Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 Hindsight: Yes, PLEASE! Having That Year in the Rearview Mirror Would Be a Massive Relief! ☹

Regarding this recently-paced, mere hours ago, year, immediately around July 1, 2020, I wrote the following: “I’m expecting the Love-Child of Godzilla and Cthulhu to show up at any moment now.”

Lately though, I’m just depressed and exhausted. The election of Uncle Joe relieved the depression, but only somewhat… But I do feel at least symbolically rejuvenated by the calendar clicking over to January 1, 2021.

Maybe the days will stop blurring into one another, maybe a center will hold, maybe we will get ourselves a new prescription for our third-eye-glasses…

“…[B]y just about any measure, 2020 was a clusterfuck inside a shit sandwich covered in stupid sauce.”

That pithy and succinct description of the 365 days from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020 (actually January 20, 2021—don’t be coy; you know what we’re talking about) comes to us from the fab political blogger Rude Pundit. He’s worth bookmarking!

Going forward…
No longer will “Twenty-Twenty,” or, if you prefer, “20/20,” ever again mean having perfect vision, or a long-running news program on ABC-TV. It will mean…

“I’m gonna get twenty-twenty on your ass!”

“Our relationship totes went twenty-twenty; she even took the dog!”

“Five-Oh is twenty-twenty twenty-four-seven!”

“Blowtorches and vice grips on the testicles? How deliciously twenty-twenty …”

A little bit of self-promotion before plunging into the 2020 Pity Party…

Managed a little bit of productivity/Patting myself on the back so much, I sprained my own arm…

Help a brother out—buy my book!

Tam and Jam: Pretty Glowing Talking Boxes and the Kids Who Love Them

It’s a Space Opera, and it’s wonderful. Two alien children—who resemble giant lobsters—become friends with a runaway weapon from Earth. 

Please check it out HERE

Speaking of aliens,
I’ve also been doing some writing for AlienCon, the convention that the Ancient Aliens TV show has established. I am writing and editing for its newsletter—which can be accessed HERE, but you might have to register depending on where you are…

Suction cup prank!

On October 17, 2020, I wandered around my neighborhood with five suction cup aquatic animals (pictured is the Orca; there was a seal, a swordfish, a walrus, and a dolphin), putting them up on random signs or places, like a mail box, or the CitiBike credit card machine. These suction-cup critters had been in our shower for nearly a decade, or more, and we didn’t want them anymore. Before you say, “Why didn’t you regift them?”, please think about that for a moment: They had been in our shower for more than a decade. Ewwwwwww…..

That said, I had zero problem putting the plastic toys out and about. 

I had put them up in the afternoon, and by nightfall, two were gone—to new homes, hopefully. 

Another lasted a couple of days, then only Orca (on a STOP sign just down the block from the police precinct), and Dolphin (on one of those metal boxes that are full of plastic bags for dogwalkers to scoop their pooch’s poop) were left. Dolphin lasted about 10 days longer, but dig this: As of December 31, Orca is still on the STOP sign. I haven’t been outside yet. 

This makes me very happy. 

Oh yeah, I beat a parking ticket: the meter-maid was in the wrong! I won!

Things have been so NUTS in 2020 that we even forgot about THE MURDER HORNETS!!! (Or did the praying mantises EAT all the Murder Hornets?)

I’m trying to be grateful for things these days, and one thing the new plague has given me is time. 

Time to watch life, but additionally time to FREAK OUT. 

The only people who can use this time to chill are… I dunno, rich

Made a lot of good food this year—expanded my culinary skills!

Salmon quiche! [recipe HERE]

Homemade meatballs!

Made an eighteen-pound turkey for Thanksgiving (like I usually do), but this year, since there was only three people eating due to COVID, there were enough leftovers that I managed to make cream of turkey soup, and then from that, a turkey pot pie! And I had turkey meat in my freezer which I used in my New Year’s Day black-eyed peas. 

Didn’t really use the past year to watch much on the movie front—if anything, I caught up with the world of YouTube, podcasts, and other sources of new media (hey, I’m on Spotify!). Sure, watched enough movies on Netflix and Amazon, but these weren’t new movies. 

Celebrating Biden's election
in Brooklyn's McCarren Park with
filmmaker Matt Kohn (left)

Lots of comfort food movies, or revisiting of old classics: The Return of the Living Dead, Season One of Westworld, Colossus: The Forbin Project, several others. In late-spring, I went through several Kurosawa flicks, including Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and The Hidden Fortress (honestly, people connect this movie too much with Star Wars; the first of the Lucas series swipes more from Frank Herbert’s Dune than Kurosawa’s epic—but I guess it’s “cooler” to steal from a Japanese samurai flick than a dense and difficult cult novel…).

New material/input usually came in the form of the many TV shows and miniseries I watched. But Movies and TV—almost indistinguishable these days! But I’ve also regarded long-form “story arc” shows (which, really, are miniseries) as “Great Tomes”—a movie can be a paperback, but a miniseries has the potential to be several volumes, covering many themes that movies, because of Lowest Common Denominators, cannot. 

