Ooooh! Aaaah!

Very odd weekend. Well, not Addams Family odd, but remarkable in the sense that I’m going to remark on it.

Sunday night we had a bit of bad weather here, and considering that in the last year we’ve lost power every couple of weeks when the sun was shining and birds were chirping in the trees, it was no small surprise that the lights flickered and eventually died late that night – it was a heck of a storm. From the lofty perch of my office, I saw something arc outside before the darkness hit – and then stood out on the front porch and watched as the electricity would return for a minute, only to be interrupted by a basso crackle and the most remarkable blue-purple light from a block away followed by the darkening of houses as far as the eye could see.

Yep, that was no mere blown transformer or downed line, this was something major, and I had to supress the mindless urge to investigate (especially given that my wife would have given me a concussion to prevent me from doing something so dangerous). Power eventually returned four hours later, awakening me at 3AM.

But that was a very War of the Worlds-type experience. Mysterious lights and sounds in the distance. Very cool. Then again, I thought that watching an approaching tornado was very cool, too, so I might not be the best person to listen to in such circumstances.

And somehow, even with all this deathless drama, I managed to write a review for Blade: Trinity.

The light show was better.

Huh? What th-?

It has been one of those weeks, the week where you are suddenly aware that 7 days have passed, but you have no idea what just happened.

Well, I have a few suspicions. I do know, for instance, that last Saturday Chris Holland and his wife, Christina, dropped by to ooh and aah at the kittens and, not coincidentally, go see Revenge of the Sith with a fellow nerd. Then there was a LAN party, and then… things get murky.

Because I realize the entire world is holding its breath for my pronouncement on Sith: it didn’t suck. In fact, I may have liked it. The Anakin/Padme scenes were limited and not too horrible (shame that Christensen and Portman have zero chemistry, though). The FX were stunning. For once, Lucasfilm presented us with an archvillain who was not killed with little fanfare after minimal screen time, proving Darth Maul was not a fluke. The fight scene with General Grievous, in fact, kicked total butt. The final duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan was pretty satisfying, given that we’ve been waiting twenty-five years to see it and build up our expectations.

But. If you’re going to trumpet a big Wookiee battle scene in all the publicity, you better give me a big Wookiee battle scene. And, we all knew how things were going to end; that’s a tough row to hoe, and Lucas was almost completely successful in keeping it interesting despite that problem.

I really do know where a lot of that week went. Extensive use of my beloved notebook has given rise to heat problems, and my wife needs her own computer to attend to her work, so I bought a new desktop computer, and at least one day has been sacrificed to getting that beast up to speed. More will have to be done; the most thorny problem facing me now is the new puter’s apparent inability to recognize a graphics card. More and more I appreciate the Necronomicon, which worked out of the box beautifully. More importantly, City of Heroes worked out of the box on it beautifully.

The animals are now playing well together. Except that the white kitten has developed a fondness for dog food, which has led to an inevitable tiff over the dinner bowl. Pugzilla has been remarkably tolerant, but even her tiny walnut brain is starting to feel some resentment.

Speaking of resentment, this is the last day of school here. The shattering of my quiet workdays begins….. now.

Life Goes On (Long After the Thrill, etc., etc.)

The kittens continue in their bid to take over the household; they now have full run over 3/4 of the house, with only the occasional “accident”. No, that is the province of the older animals, who have taken to expressing their jealousy in the best way they know to get a rise out of us: crapping in unsanctioned areas.

I am happy to report, however, that the Power Pug Princess has learned to be gentle while playing with the new additions, and it’s actually rather fun to watch the kitties chase her from room to room. Until she forgets herself and drops back into bulldog wrasslin’ mode, anyway.

I didn’t mention that I finished Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter – yes, it ended up the way I’d figured, but that didn’t stop it from being a fun read. Still feeling slightly guilty because I’m not reading to improve my mind, I’m now in the throes of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Childs’ latest, Brimstone. I wasn’t sure if I’d get into it, at first – after the immersive playfulness of Lindsay’s novel, the style of Brimstone seemed rather dry, but it has turned out to be a page-turner of the highest order, the type of book I actively resent having to put down to work, eat and sleep.

The first chapter helps a lot, with the discovery of a locked room murder mystery: the victim has barricaded himself inside a windowless bedroom, and is discovered with a look of total horror and agony on his face, a goodly portion of his chest burned away, and scorched into the carpet at the foot of the bed: a single cloven hoofprint.

