Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nerd Fantasy

Originally uploaded by bonniegrrl
Suddenly, thousands of nerds feel the need to spend some time to themselves...
This from the recent Star Wars Celebration. Wish I had been there.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Winter Haunting

Have I mentioned that I’m a huge Dan Simmons fan? A quick search of my blog tells me no, but I find that hard to believe, but there it is.

I discovered Simmons with his Hyperion series (Science Fiction Book Club edition, thank you) and have been playing catch up since then. Simmons is from Illinois, and “A Winter Haunting” takes place there. Or here.

I’m always slightly intrigued when novels are set in, or mention, my area. King drives right by Danville in “The Talisman” but doesn’t stop.

A Winter Haunting is a fine novel. Simmons demonstrates mastery in every genre I’ve read him in, and horror is one of his best. This concerns a professor, Duane McBride, who returns to his home town on sabbatical to write a novel about the summer of 1960, a summer that changed his life. Along the way we learn that he left his wife for a grad student, got dumped, and failed to commit suicide.

We walk the line with Duane between madness and sanity, and most of the time we don’t know which is which. Just when you think you’ve figured something out, you find out you’re wrong. Take nothing for granted here. Simmons takes the conventions of the horror novel and turns them on their collective ear. Our protagonist most certainly does not believe in ghosts, even while living in a house that we most decidedly believe is haunted.

A Winter Haunting is a page-turner of the first order. I devoured most of it in a single day. Then, as has been my habit of late, I hit the Internet looking for reviews. I quickly learned that this is something of a sequel to “Summer Night”, resurrecting locations and some characters. Now I know what’s next on my reading list.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lisey's Story

Lisey's StorySo it’s been many moons since Lisey’s Story was published. You may be wondering who cares now? (Really, I have to wonder who cares what I think anyway, but that’s beside the point.) I purchased and read it the first week it was out.

Early reviews were good, great even. I went into Lisey’s Story with great expectations. To great, perhaps. While I enjoyed the novel greatly, once again I think that pre-read hype did me in.

I suffered the same thing way back when Stand by Me came out. Early reviews were through the roof, and I already loved “The Body” which it was based on. The movie was everything I expected it to be, and therefore somehow less than outstanding.

Don’t get me wrong here. Lisey’s Story is a great book. Perhaps not King’s best, but in the top five. But the story of Scott and Lisey Landon is first and foremost a love story. There are frights and haunts to be sure, but they take a back seat to the story of a love, and a marriage.

It makes me wonder about King’s marriage. His relationship with his wife Tabitha has survived poverty, riches, drug abuse, and near death, just to name the things I’m aware of. In my completely ignorant opinion, I choose to think of Lisey’s Story as a love letter to his wife as much as I think of it as a work of fiction.

Lisey is finally sorting through her deceased husband’s papers, two years after his death. She is prompted by a nosy professor, who may or may not have convinced a slightly crazed fellow to help ‘convince’ Lisey to donate them to the right place. What she finds instead are clues that Scott left behind, clues to take her back to B’ya Moon, clues to help save her life and move on with it at the same time.

The true measure of a King book for me is how many times I’m drawn back to it. That makes the champion on my bookshelf the short fiction piece “Head Down”, the story of King’s son’s little league team and their fight through the Little League Championship series. I come back to that time after time. Second is IT. I can read the scene where Stuttering Bill takes his wife on a bike ride a million times and still get tears in my eyes.

I have yet to go back to Lisey’s Story, but the main reason that I write this today is that I glanced through my bookshelf, looking for something to kill some time, and Lisey is what I pulled down.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


What? I mean... well, damn. The best writing blog goes dark.
Miss Snark's advice, while witty and direct, was always spot-on. It was the fist blog I checked in my RSS reader for well over a year, and every post was worthwhile.
If you're a writer or an aspiring writer, get thou quickly Miss Snark's blog and capture the entire thing. You won't be disappointed. She'll save you from thinking stupid things, making stupid mistakes, and gives you all of the tools you need to get ready for the business of writing.
Goodbye, Miss Snark. I sincerely hope you take the best of your blog and write a book. I'll be first in line.

Miss Snark, the literary agent: Miss Snark is Retiring

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Being a lover of books and movies, what could be better than a movie about a guy who thinks his life is being narrated by an author?

For me, not much. I loved this movie. Funny and poignant without being sappy, Stranger than Fiction is the best non-Action Adventure movie I've seen in ages. Will Farrel is resplendant and restrained as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor stuck so deep in a rut he can't even see that he's in it anymore. While brushing his teeth one morning a narrator starts describing his life. But only in his own head. No one else can hear her.

Concerned co-workers tell the company shrink, who wants to help... oh my God it's Tom Hulce! When did he get so old? And fat? I love Tom Hulce! You can see a bit of the old Parenthood Larry grin hiding under the gray hair and the extra chin.

And how did I not know the Queen Latifa was in this movie?

Then the narrator tells us, and him, that Rick is approaching an immenent demise.

