Stringing Away February Blahs

February Blues

What’s your bluest month of the year? For me, it’s easily February. Ironically, the shortest month of the year feels like the longest, because nights seem endless and winter is at its deepest. Long, cold nights make for oppressive days.



But there are things out there that can help speed up time by lifting one’s spirits. One such found treasure often resides in music.  Fantastic music. Check this out. This gives me Snoopy Happy Dance Feet!

Take On Me – aHa – Brooklyn Duo at Carnegie Hall. The Brooklyn duo are a couple team that do piano/cello covers of popular music. Check them out on Youtube, Spotify, etc.


A Monster Calls, and while this is billed as a YA book, it is really applicable to any age group starting with teens and beyond. One of the constants of life is death. If we’re lucky it doesn’t happen to someone we know or love until later in life. For each of us, this first encounter can be extremely traumatic and debilitating. Death’s reach is everywhere. It can strike down anyone we know. Friends or family. Siblings or parents.

My mom passed away when I was almost fifty so I was very fortunate. Almost 11 years later, I still deal with. I lost a writing friend, last year to cancer. He was just one year older than me. Others I know have not been so fortunate. Some lost a parent as a child. A Monster Calls deals with a young boy and his mother’s battle with cancer.

The symbology in the book is heavy but the stages of grief the boy goes through are real. Love the book. Need to hunt down the movie.

Dark Matter, by the author of Wayward Pines, Blake Crouch. Crouch has mastered the art of the thriller. Dark Matter is written with a lean, mean style that borders of being near point form at times. But Crouch’s evolution as a writer from Wayward Pines to Dark Matter is quite visible. In Dark Matter, there is enough breathing room established that made me care for the characters, especially the protagonist, which Wayward Pines never did.  If you’ve read, The Flicker Man by xxxxx, you should check out Dark Matter.


The Ritual – an English horror movie that was getting some buzz but when I watched was left underwhelmed. It borrows elements of The Blair Witch Project and The xxxxx Man but offers nothing new or of note.

Thor Ragnorok – the most underwhelming Marvel movies have been the Thor movies. The character and the world he inhabits are just too goofy to take seriously. There is never any sense of true consequences or danger as this world is about gods and magic. Both of which means that anything that can happen can also be undone. But this installment was at least fun as director Taiko Watitiko has the proper sensibilities for such a universe. Playing off of Chris Hemsworth’s innate comic timing, throw in a dash of the Hulk, a pinch of Led Zeppelin, throw them all into a blender, and you get a silly, fun romp of a flick.

Cloverfield: The God Paradox – an interesting situation where Paramount, desperate for a franchise that can compete with the Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm machine, felt that the latest flick in the Cloverfield film family was not strong enough to release theatrically. The God Paradox is easily the poorest of the three films so they dumped onto Netflix and cut their losses. They thought well.




Le Bars of January

So January is winding down and all in all it’s been a pretty good month. We had a couple weeks of really cold -40 Celsius weather but no real snowfall since before Christmas. However, that streak ended this last Friday when we got 15 cm of snow. The thing with living in Alberta in the wintertime is that when you get snow it sticks around until spring. But c’est la vie, compared to what I’m seeing on the news for weather and other parts of the world we’re getting off pretty easy.


On the reading front, I just finished reading Stephen R.Donaldson’s first book in his new series – The Great God’s War – Seventh Decimate. The premise of this book is two kingdoms are engaged in a brutal unrelenting war. A war that is fought with magister’s on both sides that wield the magical decimates of fire, wind, drought, lightning, earthquake, or of pestilence. And that is what happens to the country of Belleger. Desperate to regain the lost power of their magister’s, Prince Bifalt is sent on a desperate quest to the Last Repository to find this book of the seventh decimate.

After the verbal density of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles, this book was a breeze to read in comparison. Not only is the book slim in the number of pages, a mere 302, it is also markedly bereft of Donaldson’s trademark dense vocabulary. In some ways, this felt like reading a Coles note version of a Chronicles book so it was an interesting change of pace. Bifalt does share some characteristics of Covenant in that his character flaws are so deep and pervasive that it makes it difficult for the reader to empathize with him. I suspect, and hope, that as the series progresses Prince Bifalt will grow and so will my attachment to him.


