifacts of other media. Nobody mentions the novels, just “that tv miniseries” and “that movie”. Ha ha, nobody actually reads for pleasure anymore, and the most immortality a working novelist can hope for is that of second-hand glory via adaptation. Gallows humor for the publishing industry, and ok maybe that’s pretty grim and dark too after all.

Mr. Mercedes is a story about a retired cop, who never caught an anonymous psychotic who purposefully drove a heavy, high-powered luxury car into a crowd of people, killing eight. The story really kicks in when that psycho reaches out to the cop to taunt and torment him about escaping justice, and the cop rouses himself to action to take the guy down well outside standard law enforcement procedure. And over the course of that battle of wills, getting to know both the hunter and the hunted, the book goes to some pitch black places, both in terms of violence that increases the body count and in terms of psychological pits of hell. So, not everyone’s cup of tea, I grant you. But if you don’t find the subject matter too off-putting, and you enjoy the trademark ways in which King tends to develop characters and plots, it’s right in the middle of the pack for entertainment value. (And clocks in under 450 pages, which is lightning-fast for SK these days.)

The book starts off with the mass vehicular homicide, which is brutal (this is the part where my wife should probably stop reading, and while I’m at it, spoilers for everybody else, too) particularly because it entails the death of a baby, not in graphic gruesome detail but still chillingly conveyed (and referenced repeatedly throughout the rest of the story). At the outset, before the novel really had a fair chance to cast its spell over me, I was a bit worried. Between Under the Dome and Full Dark, No Stars and even as far back as Cell (2006) I’m starting to get the feeling that King is really losing his faith in humanity, not merely interested in exploring the darker recesses of our collective unconscious but convinced that the darkness is all that there is. Devoting an entire book to a hate-fueled misanthropic loner who mows down seven innocent adults plus an infant? Seems like the pursuit of someone washing their hands of the whole human race. And I started kind of wondering, in the back of my head, what exactly I would do if King just kept getting darker and darker with each successive book, and how long I would hold out as an obsessive completist superfan before cutting the cord.

But I’m happy to report that those initial impressions and assessments may have been a tad overblown. In fact, King seems to be taking significant measures to assure his faithful followers that all is not lost. There are several scenes in the novel which could be excised with absolutely no impact on the narrative whatsoever. (A lot of people would probably say that’s abundantly true for every novel King ever wrote past his first three or so, but regardless.) The only purpose those scenes serve is to light candles of faith and hope in the darkness. A monologue delivered by a militantly feminist lesbian about how she actually engaged in dialogue with a Bible-thumper who was harrassing her for her sinful lifestyle, resulting in not quite a breakthrough but something like the beginnings of understanding; a vignette wherein the cop saves a young boy from some bullies on the street and urges the kid to repay the kindness to someone else before the day is done; little random tangents to the main story and all its horrors, tangents to convey the notions that some people do have genuine goodness in them and some positive human connections are still possible in this weary world.

I guess, the point being, don’t try to get inside Stephen King’s head, because he still has the capacity to surprise and to contain multitudes. Also I’m sure his head contains unspeakably hideous little bits of gibbering nightmare fuel, and why would you want to go poking around in that unrefined madness? Just wait for the next book, which is due in six months, like clockwork. Which reminds me, I should probably go pre-order that.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Making lemons out of lemonade

Must be time to update the blog, since I haven’t posted in a couple-few days, like … hmmm … twelve? Almost two weeks since my last post, which was technically sometime before the calendar flipped months. Huh.

Well, every once in a while it’s good to let the blog sit idle for a bit, to recharge my batteries and avoid scraping the bottom of the barrel and make sure that keeping the blog up and running close to daily is something I’m still invested in, not just doing as a chore out of force of habit. Today, at least, it feels like something I want to continue plugging away at. So here I am.

It would be nice if that were the full extent of my explanation for suddenly falling silent (although that would also make this a pretty low-content post) but of course there’s a smidge more to it than that. The first few quiet days might have been covered by the anti-burnout clause, particularly the very first: Thursday is in effect My Crazy Kids day around here the vast majority of the time, and lately I haven’t had much to say on that front. Or, rather: the little guy continues to be bored and frustrated and apathetic about kindergarten, which I’ve talked about before, and the best that can be said now is that the school year is very nearly over, and that will be a relief. The bino is walking and climbing like a champ and trying to get into everything, and even becoming adept at pointing and grunting and shaking his head to communicate what he wants (or doesn’t want, the child seriously makes a NO gesture that incorporates the entire half of his body from the waist up), but he’s also at that stage where he wants a lot of things he shouldn’t have and doesn’t understand why his desires keep getting thwarted, so he yells and screams and cries in pint-sized fury on-and-off round-the-clock (also he’s teething AGAIN, canines coming in now). And the little girl is potty training, which I’ve also mentioned before when her older brother was going through it, at least mentioned in the abstract insofar as avowing that the trials and tribulations of teaching a toddler to control their bodily eliminations is not something I’m interested in blogging about, nor do I really believe anyone wants to read about.

