It was a pleasure to spend time with those of you we saw this year, and if we didn’t have that opportunity, let’s try again in the new year! As Lee is off social media and Venetia is limiting her time there, we are trying harder to connect in person, or via old-fashioned telephone calls.
As usual, we’ve compiled a variable but heartfelt summary of our entire year.
It moves in fits and starts. Some sections will be overlong, and others condensed to bullet points. And there will be links – because that’s one of the the unique beauties of internet communication.
Please do not feel as though you must soak in it. Scan it, ignore it, or pore over it as suits. There will not be a quiz later.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, lists of your favorite films, TV shows, podcasts, et alia. But we like you no matter your approach to our strange annual catalogue of events!
Cheers to you!
Lee and Venetia
NOTE: Lee is writing a first-person noir detective novel set in 1915 San Francisco. While his book will be set in and around the Panama Pacific International Exposition, events as disparate as the onset of the War to End All Wars, the Japanese conquest of China, the US Invasion of Veracruz, the life of aviator Lincoln Beachey, the rise of the KKK, the Suffrage Movement, the move to Prohibition, the end of the Barbary Coast, and even US monetary Policy are all things he needs to know a great deal more about before he’s done.
If any of you lovely people have expertise in any of these arenas, Lee would love to hear from you.
2018 IN REVIEW
• In January things were pretty calm. And cold.
Lee has been working with Andrew Kafoury for more than a year on Andrew’s graphic novel No’Madd. In that time, significant progress has been made. Lee gives some details about the process here: Storytelling In Comics
• In February things picked up as they always do – thanks to the blessed arrival of Theatre Poster Season and Month of Love. This year’s Month of Love challenges were color-coded, and Lee applied himself to the strange spectacle that came to the US as “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”, because in a year so filled with hate, abuse, intolerance, and racism, sometimes one just needs something ridiculous….
• In March, at Emerald City Comic Con and Wondercon, Venetia had her first shows with the ladies of Badali Jewelry – proudly displaying the new rainbow NC (for Non-Compliant) necklace that Hillarie made her.
Lee has been trying to branch out from merely speaking on panels about art and Norwescon in Seattle kindly obliged. There, Lee spoke about Sherlock Holmes (amd recommended Kim Newman’s audacious Angels of Music) to a room absolutely packed with fans of ratiocination and shipping*, and interviewed old friend (and this year’s Artist Guest of Honor) Galen Dara.
Happily, we also brought home our favorite piece of hers from the art show!
Claire and Sam invited us to participate in their PowerPoint Party.
The rules were simple – you must speak about something you’re passionate about and you must not go longer than three minutes.
If you do go longer (really when you go longer), you must drink a shot at minute 3, and another for each minute past 3.
Sam’s presentation began with the creation of the earth and ended with the recycling of plastics! It started things off with a bang (and a lot of drinking as his presentation ran to 16 minutes) and gave us so much information in a short time. Astonishing!
Lee adapted his popular “Elements of Illustration” essay to this format, making sure that each element only got 1 slide, and trying to keep it as straightforward as possible.
But even then, his essay ran to almost 5 minutes and he had to throw back 2 drinks. Since he’s never drunk liquor or taken a shot in his life, and even though the hosts allowed water to be substituted for hooch, this proved a challenge. But both the presentation and Lee’s attendant drinking problems were positively received.
The other presentations were delightful – especially the one about the right and wrong ways of creating Miso.
• In April Lee left Facebook forever, and wrote a long (and admittedly profane essay) about its inexcusable evils. He hopes that those of you who don’t know the extent of Facebook’s abuses may learn more about them here.
Lee had a show of his Pin-Ups at As You Like It in Eugene, Oregon. This proved a wonderful chance to see those who came out to the show and to play a Murder Mystery game as an unscrupulous British Music Company rep trapped in Woodstock at the height of its folk-rock charm.
John and Emily Wenderoth’s Wedding reception in Garibaldi was glorious – so many lovely people gathered at the finest house in town to celebrate their union with incredible food.