Understandably upset, Rick seeks out a therapist (Linda Hunt!), who sends him to a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman!), where they try to decide: is Rick in a tragedy, or a comedy?

So Rick falls in love, takes up the guitar, learns to love cookies, and finally meets his narrator.

And begs not to be killed.

Describing the movie like that makes me wonder. How stupid could it be? But there's something about Rick as he goes about his everyday existence, knowing his demise is imminent. How he opens up, and changes just a little. It doesn't take much, and Rick is nearly a regular guy. I think it's the cookies that start it all.

This movie is small and thoughtful and quiet and intelligent, something movies rarely are these days. It walks a line that spans fantasy and romance and comedy, and is modern enough to include neat little graphics that pop up randomly, showing has the way Harold compulsivly counts, compares spatial relationships, and measures. The hand soap in the bathroom is not merely partially full, it is 93% full. That is Harold.

I started to think the ending was trite, a bit too easy. But it isn't the movie's compromise that produces it, it is the characters. And that I liked.

I can't recommend this enough. Watch it closely, in a place where you can really listen. This is one for after the kids are in bed. Not because it's racy (not even close), but because you'll want to be sure and catch every word.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Google Reader

The joys of RSS are many and varied. I've gone through about four different reader between my desktop and laptop and workstation at home. I tried the reader in Outlook, the reader in Thunderbird, and on. I finally settled on the reader in Firefox. Between the built-in reader and bookmarks synch, it kept my feeds updates on every machine I used. I was in heaven. I could read during lunch, then later that night the posts I had read would be marked read when I looked on my home pc.
Then the company outlawed Firefox, for security reasons. Which is kind of like saying you want to... well, I don't have a metaphor at the moment, but Iwasn't happy. The real reason Firefox was banned is because it lags in Enterprise configurability and we couldn't monitor it.
But google is still allowed, and google has a feed reader. So with much regret I turn to the Google Feed Reader.
And never looked back.
To start with it allowed me to import all of my feeds without fuss, and allowed me to arrange them in groups so that I could easily discern my "Tech" feeds from my "writing" feeds. For the record : around 30 writing blogs and 32 Tech blogs and 5 "Political and Other" blogs.
Then Google introduced the personalized homepage, finally catching up with the rest of the world (Yahoo, CNN, etc). So now when I go to I see my latest 8 or so messages and most recently updates blog feeds, along with the latest news. And it's updated whever I sit down to use the internet.
I am again in heaven.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Legislature Gets Something Right

Hell has not frozen over. The Cubs have not won the World Series. But the Illinois Legislature dealt a significant blow to Gov. Rod's Gross Receipts Tax today.

It's the right idea (health care access for all) funded the wrong way (tax on gross receipts).

I'd say 107-0 is a pretty clear message, right Mr. Gov?

When are we going to wake up and realize that we are no longer living in a manufacturing economy, but still have a manufacturing tax base?

Can anyone else say Tax on Services? No, I don't like any new tax. But a tax on services coupled with tax relief for manufacturing seems to be a good start.


There are damn few fine novelists writiing today, and few finer than Larry McMurtry. I can pick up nearly any of his Western novels and get lost in moments. I can open Lonesome Dove to literally any page and be at one of my "favorite" passages.

He is the King of dialogue attribution. You'll find nary a 'snarled', or 'grunted', or 'cried' in a McMurtry novel. We know how the characters are speaking because McMurtry shows us, he doesn't need to tell us.

So I just finished Zeke and Ned. The courtroom gun battle alone is worth the price of admission. In this case, the price of admission was zero since I Bookmooched it.

Colorful characters are the hallmark of McMurtry, and Zeke and Ned does not disappoint. Pasasages are laugh - out - loud funny.
A also recently finished his Barrybender novels, which are a rollicking riot from start to finish. All highly recommended.

Friday, May 04, 2007

In My Inbox

This is too good not to pass on. Guess who I voted for?

Best Bush T-Shirts

1) (On an baby’s shirt): Already smarter than Bush.

2) 1/20/09: End of an Error!

3) That’s OK, I Wasn’t Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

4) Let’s Fix Democracy in This Country First

5) Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

6) You Can’t Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time

7) If You Can Read This, You’re Not Our President

8) Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

9) George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

10) Impeachment: It’s Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore

11) America : One Nation, Under Surveillance

12) They Call Him “W” So He Can Spell It

13) Which God Do You Kill For?

14) Jail to the Chief!

15) Who Would Jesus Torture?

16) Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

17) Bush: God’s Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap

18) Bad president! No Banana.

19) We Need a President Who’s Fluent In At Least One Language

20) We’re Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

21) Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Blood

22) Is It Vietnam Yet?

23) Bush Doesn’t Care About White People, Either

24) Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

25) You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

26) Impeach Cheney First

27) Dubya, Your Dad Shoulda Pulled Out, Too

28) When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46/gal!

29) The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

30) 2004: Embarrassed - 2005: Horrified - 2006: Terrified

31) No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade?


It's suddenly February and I have a cast. All of them are people I know or have seen onstage, none of them are the people I thought wou...