So, frustration upon frustration, to tell it like it is, and some of it not even particularly post-friendly material at that. Plus at the same time, I recently (finally, many of my friends were quick to point out) got on Facebook. And on the one hand, the feeling of plugged-in-ness, however illusory, afforded by that outlet has lessened somewhat the compulsion to blog. I’ve probably only posted a half-dozen or so status updates in the month(ish) since I created my account, and I know at least two of them have been semi-ironic grumblings about what a collective handful my kids are. And I know I’m only human and I’m allowed to get aggravated now and then but, you know, tossing off zingers on FB and then posting longer screeds on Blogspot, that’s not how I want to bracket my mindset about my own children. So I let it lie.

Skip a Thursday, then it’s Friday and if I don’t have a really good random anecdote at the ready, that’s just as likely to be a silent day as well, as are weekends devoted to errands and housework and family obligations (happy retirement to my father-in-law!), but it was last Monday that things really went off the rails. I took the day off in order to go to yet another interview for the new gig that I’ve been working the angles on in one form or another since last fall. As we all know, days where I’m not confined to my cubicle are not always highly conducive to blogging. But I had a relatively laid-back morning, got to walk the little guy to the school bus stop and everything, and went to my afternoon interview, and thought it went well.

Then on Monday evening I got an e-mail from a small press publisher I had submitted a story to. They are putting together an anthology about superheroes and monsters, and if there is subject matter more zeroed in on my personal bailiwicks, I have a hard time imagining what that might be. So I had written a story specifically along the parameters of their call for submissions, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I had gotten some feedback from another comics/horror loving friend who helped me make it even better, and I was looking forward to seeing it in print. But Monday’s e-mail was actually of the “thanks but no thanks” variety, and that was a bit of a bummer.

Tuesday I got back to work and straightaway e-mailed the HR folks who had set up my interview the day before, and asked if they had any idea what the timeframe looked like for any decision on me. And then went about a normal day at my current gig, and headed home at the usual time, and right as I was getting off the train I got an e-mail back from HR at the prospective employer: “thanks but no thanks”. So that too was a bummer, and more than a little bit. Clearly that crap start to the week left me in no mood for trifles like the blog, and I’m just now getting over it enough (not completely, but enough) to extricate myself from the spiral of rejection shame and anger.

I was so high on the potential of both of those opportunities, and really confident that they were coming my way, so the fact that they both went as sour as possible in rapid succession was rough. Clearly, though, the lesson to be learned here is one of humility. There’s a touch of the tragicomic in all of it, and I feel a bit like a classic character brought low by his own hubris.

The small press publisher, in my initial estimation, did not have a lot going for it other than assembling an anthology that seemed custom-tailored to my interests. Their website is a bit of a mess. Their Facebook page does not have a particularly high number of Likes. They released another anthology e-book a couple weeks ago, and I checked out the listing on Amazon, and I’m pretty sure there’s a huge typo in the blurb. (Something about spreading a “hind” inside a creature’s tracks and marveling at the size, pretty sure they meant “hand”.) So basically I thought of the publisher as low-hanging fruit, a rinky-dink operation that would be thrilled to receive my dazzling prose stylings replete with deep understanding of the tropes of superheroes and supernatural beasties. And that turned out to be a demonstrably faulty assumption. And just to add another layer of ugh, the rejection e-mail was of course generic and unhelpful. If I fail at something, I like to at least know why, so that I can improve and better myself and do better in the future. But no such helpful insight was forthcoming from the publisher, so all I can do is wonder why I didn’t push their buttons.

The gig I interviewed for obviously wasn’t meant to be, and I probably could have rolled with that if it had been a standard situation where I heard about the job, applied, got an interview, went in, did the best I could, and got the brushoff. That happens to people all the time (including me) and while I harbor some delusions of being a good writer who knows a thing or two about certain geeky genres, I don’t think of myself as a superstar at my day job. And in fact, the new job was my attempt at bending the direction of my career a bit by going after something on a different track than I’ve been following. What really stung about the process and its abrupt ending was, first of all, the sheer timesink involved. As I said, it started last fall when my buddy who works at the company in question suggested I take a shot at it. He helped me rework my resume stem to stern, which was an exhausting process. Then I applied and waited beyond the limits of average human patience, finally got the right person’s attention, scheduled an interview, it got rescheduled because of snow, and then went in on a second attempt and ended up meeting with last-minute replacements because the people who were supposed to interview me had family emergencies. I thought the interview went well, although I knew there were moments along the way that weren’t optimal, again mostly having to do with the disconnect between what I want to do and feel (with not unreasonable evidence in my background) that I could do, and what I actually have deep experience in doing.

Then weeks dragged into months and I heard nothing and assumed the window had closed, only to get word via my buddy that the hiring manager liked me and wanted me on board, but thought I was underqualified for the position. But thought I might be a good fit for a different position! But that other position paid less and the hiring manager didn’t know if I would accept that. So my buddy and I talked nuts-and-bolts numbers and I sunk more time into figuring and refiguring the family budget, and I came up with my must-be-at-least salary figure. (Numerous benefits at the job I was angling for were just too insanely good to pass up, paycut notwithstanding.) And I got in touch with the manager and waited to see what the offer on the table might be. And waited. And waited. And finally heard, not from the hiring manager but from HR, that they wanted me to come in for another interview, which I happily agreed to, assuming it was kind of a formality. If the manager liked me and thought I’d be a good fit, maybe they needed to go through the process of interviewing me for this better-fitting position before getting down to brass tacks and making an offer in writing for me to consider.