• In May we left Portland on a spring day so glorious that we questioned our long-planned journey just a little. In a kind act of nature, four irises (the maroon/gold ones and the purple/violet ones) bloomed just in time for our viewing pleasure the morning we left.
The drive was pleasant, though Venetia slept through most of it. The path through Eastern Oregon is always more surprising and varied than we remember: canyons and rivers and mysterious mountains appearing and then vanishing as we traveled East. Our impression of Boise was markedly different than it’s been in the past. We got off the freeway (Venetia driving at this point to enjoy the 80 mph speed limit) and found ourselves immediately in a historic area where the streets were lined with leafy trees and grand houses. We continued up to our hosts house nestled in the northern hills. Sarah was Lee’s first yoga teacher and one of the amazing people we are honored to have in our lives. She and her husband and German Shepherds Lux and Nora have a beautiful home and grilled us fresh veggies outside on their patio. It was absolutely lovely.
We got up early in the morning because even though Salt Lake City is only 4 hours from Boise by the freeway, Lee wanted to take a more interesting route. So at Mountain Home we took a decisive turn south to head straight down into Nevada (and strangely, back briefly into the Pacific timezone) crossing over the high mountains and into Owyhee and the Duck Valley Reservation.
The road south from there – over the pinnacles of the unfrequented pass – was breathtaking, some of the most beautiful land in the west. The whole trip we were utterly enthralled at how verdant and lush all of the land was. After a surf-themed lunch in Elko we turned east again and drove through the salt flats. The “graffiti” there was some of the best we’ve seen: words spelled out in rocks being both charming and a lot less environmentally damaging.
Eventually we rounded a bend and there was Salt Lake City. When we arrived at Hillarie’s house there was much squeeing and hugging. We got a tour and then Venetia appropriated Hillarie’s phone and we went out in search of food and Pokémon. We found both and delicious gelato to top it all off.
It seems we may have a new bucket list of visiting all the IKEA’s in and out of the states. (Having also made it to an Ikea in Winnipeg, Canada and Brighton, England not to mention various ones in the states.) This particular expedition was in search of furniture for Hillarie’s room and we drove home in triumph through a glorious lightning storm.
We spent another five days in Salt Lake City – finishing up Hillarie’s room and getting the grand tour of the Badali workshop.
Sadly, Venetia proved highly allergic to pretty much every process involved in the making of jewelry, and her dreams of becoming a jeweler were crushed. We moved in with Janelle for another few days and helped her with her home renovations and the cleaning out of her remarkable closet (Fibber McGee had nothing on Janelle).
We bought The Good Place Season 2 so we could watch it with Janelle.
On a lovely windy day (the wind is important, we’ll come back to that in a moment) we drove out to Antelope Island Park to see the sights. At the front gate we were confronted with a scary sign warning us that 1) it was “no-see-ums” seasons and 2) they were all out of face nets. Thankfully the day was windy enough that we never saw or felt any tiny biting bugs and instead got to hike up and around the island seeing birds and bison and fully enjoying ourselves.
We had an amazing barbecue lunch with Janelle in Ogden and then moseyed on to Lava Hot Springs. We took all the tiny country roads, enjoying the scenery and driving near but never quite under a huge thunderstorm that kept the day cool and breezy. The hot springs were just as good as we had remembered. Venetia tried all the different temperatures and finally found her place on the steps next to the 112 degree pool, going and in and out until she was in danger of passing out. Lee succeeded in securing greasy Thai food just as the nearby restaurant was closing. It proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The first time Lee came through town, he was ten, and it was the lovely Sunken Gardens he remembers walking through. They are still there, but having been cleaved off from the pool complex, they are a little the worse for wear.
It was lunch time when we reached Idaho Falls. Unfortunately we were still in Mormon country and, on a Sunday, only national fast food establishments were open. We drove around downtown looking for somethign real and local when we spotted the beacon of an ‘OPEN’ sign at Diablas Kitchen. There were people inside and out and their food looked really good. We contemplated heading upstairs to sit down but the greeter suggested we sit at the bar where we could watch the food being made. And boy was that the best suggestion ever! Over the stove range was written “Tell us your food allergies.” We did and they designed most amazing lunch for Lee – A bed of arugula with a raspberry compote, steak cooked rare with soft blueberry goat cheese on top. Venetia oredered the baked caramel waffles and stole many bites of Lee’s lunch. We cannot recommend this place highly enough if you find yourself in Idaho Falls.
