The first entry of a newly monthly round-up on various entertainment and art I enjoyed during the past month.

Books

November was a pretty good month of reading aside from being busy with NaNoWriMo. I finished reading one book and started a few others.

  • A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami — I finished A Wild Sheep Chase in the middle of the month, and I thought it was pretty good. The journey of the main character and his girlfriend was fun to go along with. I really liked the Sheep Man character. It felt like a fitting end to the Trilogy of the Rat (three loosely related stories featuring the same characters). I’ve been working my way through Murakami’s older works, which tend to have a smaller scope than his later works. I think A Wild Sheep Chase would be a good first Murakami book for someone new to his novels before diving into the denser books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or 1Q84.
  • The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi — I picked this up earlier in the year and read through most of it the month I got it. I decided to sit down and finish it, and I am happy that I did. It’s a collection of separate short manga stories that covers themes such as violence, sex, depression, and jealously. The stories are very adult oriented, which I enjoyed in contrast to the popularity of shonen (targeted at boys) manga. Each story is concise and covers a theme, which works really well. For stories set in the 1960s in Japan, they still resonate today. The detailed backgrounds contrast with the simple character art, which works to great effect. ‘Make-Up’ was my personal favorite story in the collection. It’s a good manga story collection worth reading for those who aren’t fans of manga in general.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — I started A Study in Scarlet because I watched a Sherlock clip and thought it would be fun to visit the source material. I really like the writing, and I think Dr. Watson makes for a compelling narrator. I’m not too far, but I am looking forward to reading more of it. What’s cool about A Study in Scarlet is that it is in public domain and freely available, so if you’re interested, you can read it for free.
  • Drive by James Sallis — I bought this book over a year ago, started it, but never finished it. I decided to start reading it last weekend from the beginning, and I am really into it. The short chapters, which tend shift throughout the timeline, keep the story moving along quickly through this short novel. The way the narrator is written has added a lot to the story so far. I remember watching the movie adaptation when it came out on instant streaming services years ago. It was the middle of the night, and I figured “what do I have to lose?” It ended up becoming one of my favorite films. I am enjoying revisiting it through the source material.

Movies

I made it out to the theater once in November to see Doctor Strange, which I wasn’t crazy about. The special effects made me nauseous and the story didn’t really grip me, and I had trouble understanding Benedict Cumberbatch’s American-English accent.

At home, Abagail and I watched two films on Thanksgiving, and I watched a short on Vimeo that caught my eye.

  • Oh Lucy! — A clever and well shot short film about a Japanese woman who starts taking English lessons. The plot premise was, I thought, clever, and the ending was sweet. I watched it on Vimeo on Demand, and it is definitely worth the $0.99 rental.
  • The Royal Tenenbaums — This was the second time I watched this movie, and I think it was even better the second time around. It has great acting, solid humor, a clever plot, and spot on music. The set and costume design, like other earlier Wes Anderson films, feels more restrained (for the better). The colors, clothing, and set design are still elaborate and quirky, but it isn’t too extreme. I particularly liked Bill Murray’s character and the boy he was studying.
  • Inherent Vice — I had been wanting to watch this film for a few months, but for some reason it hadn’t yet happened. Abagail and I decided to go for it on Thanksgiving night, and we were glad we did. The plot is a bit difficult to follow, but the characters, especially Doc, were great. I think I’ll check out the book it is based on. My friend Paul told me the director’s other movies are good too, so I’ll have to give them a go.

Music

I bought and listened to quite a few new albums in November.

  • Blanco by David Bazan — I have been listening to David Bazan’s music for a few years now, and it has always been impactful. This album is no exception. The electronic motifs, reminiscent of his past project Headphones, feels refined and evolved. The lyrics are as deep and emotional as ever. The whole album fits together really well, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick Trouble With Boys.
  • New Function by Gahlord Dewald — Gahlord is a friend and mentor of mine, and he released some music this year that is excellent to listen to while concentrating on something. The music gets out of the way, in the best way possible, and keeps the brain churning. My favorite track is Source.2 Extract.
  • Requiem For Hell by MONO — I accidentally stumbled across MONO on the day before Thanksgiving, and they’re incredible. It’s the kind of instrumental rock music that gives one goosebumps every few minutes. The title track, Requiem For Hell, which is just under 18 minutes, is my favorite song on the album.