August 2019 - Dumb Vampires, Murderous Twins, and a Grumpy Magic Boy

August was 100% recuperation and mental health self-care. I watched TV, played video games, hung out at a lake, and turned my brain off for a while. So no new art this month, but plenty of things that I enjoyed.


MOVIES + TV

Schitt’s Creek
The biggest TV surprise for me this month was how much I loved Schitt’s Creek. I kept hearing about the show from my sister, but I have a hard time actually sitting down and watching TV so it took me way too long to get around to it. The main thrust of the story is that a very wealthy family gets in trouble for not paying taxes and loses everything except for a small rural town, Schitt’s Creek, which they bought as a joke many years back. With no other options, the parents (played by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) and their two adult children (Dan Levy and Annie Murphy) end up living in the town’s roadside motel and facing different humorous dilemmas each week. Typical sitcom fare for sure, which is greatly elevated by a stellar cast and smart writing. The quality of the performances and the writing means that even though these characters are often unlikeable, you fall in love with them all anyway.

One additional element that I really enjoyed is that the son David is pansexual and gets to have an amazing love story. It is so joyous to see a gay romance like this on screen; one where the characters are allowed to be happy and in love and don’t face a ton of tragedy. Plus, I am a hopeless romantic and have rewatched their big romance scenes (like this one, caution: spoilers) way too many times. So come for the entertaining sitcom, stay for the incredibly sweet love story. (Seasons 1-4 are streaming on Netflix., 5 & 6 are on Hulu “Live TV” so I haven’t been able to watch those yet).

What We Do In The Shadows
I’m a big fan of the original What We Do In The Shadows movie but was a little unsure how well it would translate to TV. There was no need to worry though - the show is great. The show moves from New Zealand to Staten Island and features a new cast of characters but keeps the same style and humor and approaches a lot of the same story beats in different ways. Plus there are some great guest stars that I won’t spoil here. (Season 1 is streaming on Hulu)

Good Omens
A lovely adaptation of the book, carried strongly by David Tennant’s Crowly and Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale. Their friendship and chemistry are the heart of the show and I now understand why it spawned so much fanfic/shipping. The production and costume design (especially the dukes of hell with lizards on their heads) also stood out. I really liked it. (Streaming on Amazon)


GAMES

Wolfenstein: Young Blood
I had a lot of fun with this one (with a few caveats). The levels felt a bit samey, the final boss was disproportionally difficult, and I had hoped the game would lean more into an 80s aesthetic, but all that being said I loved the co-op option, the gameplay was well crafted, and the two main characters were great. So not my GOTY but still worth checking out, especially if you like the other recent Wolfenstein games (which I totally do).


BOOKS

Brazen and the Beast (Sarah MacLean)
I like many of Sarah MacLean’s books but I think Brazen takes the crown as my favorite. I loved the two main characters and the romance built on equality and mutual respect. The hero, Whit, is a big tough (gorgeous) crime-lord-with-a-heart-of-gold who doesn’t talk much and has a ton of emotional baggage. The heroine, Hattie, is the very competent, chatty daughter of a shipping magnate who is determined to take charge of her life and the family business. Their first extended interaction involves Hattie, on her way to visit a brothel, throwing Whit out of a moving carriage. 💕

Spellbound (Allie Therin)
The first thing that endeared this book to me was the setting: New York, 1925. For some reason this isn’t a time and place that comes up much in the books I read (probably just not reading the right books) and I really enjoyed what it added to the story: Coney Island, illegal speakeasies, mobsters, etc. Both a romance and a paranormal adventure, Spellbound follows Rory, a young man who has the power to touch an object and see its history. When Arthur, the rich, handsome son of a senator, enlists Rory’s help scrying the origin of a dangerously powerful ring, Rory is begrudgingly introduced to the larger world of magic in New York and an evil plot that could very well end with the destruction of Manhattan. The book takes a little while to get going but overall I enjoyed it and am looking forward to more of Rory and Arthur’s story.

Pumpkinheads (Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks)
A short but sweet graphic novel about two high-school seniors on their last night working at a local pumpkin patch. The art and story complimented each other wonderfully.


I also reread the first two installment’s of Alexis Hall’s Arden St. Ives series in preparation for book three (which came out September 3). If you like modern queer romances this series is one of my absolute favorites. The main character, Arden, is a joy to spend time with and these books make me intensely happy. I’ll talk about book 3 (which I couldn’t put down and finished in less than a day) in my September round-up.


MUSIC

I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s new album for the past two weeks. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I can’t help it, it’s catchy AF.

