Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Food porn, technical difficulties and beyond!

Today's story is about blog-vergence, as it were.

Stewie came up to visit for the (as usual, dreadfully crowded and disorganized) Chiller Theatre convention the other day. We do this from time to time, despite the fact that every time we go to Chiller, we vow it's our last.

However, this was the first time the Stew's been up since we began our blogstalking misadventures, and thus his first opportunity to meet his Bizarro World alter-ego, The Lesley.

Me being the adventurous soul that I am, I figured, why not get as many of my favorite blog-types together as possible?

So I ordered some desserts from Jin. That's them up at the top.

And, might I say, after months of sadly pondering the photos of her "food porn," when I finally got to eat some, it was worth the wait.

There were raspberry brownies, berry crumble bars, the famed mint "Oreos," peanut butter cookies and more. Munkees like berries!

The Lesley got the nut cookies, Stewie got the molasses cookies, and me and the Stew pretty much scarfed down as much as we could on the weekend.

The co-workers got the rest (as pictured above), and while it's true that journalists will eat anything, there were many spontaneous remarks of "delicious!" and a few obscene words muttered my way by those trying - and failing - to watch the calories.

Frankly, not being a regular sweet-eater, I ate so much I felt thoroughly bloated, so was forced to share, lest it go to waste. I don't think I'll eat anything with sugar for at least a few days, if not weeks.

But for those of you with a sweet tooth, order something from Jin. Tastes as good as it looks. (The food, I mean; can't speak for Jin.) And she ships!

So, the blog-vergence total:
• Stewie: Present
• The Lesley: Present
• Me: Present
• Jin: Present, in the form of dessert
Real: Present in spirit, at least

Not bad, for a get-away day lunch.

And now for a few asides, blog-related:

First of all, I've been experiencing technical difficulties for days, so this is the first I've actually been able to post. I apologize for the delay in food porn, though you may not have realized what you were missing. Blogger apparently had some issues, then there were some issues on my end, which were of course solved by the magic of writing to tech support. As soon as I hit the send button, presto! Everything worked again. Of course. Ain't that the way of the world?

Second, as some of you may realize, in about 14 hours (give or take), it's National Novel Writing Month. And I'm going for it. That may result in a reduced amount of blogging for November. Of course, every time I say, "hey, I'm going to be busy, don't mind the lack of postage," I wind up writing like a dozen posts in a week. But really, if I've got to churn out something like 1,750 words of fiction per day, and work, and sleep, and eat, etc., there may not be a whole lot of time for other pursuits.

But, as is the motto of my novel-writing adventure, "What the hell, you only live once." So I've got to go for it. Apologies in advance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A big long survey!

Stole this one right off The Lesley's blog! It's ginormous! Yay!

1. Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
I have three closet doors, and one's inevitably open. Never the one closest to the head of my bed, though.

2. Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotel?
Not anymore. I used to.

3. Have you ever 'done it' in a hotel room?
Sure. I once got a hotel room just to "do it."

4. Have you ever stolen a street sign before?
Signs, yes. Street signs, no.

5. Do you like to use Post-It notes?

6. Do you cut out coupons but then never use them?
No, I'm not a coupon cutter. I often save coupons I get and never use them.

7. Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees?
Da bear.

9. Do you always smile for pictures?
Unless I shouldn't be smiling.

10. What is your biggest pet peeve?
I'm late for everything. I know, it's weird having a pet peeve that's your own fault, but I can't help it. I try to be on time, I really do.

11. Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?
Tucked in at the bottom, out on the sides.

12. Do you ever count your steps when you walk?

13. Have you ever peed in the woods?
Sure. Who hasn't?

14. Do you ever jump up and down to make your privates bounce?
I did once. It hurt. I stopped.

15. Do you chew your pens and pencils?
I used to.

16. How many people have you slept with this week?
None. Volunteers?

17. Do you like popcorn from those big tins?
Only if it's covered in something, like chocolate or caramel.

18. What is your "Song of the week"?
"Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)" is like, my song of the entire fall.

