Sunday, August 31, 2008

Home From Vacations

After driving and driving and driving and staying with friends and driving and driving and swapping cars and driving and driving, we're home from our vacations at last.

More later on how it all went.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Finished Songs of Innocence in a little over a day.



Sunday, August 24, 2008


For a while, I was vacillating between whether I wanted Clinton or Obama to win the Democratic nomination. (This speech put that to rest.) The one thing I felt was in Clinton's favor (experience, in my view, being both a plus and a minus in certain ways) was this: She's a pit bull. She would not give up; she would fight dirty, if necessary; she would do whatever was in the bounds of the law to become president. And in the long primary, she proved all of that... much to the chagrin of many. (It should be noted that Dems picked up a ton of new voter registrations during this time, and the long, every-state primary was in large part why. I'll throw no stones her way.)

But Obama/Clinton was never a ticket that sounded right to me. It would open up too many questions, and set reporters to blowing up any possibility of drama.

Meanwhile, months ago, I heard Biden say about Giuliani, that all he needed to form a sentence was "a noun, a verb, and 9/11." It was a hell of a soundbite, and I thought, "That's the guy I want running for vice president."* I guess I wasn't the only one.

Obama still needs to fight back against McCain personally. I subscribe to what Josh Marshall calls (somewhat ashamedly) the "bitch-slap theory of electoral politics" -- essentially that your response to political attacks gives the public an idea of how you'll lead. If you let them continue without answering them (as John Kerry did for too long in 2004), it raises the question, "How can this man defend the country when he can't even defend himself?" And it's been the one crucial test I've been worried about Obama failing. Unlike Kerry, his defenses are eloquent. But eloquent or not, they're too long for a good soundbite.

But if you need bite, Biden's your guy. The man can jab.


*Naturally, running for Veep and being Veep require two different skill sets. I'm confident Biden has one; I hope he has the other.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old Dog

Thirty-eight is too goddamn old to be learning how to drive.


Books By Their Covers

The other day I went to the Borders at Madison Square Garden to pick up some novels to read in North Carolina. I intended to get another crime novel (because they're the juice for me right now) and a science fiction or fantasy novel for a change of pace. Immediately I picked up Songs of Innocence, Richard Aleas's sequel to Little Girl Lost, which floored me by how good it was. But as I walked the SF/F section, I simply couldn't pick one. Their covers all looked the same. or rather, they looked three different ways:

1) Hard SF: Big technology, maybe in orbit over a planet.

2) High fantasy: Serious-looking people in impractical armor.

3) Contemporary urban fantasy: Sexy women with half their faces showing.

I don't know much in the way of current SF writers -- and even less about fantasy writers. I know enough to know that I don't want to support Orson Scott Card, no matter how good Ender's Game is supposed to be. I thought I read a Dan Simmons book years ago (a vampire novel called Children of the Night, I believe), and nearly picked up Ilium, because it was one of the few covers that attracted me and I'm a mythology geek. But it was crazy long, and it looks like it has a sequel, and... I'm tired.

So I walked around the Lit section for a while, nearly picking up Possession and Lonesome Dove (which again was longer than I'm looking for, simply because I'm still harboring the illusion of reading Ulysses). But eventually I returned to crime.

And picked up Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, unquestionably something I'll enjoy. But I was really hoping for something a little more out there. If only the covers in the SF section had a bit more panache, I might have gotten it.


Man of the People

McCain Unsure About How Many Houses He Owns.

I'm the same way about my DVDs.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Regarding the Previous Post

In my haste to publish, there's one thing I forgot to add to my last post:

"Boo hoo. Poor me, I'm going on vacation. Again."

Gotta keep things in perspective.


Vacation Overload

So we’re driving to North Carolina this weekend—the last leg of our first-and-only August Vacation Overload. Three vacations in a month, scheduled so close together to accommodate a lot of diverse schedules. Speaking for myself, my wife, and our two lonely ferrets, We Will Not Do This Again. We’ve had fun on our trips, but it’s not so much fun doing laundry from the suitcase to load it into a backpack to unload it, wash it again and load it into a suitcase. And I hate seeing Gus and She-Devil settle into their comfortable routine in our living room, knowing that in a few days they’ll be having to adjust to new surroundings again.

This is wearying on a number of different levels, even before we get to the ten hours of driving.

