Saturday, January 17, 2009

On the road again: Arisia, day 2

The second treadmill from the end hates me. I learned this fact this morning the hard way: by trying to walk on it. No matter what I did, every minute or two it lowered the incline and slowed the pace. Then, it sucked all the power from a fully charged iPod. I gave up, moved to another treadmill, and finished the rest of my walk in peace.

An elevated, non-insulated, mostly glass-walled walkway connects the hotel and the gym, which sits atop the parking garage. It was about ten degrees outside. You do the math:

ten degrees + 1 walkway = my genitalia crawling into my body in search of warmth

Exercising here is big fun.

In other news, both our lunch and dinner servers decided we were insufficiently cool to warrant decent service, which made both meals less enjoyable than they could have been. We had lunch at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, a place we'd quite enjoyed last year. This time, our sandwiches were good, but the service, as I noted, sucked, and my potato and broccoli soup resembled nineteenth-century gruel overgrown with mold.

Dinner was at Pigalle, for which we had harbored high hopes. Instead, we ate a perfectly reasonable meal, one that less than a decade ago might have been among the best meals I'd ever tasted, but one that for its price and given the accolades its chef has received was simply adequate. The biggest sin of the meal was the complete lack of truffle in the supposedly truffled risotto. The one high point was the cannelloni stuffed with braised beef short rib confit, one of the best ways I've ever encountered to serve the rich meat of short ribs.

The con screwed me on the programming front, dropping my third panel at the last minute and so leaving me with only two. They told me not to worry about my membership, however; they'd take care of it. No such luck. I had to buy a full-price, at-the-door membership, which really sucked. So it goes.

My reading tonight initially drew three hardy fans I did not know but who had read my books. The crowd swelled considerably, however, as people arrived early to hear a porn reading. Fortunately, they stayed to listen to me, so maybe a few of them will give my books a try.

Ah, the glamorous life of the beginning SF author.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On the road again: Arisia, day 1

In a first for me, my room came complete with underwear hanging on the bathroom door.

No, I did not try them on.

No, I was not tempted. Stop that. You don't want that image in your brain. Neither do I.

I have to wonder if anyone will have the guts to call the hotel and ask for their missing, zebra-striped thong underwear. I considered taking the small garment to the front desk on the off chance that such a call might occur, but I ultimately decided that what such a visit might cost me made it a bad idea. So, now the underwear is in my bathroom trash.

If I find it on the door again in the morning, I'm asking for a new room and refusing to explain why. Let someone else deal with a haunted thong

On a happier topic, in addition to travel and lots of work today, we had a wonderful dinner at Oishii, a truly excellent Japanese restaurant.

This remarkable dish featured a large block of ice supporting a very small bowl of toro tartare floating in a delicious sauce. Inventive and wonderful, it came first and set a high bar for a long series of additional dishes, all of which were excellent. We focused, as you might expect, on the insanely rich stuff: Kobe beef, foie gras, and toro, and each small plate ended up a winner. Foie gras sushi. Toro and truffle roll. Kobe roll. I could go on and on, because we sampled a great many menu items, but you get the idea.

As you would guess, the food was also quite expensive, but it was worth the cost.

If you live in Boston or plan to visit here, save up for a great meal and go to Oishii.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P, Patrick McGoohan

Most people, as the subhead of this BBC News article declares, seem to remember him as the star of the excellent and weird TV show, The Prisoner. He was certainly excellent in that role, but he deserves far greater recognition.

In Danger Man (which aired in the U.S. in sometimes slightly different form and with the namesake song as Secret Agent), he starred in some of the finest television ever made. Check out these old episodes--you can buy the whole series on DVD--for brilliant examples of the exploration of morally tough decisions and no-win situations, as well as for beautifully understated writing.

I first watched him as a child in Disney's The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, which is only recently available on DVD. He was wonderful as Dr. Syn, and though I haven't seen this show in several decades, I still think fondly of it. I now must go watch it again soon.

McGoohan was even one of the very best foes Columbo ever faced.

I loved his work, and I am sad there will be no more of it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


We watched the first season of this British series on DVD, as we do most television, and it was interesting and amusing enough that I picked up the second season when it became available. My expectations were, however, rather low; I assumed we'd enjoy some amusing but generally rather unsubstantial episodes.

I was wrong. The second season of Torchwood is, to my taste, far stronger than the first, with explorations of tough themes, more character development than in the past, and several genuinely touching episodes. "Adrift," which we just finished viewing, is a complex and heartfelt show about loss and grief that I consider to be reason enough to buy the whole box set.

I definitely recommend this show.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spoken word

A long time ago, usually on a panel with one or two others, I would do spoken-word/storytelling performances at cons. As I've written here before (I think), I plan to get back into spoken word more seriously. The good folks at Balticon, where I'm a guest, are talking about giving me a chance to do a performance there. So, if you're going to be at that con and they do allot me a panel slot for this odd endeavor, please come by and check me out.

Speaking of coming by, I'm doing a reading at Arisia this coming Friday night at 11:00. If enough folks turn out, and if they want the event to mutate from reading to spoken-word performance, I'll try to come prepared to do the latter. Who knows what might happen?

If you want an example of a spoken word performer whose work I admire, check out Henry Rollins' performances, some of which you can buy on DVD. I don't expect to be as good as he is, but I sure do want to give it a try.

The worst that can happen is that I embarrass myself in front of a bunch of people, and I can live with that. Heck, I've done it before. (My awful ninth grade dance experience comes to mind, but it's far from the only time I've done that.) As long as no one in the audience throws hard fruit--I can handle grapes and other squishy stuff--I should be fine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On the road again: Las Vegas/CES, day 5

I'm safely home after a long day of travel. For the first time on a trip to Las Vegas, I did not gamble at all. I had hoped to spend some time at a poker table, but each night when I had to choose between poker and sleep, I opted for sleep. I hate that choice, but I'm determined to improve my health, and sleep is a vital part of that improvement.

I'm quite frustrated by the fact that I'm not ready yet to write Children No More, nor am I ready to start typing up an outline, but so it goes; I will get there.

Given the hour, the unpacking still to go, and my fatigue, I'm going to sign off early and get back to it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On the road again: Las Vegas/CES, day 4

I'm going to skip the daily pattern, because it hasn't varied since I've been here.

The only netbook of note today was the Sony Vaio P series, which is very narrow when closed and has an odd, eight-inch-wide screen. It looks like you could fit it in a man's jacket pocket, and its 1.4-pound weight might even be bearable there.

Tonight's dinner was at Emeril's where, yes, I ate the banana cream pie again.

The highlight of the day, though, was seeing Cirque's Love, the show based on the music of the Beatles. It's pure magic for me, and I sit in childlike awe and strong emotion thoughout it. I love it. Even more than O, I wish I could show this one to every one of my friends, family, and loved ones.

At the end of the performance, as the entire cast is singing and dancing, little red paper flower petals--just cut pieces of thin paper, really, but at the time you know they're flower petals--rain from the ceiling all over the stage and the audience. As I did last time, I collected a bunch of the petals. When I post this entry, I'll put them in my leather jacket's pockets, as I did the last batch. When in the cold I put my hands in my pockets, I find the petals there and remember anew that there is magic in the world.

If you see me wearing that coat at a con (or anywhere else, for that matter), and you're having a tough day, tell me, and I'll give you a petal from Love. I don't mind sharing. There's always magic to be had.


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