Category TV

Stuff I Do When I’m Not Here

On my nightstand/in my kindle:

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell – I loved this book. I read an excerpt, Mithridates of Fond du Lac, on a recommendation by my friend Felix, and was so hooked by Kent’s style that I immediately bought the book. Whether the subject is the gathering of the juggalos, Tom Savini’s school of makeup, or a man who is attempting to become immune to all snake venom, Kent captures them with interest, respect, and care, not mockery, in a fashion similar to another book I loved, Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon Defoe – The Pirates! series holds a special place in my heart, and this new adventure with Charles Babbage, Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron is a perfect addition. I cried with suppressed laughter more than once, choking it back so as not to irritate everyone on the plane. Have an excerpt from an argument the Pirate Captain is having with a Swiss banker: The Pirate Captain tossed his beard about and waved his arms. ‘Oh, it’s all becoming clear to me! Shall I tell you what the problem is? It’s that you don’t know what it is to live and laugh and love and run a man through! You’ve never tasted the salty air on your tongue or waved heartily at a mermaid! It would be impolite to call you a shrivelled little bean counter who wouldn’t know drama if it kissed you on the mouth, but nonetheless – I’m afraid that’s exactly what you are. You people have no flair, no romance, no sense of adventure! Everything’s just numbers for you! Well, you can’t reduce passion and flair and eating ham to numbers, sir! Good day to you!’

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson – Jason is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and he convinced me to try The Way of Kings. It starts off a little iffy, but it didn’t take long for me to get sucked in, and the book later revisits those earlier chapters from a different perspective and by then, you understand what’s going on and it’s much more gripping. By the last quarter of the book, I was saying “What? WHAT?! OH SHIT” about every five minutes and seconds after finishing it, I bought the second book, Words of Radiance, which I’m now plowing through at record speed.

On my TV/movie screen:

Grace & Frankie – I enjoyed the first season of this show but didn’t love it. The acting is phenomenal, but the writing is sitcomm-y and sort of obvious.

Mad Max: Fury Road – I actually was not excited about going to see this from the trailer. But I fucking loved it. LOVED. IT. I would like a war rig for traffic jams, please.

Mad Max –  How did something as great as Fury Road come from something so bad? I fell asleep. Twice.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – I really wanted to love this movie, but it was just OK. I’d listen to James Spader read the phone book, enthralled, so Ultron is not the problem here. The whole thing just came off formulaic, low-stakes, and sadly, a bit boring. I read this post about the movie’s problems later and couldn’t agree more.

Poltergeist – It was a nice homage to the original, but like so many horror movies, suffers from the ubiquitous jump scares. There’s no horror, no existential dread in that style of movie, and that’s a huge shortcoming.

Maleficent – Hated it. I feel it could have had a variety of different subtitles. Maleficent: Portrait of a Stalker. Maleficent: Cottage Creeper. Maleficent: 90 Minutes of Filler.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – I couldn’t make it twenty minutes into this movie, it was so godawful. I’ll admit to enjoying the first movie, but it didn’t exactly call for a sequel, especially not a straight-to-video sequel.

Game of Thrones Season 5 – I’m loving and I’m hating the show this season. It probably doesn’t help that they’re drawing from my least favorite book in the series, but the substantial deviations they’ve made from the book are occasionally frustrating and upsetting. I’m not going to really get into it here so as to avoid spoilers for those who are not yet caught up with the show.

House of Cards – I’ve watched a few episodes and so far I hate it. Unless the showrunners are winking at the audience and making a show about about a guy who thinks he’s a puppetmaster but isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, I just don’t get it.

Jurassic World – I’m going to see this on Friday and I am so damn excited. Jurassic Park came out at an age when I was primed for dinosaur based adventure, and this one looks like an actually good sequel. I may have shed a tear the first time I saw the trailer.

In my kitchen:

I’m keeping up with my “try at least one new recipe a week” goal (smashing it, actually). It’s been a great way to try new ingredients, use parts of a plant that I might not otherwise (like carrot tops), make the most of what’s been growing in my garden, and increase my low-carb repertoire. Here’s some stuff I’ve been cooking recently: Bora Bora fireballs, velvety carrot soup with carrot top pesto, easy thai shrimp soup, and low carb meatballs. Tonight I’m making asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup!

