Back in Junior High, 9th grade to be specific, a handful of boys started making blow dart guns out of Bic pens. These were pretty much what you might think — pens with the guts taken out, and a pin with some kind of tail on it. I have a distinct memory of kids shooting each other in the back of the neck with these things in Mrs. Hester’s English class.
Now if you’re thinking, “That sounds stupid and dangerous,” you’re right! Welcome to the Land of Teenage Boys.
The good news is, the kids at school got busted before someone lost an eye. Once teachers clued in to what was going on, they acted quickly. First, they arranged for a set of pins to be distributed from Home Ec, and we all spent a class period stripping apart our pens and crafting darts. Second, they made a rule where everyone had to bring at least two textbooks for unrelated subjects to each class. We would then stand these up on our desks to create walls we could hide behind. Third, we were all required to purchase safety goggles, which we were expected to wear at all times. And finally, everyone was encouraged to wear turtlenecks or at least high-neck collars of some kind. Fortunately, this was the age of Polos with popped collars, so there was a nice confluence of safety and fash—
NO THEY DIDN’T THEY TOOK THE BLOW DARTS AWAY FROM ANYONE WHO HAD THEM AND GAVE THE KIDS DETENTION WHY IS THIS SO HARD
First, these people have lost their damn minds. And by “these people” I mean everyone associated with the GOP. Case in point:
Thank God for people like Ian and Mallory:
This is why I’m posting, though:
So…yeah. This is Yet Another Goddamn Moment in what seems to be a never ending series of Goddamn Moments lately where “conservatives” lose their mind over some made-up menace, let their bigot flag fly, and engage in hateful rhetoric and lawmaking that’s going to get people hurt. As Harry Vanderspiegle would say:
So repeat after me:
Trans women are women.
Trans men are men.
Trans people are people, goddamnit.
This is another piece of flash fiction from Writer’s Digest Feb Challenge— day 18: time. I scrawled it in a notebook while waiting for an eye appointment, and just now came across it again. It kind of stops abruptly, due to my being called away for the exam, but I think it still works as is.
“Go! Go! Go! Everybody move!” Captain Bofin waved his squad into the waiting shuttle, giving each soldier a gentle push, not that they needed one. As the last of his unit clambered aboard, he mashed the hatch button and raced to his own jump seat. Restraints fastened, he nodded to the pilot. “Punch it.”
The pilot turned to her controls, firing the shuttle’s thrusters and pulling back the yoke. Overloaded, the frame shuddered as the craft struggled to get off the ground. “Come on, baby, you can do it,” she cooed. As if it understood, the landing claw released and the ship began to rise.
A series of warning lights began flashing red. “Not now,” muttered the co-pilot. He reached under his console and yanked out a handful of wires. The warning lights went dark.
“What the hell did you just do?” barked Sandy.
“Bought us some time, I hope.” Tevya tossed the wires over his shoulder. “Thirty more seconds and safety protocols would have kicked in.”
Sandy gave a curt nod, understanding. The ship had taken a lot of punishment in the forty-seven minutes since landfall. No wonder they were getting systems warnings, but there would be time for diagnostics later. Right now they had maybe ninety seconds to clear atmosphere before that…thing caught up with them.
Make that sixty seconds. “Shit. How does something that big move so fast?” She began to flip a series of switches on the panel overhead.
Alarmed, Tevya demanded, “What are you doing?”
Sandy grinned. “Buying us some time.” She raised the cover on a big red button and jammed her thumb into it.
The ship lurched skyward, rapidly picking up speed. Behind and now underneath them, a large chunk of the ship fell away.
“You know you could get court-martialed for that, right? Hyperdrives are restricted technology, and you just left one where—“ Tevya stopped short as Sandy raised a finger indicating, just wait.
The beast that had been unleashed on them swallowed the fallen engine whole, and a heartbeat later it exploded in a technicolor spray of flesh, bone, and volatile fuel.
“There, see?” Sandy grinned from ear to ear. “What hyperdrive?”
“Yeah well, we’re still going to have to explain why we need pick up. Unless you have some other way to get to the fleet?”
Sandy dismissed his concerns with a casual wave. “It’s going to take a good thirty-six hours before anyone gets here. That’s plenty of time to come up with a good story.” Indicating the console Tevya had lobotomised, she continued, “In the meantime, you might want to put that back together. I’m pretty sure you disabled access to the head.”
Some time after I posted about movies we watched in 2021, I got a year-end recap from Letterboxd. Surprise! Their recap includes a bunch of different stats, including release year, directors, languages, etc. One of these stats is country, and USA was on top by…a lot. There’s nothing wrong with that, and given that I am ‘merican & all, not a real surprise.
