Saturday, November 28, 2009

On Pirate Radio

I've now seen this movie twice and am ready to discuss it. First, though, the bottom line: I absolutely love it. I can understand how some would find it slow, but I did not, not even the second time; I loved every frame and left it wishing I could have seen the thirty-minutes-longer British version. I very much hope that cut of the movie becomes available on U.S. Blu-Ray.

The film is very much a love song to rock and roll from a man who grew up loving it. Curtis is a year younger than I am, and we clearly share the experience of a life spent caring passionately about rock. It's entirely predictable, therefore, that I adore this movie. I would guess that if you are not a rock fan, the film may not work quite so very well for you--but you should still see it.

One reason is that an equally strong part of Pirate Radio's emotional arc is a celebration of the intensity and the not-quite-real-world quality of being a college-age teenager. You're definitely in the world, away from home and on your own, and yet the responsibilities of adulthood have not quite caught up with you. These characters live isolated on a boat, their food provided by a loving and safe household-mother figure of a lesbian cook, and their income magically appearing from the kind of father (Bill Nighy) who could also be everyone's favorite dorm RA. I could keep up with this analysis, but it hardly matters, because those times are glorious times that are indeed worthy of celebration.

Most of all, though, this film is about art and its making. Alone in their own space, with distant fans listening and only occasional contact with others, these DJs are artists of the airwaves. They remind us of the incredible value of making art, even when that art fails to live up to our dreams, and of the vital importance of the young in re-stoking the artistic fires. Tellingly, though, the character who is most committed to this art, The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is also among the oldest (if not the oldest) of the crew. His presence reminds us that we never need to stop making art--nay, that we absolutely never should for as long as there is air in our lungs.

I've now seen this movie twice. Both times, I exited the theater high from the experience and more determined than ever to be a better writer and to write until I die. How could I not love it?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The overdue Odd Saturday report

Last Saturday was one of those days of excess that I love but cannot afford to do often. After sleeping late, we headed out to dip into the river of cheese (i.e., eat at a favorite local Mexican place, where the queso is plentiful and good, and the marinade on the beef in the fajita quesadilla steak is strong and flavorful). We then put in some Halo time, followed by a little work.

Everyone arrived about 4:15, and the festivities began in earnest.

First stop was Dorton Arena for a Carolina Rollergirls double-header. The opening game was a blow-out, with the visiting Dixie Derby Girls taking the Carolina Bootleggers 86 to 76. (The final score is closer than the game ever was.) Less than five minutes into the second match-up, however, we realized that we'd been seeing the junior teams before, because these women were faster, stronger, better skaters, and far more effective users of various strategies. The Steel City Derby Demons started with a 26-0 scoring run, and it looked for a bit like the home team, the Carolina All-Stars, were done. Carolina came back, though, to win it 144 to 143 in a truly exciting and excellent match.

We didn't see the last several minutes, however, because we had to leave to make our nine o'clock reservation for a dozen at The Pit. After several shared plates of Barbecue Fries and an additional couple of pans of cornbread, followed by heaping plates of 'cue, we were all so stuffed we could barely move.

We rolled into our cars and headed home, where through the combination of Spike TV's free broadcast and the UFC's PPV event, we were able to watch all but one of the fights. Somewhere after midnight, we took a break before the main event and tore into many pints of various flavors of Jeni's ice creams, as well as trays of two different types of cookies and the namesake bouchons from Thomas Keller's Bouchon mixes. Yes, cookies from mixes--but Keller mixes, so they were awesome.

When the fights ended and most of the crowd headed out, a hardy few of us stayed up for a little more entertainment, and then off to work I went.

It was a great evening, but, as I said, not one I could do very often.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm frequently grateful for many things, but today, like so many holidays, serves as a focal point for such thoughts. My life is better in many ways than I as a child had dreamed might be possible, and I am thankful for that. I have many nice things, for which I am also thankful.

Most of all, though, I'm thankful for two groups of people: those who care about me and allow me the privilege of caring about them, and those who make my writing possible (from the many folks in my life who have to put up with the emotional costs of my writing, to my publisher and distributor and salespeople and booksellers and all of the others involved in taking books to market, to the most important group of all, those who buy and read my books).

I hope you all have a great day and much to be thankful for, now and in the future.

Sarah alters reality

To many people today, including, unfortunately, a huge number of young students, the source for all knowledge, the definition of our consensual reality. is wikipedia. I find this frightening.

What's even more scary, however, is how easy it is to alter this particular reality.

While at the State Fair, Sarah asked what the folds hanging under a Brahman cow's neck were. I said they were called "briefcase folds," because there was enough leather there to make a briefcase. Amazingly, Sarah bought it for a few minutes--ah, the power of fatherhood!--and felt a bit betrayed when I finally admitted it was all a fiction.

Apparently, however, she's decided to spread that betrayal into the online consensual reality, because you can now see that very term in this wikipedia entry on the dewlaps of many animals.

I know I should discourage such behavior, and I realize I should probably have a fatherly talk with Sarah about playing such games, but right now I'm too busy laughing my ass off. Like father, like daughter. Hell, yeah!

(If the words "briefcase folds" aren't on the above page when you visit it, the wikipedia police caught Sarah. I'm sure she's sorry, and I doubt she'll do it again anytime soon.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Picture time!

Sometimes--and tonight is one of those times--the urge to show a few photos strikes me. These are all from the recent Portland trip.

Let's start with the creepy one.

I'm beginning to think there's a conspiracy to put these strange food statues in my path, so I can never last a week without encountering one. As the saying goes, just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you--but would anyone choose this form of attack?

