A Quiet Place + 1,000 Years of Silence

The Movie: A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place stars Emily Blunt as the most improbably stoic farm woman ever, John Krasinski as the daddest dad whoever dadded, Millicent Simmonds as a miniature bad bitch, Noah Jupe who’s doing his best, and quite possibly the largest raccoon I have ever seen.

The less you know about A Quiet Place the better most likely, although it’s unlikely anything I say will make your experience more comfortable. It’s like the velociraptors-in-the-kitchen scene and the T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park were stretched out to 95 minutes with absolutely no respite (there’s a little bit of Witness thrown in there, too–deep cut, I know).

I’m not sure if it’s true for every theater, but in the one we were in there was a PSA right before the movie to discourage people from crinkling candy wrappers and doing the usually annoying movie-goer no-no’s. Someone loudly eating popcorn is snatched out of their seat by an unseen monster. After that, I’ve never been in the midst of so many quiet teenagers. That’s effective hype and and effective tension setting.

A couple things though…

I have so many questions about how these people survive as long as they do. The Abbott family owns a farm and a basement full of amateur radio equipment. They’ve got impeccable fields of corn, which they somehow maintain without gas-powered equipment. Their silo is full of corn that hasn’t gone bad after 400-something days.

While they’re the best equipped to survive this apocalyptic scenario, I can’t help but wonder how they don’t scream in their sleep with all the trauma of almost all of humanity being wiped out around them? How do they silently use the bathroom? And how do these nightmare creatures not just hover near their home at all times waiting for them to make a noise and reveal their location? They appear to be religious, which explains how they can laugh silently. Anyone who has gotten the church giggles understands.

None of these questions are really bothersome during the movie, though. You’ll be too busy holding your breath and being to afraid to eat your popcorn.

The Beer: 1000 Years of Silence

From Fort George Brewery


This is is a seasonal beer, so you can only really drink it now if you’ve stockpiled. I’m sure survivalists like the Abbotts would have cellared their beer, but they’re probably smart enough to avoid alcohol altogether. Enjoy this stout with its chili adjuncts, but just don’t get too rowdy from the 10.5% ABV. And for the love of god don’t drop your beer bottle.

March 2018 Adventures

This playlist is mostly cushion around those two new Janelle Monáe songs. Damn.


Rebel Without a Cause: Special Edition**

The only movie I watched was Tommy Wiseau’s favorite film and the inspiration for much of his acting. I hate to admit that Tommy pretty much nailed his imitation. Maybe the writing is to blame, but this film is not what I expected–joke’s on me I guess.
James Dean


I’ve already got reviews up for The Merry Spinster and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark posted here. They were both excellent books, and if you haven’t read them yet, you should really consider it.

In an effort to read more entertaining books, I also read two thrillers: A Dark Lure* by Loreth Ann White and The Woman in the Window: A Novel* by A.J. Finn.They’re both entertaining, somewhat formulaic thrillers. I listened to both as audiobooks, and had a little bit of a hard time acclimating to the second title’s very unlikable main character. But I got there. And A Dark Lure is on Kindle Unlimited, so that’s an easy sell.A Dark Lure and The Woman in the Window Covers

A (Late) Adventure

Ok, so this didn’t happen in March, per se, but I finally visited one of Oregon’s beloved flower farms: Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. Every year I get fomo from seeing fellow Oregon-dwellers surrounded by tulips, daffodils, and any number of bulb-based flower. This year, I decided I wasn’t going to be left out. Enjoy a few pictures that I took with my Nikon below. And please be patient with me. I’m still pretty new to shooting in manual, and apparently I need a new glasses prescription because most of these *did not* look blurry when I first reviewed them.

**This link is an affiliate link. If you buy through this link, you support the blog–so thanks!

Read More

Review: The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

Some people cherish fairytales, Bible stories, and myths as comforting relics of childhood. Other people remember the feelings of fear and discomfort that they experienced when actually reading these stories as children, and those feelings follow them for years after the fact. Or else, fairytale loving children grow up, return to these stories, and are disturbed by the very things they used to delight in. Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster appeals to the latter two categories.

Incidentally, I think that the subtitle “Tales of Everyday Horror” seems inaccurate. None of us live in the worlds described herein. But maybe that adds to the sense of unease that the short story collection creates. He’s able to emulate the language of children’s stories while doubling down on the arbitrary rules and absurdly buttoned-up manners that they often employ.

An excerpt from the titular story from The Merry Spinster:

“Why, Beauty,” Mr. Beale said in amazement, tilting her chin so that she had to look at him, “that is simply a matter of the division of labor. You are the mistress of this house“–he arranged his mouth in a little smile–“and I am the master of everything that is in it.” He dropped her chin and let his hand rest in her lap. “How ugly do you think I am?”

Beauty said nothing.

“Come, you are mistress of your own voice; speak,” said Mr. Beale.

Beauty opened her mouth.

“But first remember I am the master of all the words spoken in this house,” he said, pressing her hands lightly. “Remember that.”

“I think nothing of the kind,” she said.

