Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Reads of 2019

A listing of what I've read in 2019.

I've got a couple going, one of them a re-read of Stephen King's massive It, which unless I decided to lay out of work, I won't finish for a while.  The other is a history of Walt Disney World on the Kindle.  I likewise probably won't finish it until 2020, so I'll count them there.

It breaks down almost half and half as to what were listened to as audiobooks, and what were read either as physical copies or e-books.  

Lots of good, and a couple of stinkers.  Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that I started but didn't finish this year, though I'm sure there were a couple.  Month by month....

January

Best in Show:  the Films of Christopher Guest and Company, by John Kenneth Muir
One Summer: America, 1927,  by Bill Bryson
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,    by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dark Tower:  the Gunslinger, by Stephen King
Things We Lost in the Fire,   by Mariana Enriquez
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: a Sortabiography,  by Eric Idle

February

The Troop,  by Nick Cutter
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Hounded, by Kevin Hearne
This Dark Chest of Wonders: 40 Years of The Stand, by Andy Burns
Big Fella:  Babe Ruth and the World he Created, by Jane Leavy

March

The Coen Brothers:  This Book Really Ties the Movies Together, by Adam Nayman
Christine,  by Stephen King
Adrian's Undead Diary: Dark Recollections, by Chris Philbrook
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Elephant of Surprise, by Joe R. Lansdale

April

Kenichi Zenimura:  Japanese American Baseball Pioneer, by Bill Staples, Jr.
Star Wars:  Thrawn,   by Timothy Zahn
The Million Dollar Policeman, by John Swartzwelder
Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
Wounds:  Six Stories from the Border of Hell,   by Nathan Ballingrud

May

What Stands in a Storm:  Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley,  by Kim Cross
Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, by Thomas Lennon
Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman
The Disaster Artist:  My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, by Greg Sestero
North American Lake Monsters, by Nathan Ballingrud

June

Time's Children, by D.B. Jackson
Lucky Town, by Peter Vonder Haar
The British are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins
The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe

July

Chernobyl:  The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe, by Serhii Plokhy
The Cycle of the Werewolf, by Stephen King
Growing Things, and Other Stories, by Paul Tremblay
The Toll, by Cherie Priest
Wild and Crazy Guys, by Nick de Semlyen

August

Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
The United States of Beer, by Dane Huckelbridge
The Talisman, by Stephen King & Peter Straub
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth

September

The Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
Into the Raging Sea:  33 Mariners, One Megastorm and the Sinking of El Faro, by Rebecca Slade
Thinner, by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
For the Good of the Game, by Bud Selig with Phil Rogers

October

Hinge Factor:  How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History, by Erik Durschmied
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North
Star Wars: Black Spire   by Delilah S. Dawson

November

Skeleton Crew, by Stephen King
The Ice Harvest, by Scott Phillips
Where Oblivion Lives, by T. Frohock
Call Me God: The Untold Story of the DC Sniper Investigation, by Jim Clemente, Tim Clemente, et al.

December

Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi
Still Life, by Louise Penny
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Haunted Mansion

I'm no stranger to the idea that amusement park rides take your picture.  In fact, such a thing has been the subject of an internet rabbithole or two.

I mean, just search roller coast puke under Google Images and while away the hours.  The secret is to look at the folks in the row just behind the puker, and delight in the magnitude of the change in disposition they're about to have.

We went to Disney World last week.  It was a long planned trip, and it was one that had started to be threatened a couple weeks beforehand.  But we made it.

And I'll write a little more about it.   But I'm playing on the computer, going through a couple of the pictures, and this one, which was taken on the Haunted Mansion, is my favorite:

I mean, that's practically an advertisement for the Haunted Mansion.

I invite Disney to use it.

In exchange for another day's admission so that we might do Rise of the Resistance.

It's actually not my favorite picture of a ride experience.  We rode Twilight Zone's Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios.  It was my big omission from the trip with my sister.  While riding that, a particularly curvy member of our riding party was having to hold herself into her top.   I think Disney nixed that one.  I would have liked to have had it, if only because the roller coaster and Dinosaur ride pics don't convey much emotion, but the picture from Tower of Terror really did show some anxiety on both our parts.  I'd have liked to have had that one.....

Anyway.  I think we'll be going back in a little while.  I'm not sure how long that while will be.  I really really really really really really really want to do Rise of the Resistance.  

I'd also like to ride the Skyliners.  And eat at Sanaa.  And get a beer at the British pub at Epcot.

I don't think we'll be one of those couples who goes every year, but I think we might see this become a not so unusual destination, either.....

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Eats

A Cross posting from a Disney Food group.

