This is What I’ve Been Doing

So thanks to my friend Creeva, I realized I hadn’t posted in a WHILE. Sorry about that. (BTW I love Creeva’s new layout, it looks really slick.)

Anyway, yeah…what HAVE I been doing?

1. Working, which is still going really well.
2. Buying a whole new HVAC system (two new AC units, two new coils, two new furnaces). Was that expensive? YES.
3. Dealing with the vagaries of my daughter’s pre-school and summer school schedule. Real school starts in just a week! She’ll be in kindergarten (all day at the Montessori school though, not our public school’s weak-ass half-day thing).
4. Playing WoW occasionally (log in, do dailies, poke around a bit, maybe some crafting, reorganize bank, log out).
5. Playing Left 4 Dead 2 occasionally (log in, shoot a lot of zombies, get frustrated at lag on Steam servers, log out).
6. Catching up on various TV shows – this summer I’ve watched all of the currently available seasons of Parks & Recreation, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, and Game of Thrones, plus I’ve caught up to the latest on True Blood. I watch almost all of these shows on my iPad, which ROCKS.
7. Reading. Here are all the books that I’ve read so far this summer:
– All three of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins
– All five of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin
Dead Reckoning (the most recent Sookie Stackhouse novel) by Charlaine Harris
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (I understand this is part of a series too but can’t find the others on Kindle)
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
–  Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
Already Dead by Charlie Huston (just started this actually)
I also started Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris, but I just can’t get into it. The topic is interesting to me (American movie industry of the late 60s), but maybe it’s the prose? Anyway, it leaves me cold and I suspect I may not finish it.

I still have  a backlog of maybe 20 or so items in my Kindle that I want to read, so I’m not buying ANYTHING new until I’ve finished all of it. This will help me save some money too, which is a good thing (see that painfully expensive new HVAC system, noted above).

And that’s what I have been doing!

Reading Fool, or, How the Kindle Helped my Brain

So besides being somewhat bored at work, playing the most excellent Left 4 Dead 2 in the evenings, and being generally appalled at some of the shit in the news these days*, I’ve been reading – A LOT.

*OK seriously, I don’t want to talk about it, but I just have to say that these hypocritical assholes who are using this Park 51 community center (aka the not-actually-at-Ground-Zero, not-actually-a-mosque, “Ground Zero Mosque”) as the new wedge issue to drive the rednecks crazy need to stop it. Are these yahoos out of their fucking minds? Don’t we have enough hate in this country? Hasn’t the Bill of Rights been trampled on enough over the last decade? Sheesh.

So, um, where was I? Oh yeah, reading. Yeah I’ve been reading a lot, and I think it’s all because of my Kindle. Having that thing makes is so ridiculously easy to take books with me wherever. And I’ve also learned to love the Kindle apps for iPhone, PC, and Mac. With them, I’m able to keep my library completely synced and read whatever I want, pretty much wherever I want. BIG WIN, Amazon. You rock.

Here’s all the fantastic things I’ve read this summer on my Kindle:

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta: interesting read, although I did not like the [spoiler] abrupt ending. Great character development though.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson: whoa, this took FOREVER to get going, but once it did I couldn’t put it down. Read lots of it on a road trip to West Virginia, making the trip that much more surreal. I’ve got some more Stephenson lurking in my library, and I’ll be starting on it this fall for sure.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King: you’d probably get more out of this than I did if you’re a baseball fan. I don’t mind baseball, but I’m not obsessed with it. That said, I still enjoyed this yarn. Typical King – there’s a twist that you can sort of see coming for pages and pages before it happens, but when it does you still kind of go “OMGWTF!!”

Dead and Gone and Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris: oh these horrible, trashy, poorly written, incredibly entertaining Sookie Stackhouse novels. I wish I could quit  you!

The Descent by Jeff Long: this was a re-read. I read it first several years ago, loved it then, loved it this time too. That movie “The Descent” is loosely based on the basic concept of this book, but if you ask me, the book is so much better. Especially enjoyable if, like me, you’re fascinated by hidden places and cities buried deep underground, the kind of stuff just strewn all over H.P. Lovecraft.