July 2019 - Art, Extradimensional Horrors, and Ingrid Michaelson

Much like June, July was all art, all the time. BUT! The show is finally done and hanging at the gallery and I’m really happy with how it all turned out. I look forward to going to bed at a reasonable time, playing some video games, and catching up on various shows and movies now that I have free time again.


MOVIES

Spiderman: Far From Home
I (perhaps irresponsibly) took a couple of hours away from art to go see SPIDERMAN: FAR FROM HOME. Tom Holland remains my favorite live action Spiderman. I think the new take on Mysterio works really well (Jake Gyllenhaal nailed it) and the whole adventure was a lot of fun.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
One of the perks of working at a movie theatre is that I can sit in on the daytime press screenings for local film reviewers. This means that I was able to see a SECOND MOVIE in July! 😮 THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO is a really beautiful film about family (biological and chosen), identity, home, and gentrification. The trailer better summarizes the story than I seem to be able to in my sleep deprived state. It’s a lyrical, drifty sort of movie which savors little moments and gives weight to things not usually celebrated. The cinematography and music are also excellent. I would definitely recommend.


BOOKS

I spent most of my July book time re-reading some favorite comfort romances to help decompress during art breaks: An Unnatural Vice & An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles and the Enlightenment series by Joanna Chambers. I also read a handful of new things, some of which were good.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (Alexis Hall)
Alexis Hall is one of my favorite romance writers and he branches out a bit here with a weird, fun, and delightfully queer riff on Holmes and Watson, set in a Lovecraftian world where basically everything exists: extra dimensional gods, time travel, multiple universes, magic, vampires, underwater cities, zombies, and more. The story follows Captain John Wyndham, who left his puritanical home country to go to school and then join the army. After returning from a war in which he fought unknowable beings in a different dimension, Wyndham becomes roommates with the strange, eccentric, drug-fueled sorceress Shaharazad Haas. When Haas’ former flame enlists her help in solving a blackmail plot, the housemates go on a series of adventures to solve the mystery. The book is presented as a series of vignettes, as told by Wyndham, whose conservative upbringing means he is uncomfortable transcribing fowl language or unsavory conduct (to very humorous effect).

Raze (Roan Parrish)
Raze is a strong third entry into Parrish’s Riven series. This installment follows Huey, a bar owner and substance abuse sponsor (featured a bit in the earlier books) who has spent the last 10 years staying sober and helping others do the same. He does this at the expense of relationships and any sort of personal life. Following a karaoke performance at his bar, Huey meets Felix, a sunshine cinnamon roll who has spent his entire life helping raise his siblings and has no idea what to do with his life now that his brothers and sisters have grown up. Romance ensues. 💕

Heartstopper: Volume 2 (Alice Oseman)
I mentioned earlier that I would be snapping up Volume 2 of this series as soon as it was available and I did just that! Where the first book follows the blossoming friendship/romance between Nick and Charlie, this second volume focuses on Charlie trying to come to grips with his bisexuality and his fear of coming out. The art in these books is beautiful and incredibly expressive; the way that Oseman is able to say so much with such simple, clean line-work and a few shades of gray is amazing.


MUSIC

Stranger Songs (Ingrid Michaelson)
While I have generally liked Ingrid Michaelson’s music in the past (and love her “Girls Chase Boys” video), I’ve never listened to a whole album or followed her work very closely. Then earlier this month, artist Kevin Wada posted that he had created art for an Ingrid Michaelson music video from her new album. I clicked the link and by that evening I was listening to Stranger Songs on solid repeat. The music is loosely inspired by Netflix’s Stranger Things; it has a romantic pop/synth vibe and there are a number of themes and direct references to the show. But you don’t need to know anything about Stranger Things to enjoy the album. The other element which is really neat is that each song from the album has an accompanying lyric video with art by a bunch of talented artists, including Wada, Nicola Scott, Kate Leth, and Jen Bartel.


ART

The solo show is done and everything is up at the gallery! *passes out on the floor*

Usually when I do a big show I have a couple of filler pieces that I’m not super excited about, but somehow I like everything I made for this one.

The opening reception is on Friday (Aug 2) from 6:30-9pm at Gallery 9 in Lincoln and the show will be up through the month of August. I will (hopefully) have new prints available at the gallery along with the originals and those prints will then be added to the online shop a little later in August.

June 2019 - Hedgehogs, Beatles, and Jaded Spies

I spent all of my free time in June making art, so I don’t have many new recommendations this month.

I adopted a wayward hedgehog last week, though, so that’s kind of big news. Meet Barnaby! 🦔 He’s super shy but he licked my hand and rolled around in his ball yesterday, so I think we’re making progress.