We took our long-planned trip to WDW this week.  I'd like to thank the group for all the recommendations and ideas, especially for the help finding some great experiences for a vegetarian traveler.  It's easy nowadays to find vegetarian options, but finding a truly great dish can be rare.  She found a couple.

Apologies...this is a read...I didn't take many pictures of food.  Christmas decorations, parades and attractions yes, but food...not many.

Day 1:  We'd planned on getting to Disney about 5 o'clock on Friday, resting up at the hotel for an hour or two, and wandering to Disney Springs to find some dinner, but we hit three separate traffic snarls between home in Tennessee and Orlando.  Our 8.5 hour trip took somewhere around 13 hours, so we made dinner of the stuff we'd brought in the car that night.

Day 2: 

Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie:

She was really excited about this one, and we made it our breakfast and coffee on the first day in a park.  She got a beignet, which she probably enjoyed more than any breakfast she's had in ages.  I got a heated up Poulet et Pistou, and enjoyed it very much.

Spice Road Table:

We ate lunch at Spice Road Table.  What a great location for people watching.  We had wonderful weather our whole trip, but Saturday was absolutely beautiful for outdoor dining. This was our only time on the trip we had any service trouble:  we sat with our waters for several minutes before we had to flag down a waiter because nobody had come by to take our order.  Once we had our orders taken, our experience was great.  She the Mediterranean Vegetable Platter, and I got the Lamb Sliders.  We were both blown away by the Hummus Fries, which is something we're going to attempt to replicate at home, really soon.  My Lamb Sliders were also extremely tasty....it was one of the best lunches we've had in a while.

After lunch, we wandered back to our room at French Quarter, and came back for an evening wandering around World Showcase. 

We snacked and grazed our way around the whole evening.  I made a supper of some pork schnitzel from a stand at the German pavilion, while she got a pretzel and a beer.  We also had some coffee with walnut liqueur from a stand near the Morocco pavilion, some wine from France, some "Viking Coffee" and a chocolate pretzel from the Kringla Bakery in Norway.  We finished our night by picking up a couple treats from the bakery in the Germany pavilion, which we ate for breakfast the next morning.

Day 3:

This was our Magic Kingdom day.  we ate breakfast in the room, and got another cup of coffee in the park at the Cheshire Cafe...a treat for her, because Alice in Wonderland is her favorite Disney flick.  Just afterward, we rode the Mad Tea Party, and she got a thrill as Alice rode the ride in the teacup next to ours.  Not food related, but she enjoyed the heck out of that.

Lunch:  We did a quick service lunch during our travels around the park at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn.  I got a Bacon cheeseburger that I fixed up with nacho fixings, and she got the plant based Southwest Burger, and she did the same.  Not a bad sandwich, but our nachos were kinda stale, and we ended up not eating too many.

Supper:  We took a break again at the hotel, and I ate a sandwich there.  We were there for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and again, we snacked our way through the park over the course of the night.  Pretzels and free cookies don't constitute a healthy diet, but we're on vacation, right?

Day 4:

This was our Hollywood Studios day.  With Rise of the Resistance opening a few days prior, the park was a lot more crowded than Epcot and Magic Kingdom had been. 

We got a quick breakfast of a bagel for her and a croissant sandwich for me at the Trolley Car Cafe. 

Up to the week prior, we'd planned on hitting the Drive-in for lunch, but with our fast pass schedule and the Rise of the Resistance crowd, we decided to drop it in favor of some quick service somewhere.  We ended getting a quick service lunch at Pizzerizzo, since it was on our way from the Indiana Jones show to Galaxy's Edge.  For a quick service pizza, it wasn't bad, though I kinda wish we'd ended up doing something else, as it wasn't anything special, either. 

Hollywood Studios was our only disappointing day, as we couldn't get a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance.  We ended up leaving the park around 3, after hitting all that we wanted.  We'd planned a break anyway so we could rest and change clothes so we could meet the loose dress code at Jiko.

Jiko:  I say this without exaggeration:  This was one of the best meals I've ever had.  I cannot recommend a place any higher.  She said the same.  We got Inguday Tibs in Brik as our appetizer, which was wonderful.  She was able to upgrade an enhancement dish, Egyptian Kushari, to an entree, and she said it was one of the better dishes she's ever eaten.  I got the Filet Mignon, and cleaned my plate.  The desserts were equally fantastic.  She got the Malva Pudding, which was tremendously light and just a joy.  I got the Braai Brownie, which is just amazing....lightly spicy mixed with dark chocolate, bitter coffee and tart raspberry....We both ate entirely too much, and practically had to be rolled back to the French Quarter.

