Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Women should dress like this all the time." (Grading 2013)

I used to do reviews I called "Rum Punch Reviews," after a joke from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books, and the idea was not just "hey, the book is good/bad" but to write about how I found the book and what the book made me think of and otherwise just sort of write an essay about how the book related to my life.

That's more or less what this is going to be, and so it'll probably go well beyond most year-end reviews.  Anyway, I left off the other day with about the fifth thing I did, so here we go on with my chronological discussion and grading of everything I did for entertainment in 2013!

January 2013: 

1/6 It's My Life, Tim Myers:

Music made this list only if I either listened to it a lot, or bought the song or album, and actually neither of those applies to this song, so forget that I just said that.  This song was in a Toyota Tundra commercial, before they started using that woman who is easily the most annoying spokesperson since that Horrible "We Did It" AT&T girl.

Honestly, if there is a person I dislike more in the world right now than her

then it would have to be that awful little girl who plays the kid on The League.  

She's the girl whose birthday is being celebrated in that song, and while I hate to make fun of little kids, she's an actress and probably makes a decent amount of money so I guess it's fair game to say that I would rather poke my eyes out with hot metal spikes, and rip my ears off using rusty butter knives, than ever hear her say a single word again.

But Jan from the current Toyota commercials is a close second.  And AT&T girl is a closer third. No, that doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to. It's 5:47 a.m. right now as I type this.

Enough discussion about that song! I didn't buy it.

Song grade: C
Jan The Spokeswoman Grade: F-
Little girl from "The League: F--

1/7: Seahawks/Redskins NFL playoff game, via Gamecast on ESPN

When I did watch more football, my rule was that I would watch at most one playoff game per weekend, so I tried to pick out the most entertaining games to watch, which is tough to do when you don't know much about the teams. In this case, I'm pretty sure I didn't 'watch' this game but tried to follow it on Gamecast, which was an ESPN thing on the computer, and what I remember about it is it was horrible.  Not the game, the experience.  Maybe it was just my computer, but it was slow, and hard to follow the game via just a stats report.  Plus, NFL and ESPN on their websites have a habit of popping up video that you can't pause, stop or skip, which results in slow-loading for pages, and a bunch of video that I do not want.  Outside of Netflix, I watch very, VERY few videos on the Internet.  And when I do, I want to choose them, not have them slow down everything else I'm trying to do.

Grade: F

Ugly Americans: I'm thinking that this must have been another show suggested after I finished watching something on Netflix. But I don't remember much else about it.  One of the things about doing a year-end review/wrap-up as opposed to instantaneously or at the end of the week or month is it lets you know what really made an impression on you.  Or not, in this case.

Grade: F

The Something Or Something Of Todd Margaret (the final episode): 

Here was a show I started watching a while back and then had to wait for the series (such as it was) to finish up and by the time it did, I felt sort of lost in the story, which ended with (SPOILER ALERT!) some kind of overblown trial and extra-twisty revelation that honestly I don't really recall.  This was one of several things this year that started out strong and finished up weak. (The actual show title as I started writing this post escaped me and I didn't feel like going to look it up.  Having now realized it's The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret, I don't feel like going back to correct it.)

Grade: C, unless you count only the first year, in which case: B.

All I Want Is Everything, Jellyfish

Aim & Ignite, fun. (1/7/13)

Kingdom of Your Own, Matthew &The Atlas

I'll Be Your Shelter, The Housemartins.

Just a word to the wise: If you see an ampersand, followed by weird typing, that's not me being a poor editor, it's something that Blogger does if you flip back and forth between the "HTML" tags and the "Compose" tags, which I do when I cut-and-paste HTML into the post, like to put in videos.  I try to catch it, but I don't always.

Anyway, these were four things I bought using an iTunes gift card I got for Xmas last year.

