Saturday, October 10, 2009

Food coma

Scott had to get up early and devote his entire morning to an SAT practice exam, so I'd promised him we'd go anywhere he wanted for lunch. I'd even offered to take him to The Pit, which I've covered previously and which he's never gotten to try.

When he got in the car, he knew that was where we had to go. Off we went.

The Pit is the kind of place that contributes to the fine physique I have today. Its food is delicious but not even in the vicinity of healthy.

We didn't let that stop us.

We began by sharing the appetizer Barbecue Fries, which, as I mentioned last time, combine greasy fries with chopped pork barbecue and a melted pimiento cheese top. This dish turns the corner from wrong to amazingly good faster than Zombieland. Don't believe me? Check out this photo.

Not content to stop with a dish that contained enough calories to feed the Luxembourg National Guard, we moved on to our main courses.

I had the smaller plate--a Barbecue Cheesesteak sandwich with a side of mac and cheese--while Scott opted for the slow-cooked Beef Brisket with two sides: mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

We maintained enough self-control not to finish absolutely everything, so there is a box of goodness in the fridge. Now, though, we're suffering from meat comas and must go fall over.

I sure hope that nanotech researchers perfect those nanomachine artery cleaners and heart repairers soon. I have a bad feeling I'm going to need them.

The Signing: A Horror Story

The crowd gathers, pensive, angry, hungry.

The ringmaster urges them to stay calm. The sacrifice is coming. Their blood lust will be appeased.

Some ponder his advice and contemplate the treat to come, the mere thought of spectacle bringing joy and laughter.

Others are less trusting and withhold judgment.

The creature appears! Drugged and stupid, it makes an easy target for the crowd.

Recovering from its sedated state, the creature feigns nonchalance while frantically searching the ground for escape tunnels.

It finds none.

Its panic growing, the sacrifice suggests a smaller subject might be easier to manage.

The crowd will have none of it.

In a final desperate act, the creature attempts to bribe the blood-lusting mob with shiny objects.

Success! The crowd accepts the sacrificial substitutes...

...requiring only that he inscribe each of them with his blood.

The creature chortles in triumph, for he has escaped fate...

this time.

(Thanks to Gina for the photos.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More lessons from my spam

(WARNING: Adult language and topics ahead. Kids, stop reading.)

As I've mentioned before, a flood of spam washes over me daily. I run a spam filter, and it works for the most part, but I still need to scan the spam subject lines lest I accidentally lose a real message related to work.

From this scanning, I've learned a lot. I reviewed some of those lessons in a May post, but new ones arrive all the time. Here are a few of the them.

The IRS is concerned about my under-reported income.

They want me to check their Web site and fix my tax return, sometimes because I'm guilty of fraud, and other times because they might owe me money. I'm glad they're looking out for me.

Montana investment property is available cheaply.

This one makes no attempt to lure me, despite the enticing headline. Instead, it gives me a link to click and ends. Oh, spam-masters, where has the romance gone?

ED drugs are available in soft forms.

This one just feels wrong. Shouldn't those pills be hard?

I can learn exciting Microsoft Office applications for free!

Okay, boring spam is the worst kind of all. This isn't a real ad for learning Word, Excel, or PowerPoint--which would be dull enough. No, they're trolling for suckers with Office. What happened to those Russian women who wanted me only a few months ago?

Many people are concerned with the size of my genitalia.

Ah, it's good to know the classics never die.

Frankly, the quality of my spam has gone down, and I'm a little concerned. If the people out to steal my money and identity won't make a decent effort to lure me into their evil snares, then we are in a dark time indeed.

Spammers, pick up your game!

Tonight's signing

My friend, Eric, had sent me a quote last week from a musician who's played in big venues and small. The man was playing to 14 people in a Durham bookstore and said this:

Doesn’t make any difference to me. That’s what professionalism is all about. If there hadn’t been anyone here, we’d have played. You give your best even if there’s nobody there. Music is a gift from God, and you don’t want to cheat God, yourself or the audience.
I've given a lot of half-assed readings in my life. When the audience is one or two people, I've handed over my manuscript and told them they could read it for themselves. This quote made me realize that I've been behaving poorly. Literature is a gift from God, too, and I should both honor it and also always be a professional. So, I'd vowed before tonight's reading to do better than in the past, and I began the event by telling people this story (though failing to give Eric credit; sorry, buddy) and sharing my new resolve.