It has a kickass cover too!


Another book I read was My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.

This was a hard read because of the subject matter but the skill level of Tallent – Tallent’s got talent! (sorry had to go there) – is quite evident in this book.

My Absolute Darling is a book peopled with archetypes rather than actual characters. This is plain to see in the dialogue. And the inner dialogue of Turtle. The characters are avatars playing the part of the oppressor, victim, the experienced, the naive, and so on.

Certainly, understand why many will balk at the sexual content that is used as the driving force of the story. This happens whether or not one wants to have to deal with it, either in real life or in a piece of entertainment. Facing ugly things is never pleasant. The power of this book are those tender moments that happen in the worst of circumstances even to the most hardened of characters like Turtle.

Disturbing? Hell yeah! But isn’t that what the best of the arts accomplish by making us face the ugly? It makes the beautiful all the more so.


On the movie front, my wife and I, sat down to catch a Spanish horror thriller on Netflix called The Bar. This is a bottle type movie where eight characters are trapped in a Spanish café when a man outside the doors is shot and killed. One of the patrons inside the restaurant decides to go and try to help the man and subsequently is quickly shot in the head too.

What follows is a swirl of conspiracies, finger pointing, group dynamics breaking into little cliques – only to fall apart as new accusations are raised. You have your stereotypical characters and how they act is conventional but how they interact is not. The characters literally end up swimming in a cesspool of human waste as they struggle to find their way out.

This one was quite fun.



Fast & Furious 8 & The Flu


So the last half of December and the first half of January have been a write off in terms of getting anything done because the flu bug has been so bad this year. I got sick twice and had such a sore throat the second time I ended up getting some antibiotics to get rid of it. My dad, who turned 81 on January 8th, also got the flu to the point where he had to go to the hospital. Not a great way to spend a birthday. And my brother Tony said the hospital was so busy that my dad was unable to get a private room. So my dad had to stay in the Emergency Ward. Thankfully, my dad is doing much better and hopefully will be out of the hospital a couple of days.

My wife and I sat down to watch the latest Fast And the Furious movie on Friday night. Sheesh! They’re up to number eight already. This is the first one without Paul Walker at all, who tragically passed away during the filming of the seventh movie. As with each new installment in the franchise, each movie has to get bigger and crazier than the previous one. This time the action involved a major set piece with cars on ice being chased by a submarine.

There was also a setpiece in a downtown area where all cars with computer chips were remotely taken over. Pretty far-fetched that’s for sure but at least with the remote control cars that’s something you could see possibly happening in the future with more self-driving cars. The submarine staff was just ridiculous. Still, there is no doubt the cast is having a lot of fun, The Rock especially is really fun to watch. And I got quite a kick out of Kurt Russell.

These movies are the poster child for check your brain at the door type of entertainment but sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered and I admit, we had a lot of fun watching this movie.

I assume there will be a number nine. The way this one ended there’s definitely a sequel in store. At the rate they’re burning through premises, the next one will have to take place in space.

2017 Year End Post

Colorful 2017 New Year date in sparklers

There is the old Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times” – and the year 2017 has definitely been that.

On the micro-level for my family and extended family, it’s been a good year. There were no major illnesses and everybody has been able to continue with their lives pretty well unaffected by things that are happening at the macro level.

2017 was a good year for the arts. There were a lot of great movies, music, books, and TV shows produced. However, there is no denying that there are fracture points along socio-cultural lines taking place today in the world. Viewpoints on social matters have never been more polarized. Technology has removed the middle ground. It has never been easier to communicate but social media removes the human component of communication. Without that human component, there has been a loss of empathy for other viewpoints.

