Thursday, January 31, 2013

Something for Thursday

Oops...a tad late to the party, but hey, it's still Thursday! So here's some swashbuckling movie music. I've waxed poetic about Erich Wolfgang Korngold in this space before, and specifically about my favorite Errol Flynn movie of all time (and my favorite pirate movie of all time, too), The Sea Hawk. For years, the only version of the music that I was able to find was this fifteen-minute suite, presented on a compilation disc of Korngold music conducted by Charles Gerhardt. During the 1970s and 80s, when movie music tended to be pretty hard to find -- especially recordings of older, classic scores -- Gerhardt's re-recordings were often the only thing available, and what a good thing, too, as Gerhardt tended to do wonderful things with these scores. This suite from The Sea Hawk is no exception. It's in two parts due to length, but the break is in a very logical spot, coming after a triumphant spot where the suite goes silent before playing the film's magnificent love theme. Keep an ear out for the thrilling "Strike for the Shores of Dover", which comes during the movie's most exciting segment, after Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Flynn) and friends have freed themselves from the chains and oars of a Spanish galleon. Enjoy!

0:00: Main theme, intro at the court of King Philip of Spain
2:06: First sighting of the Albatross, Captain Thorpe's ship
3:11: Entry of the Sea Hawks (captains of privateer ships) into the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England
4:15: Captain Thorpe bids farewell to Dona Maria before setting sail again
4:49: Captain Thorpe's enemies plan a trap
5:18: The march of the gold caravan through the jungle of Panama
7:35: Duel with the Spanish captain / Duel with Lord Wolfingham
9:15: The freed English sailors take the Spanish ship
9:52: "Strike for the Shores of Dover!" and conclusion

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Roger wrote an interesting post the other day about the process by which he and his wife arrived at their daughter's name ("Lydia", which is, by the way, a perfectly lovely name). A taste:

*No naming after any family member, living or dead. I want her to have her own identity. And I didn’t want, “Oh, you named her after Aunt Hortense!” We’ll call her Little Horty!” No, you won’t.

Actually, I would have considered Charlotte, after my great aunt Charlotte, who had died a couple years earlier, truth to tell. And my mother was living in Charlotte, NC; we referred to her, my late father, my baby sister and her daughter as the Charlotte Greens. But The Wife wanted to consider Ann, which is her middle name and her mother’s first name; so I nixed both names.

*No unisex names: Terry, Madison, Lynn, e.g.

This comes directly from the fact that my father AND my sister were both named Leslie. Confusion ensued, and often at my expense. Since my father had a child named Leslie, it was ASSUMED it was his ONLY son, i.e., me. “Hey, little Les,” one guy from church constantly called me. “That’s NOT my name,” I’d mutter under my breath (but never aloud, for that would have been considered rude.)

*It had to have two or more syllables, to balance off the shortness of Green.

That was my other objection to Ann.

This got me to thinking about our own process when The Daughter was born. Basically, we just kind of called out names until we arrived at a first name that we both liked (The Wife liked it more than I did, but I still liked it), and then I basically got to choose the middle name. When it got to be Little Quinn's turn to be named, we decided to use one of the names we had rejected for The Daughter, plus a middle name that The Wife liked. And later on, we had a lovely name chosen (Fiona) for the girl who was, alas, born too early to live. About the only 'rule' we employed, and we didn't even arrive at this until we were trying for Quinn, that we wanted a five-letter name, since we all have five-letter names. Silly, maybe, but hey -- we look for connections, don't we?

So, folks, what went into your naming processes, whether for kids or cats or goldfish?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"This never-ending road to Calvary...." (Thoughts on Les Miserables)

It all comes back to Star Wars, doesn't it? Even Les Miserables.

What am I talking about? Well, back when The Phantom Menace came out, and initial reaction was somewhat mixed (before ossifying into outright hatred), I remember an article on some site – I think it was AICN – in which the writer said something I found fascinating. Paraphrasing, it went roughly like this:

I've made Episode I in my head many, many times since 1983. Now I've had to see the real thing twice, once just to get the one I've been making in my head for sixteen years out of the way so I can come to grips with the real one that George Lucas made.

I understood the sentiment, but I never made Episode I in my head – or any other Star Wars movie, for that matter. (What I did, in fanfic, was remake the original trilogy entirely, but that's a tale for another time.) But the movie I have made in my head many, many times over the better part of two decades?

Les Miserables.

And I mean, I've made that movie in my head. All the way down to various visuals. Bear with me here a moment. I've seen the film tied together around a single location: a bridge over the Seine. We'd first see that bridge when Jean Valjean is conflicted over his release after he stole the silver. We'd see it again when Fantine sings "I Dreamed a Dream". And again when Javert sings "Stars", and again when Eponine sings "On My Own". And at the end of the film, the entire cast would gather on that bridge, after Valjean's passing. The bridge would be a visual motif tying the entire thing together.

(I know, this would require a bit of license, given that much of the first half of the story doesn't take place in Paris. Like I said, bear with me.)

I don't know why I've so vividly imagined Les Mis in my head over the years, because I very rarely do that with music. I'm never one to visualize certain scenes or mental images when listening to music, even if the composer intends me to do so, as is often the case with Berlioz. I generally belief, along with Leonard Bernstein, that music is inherently abstract, and that a composer can call his piece "The River" all he wants, but that doesn't make the piece an actual depiction of a river. This was driven home once in grade school when a music teacher handed everyone a sheet of paper and some crayons and played a piece of music, telling us to draw what we heard in the music. Not one of us drew what the composer said was in the music.

So why did I have such strong visualizations of Les Mis? I have no idea, and I must answer blandly with something along the lines of "I am large; I contain multitudes." But anyway, now along comes the real movie version of Les Mis. No, it doesn't match up to my visualizations at all, and there were times when I thought, "No, that's not the way it's supposed to look!" But those moments were few and far between, and there were moments when it looked right to me, anyway.

Ultimately, Les Mis the movie seems to be fairly polarizing. I've heard basically two categories of responses to this film: "Oh my God thank the Lord that's over and I never hafta watch it again", and "Oh my God that movie was a religious experience I can't wait to watch it again". And the reactions, at least in my small and not-randomized sample, doesn't seem to directly correlate in any real way with people who never saw the stage show and people who have.

So what did I think? reaction isn't entirely positive, but it's a lot closer to the latter reaction than the former. I did love the film, but not unreservedly. And my reservations aren't entirely because the film doesn't map out exactly with what I made in my head.

