Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Unchained Tour

When I heard a while back that The Unchained Tour was coming to Chapel Hill, I knew I wanted to go.  I love the idea behind it:  a group of storytellers get on a bus, drive for nine days to a bunch of cities, one each day, and in each tell stories, just people talking on stage, in support of storytelling and local-sourcing of everything--books, produce, restaurants, you name it.

The show looked even better when I learned that in addition to Peter Aguero, Dawn Fraser, George Dawes Green, and Edgar Oliver, Neil Gaiman would be performing.  I wanted to see him, but I would have happily gone if he had not been on the bus.  Of course, when word leaked that he was, our show--and I suspect others--turned into Neil Gaiman events.  To his great credit, he didn't mention it on any of his social media outlets until they needed to make sure some shows sold out, and he took his turn as an equal, one among many.  Nothing he could do, though, could stop everyone in line around us from referring to it as "a Neil Gaiman reading," "a Neil Gaiman thing," and so on.  So it goes.

My hope is that after having seen this show, all those people will support the tour when it next comes near them--even though it won't have Gaiman.  All the storytellers were at least good and frequently excellent.  My favorite was Peter Aguero, who acted as MC and told two very good stories, his second being my pick for best of the night.

The tour is over now, but it will be back.  If it comes near you, do not miss it.

And, because several folks have already asked me, yes, hell yes, I would get on that bus for nine days.  I'd be thrilled to do it.

They won't ask me, of course, but hell yeah, I'd do it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The last 10 songs I played

Folks periodically ask what I listen to while I write, and the answer is inevitably that my mixes are random and hard to predict.  That said, certain songs tend to stay in rotation for a while, and some become fixtures in my writing playlists for months at a time. 

As a sample, the last ten songs I played before I turned off the music earlier tonight were the following:

  1. "Lonely Boy," The Black Keys
  2. "Howl," The Gaslight Anthem
  3. "Man on the Moon," R.E.M.
  4. "We Belong Here," Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers
  5. "Breathing Underwater," Metric
  6. "Anna Sun," Walk the Moon
  7. "Dark Clay," Levi Weaver
  8. "This Is Why We Fight," The Decemberists
  9. "Stay Young, Go Dancing," Death Cab for Cutie
  10. "Maybe It's Over," Jon McLaughlin

Nothing too surprising here, plenty of tunes I've blogged before, a wide range of emotions, kind of a comfort mix, for whatever that's worth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Very late at night

Though I've set the time stamp of this post to say 11:59 p.m. Thursday, because this is Thursday's blog entry, I'm actually writing it a bit after five in the morning.  I consider this still Thursday because I haven't gone to bed yet; the day is still here for me. 

At this time of night, I have to avoid shopping online.  Everything looks good, presumably because my will is weaker and my emotions on the surface and I'm generally a bit stupider than I should be.  Past shopping episodes at similar hours have netted me, among other things, a sneakerphone, a seven-year subscription to Rolling Stone, and a pirate shirt. 

Which is why I will now shut down my browser and go to bed. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Gaslight Anthem's "Howl"

Sometimes a song is just the right thing.

This is one of those times.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Romney and empathy

I was never going to vote for Mitt Romney.  I disagree with too many of his policies for that to be an option. What's become clear over the last few weeks, however, is something that is, at least to me, far more damning:  As best I can tell, Romney lacks all empathy for the working people of America.

We can't blame him for having money.  I'm all for people making money.  I make a good living, and I'm not embarrassed by that fact. 

We also should not hold against him the fact that he was born into a prosperous family.  He obviously had no choice in the matter, and there's nothing wrong with being born to money.  Heck, I wish all children were.

What we must hold him accountable for, however, are the many, many ways in which he has shown that he has little appreciation of the circumstances under which most Americans live, and little to no empathy for those whose lives are hard.  I'm not talking here just about what he says on the Mother Jones-revealed tapes, though those remarks are certainly damning; I'm referring to his comments and tone throughout his campaign. 