Staying with food, but now with truly excellent food, here's a shot of the end of my receipt from our dinner at Le Pigeon. If I didn't already love the place, I would admire it for this small touch alone.

The final two pictures are both the view out my hotel room window from the desk where I was working. This one is with the blinds down; I like how it cuts the night into horizontal lines.

I have to confess, though, that I like this one even better. Something about the vitality of a busy city at night always makes me happy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If you love contemporary music

then you could do a lot worse than check out this blog, which Sarah and her boyfriend, Ben, co-author. I have to admit that Sarah's song lists often serve to remind me of how little I know of contemporary music, but, hey, that's okay; I keep learning.

When I was a teenager, I couldn't do anything without music playing. From the moment when I was eleven and found and repaired a trashed AM radio, to when I spent all my saved money at sixteen to buy the best stereo I could afford, all the way to today, music, particularly rock and roll (in the broadest sense, not just the marketing label) has shaped my life and brought me joy. I'm glad Sarah and I share that trait.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Preliminary book covers for Children No More and Jump Gate Twist are online

Publishing is a long-lead-time business. The books that will appear in bookstores next summer are now (and have been for a few weeks) in catalogs that publishers' sales reps use to help sell their upcoming titles. One consequence of these long lead times is that publishers often have to design preliminary covers before they have the final art in hand. Similarly, artists have to create cover illustrations before they have the final book in hand; in fact, many artists must complete assignments without ever having the chance to have read a word of the book.

All those issues exist with Children No More, the fourth Jon & Lobo book and the one that I am still writing. To some degree, Jump Gate Twist has the same problems, because though both the publisher and the artist obviously have the two books this omnibus collects, they do not have the other material I will be adding to the collection.

All of this is to explain that the covers I'm about to show you are preliminary, not final but still publicly available.

First, check out the look of the draft jacket for Children No More. It's a very different look for Baen, a bit of an experiment, and I quite like it. I find the black-and-white basic composition to be very compelling, with the two art components nicely telling readers that this is indeed SF. I think it screams "big book," which I would love CNM to be. I hope readers feel the same way and pick it up by the tens of thousands (which would be some trick, because there's no way my publisher will be printing that many, but, hey, a guy can dream).

Next, in another very different look we have the John Picacio cover for Jump Gate Twist. I've heard from a lot of women fans, readers, and friends who liked my books that they did so despite their male-oriented (in the opinion of those folks) covers. The goal with this new treatment is a simple, blatant one: To package the two books to attract a broader female readership.

Is that crass commercialism? You bet.

Do I mind? Hell, no. I think it's excellent. I pushed for it. I want my books to have the broadest possible readership.

Even though what you're seeing is still very preliminary, not even done, and even though I know my pal John will greatly improve the final product, I have to say that I also greatly like this cover.

So, what do you folks think?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

UFC 106: How we did

In yesterday's entry, Kyle and I made our picks for last night's UFC PPV event. Today, I must report the results. Though I'll give you the fight-by-fight run-down, first, the two main points: Kyle kicked my ass with a two-fight edge where we disagreed, and we both sucked.

Here are the final stats for the ten fights:

Kyle: 5-5
Mark: 3-7
As I said, we sucked, and I sucked worse.

Now, on to the fights, again in order from the bottom of the card to the main event.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Jason Dent

We both chose Sotiropoulos, with me saying probably by submission and Kyle dropping the "probably." The Australian fighter indeed won by a sweet armbar.

Caol Uno vs. Fabricio Camoes

I picked Camoes. Kyle chose Uno. We were both wrong: it was a majority draw. I give neither of us a point for this one. I can't comment further on this fight , because it's the only preliminary we didn't get to watch, but I can say that I don't expect to see Uno in the UFC much longer.

Brock Larson vs. Brian Foster

We both chose Larson, and we were both wrong. Foster won by TKO in the second, and he was dominating Larson well before that time. Foster was very impressive.

Kendall Grove vs. Jake Rosholt

Another preliminary, another one we both missed. We called Rosholt, but Grove choked him with a triangle in the first.

Ben Saunders vs. Marcus Davis

Kyle chose Saunders to win by using his reach. I chose Davis as the superior striker. Saunders demolished Davis: He knocked out Davis in the first with knees.

At this point, Kyle led 1-0. I was worried but not overly so.

Then the main fights started.

Amir Sadollah vs. Phil Baroni

We both chose Sadollah, and indeed he won, though by decision after beating the living snot out of Phil Baroni, who simply would not fall.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Luis Cane

I said that it was always risky betting against a Nogueira, and I was right, because Little Nog TKO'd Cane early in the first. Kyle called for Nog by submission, but he still called Nog. Kyle now led 2-0.

Paulo Thiago vs. Jacob Volkmann

I really thought Volkmann could take this one, but it was a bad night to be from Minnesota: Brock Lesnar out sick, Brock Larson getting TKO'd, and then Volkmann dropping a unanimous decision. Kyle stuck with Thiago and at this point led 3-0.

Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony Johnson

We both chose Johnson, and we were both again wrong, as Koscheck eventually submitted Johnson in one of the sloppier (or dirtier, if any of the bad blows and eye pokes were intentional) fights in a while.

Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz

I went with Forrest, and Kyle opted for Tito. After three rounds, we all wanted two more, because no one had clearly won. Still, when the judges returned their decision, it was a split--in favor of Griffin. Finally, I won one against Kyle.

Kyle ended the night up by two.

The real winner of this fight was Dana White, who now has a ready-made main event--Ortiz vs. Griffin 3--whenever he needs it.


As always, the most important lesson you should learn from our predictions is this: do not bet any money based on them.


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