memorial drink-up for Dale

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A memorial drink-up for our roommate, brother, and friend Dale Mazur will be held on Sunday the 4th of March 2018 at 1pm at one of Dale’s favorite watering holes, the Rambling House in the Woodlawn Heights section of the Bronx. Details at the Facebook event page.

Some crash space will be available, also, for folks who might be coming in from out of town. We will be there, as will Dale’s daughter, at the very least.

If you’re coming along, please RSVP at the Facebook page or by e-mailing me at krad at whysper dot net, so we can give the Rambling House a nose count.

 

midweek music: “He Don’t Live Here No More”

I’ve been a big fan of Robbie Robertson’s since his days as the guitarist for The Band. Robertson instigated the breakup of The Band in 1976, culminating in what was to be their final concert in San Francisco on Thanksgiving, immortalized in the album and movie The Last Waltz. However, the other members wound up getting back together eventually. Robertson went his own way, both as a producer and a solo artist. The evocative storytelling that was the hallmark of the songs he wrote for The Band continued into his solo career, and the hallmark of his work both as an artist and producer has been lush instrumentation and haunting melodies.

His most recent album is 2011’s How to Become Clairvoyant, and my favorite song on there is this tune that he did with some help from Eric Clapton on guitar, “He Don’t Live Here No More.” In addition, there’s a version he did on Late Night with David Letterman while promoting the album.

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

Ursula K. Le Guin has died at the ripe old age of 88.

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I only met Le Guin once. It was at the one and only Readercon I’ve ever attended.
 
I’ve worked in the sf/fantasy/comics field in some capacity or other since I graduated college in 1990. I’ve met, hung out with, worked with, collaborated with, assigned work to, been assigned work by, a huge variety of people, many of whom are giants in the field. I always have treated those people as friends and/or colleagues.
 
I have almost never fangoobered over anyone, even the folks whose works I am an unreserved fangoober of.
 
The exception was that one Readercon, when I briefly got to meet Le Guin, and made a total ass of myself sounding like a gibbering imbecile.
 
Le Guin was one of the formative reading experiences of my youth. Among the first books I read when I could read on my own were her Earthsea books, along with Heinlein’s YA stuff, The Hobbit, and P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories — which pretty much explains me entirely, right there. In particular, her essay collection Dancing at the Edge of the World is one of my bibles, with some of the finest essays ever written. And her fiction is some of the best the genre has to offer, full stop.
 

Tuesday’s dead

This past weekend was when we finally got up off our asses and started going through the stuff in Dale’s room. Zan and her new boyfriend Steve came up to help with that, and that was a huge kick in the butt that we really needed. We’ve still got a lot to do, but we made a good start, including getting rid of his futon, disassembling his futon frame, mucking out under his desk, and throwing out a bunch of things. And also going through various things.

We’re going to have a memorial service for Dale in early March here in da Bronx. Details to come within the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, deadlines continue apace. I have a tie-in project that has been verbally approved by the licensor, and I’m just waiting for their notes. This is going to be an extremely cool project and I’m eagerly looking forward to it for several reasons. I’m trying to finish A Furnace Sealed so I can get to the tie-in book and Mermaid Precinct and To Hell and Regroup, plus I’ve got several essays I need to get written, not to mention my weekly superhero movie rewatch, my reviews of Star Trek Discovery, and weekly TV reviews and monthly movie reviews for Patreon. Oh, and teaching four karate classes per week.

SLEEP IS FOR WIMPS!

Happy, well-adjusted, non-cranky wimps, mind you….

My Facebook memories picked up this picture from two years ago. Meredith had come up to visit for our Twelfth Night party, and she joined me, Wrenn, and Dale at an Italian restaurant in the Bronx. It was a lovely night.

