Ten months down the road…

…and I’m still breathing/walking/talking. Yay.

The only things of real note are that we finally have a new president and the bloody pandemic. I get my first vaccine shot next week.

Everything else is just…dross.

This Q’s a street survivor

Biographical documentaries (biodocs? is that a thing?) are, if done well, fascinating and intimate journeys into the lives and minds of their subjects. Such journeys are most worth the taking if their subjects are intense, brilliant and flawed, for those qualities link them to the rest of us in their humanity.

“Quincy,” directed by daughter Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks, is an unflinching, in-depth portrait of a man whose life started in chaos; he had no direction until he found a piano in a Chicago armory (which he broke into) and discovered a love of music. Seven decades later, he’s still in love with music in all its forms, and he’s got the publishing credits and awards to prove it. He has stood on the shoulders of giants, and now invites young musicians to stand on his own shoulders to keep music progressing forward. He’s traveled all over the world (so much that it almost killed him), worked harder than almost anyone else in music (so much that it’s cost him at least three marriages), and shows no signs of stopping (though he’s slowed down considerably).

I cried a lot while watching this film, not for Quincy Jones, but for all the people mentioned in the film who are now gone. There are so, so many. The weight of that is even heavier for Jones, who has nearly three decades on me. I admire his musical brilliance and spiritual strength, and love his generosity. May he stay with us just a little while longer.

“Quincy” is now available on Netflix.

Three things make a post, right?

Thing One:  Between my merry band of health issues playing musical chairs for the past three years and Life Happening, trying to write blog posts fell waaaaaaay down the list of things to try and get done. Depression makes trying to get ANYTHING done (even get out of bed in the morning) problematic at the best of times. Not looking for pity or sympathy, just stating fact. In the last three weeks, though, the implementation of daily B-complex consumption has improved my mood to the point where I can actually think  for  protracted periods of time. Given the current pandemic sitch, among other nightmare events, writing blog posts seemed like a good idea. We’ll see how that pans out.

Thing Two:  When one is forced by medical issues to spend a lot of time in the horizontal position, one either reads or stares at ceilings or walls. Or watches a LOT of tv or movies. Concerning the latter, I’ve been binge-watching “Ridiculousness” on MTV and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on The Food Network. Apart from the appeal of the hosts (I think they’re funny), I have no idea why. I’m far past the Dyrdek generation and I don’t cook much. Perhaps I tune in to these shows because the two networks mentioned have programmed them for 12+hours in a row, which means I don’t have to change the channel if I fall asleep while watching. Which I do. A lot. Did I mention I have a sleep problem?

Thing Three:  One would think that being at home as much as I am would be the perfect setting for a bounty of completed craft projects. Ah, but one would not have figured depression into that equation. Depression, that great grey blob (I used to call it a dog, but that’s an insult to canines everywhere), sucks the joy out of everything, so there’s no motivation to do anything. Even personal hygiene falls by the wayside. Yes, eww. But there it is. As a result, I have stacks of fat quarters (you quilters will know what these are) and bags upon bags of yarn skeins sitting around, quietly waiting to be worked up into something. Other bags contain partially done projects, from two rows to 3/4-done afghans. It’s enough to make any other crafter cry. I’m hoping that this year I can get back into the crafting spirit. Beyond that, I’m not gonna go. My little merry band of illnesses likes to explode plans. Bastards.

Well, that’s three. Maybe in the next post I’ll talk about genre reading like Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution (which I just finished) and Wanderers by Chuck Wendig alongside Vestiges of Flames by Lyn McConchie (both post-apocalyptic novels). If I can work up the energy, that is. Wish me luck.

IFC Midnight’s “Alien Outpost” is a visceral, on-the-ground perspective on combat

Caught this 2014 movie on Netflix tonight, and I’m very glad I didn’t pass it by. It uses a documentary style to relate the last days of Outpost 37, a United Space Defense Force base of operations in Pakistan whose soldiers are tasked with decreasing the remnants of the Heavy invasion (Heavies are the aliens) that attacked Earth. Humans were able to fight off the attack, but many alien combatants were left behind when the Heavy space fleet retreated.

Having served in the US Army, I found the special effects and combat scenes quite effective. I was fortunate to not see combat during my time in service, but I’ve heard enough stories from combat veterans  and recall enough of basic training and field exercises to know when it’s done poorly on film. This movie did nearly everything right, given that it’s an indie film and the budget likely wasn’t very large.

The characters are all people I recognize from my Army days, which means the script writers did their homework, something for which I’m grateful whenever I see it. War is a nasty business, and the troops on the ground always see the worst of any conflict. The actors did very good work, neither overdoing nor underdoing their roles; they looked and behaved like real soldiers. That’s what drew me in and kept me watching; in the short time the film ran, I cared about what happened to the characters. Credit the script, the director and the actors for that — they all did their jobs well.

