Saturday, August 30, 2008

A magnificent storm

The lightning and the thunder preceded the storm by only seconds, and then the rain slammed into the roof and the skylights over my office like a percussion band launching into a march. It was awesome. I had to stop working and simply enjoy the sound and light show.

After about fifteen minutes, I couldn't stand being inside any longer, so I grabbed an umbrella, ran downstairs, recruited Sarah, and out into the downpour we went. Our feet and shoes and Sarah's long pants were soaked in seconds, but none of that mattered. We stood in the middle of the pounding rain and basked in it. We then walked up the driveway to the cul de sac so we could enjoy the storm without any of the trees blocking it.

Holden hates the storm, as does Shibori, who is visiting as she does most Saturdays. We reassured them, gave them a little love, and then returned to what we were doing as the rain moved on.

Playing in the rain, even mild playing like this, where you don't get completely soaked, is a form of fun most grown-ups have forgetten. What a shame. I'm sure glad I went and played in this storm.

Babylon A.D.

is a train wreck of a movie that suffers from a failure to commit to its basic identity.

It starts interestingly enough, with Vin Diesel mumbling his way across an Eastern European-looking, burned-out landscape full of guns and bad men; he's the baddest of all, of course. He speaks in English, they speak in Czech (I think it's Czech), and though that's cheap it's also kind of cool.

Then Gerard Depardieu, who looks like he's one drink from an alcholol-induced death, shows up and recruits Big Vin. Depardieu, once hailed as one of France's best actors, must be incredibly hard up for a paycheck.

Charlotte Rampling sort of shows up as well, and she, too, looks terrible, as if someone had unearthed her dead body, covered it in white make-up, and animated it. That's not entirely a bad thing, mind you; they just should have gone for it more, maybe made her a zombie.

Anyway, off we go on the mission, which includes quasi cage fighting, quasi parkour, quasi logic, quasi--you get the picture. The mission does at least follow a reasonable arc of increasing tension--until it doesn't. At that point, the movie falls apart, and the train wreck mutates from being interesting in that I-can't-believe-I'm-watching-this kind of way to being simply another disaster.

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the movie experience came during the credits. We were in a lovely theater with a capacity for 287 people. A whopping 36 diehard fans started the movie. Only 34 finished it. Most people fled as soon as the credits rolled, but we and a pair of guys stayed to see the bitter end. The usher entered. He asked what they thought of the movie. They said it was stupid. The usher said no movie was stupid. We then were witness to an argument about film quality and film theory among three young men who had sniffed way, way, way too much glue in their teen years while watching those formative Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Wow.

In vaguely related news, I'm becoming a big fan of io9's Meredith Woerner, because any woman who can write a movie preview with this line

"Crank 2 is one of those ratshit insane movies that makes me proud to be alive."

is someone I want to know. Check out that preview. If you're like me, you'll need to be at the theater for Crank 2 on opening night.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's speech tonight

provided a good demonstration of many of the reasons I will be voting for him in November. That he's intelligent and can speak well go without saying, and though both things are very, very important to me, neither is enough of a reason to elect someone to be the President of the United States.

What is enough reason is that I genuinely feel that he believes in roughly the same vision of America as I do: an America where hard work and sacrifice can give you a good chance at your dreams, an America that takes care of all of its citizens, an America that is the best country humanity has yet managed, an America that is willing to tackle and overcome the big, hard problems that face us today.

I also think that there's a small chance that at least part of Obama's soul remains; getting elected will fix that political deficiency, of course, but for now he hasn't been in the system long enough to have lost it all.

It's fun to talk about the historical nature of Obama's candidacy, and I've certainly done it, but you know what? I don't give a rat's ass what color he is. I don't care about his age or the size of his bank account. I don't care about any of those aspects of McCain either.

Bruce Springsteen once remarked about Ronald Reagan that it seemed to him that a whole lot of people's dreams didn't mean much to Reagan. I believe that's the case with most politicians. I genuinely believe that's not true of Obama. I think the dreams of Americans do matter to him, and that's the final reason I'll mention tonight that Barack Obama is my candidate for President of the United States.

