Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book-A-Day #137 (11/30): Ex Machina, Vol. 4: March To War by Brian K. Vaughan and various artists

I made a comic-shop run on the way home (in part to get the kids' comics to keep the Things occupied during the parent-teacher conferences tonight -- I usually have at least two or three reason for doing anything, which makes my life exhausting), and this was one of the things for me. (The others: Kim Deitch's Shadowland, the new Zippy the Pinhead book, Gilbert Hernandez's Luba: Three Daughters, and the new ACME Novelty Library. The boys got a pile of comics for their evening of sitting in the hall at their school, and a few digests have been added to my pile of special-occasion treats for them.)

I'm getting solidly into Midnight Tides now -- I find Erikson's books take a while for me to read my way into, since they have casts of hundreds and a lot of odd names -- but I still won't finish it for nearly another week, which gives me a somewhat lackadaisical attitude about getting back to it. (Especially since I am still finishing something every day.)

Anyway, this was short, and brand new, so I read it right away. (So I'm almost just like all of those comics bloggers who run out and get their new comics every Wednesday when the stores open and post reviews by nightfall.) The "Mayor Hundred really deeply cares about something, but doesn't want to talk about it" plots are getting a bit repetitive, but I still like the characterization. This world doesn't seem as alternate as I'd expect it to be, though, and I would like to see it go a bit more science-fictional and less political. (But, then again, I would, wouldn't I?)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Book-A-Day #136 (11/29): Powers, Vol. 4: Supergroup by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

See my post on Vol. 3 for the full-on Bendis impersonation; I'm not going to attempt that again.

It's still an interesting series at this point, and major changes do happen (which I appreciate). The ex-superhero cop stays ex here, and I'm beginning to feel that he will (which is good; I don't think of that as a Checkov Gun but as a character definer).

On the other hand, Bendis's fractured dialogue plus occasionally confusing panel layouts (especially early on) led me to re-read the same pages a couple of times to figure out exactly what people are saying and if any of it means anything. That is not a good thing. Still, I probably will look for Vol. 5 when I hit the comic store the next time.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Music Meme at Eighteen

This one I discovered Nick Mamatas doing (in public, yet!)

Instructions: Go to and select the year you became 18. Paste the list of the top 75 songs. Bold the ones you liked; strike the ones you disliked; and italicize the ones you know but don't exactly like nor dislike. The ones you don't know will stay common text.

The year is 1987, and the radio is full of crap -- luckily, I'm off at college, so I'm not listening to Top 40 radio (or watching much MTV) at this point.

  1. Living On A Prayer - Bon Jovi
  2. Mony Mony - Billy Idol (1st released in 1981)
  3. (I've Had) The Time Of My Life - Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
  4. Lean On Me - Club Nouveau
  5. Songbird - Kenny G
  6. Always - Atlantic Starr
  7. Oh Yeah - Yello
  8. La Bamba - Los Lobos
  9. Faith - George Michael
  10. You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
  11. With Or Without You - U2
  12. Don't Give Up - Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush
  13. Bad - Michael Jackson
  14. It's Tricky - Run DMC
  15. You Got It All - the Jets
  16. U Got The Look - Prince
  17. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - U2
  18. Girls, Girls, Girls - Motley Crue
  19. Didn't We Almost Have It All - Whitney Houston
  20. Casanova - Levert
  21. La Isla Bonita - Madonna
  22. Funky Town - Pseudo Echo
  23. Wanted Dead Or Alive - Bon Jovi
  24. Can't We Try - Dan Hill and Vonda Sheppard
  25. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) - Beastie Boys
  26. The Final Countdown - Europe
  27. Open Your Heart - Madonna
  28. Looking For A New Love - Jody Watley
  29. In Too Deep - Genesis
  30. Let's Wait Awhile - Janet Jackson
  31. Where The Streets Have No Name - U2
  32. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight - Genesis
  33. Shake You Down - Gregory Abbott
  34. Somewhere Out There - Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram
  35. Talk Dirty To Me - Poison
  36. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You - Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
  37. Big Time - Peter Gabriel
  38. The Finer Things - Steve Winwood
  39. Land of Confusion - Genesis
  40. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship
  41. Luka - Suzanne Vega
  42. Girls - Beastie Boys
  43. The Lady In Red - Chris Deburgh
  44. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) - Whitney Houston
  45. True Faith - New Order
  46. Dude (Looks Like A Lady) - Aerosmith
  47. Touch Me (I Want Your Body) - Samantha Fox
  48. Moonlighting Theme - Al Jarreau
  49. Heart and Soul - T' Pau
  50. Heartbreak Beat - Psychedelic Furs
  51. Keep Your Hands To Yourself - Georgia Satellites
  52. Caught Up In The Rapture - Anita Baker
  53. Come Go With Me - Expose
  54. Brass Monkey - Beastie Boys
  55. Day In, Day Out - David Bowie
  56. Don't Leave Me This Way - Communards
  57. Fascinated - Company B
  58. Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room) - Paul Lekakis
  59. I'm No Angel - Gregg Allman Band
  60. Only In My Dreams - Debbie Gibson
  61. Touch of Grey - Grateful Dead
  62. Learning To Fly - Pink Floyd
  63. When Smokey Sings - ABC
  64. Graceland - Paul Simon
  65. At This Moment - Billy Vera and the Beaters
  66. World Shut Your Mouth - Julian Cope
  67. I Just Can't Stop Loving You - Michael Jackson
  68. Heart and Soul - The Monkees
  69. Why Can't I Be You - The Cure
  70. Downtown Train - Patty Smyth
  71. Catch Me I'm Falling - Pretty Poison
  72. Heaven Is A Place On Earth - Belinda Carlisle
  73. Point Of No Return - Expose
  74. I Want Your Sex - George Michael
  75. I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany
I bet a lot of those plain-type titles would turn into strikethroughs if I remembered them; they mostly sound like things I would hate. In several cases, I know I never liked any song that particular group did, but I can't remember the one on this list -- so I didn't strike them out purely from lack of specific memory.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Book-A-Day #135 (11/28): The Legend of Grimjack, Volume Five by John Ostrander, Tom Sutton and others

(Over to the left is my very own scan of the book cover; Amazon and B&N have a different cover, which is not the one on the actual book -- at least, not on my copy of it.)