19. Is it okay for guys to wear pink?
Only certain guys.

20. Do you still watch cartoons?
Sure. Who doesn't?

21. Whats your favorite scary movie?
Either "The Thing" or "Jaws" or "Dawn of the Dead."

22. Where would you bury treasure if you had some?
I wouldn't bury it, I'd spend it! Or invest it.

23. What do you drink with dinner?
Coke or water.

26. What color is your cell phone?

28. Were you a boy/girl scout?
Cub Scout. I got kicked out for eating too many Brownies. (bah-dum-bum!)

29. Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine?
No. I don't have the body for it.

30. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
Christmastime. Holiday cards count, right? (You mean hand-written, right?)

31. Can you change the oil on a car?

32. Ever gotten a speeding ticket?
No. Knock wood.

33. Ran out of gas?
Once. A block from the gas station I was headed to.

34. Favorite kind of sandwich?
Cold cuts, cheese, toast, salad dressing. Cut into quarters, diagonally like my Mom used to do when I was little.

35. Best thing to eat for breakfast?
Like I eat breakfast.

36. What is your usual bedtime?
3-4 a.m.

37. Are you lazy?
I don't feel like answering this. Too much effort.

38. When you were a kid what did you dress up as for Halloween?
Batman, Superman, a knight, an executioner. At least, that I can remember.

39. Do you read the newspaper?
Yeah. It's my job.

40. How many languages can you speak?
"Lady, I only speak two languages: English, and bad English." (Well, and some French.)

41. Do you have any magazine subscriptions?

42. Which are better Legos or Lincoln Logs?
Legos! They're the bestest!

43. Are you stubborn?
Hell yeah.

44. Who is better...Leno or Letterman?
Leno. But I prefer Conan to both.

45. Watch an opera live?
Yes, once.

46. Afraid of heights?
Well, more like falling from heights.

48. Dance in the shower?

49. Dance in the car?
Bop a little.

50. Ever used a gun?
Yup. Loved it.

51. Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?
A year or so ago, in case Timewarp needed one for film publicity.

52. Are musicals cheesy?
No. I rather like them.

53. Is Christmas stressful?
No, but then, I'm Jewish.

54. Ever eat a pierogi?
Sure. They used to serve them in our school lunches.

55. Favorite type of fruit pie?
Berries! Munkees like berries!

56. Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid?
Astronaut, baseball player, firefighter.

57. Do you believe in ghosts?
I think so.

59. Take a vitamin daily?
No. And what happened to No. 58?

60. Wear slippers?
Only when walking around in bare feet might lead to pain.

61. Wear a bath robe?

62. What do you wear to bed?
T-shirt and sweats, mostly.

63. First concert?
I don't remember. I saw a bunch one summer. Bryan Adams and Depeche Mode are the first two that I can remember.

64. Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart?
Target, I guess. Not much of any of them, really.

65. Nike or Adidas?
Adidas, mostly. Some Nike.

66. Cheetos Or Fritos?
Fritos, mostly. Not much of either, really.

67. Peanuts or Sunflower seeds?

68. Ever hear of, "gorp"?
It's some kind of outdoors granola snack thing, isn't it?

69. Ever take dance lessons?

70. Is there a profession you picture your future spouse doing?
Journalism, because at the rate I'm dating, the only way I'm going to meet someone is at work.