I hope I did a better than usual job. I think I did. I did a little bit of humor, read a couple of pages from Overthrowing Heaven, and then read three very short chapters from Children No More. The crowd, though small by the standards of a well-known writer, was better than ever before for me there--they actually had to set out extra chairs--and I remain grateful to all those, mostly friends, who came out to see me. I also got to spend time with an old friend and book dealer, Tim, who works at Quail Ridge Books. All in all, a very nice time.

Afterward, a smaller group of us shared a fun and tasty dinner.

If you ever come to a reading of mine and I'm phoning it in, call my lame ass on that crappy behavior. I owe you better.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Portland in November

I'm going to be in Portland, Oregon on business the week of November 16. I've never done a signing in that city, so if anyone reading this entry lives in that area and would like to help me set up something there, please drop me a line.

Speaking of travel, my life is about to involve a lot of it, because between now and then I'll also be at two cons (see my Appearances page for the basic info). I'll write more about those trips and the associated conventions later, but suffice to say that both should be quite interesting.

I'm cutting this short tonight because it's late, I cannot possibly finish all of the day's leftover work in time to hit my extremely late target bedtime, and more writing awaits. Before all that, however, is one fun task: choosing what to read tomorrow at Quail Ridge Books. Whatever shall I pick....

Monday, October 5, 2009

If you're not busy this Wednesday night (Oct. 7) at 7:30 p.m.

the come on down to the lovely Quail Ridge Books to say hi, chat, listen to me read, and buy some books. Yes, I'm doing another reading, my last in the area and probably the last one in NC in support of Overthrowing Heaven.

The fine folks at QRB have been fighting the good independent bookstore fight for almost 25 years (their anniversary is Saturday), and I've been going there for about that long. It's the kind of bookstore that wears its love of books on the sleeves of all its staff, and that's a wonderful thing indeed. I grew up frequenting exactly this kind of store, where passionate bookpeople helped grow my love of the printed word. I hope to be able to keep going to QRB and stores like it for many, many years to come.

I'm sad to say that I haven't done a very good job of helping them sell books in the past, but still they're having me back. I'd like to do a better job this time, so please help me repay that kindness, join us Wednesday night, have a nice time, and buy some books!

Tomorrow, no sales pitches. I promise (unless, of course, an odd bee of some type flies up my mental bonnet, in which case all bets are off).

Whip It - the best movie so far this year

Yeah, you heard me: I'm declaring the best film of 2009 so far to be the roller-derby-girl flick that Drew Barrymore directed. This one does so much right that it's hard to choose a short list of high points--but I'll try.

Ellen Page in the lead role is amazing. She's compulsively watchable, a far more complex character than the trailer would lead you to believe, and perfectly captures the my-body-can't-contain-me energy of the teenage years.

The rest of the cast performances range from very good to superb. These folks brought their "A" games to even the smallest of roles.

It makes you laugh out loud. A lot. Our audience howled over and over--and always when we were supposed to do so.

It makes you tear up. A lot. The emotions here are true and powerful, even when you know some of them are not going to take the characters anywhere good.

The derby action is fun. Yes, I'm biased because I think roller derby rocks, but Barrymore and her team did a good job of capturing the odd energy and strange crowds that surround this sport that is barely a step above the underground.

Most of all, it's truthful. Shauna Cross, who wrote the screenplay and the book on which the movie is based, and Barrymore never opted for a simple, easy answer when a more complex one would be more true. No one is perfect here, nothing ends or starts easily, everything comes at a cost and with its own benefits, and these people are real folks trying to live their lives as best they can.

Do not miss this movie. I'll go again if I get a chance, and I'll buy the DVD. It really is the best film I've seen this year.


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