Story-wise, the Les Mis film is pretty much exactly the stage show that I saw last year. A few songs have been shortened or altered slightly, but in general, there's nothing significant missing from the film that happened in the show. Thus, any difficulties in the story are inherent in the show itself, and in its nature: the show distills an immense novel down to a single night's entertainment, and it does it mostly with music. (I'm reading the novel right now, as it happens. I'm taking my sweet time with it, doling it out to myself at a rate of about 10-15 pages a day. At that rate, I should be able to get through it in about three months. I've been at it for a few weeks already.)

From a story standpoint, then, the main problem is the same as the show's: not enough backstory can be established, particularly in the second half, once our young revolutionaries show up. It's hard to feel any particularly great emotional involvement in that particular storyline, because the film just can't go into any great depth about what these students are fighting for and what the source of the revolutionary fervor happens to be. Now, I'm not even close to that point in the book yet, so I can't be sure if Victor Hugo suffers the same problem, but on the basis of what I've read thus far, I rather doubt it. Hugo's problem seems to be that he never met a chunk of backstory he didn't love and go on about at length. Not the problem in the movie.

So, that being the case, what are we to make of that whole part of the film and the stage play? The idea seems to be to take Jean Valjean and Javert and put their respective moral centers in the middle of yet another set of moral choices, that of revolution. This can get a bit lost in the shuffle as the melodrama, wonderfully musical as it is, cranks on and on. But again, short of reworking the entire show, I'm not sure how the filmmakers could have really solved the structural problem of the story's second half. I do think that the film makes two musical choices that don't help matters, though.

First is a simple one: the wonderful song "Drink With Me" is greatly shortened in the movie. In the show, it's a gorgeous song of men's chorus, the young revolutionaries, singing sadly during the night after their first clash with the Paris military. The die is cast, and now they know that it's for real: at this point real prices have been paid, and the song in its complete version plays as a serene acceptance that no matter what happens now, these young men will never again be simple lads wiling away the time with wine and women. There's a fatalism to the complete song that's sadly absent here as the movie only gives us one or two verses.

Second is more problematic. I think I know why Tom Hooper and the producers did it, but it still seems to me a pretty big error. In the film, we don't hear the show's singular anthem, "Do You Hear the People Sing", until after what is the huge show-stopping number in the stage show, "One Day More". And "One Day More" can be emotionally overwhelming – just listen to it (starting at 1:15) in the famed tenth anniversary concert performance of the show's score. The problem? For one thing, "Do You Hear..." is what really establishes the revolutionaries in the story, even moreso than "Red and Black" (which immediately precedes "Do You Hear..." in the show). It's the type of stirring melody that we haven't heard to that point in the show, and when it comes, it really signifies that something's coming, that as they say these days, shit's about to go down. "Do You Hear..." conveys a sense of inevitability to what's about to transpire, and the tune overhangs everything afterwards.

But in the movie, "Do You Hear..." is moved to after "One Day More", which I found extremely jarring, because "One Day More" derives much of its astonishing effect from being a literal reprise of just about all the melodies of the entire first half of the show. "Who Am I?", "I Dreamed a Dream", "Master of the House", and "Do You Hear..." – they're all there, contained within "One Day More". But in the film, you haven't heard "Do You Hear..." yet. Instead, you hear it immediately afterwards, when the revolutionaries crash the funeral of the General. What the show does right after "One Day More" is more subtle, because in the show, the next thing we hear is Eponine and "On My Own". Both acts feature, very early on, a woman singing of heartbreak and unrequited love – Fantine in Act I, and Eponine in Act II. The film messes with the structure a bit, and it doesn't entirely work.

Neither, it pains me to say, do some of the film's visual choices. Tom Hooper seems to have set out to make a movie of beautiful squalor, or squalorous beauty, or something like that. There's a disjointed sense to the film's visual approach that I found hard to put my finger on, until late in the film, when Valjean carries Marius through the sewers. When they emerge, they are covered literally head to toe with the filth of those sewers, and it was hard for me not to think, "My God, was that really necessary?" And there it was: there are times when it's clear that Hooper is trying for beautiful effects, because he gets them when he wants to. But then there are other times when he feels the need to dial up the visual ugliness, with washed-out colors, with lingering shots on corpses, with Valjean and Marius completely encased in more shit than Andy Dufresne did, for basically doing the same thing.

I'm of similarly mixed mind on Anne Hathaway's Fantine. Not because of anything she did, because I think she was basically amazing throughout. But even so, as gut-wrenching as her "I Dreamed a Dream" is, I can't help wondering how necessary that was – the single take, the broken sobbing, the rest of it. Again, the concert performance of the show is key, because there, they can't do a lot of stage trickery, so they just let the song speak for itself. For my money, Ruthie Henshall sells Fantine's soul-crushing heartbreak every bit as well as Hathaway did. But here, I'm quibbling with a stylistic choice, and not so much with the song in question, but with an overall approach of ratcheting up the ugliness at times, which seemed rather unnecessary. Again, I'm not done with the book, but it seems to me that a theme of Les Miserables is the presence of beauty in the world that many can never touch or know.

All this sounds like I'm ripping the movie, but I don't think I am. There's much to love in it, because I really did enjoy it immensely, and I'll be thankful to have it in my DVD collection for when I need a fix. For one thing, aside from the few musical alterations I mention (and the omission of Eponine from Valjean's death scene, which struck me as quite wrong), the songs are for the most part given room to be the songs they are. That's important, because in a movie like this, the music is what's prime – nothing works if the music doesn't work. And it does.

I had zero misgivings about the cast. Like many Les Mis lovers, the casting of Russell Crowe as Javert struck me as potentially problematic, not because of his appearance, but because he simply isn't blessed with a great musical voice. And when your mental template for Javert is the great Philip Quast, well...yeah, good luck there, Russell. But Crowe did very well, I think, precisely because he doesn't have a great voice. This makes sense to me because Javert is a man of virtually no happy touches in his life, no vices, no room to enjoy anything whatsoever. I have no trouble at all with the fact that his singing is distinctively unmusical, because Javert's singing stands at odds with his role in the story, doesn't it? Plus, Crowe's singing voice plays in well with the way he plays Javert in the first place: his Javert is a man of weariness, a man who has seized on his obsession with upholding the law as the only way he can make sense of a world in which no matter how righteously he pursues his obsessions, he can never make the world into 'paradise'. Humans have fallen too far, and Javert knows it – but he can't ever say it. Crowe captures this internal strife of Javert's perfectly: there is always a hint of tired confusion lurking in his eyes, and we know, almost immediately upon meeting him, that suicide is likely the only way he'll ever reconcile the world with his place in it.