It’s an intense film. For those who have been in combat, it may be triggering; watch with caution. The rest of us can enjoy an absorbing story acted by professionals that kinda grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go — not even at the very end. Highly recommended.

 

Addendum on book review posts

Should anyone reading my blog have a book they’d like to get comments on, as long as said book is free or an ARC (advanced reading copy) and readable online, go ahead and make a comment on this post with the URL included. You will not get a full review, just a quickie review; full reviews get paid for. Quickies are freebies. If the amount of books gets too much for me, I’ll note that in a future post.

Quickie book reviews

These books have been sitting on my desk, awaiting review, for far too long. Thus, brief comments about each follow.

Queen of Iron Years by Lyn McConchie and Sharman Horwood. SFnal time travel centered on Boadicea, LGBTQ+ oppression and the Roman invasion, and every bit of it works. I cried at the end. The authors are acquaintances of mine, but they are fine writers all the same.

California Twist by John A. Connor. Brit-born PI in California takes a missing person case which winds up being far more than just that. Connor is also a friend, but again, the writing stands on its own. Great lead character in Harry Rhimes, just enough of all the right elements for a great PI mystery without all the sexist crap of noir. I think this is his first published book. Just go read it already.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones. Truly a heart-novel, about modern werewolves, beautifully written and an elegant portrayal of a family on the edge of life. There is not enough good to be said about this novel. I won this in a book giveaway, and I was not disappointed.

All these go directly to my re-read shelf.

Danny Trejo tours the Underworld

National Geographic made a documentary called “Map of Hell” and got Danny Trejo, aka “Machete”and other nefarious characters in films and on TV, to host and direct it. The results are surprisingly informative and refreshing.

Trejo begins with asking the audience, “What if I died?” He casually admits he’d probably go to hell. “But which hell?” he wonders. Thus begins his tour of historical perspectives on Hell, starting with the ancient Egyptians and ending in the present day.

The tour is pretty thorough for a general audience, too. The doc delves into the ancient Greeks’ view of where we go after we die (if we go anywhere), stops at points in time where the idea of Hell evolves through their cultural development, and continues on through a timeline of changing perspectives on the nature of Hell and who ends up there.

As someone who started out on a very bad life road and later changed his ways, Trejo makes the perfect host because he’s believable. The exploration of Purgatory alone is worth watching the film, perhaps especially for Catholics both active and lapsed. God knows I’ve forgotten most of what I learned in catechism classes in my early years. It was comforting to be reminded that Catholics are the ones who invented the second chance of Purgatory, and of how it works for both the living and the dead.

Danny Trejo, as he says in the doc, is (these days) a nice guy who smiles a lot and does all he can to help others. He’s right; check out his bio (Google is your friend). His willingness to imagine himself dead and headed for some sort of hell is admirable; not every actor would be willing to do that. Highly recommended.

 

Eagle Films takes wing: “Malice”

Brilliant example of what a fantasy/horror movie can be when all the right people are in the right jobs on the crew and in the cast. “Malice” started as a webseries, and this film version of the series is spot-on. I’m a stickler on continuity, and if there were any burps in that department in this film, I missed them. Check out “Malice: Metamorphosis” on Hulu if you like this film. Both are amazing productions done on near-zero budgets. Eagle Films also has a YouTube channel. Disclaimer: I am not related to nor in any way employed by anyone working for Eagle Films. Just a fan here! Independent films are often SO much better than Hollyweird studio rehash schlock.

“The Corridor”: A Journey Into Otherness

A serious mindfuck of a movie. I love independent film: it gets it right when so much of Hollyweird gets it wrong. “The Corridor” deals, imho, with the unknown. What others experience as mental illness can never be truly understood by those who’ve never experienced it, regardless of the form it takes in any given person. I think the film also deals with friendship, trust, “male bonding,” and otherness, and the myriad ways those things can go wrong. The corridor itself, imo, represents the unknown and unknowable, that which is beyond the reach of human understanding. This film is a deeply engrossing exploration of all these themes, through the prism of the human mind. Light shone through a prism fractures into the colors of the visible spectrum, just as a human brain can become fractured when whatever causes mental illness acts upon it. Brilliant stuff.

Looking for a good book redux: Listed by genre

This version of my Foreword Reviews book reviews should be more palatable for readers who have special interests.