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MOVIES

Yesterday
YESTERDAY is a kind movie. I am at max stress right now, so seeing a kind movie with a happy ending was really nice.

Jack (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician on the verge of giving up on his dreams. Late one night, all of the lights in the world mysteriously go dark and at this exact moment Jack is hit by a bus. While recuperating from the accident, he makes the strange discovery that he has woken up in a world where the Beatles never existed and he may be the only person who still remembers their songs. Jack begins recording/performing Beatles music as his own which soon leads to all of the fame and fortune he could hope for, but also intense guilt for taking credit for music he didn’t write. It’s a fun “what if” scenario and a sweet love story, with a great soundtrack and lovely performances from the two lead actors. The reviews for YESTERDAY seem to be rather mixed, but I for one really liked it.


BOOKS

Hither, Page (Cat Sebastian)
An Agatha Christie-style murder mystery and a sweet romance, Hither, Page is another great book from Cat Sebastian. In post WWII England, a jaded spy named Leo is sent to a tiny town to investigate a murder that may be connected to a larger case of international espionage. While there he meets a handsome doctor who is suffering from PTSD and doesn’t for one moment buy Leo’s cover as a “traveling architecture enthusiast”. The two end up solving the mystery, falling in love, and helping each other find a home after the darkness of war.


ART

I have a solo show opening in less than a month so I am in super hardcore art mode at the moment. I have about a million (well, more like 29) pieces in various stages of completion so basically every flat surface in my house has art or art-related things sitting on it. One of the big pieces in the show will this set of 12 birds which I included on the announcement postcard. The new art features a lot of birds (because birds are cool) but also includes other animals and some mythological creatures. I’m really excited and really stressed.

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I can also finally show the new piece I made for Gallery1988’s official Yu-Gi-Oh show which will be on display July 5-14 in Los Angeles!

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May 2019 - Reluctant Hitmen, Ridiculous Sword fights, and a Very Good Dog

Somehow we’re already done with May?!? I have a lot of art work to get done in the next two months. * sweats *
I actually enjoyed a whole bunch of things this month, so I have lots of recommendations. You may also notice that I recently figured out how to add videos to the blog…


MOVIES + TV

Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
After thoroughly enjoying Killing Eve and finding out that one of the creators, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is also the the creator and star of Fleabag, I decided to check it out. I LOVED IT. The show is about a woman (played by Waller-Bridge) dealing with all sorts of emotional issues involving sex, family, depression, guilt, and loneliness. She shares her thoughts directly with the camera, so we become her confidant as she copes with various adventures and dramas. It’s incredibly funny and also genuinely moving. At the end of the final episode (which was a perfect finale, IMO) I was literally laughing and crying at the same time. All of the actors are great and the fourth-wall breaking never feels like a gimmick - It’s actually part of the story. The whole show is only two seasons long, each made up of 6 30-minute episodes, so it’s very easy to binge. Definitely one of the best things I have seen in a while.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
While I didn’t love it as much as the first two installments, John Wick 3 is still a very entertaining action movie, with beautifully crafted fight scenes. Within the first 30 minutes, John has fights in a library, an antique knife shop, and a horse stable, all of which are great. Unfortunately after that, the excitement wanes a bit and the unending gun and sword fights started to feel a little repetitive. It all still looked amazing but I had trouble staying interested.

It’s worth noting that I watched the film as part of a triple-feature movie marathon and by hour 5 I was getting rather desensitized. It’s very possible that the action scenes wouldn’t feel as monotonous if you haven’t already watched 4 hours of the same thing right beforehand. Anyway, if you want a solid action film, with Keanu Reeves, gunfights, some battle-dogs, a manic dagger duel, and a very weird plot that dives a little too deep into magical underworld bureaucracy lore, John Wick 3 is worth checking out.

Her Smell
Her Smell is a surreal, disorienting, and incredibly acted portrait of the downfall of a punk rock musician (played by Elisabeth Moss). The structure of the film, mixed with an unnerving score and an unpredictable manic main character, meant that I was basically on-edge for two hours. Yet still really enjoyed the film.

Barry (HBO)
Barry is great; it’s a bizarre blend of comedy and very dark drama that somehow works. The show follows a hitman (Bill Hader) who discovers a passion for acting and tries to balance his life as a murderer-for-hire with his desire to attend theatre classes and be on stage. Hader is such a charming actor that you naturally root for him, which makes this show emotionally complicated and occasionally unpleasant because Barry does some really bad things. Luckily that darkness is balanced with outstanding comedy and sharp writing. Special accolades for Anthony Carrigan who steals every scene as NoHo Hank, a Chechen mobster and probably my favorite character, and Season 2, Episode 5 which is one of the funniest “plan goes wrong” scenarios I have ever scene.

Game of Thrones (HBO)
There are many things I could gripe about with Game of Thrones season 8 (and with the show in general) - it absolutely had problems and being watched by so many people means that everyone has heaps to say on the subject. But I wanted to mention it here in my faves blog because even with all of its issues, I really enjoyed the shared experience of watching something along with so many other people. I love big epic mythology stories and GoT has that in spades. Over the course of 8 seasons there were numerous episodes, characters, and narratives that I really liked and I think that is what is going to stick with me, more than all the things I wish they had done differently.


VIDEO GAMES

Devil May Cry 5
This game is utterly ridiculous, doesn’t always make sense, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. In Devil May Cry 5 you play as three different demon hunters using bonkers swords (one of which is somehow simultaneously a sword and a motorcycle?), rad flips, demon buddies, and oversized firearms to kill monsters and stop an evil dude from destroying the world. As you do. While I knew the basic Devil May Cry story, played a little bit of one the previous games (but couldn’t really get into it), and enjoyed Ninja Theory’s reboot (which had its own, mostly unrelated story), I was still a little rusty on the details and had to keep texting my friend for reminders about who did what in the earlier games. I’m also not the best at remembering how to do all the complicated button combos you need for special moves. But even without all the backstory and button skillz, I still had a lot of fun.


BOOKS

My Brother’s Husband, Volume 2 (Gengoroh Tagame)
My Brother’s Husband is a two volume manga that follows a Japanese father as he is forced to examine his biases and beliefs when his deceased brother’s Canadian husband comes for an extended visit. The story is sometimes sad but also really hopeful and genuinely made me cry at the end. Just sitting there crying on the couch. The art is beautiful and it is a wonderful set of books.

Heartstopper, Volume 1 (Alice Oseman)
A very sweet graphic novel about two high-school boys forming a friendship and falling in love. Alice Oseman’s illustration style is lovely, with a particular shout out for her amazingly expressive drawings of Nellie, a dog belonging to one of the main characters. Like, I don’t know If I have ever fallen in love with something as fast as I fell in love with this dog. Please see important examples below:

The whole comic is available online, or you can get a really nice collected print edition. I went with the latter and i’m definitely ordering volume 2.

A Prince on Paper (Alyssa Cole)
More Alyssa Cole! A Prince on Paper continues Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, which I have mentioned here before. These books are so much fun with great characters and chemistry. APoP contains a charming AF sibling-to-royalty (but not a prince himself), a really lovely non-binary character (whose coming out scene I re-read like four times), and a heroine that lacks world experience but never lacks self-worth or self-respect. I loved that.

Shadows You Left (Taylor Brooke & Jude Sierra)
A tattoo artist and a cage fighter fall in love and try to deal with a mountain of emotional baggage and fraught histories. This book has really lovely prose, plenty of drama, and a strong romance centered around healing and trust. Twas a good read.


ART

All of my solo show pieces are drawn, frames and glass have been ordered, and it’s now time to actually begin construction... If you are interested in the behind-the-scenes process, check out my Patreon where I will be posting more details, photos, and video. I also completed a little X-Files piece this month for Gallery1988’s “The 90s” show.

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April 2019 - Assassins, Space Monsters, and Armageddon

Well, I managed to get the Very Worst cold and we’ve had our first tornado of the season. How is your spring going? Here are some of the things I enjoyed in April…

MOVIES + TV

Avengers: Endgame
I can’t quite say that all of it made sense and I was not very happy with the way the filmmakers kept using someone’s weight as a joke, but I still overall enjoyed the spectacle and experience of Endgame; an appropriately epic and satisfying conclusion to 11 years of movies. I have a weird aversion to rewatching most MCU movies (with some exceptions), but I could definitely watch the final battle a few more times.

Killing Eve
This was one of those situations where “I’ll just watch one episode” turned into accidentally staying up until 3am binging the entire first season. Killing Eve is an amazing showcase for some phenomenally talented actresses and I was enthralled. The show follows the increasingly obsessive relationship between Villanelle (Jodie Comer), a sociopathic assassin, and Eve (Sandra Oh), the MI5 officer who is trying to stop her. It is full of spy intrigue, tense situations, and a surprising amount of humor.

VIDEO GAMES

Prey
I started this game when it first came out in 2017 but got stuck at a difficult bit and ended up taking a very long break. I started it up again in April and had a much better time. The developer, Arkane Studios, is very good at creating beautiful, haunting locations that are incredibly fun to explore (they also created the Dishonored series). Despite having a more-or-less silent protagonist, the game manages to tell a really interesting story through the environment (an art-deco space station in the midst of an alien outbreak), well acted non-player characters, and various emails and audio-logs you find along the way. If you like really creative first person stealth/action games, put this one on your list.

