Mission statement - To act as a tour guide to the enormous shifting worlds of literature, film, video games, comics, and other activities; pointing out and discussing events and dealiebobs worthy of your valuable leisure time.

Bonus Edition: Netflix Comings and Goings for September 2016

New Netflix Offerings and Old Netflix Vanishings September 2016

Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's September offerings and vanishings?

There is so much to look forward to in September. Fans of Jessica Jones (which just won a Hugo) will be delighted to hear that Marvel's Luke Cage is coming in the middle of the month. We're also going to have access to the Walking Dead season six, season three of Penny Dreadful, and season three of the Blacklist. Four Jaws films are coming as is Footloose and a few other blasts from the pasts. Unfortunately no dancing shark films that I know of. But Zootopia is coming, which is fantastic as that is a terrific film.

Fringe, all five seasons, is leaving in September, as is Alias, but there is still going to be plenty of science fiction available. For the kids, including the inner children, be sure to rewatch The Emperor's New Groove and Lilo and Stitch before they say farewell. Open Water and Open Water 2: Adrift are leaving, maybe because all of the Jaws movies are coming and Netflix thinks everyone will lose interest in these films? (Roboshark is also going away; not sure if that supports or invalidates my theory.)

See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in September 2016.

All titles and dates are subject to change.
Available 9/1/16
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Babel (2006)
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker (2013) Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
Bratz: The Movie (2007)
Burn, Burn, Burn (2015)
Cats & Dogs (2001)
Crashing: Season 1
Defiance (2008)
Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)
Europe's Last Great Wilderness (2015)
The Fierce Wife (2010)
Footloose (1984)
Full Out (2015)
Game Winning Hit: Season 1
Heartland: Season 7
Hellevator: Season 1
Hoot (2006)
Hope Floats (1998)
I Am the Ambassador: Season 1 - NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
Indochina's Wild Heart (2015)
The IT Crowd: Series 5
Jaws (1975)
Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 3 (1983)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Joyful Noise (2012)
Keepers of the Game (2016)
Last Holiday (2006)
Lucky Days: Season 1
Man on Wire (2008)
Milk Money (1994)
Practical Magic (1998)
Road Trip (2000)
Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules (2000)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Shameless (U.S.): Season 5-6
Stomp the Yard (2007)
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Top Gun (1986)
True Grit (1969)
U-571 (2000)
The Wicker Man (2006)
Wild Madagascar (2015)
The Womanizer: Season 1
The Year of Happiness and Love: Season 1

Available 9/2/16
Baby Daddy: Season 5
Chef's Table: France - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kazoops!: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Narcos: Season 2 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Young & Hungry: Season 4

Available 9/6/16
Crash (2004)
The Finest Hours (2015)
Hard Target 2 (2016)
Honey 3 (2016)
R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House (2016)

Available 9/7/16
The Blacklist: Season 3
Galavant: Seasons 1-2

Available 9/10/16
Supergirl: Season 1

Available 9/13/16
Extremis (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Hawaii Five-0: Season 6
London Has Fallen (2015)

Available 9/14/16
Goldie & Bear: Season 1

Available 9/15/16
Sample This (2012)
The Walking Dead: Season 6

Available 9/16/16
Cedric The Entertainer: Live from the Ville - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)
The White Helmets (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 9/17/16
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Luther: Season 4
Penny Dreadful: Season 3

Available 9/19/16
Call the Midwife: Series 5
Gotham: Season 2

Available 9/20/16
Colliding Dreams (2016)
New Girl: Season 5
Zootopia (2016)

Available 9/22/16
Bones: Season 11
Easy: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Wallander: Series 4

Available 9/23/16
Audrie & Daisy (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Last Man Standing: Season 5
Longmire: Season 5 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
VeggieTales in the House: Season 4 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 9/24/16
Portlandia: Season 6
River (2016)

Available 9/25/16
Family Guy: Season 14
Margaret Cho: PsyCHO (2015)

Available 9/28/16
The Fosters: Season 4 (Part A)
The Imitation Game (2014)

Available 9/30/16
Amanda Knox (2016) - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Marvel's Luke Cage: Season 1 - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Scream: Season 2

The following titles will be disappearing in September. Better watch them while you can.

