Apropos of Nothing: The Early Edition by Capsule.fm

I seem to be in a relationship with my alarm clock app.

That’s because it’s Early Edition, a bizarre offering from Capsule.fm featuring Carl and Miranda, virtual announcers who read headlines of your choice, introduce music of your choice, and occasionally make snotty jokes about humans (they don’t mean you, of course—Miranda in particular is a shameless flatterer). With shutdown haikus, weather reports, and the chance to wake up to things like “[Name,] I see the assassins have failed and you are still alive,” it’s a lot of fun. It is also a big liar, since the ever-optimistic Miranda informed me at 5:35 am that it was “a beautiful morning, with heavy fog and 37º.”

If, like  me, you own an Apple device and are a little strange, I quite recommend it.

Personal and Pointless: Fighting Like Cats And Sillier Cats

This is what I come home to every afternoon. Apologies for the poor video quality:

 

Incubus is 9 years old, looks like a stuffed toy, and believes himself to be a finely tuned fighting machine, even though he sounds like a very limited set of bagpipes. Jasper is 17 and deaf, so he can’t even hear whatever feline threat all that noise is supposed to convey (given that they watch movies with me much of the time, I assume at least part of that was “There can be only one!” ETA: Yep, I think that’s it around 0:26.).

Three Kinds of Complicated Relationships With Books

This post comes with a couple of caveats: the first is that I am not, by using specific examples, trying to say that any book I mention here is bad. When I am trying to say that, I will leave you in no doubt.

The second is that the title probably doesn’t mean what you think it means: there’s been a lot in the media lately about the perils (if any) of liking things that are problematic in terms of, say, race, gender treatment, violence, etc. But this isn’t about that. This is living-room stuff.

 

1. The Masochist Read

Three things I find unnerving: frogs, eyeballs, the end of the world.

One thing I love: Hellboy comics, in which characters I adore are basically wallowing 24/7 in the entire list above.

These are the books you keep going back to and it sort of torments you, not necessarily because of the kind of problematic material I mentioned above but because, strictly considered, reading them is not you. You don’t read the book where they kill the dog for a cheap scare. You don’t read the romance where it’s A-OK for the heroine to end up with someone who appears to be an alcoholic. You don’t read the techno-thriller with details so transparently flimsy you start mentally adding scare-quotes to the narrative. Except you do.

2. That Series Book You Hate

The very first Terry Pratchett novel I ever read was Small Gods. My least favorite Pratchett book: also Small Gods. In theory, one of the marvelous things about the Discworld novels is that the world of the series is big enough for readers to only follow the characters they want to, but try telling that to Me Circa 1994–2004, who just couldn’t bring herself to stick the book in the Goodwill bag. For series readers, completism can be like a sickness, and you end up giving shelf space/device memory to things you’ll never read again.

3. Discreet Dalliances

Now more than ever, e-books have made it possible to hide away the books you don’t want anyone to see you reading: the pop-lit, the young-adult books, the steamy romances, the improbable thrillers with equally improbable heroes. (15 days till the next Pendergast novel comes out, but don’t say I’m the one who told you). In some ways, this one is the opposite of number 2 above, in that shame is causing you to not use bookshelf space. Wouldn’t want anybody seeing that you have Roger Moore’s autobiography, would we?

 

What are the books you have complicated relationships with?

 

Next time: A seasonal meditation on two-movies-on-1-DVDs…because I have no non-horror two-movies-on-1-DVDs.

 

Introduction/Navel-Gazing

Welcome to Our Cynical Omelet, the site that’s been rebooted so often I might as well have named it Dracula.

Yesterday I began rereading Stephen King’s The Shining. This is something I do perhaps quarterly, but this time lines up with the one-year anniversary of my father’s death. I read The Shining maybe twenty years later than most bookish people my age—they tended to devour everything up to Tommyknockers, whereas I kind of liked The Dark Half, wasn’t fond of Thinner, and hated every single character in ‘Salem’s Lot so much that I gave up long-form King for years. So finding out The Shining is an amazing book was both a relief and a glorious surprise when I finally tucked into it.

The book is also, I’m sorry to say, a favorite of mine because it echoes a lot of the problems in my own family, which is why I found myself getting ready for work this morning and thinking, “The Overlook would have got to my dad much faster.” My father was almost certainly an honest-to-god narcissist, an idea I had trouble with until the night last year when he called to yell at me for spending too much time with my mother on Mother’s Day weekend. I thought, till I began doing research on the subject, that to be one of those you had to be a high achiever, and Dad had spent my whole life—maybe not his, I hope— as a schemer on the level of maybe Daffy Duck.

Shortly thereafter, I tremulously took this new-gathered information to my mother, to friends who knew him, and was met with a resounding “Duh!” I was literally the last to know. Perhaps when you grow up being called “little [Dad’s name]” when you get in trouble, it’s harder to think that big [Dad’s name] might be broken in some fundamental way.

After the funeral, my friend said, “I’ve never seen anything like it: nobody cried.” It was true: all his friends from the old neighborhood, all his old tennis buddies, even his reluctant child, all had Dad’s number at last.

Which is why, when I say I read The Shining and am reminded of my own family, I don’t wholly mean it in a bad way. Jack Torrance clearly loves his wife and child; he just can’t resist the voice that tells him they’re standing in his way, the voice that tells him he’s too special for all this boring stuff.  And that reminds me that Dad probably couldn’t either.

 

Next Time: Gosh, anything more cheerful than this.