Saturday, March 29, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Our local critic gave this movie three stars (out of a possible four), but as fans of classic screwball romantic comedies, we had to go. Wow, am I glad we did! This movie is a gem. The writing is spot on, the pacing is superb, the acting is uniformly exactly as it should be, and every shot contributes something important. Frances McDormand could not be better in the title role, which the writers wisely kept muted.

My favorite bit, from Miss Pettigrew: "A solid man. You'd call him dull. But he smiled every time he saw me, and we could have built a life on that."

Miss Pettigrew deserves four stars. Check it out.

This evening's restaurant, by contrast, merited fewer stars than our local restaurant reviewer gave it. The Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn garnered four and a half stars (out of five) in our local paper, making it one of the highest ranked restaurants in the area. Our meal did not live up to the rating. The service was so-so, the food was tasty but not extraordinary, and overall it was exactly the sort of meal we'd expect from a much lower-ranked place. I don't feel an urge to go back anytime soon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

30 Days of Night

We watched this vampire flick tonight, and it was okay but no more. The setup was promising, and the portrayal of the vampires was at least a bit more ghoulish than normal, but it ultimately failed to deliver the suspense I'd like from such a film. If you're a die-hard vampire fan (or, I suppose, a hardcore Josh Hartnett fan, though I wouldn't admit that in public were I you), then check out this DVD. Otherwise, give it a pass.

In completely unrelated news, my iPhone, which is now my full-time and only mobile phone, has earned both my love and my hate. It garnered my love with its interface, form factor, display, email abilities, and many other great traits. It's evoked my wrath by having crappy signal in one very important location: my home office.

AT&T, if you're listening, put a cell tower closer to my house!

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Today was a travel day, and as such days go, it was thankfully relatively uneventful. We were lucky enough to have a nonstop flight from Austin. We were not, however, so fortunate as to be on a flight with any spare room; like most flights these days, this one was sold out and had a waiting list.

Speaking of space on the plane, I believe the following rule should apply on all airplanes: if you cannot fit in one seat, and by fit I mean your body stays between the arms on either side of your seat, then you should have to buy two seats. No one should have to spend an entire flight in constant contact with a stranger's fat.

On a sunnier note, I'm quite enjoying Overthrowing Heaven so far, though of course that joy will almost certainly vanish when I hit The Dread in the middle of the book. Still, I'll take the pleasure where I can get it, because I'll be working on this book for a long time...starting again now.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On the road again: Austin, day 2

Work filled so much of today that I have no humorous stories to report, though I can say that the wind blew so fiercely that as we were walking up to one building it appeared that Jennie might topple backwards.

The fun highlights of the day both related to food: dinner at The County Line on the Lake, and some hours later, dessert from the Amy's Ice Creams store at the Arboretum.

Just driving up to the County Line on the Lake makes me happy, because it's a sprawling mess set right off the road in the midst of trees, with lights glowing all around it and Lake Austin behind it. The barbecue is top-drawer, with the brisket and the beef ribs special favorites of mine. The portions are huge--I've never even come close to making a dent in the sides--and the drink glasses must hold at least 32 ounces each. The food is waiting for you on the cooker, so the service is quick. Meaty goodness.

Amy's is one of those ice cream places that also makes me happy. Interesting music is always playing, and it's never top 40. The staffers treat you like a person and are usually characters. Our server tonight tossed the ice cream and the scoops and caught them flawlessly as he worked. Weird art covers the walls. They sell "Keep Austin Weird" (my favorite city slogan ever) t-shirts. And so on.

Oh, yeah: their ice cream is great.

I'm fat, and I'm still not healthy, but tonight I reveled in tasty food that is bad for me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On the road again: Austin, day 1

By my previous numbering system, this entry should be day 2, because we arrived in Austin last night, but there you have it: inconsistency running amuck.

We're here on company business, so I'll stay away from the work day because, well, it's company business.

I suppose I should have volunteered to sign books at a few bookstores while I was in town, because writers are supposed to do that sort of thing, but I never got around to it. Perhaps my next assistant--yes, I'm looking again--will make that sort of thing happen. That would be lovely.

Dinner last night was late and thus at a nearby Kerbey Lane, a 24-hour Austin institution that I very much like. The food is diner-style but better than you would expect and always tasty, the staff members are funky and friendly, cool art from local artists adorns the walls, and it's generally the sort of place I could hang out happily for hours and hours. If you're ever in Austin, check it out.

As is my practice on multi-day trips when I have a car, I stopped by a grocery store to pick up a few bottles of water, some soda, and a snack (a bag of salad) should the late-night munchies hit. I went through the express line. We had the best line ever. The woman in front of me had a bottle of water, two pieces of chocolate cake, six Zabar candy bars, and some gum. I'm thinking drowning sorrows in chocolate, though I could be wrong. The woman behind me had a whole roasted chicken and three deli-cut cheese selections, each precisely a quarter pound. I could never decide how or if she planned to combine the cheese and the chicken. I contributed to the cause with a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke with Lime (you can't even buy it in our area in that size), a bag of salad, and three different bottles of water: Evian, Tynant, and Fiji. The cashier stared at me as if I had wandered from the home for the terminally indecisive, because clearly one brand of water should be enough for any man. I decided to further the feeling by staring back at her, then looking down, shuffling my feet, and saying, "They all looked so good that I couldn't decide." I have no excuse for doing that; I just did.

Dinner tonight was late, though not as late as last night, and quite expensive: the tasting menu at the Driskill Hotel Grill. I'd thoroughly enjoyed the same experience a few years ago, so I sat down expecting great service and a great meal. Instead, we received a little better than average but definitely flawed service and a meal that never quite hit the right notes. Don't get me wrong: the food was tasty, and I enjoyed the dishes. They simply didn't reach as high as the price or my previous meal suggested they should.

I continue to plug ahead on Overthrowing Heaven. The words pile up slowly, because my work schedule and life have been so intense lately, but they do pile up.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Last night, we finished watching the boxed set of this show, and I have to say that my initial positive impression only grew more positive over time. I loved it. All of us watching it loved it. The acting was uniformly strong, the writing as strong as I've come to expect from Aaron Sorkin, and the characters and setting quite engaging.

Yet it died, canceled after one season.

Clearly, the public at large didn't agree with our assessment. I have read a lot of criticism of the show--too self-referential, too much about Hollywood and TV for most people to care, talking down to the common man--and I obviously don't agree with any of them. At the same time, I can see hints of all those traits in the show--but they didn't bother me at all.

I wish it had been on a cable network, where I like to think it would have had the chance to grow its audience naturally over time.

If you haven't seen it, as I said after having watched only a couple of episodes, I recommend it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hunting the wily egg

Dave and Jo hosted a gathering today that featured a lovely brunch--thank you, Jo, for all the cooking and hard work--followed by a rousing contest of team egg hiding and seeking. Never ones to shirk from a battle, we quickly formed a hyper-competitive squad that included Dave, Jennie, Sarah, and me, and we set to the task of hiding eggs. The rules were clear: you had to be able to see each egg from at least one vantage point. Thus, we could not bury the eggs, nor could we erect bomb shelters around them, protect them with mines on tripwires, or employ any other tactics that would have certainly made the holiday more memorable (though not, I must admit, in a good way).

The battle proved to be close, but in the end our team prevailed by virtue of having one more undiscovered egg than our worthy opponents.

Exhausted from our efforts, we retired to the house, admired our prizes, and ate enough dessert to choke a team of Clydesdales.

Don't you think it's grand when people celebrate in the spirit of a holiday?


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