The cover credits this book to "Ostrander/Truman," and while it is true that Truman co-created Grimjack, and it is true that Ostrander wrote all of the stories in here, there's only eight pages of Truman art (out of about 180). So that's not exactly what one would call truth in advertising.

Most of the issues collected here (#s 22-30) were penciled by Tom Sutton, who is not generally considered among the greatest Grimjack artists (to put it mildly). I don't remember anything else he worked on, but he was a bad match for this series, and the contrast of his work with Truman's made it look even worse.

This is also a lowish point for Ostrander's writing; it feels a little like he's casting about for new ideas for the series (as it runs through the end of its second full year, deals with the aftermath of a big plotline, and tries to find a post-Truman direction). In particular, the full issue about Grimjack's sidekick BlackJacMac and his girlfriend Goddess talking in great depth about their relationship is wince-inducing. (Ostrander is generally a good writer, but his people get awfully schmaltzy when they start talking to each other about how they feel.)

Of course, this is volume five -- the only people buying this are those who like the series enough to keep going with it. (And it does pick up later -- somewhat when Tom Mandrake takes over the art, and much more a few years later when Flint Henry comes on board.) I just dove into my old longboxes, and this series ran to issue #81 -- at the current speed, the publisher (IDW) will need at least six more volumes. I've stuck around this far, so I expect I'll keep going...

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Book-A-Day #134 (11/27): RGK: The Art of Roy G. Krenkel edited by J. David Spurlock and Barry Klugerman

Before this book, I knew of Krenkel just as "that guy who painted like Frazetta before Frazetta." Now, I think of him as "that guy who was completely unprofessional." Both are not entirely true, but what the hell...

I should explain: Krenkel was older than Frazetta, and broke into book publishing (doing Edgar Rice Burroughs books that Ace's Don Wollheim thought were in the public domain) slightly before Frazetta. Also, they were friends, and part of the same circle. And they were both, initially, very influenced by the early 20th century illustrator J. Allen St. John.

Second: several of the essays in this book mention that Krenkel had no phone, was hard to reach, was very reluctant to part with his paintings, and had to be coaxed into accepting commissions at all. If that all doesn't add up to "unprofessional" for a cover illustrator, I don't know what does.

There's a lot of good art in this book -- Krenkel's line work is particularly interesting -- but it's not organized in any way, and there's no way to trace his work over time. The various essays included are also very scattershot, and don't really explain Krenkel or his art well. I'm afraid that this book was created for people who already know everything about Krenkel, and just want a nice book collecting his best stuff. I hope all of them have already bought it; the rest of us would have liked a book that actually presented Krenkel and said something about why we should care about him.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #133 (11/26): Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio

A very nice collection of the artwork of a really interesting artist (who seemed to explode over the last two or three years -- though this book shows that was just because I wasn't paying attention before that), who is also a great guy. (And I know he reads this blog! Ah, the perils of being in a small, friendly community.)

It may seem a bit pricey compared to other SFF art books, but the $39.95 cover price buys you a 200-page hardcover (as opposed to the 128 pages of most art books). And that's the same price, for roughly the same page count, as the last two Spectrum books, so it's not out of line. (I'll also mention that the paper stock in Cover Story is great; it's very white, not too slick, and manages to be thinner and lighter than many similar books -- like Spectrum -- without any show-through problems.)

The layout and design is notably good; I hope it doesn't sound condescending when I say I didn't expect this level of design from MonkeyBrain (this is their first full-4C book, right?) This looks as professional and eye-catching as anybody's art book, and better than many.

I don't know if I have anything coherent to say about Picacio's art: I generally like it, and, even more than that, I nearly always think it's great art for the project (which is not the same thing). I'm hoping that all the praise he's getting -- and the great work he's doing -- will help open up SFF art to less slavishly realistic painting styles. I mean, Michael Whelan is wonderful, but we've gone through nearly thirty years of everybody trying to paint as much like Whelan as possible, which isn't good for anyone. (I like going to an artshow, getting up close, and looking at brushstrokes; I'm weird that way.) There are other people working in similar artistic areas -- John Harris's brooding spacescapes come to mind, and of course Rick Berry and Bruce Jensen have been doing highly symbolic work for a long time -- but Picacio seems to be breaking out in a larger way than anyone since Bob Eggleton has, and I'm hoping he drags at least part of the field along with him. (If Richard Powers or Paul Lehr turned up today as young men, they wouldn't get any work; I'd like to see that change.)

This book is chock-full of images that I hadn't realized were by Picacio; they were excellent covers for their particular books, and I hadn't thought about them any more than that. That's a good thing for an illustrator -- some works do pop out at you and demand attention, but the quieter covers that just do their job consistently are even more important.

If you have any interest at all in SFF art, you should own this book; Picacio is going to be one of our major illustrators of the 21st century, and this is a thoughtful retrospective of his career so far.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Movie Log: Manhattan

I saw most of Woody Allen's "earlier, funnier" movies back in high school, but I petered out somewhere before this and Annie Hall. So, since I'm watching a lot of twenty-year-old comedies, I figured it was time to catch up a bit on the Woodman.