As you can see from this excerpt, the uneven and intimidating power dynamic in the story of Beauty and the Beast is dialed up in a goosebump-inducing way.

In Ortberg’s appearance at Powell’s in Portland about a week and a half ago, he pointed out that one of the most uncomfortable parts of children’s stories are the unrealistic levels of politeness that the characters show toward one another.

“I would get so uncomfortable and want to yell, ‘No! You don’t have to be polite about that! This person is hurting you!'” Story after story in this collection extends that idea to the point of absurdity. It’s only appropriate that one of the former editors of The Toast would double down on a feminist framework of toxic politeness and stretch it to horrifying levels.

The collection is a lot more fluid than just being a series of feminist fables, however. Ortberg plays with familial roles and typical gendered names and responsibilities. In many stories, such as The Thankless Child (a play on Cinderella), the characters can choose whether they feel more suited or prepared to be a husband or a wife in a marriage. Daughters have typical male names and pronouns and sons are sometimes given lower status and drudge work, all the while being prized/objectified for their beauty. It hardly makes a difference other than to inspire a head tilt. These are worlds outside our typical understanding, after all.

Some of the stories were familiar to me and some were deeper cuts. In his reading at Powell’s, Ortberg also talked about how well indexed and organized fairytales had become over the years, where experts could tell the outcome of a fairytale by what gender and occupation the protagonist is. I’m not quite there. Fortunately there’s a handy reference page in the back of The Merry Spinster to explain which folktales, ballads, or fairytales inspired each story.

Memorable pieces include a retelling of the Velveteen Rabbit with a sadistic twist: the rabbit does not care for the little boy at all, but is so psychotically obsessed with becoming “real” that it slowly drains his life force. Toad’s friends from The Wind in the Willows politely gaslight him until he loses his mind. Also, the Angel of the Lord files an incident report because he didn’t mean to wrestle with Jacob and wasn’t actually authorized to give him a blessing.

In any case, if you don’t end up reading The Merry Spinster (which you should), at least enjoy Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s fantastic series of Joan Didion/Anna Wintour riffs.

All the best,
the entire Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

If you’d like to buy the book AND support this blog, please click the Amazon link below. Thank you!

Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Few lurking threats keep one awake at night more than a home invader. Especially one who comes when you are home and at your most vulnerable: lying in bed on what seems like a normal night. Alone. Or even next to your partner. After all, they are sleeping too.

From the first time I stumbled upon the story East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (sometimes called EAR/ONS), I was horrified and intrigued. The story was unexpectedly relevant to me. Two of the Southern California murders happened in a city where I had once lived, very close to people I knew well. I discovered it in the same way that we discover many horrible things: clicking through Wikipedia articles. In my case, it was looking at suspected Zodiac murders that brought me to this case that had happened not only in my backyard, but up and down California.

The crimes began in 1976 with a series of home invasions in Sacramento. A young man would appear in women’s homes, tie them up, and then alternate attacks with trashing their homes and eating food out of their refrigerators. Then he escalated, attacking couples in their beds–shining a bright flashlight in their faces and subduing them before they even had a chance to react. He was spotted skulking through neighborhoods, watching families and individuals, but would slink away before anyone could catch him. He was nondescript. A blonde? A dirty blonde? A brunette? And during his attacks he wore a ski mask.

Between 1976 and 1979, he attacked nearly 50 people in Northern California including in Sacramento, Modesto, San Jose, and Walnut Creek, mostly tying up couples and assaulting the women over the course of an entire night.  Between 1981 and 1986, there were a series of murders–mostly couples in their beds–that claimed 10 lives in Santa Barbara, Ventura, And Orange Counties. One of the cold case investigators referred to the killer as the Original Night Stalker, referencing how similar his methods were to Richard Ramirez, and the awkward name stuck. It wasn’t until 2001 that the DNA evidence connected the Northern and Southern California attacks.

East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker combined into the extra-ignorable “EAR/ONS.” Most people had no idea the monster had ever existed.

He was reckless in a way that today’s criminals could not be in an urban area without being caught after the first few incidents.  His fingerprints and DNA were everywhere. But the database that stores DNA is only dependent on arrests and is confined to California. And if he’d never been arrested for anything else, or if he’d only been arrested out of state, there would be nothing to match him to.

That’s why so many people are baffled that he has never been caught. I’d kept that morbid curiosity quietly to myself. Others pursued the mystery with dogged persistence, confident that even though he was so stubbornly under the radar, he could still be caught. Michelle McNamara was one of those people.

Michelle McNamara was a true crime writer who kept up the blog True Crime Diary and wrote an atmospheric and nuanced piece on what she re-dubbed the Golden State Killer for Los Angeles Magazine. Many commenters are critical of her new name for the killer, but I think creating a new name for this previously obscure character brings more attention to him and unifies his identity. It’s less confusing and easier to remember. Basically marketing 101.

While many writers, podcasters, and filmmakers can barely contain their prurient interest in serial killers, McNamara’s work conveys a pure determination to uncover the truth. She cooperates with other amateur sleuths and retired investigators who refuse to let this be the case that got away. She was working with people who were creating historical databases, trying to use geographical tools to whittle down who had lived or worked in those different locations at those particular times and fit the profile.