Leaving 9/1/16
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Anywhere but Here (1999)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013)
The Color Purple (1985)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Days of Thunder (1990)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Everybody Loves Raymond: Seasons 1-9
Exporting Raymond (2010)
Flight of the Intruder (1991)
Girl Rising (2013)
Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
Hardball (2001)
The Haunting (1999)
Nick Cannon: Mr. Showbiz (2011)
Our Man in Tehran (2013)
Primal Fear (1996)
Roboshark (2015)
Roman Holiday (1953)
S.W.A.T. (2003)
Sins of My Father (2009)
Spanglish (2004)
Traffic (2000)
The Weather Man (2005)
The Wood (1999)
Zoolander (2001)

Leaving 9/4/16
Melissa & Joey: Seasons 1-4
Shanghai Knights (2003)

Leaving 9/5/16
Gabe the Cupid Dog (2012)

Leaving 9/6/16
Hollywood Homicide (2003)
My Babysitter's a Vampire: The Movie (2010)

Leaving 9/9/16
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Leaving 9/11/16
Fringe: Seasons 1-5
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Leaving 9/15/16
Bob Saget: That's What I'm Talkin' About (2013)

Leaving 9/16/16
Gridiron Gang (2006)
The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Leaving 9/17/16
Gimme the Loot (2012)
Simon Killer (2012)

Leaving 9/20/16
Something, Anything (2014)

Leaving 9/23/16
The Lost Medallion (2013)

Leaving 9/24/16
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Leaving 9/25/16
Alias: Seasons 1-5
Jobs (2013)

Leaving 9/28/16
Open Water (2004)
Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)

Leaving 9/30/16
666 Park Avenue: Season 1
Another Gay Movie (2006)
The Aviators (2008)
League of Super Evil: Season 1
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Wolf (2013)

Infected and Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit?

Infected

I was reading a medical report the other day and saw that the physician's assistant had made an error. It was supposed to say patient states she sees bugs crawling into her skin. Instead the report said patient states she sees bugs crawling out of her skin.

I don't know about you but the idea of bugs crawling into your skin is pretty bad but bugs crawling out seems so much worse. How many are there? What were they doing in there? How long were they in there? If these kinds of questions give you the willies and you enjoy being scared then you will definitely enjoy Scott Sigler's novel Infected.

I'm sure I read this a few years ago but I don't really remember what I thought of it then. My impression is that I didn't think it was terrible but I also didn't think it was terrific. This time around I really enjoyed it.

Infected is the intertwined stories of several different people who are intimately impacted by a type of parasite that is building weird little structures inside of people and making them go violently crazy. We see things from the perspective of the lead CDC agent, a Vietnam war vet who is in charge of containing the violence, and an enormous football player who has had a lifelong problem controlling his temper.

Naturally the football player gets infected. Nicknamed Scary Perry during his professional football days, he ends up with several of parasites growing in various parts of his anatomy, including the most delicate part of a man. Perry has an incredible drive to survive and, thanks in part to his football training, has an almost inhuman ability to keep going despite pain. As the parasites grow and he realizes the seriousness of the infection his efforts to eradicate them ramps up to gruesome levels.

While Infected raises a strong sense of anxiety, it's also pretty funny in parts. At one point the parasites begin to mentally communicate with Perry and they call him the same names that he's called them. So every time they speak to him they call him either fucker or sonofabitch. I don't know why but I found it completely hilarious. At one point he's watching television, which they don't understand, and he tells them that he was talking to Columbo, the television detective of days of yore. They equate Colombo with the soldiers that have been trying to eradicate them and soon has Perry also calling the soldiers Columbos, another image that tickled me.

Fairly gruesome and graphic in parts, you might need a strong stomach to finish this one. But if you enjoy horror and horrifying images that you'll love this book.

You can listen to the entire audio book for free here: http://podiobooks.com/title/infected

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit?

I just finished reading an advanced review copy (a free copy to read before the book comes out, for review purposes) of Will Eisner's The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit? This is a compilation of the first few comics in the series revival. While I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Eisner and what he accomplished, I've never actually read the Spirit before so it's difficult for me to say whether this new series lives up to the old series.

But that doesn't mean I can't judge it on its own. At the beginning of the series The Spirit, who is apparently what they used to call a “a red-blooded, two-fisted,he-man”, is missing. He is a sort of a detective who wears a mask and is excellent at getting in and out of tight spots. He is believed to be dead as the story begins but no one is sure. As the balance of power is about to shift in the hierarchy of the police station, several different people set out on the Spirit's trail. The most interesting of these is probably the duo of Strunk and White (I know, all of the names are quite silly, which I assume is Mr. Eisner's doing), a pair of very young Private Eyes. I'm not sure how young they're supposed to be, but they're young enough that people are surprised to see them working adult jobs.

They start going through the Spirit's files and interviewing all the villains with whom he's interacted. This is a terrific way for the new reader to get caught up on the Spirit's background. We see a fairly wide variety of bad guys and gals but I was disappointed in the villainesses. They're all drawn wearing slinky clothes and they all seem to have the hots for the Spirit. I would think that if I were a mastermind criminal I'd have more important and interesting things on my mind then some dude who likes to punch people.

However it's still an entertaining adventure story that's worth a quick read. The book debuts on the 25th of October and is available for preorder.