Day 5:

This was our Animal Kingdom day.  She ate her leftover Kushari for breakfast, and I just had coffee...if possible, I was still stuffed from the day before.  I did grab an apple from the fruit stand just outside the Safari ride and eat it while in line. 

Yak and Yeti was our lunch.  Another very fine meal.  She got the vegetable bowl, and I got Bhaktapur Duck, which was amazingly good, but probably not the best choice for eating right before wandering back out into the hottest part of our day.  I was thankful we did a couple of shows after lunch, just to let my lunch digest.

Dinner:  We went back to the Animal Kingdom lodge to eat dinner at Boma.  I'm not normally a buffet guy, but this was quite good.  There's too much to mention, but I especially enjoyed the Carrot Ginger Stew, the Zulu Cabbage and the Kenyan Coffee Tarts on the dessert bar. 

Day 6:

Our departure day.  We took a breakfast at the Sassagoula Float Works.  I ended up just getting a bacon and eggs breakfast, after the line at the Biscuits and Gravy station ground to a halt when a lady started complaining about her order....even at Disney, you have that person.....

Again, thanks for the recommendations.  There are still things we want to do....Sanaa, for one, and there were a couple or three places over at Disney Springs that seemed really interesting.  I kinda wanted to poke my head into one of the Star Wars eateries at Galaxy's Edge, but couldn't for the crowds.  And I figure we'll hit the Drive-In at some point, as well.  This was her first trip to Disney, and it was a memorable one.  She wants to come back in a year or two, so we'll be looking forward to that......

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Random Thoughts on the 17th Anniversary?

Seventeen?

This blogamathing has been floating around the interweb for 17 years now?

I have employees younger than that.

It's not as regular a hobby as it once was, but I appreciate the twos of you who show up on the semi-regular to see if I've posted some more dimwittery.

A few random thoughts:

The jobplace has been kinda tough here lately.  Lots of turnover, and lots of new faces.  The biggest part of my job lately has been trying to figure out, when something isn't done, whether it's been missed out of ignorance or apathy.

The schedule has not been kind, lately, either.  We lost a manager in October, and have only gotten him replaced this week.  It's meant a lot more closing shifts for Big Stupid here lately.  And I work for somebody who prefers having me close anyway.  It makes life a little more difficult outside the jobplace.  I don't get to see Shyam, family or friends often...and if you're a constant reader lo these 17 years, you know that's a concern even before I become a Second Shifter.  I made it to one local baseball game this past season.  I've made it to only a small handful of movies this year.  And trying to get together with friends?  A rarity.

Eh.  Not trying to be all woe is me about it.  It's an aggravation, though.

Other random thoughts?

Shyam and I did wander to watch Terminator: Dark Fate last week, and we both kinda liked it.  The fight early on between Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna is fantastic.  It's got a nice twist that follows up nicely to Judgment Day.  It's not great, but an enjoyable use of an afternoon, anyway.

Playing with Disney Plus this morning.  Watched a few episodes of the X-Men animated series, and a handful of Donald Duck shorts.  Didn't understand the use of the original ratio aspect for those, but not the Simpsons.  In the first 30 hours or so that it's been available, the "stretching" of The Simpsons was an online complaint of much note.  Currently watching "Homer the Heretic" and it is formatted to fit the widescreen.  The square aspect isn't distracting, and in the case of Simpsons, cuts off a couple of visual gags.....

Currently enjoying a couple days off in a row.  We may wander out to see a flick again this afternoon.  Doctor Sleep, maybe?  Or maybe we'll get a wild hair to wander up to Knoxville for Parasite or The Lighthouse.

Anyway, if' you're still stopping by for inanity, I appreciate it.....

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Random Thoughts

I am 4 days from vacation, or so.

Just about the only perk I have on the job anymore is 6 weeks of vacation.  

It's nice.  Don't get me wrong.  But you have to fight to use them when you want.  And more often than not, you have to use them to make sure you have a specific weekend off.  

Like this one.

Eric, the former blogger, hosts a get together in October.  I have to take a whole week of vacation to be able to attend for one weekend.  I just wish it weren't that way.

Looking forward to it, as always.  Sad that it'll be the first without our friend Steve.  Looking forward to in nonetheless....

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cubs, and whatnot.