Far Cry: New Dawn
I also blazed through Far Cry: New Dawn this month, which, in contrast to Prey, is one of those games where a silent protagonist doesn’t work well at all. Throughout the entire game I kept wishing I was playing a character who actually reacted to things and had a story. That being said, I still had fun playing it. New Dawn sticks to the tried-and-true Far Cry formula of taking over enemy bases, battling with charismatic, ruthless villains, and accidentally setting everything on fire as you mash buttons in a mad dash to escape a wildlife ambush involving two bears and a very angry wolverine. It’s not an outstanding game, but it’s fun junk food. Plus, bonus points for battle companions Horatio, a wild boar, and Timber, a very good dog.

BOOKS

Bloom (Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau)
A coming-of-age story (with a smidge of romance), Bloom is a lovely graphic novel written by Kevin Panetta and beautifully illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, which focuses on Ari, a young man full of young-man-angst who desperately wants to do more with his life than work at his family’s struggling bakery.

Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)
Many years ago, my family and I listened to the Good Omens audiobook while road-tripping to Canada and I accidentally slept through a large portion of it. Car trips make me sleepy. Since Amazon is getting ready to premier a new cinematic adaptation, I figured this would be a good time to properly re-read the book while actually awake. I’m a fan of both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and I really like this combined work. It’s silly and satirical and smart and just an all-round fun book full of memorable characters and clever writing. It’s kind of hard to concisely describe the story, but basically it’s time for Armageddon, the four horsemen have been summoned, the Antichrist is an 11-year-old boy, and a demon, an angel, a witch, and a novice witch-hunter join forces to save the world.

A Duke in Disguise (Cat Sebastian)
Cat Sebastian is one of my favorite historical romance authors. Her books are full of fun twists on HistRom tropes and always feature positive LGBTQ+ characters and happy endings. A Duke in Disguise is the second in her Regency Imposters series, but you don’t have to read them in order (this one actually takes place first). Our main characters are Verity, an anarchist newspaper publisher who has decided to print a steamy adult novel, and Ash, the engraver, and long-time family friend, who she hires to do the illustrations. Oh, and Ash is secretly the lost heir to a dukedom. 😬

What It Takes (Jude Sierra)
This was my first Jude Sierra book but after I finished it I quickly added the rest of her work to my “to-read” list. What it Takes follows two boys, Milo and Andrew, best friends since childhood, who grow up together in Cape Cod. Milo’s father is emotionally and physically abusive, and Andrew is Milo’s sanctuary and support. But as they grow up, emotions and attractions become confusing and ultimately they part ways for college. Years later Milo returns home and the two men are forced to deal with a whole bunch of emotional baggage as they try to reconnect and address their long-simmering love. Be prepared for lots of angst, longing, and warm, squishy feels.

An Unconditional Freedom (Alyssa Cole)
So last month I went on at length about how great Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series is and this month I will tell you about how great her Loyal League series is. Alyssa Cole is great, is what I’m saying. An Unconditional Freedom is definitely the darkest book in this series, which follows a group of spies in the civil war trying to fight the confederacy. The main protagonist in the story is Daniel, who was born free but kidnapped as a young man and sold into slavery. When An Unconditional Freedom begins, Daniel has been rescued and is working for the Loyal League, but is haunted by his past and can’t see beyond his all-consuming need to burn the world down. He is paired with Janeta, a new recruit from Cuba who is secretly working as a spy for the South. This is a tough story to read but ultimately very hopeful. My one complaint is that I found Janeta’s naiveté about slavery to be, at times, hard to swallow. Her character was really hard to sympathize with for a good portion of the book and I did a lot of really long frustrated sighing. But the book is about growth and change and that’s definitely what she does. It just takes a while to get there.

ART

Show prep continues, so April art was lots and lots of drawing and planning. Here are some robins!

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March 2019 - Doppelgängers, Demon Cats, Witches, and Ghosts

It’s finally spring! The snow is gone. Green things are peeking out of the ground. There are robins everywhere.

Here are some of the things I enjoyed in March. Apparently I consumed a lot of spooky things? I wanted to do some sort of spooky + March word smoosh but it is apparently impossible. Prove me wrong.

