Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Monday, January 16, 2017

When will we be going back?

Gene Cernan, the last human being to walk on the moon, died today.

Why have we waited so long to go back?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Something for Thursday

Sorry for the radio silence the last few days. The reason? The usual! Writing a novel, editing another one, and trying to do more reading after a depressingly slack 2016 in the reading department.

Here's some Wagner.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Something for Thursday

I heard this on my way to work this morning. It really needs no introduction, so here's the Overture to The Barber of Seville by Rossini.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Richard Thompson and CUL DE SAC

2016 was an awful year for creative people passing away, but one death that I didn’t see a whole lot of comment about was that of cartoonist Richard Thompson of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. Thompson was the brilliant mind behind the wonderful comic strip Cul De Sac, which can still be read online in its entirety, and for which Thompson maintained a blog occasionally delving into his creative thoughts behind each individual strip.



Cul De Sac may be the truest heir on the comics page to the spirit of Calvin and Hobbes, in that Thompson has an effortless understanding of the way children appear to see the world and interact with it. The strip’s star is kindergartener Alice Otterloop, who looks on the world with that wonderfully skewed (and hard to argue against) logic that every four-year-old brings to the table. Alice is pushy and loves being the center of attention, which makes for a lot of hilarity when she doesn’t get her way.






Alice isn’t a female Calvin, though. She is not primarily a loner. She has friends with whom she interacts (or fights), and she has an older brother in addition to her parents. Alice doesn’t get along well with everybody, and there’s one kid that she doesn’t like at all, and Thompson has the genius to show this poor kid as being pretty nice and, well, just a normal kid. This isn’t Calvin getting bullied by Moe. We never get a real reason as to just why Alice so dislikes poor Kevin (whom she always refers to as “bucket-headed Kevin”), and she bosses poor Dill around. Alice isn’t perfect at all. But then, neither was Calvin.

Older brother Petey isn’t a supporting character, though. At times he becomes the star in his own right, in his preference for inaction and his neurotic dislike of everything, including just about all foods. (Petey actually maintains his own “Picky Eater” rating online.) Thompson is adept at showing the differences between the way Alice views the world and the way Petey sees it, and some of his best work has the two worldiews clashing together.



The adults in Cul De Sac are also done quite well. Mrs. Otterloop is apparently the one with the best grip on reality, although she has a wicked sense of humor that she lets fly once in a while, even if nobody gets it. Mr. Otterloop seems slightly clueless – well, maybe clueless isn’t quite the word. He doesn’t seem quite equipped to interact with his children on their terms, though, and he always seems mildly nonplussed by what happens when he gets a glimpse of what they’re up to.




Best of all is Thompson’s art. His style is surprisingly elaborate for the demands and space restrictions of the comics page, and he often does wonderful things to suggest the flow of time and manages to elude the bonds of the panel. Thompson’s best drawing often comes when Alice finds herself interacting in some way with either the world of adults or with larger children, whether it’s the enormous jungle gym and slide that has mythologically entrapped some children for years, or her oddly scary grandmother with the gentle-and-confused-but-still-terrifying giant dog, or her father’s tiny car into which Dad must fold himself in contorted ways.




I discovered Cul De Sac some years ago when Stephan Pastis actually plugged it in an installment of his Pearls Before Swine (an episode I blogged about when it happened, and it was with sadness that I noted Thompson’s reluctant decision to retire from the strip when his Parkinson’s Disease became too much of a hindrance to continued work.

Richard Thompson was a wonderful, wonderful humorist and poet of the comics page, and I’ll treasure Cul De Sac forever.









(She's right -- where the heck is the Pie Fight Button, anyway?!)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Not really a tone poem, but a concert overture, by Dmitri Shostakovich. This is not a long work, but it is a particularly invigorating one. As the weather today in my neck o' the woods is gray and gloomy and rainy, this helps somewhat. Here is the "Festive Overture" by Shostakovich.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Stuff I Wrote

I kept on blogging in 2016, but the focus was more on picture posts and music links than anything else. Still, I did come up with some things that I liked:

Top Five Fictional Presidents
Behold the Hunter!
Plaid
Leaving Football Behind

A Moonlit Triptych
May Apples
Mugs, Jugs, and a fellow named Toby
The Adventures of Phil Spiderman

"Always" (thoughts on the conclusion of CASTLE)
In (partial) defense of SCORPION
Adventures in the 716
From the Fair

Around WNY: Rainbows, flames, and giant ducks
STAR TREK and me: TREK at 50
Myself in Three Fictional Characters
Collars: Love 'em or hate 'em?