I didn't intend to make a blog post on Ye Olde Facebooke, but this is what this turned into.  It was response into this piece from Bleacher Nation:

My feelings hover somewhere in the same concentric circles as disappointment and disgust. Self-righteous, I know. Entitled, yes. But that's what I feel. Joe, Theo and Jed (if Jed's still with the club and not taking over some team President job next season, and if Joe's employed at all next year) need to go back and read Tom Verducci's book on the build up to the 2016 World Series team.
There are so many stupid and consistent playing decisions. I won't call them mistakes. Because they're consistent. They're decisions. Swing from the heels, even with two strikes on you. Don't try at all to beat a defensive shift. Have absolutely no awareness of the current on base situation. And if you're Addison Russell, don't even bother learning the team's signs, all while being completely unwilling to show any sort of contrition or even ownership of off-the-field issues....that's a completely different bad look, but a part of the bigger ugly picture when you look at it.
A year later, I still tip my cap at the 2018 Red Sox, who had (and have) every bit the same amount of talent on their roster, but did all the small, fundamental things that you HAVE to do, and cake walked their way through both the regular season and postseason. Their relative struggles this year, I acknowledge, and point at with recognition that winning is hard, and there are many factors that play into it.
I try not to be a Go Get Some New Management type (look at Tennessee football over the last 13 years or so to see where that mindset can get you). But I threw my hands up in disgust a couple weeks ago, when Cole Hamels was left in to bat when he was obviously spent on the mound, and then taken out after a couple or three batters the next half inning. I have had the feeling all year that they've told Joe he's not coming back next year, and that he's been phoning it in ever since. I just haven't felt the same energy from him or this team that they had even last season.
Injuries are tough. But they're part of every season. Every team has them. I do not accept that excuse. Losing Kimbrel and Rizzo for games down the stretch sucks, but everybody deals with that. Look at the Brewers who lose MVP candidate Christian Yelich and still school you in September.
We're not even done with the 2019 season, and I bristle at some of the stuff that runs across the boards for 2020. The Cubs want Gerrit Cole? OK. Whatever. I try not to listen too hard to the board-talk, but IF that's the case? You have a bullpen that blew NINE 1-run leads this year. You hold all of these? You're up a game and a half in the Central right now. You hold half of them? You're tied with Washington and Milwaukee for that abhorrent 1-game wild card.
A Loss for a pitcher is bit of a loaded stat, but the Cubs Bullpen has something like 33 or 34 losses on their shoulders this year. You cut that number in half? And you've got a 100 win team right now.
(I say all this, realizing my comment about Hamels three or four paragraphs up....baseball is hard, and I get that).
Regardless, go get bullpen help. Start developing it, too. But if you're so wanting to spend this offseason, you take the 20 or 25 million a year that Gerrit Cole wants and you go find two or three or four quality relievers.
And maybe a leadoff guy. I hate to say this, but we've been missing Dexter Fowler for THREE SEASONS now. I've been screaming "Table-Setters" for the Cubs lineups online for nearly 25 years now. When we had consistent ones in 2015 and 2016, it made that free swinging bunch of kids a lot more palatable because we had guys on base 10 to 15% more of the time. Doesn't seem like much, but if it translates to 10 or 15% more wins? Again, the Cubs are in first in the Central.
Let me also say this: That free-swinging nonsense is a lot less palatable now, because Baez, Schwarber, Rizzo, Bryant, Contreras et al aren't kids anymore...they're 4 and 5 year vets who shouldn't be striking out in 1 of 4 plate appearances. I know that's considered Baseball in 2019, by and large, but if you you strike out a little less, maybe you sacrifice power, but you get on base a little more, and let's just see how that trade balances out. That's about as close to Moneyball as I get (not because I don't believe in it, but because who has that kind of time?).
Sorry for the rant. I haven't talked much about the Cubs this year, because I'm irritated. We're getting to the end of the line for contracts for some of these guys, and who knows what their futures hold? This is a team that was built to win two or three World Series, not just the one. I know that's hard, but when you see this kind of talent not doing the things they need to do, it's disheartening. And now we're staring down the barrel of another postseason filled with Dodgers and Astros and Cardinals and Yankees. (I can say go Braves, and as blasphemous as it is, I could even see myself rooting for the Brewers, should it come to that).
At the end of the day, the dynamic shift in organizational philosophy that was supposed to take hold at the early part of this decade did its job in 2015 and especially 2016....but was whittled away at bit by bit over the next few seasons. And 2019 was just an aggravating continuation of 2018. And as this piece says, it feels much the same as it did ten years ago....

Monday, September 23, 2019

All I Want is a Couple Days Off, Redux

Fifteen Days since that last post. 

I worked 13/15 in that post.
3 Days off.
By the end of tomorrow's shift, I'll have worked 14/15. 

27 of 33.

I just don't understand how this keeps happening in a fully staffed store.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

All I want is a couple days off....

