A little over two months ago it was my birthday. I turned thirty-five and had a lot of things change in the last year or so. Little things changed, like I have a new car and a new phone. New to me, both of them are used, but still upgrades for me. Big things changed as well, I ended my long term relationship and have been single for a little over a year now. I've been maintaining a new blog for ten months: 1001 Days of Music, where I am slowly but surely working my way through the entire 1001 songs you must hear before you die book. I'm also working on a web comic with a few friends. That one is taking off a lot slower that originally imagined, but every time there is progress it feels great. I hope to have something to show soon. I've submitted written pieces to several online and printed anthologies, and been rejected every time, but it's been great writing again. I started running a game again, which I haven't done in a number of years, and it's great too. A friend of mind started a board game group about fourteen months ago and that's become such a regular part of my week that I feel bad when I miss it. My really big news, and the reason I didn't publish this a month ago near my birthday is that I finally have a new job. I've been working multiple part time jobs to make ends meet for a couple of years now, and I finally started my new job earlier this month. I'm still working at one of the part time jobs as well, so I've never been busier, but it feels good to be working again. Thanks to all for your well wishes, hopes, prayers, leads, and overall support during the last few years.
So a friend of mine from High School has written a new book featuring a new Superhero of her own creation. Shadow on the Wall is the first book in a planned series featuring a Turkish, Muslim hero named The SandStorm that I'm really looking forward to reading. To celebrate she asked a bunch of cool people to write guest posts on who they thought the greatest superhero was and why. I still don't know why she asked me, but I chose Spider-Man. He's not my favorite, but damned if he isn't Great. There are giveaways a plenty, so go check it out. Now for your listening pleasure I give you, the Ramones:
This past weekend, I celebrated a bit more Irish than I expected for two weeks before Saint Patrick's day. Saturday morning I joined a friend in Old Towne Alexandria for their St. Patrick's day parade. The streets were lined with people, many of whom were happy to repeat the answer to the question on everyone's mind: why so early? The answer is that if it was two weeks early, then Alexandria could book more bands to march in the parade. If that was the reason, it worked. There were at least 10 bagpipe groups marching, from MD, VA and the district. Police groups, fireman groups, local Irish American groups; you name it, they got together and played bagpipes. There were also several Irish Step Dance schools, a few Irish sports groups, a couple of boy scout groups, two accounting firms, and the local 501st showed up. That's stormtroopers for those of you not up on your expanded universe references. That's right, stormtroopers, and Boba Fett and Vader, many of whom were wearing green accesories.
I also ate corned beef this weekend. We roasted it in the oven. Much better than boiled. but not the best way. The best way to eat corned beef is smoked. It turns out much like pastrami. the smokey flavor and the saltiness from the corning process work so well together. If you've got a smoker, I highly suggest you buy a corned beef when they go on sale later this month. then smoke that brisket like in 'aint no thang.
Over on 1001 days of music I just recently posted my 200th review. I'm not going to link directly to the 200th post, because I didn't really like the song! Poor planing on my part I guess.
This past weekend some friends of mine got together and threw a last minute gaming weekend together. Last minute baby having plans for two of our group meant that we had no place to hang, and no long term D&D game to play. So after a little bit of organization, we officially organized Cabin-Con! Back in the early nineties my friends and I used to go over to the Big Yellow House near where Burke meets West Springfield, and play for days straight; we called it Gamestock. This was similar, but we did more board games and less role playing out at the cabin.
After driving to Rappahannock County, Kevin and I met up with the rest of the group at Griffin Tavern. Good food, funny waitress, and county karaoke. Except it wasn't really karaoke because everyone seemed to know the words and were performing without a lyrics sheet. Back at the cabin, we played two games of Dominion and a game of Apples to Apples. We also drank quite a bit and stayed awake until about 4:30am. The next morning we ate bacon and cinnamon rolls, which in case you were wondering, is a complete and nutritious breakfast when washed down with Mountain Dew.
