Previously, on josh bales [dot] net…

How is it that the first day back to work following a long weekend is so much harder than a regular Monday? I spent my first working hour slurping coffee, responding to easy emails, and trying and failing to learn a new-to-me Excel trick. Then my first meetings of the day involved a bunch of us sitting around, staring morosely at each other. Today felt like a hangover; not one of the body but of the soul.

Which begs the question: what then is the spiritual equivalent to Pedialyte?

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Fan-BLEEPING-tastic: Merriam-Webster on “expletive infixations.”

Finally finished BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY. You can clearly tell that it is Book One of a trilogy because you get to the end of the final chapter and the narrative just… stops. I’ll probably read the next book, but this is for sure not my favorite style of trilogy.

Watching:

Finished season 2 of EUPHORIA and the first season of THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME. EUPHORIA is so good, but this season damn near broke me emotionally. Fezco and Lexi became my two favorite characters this season. Lexi’s play? Fucking bananas in the best way possible. But how things went down for Fezco and Ashtray almost made me cry, and reader — I am not a crier by nature.

I really wanted to like THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME, but the show made it so hard. The cast was okay but they had terrible material to work with. The mystery wasn’t very interesting, and its unwinding was poorly executed, the pacing was wildly uneven, and Garner and Angourie Rice, who played Garner’s character’s stepdaughter, had the chemistry of two potatoes sitting in a bin at Kroger. Jess and my sister both liked the show and the book upon which it is based, so it’s possible I am just the sole inhabitant of Asshole Island here. Victor Garber has a fun role in one episode, and it was nice to see Sydney and Jack Bristow reunited for a few minutes.

More than anything, THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME made me want to rewatch PEPPERMINT, the film in which Garner essentially plays The Punisher and absolutely murders everyone who was remotely involved in the death of her family. Maybe that’s what was missing from THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME: Jennifer Garner PEPPERMINTing her way through the mystery of why her husband disappeared.

Wanting:

A writing retreat. A week someplace quiet, just me, no distractions, where I can really kick off this novel that’s been simmering now for a while. Ideally, somewhere where I can go for walks. Comfortable patio or porch.A grocery store, maybe a couple of restaurants within a 15-minute drive. The woods would be okay, but it couldn’t be too isolated. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ruined me on being alone at night in the woods. For that, I would need to be armed with a short-barrelled shotgun and a bat’leth.

Listening:                   

3 Hours of Relaxing Super Nintendo Music.

And Kirby:

He’s feeling better, but still having some issues. Hoping we will have them figured out soon.

The white dot is a piece of rice affixed adorably upon his snoot.

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Mother’s Day, 2023

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and mom-like figures out there, but especially to my mom. We will be celebrating as we usually do on this day, by going out for Mexican for lunch.

She hates pictures of herself, but tough shit, Lori — this one is cute.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Two-thirds of the way through BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY, by Ken MacLeod. I don’t read many space operas these days, but it was favorably mentioned in one of the 800 newsletters to which I subscribe, so I figured I’d give it a shot. (That it’s only 320 pages was also attractive.)

The plot summary per Goodreads:

When a brilliant scientist gets a letter from herself about faster-than-light travel, she doesn’t know what to believe. The equations work, but her paper is discredited – and soon the criticism is more than scientific. Exiled by the establishment, she gets an offer to build her starship from an unlikely source. But in the heights of Venus and on a planet of another star, a secret is already being uncovered that will shake humanity to its foundations.

I’m enjoying this one quite a bit. There are a bunch of characters, as one would suspect from a sweeping space opera, but their characterizations are distinct enough and interesting that it’s been easy for me to keep track of who is who. The plot is engaging and MacLeod never gets too infodump-y with the worldbuilding and the science/engineering bits. HALLOWED SKY is apparently the first in a trilogy, so unless the last third of this book goes completely off the rails, I am planning to read book 2.