We are more connected to each other today but we are also more isolated from one another. The chasms between different viewpoints have grown deeper. These are interesting times indeed and much of what’s Alvin Toffler predicted in his book – “Future Shock”, is coming to pass. If you have not read this book I highly recommend that you seek it out. It’s amazing how relevant this book is today even though it was written in 1970.

Tina and I closed out the year watching two really good movies.

Wind River is Dir./Writer Taylor Sheridan’s latest movie. In it, Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. Fellow Avengers alumni Elizabeth Olson plays Jane Banner, an FBI agent who was called in to investigate when it is found out the girl was raped.

wind river

Taylor Sheridan does an amazing job both directing and writing this movie as the dialogue really pops and he uses the snowscapes of Wyoming to great use to create the sense of isolation the Indians live in. The movie has a great cast. Other cast members include Kelsey Cho, Julie Jones, Gill Birmingham, and the always great Graham Greene. Greene was also in Dances With Wolves and The Green Mile.

The movie builds to an explosive and unexpected climax that literally blows the story wide open. It is one of the most intense sequences I’ve seen in the movie in several years. To top it off the anticlimax is also very powerful but much more understated.

This is the best thing I’ve ever seen Jeremy Renner in. He gives a great performance.

Three_Billboards_Outside_Ebbing,_MissouriThe other movie we saw was Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri. This is another movie from a writer/director – Martin McDonagh. Another movie with a great cast and great writing. The inciting incident is also a rape-murder of a young girl. In this movie, Francis McDormand plays the aggrieved mother of the murdered girl.

The rest of the cast includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, and John Hawks. All of them are fantastic in this movie with special notice due to Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

Unlike Wind River, this is a very funny movie even though the subject matter is dark. Francis McDormand is a force to be reckoned with as she will not put up with anyone else’s excuses in her quest to find the murderer of her daughter. I highly recommend you check out the trailer for this movie and you’ll see just how funny it is.

This is a real character movie with deeply flawed individuals who despite their own weakness and prejudices are able to reach across the gulf of their differences.

A timely movie, indeed.




Our last Stephen King podcast of 2017 including a guest interview with horrormeister – Brian Keene. A podcasting highlight to be sure. Check out my previous post to find out where to listen to it.




Well, that does it for 2017. Still using Dragon to dictate and things are moving along well.

To you and your loved ones, Happy New Year!


Back Off! Back Off! ARQ’ing Firestarter

firestarter_novelOne of the excellent side benefits of doing the Stephen King podcast is it gives me a vested interest in re-reading his books.  For our next one we will be revisiting Firestarter. Haven’t read this one in a long time and in my memory it sits below his top stuff works. I think my memory became tainted by the Keith David / Drew Barrymore movie. A flawed effort but with some redeeming qualities.

As to the book, it exists in two parts. The first part is a chase movie with Andy McGee and his seven year old daughter fleeing from the minions of the shop. The second half is an escape story. Both halves are pieces of clockwork precision in execution and ratcheting up the tension. But what really sells the story are not the bombastic set pieces but the quiet moments between Charlie and her father as he tries to help Charlie sort out the moral implications of using her powers. There are also small but twisted moments between Charlie and her assasin to be – Charles Rainbird.

Thoroughly enjoyed my re-read and much more than I thought I would. Also one of my favorite King book covers.


Netflix keeps out pumping new content and one of them was a SF time travel movie – ARQ – that takes place for over 99% of  it, in the same house. It’s Groundhog Day on a three hour loop with plenty of nifty twists along the way. Robbie Amell – Arrow’s Stephen Baldwin’s younger brother and Rachel Hunter – last seen in another Netflix original – Marvel’s Jessica Jones – do great work together as a fractured couple caught in the middle in of a war between a giant corporation and a rebel group. It’s well done and well worth a watch.

Dark Tower movie addendum – a rough print of the upcoming Dark Tower movie trailer leaked for a while on the internet. I’ll defer making any comments on it and will wait for the full fledged trailer expected to drop this Christmas. The quality was terrible and many FX shots were not completed.  I will say that overall the trailer has got me excited with only one sequence causing me doubt.