Autumn around the 716
"She's so broken insiiiiide!" (A love letter to Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Here's some stuff about Star Wars:

On THE FORCE AWAKENS, part 1 (The Phantom Lucas)
On THE FORCE AWAKENS, part 2 ("Wait, what?")
On THE FORCE AWAKENS, part 3 (Poe, Rey, Me)
On THE FORCE AWAKENS, part 4 (That Kid Ain't Right)
On THE FORCE AWAKENS, part 5 (The Praise Awakens)

ROGUE ONE and the State of STAR WARS (written long before Rogue One came out)
In which I read a really good book about Star Wars

Here's some stuff about food:

Nachotots!
Mississippi Roast
Shakshuka
Mojitos

Onward to 2017.

2016 in review (or, "Whew, at least THAT's over.")

2016.

This was a terrible, terrible year.

Maybe not for me personally, but there really was a sense this year – for me, at least – that a long era of potential optimism, which managed to keep flickering even through awfulness like 9-11-01 and the Great Recession, was now well and truly gone, and that a shadow has fallen through which we have little choice but to fight and scrape and try to hold to as much of the progress of the last 40 years as we’ve made.

I guess there really are times when society progresses in three-steps-forward, two-steps-back fashion, but this year it really does feel like there’s a giant signpost ahead indicating that it’s time to take a few steps backward.

Yeah, 2016 was crap.

My year’s-end questionnaire awaits:

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I just keep my resolutions the same: read a lot, write a lot, and do cool stuff. I guess I did...OK. I fell behind on writing goals, in terms of publishing. Forgotten Stars III won’t arrive until March 2017, and that’s my own damned fault. But I did get a lot of other drafting done, to the point that I now have a backlog of completed first drafts.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but a person I know online – a young woman who moved out of her abusive home and is now working to put herself through college – did. I’m rooting for her and her husband, hard.

Did anyone close to you die?

No. But holy shit, was this a year for the Reaper.

What countries did you visit?

Just the US, except for in my dreams.

What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

More readers. Getting more books out will help.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I typed the words THE END three times. So that’s something.

What was your biggest failure?

Not getting Forgotten Stars III out, I suppose. And our home continues to be only about 70 percent moved in-to, if that makes sense.

What was the best thing you bought?

It wasn’t really a year for buying lots of stuff, but there was some of that. While antiquing I managed to get a few nifty Toby jugs, the collection of which I have increased a little since then (I have an odd weakness for these goofy things). Books, here and there. Jewelry for The Wife and some cool stuff for The Daughter. And I got a really swell deal on a pair of new-with-tags vintage Lee overalls, which I am slowly breaking in from their raw state. Awesome!

Whose behavior merited celebration?

As always, The Wife and The Daughter. Also the cats and the dee-oh-gee.

And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ran for President with grace and class and did her damnedest to be a fine candidate who would have been a decent President.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Take a wild guess.

Our incoming President is a loathsome turd, and his administration is shaping up to be quite the turd-filled punch-bowl. His party continues to be a revolting crew, mostly motivated only by power and by no desire to actually do good work for anyone save the rich and the white and the male. And the degree to which Donald Trump’s campaign and victory-on-a-technicality have enabled the very worst among us, from the KKK to literal Nazis, to crawl proudly from beneath their rocks is truly dismaying.

Where did most of your money go?

Food, booze, paying down bills. That NYC trip we took in 2015 had quite the lingering price tag. (That said, I’d go again tomorrow if I could.)

What did you get really excited about?

This wasn’t a year for excitement, to be honest. It was a year for hoping for the best and, when not getting it, hoping against the worst (and then getting precisely that).

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

My life is OK. But that of my country is not.

Thinner or fatter?

About the same.

Richer or poorer?

About the same.

What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading, writing, and cooking.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

Wasting time on the Internet.

How did you spend Christmas?

At home, with the family. My sister was in town for the second Christmas in a row, so that was nice. This year it wasn’t snowy. And since Christmas fell on a Sunday, we still had to whisk the dee-oh-gee off to a local park for his Sunday nature walk. He was confused as to why he didn’t get a donut from Tim Horton’s afterwards, though. (They were closed.)

Did you fall in love in 2016?

Stock answer: I fall in love on a daily basis.

How many one-night stands?

Stock answer: As a gentleman, I decline to answer. (Real answer: Zero.)

What was your favorite TV program?