Rough week.  Just worked 13 of 15.  Be nice to the retail people.  They may have worked 120 hours or so over a 14 day span.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Endgame Thoughts

Just a couple thoughts about Endgame.

I've watched it a couple times at home now, and a couple thoughts:

A lot of people are hollering about a couple of Oscar Nominations for the flick, and I think there are areas for consideration (I would champion the screenplay, for sure, and might even listen to an argument for direction, though I'm not in that camp currently).  A lot of folks think Jeremy Renner deserves a nomination for Supporting Actor.  And while I enjoy Renner as a performer, I found his performance...I dunno....uneven?  Quite good in parts, yes...the relief his face shows when he sees his phone ringing after Hulk's snap, especially.  But I felt the only true dip in quality of the movie comes in his and Scarlett Johansson's meeting with Red Skull....it's the only scene that didn't seem to hit home with me, for some reason.

If we're talking performances, we really ought to dig into Chris Evans and Josh Brolin's performances....Evans playing straightlaced across seven flicks and having a bit of nuance there?  That's hard.  And Josh Brolin just knocks it out of the park....and being able to show so much with just his eyes, basically. 

And I wouldn't argue too much if they wanted to throw Robert Downey Jr.'s name into the mix.  As a lifetime achievement sort of thing.  I mean, I don't know that Iron Man would have worked in 2008 without his charisma.  And without that, I don't know that you get the green light for the rest of this whole shebang.

I think I've watched the movie six times now.  And that final battle is truly an awesome bit of moviemaking.  Waiting 22 movies to say "Avengers Assemble" was a nice touch. 

This time around, I was struck and a little moved by having Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts show up in the Rescue armor.  (A digression about Paltrow, who has admitted to not watching/caring much for the movies, and her performance....I respect the performances a lot because she brought so much to the table....there are a couple of actresses out there who you can almost see "slumming it" in their performances in other genre flicks....and Natalie Portman is highest on that list.  Paltrow shows up, and holds up her end of the bargain without winking at anything or anyone, and she's one of the strongest bits of the flick, and an MVP in the whole 23 movie effort).

I love the relationship between Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch.  Their conversation in Age of Ultron is one of the few highpoints in one of the few Marvel flicks that just has not aged well for me.  Seeing that relationship grow across a couple other flicks, and getting moment of reflection at the end of the flick was a good moment....

Yeah.  I've gotten a little misty-eyed when Peter and Tony meet up again.  A few times.

Just a great flick.  A gratifying one.  My friend Ryan said something really cool:  they made these movies out of stories that we got tolerated for reading, and laughed at sometimes, and made them so that everybody can enjoy them.  And that's an awesome thought.....

Friday, August 02, 2019

Dreams

Had a weird dream last night that I can't shake, which is remarkable in and of itself, as most dreams dissolve like wet cotton candy not long after waking, here lately.

My town lost its K-Mart two or three years back... It's hard to say, as time's gotten funny lately.

In the dream, a few co-workers, past and present, are working at the K-Mart in Athens.  Which is weird, because I've worked customer service off and on over 20 years now, but never for K-Mart.  In the dream, we're open on Christmas Day.  We're closing at 3PM, but can't stem the flow of people wanting to shop at K-Mart on Christmas Day.  And the whole dream involves standing in the doorways, trying to keep people from getting into the store.

I woke up in a panic, as today's my first day of since returning from vacation, and my last until next Thursday.  I realized that I was off, and that I could return to sleep, but I couldn't....

Friday, July 26, 2019

Vacation


I took this on the last day of vacation, yesterday.  I woke up at 5:45 to wander down to the beach on Tybee Island, about a block or so from the house we'd rented since Sunday.   There, I scattered a few of my Dad's ashes.

It's been a couple years since we lost Dad.  And there are moments that I still miss him so intensely that it feels like a physical pressure on my being.  I really wish he'd been here over much of the past year.  There's so much that I'd like to be able to talk to him about.  To bounce off him.  Even to just laugh about. 

Not being able to share this week with him was one of those. 

We had a good time down in Savannah/Tybee Island.  Like I said, we stayed about a block from the beach on the south end of Tybee, which was a refreshing mix of retirees, beach rats and tourists like us.  My nephew and I both drank about 20 gallons of ocean water swimming. 

We had a couple really good meals.  I hadn't been to the Pirate's House since one of Riceville school's summer enrichment trips.  We wandered that way.  The place is a little tourist-y, but the pecan fried chicken is truly excellent, and if you have the opportunity, have a "Pirate" take you on a tour of the building.