71. Can you curl your tongue?

73. Have you ever cried because you were so happy?
I don't remember. And did we miss No. 72, too?

74. Own any record albums?
The sountrack to the Rankin/Bass version of "The Hobbit."

75. Own a record player?
No, but my parents do.

76. Regularly brush your teeth?

77. Ever been in love?
Yup. Twice.

79. What was your last concert you saw?
It's been a while. I think it was Live and the Gin Blossoms down in Maryland.

80. Hot tea or cold tea?
Iced tea, not hot.

81. Tea or coffee?
Neither, but I like iced tea, and drink coffee for the caffeine.

82. Favorite kind of cookie?
Chocolate chip. Or peanut butter.

83. Can you swim well?
Yes. Not fast, but well.

84. Can you hold your breath w/o manually holding your nose?
I think so.

85. Are you patient?

86. DJ or band, at a wedding?
Tough call. DJ lacks spontaneity. Band can be cheesy.

87. Ever won a contest?
Sure. I think.

88. Ever have plastic surgery?
Nah. Unless I needed it for medical reasons or something.

89. Which are better black or green olives?

90. Can you knit or crochet?
I'm not even sure what those are.

91. Best room for a fireplace?
Living room/den.

92. Do you want to get married?
Yes, someday. I mean, I got engaged once, I must want to. Right?

Not to get off on a rant, but...

I'm going to vent a little.

And, oddly enough, I'm going to vent about something I enjoyed.

I just finished reading Brian Keene's "Earthworm Gods," and I've got a serious irritation about it.

The funny thing is, it's a great book.

But it still sort of pisses me off.

Here's the thing. I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since I heard Keene himself say at HorrorFind Weekend a few years back that it included some of the characters from, and was based in the same world as, my favorite Keene short story.

That one's called "The Garden Where My Rain Grows," and it's 100 pages about the survivors of the great flood at the end of the world.

And it's incredible. I loved it from the first time I read it, in a book I borrowed from Stewie called "Fear of Gravity."

So when "Earthworm Gods" (called "The Conqueror Worms" for mass market - yeah, I bought another LE to fuel my addiction) churned to the top of my reading pile, I devoured all 300 pages.

Which gets me back to my irritation.

See, the middle third of the book is basically, word for word, "The Garden Where My Rain Grows." The first 100 pages tell the story of the protagonist, the last 100 tell what becomes of him, and the middle third... well, it's the short story. Just like in "Fear of Gravity."

Now, I'm not feeling ripped off because I paid $whatever for a book and a third of it is a book I already read. I'm feeling ripped off because a third of a book I otherwise thoroughly enjoyed is a book I already read.

It feels like a cop-out, or a shortcut, or something.

Believe me, I'm all in favor of expanding the story - like I said, I love the story - but it's just ham-handedly plunked down in the middle of the current story ("Earthworm Gods," as it were), and there it sits, complete with ham-handed segues at the end of Part I and the start of Part III.

Look, I'm not the first person I know to have issues with a Keene novel. And hell, I probably won't be the last.

In fact, I should be so lucky as to write so many published novels as to have readers bitching about them.

It just disappoints me. Maybe I should've known this was just a wraparound extension of the short story. But that's not the way Keene described it when he talked about the book at HF back when. He said it included the same characters. Hell, that's what had me excited. (That, and the idea of learning more about the world of "GWMRG.")

I guess I just would've rather either had 200 pages of new material, without the middle, or actually gotten 300 pages of new material. Either would've been better than 200 pages of new material and 100 pages that basically ruined the flow of the entire novel because I'd read every freakin' word before. I could've skimmed 'em and not missed a thing relevant to the 200 pages I'd never read.

Don't get me wrong. They're a great 100 pages. The whole book's a great 300 pages. If you've never read "GWMRG" before.

Go get it. Go get "Fear of Gravity," go get "Conqueror Worms" or whatever version you can.

But if you've read the story, like I have, and especially if you got lured in because it's in the "GWMRG" world, like I did, be prepared.

Links, because I haven't put any down here in a while:
Hail Saten, Brian Keene's blog
Something about worms
And a bit about gods

Finally, this and this would be SPOILERS if you haven't read the books, but may be of interest if you have.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Horror fans, you've gotta see this!

Sham, my colleague over at HorrorTalk, is doing an incredible "Halloween Horror Movie Countdown" over on his blog.

Check it out!

