Sound-Effect Bonanza

And now, actual sound-effects from the latest issue of The Incredible Hercules (issue #122, to be precise), from Marvel Comics.

Saying that this book doesn’t take itself terribly seriously (and is more than a bit tongue-in-cheek) is, as you’ll quickly discover, the understatement of the century. Boy, is this book fantastic.

  • Kasploooom!
  • Skrrakkkabadooom!
  • Crakkajamma!
  • Sploingbrraahhhm
  • Shrakwash!
  • Skrim! Skraam!
  • Shakaaam!
  • Schmackooom!
  • Gwap!
  • Frmrrrl
  • Aqwooooommm
  • Splurrrgoi
  • Lqwwwrrrggh
  • Kakkakkraakk
  • Obrrrrg!
  • Unlrrqq!

Oh, how I love this comic.

My Fall Listens and Reads

With everything else going on I forgot to mention it, but I became even more of an Arlington resident stereotype last week; I donated money to WAMU, our local NPR station. I started listening to WAMU around the start of the year on my drive to and from work, and I have to admit that I’ve grown to really love Morning Edition and All Things Considered. And from there, well, I’ve started adding podcasts to be automatically downloaded, like StoryCorps, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, or NPR roundups of the week’s news relating to specific subjects (my two favorites are Food and Pop Culture), and most Monday mornings at the gym I spend my hour on the rowing machine and the elliptical listening to the weekend’s episode of This American Life.

So yeah, they’ve given me a lot of entertainment, so with the latest pledge drive I finally crumbled. (It does help that I can make it split over 12 months. That’s not so bad.) But it did make me realize that I really have not picked up much in the way of new music this year. There are still a few albums I’m hoping to get for Christmas (new ones from Aimee Mann and Pink leap to mind), but I didn’t feel the need to rush out and get them. The newest album I can think of acquiring was Tod loaning me Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Trip the Light Fantastic, which was pretty darn good.

Is this a bad year for music? Or merely a bad year for me finding music that I’m interested in?

On the other hand, I’ve definitely done a lot more reading this year; getting those two hours on the bus at least once a week has certainly helped, of course. I’m almost done with Pride and Prejudice and all of you were absolutely right, it’s very enjoyable. At some point I’ll finally tackle Wuthering Heights, but that will have to wait for a little bit. I took advantage of Small Beer Press’s fall sale and ordered the “everything we published in 2008” set (which may sound like some huge crate of books but it’s actually just five).

It helped that three of the books were already ones I wanted; a new Geoff Ryman book is reason to celebrate (Cambodia? Really? I’m in!), I’ve been wanting to read Joan Aiken’s works for a while now, and I’d heard very good things about Benjamin Rosenbaum’s The Ant King and Other Stories. So that made the decision easy; doubly so because Benjamin Parzybok’s Couch sounds entertaining, and I’ve always heard very good things about John Kessel too. (And hey, one of the stories in The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories involves the Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice meeting Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster. It’s like it was meant to be.)

Also on my radar (but for 2009) is NESFA Press’s planned six-volume set of anthologies collecting every single Roger Zelazny short story. I cut my teeth on Zelazny’s Amber novels, and from there went to his anthologies (I still vividly remember telling a friend about Unicorn Variations in the sixth grade and wishing that I could write a short story like Zelazny did) and many of his novels. With half of his anthologies out of print and the other half all scattershot and over the place, a complete, definitive edition of everything? Oh yes. Yes yes yes. It’s just as well that it’s a minimum of four months away.

(Oh, and World of Goo for the Wii is one of the coolest games out there, and for $15 at that! A steal and a half. I actually have to stop myself playing it at times because I don’t want it to come to an end. It’s that good. I would talk about wanting an Xbox 360 Pro, here, but I fear that you lot will just egg me on to buy one. And, um, no. I cannot justify one. Maybe next year.)

150 Words

About a month ago, I got a note from Simon Forward about a contest that the online e-zine Concept Sci-fi was holding, involving stories of exactly 150 words. (No more, no less; no, the title does not add to the word count.) If I remember correctly, the editorial staff of Concept Sci-fi would whittle down the entries to a shortlist, and then award-winning author (and super-nice guy in general) Walter Jon Williams would select the entry.

