Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Books and whatnot

Just a listing of what I've been reading and/or listening to this year:


Welcome to Night Vale    by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Isaac's Storm    by Erik Larson

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams     by Stephen King

Faithful Place     by Tana French


McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories   edited by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay    by Michael Chabon


Patient Zero       by Jonathan Maberry

The Proud Tower      by Barbara Tuchman

The Sirens of Titan      by Kurt Vonnegut


The Cartel       by Don Winslow

The Dark Tower:  The Gunslinger      by Stephen King

Lovecraft Country       by Matt Ruff

The Serpent King     by Jeff Zentner


The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

The Dark Tower:  The Drawing of the Three      by Stephen King

The Bully Pulpit           Doris Kearns Goodwin

A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever
          by Josh Karp

Geek Love        by Katherine Dunn


City of Mirrors        by Justin Cronin

True Grit        by Clinton Portis

Mayflower      by Nathaniel Philbrick

the Sex Lives of Cannibals     by J. Maarten Troost

The Union of the State      by Corey Stulce


The Fireman     by Joe Hill

Broken Harbor      by Tana French

Disappearance at Devil's Rock      by Paul Tremblay


A Man on the Moon:  Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts   by Andrew Chaikin

End of Watch      by Stephen King

The Hike      by Drew Magary


The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations
        by Bernard Bailyn

Chapel of Ease      by Alex Bledsoe

Underground Airlines     by Ben H. Winters

Southern Gods      by   John Hornor Jacobs


Based on a True Story           by Norm MacDonald

Family Plot      by Cherie Priest


Jerusalem       by Alan Moore

Savage Season      by Joe R. Lansdale

Cades Cove:  the Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community  1818-1937
             by Durwood Dunn

But What If We're Wrong:  Thinking about the present as if it were the past
             by Chuck Klosterman


Dark Matter:  A Ghost Story       by Michelle Paver

Moonglow: a Novel          by Michael Chabon

Secret Place             by Tana French

The Best Horror of the Year, volume 4        edited by Ellen Datlow

Dark Force Rising           by Timothy Zahn


2016 was a difficult year.  There were professional issues (shorthanded for a large part of the year, changes in expectations for my schedule, and a disappointment when a potential window for promotion slammed shut in surprising fashion).  There were personal issues (Dad's hip replacement and issues surround it, largely).  Most of which boiled down to a real shortage in free time.  And when there was free time, a lot of the time had to be used doing something other than reading.

Add to that:  The early part of the year is painted by an aborted attempt at David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, which I started in late January and kept plugging with until late March before finally admitting that now wasn't the time for that one.

Favorite books?

Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country was amazing fun.  Interconnected stories of an African American family dealing with a powerful evil while wrestling with racism in 1950's America.  Perhaps one of the most satisfying endings I've run across in years.

Jeff Zentner's Serpent King writes the Southern Teen as well as anything I've run across.  I'd seen it pop up in my Goodreads feed, and I'm always looking for somebody who writes the South without trying to make it a character itself.  I bristled, at first, with this an what I was calling teenage melodrama.  I made myself remember, though, that I'm 39, and don't remember as well what 17 is like as I'd like to pretend.  I found it true to life, and oddly inspiring.

Alex Bledsoe continues to entertain and impress with the Tufa Series.  I like the way Alex's characters talk.  I also like the way Alex manages to maintain an air of mystery with the Tufa, four volumes in.  This one's a wry little mystery.  I dug it.

Drew Magary's The Hike might end up being my favorite book this year, if only because it kept me off balance for nearly its entirety.  Nothing but curveballs, and keeping no rhythm other than its own.  I gave this book as a gift to a couple folks this year.

Norm MacDonald's wondrous, ponderous Based on a True Story made me laugh more than any book I've read in recent memory.  Completely full of shit.  Worth every minute of it.  And whether you like it or not is of absolutely no consequence.

Cherie Priest's Family Plot is a beautiful ghost story.  Another writer with the knack for hitting this local nail right on the head, the characters in this Chattanooga based spooky story felt very close to home.

Alan Moore's Jerusalem was an amazing, beautiful love letter to his home town.  I was hesitant to go into this one, especially after giving up on an attempt at Infinite Jest.  The investment of time?  Would it be worth it?  Short answer:  Yep.  It's an occasional mindfuck.  A giant playpen for Moore.  I could spend my entire afterlife reading the adventures of Phyllis Painter and the Dead Dead Gang.....

Michelle Paver's Dark Matter came recommended from a couple places within a short amount of time.  That synchronicity had me order the book from England.  A novel that takes the form of a diary, I ended up reading nearly the whole thing one night when I couldn't sleep.  A young man takes an expedition to the Arctic, ends up alone in the ongoing winter night.  Just a fun read.

Michael Chabon's Moonglow brought back the same feeling I got when I read Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  Hit the right chord for me, especially since my own grandparents were distant figures for me, and more than geographically.  I never really knew the people behind the title.  The story of Chabon getting into the hows and whys of his grandfather and grandmother was heartbreaking and amazing....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In which there will be no holidays


It happens every holiday.

I work like a botard.

The holiday, if I get it off (and Christmas is the only one guaranteed), it's a break.

I slept 9 hours 15 minutes last night.  I feel practically human again.

I'm gonna wander off at the mouth, here.  Probably not worth reading.

I haven't had a weekend off since November 12.  Kinda hoped to have this one off, temporarily forgetting that New Years Eve is a holiday, too.

I'd hoped for the one after, but my boss decided to go on vacation next week.

I'd asked to see if I could get two days off in a row, outside of a weekend.  It's been scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but it rarely happens when the boss is on vacation.  Having two days off in general rarely happens when he's on vacation.