Hugh Jackman's Valjean is likewise brilliant, and the film would fail utterly without him. I don't think that the production decision to sing live on stage always served Jackman's voice to the highest degree, but that is, again, a quibble. Jackman captures Valjean's internal goodness as perfectly as Crowe captures Javert's inability to live in the real world, and I loved Jackman's voice. His Valjean is more of a tenor than usual, but that's no matter. He completely convinces me of Valjean's pain, of his moral certitude once he is set on the right course by a compassionate priest, and of the seriousness with which he holds the vow he made to Fantine on the night she died. Best of all, Jackman's Valjean always seems to be thinking. He's not just going through the motions of always doing what is moral; Jackman shows us that Valjean has to work at it, even if the music and script don't always make that internal struggle entirely clear. (Victor Hugo spends entire chapters describing Valjean thinking about his moral choices.)

In all honesty, I can't think of a wrong note in the cast. Amanda Seyfried's Cosette is...well, she's just kind of there, but I don't think that Seyfried can possibly be blamed for that, as Cosette is just...well, there's not much there there, with Cosette. She's easily the weakest link in the stage show, dramatically speaking, and the film can't really solve that difficulty, either. Cosette is just there to be loved, either protectively (Valjean), or unattainably (Fantine), or romantically (Marius). Eponine is far better drawn as a character in her short time on stage, but she'd better be, because her story is the tragic one.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers? That was, for me, utterly perfect casting. Of all the numbers in the film, "Master of the House" is closest to that movie I've made in my mind over the years – my "Castle in the Clouds", so to speak. The Thenardiers are disgusting individuals, the ones who steal the coins from the dead man's eyes, so to speak. And the way they keep popping up is disconcerting, as if the very world is constantly trying to drag back down those who would rise above it. Which, when you think about it, is really true, isn't it?

The best person in the cast is very likely Samantha Barks as Eponine, who makes the absolute most of the relatively short time she's around. Her emotions are raw and we feel them with her, and Barks does something wonderful in the way she allows Eponine's love for Marius to show only when he's not looking (until the very end). It's kind of a shame that Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" seems to be shaping up as the film's musical highlight, because Barks's "On My Own" is amazing. But then, it's Eponine's constant fate, isn't it, to stay in the shadows of someone else?

So no, Les Miserables is not a perfect movie. And it won't win over anyone who didn't like the stage show. Nor, I think, will anyone who sees this movie, wonders what the fuss is, and then goes to the stage show find that experience terribly more satisfying. This isn't my Les Mis, but it is Les Mis. Warts and all, maybe more warts than I would have liked.

Put it this way: After writing this review, all I can think is...I want to go see it again. As soon as humanly possible. "One more day...another day, another destiny...."

Monday, January 28, 2013

From the "Stolen from Facebook" department

Sentential Links

Let's just keep saving the world, folks, one link at a time....

:: I can believe gullibility, I can believe catfishing, I can believe that some people are really good liars and willing to take advantage of people...but I have been in a long-distance relationship. I met my current wife over the Internet. And I can tell you with 100% certainty, if you care anything at all about your long-distance significant other, you are going to make an effort to see them. (This is where my ability to believe Te'o's story falls apart as well. I just don't buy this, nor do I buy, as some people have said, that he was just a college student who just couldn't fly to LA at a moment's notice. Maybe that's true for a college student like I was, a run-of-the-mill philosophy major, but the star linebacker on one of the country's most notable football teams? Come on.)

:: I almost never reread my own novels, once they are printed and on sale. The small exception is the period when I am choosing reading passages for a new one, and once or twice when I needed to help with a pitch for an older book for Hollywood purposes. (Guy Gavriel Kay only blogs when he is in the final stages of getting a new book published, so it's nice to get a look in, once in a while. While it's pretty meaningless coming from me, Mr. Still Unpublished, I have to admit that I, too, tend to not look at my earlier work all that much. I find that the short fiction stands up better than my aborted attempts at novels past, or even the screenplay that I wrote a few years ago, which will never see the light of day. (Don't ask.) I suppose this is my way of finally, once and for all, declaring The Promised King dead. But even there, you never know...there's no law that says you can't go back to an earlier idea, once your skill improves. But it would have to be very different, given that there are aspects of that earlier book that manifest in Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title).)

:: From those of us who are still living in Buck Rogers' 25th Century, here's wishing our very best to 70's space hero - and intergalactic Romeo - Gil Gerard on his 70th birthday. (Just a one-sentence link, but holy crap -- Gil Gerard is 70?! Quick, somebody freeze that guy for a while! Four hundred years oughta do it.)

(Hey, come to that, how come Buck Rogers hasn't been rebooted yet? I'd be on board with a revisiting of that old property!)

:: There’s a somewhat startling 1978 Betty and Veronica story by Dan DeCarlo, the cartoonist who more than any other was responsible for defining the characters’ appearances and personalities, which attempted to make the point that there really is no choice at all: Betty and Veronica aren’t two different girls as much as they are two halves of the same girl.

:: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is now twenty years old. The first episode aired on 3 January 1993, whilst The Next Generation was still on the air, and it was for 176 episodes over seven seasons, ending in May 1999. (I really need to start re-watching Trek in a big way. Twenty years since DS9 started! I always thought that was the best of the Trek series, in terms of overall quality; at its best, it was utterly great, and it never seemed to get as downright bad as TOS or TNG could be at times.)

:: If, like many fans, you have spent decades wondering what the Red Skull smelled like, this was your lucky week: (Hmmmm...yeah, no. Never wondered that a single time. Weird!)

:: AMAZING STORIES, the world's first science fiction magazine, is now open to the public. (This is actually very cool news! Go to MD's site for details. Note to self: set up an account this week!)

More next week!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday Centus (Sunday edition)

I'm a day late with this week's prompt, not because I was busy or because I forgot, but because this prompt is so evocative to me, on a personal level, that I had to think about it for quite a while. The phrase that Jenny assigned is one that seems to fall right into place in the universe of my novel-in-waiting*, so much so that this bit might end up in a future sequel that's trundling about my brain.

Though you go to a place
where starlight fades,
I will find you.

Though you go to a place
where darkness reigns,
I will free you.

Though you go to a place
where all is old and all is cold,
I will save you.

Never, ever forget,
all the days you have,
the place you have in my heart,

No matter how long you journey,
no matter how far you go,
and that we will live the ages


Even if we are apart,
with me still here
and you gone far, far, far far beyond
the dark side of the stars.

* For Centusians who haven't dropped by in a bit because I've been lax, I have submitted the manuscript of my space opera novel to a publisher, and I have also queried a couple of agents and plan to query more and more and more until one takes me on or until all the agents in the world rise up, with one unified voice, and say, "Verily your writing doth sucketh, so bother us no more!" Anyway, there's a lot in my universe that I can with "the dark side of the stars".

