The Night Before Christmas – In Texas That Is

The Night Before Christmas – In Texas That Is

  • 1952 Leon A. Harris
  • Illustrated by Meg Wohlberg
  • Pelican Publishing Company

One of our very first neighbors gave this book to the kiddo back in the baby days, after finding out my husband and I were both raised in Texas.  We’d never heard of it before, but after our kid’s first Christmas it’s become a tradition to read it every December.  Apparently, it’s also a song by Gene Autry, as I just found out when I looked up the book today, so now we’re going to sing it every year too!

The illustrations and the colors are so good in this thing, like the graphics or whatever.  It reminds me of Argento’s Suspiria in a way, with the bold dashes of reds and very deliberate color tones.  I know it’s weird to compare a wholesome ‘50’s kid’s Christmas book with ‘77’s Suspiria, but there you have it.  It’s especially surprising considering how corny the ‘50’s aesthetic was in general, then you get this angular, sharp looking Christmas book.  It perfectly captures the look of winter in the desert, too.  The color choices feel cold and hard and sandy.

The poem inside has that Kenny Rodgers vibe.  It’s cute without being too darling.  So familiar too, for those of us that grew up knowing an old rugged cowboy or two.  Maybe it’s a Texas thing.

Anyway, if you’re looking to read something to your kiddo that is traditional yet not done to death, this old book is a good choice, and looks great on your bookshelf.

The Crown

The Crown (Season 4)

  • 2016 Drama/Historical
  • 4 Seasons Netflix

First of all, let me just say this is basically a beautiful, expensive, well acted and well made SOAP OPERA. Like, we’re talking Televisa Telenovela type storylines. Some of it would seem over the top and ridiculous if it wasn’t for the fact that, well, it’s based on a true story.

Now, I am clearly a cheese fan, and I love camp. Thing is, despite my description above, this is NOT camp. Yet… wow. I mean, the tired troupe of regular girl meets fancy pants prince and has a fairy tale wedding… that really happened to Lady Di. What I love about this show is that it illustrates the reality of following those tired troupes to their ugly conclusions. Amid all the wealth and castles and bs, people still rot if not allowed to breathe.

All 4 seasons have been amazing, but this season is different because a lot of us were around for many of the events depicted. It makes their ridiculous situations even more surreal because unlike the past seasons, we witnessed a lot of this. We saw Margaret Thatcher’s iron will change the face of England. We saw Diana, over a decade younger than her “handsome” prince, walk up to the chapel in her marshmallow costume and give up her youth and radiance to a rotting family that would suck it dry. However much the personal conversations or whatever were fictionalized, this happened.

I can’t wait for the next two seasons. This show is such a treat for so many of us! And maybe, just MAYBE, the melodrama of the royals will turn on the fans of the show enough that they will investigate history.

Too Much and Never Enough- How my Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man

  • Mary L Trump
  • 2020 Simon & Schuster
  • 240 pages

I’m a horror fan, and I’m fascinated by psychology and dictators and chisme too, so this was a no brainer. Still, DAMN, Mary my girl you are bitter!!! I’m inclined to think rightly so, but you always have to wonder about someone that pissed off, know what I mean? Still, it goes with the pathology of that whole family, and I sympathize with her black sheep vibe. Sometimes it’s your only defense against the toxic crap you’re raised with. This book read like a straight up VC Andrews gothic novel, with the evil rich patriarch and insane evil heir.  If it turns out some Trumps were raised in the attic I would not be surprised. And it goes without saying The Donald comes off as a total turd. Mary Trump is in full dish mode here, so if chisme and weird American Gothic family tragedies is your thing (yum!) then have at it 😎

The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Bly Manor

  • 2020 Drama/Horror
  • 1 season

Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is one of those short stories that took on a life of its own, haunting every reader just as it haunts all the characters within. This is only the latest of some pretty phenomenal adaptations of the story. The Innocents. The Nightcomers. El Libro De Piedra. The Others. These are just the ones I’ve seen. Now I kind of want to see them all!

I am going to be honest. I don’t “get” The Turn of the Screw. I never have. Like, if someone were to ask me what the novella is about, I would probably just stare at them. “It’s about a nanny in a big isolated estate taking care of creepy kids who start freaking out about ghosts” just sounds like every gothy haunted house story on earth. The story doesn’t even make sense, really. It’s THE VIBE of the thing that gets you. The horrible, terrifying web the author spins you into and never lets you out…

Bly Manor is a ten episode series, and because the James novella is so old and so thin on plot, there is a lot of time and space to develop some pretty interesting backstories on the characters. I love the ’80’s setting, and the updated inner guilt of the characters. The Turn of the Screw could be seen as a tale of neuroticism amid isolation, and the repressed sexual ambiguity of the time gave the story a fresh perspective.

Hmmm… For whatever reason, it’s kind of hard to get into reviewing this series because, like the origin story, it too is about the vibe. This is not a fast paced story at all, and although the scares are pretty terrifying, they rely on atmosphere and inner hauntings more than the flashy sort of scenes modern audiences are used to. I love the many easter eggs for all us Henry James fans, and the episode “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” is a filmed version of his truly creepy short story by the same name. If you are familiar with it you will love this episode.

The Haunting of Bly Manor, like The Haunting of Hill House before it, is not perfect. There’s too much telling instead of showing, and one episode in particular, “The Jolly Corner”, featured a doppelganger who was trying way, WAY too hard to pull a Robert Blake in Lost Highway. I also think the ending got muddled by abandoning the fate of Miles (it differs from his ending in the novella, which I found to be the creepiest part). I guess it gave that particular story thread to the nanny. It makes sense, but, well, I prefer the evil ending. Still, The Haunting of Bly Manor a is slow, atmospheric, and a genuine gothic horror story, just like the other adaptations before it. If you are a fan of Henry James and his sort of old fashioned suspense, this is worth a watch.

I Am A Killer

I Am A Killer

  • 2018 Crime Documentary
  • 2 seasons

I went into this expecting the usual crime type series.  If you’re a fellow morbid little soul like me, you expect to breeze through it like you would Law and Order.  OH but this is NOT one of those types of shows AT ALL.  I’ve actually stopped at episode 4 (Sympathy for the Devil) which, if it wasn’t so damned horrifying, I would say is a truly brilliant short documentary in and of itself.  It is the best by far of the four I’ve seen, but at times I almost turned it off because the honesty there (both said and unsaid) is absolutely brutal. This is not a light show.  But it does unflinchingly show the failures of our justice system, and really the failures of our humanity.