On the project docket:

I bought a beautiful desk on Craiglist that I’m refinishing; once I’m done with that, I’ll move it upstairs and do some furniture rearranging, which I’m sure thrills Jason to no end. “Help me carry this desk to upstairs to this room and then we can move the desk that was already in there to another room and take the furniture that was in there downstairs.” It’s the endless shuffle of the never-quite-satisfied. I’m also working to finish up a couple of house project loose ends so I can start the new stuff that interests me more. I’ve also been making progress on Jason’s Halloween costume because if I’m going to make two detailed outfits to wear absolutely nowhere, damn it, I need as much time as I can get. Plus I’m out in the garden more often than not lately. Sometimes weeding, sometimes grazing, sometimes battling wasps. You know, the usual.

Weekly Wrap-Up


I am super pumped for this weekend–it’s the last weekend of the Moisture Festival! Game of Thrones returns! There’s an Easter II feast on Sunday! Plus I just made some homemade butter which practically begs for the buttermilk to be used in some lilac scones. I was hoping to get some time out in the backyard this weekend since I’ll be out of town for the next three and the blackberry bushes are already getting a little too bold in their advancement  (let’s just say it won’t be a surprise when they bust through my bedroom window and attempt to strangle me in my sleep), but it’s supposed to be cruddy out so this may be the excuse I was looking for to rent some goats to take care of business for me.

Speaking of upcoming trips, I’ve got a short jaunt to Portland in the works and a longer one to Hawaii, so I should have some good stories to share soon. There are already tentative plans in the works for insect eating and ghost teasing, both of which I’m sure will go swimmingly and not at all like last time.

This week, I rekindled my love for the gifsounds subreddit–here are my three recent favorites: 1 2 3

I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead this week, which means that my zombie burnout has come to an end, at least in this instance. No spoilers here, but it makes me laugh that Judith always looks like she’s confused and angry to be growing up in a world without Cheerios and animal crackers. I’ve also come to realize how profoundly irritating loudly chewed gum can be.

Also on my TV recently: Face Off Season 8. I called Emily Serpico as the winner in episode one, so it was exciting to see her make it to the finale this week. Everyone left is a talented artist, though, and at this point, I think they’re all deserving of the prize. It’s been especially gratifying to see a bunch of women kicking ass and taking names this season, since I’ve complained before about men dominating the positions of authority. No matter who wins, I’m so glad that Face Off has stopped the “not here to make friends” format. I haven’t watched most of the seasons because of the typical backstabbing present in the earliest seasons, and I didn’t think it served the artists to trash their reputation before they ever made it into the SFX industry–it’s so small, and it’s hard enough to get work (much less paying work) without someone thinking you’re difficult or obnoxious. The only aspect of this season I’d call a swing and a miss is the “coaches/team” aspect. Yes, the coaches are there for guidance, but it’s not quite clear what the coach gets out of participating, and whenever they’re on camera, it’s generally worrying about how one of their team members doing poorly might affect them personally. I’m just not feeling it.

In my kitchen this week: gyro lettuce wraps and animal style in and out in a bowl. I’ve been doing the low carb thing six days a week for a few months and it’s working out well for me–I’m fitting into my smaller pants and I don’t feel deprived, and those are both good things.

On my nightstand/in my Kindle:

Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters – This book is a tough read, but it’s been helpful for me to come to terms with an aspect of my past that has had a long-lasting impact on my life and personality. I’m sure that it’s something I’ll keep referring back to, and if you have a strained/difficult/nonexistent/toxic relationship with your mother, you may find it helpful as well.

Bad Trips – I’ve been looking for travel writers I like outside of Bill Bryson, and now that I’m 75% of the way through this book, I’m fairly confident that I won’t be finding what I’m looking for here. They’re all such twats! There’s a guy whose bad trip was actually a good trip for him, it’s just that a woman he met during his journey was raped twice in short order, and he wondered if she hadn’t been able to shake it off and have a good trip like him that it would have been some fault in her upbringing instead of, you know, the trauma of having been raped at knifepoint twice. There’s a made up story about a tour group going on ‘safari’ to Central Park to watch a woman getting sexually assaulted and blaming her for her own assault. There’s a piece by Umberto Eco complaining that a hotel isn’t decorated to his taste. There are a few pieces where people merely imagine what a bad trip would be like, namely concerning doing the sorts of activities that your average tourist engages in and you already know that I loathe that sort of elitism. I’m finishing it out of stubbornness.

