Saturday, June 19, 2010

The A-Team

After my recent viewing of this movie, I had to agree with Kyle's one-sentence judgment: Fun, but not as good as it could have been.

On the fun side, the action was plentiful and so frequent that you rarely had time to stop and think--which is a good thing for a movie like this, one whose premise is fundamentally dumb. Patrick Wilson's turn as a CIA agent was also particularly entertaining; the screen grew more interesting every time he was on it. His speech patterns and his interplay with the other CIA agents were high spots. The other actors also did well enough in the scenes where they were grunting or resolving to fight or doing other action-related bits of business. When they had to emote, however, they usually came across as somewhere between bad and silly.

Though it's tempting to blame them for that failing, the fault is not theirs; it's the story's. The plot made sure they had basic motivations for their actions, and it kept them busy enough, but as you'd expect from a high-action summer flick, it never really delved into the characters. With a little more work, the writers and director could have given each of the leads more personal ties to the action, and then we would have been happier during the inevitable moments between action sequences.

In the end, though, that criticism is really a quibble. With The A-Team, you know going in what you've signed up for, and you get it. If you want some summer action (and I always do), check it out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

About the signing the other night

It went pretty well. I couldn't get a firm fix on the size of the crowd, but I'm pretty sure it topped fifty folks, people who braved a dark and stormy night (really) to come see us yak. Linda Maloof, the Community Relations Manager for this B&N and the organizer of the event, kicked us off with a question from her podium. We each answered it, and then Linda opened the floor to audience questions.

As part of our introductory answers, we each had the opportunity to flog our current works. I hate posting pictures of myself, but I've taken enough grief for not doing so that I'll put up one this time. In it, I'm standing and explaining about my project to raise money to help child soldiers and other children affected by war. (If you missed that post, I am donating 100% of the money I make from the sales of the hardback of Children No More to Falling Whistles, an organization that helps such children.)

The thing I'm holding is a mock-up of the final dust jacket of the book. If you look closely, you can see the gold whistle on its back; I'm wearing that same whistle.

To my surprise, the event lasted over two hours, and it could have gone longer; the audience was great. After it ended, we signed books and then visited in small groups for another half hour before finally dispersing.

All in all, it was a pleasant evening with a vastly better turn-out than I had expected. I thank all who attended.

(pictures courtesy of Gina)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What I'm listening to right now

and in heavy rotation, too. It's an awesome album. Enjoy these two cuts.

First, the title track.

And now, the song I quoted the other day.

Damn, I love this band.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is it like this at your house?

The other night, as I was leaving work about 8:45 p.m., I spilled some liquid on my AVAM shirt. I like that shirt, because it reminds me of that museum, which I like a great deal. Rather than risk a stain, I went to the men's restroom, took it off, and washed out the wet regions. In the process, of course, I made the shirt even wetter--so wet that I did not want to put it back on. So, I didn't. I walked to my car shirtless.

As I was driving, I called home to say that I was finally leaving work. The following conversation occurred:

Sarah: Van Name residence.

me: Hi, Sarah, it's your dad.

Sarah: Oh, hi, Dad.

me: Would you please tell your mother I'm on my way home?

Sarah: Sure. [Pushes phone aside.] Mom, Dad's on his way home.

me: Thanks. I spilled on my shirt, so I had to wash it, and now I'm driving shirtless.

Sarah: I see. [Pushes phone aside.] He says he was seized by the spirit of the wild mustang and had to take off his shirt. He's now driving shirtless.

[voice I could not make out]

Sarah: Mom said you should embrace the mustang's spirit and take off the pants, too.


Sarah: I'm not relaying messages for you guys any more.
Just another day at our house.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If you're not doing anything tonight (Tuesday, June 15, 2010) at 7:00 p.m.

come by the Cary Barnes & Noble store and join a bunch of SF/fantasy authors for a discussion and signing. By the kindness of Linda Maloof, the Community Relations Manager of that store, I will be one of those writers. Joining me will be my esteemed colleagues--and fellow co-panelists from past events there--David Drake, James Maxey, and Lisa Shearin. (Lisa shares the credit with Linda for making the entire affair happen.) A new member of our group--new, that is, to me, because I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her--is Kelly Gay.

If you haven't been to one of these events before, it'll go roughly like this: Linda will introduce us (or have us introduce ourselves). We'll each yak a little, and then we'll answer questions. At the end, we'll sign books. Though it's true that we cannot deliver any flying monkeys, we will nonetheless do our best to be entertaining. Judging from the reactions of past audiences, we usually do a more than decent job.

Of course, if no one shows, we five writers will walk around the store making moon eyes at the customers until we guilt enough of them into sitting down that they outnumber us. Save your fellow book buyers this terrible fate and come on down to the Cary Barnes & Noble.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A meal strong at the ends and weak in the middle

Saturday night, a group of us headed to Second Empire to try out a place that none of us had visited in years. The strong dinner menu lured us there, as did the presence of a chef, Daniel Schurr, whose work we had somehow managed to by-pass since he took over the restaurant.

The meal was decidedly mixed, though good enough that I will be going back.

Being the piglets and food sluts that we are, we decided to create our own four-course meal with two starters, an entree, and a dessert each. Early in the evening, we even toyed with the notion of adding a cheese course, something we would normally do.