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:

This week's bonus treat is a one minute video of someone flying a giant octopus kite. I find it a little frightening, probably because it reminds me of War of the Worlds.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and Silver Spoon

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Most of what I have watched on television lately has been anime. I did take a break when I binged on Stranger Things and a couple of episodes of season two of Penny Dreadful, but in general it's been anime, which ranges from truly terrible to quite good.

This week I watched a new series, an Amazon original series called Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. That's of course the English version of the title; I don't read Japanese so I couldn't tell you what it was in Japanese. It didn't look like much from the little bit I saw about it and I expected that was not going to be good at all, but I ended up really enjoying it and binge watched the first 7 episodes.

At its core the show is a steampunk Zombie series. Set during the Industrial Revolution, virtually all of the action takes place on a steam-driven, reinforced train. The zombies are called Kabanes and they have glowing hearts which are encased in a “heart cage”. The living humans have been unable to destroy any of the Kabane because their hearts are so well-protected.

As The Story begins everything is going to hell. We are rapidly introduced to several important characters just as their train station is attacked by far too many Kabanes. We meet a princess, her smarmy guard, two young steamsmiths (whose job is fixing things on the trains), a young lady who reminds me of the character Delirium in Neil Gaiman Sandman series (who is much more than she appears), and a few others.

One of the steamsmiths called Ikoma is working on making his steam driven gun more powerful so they'll be able to break through the heart cage and actually destroy a Kabane, instead of just knocking it back or temporarily disabling it. He has the mind of a scientist and has been studying Kabane anatomy as well as weaponry and is full of new ideas, but by those in authority he is viewed as basically just a peon.

A huge horde of Kabane is descending on the station and everyone in it needs to flee. So they all try to jam aboard the train while the Kabane are murdering everyone around them. This means that those who do escape are so rushed they are completely unprepared and there isn't enough food or water, which will obviously lead to its own problems.

Just as there is on The Walking Dead, there is just as much human-to-human conflict as there is human-to-Kabane. And then there's a whole other element which we find out about, that I don't want to talk about because spoilers. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is exciting and a little frightening. The animation is quite nice and reminded me of Watership Down in parts. It's in Japanese with subtitles, which I definitely prefer to English voiceovers. The literal translations of the songs at the end of each episodes are a little bizarre and hard to comprehend, but it's not really important to the actual story. The plotting is tight and the story is interesting. While maybe not at the level of Stranger Things, which is probably the best thing I've seen recently, it's still an excellent program.

You can see a trailer here:

The show is free with your Amazon Prime subscription. If you don't have Prime you can get a free 30 day trial.

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Silver Spoon

Still in the anime world but in a completely different direction, is Silver Spoon, a comedy about a young man called Hachiken who goes to an agricultural school. He's definitely a fish out of water. Everyone around him has a dream and a goal and is excited about what they're doing while he is completely floundering. Also he's learning things about animals that are interfering with his ability to eat. In the first episode he discovers where eggs come from and becomes horrified by them.

This series is just plain fun. The main character is constantly confused and freaked out. In episode number two he's trying to decide which club to join, which is required. He is already completely overworked with school work and practicums so he's not enthusiastic at all about joining a club. At one point he's coerced by people trying to convince him to join the Holstein Club, where the other members are just a little too interested in cows.

The manga the series is based on is by Hiromu Arakawa, who also wrote the popular Fullmetal Alchemist. Silver Spoon is a very different story that shows what a versatile creator she is. The show is currently free on Netflix.

You can watch a trailer here:

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:

This week's bonus treat is an interview with Mary Carrillo, in which she explains the story behind her lovely diatribe about how badminton really works. (And if you haven't seen the video, there's a handy link in the article.) http://deadspin.com/lets-relive-mary-carillos-great-american-badminton-r...

The Familiar, Around the World in 80 Days

The Familiar

I re-injured my arm in the most ridiculous way possible. You remember a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which is 700 pages on nice quality paper, making it quite heavy. I followed that up immediately with his book The Familiar (part 1 of a reputed 27 volumes), which was I think 900 pages long, also on very nice paper. I don't know if a normal person would strain their arm reading two heavy books in a row but that's what I managed to do. As a result I'm dictating this on my phone so if it has some odd errors please bear with me.

Was The Familiar worth an injury that makes me wince every time I move my arm? Probably not. But it was an interesting read and of course filled with the typographical stunts that Mr. Danielewski is famous for. Told from nine different perspectives, each of whom have their own particular font, there are several storylines that I assume will meet at some point in the next 26 books. Ostensibly it's the story of a rainy day in which a little girl is going to get a service animal to help her with her epilepsy, which is quite severe. But of course, given the author, it's much more complicated than that.

The Familiar is significantly more enjoyable than House of Leaves, but it wasn't as intriguing, in that it didn't leave me with a million questions and it wasn't still on my mind a week after I finished it. With House of Leaves, like Stranger Things, I'm still wondering about certain things and finding connections to other literature that I'm reading. Not connections on purpose, more like I'm reading a horror story that takes place in a haunted house that appears to twist and slip between dimensions, and it reminds me of the house on Ash Lane.