Science Fiction & Fantasy
Novels
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shades-of-treason/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/princess-ryans-star-marines/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/feasting-with-panthers/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blue-fall/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-beach-at-herculaneum/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/there-comes-a-prophet/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/eirelan/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/faraday/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/decay/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/the-ravens-warrior/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-leopard/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shadow-dragon/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blood-bound/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-rising-darkness/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/lords-of-dyscrasia/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/chasing-the-meridian/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/future-history/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/soulrender/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/dont-call-me-angel/

Short fiction
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-story-until-now/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/walking-the-clouds/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/people-with-holes/

Horror/Paranormal
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-wretched-of-muirwood/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shadow-bound/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/daemon-of-the-dark-wood/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/nightmare/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/emma-and-the-vampires/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-hoard/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/factory-town/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blood-for-the-sun/

Non-fiction
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/handmade-in-india/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-man-who-thought-like-a-ship/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/logodaedaly-or-sleight-of-words/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/out-of-the-vinyl-deeps/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/cities-for-people/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/african-women-writing-resistance/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/john-oliver-killens/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/from-we-to-me/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/she/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-foreigner-carrying-in-the-crook-of-his-arm-a-tiny-bomb/

Mystery
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/breach-of-sanity/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-pointed-death/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/uncommon-collectables/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/missing-a-folly-beach-mystery/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/tomahawk-creek/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-magic-bullet/

General fiction
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/running-the-rift/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/revenge/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/astride-a-pink-horse/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-greatest-knight/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-scavengers-daughter/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/headcase/
https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/the-drum-tower/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/saving-jane-austen/
https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/jigsaw-soul/

Features
https://www.forewordreviews.com/features/feature/transgenred/

There are more reviews available at the magazine’s website at https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books — please do check out other reviewers’ work as well. A very wide range of subjects is covered in this magazine. I also have more reviews up since I first posted this list.

A different view: “Sleep Dealers”

This 2008 film, written and directed by Alex Rivera, is set in a future Mexico when water is even scarcer than it is now. Memo and his father have to buy water from a corporate water seller; the river which used to flow by their land has been dammed for many years, before Memo was born. Memo dreams of escaping his father’s pride in land ownership and farming, wanting to connect to the wider world. When he gets his chance, he takes it — losing much that he later realizes he holds dear. He arrives in Tijuana, gets robbed, meets a young woman who sells her memories to a company called Tru-Node, and finally lands a job as a node worker.

Nodes are how a human becomes a tele-presence employee, and guarantees a better-than-living wage for Memo, so he can send money to his family. This job, however, has drawbacks. It can leave a worker blind, drain one’s energy at a faster-than-healthier rate, or even be lethal.

Memo begins to question what he’s doing so far from home. He believes there’s something else he can do besides work too much. When he’s contacted by a man from the US who travels to Tijuana to meet him, and offers to help Memo, an idea germinates in his mind and is brought to fruition. This idea becomes action and offers reconciliation in many forms, to Memo as well as those he knows.

The fact that Memo’s story first entered the world as a film is startling all by itself. Science fiction has had a mixed treatment, at best, from US film producers and directors. Writer/director Rivera brings a fresh perspective to the SFnal ideas of social conscience, connecting with others in an increasingly tech-driven society, and becoming aware of more than what one can swing a snake at, and that’s just for starters.

Gently told, subtle and finely acted (with English subtitles for non-Spanish speaking viewers), “The Sleep Dealers” is another 5 star film that will likely not get much notice. What a shame.

Viva la revolucion.

Days of futures past: “Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth”

This 2007 film is certainly a science fiction film, but it has no special effects, no aliens, and no woo-woo tech. It doesn’t need any of that.

Hulu currently has it available on its free list, so no Hulu+ required, yay!

The central question that powers this fascinating drama: what if someone you thought you knew well told you and a group of mutual friends that he was 14,000 years old? What would that conversation be like?

I rate this film 5 stars. It’s well-acted (includes William Katt [who knew?] and Tony Todd), artfully directed and absorbing to the point of saturation without turning into a puddle. What a shame it was a direct-to video release only.

There are hidden gems out there, people. Some of them aren’t even older than the year 2000.

Detroit’s Exxodus Pictures releases first feature film, “Jinn”

Jinn.jpg

Exxodus Pictures, based in Detroit, MI released its first feature film, “Jinn,” on April 4, 2015. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. The production company has recently received a large grant to continue its work, and a second “Jinn” film is planned.

OMG you guys!!!!!

If you haven’t seen it yet, GO WATCH IT. NOW. I’ll wait.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

*)  *)  *)  *)  *)  *)

Pretty good, huh?

I’m so ready to see the next one, even though I have no idea if the script is even written yet. 🙂 The whole film is great, and the inclusion of a non-European culture as the major source material is a huge breath of fresh air. The SFX are stunning, the acting is top-notch, the script the cinematography the editing I could go on forever …

But I won’t, because boring. So just go watch it already!

Looking for something to read?