The Jellyfish and Housemartins songs were from way, way back in the 1980s and 1990s. I own both of those albums on cassette tape.  One thing I've long thought is that when you buy something artistic -- book, movie, song, etc., -- you should be buying the rights to it in every format in the future.  I've had to in my life upgrade from cassette tapes to mp3 (I skipped over CDs, for the most part) and from books made of dead trees to ebooks, and it kind of burns me up to have a book that I own in paperback, or a cassette of an album, that I have to pay full price for to get on the latest format.

This is another of my great ideas that Amazon has adopted, by the way: I heard they were starting a thing where if you buy the ebook you get a paperback or something like that, which actually is a less efficient way to go about manufacturing books, and the more people rely on 'real' books the less books there will be available (because the cost of producing physical books and shipping them makes publishing a dicey game and requires them to spend less on indie or small authors) and the more resources we will use unnecessarily, but, by all means, Stephen King, continue to insist that we use more resources for less gain just so people will have a weak semblance of what it was like in the 1950s during your awful childhood.


All I Want Is Everything: A.
Aim & Ignite (full album): B
Mathew & The Atlas (full album): B=
I'll Be Your Shelter: A

1/10/13: "Searching For Slave Leia." This was a short story I listened to on the "Lightspeed" podcast (a podcast of audio sci-fi stories), and my actual note entered with this story was:


I don't recall the plot offhand, which says a lot about the story.  I'm sure I listened to it because of the title, because

Women should dress like this all the time.
if you put "Slave Leia" into something, men will do that thing. If Obamacare had rolled out with Slave Leia announcing it, we'd all be communists by now (instead of having to wait until 2016 when Hillary wins!)

Now, for the story. Here's a link to it on the Lightspeed page, and having skimmed through it again it's a sort of time-travel-y, near-death-experience-y thing about a woman who was apparently inspired by Star Wars to become a director and then almost dies? Whatever. It wasn't very good.

Grade: D+

1/12/13: Django Unchained: This,

on the other hand, was very good, and I can't actually believe I saw this in 2013.  I recall seeing it, but it was so long ago (nearly a year) that it seems like I saw it in the distant past, and I wouldn't have remembered it as part of this year but for this list.

I liked almost everything about this movie, and I'm not some unabashed Quentin Tarantino diehard.  I didn't like Reservoir Dogs hardly at all, and I didn't even see Inglorious Basterds (because I am boycotting Brad Pitt movies because he spent $30,000 on a hamster cage for his terrible kids).  I did love Kill Bill far more than almost everyone I know, and this movie hit the same heights as that one, an over-the-top festival of intricate plots, ultraviolence, and weird jokes.  Plus, it had Leonardo DiCaprio, who has become one of my favorite actors; I almost saw The Great Gatsby just because he was in it (almost, but didn't because (a) Sweetie didn't want to and (b) it was still The Great Gatsby, a book I consider fair-to-middling at best.)

I expect that this movie will become one that I will watch whenever I can, like Kill Bill and a few others (The Dark Knight), never watching the whole thing through but bits and pieces there.  That is meant as a compliment.

Grade: A+

That's it for this installment.  Let me leave you with another list of things I do almost every day: This one is

Top Five Blogs By My Frequency of Visits:
PT DillowayStrange Pegs (by Andrew Leon)
Life Is Good (by Tina Downey)
Laws Of Gravity (by Liz A.)
The Blutonian Death Egg (by Rusty Carl)

Friday, December 27, 2013

And if you DO buy it, you can read it at lunch, too, and then it'll be like we're pals! (Lunchtime Reading)

"There is a darkness that can touch the souls of men.  An inky blackness that seeps into the crevices and cracks. Leaves men stained and smudged and bruised. It is a darkness that changes lives. That does evil and leaves no good behind."

-- The Evil That Men Do, Andrew Leon.

(You can buy this book here!)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Porn stars, superheroes, and a dead iPod: Grading how well 2013 entertained me.

Last year, about this time, I started trying to post 100 things from 2012 that I thought were the best things of the year, and I was surprised to have so much trouble coming up with 100.  I was certain that I'd read/saw/ate more than 100 things that year, much more, and so this year, in 2013, I tried to keep better track.