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

::  Jason Bennion posted this pic on Facebook. It's the TV Guide cover from when Battlestar Galactica was set to premier, back in fall of 1978. Pretty cool stuff, although...well, I'll give the geeks out there in the audience a chance to notice it.

Yup, look at that for a little bit. A hint: one of the details is really wrong.

See it yet?

The ship on the cover: that's not the Galactica. That's the back end of Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Oops!

What likely happened is that this issue had to go to press before ABC was willing to release certain details, like what the titular starship of the show looked like. (And also, judging by Richard Hatch's and Dirk Benedict's heads being placed atop weird gray blobs, certain details of costume design as well.) Understandable, but pretty amusing nonetheless! That'd be a funny mashup, anyway -- just as the Cylons attack, they'd have to contend with Hal refusing to open the pod bay door....

::  A couple of folks go Scuba diving in Hawaii. Just a normal dive, down to the bottom...when one of the guys looks up, and Whoa! Admiral, there be whales here!

I tend to think that diving would be a bit too scary for me, but wow, what a moment that would be.

:: I'm not embedding this video here because it's really kinda icky, but...sneezing in slow motion. There are things that should be seen in slow motion. This is not one of them.

More next week!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Film Quote Friday: "Sneakers"

COSMO: You could have shared this with me.

MARTIN: I know.

COSMO: You could have had the power.

MARTIN: I don't want it.

COSMO: Don't you know the places we can go with this?

MARTIN: Yeah, I do. There's nobody there.

COSMO: Exactly! The world isn't run by weapons anymore, or energy or money. It's run by ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It's all just electrons!

MARTIN: I don't care.

COSMO: I don't expect other people to understand this, but I do expect you to understand this! We started this journey together!

MARTIN: It wasn't a 'journey', Cos. It was a prank.

COSMO: There's a war out there, old friend, a world war. And it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information: what we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It's all about the information!

MARTIN: If I were you, I'd destroy that thing.

I saw Sneakers when it first came out, back in 1992 or thereabouts. It quickly became one of my favorite movies, and I saw it several more times theatrically before it became a fixture in my rotation of movies to rent on occasion, and later, when I had a sizeable collection of movies on VHS. But for one reason or another – mainly because I just never got around to it – Sneakers never got into my DVD collection, so I haven't seen it in...holy crap. More than ten years. That seems rather wrong to me now, in retrospect, but never fear – I finally watched it recently, with some fear and trepidation that, like many a techno-thriller made more than a decade ago, it wouldn't hold up very well.

Surprisingly – and satisfyingly – it does hold up, very well. And more than that: it's striking to me now, twenty years later, just how eerily prescient this movie was.

Sneakers is one of the most entertaining cyberthriller-espionage movies I've ever seen. Robert Redford stars as Martin Bishop, the head of a security firm consisting of a group of men whose backgrounds mostly include shady dealings or outright brushes with the law. Their main job is simply to break into places that are supposedly highly secure, in order to demonstrate the lax areas in the security. They seem to be mostly just eking by: when they complete a job for a bank early in the film, a bank officer fills out the payment check, looks at it, and comments that it's not a very good living. The team gets hired for another job, this time by two men claiming to be NSA agents, who happen to know who Martin Bishop really is (for which he could go to jail). They are to steal a device that decrypts codes which are supposedly unbreakable, which they do, and then give to the NSA guys – only to learn that they're not NSA guys at all, and that they've murdered the mathematician who invented the device.

In a deeply eerie scene, Bishop's hacker buddies start probing around with the little black box, just to see what it can do – and they discover that it can allow anyone to hack into extremely sensitive computer systems. The power grid of the entire Northeast...the Federal Reserve...air traffic control. They couldn't have known it, writing this movie ten years before 9-11, but hearing one of the hackers jokingly say, "Anybody want to crash a few passenger jets?" is deeply chilling.

The entire movie is about security in an increasingly digital world, and at the end of the film, the exchange quoted above takes place, between Bishop and his onetime college buddy Cosmo, who has become a villain since doing time in prison for a crime that he committed with Martin at his side (but who eluded capture by the police simply by going out for pizza when they showed up with the guns). The idea of the world become increasingly governed by, and even defined by, the processing of data was a pretty bold one back in 1992. When I saw this movie, I had not yet even heard of the Internet, and the digital infrastructure that Sneakers portrays – with dial-up modems and not a cell phone in sight – seems utterly quaint. And yet, the movie is somehow fresh, despite all that, largely owing to the charm of the cast, the sparkling dialogue, the engaging direction, the brisk pacing, and – in terms of the technology – the nicely non-specific way the technology is depicted.

There are a lot of very clever touches in Sneakers: the reverse 'race against time', for example, in which Martin Bishop has to get a job done and yet literally can only do it at a very slow pace, lest the motion detectors notice his presence. Also the way they enlist Martin's former (and yet still friendly) girlfriend to help with the problem of recording a particular scientist's voice for use against the voice-print ID gizmo. (If the phrase "My name is Werner Brandes. My voice is my passport. Verify me." is in your geek lexicon, then you are my kind of people.) I also like how vague the movie is about Cosmo's villainy. We never learn who he works for, or if he is the main ringleader; we never learn what exactly it is that he wants to accomplish with the little black codebreaking box. In fact, it's entirely possible that Cosmo doesn't even have a specific plan in mind at all, and that he just wants the codebreaker because it will give him power that he as yet doesn't really know how he intends to use it. He's almost purely a theoretical villain, which is what makes him even scarier -- as well as the sheer optimism of his villainy, which is what makes the quote above so memorable. It's not about making threats or committing crimes or any of that dirty stuff. It's about the possibilities inherent in controlling the world's data.

And that is really makes this twenty-year-old film stay relevant.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Darth Abrams?

According to a number of media reports, JJ Abrams is directing the first Star Wars movie of the Disney era. I'm mostly fine with this -- of all my myriad problems with Star Trek 2009, none of them were in the film's execution or direction. I thought that Abrams made a fine explodey-spaceshippy-goodness movie, so if he's directing Star Wars, yeah...I'm fine.

I don't want him writing it, though. I've never cared for his work as a writer. Nor do I want Orci and Kurtzman to write it, either. Because they are, frankly, terrible writers.

If only there was a writer out there somewhere, well-steeped in Star Wars and space opera, waiting for his big break...if only...doo de doo de doo....

Long live Star Wars!

