December 23, 2018: Big Food Day!

We woke up this morning to my mother hard at work on dinner…

Mom made orecchiette (aka little ears pasta) because Akemi is a big fan.

We headed over to our favorite coffee shop in Montreal – Victor Rose – for some mocha and their seasonal maple latte.

Meanwhile, Lulu and Suji settled in.  Suji, maybe a little too much as she’s taken to bossing my mother’s dogs around their own house.

We returned for lunch to find mom hard at work on the next phase of her dinner plan: pizza!

With the leftover dough, she opted for a little artistic expression in the form of a Christmas wreath.

Following an afternoon of running errands, I settled down to read – only to be given the task of grating parmesan.  No problem.  I can multi-task.

Sooner after dinner is served: pizza, pasta, and my favorite chicken fettini.

A special blog dedication to MaggieMayDay, PBMom, Quantum Mechanic and the rest of our extended family.  I’m thinking we need to plan a group vacation to Tokyo.  Who’s in?!!

December 22, 2018: Back in my hometown of Montreal!

As much as I really love to travel, I really hate to travel.  The planning, the rushing, the crowds, the flying.  Akemi spent most of this morning running around, doing laundry and generally cleaning the apartment – to the point where I wondered whether she had rented our place out as an Airbnb during our time away.  I meanwhile, finished my 388th book on the year.  Can I make it to 400 before the New Year?

We got to the airport early, breezed through security, and our flight departed only fifteen minutes late.  Suji is a fantastic flyer but it looks like Lulu’s flying days may be over.  Although she calmed down once the engines’ soothing thrum kicked in, she was VERY vocal about her dislike of the carrier’s cramped confines.  I’m thinking this may be her last trip to Montreal unless we drive – or take the train.  Any of you do a lot of train traveling?  Thoughts?

The airport freak-out!

Dinner!  Not pictured: mom’s seasonal friendship cake.

Mom and sis.

Settling into the new digs.  Suji is…uncertain.

Big day tomorrow.  We’re going to hit a coffee shop in the morning, check out a pet shop in the afternoon, and then have pasta for dinner.  I have my doubts we’ll be able to squeeze it all in.

And you?

December 21, 2018: Gearing up for holiday travels!

Tomorrow afternoon, we are Montreal-bound for 11(ish) glorious days of eating.  And family time.  Now eleven days may seem like an unusually long time to bunk at mom’s (I’m sure it’s just coincidental that Akemi’s interest and enthusiasm for purchasing a condo in the city is inversely proportional to the dwindling days towards our departure), but this time we’ve taken a page out of Japan Travel handbook and purchased a portable wifi for the occasion.  No longer will we need to trek to my sister’s place or that quaint little coffee shop in Pointe Claire Village for their free wifi.  Ah, chances are we’ll probably still hit the coffee shop but still, it’s nice to know that this year we’ll stay connected.

The airport is only a ten minute drive from our place and the flight itself a little over an hour, so the dogs – who will be flying in-cabin – should be fine.  Given my travel experience with them, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no idea time of day to fly with them.  They’re equally well/ill-behaved regardless of when we hit the friendly skies. Lulu straddles the 20 lb weight limit, so here’s hoping a light breakfast and early afternoon poop will do the trick.

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Received this beautiful canvas print of our late pug Bubba from blog regular gforce (aka Gary) earlier this week.  Gary took the photo when he visited us in Vancouver a couple of years back, a gorgeous shot of Akemi’s “second boyfriend”.  Thanks, Gary.

She looks calm and sleepy now but a little under 24 hours, this little powder keg will go OFF when she is reunited with the rest of the Mallozzi pack – my mother’s two dogs and my sister’s three.  She may be small, but Suji has attitude.   Don’t believe me?  Check out this recent heated discussion –

As we head into festive mode, take a moment to send well-wishes to all of our extended blog family, especially those who may be looking at a more difficult holiday season.

The Absentminded Professor

That’s what my mother used to call me growing up.  The Absentminded Professor.  My father, on the other hand, would simply tell me: “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”  And, in all fairness, it was hard to argue.  I’ve been a habitual forgetter for as long as I can remember.