The next section of our journey was heading up to Yellowstone National Park through the West entrance. We arrived at the Old Faithful Lodge, checked in, and devoured a dinner of gluten-free bison spaghetti which we finished just in time to go outside and see Old Faithful erupt. We retired to our cabin pretty early, unexpectedly tired after such an idyllic day. The next morning we (as crossed the continental divide twice), we realized that even though the park is the crater of an ancient super-volcano, the overall elevation still really high.
Leaving Yellowstone we took the road we’d never driven before. This turned out to be the road-construction route. It was still fun and each full stop on the single-lane gravel road gave us the chance to roll down the windows and enjoy the new summer scenery. We exited through the North Entrance and drove on to Venetia’s mom’s house. There we found a collection of Hamilton’s letters and writings which Lee read to Venetia and her mom (who knew nothing of this Hamilton musical we both so appreciate.) Hopefully she enjoyed the naughty innuendos in Hamilton’s letters to John Laurens as much as we did.
The rest of the day was spent at Chico Hot Springs. We soaked and met people and went inside for sweet potato fries then back outside for more soaking. Venetia’s friend Immanuela came out to have dinner with us and we invited her back to Portland (spoiler: she came a month later and had a great time!)
There are definitely ups and downs to Montana. On the plus side, Venetia’s purse was returned, phone and cash intact, after she misplaced it while we had lunch with her friend Patrick. On the downside, we ran head-first into Bozeman barbarous culture of barbering. Lee got the worst haircut Venetia has ever seen and while Venetia did eventually get a hot towel shave, it was stupidly frustrating. Really Bozeman? Barbering is not rocket science!
We stayed in Bozeman with Joanne and Trevor and their adorable baby. As always, Lee immediately found some home-work he could do – in this case, pulling down unwanted trim. Venetia went out for an interview and then spent time with her sister Tara shopping for graphic novels. Monstress is Venetia’s favorite graphic novel in case you were curious and you should definitely read it. We also met up with the owner of the charming local Country Bookshelf.
It turns out purchasing The Good Place Season 2 was a solid decision as we got to share it again, this time with Trevor and Joanne.
Then, as our hosts set off for Italy, we were off to the final leg of our trip: Missoula and Miscon! We’ve been hearing good things about Miscon for years from our friends, how friendly and comfortable and fun it is. We are pleased to report all of these things are true. One of the really delightful things is that because of the location and time of year, a portion of the convention is held outside. The hotel backs onto a park bordering the river and huge tents were set up and a roped off section allowed people to boff one another with foam swords and there was an aerial rig with performers and a VR trailer.
The convention kept Lee busy but we still had plenty of time to go out into the town, and on Saturday we enjoyed the outdoor market that was literally right next door along the river walk. We tried vegan cheese and gluten-free donuts and sampled lots of honeys. In honor of Lee’s birthday, the convention made a delicious gluten-free chocolate cake.
Venetia’s sister came up on Sunday and got a signed poster and comic by Rikki Simons, who is not just the the voice of Invader Zim’s Gir, but happily for Lee, a huge fan of Starstruck. She also got to see Lee’s Infamous Bad Book Cover Show, always worthwhile. Monday was the last day of the convention and after it was all over, Venetia found a matcha latte and sat by the river and wrote, while Lee hung out in the Green Room teaching his hosts how to play Cursed Court.
The next day we drove all day to get home and rewarded ourselves with cheap and delicious conveyer-belt sushi as a welcome contrast to that one time we ate ridiculously-expensive sushi in Montana.