As an aside, that comes as a surprise to some people.  That I have to ask for two days off in a row.
But, I do.  Such is life in retail when you're open 7-days a week.

Also tired due to changing schedules.  I opened yesterday.  I close tonight.  I will be working tonight past the time that I went to bed last night.

It's not impossible.  Just tiring.

I'm tired, campers.  I spent last night and part of this morning making my apartment look like it wasn't a crazy person that lived here.  The Christmas rush came in here like a tornado.  I was behind on picking up, dishes, laundry.  Still mostly behind, but now it doesn't look like a candidate for a reality show in here.

I want to take a day to watch some movies.  To go to the movies, maybe.  To be with Shyam when we weren't both running like crazy.

Just venting.  Like I said.  I don't like holidays.  And time is why.  I'm exhausted...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One

 This time of year is rough. From 2 pm Wednesday through 4 pm Sunday, I worked about 51 hours in that 98-hour period.  Add about 6 more hours for that total for the commute.  Add to that that I got it up my ass to go see hockey Saturday night, and I've been running for a while.

Still, I really, really wanted to go see Rogue One last night.  It made me very, very happy to once again have a movie theater in Athens.  The folks at Athens Movie Palace do good work anyway, but it's especially convenient to not have to drive a half hour before and after, during days where it's hard enough to block off two hours for a movie, and three becomes prohibitive.

Again, I got a bug up my ass, and I wanted to see Rogue One as soon as I could.....

In a word:  Satisfying.

Hits a tone that I think I was looking for through the whole prequel trilogy.  A messy, space-faring society.  Characters with heart and motivations that are easily explained and feasible.  A fucking sense of humor.  Quick pacing.  Fun.

I didn't get teary-eyed like I was afraid I might.  The trailer did that to me, way back when.  The one shot of the AT-AT walking up the beach made me feel like a kid again.  So, I guess I got that out of the way.  The shots inside the Massassi Temple of the X-Wing hangar made me cackle, as did the revelation of Red and Gold Leaders during the assault on the shield.

I did want to comment on Michael Giacchino's score, which walks an admirable line, acting as a bridge between John Williams' scores for the prequel and original trilogies, all while finding its own identity.  Impressive, and maybe my favorite part of the flick....

It was fun.  I'm probably going to see it again and soon.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Retail Holiday Bingo

You can mark "Yelled at about Almond Bark" down on the Retail Holiday Bingo board.


Friday, December 02, 2016


Tuesday night was an eventful one, in my part of the world.  Literally, this part of the world.  Like, a thousand feet away
I woke up to a weather alert around 1 AM.  I was annoyed, because these little wolf-cryers are pains in the ass, right?  I futzed around with the phone to quiet it down a bit, but it kept buzzing every few minutes with a new watch or warning announcement.

I got up and went into the kitchen to grab a drink of water.  I looked up into the sky from the kitchen window.  Lightning flared every few seconds.  It reminded me of my stressful drive home from the Tellico Village Food Lion the night of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak.  You could probably walk without aid of artificial light, as the glow in the sky never dissipated.  The memory of the drive, probably the scariest I've ever made, came back fresh.

I went back to the bedroom.  The rain began then.  It wasn't raining, to that point.

I sat on the edge of the bed, and activated the local news channel's radar.  There was a big patch of orange near me.  I noted that one of the warnings was for Southwest McMinn County, and heading for Athens.

It was then that I heard the wind pick up.  And I heard a constant rumble.  Yeah, kinda like a train travelling in the distance.  I headed toward the bathroom, grabbing a pair of sweatpants in the process.  It'd be unfortunate enough to be caught in a tornado, even moreso to have to ride out the storm without proper pants.  The bathroom of my apartment, which is an old house that's been converted into units, is probably the central most point of the building.  I'm not sure I'd have been safe there, but it's the best I had.

I hunkered down in the bathroom for a couple minutes, sending Shyam a text message in the process.  The power went out as I was writing.

I stayed there for a few more minutes, until I heard sirens.  I got up.  There were a lot of sirens.  A LOT.  Including a couple that ran by my apartment.  Downtown Athens still had power, I could see.  But I did not, nor my neighbors, nor anybody to the east, across the Oostanaula, the creek that runs right behind my building.

I went back in, and tried to sleep.  To no avail.  I got up again around 3, to look again outside.  There were blue lights flashing about 200 yards up my road.  And in a similar location on White Street, which runs parallel to the Oostanaula.  I started to wonder then if something had blown through there.

I didn't sleep for the rest of the night.

I have to be at work at 6 most Wednesdays, which means leaving around 5:25.  I left earlier, not knowing what road conditions look like.  I sent a message to those coming in to drive carefully.

On my drive in, my buddy Chris sent a message, and my sister called.  Another wave of storms was blowing in, complete with hail.  I was concentrating on the road.  I answered my sister's call, saying that I was driving, could I call her back?

It wasn't until I got to work that I realized how close the storm had come to me.

Behind my building is a parking area.  And if you stand in that parking area, the parking lot to the Save a Lot shopping center is somewhere between 200 and 300 yards away.

That Save a Lot was hit hard by the storm, as well as C&D Tire.  And the former Raceway gas station.  These businesses are between 600 and 1100 feet from the apartment, all.

I had no idea until I got to work.

The storm proceeded across the park and wandered up route 307, tearing up a lot of stuff there.

There was a lot of checking in.  People with me.  Me with people.  Everybody was safe.

I didn't have power until Thursday afternoon some time.

Scary stuff.

Here's WBIR's story on the storm....