But ten hours of driving is exactly what’s looming in our future. Luckily, we’re breaking it up, stopping over with family on the way down, and friends on the way back. But that’s still a lot of driving, and we’re taking Kathy’s car because she has air conditioning. My car used to have air conditioning, but it’s been fixed and refilled a few times now and somehow the freon keeps leaking and I’m sick of wasting the money and putting freon into the world for no good reason and anyway my windows roll down so screw it.

(Years ago, my family had a car with a broken A/C and windows that could no longer roll down. My friend Chris and I took it car shopping one July day; it was our only way to the dealerships. At every red light, we opened both doors wide so we could get some sort of a breeze through the sweltering hotbox of the Reliant. It was so hot I was actually slowing down so I would miss green lights. When we stepped out of the car, it looked like we were climbing out of a swimming pool.)

Anyway, we’re taking Kathy’s car. Which has one obstacle:A stick shift.

So I suggested that this week we trade cars, so I can drive to work in her car and get used to the controls, since it’s really unfair and impractical to make her do all the driving for this vacation. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that it’s easier to seep into my unconscious mind when I’m sleepy than at any other time of the day.

So this long post all comes down to the one point I wanted to make: There was a little bit of nervousness to my morning because of the stick shift, but nowhere near the white-knuckle terror of parking in the Canyonero.

This was really going to be a one-sentence post. Boy, did it go off the rails.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Strobe Flashes of Fest

Rather than forcing things into a narrative, I figured I'd just blog some glimpses of Fest.

  • I always stress out over getting a good space for our campsite, but things work out every time. But the uncertainty leading up to it—the drive to Schwenksville, the weird parking situation, the run to an empty spot in the field—they take their toll on poor little me. But come 10:30, when our spot is secured and all I have to worry about is hauling all of our way-too-heavy crap up and down hills on a day too hot for decent people? That’s when Fest begins.
  • Sometime during the first day, Kathy overheard a fiftyish-looking guy on his cell phone, walking through camp: “I’m at the corner of beautiful half-dressed girls and gorgeous half-dressed women. How’s your day?” It’s not like everyone at Fest is beautiful (I’m certainly not), and it’s not just that I have a weakness for hippie chicks (though I do). Maybe its just that everyone looks better when they’re happy, and Fest is a great place to be happy.
  • I walking up the hill to get water on Friday morning when I heard the difference between sleeping and passed out: “Passed out is when you don’t take your shoes off.” Works for me.
  • I really wish artists would leave some CDs with the Fest staff after they leave the festival. There were three different artists—The Felice Brothers, The Ryan Montbleau Band, and especially Kenny White—that I would have bought music from (White was so good I would have bought all three of his CDs without a second thought), but I missed the boat because I didn’t run right to the sales booth after their set. I'll probably wind up ordering these discs online, but it's an extra step that shouldn't be necessary, and probably costs more than a few sales.
  • On our last night, someone had brought a trap set and an electric bass to their campsite. (Must’ve had some batteries for the amp—it was loud.) They, along with a couple people on bongos and a guy on trumpet, were playing a propulsive, driving jam in the darkness. We ambled down and listened and grooved. I started kicking a soccer ball around with some other people gathered. A girl stood there, swaying in a swinging hula-hoop. Someone lit off some roman candles, giving the whole experience a colorful strobelike effect—frozen flashes of the soccer ball, hands smacking bongos, the hula hoop against the girl’s hip. Probably my favorite moment in camp... everything came together right then.
  • Finally, Mark Evanier sometimes introduces videos by saying there are some times you realize that you’re seeing someone do something better than anyone else. In that vein, check out Jake Shimabukuro play ukulele in this YouTube video. I saw him play three times this weekend, and each time took my breath away. Be amazed.


Thoroughly Fested

I'll write more when I'm able, but I thought I'd check in and say we're back from the wilds of Schwenksville safe and sounds, and (at last) clean. I'd also like to thank Albert Giblin and all who followed in his footsteps.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Briefly Noted

The plastic witches' cauldron that we use to display Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters has finally made its way fully up to the attic on this day, 78 days before Halloween 2008.


It's Close, I'm Come Undone

Kathy & I are hitting the road in the morning, and I've got a lot of packing to do. So here some live performances from some of the folks at the Philly Folk Fest. These are from among the performers I know of before the weekend starts. Come Monday, I'll inevitably have a new bunch'a faves. (Hoots & Hellmouth, for example? They knocked me out at Fest two years ago. Can't wait to see 'em again.)