Names, faces, birthdays – I’m not so good with.  On the other, neither am I good with every day words that slip my mind, so there will be instances when I’ll refer to “the thing” or “the whatsis” to which Akemi will invariably reply: “The what?”. Just the other day, I mistakenly referred to broccoli as cauliflower.  “It’s not cauliflower,”Akemi corrected me.  And then “What is it?”  “Broccoli,”I replied – and then realized she was testing me.

Which led me to test myself late last night after spending sometime online researching memory decline and ominous brain-related ailments.  Was I feeling depressed lately?  No.  Was there a history of cognitive impairment or neurodegenerative diseases in my family?  No.  Is your memory getting worse? No.  I don’t think so.   Maybe?  I can’t remember.

I didn’t flag any early warning signs (I’ve never left the stove on or gotten lost coming home) but, just in case, I decided to take this convenient 25 minute test brain health assessment:  https://www.cogniciti.com  I paired symbols (very well), put names to faces (fairly well), and identified patterns (well enough).  My results placed me in the 85th percentile.  Not bad.  But much better this morning when I made Akemi take the same test and she managed only 80%.  She claims the language tripped her up, but that didn’t stop me from imagining her, an addled octogenarian, eventually having to rely on 100 year old me to remember the dog’s meds, turn off the stove, and point out that the broccoli she picked up at Safeway is, in fact, cauliflower.

Fact is, I’ve always had a bad memory.  As old whatsisname once said: “The true art of memory is something something.”

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2018: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites!

1

Captain America #6 (cover art by Alex Ross)

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Darth Vader #25 (cover art by Elia Bonetti, Giuseppe Camuncoli)

1

Domino #9 (cover art by Gang Hyuk Lim)

1

Friendo #3 (cover art by Martin Simmonds)

1

Outpost Zero #5 (cover art by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Alexandre Tefenkgi)

1

The Life of Captain Marvel #5 (cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco)

1

The Punisher #5 (cover art by Greg Smallwood)

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The Black Moon Chronicles, vol. 18: The Opal Throne (cover art by Fabrice Angleraud)

So, which were your favorites?

December 18, 2018: My Top 20 Reads of 2018 Published Before 2018!

Given the insane number of books I read in 2018, I decided to forego my usual Year’s Best rundown in favor of separate lists for varied categories.  Today, for example, I’m offering up My Top 20 Reads of 2018 Published Before 2018.  General fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, crime & thrillers, YA, graphic novels – there’s something here for everyone.  

#20. The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood.

The heartbreaking tale of a girl losing her father to Alzheimers turns into an intriguing mystery as young Ada discovers secrets from her father’s past. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it surprises you.

#19. The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien

Maude Julien’s childhood was defined by the iron grip of her father, who was convinced his daughter was destined for great deeds. His plan began when he adopted Maude’s mother and indoctrinated her with his esoteric ideals. Her mission was to give him a daughter as blonde as she was, and then to take charge of the child’s education. That child was Maude, on whom her father conducted his outrageous experiment—to raise the perfect ‘super-human’ being.

The three lived in an isolated mansion in northern France, where her father made her undergo endless horrifying endurance tests. Maude had to hold an electric fence without flinching. Her parents locked her in a cellar overnight and ordered her to sit still on a stool in the dark, contemplating death, while rats scurried around her feet.

How did this girl, with her loveless and lonely childhood, emerge so unscathed, so full of the empathy that was absent in her childhood? How did she manage to escape?

Maude was sustained by her love of nature and animals and her passion for literature. In writing this memoir, Maude Julien shows that it is possible to overcome severe trauma. She recounts her chilling and deeply moving story in a compelling and compassionate voice. 

Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, but bereft of its humor, this memoir is nevertheless a shocking and captivating read, detailing the author’s cloistered upbringing and a childhood replete with bizarre familial rituals. Much respect for Maude Julien who survived the experience and found the strength to reflect and write about it.

#18. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories.