• In June, the Laurelhurst Yard Sale provided more than its usual share of bounty (for us and for friends who’d shared their shopping lists with beforehand)- a solid oak desk, a Stickley chair, a metal bench, patio furniture, and – best (and least likely) of all – a new screen door. Probably really a very old screen door, but one that fit our front door perfectly (happily, Dan was visiting, napping at home, and amendable to being woken to measure our doorway. Thanks Dan! And thanks to Mary for loaning us her van – because almost nothing we bought fit well into our wee Honda).
Kevin came to attach the screen door properly and, much to our pleasure, also installed a proper stair rail to the attic after Venetia lovingly sanded down the cheese-grater texture of the stair walls. From there, the back steps got fixed, front steps and wide porch-beam replaced, the paint and the downspouts repaired, and the yard sorted out in wonderful ways. Elise and Jackie took the sad old plum tree in the back yard down, and planted a Pear and a Persimmon instead. And since there was so much to-ing and fro-ing in the basement, we decided to add finishing touches there as well – with 8 new overhead lights, trim, a new cabinet, new knobs and the removal of crumbling masonry. Paint is forthcoming, but we think it’s safe to say his house hasn’t been this safe or this well-appointed in decades. Nothing like kind and clever landlords (Thanks Aaron and Elise!) – we are so grateful and lucky to be here!
We visited with Rob and Lisa and their adorable new hound, Sammi Jo. Roo is missed, but Sammi Jo is a wonderful beast and we adore her.
From there we traveled to Jaym and Dylan’s where we consulted and helped improve the living room, kitchen and main bathroom.
The next day we went to (and below) Snoqualmie Falls (site of Twin Peaks). Then on to Sultan Washington to visit client and friend Jim Tinney and his remarkable Kiss the Sky Books.
From there it was a short hop to visit Tynley, Sean, and the lovely Bean girls. Delicious food was shared, and games were played.
Venetia saw (and ordered) these lovely silver feather earrings from Dawn Wilson’s Desert Talismans:
• In July, Lee got braces applied to his teeth. As he’d avoided them in youth, this was quite a novel notion for him. The novelty has since, of course, worn off, even as the braces seem ever more fixed. He hopes that another year should see them gone….
After years of anticipation, Lee had the great good fortune to re-team with Keith Baker on the new Eberron book. Given all the still-unrealized notions for Keith’s remarkable world, he hopes that still more will be forthcoming in 2019.
• In August, we traveled (separately) to Indianapolis. Lee’s visit started slowly, with a too-long incarceration at Kansas City’s troubled airport.
Venetia worked the floor at Gencon, and Lee popped in from time to time in support of Atlas Games’ Cursed Court. Lee stayed with his dear friend Katherine northeast of town – enjoying her hospitality, pinball, offspring, and food (especially the Ethiopian repast that ended their visit). He became with well acquainted with Katherine’s local barbecue joint and ferried foodstuffs every day to Badali’s crack troops pinned down on the front lines.
The day after GenCon, Lee joined the Badali crew on a trip to The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Given that we both grew up in actual western states, we would have called this a “midwestern” art museum, but myths of “The West” run deep….
A few days after we returned from the Midwest, we hosted Venetia’s lovely sister Tara. We showed her about and the sisters spent some quality time together, as clearly shown here at PDX, Portland’s superior airport:
The following day we travelled south to San Jose for the World Science Fiction Convention.
Months ago, when we were still planning this trip, Venetia made some calculations on money vs. pain. How much is it worth to alleviate a certain amount of pain? In this case, we decided that if we arrived early, the cost of a hotel room was worth more than the pain of avoiding a 5am flight the following day. We arrived in San Jose Thursday morning but by the time we checked in, and lugged a suitcase full of art through the midday heat, and then changed hotels the next day… we decided that for future similar endeavors, it’s worth the money to avoid the pain.
The fulcrum of the convention for us was Lee’s set of 4 panels on Creating a Book Cover. In front of a live audience, over the course of 4 days, he and author Elliott Kay, guest editor Heather McDougal, and photographer Richard Mann walked through the basic steps of creating a book cover from initial consultation to reference photoshoot to painting in front of a live audience to the final critique and line design. Elliott’s book is called Wandering Monsters, and you can find the cover here.
