I’m three-fourths of the way through this year’s Fall Break, which means that I’m already nearly halfway through the term. I’ve spent much of the break grading papers, and will wrap that up tomorrow — just in time for a fresh crop on Wednesday. But that’s okay. And as for the rest…
Once again, Clan Mondo was lucky enough to dodge any ill effect from a hurricane, Michael in this case. We got some significant rain and had another of out three butterfly bushes beaten down by the wind, but once more were far luckier than many of our neighbors in the region. And both yesterday and today have boasted absolutely spectacular weather — skies the color of a swimming pool liner, occasional breezes, and finally a break from temperatures around the 90-degree mark.
How nice was it? Mrs. M cut back some shrubbery, and it wasn’t even miserable hauling the multiple loads of branches to the street.
Here’s hoping it continues. The weather, that is — I’ve had enough branches for the season.
Yesterday was a Daddy-Daughter day, as the Spawn and I spent the afternoon in Real City. When I gave blood a few weeks ago, I was given a couple of movie passes, and since the Spawn and I were in the mood for a popcorn movie, we decided to catch a matinee of Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. Nobody will confuse it for The Seven Samurai, but it wasn’t meant to be, was it? If you’re in the mood for a lightweight comic monster movie, this’ll do just fine.
The basic plot structure is much like the first Goosebumps movie — an evil ventriloquist’s dummy (series favorite Slappy) emerges from a R.L. Stine manuscript to wreak havoc on a small, Norman Rockwellian town, and a group of plucky kids have to thwart Slappy’s scheme. In the first film, the plucky kids are aided by Stine (played by Jack Black). Black reprises his role in the sequel, but only pulls down about 5 minutes or so of screen time. I had previously mentioned to the Spawn that between this movie and House with A Clock in Its Walls, Jack Black was essentially going up against himself, but in fact, his appearance in Haunted Halloween is essentially an extended cameo. He does get a decent Stephen King joke, compounded by the fact that one of the Plucky Kids is played by a child actor who played in the recent film version of King’s IT. Unsurprisingly, the film remains open for a sequel, and there are worse settings for popcorn consumption.
Our next stop was the mall, where I snagged a frappuccino while the Spawn hit a makeup store. After that, we made a run to the area used media store. I picked up Jonathan Santlofer’s The Death Artist and a collection of John Rebus stories from Ian Rankin. While I was aware of the Rebus series, I hadn’t read any of the books until I saw Rankin at B’con last month. I got a copy of the first Rebus novel for my birthday, read it earlier this week, and discovered that I had a whole new series to work my way through.
Rebus is an interesting take on what has become a stock character: the police detective married to the job and perforce alienated from much of the rest of his life (with the possible exception of his nondenominational Christianity, which he finds both critically important and difficult for him to understand). Not quite a loose cannon, but not quite a team player either, he occupies a liminal position in the Edinburgh PD. And Edinburgh itself — the city and the people of its various social strata — serves as a sort of character in its own right, perhaps not yet at the level of Philip Marlowe’s L.A. or Matt Scudder’s New York, but then I’ve only read two of the books thus far. I plan to remedy that.
I read the collection today while I was waiting for and through an oil change for Mrs. M’s car. I’ve noted before that I love short stories — both reading and writing them, and that a number of my favorite writers (Ellison, Block, Kotzwinkle, and Heinlein, for example) are or have been aces in the form. In A Good Hanging, Rankin demonstrates considerable strength in the genre through a dozen stories. None of them are less than good, and at least one, “Sunday” (an account of a day off for Rebus after a… challenging week) I think is amazingly good, a small masterpiece of the form.
Clearly I’m late to this particular party (which is okay — it’s a large party, after all), but as I said, I plan to catch up in short order. I suggest that you do the same.
While we were at the used media emporium, I happened to discover a hardbound copy of Harlan Ellison’s The Essential Ellison: A 35-Year Retrospective (A 50-year version came out in 2005, but this was a first edition, the same one I have.) Now one of the nice things about this particular store is that sometimes things sneak onto the shelves without the staff quite realizing what they have. For example, I’ve found several autographed books there over the years — including Ellison’s Strange Wine, which I picked up a couple of years back for a buck and a half.
Even so, I was a little taken aback when I saw the book was priced at two dollars. (It had actually been placed as part of a set of hardbound books sorted by color, presumably for use as home decor.) I didn’t want to see the book wind up as part of someone’s decorating scheme, like the uncut novels on Gatsby’s shelves, but as I said, I already own a copy. Fortunately, a former student of mine lives nearby (the wife of the Berries’ keyboardist, as a matter of fact) and even more fortunately, I turned her on to Ellison some years ago in a class I taught on the short story. So I texted her to see if she was interested. She was, so I asked the cashier (another former student of mine, although he’s still attending Mondoville) to hold it for her, and not long thereafter, I got a text letting me know that the book had found a new home.
By then, however, I was already picking up some cans of Cincinnati-style chili at a nearby supermarket before the Spawn and I made our way home. And you know what? The whole thing added up to one of the best wall-to-wall days in my recent memory.
I think sometimes it’s too easy for me to overlook wonderful moments — they disappear in the busyness of everyday activity and in what I know to be my own tragic view of life. (After all, even my blood type is B negative.) But sometimes, a day or a weekend can be beautiful enough that even I can see it. It’s refreshing, and I’m grateful for them.
Well, let’s wrap this up with a bit of music, as is my custom. Tom Wilson (not the 60s producer) is a songwriter from Hamilton, Ontario. Down here, he’s likely best known as a member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, but he was also the driving force behind a terrific band called Junkhouse, and has released solo work as well. This is the opener of his Dog Years solo set, and the video was done in one take. The Spawn and I dug this one as we were on the road yesterday. I hope you will too. This is “Keep On Grinning.”
See you soon!