Introduction – Since 2013, the first time I read David Foster Wallace’s (then new) Posthumous collection of essays “Both Flesh and Not” and his first novel “The Broom of the System,” I’ve made it a point every year to read certain things in the month of January. At first it was just “The Broom of the System” and then I added a number of other Wallace stories/essays, last year I added a few William H. Gass and Robert E. Howard stories to the mix. This year I’ve gone above and beyond that, adding some Hemingway, Russell, Vonnegut, Turtledove and Machado stories into the fold, a play list of audio stories that is now close to 60 hours long. I’ve attempted blogged about these before, and have blogged about some of the stories individually. This time there’s all here in all their glory. This is going to be a little long, so grab a drink and/or a snack, put on a nice light classical playlist on in the background, and enjoy.
Note – the bulk of this post was written in the winter of 2020. For reasons that I won’t be going into last year was a bit chaotic, and it didn’t get posted. This year, 2021, I am reading the stories all over again, with some additional ones (to be noted later on), just keep in mind that when I say (this year) most of the time here, it will be referring to the year nobody wants to talk about.
Another Pioneer – This is a David Foster Wallace story from his last collection “Oblivion” The story starts mid-sentence, and is told in a single paragraph that goes on for 23 pages (in the print version). It’s funny and brilliant and tells the story of a man who overheard a pair of men talking on a long flight about a wunderkind born in a primitive Paleolithic tribe, who has the uncanny ability to answer correctly any question given to him.
The Bogumbo Stuff Box – the title story form Vonnegut’s collection (I.e. his collection of stories that had not been previously collected until close to the end of his life/career). The story is about a guy who visits his ex-wife well after their brief post-war marriage, with a major twist ending that changes everything about the story. Like the bulk of Vonnegut’s oeuvre this shows a raw unpolished and disturbing side of humanity. Vonnegut’s short fiction is a deep dark hole, so think to yourself if you really want to go down it before you do. After doing some research, I’ve come to the realization that even the country mentioned in the title of this story is fictional.
The Barn at the End of Our Term – a Karen Russell story from “Vampires in the Lemon Grove.” Ah Karen, her stories are hit and miss, the ones in this anthology I have assembled are of course the hits. They’re cute, creative and layered. This story is about former United States Presidents who have been reincarnated as horses in a strange farm. The protagonist being Rutherford B. Hayes, which is just a great choice, she didn’t choose the heavy hitting presidents like Lincoln, Washington or the Roosevelt’s, but instead went with a rather benign and forgettable choice, very smart.
Big Red Sun – there are a few non-fictions floating around in this playlist too, this one is by DFW and found in his collection “Consider the Lobster.” The article is about him attending the 1998 AVN award, which are like the academy awards for porn. And you can imagine just how funny and weird this nearly 2 hour article gets.
The Black Colossus – And we have our first Conan story. I’m a big fan of Conan and pulp stuff in general, I think I’ve already mentioned that before. The audio book is actually performed by the Athena Theater. It has an interesting dynamic, where the barbarian is charged with leading an army, and is more cautious because for the first time it is not just his life on the line, I also like the part about the camel and how it transforms into a strange creature. Eventually I’d like to read all the Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard in his lifetime, so far i’ve read 17 of 28, more then half way there.
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West – At this point I’m kind of always reading Blood Meridian and it’s probably my favorite novel of all time. Both extremely violent and beautifully written which seems almost impossible, but somehow it works. I read it 3 times last year, and I was 2/3rds through it when I got to it in the winter stories, I did not start from the beginning. I may have done a review of it, back when I was reviewing books on Good Reads, but I’m not sure. I’ve had this weird fantasy going in my head that this book was actually written by a 5th grade savant who had learned all this stuff about the west from visiting museums with his parents. This idea may actually turn into a story at some point, though it will not be Blood Meridian that the kid is writing, but something like it. I should point out that I am in no way saying this book is a juvenile work, there are very few professional writers that write at the level we see here in McCarthy’s magnum opus.