Steve Earle: "The Revolution Starts Now"

Kimya Dawson (best known from the Juno soundtrack): "I Like Giants"

Hoots & Hellmouth: "It's Close, I'm Come Undone"

Vinx, performing an languid and beautiful version of Carole King's "It's Too Late."

Have a good one, folks. See you Monday.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Macabre Tales of Vacation

So it’s the next to last day of vacation, and one of the kids sharing the house with us—the youngest girl, a golden-haired cherub—asks me if I’d like my fortune. She has one of those folded paper oracles that kids make. So I pick a color, and she spells it out, folding and unfolding the paper flower. B-R-O-W-N. Then I pick a number, and the counts it out, moving the flower again. Then I pick my final number, and she lifts the flap and says:

“You’ll live tomorrow.”

Which is nice, I guess. But even as innocently as she said it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the kids were about to orchestrate a great culling of the tall ones, and I alone would be spared.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Speak, Team Venture!

Jackson Publick and Michale Sinterniklass talk about Venture Bros. at San Diego. If you're a fan (and you should be), you might like to see this.

"I can't tell if you guys love to hate the moppets, or if you just hate the moppets."


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ah, Publishing!

Foolish me. I looked at my work email while I was on vacation. But my inbox was largely taken up by two message threads: "33 Best Belgian Ales" and "Summertime BEER!"

Ah, publishing. Without a pub, how could we even spell it?


Not Dead Yet

I just wrote another post as I lurch my way through Ulysses. Not that my comments are illuminating in any way, but at least they're there, and I can move on to chapter 4 now.

(Warning: link and book contain booger-picking.)


Saturday, August 02, 2008

On Vacation

See you in a week.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Will the Real Mavis Trent Please Stand Up?

This is Mavis Trent, a supporting character in the Silver Age Hawkman series, a museum curator who would vie for Carter (Hawkman) Hall's affections, even though he was married to Shayera. (I found this image at Scott Tipton's Hawkman retrospective.)

She appeared at least into the 1980s Hawkman series, where it's possible she was killed. (It might have been a fakeout, though.) After that, I lost track of Hawkman for a while; it could be that she appeared in Hawkword, too. If she wasn't dead, that is.

But wherever she appeared, there was one place you could count on her not being:

A Marvel comic. The shiny lady in the center is Mavis Trent, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who is (unbeknownst to her bosses) doubling as a muckraking blogger for True Believers, a TMZ-style website in the Marvel universe. (It's also the name of the comic, written by Cary Bates and drawn by Paul Gulacy.) It's a fun read, looking at the seamier side of the Marvel universe. But I've gotta wonder what bus Mavis took to get her from Earth-1 to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.


Summer Reading

After a summer of putting off reading Ulysses (what the hell is wrong with me?), I finally read Wicked Game last week, and it's even sharper than I remembered -- and you might remember that I expected really, really good. What I wrote about it a couple months ago still stands -- it's exciting and funny in all the right places, and is a rollicking good yarn. The dialogue is sharp, the protagonist is likable (and hey, everyone likes con artists; she muses about this herself), and it builds to an exciting climax. Plus there's a host of groovy, distinctive vampires and shout-outs to great rock 'n' roll. And the sequel, Bad to the Bone, is forthcoming. Jeri Smith-Ready's blog is the place to go for updates.

So yesterday saw me haunting a bookstore once again. I was looking for one of Donald E. Westlake's Parker novels (written as Richard Stark; the first one is The Hunter, which Mel Gibson's Payback and Lee Marvin's Point Blank are based on). I wanted murder, and I wanted it in large quantities. And I wanted it Now.

Problem is, those books are out of print, and are being re-released next month. Which is fine for Future Rob, but what about me?

I went with Little Girl Lost, by Richard Aleas (Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai's contender for Best Pen Name Ever), which starts out with a murder and ladles on the guilt and noir atmosphere. I've wanted top read it since Greg pointed out Ardai's interview on Fresh Air a few months back. I also picked up The Way Some People Die, by Ross MacDonald. (Man, there are titles and there are titles.) I've never read any MacDonald (always confusing him with John D. MacDonald, whose Travis McGee books I love), but I've heard great things. So it looks like I've got a week full of sex and murder.

Sounds like a vacation to me!

(Kathy sez: "Can you limit the sex to just me?" Will do. "And the murder?" Only drifters, honey. Only drifters, and I'll bury them deep.)