Unfortunately she passed away in 2016, in the thick of her investigation, at 46. She had an undiagnosed heart condition and accidentally combined several prescription drugs in a way that exacerbated it. She was married to comedian Patton Oswalt, and he said that she’d been working doggedly on the book and was sleep deprived for a long time leading up to her death. It’s hard not to feel more resentment toward the killer because of this–as if he claimed another victim.

Fortunately, she had several passionate investigators working with her, and a loving husband with the resources and clout to make sure the book got done. Cowriters make clear delineations between her writing and their supplementation. They admit that they tried to imitate her style but were unable to pull it off. It’s empathetic, fluid, sincere. Oswalt has a warm, but not cloying afterword. But Michelle gets the last word: a direct challenge to the killer himself, an assurance that at some point a light will be shone on him.

I really hope she’s right.

If you’d like to buy the book AND support this blog, please click the Amazon link below. Thank you!

February 2018 Explorations

The Playlist:

Listen to this playlist while you drink adjunct stouts or barrel aged porters, and it will be like you were at my birthday party.

The Movies

Lady Bird

The first time a film made me leak from the eyeballs from beginning to end. As a 30 year old woman from a small town in California with humble-to-middling economic resources, I was absolutely the target demographic for this movie. It was intensely relatable, poignant, humorous, and the acting was superb.

Got. Damn.

Girls Trip

So many movies lately advertise themselves as being kind of funny and then end up being depressing as hell (yes, Landline, I am looking at you). This is just non-stop fun. I seriously cannot remember the last time a movie made me laugh this hard.

The Books

Despite it being my birthday, February was a bit of a dark month for me this year in more than just my consumption of stouts and porters. My choice of books kind of reflects those murky emotions as well. All in all, my greatest recommendation of all of these would be Rabih Alameddine’s The Angel of History (you can see my Goodreads review here). I also reviewed Sister of Darkness in a separate blog. What the Hell Did I Just Read is certainly the most fun of the selections above. It’s the third installment of the John Dies at the End series and is just a lot of ridiculous cosmic horror nonsense.

If you would like to buy any of these books AND support the blog, please click one of the Amazon links below. Thanks!

Read More

Book Review: Sister of Darkness

Rachel Stavis calls herself the “only non-denominational exorcist” working today. I’ve also recently learned that she’s apparently known as an exorcist to the stars, working as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and exorcising entities from actors and anyone else who needs it as a side gig (but a pay-what-you-want side gig). To be clear, this book is not marketed as a work of fiction. She really does these activities irl and you can follow her on Instagram if you’re into a mixture of inspirational quotes and goth-girl selfies accompanied by long paragraphs about authenticity and self-love.

That’s one of the secondary points of interest about this book. Whereas you see “exorcist” and think of the Catholic rite or maybe Matisyahu and the dybbuk box, Rachel’s exorcisms look a lot more like new age chakra cleansing or energy healing. They’ve just got a lot more ghosties in them. Rachel’s world has a range of entities at varying levels of dangerousness. From troublesome “Clives” that are almost like the deer ticks of the spirit world to sinister “realm walkers” that can envelope entire cities, Rachel claims that entities attach to people and feed off their life forces. “Trickster” entities appear in the form of imaginary friends and strike Faustian bargains with their hosts. “Wraiths” attach themselves to people who have experienced personal traumas. “Collectors” inhabit places where bad things have happened and trap the souls of people who die there inside–pretty much like in every haunted house movie ever.

While this is partly a memoir, Rachel spends a lot of time explaining how to “raise your vibration” to avoid having spirits attach to you. She also talks about the gods, goddesses, ancestors, and guides who assist her in her exorcisms and all the different tools and rules she uses. In this way, it reads a lot like a prescriptive new age or wellness book, such as Unmedicated, rather than an occult memoir. You can almost hear the editor’s comments as you read, prompting every claim the author makes with a “yes, but how do you explain…” Then again, Rachel is a screenwriter and works with Hollywood people every day, so a lot of the world building is likely something that comes naturaly.

The more dangerous entities that look the most like movie demons are discussed in the final third of the book. She talks about her experience exorcising a “collector” from the warehouse where the Soska Sisters film their horror game show “Hellevator.” This exorcism involves the weeping ghost of a 1930s mobster and a mooing cloud of ghost cows. The scariest entity (and most awesome to hear about for horror fans) called the “realm walker” is described as inhabiting Los Angeles’s Cecil Hotel, where Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, lived during his reign of terror and Elisa Lam mysteriously met her end in a water tank (CW: Seriously creepy surveillance video when you click that link).

Rachel informs the reader that she’ll soon be performing an exorcism of this dangerous entity at the Cecil Hotel and that the Soska Sisters will be making a documentary of the whole experience. She talks about how dangerous it will be, and how ever since they agreed to do it, dead doves have been dropping out of the sky and landing at her feet and random people have been coming up to her on the street and telling her to stay away from the Cecil. To that film I say: shut up and take my money. Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

If you’d like to buy the book AND support the blog, click the Amazon link below. Thank you!