The Broom of the System – I have different reactions to this novel every time I read it, and I’ve read it a lot (this is the 8th time). It’s a bit much to read a whole novel as part of the winter stories playlist, so I’ve actually edited it myself (Blood Meridian is a significantly shorter novel), getting rid of some of the sub-chapters that have less to do with the overall book, and some of the sadder sub-chapters, reducing the book from 16 hours to about 10. Wallace has described this book as though it were written by a very intelligent 14 year old, at first I ignored this comment as simply self-deprecating humility, but the more I read it the less mature the characters seem (that’s of course intentional for the main antagonist Rick Vigorous, but it washes over to all of the characters the more I read this book) however there are very few novels I’ve read that are better than this one. Experimental, philosophical, multi-faceted, but unlike a lot of other books that can also be described the same way, this one is actually also: funny, understandable, and also a pleasurable read. One of the rare books that is both deep and approachable. I would think most people could read and enjoy this book without having to do a whole lot of homework. I’ve done a lengthier post on this novel here.
The Cather in the Rhine – and we get to our first Harry Turtledove story. Turtledove (actual name btw) is a prolific writer and an expert in the genre of Alternate History. This story however is however a J.D. Salinger pastiche with a hard fantasy element. The story (told in the first person) is about Holden Caufield (unnamed but heavily implied) touring Europe shortly after the events of Catcher in the Rye, and he gets wrapped into the Ring of Nibelung story. Whether you like Turtledove or not, you can’t deny, the man has one hell of an imagination.
A Christmas Carol – I read this novella every Christmas Eve. It is my favorite Christmas story and my favorite novella of them all. What more can be said? Well actually a lot, I should probably do a lengthier post on it one of these days.
Coda to My Corear as a Writer of Periodicals – this was the epilogue to Vonnegut’s story collection “The Bugumbo Snuffbox”. Read by the author himself. I thought this was the essay in which he talks about how to write a good short story, but that must have been the introduction. Regardless it was a good short piece by the author remembering his early years as a writer and what it means to be a Midwesterner. Great title too.
Consider the Lobster – Wallace’s essay about attending the Maine Lobster Festival, and the socio-ethics of cooking lobsters alive. Personally I love lobster, but I invariably get it frozen, i’d never be able to pick out a live one. The essay does a good job at literally questioning the ethics of meat without coming off as preachy. This was also the title essay from the same collection that gave us “Big Red Son” mentioned supra.
Death is Not the End – Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a very good and very unusual story collection, and the second thing I read by Wallace, and there is even an audio book. However the audio book consists mostly of the Brief Interviews, and just a few other stories. This one though I’m glad was included, it’s a good one describing a highly accomplished poet sitting by his swimming pool, very little more but a whole lot of room for interpretation.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating – Another Karen Russell story from Vampires in the Lemongrove. This story is the shortest, funniest and best from the collection. Although her stories can be hit or miss her titles rarely are, and when you see a title like this, what exactly do you think the story is going to be about? If you guessed anything but a direct interpretation, you would be wrong, there is a sub narrative that runs throughout the story about a divorcee, but the main story is about going to Antarctica to watch the “Food Chain Games” i.e. whales vs. krill, set up like an essay about how to do this properly. Better yet it makes the whole practice seem both believable and that a large chunk of people follow this sport, just as they do football in the real world. It’s actually 4 pieces in one: a story about a divorce, an article fandom of a “fake” sport, an article on the Antarctic biome, and a critique of sports fandom in general. And I should mention that this is all done in 20 minutes (about 3k words)… bravo.
The Empty Plenum – another Wallace Essey. You know when there’s a two word title (“the” notwithstanding) and you have to look up one of them, you’re in for a difficult read. And that is certainly the case with this one. If you ever wondered what David Foster Wallace’s favorite novel is, it’s probably David Markson’s “Wittgenstein’s Mistress.” In this easy Wallace deeply analyzes that novel, showing where it succeeds and fails and so on, interesting but difficult to follow. I’ve actually read the novel as well, on paper (highly unlikely it will ever get an audio book… but you never know). The book is unusual, very experimental: written in the first person, mostly in single sentence paragraphs about a woman who believes she is the last person on earth. I picked up a copy for myself and I will finish reading it the second time through at some point, but I’m not sure when. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Wallace did, but it was still a very good book.
Federer Both Flesh and Not – the posthumous Wallace essay Collection was a major part of my reading back in 2013, and very much the start of this winter story tradition. I’d really like to see the posthumous fiction collection, I’ve heard it’s in the works, but I’ve been hearing that for years. This collection though was really good and it was called “Both Flesh and Not” and this essay is where title was taken. Most of the Wallace essays that are part of this Winter Story selection were included in Both Flesh and Not (with the acception of “Consider the Lobster” and “Big Red Son” which were both part of “Consider the Lobster”). This particular easy is about Rodger Federer and tennis. It is a profound essay considering that I’ve read it many many times even though I don’t care about sports.
Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young – this essay, was written in the late 80’s about the then contemporary literary brat pack, and how the new movement of minimalist writing was ruining literature. It is also a criticism of the entire concept of the Creative Writing MFA program. It’s good, but you have to take it with a grain of salt when realizing that Wallace rode the Literary Brat Pack’s wave to prominence himself.
Fifty Grand – I don’t pretend to be any sort of authority, but it seems to me that of all sports, boxing somehow seems to be the most literary. Again maybe it’s just the sliver of perspective that I have into all of literature, but it would seem that Boxing crosses that threshold more then any other sport: “The Pugilist at Rest” “Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine” “Superman My Son” by Thom Jones, “The Quiet Man” by Maurice Walsh, the Sailor Steve Costagan Stories by Robert E. Howard… to say nothing of the highly regarded boxing movies like Raging Bull. Boxing is one of the most brutal and primitive sports out there, but it is also one of the most artistic and poetic, it’s a strange duality. Fifty Grand is Hemingway’s take on the boxing story, about a fighter who is warn out and knows he can’t hold onto his title. It’s a good one, not his very best but an enjoyable read.
Forever Overhead – probably my favorite DFW story of them all, short, poetic, and it’s also one of his most straight forward stories. Written in the second person, it’s about a boy who has gone to the public pool on his 13th birthday so that he can dive off the high board. When I first got into Wallace and his writings I had a dream that I met Wallace and told him just how beautiful this story way. I kind of wish I had read this story when I hit my teenage years, but probably at that age, I wouldn’t have understood it.
The Frost Giants Daughter – Another Robert E. Howard Conan story. This one is presented as a radio play rather than an audio book. Also, interestingly, this was the only Conan story published in Howard’s lifetime that was not published in Weird Tales, it was rejected outright by Weird Tales in the same letter that they accepted “the Phoenix on the Sword” which is the first published Conan story. The story is about a frost giant princess who has lured Conan into a trap where her brothers can kill him, but Conan is no easy man to kill (and the series did not end there) so you can imagine the rest of the story.
The Gambler the Nun and the Radio – a Hemingway story about an unnamed writer in a hospital talking to a gambler who was shot, a nun who seems to be a bit of a simpleton, and a radio that doesn’t work when the X-Ray machine is turned on.
Girl with Curious Hair – in “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young” David Foster Wallace talks about the failings of ultra-minimalism and the then contemporary pop writers such as Bret Easton Ellis, MacInerny, etc. I may be wrong, but I believe that this story is internationally written in the style of those writers as either a parody, or an illustration to what he was talking about in that essay. The main character is very wealthy and very successful and has found a group of punk rocker friends who are at the far other end of society. The story is written in a strange almost ultra-literal way that seems unnatural, and unlike anything else Wallace has written. That is what the story appears to me now, when I read it again next year that might change, but I probably won’t be doing a blog post on it, unless it is just on the story itself.
Good Old Neon – a well-regarded story from Wallace’s final collection, it was first published in conjunctions and shortlisted for an O. Henry prize in 2002 (losing to: “The Ceiling” by Kevin Brockmeier – which I think I might have read, but don’t quite remember). The story is largely told in the first person about a man who is convinced he is a fraud and reached the point where he couldn’t go on anymore. The story transitions into second and third person and has an unusual duel ending achieved with a footnote (one of the only ones used in the entire collection). Thinking about it more, this may in fact be my favorite Wallace story though it suffers from two problems that make it not quite as good as Forever Overhead; 1st it is long, nearly 2 hours long there is a lot to say in the story, but I can’t help but feel it could be shorter and achieve the same effect, 2nd there is a lot of “promis” in the story that it will get to what happens after you die and then does not deliver on such which has it’s reasons but still though. This most definintly needs a larger dissection.
Hal Irwyn’s Majic Lamp – in his corer, Vonnegut only published 2 story collections: “Welcome to the Monkey House” which was largely Science Fiction (or science realism – a genre I’m working to galvanize) and “the Bogumbo Snuffbox” which container all the other stories, more literary. This story, despite its deceptive title, is a literary one from the later collection. The story is about a stock broker who makes a lot of money and is able to buy his wife everything she’s ever wanted, and hires a poor pregnant black woman to dress up as a genie and “grant wishes.” Needless to say everything goes wrong. It is brutal depiction of consumerism.