It's really great - a different horror movie for every day, and the reason it was chosen. Very well written, entertaining, interesting, everything you could want. Believe me, if you like horror movies, or movies in general, it's well worth the time it takes to load (lots of little animations!) and read (hey, a movie a day, it's pretty long!).

I can't say enough about this kid (yeah, I know, I'm sending you to a MySpace blog written by a teenager... it's not what you'd think). He's a terrific reviewer and clearly very knowledgeable (knowledgable? I hate spelling this word...) about the genre.

I'm always amazed by some of the younger reviewers/posters over at HT. I'm 31 now, a veteran journalist, I've been watching horror flicks longer than some of them have been alive, and yet, when I read their reviews or posts, I feel like there's so much more work I have to do, so much I have to learn. There is so much talent there, and so much knowledge... It really is impressive.

One of the best things about my writing experience is that my parents were always very encouraging, so I always had the support of someone I admired. I've mentioned before what a thrill it's been editing Stewie's reviews. And so I try my best to support the younger writers I know any way I can, be it encouragement, constructive criticism, or whatever. God knows, talent should be nurtured.

In this case, it's a bit of my usual shilling... so what are you still doing here? Go read Sham's Countdown!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Opposite sides, for once

When they played for the Oakland Raiders, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw started alongside each other for more than a decade. Shell, the left tackle, and Upshaw, the left guard, both played so well they wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And both continued their football careers once their playing days were over.

Shell became a coach, and he is in his second stint as head coach of the Raiders.

Upshaw became the head of the players' union, the National Football League Players Association.

That led to this strange situation this week:

Shell suspended insubordinate wide receiver Jerry Porter last week for four games, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

The union, of course, appealed.

So Upshaw must show a decision made by his friend, Shell, is wrong. Strange, indeed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coincidence and tragedy

Do any of you remember my story about my buddy Ed and his brother? Running into Ed's brother hundreds of miles from home on a random trip?

Well, another weird coincidence happened to me recently, and today it got even stranger.

You've probably heard about New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle dying in a small-plane crash today.

I saw him pitch just two weeks ago, during his last start of the regular season, the annual Yankees game I go to with my Dad.

That's where the coincidence took place.

So, the fun stuff first.

Dad and I don't take the subway much in the city, but we did. And on the subway, he asked the man sitting next to us if the train went to Yankee Stadium. And the fellow replied, in a thick accent, that he hoped so because that's where he was going.

We got to talking and it turned out the man and his son were from Scotland, and in the city on vacation, going to their first Yankees game. (They were hoping for football, but the New York teams weren't convenient to their schedule.)

Plus, it turned out the son was a fellow Oakland Raiders fan!

So we spent most of the ride up chatting about the history of the stadium, the atmosphere, how much they knew about baseball (the father, not so much, the son, quite a bit) and so forth.

At the Stadium, we went our separate ways.

They saw a great game. Several home runs and the Yankees won, with Lidle picking up what proved to be the final win of his life.

The next day, my folks went out of town, traveling via Newark Airport.

My Dad called me from the airport, all excited. Who did they run into in the security line? That's right. The man and his son, on their way home to Scotland.

Millions of people in New York, thousands at the game, probably two from Scotland (still trailing my buddy Roger Hook for the title of "Great Britain's Biggest Baseball Fan"), and thousands more going through Newark Airport.

We sit next to them on the subway, then Dad runs into them again at the airport. Now, what are the odds of that?

I was going to tell this story today (now that my parents are back home; they hate people knowing they're away), but it wound up with a strange twist after the Lidle tragedy. Another odd coincidence. I went to one Yankee game this season...

And on top of that, my Dad's cousins used to live about a block from the building that got hit by the plane. Which you could add to this: My mother went to high school with the mother of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, who died along with her husband, JFK Jr., in another small-plane crash.

Also coincidentally, but totally unrelated, I met a fellow journalist this past weekend, down in Virginia, who grew up in Manville, the next town over from where I live.