With about 24 hours until the deadline, I none the less sent in two submissions; one was a brand-new idea (“Instant Future”), the other was an unpublished writing exercise that I’d done a year ago (“Renewal”), but needed to be whittled down to even less words than it already was. (The original version was 289 words, meaning I had to hack out almost half of it. And I’d already thought it was brief!)

If you’ve never tried to write an entire story in 150 words, trust me, it is not terribly easy. My first short story sales back in the day were for an anthology of 750-word stories, and that now seems like a piece of cake in comparison. There’s very little room for filler of any sort. As it is, while I thought “Renewal” still worked in its new length, “Instant Future” is actually begging to be a lot longer.

Well, the decisions are in, and much to my surprise… “Renewal” actually won the entire thing.

What a nice surprise to start the morning. (And to think, I was even just staring at the library in Arlington Courthouse a few hours ago.) And a good way to start my plans of tackling fiction again, to boot. Yay!

Jailbreak Run! (and other good things)

On Sunday morning, I did something that I’d last tackled in 2005—I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Well, half of it. Sarah was running her very first marathon on Sunday, and I knew that while she wasn’t trying to show it, she was definitely a little nervous. (Who isn’t nervous right before their first marathon?) So, since I was already planning on going running that day, I came up with a sudden plan. I’d jump into the race at mile 2 (once Sarah got there) and then run with her through the most of the desolate parts of the course.

The plan came off without a hitch; she was surprised (but in a good way) when I hopped in with her, and I tried to keep her company through the parts of the course where you don’t get anyone out cheering you. This year, that was between miles 5-8 (Canal Road and MacArthur Blvd, west of Georgetown in the Palisades neighborhood), and then miles 11-15 (West/East Potomac Parks, and Hains Point). Once we were through all that, I knew the crowds on the National Mall and Crystal City would get her through the rest.

And while I wasn’t doing it for me? I had a great time. It was nice to just not worry about a finishing time, just enjoying the run. I was a tiny bit sad when I hit mile 15 and it was time to stop, but then again, it was also best to hop out while I could. It was a lot of fun, and very much something to keep in mind for the future.

And it was just part of a good weekend. Add in a nice “game day” party (with a lot of really nice people and some tasty food) on Saturday, a short run on Saturday morning (well, until I got rained on), tackling some much-delayed writing, and a low-key dinner with Charlie at California Tortilla… it was nice to have a relatively low-key weekend for me, for a change.

(Oh, that Anthony Bordain show I mentioned before? Not good as I’d hoped, alas. Oh well.)


I do not understand why I am so tired lately. I’ve been going to bed at a reasonable hour and then… bam. Sacking out hard. As someone who normally wakes up every two hours or so (and then usually falls right back asleep) it is very odd to wake up once, at most, the entire evening.

Now this may sound like a great thing, but the problem is really that it’s a symptom of something else. I’ve been finding it almost impossible to wake up in the mornings; I ended up having to scratch my Tuesday morning run for that reason, and this morning I actually hit the snooze button for a solid two hours before I was able to get up. Maybe I can squeeze the run between work and tonight’s book club, but we will see. At least I’ve done some non-running-exercise since my last run on Sunday; rowing and elliptical for an hour on Monday, and 50 minutes of my spinning class on Wednesday. But yeah, something is seriously kicking my butt this week.

$5.00 a BasketSo far, the best idea I’ve come up with is that I am somehow channeling all the woodland animals and trying to hibernate until spring. It would be sad to miss Thanksgiving and Christmas, but on the other hand, there is a certain appeal to it all. Hmmm. (Stupid autumn weather.)

Not much else going on, really. Last night’s dinner was fantastic; I’d marinated some chicken and put so much chipotle on it that even I found it really hot. Sooo good. Plus some chopped up eggplant that I fried for a minute or two, and then some pumpkin muffins to go with it all. (Most of the muffins will in theory go with me to book club tonight, but we’ll see if anyone eats them or not. I might be living on these for a while.)

Oh, and now my neck is mysteriously aching. I think it is bored and wants some attention. Hmph.

On the bright side, I am starting to get excited about the idea of adding some swimming and biking into my routine after the marathon. Hopefully that excitement will continue long enough into making it an actual routine, and not merely an, “It’s exciting because it’s not actually happening yet” sort of thing. We shall see! Those laps don’t swim themselves, after all.