Ever since I’ve been able to, I’ve enjoyed watching international films. Back in college and especially grad school, I was a regular at film screenings of all types. However, without really meaning to, I’ve more recently stopped going to art house and foreign films. Chalk it up to no longer living in a college town, I guess.
So seeing that bar chart with USA towering over every other country like Shaq in Munchkinland was kind of a wake-up call. This called for a resolution to make a conscious effort to watch more global cinema. We’re making up the rules as we go, but we’re trying to evenly distribute our viewing across the continents (excepting Antarctica, though we’re committed to at least watching The Thing), and within those trying to hit as many different countries as we can. So far, we’re doing pretty well. We’ve hit every continent twice, with only North America lagging behind, but only because we’re not counting films from the USA.
Even though we’re only in March, we’re already finding there’s a trick to finding what films to watch. Services don’t tend to list their offerings by country, even less by continent, so I’ve spent a lot of time browsing trying to track down eligible films. BUT! I hit upon a promising strategy this weekend. Rather than just blindly search by country or continent, if you search Letterboxd and set the results to show “Lists,” nearly every country you punch in has at least one curated list of films made in or about the country. Yes!
Of course, the next trick is going to be tracking some of these films down, since not everything is available on streaming services we subscribe to. My guess is at some point we’ll need to hit our local (or university) library, but that’s a problem for another day.
If you want to follow along, my Letterboxd diary should be public. Don’t look for reviews or ratings, though. I’m marking stuff I liked, but that’s about it for now. I’ll leave more detailed thoughts to others.
Just to recap:
- 2016: sucked
- 2017-2019: living in suck-land
- 2020: super sucked
- 2021: maybe…oh, wait. No, still sucking.
- 2022: hold my beer
This is from a recent Writer’s Digest Flash Fiction prompt, “Grim Reaper.” Tossing up here because why not.
“Hey, buddy. How’s it going?”
“Pretty good, G.R. How about yourself?”
“If I’m being honest? Not so good.”
“Aw, man. I’m sorry to hear that. Did something happen?”
“It’s just…you know, everything.”
“I hear you. If it helps, it’s going gangbusters on our end.”
“Yeah…that’s kind of why I’m calling. Can you guys maybe cool it a bit?”
“What do mean? I thought you liked to keep busy.”
“I do. It’s just…it’s kind of a lot right now.”
“Ha! What’s the matter old man, you can’t keep up?”
“This isn’t funny, asshole. Do you have any idea what it’s like for me? It’s not like the old days. There are billions of humans now, and they’re literally all over the goddamn planet. At least you guys have horses. I have to walk.”
“Oh, come on. It can’t be that bad. I know Pestilence got a little carried away, but you’ve been keeping up. And the humans have science now. It’s not like back in the day when he killed half of an entire continent.”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me. I still haven’t gotten the smell out of my cowl from that month in Paris. Listen, all I’m saying is, I need a breather, okay? Can you maybe pump the brakes, just so I can have time to get a fresh pair of sandals, and maybe sharpen my scythe?”
“Okay, okay. I’ll see what I can do. No promises, though. I overheard him giggling about something called ‘Upchuck Upsilon’ last week.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. He’s calling that his ‘summer blockbuster.’ War has a bet with him that humanity won’t let it get to that, but Pestilence is pretty confident.”
“*sigh* I can’t say that I blame him. Tell War I wouldn’t take that bet.”
“Hey, maybe you can tell him yourself. I hear he’s heading to Ukraine soon.”
“Hello? You there?”
“I hate you guys.”
Because why not– I did it for books (why do my fingers keep wanting to capitalize that?) & comics, and I’ve got a Letterboxd membership where I’m tracking movies, so let’s do those, too.
Before getting into this, I should note that we didn’t watch a whole lot of new movies in 2021, and there’s a larger number of rewatches than would be typical for me. Some of this is thanks to COVID, some of it not.
We only watched four movies the whole month, so I’ll just list them all:
We spent February re-watching the Avengers/Captain America movies, with a couple new items sprinkled in. None of them were particularly memorable, but I’ll give Flora & Ulysses a shout-out since that was the reason for the short story contest I entered.
February’s Marvel marathon led me to finally watch Point Break, though the better/more interesting films were:
- Cooley High
- The Lady Eve
- Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
- The Death of Stalin
- The Skeleton Twins
- Happy Feet
- Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
- 13 Going on 30
We somehow managed to watch all three Witch Mountain movies in a day, which was kind of like watching one each Connery, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig Bond flick. The movies are all in the same world, but they’re very different from each other. That aside, the two highlights of the month have to be Blood Simple and Promising Young Woman.
Three movies that were better than I expected:
One movie that I’d seen before, and would watch again in a heartbeat:
Two Disney movies: Raya and the Last Dragon didn’t do much for me, but I did enjoy Luca. My favorite of the month has to be A Colt Is My Passport, which sent me hunting for the soundtrack as soon as the credits finished. Streets of Fire was…interesting.