I'll do my best not to use this blog to beat the political drum very often, but earlier this evening Obama inspired me, and I had to write a little something about it.

Tomorrow night, I'll ease the brain strain by telling you how I felt about the Vin Diesel flick, Babylon A.D.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


The reading/signing tonight drew ten people, six of whom I knew. I was immensely grateful for the four I did not recognize (though I fear one of them may have worked in the store). So, on the attendance level, the event was a failure for the bookstore, and it was in many ways the exercise in humiliation I had feared.

I feel particularly bad about letting down the store, but I really couldn't do more. Some folks pointed to the weather--storms, with tornado warnings--as the reason for the small group, but let's face it: a bigger name writer would have drawn more folks.

The actual reading and talking part, though, was fun, at least for me. Like most writers, I find it all too easy to talk about my work. Get me going, and I can probably bore you into a coma.

I also delivered on the "do something different" notice: For the first time ever at a reading, I read part of a novel in progress--one single-spaced page from Overthrowing Heaven. I also read a personal essay, "The Roach God," a true story that appeard in 1988 in Orson Scott Card's Short Form. I went for humor, because outside the night was humorless.

We also went for ice cream afterward, and it was yummy cold goodness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm considering doing some unusual things at the reading tomorrow

No good reason; I just am. I'm not talking Monty Python unusual--no funny walks or parrot sketches, though I'm not above the odd funny walk in a moment of inspiration--but perhaps something a bit out of the norm, at least for me.

And, of course, there's the possibility, which will turn into a probability and then a certainty if Sarah has her way, of going out for ice cream afterward.

Yes, I'm trying to entice you to come. It's a lot more fun to perform for a crowded room than an empty one.

Speaking of the reading/signing tomorrow, if you want a humorous but fairly on-target sense of what it's like for most writers, check out Parnell Hall's song, "Signing at Waldenbooks." Though it focuses on mystery writers, its basic truth applies to all of us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One safe bet down, one opportunity for weird remaining

Obama's pick of Joe Biden as his running mate was a nice, safe bet. Biden has good credentials, and he won't alienate a whole lot of folks. Of course, he won't attract a whole lot of people, either, but that's what you get when you go safe. Biden may also be a good partner in governing, should Obama be elected. You can come up with plenty of reasons Obama selected him.

With this pick done, however, we have only one opportunity left for running mate weirdness. McCain is probably staying up nights trying to make his pick, and I'm sure he's considering the weird factor, so I've decided to help.

He should choose Condi.

Think about it.

First, you can't get much more conservative than Condoleeza Rice without being a radio talk-show host with a major substance-abuse problem.

Second, not to point out the obvious, but she is an African-American woman. Talk about going right back at ya!

More importantly for my purpose--keeping the American political scene strange--she would look amazing in a dominatrix outfit as she came out at the Republican National Convention as a closet bisexual kink top who's pro-war and pro-life and pro everything Bush ever did. What lifestyle group wouldn't have to give her a second look? (Okay, maybe she's not a bisexual top, but one glance at her selection of boots and you know that a leather corset and a flogger are hiding somewhere in her closet.) I would watch that speech a few times; who wouldn't?

So there it is, McCain: your next running mate. Choose Condi, and hope she doesn't put the choke collar on you.

If she does, though, do it on national TV so we'll all get to see it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Yeah, we went to see it. I'm not a big Ben Stiller fan, though I'm also not in the camp that despises him. I'd just heard enough things about it, including the highly favorable overall rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, and enough of us were in the mood for a comedy, that we gave it a try.

Damned if it wasn't pretty darn funny.

Uneven doesn't even begin to describe the shifts in quality; it's more like a fast car ride through mountains and valleys. When it was on, though, Tropic Thunder was laugh-out-loud funny. Robert Downey, Jr. gets--and deserves--a ton of attention for his work, but I thought the most over-the-top and funniest turn probably belonged to Tom Cruise as an appalling (in every way) studio head.

If you're willing to tolerate the lows, including moments of agonizing stupidity, for the many minutes of laughter, check out this one.


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