Watching:

For my birthday this year, my sister got me a membership to the Drexel, one of Columbus’s indie theaters. We used that membership for the first time to see POLITE SOCIETY last week. The story follows Ria, a young martial artist and aspiring stunt woman, as she attempts to rescue her older sister Lena from marrying Salim, a rich and slimy chud. The plot is a little insane in the best way possible. Lots of ridiculous fights, humor that actually made me LOL, plus a talented and charming cast, and – most importantly – the runtime is only 104 minutes.

We also watched VIGIL, a murder-mystery set aboard a British nuclear submarine, the HMS Vigil. This one was so good that I actually stayed up past my bedtime – on a school night, no less! – to finish it.

Wanting:

This Steelcase Series 1 Work Office Chair, in canary. I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but for a while now the skin on my current office chair has been peeling off like it’s a character in a HELLRAISER movie. It needs replacing, but I can’t quite bring myself to pay $548 for a chair. Sure, my current chair has served me well for ten years, and I spend >9 hours a day with my ass planted on it, so, like with buying a bed, if I’m going to spend a third of my life (god, that’s depressing lol) using something, it probably makes sense to invest in something that will be comfortable and supportive to the old meat bag. I’m just not there yet.

Listening:

The most recent Hardcore History, HH 69* – The Twilight of the Aesir.

*Nice.

And Kirby:

I shared this on Instagram, but am also going to put it here, because 1) he’s just so darn cute, and 2) to illustrate why his nickname is Kirby Roo.

Time Traveling with a Wright Bro

A few years back, Jess sent me an announcement from the Wright Memorial Library in Dayton. The library was putting together an “art and literary zine” to commemorate their 80th anniversary, and they were seeking contributors. They wanted pieces that focused on place (libraries, Dayton, etc.) or the passage of time, either looking backward or forward. The zine was going to be titled GLIDE.

It was a fun concept, and I hadn’t written anything of substance in a while, so I figured why not throw my hat into the proverbial ring? There was just the not insignificant question of: what did I want to write about?

There used to be a life-size sculpture of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer in downtown Dayton that I would walk by every day on my way to and from work. Wilbur is piloting the Flyer, while Orville runs along beneath it. I wondered how the brothers would feel if they could get a glimpse of such a monument to their success. Especially if it came in a dark moment where they wondered if they should give up?

And so it was settled. I would write a time travel story about Orville and Wilbur Wright.

“A Brief Detour” is a gentler story than the sort I typically write. No violence is done to anyone (bicycles notwithstanding), what few cusses there are are mild, and the tone is lighter. And it was exactly the story I needed to tell, then, to drag myself out of the rut I had been in, writing-wise. Writing it was… I won’t say effortless, because it wasn’t — but it came easily. Then working with the folks at the library to edit and refine it into the best version of itself was a pleasure. (One day I’ll write a whole thing about how much I genuinely enjoy the editing process.) Seeing “A Brief Detour” in print, holding GLIDE in my hands, gave me the confidence to tackle “In the Land of Broken Things” later that year.

I’m not sure how many copies of GLIDE were printed. Enough for all the contributors and some extras for the public. If I’m ever fortunate enough to publish a novel, that future book will sit next to my copy of GLIDE on my bookcase’s ego shelf.

A PDF version of the zine is still up on the library’s website, but it’s a bit clunky to read. So I’ve decided to give “A Brief Detour” a second home, here on josh bales [dot] net. You can read it here. There’s also a link on the Writing page.

Hope you enjoy it.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Working my way through THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS.

Interesting thoughts from Warren Ellis on How To Build A Blog Without Social Media. josh bales [dot] net syndicates to various social media platforms, but my SM audience is relatively small. Perhaps 300 people see what I write. But I blog because I enjoy doing it, not because I expect a ton of people will read what I write. Blogging in the era of social media is certainly a labor of love, emphasis on the love.