A raw and honest account of how one woman’s involvement in the legal defense of a convicted child-killer spurred her to lay bare her own painful past, and reconsider her support for capital punishment. A tough yet insightful read that, ultimately, lead me to reassess my stance on the subject – although, in the end, my opinion remains unchanged.

#17. You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames

Joe has witnessed things that cannot be erased. A former FBI agent and Marine, his abusive childhood has left him damaged beyond repair. He has completely withdrawn from the world and earns his living rescuing girls who have been kidnapped into the sex trade.

When he’s hired to save the daughter of a corrupt New York senator held captive at a Manhattan brothel, he stumbles into a dangerous web of conspiracy, and he pays the price. As Joe’s small web of associates are picked off one by one, he realizes that he has no choice but to take the fight to the men who want him dead.

An economical and brutal read.

#16. American War by Omar El Akkad

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

#15. The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

When a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

#14. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. 

Don’t let the fact that it’s a YA novel dissuade you from picking up this incredible book about a sick girl whose life in isolation is transformed by her teeming interest in a new neighbor. And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, author Yoon thoroughly upends those quaint expectations in brilliant fashion.

#13. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school. 

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all. 

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

I started this book late one night, figuring I would read the first 50 pages before turning in. Two hours (and 338 pages) later, physically exhausted but mentally wired, I’d completed one of the best psychological thrillers in recent memory. 

#12. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. 

An emotionally exhausting but incredibly rewarding read about a missionary family’s experience in late 1950’s Congo.

#11. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

#10. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

#9. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family’s old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.

It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.

A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols’s homecoming…

#8. House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel

The Marvel event of the decade is here! The Avengers and the X-Men are faced with a common foe that becomes their greatest threat: Wanda Maximoff! The Scarlet Witch is out of control, and the fate of the entire world is in her hands. Will Magneto help his daughter or use her powers to his own benefit? Starring the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers! You know how sometimes you hear the phrase: and nothing will ever be the same again? Well, this time believe it, buster! Nothing will ever be the same again! 

#7. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Similar to Alexandria Marzano-Lesenevich’s “The Facts of a Body” in that both are non-fiction accounts of a young lawyer’s attempt to save a convicted murderer from death row. Still, as much as I enjoyed Marzano-Lesenevich’s book, it didn’t cause me to reconsider my long-held stance on capital punishment. This book did and, for that, it earns 5 stars. 

The statistics and true stories that pepper Just Mercy are as staggering as they are outrageous in their indictment of a justice system stacked against the poor and people of color, where abuse of power is often ignored, even accepted, and authority figures can, literally, get away with murder. 

#6. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth? 

#5. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round. Who knows better than your best friends what would break you?

#4. The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead. 

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As fate brings these damaged souls together, their obsessive quests spark sexual currents neither can resist. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?

#3. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a man investigates the seemingly unrelated bizarre, tragic, and horrific occurrences of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them. Beginning with only fragments of his earliest years, you’ll follow the narrator as he discovers that these strange and horrible events are actually part of a single terrifying story that has shaped the entirety of his life and the lives of those around him. If you’ve ever stayed in the woods just a little too long after dark, if you’ve ever had the feeling that someone or something was trying to hurt you, if you remember the first friend you ever made and how strong that bond was, then Penpal is a story that you won’t soon forget, despite how you might try.

It offers, not the visceral horror of most contemporary works in the genre, but a masterful, steadily mounting sense of apprehension and dread. 

In retrospect, a few narrative bumps, but this book was so unnervingly effective, I have to give it a rare 5 stars.

#2. You by Caroline Kepnes

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

Hoowee! One of the most intense reads in recent memory. Our charming protagonist is an unhinged stalker, but it’s the calculated way he operates that makes him both utterly terrifying and incredibly fascinating. This one will keep you up nights – while you’re reading and long after.

#1. How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn’t quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist. She’s already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation, but he notices things the others don’t and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief and perhaps the only one who can help them–if he doesn’t run away from home first.

This book ranks right up there with some of my all-time favorites and definitely makes my Desert Island Reads shortlist.

Read any of the aforementioned?  What did you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Weigh in with your thoughts!

December 17, 2018: My Top 10 Christmas Movies (revised)!

