Given that it’s New Year’s Eve, what better song to do than “Midnight Hour,” and what better version than the one done by Wilson Pickett backed by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at the 1999 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony concert.
2018 started out horribly, as we lost Dale. Hell, 2017 ended with Dale going to the hospital, and he never came home from that particular trip. He rang in 2018 from a hospital bed, and he died on the 4th of January.
It took a lot to recover from that, and we haven’t 100% recovered, truly, but the year got better from there almost by default. And there were some wonderful things that happened in 2018.
The best, of course, was our trip to Italy in November for a belated honeymoon. It was a magical trip, full of food and wine and joy and happiness and art and architecture and friends and food and wine and did I mention the food and wine? It was magnificent and glorious and we can’t wait to go back and eat more food and drink more wine.
I also finally completed two projects that I’ve been trying to complete for, um, a while: Mermaid Precinct and A Furnace Sealed. They’re both in the editing stages and should be out in early 2019 (I’m hoping to have copies of one or both at Farpoint).
We’re ringing in the new year the same way we always do: spending it with some of our dearest friends at one of those friend’s house. There will be food and wine (I’m noticing a theme here) and celebration and fun and bidding 2018 adieu.
2019 should be a much better year. For one thing, I’ve got three new books coming out — besides the two mentioned above, there’s Alien: Isolation. Plus a bunch of short stories, and continued writing for Tor.com, and still training in karate and teaching my afterschool program and my fighting class, and all that stuff.
Best of all, though, is that 2019 will see me celebrating three major anniversaries.
The first is the 15th anniversary of my karate studies. On 20 September 2004, I walked into my dojo as an overweight, under-conditioned 35-year-old. Now I walk in as a third-degree black belt, which is much better. The dojo has become a second home in so many ways, and I’m eternally grateful to Shuseki Shihan Paul and everyone else.
Next is the 25th anniversary of my fiction writing career. I sit here now with a truckload of fiction to my credit, including 55 novels, and upwards of a hundred short stories, plus comic books, novellas, vignettes, etc., but it all started in November 1994 with “An Evening in the Bronx with Venom,” a story I co-authored with John Gregory Betancourt for The Ultimate Spider-Man, published by Berkley Books.
And finally, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of my birth, as I entered this world on the 18th of April in 1969, the same year as Woodstock and the moon landing, the year that Star Trek ended, the year that the Mets won the World Series for the first time.
Happy new year, everyone. *raises glass*
The fine folks at eSpec Books are having a post-holiday sale on Amazon: now you can get the Kindle editions of their backlist for only $.99 each! This includes all the “Precinct” books (Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and Tales from Dragon Precinct), my short story collection Without a License, and the anthology The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries — not to mention titles by Christopher L. Bennett, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jeff Young, Brenda Cooper, Jack Campbell, and more!
In honor of Wrenn’s cousin/our housemate Matt, who just returned to NYC from a trip home to visit his family for the holidays, here’s a quintessential Noo Yawk song from Ace Frehley of KISS.
We complete our year-end examination of overlooked 20th-century films with a trio of movies starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret agents who keep us safe from aliens. The great superhero movie rewatch looks at the Men in Black trilogy.
The first movie is the jewel in the crown, and deservedly so. It’s eminently quotable (to this day whenever I drive by the World’s Fair grounds, I have a tendency to call out, “Hey—old guys! Do those still work?”), the plot moves along nicely, the acting is fantastic, and the whole thing has the signature macabre look that Barry Sonnenfeld made his trademark with The Addams Family.
Indeed, the look of all three is perfect, from the wild designs of the various aliens to the retro-futurist look of MIB HQ and much of their equipment. (It’s the same look that Brad Bird would give The Incredibles and which we also see in The Venture Bros., to wit, what everyone thought the future would look like in 1965 or so.)