Unfortunately I could not find an excerpt. :(

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Around the World in 80 Days

I just finished this last night and was surprised at how easy it was to read. I'm used to contemporary novels being much more easy, breezy than older novels, which can be kind of stilted. And it is, but not much. It was more of a fun book that I remember, as I tried to read it when I was a kid and didn't get very far. It is the story of Phileas Fogg (for some reason I remember his name as Phineas) who makes a bet with his club members that he can go around the world in less than 80 days. He bets 20,000 pounds, which is a significant sum at the time. (It it's not a bad sum today either.)

Phileas is the definition of the stick in the mud, fastidious bachelor. He literally runs his life with such clockwork precision that you could set your watch by him. So for him to pick up stakes and rush around the world is completely out of character. Phileas himself is a bit of an enigma and we really never get to know him very much. We only know him by the way the people around him are interacting with him. I particularly enjoyed his French valet, Jean Passepartout, who is a passionate, intelligent, conscientious fellow who interestingly has kind of a circus or carnival background.

The two of them are being chased by a detective named Fix, who is convinced that Phileas stole a whole bunch of money from a very staid bank and is only pretending to go around the world so that he can escape with his ill-gotten goods. If trying to get around the world in 80 days when steam ships were the fastest boats available and high speed trains hadn't been invented yet, isn't hard enough, there are plenty of other obstacles that come up. Definitely a fun read but maybe not for very young children. I think I was like 7 when I tried to read it. You probably don't have to wait, you know, 45 years like I did to try to read it again; it should be interesting for anybody older than nine or 10.

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is actually an ad; a video of men's synchronized swimming made by Chubbies Shorts, which is quite cute. http://fridayatfive.com/2016/08/mens-synchronized-swimming-team-chubbies...

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

I mentioned Stranger Things recently when I did my write up of what was coming to Netflix in July. I thought it looked fantastic and I posted a trailer video. It debuted on July 15th and I didn't get to watch it right away as I was waiting for my watching partner to start his vacation, so we could binge our hearts out together and discuss, discuss, discuss. I was pretty psyched by the time we watched it, a whole week after it debuted!

Writer Connie Willis recently said that a sign of a good story is that it can't be synopsised. In that case Stranger Things is a terrific story because I had a terrible time deciding what to say that wasn't too spoilery. The story focuses on a group of four friends; Mike (Finn Wolfhard (great name!)), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Noah Schnapp). They are about 12 years old and when we first meet them they were engaged in the end of a marathon Dungeons & Dragons game. Mike is the dungeon master and is in the process of unleashing a tremendously powerful monster, a demogorgon, on the group. Mike's mother splits up the game immediately following the next die cast and the boys ride home on their bicycles, where one of them vanishes, leaving the others distraught and determined to find them.

Meanwhile a girl their age (played by Millie Brown) escapes from a foreboding government facility. (Her name is Eleven, the number tattooed on the inside of her arm. Pro tip; something terrible is going on whenever you see a number tattooed on someone's forearm.) It wouldn't be a story if these kids paths didn't cross, and they do, fairly quickly. Eleven is obviously traumatized, with very short hair and wearing only a hospital gown. Mike takes her under his wing, with Dustin and Lucas less enthusiastic. They want to concentrate on finding Will and Lucas doesn't trust the girl at all.

Meanwhile Joyce, Will’s mom, beautifully played by Winona Ryder, is going crazy trying to find her son. And I use the term going crazy quite deliberately. As she tries to decipher what is happening and find her son her behavior looks erratic at best. She is led to believe that Will is trying to communicate with her via flickering lights, so she loads up the house with just about as many lights as you possibly could; including a bazillion Christmas lights. When they blink she talks to Will, which doesn't look very good to anyone who hasn't experienced what she has.

I absolutely loved Ms. Ryder's performance. She is completely believable as she plays the fine line between distraught and totally loco. I particularly liked her performance with the young girl who is trying to help them. She is so loving to poor El and supportive. You can practically feel the warm feelings coming across the TV screen.

Her unlikely complement is Chief Hopper, played by David Harbour, when we first meet him he seems like he is going to be a serious problem. He's ultra grouchy, kind of sloppy looking, and is dismissive of Joyce's concerns. But soon enough this guy begins to rev up and we start learning his back story and see that he is actually a bulldogged, resourceful, courageous man. He's also foolhardy and made me cringe with his escapades. But once you get him on your side, he is an excellent addition to your team.

There are so many more characters that are important, but I would write thousands of words and probably spoil the hell out of the story if I talked about all of them. So I will have to skip ahead, and discuss how this series hits the nostalgic sweet spot for a couple of generations.

