This month has been terrible. If you haven’t noticed, I have been isolating away from my social world and have avoided a lot of my creative outlets (i.e. writing and making video content), and it has only increased over time. An onslaught of depression has plagued, not only this month, but most of this year. And this week has been the icing on the 7-layer cake. So this is my attempt to explain a few things for clarity’s sake, but most importantly my own. This has been my March madness (and dammit do I wish it was basketball related).
Let’s start with something that I’ve been struggling to comprehend. Recently I’ve felt so distant from many of the people in my life, I feel as if I’ve pushed away many of my friends, my family, and my relationships. It feels as if I’m not been fully myself, and therefore, has really affected my mental health. I know many of these people are unaware or are busy living their lives too, but it still doesn’t make it easy. I’m slowly learning that it is okay to take the time to heal oneself, before one heals bonds with others.
Now for the one-two punch to the stomach. Two people in my life have passed on from this world within days of each other. The first was a friend, his name is Levi. Levi was a friend of mine since my early 20s, and was always a pillar of support. When you weren’t expecting to hear from anyone, you could always count on him to send something random and out-of-the-blue that you enjoyed, to let you know that he was thinking of you. I’ve not seen him in about a year, and now I see his spirit this upcoming weekend. It’s not what I wanted in a reunion.
The second person that I lost was my grandmother, Ruth Jones. My grandma Ruth was such a sweet and loving person. Her smile and laugh was such a distinct combination, that I’m conjuring it up as I write this. I’m the oldest grandson and can recall glimpses of her and my late grandfather, Calvin, when I visited their dairy farm. It’s a part of my life that is so far etched into my memory that it seems that it was someone else’s. I just wish I was around more.
As I write this, both of these deaths have truly not been realized in my mind, and are still abstract. I’ve not seen the body. I’ve not felt the love of their loved ones. I’ve not sensed their passing yet. But I do know that I will.
With all of this being said, my March has been maddening. I’ve not felt the need to reach out, but this is my attempt at trying. I know that I haven’t talked to many of you, but I want everyone to know that I feel how much you care. My tendency is to always spread my self thin. I know full well that it is idealistic; I just wish I had more to give to others. But I know that what I can give is enough, it’s just a process of learning that concept.
Thank you very much for reading, I appreciate you all. I’m not Jonesing around 😉
Push the play button. Set the needle down. Insert the cd…the space between the music and the silence fills the air around you. The record pops. The cd spins. The satellite transmits data to your phone, and you find yourself elsewhere. You get lost in the static emitting through your ears. Whichever way you listen to music, one things certain, we all love music (or should… I know people who don’t, damn them).
Music fuels creativity, inspiration, and discovery. And what better way to start an afternoon, then to discover some new tunes? It won’t take much of your time either, I have decided to highlight five current singles from some of the artists that I love. Each artist and song covers different aspects of my musical taste; it’s perfectly okay to not like any of them. These singles are just nibbles for the potential rabbit hole that you may find yourself heading down. Without further delay, here are five singles for your afternoon…
Kauan has been one of my favorite bands of the past 5 years. This band’s background is all over the place, as they formed in Russia, sing in Finnish, and live in Estonia! Kauan delivers a unique blend of black metal, folk, and post-metal straight to the heart. “Raivo” showcases that blend perfectly; slowly soaring into a crescendo of darkness and fading into stillness. I would HIGHLY recommend you take a listen to an entire album of theirs (check out Kaiho, the album before this), as they are a band that you can get lost with in the aether.
Sharon Van Etten – ‘On Your Way Now’ | Listen here on YouTube
Sharon Van Etten took my breathe away back in 2019, when I discovered her work. At the time, she released the amazing Remind Me Tomorrow and it brought much joy, melancholia, and retrospection upon the first spin. Since that time, I’ve listened to her music every now and then, and have heard it playing at my local coffee shop when I stop by to get some whole beans. It brings a warm smile to my face, and ‘On Your Way Now’ is no exception 😉
Billy Idol – ‘Eyes Without a Face’ (Poolside Remix) | Listen here on YouTube
Normally, I cannot stand remixes. Most of the time, they lose their originality or don’t add much depth to warrant any change. However, there is the occasional remix that throws that notion out the window and throttles my ears. Enter ‘Eyes Without A Face’ (Poolside Remix) one of my favorites from Billy Idol, with a new splash of electronic blush, dripping with soothing melancholic energy. Give this 1984 track, a 2021 spin and melt away.
Every Time I Die – ‘AWOL’ | Listen here on YouTube
Prepare for a head bang and a throttle, cause it’s time to go ‘AWOL!’ Every Time I Die is an east coast metalcore band that has a fun time going up to 11, with an occasional southern drawl that charms the soul. I’ve seen these lads about 3 or 4 times, and they have some of the most intense live shows! Complete with 24/7 stage dives, circle pits, and hardcore dancing. I, myself, value my life and tend to stay to the side or near the front speakers (don’t worry I wear earplugs, and you should to for each concert you go to), but I have a blast each and every time (I die) lol. I hope you can enjoy this little adrenaline-filled lyric video, and allow your ears to bleed just a tad.
Sufjan Stevens – ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ | Listen here on YouTube
A few years ago, I watched Call Me By Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino and was just enamored by the love, the story, and the music by Sufjan Stevens. Once again, they have teamed up for a music video that encompasses the art of Alessio Bolzoni & Celia Hempton, and it is a heartbreaker. I hope you can sink into disappear with the beauty that unfolds.
That’s it! I hope you can spend a little time with some of these songs and maybe discover something new. Maybe it inspired you to listen to an old favorite? Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your afternoon and lose yourself.
It’s winter 2004, and I’m in my unfinished basement awaiting my best friend Robbie to come over. He said that he has a new game that he wants to start playing and thought I would be the best option to start it up alongside him. I want to say that when we sat down on the basement floor, he had something behind his back and asked if I was ready to play a new card game? Now up until this point, I had my Pokémon and Yu-gi-oh! phases, was in love with the Lord of the Rings films, and was already enamored by fantastical worlds. Robbie then revealed two boxes with the words “Magic the Gathering” on the front, and I knew something incredible was about to unfold.
I knew I had seen these cards before, I just never studied them. I recall my uncle, of all people, having a collection of his own cards. Apparently he had been playing since 1993, when the game started! But, let’s get back to that basement in 2004… We took out the cards from the latest expansion set of the game called Champions of Kamigawa. It was a Japanese themed set complete with samurai, spirits known as kami, ninjas, and beautiful artwork that blended mythology, historical fiction, and fantasy.
I had been fascinated with Japanese culture in those early years, having had a Japanese student teacher from Tokyo in elementary school. She showcased the world of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) of Hokusai and Hiroshigi, calligraphy on silk paper, and the many culture customs that inhabited her world. All happily shared, and I ate it all up! Now back to Magic the Gathering…
With those first theme decks brought over by my best friend, I was open to this new and exciting world. The game was complicated enough and we never truly grasped the rules of the game in those first few years. We only really collected a few of our favorite cards and stuck to our favorite colors, which were green and white. There’s also blue, black, and red completing the color pie, with each having complimentary colors and colors that were considered “enemies.” It was truly a time that I recall fondly, even if we weren’t playing the game correctly. But it only took a year before I moved on from the game, and found my interests elsewhere.