We wandered down to the river the next night, and grabbed dinner at Dockside seafood, before talking a haunted bus tour around Savannah.  That particular night was a dark and stormy one, fittingly.  Unfortunately for the Big Stupid Family, we didn't bring umbrellas or ponchos.  We didn't see any ghosts, but still enjoyed ourselves.


Here's my nephew and me before the tour, both a little waterlogged.

It was a quiet vacation, for the most part.  But I think we all needed to get out of town for a few days.  I know that I enjoyed myself. 

Except for getting crapped on twice by seagulls.

Or was it seagull?  One with a vendetta?

The earshot on the beach, while gross, was impressive.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Reminder

Here we are, 53 minutes away from Americaland's 243d birthday.  I feel compelled to remind you that when I am Emperor, there will be no holidays.

None.

However, there will be parades.  Lavish.  Spectacular.  With Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade style balloons.

Depicting my favorite scenes from film and TV.

Particularly looking forward to the Roddy Piper vs. Keith David balloons.

We will be having this parade daily.

Attendance will be compulsory.

You will enjoy it.

Enjoyment will be compulsory.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Mid-Year Reading Post

Six Weeks Without a Post?!?!?!??!

A hobby on life support....

Anyway, just a quick list of what I've been reading the first half of this year:

January

Best in Show:  The Films of Christopher Guest and Company   by John Kenneth Muir

I didn't dig this one at first, as there didn't seem to be much separating it from an overlong blog, but it finds traction when it digs into the "scripting" process and the logistics of piecing together a flick based muchly on collaborative improv.  I also really enjoyed hearing from the performers, and how much they revel in the in their part of the collaborative process.....

One Summer:  America, 1927    by Bill Bryson

A traditional Bryson meander, this time, through a five or six month period in 1927, looking at the seeming disparate events surrounding Coolidge's say and do-nothing presidency, Babe Ruth's home run chase and Charles Lindbergh's Trans-Atlantic flight, among other events.  I enjoyed the book itself, but wish I'd read instead of listened:  Bryson's narration left some to be desired.  He wandered in tone from NPR narrator to conversational, with the latter serving the humor much, much better.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring     by J.R.R. Tolkien

My nephew had been hinting around about wanting to read this.  I found a cheap copy for him, and re-read it myself.  His attempt petered out, and I told him he might want to visit the Hobbit first.  This was my second time through it...my first not actually coming until Peter Jackson's movies started coming out, horrifying to think that those movies are closing in on 2 decades old......

Dark Tower:  the Gunslinger     by Stephen King

This one is competing with Wizard of Oz for the book I've gone through most in life.  This time was part of my chronological read-through project for King's work.  It was just my third time going through King's revised edition, which attempts to make it work more in concert with the rest of the series.  There are parts that stick out like a sore thumb (Roland's encounter with a Taheen, Hax's treasonous conversation about The Good Man), but there are parts that seem to add a little something (Walter's note after resurrecting Nort), which make me not damn the revision as harshly as I did once upon a time.  I'm still not in favor--part of the charm of the Dark Tower series is that each of the books has a feel unique to itself.  Well, the first five do, anyway.  Books 6 and 7 feel like continuations of Book 5.  King rushed those, what with his being afraid he was gonna die and whatnot.....

Things we Lost in the Fire     by Mariana Enriquez

Damn, this was a good collection.  Surprising.  Horror that's a little too relatable.  A couple of nice curveballs.  Definitely an author I'm  gonna revisit.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: a Sortabiography  by Eric Idle

Probably my favorite Python autobiography, from probably my favorite Python.  If I had to nail down which of Python's personal humors seem to best match my own, I'd have to say either Chapman or Idle.  Idle (possibly tied with Palin) seems the most down to Earth.  I got a little frustrated, early on with this one, with the name-dropping.  If there's a common irritant in Python autobiographies, it's the name dropping.  But then, Idle makes a joke about the namedropping, so I let it go.  This one's as much a musing on friendship as it is a memoir.  I liked this one.

February

The Troop, by Nick Cutter

Alternate Title:  Piggy Strikes Back.  Lord of the Flies meets some of the grossest body horror you can imagine.  Moves well.  Keeps your attention.  Just as it threatens to wear out its welcome, it wraps itself up.

Treasure Island,  by Robert Louis Stevenson

My friend Steve and I had begun trading books every October at an annual gathering of bloggers and whatnot.  This past October, Steve's last, he gifted me a copy of Treasure Island, illustrated by Ralph Steadman (Steve's remembering my fondness for Steadman's works).  I'd never actually read Treasure Island.  What an effective romp, even after 130 years or so after publication.