Watching:

I really enjoy the works of John le Carré, but I love the adaptations of his books even more. This past week we watched the limited series of THE NIGHT MANAGER, which is right up there with the 2011 TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY for me in terms of “fuck this is good.” Tom Hiddleston always makes for a somewhat bland leading man — looking at you specifically, KONG: SKULL ISLAND — but he does a solid job here. Hugh Laurie, though, is magnificent as a cold-blooded but charming international arms dealer. The joy of the show is watching Hiddleston’s protagonist insinuating himself into Laurie’s character’s work fambly, all of whom are interesting and multi-faceted, and manipulating them into tearing their fambly apart. The show aired in 2016 but I learned a second season is now in the offing.

The new INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY trailer dropped yesterday at Celebration, and it made me so happy.

Wanting:

A vacation. Which, thank the sorcerer, I will be embarking on in a few weeks.

Listening:

I have been knee-deep in spreadsheet hell this week — Ex-hell, if you will — so I’ve been listening to a lot of moody ambient music. Dark ambient, metropolis and Cthulhu is one of my favorites.

And Kirby:

He’s got no eyes, but you can still somehow feel the judgement radiating from him because Jess wasn’t sharing her cereal milk.

Haiku and China Buffets

Let’s mix things up a bit this week, and allow me to demonstrate my magnificent versatility as a writer. Here is a haiku. One inspired by true events.

leave the cabaret
happy drunks ambling, seeking
the China Buffet

Yes, I know haiku aren’t supposed to rhyme. No, I don’t care. When we know the rules, we are allowed to break them.

(I don’t actually know the rules, but I also dgaf.)

The China Buffet in question.

I’m feeling a sense of déjà vu writing this (again) this week, buuut: we are finally getting over our Covid (again) up in here. (Yeah, I ended up developing the rebound bullshit, too.) Our rona woes have become trop chiant to write about, thought, so let’s move on.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

This week, I started THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS, by Matt Ruff. It’s the follow-up to the excellent LOVECRAFT COUNTRY.

“The Revolution Against Shady Landlords Has Begun”:  Molly Crabapple’s new cover story for THE NATION details the fight against shady landlords being waged by New York tenants and housing advocates. (You can use 12ft Ladder to bypass the paywall.)

Watching:

OUTER BANKS, season 3:  I don’t quite hate-watch this show like I do Emily in Paris, but the teenage characters make all kinds of idiotic decisions and are constantly shouting at each other, which I find stressful. There’s also a new adult protagonist whom I loathed, and every episode I kept thinking, “Maybe this will be the episode he dies.” That said, this was still the best season of OUTER BANKS yet, and the treasure hunting storyline that had been building for three seasons concluded in a truly satisfying manner.

EUPHORIA:  Jesus Christ, this show is intense. It reminds me exactly of my high school days, except with more drugs, sex, and violence. I dug the first season a lot, but wasn’t quite ready to jump into the second season. I need a little break from teen angst.

Wanting:

I want this Casio G-SHOCK Men’s A1000 Watch Pink Rainbow Vintage so, so badly.

Listening:

Jenny Lewis announced this week that her fifth solo album, JOY’ALL, comes out in June. She also dropped a new single from it: “Psychos.”

We are seeing Ms. Lewis perform this summer at the House of Blues in Cleveland, and I couldn’t be more stoked.

And Kirby:

Enjoying the sun on his face.

Sites for Sore Eyes

Once upon a time, I built websites.

I loved doing it, in fact. I’ve been building websites since the end of the last millennium. My first two sites were built while I was in high school. The first was Elephantitic Monkey, followed by Stranded on the Edge of Infinity. Both served the same purposes:

  1. I wanted a forum for inflicting my ranting, bad opinions upon the world. Let’s just say that an insecure 17 or 18-year-old who smugly believes they are smarter than everyone else in the room, and who thinks they have a gift for being edgy-funny, should probably not have a bully pulpit. If teenage me had possessed a smartphone and a 5G connection, I would have been an absolute menace.
  2. They were places where I could hang out with my friends, both offline and online. We had writers, artists, monthly columnists, and a message board. The weird little communities that sprung up were my favorite thing about sites.