It’s winter 2008, and my best friend from high school wanted to go to Meta-Games Unlimited, a local game shop in town. Where have I heard that name before, it sounds so familiar? I recalled going to the store a few times back around 2005, when I casually played Magic, but it had been a long time since I had even thought about the place or that game.
We picked up a few starter decks from the most recent set Shards of Alara, and I quickly remembered the mechanics of the game, even though I had still not fully grasped the rules. I showed my friend and his cousin the basic way to play and somehow over those next few years, we all got hooked. It was like a drug.
Thinking about that time in my life, I became fully immersed into fantasy and the game of Magic. I became a competitive player at the local game stores in town and played 3 times a week in tournaments. I was one of the younger players playing the game, freshly 16, and just being able to drive. Most of the other players were in their 20s and 30s, and had been playing most of their young-adult life. But those players quickly became some of the best friends I ever had, and was a nice escape from my life in high school.
Life in high school was a big blur. I barely remember ANYTHING! I went to class and did my work (albeit lazily), I somehow got a 4.1 by the time I graduated. Thinking back, most of my memories during this time involve going to the game store and meeting my older friends, who happily kicked my ass (in the game😛) and taught many lessons for going forward. I learned about probability, statistics, and ways to outsmart your opponent. I came out of my shell and quickly adopted the community that seemed to enjoy my youthful energy.
Those were years where I would stay up until 4 PM for a new set to be released (you wouldn’t believe the body odor from some of the people I met at this time). Those were the years where I learned to not take myself too seriously and to try and have fun with the game, even when I was too competitive. Those were the years of late night snacking, tom foolery, and shenanigans. Those were the years…
It took 4 years of constant playing, learning, and evolving until I was sick of the game. I had collected thousands of cards and played fairly well for a local player (hell some of the newer players feared going up against me!). I had been exhausted by the play patterns, the repetition, and seeing my friends slowly walk away from the game. I sold my cards and was happy to move on to greener pastures, but the game never quit me.
I still would play casually with a group of friends, in a multi-player format that was both friendly and hostile. I recall many instances of alliances formed and broken in those hour long games. Filled with drinks, cursing at one another, and late night fast food. But this slowly faded too, and over time I was done with the game. Enter my best friend Ben.
It’s summer 2017, and I wasn’t playing Magic anymore. I was fully invested into collecting comics, blu-rays, and vinyl records. Over the years, I had been collecting various mediums and was not at all interested in going back to a card game. But Ben changed my mind. He wanted to learn how to play, so I gave him all of the cards that I had left and taught him the basic mechanics of the game. He played very casually, whereas I still had a competitive side to my playstyle. Eventually I found a good balance. I just wanted to win each time, was all 😉.
We played every so often, but I was never truly “back in the game.” Soon enough a new online version of the game arrived called Magic Arena, and Ben decided to test it out. It took a solid year of him pushing it my way until I decided to give it a go. It was summer 2019 and I was about to go to China to teach, so I caved. I wanted to somehow interact with my best friend, other than the occasional call. And then it happened again, I was hooked.
Over in China, I played the game as often as I could. It was one of the only solaces that I had from the life I had left behind in America, and it was an escape. It was incredibly rough though, as the servers constantly crashed from where I was located and made for a frustrating experience. It was still something to look forward to after a long day of teaching.
Once I arrived back from China in early 2020, I knew that my interest in the game had been restored. I played daily online and would constantly think about it during the days when I worked. And in those early days of quarantining, I couldn’t put the game down. I did have moments in the summer and fall, where I put the game on pause for other interests. Those breaks were much needed, but somehow I kept returning.
It’s early February 2021, and I am still playing Magic the Gathering. It’s been nearly 16 years, with a lot of time in between my phases with the game. Magic was the game that first brought me out of my shell. Magic was the game that showed me community. Magic was the game that never quit me, despite how much I hid it from others. Welcome to my hidden world of Magic the Gathering.
What are some of your hidden worlds? Do you have any hobby or interest that you don’t talk about much or often? Let me know (or not), I’d be happy to learn more about you!
I feel as if I can breathe again. The air in my lungs have exhaled a thick intoxicating smog. Slowly going through my lungs directly into my chest, is the fresh air that I needed. I can say that I am beginning to feel happiness again. And I can say that slowly, some of my favorite pastimes are returning into my life.
With the difficulty of the past month, I’ve felt really defeated. If you recall my last post, I have been going through quite a bit and it is still affecting me. But with each day that passes, my depression seems to be on a slow decline. I find myself doing the very things that had NOT brought any joy for the past month, such as watching film, listening to music, and for the sake of this post, reading. I find myself doing these things again.
Things were so estranged that I had completely stopped reading the book that I had been about halfway through…but now I can say within just a few days, I conquered that book and enjoyed every second of it. And that book was…
I finally finished this insane biography on the one-and-only, Robert Mitchum. The amount of debaucherous lunacy that Mitchum was involved in both his filmmaking and outside in his personal life, is worth the read alone. The man had a troubled life with many demons that both helped and hinder his career, his relationships, and his outlook on the world. I want to give a special shoutout to Raquel Stecher for putting this book on my radar, and giving that nudge to go ahead and pick it up. Albeit, I borrowed it from the library and renewed it at least 3 times 😅
Now how to move forward?
Finishing my first book of 2021 has really got me excited for what I could potentially do this year in terms of a goal. So I will set myself with a light one…let’s set the goal of reading 21 books for 2021. Tis the year after all. That means that I have 20 more books to read and I have decided that these could be anything fiction or nonfiction.
The next book that I have on the horizon is the other book that I have renewed 3 times, which is Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice. I was recommended this title from both Raquel and Veebs, and have been looking forward to this one for a long time, so thank you both. And this is still just the start of the year!
The air seems to be returning to my lungs and the pages smell fresh off the press. I am happy to be reading again, and I am happy to be moving forward just a page at a time.
What do you think of my challenge? Do you have any book challenges or any other sort of challenge for 2021?
Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing well and happy 2021. Lately, I’ve been going through a lot of life changes and frankly, it has been hard on me. I’ve been in a depressive slump and it has been hard to feel the motivation to write. Life going into 2021 seemed to be on the up-and-up, but with circumstances from a multitude of events within the past month, I’ve felt lost.
I understand that life has it’s ups and downs, and at this current moment I’m working on getting through it. I’ve been distracting myself with films, TV shows, basketball, and unfortunately, work. The former three have been a lifeline, but I feel as if I have not found much joy from this occupation of my time. It is nice and all, but they are distractions for how I am feeling.
Work has been a huge reason that 2020 and this past month have been a pain in my ass. The loss of my full-time job due to covid and funding has left me feeling bitter. I’ve taken on three jobs to replace the one, and somehow they all feel like chores. Not to mention that my one job is highly irregular with it’s inconsistency to get hours, which in turn screws up my benefits and insurance. To be honest, I’m at a crossroads and I don’t know what and where I want to go next.
The political situation here in the United States is rather laughable, and to be honest I am a little scared of my apathy. I’ve always been ‘middle of the road’ with my stance on many issues of the political divide, and lately I have been leaning more towards the left. Not to say that I have a party cause I don’t, but I will always choose the candidate that has the best character and interest in caring for people (and I mean around the entire world, not just the United States). I suppose my apathy is coming at a crossroads with recent events giving a good push into territory to which I NEED to care more, it’s just hard with my current state of well-being. But I will do my best, I promise.
Another factor is my loss of relationships in all facets of life. Many of my friends that I have consistently talked to or have been around have been slowly fading, and I know that I too, am to blame for that slip. Now I know what you are thinking, and yes I am aware that friends come and go. But more and more, I have been wanting to retreat and block out communication just to recharge. As I am a person who feels immense pain of letting someone down, it is something that I really struggle with and makes me feel very uneasy. Some of my friends say it’s a blessing to care so much. I don’t know, I guess it is a balancing act?
I will end with something positive, as that’s how I want to be moving forward. School starts this week and if anything, I can’t let my depression be broadcasted onto my students. I want to guide them and allow them to build confidence in themselves, that’s my big goal for teaching public speaking. Seeing that change will surely help.
Hopefully, dear reader, this doesn’t come across as something I am doing for attention. I just want you to know what these past few weeks have been in my world, and I suppose I am just finally writing about it to get it out of my system. I care very much about each of you who reads this and even those who don’t, and I will continue to always care. It’s in my blood, and who I am.
Time is a basterd, isn’t it? Our time here is short, but how we spend it and who we spend it with really determines our perspective on that ticking time-bomb. One of my biggest revelations this year was prioritizing that clock. With all this extra time that was given to us all due to our current global situation, I had more time to watch films, listen to music, read books, and just stay around the house doing just about anything. I loved it at first, but realized how diminishing that was becoming with little to no direction in my day-to-day.
Enter YouTube, my saving grace. I’ve talked about the platform before with all those wonderful people that I’ve met through the film collecting community; it has really been a bright spot to the year. Looking back to right around June 2020, I started focusing more on what I wanted my channel to become and the direction that it would head. Discussing films from new releases to boutique label blu-rays was a mainstay for the channel, but I wanted to expand upon the channel and start communicating with others who share that passion and love of film. And I did just that.
Collaborating with my friends brought a new found love of the platform and for collecting physical media. During this time, I met with many of my new friends and we shared stories from all walks of life. This was much needed therapy for all of our isolation. Speaking of therapy, there was sales galore! Many of our favorite labels had additional sales that would increase our collections and brought us happiness. But with all these new friends, blu-ray sales, and increased in activity on YouTube, it got me thinking about what the new year would truly bring. And Eureka (Masters of Cinema) I think I’ve got it!
It’s about prioritizing what you already have. Several of my new friends have started thinking about scaling back their spending habits, and to prioritize what they already own. Plastic and cardboard nestling on wooden shelving, collecting dust and the occasional eye. I didn’t want that constant collecting with no return. It’s buying for the packaging, it’s buying for others to see, it’s buying for the sake of buying. Time to change that priority for the new year.
Many of you may be asking, where is he going with this? It’s simple. I want to give you a rundown of my plans for what I will be covering on my channel for 2021. I’ll also need your help, dear reader (or viewer). I will need strong willed friends who can help be a pillar of strength for not spending money like I normally do, ones that can hold me accountable. With that being said, let me give you a basic rundown of what I have planned for the upcoming year in YouTubeland:
My Hammer Journey
I started my Hammer journey in 2020 with all of the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Dracula films, and it was a ton of fun! I even chronicled my adventures on my friend Daniel’s podcast Cobwebs (listen here). But this was just the start…I wanted to watch all of the Hammer films that I could get my hands on, and it wasn’t until I started collecting the Hammer Volume sets from Indicator, did I fall in love. Collecting them all was fun and all, but I needed time to watch and enjoy (or not) each of the films. And that’s where My Hammer Journey begins.
I have decided to primarily collect Hammer films in the upcoming year, if I collect anything (remember I am trying to scale back). But it will begin with the films that I do have in my collection, starting with some boxsets. Recently, I uploaded a video discussing the first set from Indicator, Hammer Volume 1: Fear Warning! and had a blast watching Maniac (1963), The Gorgon (1964), The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), and Fanatic (1965). I’ll be exploring more of these films in the coming year, and could not be more excited to laugh, cry, and even get a little scared.
2. Reviving the 100 Years of Movies Series!
One of my favorite segments from my YouTube channel, was starting this series back in early 2018. During the entire year, I decided to pick my favorite film for each and every year starting from 1918 to 2018. I broke it down into ten videos, more or less going through each decade of film to the current era. It was a shit ton of work! And I loved every second of it. But now that a few years have passed and my viewing habits have changed, I begin contemplating revisiting the series and how I might approach it in a new light.
First, I thought about asking my new found friends on the platform and how I would love to tackle this series with them, discussing their favorite films for the each year. But talking to my first guest (it’s a surprise!), they presented a fresh idea and spin on the series! Instead of going through each and every year, the video would have a guest who would have their top five films of that decade, discuss the history of that time, and the genres/types of films being made at that time. Along with my guest, I would have my top five films chosen and would have my own experiences to bring to the table. A true back and forth in a collaborative effort, I love it! Keeping my fingers crossed that this series will come to fruition 🤞
3. Unboxing Bergman and Unboxing Varda
In early 2019, my friend Cris Hurtado (Hurtastic Reviews) attempted to tackle the mighty Ingmar Bergman Cinema boxset from Criterion, seen here. We made it through the Opening Night segment from the curated order from the set, but eventually life happened and we could not finish it. We put Bergman on pause. For 2021, I hope to revitalize this series with the help of Cris (if he’s available) but if he is not, I would still enjoy talking about these films and finally finishing this behemoth of a set. From the nine films that we covered and the ones that I have seen from Bergman before, I know I am going to enjoy the ride and in all variety of emotion.
For the latter half of the year, a similar project has been discussed with my roommate Palmer. We want to explore the works of Agnès Varda, and more specifically The Complete Films of Agnès Varda from Criterion. Palmer has been a fan of her work and I know would be the perfect friend to unbox this set with, taking our time navigating Varda’s filmography and life. I don’t know when this venture will start, but be on the lookout for both the Bergman and Varda unboxings.
4.Film Journey and Book Journey Series Continues!
This announcement is a no-brainer. The film and book journeys of my friends have only just begun! Each journey has shed light into our different tastes, attitudes, and life experiences with our favorite mediums. I learn so much from just listening to each and every one of them, and I hope that everyone who listens does too. I have several mapped out for the coming year with more to follow! And who knows there might be a venture into music…😏
5. Blu-Ray Hauls, Queue Series, and Miscellaneous
Last, but certainly not least are the mainstays of my channel: blu-ray hauls, my queue/recommendation series, and other miscellaneous topics about film. These won’t be going away and will always be videos that I love making. Blu-ray hauls may go down in numbers just a tad with my priorities shifting to buying less, but there will certainly still be some on the way. My Queue/Recommendation Series will be about the films that I am currently watching outside of all these tentative projects listed above (I’ll do the best I can, lol). Other videos and collaborations will also be present, but only time will tell.
Obviously, I don’t want to take all the fun out of watching films and producing content that is incredibly curated or structured. I will still be watching films based on how I am feeling and making videos on random things that I am interested in at the time. But going into 2021 with a little direction, with some priority shifting, and with the friends and people that truly care, I know that I’ll make that time count. Time to move forward, let’s step on the basterd’s toes.
What are your 2021 plans? Do you have any goals or resolutions in mind? What are you most excited about on the channel?
Walking out the venue door, boots sticking to the ground covered with beer. It’s the last thing I can remember. My ears were still ringing as I took out my plugs and tossed them into the trash. A whiff of fresh cold air struck my exhausted and aching body, luckily I had my leather jacket ready as I exited the building. My roommate and I exchanged words and walked half a block to my car, ready for our 3-hour + ride home. The drive was filled with adrenaline, octane blasts, and black coffee. This was my final concert trip of 2020…
Now in the middle of December 2020, I am DESPERATLY wanting to go back to concerts. That last concert was in March 2020 with Cult of Luna, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Intronaut, some of my favorite post-metal, folk, progressive metal (respectively) acts out there. More shows were planned and tickets were purchased to at least two more concerts for that year with many more to come. I usually go to about 10 to 15 every year. But with the lockdown and many bands that I enjoy (rightfully) staying safe, it’s given a new appreciation for listening to music at home.
Although I haven’t listened to as much new music as I had hoped this year, there are currently five albums that I would love to bring your current attention to consider. Now fair warning, I love music from all ends of the spectrum (although I have a slight disposition for the extreme). These albums and artists cover a wide range of genres from experimental hip-hop to luscious country to blackgaze (black metal mixed with shoegaze) and much more. Enough of my strange genre descriptions, let’s jump into the albums in no particular order:
Show Me A Dinosaur – Plantgazer(December 4, 2020)
This band’s name had my head turning, I seriously thought that they may be an emo/punk outfit. I was DEAD wrong. It is a four-piece from Russia that thread that beautiful line between chaos and order. Show Me A Dinosaur play a distinct combination of black metal and shoegaze that blend gorgeously, akin to Deafheaven’s Sunbather (2014) with a slight lean into gaze. The album opens up with the uplifting “Sunflower” that flows in-and-out of that lackadaisical afternoon you may have been in prior to listening. Much as the album name of Plantgazer suggests, the concept of the record places one in the forefront of a situation where isolation meets a sunny day filled with your only company being plants. There’s no way to head outside, so the only life you have around you are your green companions. Fascinating abstraction and duality to our current living situation. If you enjoy harsh sonic shrieks and gentle melodies that drift you away to another world, then this album is for you.
Clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned(October 23, 2020)
Horror and rap, all masked up like Ghostface from Scream (1996). I must warn the reader (listener?) about this one, as it dives deep into experimental hip-hop, which even I needed to adapt to for true enjoyment. Ever since I have heard “Say the Name,” I CANNOT STOP singing “Candle sticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned…” it has encroached into my psyche. Experimental hip-hop is not something that is new to me, as I was indoctrinated in 2012 with Death Grip’s Money Store, but I haven’t been hooked into that twisted world in ages. But once I knew that actor Daveed Diggs, who blew me away in Blindspotting (2018), was the MC, I was hooked even further. Give this one a spin, if you enjoy the stranger things in life.
Honey Harper – Starmaker(March 6, 2020)
I had no idea that I would have my second coming of being-stunned-by-country-music moments, so soon. Kacey Musgraves absolutely blew me AWAY back in 2018 with Golden Hour, and I haven’t looked at modern country the same way since. There has been some solid outputs from Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, and much slept on Adam Faucett, but along came Honey Harper to pull me back. This dreamy cosmic dive into a melancholic-filled world, is an absolute delight of the senses. My favorite tracks include, “In Light of Us,” “Suzuki Dreams,” and “Strawberry Lite,” but the whole album is the journey you desire. Trust me it’s as sweet as honey.
Ichiko Aoba – Windswept Adan(December 2, 2020)
Okay…how to explain Aoba’s music? Honestly, I can’t. I had an amalgamation of Bjork, Joanna Newsom, and Timbre all wrapped up in my head, but Aoba is incredibly unique. It may be hard to describer her music, but I can tell you exactly where and when I listened to this album, and the emotions that washed over me like a calm monsoon.
I drove in a light drizzle through a park that I’ve visited countless times in the past few months. Each trip a transition of the season, seeming to last years. My head was clear and my eyes gazed upon the stillness of the trees, the movement of the water, and the drifting of the dark clouds throughout the hour. I could have stayed there forever, but I know life goes on past those moments of clarity. If you want to be carried away and relax for awhile, do yourself a favor and give her a listen.
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full(October 30, 2020)
My most consistently played record of the past month and one that gives me goosebumps each and every time. Blending the ethereal dark-folk world of Emma Ruth Rundle (who I had last seen live in March!) and the crushing doom-ridden riffs of Thou, we see two worlds that certainly should NOT belong together. It’s quiet, it’s loud, and it’s something that grips you upon first sitting. Albeit not for the faint of heart, it is a rewarding listen for those brave enough to delve deep. Pure artistry bundled together in ambience and metal. 🤘
There are many other albums that I have been listening to from past to present, but I will leave you with five current albums on my rotation. 2021 is right around the corner, and HOPEFULLY, so are concerts. I can’t wait to walk through those venue doors with my black boots stepping on beer-stained floors, earplugs snug in my ear, and a leather jacket wrapped around my body.
What are some albums from 2020 that are on your radar? What are your favorites from 2020? What are the bands/albums you’ve been listening to lately?
Waking up in America was a fever dream. Walking off the plane and getting into my car that I hadn’t driven in four months had me feeling lethargic. I had just left from China earlier that day(s) and had experienced one of the biggest moments of my life thus far. I wouldn’t wake up from that dream until I was in another…
March 2020 was the start of that second dream, well actually nightmare, in the form of covid-19. We’ve all been going through it and have had our ups and mostly downs, and I certainly don’t want to talk it to death. But somewhere in this nightmare, I discovered a little gem of happiness to occupy those moments of horror. This was through the wonderful world of stop-motion animation. I find myself asking, how did that start?
Enter Karel Zeman, the wonderous Czech filmmaker that would colour my world with such delight, it was like being a kid all over again. I had recently bought the incredible set from Criterion showcasing three of his ‘fantastic journeys,’ and was instantaneously blown away. The first film in the set Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955), threw me back 65 million years to my childhood when I watched the US-release version from 1960! Obviously, I watched a taped version in the 90’s growing up in my dinosaur phase, but I remembered those four boys going through a cave into a world of prehistoric proportions. Adventure awaited!
Afterwards, I jumped straight into the other two films, Invention for Destruction (1958) and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962) and devoured them in the visual feast that it provided. Taking inspiration for Jules Verne’s classic stories, Zeman crafted such gorgeous worlds in which only certain geniuses could imagine, let alone put on film. The painstaking process of making such works just BLOWS my mind! And one could not help but mention the extra features on this set, from Zeman’s early short films and the beautifully designed 3D pop-up features for each film. It’s absolutely as fabulous as the Baron himself! But my journey wouldn’t stop there…
Jumping to late summer, my journey into stop-motion and clay animation (claymation) was once again re-awakened with the introduction into the wonderful worlds of Ray Harryhausen. At the time, I had just jumped further into another boutique blu-ray label from the UK called Indicator (Powerhouse Films) and had just picked up a few adventure films you may have heard about? Those films being the classic Sinbad films of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), all with special visual effects created by Harryhausen.
