Tuesday, June 1, 2021

April and May Favorites: Gay Hockey, FUBARed Spider-man, and Bigfoot is Real


Check me out! I'm kicked back with my feet in the MOST DANGEROUS SPOT in a car (who needs an unshattered pelvis in the event of a crash, anyway?) reading on a genuine road trip!

And after Syd is two weeks past her second vaccination, we might even go on another!

Spring was the type of busy that I'd forgotten about, given that we spent last spring entirely on our own property, homeschooling on our own timeline. This spring, Will had big tests, Syd had big tests, there are suddenly meetings and extracurriculars and trainings to attend myself and/or chauffeur teenagers to, Matt's extended family wanted to see us up in Michigan, and I took nine Girl Scouts camping smack in the middle of it. I'm pretty stoked that we have a life outside of just the four of us again, but setting my alarm and putting on my hard pants and talking to strangers and leaving the house every day instead of once a month is definitely something that takes getting used to!

Weirdly, I think I might get a lot more reading done when I'm out and about. At home, there are always a hundred chores and projects vying for my time, but cooling my heels in my car for four hours while Will takes her AP exam in a town an hour and a half away where it's also raining so I can't even go for a walk? Turns out that's a great way to get through my latest non-fiction! Sitting in the passenger seat for that six-hour ride to Michigan? Might as well read all the comic books!

Such as these!

I was THRILLED to see the second volume of Check, Please! available! I stopped keeping track of new releases when my public library was closed for several months last year, and I'm still discovering treasures that I didn't know got published. Not gonna lie: I read Book 2 cover to cover, then turned back to page 1 and read it cover to cover again. Because, you know, the first time through a graphic novel you're focused on the story, so you've got to hit it up a second time so you can appreciate the graphics.

There are a lot of reasons why I love this graphic novel series so much. First of all, there is very little hockey fiction out there in the world. There's some good hockey non-fiction, but I'm a lover of hockey AND a lover of stories, and so I'm primed to love good hockey storytelling. And the hockey storytelling here is SO good! But even if you did not like hockey at all, I think you'd love the books and these characters. And the romance sub-plot doesn't even really hit until Book 2!

It's possible that I have taken to buying my own holiday presents, because sometimes life partners seem to forget that gift-giving is a convention. It's also possible that I will be buying myself this Samwell Hockey hoodie for my birthday. 

Oh, dang, I just discovered that site also carries Carry On, Simon merch, which is even more relevant because I also recently read THIS graphic novel adaptation!

I may well just be a person who lives in hoodies that rep pretend institutions.

In case you thought I might be over my obsession with people risking their lives, I present the following evidence to the contrary from my recent reads:

I hadn't read The Right Stuff since I was a teenager, and I think I missed a lot of the snarky, damning with faint praise, sarcastic descriptions that Tom Wolfe peppered his book with. It is VERY peppery! I loved the insider-esque info, but some of Wolfe's opinions-masking-as-hearsay don't age very well. Gus Grissom is one of my favorite astronauts (his memorial is nearby, and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis had his ship, Liberty Bell 7, on loan for a few years so I could go by and stand in awe of it whenever I wanted), and I didn't love how even though he didn't SAY Grissom blew his hatch prematurely, he sure spent an awful long time saying how everyone else said it! 

There's also an interesting controversy in Into Thin Air. Jon Krakauer is more direct and takes better ownership of his opinions, which I appreciate even though some families of the people he writes about do not (say what you will about the actions of the guides on that particular expedition, there IS a real problem with amateurs ascending Mount Everest, and their presence DOES put lives in greater danger), but in his original first-person accounts, and his original article about this expedition, he apparently made a really big mistake and misidentified a guy who later died on Everest. Everyone looks alike in a giant down snowsuit and goggles, I guess? I'm not one hundred percent sure why people are so super upset with his mistake, because whether he saw the guy in one place and so the guy must have died there, or whether another guy saw the guy in another place and so he must have died there, doesn't seem to make a huge difference, and anyway nobody's totally sure exactly how the guy died in either story. But now it seems more likely that the guy, already hypoxic, probably died trying to haul some oxygen canisters further up the mountain to help a couple of stranded climbers, and not, as in Krakauer's original telling, by walking off a cliff on his way back to Camp 4. But it's also possible that the only reason the climbers were stranded so that they needed oxygen hauled up to them is that they hadn't tried to come down because this same guy had been standing there with the canister stash for half the day telling everyone there was no more oxygen, even though there totally was, so does that kind of negate the heroics?