I am, of course, interested in checking out more by this writing team after I finish this one, especially since the events in past books are referred to often enough to make them intriguing. It turns out these are the guys who wrote Relic, which was turned into a typically bland Peter Hyams movie. (I will say, however that the casting of Tom Sizemore as NYPD detective Vincent D’Agosta is brilliant) Like a lot of horror novels that glutted the market post-Exorcist or Omen, I ignored that one. Now I’m trying to track down a used copy.

Bought my tickets to Revenge of the Sith yesterday. My son is far more excited to see it than I. O, to what a pass we have come!

Fast Sunday Notes

Okay. I play City of Heroes a lot. The first Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game to appeal to me (I’m a terrific wizard, but those days are long behind me). You get to be a superhero, for crying out loud, and I still get a tremendous rush out of beating the hell out of a purse snatcher even when I don’t get any experience points out of it. Take that, scumbag!

But there’s not a whole lot of memorable music in the game. I finally turned the in-game music off and left my Live 365 player running in the background on a favorite station. Sometimes the music was awesomely appropriate; other times, of course, it was not. So I switched to Winamp, playing my very own preselected playlist. Much better, except that when I said cryptic things like “Music says KILL!” in game chat, nobody could know what I was talking about. I had spread te gospel of Winamp to others, but of course there was no way to sync up everyone’s playlists. We’re still experimenting with Shoutcast, but that’s a little tricky – running a Shoutcast off one of the player’s computers has some side-effects (not to mention whiney comments from other players about “Winamp crashed my computer” and “I can’t get it to work!” Never mind that I’ve been using Winamp for years and never had a lick of trouble from it – some people feel they’re not contributing if they’re not complaining). One such side effect is the Shoutcaster has to consciously turn on the cast, and when he shuts down for the evening, goodbye Shoutcast.

What is all this leading up to? Proving life is a circle, I went back to Live 365 and started my own station, CoH Overdrive. Still converting and populating the playlist, but if you ever wanted to know what kind of music I listen to, here’s a fair indicator.

Speaking of superheroes, the review for Elektra is up. Have a good rest of the weekend.

Sappage for the Weekend

I’ve already posted that I’m a total sap, and it’s the same thing prompting that admission again: yes, the comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane. Chickweed has always been in my top 25, slowly edging up into the top 10, until it has, lately, become my favorite strip. It’s always been very smart and observant, with three exceptionally strong female characters in the lead. Concurrent with its rising in my estimation is the almost complete jettisoning of the two older members of the clan to concentrate on young Edda, just now striking out on her own, and the truncated romance with her lifelong friend, the uber nerd Amos, who has lately cleaned up real good and is also striking out into the world.

The storylines over the last few months have dealt with them separately, encountering new people and almost falling into new relationships, failing for one reason or another. The new supporting cast has, in fact, grown so quickly it’s hard to keep track. The fact that these two are both artists – Edda is a dancer in her first ballet company, Amos is a musician studying at Julliard – only makes it richer for me.

But in the last two weeks, Edda’s gay roommate and his significant other have organized a Mission Impossible-style meet cute between the two, allowing the romance – short-circuited by bad communication and confused misunderstandings – to once again blossom, allowing me to consider, for a while at least, that it truly is a nice world to inhabit. It was exactly the balm a battered, raw soul needed at the end of this week.

Now… whether the strip will continue to grow from here, or grow stagnant, as have so many relationships in serial entertainment, once they are consummated – is up to creator Brooke McEldowney. And given the high degree of expectation I feel as I search out each new installment – I trust him implicitly.

Oh, Look: A National ID Card

Schneier on Security: REAL ID tells of a Federally mandated program that will, essentially, turn driver’s licenses into a national ID card.

Gosh, I remember when the last serious attempt to overhaul health care was shouted down because it required “smart card” technology. How times change, far too rapidly and rarely for the better.


Somehow I made it through the bug, though recovery took longer than I anticipated (cue up Mick Jagger howling. What a drag it is, getting old….). Felt well enough to go out to dinner last Friday, as it was our 10th wedding anniversary. Found out my wife’s favorite steak house had closed down, so we went to Benihana instead to enjoy the art of the hibachi chef.

As usual, I found myself wondering if there is some sort of newsletter circulating, as I saw all the usual jokes, plus a couple of new ones (and observed those playing at the other stations). Saw the same act at another hibachi place a few months ago, though that particular chef had a thing about torching oil. Some flambe would have been nice Friday, but given how crowded the place was, would likely have been frowned upon by management.