Something for Thursday

Sticking with a recent flare-up of a longtime obsession of mine, the music of the Russian Romantic and post-Romantic composers, here is the Capriccio Espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This piece is in five short movements, and constitutes something of a musical 'travelogue', intended by Rimsky-Korsakov to convey what he thought to be the musical flavors of Spain.

In the days of CDs, this work almost always showed up as the pairing on discs containing Rimsky-Korsakov's longer, and possibly most famous, work Scheherazade. R-K was one of the great genius orchestrators, with an astonishing ability to use the instruments of the orchestra to create tableaus of enormous color and range. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I love this guy.

You'll need volume for this. Content-wise, it's safe for work, but it could be misinterpreted by someone walking by the cubicle at the right (or wrong) time as being not-so-much....

I'm not sure I recommend recording one's passions for all to see in quite this way, but there really is something to be said for having something in your life that makes you as happy as this fellow.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sentential Links

OK, let's try and get back to some semblance of normalcy around here, shall we? Linkage!

:: When someone, or several someones, say and do stuff that I think is crazy, I can yell and scream at them, but I have found this to be singularly unhelpful in getting rid of my frustration. It just doesn’t make me feel better, but rather, gives me the sense that I’m as out of control as they are. (I admire Roger's ability to calm himself down in such situations. I've never much been tested thereof; I can only remember one such instance when someone shouted something to me from the safety of their moving car, and it was so stupid that I just stood there laughing. It was a kid who commented on my hair by yelling something like "Nice mullet!", when my hair isn't even a mullet. Cracked me up. But it gives me pause that I, a long-haired dude more often than not decked out in outfits that are less than fashionable, get this kind of thing less than a black guy. I'm pretty sure that I'm more odd than Roger. Strange world we live in.)

:: I am not one of those people who leave the TV on as “background noise” but there’s something about football noise that is sort of… I don’t know… comforting, I guess. It’s a relatively steady noise - the crowd noise and the constant chattering of the commentators. Sometimes the noise will go up in reaction to something happening in the game but overall there’s a uniformity to it. It’s almost like music. (This is there's the fact that outside of one-sided blowouts, with most football games you can usually be assured that at some point, something of at least mild interest will take place on the field. Sure, you might miss a great play here and there, but few sports lend themselves to rejoining after not paying a lot of attention like football. That said, I watched less football this season than I have in many years -- I have not watched a single game all the way through, and most weekends not a single play, since Week Four. I'm not sure if my general interest is waning or if it's just the cumulative effect of thirteen years of my team being lousy, but even most years I can gin up interest in other games, here and there. Now, I'm not even sure I'll bother watching the Super Bowl.

All that said, I am, as usual, insanely happy to see St. Tom the Overrated walk off the field a loser in his last game of the season!)

:: I'm trying to come up with a word to describe my feelings about this movie, and the word I keep coming up with is "ordeal." This was an ordeal. This was less a film than an endurance test. What do I get for surviving it? (SamuraiFrog did not find Les Miserables to his liking. My review is forthcoming. It will be a tad more positive than his!)

:: I seem to remember epic snowfalls like this from my youth but maybe it just looked like a lot of snow because I was a smaller person. (There's something to this, I think. Many a time I've revisited places I remember from my youth that I recall as being huge only to discover that they are, in fact, quite small.)

:: Oh the proverbial ‘pie in the face’ act. That gag never seems to go out of style. I guess you could say this was one of our ‘Why not?’ to-do’s. Fun for the sake of fun. It was either that or bathe in a tub full of jello, which John wouldn’t go for, so a pie in the face it was. (A wise choice, I think. Pies in the face are fun and whacky. A tub full of jello is...ewwww.)

:: I miss him. There is so much I still would love to say to him. I had always hoped (and, frankly, assumed) that we would get close again. I assumed our drifting apart was a phase. (He had drifted away from many of us in his last 3 years or so.) Unfortunately, I will never get that chance now. But I love him, and I will always love him: for who he was then, and for the many years of friendship that followed. He was the best. Truly the best. (I hope, when I am gone, that someone can write about me that way.)

:: So dear friends, live your life like it's fiction. Love like a romance novel, seek like a good mystery, hope like an underdog story and fight like a fantasy warrior.

More next week!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: For lunch today I made one of these, and I feel no remorse about it whatsoever. I won't do this on a regular basis, but boy howdy, was it ever good!

Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. On waffles. With syrup. OMG.

:: Some writer disses Richard Marx. Richard Marx takes offense. Hilarity ensues.

:: The complete ACME Products Catalog. Sadly, there is no ordering information for any of the items listed.

More next week!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Move over, Grumpy Cat!

For here comes Zen Cat. When he purrs, it sounds like this: Ommmmmm....

Friday, January 18, 2013

A book in the mail

For those who don't follow me on Twitter or see my drivel on Facebook, the proposal for Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title) went into the mail today: three chapters, a synopsis, and a SASE that I hope will go unused in favor of a short e-mail reading, "Please send us the entire manuscript".

Now begins the part of the project over which I have almost zero control. I pray, I pray, I pray that someone out there likes this book!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Would you ever consider running for political office? If so, which one?

How I'd fix the Bills and the NFL (but really, screw sports, anyway)

OK, I’m finally getting back to the “Gimme a Title!” game that I launched way back a couple months ago before I got all “Meh, I got a book to finish!” and stuff. I got two suggestions that were quite similar, so I’m folding them into one: I’m the new commissioner of the NFL, here’s my plan and How I’d fix the Buffalo Bills.

Well, fixing the Bills is easy. The way the NFL works nowadays, fixing any team is easy. The job involves just two steps:

1. Draft a great quarterback.
2. Profit!!!

Of course, that first step is kind of a killer. As advice goes, this is about as useful as my old college music theory professor’s chestnut, “Playing the piano is very easy. Just strike the keys in the right order and the piano does the rest.” If only!

Anyone who pays even slight attention the the Bills knows that they have not really been good at the quarterback position since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season. (In fact, anyone who paid attention to the Bills that year might make the case that they haven’t been good at quarterback since before that season, but that’s neither here nor there.) Why is this? Well, because they’ve made a series of epic blunders at the position. There’s no need to go into the history of it all, but suffice it to say...they’ve been terrible at the game’s most important position.

And they’ve been bad at that position in a football era in which the rules favoring offense in general and passing in particular have made the position even more important than ever before. So that’s where it starts: find a great quarterback. And how do you do that? Scout ‘em all. Draft at least one quarterback every single year until one succeeds. Lather, rinse, repeat. Be hard-nosed in your evaluations and unafraid to make deals if you need to move up in the draft, and equally unafraid to cut guys’ careers short if you have to. Two years ago, the Carolina Panthers took two quarterbacks in the draft, including one in the first round: Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. The next year, armed with the first overall pick, they took Cam Newton, regardless of the two picks they’d spend on QBs the year before. That’s what the Bills need to do: focus on QB with laser-like precision.