Best Movies/Shows

Umbrella Academy Season Two—strays FAR from the comic book; now, I love the comic, but I can see how it’s necessary to change it for the medium. UA is a great TV show, but comparatively, I prefer the comic more—it’s more psychotic, psychedelic and hyperdimensional. That said, I know that what I love about the comic could not be translated well into TV’s medium. The TV show actually winds up have a lot to say about family dynamics. Here’s a game to play: who in your family is what character from The Umbrella Academy? According to my wife, one of my cousins is Luther, her brother is Klaus, and I’m Five. 

The Mandalorian
Seasons One & Two—If they don’t bring back Baby Yoda, I’m gonna get twenty-twenty on someone’s ass!
Look, there is only one conceivable way this show can ultimately end as far as I’m concerned: Adult Grogu covered in Beskar steel and wielding the Darksaber, kicking ass and taking names and always respecting the honor of his “father.” And an Old Mando would be bitchin’, too!

Otherwise, this show is wonderful, giving its characters room and time to breathe and grow. 

Rick & Morty Seasons One through Four—Better than LSD. I’m surprised it took me so long to discover this brilliant madness. Being able to binge them during the new plague has been swell. 

Season One & Only—which might be for the best; somethings should just end. Great show, that really grew on me—shockingly relevant for 2020… I cannot imagine the quality continuing, though.

Better Call Saul Season Four—what can I add? I just wish Netflix got them sooner… 

The IT Crowd Seasons One through Four—Now slightly dated regarding any corporate or genuine IT department similarities, but still a great British comedy about slackers and weirdos. 

The Good Place Seasons One through Four—Lemme tell ya, I utterly FELL IN LOVE with this mystical-theological long-form comedy series. Questions about the nature of the afterlife and the soul have never been so joyously or deliriously covered. This is something that I am jealous of; I wish I had come up with this show. It’s fabulous. 

Tiger King
—Jeez, what more can I add?

The Boys Seasons One and Two—Love this show, but I have ZERO interest in the source comic, which sounds kind of repellant. Like The Mandalorian, Season Two’s conclusion is action-packed, but lacking in a special something, not necessarily “closure,” but a more thematically satisfying arc?
Jeez, Darth Fring gets around, don’t he? Our little Buggin’ Out’s certainly come far, right?

Kim’s Convenience—Mr. Kim is my new hero. The show reminds me of all the students from Korea that I had when I taught ESL, as well as reminding me of my 2006 trip to Seoul. 


chitt’s Creek
—Brilliant show, and usually I’m a big Chris Elliot fan (and why is there no Deluxe HD blu-ray of Get a Life! yet?), but Lordy! Does the character of Roland make my skin crawl. I have to leave the room when he’s on screen. It’s weird, I don’t get it/ Good show, though—I’ve always been a fan of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, since their SCTV days, and I’m glad they are continuing their comedic partnership, which went from SCTV to the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, to this show. Despite the body horror I experience whenever Chris Elliott/Roland are on-screen, a heartfelt and smart sitcom. 

The only “New” (for me) movies that I liked
The Battered Bastards of Baseball—Bing Russell is GOD. A must-see for any fans of baseball, and Kurt’s love of his dad is infectious.
The Girl With All the Gifts—BEST zombie flick in years! Blows the useless, defeatist The Walking Dead away! SO GOOD. 

What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?
(1969) I’ve got so much to say about this lost classic, and not the time. I’ve been processing this one since I snagged a pan-&-scan copy—saw it when I was a kid and LOVED it, always remembered it, wanted to see it again, had to wait—jeez, roughly forty years?—to see it again, saw a shitty copy, and all I want is to now see a genuine widescreen version of the film, one whose color isn’t too faded either.
A disease hits NYC, and the government warns everyone to mask up, but the disease makes you very happy, and makes you positive about your life. Which of course is ruining business. So, wear those masks!

This movie was f’ing prescient—and I loved it back in late-1970s? Wow…. I hope this sort of cosmic awareness helps me when I get involved in the stock market….

I Am Not Your Negro——what can I add? Brilliant film about a brilliant man.
Have you ever read James Baldwin’s review of The Exorcist? It’s incredible.

Mucho, Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado
I grew up watching Mercado with my grandma. I get him. This was a beautiful documentary. 

I was exceedingly disappointed in 

The Rise of Skywalker [reviewed HERE]

Joker—Why is this movie? And there I was thinking no one would ever remake Taxi Driver! Fooled me!

1917—Whew, Sam Mendes really wants to be Christopher Nolan, doesn’t he? The boy is running, and running, and running, and…some CGI-created shadows allow for a splice annnnnnnd the boy is running, and running, and running, and…

Raised by Wolves Season One [scathingly reviewed here]

Books I Read for the First Time in 2020 (the rottenest year in history) That I Loved and Hope to Be Able to Reread Soon:


This Storm—both by James Ellroy, who always gets on the Ivanlandia reread lists! Always baroque and almost absurd crime thrillers of shocking conspiracies and multi-leveled betrayals. So much fun!