First of all, this has some of the loudest, most intrusive incidental music in the known universe -- coming right after scenes of mumbled quick dialogue (on a DVD with no English-language subtitles) -- which made for lots and lots of volume shifts up and down just to try to listen to the damn thing.

And the black-and-white looks very murky on a standard TV in a basement with other lights on -- I imagine it was gorgeous in a first-run theater, twenty-five years ago, but I don't exactly have access to that, now do I?

So it was hard to concentrate on the movie itself; physically watching and listening to it was difficult. It's not as funny as I hoped (I think the movie I wanted is Annie Hall), and it definitely shows Allen sliding down the slope of casting himself as the charismatic, womanizing, central male figure even when he really doesn't fit (without being rich and famous Woody Allen, as he is in real life). The fact that he's dating seventeen-year-old Mariel Hemingway, and this is only a minor point of interest, is either an indication that the late '70s really were a different time, or Allen's nudge that the movie can't be taken as much on the surface as it appears.

Anyway: I liked it, and I watched it to the end, but I didn't love it. It's one of those movies that makes me wish I lived in New York (preferably also having magically become single, rich, thin, devastatingly handsome -- well, more so -- and amazingly witty -- again, more so), so I guess that's a positive.

Anyone who wants to watch this and get the full effect, though, needs a serious home theater set-up: big, good screen, low lights, and serious soundproofing.

Book-A-Day #132 (11/25): a tie-in book I wasn't thrilled by

It's pure product, and I have nothing constructive to say about it. (And nothing destructive I'd be dumb enough to say.)

It was a book; I read it today; let's just move on. I dive into Midnight Tides tomorrow, so expect a lot of comics and such-like while I work through the 900+ pages of that.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

So the Terrible Twins Came To Call on Me...

And they said, "Dude! You've gotta do this meme that all the cool kids are doing." And I said "No way!" And you can guess where it went from there.

Envy:Very Low
Pride:Very Low

Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

I like to think that the Greed and Sloth balance each other out, leaving me karmically neutral. The Lust score is pretty surprising; I have no idea what questions led to that. I'm sure I could work up some good Wrath if I had to.

And "Gluttony" is such a loaded term, isn't it?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Book-A-Day #131 (11/24): White Night by Jim Butcher

Once again, I'm reading a book that hasn't been published yet. So it would be best if you went to see what I said about Proven Guilty (the previous book in this series) last week, since that applies just about as well to this one. It's going to be published in April, and it's the ninth in the "Dresden Files" series.

And, also once again, the first time I saw the cover to the left is five minutes ago when I went to check Amazon for it to paste in here and make with the pretty. Nobody seems to do cover flats in this business anymore...

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #130 (11/23): She-Hulk Vol. 3: Time Trials by Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo (mostly)

First of all, one of the five issues collected here is entirely concerned with explaining and cleaning up after some kind of cross-over (in which it looks like Shulkie went crazy and rampaged around) -- which is a massive waste of space, and emblematic of how screwed up "mainstream" comics are. That issue also pushes one of my biggest buttons, in that Shulkie gets worked up about the fact that she might have been responsible for one death during the aforementioned rampage. Hey, girl -- you've caused the death of dozens of people, easy. Your cousin, the original Hulk? I know you make a big deal of arguing that he couldn't possibly have ever let even a little kitten get its widdle toesies hurt, but that's bullshit. I'd bet that at least hundreds, possibly thousands, of people are dead because of him. That's how violence works; that's what happens when super-powered people throw each other through things for forty years or so.

So that issue sucked. And the one that's all a long list of random people talking about how special and wonderful Jen Walters/She-Hulk is (with a whole lot of interchangeable over-bulked art by a bunch of probably popular artists) is also tedious and dull.

The rest of this trade is pretty good, though, and those issues really drive home the essential lesson: screw continuity. This book could possibly still be in print in ten years, and no one will give a crap what was going on in Avengers in mid-2005 at that point. So there's no reason that this book should have cared. Comics writers: tell your stories, and ignore the stories the other writers are telling if they don't fit. Really. It's much easier, and it makes everything better.

(On the plus side, this has Juan Bobillo as the artist most of the time; I'm liking his stuff so much I might even go out and see what else he's done. And the same thing for Dan Slott, the writer -- he has a nice light touch and a sense of the absurd that works well with super-powered silliness.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #129 (11/22): The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

I started reading this at Philcon (after buying it there), where Charlie was the Guest of Honor -- I thought that was appropriate.

It's the sequel to The Atrocity Archives, though this one is more of a James Bond parody, while Archives was a weird Len Deighton thing. (Both are semi-serious, and show that Stross is the one and true heir of H.P. Lovecraft.) I love them to death; they're my favorite Stross books, and this one is even better than Archives. (Though he did cheat in his twist at the end of the novel -- yes, I suppose the geas could be twisted that way, but the plot the geas was following would not focus on anyone but the "main character" for any extended period of time.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

50 Most Significant SFF Books, 1953-2002

Since I've hit three memes today already, I think I've trained hard enough for this one. And, besides, if I didn't embarrass myself enough with the Hugos, Nebulas, and World Fantasy Awards, how I can beat that now?

This is the Science Fiction Book Club's list of the fifty most significant science fiction/fantasy novels published between 1953 and 2002. (The people primarily responsible for the list, by the way, were myself and Ellen Asher. I should also point out that the top ten are ranked, but the rest are just listed alphabetically by title; we'd gotten tired of fighting at that point.)

The Key:
Bold the ones you've read.
Strike-out the ones you hated.
Italicize those you started but never finished.
Put an asterisk (*) beside the ones you loved.
  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison*
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
  27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny*
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys*
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester*
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
So that's 39 out of 50 -- 78% is pretty good, I think. Some of the others (like Timescape and I Am Legend) I still have hopes of getting to some day, but most of the others I'd be happy if I never read them.