Until then, nothing else matters...except maybe linebacker. Boy Howdy, are they bad at linebacker. But once you figure out QB, then it’s easier to slot in the pieces around that guy. Let a great QB make everyone else better, instead of doing what the Bills have been doing -- relying on everybody else to make the QB better.

As for the NFL in general...well, I hate to say this, but I think that my passion for football in particular and for sports in general is waning pretty severely. I find it harder and harder to enjoy football, knowing more and more that these players are doing things to their bodies which destroy their future lives -- in some cases entirely, what with the increasing rate of retired-player suicides in which the victims later turn out to have suffered brain damage from repeated hits. The game’s attraction was always that it was kind of ‘cartoon violence’; sure, players got seriously hurt once in a great while, but those were freak occurrences. But it’s just harder to see it that way now, and I’m especially disheartened to hear other fans say things like “Well, they signed the contract. Nobody forced them to play football.”

Well, you know, that’s something that needs to be rethought in general in our society, I think. There are more ways to force someone to do something other than holding them at gunpoint. The lure of a huge paycheck -- or, in some cases, any paycheck -- can be a compelling force too, I think.

My other problem with football isn’t so much with football but with sports in general now. It took me a long time to get there, but I am increasingly of the mind that the amounts of money involved are insanely high, and that’s just going to go up. We build these palatial stadiums for teams, almost always involving public financing in some way, when it’s got to be one of the worst-kept secrets in the world that sports facilities just don’t generate large amounts of economic impact. And there’s this sense of entitlement the sports leagues seem to have, because they know that as a society, we have collectively decided that sports is one of the most important things we have.

Here in Buffalo, the community’s sports fervor has switched over the last ten years from football to hockey. Once a rabid football town, Buffalo is now a stalwart hockey city that sells out its beloved Sabres almost every single time they play. And time was when I found that exciting and fun to behold; hockey as a game is a joy to watch, and over the last few years I’ve started liking it more and more. (I never really learned the rules years ago, so I never understood it all that well, and I haven’t had too much opportunity over the last decade owing to our not having cable.) But the just-concluded NHL lockout has left a very sour taste in my mouth for the sport, to the point that for the most part, I may well be done with sports in general.

Again, it comes back to money. While my instinct in labor disputes is to always side with the folks who do the work over the people who ‘foot the bill’ (and thus profit hugely by it), it was very difficult to justify rooting for one side in this dispute over the other. It wasn’t the Haves versus the Have-nots; It was the Have-a-ton’s versus the Have-a-bit-less-but-still-more-than-I’ll-ever-see’s. At one point I heard some player talk about how this was about “how are we gonna feed our families”, and I wanted to vomit. If you gave me a single NHL player’s one-year salary, say $2,000,000, as a one-time bonus, and said to me, “This is all the money you are allowed to use to feed your family every week for the next fifty years,”, you know what? That single check would allow me to more than quadruple my current weekly food expenditures for my family. Two million divided by fifty years divided by fifty-two weeks? Yeah, I think I can feed my family extremely generously on $769 a week.

The money involved makes it harder than ever for me to maintain any kind of interest in sports, because that money’s not just coming from the sky. Nor are owners paying it out of their own personal fortunes. The teams are in business to make money, and the make it from teevee advertising and from fans who buy tickets. That’s what I find most disturbing. One refrain I hear constantly whenever any one sport suffers a labor-related stoppage is that “The owners and players will make out fine, it’s the fans who get screwed!” And yet, when the stoppage ends and play resumes, the stadiums still sell out. The Sabres just announced a record for ticket sales in a single day, for the start of a lockout-shortened season. As I said on Facebook: If this is the fans getting ‘screwed’, I sure hope that the Sabres at least left a little something extra on the nightstand on their way out the door.

(I wrote this post yesterday, but on my way into work this morning, the radio guys were discussing this very topic, with one of them opining that to just decide "to hell with hockey" is to "cut your nose off to spite your face". Not really, no. It's not like I'd be sitting around for three hours staring at the walls when I might have been watching hockey. I'm finding other stuff to occupy my time with. It can be done. Really. Might be hard for a couple of guys who are paid to talk about sports all day to imagine, but I can fill the sports-sized hole in my life just fine.)

Ultimately, though, I find sports less fun than ever before, with the exception of the Olympic Games. I dislike the idea of using sports to foster civic identity, and in any event, that’s rather overblown anyway -- witness the number of Notre Dame fans you meet in regular life who have never been within five hundred miles of South Bend. I don’t identify with these teams, and it seems silly to, as one local radio host proudly proclaims, “Root for the shirt, regardless of who’s wearing it.” More and more I find sports in general to be a dreary affair, regardless of who wins or loses. This year I haven’t watched a single play of any football game since week four -- where in years past, even after I gave up on the Bills I would watch a game here or there involving some good team or other. I haven’t watched a baseball game in its entirety in nearly two decades. Hockey? Basketball? No and no. And so it goes.

But you know what I do still like about sports? The writing. I can read good sports writing until the end of days. I guess I can pretty much do without the sports themselves, though.

(Nothing I have written here should be taken as a newfound ambivalence toward Tom Brady. Because, really: screw that guy!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A few book notes

Just briefly:

:: Cetaganda is the next book up (for me) in Lois McMaster Bujold's ongoing saga of the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, and as usual, a fine book indeed, full of politics and intrigue and adventure as our Miles gets embroiled in the internal politics of the Cetagandan Empire, and drags his poor best friend, Ivan Vorpatril, along for the ride. I really enjoy these. I can't really say a whole lot more than that -- these books are just good, character-driven entertainment. At this point in the series, Miles is still pretty young and inexperienced, so it's fun seeing him gain in those areas.

:: Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series is, apparently, full-throttle military science fiction, following Captain John "Black Jack" Geary as he takes command of the fleet in a failing war effort and vows to bring it home. Trouble is, Geary was recently resuscitated after spending a hundred years in hibernation after completing a battle victory that has made him a legend. Thus he has to deal with the fact that his own officers treat him with worshipful reverence, which strains his relationships and fills him with dread for how morale will suffer when they realize that their hero is as human as they are.

The first book in this series, Dauntless, starts with a huge BANG, and the pacing rarely drops after the third or fourth page. Military SF doesn't always ring my bell, but this book was terrific. I can't wait to read more of this series!

