Best Streams of 2021

Television:

The Mandalorian (seasons 1&2 on Disney+)

I heard great things about The Mandalorian when it premiered a couple years ago and had been wanting to see it, but I did not have Disney+ (until this past year). So I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the show and really enjoyed it. I normally prefer movies over TV series, but The Mandalorian was better than the recent Star Wars film trilogy. That’s probably because the showrunner (John Favreau) had more creative freedom since he wasn’t working with the core franchise characters. There were likely too many cooks in the kitchen for the movies, with producers, studio execs, marketing experts, toy manufacturers, and Disney brand advisors all having a say in the plot and characters. Plus there were different writers and directors for the three movies and they apparently didn’t plan together. Beyond that, so much was on the line for the Disney mega-corporation with those movies because of the production and marketing budgets. The Mandalorian had a relatively high budget (~$120 million per season), but the budgets of each Star Wars movie were 2-3x that. They surely saved a lot on marketing by just dropping the show on Disney+ (while people were stuck at home during a pandemic with nothing else to do but watch TV).

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Ten Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books on this list, with links to purchase, are available at my Bookshop.org page.

1) Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986) and Grimscribe (1991) by Thomas Ligotti (2015)

I was looking forward to reading this double collection of horror short stories after hearing Ligotti be recommended by so many other writers I admire. And I can see why there was so much hype. I was immensely impressed, and Ligotti has become my favorite living horror writer and probably the best writer of weird fiction since Lovecraft. Ligotti is like the Ted Chiang of horror—not in terms of theme or content, but in the fact that they only write short stories and their stories are all fantastic and deep philosophically. Ligotti’s brand of horror is highly cerebral. He is a master of prose style, which is similar to Lovecraft’s in its verbosity and poetic beauty. Ligotti is also similar to Lovecraft in his content and themes—primarily extreme nihilism. His nonfiction book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I read last year, lays out his antinatalist worldview—a worldview I do not share—though I enjoy reading about those dark themes in fiction. After all, what could be more horrific than the idea that human life doesn’t matter and it would be better if we did not exist?

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Top 10 Movies (at Least 10 Years Old) I Saw in 2021

It is time for my sixth annual list of the best movies at least ten years old that I arbitrarily watched this past year. There isn’t much of a method to the movies I choose to watch, some of which are re-watches and others I’m seeing for the first time. The common themes that emerged from this year’s list are psychological horror, literary adaptations, twist endings, plus a lot of Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves.

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Cyber Monday Ebook Sale

For Cyber Monday and the rest of the week, some of my ebooks are available at discounted prices on Amazon.

My sci-fi mystery novella Work for Idle Hands is on sale for $0.99

My trio of stories about the future of autonomous vehicles, Death by Self-Driving Car, is $0.99

And my larger collection of 27 short stories of various genres, Story Addict, is also $0.99 for a limited time.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to All

Dune (1965) vs. Dune (1984) vs. Dune (2021)

Dune (1965)

In anticipation of the new Dune movie, directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve, I decided to read the classic novel by Frank Herbert before seeing the film adaptation. Dune is one of those books that appears on every all-time best of list for science fiction. Sometimes you read a book like that and it feels dated or over-hyped (such as Ringworld by Larry Niven, which I also read this past year), but not in this case. Dune not only met but exceeded my expectations.

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When Parasocial Relationships Become Real

Why do people freak out when they meet celebrities? I used to think it was ridiculous how fans go wild and lose their minds when they see their favorite singer/actor/athlete in person. But I have to admit, when I see a famous person in public, I feel an emotional reaction as well. Albeit not to the same extent. I don’t act crazy or run up for selfies and autographs, but I do have a surreal feeling of awe, like, wow, its really them. I used to think those who had extreme emotional reactions toward celebrities were immature or obsessed with fame—and maybe some are—but I don’t consider myself either, yet I still experience that surreal feeling.

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Visceral vs. Cerebral Horror

As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.

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My Twitter Detox

I am a recovering Twitter junkie. I used to be addicted to the social media network—that is addicted to reading others’ tweets as opposed to tweeting myself. When I first joined Twitter in 2009 I would only read my timeline. I didn’t tweet anything myself until much later. At first I only followed a couple dozen people, but over time the number of people I followed grew and grew. I don’t know if it was some kind of obsessive compulsive trait of mine, but I felt a need to read every tweet in my timeline. When I woke up in the morning I’d scroll back through all the tweets I missed the previous night. Such a practice was manageable then because I wasn’t following too many people (in the dozens), and those I followed didn’t tweet too often.

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Writing to Relieve Anxiety

“I have now, and have had since this afternoon, a great yearning to write all my anxiety entirely out of me, write it into the depths of the paper just as it comes out of the depths of me, or write it down in such a way that I could draw what I had written into me completely.”

— Franz Kafka

Whenever something is bothering me, and I am overcome with running thoughts, the best way to relieve that anxiety is to write my thoughts down. Afterwards, I almost always feel better and the running thoughts subside. Simply writing about my fears and worries helps in easing them. Why is that?

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Tenet & Movies That Make You Think

Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film conceptually to date, which is saying something considering he made Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar. Without spoilers, Tenet involves time travel, but it is a unique version of time travel—perhaps the most inventive form of time travel I’ve ever seen in a movie—and the most complex.

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