Meme #3: Totally Awesome!

This is something I'm trying to turn into a meme, if that's possible. P.N. Elrod had created herself as a South Park character (using the tool here), and I thought that looked like fun. So here's me; what do you look like?

More Meme-age

This was running all over the place a few days ago, but I was too busy then. (I also thought it was stupid, which hasn't really changed.) But I can usually be counted on to fill out a quick meme quiz as long as it's pointless, so...

You are The Hermit

Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.

The Hermit points to all things hidden, such as knowledge and inspiration,hidden enemies. The illumination is from within, and retirement from participation in current events.

The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. You do not desire to socialize; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. You prefer to take the time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent but these feelings eventually lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.

The Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

No Big Surprises Here...

Picking up a meme from Sherwood Smith, I find that...

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader

Book Snob

Literate Good Citizen


Fad Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book-A-Day #128 (11/21): Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

The snazzy hardcover you see to your left (with the bizarre asymmetrical cover by Chip Kidd) is at least the third version of this story I've owned; it replaced an old beaten-up trade paperback (which I think I bought in the UK as a remainder there), and I still have the original issues, which I bought when they came out. This is a somewhat new hardcover edition; it came out last year but I finally broke down and got a copy of it a couple of months ago.

The only thing new in this package is an afterword by David Mazzucchelli, which is just OK -- on the other hand, it's only a $19.99 hardcover, so it's not a huge investment. And anyone who can stand any kind of long-underwear comics must own this story.

This was the first major modern retelling of Batman's origin, and one of the few retellings that didn't focus on the death of his parents; it's the story of the first year of "Batman" -- and, actually, it's as much or more the story of then-Lieutenant Gordon. Everything about it works exceptionally well; this is one of the Batman stories that makes you think that vigilante justice in black tights might be plausible. (And it's amazing to think of how the various Sin City collections are basically just this story with all morality and hope carefully drained out of it.)

Again, if you ever had any interest in Batman, you need to own this. (But, then, you probably already do.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #127 (11/20): What Would Wally Do? by Scott Adams

Scott Adams is beginning to get greedy. This is a new Dilbert book (well, newish; I think there's been one more since this came out), but it's not a book of new cartoons. Instead, this collects what seems to be all of the Dilbert cartoons of the last seventeen years with Wally in them (so those of us who already have a shelf-full of them don't have to poke through to find all of the manifestations of Wally, I guess).

I'd feel annoyed if this book wasn't so funny; Wally is a great character and I really do enjoy reading about him. (And I didn't balk when G.B. Trudeau did something similar with Action Figure! and Dude: The Big Book of Zonker.)

The Dilbert TV show stuck voices in my head for all of the Dilbert characters -- luckily, that show was exceptionally well-cast, so the voices are all perfect for those characters (Larry Miller's Pointy-Haired Boss was my particular favorite, but whoever did the Wally voice also nailed it).

So, all in all, I liked this book, and I guess it was worth the price. But anyone who thinks this is a book of new cartoons should be warned: it isn't.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Meme...

Another one of these danged intrusive lists of questions, designed to turn us all into whiny liberal bare-your-souls types. Bah, humbug! (And yet I do it....odd how that works.)

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate is OK, but good nog beats everything.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Only heathens have unwrapped presents.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I prefer white, as does The Wife. I always have to string the lights on my mother's tree as well, though (since I'm a persnickety perfectionist, so I'm the one who does it best), and she has colored lights. So I get to do both.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No

5. When do you put your decorations up? Depends on when we get the tree -- when we used to get a "regular" tree, it usually sat outside for a week in a bucket of water, which pushed decorating close to Christmas. The last couple of years (and again this year, I think), we've gone out and cut down our own tree, and then it goes into the stand as soon as we get it home -- and gets decorated as soon as it settles, which is usually a day later.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? My mother makes something she calls "Christmas Apples," which are a hot baked, pastry-encrusted breakfast thing. They're wonderful.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: I have a horrible memory for my own past, so I can't say. I don't really remember my childhood as such, though I'm sure I had one.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I'm pretty sure I twigged early, but I have no solid memory.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We used to, especially back before kids, when we'd all go to my mother's house for Christmas Eve. But not these days, since the adults get only a present or two, and you don't want to waste them early.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Piles and piles of random stuff, from really expensive ornaments to paper Rescue Hero cut-outs and a plastic keychain of Matthew Vassar that was a giveaway at college. Pretty much everything has a story, so trimming the tree takes quite a while, and gets very self-indulgent.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I have to shovel it, and it doesn't keep me from having to work...but I still generally like it more than I don't.

12. Can you ice skate? Never been on skates.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I got a black trenchcoat one year that was exactly what I wanted. (I'm still wearing the second generation of that gift -- once I find something I like, I tend to get precisely the same thing over and over again.)

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? The whole spirit of the time makes me happy; I'm not generally a happy person, so that's a nice change.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Pecan pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We've done a gift-swap thing with wrapped large chocolate bars for about a decade now -- everybody gets a random number out of a hat, and we go in that order, either unwrapping a new one or "stealing" a bar from someone else -- and, when it works well, it's an amazingly good time. (Trimming the tree is also nice.)

17. What tops your tree? A silver plastic fold-out thing that I think came out of an Absolut ad several years back -- it's shiny and full of cut-outs and looks like a really nice star (but also folds down flat).

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving; it's rare for someone to get me something I really like. (And I used to be really good at getting great gifts for people, back when I had more time.)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song(s)? "Merry Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by U2. I'm a sucker for sad rock n' roll.

20. Candy Canes! yuck or yummy? They taste fine, but in my family they're nearly purely decorative -- most of the ones on my mother's tree date back to the first Bush administration (Bush senior), and are no longer in the category of edible things.