Once again, I was thrust into a world of pure imagination and wonder. From the opening sequence of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), came the shocking cyclops that was wonderfully placed within the film alongside our ‘live’ characters. Every movement from the creature suggested life beyond the special effect. I knew then that I had something special again, even if the films didn’t have any threads of connection to the other. Each film all had different characters playing Sinbad, from Kerwin Mathews to John Phillip Law to Patrick Wayne, but the magic of Harryhausen was present in each. Hell, you even had different directors for each from Nathan Juran to Gordon Hessler to Sam Wanamaker! I knew I was hooked once again.
It’s now December and time again to get enraptured by claymation! This time in a form most of us revisit each year from Rankin-Bass, in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970). Both films have stupendous stop-motion work that always brought a smile to my face, bringing happiness not only to the characters in the films themselves, but also to almost everyone who watches these stories. How could you not narrate along with Fred Astaire or sing “Silver and Gold” at the top of your lungs? It’s almost IMPOSSIBLE, not to feel the joy emanating from such delights.
This year has been rough for all of us, but I am finding that magic of being whisked away to another world as much-needed therapy. The year is not over yet, and our daily fight to make sure that our loved ones and ourselves can make it to the next, is at the forefront of my mind. This week, I have jumped back into the works of Ray Harryhausen with It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) and even enjoyed my second viewing of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) within a few weeks of the other, and have been enjoying every second of it.
It still feels like I’m living in a fever dream. Hell, it often feels like a nightmare. But knowing the magic of these cheerful claymation creations, has brought out some much needed joy that a lot of us need right now. I don’t know about you, but I want to start 2021 with that spirit of imagination found within us all.
What has got you through 2020? Have you discovered or re-discovered something that has brought you happiness?
Glazing over the words, getting lost within a world. Stories unbound from the tether of the pages and seep into my pores. Peering out of of my daze are the worries of responsibility and a want for moving past the constant desire for more. The leaves are piling up…it’s the little things.
Let’s take a trip back to the heat of the summer. The trees radiant green and the ground is lush in it’s dry form. The grass is reaching towards the sun and trying to become taller, bolder, and wanting more. I’m wanting more.
It’s near the end of my second month of returning to work and a normalcy is returning to my structure. I had been out of work for nearly three months and needed some stability in my life. Work added that back, however I still had not seemed to be satisfied with how I was feeling. An overwhelming feeling of loss still plagued my conscious. Entered therapy.
Now I’ve NEVER considered therapy or counseling in my life, as I honestly felt that I dealt with stress and anxiety in a fairly productive way. I always had my escapism in film, books, and music. Those mediums certainly help, but not always the case and especially this particular year. The year of my loss of a full-time position of advising and teaching and the trajectory that I had established back in 2013. I needed more of a purpose and so I started going to therapy near the end of August, just to dip my toes (I was still not convinced).
The first therapy session felt strange. I had just rambled about my current state of meandering and had a variety of topics to unpack with my sudden interest in basketball, my increased presence on YouTube, and my dread of starting back in the school year part-time. My counselor listened and stated that we’d go further in the next session, two weeks from that initial date.
Between that time, something big happened. I was in the early stages of a relationship from someone that I had just really started getting to know, and it was long distance…added stress (but good stress). I entered the second therapy session with the new news and began to unpack my anxieties of starting something with someone in the current state of the world. Luckily, it was the start of quelling those insecurities.
From the third session and onward, I would add new elements of current and past puzzles that would present themselves. We talked about my father and our strange relationship with hoarding/collecting, we talked about my desire to do more for community (the girlfriend also helped in that regard), we talked about learning to take a step back away from situations and scenarios that gave me pause through techniques and strategies of priority shifting. It really started to make sense and it was in the small details.
Since I’ve began counseling, my output of clearing away the stresses of each day have begun to dissipate. Sure each day has it’s challenge, big or small. Hell, I’ve even had one session that I went in with a giant anvil that landed on my toes swelling from pain. But those challenges have been allowed for more growth. My confidence and desire to want to do more for those in my life and for myself has grown, as the Grinch would say, three times BIGGER.
It’s the last day of November and a few hours away until my next session. I don’t know how it will go, but I know that with all those little leaves piling up around me I can see the colours changing all around me, each one has a story to tell.
Have any of you done counseling or therapy? If so, has it helped you?
It’s raining with a thick choke of smog above my head, blotting out the sun. The puddles on the street corners surround my feet, getting deeper by the second. People are crowded around faceless now with their stares. A few steps ahead and a few steps behind are three people that I’ve only known for two months. They are determined to make the rain go away…
It’s Thanksgiving 2019 and I am in Chongqing, China. More specifically I am at Southwest University in Beibei, right outside gate number two (Èr hào Mén). My three friends are Zoey, Wanyi, and Monica and they are determined to make today count for my sake. Quickly moving through the crowded streets with our boots splashing against the pavement, we make our way to my favourite noodle shop and eat my favourite dish. We are about to have a Thanksgiving dinner, and biangbiang mein is the new turkey.
The meal was deliciously special, and nothing short of a day that I will never forget. The sheer fact that my Chinese friends made sure that this American had a day of thanks, when the holiday is not widely celebrated (rightfully so, it’s rife with historical problems), is just a testament to their friendship. And the noodles, HOLY SHIT the noodles! I miss them to this day and cannot wait to have them again with their wide shape, spicy aroma, and unique taste. It sure as hell beat turkey…
A brisk coolness breathes through the air with warm rays from the sun. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and have fallen to a grave scattered above the roots. The sound of children laughing in the distance and the sight of cars gathered around homes. The scene brings comfort, but also dread. The stillness frightens me.
It’s Thanksgiving 2020 and I am in Springfield, Missouri under quarantine. My mother has been sick with a fever for the past few days and has been staying at my childhood home with my father. Every Thanksgiving that I can remember, has been held there. But not this year. The year of 2020 has been taken over by covid-19, a viral infection that has brought many deaths to the world and continues to take more. Luckily, my mother tested negative the day before and is recovering. Yet still, we are quarantined.
In about an hour, I will be meeting my mother, father, sister, cousins, aunts, and uncles over Zoom. We won’t be eating together, but we still be able to meet. How could my last two Thanksgivings be so strange? Looking through a screen at another person has become as common as breathing. That thought boggles my mind, yet I am so incredibly lucky to say that each of them are in my life still. My family is still here and I am too.
I’ll end on a happy note. This year may have been one that has had it’s ups and downs, twists and turns, all bent in shape and form. But at this moment, more than any moment of all my Thanksgivings, I am the MOST grateful I’ve ever been. This goes out to you mom, dad, sis, my best friend Ben, my girlfriend Vanessa, my friends, my film community, and everyone I have ever met or will meet. I am grateful to have you and this is my topsy-turvy thanks!
Above is a pirouette en dehors. It is a basic movement known by those who engage in ballet meaning “a spin, turning outwards.” This is where the dancer turns toward the direction of the leg they lift into the turning position. For instance, a dancer with their left foot in front, will lift their right foot into the pirouette and will also turn right with the pirouette en dehors. But why am I talking about an elementary ballet movement?
It’s simple. I am attempting to turn outward in a movement that I am already engaged within. That movement is my love of physical media, specifically within the context of film and books. The process of a story, whether through watching or reading, can be interpreted in a multitude of ways and also be fundamentally related. So I began asking, what about books regarding film? Or books about those who create or star in film? Or maybe even the stories of the people who get inspiration from those who create or star in film? This is where the book journey idea blossomed, but let’s go back a bit shall we…
For anyone following my YouTube channel over the past few months, I have been having friends from all over the world on to discuss their love of film. And it’s been INCREDIBLE! It all started by reaching out to my friend Chris Buie from Film Stocked, as we sat down for a 30+ minute conversation about his film journey and the paths that it continues to take him. After that moment, I knew something special was about to happen and that was the flood of guests to follow. I met with my good friend Steph (Movie Chatter), who has been a pillar of support during my early days on the platform, who shared her wonderous journey. Next, I met with my (now) girlfriend, Vanessa (Veebs), who shared her love of silent film and passion for the community that I had just started engaging with more and more. Following suit would be my friends Dave (Cinema Dave Media), Chris Mohan, SJSFilms, Sam (Film Blogger Sam), David (Cartoon Fortress), Rob (themovievault), Daniel (Cobwebs Podcast), Bailee Walsh, Doug (COOLTOY), Heath (Cereal at Midnight), and more to come!
Each of my friends through their film journeys, have inspired my own, and the journey never stops. Enter the Book Journey Series. As a reader of this blog, you know that I love film, records, and books, but I’ve not really crossed them over into the world of YouTube. My channel is dedicated to film and discussion on that medium, but something really clicked about a month ago. It was a conversation that I had with my girlfriend that inspired my pirouette en dehors, that spin of turning outwards towards something already going in the same direction. Why not add books to the mix?
To date, I have had two incredible guests for the Book Journey Series. The first being Veebs, that unbelievable girlfriend of mine, who had an INCREDIBLE time going down memory lane with books ranging from topics of film to art to ballet. The entire video is unedited, and she wanted it that way. It’s remarkable, honest, and raw, and certainly worth your time. Also go check out her blog. The second and most recent, was with Raquel Stecher from the Out of the Past blog and a bajillion other places (links on the blog), who has remarkable knowledge of all things classic film and the books written about that time. That astounding knowledge flows within her journey and her passion shines through with dynamism.
Both Vanessa and Raquel have fantastic stories, but this is just the start of our pirouette. There is SO much more to come! Each story that is told, whether film or book, will add movement into the ever-evolving dance that continues to inspire us. Our community has many voices and each of us motivates the other to continue this dance. With each rotation we take, turning outwards, we begin to understand what a simple spin means as a communal whole.
What do you think of this shift? Do you enjoy the Film Journey Series, Book Journey Series, or both? Let me know what you think, and reach out if you’d been interested in joining a future episode.
The needle drops and the static evokes a spirit recorded in time and space. Guitars strum, strings breathe life, drums are struck, and the muse speaks into existence. I close my eyes and imagine the scenery of a lush countryside filled with rolling prairies that stretch miles beyond sight. Or I visualize a dark forest with twisted limbs reaching towards the vapor that blankets the skyline and blackened earth below my feet. It is all dependent on my mood. Not all my musical journeys share such a contrast between light and dark, but I seem to be strangely pulled towards that dynamism of the human experience.
Music has always had this effect on people, evoking an array of emotions from melancholy to joy, from sadness to anger, and from hate to love. This is nothing new, and everyone knows the power of music. But everyone’s music journey looks different and how we interact with the form is as ethereal as the memories that haunt us, for better or worse. This past week has been incredibly rough; there was an election on the forefront of everyone’s minds, stresses from working, and personal struggles that have gotten me to think about how I interact with this form. Let’s dive into what music has done in my times of need.
Let’s start from the beginning shall we…
It’s 1998. I am downstairs in the basement of my childhood home with my best friend Robbie, and he just brought over Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. At this point, I had been listening to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys on repeat, and my friend VOWED to change my ways. I turned the knob to the ancient tubed television that dwelled in the center of the room, blew the dust out of my copy of Goldeneye, inserted the cartridge into the Nintendo 64, and turned the dial to channel 3. Meanwhile, Robbie walked up to my stereo and popped in the CD that would change my world. It was from there that Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, Billy Idol, Freddie Mercury, and the world of classic rock struck their collective chords. I was happy.
Eight years passed and I had grown taller and wider. My cheeks are as plumb as a cherry tomato and my stomach has rolls that you can grab. I’m very shy and confidence is of little value in my world. In typical teenage fashion, I am confused in a flurry of emotion and music was my get away. Listening to the rhythmic blues of Led Zeppelin and progressive sounds Pink Floyd has evolved into angst. A blisteringly smooth balance of chaos and beauty from the Deftones to the grimy Southern hard rock of Rob Zombie, are just two examples of what I escaped to when I needed them most. But ultimately, I was confused.
It’s 2012 and I am fresh into college with the most confidence, well actually the most narcissistic I have every been, and thankfully since. My poison of choice is metal and I’ve dived deep into a pool of death, sludge, and darkness (trust me it’s therapeutic). Honestly, I wanted music that would make my ears bleed. The most consuming music phase of my life, I scoured the internet daily for new music and listened to it whenever and wherever I could. Going on walks, working out at the gym each day of the week, and every time the car was driven, I wanted it constantly playing. HELL, I even got in arguments over why my music taste was better than my friends. I know I was angry.
I’m 24 years old and I’ve been working at my local record store for the past 3 years, but there’s a specter looming around the place. A death knell is about to ring. For those past 3 years, I have found so much out about myself. The ectoplasm that oozes from the speakers hang overhead with memories of countless conjured spirits from Chopin and Stravinsky to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, from Marvin Gaye and The Temptations to Johnny Cash and George Strait, from Massive Attack and Garbage to The Cure and The Replacements, from Black Sabbath and The Beatles to Mastodon and Deafheaven, the list is endless…All of those spirits we could summon by just moving a needle over a 45. I was safe.
Three years had passed and I’m in China, totally lost. Natural curiosity of the world had not prepared my soul for the loss of connection with those whom had been a constant in life. Friends and family were just a memory, as new faces and experiences coloured my world. Everything was shut down from my social life, except Spotify? It was my solace and place of remembrance of knowledge and identity, music saved my essence. All those moments of anger, sorrow, and guilt had washed away with a pair of earphones. Listening to Phoebe Bridger’s Stranger in the Alps, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour, and The Contortionist’s Clairvoyant cleansed my palette and wonderfully whisked away feelings of hopelessness. Yet, I was scared.
It’s 2020 and near the end of the year…and what a FUCKING year it has been. Returning home to this ‘New World’ was a complete 180 degree spin that angled back to isolation once again. Losing my full-time position and being stuck at home with boundless amounts of time, you’d think as a fan of film, books, and music that I would be in heaven…but no. Hell, I even started playing and watching basketball (I never liked sports)! Records were once again conjured from the dead, breathing life into occupied space. Eyes closed, body curled, and mindlessness washed over me once the needle was dropped. I was lost.
Enter the film community on YouTube, my saving grace of friends and fellowship. The world seems to be crumbling around us, but this positive light brings hope. We bring each other up in those small moments of our days, and that means the world. Through that community, I met someone who reminded me of who I was and who I am, bonding over our mutual love of community and what we value and cherish. Music once again coloured my world, and I could finally share it with another soul. Re-discovery replaced feelings of wandering. I am in love.
The needle has lifted from the center of the record and the static is replaced with silence. The prairie fades into the distance and the dark forest dissipates to black. Music can transport us to worlds beyond our imagination and can evoke any emotion that can be dreamt. In our most trying times and in those sweet moments that seem to last forever in our periphery, the power that music has is limitless. Caught up in this melancholic daze, the ebb and flow conjured through music is what can haunt us, but it can save us too.
What about your experience with music? Can you think of a music memory that evoked an emotion? I’d love to hear about it, whether it is positive, negative, or somewhere in-between.
The air is thick with fog, an encroaching darkness consuming the night. Headlights beam through the black, like an angler fish attracting prey. The road goes on and on, and your mind is racing along the tracks. You’re on to your last cigarette and you can’t get what happened out of your mind…You murdered someone and you can’t get away.
With the spooky season coming to an end and last jack-o’-lantern losing its light, comes November. And that means it’s time to watch some film noir. Clueless detectives, murders abound, and lit matches…all in glorious black-and-white. I’m ready for the hazy exploration of the night. I must admit that I have not dipped my toes in to much of this genre of film, but this year I am ready. As November 2020 rolls on ahead, I am planning on watching as many film noirs as possible.
So what’s the plan?
I’m planning to watch a noir film for EVERY day in November. Actually, it should be every night. 😉 And that is going to be no easy task. I had a difficult time with October with horror films, yet with little to no effort, I was able to see 23 films out of the 31 days in the month. Therefore, I believe that I can try my best at this mission. As long as no one blows out the match I just struck…
Let’s just start with what I have seen thus far on my November journey, starting with the first four days of the month and a list of the films that I plan to watch. Beginning with a double feature for the first day of month! First up is a little film from the Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema box set from Kino Lorber (find it here) in:
Witness to Murder (1954)
Barbara Stanwyck in Witness to Murder (1954)
Coming out only a few weeks before Hitchcock’s Rear Window, is this little underappreciated gem starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, and Gary Merrill. Oddly enough, the film has a similar plot to the aforementioned Hitchcock production, but has it’s own charm. Cheryl Draper (Stanwyck) discovers a murder happening across the street and when the police arrive, the body is gone and the man in question claims to know nothing. This cat-and-mouse game goes on throughout the film to a climatic finish. One aspect of social commentary of the time, seems to be the belief that women are delusional and not to be taken too seriously. It makes for through storytelling, but the truth of the time still stings.
After watching murder unfold, I next had to move on to the highlight of the day in:
Out of the Past (1947)
Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past (1947)
Jacques Tourneur directs this absolutely STUNNING production with an all-star cast in Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, and Richard Webb. Jeff Bailey/Markham (Mitchum) is peacefully living his life as a gas station owner when someone from his own past comes calling. Thus marks the beginning of this dark noir filled with twists and turns, dipping from past-to-present. The most marvelous acting in the film comes from Jane Greer who plays Kathie Moffat, a love interest who seems to good to be true. If you haven’t check out any noirs before, this is a great start! Find it on blu-ray here from the Warner Archive Collection.
Next up is a Hitchcock film that has been unfortunately collecting too much dust on my shelf until now. On November 2nd, the day seemed right to say…
I Confess (1953)
Montgomery Clift in I Confess (1953)
Another wonderful blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection (here) comes this fantastic drama that pits belief against duty. A murder is committed and Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) hears the confessional, and is now powerless to help. The film has many threads that tie the characters together and masterfully unfolds in a way that will keep you guessing. Alongside Clift, stars Anne Baxter and Karl Malden who are both phenomenal here. You may know who the murderer is, but there is more than meets the eye with this mystery.
On November 3rd, I decided to evade the madness of the election by ending my evening with a little Marilyn Monroe in…
Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
WOW! I did not expect this film to turn out the way it did. Set during one long night in a New York hotel, with a female bar singer (Ann Bancroft), the man who’s trying to win her back (Richard Widmark), and a babysitter who is trying to find her way in the Big Apple (Marilyn Monroe). The story is compelling in the relationships, or lack thereof, that we are witnessing unfold, and something is just slightly off. Without giving too much away, let’s just say you have to watch this one. And it’s only a short 78-minute run time! Just call room 809 and ask if Bunny is alright 😉 Find it here from Amazon, just know it is expensive as it is OOP (Out-of-Print).
Last, but certainly not least is the film that I will be watching today (November 4th), once I finally get off work and take a slight deviation from the country road onto the highway in…
Tom Neal in Detour (1945)
This film is absolutely STUNNING! I have seen it once before on the Criterion Channel (right as it was about to launch in fact), and I recall how dark and gritty this film struck. Made on a very low budget, director Edgar G. Ulmer hit this adaptation of Martin Goldsmith’s novel with the same name from 1939, out of the park. The film follows New York pianist Al Roberts (Tom Neal) as he hitchhikes across the country with only a dime to his name, to find and marry his girlfriend who left for Hollywood to seek fame. Along the way he gets himself into quite the pickle with a body, a car, and a girl who knows a little too much. Story aside, this film is presented in a stunning 4K restoration from Criterion (find it here) and has quite the story to it’s survival. This is one you surely do NOT want to miss!
What’s on the Queue?
That is all I have seen thus far! Noirvember is just beginning and with many more films to see, here are just a few that I have on my list: Spellbound (1945), Rififi (1955), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Wrong Man (1956), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and so many more!
What about you? Are you gearing up for some smoky noir nights? Recommendations? Tell me what you’ll be watching for November and let me know what you think of my choices.
Turning the pages and feeling the dead leaves between my fingers. The physical motion of touching words and seeing the colour change before your eyes. It’s cathartic. This fall has brought so many changes to my life; from the online community of friends that continue to inspire me each day to my appreciation of the simpler things in life. One of those nice changes is reading and OH have I been reading. I have even started going to the library! Something I never thought that I would do in my life.
My exploration of my local library has only just begun! I have stuck to a few sections, mostly the film section and the biographical nonfiction, but I am wanting to explore more. I’ve always enjoyed going between fiction and nonfiction as I read, so there are many areas that will need some serious browsing. Lately I have been reading some books that go back and forth between genres and betwixt reality and imagination.
This will be an October reading roundup, where I explore the books that have kept me up all night and the ones that I have risen early with a nice warm cup of joe between my hands. I’ll be exploring the books that I have read, books that I am reading, and books that are on my reading list. So let’s first jump into those books that I’ve devoured from cover to cover…
WHAT I HAVE READ
David Bowie: A Life (2017) by Dylan Jones
This book put me through the ringer, I haven’t cried this much in a LONG time. I remember exactly where I was when David Bowie passed away…I was in the record store in which I worked. It was exactly the spot I needed to be in to celebrate his amazing life. In this wonderful book, Dylan Jones interviews the many people in Bowie’s life from acquaintances to best friends from lovers to those who passed him by on the train. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a man who changed everyone around him. I could NOT put this one down. Give it a read and don’t forget to travel to Mars.
The Night Ocean (2017) by Paul LaFarge
A novel about madness, love, deception, and Lovecraftian horror? Twists and turns abound, this tale of a woman, Marina Willett, trying to piece together her husbands latest obsession with H.P. Lovecraft and sudden disappearance is quite the hook. Unfortunately, the book spiraled into something that I found rather dull, despite all the twists and turns. It fizzled out after about the halfway point, yet I finished it. It is still a decent read, but it is incredibly creative.
Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond (2020) by David J. Skal
An absolute DELIGHT! I cannot thank both Raquel and Vanessa for recommending this terrifying tome. The book is illustrated gorgeously with films spanning the decades of horror that has haunted our silver screen. I read it within a day, but could not help but stop and gaze at all of the amazing photos of films that I’ve seen since I was a child to films that I’ve always wanted to see. David J. Skal does a remarkable job in describing the setting and behind-the-scenes moments for each of these 62 (that’s right, it’s not just 31) fright favourites! Go ahead, sink your teeth in.
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Horror Cinema: A Filmography…(1995) by Mark Miller
What can I say about this wonderous duo? Before them came Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, but they never worked together as much as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They worked together on 22… FUCKING 22 collaborations! Each chapter discusses the films that defined their work, such as The Curse of Frankenstein to Horror Express to each Dracula film they starred in together (many they did solo) and so much more! Miller writes in the style of an academic, so it can be rather dry at points. However, it is such an informative exploration into that wonderful world of horror, sci-fi, mystery, and every ounce of love and respect that had for each other.
Apparently the second edition was printed earlier within the year, with revised and expanded information. If you can try to borrow this one from the library, as it may be a tad expensive 😉
WHAT I AM READING
Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923 (2020) Edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger
Look at that COVER! Could you pass this up if you were browsing the library shelf? Currently, I am about 6 stories into this fascinating collection of female authors (many who had to use pen names to get published!) who write about various supernatural tales. My personal favourites thus far are about an ancient flower that carries a mummy’s curse to a tale of an arctic exploration that leads to a dimensional encounter of prismatic terror. I’ll be sure to finish this one shortly, and I know I will not be able to sleep…
Bruce Lee: A Life (2018) by Matthew Polly
My latest acquisition from the local library and it nearly leapt out in front of my eyes. Honestly, Bruce Lee is someone that I NEVER thought I would be interested in…but this year changed everything. The pandemic has shifted a lot of my interests and one of the biggest alterations was my love of athleticism. From basketball to kung fu, I dived deep. And during the month of August, I was able to pick up the amazing boxset from Criterion that showcased the films of Bruce Lee. Thus entered this dragon! I have only read the preface and introduction, but I know that looking over this man’s short life will be a celebration of his legacy.
BOOKS ON MY READING LIST
Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee (2003) by Sir Christopher Lee
I mean, come on…it’s CHRISTOPHER FUCKING LEE.
Darcey Bussell Evolved (2018) by Darcey Bussell
I must admit that this will be an unexplored venture. My wonderful girlfriend Vanessa, recommended this book in a video of ours. In that video, she explored her journey with books and how they’ve shaped her growth in various interests from fiction to nonfiction, from comics to biography, and from paintings to ballet. And one of the books that struck most, was this biography by Darcey Bussell. Vanessa’s edition is gorgeous with a cover and signature limited to 500 copies, but it is available in hardcover format on Amazon. Knowing more about the life of one of the most prolific dancers in the world will be such an exciting read! I’m ready to dip my toes (or is it bend my toes?)
That’s all for now! What did you think of my October Reading Roundup? I am curious to know what you have been reading for the month of October and what you plan to read for the coming months (or year). Let me know what you think! The leaves will soon wither and dry as winter approaches, so grab a blanket and a nice cup of hot tea/coffee and snuggle up to a good book.
Waking up to the most terrifying storm of my life, seemed surreal. I was six. In an unfinished basement with my mother, father, and sister on a cold floor. My dad asked if I was okay. Was I? Shadows danced with light across the window and the siren beckoned her continuous wail. The room was nearly empty at the time. Stilts and slab. I recall seeing a few boxes at the time…
Five times. I have driven five times between my studio apartment to a room that I’ve all but forgot. It has been two years, but the memory is an etch-a-sketch. The car was piled with boxes. Piles and piles of boxes…
The year is 2020, January 1st. I am in China, Chongqing to be specific. I’m walking past Gate 5 or Wǔ hào mén, one of the things I do recall learning in Mandarin. Walking home, I notice the lights. Florescent blues with tints of orange and yellow, written in a language that I cannot comprehend. It probably says something like “Happy New Year Chongqing, Happy 70th birthday,” I do not know. I left in five days; I was saying goodbye to another home. I only had a few boxes…
This drawn out year, with the summer a remnant of drought. Packages at the door weekly, sometimes each day. A repetition of boxes; a moment of clarity.
It is October 2020, and many of you are wondering “What the HELL is this guy talking about?” To explain these episodes in my life, I’ll have to make the distinction between ‘hoarding’ and ‘collecting.’ Without going in laborious detail, my father was once a collector turned hoarder. Baseball memorabilla and any nickel and dime junk you would fondly remember if you were living in your past, haunting his life. Luckily, he’s an incredibly hard worker, working 60+ hours a week. He earns what he hoards. But his story will always be a part of my own.
This is where I fondly recall ALL those phases of mine. Dinosaurs, army men, Star Wars action figures, Nintendo 64, youth sports trophies, VHS tapes, burning mixtapes on CD, DVDs, comics, blu-rays, books…they all belong in boxes. I have always been a collector, not a hoarder. I can get rid of these boxes, unlike my father. But have they piled up?
Shelves take the corporeal form of these boxes. Sitting atop a carpeted floor, tucked within chestnut, hovering above empty space: the boxes are full. I have decided to declutter these shelves, starting with the clothes in my closet to the films, records, and books that occupy the area. It has been a process of renewal.
Over the past month and a half, I have been seriously considering the purpose of these boxes. They’ve taught the lessons of growing up in a family that rarely said “No,” they’ve taught the essence of insular materialism, they’ve taught me…to care for others and to prioritize what brings happiness to not only myself, but to those I love. All I had to do was open those cardboard folds, blow away the dust, and see what truly lay in front of my eyes.
This is not a unique experience, and I am fully aware of its privilege. The ability to collect is something that can be profoundly simple and sweet, yet it can become mundane and cyclic. I want to break the latter and place those boxes closer to my heart.
I did this to let go. That storm still brews in my mind in mountains of hoarded gold. A constant desire to fulfill the need to own everything. It will never go away, but it has been quelled. My thirst has been quenched. My father’s scope in full purview. Yet… I am still a collector. I just have fewer boxes.