Harrison Bergeron – this story comes from Vonnegut’s first collection, and is probably his best known. I first read this one in a college class, and loved it, and picked up the book shortly after. Equality is of course a good thing, but absolute equality is not an absolute good. If you haven’t read it before, this story is set in a dystopia where everyone is equal, by handicapping anyone who might be able to achieve more then the common person, weights for the strong, random loud noises for the intellectuals, etc. the story is not very long, nearly perfectly, and food for much debate.
Horse of Bronze – although Harry Turtledove is usually known for his alternate History, this story falls more into the category of straight fantasy, telling the tale of the Centaurs first encounter with man. I don’t know if there is an actual alternate history bend to this one or not, I don’t know all that much about mythology.
How to Behave Around Books – this is a collection of shorter pieces by and read by William H. Gass at a book signing when his third and final novel “Middle C” came out. Most of this peace is made up of excerpts from Middle C. There are limited audio stories of Gass available, so I had to make do with this YouTube video.
The Husband Stitch – I was very jealous the first time I read this story, the whole time thinking to myself “why didn’t I think of that first?” It’s a retelling of the various classic scary stories: the Hook, the Ribbon, Who’s Got My Big Toe?, etc. etc. you know the ones. And they are folded into a genrebent story that uses some of the techniques of those classic stories to great effect. Like other stories by the author (Carmen Maria Macado), it is very Third Wave Feminist.
Inventory – also by Carmen Maria Macado, this story takes the form of a chronological list of lovers (both men and women) by an unnamed female narrator, which also tells the story of an apocalyptic contagion, this story is a little harder to read during the Coronovirus outbreak… or maybe it’s the best time to read it, I don’t know.
The Killers – my favorite Hemingway story, hands down. It’s one of his shorter ones, and sets at the foundations of both noir fiction and minimalism and worthy of deep analysis. The language is perfect. There’s a great line, early in the story: “I can make you any kind of sandwitch you want, you can have ham and eggs, beacon and eggs, liver and beacon, or a stake.” not sure why I like the line so much, but I have since the first time I read it. I have not seen the movie adaption of this story… yet.
The Lie – my favorite Vonnegut story, hands down, did I say that for another one? I don’t think so. This is a story about a kid in a car driving to an ultra-prestigious boarding school that his father practically owns, the kid did not pass the admittance test but his parents don’t know this. The real conflict here is multi-layered: the conflict of a boy going to a school he has not been accepted to, father who wants no special treatment because of his name, the Dean of school who can’t possible accept this student but denying this student will cause considerable financial stress for the school. It’s been a while since I’ve written any kind of “paper” of the magnitude of what I have in store for this on, but it’s getting to be time I think. But more importantly, this story really hits home with me because I’ve been in similar situations as the kid, perhaps not as extreme, but I struggled for 16 years in school and have little interest in slogging through anymore of it. The only downside to this story is the title, it works of course, but it’s not an eye catcher.
Little Expressionless Animals – at one point this was my favorite Wallace story, it has since been surpassed by Forever Overhead and Good Old Neon. The story is about a jeopardy champion (early in the show’s run) who is essentially unstoppable. Unlike other jeopardy superstars she clears out the entire board several times and is champion for some 3 years or so. It’s told in a non-Linnnier format, following the champion, her girlfriend who works on the show and a fictionalized Alex Trebek (RIP). Still really good, but after having read so much Wallace over the years it comes off as just a little juvenile.
The Long Goodbye – this is a radio dramatization of the novel by Raymond Chandler. Most people place “The Big Sleep” as the quintessential Philip Marlowe novel, but this one is my personal favorite. I still have not seen the 1973 color movie starring Elliot Gould and based on the book (one of the first “neo-noirs), but I will. This novel is a little easier to follow and it has a writer as one of the main characters. Other then that it’s pretty standard with the rest of Chandler’s oeuvre.
Mister Squishy – an interesting story, and the first story from Wallace’s final collection. It’s about a focus group researching a new confection called “Felonies” while someone free-climbs the building running the focus group. It seems that recently Hershey’s has produced something that seems very similar to the description of a Felony called “Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Cake.”