21. Fave Christmas Movie? Love, Actually

A Point of Clarification

Books can never "indict" anyone for anything. Prosecutors indict people. Books just complain about things.

Keep that in mind, o literary ones...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Kids' Books Meme

Another "big list of books" meme; this time all of things for the young'uns. I found this at Kid Lit.
(I may do the SFBC list in a day or so, but it feels incestuous to do so -- I mean, I helped form that list, typed it up, and talked about it with reporters.)

Anyway, this one's rules: bold things you've read, asterisk (*) ones you like. I've also italicized the ones I've read to the Things, but that's my own addition.

  • *Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

    I think I liked it; I read it so long ago...

  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

    Eh. The pictures are pretty, and it might be nice read silently, but it doesn't work all that well out loud, which makes it a lousy picture book.

  • *Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

    One of the greats.

  • *The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss


  • *Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

    Possibly my favorite book ever.

  • Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch

    It looks like solidified treacle, so I've avoided it so far.

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    I would never inflict this horrible piece of crap on the Things. Feh.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

    I can generally take or leave Carle, though I do like his art.

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

    I've heard of it, but never knowingly saw it.

  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

    If this is the one about a lost mitten that becomes a snowman's heart, then yes. That story is very sappy, but cute.

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

    Not exactly a favorite, since it's basically a list, but I did have it memorized for a while (and even memorized backwards, which is even better). In fact, I read it backwards to Thing 2 last night, to show him how Thing 1 and I used to do it. (There was a time when I read this last to Thing 1 every single night.)

  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

    Never heard of it. But I bet it's one of those "message" books.

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

    Not exactly a favorite, since Lewis does talk down severely to his audience, but I've always liked it.

  • *Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein

    Thing 1 in particular loved this to death when we discovered it about a year and a half ago.

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

    Another clean miss.

  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

    Too message-y for my taste (and too wordy).

  • Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

    Eh. Late and very minor Seuss, kept alive only because most people are too stupid to think of an interesting gift.

  • Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola

    I'm pretty sure we own it, but I don't think we've read it. We have a lot of books.

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

    I can't explain exactly why, but Thing 1 liked this a lot, though we haven't read it in a long time.

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.

    Another one illustrated by the ubiquitous Eric Carle. We read it once or twice, from the library, but it didn't stick.

  • *Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

    I read it to Thing 1 a year or so ago (closely followed by Great Glass Elevator), and afterward he didn't want me to dive into Danny, the Champion of the World or James and the Giant Peach. But I love it, and both boys liked both movie versions.

  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

    I know I at least skimmed it. I believe we own a copy. Even my very sentimental boys are not girly enough to want to read this, though.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    There's much less here than appears to the adolescent eye, but it's an OK book.

  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

    Not a clue. I bet "Shiloh" is a dog, and I bet he dies at the end...

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

    About time to dig it back out this year, actually.

  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

    Someone forgot "and Lane Smith" up there; Scieszka and Smith are a great team, though this isn't quite their best. (That's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.)

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault

    Thing 2 loves the energy of it.

  • Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    I am male, as are both of my children. I don't have to read this, or feel guilty about never even looking at it.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    See above. (Though I did see the movie version from about a decade ago, which was nice enough.)

  • *The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

    I have the original small hardcovers (now in Thing 1's room, in the vain hope that he'll read them), the big all-the-prose hardcover, the big all-the-poetry hardcover, and the big all-the-prose-and-poetry-together hardcover. I probably have too much Pooh, honestly.

  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

    Never saw it as a kid.

  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

    See above about boyishness. Librarians tend to be women (and the big readers among kids tend to be girls), so lists like this fill up with extremely girly things. We need a lot more Captain Underpants here.

  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

    Never ran into it.

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

    I liked it well enough as a kid, but I haven't read it in close to thirty years. There's a copy lurking somewhere for when the boys get older, if they care.

  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

    No idea.

  • The BFG by Roald Dahl

    I've read some Dahl (I have a copy of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Eight Others that was a great eye-opener as a kid), but not this one.

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

    It was after my time, and it looks like spinach.

  • *If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

    Very cute, though some of the spin-offs get a bit silly.

  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

    Not yet, though I want to. There's a copy in Thing 1's room, and I might have to take it some day to read myself.

  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    More girly stuff! I feel like I'm hacking through the jungle...

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

    Not a clue.

  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

    Not a favorite due to Tolkien's excessively twee tone, but it's good enough. Haven't tried it on the boys yet. (Thing 1 doesn't want to be read to these days, and Thing 2 doesn't seem to want long books.)

  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

    Feh. Sanctimonious claptrap. Won't have it in the house.

  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

    No idea.

  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

    I think we've established that I am completely innocent of Lois Lowry.

  • *Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien

    I liked it a lot at the time, but haven't re-read it. Someday I may spring it on the boys.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    Girly, girly, girly! Get it away!

  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

    The lesson is a bit Harrison Bergeron-ian (no fish can be better than any other fish), but it's a gorgeous book, and I guess it's supposed to be about sharing, and not about forcible redistribution of wealth.

  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

    No clue.

  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

    Golly! I dunno.

  • *Corduroy by Don Freeman

    One of the great picture books of the 20th century. (Though I like his Norman the Doorman about equally, and that one is a bit more interesting.)

  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

    I honestly can't remember. We may have read it, or I may have poked through it in the library. Oh, what the heck -- I'll bold it. I probably read it.

  • *Math Curse by Jon Scieszka

    Just read it the other night, in fact. A great, great book. And it leads into two other wonderful books, as well -- Science Verse and Seen Art? I hope they do more.

  • Matilda by Roald Dahl

    No, though I expect I will, eventually.

  • Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls


  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

    I don't think I ever read Blume -- I'd shot over to the adult shelves at about the time my peers were reading her (and, as I've repeatedly mentioned, I was not a girl, so I didn't secretly read her teen or adult books ).

  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

    Again, I was reading higher-level stuff when I would have liked this.

  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

    I know I had a copy, but I don't think I ever read it.

  • *Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman

    A great read-aloud book, with lots of opportunity for interaction and silly voices.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    As opposed to Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, which was above?

  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

    Not my favorite McCloskey -- which is probably Blueberries for Sal (though I like One Morning in Maine as well), but his art is wonderful and the story is pleasant.

  • *One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

    I've been reading it to Thing 2 lately, as he starts to learn to read. Very energetic and fun.

  • *The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    Read it to the boys just a few months ago. They liked it, but didn't love it.

  • *The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

    A wonderful book; we've got a bunch of Keats books (though he can be very uneven).

  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood


  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

    I didn't encounter this until I had the boys, but it seemed to me (and to them) to be awfully scary for little kids.

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

    I probably expurgated it as I read it to them -- I think some minor character gets turned into stew off-page...

  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt


  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

    Read it to them last year, if I remember right.

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

    I'm going to have to replace my girly detector when this is over. The damn thing's going wild.

  • *Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

    I can't tell you how much of my personal philosophy was molded by "I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant's loyal, one hundred percent." Still gets to me. (As does Horton Hears the Who, which is much scarier.)

  • Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus

    No, though I did read a whole pile of her similar "Anatole" books to Thing 1 back around 2003-2004; I'd loved those when I was a kid.

  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

    It is a pure cliche, but we must have four copies of it around the house.

  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor

    A clean miss.

  • *Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey

    I love the art, though Thing 1 used to get very upset with all of the George stories, and eventually stopped me from reading any of them to him. (He can be very sensitive, especially when he was about four.)

  • Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

    Sounds like fun, but I've never heard of it.

  • Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown

    I don't love them, but some are quite good.

  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

    Heard of it; never read it.

  • Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

    I'm pretty sure I've read it, in the library, but it's too girly for my boys. (They've liked Chester's Way and Owen and even Sheila Rae, the Brave.)

  • Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Oh, yes! Let's pretend we're snowed in and have a tea party with all of our dolls! {claps} Not for me.

  • The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

    Burton is a great talent, and this is her least impressive (and most didactic) book. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a great classic, but my favorite (and the boys') is Katy and the Big Snow. Maybelle the Cable Car is also a lot of fun (and has a similar moral to that of The Little House without being so horribly obvious about it.)

  • The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

    It's very sweet, though I'm not anybody's mother.

  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

    No, though I did read Holes.

  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

    Oh, I think I read all of the Amelia Bedelia books back when I was a kid. Little boys love dumb jokes, so I should try them out on my boys.

  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh


  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

    Thing 1 liked it a lot.

  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater

    No idea. Damn, this is a long list.

  • My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

    I don't think so, though I've seen it.

  • *Stuart Little by E. B. White

    I used to love all of the "little people" books -- The Mouse on the Motorcycle, The Borrowers, The Littles, and so on.

  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech


  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

    Double no.

  • The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola

    Don't think so.

  • *Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

    The boys love it, too -- monkeys are always a hit with little boys.

  • Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

    We used to read these books a lot, but not much lately.

  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri

    {sighs} No.

  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

    Yup. A good 'un.

  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

    Sounds faintly dirty.

  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

    It has got to be a book with a message. I'm glad I missed it.

  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

    Too cute for its own good, and sweet enough to rot your teeth, but I liked it.

  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

    Nope. I've read a couple of Munsch books, but not that one.

So I've read 54 of them, which is decent but not all that high. I've missed most of the YA books on that list, since I mostly jumped over reading YA books. (Though, come to think of it, I think this might just be a very girly list -- I was reading a lot of Paul Zindell and Daniel Pinkwater, neither of whom show up here at all. I call discrimination against boys.)


Yes, it's another one of those stupid polls. Why is it so hard to avoid them?

You scored 40 % Aggressivness, 73 % Technology, and 40 % Social Enlightenment!
Homeworld: Romulus

Distantly related to the Vulcans, the Romulan people are a secretive and arrogant race. They have advanced technology and usually claim to have invented every technological breakthrough before any other culture. Romulans rarely attack first, preferring instead for someone else to make the first move. Once attacked, however, they make a formidable enemy. Although a moral people, Romulans still believe in abandoning genetically or physically inferior infants. Most Romulans also greatly fear the Tal Shiar, the Romulan's own military service - most have horror stories about their treatment at the hands of this secret service. As a Romulan, you can be quite ruthless and difficult to get to know. You have a definite sense of right and wrong, which can make you quite small-minded and resistant to other opinions. You greatly value knowledge - not so much for its own sake, but for the power it gives you. You are a great believer of knowledge equaling power and you're not above blackmailing people to get your own way, if necessary. Your one saving grace is that you're not a naturally aggressive person and you do not needlessly put yourself in dangerous situations - you're too smart for that. Even though you would make a fierce opponent, it would take a lot for someone to make you an enemy. This also makes you extremely dangerous, as many tend to underestimate your ability.










Like this test? Then don't forget to rate it!!

Want more? How about some shameless self-promotion? I've also written other tests - check them out! You know you want to...

The Trekkie Test

The Do *YOU* Remember The 90's Test

The Capitals of the World Test

The Australian Trivia Test

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

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You scored higher than 99% on Aggressivness

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You scored higher than 99% on Technology

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Link: The Which Star Trek Species R U Test written by MadameBoffin on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Calling John Klima!

If you're not John, you can read this anyway, but I don't know what good it will do.

