Saturday, April 21, 2012

Your chance to make me do silly things in public

At this year's Balticon, I will once again be leading the Liars' Panel. The panel is a fund-raiser for Balticon's literacy charity. It works like this:

• I’ll ask ten questions (time permitting).

• The panelists have seen the questions in advance.

• Each panelist will answer each question.

• Three of each panelist’s answers will be lies--though if we don't get to all ten questions, you may not hear three lies from each of us. I have no way to know if you will.

• No one else knows which answers are lies; even I don’t. We have not shared our answers with each other.

• After an answer, I’ll ask if there are any challenges.

• Each person who wants to challenge may do so by holding up a hand with a dollar in it. Panelists may challenge each other.

• If the answer was a lie, the panelist puts $10 in the bucket.

• If the answer was the truth, each challenger must put $1 in the bucket.
When it works well, the panel is screamingly funny, everyone laughs, lots of people make challenges, and we raise a bunch of dough to help kids get books.

Two ingredients are essential to the panel working well: Panelists who can be funny in a short time, and great questions.

We have the first.

Which brings me to your opportunity: We need good questions. The ideal questions let the panelists tell interesting stories from their pasts--or interesting lies.

A few questions that have worked well:
• What's the weirdest gift you've ever received?

• What's the oddest purchase you've ever made?

• What talent do you have that few would suspect?
You get the idea.

If you'd like to make me deal with embarrassing questions in front of a large audience, send me some questions. I won't guarantee to use them, and I definitely won't promise whether I'll answer them truthfully, but the best of the best are likely to find their way into the Balticon Liars' Panel.

Fire away!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Camaraderie perform:
Sarah and Ben on stage

Click on the image to see a larger one.
Sorry about the white eyes;
I ran out of time to correct them.

Last night, the Broad Street Cafe in Durham hosted the debut of Ben and Sarah performing on stage together. Ben's "group," the Camaraderie, has been for some time him and any other people he happens to be working with at the time. (You can pick up his debut EP here; I recommend it.) Last night, Sarah joined Ben as part of the group.

Ben played guitar and was the lead singer. He also wrote most, if not all, of the songs. Sarah, as you can see in my not-very-good iPhone photo, played violin and sang back-up. They did a half-hour set as the opener for another act.

They were very good. As I always do in clubs, I wanted the sound mix to emphasize the vocals more, but even with the more or less standard mix they received, the sound was good. I knew most but not all of the songs from either the EP or hearing Ben perform them on his own, but they were newly interesting for the inclusion of the violin. Had I not known either of the performers, I still would have enjoyed the show.

Of course, with one of them being my daughter, I enjoyed it even more. I was proud, as you'd expect me to be, but it was more than that. As I do with Sarah's writing, I took a special joy and pride in seeing her pursue an art that she is passionate about. I couldn't help but at times feel again as I have over the years, watching her perform in an orchestra or walk on stage at school, that my body wasn't big enough or strong enough to contain my feelings, that everyone around me would see and be embarrassed by the sheer intensity of the love and pride I felt for Sarah. No one noticed, of course, but parents everywhere understand what I mean. Our children don't get it, not really, not yet; how could they? If they one day have their own children, though, then perhaps they will think of how we felt about them when their own feelings threaten to overcome them.

I was so very, very proud and happy for Sarah, and for Ben.

At the end, they sang a tune about living apart and getting to see each other only occasionally. They've held their relationship together over two years of that and then another semester while Sarah was abroad, and the joy they took in this song and in those days being behind them was evident in the performance.

Ben and Sarah will be playing at least a few more gigs locally over the coming months. I'll alert you about them here. If you get a chance, go see them. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 5

Less than three hours of sleep.

All day flying.

Working on the flights, thanks to bandwidth and upgrades.

Red Mango at DFW.

A great concert by The Camaraderie (in this case, Ben and Sarah). More on that tomorrow.

I'm home.

I'm out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 4

Rain has been our almost constant companion this week, and today was another gray, drizzly day. Even so, the city and countryside are lovely.

As usual, the day went to work, so I can't comment on any of it.

Dinner was at Castagna, which is now, for my money, one of the top two or three restaurants in this city. Its Web site defines the place as follows:

Castagna is where modern sensibility meets natural ingredients for a sensory experience that defines a new Northwest cuisine.
The definition is apt. Each dish mixes the latest food techniques with a strong emphasis on local and natural ingredients. Tonight's meal was absolutely delicious and delightful, with each course providing a few small bites that were always both tasty and a bit surprising. I would never have ordered a beet chip on my own, for example, but the one I had was amazingly good.

I recommend Castagna highly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 3

The day and the late night belonged to work, as usual.

The evening, though, was fun.

Dinner was at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Le Pigeon. Two of the guys working were relatively new to me, but the food displayed the characteristic Rucker inventiveness and great taste. My starter was a beef carpaccio but with a quail egg and caviar on it; wow, was it good. My main course, venison with foie and various herbs, was downright amazing, possibly the best venison I've ever had. I cannot recommend this small restaurant too highly.

The day we arrived in town, we noticed just up the road from the hotel a billboard for a Cirque du Soleil show, Ovo, that had started in town in early April. On the small chance that it was still here we called--and discovered to our joy that it was. A little keyboard time later, and we had front-row seats to this traveling show under the yellow-and-blue Cirque big top. Ovo focuses on insects, a theme that struck me as perfectly suited to Cirque's costumes and athletics.

It absolutely was. Ovo was a joy to watch from start to finish, with no dull moments and quite a few amazing segments. The finale, which involved trampolines and a climbing wall, was pure joy. If you get a chance to see this show, take it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 2

Meetings and other work consumed the day. It's gray and rainy here, as it so often is, but I still love this place. Not to go too vague or mystical, but something about the vibe of Portland just makes me happy.

We'd settled on sushi for dinner, but I remained doubtful of the choice. The previous two sushi places I've tried in Portland were, to be kind, not particularly good. We had settled on a restaurant, but as we were getting out of the car at the hotel, the Japanese-American bellman made a slight face when I named it.

I asked what he recommended.

He immediately responded, "Saburo's. I've eaten there many, many times."

We went there.

The bellman was right.

The sushi was quite good--not outstanding, not world-class, but definitely the best I've yet had in Portland and quite tasty. The portions were huge, too: each piece was easily the size of two, and in some cases, three normal pieces of sushi. The red bean ice cream, a dessert I love and sample whenever I get the chance, was also the best I've ever had.

I join the bellman in recommending Saburo's.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On the road again: Portland, day 1

The word of the day is "delay."

After a completely unsatisfying two hours of sleep, I showered, drove to the airport, went to my gate, and...waited. This delay was small, maybe 15 minutes in all, but it set the tone for the day.

After a long wait and a gate change in DFW, I went to my new gate, looked at the departure time, queued up, and...waited. This time, the wait started out at 20 minutes and grew to being over an hour.

When we finally reached Portland, we taxied partway to the terminal and stopped suddenly; our gate was occupied. So, we waited another 15 minutes on the runway.

Despite the many delays, I can't otherwise complain about the flights. I even got upgrades on both legs, so I was luckier than on many trips.

Dinner was a shared cheese plate and a delicious veal breast with buttermilk spaetzle at the always good Little Bird. One of my three "must-eat" places in Portland, Little Bird is the second restaurant from Gabriel Rucker and just a fun and delicious place to go.

Tomorrow, work begins here, but tonight, ah tonight I sleep.


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