Except, apparently not. I admit I’m still baffled and a little angry about the way it all inexplicably unravelled. I was honest from the very beginning of the process that I had no experience in the job title I was seeking, but lots of solid experience doing the job duties as part and parcel of other positions I had held through the years. I came with a personal recommendation from someone who already worked there and I brought my A game to the interviews in terms of personality: happy, friendly, positive, team-oriented, deeply interested in the work the company does and sincerely excited at the thought of being a part of that. And I put up with twisting in the wind for months. In the end, I was told that they didn’t think I was right for the job because they wanted someone with more direct relevant experience. And it’s not that I don’t understand what that means or why that would be the right call for them, but it should have been the right call four, five, six months ago, too. If the experience they wanted wasn’t on my resume, and didn’t come up in initial phone interviews or the first in-person interview, was it terribly likely that the deep experience would surprisingly be revealed in a second interview? I don’t understand in the slightest how I went from “manager liked me in the interview and thinks I’d be a good fit for a slightly different opening they also need to fill” to “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”. It doesn’t seem terribly likely that my buddy completely misinterpreted what his colleague said and conveyed a scenario to me with no basis in reality. But it also doesn’t seem terribly likely that I tanked the second interview so hard that it turned everything upside-down instantly. All I know is I feel strung along only to have everything reveal itself as a colossal waste of time. (Like I said, I’m still working on getting over this.)

Oh and also, just to kick sand in my ego’s face, the HR e-mail told me that it was the end of the road for me as they were going to look for other more qualified candidates. Note that it did not indicate that they had other candidates in mind, or that they didn’t have an up-or-down answer for me yet because they had other people on the line to interview so they’d be in touch. There may not be any other more qualified candidates out there, or they may find someone and make an offer but not be able to come to terms and have that candidate walk away. But they’ve already cut me loose from consideration. Basically, they would rather leave the position unfilled indefinitely, rather hire no one than hire me. Oof.

But of course, again, I had gotten kind of cocky over the course of six or eight months or so, especially in light of the mid-point revelation about doing well enough in my first interview to be in contention for a different position if I were open to it. Surely given my in with my friend, my impressively diverse resume, and my top-notch people skills, the employer and I would come to some mutually beneficial arrangement, and the fortitude of spirit I demonstrated in hanging in there since the process began last year was, if nothing else, earning me the good karma points I could cash in to make the leap. And for most of this year I’ve been disengaging at my current job, blowing things off or kicking them down the road to the day when they would no longer be my problem. I’ve been carrying on with one foot out the door, and now I need to get all ten toes back to the line here at the Big Gray. Fortunately, I didn’t burn any bridges in really overt ways, so with relative seamlessness I can go back to behaving as if I need this job, which of course I do.

OK, hopefully this post represents the absolute last of the things I needed to do to exorcise the hobgoblins that last week gave birth to. I’m trying not to feel too sorry for myself, so please don’t feel too bad for me. In the 9-to-5 grind, there are some bright sides: yes I’m bitter that I blew a vacation day on a pointless second interview, but I do still have a good amount of vacation saved up, and I have a week at the beach coming in mid-August. I don’t have to worry about juggling the awkwardness of starting a new job in late June or early July and going on vacation almost immediately after on-boarding. I don’t have to second-guess the wisdom of taking a paycut. Maybe there should have been some red flags raised by how long the multiple-interview process took and how unresponsive the hiring manager always was, maybe the new gig wouldn’t have been so dreamy after all. (Is that a silver lining or sour grapes? Is there a difference?)

And as far as my superhero monster story goes, the upside is that I can submit it elsewhere pretty painlessly. (Granted, that fact and much of the elaboration on it I’m about to undertake apply as well to taking my newly spiffy resume and applying for other jobs, but that initiative is on hold for the summer as far as I’m concerned.) I don’t even have to re-type it or even re-print it since everything’s done electronically online these days. I’ve already shot it off to two other magazines to see if either wants to buy it, plus I’ve got a completely different story submitted for consideration at yet another publisher. All of those may come to naught, but that’s not really the point, either. I’m still writing more and more stories, and that’s closer to the point. A big part of writing and trying to sell what you write is learning to deal with the unpleasantness of rejection. (My wife and I had a conversation Saturday night about the various anecdotes we’ve heard our favorite authors relate about early rejections, from James Herriot to Stephen King. It’s nice to feel as if one is in good company.) Sooner or later something will get through, whether through sheer determination or because rejections are (usually) learning opportunities for improvement.

So, that’s where I’ve been, and where I’m at, and everybody up to speed now? Yes? We good? Next couple of days I’ll get back into obsessively overthought reviews of geeky popcult ephemera, promise!