Fly Away Home: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner: Jen has been in the news a bit recently because she, along with Jodi Picoult, had the nerve to suggest that maybe the New York Times’ fawning coverage of heavy tomes by white male literary darlings wasn’t serving their dwindling readership all that well. I love Jen’s books. This wasn’t my favorite, but it was still pretty darn good.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/The Girl Who Played With Fire/The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson: who hasn’t read at least the first of these by now? I was late to the party but I really enjoyed them a lot. After reading the first book, I watched the Swedish  movie on Netflix streaming. It was great! Why does Hollywood need to remake this? Anyway, all three of these books were real page-turners – even the long section on shopping at Ikea (really!).

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: I guess technically this is supposed to be young adult fiction? Doesn’t matter, I loved it. I had it sitting in my Kindle for months before I finally got around to cracking it open and I have to say I wish I’d read it sooner.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells: one of the many books that are now public domain and available in e-format for free. I’d never read this classic, though of course I had seen both the 1960 and 2002 film versions. Guess what? It was much better than either film. That Wells, he knew what he was doing.

And that’s just in the last few months! I’ve recently started reading another classic (free) e-book, Dracula by Bram Stoker. I have read it before, but it’s been years. I’m enjoying reading it again. I also have King’s The Stand queued up for a re-read; I re-read it every few years or so but this will be the first time I’ve read it in digital format. The version I bought for my Kindle supposedly includes those wonderful illustrations that appear in the unabridged hardback, and I’m really looking forward to reading it again.

I read some dismissive comment about e-books last week (was it Roger Ebert? I don’t want to believe that, but it might have been) making reference to the fact that you can’t see what people are reading when they’re reading on their Kindles, which deprives you of the opportunity of knowing other people’s business, I suppose, and then deciding based on their reading taste if you maybe want to harass them on the Metro or something. WHATEVER, OLDS! Personally, I love the fact that nobody can see what I’m reading. If I want people to know what I’m reading, I’ll write a blog post about it (like this), or Tweet about it, or post on Facebook about it. I don’t feel the need to make an ostentatious display to people on public transportation that I’m reading War and Peace, or try to hide the fact that I’m re-reading that last Harry Potter book AGAIN.

Also, a Kindle is so versatile and just works for my lifestyle so well. In combination with the Kindle app on the platforms I mentioned above, it’s perfect for me. Also – saving me money, because if I didn’t have one I probably would have bought an iPad. 😉

Thanks again, Amazon!

Why Stephen King Rocks

On my vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, I read most of Stephen King’s latest, Under the Dome (I finished it last week). It was straight up awesome, probably my favorite thing he’s written since The Stand. Has a lot in common with The Stand, actually. I am a sucker for the post-apocalyptic stuff, and Under the Dome is definitely post-apoc flavored, though more of a local flavor. I could just so easily imagine all the tragic local politics happening in any of the smallish towns I grew up around in Ohio, or even some of the smaller burgs here in Virginia. That’s what made it scary – the plausibility.

Tonight I’m going to finish Duma Key. Chalk up another great one for Mr. King. Of course, at its heart, the premise is just so far out, I’d even call it whackadoo, but this is the genius of Stephen King: by the time he gets to the really weird shit, you’re already so invested in the story and the characters, you’re willing to go along with it. And he always, ALWAYS gets to the weird shit eventually. That’s what makes him Stephen King!

I find myself longing for his next project, whatever it may be. Get to work, King!

True Blood 1.12: You’ll Be the Death of Me

All right, let’s just get right down to it: I did not like the season finale. Sure, there were some little individual parts that I liked, but overall I thought it was ridiculous. I must admit that a lot of this is probably colored by my recent reading of most of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and the way that Ball & Co. are departing from them in such annoying and irritating ways. But even if I look at the finale in a vacuum, there were things I just did not like.

1. Bill’s ridiculous walk through the sunlight. Meaningful, romantic, heroic gesture? Um…sort of…except totally impossible. He would have burst into flame before he even got to the property line at his place. End of story.

2. Bill’s miraculous recovery from his walk through the sunlight. Again, would not, could not, just does not happen. Although I will admit that I loved his reunion with Sookie, her desperate hug of him after inviting him back into her house, and the tender way that he kissed her amazingly bruised face. I’m really starting to like Stephen Moyer a lot.

3. Maryann. WTF? What they’re doing here is taking a character from a later book, a maenad, and giving her a personality and qualities that she just should not possess. In the books she’s very much a powerful, wild, supernatural creature. The only thing that may save this new interpretation of her on True Blood is the fact she’s being played by Michelle Forbes, who equals awesome in any role. So I guess I’m willing to wait and see.