John: if you see this, and you're coming to the Mill & Swill tonight (and you don't have solid dinner plans), give me an e-mail (andrew dot wheeler at doubledayent dot com) or a call (phone number removed in edit) -- my dinner plans just fell through and we haven't had a chance to talk in a while.

(I thought I had your e-mail, but it turned out I was wrong.)

Update, Two hours later: Good news: the speed of the Internets (and the help of John Picacio) got me in touch with John with lightning speed. Bad news: he's not coming to the Mill & Swill. Oh, well -- you win some and you lose some.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Book-A-Day #126 (11/19): Beyond the Gap by Harry Turtledove

This one I read for work; it's not publishing until February. And I have questions for the publisher about its genre placement and its series-ness, so I need to be even more vague than usual with books still to be published.

But I did enjoy it quite a bit; I read it during Philcon, and I kept wanting to get back to it. It's written in a limited third person that almost feels like first at times; I really felt that I got into the main character's head and liked being there.

This is, I believe, an alternate history in which civilization arose much earlier, and spread across the world during interglacial periods. This particular story takes place in the Great Plains of North America, where an empire rules south of The Glacier. (I'm sure there will be some readers who will be able to place this story exactly in time and space from a few small details -- and have informed opinions on the surviving megafauna -- but I'm not one of them. There are glaciers and mammoths; so for me it's set in a Time Long Ago That Never Was.) An expedition heads north when it's discovered that the glacier has moved back enough to open up a gap to the lands to the north -- lands unseen by this civilization for thousands of years...

(It's a great set-up, and Turtledove does some good stuff with it.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #125 (11/18): Owly: Just a Little Blue by Andy Runton

The second Owly book is a lot like the first (the plot, in fact, is very reminiscent of "The Way Home"), but introduces some more characters and some age-appropriate tension and conflicts.

I like it; it won't be for everyone but I'm glad there are comics like this out there. (And I hope Thing 2 will like them, too.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #124 (11/17): Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton

Here I go: cheating again. I was running off to a convention (Philcon), so I threw the first two Owly books into my bag, to make sure I'd finish a book every day.

The Owly books are very sweet, nearly-wordless comics (the only words are on objects within the panels -- sometimes the words are necessary to the story, though) suitable for even very young readers. I intend to read them with and pass them on to my younger son, Thing 2, over the next few days.

This is the first book, which has two stories (the first about sixty pages, the latter roughly ninety) about a cute little owl. Owly is very sweet, and wants to be helpful and friendly, but other animals don't always believe him at first. The animals are very anthorpomorphized, but the art has a slightly rough, almost mini-comics feel, as if Runton were running the pages out just as fast as he can to get the story told. I found that gave the stories a lot of charm and life, but people who prefer a lot of "mature content" in their comics probably won't like this.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Off to Philcon

I'm just jumping in my car to drive off to Philcon in a couple of minutes, so there won't be any posts here (or the SFBC Blog) until at least Sunday night, when I get back.

I imagine this won't be more than a minor inconvenience for anyone...I mean, it's not The End of the Internet or anything!

Quote of the Week

"A popular author is he who writes what the people think. But genius invites them to think something else."
- Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Movie Log: Sex and Lucia

Sex and Lucia is one of those European movies that make up for having a lot of sex (among Highly attractive people, no less) by being really slow, turgid, and depressing -- oh, I'm sorry, "serious."

It's somewhat mistitled -- Lucia might be onscreen the most, but her boyfriend, Lorenzo, is the center of the movie. And it's less about sex than it is about connections; it's the kind of movie that only has nine characters, who're all inter-connected in ridiculously convoluted ways. (It also has a semi-complicated structure, with two plot strands -- one in the present day, one in flashback -- and some scenes that may be fictional or may not be.)

The Wife and I saw it last night -- we made it all the way to the end, but we weren't thrilled. It's a little too slow, and a little too unfocused too much of the time. It really needed tighter cinematography, and better shot choices (when it drops into flashback for the first time, both of us thought one newly introduced female character was actually Lucia for quite a while -- it's a movie that's confusing for reasons of physical murkiness and bad camera placement far too much).

On the other hand, the sex is mostly nice, though sometimes disturbing at the same time. And the acting is quite good. This should have been a better movie; all of the pieces were there, but it didn't come together the way it should. If you want to see naked Europeans having Important Sex, this might be a movie for you -- especially if you smoke above eye level.

Book-A-Day #123 (11/16): Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

I didn't read an edition with this very serious, brooding cover you see over to your left -- I still had a bound galley from last year kicking around my office (bound in a springlike light pinkish-tan), and that's what I read. But the picture to your left is certainly more eye-catching, and doesn't involve me fiddling around with a scanner.

If I actually felt any guilt about liking them, I'd say that the "Dresden Files" books are my current favorite guilty pleasure. They're contemporary fantasy in which all the supernatural stuff -- faeries,vampires, werewolves, and so on -- is real, and feature a tough-but-tender central character. Maybe if that protagonist was female (like most of the series in that category these days), I'd feel more guilt -- but Harry Dresden is very much like the Chandleresque PIs of all the mystery novels I used to devour, so these books fall in line with all the Lawrence Block and James Lee Burke novels on my shelves.

This is book #8, and it stands pretty well on its own, if anyone wanted to start the series here. (Though they're all in print, so starting at the beginning, with Storm Front, is a better idea and just as easy.) Butcher has a story that's continuing through multiple books while still having each book tell a complete story -- something he (and his urban fantasy compatriots) have picked up from the mystery world, and I wish that they could teach the epic fantasy crowd. (That's not entirely fair -- some epic fantasists do tell complete stories in one volume, and, on the other hand, epic fantasies is usually structured deliberately not to be complete in one volume. So it's a feature, in a way.)