Because you get to read cool stuff like these things that I’ve posted in December:
- $1/month and up: reviews of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Animal Kingdom (the original movie and the TV show based on it)
- $2/month and up: a veritable truckload of cat pictures
- $5/month and up: a review of the eleventh and final season of M*A*S*H
- $7/month and up: excerpts from “The Silent Dust” and A Furnace Sealed, and two excerpts from Mermaid Precinct
- $10/month and up: a vignette featuring Bram Gold entitled “The True Meaning of Hanukkah“
- $20/month and up: first looks at “Alien Invasion of Earth!” and “The Silent Dust,” short stories I’ve submitted for, respectively, Thrilling Adventure Yarns and Brave New Girls
And the plan for January includes:
- $1/month and up: reviews of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, as well as the entire Mission: Impossible series starring Tom Cruise
- $2/month and up: more cat pics, obviously
- $5/month and up: reviews of Prime Suspect, The Good Cop, FBI, Doctor Who, Lodge 49, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, AfterMASH, Rome, and I, Claudius
- $7/month and up: excerpts from upcoming works, mostly the three new short stories I’ve written most recently (“The Silent Dust,” “Alien Invasion of Earth!” and a Cassie Zukav story that’s still in progress)
- $10/month and up: a January vignette, though I’m not yet sure what it’ll be yet (I’m open to suggestions….)
- $20/month and up: stories and chapters as I finish them of my original work, as per usual
So go support my Patreon, and you can read all this cool stuff, too!!!!!
We continue our examination of overlooked 20th-century movies, as the great superhero movie rewatch takes a gander at Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, in which producer Beatty and director Beatty do a superlative job of creating a nifty adaptation of Chester Gould’s strip, but actor Beatty sabotages the whole thing with a truly awful performance in the title role.
Most of the cast is very obviously having a great time, starting with Madonna living up to her character’s first name as Breathless Mahoney, perfectly playing the sultry lounge singer. (She does a lovely job singing the Stephen Sondheim-written songs Mahoney performs at the Ritz Club, too.) Glenne Headley gives Trueheart a nice edge, her performance beautifully inspired by Noel Neill’s Lois Lane and Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson. Seymour Cassel and Charles Durning are delightful as the Greek chorus of Tracy’s fellow cops, trying to keep up with the determined detective, Dustin Hoffman is perfect as the pathetic Mumbles, and Paul Sorvino and James Caan lean into their histories of playing gangsters as Lips and Spud.
But the standout here is Al Pacino. There are far too many occasions in Pacino’s career when he’s let shouting substitute for acting (Scent of a Woman, The Devil’s Advocate, Glengarry Glen Ross), but this is the only time he does it to good effect. He’s having a grand old time, going so far over the top as Caprice he gives everyone around him nosebleeds. It’s a joyous, hilarious performance, leaving no piece of scenery unchewed.
While the great superhero movie rewatch is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of such films, there are a few 20th-century flicks I overlooked. This last week of 2018, I’ll be addressing those, starting today with Brigitte Nielsen’s debut role in Red Sonja.
The script is trapped between adapting an existing character and servicing the needs of Hollywood. The two biggest problems are the presence of Schwarzenegger’s Kalidor, who’s there as a hedge against a) a female protagonist who is b) played by an unknown; and the ending, where they kiss. It contravenes the whole point of Red Sonja to have her forego her vow just like that at the end for the sake of a very Hollywood-ized kiss. (And yes, I know Sonja’s vow only to sleep with a man who overpowers her is problematic to say the least, and one that has been fodder for many a comic book story, but this movie doesn’t really address it except to have Kalidor make fun of it and have Sonja ignore it for Kalidor, which is giving Schwarzenegger’s musculature way too much credit.) Having said that, I enjoyed the hell out of Sonja and Kalidor fighting each other so hard that they both collapse from exhaustion.
Every year, my parents host Christmas Eve, and have since 1977. Each year, we also take a picture of everyone present in front of the Christmas tree.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of their hosting it, I posted the tree picture from every decade, starting with 1977, and also including 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017. I figured it’d be fun to do it again this year with the “8” years. So without further ado…………..
1978: I’m nine years old. Prior to 1977, my grandmother was the one who hosted Christmas Eve, but in July 1976, my grandfather died. Grandma did Christmas that year anyhow, but after that, she moved back to her home town in western Pennsylvania (she always hated New York, and only moved there to be with Grandpa), and my parents took over. Grandma visited us that year for Christmas, though it was the only time she did so. Monica would later move out to Pennsylvania also.
Top row, l.-r.: John (my third parent), Fred (maternal uncle), Roxanne (Fred’s wife), Monica (maternal aunt), Grandma, Laurie (Nat’s girlfriend), Nat (maternal uncle).
Middle row, l.-r.: my father, my mother, Livia (paternal aunt).
Bottom row: me.