The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak [reviewed HERE]

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror by Thomas Ligotti (2010)—oh yeah, better to never have been born, I’m hip, brother, I’m hip… Interestingly, if you read this book with the right sort of voice in your head, it’s hilarious, really. 

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (2007)—what can I add? I read this to prepare myself if you-know-who got reelected. 

Umbrella Academy 3—Great comic, and season 3 of the TV will only resemble it superficially, but that’s okay. 

2020…. WHAT a year! ☹

This year’s reading…

Some Super Short Takes

[Yeah, I’m showing off—what else have I got going for me? Anyway, I can get on a high horse and act all smug and superior—no, I mean more imperious than usual—secure in the knowledge that in a year, I read more books than most Americans read in their entire lives….]

[BTW, the asterisk (*) means that I’ve read it before; it’s a reread, and therefore should be considered “quality”—unless I note otherwise, which does happen…]

January—took a trip to Colombia! It was nice despite a stomach bug there that left me bedridden for 36 hours. 
And I read: 

—*) The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad (1907) Yeah, I reread Joseph Conrad for kicks…

Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion (1970) Didion rocks in her cold intensity.

Valdez Is Coming by Elmore Leonard (1970) Good pulp vengeance.


—*) Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (2000)—I shouldn’t have reread this one; it doesn’t hold up, and not especially after Bourdain’s suicide, which really affected me.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead (2011) Kind of a snooze. Terrifically disappointing. 

Perfidia by James Ellroy (2014) Top shelf Ellroy!

March—The Plague Quarantine Begins!

—*) Blue Movie by Terry Southern (1970) Great to read when you know enough Hollywood history to know who the characters are based on (e.g., Boris is Kubrick, Dave & Debbie are Peter and Jane Fonda, and so on). 

—*) The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski (1965) I will never see the movie!

Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection by Gordon Ramsay (2006) Easy read, the TV show’s more fun. 

Brothers Keepers by Donald E. Westlake (1975) Medium Westlake.

—*) The Umbrella Academy, Volume One: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba (2008; graphic novel)

—*) The Umbrella Academy, Volume Two: Dallas by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba (2009; graphic novel)

The Umbrella Academy, Volume Three: Hotel Oblivion by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba (2019; graphic novel)

A General’s Life by General Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair (1983; autobiography) Given to me by Professor Clay Jenkinson back in 1984, and I have been trying to finish it since then. Christ! Was this a BORING book! Every fucking memo, every fucking communique is fucking referenced. This was a textbook. 

—*) Good Behavior by Donald E. Westlake (1985) Funny Dortmunder antics. 

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Moseley (2018) As COVID messed with us, I returned to noirish lit, and graphic novels. Gotta pass the time. 


—*) Interface by Stephen Bury (Neal Stephenson & George Jewsbury) (1994) First and last time I’ll reread this one; it’s good, but also quite dated… Have already sold it to a used bookstore…

The Battle: A New History of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (2003)

What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman (2007)

—*) Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack (1993) Last time I’ll reread this one; it’s good, but also quite dated… Will probably have to regift…

Shotgun by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) (1969)

—around this time, I decided to make the majority of my reading science fiction or SF-related….

*) Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others by Mike Mignola (1998; graphic novel) [Read about it HERE]

The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak (1968) [Read about HERE]

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) [Read about HERE]

—This Storm by James Ellroy (2019)


Flesh by Philip Jose Farmer (1960)

—*) The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin by Richard Lourie (1999) LOVE this book! It really speaks to me, and I dunno why…


Flash for Freedom by George MacDonald Fraser (1971)

Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey (1969)

August—and you can see me start researching various for AlienCon, while concentrating more on SF for my reading material…

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror by Thomas Ligotti (2010)

Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations Into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis by Annie Jacobsen (2017)

The Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg (1969)

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway (1925; 1930) 

Masks over Coney Island, NYC,
Summer 2020


—*) Hollywood Vs. the Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry’s Participation in UFO Disinformation by Bruce Rux (1997)

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke (1953; 1956)

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi (2006)

Moonraker by Ian Fleming (1955)


—*) The Big Book of the Unexplained by Doug Moench, and a variety of artists (1997)

Operation Trojan Horse: The Classic Breakthrough Study of UFOs by John A. Keel (1970)

—*) Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick (1964)


Blue Angel by Francine Prose (2000)

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (2007)

—*) Post Office by Charles Bukowski (1971)


Normal by Warren Ellis (2016) Cool short novel that went unexpected directions, but also didn’t get as super-bizarre weird as I thought it would. Short, but enjoyable. 

Approaching Oblivion: Road Signs on the Treadmill Toward Tomorrow by Harlan Ellison (1974) Ellison!

—*) B.P.R.D.: 1946-1948 by Mike Mignola, et al (2012; graphic novel collection) 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012) Odysseus is really the most interesting character. Miller should have written a book about him. 

GOOD LUCK IN 2021! Read hard or die!

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