Odds and ends/proof of life post

polar-vortex-nasa-670-1I woke up the other day and consulted my watch to discover that it was thirteen degrees below zero outside.  I feel like we were largely spared polar vortex horror last year, for the most part, but this year has definitely picked back up on the trend of the last several years, which is that the weather at the end of Winter Break is horrifying enough that school being cancelled and the break being extended is at least plausible if not guaranteed.  The boy goes back on Monday, finally, and I think the weather will be back to winter-normal by then, mostly, but holy fuck has it been cold around here lately.  There’s maybe, I dunno, fifteen inches of snow on top of the house, too, which means that we probably got eighteen to twenty since it tends to compress under its own weight after a while.  On the plus side, the new car appears to handle pretty damn well on ice and snow, or at least the new tires I put on it not too long ago appear to have done their job.

IMG_6692.jpgIN OTHER NEWS: the Lumberjack Beard is dead; long live the Lumberjack Beard.  I don’t normally shed my winter beard this early in the year, winter having just barely started, but apparently the answer to this year’s beard question, i.e. “How long can I let this fucker get before it starts to drive me insane?” is about nine weeks.  Granted, I brushed it backward to make it easier to shave off for that picture, but this was easily the bushiest I’d ever let my beard get, and unexpected side effects were starting to crop up– like eating getting much messier and– and this one really surprised me– all that hair on my face actually making it harder to sleep.  I think if I groomed it a bit better it wouldn’t have been as much of a thing, but I’m a novice at this and wasn’t super interested in putting in the research time.  I’d intended to just dial it back but ended up going completely back to the vandyke that I keep on my face for the other eight months of the year.  I may grow it back right away or I may not, but I won’t be doing Full Lumberjack again anytime soon.

IMG_6678.JPGMy phone is starting to slowly fill up with pictures like this, and I’m starting to see grid shapes with arcane symbols and glowing lines on them every time I close my eyes.  My buddy James Wylder posted a shot to Instagram of a bunch of notes and diagrams he was working with as he was playing through The Witness, and upon discovering that the PlayStation store had it for $15 and deciding I could use a more cerebral break from Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nioh, I was in.  Two days later I’m hooked as fuck.  I’d compare the game to Myst, but Myst had a genuine story to it and this really doesn’t; the reward for solving puzzles is more puzzles and occasional frustration and headaches.  There have been a couple of puzzles where I’ve had to cheat to get through them and at least one where even when the answer is on the screen in front of me I’ve been unable to figure out why the right answer was the right answer, but for the most part it’s hitting a nice sweet spot for me– challenging enough that solving the puzzles isn’t automatic, but not so challenging that my rapidly-becoming-legendary lack of patience with video game bullshit kicks in.  If noticing that some vines near you are a different color from the other vines and then figuring out how to get outside and line your screen up perfectly so that the vines trace the right path on the grid in front of you, and then taking a picture of it with your phone because fuck that, you don’t seriously expect me to memorize this, do you? sounds up your alley, check it out.

I had plans to write fiction this week, but they were burned to the ground once I realized that I’d have the boy with me all day yesterday and today for the last two non-weekend days of his break.  I’ve been lazy as hell on hiatus since Tales came out but it’s time to get back on the horse.  Next Thursday, then, I will either officially begin work on the latest version of the sequel to Skylights or start working on my entry for this anthology or both.  Because battle poets.  

Book sales have had a nice little spike lately too.  After most of a year where if I was selling a book or two a month I was pretty happy with it, I’ve sold five books today, two yesterday, and twelve since Christmas Eve– and that absent any sales or any particular promotion on my part other than a few surprisingly well-received Tweets.   In an absolute sense that doesn’t seem like much to brag about but I’m still in holy shit people are sending me money for stories mode, and I kinda hope I never break out of that.

That said, if anybody else wants to keep the ride going, that would be awesome.  Reviews would be cool, too, especially of the three that aren’t even at 10 yet.  Wanna help me out?