Specifically, what I did was keep a running list of all the things I did for entertainment in 2013: each time I watched a new show, each time I saw a movie or ate something cool or read a book or short story or blog, I tried to list it, in chronological order, with the intention all year of REVIEWING THEM ALL, and listing them for you.

Sounds daunting, doesn't it? IT WAS. Imagine having to NOTICE WHAT YOU DO. It's IMPOSSIBLE. But I did it: Like Thoreau, I lived deliberately (not least by comparing myself keeping track of webcomics I read to Henry David Thoreau, who I'm pretty sure did something of note), and that has allowed me to walk through and GRADE the entire year of entertainment, 2013.

A couple of explanations: What I did was list the first time I tried something -- so there might be TV shows or blogs or something on here that I no longer watch or do, or which I watched or did for a while and then stopped and came back.  But the date listed is when I first tried that.

Also, if I did stuff all the time -- TV shows I watched regularly or blogs I read all the time -- I tended not to record those all the time.

But here goes! We'll start with the day I first began writing stuff down, and the first thing on the list:

1. The Packers-Vikings Playoff game 1/5/13: This was the year I stopped watching football. Not because of this game, but because I no longer found it entertaining enough to devote 3 hours of my time to.  By last year I'd stopped watching games live and started taping them, a necessity given the boys and how hard it is to watch a show uninterrupted with them around, and how much I'd rather spend time with them than simply sit and watch TV.  So I almost certainly watched this game on tape-delay, a system that meant I had to spend an entire Sunday disconnected from the Internet, and which ultimately led to my "Sundays With The Classics," a series that started when I would spend Sundays reading classic literature rather than watching TV or being on the Internet.

I don't really miss football: I still check the scores out on Sunday to see who won, and I follow some of the big news.  I know that Peyton Manning just set the new record for touchdowns (which I predict will be broken within 5 years, probably by Cam Newton, just to irritate me), and that the Packers probably aren't going to the playoffs.  But I doubt I could name all the starting quarterbacks in the league anymore, and I can't name all the head coaches.  I mostly follow football the way I follow other entertainment news: I'm aware of the big stories, and will pay attention to really big stuff (I'll probably watch the Super Bowl, but that's probably, making this the first year since I was an adult that it was probably.)

I also don't remember who won this game. Which helps tell you why I stopped watching football: when entertainment becomes unmemorable, who cares, anymore? If I spent 3 hours a week watching a movie and then couldn't remember how it ended, I'd stop watching that movie.  And I don't miss any great plays or anything: they're all over the Internet about 5 minutes after they happen.  Deadspin is great if you just kind of want to know about football.

Grade: D.

2.  Wonderella: 1/6/13. The Nonadventures of Wonderella made it so quickly on to this list because I read it more or less every week.  Published on Saturdays, it's a hilarious web-comic about a self-involved superheroine who is more or less the antithesis of Wonder Woman.  If they make any superheroine movie (and they won't because movies starring women are seen as chick flicks and so men won't go see them) they should make Wonderella.

It used to be the first thing I read on Saturday mornings.  Lately, I've gotten lazy and read it sometime during the week.

Grade: A.

3. Drawn Together, 1/6/13. Until right now, I had completely forgotten I had watched this cartoon series about a bunch of cartoon characters living in a house a la "Big Brother" last January.  I watched in on Netflix, I know, because that's how I watch about 70% of my TV, and I do not recall why I picked it or even many of the plotlines.  I don't think I watched it for very long, although I'd probably go back and watch it again, if I didn't have anything better to do, which I do.

Grade: C.

4. Breakfast of the Gods, 1/6/13:

First off, this year I wrote a story called Breakfast of the Gods, and it's been accepted for publication in Trans Lit Magazine's issue #11, InTRANSigents. It has not yet been published, so don't go there to read it, but do go read that site's online magazines because the stories are very good.