Venetia by contrast had no specific schedule and spent much of the convention meeting amazing people and going to parties and re-reading all of In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan again. We were surprised and delighted by talented artists who came north (and in a couple cases, west) from The Mexicanx Initiative: Tehani Farr, Dianita Ceron, and Lauren Raye Snow.
After the convention, we visited the Body Worlds exhibit and Lee test drove an exciting new program from Adobe that mimics oil paints. While they have no plans to release it to the public anytime soon, Lee will buy it the moment they do. We then headed north to see (and stay with) our friends Tanya and Chadwick, whereupon we promptly collapsed on their couch for a few days, binge watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and entertaining their new kitten Alexia.
Even though she was small enough to smuggle away in Venetia’s purse, Lee kept a stern eye out and the terrible crime of kitten-napping was forestalled (though, through our efforts, there was much actual kitten napping.)
Our dear friend Rina Wiseman took us on an intensive and magical tour of San Francisco, starting at the remarkable vegan restaurant Gracias Madre. There we had the best strawberry cheesecake ever, gluten and dairy free and tasting like some kind of heavenly ice cream. Our trip included Mission Dolores, the oldest cemetery still in San Francisco, and the Columbarium another palace of the dead. But it wasn’t all about dead people, there were the picturesque remains of the Sutro Baths and the tunnels thereby.
Then we continued on to the Palace of Fine Arts and finally, near to the old Anchor steam Brewery, the magnificent bookshelves of Tachyon Press. The tour was amazing!
The next day we had a delightful lunch with the lovely people at the Stoller Design Group in Oakland, then flew off to Albuquerque, New Mexico and our second Bubonicon in three years. Venetia was reminded at the pre-convention party how much she enjoys New Mexico’s green chilies and we got a tour of Patricia Roger’s amazing home and talked about the new additions to her collection since last we’d visited.
Lee was the Toastmaster at Bubonicon 50 and enjoyed his duties thoroughly – from providing the back cover of the program, touring people through the art show, sharing panels, and speaking. Beloved author Victor Milan had hosted the costume call for years, but after his too-early death, the convention organizers asked Lee to emcee in his place – an honor, but a sad one. He shared terrific conversations with authors Walter Jon Williams, Ian Tregillis and TED organizer Gordon Garb. He also had the great good fortune to handle the amazing original pulp artwork that Patricia brought in on the last day of the show – an Edd Cartier piece featuring an enormous black cat, and a heretofore unrecognized Virgil Finlay (an illustration for the first printing of Curt Siodmak’s classic ‘Donovan’s Brain’) and other pieces pulled unloved and ignored from a collector’s attic.
Venetia moderated her first panel on books for young readers. The art show was as every absolutely amazing and full of beautiful art. Peri Charlifu’s gorgeous celadon glaze was again a highlight and we were tempted by all of his things. The delightful Eric Velhagen
was this year’s artist guest and given his work’s popularity, we were especially glad we had secured a piece of his last time we were in town.
Highlights of Bubonicon include late night auctions which Lee helped auctioneer. As usual, we kept a sharp eye out for values – including ARCs** of a couple Zelazny books with notes from author Fred Saberhagen. Lee enjoyed selling L. Ron Hubbard’s first Science Fiction story about “Scientology” to fellow-auctioneer Gordon Garb, and Venetia especially enjoyed bidding up personal Tuckerization*** in Mary Robinette Kowal’s newest novel. Quite a lot of fun for, and all for charity!
• In September, after an emergency photoshoot to get Venetia some new branding via Roger Circle23 and Amy of BeeGirlMetal, we were bound for Dallas, Texas.
Once we arrived, we rented a car and drove through miles of mini-mansions proudly displaying their belief in the loathsome Ted Cruz to the oasis of sanity that is Chez Dutton. After a tour of their new (to us at least) house, we headed out for good Mexican food, did a little grocery shopping, and watched movies – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Assassination Bureau– before getting into Art Directing their living room. It’s an amazing house, and Grey’s colossal French Lost Boys poster finally has the display it so richly deserves.