I knew before I watched episode one that it paid an homage to movies of the eighties, which made watching it that much more fun. There were a couple of scenes that strongly reminded me of the movie Stand By Me. There are lots of references to Stephen King's work, most especially Firestarter of course. And of course films like Goonies. And Silkwood, and ET, and Altered States, etc, etc, etc. By the end of the series I had lost track of the enormous number of films referenced and was just concentrating on the story.

It's hard to have a story that is both new and pays tribute to the films and tropes that have influenced you as a creator. It's too easy for a project to become derivative or dull and stuffy. Stranger things doesn't suffer from any of this negativity.

So was it as good as I was hoping it was going to be? I would say definitely yes. Of course I had a few little quibbles with it, as I do with just about everything, but it was quite an enjoyable series. Be advised, like much of what I have been discussing lately Stranger Things has an ambiguous ending, with lots of questions left unanswered. (Like since we have someone named Eleven then did there used to be one through ten? If so what happened to them?) But that just gives you something to talk about while waiting for season two, right? Stranger Things can be found on Netflix.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a video that makes me smile no matter what kinds of dreary things might have been going on that day. It's a couple of months old but it's just as good the twentieth watch as it is the first. Marlon Webb and friends star as the most interesting joggers in town. They are so perky and bouncy! https://www.facebook.com/MarlonWebbSkits/videos/503281129866329

A Good Looking Corpse

A couple of months ago I read a book called LA Rotten by Jeff Klima. It stars an unlikely hero/anti-hero called Tom Tanner who works as a crime scene clean-up guy. He's not terribly long out of prison and he's essentially numb, freezing his feelings and better impulses in order to survive. He doesn't want to think about either the reason why he went to prison or his future now that he is out.

LA Rotten was an interesting book and I really liked Tom, despite the fact that he's kind of a terrible person. I was disappointed to see that Mr. Klima didn't have any more fiction available but then I got an email asking me if I'd like an advance review copy of Mr. Klima's latest book, called A Good Looking Corpse. Naturally I leapt like a starving panther at the opportunity.

(I strongly suggest that you read LA Rotten before starting the new one. While I'm sure the second novel can stand on its own, the first will be completely and totally spoiled by the time you finish A Good Looking Corpse.)

The new novel picks up not too long after the previous one ends. Tom is working on the cleanup of a suicide, that of an actor who flung himself from a tall building. Nothing too unusual but then someone sidles up to him to tell him that the actor was murdered. And then claims the actor was murdered just to get Tom to the clean up site. And thus begins an even twistier adventure than in LA Rotten.

There's very little that Tom can trust, including his own impulses. He's currently clean but always feels the siren call of his former addiction. He and girlfriend Ivy are settling in together, but he doesn't know how to handle the intimacy and reacts claustrophobicly. And then there are his revenge fantasies, inspired by an incident in LA Rotten. What's a boy to do?

You know how people are always saying such and such film or book is a roller-coaster ride? A Good Looking Corpse is what you would get if you went on a roller-coaster that went through a constantly changing labyrinth. Whenever Tom thinks he has everything figured out he gets a piece of information that turns everything upside down, sideways or inside out. While the book is billed as a mystery, I would call it more of a thriller and it certainly is thrilling. It gave me anxiety, as well as constantly making me say What? What just happened? My recommendation is that you read book one right now and order A Good Looking Corpse so you can read it as soon as humanly possible.

I looked and looked and looked and was unable to find an excerpt online. I even wrote to the publisher and asked but no luck. So you will just have to take my word for it and rush out to get the book(s).

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a really lovely fairy tale that also sort of gently pokes fun of your more traditional stories. Called Red as Blood and White as Bone and written by Theodora Goss, it features a young lady who works in the kitchens of a palace. She is a huge fan of fairy tales and her work is wretched and boring, so when she finds a bedraggled, nude woman in the middle of a storm, she realizes that this woman must be a princess undergoing some trials and travails. So she invites her into the castle and chaos ensues as the older scripts like to say. The story is free on the tor.com website. http://www.tor.com/2016/05/04/red-as-blood-and-white-as-bone/

New Netflix Offerings and Old Netflix Vanishings August 2016

Ready for the lowdown on Netflix's August offerings and vanishings? The biggest news is that once again there are an astonishing number of new Netflix Originals, as well as some Netflix Exclusives. Beat Bugs, which seems to be about music and not smashing insects, season 1 will arrive, along with documentaries I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and Fearless Season 1. The Little Prince should be fantastic but the one show that most interests me is The Get Down Part 1, which looks at the music scene in the Bronx in 1977. Executive produced by Buzz Luhramm, it looks fascinating and thrilling. You can watch the trailer here:

About a million Slow TVs are arriving in August, as are two Fast and the Furious films, No Country for Old Men, Saint Vincent, season 17 (!) of Law and Order SVU, and season 13 of NCIS.