The Mystery Knight – well I can’t put all of a song of ice and fire into the mix, but this story (3 hours long) gives a little taste of Westeros for the winter stories. This is one of the Dunk and Egg stories, which take place about a hundred years before Game of Thrones begins. Three of these stories were published in a collection called “A Knight if the Seven Kindgoms” and this is my favorite of the three. It’s the most interesting story, has the most heraldry, and the most interesting characters. The rest of the collection is great too, don’t get me wrong, and I’d like to read more of these tales, but that probably won’t happen since George R.R. Martain seems to do everything he can other then write Game of Thrones books.
News from the Front – another alternate history by Harry Turtledove about WWII as though America was largely against the war and sympathized with the Japanese. It’s hard to note the exact point of divergence in this story from actual history. The story is told through a series of newspaper arriticals, which I admire, I’ve only written on story in this form in the past, and it was never published (maybe I should go back to that one)
Oblivion – the title story of DFW’s final story collection, it’s not the best story in the collection, but maybe the best to title the collection. The story is about a man who is in a conflict with his wife, she claims he is snoring, he claims that he’s still awake. The story goes on for a long time and is deeply analytical of the situation and other things going on with the narrators life, for instants the fact that he’s hallucinating due to lack of sleep. The one problem with the story though is that it uses the word “or” constantly, with nearly every noun receiving an accompanying alternate noun, and this becomes more and more frequent the further into the story you get. Other then that it’s a good story.
Order of Insects – as I’ve said before there are not many William H. Gass audio stories, the earlier mentioned “How to Behave Around Books” was an excerpt form a live reading, and the part of “The Tunnel” to come is another excerpt, other then that, this story is pretty much all I could find. It was produced on Milted’s Bedtime Stories, which she opened by saying it is “perhaps the greatest piece of a cacaroach litterateur,” being such a narrow genre… sure, I can’t think of anything better. As far as Gass stories go, it’s not his best in my opinion, that honor goes to “Don’t Even Try Sam” which tells the story of the making of the movie Castablanca through the point of view of the piano (come on, what an idea.) This story is about a housewife who comes across a cacoroch and obsessed over it. It’s actually quite short, the ahortest story from the collection “in the heart of the heart of the country”
The Planet Trillophan and Where it Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing – one of Wallace’s earliest stories published in the Ameherst Review, and generally considered the best of his uncollected short(er) pieces, and of the ones i’ve read, I would agree. In both style and theme is it much closer to his later fiction from Oblivion, then it is to the stories collected in Girl With Curious Hair or Brief Interviews with Hedious Men. The story is about a college kid who struggles with sever depression and is basically trying to explain what it is like. I’m still waiting for the DFW Posthumus collection, I assume this will be the title story of that collection when (if) released.
Real Women Have Bodies – the third and final offering by Carmin Maria Maccado (to appear in this selection). The story is about (superficially) a strange phenomenon where women are starting to fade away, kind of like ghost, and the narrator’s (same sex) girlfriend is going through this process. The story has a tasteful but fairly explicit lesbian scene in it, if you’re into that sort of thing, and that dovetales nicely to the next point. Metaphorically the story is about how the objectification of women causes them to cease to exist in any real form. At least that’s how I interpret the story. Again this is another third wave feminist story.
Rouges in the House – another Conan story, this one takes place after Conan is arrested and is set up to be set free with the help of a jailer who plays too fast and loose with this privileges. But once Conan is freed, through his own strength more so then the arrangements, he is set to help a guy kill another guy. It’s one of the few Conan stories to end in a punch line, but I’m not going to tell you what it is, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro – although the word “snow” is in the title, this is really not a winter themed story, nor does the story really have anything to do with Kilimanjaro, other then setting. This is a Hemingway story, and perhaps his best known, about a man dying of gangrene remembering his own life, while his wife tries to care for him as he is getting more and more difficult to be around.
Someone is steeling the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy – most of the Turtledove stories are not particularly funny, but that doesn’t mean that funny things don’t crop up from time to time. This story is an exception, end to end a surreal Sci-Fi farce. It’s hard to imagine a literal interpretation of a title like this, yet that is exactly what Turtledove delivers.
The Soul is Not a Smithy – This story is about a kid who is having a very disturbing day dream in an early 60s elementary school civics class, while the substitute teacher starts to write “KILL THEM ALL” over and over again on the blackboard. Additionally there is a good deal of flash forwarding to the narrator’s life as an adult, and sideboarding about his home life at the time of the event. Parts of this story were also found in some sections of the Pale King, Wallace’s posthumous and final novel. The novel hits home for me since the narrator was a learning challenged student, as was I.