From there – seeking adventure – we drove to Austin in truly terrible weather on the truly terrible road through Waco (thinking of the Indelicates as we drove). After a day of sight-seeing, we met up with the talented Lauren Brown for dinner. The sushi was delicious and the conversation better. Though the roads were still dreadful, the sky on trip back to Dallas was clearer, and we could see the light pollution of Ft. Worth and Dallas from dozens of miles off….
After a lovely breakfast Dianita and a short goodbye to Grey, we again hit the trail – this time to Heather and Eric’s in Houston. There we at last met Beaker – their Bengal Cat. Lee was surprised to find this unusual cat so delightful, and eventually came to the conclusion that (maybe due to his less-domesticated genes), Beaker was more like a dog than a cat. We played with him endlessly and he seemed to enjoy it as much (or more) than we did. Their gorgeous downtown condo is filled with art (which Lee of course helped curate a bit). And Heather introduced Venetia to Mr. Sunshine – an amazing Korean drama about a crucial period in that country’s fascinating colonialist history.
The next day we headed to the hotel and met up with our fellow writers as anticipation built for the Writing Excuses Cruise which would set sail the following day.
Last year we had enjoyed the cruise of the Baltic, but mostly as a convenient taxi service, taking us to almost all the spots we wanted to gather knowledge and reference – from Copenhagen to Tallinn – and if some education about writing took hold, so much the better. But this year, Lee is writing a novel and Venetia short stories, so the cruise was far more about the writing. Lee boarded the ship with 11,000 words written. The excellent critique group that Mary Robinette Kowal led buried his prologue justly (if unceremoniously) at sea. Even so, he left the cruise with some 24,000 words written (among the top 10 wordcounts of his fellows).
Venetia’s group was led by the amazing Amal ElMohtar. Sadly, the xenophobic nonsense perpetrated by today’s racist GOP caused her (and her lovely mother) serious grief. But happily for Venetia, she led an amazing session that included the remarkable Erin Roberts. Their incisive critique left Venetia hopeful.
After three days at sea, the ship stopped at Roatan, an island off the northern coast of Honduras. From there we traveled a short distance via smaller boat to a private reserve where Venetia swam on a pristine beach, and was joyfully clambered over by tiny monkeys. Lee took a brief tour of the reserve before returning to the ship to write.
The next stop was Belize City, where we journeyed by tender, by bus, and then by speedboat up the mighty Belize River to the ruins at Lamani “Sunken Crocodile”. We saw no crocodiles, but there were mosquitos, giant grasshoppers, and howler monkeys. In the middle of a giant meadow, Venetia held out her hand like a falconer and a giant grasshopper landed as though it had been trained to do so. Lee climbed the tall pyramid in the rain – falling once in the silica-rich mud (so slippery!)
The ruins were amazing, and the history of Belize, (formerly British Honduras) devastating. The idea that the British took possession of it for its wood and left none… well, that’s colonialism. We were glad we could share some of our tourist dollars with them.
The last stop at sea was Cozumel – a lovely island off the eastern coast of Mexico south of Cancun. Venetia got a little sun while she snorkeled. Lee got less sun because after a brief spin (the reason he is clean-shaven is that he learned years ago on the Great Barrier Reef that mustaches and snorkeling are a poor combination) he stayed on the boat above the Starfish sanctuary and wrote.
• In October, the HP Lovecraft Film Festival saw Lee win the Pickman’s Apprentice contest amid fierce competition. Historically, this live-drawing event can be…. ghoulish, but this year was unusually fuzzy as it involved a kitten and a zoog meeting in a Tiki Bar. It was created in front of an audience in 90 minutes and auctioned for charity.
The Month of Fear gave Lee a reason to create a rare animation, to paint homages to Metropolis and Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show; and to express his dismay at Russia’s ongoing cyberwar on Democracy and the GOP’s ongoing exploitation of this country’s grotesque racism and exceptionalism.
• In November, Laura (just one of our talented belly-dancer friends from Winnipeg) made her return appearance for Rachel Brice’s master class. She graduated with compliments and flying colors and it was delightful to host her. We look forward to seeing her (and the rest of our friends in Winnipeg) when Lee guests at Keycon over his birthday weekend next year.