Second off, this Breakfast of the Gods is about all the breakfast cereal mascots going to war: the bad guys are led by Count Chocula and the good guys by Cap'n Crunch and Tony The Tiger.  It is darker and more cool than that description makes it sound:

I believe that the creator ran into trouble publishing it because it violates every single copyright law ever, which goes to show that copyright laws are stupid and that my idea for revamping copyright laws (which has already started to be put into practice by Amazon) is a great one.

(You may doubt that I am that influential but don't be so skeptical: after all, it was just two months ago that I posted a big article on mayonnaise, and Slate has now ended the year with a retrospective on Hellman's, so I am a trendsetter.)

11.  Time Enough To Say Goodbye, P.T. Dilloway: 1/7/13:  I only just now realized that I never posted a review of this book, other than to say "The end battle was incredible."

Which, it WAS, but that gives short shrift to what is really a phenomenal entry in what must be one of the greatest superhero series ever.  I've said before that what PT does best is write stories like this: stories that somehow have the feel of a good old fashioned comic book: CRASH! BANG! POW! stuff, but which carry an emotional weight and depth of characterization to them that adds an extra dimension to the story.  What really makes it remarkable is that PT does this without resorting to the brooding antihero that's become so annoying.  His main character, Emma Earl, is simultaneously upbeat and naive, while carrying with her enough sadness over her dead parents and her abandoned love to be entertaining and not an idiot with rose-colored glasses.

"Time Enough" brings back all the characters from "A Hero's Journey" but adds in two villains (as all good sequels must) and TIME TRAVEL, which can be a tough thing to juggle, but PT does it excellently.  This book, like every Scarlet Knight book I've read, is supremely entertaining.

12. The Tick (1/8/11): Lots of times, I have television shows on in the background, and the trick about finding a show to play in the background is that it has to be one which doesn't depend so much on the visuals to get what's going on.  Surprisingly, this is MUCH LESS of a problem than you would expect for a visual medium: many, many television and movie writers fail to make (effective) use of the part of the TV show where you see things, or have their characters say what you are seeing anyway, so that you can listen to TV shows and understand about 95% of them.

"The Tick" is not one of those shows: based on a comic book, 'The Tick' is set in a world where there are superheroes, but they are not particularly effective or even all that super.  It's sort of like if Seinfeld had superheroes in it, although don't let that mislead you about the humor: 'The Tick' is silly, not absurd like Seinfeld was.  (There's a difference.)

I watched the live action show; I understand there's a cartoon but I've never seen it.  The Tick fits in perfectly with the kind of shows I like: strangely dysfunctional people trying to exist in a almost-like-ours- world that allows for them to be but not to be themselves.  (See also: Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Better Off Ted).

13. Mike Sager, Little Girl Lost (1/8/13): Here's the first thing on the list I didn't remember when I re-read it.  This was a article about a porn star who committed suicide when things got bad for her.  I used to have Longform bookmarked on my Kindle, and would read whatever articles sounded interesting about once a week.  Nowadays, my Kindle tabs when I go to the Internet are "Girl Genius," The New Yorker book blog, and trans lit magazine.

What Longform did really well was reprint "true crime" stories, and this is almost one of those: it's a fascinating look at the world of a porn "star" who was really just a sad, drug-addicted party wannabe.  It's easy to dismiss people who live on the fringes of society -- but harder when you get a glimpse inside their actual life.

Savannah wouldn’t give her father her phone number; he’d written long letters, in printing similar to hers: “Please don’t think I don’t care. I do very much. I hope you can talk to me more. I’d like to have your phone number. . . .” Her dad prayed, thought about hiring a private detective. Her mom continued to be indifferent, though Savannah showered her with presents and money. 
When Savannah had gone home to Justin, Texas, and confessed her heroin addiction, her mom dismissed it as a phase. 
 Savannah and Jeanna had parted ways after a big scene in Palm Springs. They’d gone there with a sugar daddy. Savannah had been holding the stash of heroin, thirty bags. The girls had had a little spat. Savannah wouldn’t give Jeanna her fix; Jeanna refused to beg. While Jeanna was waiting in the hotel lobby for a car to the airport, dope-sick, wishing she were dead, Savannah strutted past in a thong bikini, another girl on her arm. 
 For a while, there had been Shawn. He was stolen by Savannah’s best friend, Julie Smith. The couple had moved into a house that Julie had rented and furnished with a $2,000 loan from Savannah. 
Then there’d been the married strip-club owner. The last night of a weeklong stint at his club, the two had dinner. He complained about his wife the whole time. When Savannah asked why he’d married such a bitch, he stomped off. He left her with the check, and refused to pay for her week’s dancing.
It was one of the sadder stories I've ever read -- it gets worse from that part.  Much worse.