Suicide as a Sort of Present – one of the stories from “Brief Interviews” unconnected to the main text. The story describes a woman who is highly critical of herself, who then has a child who she is also critical of, but expresses these feeling in reverse. The meaning behind the story and its end is open to a high amount of interpretation. This is the last Wallace story of the set.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – one of several Vonnegut stories that deals with the concept of over population, the result of people achieving the desires to both live forever and have many children (the latter of which I understand in no way at all). This is a great little story about a house full of people under the tyrannical rule of “Pops” who constantly threatens to change his will, and strings his family along about when he will stop taking his live forever medicine. He is not a good person. Nobody in the story is really all that good, the situation of the story is not a good one, but the story is very good.
The Tower of the Elephant – of all the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, this one is considered to have the most connection with the original Conan movie, specifically the scene where Conan, Subotai and Valeria scale the tower of the Serpent. This is another radio drama.
The Tunnel – I’ve read the full novel twice, it is a chore to get through, and itself almost as long as this entire winter playlist. So this is the first segment of the audio book, 10-15 pages or so, and sets up the character of Bill Kholer.
Vampires in the Lemongrove – the title story from the collection that seemed to really put Karen Russel on the map, I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it seems to be the case. The book also came out near or shortly after the vampire craze of the 2010’s. all the Karen Russell stories in the winter stories have come from Vampires in the Lemongrove (though I have read stories from her other collections). As far as the story itself goes, it’s about a vampire who learns from his lover that he does not have to drink blood to servive, the lemons from a certain grove in Italy do fine. This is a magical realism/genrebent story about much more then you superficially see, and opened to a good deal of interpretation.
Welcome to the Monkey House – the title story of Vonneguts first collection of stories, which are for the most part steeped in science fiction. This story is about an overpopulated future world in which men and women are required to take berthcontrol pills that cause there gintels to go numb and thus removing all desire. And a man who goes around apin women to bring about a new six revolution. That plot is far more tasteful then it sounds. Considering I haven’t heard any hard critisizm of this story.
Well that about covers it for audiobooks/stories/essays, however there is more. There are also a few things I always read on paper every winter, a few DVDs watched, and other traditions associated with my favorite season.
This Land Was Made for You and Me (But Mostly Me) by Bruce McCall and David Letterman – this is one of my favorite books, and unlike other favorite books there is no audiobook version, and an audiobook wouldn’t really do it justice. This is a picture book meant for adults, with exaggerated adult humor about the ultra rich. I’d love to see a sequel to it, but I don’t think there are any on the horizon. I Love McCall’s artwork in general, always enjoy it when I see that he’s done a new cover for the New Yorker. One part of this book was published in the New Yorkers “Shouts and Murmurs” section (I’ve submitted stuff to that particular section before, and I’ve been officially rejected (instead of just ignored) and I consider that a high mark, and even though I don’t have proof, I have a feeling that one of my submissions inspired another story that was published in the Shouts and Murmurs section. I’ll do another blog post on that at some point… not sure how I feel about it to tell you the truth) the part do the book was the “Worlds Longest Fireplace.” I already did a post on this book, and if your interested you can read it here.
200 Classic Cartoons – this is a great bargain bin DVD with 200 cartoon shorts on it: Popeye, Betty Boop, the Three Stooges, Mr. Piper, etc. unfortunately half the DVDs do not work on the PS2 I watch them on. I’m considering bringing an actual DVD player upstairs so I can get through more of the DVDs. But I have other things to do, so maybe not. 2021 Update – this year, since I upgraded to a Blu-Ray player, I was able to watch all the DVD’s this time around
The End of the Tour – There are two David Foster Wallace Movies, and this one is by far the better one. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (the directorial debut of John Krasinski) shows why Wallace movies are no easy task. This movie on the other hand is about David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) interviewing Wallace (Jason Segal) at the tail end of the book tour for Infinite Jest. It is almost entirely dialogue between the two. This time watching it (it’s the 3rd or 4th time) I decided to turn in the commentary, which provided some very interesting insite to the film process and highlighting that this is actually a period film, and the more messed up part is that the 90s are now so long ago that they can be a “period.” This film grows on me more and more each time I watch it, and I think I may now start watching it more often, then just once a year, but it is a good winter movie, so I’ll at least do that.