The Queen of the Tearling – I picked this one up mainly because I saw that it was being made into a movie starring Emma Watson, and I wanted to be in on the hype loop for once instead of wondering why everyone is so pumped for a movie I’ve never heard of. I’m really torn on this one–I read through it in two days, and while I was reading it, I was 100% sucked in, but now that I’ve finished it, I have no desire to read the next book in the series. Even with its interesting setting (a return to medieval structure postdating our current technological society, in a place where magic is a thing), the characters and the storyline just felt too familiar. Plus, with the chapter intros being excerpts from books written about the main character at a future date, there’s not really any question as to whether she will prevail.

Mr Mercedes: A Novel – I love me some Stephen King, and it was refreshing to see him go for a detective novel rather than supernatural horror. This is another book that I cracked through in a day or two. It’s fast-paced, deeply engaging, and I only wish that King wasn’t so comfortable with the n-word. I’ll be glad to see those same characters come back in Finders Keepers.

Too Fat For Europe – This is a self-published work by a friend of a friend, and is generally enjoyable. It reads like a long-form blog entry, though, and it could use the strong hand of an editor in a number of ways. If it were up to me, I’d also axe the photos entirely or swap them for illustrations. Granted, I have one of the older, cheaper Kindles which may be a contributing cause, but the photos are so muddy and don’t add anything to the experience.


What are you up to? Any weekend plans? What’s on your plate–food, books, or otherwise?

The Shining vs The Shining vs The Shining

The Shining: A novel written by Stephen King in 1977, adapted to a film in 1980, and remade as a miniseries in 1997. Remembering very little other than the Simpsons parody of the movie, I decided to watch and read all of them over the course of a week in order to better compare and contrast the contents. I did this in a very specific order, watching the movie first so as not to punish it for any dissimilarity to the book, then reading the book, and finally watching the miniseries, which I recall being hyped as completely true to the book. What I learned is that while each version contains the same basic elements, they all end up telling a very different story.

The Movie

The movie is first and foremost a story about Jack Torrance. Jack Torrance has been hired to be the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. A former teacher, he considers himself primarily a writer and is looking forward to the long winter ahead in order to have more time to write. It is revealed that he has had problems with alcohol in the past, though it’s not a primary concern. It’s further revealed that a previous winter caretaker developed a severe case of cabin fever and killed himself after murdering his wife and two daughters with an axe. Jack’s five-year-old son, Danny, suffers from seizures over the course of which he sees glimpses of the present and the past. A shy boy, he communicates any sad or negative feelings with his mother, Wendy, through the use of “Tony”–a growly voiced (though polite) finger puppet. He also talks to himself via Tony in order to discuss current events, compartmentalizing his personality so he can better deal with his strange abilities. Neither parent openly acknowledges Danny’s abilities, and they are concerned that Tony is a sign of being mal-adjusted. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Danny occasionally sees remnants of bad things that have occurred over the course of the hotel’s history, while wandering the halls. The winter isolation is harder on Jack than he imagined it would be; his writer’s block is not alleviated by all of the free time, and because writing is his primary focus, the frustration becomes paramount. He begins to take out his frustrations on the family, first emotionally punishing them, and then falling so deeply into self-induced delusions that he attempts to murder his family with an axe, which he believes is the key to removing his writer’s block. Jack has disabled the CB radio, so Danny telepathically calls Hallorann, who indeed does come on the run, but is immediately murdered by Jack upon his arrival. Danny escapes outdoors into the hedge maze; Jack becomes lost and freezes to death while Danny and Wendy escape.