We should have stuck to fewer courses. The starters were quite large; as the menu indicates, a single starter and an entree would be plenty. We never made it to the cheese; none of us had room to accommodate it.

The starters were also delicious. We collectively sampled the pork belly, the veal cheek, a foie option that was not on the menu, the clams, an Oregon mushroom special, and the salad. Though one of the three foies was undercooked, the other two were perfect. The pork belly was excellent, but for my taste the veal cheek topped it.

As we waited for our entrees, our stomachs were stuffed and our expectations were high.

Alas, the main courses did not live up to their predecessors. The trio of phyllo veal cigar, venison saddle, and pork, which had looked so amazing in print, was a particular disappointment. The phyllo had so little meat you ended up searching for some veal goodness, the venison was overcooked to the point of chewy blandness, and the pork was a boring and overdone cutlet. The steak was good but no more. The scallops were very good, but the sauce on them was way too salty. After some discussion, we guessed that the grill station was simply off its game that night.

The desserts, which were rather conventional, returned to the form of the starters: all were delicious. I would have preferred the chocolate cake be a tad more moist, but that's a quibble; we all loved it. The key lime pie and the sorbets were also great treats.

As I said at the start, we'll be going back, but the whole drive there we'll be hoping the person on the grill station is having a good night.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

UFC 115: How we fared

Though I went into this PPV with relatively low expectations, I came away from it quite entertained and very glad I'd purchased it. I wasn't quite as pleased, however, with how well we fared on our picks.

In the undercard, we did better than I expected.

Mike Pyle vs. Jesse Lennox

We both chose Pyle, and he indeed won, but he dominated far more than I expected. He slapped on his submission finish, a triangle choke, so quickly it was there before Lennox knew what was happening. Poor Lennox actually looked lost most of the fight.

Ricardo Funch vs. Claude Patrick

Claude Patrick indeed won, as we both predicted, and he did so in convincing style. I wouldn't be surprised to see Funch without a contract by the end of next week and Patrick starting to be a UFC poster boy within a month.

James Wilks vs. Peter Sobotta

We were right yet again, as Wilks won a decision victory in a fight I didn't get to see. From what I read, Wilks definitely controlled the battle.

David Loiseau vs. Mario Miranda

My calls and Kyle's finally diverged on this fight, as he went with Loiseau and I opted for Miranda. I chose correctly, though I failed to call the style of the victory: I said Miranda was unlikely to finish Loiseau, but finish him Miranda did, by TKO in the second. I wish I could have seen this fight, but the UFC didn't broadcast it.

I was then one ahead of Kyle.

Mac Danzig vs. Matt Wiman

We both correctly chose Wiman to win, but I don't feel good about, as referee Yves Lavigne made one of the worst calls I've ever seen in declaring Danzig out from a guillotine choke when half of Danzig's neck was clearly not trapped and Danzig was holding his hand in the air. I hope the UFC lets these two guys do it again.

Tyson Griffin vs. Evan Dunham

Dunham controlled this fight for two rounds, and when Griffin finally turned it on, it was too late. Dunham earned a split-decision victory--one of the judges had to have been blind to award the fight to Griffin--and I notched my first wrong call. Still, I remained ahead of Kyle by one.

So, as we moved into the main card, Kyle was 4-2, and I was 5-1. Our records would not stay anywhere near this good.

Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald

MacDonald was so dominating Condit for the first two rounds that I was completely convinced that Kyle and I were correct to have chosen him to win. Then, for the first time that I've seen, Greg Jackson yelled at a fighter: he told Condit that it was all about war, and he had to bring the war. Condit did, eventually grounding and pounding MacDonald for a TKO with seven seconds left in the fight. You could argue that the ref stopped the fight incorrectly and should have let MacDonald absorb seven more seconds of punishment, but MacDonald was doing nothing, so I support the ref's choice.

Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel

We both expected Rothwell to beat up Yvel, but eventually he won largely by outlasting Yvel. It was not a pretty fight, as both of them gassed early, but in my judgment Rothwell won all three rounds, and the judges gave him the fight.

Paulo Thiago vs. Martin Kampmann

We both figured this to be a good fight with Thiago ultimately emerging victorious. Instead, it was a solid fight that Kampmann completely dominated en route to a unanimous decision, three-round victory.

At this point, we were both wrong on two of the three fights. Fortunately, we had a sure thing coming in Pat Barry's victory over Cro Cop.

Mirko Filipovic vs. Pat Barry

Oops! Barry won the first round, but Cro Cop took the second. In the third, Cro Cop beat up Barry and ultimately got his back, slapped on a rear naked choke, and emerged the victor.

Ouch! We were then wrong on three of the four main card fights.

Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin

Say goodbye to Chuck Liddell. I can't believe Dana White will let him fight in the UFC again, because despite having his left arm broken from blocking one of Liddell's kicks, Rich Franklin knocked out Liddell five seconds before the end of round one. Liddell went down hard. It's time for him to stop fighting. We both called this one's outcome correctly, though neither of us figured Franklin for the knockout.

When all the fights were over, we'd both gone 2-3 on the main card, for these total results:

Kyle: 6-5
me: 7-4

Once again, I bested Kyle in the predicting battle.

As always, don't rely on our predictions for your sports betting!


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