Speaking of journalism, anybody who wants any insight into journalism need only consider how the story was covered. At 2:50 or so, it was all about a plane crashing into building in New York. Questions of whether it was terrorism, whether it was an accident, what. Then, when the identity of the dead man was known - a Major League baseball player! - it seemed like coverage of the story changed completely. No more 9/11 worries, but the death of a Major Leaguer. Interesting to see, even to a veteran journalist like me.

In closing, my condolences to the Lidle family and the family of the (as yet unnamed) flight instructor killed with him, and my best hopes for a speedy recovery for the injured. God be with you in your time of pain.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jeffrey Loria is an idiot, and other observations

OK, NORMALLY I WOULDN'T call a man with more money than God an idiot. It seems poor form, and probably on the surface flat-out incorrect.

But he is. And here is the proof.

See, Jeffrey Loria owns the Florida Marlins. And today, the team fired its manager, ex-New York Yankees player and coach Joe Girardi.

From what I can tell, Girardi is something of a jerk, or at least as brusque as his buzzcut.

But he took the youngest team in baseball, with its lowest payroll, within a dachshund's hair of a .500 record and a playoff berth. He might be National League manager of the year. With that team, he should be in the running for manager of the decade.

For that, he got fired the day after the season ended, basically because the owner, who ripped the team apart for the sake of something green and with dead presidents on it, and the GM, who played along, don't like him.

That's. Just. Stupid.

I'm not a Marlins fan, so the heck with 'em. I know (of) Girardi from his days with the Yankees, and he'll get another job (possibly with his hometown Chicago Cubs, another team in need of a lift) and land on his feet. Probably more than can be said for the Marlins. Frankly, no offense to the new manager, I hope they stink up the joint next year.

It would serve Loria right for letting his ego take precedent over his fans' chance to see a winning team.

And now for something completely different...

I saw the coolest thing on my flight back from San Francisco this weekend. I was in the middle seat on the red-eye, but the window shade was open in my row, so I happened to be up as we flew near... a thunderstorm.

So we were in a cloudless part of the sky, but off to the left, there was a city and high above, light flickering amid the clouds. Then, BAM!

Lightning. Striking the city.

I don't know where we were, but they must have been having a heckuva storm. I was transfixed. Bolt after bolt, crystal clear, flashing from the clouds high above to the city lights below.

I love flying when you can see the cities and other sights below. And this was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Another random catch-up observation from my vacation week...

OK, I'm on the BART system going to the airport - stunningly shiny and clean compared with NJ Transit - and I nearly smacked the lady sitting behind me.


Well, I'm minding my own business, reading my book, and scratching an itch on the back of my head. See, I have a little bump or something on the back of my head, about the size of a bad zit, maybe, and inevitably, when I get my hair cut, it gets nicked by the clippers. (It's under the part of my hair I get buzzed short.)

So it's always a bit of a scab and, as a result, itchy.

Suddenly, the lady behind me asks if I need help! Like, not that she's grossed out or exactly offended (I realize it's sort of poor form to sit there rubbing an itch, but it's not like I was flaking dandruff into her coffee or something), but like, in a crazy way that suggests either she really did want to help, or maybe it was some breach of BART policy to scratch in public.

I didn't even get my head all the way around to stare daggers at her, when she hopped out of her seat and fled the car.

What the hell?

"Mortal Kombat" and more...
One more week to "MK: Armageddon." I'm getting twitchy with excitement. Really, really twitchy. So twitchy I'll probably buy the video game guide, something I never do, and have to keep resisting the temptation to call the store I preordered from and ask them when it'll be in. Every day. ... "The Descent" and "Snakes on a Plane" will hit DVD at the end of December and start of January, respectively. I can't wait for that, either. Hey, patience isn't one of my virtues. ... Oh, and sorry for the weird width on "My Lousy Taste in Music" below - one of the songs on the "SoaP" soundtrack has a super-long name. I can't figure out how to fix it, and since iScrobbler isn't working with my latest version of iTunes and my iPod, well, you'll just have to bear with me.