1988: I’m 19 years old, and attending Fordham University. I’d been dating Marina for a year and a half, and would marry her in 1992. My parents have always opened their house to whoever wanted and/or needed it. My dear friend John Drew (with whom I would later do The Chronic Rift on public access in the 1990s and as a podcast in the 2000s and 2010s) had moved in with us after a falling out with his parents. He was dating Marina’s best friend Judy, and they were both part of Christmas that year, as was my parents’ friend Barbara. Nat had broken up with Laurie, married and divorced someone else, and then married Ginny and had a daughter, while Fred and Roxanne had also had two sons.
Top row, l.-r.: Barbara, my father, Helga (fourth parent), John, Marina.
Middle row, l.-r.: Nat, Livia, my mother, Ginny, Alissa (Nat & Ginny’s daughter), Jared (Fred & Roxanne’s oldest son), Fred, Blair (Fred & Roxanne’s second son).
Bottom row, l.-r.: me, Judy, John.
Not pictured: Roxanne.
1998: I’m 29 years old, and have had my first two novels published. My parents sold the house we bought in 1976 and bought a bigger house in 1991. Marina and I have been married for six-and-a-half years. Her father, Valery, joined us for Christmas Eve on several occasions, including this particular year. Both Fred and Nat have had additional children.
Top row, l.-r.: Fred, Roxanne, Livia, Helga, my mother, John, Valery, Marina, Nat, Jared, Ginny.
Bottom row: l.-r.: Alissa, Blair, Vicky (Nat & Ginny’s youngest daughter), Dillon (Fred & Roxanne’s youngest son), me.
Not pictured: my father.
2008: I’m 39 years old. Marina and I split up in 2000, and Terri and I moved in together in 2001. Both Fred and Nat have divorced, with Nat having married Donna, whom he would later divorce. Fred has not remarried, though he’s currently living with someone. Roxanne moved to Florida, and Dillon went with her, so they did not join us, and both of Nat’s kids had also moved away.
Top row, l.-r.: Donna, Nat, Helga, Dillon, my father, Fred, John.
Bottom row, l.-r.: me, Terri, Livia, my mother, Jared.
2018: I’m 49 years old. Terri and I split up in 2009, Wrenn and I met a month later, and we moved in together in 2010, married in 2017. Fred moved to Florida. My cousins are all grow’d up and the only one still in the area has his own family with whom he does Christmas, so it’s now down to the basics.
L.-r.: me, my mother, John, Helga, my father, Wrenn, Livia.
This is a time of renewal and reflection. The sun is at its nadir and then the days start to get longer. It’s why there are so many holidays this time of year, not to mention why the calendar most of us use ends and starts over around now.
Wrenn and I have had a wonderful holiday season so far. There’s a tinge of sadness, as it’s our first without Dale, but there’s also a great deal of joy, as Wrenn and I are both happy and healthy and actually doing well.
We did our usual Christmas Eve at my parents’ house. This has gone from a humongous family occasion with sometimes upwards of twenty people to a much more cozy affair, with just the Forebearance, me and Wrenn, and the Godmommy. But the menu remains the same: chicken consommé and lasagne. (My mother makes the best lasagne ever. Period.) Today we’re off to the Godmommy’s for roast beast with the same crowd (we do our gift exchange with her today as well). Saturday two of my aunts and a couple of my cousins and their families are coming over for an end-of-year gathering of happiness. And on New Year’s Eve we get together with many of our dearest friends to exchange more gifts and ring in the new year.
Our main gifts this year were new phones from three of the four parents; the fourth parent renewed our memberships to the New York Botanical Gardens and the NYC zoos. In addition, we got some small gifts from the four of them, including an annotated edition of Frankenstein for me, some soaps and lotions for Wrenn, nifty socks for both of us, and a bag of chocolate-covered gummi bears for whoever’s brave enough to try those. (It was a gag gift, truly.) Meanwhile, we gave my mother an alabaster box with a blue rose on it that we got in Volterra, Italy (before she retired, my mother’s editing business was called Blue Roses), my father an Audible gift card (he loooooooves audiobooks), and John a bottle of wine from one of the wineries we visited in Tuscany. (Helga’s combined birthday and Christmas presents were a new iPad from several of us, though we also gave her a couple of Ghirardelli dark chocolate bars.)
I hope all of you are having a jolly, joyous, wonderful holiday season.