4. Sookie kills Rene with a shovel. Sookie would not kill someone, not even someone who was trying to murder her. Well, at least not until much later in the books…but that’s a spoiler for another day. No, she would have disabled Rene and then turned him over to the law. So this whole decapitation thing was fun, but I thought it quite out of character.

5. Tara. Go away! Anthony Robbins-ized Tara is even worse than demon-possessed pain in the ass Tara. GO AWAY! At least we didn’t see her annoying mother this week.

6. Jason believes in miracles and joins the Fellowship of the Sun. Yes, he’s stupid, but come on, True Blood…is he really THAT stupid? This storyline doesn’t track with the books at all, but congratulations to you: you have found a way to make Jason annoy me EVEN MORE.

7. Lafayette: murdered. DAMMIT! OK, OK, this was going to happen eventually (it is a plot point in later novels). But why did they have to do it as a cliffhanger to end the season? I wanted to see MORE Lafayette (and I don’t mean in a “naked and dead in the backseat” way). I hope he at least appears in flashbacks next season.

8. Other stupid, miscellaneous shit: Vermont legalizes human/vampire marriage. Jessica reappears to mess up Bill’s relationship with Sookie again. Sookie’s new retro 80s perm. Too little Eric/Pam/Fangtasia crowed. Eggs Benedict. Bill playing not-very-good ragtime on his piano (maybe they couldn’t get clearances for some Joplin, but isn’t a lot of that in the public domain now?).

So what did I like, then?

– Arlene’s sobbing, hysterical entrance with the bouquet of flowers. Poor, poor Arlene, but how funny was that?

– Pam’s impeccable knit (Chanel?) suit. This matches her description in the books a lot more closely. Pam is the bitch I’d want on my side.

– The look on Arlene’s kids’ faces as they’re watching the homemade fangbanger porno. Totally hilarious and so help me God, I hope I never find my daughter watching something like that!

– Andy Bellefleur finally gets slapped down, hard. Asshole.

– Bill’s reunion with Sookie, even though it was impossible. From the polite way he rang her doorbell, to the uncertain expression on his face when she answered the door, to his “Well, technically, no” to her cry of “You’re alive!” Man, he’s really cute for a dead guy.

– I can’t seem to confirm it anywhere, but didn’t the preacher at the Fellowship of the Sun temple look and sound like John Hodgman? I’m having fun imagining it was him, so even if it wasn’t, that’s still a positive about this episode for me.

So about those books. I’ve read like four or five of them now. They’re pretty easy reads, written on what seems like about a 7th grade level. I can usually get through one in an evening or two. They’re sort of enjoyable, if fluffy, although I’m starting to get annoyed with them. That’s because…spoilers to follow…

…Sookie breaks up with Bill around book 2 or 3, and as of book 5 she still isn’t back with him. She has had a fling with Eric (who doesn’t remember it, since he had curse-induced amnesia at the time) and she’s been spending way too much time with werewolves and shapeshifters. In fact, the books spend a LOT of time on shapeshifters of all types, and I’m getting pretty bored with it. It’s called the “Southern Vampire Mysteries,” and I want to read about vampires. Not werewolves, werepanthers, etc.

A Tara character shows up in the later books, but she’s much different than the one we get on the show, and her part is much smaller. There’s also a lot less Jason, and a lot of stuff about Fellowship of the Sun, which is kind of entertaining. But once more, WAY too much stuff about shapeshifters of all types, which I’m just not into.

So, until next season, which is promised for “Summer, 2009,” that’s True Blood.

Watchmen

It took me until early this year to finally get around to reading “Watchmen,” the seminal graphic novel. Up until that point, I was intrigued, but couldn’t make time for it (which is funny, considering some of the other crap I made time to read). Since I read it, I know what the hype is all about, and it’s well-deserved. It’s maybe one of the most intriguing and depressing alternate-history tales ever told.

A movie is in production, which is the kind of thing that strikes dread into the heart of a true graphics novel (or comics) fan. Look what happened to “V for Vendetta!” But I have to admit, the trailer looks pretty damn awesome. I think that Zack Snyder (whose work I admire tremendously, see Dawn of the Dead [2004] and 300, for example) is the perfect person to bring this story to the screen.

I’ve heard the trailer might appear before the new Batman movie, but it’s online now anyway. Watch the trailer here, and feel the hairs stand up on your arms and the back of your neck.