Paid for it the next couple of days, feeling drained and wan, and the abdominal cramps kept cropping up through Sunday. Rested as much as I was able, and am, of course, behind in my work once more. A Wrath of God type storm pre-empted our plans to take Mom out for dinner Sunday night, so that’s our likely destination Tuesday.

Included in all this drama and mayhem is the arrival of two more occupants of the house. Our neighbor Ronnie, determined to become the neighborhood Weird Cat Lady, has convinced a couple of the neighborhood strays to call her house their home, with an eye toward abusing their trust by spiriting them away to be spayed (and frankly, this neighborhood needs a few more Weird Cat Ladies like Ronnie). Too late in one instance, and Lisa helped find homes for the kittens… including two for us.

Our ancient cat is not impressed with this turn of events, and the Power Pug Princess is mystified as why she cannot play with them yet. (Pugzilla is a sweetie, but dumber than a bag of hammers and unaware of her own strength). The only thing that will save these fluffballs from the wrath of the Dusty Old Cat will be a) her hope that they will eventually come in on her side in the occasional spirited bout of Pugby (a game the dog always wins); and b) her desire to inculcate the fluffballs into the Ways of Evil.

Yowly has spent the last 12 years trying, in a variety of insidious ways, to murder me. Her native cunning has served her well, making the attempts look like accidents, like the simple mistakes of a naive animal, but she doesn’t fool me – the sooner she gets rid of me, the sooner she’ll be able to sleep on Lisa’s face all night long, instead of having me eject her from the bedroom when I come to bed in the small hours of the morning. Thus, this picture, which sums for me the current situation at my house. I will spare you the mawkish story about a puppy and a crippled boy which was attached to this e-mail, and cut straight to the chase:

Back! Posted by Hello


Having lost much of the last 24 – and foreseeably much of the next 24 – to a stomach bug my son brought home, I am pressed to find the bright side, but at least I’ve done some reading.

The Scott-recommended trade paperback of the first story arc of Ex Machina was quite good. I can’t really qualify it as revisionist, but it is certainly one of the finest super-hero-in-the-real-world stories to cross my gaze in some time. Michael Hundred gains the power to talk to and control machines through a bizarre (and as yet unexplained) accident, tries his hand at being a superhero, and finds out his vigilantism causes more problems and pain than it solves. So of course he runs for mayor of New York City and wins. The story is a blend of West Wing-style politics, mystery, and even a touch of derring-do. And the end of issue one remains one of the most stunning images I’ve seen in some time.

As for the Nathan-recommended Walking Dead – uhhhhhh, I found Volume 2, but not Volume 1, and something tells me I want to read this from the beginning. Hopefully my comics store will have restocked by the time I return.

I’ve made an effort to read a, you know, actual book, the thick things with no pictures. I cheated and chose a piece of fiction, trying to hit at least a couple of chapters a day. The bug has allowed me to plow through more than half, and the fact that the book is a delightfully dark little oddity called Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Linday, has made this task very easy. Told in the first person by a serial killer who specializes in killing other serial killers, Dexter is by and large surprisingly light in tone, giving us a monster who is perfectly at ease with his own monstrosity, but befuddled by simple human emotions. Dexter is a blood splatter analyst working in the forensics unit of Miami Dade, and string of bizarre killings seem to speak to him on a killer-to-killer level that fascinates him, and is putting him at risk of discovery of his “hobby”. Now in the final quarter of the book, I’m afraid the mechanics of the plot are starting to get a little transparent, but it’s been a fun ride.

Somewhere in there, I finished the review of Challenge of the Super Friends, Season One.

And now excuse me, the bathroom calls…

Flipping the Calendar

…is something I still haven’t gotten around to doing. The month of April passed by so quickly (much of it lost, probably, to the painkilling drugs after the reaming tax time inflicted upon me) that I feel I have not had time to truly appreciate A Bold Bluff, April’s offering in my Dogs Playing Poker calendar.

Usually I can manage to find a calendar more in keeping with my, um, refined tastes, but not this year. No, the closest I could come is kitsch. Such is life.

Ah- this month is Post Mortem, a sort-of follow-up to A Bold Bluff, just with fewer dogs. They are, alas, not holding cards but some sort of soda cracker or biscuit, which totally violates the Dogs Playing Poker agreement under which I bought the calendar. I’d sue, if I had the time.