Ambercon was delightful as ever, and this year’s shirt design went over very well indeed. And while Lee stayed for all seven games, Venetia and Hillarie headed north to meet up with old pals and go to a party.
After the unseemly (and unsafe) demise of our microwave, we got something the kitchen has long needed: A Good Stove!! (And a far better microwave.) This allowed us not to just to rearrange, clean, and polish the kitchen, but it ensured the ability for Jaym to work her Thanksgiving cooking magic.
• In December, Venetia started working full time at Powell’s City of Books in the fast-paced Rose Room i.e. where all the tiny children run around and all the parents need to know what book to buy a 12 year old who hates reading. Thanks to Lee’s amazing client Drew, we visited the Allison Spa and spent a delightful weekend soaking in hot tubs and reading by the fire.
While Venetia toiled at Powell’s on Christmas Day (more fun than you’d think), Lee and his mom traveled west to his brother and sister-in-law’s riverside home. It was gorgeous and well-stocked with wonderful food, pets and presents as one could ever hope. Few things could have surprised Lee more than finding himself on the floor of the kitchen having been ambushed by an open cabinet door as he sought tupperware to Venetia her Christmas meal. Happily, he has recovered swiftly and looks forward to showing off his scar.
Game Nights with Jonathan Liu, Puzzle-construction with Mary, Game Days with Lee and Melissa, Dinners with Anneke, brunch with Alberto, Writing with Gregory, sharing Mystery Box shows with the lovely Stella, and Venetia securing a signature and original drawing for Lee from the amazing Claire Wendling, who was signing books near her at Wondercon in Anaheim.
Lee was delighted to create portraits of Penda and Aethelflaed for The British History Podcast.
One of the greatest things about this sort of work is getting to study (in this case, listen to) the subject. Lee recommends this podcast about the distant past as a window into the present – because exploitation, tribalism, and the challenges of progress are sadly eternal. Indeed the best podcasts of the year told us new things and allowed us to understand things that our own limited vantage points would otherwise never allow us to see; we recommend them very highly indeed.
Code Switch is possibly the best, most important podcast we’ve yet encountered. But just because its about the constructs of race and identity doesn’t mean it’s not also delightful. Some episodes can be hard to listen to (the trickle-down and hurricane abuses of Puerto Rico leap to mind), but there are amazing people doing good work (even in the same episode about Puerto Rico), and we think it’s important to understand this multifaceted and sometimes-thorny subject.
Invisibilia is pretty breathtaking – it fuses narrative storytelling with science, and it may allow you to view your own life differently.
The Memory Palace is a storytelling podcast about the past, conjuring forgotten moments. The episodes are small, but their impact isn’t. The show can make your morning walk, your coffee break, or your commute break your heart and blow your mind.
This Movie Changed Me offers an unexpected take on pop culture, transporting listeners inside the world of movies by celebrating our intimate relationships with them. It’s not a movie review podcast; it’s a conversation.
99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.
But Podcasts aren’t all learning and personal growth. Some are just good fun. In Lee’s case that most often means:
The Allusionist is a podcast about language.
Imaginary Worlds is a podcast about genre narratives and our attachment to them.
Pop Culture Happy Hour is a delightful tour of the latest movies, television, books, comics and music which we might not encounter otherwise. Glen Weldon’s taxonomies are a particular favorite.
You Must Remember This revels in the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Learning about the business of show, and the extreme levels of abuse the puritanism, has been astonishing.
Filmspotting is a recent discovery for Lee. It is sometimes informative, but often hilarious to hear critics talk about the art of filmmaking.
Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, because it’s about time someone did.