I dunno, but I'm sure as hell not climbing Mount Everest!

Anyway, I also read some good fictional horror this spring!

Bunny is more a combo of weird, dark magical realism with horror, and I got super into it, because grad school is INDEED a cult! Finally, someone came out and said it! The book reminded me quite a lot of We Ride Upon Sticks, with feminism so subversive that it cycles back around to women literally hitting dudes with sticks... and they don't even deserve it, for a change! 

Horrorstor, on the other hand, is a pretty cut-and-dry haunted mansion story, but the book's design, particularly the faux IKEA catalog pages and the found first-person manuscripts, made it so much more immersive that now I want to see the same concept handled a hundred more times in a hundred more different ways.

Same. With. BIGFOOT!

One of my favorite things about teaching AP Human Geography this year was how readily it lent itself to living books. Will and I read so many interesting studies of human geography, and we're likely going to continue to do so all summer. Here's what I've read recently:

I actually think I've read all of these particular books before, but The Hot Zone, in particular, made for an excellent--and terrifying!--pandemic re-read. Every single paragraph, in my head I was like, "OMG we are all going to get Ebola and die," even though I know this book is older and we haven't all died of... well, we haven't all died of Ebola. 

Want to read even more non-fiction about huge projects that are grossly mis-managed, but at least this time nobody dies of Ebola? Here, read this:

I just... this book is epic. I loathe every single person in it except for the actors and the author's poor family--those people I just feel sorry for. Like, I have read a lot of books about how Broadway musicals are created, and a lot of memoirs written by people involved in the creation of Broadway musicals. They all speak of the thoughtful, painstaking process of artistic creation, of the team that works together to make the musical happen, how every detail, no matter how small, is put under the microscope and reworked until perfected. Anais Mitchell rewrote single lines--her favorite lines!--of songs because her dramaturg didn't think they added to the overall mis-en-scene of the musical. The smallest aspects of Orpheus were tweaked to lend him the proper characterization. 

And then here comes these assholes, just throwing together a Spider-man musical any which way, not giving the slightest fuck about characterization or plot or even if what they were creating was literally possible for actors to physically do eight times a week. The characterizations were a joke. The plot was baffling. Oh, and the actors broke a lot of bones, got a few concussions, and they're lucky as hell that nobody actually died.

And they didn't listen to any constructive criticism from anybody. And they fought constantly. And they were foul to their employees. And the whole lot of them basically just behaved like conceited assholes who were utterly baffled every time their unworkable plans didn't work. And Berger tried to portray himself as the victim/hero of the story while being SUPER gross and writing a lot about flirting with people who weren't his wife. 

I hate him SO MUCH. Here, watch this bootleg of his musical:

The performances are brilliant. Do you see my favorite set of actors, Reeve Carney and Patrick Page, in there? The one redeeming factor to this musical is that Julie Taymor discovered Reeve Carney playing in a band and convinced him to be an actor, as well. She cast him and Patrick Page in Spider-man, and now they're two of the main characters in my all-time favorite musical, Hadestown.

And because you know how I love my Broadway bootlegs, here's my other favorite Hadestown actress in her previous starring role in Miss Saigon:

In my world, YouTube exists almost entirely for Broadway bootlegs and hockey highlights. Maybe next month I'll show you some clips that prove that the Vegas Golden Knights are a bunch of dirty cheats!

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