Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pass three complete

I'm finished the third pass of Overthrowing Heaven. Though there's red ink on almost every page, the book is clean, cleaner than any previous novel at this stage. Overall, I'm surprisingly happy with it. I think it's the strongest book yet. It will not need a fifth pass. Once I key in these changes and rework certain key sections, I'll be done.

I actually hope to finish before Christmas.

That's a good thing, by the way, because I received the typeset paperback of Slanted Jack, and those pages are missing a key component: the teaser first chapter of Overthrowing Heaven. I need to get this book to my publisher.

And soon, very soon, I will.

It's Love Actually time again

Tonight, we watched this movie, as we do each year at Christmas time, and once again, I loved it. The relentless optimism is infectious and touching. At several moments during the film I am not (too) embarrassed to admit that I tear up and that my heart pounds so hard in my chest I can barely stand it.

I know there are bad people in the world, and more importantly, I know that even good people often do bad things for reasons they deem to be good. I firmly believe, however, that most of the time on most days most people are just trying to live their lives as best they can, to care for those they love, to do their jobs well, to be decent to others, to love and be loved. Love Actually celebrates the power of love in a form that is so clearly and unabashedly a fantasy that I cannot help but cheer for it over and over. As I did last year, I recommend it highly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Handwritten notes

When I was growing up, my mother taught me that many situations required a handwritten note. Someone gives you a gift, you write them a note. You want to invite people to a fancy party, you write them all invitations. If you can't attend said party, you send your regrets in a handwritten note. You do so with the best pen you have on the best paper you can afford, ideally notes printed for this very purpose.

Almost none of these situations ever applied to our life. We received almost no gifts from anyone outside our immediate family. We were poor and did not throw fancy parties, nor did anyone invite us to them. Our pens were cheap, as was our paper.

The lesson, though, stuck with me, and at some level I still believe it. That's the reason that I am personally writing well over two hundred thank-you notes to my company's clients. The notes are brief, and my handwriting is awful, but they are handwritten, and that seems to me, given my mother's training, to make them both more personal and somehow better. After all, I email people all day long, but I rarely write notes.

I wonder, though, whether this belief is a passing fancy, a notion lost on generations younger than mine, or at least on the children of generations younger than mine. I certainly rarely bother to handwrite, even when I have topics of great import to cover. Email is my medium.

I do, though, appreciate the rare handwritten note I receive, and I suppose for that reason if for no other I shall keep writing these cards to demonstrate, in this small way, how truly thankful I am to our clients for their business.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Charnel House

As you can probably tell from the pictures I've posted of my office, I love books. I don't mean just their contents, the stories inside them; I love books as objects. A fine book is a beautiful thing, a wonder to feel and read and admire. If you're into books as fine art objects, you owe it to yourself to check out Charnel House.

Charnel House is a small press that publishes at most a few books in a year, usually and usually only one or two. Publisher Joe Stefko spares no expense in designing and assembling the limited and lettered editions of his books, and they are lovely. I just received the limited of Dean Koontz's Odd Hours, and it was love at first touch. The cover, the dimensions, the paper--everything about the book is beautiful.

Charnel House books are, by standard book pricing, insanely expensive, but if you consider them to be art, then they appear much more reasonable. If you've been considering treating yourself, you should give the few remaining volumes (most are sold out) a look.

Snakes on a plane

In a comment to last night's post, Fred asked if I'd seen Snakes on a Plane. I have to admit it: I did. Worse, I enjoyed that movie more than I hated it. I even own and have watched the DVD.

I told you I'd see anything.

I can defend my position somewhat. Though Snakes was simultaneously both more stupid than it should have been and entirely too serious about itself, it still had moments of great (if unbelievable) viewing pleasure: the two bathroom snake bites and the anaconda eating the amazingly rude man spring immediately to mind. Plus, the concept was great enough that even though this movie executed it badly, you still had to admire the basic notion.

From what Ed said in his comment, the concept of this Day the Earth Stood Still remake is so wrongheaded that as soon as you hear it, you know you don't want to see the movie. That's a very big and important difference.

And yet, after all this, I am still strangely tempted by Day....

Someone stop him before he buys a ticket!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

I loved the original movie, and I still think it's underrated. I watched the trailer for the remake with considerable trepidation, but like everyone I had to applaud the casting of Keanu Reeves as a robotic alien; after all, the more robot-like the character, the better Reeves is at playing it. The new version even led at the box office this past weekend.

I just haven't been able to make myself go see it.

Understand: I'll go see anything. Okay, that's a lie: I gave Soul Plane a pass (though I'm now wondering if that was an error). For some reason, I am afraid this particular remake might make me so angry I would do something inappropriate in the theater, so I'm saving it for DVD viewing.

I do, though, hate that I'm not supporting an SF film. Maybe I'll talk myself into it if I take off some time over the holidays. If any of you have seen it, please drop me a note and let me know what you thought of it; I remain curious.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two essential Christmas songs

I have a lot of holiday traditions. If you count all the traditions of my extended family, I have an amazingly large number of such traditions. I don't mind, though; in fact, I quite like them.

One of those traditions is making the time to listen to a few special songs--not your usual Christmas songs, but those that crack me up. Two in particular spring to mind.

The first is funny as long as you have a sick sense of humor. Check it out, and listen carefully; Steve Martin is hilarious.

The second may be funny only to those who have seen Love Actually, but that's okay; if you haven't seen that film, buy it now and watch it immediately. Most of the following video is not in the movie, but some parts are, and the performance by Bill Nighy as Billy Mack is wonderful. Enjoy.

Oh, heck, I know I said two songs, but we have to end with Bruce. We just have no choice. I saw him and the E Street Band do this song in 1984, and it was marvelous. This video is a great rendering. You gotta love Bruce and Clarence singing together.


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