Just in time for the holidays!

#10. A Charlie Brown Christmas 

Like Nutella and Fantastic Four comic books, the Charlie Brown holiday specials never fail to stir the nostalgia.

#9. Stalag 17

An under appreciated classic.  

#8. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Speaking of under appreciated, there’s this surprisingly poignant entry in the film series that is receiving some long overdue love from Bond enthusiasts.

#7. Home Alone

When bad things happen to bad people.  Always cathartic.

#6. Lethal Weapon

A depressed detective is saved by a Christmas miracle.

#5. Trading Places

My favorite Eddie Murphy movie (Yes, beating out Beverly Hills Cop).  But my favorite Dan Ackroyd movie is still The Blues Brothers). 

#4. Better Off Dead

Do you have Christmas in France?

#3. Bad Santa

When good things happen to bad people.

#2. Die Hard

Apparently there are crazies online who insist this ISN’T a Christmas movie.  

#1. A Christmas Story

Was there ever any doubt?

December 15, 2018: Schadenfreude!

Read a couple of books today, one of them, Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune by Tiffany Watt Smith offers a delightful exploration of the complex emotion that sees us derive pleasure in the failures or humiliations of others.  And, by “others”, I mean rivals, bullies, hypocrites, and runway models in impossibly high heels.

Anyway, an informative, highly-entertaining read that got me to thinking about the memorable instances of schadenfreude I’ve experienced, instances big and small.

Like that time I was driving home one night and was almost sideswiped by a sports car weaving wildly in and out of traffic before speeding off.  Fifteen minutes later, I drove by the same car parked on the shoulder, its driver contending with an officer in an unmarked police car as other passing motorists honked their best wishes in passing.

Or that time many years ago when, I as a young, un-produced writer, submitted a pitch to a teen series only to have it go unanswered for months.  And then, while attempting to follow up, being reprimanded by the show’s producer – who, two years later, ended up having to pitch me his new show in my new position as a manager of animation development.

And that time that executive, who kind of screwed me over on that one deal, later ended up getting turfed for expensing escorts to his company account.

Yep, life’s full of ’em.

Please, do regale us with your personal instances of delectable schadenfreude.

December 14, 2018: My Glorious Reading Year!

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  With roughly twelve reading days left in 2018, my goal of 365 books (Yes, a book a day) looks well within reach.  Granted, roughly 25% of those books were graphic novels so purists could argue I attained a much less impressive 275 titles on the year but still – I’ll take it.

As I prepare for my annual Best Of rundown, I took a closer look at my glorious reading year and discovered…

Over half the books I read were 2018 releases.

Of the 365+ books read on the year, I rated roughly 250 titles average (mostly) to poor.

Over 100 of the books I read this year I gave a rating of good (mostly) to excellent (all of 11).

I read across all genres, but noted General Fiction was far and away my most popular reading category followed my thrillers/mystery/suspense, sci-fi, non-fiction, horror, and fantasy (in that order).

Recommendations from established sites and award nominees and winners offered an very mixed bag – a few excellent reads but a lot of unimpressive offerings and even a few shockingly bad books.  Still, I suppose it beats twitter.

I’m thinking that this time around, instead of posting my annual all-encompassing countdown, I would offer up my top picks across various categories including my selections for Best of Not 2018, books I read this past year that were published prior to 2018.

Would love to hear what 2018 releases made YOUR best of list.  There still may be time for me to hunt down a copy!

 

December 13, 2018: Japan Photos – Final Edition!

Pokeman-inspired offerings at Osaka cafe.

Just a few of the Hello Kitty-themed phone accessories at the Sanrio store.

Akemi snags a biscuit from some poor unsuspecting elderly shop mascot.

I suspect this is an advertisement for some spa where you can get away from it all, enjoy a sumptuous buffet, and then enjoy a nice, relaxing curry sauna.

Subway poster warning punch-happy drunken salarymen: “We’ve got eyes on you!”

This poor kid broke his arm playing in this parking lot.  May what happened to him be a lesson to you all!

The interior garden in Akemi’s Osaka family home.