Longform Grade: B- (I drifted away from it over the course of the year, as the article selection seemed to waver in strength and I got more interested in other things.

Little Girl Lost grade: B+.

Interlude:  The songs I listened to most this year on my old iPod, the one I bought using money I saved when I quit smoking back in 2004, and which is now is dead, were*:

*I'm not sure if this counts plays only on Itunes on my computer or also on the iPod.

1. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, by The New Pornographers: This one gets skewed up a bit because it's Mr Bunches' favorite song. But I like it a lot, too:

2.  I Love It, Icona Pop: 77 times.

This is the song I'm trying to listen to 10,000 times in my life.  I got 77 this year just off my iPod.

3.  When I Go/ Me & You, Slow Club (50 times each, tie).

Surprising to even me. I didn't realize I liked these songs that much.  Apparently I do!

4.  I Will Remain, Mathew & The Atlas: 49 times. Narrowly edged out by Slow Club,

5.  which also came in 5th with "Giving Up On Love," 44 times.

This is probably going to take me longer than I thought.  I'm only up to January 8 or so.  I'll keep working on this over the next few days (if not longer, as fans of my 437-Steps series could tell you).

All of those songs obviously get As, as my favorite things to listen to in 2013.


Here is where I first proposed in 2009 that copyright laws be changed to allow anyone to publish anything but share the profits, something that Amazon started doing this year with their fan fiction publishing.

Here is my October essay on mayo. Here is a link to Slate's article on why Hellman's tastes so good.

Here is a post I wrote back in 2011 that not only discussed Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk but also pointed out that short people live in the future.

Here's where I decided to try to listen to I Love It 10,000 times in my life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Xmas!

Traditionally, this is when I post an essay about Xmas.  This year, I did not write an essay about Xmas, for a variety of reasons, chief among which was that I wrote a bunch of Xmas stories and posted them online.  You can find them on my blog lit, a place for stories.  They are:

"What Xmas Means To Me: A Choose-Your-Own Adventure."

"Sally, Who Never Existed."

, 2"

"Ten Extremely Short And Sometimes Surprising Xmas Stories"


"It's The Higgs Boson Xmas Special!"

You can also find a couple of old Xmas essays on "Me, Annotated":

"Sexy Traditional Xmas," in which I discuss 8 traditional Xmas songs that have nothing to do with Xmas at all, and

"Sexy Merry Guckmas," in which I discuss such cherished family holiday traditions as "Fort Christmas," the "Throwing of the L" and a Poop-mergency (TM).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mr F, TRANSPORTATION Pioneer (Life With Unicorns)

Mr F likes to ride in shopping carts when we go places.  He's no sucker, for one thing -- why walk when you can ride?

Yesterday, we went to a store that doesn't have traditional shopping carts; they've got these sort of bags on handtrucks deals.  

By the time we got there, Mr F had been to two other stores, full of people and sounds and stuff (all things he doesn't like).

Then he learned that at this third store, he would not only have to go IN, with all the people/noise/stuff, but also that the cart was not the kind he could ride in.


And while there's no doubt that I am an overindulgent parent who gives into his kids' every whim, there's also no doubt that to Mr F riding in the cart was a protective measure.

Here he is in the toy department:

And heading past a department I can't name because we got Sweetie a present there:

And heading towards the cash register: