Saturday, July 1, 2017

New Digs

I just unpacked the last box a day or so ago. I turned in the keys to the old apartment on Thursday. I live here, now.
I was not sorry to see the last of those 3 flights of stairs without an elevator, I can tell you that.
This is the first time I've lived in a house and not an apartment in almost 15 years. That's a really odd thought. The last time was a four bedroom that I shared with two other guys and a newly-married couple. That's a particularly odd thought, too. A friend of mine said the other day that she'd only moved 3 times in her whole life. I've lost count of how many times I've moved.
I made my first ever mortgage payment this morning.
So here is the first blog post from the new digs. From the new office.
I'll be honest--during the entire boxing up and moving and then unpacking, I haven't written a single word on the novel. No news on that front. I'll get settled in here, though, and then get back to it.
I did, however, in the unpacking, find the paper where I laid out the initial structure of the novel I finished last year, though. That was really interesting, to see how it changed from the initial planning to the final thing that I turned in. Hopefully, as I keep saying, you'll see that one next year sometime.

Remains is now live. It's out there in the world in both paperback and on Kindle. That, too, is a really odd thought.
Unfortunately, due to a postal snafu, I still haven't even seen it. My author's copies have disappeared in transit, somehow. They are out there in the ether. If you've gotten your copy already, tweet me with a picture of you with it and let me know what you think of the design.
Due to the stress of the move, I haven't been reading very fast, either. I'm still plugging away on Rice's Blackwood Farm.

Not her best, but part of an interesting trend in her work where the undead (vampires) become involved with the living (Talamasca, Mayfairs, etc.) who can see the unquiet dead (spirits, ghosts, etc.). I'm also fascinated with her idea that large, old Louisiana families all wind up having sex with their cousins constantly--is she playing with the stereotype of inbreeding with tongue in cheek, or is she finding things in her research that I just never heard of?
So, next month we'll hopefully be back on track. Plus, the ink will be dry on something I'm working on putting together now, and I'll be able to tell you about that.
As always, thanks for your support.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

14 Boxes

So Summer finally arrives. I find myself still watching the skies, though as if at any moment there might be 6 inches of snow. I don't think I'll ever get used to how volatile the change the weather can be, here.
Part of the big news is this: I bought a house. I know, I know...this is a pretty standard thing for most young couples. You have to understand, though, that coming from the background I come from, nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. I'm not going to go on some rant about being a "self-made man" because we all know that "I did it entirely alone" narrative is bullshit, but I will say this: many of the things that are "well, duh" accomplishments for people are not givens for me.
The new house is coming together. Just yesterday I had blinds installed. The guy who lived there before had just thrown up some quicky cheap curtain rods and then the most god awful cheap green curtains. I'm not kidding--the fabric felt like it was rubber. I don't know what he was doing there, but the overall feel for much of the place was "nice place slowly sliding into crack den." I'm rescuing it. There's a huge list of things to do--tear out the carpet and put in hardwood floors, plant a tree in the back yard, put up wasp traps, etc. It's so strange to me to have that list, though.
I mean, earlier this week I bought a lawnmower.
If you knew me in person you'd know that's hysterical.
It's got an electric motor, though, and a really cool battery charging system so it's ecofriendly and quiet. You can laugh all you want, I think it's the shiz.
Of course, this also means that I'm packing up to move from my apartment. I boxed up books already. 14 boxes. Even I shake my head at that. Mind, that's not even all of them. I donated a huge chunk to the Friends of the Library booster group for their annual booksale. I donated a huge chunk of my graphic novels to the school's library. I'm giving away something like 8 bags of old theory books to the students that I know are going on to grad school. Even after all that--14 boxes.
It's an addiction. 
Remains is now out. You can purchase the paperback
direct from the publisher, Lethe Press Books
or from Amazon
We're hoping to have e-text available soon and maybe, just maybe, if you cross your fingers and squeeze your eyes real tight, there might maybe possibly be an audio book. More on that soon. If you follow me on my social media, you have already seen this, but here is the book trailer:
Still plugging away on the current work in progress. Just crossed over the 42K words mark on the rough draft, so about halfway to my goal length for it. Sven from Rebel Satori gave me a fantastic book to read as part of my research for the current WIP and I want to pass that title along to you. The book is Bull of Heaven by Michael G. Lloyd
It's a thorough exploration of the connections early occultism (especially the New York covens/branches/lodges) has with the early gay liberation movement. I knew absolutely none of this and so this book is helpful. There'll be a review on Goodreads fairly soon (with the move and also teaching this summer, the reading is going slowly).
One of the classes I'm teaching this summer is a romp through Greco/Roman mythology. I'm doing it as a deep reading of Homer with the students. It's a hoot to come back to Iliad and Odyssey after some years away. One could find worse ways of spending a summer.
As always, thank you for your support. I hope you like Remains. I'm curious to see how that little boat does as I release it out into the ocean. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hummingbirds doggy-paddling

Spring has finally arrived. Well, at least for most of you. Just a few days ago we had a not-inconsequential snow storm and this morning we're still below freezing until about noon. I'm starting to get used to it, believe it or don't.
When the climate change that absolutely positively isn't happening as long as we all clap our hands, delete enough information from the web, and believe hard enough happens, the state I live in will become beachfront property with a really steady, lovely climate, so that's all good.
Work on the current book has picked back up. We're creeping up to 40k words. I did have to remove the recurring character, though. There was just no way that the universe that's developing in this current book and the one from the last one are the same universe. So the character got a facelift and when people talk about "the bombing incident" they mean something similar to the book that came before but not the same thing. I cast him as present-day Edward Furlong.

I think there's something extremely interesting about that actor these days. Go back and watch 2005's "The Crow: Wicked Prayer." It's not a great film by any means, but Furlong makes some very interesting choices. If I were Tarantino, I'd snap him up in an instant for something--hence him becoming the newly-renamed Special Agent Paul Lowe in my current WIP.
We are T-minus 1 month from the release of Remains. If I'm honest, I'm nervous. I stand behind the book, but I know that the book isn't for everyone. I don't write mainstream work. Even though this was written before I fell in love with transgressive fiction, it isn't exactly Anne of Green Gables, y'know? What's more is that I know that I'm working against the idea out there that if you're a gay man publishing work on a small press, it must be erotica. That's what so much of straight America (especially straight American writers) think. And look, there's nothing wrong with erotica. Not a thing. But it's just, that's not what I write. Imagine how upset John Scalzi would be to find one of his books reviewed for not being a very good romance novel. In other words, I'm worried that people will go into the book thinking "this is erotica" (even though it is clearly marketed as horror/suspense) and then think, "y'know, for erotica, there sure wasn't much sex." Am I a gay author? Yes. Do I publish on small presses? Yes, because small presses are my passion. But just because a book is by an LGBTQ author and it is not on a giant conglomerate press does not mean that it is erotica. I wish I could get more people to see that (and, again, no shade thrown at erotica at all--it's one of our oldest forms of literature, but as the saying goes, if you judge a hummingbird on how well it can doggy-paddle, yada yada yada).
Along with that, I've been thinking a lot about kinds of writers. I happen to live and work in a place where most of the writers that I run into do a very specific kind of writing--nature writing. And there's nothing wrong with that, either. I think some of the passages in Walden are marvelously beautiful. It's just not the kind of writing that I do. I'm not the kind of writer who believes that meditating in the woods will bring enlightenment for me (though I 100% recognize for others it might). I'm also not the kind of writer who thinks going out to bars constantly and on road trips to see Americana is the way to go, either (though, again, I get that for some people, that's what inspires them). I enjoy reading Kerouac, but I don't see a need to emulate him. For me, though, the model has always been Philip K. Dick. 44 published novels, 121 short stories. In other words, as the acronym reminds us, But In Chair Hands On Keyboard. Once, on Inside the Actor's Studio, Eddie Murphy said something that has stuck with me. When asked about the number of films he had said yes to and how the quality of them varied, he responded that he felt it was about recording the work. I took that to mean that of course the quality of the work is going to fluctuate over time, but the important thing is to record a process. Stephen King cranks out a 700-pager every five minutes (and Gods bless him for it). They're not all winners, but over time what we see, just like with PKD's output, a trajectory. We can see the work evolve. For the longest time, Chuck Palahniuk produced a novel a year. Were they all winners? You already know the answer to that. But through that output, we can see the evolution of an artist. A mind choosing certain pathways of expression, abandoning them, turning back and trying a different route.
To me, THAT's the goal.
I don't think that for a writer anything about the process should be more important than the writing itself. Can you win awards by going to South by Southwest Concerts and writing about it? Yeah. Can you produce beautiful prose by hiking national parks during the summer? Of course you can. Just don't forget that those things aren't more important than the actual work of producing writing.
Once, I was a poet, and very proud of that. Then I discovered that people easily fell in love with another poets' work because of the persona he created rather than his work itself. That was an important lesson for me.
All of that is by way of saying that I hope you like Remains when you read it. You might not, though. If that's the case, try to remember that there'll be another book along in 2018 (probably late in the year, but there will be a book). And, Gods willing, another in 2019. And 2020, etc. That, for me, it's about documenting the process, not trying to "be a writer." BICHOK, baby--that is the ONLY thing that matters.
As always, thank you so much for your support. We'll see you again in June with not only the release of Remains, but some other big news.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Interesting Times

As it turns out, we didn't really have to worry too much about the whitewashing of "Ghost in the Shell" because the movie just really isn't all that good.

 The material just doesn't translate all that well. If you've been around for a bit, you know I said the same thing about the reboot, "Ghost in the Shell: Arise." All the best moments in this current live action version came directly from the original 1995 film, anyway. So, do yourself a favor and just go watch that because it's a fucking masterpiece.
I've been really interested in H+ (posthuman/transhuman) studies these days. I'm about ankle deep in N. Katherine Hayles' amazing book, How We Became Posthuman

 at the moment and it is blowing my mind.
I just signed the contract on the book I keep calling Tygers. I'm confident that we can have it edited and ready for you to see by late 2018. That is if you're still talking to me after Remains (and here on Amazon), which comes out the first of June. I hope you've all pre-ordered your copies.
The current book is still creeping along. I swear I don't know what's wrong I just can't...well, I just can't. I don't want to shelve it, but I'd be lying if I said it had all of my attention right now. It's hovering at 28K at the moment, despite a real push during Spring Break to get through it. Sometimes I wonder if I should be that honest. I mean, John Scalzi doesn't moan about how difficult the current book is when he's writing. He just shows you adorable pictures of his cats and obliterates trolls on his twitter feed.
I love that dude (and his work).
As it turns out, I'm also in the middle of a house hunt. Tired of living in an apartment with a huge number of steps to get up before I can set the groceries down when the temperature is negative Iceland and the wind is at a billion miles an hour. A garage would be nice. I'm sure as soon as I find one and get it there'll be pictures on ye olde Instagram feed for you.
I wonder how the cat will take it.
The situation at work, like the situation with government in general these days, is best not spoken of. These are truly the "interesting times" that the old curse speaks of. I'll be honest, sometimes I find myself watching shows like "Colony" rooting for the aliens.
Still trying to get through Anne Rice's works. About pinky toe deep in Taltos at the moment and finding it vastly superior already to Lasher. I hope that holds up--I still have many books to go.
So, that's you up to date on me for March. Let's hope April does come in like a lamb...though that's not seeming very likely at the moment (if you are on my Instagram feed, you saw what the weather was like yesterday). Wish us luck, eh?

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Outlaw Gender of Books

I'm lucky enough to work at a school that believes very strongly in bringing in speakers and performers from outside for our students. This creates incredible opportunities for not just our students, but for those of us on the faculty, as well. We get to suggest friends and heroes as speakers and sometimes they say yes.
That is how I got to spend almost 48 hours solid hanging out with one of my all-time heroes, Kate Bornstein

A post shared by J. Warren (@author_j_warren) on

Kate's book, Gender Outlaw
is like a kind of bible to me. No. More important even than that. A person that I love dearly once said that, for academics (and maybe others), there is a constellation of books--usually about 4 or 5--that form a kind of narrative compass, a way of guiding oneself through the world.
For me, Gender Outlaw is one of the brightest stars in that constellation.
They say to never meet your heroes, and I guess that bad things have happened enough to earn that wisdom, but I have to tell you in this case? It couldn't have been less true. Kate was everything you'd expect of a buddhist shaman of genderqueerness and then some. Kate changed lives at this school and, at a time when my inspiration was running very low, got me back on my feet. Even some of the worst weather our state could throw at us didn't dampen Kate's spirits and the rest of us had no choice but to follow that lead. Kate's message of compassion, even in the space of disagreeing, is incredibly timely. The new book Kate is working on can't come fast enough.
So, at the risk of setting you up for failure--DO meet your heroes.
I also had the chance to attend the Southwest Pop Culture Association to read a paper. I had a meeting with a rep from Palgrave/McMillan while I was there. He was hoping that my paper was a part of a larger project but, unfortunately, it really isn't. It might be, but that's not how it started. He was lovely but I managed to be spazzy, have a nosebleed, have a piece of food come flying out of my mouth mid-sentence, AND arrive late. It was a disaster on all levels. Still, though, Univ. of Mississippi press contacted me, too, and we're starting to talk about ways to make my dissertation into a book, which would be awesome. Very very early days on that, though. I'll keep you updated.
Albuquerque was lovely, though. Gorgeous town.
And I got some suggestions from one of the panel for some new stuff to read: YA  books featuring non-binary gendered characters!
Jeff Garvin's novel, Symptoms of Being Human
and also Anne-Marie McLemore's When The Moon Was Ours
Always happy to have new stuff to read!
I've been slowly working my way through Anne Rice's work, too. I only ever made it as far as The Vampire Armand my first time through some (jesus, has it really been) almost 20 years ago. I've taken a small break, but I'm all the way through Lasher. Taltos is, of course, next. I'm trying to get all the way caught up. Some of it is guilt, to be honest--she's every bit as foundational to horror as Stephen King but I always turned my nose up at her. Admittedly, the books aren't magnificent, but she has some very interesting stuff going on. The Talamasca is very interesting to me in particular.
The book continues apace. About 24K words into it. Not going quickly, but steadily.
As always, thank you for your continued support. Talk to you next month!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

YouTuber YA Dystopian Novels in the Upside Down

I honestly don't even know what to say. My country is in chaos. My state is in chaos. Everyone is attacking my profession as if we're somehow to blame for people's stupidity. Every day, though, we all have to get up and go to work as if none of this is happening.
When I wrote the book that will hopefully come out sometime in 2018, it was as a dark realism vision of what could happen. Yet, before my very eyes, just two years after I wrote the book, it is now simply a book set in reality.
I keep being told, like so many like me, that we should have "talked more" to "the other side." But their values disgust me. If you saw a child exhibiting open hatred to someone else simply because of their religion, it seems to me you'd correct that child, not try to tell it that its values were okay and try to reason with it. And yet, here we are, being lectured that we should have "talked more" or "listened more" to people who...even as I write that, I hear the irony. I'm not immune to seeing it just because it's coming out of my own mouth.
My uncle's husband is a Trump supporter. You didn't misread that. A gay married man who lives in a deep south state supports this man. Log Cabin Republicans make me insane, but this? I don't even know how to process this, and that's where we are.
That is where we are. 
And I know, in the midst of all this, it's not nearly as important, but we also live in an era where YouTube "stars" are getting book deals. I was shopping at my local Target a few days ago and I saw that one of them had actually gotten a contract to publish a novel. Not a self-serving memoir, as most of them have been publishing (a memoir from a twenty-three year old...let that sink in...), but a full-fledged dystopian YA novel. And yet, at the same time, who can blame them for cashing in? If someone came to me when I was twenty and offered me a publishing contract, would I have refused, saying "No, no; I shall struggle on, learning my craft, taking my lumps, in the name of nobility and the all-important lessons of The Struggle!" Not a chance. Still, what should we tell young writers these days? Certainly not "spend years honing your craft in hopes that someday, someday someone will come upon your novel and praise it." Instead, our best advice to young writers these days might just be "start a YouTube channel, wear very little clothing so you get very popular, prank people in ways that disrespect them, get a million viewers, and then they will come to you with a book contract." Creative writing classes these days will be about how to build a great brand on Twitter and YouTube. And yes, I know that this all sounds like sour grapes, but I hope you see that there's more to it.
We're upside down in the Upside Down. Alive in the Super Unknown.
Not a lot seeming to be great these days. I hope things are better on your end. Thank you for your support during these dark times.
See you next month.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The End of 2016 Wrap Up

So, here we are at the end of 2016. Finally. Jesus.
I’m about 20k words on the new book. It was stalled for a bit but a character from Tygers showed back up unexpectedly and the book took on a whole new life.  I’m excited for you guys to see it, but it’s going to be a while before it’s done, and even longer than that before it can be published. I’ve played with the idea of maybe serializing something in the future, though, via Amazon Createspace, maybe. Who knows.
So, being that we’re at the end of this year, that means it’s time to do the usual look back. The fact that I’m doing this big look back over the year on my birthday makes some of it even more maudlin. But, here we go:

We lost so many amazing artists. There’ll be plenty of people giving eulogies about them, so I won’t go into it here. Just know that the loss of Scott Weiland, Prince, and George Michael affected me deeply.
But nowhere near as deeply as the loss of Bowie. I did a whole entry on that subject but even that pales in comparison to what I actually feel. Of all the artists that have affected me in my life, Bowie is the single most important. The only other singer who has touched me as deeply is Jon Anderson from Yes. I’m almost afraid to even say that because it seems like death is listening.

And then there's the loss of Carrie Fisher, and I'm not even close to fucking ready to talk about what that means to me. 

I got through about 44 books this year. That seems to be about my pace these days.

Of those books, the ones that I gave 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads to were:

What we might call “classics”:
My Name is Asher Lev  Chaim Potok
The Quiet American  Graham Greene

Contemporary literary:
Here I Am Jonathan Safran Foer

Science Fiction
Illium  Dan Simmons

Trasngressive small-press works:
Down for Whatever Kris Kidd
Homo Superiors  L A Fields

Novi Sad  Jeff Jackson
Mira Corpa  Jeff Jackson
In Their Arms  Thomas Moore

Young Adult:
All American Boys  Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Gemina  Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Of them all, I would have to say that the biggest surprises came from the category of the small press transgressive LGBTQ works. I had already read Thomas Moore’s first novel, A Certain Kind of Light, and loved it. I was unprepared for the gut punch that was his second book. By the way, I would say all of this even if we weren’t on the same publishing imprint. He’s an extremely good writer. This year I also discovered Jeff Jackson’s work for the first time and fell in love with that, too.
But the biggest surprise out of all of them was Kris Kidd’s collection of poems. As I said in my review, I don’t read much poetry anymore…for a lot of reasons. I connected with Kris Kidd on Instagram when I first joined and decided to try out his collection because I liked his feed—his sense of humor and raw sexuality combined into an aesthetic that I really liked. I wasn’t ready for his poems, though. His precise control of tone and his brutal line edits left me speechless. If more poetry was like that, I’d start reading it, again.
I had picked up All-American Boys to cover the “multicultural/racial issues” portion of the YA Lit course I taught without really reading it ahead of time. It had high praise from sources I trust and that was enough for me. I quickly came to see how masterfully it was written, though. My students felt the same. Powerful work that seemed almost precisely timed to the way our world has devolved. I can’t recommend it enough.
Then there’s Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book. Something told me it was going to be a game changer when I pre-ordered it on Amazon, and that instinct was correct. I left a review on Goodreads so I won’t rehash it here, but this is a novel that I feel I’ll revisit in the future. I can’t say that for all of the ones I read, even the ones I like.

I bought quite a lot of music during 2016, as I tend to. Of all the albums that came out in 2016, here are the ones I purchased (and a quick rating):

Shape Shift with Me   Against Me!     4/5 stars
Invention of Knowledge  Anderson/Stolt   3/5 stars
The Madness of Many  Animals as Leaders    3.5/5 stars
PUSSY’S DEAD   Autolux    3/5 stars
Temper EP   Badflower   4/5 stars
Blackstar   David Bowie  5/5 stars (can one even rate a Bowie album, though?)
The Astonishing  Dream Theater  2.5/5 stars
Information   Eliot Sumner  5/5 stars
Beautiful Broken  Heart  3.5/5 stars
Post Pop Depression   Iggy Pop (and QotSA)  5/5 stars
Delirium   Lacuna Coil  3/5 stars
Not the Actual Events EP   Nine Inch Nails  4.5/5 stars
Sorceress   Opeth  4/5 stars
Sattelites in the Sky   Over the Effect 4/5 stars
Stranger to Stranger   Neil Simon  4.5/5 stars
Pure in the Plastic   Polyenso 2/5 stars
Renaissance   Polyphia  3/5 stars
Hollow Bones   Rival Sons  5/5 stars
Blue and Lonesome   The Rolling Stones  4.5/5 stars
RR7349  S U R V I V E  3/5 stars
Transmission   Starset  3/5 stars
Modern Primitive   Steve Vai  4/5 stars
57th and 9th    Sting  3/5 stars
Apricity   Syd Arthur    4/5 stars
Straight Outta Oz   Todrick Hall  5/5 stars
Outlier   Twelve Foot Ninja  4.5/5 stars
Rosetta   Vangelis 3.5/5 stars
Stay Away   Young and Heartless  4/5 stars
I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful,
yet so unaware of it                                                       The 1975  4/5 stars

The biggest surprise was Eliot Sumner. I knew on some vague level that Sting had kids, but I didn’t know any had gone into the business. Turns out 2 have, and Eliot is the better of the two. Information is a superb album, full of bleak soundscapes but also wonderful warmth at times. Sumner’s voice is…well, there’s no way to describe it. You just have to hear it. And I hope you will. This is a little album crafted to perfection and I wish more people would hear it. Second biggest surprise was Todrick Hall’s Straight Outta Oz. I don’t know why, but the mythology and stories of Oz never really meant a lot to me. The film I find actually rather boring, if I’m honest. But I know it crept into a lot of people’s lives as their narrative compass, so I try not to shit on it too much. Such is the case with Todrick Hall, who had been on my radar some, but for the most part I never connected to his work. Then I heard “Wrong Bitch” from Straight Outta Oz and became obsessed with the album. It is perfectly crafted, wonderfully performed, and has several layers of interpretation should you choose to go there. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. You won’t be sorry.
Rival Sons was a new discovery for me this year. They’ve been around for a long time, but I only just found them and I wish I had heard them earlier. This is what contemporary hard rock should sound like, and their latest album continues a trend of growth that they exhibit on each album (I immediately went back and purchased their entire back catalog). They are still growing, stretching, trying new types of arrangements without compromising the power of their music. Mike Miley is hands down one of the best rock drummers I have ever heard.
The biggest let down this year is a tie between Sting himself’s new one and Dream Theater’s new one. The idea for Sting, as he’s stated, is to always do what is unexpected. As he said, he hasn’t worked in the genre of straight ahead rock and roll in a long time, so the thinking behind the record was sound. The problem is the songs just aren’t…we’ll, they aren’t good. The few that I did like were the slower pieces that would have been more comfortable on Sacred Love than here. With Dream Theater’s newest concept album the problem is that they chose to work closer to the musical theater traditions of rock opera than the rock traditions and so there are so many songs which are simply characters talking to each other and advancing the plot. I prefer my rock operas more like Operation: Mindcrime, where the album consists of the major singing numbers. I’m sure this album is right up someone’s alley, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for at all.

I saw quite a number of movies in 2016, as I tend to do. Here’s a list of the ones that came out this year that I saw in the theater and what I thought of them:

Ghostbusters   3/5 stars

Suicide Squad  2.5/5 stars
The Secret Life of Pets  1/5 stars
Star Trek Beyond  5/5 stars
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 4.5/5 stars
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  3.5/5 stars
Central Intelligence  3/5 stars
Jason Bourne  2/5 stars
Now You See Me 2  2/5 stars
Deadpool  5/5 stars
X-Men: Apocalypse  3.5/5 stars
Captain America: Civil War  4.5/5 stars
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  5/5 stars
Doctor Strange  4.5/5 stars
Keanu 4/5 stars
Hail, Caesar! 3/5 stars
War Dogs 3/5 stars
The Boss 3/5 stars
Midnight Special 3.5/5 stars
The 5th Wave 1/5 stars
Zoolander No. 2  2.5/5 stars
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3/5 stars
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children  3/5 stars
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 3/5 stars
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping 3/5 stars
Hello, My Name is Doris 4/5 stars
Passengers  4.5/5 stars
Arrival 5/5 stars