:: Praise seems to be uniformly good to great for John Scalzi's Redshirts, which is why I hesitate to report that I just didn't like it. I must qualify that, however: Scalzi's skill with characterizations and for keeping the pot boiling is still in evidence, so ultimately, I think that my reaction to this book is less a reaction to any deficiency in the execution and just that, well, this type of story just isn't my cup of tea. Redshirts is a very meta kind of tale, meditating on the oft-cited (and equally oft-mocked) way that the poor guys in red shirts on Star Trek almost always met awful ends. Redshirts is even more 'meta' than Galaxy Quest, believe it or not. If you like that sort of thing, then this book will probably be up your alley. I'm not a big 'meta-fiction' fan, so this book just didn't do much for me, alas.

It's not you, Mr. Scalzi. It's me. But I'll keep reading your stuff!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Almost there...almost....

The manuscript is done, locked, completed. I'm just working on the synopsis now.

I'm almost there, folks.

Friday, January 11, 2013

More Writing!

Well, just a short while ago this evening I completed the newest batch of edits to Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), which pretty much means that the book is in the final form in which editors will give it its Yay or Nay. (Except for, maybe, the first sentence. I think I'm going to tweak that a bit. I want it to be just perfect, and my gut tells me it ain't there yet.)

What's left? Formatting the manuscript for submission (which I've already done; that's easy), and writing a synopsis, for those publishers who take their submissions in the "Three chapters and a synopsis" format. Then we're on track to get the thing out there. It's time for this thing to fly. As a great pilot once said, "I am a leaf on the how I soar!"

I honestly can't convey how much I have invested in this story. I'm all in on this one, folks. This is my "Go big or go home" project. After this? A week or so of not thinking about writing fiction...and then it's time to finish the NaNoWriMo book I started, and after that, time for the sequel, Princesses Still In SPACE!!! (not the actual title).

For right now, though, it's rum o'clock.

Writing: lubricating the brain

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Something for Thursday

I'm on something of a Russian classical music kick of late, so here's a fascinating piece by one of the most idiosyncratic composers ever, Alexander Scriabin. Scriabin was something of a light unto himself. He doesn't fit into any of the usual convenient labels for music. Scriabin is too Romantic to be modern, but too free in his formal approach and his choice of thematic fare to be really Romantic. He exists in his own soundworld, and what a soundworld it is. I tend to think of him as being most spiritually attuned to the French Impressionist composers (Ravel, Debussy), than the Russian tradition (Tchaikovsky, and later, Stravinksy). But even those categories don't hold him very well.

The best word for Scriabin is probably 'mystic'.

Here is Scriabin's symphonic tone poem "Le Poeme de l'extace", or "The Poem of Ecstasy". This work is as astonishing to me now as it was when I first listened to it in college. I really try to avoid making visual and literary associations with concert music, but sometimes I can't avoid it. This is one such work. It sounds to me like the union of a god with a goddess...and a universe springing to being afterward....

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

You can resurrect any shopping destination at all, from any point in your lifetime, as it was at the height of your memories of the place. What is it? A store? A particular shopping center or mall? A downtown street?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Whoever did this is one of the worst people EVER.


Light blogging ahead....

OK, folks, I'm in the final home-stretch of editing Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title). I have less than a hundred pages to go, and I have an outline to write, so I can get my submission packet ready to go for January 15, my self-imposed deadline. This means that I'll be posting less frequently here until all that is done. No hiatus, but there will be less new stuff here for a few days. Thanks!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Probably not safe for work...but it's hilarious. Cats that look like pin-up girls.

:: Wonder what Mars looked like when it was still a watery, verdant world? Wonder no more! Amazing.

:: Emotions for which English has no words. I find this interesting to consider -- if we did have words for such feelings as these, would English poetry be less interesting?

More next week!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Something for Thursday

Regular readers of long duration will know that an annual New Year's tradition at Casa Jaquandor -- not yet indulged this year, but likely Saturday night, when The Wife is home from work -- is the viewing of the New Year's From Vienna concert, which features the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and various other artistic groups, most often ballet artists, in a wonderful concert of music by the Strauss family. It's invariably a magical evening, and one of my greatest dreams is to attend it in person one day. (One of my great dreams of youth, now ruled impossible by choices I've made since, was to actually conduct the concert. But that was always unlikely....)

The concert always ends with three encores: a galop or polka chosen by the conductor, and kept secret until the concert itself, followed by a waltz, and then closing with the Radetzky March, which is the Austrian equivalent of The Stars and Stripes Forever. That waltz? Not just any waltz, but the most famous waltz ever written: On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

Most years, the concert footage of Blue Danube is combined with ballet footage, but a couple of years ago, they did something different, using the waltz to trace the flow of the river itself, from its headwaters in Germany all the way to where it empties into the Black Sea. How utterly captivating! Here is On the Beautiful Blue Danube (conducted by Georges Pretre).

And hey, why stop there? From the same concert, here is that final encore number, the Radetzky March. Note the snare drum opening, before our conductor even reaches the podium, and note the audience participation, with our conductor indicating when they should clap softly and when they should clap loudly.

Let 2013 commence proper!

(For those interested, through January 16 you can watch this year's concert broadcast here.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A quiz-thing, huzzah!

I don't do as many quiz-things as I used to. So here's a quiz-thing, stolen from Cal.

1: What eye color do you find sexiest?

Blue, I guess. Never really thought of it before.

2: White, milk, or dark chocolate mocha?

No idea. Not off to a promising start here....

3: If you could get a Sharpie tattoo on your back, what would it be?

Label where my internal organs are.

4: Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

Small town. I liked it well enough, but even then it was slowly dying away, and while the area is physically beautiful, there's really nothing there now. At the time I didn't really understand "the rules" of interacting in a small town, so I got bullied a lot. To this day I'm unsure as to how much I liked it, but I did enjoy the people a good deal, despite not having a hell of a lot in common with any of them.

5: Your favorite adult as a child? (and not your parents, if they were your favorite)

Huh. Probably any teachers who took active interest in whatever talents I had. Regrettably, these were more infrequent than they should have been.

6: What kind of smoothie sounds really good right now?

Blueberry. I love me some blueberries. Or pomegranate. Or orange-vanilla. Or...anything but banana, peach, or mango. I don't like those flavors in things, even though I love the respective fruits. What can I say, I'm strange.

7: Most embarrassing moment from your elementary school years?

Well, when you're the kid who tends to get bullied a bit and you make the mistake of writing on the cover of your notebook that you like some girl and one of the bullies finds the notebook...yeah, that's kinda mortifying.

8: Most embarrassing moment from your middle school years?

Writing a brief love-note to the girl I was crushing on turned out to be a less than good idea. She let me down gently, though. Good on her!