Person of Interest ended with a solid finale. Castle ended with a less-solid finale (in fact, that show’s last season was pretty painful, in the end). We enjoyed Cutthroat Kitchen and we fell in love with Crazy Ex Girlfriend. We continue to enjoy Big Bang Theory, Superstore, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. Stranger Things is amazing! And we like Cutthroat Kitchen. MasterChef has started to get pretty irritating, I must admit.

Oh, and The Musketeers. That show deserves its own post.

I watched most of Jessica Jones but have not finished it, because it was pretty depressing. Luke Cage is great, although as of this writing I am still three episodes from finishing it. We enjoyed The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt and await its third season. We need more comedies!

Stuff I’m interested in watching: Daredevil, The Man in the High Castle, Poldark.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I usually go with “I don’t hate”, but I can’t say that anymore. I hate what the Republican Party in this country has become.

What was the best book you read?

I didn’t read as much as I intended to this year, which could well have been a big factor in how “Off” the year felt in general. Books I liked a lot included:

Lost Stars, Claudia Gray (a really effective Star Wars novel that does not focus on any of the major “classic” characters)
Grigory’s Gadget, E.A. Hennessy
Without Benefits, Nicole Tone
How STAR WARS Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor

What was your greatest musical discovery?

A symphonic metal band called Without Temptation. Imagine a heavy metal band inspired by The Lord of the Rings.

What did you want and get?

An “Instant Pot!” Now, I just have to learn to use it.

What did you want and not get?

President-elect Hillary Clinton.

What were your favorite films of this year?

Wow. As I write this, I realize that the last film I saw in a theater, in initial release, was The Force Awakens. I may have gone an entire year without seeing a single movie in the theater. That is pretty mindboggling. I used to love the theater-going experience so much that I’d see just about any piece of shit. Now, the time-and-money commitment just isn’t there. Amazing. I won’t even be seeing Rogue One: A STAR WARS Story until January 2, 2017.

I think I can guarantee that I won’t go the entirety of 2017 without going to the movies. If nothing else, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming out, and I’m actually a lot more excited about that than I am about any impending Star Wars film.

What did you do on your birthday?

As usual, I worked! We celebrate my birthday each year with a trip to the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival (we missed it in 2015, actually, due to our scheduled NYC trip that year), which is always a few days after my birthday proper. We had a great time, though.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Overalls and scarves. And I’m started experimenting with button-down shirts. I know. Weird.

What kept you sane?

The family and the cats and the dee-oh-gee. Hiking. Writing.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

America Ferrara, Amy Acker, Jim Caviezel, Daisy Ridley. Just to name a few.

What political issue stirred you the most?

All of them. And we’re about to swear in a President who is literally on the wrong side of all the things.

Who did you miss?

Good lord, was 2016 a year for losing great talent or what? My God. All of them. Each and every one. Just terrible. (Especially Carrie Fisher. With her passing, we’re getting into the passing of the people who shaped the things that most made me who I am.)

(And I actually wrote the above paragraph before Debbie Reynolds died. This goddamned year can not end soon enough.)

Who was the best new person you met?

So many astonishing people, I can’t believe it! Many online, but a few offline as well (mostly through work).

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:

An awful lot of Americans either believe terrible things, or are willing to believe terrible things if they think it will somehow profit them to vote for someone who believes and says terrible things.

I know, that’s not very charitable. I don’t care. It is, as far as I’m concerned, a perfectly accurate reading of the current state of play in this country.

But on a more personal note, the old lessons apply: Read a lot, write a lot. Go for walks and look at sunsets. Take all the pictures you want. Learn new things and try new stuff. If you have a dog, take him for walks. Buy books for your daughter, even when she complains that she likes to pick her own books (let her do that, too). Nothing fits your hand so well as your lover’s hand. Eating out is fine, but learn to cook things, too. Have a place to go where they know you and what you order. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood passions now and again; you weren’t always wrong back then. Overalls are awesome, it’s OK to wear double denim, and a pie in the face is a wonderful thing!

If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones:







Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I’m posting two songs this year, because they both fit. The first is from the brilliant Hamilton, and the second is from the also-brilliant Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The first might become something of an anthem to keep at heart as we move into what seems to be a pretty dark bit of history, and the second – well, the song’s title sums up 2016 for an awful lot of people. (By way of context: the man singing the song, named Greg (played by Santino Fontana), has been pursuing a pretty toxic relationship with Rebecca, but he has recently realized that he is an alcoholic and is leaving town to belatedly go to college and get his life on track.)




Is it 2017 yet?