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We miss you, Dale. *sigh*

 

 

Star Trek Discovery: “Vaulting Ambition”

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We get revelations about Lorca, about mirror-Burnham, about mirror-Stamets, about what MU humans like to eat, and about the mycelial network. Plus Saru remains awesome, mirror-Georgiou is a badass, and we get to see Culber again even though he’s dead. My review of “Vaulting Ambition,” where we learn that Kelpians is good eatin’!

An excerpt:

My favorite part of this episode, though, is the thread with Saru, L’Rell, and Voq/Tyler. This part of the story just solidified my love of Doug Jones and of the Kelpian he plays. Saru pleads with L’Rell for help with this creature who is both Voq and Tyler and yet who is neither one—mostly he’s just a sentient being who is in a billion kinds of pain, screaming in sickbay. Sedation only goes so far. So Saru appeals to L’Rell, who just says that Voq chose this sacrifice, and if he is now suffering, then that is war.

Saru’s response is to beam Voq/Tyler into her cell and show her up close and personal what he’s going through, the human and Klingon each fighting for dominance. “This,” Saru says with that intense calm that Jones does so well, “is war.”

from the archives: Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart

In the winter of 2013/2014, Sirs Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart came to New York and did a run of both Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. Wrenn and I got tickets to see the former in January 2014 (on the night of a vicious snowstorm, as it happens), and here’s what I had to say about it:

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Last night, Wrenn and I braved the frozen tundra in order to see Waiting for Godot at the Cort Theatre.

Our transit karma was surprisingly good. Despite the flipping great wodges of snow that was falling from the sky, we got everything right away: the bus came within five minutes (though people had been waiting for as long as two hours for that bus), the train down also came within five minutes, and on the way home the train was pulling into the station as we entered it, and the bus back up the hill came in three minutes.

The play itself was amazing. First off, I love that I saw a play for which the main cast was Captain Picard, Gandalf, Frankenstein’s monster,* and Dr. Manhattan. As it happens, though, we got only the first three, as Billy Crudup did not perform last night. His understudy, Colin Ryan, filled in as Lucky, and honestly Crudup wasn’t missed. Ryan did a superb job playing what is arguably the hardest part in the play. Lucky has to spend most of his time carrying bags and being yanked around on a rope and doing things for Pozzo — and then all of a sudden having to burst forth with an endless rambling monologue. Ryan absolutely nailed it.

* I had totally forgotten that Shuler Hensley was partly responsible for one of the few good things one could say about the truly dreadful 2004 film Van Helsing, as he played the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. Hensley actually came closer than anyone in film history to really and truly conveying the monster that Mary Shelley wrote in the novel. It always saddened me that the filmic adaption of Frankenstein that was closest to the novel’s original vision was this overblown mess of a film. But Hensley was brilliant in the role, and he deserves tremendous credit for that.

The Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen proved themselves a tremendous double-act in the first X-Men film, and the two sequels’ biggest failing was not putting the two of them together more (based on the end of The Wolverine and the trailers for the forthcoming film, X-Men: Days of Future Past will rectify this mistake). Their delightful antics around NYC during rehearsals for the play have only strengthened it, and the chemistry between these two old Royal Shakespeare Company hounds is on full display here. Stewart plays Vladimir as an eager, manic optimist, while McKellen’s Estragon is a crotchety old hobo who just wants to be left alone, even though being left alone scares the crap out of him. McKellen also proves himself a fantastic physical comedian, as most of the best visual gags come from him as he struggles with footwear and his injuries from when Lucky kicks him.

Waiting for Godot is one of the few plays that I’ve studied in both English and French, and it was fascinating to me to see the differences between the French and English versions — Samuel Beckett originally wrote the play in French, but the Irish playwright did the English translation himself. The French version is — like far too many French plays of the early half of the 20th century — all-existentialist-all-the-time with the characters bemoaning and wailing and agonizing and suffering sooooo much. I remember lapping this stuff up when I was in college — the class where I studied En Attendant Godot also included plays by Cocteau, Anouilh, and Sartre — but I have less patience for it in my 40s.