Elephantitic Monkey was an obnoxiously colorful little site. Its logo was an MS Paint image of a monkey carting around its cartoonishly large testicles in a wheelbarrow. It was wonderful and still fills me with delight. I searched through my 25 years of archives and was actually able to find it. I may be a digital hoarder, but I am at least an organized one.

Great, now this post is NSFW.

Stranded on the Edge of Infinity was a much more emo-looking site. I designed its logo myself with some image editing software that I probably acquired through extralegal means. Of the two sites, Stranded is the less interesting to me. I’m pretty sure at the time I wasn’t very happy and was also going through a self-serious phase, none of which ages well.

Both sites were created using the late, lamented Yahoo Geocities PageBuilder. It was a great tool for a teenage novice looking to infect the internet in 1999. It was also an absolute bastard to update a lot of pages at one time. So, these sites were eventually retired, and I moved onto a parallel pursuit, one whose sobriquet had been coined but was not yet in wide use.

I’m talking about blogging.

I built the first iteration of JOSH BALES dot NET back in 2001. I bought the joshbales.net domain for 15 bucks, found a cheap web host, and I was ready to go.

I taught myself HTML, CSS, and a little PHP by studying the underlying code of blogs I liked and reverse-engineering them. I got pretty good at doing a full visual refresh about once a year. I could spend hours staring at HTML code, playing with CSS, making them do what I wanted, and barely notice the passing of time. It was so much fun, and so rewarding to see the finished product. I did 11 or 12 redesigns before doing so became, first, time prohibitive — I was working full time and also had a life! — and second, became ridiculously hard to do from a technical perspective. Blogging software like WordPress, which this site uses, has evolved over the years and has some cool functionality, but it’s conversely made it harder for an amateur like me to keep up. Now I use premade themes with minimal customizability. It’s a little less fun, but it’s much easier and allows me to use my limited free time for other pursuits, like lecturing myself about how I really should be writing.

Have I been blogging for over 20 years? Yes. Do I still have those archives? I do. Will I ever add them to the current archives, which only go back to 2015? Absolutely not. The thought of anyone today reading what Younger Josh wrote is almost enough to give me the cold sweats. They’re not as bad as the stuff that was on Elephantic Monkey or Stranded, but they’re still, at best, very cringe.

Anyhow, thanks for reading my meandering TED Talk.

What initially sparked this crawl down memory lane is that I was thinking it’s been a minute since this site has had a visual refresh. Black/white/gray as a color scheme is still very much me, and it never really falls out of style, but I’m tired of it. It could be the February-in-Ohio blues talking, but I want to inject a little more color, a little more warmth into the design. That’s right — it’s makeover time.

If anyone reading this designs WordPress themes and is interested in doing a custom job, shoot me an email or DM me on social with your rates and some work you’ve done.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

I’ve been watching more movies and writing the last couple of weeks, so my reading has slowed down a bit. Currently in the middle of THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. What I love about Moreno-Garcia’s books is that she is constantly switching genres. MOREAU is a historical sci-fi. The book before this one — the excellent VELVET WAS THE NIGHT — is a 1970s-set Mexican noir. My favorite of her books — THE GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW — is a sort of fairy tale set in the Jazz Age and follows a young woman and a Mayan god of death having an adventure across Mexico.

Watching:

Jess and I are working our way through POKER FACE on Peacock. We’re a few episodes in, and it is quite good. Each episode is its own separate case-of-the-week, so you don’t necessarily need to watch them in order. There is an overall connecting story always in the background — and occasionally the foreground — so it might be more enjoyable to watch it from the beginning. From Rian Johnson, who can do no wrong when it comes to murder-mysteries, and starring Natasha Lyonne as Charlie, who is essentially a human lie detector. I have read that the format of this show is modeled after COLUMBO, wherein we see the murder take place at the beginning of the episode, thus letting the viewer already know the identity of the malefactor, and then watch Charlie figure it out. Lyonne is so much fun to watch as Charlie. I hope we will be able to spend many more seasons with her.

