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.

 

Music

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.

Books

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.

Movies

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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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It has a kickass cover too!

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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.

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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.