If you have young ones you should take a look at what is leaving in August. There are quite a few shows aimed at the younger audiences, including two different Clifford the Big Red Dog shows, Rugrats Go Wild, Wild Thornberrys Movie and of course a Nightmare on Elm Street film. (Just kidding. Obviously kids should be at least seven before they watch those kinds of horror films.)

See below for a selection of titles that will be added to Netflix in August 2016.

All titles and dates are subject to change.
Available 8/1/16
The American Side (2016)
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
APEX: The Story of the Hypercar (2016)
Beethoven's Christmas Adventure (2011)
Big Daddy (1999)
Black Widow (1987)
Critical Condition (1987)
Deadfall (2012)
Destination: Team USA (2016)
Funny or Die Presents: Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie - NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
The Family Man (2000)
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Final Destination 3 (2006)
From the Terrace (1960)
Holding the Man (2015) – NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
How To Win The US Presidency (2016)
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)
ISIS: Women Unveiled (2016)
Masha and the Bear: Season 2 – NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE
Memoria (2015)
The Naked Prey (1966)
NCIS: Season 13
Pay It Forward (2000)
The Real Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Roseanne Collection: Collection 3
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Sliding Doors (1998)
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Teacher's Pet (1958)
The Verdict (1982)
The Wedding Planner (2001)
What Women Want (2000)
Young@Heart (2007)
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

Available 8/3/16
Beat Bugs: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 8/5/16
David Cross: Making America Great Again (2016) – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Ever After High: Epic Winter – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Little Prince (2016) – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2 (2016)
Slow TV: National Firewood Evening (2016)
Slow TV: National Firewood Morning (2016)
Slow TV: National Firewood Night (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Evening (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Morning (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Night (2016)
Slow TV: Northern Passage (2016)
Slow TV: Northern Railway (2016)
Slow TV: Salmon Fishing (2016)
Slow TV: The Telemark Canal (2016)
Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo (2016)

Available 8/6/16
The Confirmation (2016)

Available 8/9/16
Real Husbands of Hollywood: Season 4
Trex (2015)

Available 8/10/16
St. Vincent (2014)

Available 8/11/16

Flight of the Butterflies (2012)
No Country for Old Men (2007)

Available 8/12/16
Ask the StoryBots: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Get Down: Part 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Project Mc²: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 8/13/16
13 Cameras (2016)

Available 8/15/16
Louis CK: Live at the Comedy Store (2015)

Available 8/16/16
Let's Go to Prison (2006)
Our Last Tango (2015)

Available 8/17/16
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2016)
The Last Heist (2016)
Puffin Rock: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 8/19/16
Bottersnikes and Gumbles: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Fearless: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead – NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 8/21/16
Maz Jobrani: I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One On TV (2015)

Available 8/22/16
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Seventeenth Year

Available 8/23/2016
Septembers of Shiraz (2015)

Available 8/25/16
The Road (2009)

Available 8/26/16
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Dawn of the Croods: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Glitter Force: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy: We’ve Been Thinking… - NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Once Upon a Time: Season 5
XOXO (2016) – NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Available 8/27/16
Rams (2015)

Available 8/29/16
The State of Marriage (2015)

Available 8/31/16
Ku'damm 56: Season 1

The following titles will be disappearing in August. Better watch them while you can.

Leaving 8/1/16
Addams Family Values (1993)
The Best Man (1999)
Bowfinger (1999)
The Gabby Douglas Story (2014)
Jennifer 8 (1992)
Johnny English (2003)
The Nutty Professor (1996)
The Replacements (2000)
Roseanne Collection: Collection 2 (1996)
Rugrats Go Wild (2003)
The Sandlot (1993)
Suspect Zero (2004)
Teen Witch (1989)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)
The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002)

Leaving 8/11/16
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Leaving 8/14/16
Clifford the Big Red Dog: Seasons 12
Clifford's Puppy Days: Seasons 12

Leaving 8/15/16
Charlie's Angels (2000)
Wish Upon a Star (1996)

Leaving 8/16/16
Inside Man (2006)

Leaving 8/20/16
Harry the Bunny (2009)

Leaving 8/23/16
Blitz (2011)

Leaving 8/27/16
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Leaving 8/30/16
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Leaving 8/31/16
Death Note (2006)
Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Bonds (2008)
Naruto Shippuden: The Movie (2007)
Zathura (2005)

House of Leaves

House of Leaves

I heard whispers about House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski for a long time before I actually picked it up. (And no, I didn't put off picking it up because I was afraid I would tear a ligament lifting it (although I really did hurt my ridiculously fragile wrists), at 700 plus pages it's heavy enough to use as ballast on a hot air balloon.) I heard it was terrible and I heard it was unreadable and I heard it was amazing and I heard it was genius and I heard it was scary. In fact I heard it was the scariest book ever written. (Which led to my middle son commenting every time I mentioned something from the book, “That's to make it spoooooky!”) I don't know what the scariest book ever written is but it's not this one. But it might be the most intricate book I've ever read. I ended up describing it as “Interesting in the most tedious way possible.”

So what is it about? Kind of everything. On the surface it is a journal written by a dude called Johnny Truant, who is kind of a lost soul, with a deep psychic wound, who spends most of his time getting drunk or high and having one night stands with pretty much whomever says yes. As the story begins, he comes into possession of tons of writing written by an elderly, blind man who dies alone and sealed into a stinky room. Johnny takes all of the various scraps of writing home and begins to decipher and transcribe them. But as he does he becomes obsessed and starts to suffer from nightmares and night terrors.

The writing he is rescuing is a scholarly piece about a film called the Navidson Record. So you have a documentary, which is a story about a haunted house, and then a critique of the film, and then a guy writing about his experiences with the text of the critique and of course of all of it is actually a novel. If this isn't confusing enough the structure of the story is quite mad. There are are footnotes within footnotes and three typefaces of footnotes, to help you keep track of who is writing what. Some of the footnotes are just pages of lists of names. (As I read them I wondered how many people who read this book read every single word, as I did. And how many of them had a nervous breakdown at the end?) But that's not all. The text itself is every which way. Some pages have the main text, then several footnotes in text boxes, written in varying angles and directions, with one where the letters are mirror image. I can't imagine trying to read this novel while having a cocktail.

At its essence House of Leaves is about a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside, according to the publisher. That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. But it's a phrase famous for describing the TARDIS on Doctor Who. In that universe being bigger on the inside is awesome and leads to rooms with swimming pools, vast libraries, etc, all neatly tucked into what looks like a phone booth. But the house in House of Leaves is much more of a maze; a maze that shifts while people are inside it. Walk into what should be a closet and you can literally travel corridors for hundreds of miles, or follow a staircase that suddenly expands by thousands of miles. It's all madness.

But in the end I am glad I read it. A few years ago I managed to read James Joyce's Ulysses. It took me months and I didn't enjoy any of it. While I was reading House of Leaves I thought of Ulysses and how both works are hard to read. But House of Leaves is significantly easier and more interesting and thoughtful. It gave me quite a lot to think about once I had closed the cover.

Oh, about that scariness? The author sort of sabotages his own scare factor. Every time the book starts be suspenseful or frightening he inserts a ton of scholarly critique, or Johnny starts talking about something completely different and bam, all the tension is lost.

One final thought: you either have to turn the book upside down or read the letters while they are upside down, to get through part of the book. I had fun imagining the expressions of people on the subway watching someone else read the book. Did they think the reader couldn't actually read?

You can read an excerpt here: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/36526/house-of-leaves-by-mark-z-...

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a video that explains the ancient art of creating transcendental granola. The creator goes over all the important elements of making granola such as how to choose a power stone and how to keep the granola from becoming haunted while baking. Good stuff!

The Last One and Pokemon Go

The Last One

Imagine that you are a contestant on a hot new reality show, which takes place in the wilderness. You think it's called In the Woods, but the show is actually called In the Dark, because the producers have lied to you and the other contestants. (You had to sign a 96 page release form before filming began.) And then a couple of weeks into filming, while you are off on a solo task, making your way through the woods, an extremely virulent pathogen attacks, killing most of the people around you. But you think it's all part of the show and instead of being afraid or mourning the loss of your loved ones, you just get more and more angry at the sheer callousness of the show creators. How dare they make so many fake bodies and leave them in such horrific circumstances? The more angry you get the more determined you are to not quit, no matter what.

That is the premise of Alexandria Olivia's astonishing, brilliant, debut novel The Last One, which I have to confess I stayed up until 5:58 a.m. reading. I had to finish it before I went to sleep. Told non-linearly from two perspectives, that of a woman who is alternately called Zoo, Mae, and Sam, and that of the show's creators, it's a frightening and tense read.

I was pretty excited when I saw that I was eligible to get an advance review copy of the novel because I thought it looked intriguing and I was not disappointed. Anyone who is interested in how reality shows work behind the scenes should find this novel of interest, even if they aren’t interested in it as an adventure story. I imagine they would still get swept away by the story. It's hard to imagine this book leaving anyone cold or unaffected.

It's heartbreaking, which it should be. We readers would be kind of awful people if we didn't feel sad over a ton of people dying from a stupid illness. Of course one of the contestants is a rotten son of a barnacle, so maybe we can be forgiven if we don't cry if he or she should keel over after a few days of being miserably ill.

I had a couple of problems with the book, but nothing I couldn’t handle. There are some important plot points that seemed a little too contrived or perhaps improbable. We want everything to fit together and all the loose ends to be tied up, but sometimes it's a little too perfect.