But the English version leaves a bit more room for comedy to leaven the depression, and this particular interpretation runs with that. We get Stewart and McKellen doing Laurel-and-Hardy or Marx-Brothers-esque vaudeville bits, from the rapid-fire exchange of hats to Estragon unnecessarily complicating the process of Vladimir helping him get his boots on.

What I enjoy best about this version is that the heart of it is Vladimir’s optimism. I’ve seen the play performed three other times — twice in college (once on screen in French, once on stage performed by the university’s experimental theatre troupe), once on stage in my twenties — and this is the one that embraces Vladimir’s hope the most. Stewart is constantly gadding about the stage, double checking notes he’s taken in his coat pocket, endlessly taking his hat off and putting it back on, and just filled with manic energy, but also filled with hope. In Act 2, Vladimir has to constantly remind Estragon that they’re waiting for Godot, and that’s often played as an ever-more-depressing reminder that they’re stuck hanging out by the tree unless and until the title character makes his appearance. But Stewart reads the line as if he’s — well, not quite a kid on Christmas Eve, but at the very least clinging to Godot’s imminent arrival as a happy hope rather than the desperation it’s often portrayed as.

The play’s running concurrently with Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land (with the same cast) through to 30 March. Click here for more info. I strongly recommend it.

a nice review of SCPD: The Case of the Claw

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On his Booknest.eu blog, Charles Phipps has written a very nice review of my 2011 novel SCPD: The Case of the Claw, giving it a rating of 4/5.

An excerpt:

I saw the “twist” ending coming from a mile away. However, the mystery isn’t the major sticking point but how it expresses itself across the lives of multiple perspectives. The Claw is an individual who has terrorized the city multiple times but he’s a figure who is arguably not responsible for his actions. Superheroes are prone to making more excuses for him than the public which he menaces and we get a nice little reflection of how the former’s treatment of villains like, say, the Joker would come off to the people.

I was a big fan of “everyman perspectives” and the reason they succeed is on the strength of the characterization as well as giving a new perspective to extraordinary events. That is the case in SCPD. I think the city could have been developed a bit more and the superheroes a bit more likable but given the nature of the case, I suspect Keith didn’t want them overshadowing his collection of Muggles in a world of superhumans.

caught up on Patreon TV reviews!

Around the end of the year, I fell a week behind in doing my weekly TV reviews for my $5/month and up patrons on Patreon. Then Dale died, and it got worse, but I’m finally now caught up, as this weekend I posted two reviews, one of the Black Lightning pilot that aired this past week, and one of the 2011 A&E series Breakout Kings, which I recently rewatched on Netflix.

Coming this week will be a review of The Alienist, TNT’s adaptation of the Caleb Carr novel, and also this month’s movie review, which will be of Proud Mary.

 

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Howard the Duck and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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A product of 1970s cynicism and satire is made into a sanitized bubblegum alien-lands-on-Earth piece of fluff. A product of 1960s the Cold War-era spy-thriller craze is made into a movie in the late 1990s when the genre was at its nadir. And even if they were released at better times, they still both suck the wet farts out of dead pigeons. The great superhero movie rewatch suffers through Howard the Duck and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. so you don’t have to.

An excerpt:

What’s frustrating is that the basic story of Nick Fury is perfectly fine. It’s a straightforward S.H.I.E.L.D.-versus-Hydra tale that I could easily see Jim Steranko writing and drawing in 1968. But the script is so hideously clunky, the acting so frighteningly awful, that you just sit there and wonder who they expected to like this film.

And you know what? If I had to choose between that and Howard the Duck, I’d choose Nick Fury every day of the week and twice on Sunday, because the only thing watching Howard is good for is to destroy your soul and remove your ability to feel joy and happiness.

Friday fanfare: “Nemesis” by H.P. Lovecraft to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”

Yes, really. Somebody figured out that Lovecraft’s poem can be sung to the tune of “Piano Man,” and this was the result……

 

This is the second coolest literary/musical mashup, right behind the fact that all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”