9: Most embarrassing moment from your high school years?

Don't worry, it didn't involve girls. I think. I actually mostly managed to get through high school with a minimum of embarrassing stuff happening.

10: Pirates or ninjas? Why?

Pirates. There are lots of cool, notorious pirates, and they drink lots of rum and get lots of wenches. Ninjas? They wear masks and anonymously dish out death as part of a collective.

11: Have you ever climbed a tree more than twenty feet off the ground?

Yes! Tree climbing is fun. I'd be great in the Amazon rain forest.

12: Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing set?

Oh yeah, I loved swinging. In fact, it's still fun, if the swing is big enough.

One time I'm swinging away, nice and high, and some toddler wanders right into my path. I managed to jump off while holding on, dragging my feet and knees and generally hurting all manner of body parts -- and the little shit's mother comes over to get him and gives me a dirty look for almost hurting her precious little angel. Stupid woman.

13: If you could have any pet in the world, illegal or not, what would you get?

A Persian kitten. No, two Persian kittens. Because Persian kittens are so adorable that it makes me cry.

14: What’s your most favorite part of your body?

Is Jadzia Dax would say of Leonard McCoy, "He had the hands of a surgeon...."

15: What’s your most favorite part of your personality?

My increasingly-strong ability to not give a crap.

16: Madonna or Lady Gaga? Neither? Both? Who cares?

Madonna, although I do think Gaga is cut from the same cloth. I still think Madonna can bring it -- her Super Bowl halftime show was one of the greatest things I've seen in years, for sheer gonzo lunatic spectacle.

17: Have you ever watched the Superbowl all the way through?

Every year since SB XXIII (SF 20, Cincinnati 16), except for: SB XXIV (at college, busy that night, everybody knew SF would clobber Denver), SB XXXV (Baltimore beats crap out of Giants, dull game, missed second half driving home from party), SB XXXVIII (again, driving home from party), SB XLV (again, driving home from party). Most times when we've gone to Super Bowl parties, they've been really far away, and it takes a big chunk of the second half getting home.

18: Have you ever watched any major sporting event drunk?


19: What’s the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten in your life?

I'll say something different each time you ask this, so for right now, I'll mother's turkey dinner.

20: Margarine or butter? Which did you grow up with?

Now, butter. I don't recall what we used when I was a kid. I think that margarine is pretty awful stuff, though.

21: Whole, skim, 1%, or 2% milk? (Did you know they make 1 1/2% milk?)

Skim, although I'll use others for recipes, depending on what's called for. I prefer whole or half-and-half for creamy soups.

22: Which continents have you been on?

North America. Travel has not been in the cards for me much to now, aside from the States and Toronto.

23: Do you get motion sickness? Any horror stories?

Not really, but I'm chicken about inverting roller coasters. I want no part of those.

24: Backpacks or satchels?

Satchels, unless I'm walking through the wilderness. Then a backpack.

25: Would you wear a rainbow jacket? A neon yellow sweater? Checkered pants?

No on all three counts, but I'd be most likely to do the neon yellow sweater.

26: What was your favorite cartoon growing up?

Bugs Bunny and company.

27: If you had to have a cow or a pig, which would you take? Why?

The pig, because of bacon.

28: If you had to look at one city skyline for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Toronto's. I love that city! (Close seconds: NYC and Chicago.)

29: Longest plane ride you’ve ever been on?

Boston to Phoenix, as part of our journey across the country for my mother-in-law's funeral. It took 6.5 hours. I'm better equipped for such a flight now; I'd load up my tablet with a movie or two and watch away. I did have my laptop, but I could barely get it opened in those tiny seats.

30: The latest you’ve ever slept?

Noon, once or twice in college following an almost all-nighter. (I never once pulled an actual all-nighter, although one night we went to bed at 5:30 am.)

31: Would you buy a sweater covered in kitten pictures? Would you wear it if someone gave it you for free?

As much as I love kitties...probably not. Unless I wore it under overalls, which would conceal some of it.

32: Do you pick at scabs?

Ewwww! No! (But when I was a kid...yeah.)

33: Favorite kind of bean? Kidney? Black? Pinto?

I love beans of nearly every variety. I honestly couldn't pick a favorite.

34: How far can you throw a baseball?

Ugh! I suck at throwing. Never practiced as a kid.

35: If you had to move to another country, where would you move?

Toronto, ON, CA.

36: Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? Vietnamese? Korean? Nepalese? How was it?

No, yes, no, no. I'd love to, though. I wish more ethnic restaurants weren't all in the farther-from-home 'burbs of Buffalo.

37: Small, liberal arts school or public university? Why?

I went to a small liberal arts school, but I think I'd have been fine in a larger place, too. I love the collegiate atmosphere, actually.

38: A relationship with love or one with sex?

Love. Without it, the other thing is pointless. Fun, I imagine, but pointless.

39: Do you eat enough vegetables?

No, but I'm getting better at it.

40: Do you like horror movies? How about thrillers?

Horror, no. Too often they're about shock and gore. Thrillers, absolutely! Some of my favorite movies are thrillers. Silence of the Lambs, for example.

41: Would you scratch a crotch itch in public?


42: Do you swear in front of your parents?

I try not to, because it feels kinda odd, to this day.

43: Coolest thing you’ve ever been for Halloween?

Captain Marvel. Zap! Pow! (My mother made that costume, and it was awesome.)

44: If you could change your natural hair color, would you? To what?

I'd let it go. I'll be a Gandalf-like gray within five to ten years.

45: Do you want to get married? Have kids?

No, because to do that, I'd have to divest myself of the current marriage, and I don't have a whole lot of desire to do that.

46: Do you use a reusable water bottle? If not, you should.

Yes. Weird question.

47: City or nature person?

I think I'm a city person with a nature person looking to get out. Or maybe the other way around. I could be a nature person as long as I'm within, say, 45 minutes of a city.

48: Have you ever used something other than “makeup” as makeup? (Like paint? Markers?)

Unless whipped cream and coconut custard count, no.

49: Can you walk well in high heels? Even if you’re a guy?

Never tried. Heels do look nice on women, but I don't think they're likely worth the hassle and pain. I don't think they elevate a woman's appearance so much that I'd miss them if every woman just said "Oh, frak these things" and shuffled them off to the dustbin of history, like powdered wigs.

One thing I see fairly regularly is women wearing heels who clearly don't wear them very often. There's no mistaking that particular awkward gait.

50: Post 5 awesome things about yourself. BRAG AWAY!

I write well. I love to learn new things. I can cook. I'm good with cats. And I'm ready to step in and take over writing chores for Star Wars Episode VII on a moment's notice!