MOVIES + TV

Us
I am not good with scary movies, so I was nervous about seeing Us. Gore I can handle, but dread is a whole other matter. I knew that I HAD to see it, because Jordan Peele is amazing and I kicked myself for not seeing Get Out in the theatre. I also knew that whatever I was going to see was going to stick in my brain and demand attention right when I close my eyes to go to sleep. But I gathered my courage and saw the film and holy cow wow. It is so good. It ended up being the kind of weird, surreal horror that is right up my alley. A film that is filled with creepily beautiful imagery, a perfectly unsettling score, great performances, and a clever story you want to experience again right away. Like the best horror films, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief. There are elements that, upon trying to dissect them and reason them out, don’t really make sense. Which ultimately doesn’t matter in the slightest. A very high recommendation from me on this one. And yes, I totally slept with the light on afterwards. Don’t judge me!

Captain Marvel
To say that it was about time for a female hero to headline a Marvel movie is a bit of an understatement. In a series where probably 75% of the women have been relegated to “girlfriend” roles, Captain Marvel was sorely needed and I think the character will add a lot to the MCU. While I found the film to be a tad generic - I always hope for something visually arresting and strange when dealing with big, cosmic space dramas - it was still entertaining and brought a different perspective to the well-hashed origin story template. While so many hero origins involve someone getting powers and then having to become a better person to live up to those powers, Carol’s journey is in her realization that she has always been good and strong and doesn’t need to be beholden to those who want to diminish and control her. She doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone.

Legend of the Demon Cat
Set in China during the Tang Dynasty, Legend of the Demon Cat is a grand fairy-tale fantasy about a demonic ghost cat out for revenge against those that have wronged him. It’s a spectacle movie: huge sets, amazing costumes, and a beautiful array of images and color. Plus it has a ridiculous talking cat that still somehow curled up in my heart and made me cry at the end. The film is based on a popular book that I have not read and I think there were a lot of things that would have made more sense if I knew the story. But while I occasionally had no idea what exactly was going on, overall I still really liked the film.

Apollo 11
This documentary collects a trove of beautiful archival footage from the Apollo 11 space mission and creates a linear account of the entire voyage to the moon. There is no narration, other than actual recorded audio from reporters, NASA, the astronauts, and other commentators. If you are interested in space exploration history, this is a good one.

Game of Thrones
Up until February, I had not watched past season 2 of Game of Thrones. I don’t really know why. But I knew that I wanted to watch the final season as it aired instead of waiting years and having things spoiled. So over the course of two months I binged my way through the whole dang thing. There were some really rough years there, where it wasn’t particularly fun to watch, but when it was good it was REALLY GOOD.

BOOKS

A Princess in Theory & A Duke by Default (Alyssa Cole)
If you enjoy modern romances, this series by Alyssa Cole is definitely worth checking out. What I love most about these books are the women; smart ladies who have actual lives, friendships, and jobs separate from their romances. I’ve read a string of books recently where the female characters had NO existence beyond their interaction with the dashing heroes. Barely any mention of their work, ambition, dreams. So when I started A Princess in Theory and found a substantial amount of time dedicated to establishing the life, history, and science career of our main character, I was overjoyed. We get to know her so well before the love interest is even introduced. APIT follows Naledi, an epidemiologist who was raised in foster care and discovers that she was betrothed at birth to a dashing prince. A Duke by Default is about Naledi’s wayward friend Portia, who travels to Scotland for a sword-smithing internship and attempts to figure out her life while she’s falling in love with the gruff master sword-maker. These premises are ridiculous fun and and the books are very entertaining to read. *thumbs up*

Witchmark (C.L. Polk)
I’m having a hard time figuring out how to summarize this one. While Witchmark feels very much like a first novel, with rough edges and a slightly overstuffed narrative, what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in heart. I felt like I was reading something that the author cared about and loved. This sense of passion kept me engaged even when some of the book seemed a bit unpolished.

The setting is reminiscent of pre-WW1 England and takes place in a country where magic exists but is kept hidden. Wealthy, powerful mages secretly rule, while every other witch (those not born to noble families) lives in fear of being shipped off to an asylum. Our main character, Miles, was born to nobility but faked his own death to escape his family and their dark plans for his powers; he joins the army, becomes a doctor, and heals people (sometimes with magic). When a handsome stranger arrives at the hospital, carrying a witch who was poisoned, Miles has to leave his secret life and try to solve an increasingly deadly mystery. As you can tell, there’s a lot going on here and it doesn't always work. But overall, I still found this book to be charming and memorable.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (K.J. Charles)
Despite being a KJ Charles super fan, somehow I had missed this one. Secret Casebook is a collection of stories about frosty ghost hunter Simon and his companion/lover/assistant Robert, presented in a style akin to Watson writing about Sherlock Holmes. Just with, ya know, a bit more sex and some actual ghosts.