October was Universal Horror month, though I have to confess that I fell asleep during half of them. Creature from the Black Lagoon is the best of the bunch, IMHO. I also watched Jennifer’s Body, which was much funnier than I had expected.
Another in the category of “what did I just watch”: Mind Game.
However, Dune was far and away the best movie of the month.
Finally got around to watching Parasite, and caught The Matrix Resurrections on opening weekend. We also took in No Time to Die, and are looking forward to the new series starring Ana de Armas that they are surely making, right? Right? Our most notable re-watch was Matchstick Men.
…and we bridged the new year with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Quick recap— mid-2020 I made a little paper/pen holder with a deposit slot behind it. For every book or graphic novel I read, I tear off a sheet, jot down the title and date I started reading. I use it as a bookmark, and when I finish, I note the end date and write a little note about the book/comic. Sometimes I doodle a picture.
Somewhere out there, Mrs. Millen is rolling her eyes and saying to the person next to her, “Now he starts tracking what he reads?”
If you’re curious, the grand total for 2021 was 80 little slips of paper, representing 24 books, 41 graphic novels, 13+ individual issues of comics (because sometimes I’ll use the same sheet if I read multiple issues in a sitting), and a couple books that are collections of one panel comics or tweets.
Last year I published a timeline of everything, but that was more work than I want to do today. Instead, I’m going to highlight a few titles from each month that stood out, for whatever reason. I’ll note going into it that several of the comics I learned about from a “best of 2020” list, so if you’ve heard of them before, that’s why.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen?
This book is hysterical, and would be worth the price even if all it had was that “Bwoocy hungy” line.
A vampire and a werewolf start dating. Single panel comics, adorably goofy.
You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacy
My guess is that Black people will absolutely believe what happened to Lacy. The stories here run from hilarious to horrifying, and should be required reading for white people.
Kickstarter comics tend to be hit or miss, but this one is a lot of fun. Their website describes her as “A little bit Harley Quinn, a little bit Plastic Man.” She’s a hero in air quotes.
Superman Smashes the Klan
Yes, that Klan. Based on a radio play from the 40s, and disappointingly relevant today. Again, white people…just do better, okay?
I just found out the second volume of this is available, so I’ll probably be re-reading it. Jesus comes back to Earth and rooms with a super hero (who’s also in group therapy). Things don’t go well. Also, his dad is a real asshole.
Star Wars: Into the Dark
Part of the “High Republic” series of releases Disney kicked off last year. I’m still not sure about the whole Nihil thing, but this story was solid enough.
Think “The Wire” but in Gotham. Light on super heroes/villains, heavy on detectives in Gotham PD. The Omnibus is a beast of a book, but it’s well worth reading.
I bounced back & forth between these all month. Lumberjanes is as light and goofy as Monstress is dark and intense.
The City We Became
I dug this a lot more than N.K. Jemison’s “Broken Earth” trilogy, and am super looking forward to where the series goes next.
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History
Four-plus decades of D&D art, with the history of the game alongside them.
The Book of Accidents
I’ve been surprised to find myself reading horror novels recently, largely thanks to Chuck Wendig. I just drew a picture of an owl on my slip of paper for this one. *wink*
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
More romancey than I was expecting. A fun read if you like silly Victorian magical hijinks.
Bandette vol 4: “The Six-Finger Secret”
Presto! We love our Bandette in this house.
Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?
If I were to pick a book of the year, this would (probably) be it. Eddie Gein was the inspiration behind Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Leatherface), etc… Seriously messed up dude.
Both interesting and maddening. Interesting because it takes the story of rubber ducks dumped in the ocean and spins it out into climate change, manufacturing, supply chains, pollution, etc. Maddening because the writer meanders as much as the damn ducks. If you like stories in the New Yorker, you’ll love this.
Bro, we have a two-book collection of these stories, not the omnibus I’ve linked to. Not sure what’s up with that cover art, bro, since the meat of the story doesn’t have him in that costume, nor is it the art style the stories known for. Anyway bro, this is the stuff the Disney+ series is largely inspired by. It also features an issue entirely from Pizza Dog’s perspective, bro.
This is the third (at least) time I’ve read the series. The show on AppleTV+ barely resembles the original books, which is what prompted me to revisit it. The books are…definitely of their time, but as one of the first authors that got me into sci-fi, they’ll always have a special place for me.
The Lady From the Black Lagoon
Not sure why there hasn’t been a movie or one of those limited series about Milicent Patrick, yet. She deserves one.
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
Second time I read this one. Yeah, that angel is pretty stupid. He means well, though.
You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton!
We kept this book on the dining room table and used it for daily motivation, reading a page out loud a day. I expect it will come back out again at some point in 2022 for a second run.