Butcher does still use the sentence, "If I don't {foo}, then people will get hurt" far too often for my liking -- I tend to think "hurt" severely understates the various kinds of potential magical apocalypse flying around in these books -- but I do accept that I'm oversensitive on this point. Otherwise, this is a great series, and I'm hoping to get to the next book (the upcoming one) over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Book-A-Day #122 (11/15): The Flying McCoys by Glenn McCoy and Gary McCoy

Another collection of a single-panel newspaper strip. (Is it still a "strip" if it's a single-panel? Oh, the philosophical questions of cartooning.)

I found this one and Brevity on the discard pile at work about a month ago, and they're the same sort of thing: vaguely surreal post-Far Side cartoons. This one has an odder, scratchier (one might say "less professional," but I think it's at least partially deliberate) drawing style -- something like John Callahan with more shading and control of his hand muscles.

It's not great, it's not bad -- it's just an average cartoon, funny sometimes but not all the time. But it's miles ahead of The Wizard of Id.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Movie Log: High Anxiety

I watched this on Tuesday night, while The Wife was off ransacking the local Pottery Barn Kids for clearance-priced junk to peddle to yuppies on eBay. It's a minor Mel Brooks movie that I hadn't seen in ages -- and which I didn't remember well at all; I'd thought Brooks' character was an impostor (was I remembering some other movie?)

Anyway, High Anxiety is the Hitchcock parody movie; it has a few good set-pieces (especially the shower stabbing), but it lets most of its jokes run on a bit too long. Chloris Leachman is the best thing in it, as the sadistic (and I mean that literally) Nurse Diesel. The rest of the cast is made up of the usual Brooks regulars -- Harvey Korman, Ron Carey, Madeleine Kahn, and so on. And you can probably guess what their characters are like without seeing the movie. And it has that '70s, pre-Airplane comedy style of doing a joke, and letting some time pass (to allow for the laugh) before anything else happens.

I'm not sorry I saw it again, but I could probably go another twenty years before seeing it for the third time.

Book-A-Day #121 (11/14): Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier

The third book in the trilogy that started with Magic or Madness; this doesn't publish until March, so I won't talk about the plot.

But it does end well, and it finishes up the trilogy nicely, and all three books take place in less than a week, so they should make a great 3-in-1. Now, if only there were someone who could do such a thing...

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Somewhat Less Grumpy

OK, I'll 'fess up: I don't usually like parties all that much, really. I just want to be asked. I want to feel incredibly important and connected, and have my self-esteem boosted, which I'm sure is required by the Constitution somewhere.

Also, about an hour after I posted that last little snit, I got an invitation to an annual party. I've been invited to it for a number of years, but I don't think I've ever actually, y'know, showed up to the party itself. I probably should go this year, seeing as how I just made such a big deal about wanting to be included in these things.

(It's hard work being both easily offended and a misanthrope, it really is. I don't recommend it.)


I see from several places on the 'Net (such as the agent Rachel Vater) that Orbit had a big party last night to celebrate their launching in the US. And it looks like all of the major SF editors in NYC (Orbit's competitors) were there.

Was I invited? Was anyone from the SFBC invited? Nope. I never get invited to these things (except my own company's cocktail party, a few weeks back, and that was more-or-less work).

Feh. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm going down the garden to eat worms...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book-A-Day #120 (11/13): Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier

This is the sequel to Magic or Madness, and the middle book in a trilogy. It's a YA series with an intriguing hook: magic is real, and inherited, but it's not all that great. If you have magic, you need to either use it (and die very young, since it uses up your life), or go insane (from to stress of not using it).

This book adds some more complications to the first book's set-up, and we get some more family history, but it's a bit middle-booky; it starts in the middle and it ends in the middle.

On the other hand, the three books are short enough to read straight through -- there are plenty of adult novels that are longer than this trilogy -- so that's mostly a question of packaging.

On to book three tomorrow; I hope it all ends well. (Or at least appropriately.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Movie Log: Flushed Away

I was away last weekend, and I'll be away next weekend, so today I took the boys to see a real live movie in a theater. (I'm kind of pretending it's penance, but Flushed Away is from Aardman, the great Bristol stop-motion folks, and I wanted to see it anyway.)

This is only Aardman's third feature (after Chicken Run, which I still haven't seen, and the wonderful Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit), and first computer-animated film -- so I was a bit apprehensive. (The only review I've read of it was mildly dismissive, as well.)

But it's a quite solid movie, not a top-end animated film like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, but a consistent film with a decent plot that doesn't sag or cease making sense at important points (I'm looking at you, Barnyard). It looks like an Aardman film, with CGI mimicking clay very nicely and giving everything a very dimensional, real feel. A lot of CGI movies feel like they're made of helium balloons -- everything is a bit too shiny and has no weight. That's not the case here.

The plot is pretty straightforward, and everyone about the age of twelve can figure out exactly where it's going from the middle of Reel One, but it moves along at a good clip (not too frenetic, but never quite stopping) and gets there humorously. Do I need to explicate that plot at this point? OK: this pet rat (Roddy, voiced by Hugh Jackman) gets flushed out of his posh Kensington home by a sewer rat interloper, meets a cute girl rat (Rita, voiced by Kate Winslet) in the unnamed rat city under London, and they have to dodge rat and frog gangsters to get Roddy home -- and then, of course, save the rat city from a Nefarious Plot.

The singing slugs are a real hoot, and all of the voice talent is well-cast -- they're name-ish actors, but not huge, above-the-title people (which always spells trouble for an animated movie -- anybody's name above the title is a bad sign). There are some jokes for adults, but not intrusive ones, and the action sequences work very well.

As a movie, it edges out Cars for me as the best new animated movie I've seen this year (but I've missed a few). Anybody who liked Wallace & Gromit should like this as well -- but slightly less, since this is a bit more formulaic and obvious.