The book is structured as a series of recollections from Robert as he looks back on his adventures with Simon and life they shared together. Each chapter follows a different paranormal case, involving things like a lewd poltergeist, death-by-butterflies, the haunting cries of murdered ghost children, a rat god, and the wild hunt. Through these various cases, over the course of many years, Secret Casebook builds a caring, passionate, and sometimes tragic relationship between the two men. Another great read from KJ Charles.

ART

I’ve been doing a lot of solo show prep work this past month, writing lists and sitting around at coffee shops drawing things on my iPad. I am really excited to have some art energy back and can’t wait to start sharing things (once I have things to share).

I also finished up my tribute to tiny murderess Arya for Spoke Art’s “Winter is Here” show, on display this weekend (April 6 & 7) in San Francisco.

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February 2019 - Dragons, Gods, and Jewel Thieves

February has been a grim slog of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. I’ve had to call a friend twice this week to help push my car in to or out of my driveway. Hope you all are staying warm and making it through OK.

MOVIES

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I love the first two films in this series and think Hidden World was pretty great. I didn’t find the story to be quite as strong as the other installments (it meanders a bit with some odd choices) and the finale was oddly anticlimactic, but when things worked they worked well. Did I have tears pouring down my face at the end? Yes. Yes I did. It is also worth mentioning how incredible the animation is; the details, physical mannerisms, and lighting really stood out. I remain disappointed that Astrid is mostly relegated to the role of cheerleader (no character development but plenty of scenes where she gets to remind Hiccup that he is the best), but that has been a problem through the entire series.

GAMES

God of War 4
I can’t think of many video game characters I dislike more than Kratos, the “hero” of the God of War games. He ranks right up there with Duke Nukem in utter awfulness. So when this game was announced, I was not at all interested. Yet everyone I talked to said it was really good and that my loathing of Kratos would actually add to my experience playing the game. So I gave it a go…and I loved it? Boy howdy I was surprised. Kratos’ bloody rampages from the previous games are no longer framed as “RAD!” but as bad and shameful. Because of how the character was established in God of War 1-3, you spend every minute of God of War 4 hoping that Kratos doesn’t impart his violence onto his very kind, impressionable son. It made for some very effective tension and an unexpected commentary on toxic masculinity. There was one major story beat that really didn’t work for me (it seemed like the developers maybe ran out of time and rushed things), but overall I found the story, setting, and gameplay to be thoroughly engrossing. There is going to be a Jormungandr collage in my upcoming solo show, thanks to God of War 4.

BOOKS

The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)
The Song of Achilles is a re-imagining of the famous hero’s life, told from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles’ companion and, in this interpretation, his lover and dearest friend. Since the book is based on established mythology, you know from the start how things will end. That could have been a hinderance but I felt it added to emotional weight of the novel. I really like how Madeline Miller weaves the mythology and original story together, making things matter more because they have backstory and depth. Since this novel is based on Greek myths, the female characters in particular do not fare well. But I think Miller did her best to try and at least give these women dimension and motivation. The Song of Achilles was lovely and sad and I’m glad I read it. It’s also a good reminder of how utterly upsetting the Trojan War story is.

Any Old Diamonds (K.J. Charles)
I am always excited when a new KJ Charles book comes along. Any Old Diamonds follows an illustrator (and disowned son of a Duke) who enlists the help of a jewel thief to exact revenge against his horrible father and equally horribly step-mother. I loved the romance that grew between these two characters and the twisty trajectory of the story as more history and secrets were revealed. A soul-soothing comfort book. K.J. Charles remains one of my favorite romance writers.

Fall (Kristen Callihan)
While I found the first two books in Kristen Callihan’s rock star romance VIP series (Idol, Managed) to be fine but not particularly memorable, I quite liked book 3 (Fall). The first two stories include a lot of genre tropes that annoyed me: cringey meet-cutes that would be sexual harassment or dangerous situations in any other setting, heroines that are weirdly underdeveloped and feel the need to remind us that they aren’t “model pretty”, and relationship “ending” fights completely reliant on misunderstandings that could have been easily explained. Despite including some of these same elements, I found myself far more involved in Fall’s characters and story. The book follows a famous rock musician who is dealing with serious mental health issues (depression, attempted suicide) and a young woman, raised by a grifter, who is at a crossroads in her life. I think these heavy themes were handled respectfully and the big third act conflict was much more organic and fitting for the characters. Despite my complaints, if you enjoy this romance genre and want to check out the VIP series, you should start with Idol (book 1).