So I literally just realized this a few minutes ago, while on the toilet, no less: I’ve been hemming and hawing about writing the TLJ review– have been actively avoiding doing it, in fact– because Star Wars fandom has been showing their collective asses in a big, big way this week, and oh Jesus Christ am I so very tired of Star Wars fans.

I used to love y’all.  You used to be my people.  I spent three fucking days in line for Episode One, and it still ranks as a treasured memory.  We all had a blast.

It was the last time being a Star Wars fan was fun.

Look at this nonsense for a second:


The person who put this together does not remember spending three years wondering if Vader was really Luke’s father, guys.  If you want to talk about divisive Star Wars movies, we can start with that shit.  And I am tired, so very fucking tired, of people taking an entertainment franchise that goes in a different direction than they expected and interpreting it as a very personal Attack on Their Childhood.

Fuck your childhood.

(Another reason I haven’t written the piece yet: there’s a piece going around called The Last Jedi Doesn’t Care What You Think About Star Wars– And That’s Why It’s Great. Chances are you’ve seen it, since I imagine anyone reading this is pretty much guaranteed to be some flavor of geek anyway. I coulda written that article, guys, and it’s kinda thrown a monkeywrench into me writing my own piece.)

But anyway.

I loved the goddamn movie.  Loved the goddamn movie, and having waited a week to talk about it has not cooled my ardor, nor has it caused me to abandon the fact that I’ve apparently managed to deem two Star Wars movies in a row my new favorite Star Wars movie.  I have!  It’s true.  And my favorite behind those two?  Fuck you, it’s Return of the Jedi, considered the least of the Original Trilogy films by the type of person who claims to be a Star Wars fan but when pressed will tell you they hate every single one of the films except for ANH and Empire.

So, yeah.  Fuck those guys.  I’m tired of Star Wars fans.

But I loved the movie.  Maybe now that I’ve got this bullshit off my chest, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI: The spoiler-free #review


I begin so many of my reviews this way, but I think it’s important enough that I keep repeating it: I tend to get caught up in my own head when I really like something or when I really hate it, and it’s generally good for me to give myself a few days to think about something before expressing an opinion on it.  This is me three hours out of the theater.  When I write the spoiler review, which I’ll try to get done Sunday but could be any time after today, my opinions may be somewhat different.   Most of y’all know this about me.  The rest of you: FYI.

(And, for the record, The Force Awakens has only sunk in my estimation since seeing it, and Rogue One may be my favorite Star Wars movie.)

This is, of course, the spoiler-free version.  I will spoil every last plot point in the next review.

Here are the three worst things about The Last Jedi:

  • Rian Johnson is not directing Episode Nine;
  • There is not a trailer for the Han Solo movie before it;
  • About five seconds of dodgy CGI involving Leia, but not the kind of dodgy Leia CGI from the end of Rogue One.  Different dodgy CGI.

I walked out of TFA generally pleased with it but with a list of what at the time I thought were minor complaints.  I am, right now, hard pressed to come up with a single substantive whine about TLJ other than the aforementioned five seconds of dodgy CGI.  I struggled very hard to avoid using the word “perfect” in the car on the way home, and then failed and did it anyway.

I fucking loved this movie.  Loved every fucking second of it.  Loved things about it that at the moment I cannot explain why I loved, since some of the things I loved about this movie were things I hated about TFA.

I want Mark Hamill– Mark fucking Hamill— nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.  One of the things I will still praise unto death from TFA is the quality of the performances.  Mark’s performance in this movie makes them all look like amateurs.  He’s amazing.

Every last moment of TFA was telegraphed and expected.  The movie was more or less a point-by-point remake of A New Hope.  This movie took me by surprise on at least half a dozen different occasions.  Not a damn thing went like I thought it was going to.  That line from Luke in the trailer, where he says “This is not going to go the way you think”?  He’s talking to the audience.  I have, right now, no idea where Episode IX is going to go.  None.