FILM AND TV
Lee enjoyed two Movie Nights with Molly – the first Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s unhinged Inherent Vice. The second, Sarah Polley’s remarkable documentary The Stories We Tell.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of seemingly unrelated tales. It seems like the perfect venue for the Coen Brothers. Where something like The Big Lebowski seems inscrutable and untenable on first viewing, it’s partly the format – as we know that the proceedings will take a certain amount of time. And if it’s hard to get on board immediately…. well, it can be a challenge. We find second viewings to be almost always be better than the first. But an anthology can present a sentence (“Near Algodones”), a tale (“The Gal Who Got Rattled”), and a story (“The Mortal Remains”) side by side, and the fact that they’ve labelled each of these with the word I’ve just applied suggests full intent. Even if the current tale vexes you, a little patience will serve you well, and it goes from the ridiculous to the sublime, with a spot in the middle of the six tales (“Meal Ticket”) so dark that, had it ended there, I’d scarcely be able to think of it with anything but a shudder (despite it’s obvious satire and nod to the Warner Brothers’ classic “One Froggy Evening”.) Until now, Big Trouble in Little China’s Jack Burton seemed the ultimate expression of American “heroism”, but Buster Scruggs takes that title walking (or flying) away.
Beyond to the aforementioned The Good Place, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, and Mr. Sunshine (each of which features surprising and engulfing world-building), Steven Universe is the strangest little cartoon we know. And after more than 150 short episodes, possibly the richest.
Dramaworld, which loves the cinema of Master’s Sun and Mr. Sunshine even as it sends it up.
Homecoming King by Hasan Minhaj was a delight. And this video lead in to his Netflix show Patriot Act made us laugh.
Nanette by Hannah Gadsby has been written about so often there’s a guide to the essays in the NY Times.
We enjoyed John Mulaney in everything we saw this year: Kid Gorgeous, The Comeback Kid, Big Mouth, and even that bizarre Les Miz parody set in a NY diner
We both enjoyed Black Panther and Spiderman: Homecoming but only Lee went with Tempest’s posse to see Avengers: Infinity War. Venetia may consider it when it’s sequel undoes some of the carnage. For now, she is happy living in the world that Black Panther promises.
Venetia’s Favorite Novel of 2018:The Poppy Warby R.F. Kuang
Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
Nightbooks by J.A. White
The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman
Like Never and Always by our friend Ann Aguirre (who we got to see briefly on her trip to Portland this year with her daughter!).
Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons (comes out in 2019)
Houseguests included: Tara, Jonathan, Dan, Immanuela, Jaym, Dylan, Carrie, Dan, William, Kasey, Sienna, Gabriel, Michael, Katie, PJ, Laura, Hillarie, and Brittany
Where to Find Us in 2019
Venetia’s Badali Convention Schedule:
ECCC in Seattle March 14-17
Wondercon in Anaheim March 29-31
SDCC in San Diego July 17-21
GenCon in Indianapolis August 1-4
Norwescon in Seattle April 18-21
Guest of Honor at KeyCon in Winnipeg, Canada May 17-19
Lee & Venetia:
WorldCon in Dublin, Ireland August 15-18
* Shipping is a term used to describe the action of wishing for two people to enter a relationship (whether romantic, sexual or, very occasionally, platonic) in books, movies, tv shows or real life. There are some very popular ships, some unpopular, as well as often lots of controversy between ships from the same fandom.
**ARCs began as an acronym for “Advance Review Copy” – these ARCs were given to people in the media industry so they would have time to review, reference, promote, and/or provide blurbs for the book ahead of its public release and are the intermediary version between the author’s manuscript and the final, finished book. But as time has gone on (and social media has become ever more important to the selling of books) the second type of ARC – the “Advance Readers Copy” has arisen. Sometimes it is all-but-final, with finished cover and blurbs in place. At other times, ARCs are clearly still works in progress – replete with typos, missing illustrations and truly boring covers. That said, we love both kinds of ARCs, and several of our friends collect them avidly.
*** Tuckerization (or Tuckerism) is the act of using a person’s name (and sometimes other characteristics) in an original story as an in-joke. The term is derived from Wilson Tucker, a pioneering American science fiction writer, fan and fanzine editor, who made a practice of using his friends’ names for minor characters in his stories. For example, Tucker named a character after Lee Hoffman in his novel The Long Loud Silence, and after Walt Willis in Wild Talent.