Akemi kicking back in Roppongi Hills.

Tonight, I’m making a rare foray into an industry event as I hit the Writers Guild of Canada pre-holiday bash.  I plan to really tear it up – in the hour or so I’ll be there before heading home in time for my 10 p.m. bedtime reading.  Partaaaay!

December 12, 2018: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

There were my favorites…

Spider-Man Worldwide, vol. 9 (cover art by Alex Ross)

Doctor Strange: The Best Defense #1 (cover art by Greg Smallwood)

Shadowman #10 (cover art by Tonci Zonjic)

Star Wars, Vol. 9: Hope Dies (cover art by Travis Charest)

Sword Daughter, vol. 1 (cover art by Greg Smallwood)

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spiderman #313 (cover art by Jeff Dekal)

So, which were your faves?

December 11, 2018: A cryptic text, going for 365, my Snow Monkeys, and the sun hog!

Hmmmmm.  Received a most intriguing yet mysterious text this afternoon by someone with some very interesting news.  But the number is not in my list of contacts and, while I can possibly guess the sender’s identity (New phone number perhaps?), I can’t be certain.  My “Wait.  Who is this?” response went unanswered and so, for the foreseeable future, I can only stew and consider the possibilities.  All I can say is how bizarre yet absolutely amazing if true.

Cryptic enough for ya?

Pleased to report I have eight more books to read in order to complete by 365 titles in 365 days record reading year.  I’m working on a breakdown and, so far, 183 of the titles were 2018 releases.  Not bad.  I’ve got 30 books on digital hold from my local library and I anxiously await the email notification informing me I’m good to go, while madly refreshing the hold page to see how far along the queue I’ve progressed on my various waits.  #18 on 8 copies of Baby Teeth!  #1 on 5 copies of River of Stars!  #884 on 250 copies of Educated!

It is with great sadness I report the premature end to my fantasy football season in one league.  My Snow Monkeys were undone by the underperforming likes of Alvin Kamara, Larry Fitzgerald, DJ Moore, and Baker Mayfield.  Now, my hopes rest with my Snow Monkeys in my second league where they battle former Dark Matter VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson’s L’s Legit Team.  I’m feeling confident.

Man, check out the sun hog –

 

December 9, 2018: Japan Etc.

Some of the many highlights of our recent Japan trip that I didn’t have time to upload while traveling…

Our hotel was located close to the Takarazuka Theater which hosts nightly performances of an all-female musical theater troupe comprised of six groups numbering a total of 400 members (graduates of the esteemed Takarazuka Music School).  Every evening, post-performance, a group of fans gather, all women, to patiently await their idols.  On one night we happened by, we saw two of the actresses interact with their fans, greeting them warmly as they accepted what looked like theater programs (or fan letters?).  According to Akemi, many of these fans respond to the lush sets, costumes, and love stories at the heart of the productions, but most feel a connection to the individual actresses, especially those who play the roles of idealized male figures.

Our visit to TV Asahi took us to a mini museum display of one of Japan’s most iconic manga/cartoon characters, Doraemon, a robot cat from the future.  The manga ran for almost 30 years while the animated series boasts three different incarnations numbering over 2300 episodes.  Over the course of his innumerable adventures, Doraemon made use of a slew of wacky 22nd century items he brought back with him.  Among them: an Anywhere Door that can take you – well – anywhere, special shoes that let you step into a book’s story, a device that makes dreams a reality, a passport that forgives your sins, a pen that solves any problem, a flashlight whose light beam returns damaged items to their original undamaged state, a cupid-like bow and arrow set, a megaphone that makes lies come true, a bread that acts as a notepad for you to write things down so that once consumed you’ll always be able to recall what you wrote/ate, a clone-creating camera, a doll that creates a kooky clone of whoever touches its nose, a belt that inhibits you from doing wrong, a mirror whose reflections become a reality allowing you to create multiple versions of whatever you put in front of it, a snack that allows animals to understand you, and puppet that will answer any question you ask it.

This utterly insane collection of exquisitely detailed cakes on display at The Imperial Hotel.

These varied window displays.