This is a list of most of my reviews for Foreword Reviews magazine, spanning the past 3-4 years. It’s a well-paying gig and I enjoy the work as well as the books I get for free. 🙂 FWR reviews independently published works, which means it’s very likely no one reading this has even heard of more than one of the books reviewed there. Do yourself a favor and put the FWR website in your favorites list; I’m pretty sure once you visit it, you’ll go back for more.

This list is eclectic, as are my reading tastes. Sorry I don’t have the energy to stuff them into genre boxes right now; think of this as a treasure hunt.

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-story-until-now/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shades-of-treason/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/breach-of-sanity/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/princess-ryans-star-marines/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-man-who-thought-like-a-ship/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/walking-the-clouds/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/feasting-with-panthers/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/logodaedaly-or-sleight-of-words/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/running-the-rift/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blue-fall/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/tomahawk-creek/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/out-of-the-vinyl-deeps/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-magic-bullet/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/cities-for-people/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/nightmare/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/revenge/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-foreigner-carrying-in-the-crook-of-his-arm-a-tiny-bomb/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/african-women-writing-resistance/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/emma-and-the-vampires/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/john-oliver-killens/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/from-we-to-me/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-greatest-knight/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-scavengers-daughter/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-beach-at-herculaneum/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/features/feature/transgenred/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/she/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/there-comes-a-prophet/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/eirelan/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/faraday/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/headcase/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/decay/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/the-drum-tower/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/the-ravens-warrior/

https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/people-with-holes/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/factory-town/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blood-for-the-sun/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-leopard/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/missing-a-folly-beach-mystery/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shadow-dragon/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/blood-bound/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/uncommon-collectables/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-rising-darkness/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/soulrender/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-hoard/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/dont-call-me-angel/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/saving-jane-austen/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/jigsaw-soul/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/astride-a-pink-horse/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/daemon-of-the-dark-wood/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/lords-of-dyscrasia/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/chasing-the-meridian/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-wretched-of-muirwood/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/future-history/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-pointed-death/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/shadow-bound/

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/handmade-in-india/

Deadly and delicious: “Hemlock Grove”

So I was perusing the Netflix online catalogue and stopped to check out the Netflix original series in this post’s title. One season (the first) was available. I ended up watching the whole season in one sitting. Yeah, it’s that good.

HG is a mix of urban fantasy and science fiction, and that still isn’t an accurate description. The focus is on a high-school-senior age Romani (Rom? Roma? Anyone know which one is correct?) guy Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and his friends (old and new). That’s about as far as I can go without getting into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that this show kicks massive ass, and has been signed for a third and final season. Famke Janssen is perfect as Olivia Godfrey, and Olivia’s son Roman is scarily well-acted by Bill Skarsgård , son of Stellan and brother of Alexander. Good genes in that family.

Urban fantasy readers (more than viewers) should dig this series for a variety of reasons. I could list those reasons, but that’s boring. Those of you with Netflix access can help out your friends without same by having a watch-in night. Just make sure the drinx n snax are potluck. 🙂

Autochorissexual. Finally, finally, I have a name for how I am now. ❤ And thank all that is divine that human sexuality is becoming non-monolithic. Wheee!!!

(h/t to http://hunterinabrowncoat.tumblr.com/ for the info)

A “House of Cards” in Ferguson, MO

A recent St. Louis County Council meeting was packed to the rafters with people from Ferguson protesting the inaction of local gov’t on the Michael Brown murder-by-cop (yes, I said it, deal with it).

Shaun King details the alleged multi-level corruption in St. Louis County, of which Michael Brown’s murder is a glaringly obvious example. Check it out; he backs up his statements with docs and suchlike.

(Yeah, I did have to add “alleged” — I happen to be a blogger with journalistic ethics.)

[h/t to Lindsey Weedston @ NotSorryFeminism ]

Alison Bechdel awarded MacArthur grant

Holy social progress, Wonder Woman!!!

http://www.macfound.org/fellows/908/

Alison Bechdel is one of 21 awardees of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation grants. Currently on an artist residency in Italy, Bechdel will receive a $650K grant from the foundation. She is probably best known for what’s called the Bechdel test (for women’s representation in film), consisting of three questions: 1) Are there two women with speaking parts (a variant includes “and named characters”); 2) Do these female characters speak to each other?; and 3)Do they speak to each other about topics other than men? (The original list is shorter; I’m a writer, I like to embellish without exaggerating).

A large portion of people calling themselves feminists have championed Bechdel’s test as a simple way to gauge progress in the film industry re: women’s roles. The news doesn’t seem to have spread very far at this point (from an admittedly brief surf through some sites), as it was announced earlier today.

I don’t know whether this will be a cause for loud or quiet celebration. Tune in to the Webz tomorrow to find out.