Groundhog Day – other people have their own definitions, but for me Christmas Season lasts from Thanksgiving Day to Groundhog Day. On Groundhog Day I take down all the Christmas decorations, change the wallpaper on my phone from a Christmas theme to something else, stop listening to Christmas carols, etc. and most importantly, watch the movie Groundhog Day. This time I actually watched it both for the holiday and because it was up next in my Mega DVD Marathon, it’s nice how these things work out sometimes. I have three movies that I put in the category of my favorite movie of all time, and as I get older, Groundhog Day seems to be the one rising above the others. It is the perfect blend of Comedy, drama, romance and speculation, with an unusual if not nearly unique (for the time) plot. Like Bill Murray living the same day over and over again, I could watch this movie over and over again (and I have), I’d watch it more often if there wasn’t so much other stuff to do.
Secrets of the Gnomes – I already covered this book in a lengthy blogpost, and my opinion of it has only been magnified since then. I would like to read the rest of the books in the series but they are rare, expensive, and also difficult to categorize which books are actually part of the series. In the meantime this book will do, as rereading it is always a good experience.
St. Elmo’s Fire – this is the 3rd time I watched this movie. I usually run it after Groundhog Day, as it is a movie I want to see yearly, it takes place largely in the winter, and both movies have Andie McDowel. Though she is much less important this movie. Unfortunately because of time constraints this year I did not get to watch it on Groundhog Day, but I did get to watch it shortly after.
Skyward Sword – although Skyward Sword is not my favorite Zelda game, it’s a good one, and I usually spend a good bit of time in the winter playing through it. This tradition though is somewhat on Hiatus, I didn’t do it during the last 2 years (because of Breath of the Wild) and I didn’t do it this year either because of the Links Awakening Remake. Maybe next year I will get back into plying this game in the winter, but we’ll see. Supposedly it’s coming to the Switch with better controls, and I’ll be there for it. there will be a big blogpost coming about all things Zelda, but before then you can read my 35th Anniversary Post if you have not done so already.
Aladdin – starting last year, I began a new tradition of playing Aladdin on the Genesis (actually the switch this year) while listening to my Aladdin soundtrack vinyl picturedisk, watching the Aladdin movie and wearing my Aladdin T-Shirt. My goal is to beat the game before the record finishes. I’m pretty good at it at this juncture, it was the first game I ever got and still one of my favorites.
This blog post was written (for the most part) in the winter of 2020. For 2021 I have added a few stories and a few movies to the list. So I will go over the additions in brief here.
New stories added: “Bontshe the Silent” by I.L. Peretz, “Chava” by Sholem Alechim, “The Family Meadow” by John Updike, “Introduction to the Bugumbo Snuffbox” by Kirt Vonnigut (this is where he talks about how to write a good short story), “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison, “Kola Street” by Sholem Acsh, “The Kugelmass Episode” by Woody Allen, “Matza for the Rich” by Abraham Reisin, “My Father Sits in the Dark” by Jerome Weidman, “The New Ventrans” by Karen Russell, “Red Nails” by Robert E. Howard, “Repent Harloqui, Said the Tik Tok Man” by Harlan Ellison, “The Report on the Barnhouse Effect” by Kurt Vonnegut, “Rhetoric and the Math Mellowdrama” by David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water” by David Foster Wallace, “Westward the Course of Empire Makes its Way” by David Foster Wallace, “The Whore of Mensa” by Woody Allan, “The World of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, and 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut. Some of these “stories” are quite long, and this playlist will take quite a while to get through, hopefully it will be completed before the spring. As of right now, I’m on “Oblivion” it will take me well into the spring barring any unforeseen events.
I’ve also made a more significant list of movies/TV shows to watch in the winter, and used RNG to select them. This is the list I’ve created: 1 – Mega DVD Marathon, 2 – 200 Classic Cartoons, 3 – Aladdin, 4 – Back to the Future (the Animated Series), 5 – Conan the Barbarian/Conan the Destroyer/Red Sonja, 6 – David the Gnome (because I watch it once a season), 7 – The End of the Tour, 8 – Garfield & Friends, 9 – Mickey’s 60th Birthday, 10 – St. Elmo’s Fire, 11 – Sealab 2021 (because this is the year that show took place, I’ll be watching it 21 times this year (if all goes well) and doing a lengthy blog post on it), 12 – Seinfeld (I plan to watch the series once a year henseforth), 13 – TV Toon’s to Go (because I watch it once a season).
We are all hoping for a better year this year, let’s hope we get it. Thanks for reading as always, and I hope you will be back for the next blog post… it shouldn’t be long.