The Book

The book is first and foremost a story about the Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic with a bad temper who learned both habits from his father, has lost his teaching job after beating up a student for slashing his tires. A former drinking buddy has gotten Jack the winter caretaker position at the Overlook, for which Jack feels both grateful and resentful. Grateful for the opportunity, resentful that this friend should have so much more power than he, even though they both have been sloppy drunk together. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, is not pleased about having to hire Jack, as he loves the hotel, and has looked into Jack’s history and deemed him a poor candidate for such an important job. Jack’s five-year-old son, Danny, can read minds and has glimpses of the past/present/near future. Neither parent openly acknowledges Danny’s abilities at first, and are unsettled by them. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Danny is concerned about his parents’ marriage; he can see them contemplating a divorce, centering around his father’s temper, especially after doing “the bad thing” (drinking). He knows that going to The Overlook is a bad idea, but he also knows that there is no choice–his father needs a job. While at the Overlook, Jack discovers a scrapbook detailing all of the juicy, scandalous, hushed-up history of the hotel–gangland murders, etc. The hotel fuels an obsession in him; the ghosts and negative energy of the place becoming stronger day by day, slowly taking over Jack’s persona. Jack makes a last-ditch effort to save himself from the effects of the hotel by calling Ullman and letting him know he intends to write a tell-all book about the hotel, attempting to get himself fired so he can take his family and leave. Instead, he enrages the manger, who calls Jack’s drinking buddy, who impresses upon Jack that he must never write such a book, and leaves him feeling like a scolded child. Jack’s self-loathing takes hold and manifests into visions and memories of his abusive father; Jack loses hold of reality as the ghosts take over and ply him with manifested alcohol. While possessed by the negative spirits, thoughts of what his father would say, and his old nemesis alcohol, Jack destroys the CB radio and cripples the snowmobile, leaving them with no contact with the outside world and no means of escape. The hotel also begins stalking Danny in virtually every instance in which Danny is alone, attacking him with a woman who had died in the bathtub, regenerating wasps in a previously empty nest in Danny’s room, animating the hedge animals, sending a dead child after him in a snow tunnel, even animating a fire hose which menaces him like a venomous snake. It’s important to the ghosts in the hotel that Danny dies there, as his “shining” abilities make them much more powerful and able to manifest in physical form. The bits of Jack that remain in his near-shell of a body are tortured by feelings of inadequacy and a need to prove himself; he is enraged by the idea that the hotel might want his son more than it wants him, and thus he attempts to kill his family with a roque mallet to prove his worthiness. Danny calls Hallorann telepathically, who comes on the run. Hallorann finds Wendy severely beaten though not dead, and in his shock and horror, Jack sneaks up on him and hits him on the head with the same mallet, blacking him out. Jack then begins the search for Danny, and finds him on the third floor. Danny sees there is very little of his father left, that he’s nearly wholly possessed by the spirits of the hotel, and bravely informs the spectre in front of him that he knows the hotel has used his father. The last human part of Jack comes forth for a moment, encouraging Danny to run away because he loves him, but Danny doesn’t leave. The hotel spirits take over again and try to kill Danny, but Danny says he knows what his father has forgotten–that he hadn’t dumped the boiler that day, and that the hotel is about to explode. The spectre runs off to the boiler room, screaming that it can’t be too late, while Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann escape the building. The boiler explodes, the hotel goes up in flames, and in a last-ditch effort, the spirits attempt to take over Hallorann and have him kill Danny. Hallorann manages to shake it off, and it ends with Wendy and Danny trying to start a new life across the country.