So, yeah.  Right now: absolutely goddamned brilliant, and you should be running-not-walking to theaters to see this movie.  I hope I still feel the same way in a couple of days.

(Oh, one more thing: not one second of useless, stupid fanservice, unlike a solid 20% of TFA and several of the worst moments of R1.  Which may be my favorite thing about the movie.)

(One more thing– a very minor spoiler: neither Greg Grunberg nor his stupid Greg Grunberg face appear in this movie!  Which is wonderful!)

Internet blackout

I’ve been trying as best I can to stay away from the computer for the last couple of days on account of a Star War happening in the very near future, a Star War that I would prefer to go into knowing nothing about.  You may recall my review of The Force Awakens; yes, you can expect a similarly exhaustive post about Last Jedi once I’ve had a chance to digest it.

In the meantime, appreciate this fucking tour de force from Black Thought, who is an insane magical marvel of lyricism and breath control. This man apparently takes in oxygen through his skin:

On my lawn, and your need to get off it


Last week– seven to ten days ago, if I’m being precise– a sweet elderly lady and what I can only assume was her grandson came into the store.  Grandma spent some time looking around and purchased a single barstool from me.  She was unusually happy about it, proclaiming it “perfect” for her needs.  Her grandson, who was perhaps seventeen, did not say a single word during the entire time I was observing the two of them.  In fact, he did not look up from his gaming device– a Game Boy Advance SP, I’m pretty sure, despite that system’s advanced age– a single time.  He, in fact, shuffled a few feet behind her the entire time she was in the store, neither speaking, looking around, or interacting with anything.  It was as if she had some sort of robot following her and not a human being.  She never spoke to him either.  He wouldn’t have heard her, I assume, as he also had big, beefy headphones on, which were attached to the system.

She came back yesterday to pick up her barstool, and this time had both her grandson and (again, I’m assuming) her daughter with her.  Her grandson this time stared at his phone the entire time he was in the store, interacting with neither his mom nor his grandmother, and again he had his headphones on.

I went back and got her barstool out of the warehouse and brought it to the front of the store.  “Want me to carry that out for you?” I asked, assuming that she would say no and that the grandson– or, at the very least, the daughter– would carry the stool rather than the elderly lady.  She said she didn’t need me to and I had her sign her paperwork and then watched in no small amount of shock as the old lady picked up the barstool and left the store, her worthless progeny trailing along behind her.  One of my warehouse guys was standing next to me at the time.

“I asked her if she wanted to carry it,” I said.  “You heard me say that, right?  I didn’t imagine it?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “I kinda wanna smack that kid.”

“Maybe he’s autistic,” I said, and then wondered what the hell is going on that this kid being severely autistic– because I know plenty of kids with autism for whom “carry shit for your grandma” is still an ingrained behavior, so it’s got to be way down on the spectrum– is the best of the available outcomes.

A few minutes later, I had reason to get something from my car.  And then helped the old lady put the barstool into the trunk of her car, as her daughter and grandson sat in the vehicle and waited for her to be done.

I don’t really have strong feelings about screen time, but I feel like I should have strong feelings about screen time, if that makes any sense.  After dinner tonight I asked my wife if she had any recollection of what she might have been doing just after dinner when she was six.  Her father would likely be watching TV, she decided, and she’d either be watching with him or playing, and her mom would be watching the dishes.  So let’s call that one and a half people staring at a device.  When I asked the question, she and I were still sitting at the dining table fiddling with our phones, and the boy was in the living room watching some godawful YouTube video where someone opens packages of something.  If I hadn’t been staring at my phone, I’d likely have either had a book in my hand or the laptop I’m typing on right now in front of me.  Or, since I’ve decided that the ridiculously named Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t violent enough to hide it from my son, maybe playing that.

We have all sorts of evenings where each of us is staring at his or her own device– well, the one the boy uses is mine, but you get the idea– or where we’re all watching the TV.  That’s not what bugs me.  What bugs me is that I really can’t think of what the hell else we might be doing.