For the last few years, a comrade and I have been working our way through the FAST & FURIOUS series. This is my second time watching most of them, his first. Last weekend we watched FAST FIVE, which is probably the best entry in this dumb, ridiculously over-the-top, fun franchise. TOKYO DRIFT still has my heart, though.

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, from the filmmakers who brought us NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. A kid attends a fantasy writer’s camp where he learns his novel idea has been stolen by a published but struggling author. That’s the general plot, but it doesn’t do the film justice. I saw this when it came out 15 years ago and loved it. Hadn’t seen it since, though I’ve been talking about rewatching it for years. It was as delightful as I remembered, and my comrade and I were laughing very loudly throughout most of the movie. Then a really weird thing happened near the end: the main character casually drops a transphobic slur. Bear in mind, the film’s tone and sense of humor up to this point have been gentle and goofy — then out of nowhere comes a wholly unnecessary slur. Ripped me completely out of the movie. I know cultural landscapes change and some will argue that you shouldn’t judge a piece of past art by today’s moral standards, but a) this movie came out in 2009, which wasn’t that long ago, and b) the rights of trans people everywhere right now are under extreme attack from all sides, so no. It wasn’t acceptable then, and it isn’t acceptable now. Incredibly disappointing for an otherwise brilliant movie.

Wanting:

This USCSS Nostromo hat — which I already bought in the days since I started writing this post. I’m going to San Diego at the end of the month, and this will be my travel hat.

Advising:

Here’s a tip on how to prepare for your annual performance review.

Listening:

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS did have a fantastic soundtrack, including some songs by 1990’s New Age artist Ray Lynch, which really fit the weird story-in-the-movie parts quite perfectly. Lynch’s album DEEP BREAKFAST also makes for excellent background music while writing. Here’s “The Oh of Pleasure”:

And Kirby:

Two full body shakes in the morning and this guy is ready to tackle the world (breakfast).

Gonna Drive My Car into the Sea

Ours is still a sickly household, so we haven’t done much this week, except watch more tv than usual in the evenings. Jess is… maybe? …starting to feel better. And the foul crap that had been spewing forth from my nose went from yellow to clear, to nonexistent this week, so I think I am back to 100%. Maybe 95%. It’s also a long weekend for me, so things are looking up.

My dayjob has been a little tumultuous the last couple weeks. One of my favorite comrades, a man whom I deeply respect and who has become a good friend — and who, amazingly, has a filthier mouth than me — has moved on to a new adventure. I also have a new boss, and it feels like some of my safety net has been removed, which while a little unsettling, is also kind of exciting.

None of this has been unexpected, but it all came together very fast and a little chaotically. I remember when I was younger in my career at the dayjob. I thought senior leadership operated like the gods on Mount Olympus, all wise, all confidently knowing exactly what they’re doing. Then, time passes, you start rising the ranks, you start seeing how the sausage is made, and you realize everyone, regardless of where they sit at on the org chart, is, at best, making it up as they go, or, more likely, they’re just fighting for their life every day.

All that said, I feel good about things. I’ve felt no anxiety or real stress with all the change, and to be honest, find myself more energized than anything. I’m gonna stay connected with my friend, my new boss seems like a good cat, and I continue to work with a fantastic group of people. Even so, change is bittersweet, and I’m trying to honor those feelings.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Watching:

WEDNESDAY. Darkly funny with the appropriate level of camp, as one would expect and hope for from an Addams Family show, but what really made this show work for me is that, at its little black heart, WEDNESDAY is a murder-mystery. Jenna Ortega’s voiceover narration gives off serious VERONICA MARS vibes, and now I want to rewatch that show.

GINNY & GEORGIA, season 2. The best way to describe this show is that it’s like GILMORE GIRLS on cocaine. Like if Lorelai was a psychopath with zero impulse control; if Stars Hollow had more (or any) diversity; if everyone was hornier. Does make me wonder, though: would Lorelai kill for Rory? I think so, but she would really struggle with having done the deed afterwards (also making her different than Georgia).

Listening:

“Too Late Now,” by Wet Leg. 