Hounded    by Kevin Hearne

My friend John gave me a copy of this a while back, and I finally sat with it.  It's fun, though the tendency to namedrop bands and favorite beers end up more as speedbumps than endearments.  It read quickly and I really dug the final battle sequence--that mess is hard to write effectively and entertainingly, and Hearne hits it out of the park with that scene....

This Dark Chest of Wonders: 40 Years of Stephen King's The Stand  by Andy Burns

Interviews and essays surrounding King's The Stand.  Burns speaks to various people involved with the novel, audio, comic and TV adaptations.  Most interviews are short and to the point.  The most interesting ones are with Jamey Sheridan, who portrayed Flagg in the 1994 TV mini-series, and Snuffy WG Walden who scored the same series (one of the strongest scores ever put to a TV show, in my opinion).  Part of the interest in these last two interviews is that the subjects don't share the King-worship that Burns does..... 

Big Fella:  Babe Ruth and the World he Created    by Jane Leavy

Not a bad read.  Every February or so I start getting the baseball itch.  I liked looking at this one from the Journalism/PR standpoint.  I feel like I read this one a little too closely to Bryson's 1927, because a lot of the background info seems cribbed from that book.....

March

The Coen Brothers: The Book Really Ties the Movies Together    by Adam Nayman

I wanted to like this one more.  This felt like an idea Nayman was really interested in when he started, but less and less so as he progressed.  Or maybe it was me, in my reading.  This one just didn't do a whole lot for me.

Christine   by Stephen King

One of the few early works that I'd never read.  This one's surprisingly uneven.  Changes in narration style midway through are distracting, and make the whole thing not mesh entirely.  Still, King's ability to channel what it's like to be a 17-year-old is uncanny....

Adrian's Undead Diary:  Dark Recollections     by Chris Philbrook

A Christmas gift from my buddy Micah.  The first person diary format works well considering its serial roots.  The background stories interspersed are a little jarring, but they work well overall.  I kinda liked this one, and i think I'll followup....

The Handmaid's Tale  by Margaret Atwood

The first time I read this one, it was for a college class.  And like too many books read for classes, I was only reading for content, which is like not enjoying the forest because you're too busy looking at individual trees.   This one's strong.  And and important marker for why you don't let one particular ethos have too much influence in lawmaking.  Given the political climate of the past decade or so, I don't have the same taste for dystopian fiction that I used to.  

The Elephant of Surprise,  by Joe R. Lansdale

Damn!  This one moves!  Hap and Leonard stories hit the spot.  A couple of small town wiseasses doing good.  This one has a melancholy over age that I don't remember noting in previous Hap and Leonard stories.  And for the first time, I found myself legitimately worried about a character.  I mean, both Hap and Leonard have been stabbed, shot and beaten over the course of several years.  But for some reason, when Hap worries about Leonard, it hit a chord.....

April

Kenichi Zenimura:  Japanese American Baseball Pioneer  by Bill Staples, Jr.

A Kindle read.  I don't recall ever having run across Zenimura's name before ready Leavy's Ruth book earlier in the year.  One of the things I like about baseball is its role in the community.  Zenimura organized pro and semi-pro leagues all around the west coast, even while interned in camps during the second World War.  I want to do more reading about the PCL and other baseball out west, as it stared separate (and sometimes equal) to the Major Leagues east of the Mississippi.....

Star Wars:  Thrawn   by Timothy Zahn

The yardwork listen.  It doesn't hold the same spark that Zahn's original trilogy did back in the early 90's.  I was quite Meh on this one.

The Million Dollar Policeman   by John Swartzwelder

These books just put me in a better mood.  Do yourself the favor and find one of Swartzwelder's mysteries.  These books are just him romping and goofing around.  They're almost jazzy in their humor.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A re-listen.  Worth the listen, if only to hear Roy Dotrice come up with distinct voices for 713 characters.....

Wounds:  Six Stories from the Border of Hell    by Nathan Ballingrud

This one came recommended.  And it's been a while that I've been so disquieted by a story like I was "The Visible Filth."  That one made me tell the cat to stop staring at me.  Likewise "Skullpocket" was oddly sweet and instantly mortifying.  A great collection.

May

What Stands in a Storm:  Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado
Alley, 
by Kim Cross

The science in this one is good, and I like the bits with James Spann, a meteorologist I've followed online for nearly a couple of decades now.  Still, it wanders into melodrama and ends up needing a bigger scope (the storms wreaked havoc from Mississippi all the way to my neck of the woods that day, and I think the book could have been a little more ambitious....

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles    by Thomas Lennon

My loyalty to the members of The State troupe continues to bear fruit.  This one was fun.  A goofy police procedural with doses of Monty Python and Hitchhiker's Guide thrown in for good measure.  I bought a copy of this one for my nephew and sister to read, as well.

