Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book attitude quiz

When you look around your house and see that you have more books than could possibly fit on your available shelving, which of the following do you think:

(a) I need to stop buying books.

(b) I need to get rid of some of the books I'll never read again so I have room for new ones.

(c) I need more shelves.

(d) I need to buy another house to hold my library so I can have plenty of room for new books for years.
I bet you can guess which answer I'd give.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 4

The woman at the rental car counter asked what I thought of the Fiat. I told her it was the worst car I'd ever driven. She said the woman who had turned in her agreement just before me had driven the same car and loved it. Amazing.

Austin's airport has an Amy's, and I ended up staying in the airport for over two hours. Oh, yeah.

I'm home now, and despite the timestamp on this post, it's actually close to six in the morning. I am finally, however, caught up, which is great.

I'm also staying in one place for over a week, which is awesome.

On the radio on the drive to the airport today, this song popped up. It was on the first album I ever bought. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 3

It's hard to complain about any day that includes Amy's ice cream, so I won't. I will note that the work hours have been huge--sadly, a now normal part of my travel--and Kyle and I managed to misread an iPhone app and walk about 2.5 miles in a vain attempt to find an Amy's that was not there. Our quest became amusing, however, so I could only laugh at us.

We also would not give up. So, after returning to my hotel, we had the bellmen bring round the mighty Fiat--the worst POS I have ever rented--and we drove to my favorite Amy's, where delicious ice cream was ours.

Tomorrow, work email, work meetings, more meetings, and then a frantic drive to the airport where I begin the journey home. Ah, the romance of business travel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 2

As usual on business trips, I can't discuss the business side, which is a shame, because we meet with a lot of interesting people on a lot of interested topics. Ah, well, so it goes.

Lunch was at Rudy's barbecue, where the meat was tasty and tender. Texas barbecue is awesome.

Dinner was a light, appetizers-only meal (remember the lunch barbecue) at Fonda San Miguel. Nothing there is exactly like its Mexican-food counterparts back in NC, but that's probably, according to the menu, because they focus on the foods of different parts of Mexico. In any case, the dishes were quite tasty.

A trip to Amy's capped the evening out, after which I hit the hotel room for many hours of work.

I don't want to end with such a boring entry, so I'll offer you this, a fun song from a man I'll be seeing live in less than two weeks. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 1

For quite a while, today's travels looked to be as perfect as they could be.

Rain was pattering the skylights and darkening the world when I awoke, so I grabbed an extra fifteen minutes of sleep--quite a luxury for me. I still made the airport in plenty of time without rushing. Awaiting me were upgrades on both legs.

Work in the Admiral's Club went well.

Work on the plane went well, thanks to the available bandwidth.

In DFW, I grabbed a Red Mango parfait to accompany my earlier salad as lunch.

My arrival gate was only two gates from my departure area.

As I was waiting to board the plane to Austin--a plane that had arrived early--and finishing my Red Mango, I said to myself that one could not ask for better business travel.


As I was throwing away the cup, the announcement came over the loudspeakers: Our plane had "maintenance issues" that they could not quickly repair. We all had to hustle to a new gate, one two terminals away, to board a new plane.

You don't appreciate how many people are on a plane until you share an escalator and an airport tram with them.

I boarded, went to my seat--a window, but in first class, so I couldn't complain.

The person in the aisle seat appeared. She was tall, 5'11" or so, and she was large, at least 350 pounds, probably more. She was wearing a t-shirt stretched so tight you could bounce coins off it and low-rise jeans.

Not my problem, of course. I just read my book--a new Lee Child, another treat--and worked.

After the short flight and as we were preparing to leave, she stood but had to stay stooped because the aisle was crowded. This act exposed about four inches of butt crack. When she started to move forward, I turned toward the aisle and leaned forward to follow her. She straightened a bit, which exposed another few inches of butt crack, and then stumbled and fell backward slightly...

...wedging my nose momentarily into that vast expanse of butt crack.

She tittered, apologized, and left.

I stopped in the nearest airport bathroom and scrubbed my nose with soap.

When I made it to the rental car window, they were out of cars. They proposed to give me a minivan, but I am traveling alone and did not want a van. After some discussion, they found me an alternative, a car they described only as smaller.

Mind you, I'm in Texas, where bigger is better, so of course this is the rental car I ended up driving.

A Fiat! Really?


This POS reeks of new car smell but at the same time stinks of impending decay. Driving it is like dating a zombie spackled with air-brush make-up. The car itself looks like the bastard child of a 1967 Oldsmobile and a first-gen Mini Cooper, but uglier.

Kyle and I proudly drove it to the County Line by the Lake, where the day was healed by the power of barbecue and then perfected by Amy's ice cream.

I am grateful that neither exists in Raleigh, because I couldn't afford the weight gain.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Some movie reviews

I've been traveling so much that I haven't kept up with reviews of a bunch of films I've seen recently. So, I thought I'd give you the capsule versions here.

The Debt. Beautifully acted and at times heart-wrenching, this one deserves all its critical praise. That said, you will less enjoy it than appreciate it, because it is emotionally brutal. Expect to walk out of the theater admiring the movie but feeling more than a bit disturbed.

Attack the Block. Almost the opposite experience, fun all the way. A low-budget UK indie with a cast you've never heard of, this one is just a good time. It even includes a great (and inexpensive) twist on monsters that are (most of the time) hard to see in the dark.

Contagion. Soderbergh said he wanted to make a modern tribute to the old Irwin Allen disaster flicks, and he did. The movie is stylish, with great acting from an amazing cast and wonderful directing. Its only problem is that it has such a big scope that you spend too little time with most of the characters to care much about them. In the end, it feels as much like a polemic as it does like a story, with the result that you're likely to appreciate it but never feel fully involved.

The Killer Elite. Take away the leads, and this one is a B-movie actioner you watch and instantly forget. Thanks to Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro, however, it's a B-movie actioner that you'll enjoy and remember for a little while.

Abduction. This one could have been a very good B movie, but its relatively lifeless cast dropped it a grade level. Still, as is my tendency, I had a good enough time viewing it; I just could never let my brain engage.

Blitz. We watched this one on DVD, and I have to say it surprised me. We expected another B-movie with Jason Statham, and in some ways it was, but it was also more. The plot went in unexpected directions and was vastly more complex than we expected, as were the characters (though Statham still has only one expression: squinting, with various degrees of squint). At the end, watching the credits, I understood why: a Ken Bruen story was behind it. If you don't know Bruen's work, you're missing out on some great noir fiction from a master Irish storyteller.

There's not a one of these I didn't enjoy at least somewhat, but my favorites were definitely Attack the Block and, to my surprise, Blitz.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The most touching book I've read in quite some time

I knew of Robert McCammon, but I had not read his work in the past. When Subterranean Press produced a special edition of his novel, The Five, I picked it up because, well, I get all the Subterranean books. (Literally.) I recently got around to reading it and, wow, was I blown away.

No other novel I've read recently has touched my heart as much as this one.

The book centers around a rock band, The Five. I don't want to talk about the plot, because I want you to let the book work its own magic on you.

I can tell you that the novel tackles big issues. It also takes big risks, including giving lyrics to songs (like putting original poetry in a novel, always a dicey business) and dancing with religion. It's long--over 500 pages--and at times the story moves slowly. McCammon sometimes changes viewpoint characters multiple times on a page, a no-no for most writers.

None of that matters. I loved it.

If you feel art beating inside you and trying to get out, or even if you just wish that somehow you could be heard, this book is for you.

If those characteristics don't apply to you, you should still check it out.


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