I predict that The Last One will be a big seller, so you should get it now. (It just came out on the 12th.) That way you can tell everyone that you read it before they did. You don't want to pass up a chance to be smug, do you?

You can read an excerpt here: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/530330/the-last-one-by-alexandra...

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Pokemon Go
The Pokemon Go app is so popular that Nintendo's stock has soared and the app is generating a million dollars in revenue per day. That's even more than Candy Crush was making at its peak. Everyone seems to be playing it, except for a grouchy few who are quite vocal about how awful it is. So far I haven't encountered a naysayer who has actually played it, so take these people with a giant grain of salt.

I am enjoying all the positivity around the game. I've heard from dozens of people who are going for long walks, some going three or five miles, and chatting with strangers they encounter who are also playing. It's mildly amusing to me that the same kinds of people who complain about the death of society because we don't interact face to face, and the fattening of society because we don't exercise enough, are the ones also complaining about what a drag the game is.

If you are happily playing pay attention to your local community. I've heard from libraries that are creating special events as well as retailers who are sponsoring sales and refreshments for those who come and play in their stores.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is an insane little story from Eugen Sandow's book Strength and How to Attain It. (He was one of the first performing strongmen.) It's about the time someone set up a fight for him in San Francisco. But he had no ordinary opponent. He fought a lion! https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18990506.2.11

The Troop and Misery Spoilerish Thoughts

The Troop

I have several thoughts regarding Nick Cutter's novel The Troop. Unfortunately most of them are negative. It's the story of five Scouts and their scout master who are on a camping trip on a small uninhabited island when a man suffering from a gruesome infestation appears. The scout leader, who is a doctor when he isn't scouting, is torn between his responsibility to the teens and his perceived doctor responsibilities. (I'm not entirely sure that he remembers the “first do no harm” part of the Hippocratic Oath.)

The man who stumbles ashore is extraordinarily thin, but also extremely hungry and eating everything in sight. (At one point I think he eats the stuffing from a couch?) His belly looks like he is going to explode but the rest of him is barely even skin and bones.

Written in traditional horror film format, (people vanish or are changed or murdered one by one, until x number of people remain) The Troop has been compared to Lord of the Flies, but aside from both of them having boys on an island, I can't see it. Lord of the Flies is fairly subtle and is about the long-term degeneration of the boys as their veneer of civilization peels away. Conversely The Troop shows us people panicking and seeing what they can get away with when there is no supervision. It's quite graphic and explains every little thing as though we readers are expected to be dunderheads. One of the boys is a sociopath and his mental process is described in excruciating detail. Really anyone who reads horror or watches shows like Dexter has a basic understanding of what being a sociopath means. (Or at least the common pop culture definition, which or may not have any real grounding in psychology.) Anyway, my point is that the book bogs down in places because the author is over-explaining.

So I would call this novel okay. It's not terrible and it's not great. If you have some time to kill and you don't have any better prospects then go ahead and read it. Or if you just don't want to think at all and want the comfort of a tried and true story line, The Troop fits the bill. But be warned, it has a lot of cruelty to animals, told in much too vivid detail. It kind of made me sick.

And speaking of making people sick, the effect of the book reminded me of The Science Fiction Weight Loss Book, a collection of short stories that if I recall correctly (it was published in 82, which is when I read it) was designed to make you lose weight by grossing you out or scaring you.
I'm guessing if you read that, then The Troop, then follow it up with Jeff Goldblum's version of The Fly, you won't eat for at least a week.

You can read an excerpt here: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-Troop/Nick-Cutter/9781476717722/br...

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Misery With Spoilers; Commenting on the Very End of the Novel

I just finished my reread of Misery by Stephen King. This is a novel that when I originally read it and came to the hobbling scene I flung the book across the room. It was just too much for me. Even when I decided I was going to go on reading, I kind of circled the book staring at it like I thought it was going to bite me.

This time around wasn't as bad because I knew what was coming. On the other hand I knew what was coming which made the whole thing sort of a cringing, panicky experience where I was just waiting for horrible, horrible things to happen.

At the almost end of the book when the two cops arrive and rescue Paul, (who has really already rescued himself ) the cops he calls David and Goliath, he warns them that Annie is locked in the other room and that she's extremely dangerous.

That's when they inform him that the room is empty. There's broken glass and the window is open or broken I can't remember which one. But there's no one in there. She is gone

At that moment I had a horrible idea. I thought oh man, what if none of it happened/ What if he did it all to himself, and there was no Annie Wilkes? That would make a book that is already extremely painful to read into possibly a book that would have to come with a helpline that you can call when you finish. A person with a very soothing voice would talk you down while someone came over and fixed you a nice cup of tea.

(Purchasing anything via these links will net us a commission from Amazon, which helps keep the site up and running.)

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is for sure not safe for work. It's a gent who is very puzzled by a peculiar doll. It's pretty funny.

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