Pet Sematary    by Stephen King

Continuing my project.  This is a damn good one.   I read this one first in my initial King torrent around 1990 and 1991.  I haven't read it since, but save maybe for The Stand, this one has more imagery that's stuck with me and implanted itself in my brain.  This is a great one, even with its gothic ending.

The World Without Us  by Alan Weisman

A commute listen.  Interesting speculation on how long what we do will last, if we were, as a species, to up and disappear tomorrow.  I listened to this one as I attempted yet again to prune back the forest from hell.  If we weren't here to do this on our particular hill, I figure the house would be eaten in 5 years time.....

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made
by Greg Sestero

I first ran across The Room shortly after Tommy Wiseau popped up on Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job. I found the flick, watched it, shook my head at just how inept and bizarre a thing it was, and didn't give it a lot of thought beyond that. 

The book does funny things. I started the book shaking my head in wonder, disbelief at Wiseau's actions. That changes over the course of the book. It comes down to this, I think: in my wanderings through the interweb, and even through this book, I've decided I don't care much for Greg Sestero. Not that Tommy Wiseau's any kind of peach to work with (indeed, the dude's got twin levels of will and crazy that are formidable). I find Sestero condescending, even as he's trying to be self-deprecating, even as he's circling and highlighting his own occasional doormat behavior.

Sure, he credits Tommy Wiseau for much of his success. And rightfully so. Still, there's a sneer there that I don't care for.

Now, that said? There's a fine line between passion and insanity (and perhaps inanity). 

North American Lake Monsters, by Nathan Ballingrud

Strong, though not as amazing as Wounds.  I'm happy to have run across Ballingrud.  I'll stay on the lookout.

June

Time's Children,  by D.B. Jackson

My buddy John got me a copy of this.  I ended up enjoying.  I enjoy Time Travel stories, but can also find them problematic--too easy to hit reset, fix a problem, and become too bogged down in time strings, etc.  I enjoy the problem of the Time Walkers....I think the cost to them (aging the same increment you travel) is an interest plot point to work with.

Lucky Town by Pete Vonder Haar

My old Blog Buddy Pete published this one this year.  I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Just the right notes of sarcasm, pop culture and mystery to keep me moving.  I look forward to another.

The British are Coming: the War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777.   by Rick Atkinson

Probably the best total overview of the war effort I've read.  The first book of a planned trilogy.  Balanced in its views from both the British & Loyalist sides as it is the Rebel.  I want to applaud its prose telling of battle tactics.  I'm deficient in my ability to visualize battle tactics, for some reason. It's odd, because I love maps.  But for some reason, I just don't see what's being described well.  Atkinson manages it, though.  I've ended up buying a couple copies to give as gifts already.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle,  by George V. Higgins

I dig the movie.  I'd never read the book, which inserts plot into amazing bits of dialog.  If I could write dialog half so well as Higgins does in this book, I'd be proud......

The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe

Last week, I went in to get brakes put on the car.  Since they had a nice rebate on some tires, and it was near time, I went ahead and got those two.  The previous night, I'd plugged my phone in, but didn't realize that the powerstrip was powered off until I got to the tire shop.  I didn't want to run down the battery in my phone with the Kindle app, so I grabbed a copy of this from my back seat.  I'd found it at the used bookstore, and had meant to give a copy to somebody if they were interested.  I read about 2/3 of it while sitting at the shop.  It's my second time through it, and it holds up.  Maybe even a little better.  I like that just glimpses are given of the Tufa.  I continue to like that Alex writes about the South in a way that doesn't lapse into parody, or make it an object of derision (something that most can't do, even when they mean well).  This is a good one, and I continue to recommend.....

Thursday, May 16, 2019

M-O-O-N


We had a lovely moon last evening.  And I was pleased with the pic that my little moto phone took.

I was even more pleased playing with Faceswap.

I did this one to be funny.

Erica described me as a wonderful weirdo.  That comment inspired the picture at the top.  I miss our friend Steve very much.  He was a wonderful weirdo.

A couple more faceswaps:


That's Argyle.  And I liked this one very much.  It's now my desktop background.


Horrifying.  And proof that technology is a dangerous tool in the hands of an ape like me.....

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Avengers, and whatnot



Two days out from Endgame.  It's rare that I'm excited for a movie anymore.  I'm really looking forward to this one.  Going to a 6:30 show Thursday night.  Pretty stoked.

This video has a couple things that bug me.  Jimmy Fallon and the deification of Stan Lee, but it still made me smile.