Dark Needs at Night’s Edge (Kresley Cole)
I’m including Dark Needs in my favorites list more for the setting than for the book itself. With some notable exceptions, I’m not usually a fan of supernatural alpha male romances. I tend to find those sorts of heroes teeth-grititngly boring and/or frustratingly stuck in archaic gender roles. That is mostly the case for this book as well, but what I did like was the larger supernatural world and monster lore of the Immortals After Dark series. Plus, many of the heroines in these books are paranormal themselves (witches, valkyries, etc) which is kind of unusual. The female lead in Dark Needs is the ghost of a ballerina who was murdered in the 20s. Ghost plus vampire romance? I hadn’t read that before. For some damn reason I started the series with book 5, and even though I found the romance and story to be kind of meh, I might come back to this series out of curiosity about the other monsters and characters.

ART

The biggest February art news? I have a new website! Which you probably noticed, since you are here. Other notable goings-on includes a new long-form start-to-finish process video that went up on my Patreon page, and new giclee prints of “Milk Snake” and “Laputa” which will be available in my Etsy shop tomorrow (March 1). Ok, that second one is technically March news, but whatevs.

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January 2019 - Fishmen, Raccoons, Werewolves, and Archeologists

Hello friends! I had a good time blogging about my favorite things last year so I'm going to do my best to continue that trend in 2019. I don't know if anyone actually reads these but I find it really cathartic to write things down and it's fun to look back and see what things past-me was enjoying.

I love finding out about new books, games, and movies from other peoples' recommendations, so maybe i'll mention something that peaks your interest. Or, just as likely, you'll completely disagree with my hot-takes on angsty werewolf romances or fish based adventure films. That's fine too. 

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MOVIES

AQUAMAN
Aquaman is strange. It's filled to the brim with cliches and painfully awkward dialogue, it's way too long, the first half of the movie is a rocky jumble of exposition that is a slog to get through, and nearly every emotional moment is undercut by a random explosion (seriously, it was like a running joke). Yet bizarrely, inexplicably, I rather liked it? It's a James Wan movie, so of course there are some impressive visuals and great color - in particular a bonkers epic sea battle and a creepy voyage into the "trench". But other than that, I honestly can't really pin down why all those problematic elements, which 9 times out of 10 would have turned me off of the movie, instead made me smile. Maybe it's just how far they decided to lean in to the melodrama and ham? How much screen time was spent focused on Jason Mamoa's bare chest? How Aquaman literally saves the day by talking to fish? I have no idea, but I can definitely see this becoming one of those movies that I end up watching a bunch of times while i'm working.

I also got to see a special theatrical screening of Pride and Prejudice (2005) at the local Alamo Drafthouse. It is one of my favorite movies but I didn't see it in the theatre when it first came out. I had a blast watching it on a big screen surrounded by a bunch of other people who swooned and laughed in all the right places and I think it made me like the movie even more. 

GAMES

Donut County
The tagline for this game is "A story-filled physics puzzle game where you play as a hole in the ground". Said hole is controlled by a raccoon named BK who doesn't see why it's such a big deal that he's dropping everyone and everything into the depths of the earth. The entire game takes maybe 90 minutes to play and I loved it to bits. Somehow this puzzle game about a raccoon moving holes around manages to have a remarkably funny, engaging story. Plus the graphics are charming. I think there is a more expensive console version of the game but I played it on my iPad and that worked just fine. Definite recommendation here. 

BOOKS

Ravensong by TJ Klune
Ravensong is the second book in TJ Klune's Green Creek angsty werewolf series, the first of which (Wolfsong) was one of my favorite books of 2018. Book two focuses on the angry, tattooed witch Gordo as he pines for and rebuffs the love-of-his-life werewolf boyfriend who abandoned him many years ago. Plus, you know, evil werewolf hunters, intrigue, magic, bad dads, shapeshifter politics, smooching, FEELINGS, and melodrama. I love this series.  

Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox
On the other side of the romance spectrum, with absolutely zero werewolves, is Seven Summer Nights. Set in 1946 in the rubble of WWII, this book follows a disgraced archeologist suffering from severe PTSD, who takes on what is supposed to be a small job surveying a rural church. While there he befriends the local vicar and the two slowly fall in love while working together to solve a mystery involving ancient ruins, magic, and witchcraft. The two lead characters work really well together and the book puts a lot of value in redemption and healing. There are action bits, some unexpected supernatural elements, a town full of secrets and history, and a really sweet, well built emotional romance. 


ART

I'm feeling a bit more motivated than I was last year so that's definitely an improvement. I managed to finish two collages in January and while I can't quite share the first one yet, you can see the second one (a flowery, two-headed snake for a stripes-themed show at Gallery 9) up at the top. I'll be posting a start-to-finish Patreon video about that snake very soon.