Writing:

I’m wrapping up a short story, a crime/scifi thing, and started working on a longer personal essay for this site. More on both later, once they’re finished.

Reading:

I started reading THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS, got about thirty pages in, and then stopped reading. I think it’s a good book that I am not in the right frame of mind to read at the moment. So I set it aside and instead read JUMPER, by Steven Gould, for probably the fifteenth time. Might just read the whole JUMPER series, actually. Here’s hoping Gould is able to publish the fifth book soon.

Wanting:

This “Perverted Book Club Member” t-shirt from Dream Baby Press.

And Kirby:

Let’s do a Throwback Thursday, or whatever you call the Sunday equivalent, of a baby Jess and a very smol Kirby, back when he was actually chestnut, and not the white/tan little man he is today.

Drifting Through December

The temperature is currently -2°F outside.  This is an improvement from this morning, when it was -6°F.  Tomorrow promises to be in the above-zero double digits.  Oo-de-lally.

Windchill is at -27°F, which I definitely felt earlier, when I hurriedly shoveled the walkway and sidewalk and cleared out a spot on the grass for Kirby, so his genitals wouldn’t have to touch the snow when he goes to pee.

Whenever I take Kirby outside today it goes like this: he, wearing his adorable hoodie jacket, and standing in snow up to his chest, looks up at me solemnly (which is impressive, seeing as he has no eyes), as though to ask, “Dude.  What the fuck?”

I know, man.  I get it. What the fuck, indeed.

Here’s a few things I’ve been up to lately.

Watching:

It’s late December, which means a new season of EMILY IN PARIS has dropped.  I wouldn’t say that I hate-watch this show, because who has time for that.  But I do derive a grim pleasure during the five hours it takes to watch a season.  We watched it over two nights, because while the show is not good, it sucks you in.  Despite the extremely stupid and self-inflicted circumstances Emily finds herself in at work in the couple of episodes, on a whole Emily is less infuriating this season.  Progress, baby.

Watching the new season also reminded me of the “Emily in Berlin” meme from last year.

Reading:

About 50 pages into Cormac McCarthy’s ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.  It’s really good thus far.  This will be the third McCarthy book I’ve read this year.  I read NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN some years back and liked it okay, but wasn’t compelled to read anything else by the author.  Then earlier this year I read BLOOD MERIDIAN on recommendation by my comrade Stephen, and holy hell was that a bastard of a book.  Just an electrifying read.  After that, I read THE ROAD, which was also quite good (if a bit repetitive at times).  ALL THE PRETTY HORSES will probably be the last book I read this year.

Listening:

I finished the last episode of Hardcore History’s BLUEPRINT FOR ARMAGEDDON, their ~23-hour chronicle of World War I.  This is my third time listening to this particular HH series.  WWI is one of my favorite historical subjects.  It doesn’t really get as much cultural focus as WWII does, and I understand why.  But the collision of Old World western Europe with modern technological warfare makes for such a rich, fascinating subject, and Dan Carlin and the HH team do an amazing job at telling the overall Big Picture story while all the time pulling in a ton of first person accounts of the soldiers who actually fought and lived.  I actually bought the episodes this time since I know I’ll listen to this series again in another year or two.

And Kirby:

Working hard to keep cozy under three blankets.

Okay, I Guess It’s November Now?

I know Halloween is over, but I forgot I took this photo of a jack-o’-lantern at Pumpkins Aglow at the Franklin Conservatory’s, and I love how it came out, sooo:

I haven’t been watching much tv recently, but we did just finish a show that I absolutely fell in love with over the course of six short episodes: THE RESORT, on Peacock.

I am not going to even try to explain the plot, but after the first episode you think it’s going one direction, and then it veers off into a wholly different direction, then another direction, and then etc etc.  A definite genre-bender, and an utterly sublime watch.

Here’s the trailer:

I am a going to a fancy event this evening for Jess’s work, one that requires me to wear a tuxedo.  Stay tuned for photos of a slightly puffy looking, Great Value brand James Bond.