As you can see, what gets me motivated to actually go and sit with other people is not exactly what you’d call high-brown material. Still, the fact that someone is willing to go out to a theater at all in this day and age is a sign of something, I think.
The two best films, the ones that stuck with me, were Deadpool and Arrival. Deadpool for many of the obvious reasons that people are talking about, but also because of this: I have never cared about the character at all. I read a lot of comic books (or, I should say, ‘have read’—this year I decided to stop collecting—that’s an entry all to itself) but there are lots of characters I just don’t care about. Wolverine is the number one most overrated character in my book, but Deadpool is a close second. This film gets 5/5 for me because it actually made me care about that character, and not just in a passing way. This portrayal actually captured my imagination in ways that the Marvel mainstream heroes just don’t. Arrival captured my attention for the same reason it captured everyone else’s—mood, beautiful cinematography, a powerful performance by the lead, and a twist that actually lands and doesn’t seem superficial (VERY hard to do these days).
The biggest disappointment, as you can see from the rating, was Secret Life of Pets. I know it was just intended to be a little kid’s film, but I’ve seen those kinds of films still have some substance to them. This one works out to be one long Kevin Hart routine (and thank god he’s in it, because nothing in the rest of the film is at all watchable).
The biggest surprise to me was Central Intelligence. Look, it’s not going to win any Oscars, but it could have been just some silly throwaway buddy comedy. Instead, there was an actual bit of character building when the subject of school bullying is very honestly addressed in the framework of a big action comedy. I appreciated the effort that must have taken in today’s market-driven movie business.

When it came to TV, I was just like everyone else—addicted to Stranger Things. It’s worth all the praise people heap on it.
But a few shows snuck up on me, and the biggest surprises were The Real O’Neals and Speechless. Though I love comedy (or, some might say, because I love comedy) the standard primetime sitcom doesn’t really appeal to me. I wasn’t a huge fan, but when I saw through the veil to the fact that The Big Bang Theory actually makes fun of those of us in the “nerd” community and isn’t actually a show about us, I really checked out. But then ABC did this interesting thing (especially interesting seeing as how they belong to Disney): family-oriented sitcoms about families that are dealing with the unique issues of 21st century America. Not just warmed-over All In The Family rehashes, but truly engaged with the world we actually live in. Black-ish, Fresh off the Boat, The Real O’Neals and Speechless are trying to do something very bold. Of those four, TROs and Speechless are the ones that speak to me, and they are killing it. I suggest giving them a watch.
And then there’s this little show called People of Earth on TBS. It’s about a reporter who goes to do a puff piece on a support group for UFO Experiencers and discovers that he has been abducted. I already love that premise, but then you see the genius performances of Ana Gasteyer and Wyatt Cenac. Go to your On Demand and watch this little gem—you won’t be sorry.
And then there’s Lady Dynamite. What can I possibly say about this Netflix original show that won’t sound like hyperbole? Nothing. It is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. First off, there is Maria Bamford, who is already a stunningly genius stand up comedy performer, but then you put her in a show which both is and isn’t about her life and both takes place as a tv show but is also a behind the scenes show and simultaneously a metaphor for her own journey through therapy? That doesn’t come close to doing it justice. Take some time and go see this show.
One last mention for TV and that’s this: I watch a TON of stand up comedy. It’s my favorite thing in the world. That means watching a lot of specials, and so far in 2016 there have been some truly amazing pieces released. Here are the 3 best of 2016:

Faces and Sounds   Pete Holmes
Make Happy    Bo Burnham
Talking for Clapping    Patton Oswalt

Of them the best is Bo Burnham’s. He simultaneously entertains but also skewers the audience for being entertained by the material he is presenting. It is meta and laugh out loud funny and gorgeous.

I’m not going to take any time to talk about the election other than to say this: The biggest disappointment was coming to understand that people just didn’t bother to see beyond the bullshit. They bought his lies and now we all have to pay for it. I had gotten comfortable for 8 years thinking of our country as relatively safe, and this election has proven that it isn’t. That’s a hard slap in the face.

So, with that, I close out the year saying, as always, thank you for your support. I hope you’re following me on the social media listed over there on the right. If not, stop by, hit subscribe. It’ll be a hoot and a half. If you picked up a copy of any of my novels this year, let me say thank you. I appreciate the support. If you wouldn’t mind, please take some time to do a review of it (even bad reviews are good for sales in a way) over on Amazon or Goodreads. I’d appreciate it.

See you in the New Year!