The Miniseries

The miniseries is first and foremost a story about Danny Torrance, a seven year old boy with supernatural abilities. He can read minds, he sees glimpses of the future via a friend he calls Tony; he knows things that have happened without having been present. Hardly a minute passes without Danny using his powers to see something spooky. His parents are aware of and occasionally utilize his abilities when it’s convenient; for example, Wendy asks her son if his father got the job and celebrates when he answers in the affirmative. When Jack gets home, he acknowledges that she already knew he had the job from “the little Kreskin”. However, when Danny sees a bloody roque mallet sitting on his father’s front seat instead of groceries, no one is concerned enough to ask him what he might know about the hotel. Jack Torrance is a man who suffers from alcoholism and violent mood swings, going from loving father and able caretaker to enraged abuser in seconds. When the family first arrives at the hotel, they meet a cook, Hallorann, who shares Danny’s abilities, and he tells Danny that if they run into any trouble over the course of the winter, to call him telepathically and he’ll come on the run. Jack lost his teaching job after beating up a student for slashing his tires. A former drinking buddy has gotten Jack the winter caretaker position at the Overlook, which he accepts as he wants to use the time to write his play. While there, Jack becomes obsessed with the sordid history of the hotel, and as he reads about it, the spooky activity of the hotel increases. Danny begins to tell his mother about the spooky things he sees at the hotel, but she doesn’t believe him, as it’s convenient to the plot. Jack becomes lost in the psychic side of the hotel for a time, envisioning himself at parties filled with characters from the hotel’s history, but then he’ll look up for a moment and everyone will be gone, save for a bottle of alcohol. It leads one to believe that Danny is creating all of the negative things that are happening at the hotel with his abilities, and has thus driven his father over the edge. Danny believes that the hotel wants him, and that he has had a part in creating these monsters, but that they’re out of his control. Jack smashes the CB radio and the snowmobile with a roque mallet, preventing the family’s escape; Danny telepathically calls Hallorann to come save them. Jack attacks Wendy and then Hallorann with the mallet, eventually coming after Danny, who says he knows what his father has forgotten–that he hadn’t dumped the boiler that day, and that the hotel is about to explode. The spectre runs off to the boiler room, screaming that it can’t be too late. It wasn’t too late, but Danny manages to telepathically connect with his father to convince him to allow the hotel to explode, redeeming himself, while Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann escape the building. It ends with Danny graduating high school–his high school self is the spitting image of Tony. Oh, and the Overlook is being rebuilt.

So what does this all mean?

It’s impressive that given the same overall framework for the story, they all manage to be so different. The book and the movie each have their own merits–the book a commentary on the breakdown of a family unit, how alcoholism and abuse can be a vicious cycle, and like wasps, these things can hurt you over and over and over again. The movie is full of iconic imagery–the blood-filled elevator, Jack sitting at an empty bar that comes to life around him. The miniseries, which I began to call “The Shitting” after the first few minutes, isn’t worth watching. Stephen King was unhappy with the film because he felt that Kubrick had had missed some of the major themes, one of which was alcoholism. So, given the opportunity to make a miniseries, King decided to rectify this by making sure that the audience knew that Jack Torrance was the king (wordplay intended) of alcoholics. “This guy is such an alcoholic, I don’t know if we’ve told you yet, but he loves alcohol, he’s in AA, let’s make sure he attends at least one AA meeting over the course of the miniseries, because it would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that buddy, does this guy ever have a problem with alcohol!” They then picked the most annoying child possible to play the role of Danny, a boy who people who don’t even like children are supposed to like, so his casting was a complete backfire. He was too old to play the role, so they revised the character’s age up to seven, but forgetting that doesn’t work with the boy being very bright and learning to read before his time, so now he comes off as kind of slow. The special effects were terrible–the stalking hedge animals looked like a mess of lumpy green blobs, and the overall effect was one of hilarity instead of creeping menace the way it was in the book. (I know this was 1997, but the technology did exist to make them look better than they ended up, even in that time period.) For something that repeatedly claimed in its advertisements to be completely true to the book, it seemed that every thing Kubrick got right from the book, they got rid of (to eliminate comparisons) and everything Kubrick missed is what they put in. Potentially due to pandering to a TV audience, they added a lot of “supernatural spooky things” to remind viewers that they were watching something scary because the menace of alcohol wasn’t enough, they need doors opening and closing on their own, and chairs falling off of tables, and fires starting in fireplaces! They also added the horrible TV ending cliche of the bad guy redeeming himself at the last second, which is NOT in the book, regardless of what’s written on the Wikipedia entries. Jack’s rage also plays a bigger role in the miniseries–he struggles with rage in the book, but for TV, they had him screaming at every opportunity, which makes him utterly unlikeable and serves to render his moment of redemption worthless. “I know daddy was a mean, drunken, abusive shitbag this whole time, but this whole ‘saving you’ thing makes up for it forever, right?” Nnnope. Stephen King is a fine novel and short story writer, but when it comes to film, he falls too far in love with his words to know what makes for a cohesive short experience, which is why he needed someone like Kubrick for the film–someone removed from the writing, who can see the big picture. I recently read King’s “On Writing”, where he advises writers to not be afraid to kill their babies in order to make the overall story better. When it comes to film, King needs to take his own advice.

Winners: The Shining, The Shining

Losers: The Shining, Me