After a quick trip to the corner store to get some coffee, we hooked up with the last member of our group and planned for the day. We decided to drive to Walmart to get lunch and dinner supplies. I sat in the back of the car and got a little sick, so I don't know where exactly we were; Culpeper maybe? The drive back was better, and I was feeling great by the time we got to the cabin. That day we played Settlers of Catan, Sour Apples to Apples, Cthulhu Gloom and a playset of Fiasco called Touring Rock Band. We had dinner, and drank some more before going to bed. Am I forgetting something?
Yes! I must experience BLJ! Sorry, bad joke. We played a Star Trek:The Next Generation interactive VCR board game. It was hilarious. It was exciting. It was challenging. It was infuriating. It was a good game. Do you have any old VCR games hanging around in your attic, or in your parents basement? Pull it out! It'll be more fun that you think.
I finished a couple three books recently. In order of amount of time it took me to finish them, from least to most: Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan Mcleod. A think graphic novel, published in 2011. This is a Canadian writer and illustrator who tells an ancient tale of eight immortal masters, their students, the treachery of those students, steampunk style constructs, zombie outbreaks, and a modern city full of funky 70s era African Americans in the middle of ancient China, waved off as "you've probably never seen us, we keep to ourselves". The book is a hell of a lot of fun, tells a story that rings true as old, yet incorporates a lot of more modern aspects of Kung Fu movies. It is a loving pastiche of all eras of movies. There's the simple soldier elevated to lead the armies of light, the training in a Shaolin temple, the black Kung Fu guy, the travelogue portion, cris-crossing the country to find magical artifacts, the group splitting up to do what they can to stop the bad guys, then coming together in a big final part at the end. That part felt like a G.I. Joe special. In a good way. Anyway, if you like Kung Fu movies you should check it out. If you don't, I'm sorry. You have missed something. It took me a two beer lunch to finish. I should have taken more time with it, but I read comics too damn fast.
Sir Terry Pratchett, one of the great living humorists working in novels, used to write about one book every 18 months. When he heard he had early onset Alzheimer's he decided to write faster. His latest book in the Discworld series is called Snuff. It's a classic Busman's Holiday detective story but set in the sword and sorcery setting of The Disc. City police chief heads to the country and discovers a murder, cover-up, and worse on an old country estate. It's not my favorite Pratchett novel, but it's good. The beginning and middle is a little leisurely and slow, and the ending is a little rushed, but that's not my biggest issue with it. Sam Vimes, the main character and holder of dozens of titles is a normal man in an unusual world. He's a policeman who is always on duty. He's like Batman, a well trained man with no powers. But... in this one he gets powers, so I don't really care for that. Anytime you change the basic premise of a primary character I'm not sure about that, but he's a world renown author and I write a few blogs, so there you go.
The book that took me the longest was The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter. Which is a series of emails between Doctor Who show runner, producer and lead writer Russel T. Davies and Doctor Who Magazine writer Benjamin Cook. I really liked the book, but it took a long while to get through it. There is an extraordinary amount of detail in the book, following the last two years of Davies on the show; all the scripts he wrote, all the trials of getting three different shows produced. It was a really great boost to read when I was feeling down on my own writing to hear all the trouble that Davies has when he's writing. I'm in Florida now, and already read one of the books I brought with me, so I had to get this up, so that when I get back I can write about the books I finish down here.
So I watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with some friends on Tuesday. Let me say that it was a very good movie, I enjoyed the cast, and director David Fincher made a lot of great decisions that really made me feel for certain characters, and made me fear for others. He does tension very well. He also made decisions that make me very sure I can never watch the film again. The sexual abuse suffered and inflicted by the title character is so intense, and the camera just doesn't pan away. Good film, mostly great acting, but some of those scenes are just not going to leave me any time soon. The actress playing that main role really underwent a dramatic appearance change, it's outstanding how "in" the character she is. The song playing in most of the trailers, and over the title credits is a cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with vocals by Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When it finished, one of my friends leaned over and said, "now I really want a new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album". I said I wanted Reznor and friends to do a new version of Another Brick in the Wall (Part II). Oh, almost forgot: it will change the way you hear Orinoco Flow like American Psycho changed the way you heard Hip to Be Square.