We cannot reasonably expect a poor man ever to run for president, but we can demand that our president care about--or at least fake well caring about--the plight of those who are less fortunate than he is.

As best I can tell, Mitt Romney is not such a man.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution

You might reasonably ask why I would go to see this movie, particularly given its current RottenTomatoes critics rating of 30%. I have several answers:

  • Milla Jovovich
  • Michelle Rodriguez
  • I've seen all the others (yes, really)
  • Michelle Rodriguez
  • Milla Jovovich
  • kinda-sorta zombie-ish bad things
  • much shit goes boom
Here are things I do not expect when I walk into a theater showing a Resident Evil flick:
  • a plot that makes any kind of sense whatsoever
  • physics or any other science actually working
  • Milla Jovovich's actual face (as opposed to the increasingly heavily altered simulation of it that appears on her body
  • enough of Michelle Rodriguez (although, to be fair, is that even possible?)
  • zombie-ish bad things that obey any set of consistent rules
  • acting--forget good acting; you can't go to one of these expecting any acting
  • mediocre or better writing on any front
Having armed you with my reasons and the many things I do not expect, I can now give you this very simple review:

If you want to see this film for the same reasons I do, and if you are willing to abandon all hope for any of the things I do not expect, then you will enjoy this movie.

As, for the most part, I did.

If, however, you do not fit this profile, I suggest you stay home and catch up on your reading, or your DVR'd TV shows, or your saved-up DVDs, or your overdue toenail clipping.  Whatever.

Dystopia, zombies, art, food

I awoke at nine this morning after way, way too little sleep with the utter certainty that I was getting out of bed early on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning for absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  After all, how many people at the gaming-oriented Escapist Expo convention could possibly want to show up at this panel on dystopian futures?

It’s probably a safe bet to say that none of us really want to dwell in a radioactive wasteland, live under thumb of 1984-like government, or wander endless fields of ice in search of the day’s single meal. So, why are we so fascinated with those ideas? Join popular science-fiction authors David Drake, Mark Van Name, Mur Lafferty, and Richard Dansky as they attempt to explain our fascination with bleak futures.

I already knew that Mur couldn't make it, so it would be up to just Richard (who had agreed to moderate the affair), Dave, and me. 

Still, I dragged myself out of bed, showered, and headed to the con. 

When I arrived at the meeting room about 15 minutes before the panel was due to start, a waiting line had already formed and snaked around the corner from the room.  Dave was already there.  After Richard arrived a couple minutes later, the con organizers started letting in people.

To my amazement, the large room was nearly packed, as you can see from this picture I took of the audience (without their permission, for which I apologize). 

 As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

As best I could figure, over 200 people showed up to hear us talk, which was astounding. 

And talk we did.  Richard did a great job moderating the conversation and keeping it rolling smoothly.  We had so many attendees that he took questions from the audience for ten minutes before the official start time.  At that point, he turned to his agenda, and we were off to the races.  

We ranged all over the place, from zombies to Diodorus Siculus, Milla Jovovich to William Makepeace Thackeray, the strange quiet horrors of childhood to the extreme traumatizing horrors of war, and beyond.  (Trust me:  it all worked.)

The audience was great.  People asked smart questions, seemed fully engaged, and were extremely well-mannered.

I learned that I don't know shit about gaming conventions and their attendees, but if the good folks at the Escapist Expo are kind enough to ask me back next year, I'll do my best to attend.

We then wandered through more of Durham's lovely CenterFest, where the weather had greatly diminished the crowd,  ate a tasty Stoke & Smoke barbecue brisket sandwich for lunch, and met up with Sarah, who decided to swing by for a second visit to the show.  We shared a flight of the best mini-cupcakes I've ever had, courtesy of The Cupcake Bar, and walked some more.

As I was getting into the van to drive home, I noticed the following on the ground beside me in the parking garage. 

I've never understood littering, but this at least was vaguely surreal and artfully arranged litter.

My hat is off to the folks at the Escapist Expo.  I hope they run it again next year.


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