Autumn Has Arrived

The definitive moment for me, these past few years, is when I’ve come back from an early morning run and instead of a cool shower, I want a hot one. Yep, the temperature seems to have finally done the big drop; skipping past September and October weather entirely and plunging into late November.

Of course, the other big definitive moment for me is going to the farmer’s market in Arlington Courthouse and seeing how everything is turned over. Now instead of the big items being asparagus and tomatoes and corn, we’re seeing a plethora winter squash, apples, potatoes, cider… definitely a different sort of pickings available, but all still looking delicious.

Winter Squash

In the latest shocking news, operation “get rid of stuff” is going pretty well. Two bags of books went to the library this morning, and two more bags will get evaluated by the local comic store to see if there’s anything they want/need before I either sell off and/or donate the rest. Next up, those two paper ream boxes in the corner of the living room that have review materials that I am clearly never, ever, ever going to get to.

Before then, though, it’s time for another glass of apple cider (so, so good) and maybe fry up one of the little eggplants that I picked up at the farmer’s market. Or alternately the maytag blue cheese and potato tart. Decisions, decisions.

Television Jackpot

Now, this show could turn out to be a disaster. I may end up angrily turning it off in disgust. But seriously, this sounds like it was made for me—I’m mentioning it here partially for everyone else’s benefit (who is of the same mind), and partially so I remember to set the DVR later tonight.

At the Table With Anthony Bourdain
Tune in Monday, Oct. 20, at 10 p.m. ET (Travel Channel)

As you’d expect from an Anthony Bourdain vehicle, opinions fly and no topic is off limits as Tony hosts a no-holds-barred dinner with four featured guests. Joining Tony around the table are celebrated writer Bill Buford, “Nightlife Queen of New York” Amy Sacco, TV personality Ted Allen, and magazine editor and former gossip columnist Chris Wilson. They’ll debate the ethics of an $1,800 dinner, and Tony will reveal how he always, secretly hopes the waiters like him. Food and travel stories will run wild from Wylie Defresne’s restaurant wd~50 in New York City. Anything goes “At The Table With Anthony Bourdain.”

While I’m thinking about it, I too would like an $1,800 dinner if someone else is buying. Just putting that out there in case someone has a lot of spare cash lying around.

(On second thought, give me the $1,800, I’ll have a great dinner for quite a bit less, and keep the change.)

Cutting Edge and Old Classics

I only just heard of “netbooks” in the past week or so—those laptop computers that are stripped down in power but perfect for checking e-mail and surfing the web when you’re on the go. I’m intrigued and fascinated by the idea; if I’m not on a business trip, all I really need on my computer is a web connection and something with which to write. (Being able to watch DVDs is nice, but with the PSP it’s not quite as necessary as it would’ve been in the past, and I know that adding in a DVD-ROM will spike the price.) Being in the $250-to-$400 range makes them perfect, and awfully tempting.

Well, until I was looking at SlickDeals today and noticed someone selling 4GB flash drives for $8. And that’s when it hit me that five years ago, those little numbers were priced through the roof. And even when it isn’t some sort of crazy deal, they’re still pretty cheap these days. (I think I got my 4GB flash drive for something like $35.) So in a couple of years? Those netbooks might very well be even cheaper. And since I do have a fully functioning laptop anyway… yeah, I can wait. If anything, that makes me all the more excited for when I eventually get one, mind you.

At the other end of the spectrum, my latest “on-the-bus reading” material is something a little more old-fashioned: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Considering my major at university was English Literature, you may find it a little shocking that I have never read anything by Jane Austen before. (Or, I might add, any of the Brontë sisters.)

My guess is that each professor assumed that one of the others assigned it to be read, and the end result was an Austen-sized hole in my knowledge; the closest I’ve ever come was seeing the movie adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Oh, and having Clueless on my Netflix queue for over two years and counting. Anyway, a discussion of the ITV series Lost in Austen brought this to light, and I’d decided it was time that I should fix this gap in my knowledge.

So far? I’m really loving it. I knew I’d hit pay dirt in the second chapter when I hit this little gem:

“…What say you, Mary? For you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make extracts.”

Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.

“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

I swear, I could almost hear the ker-pow noise at that little zinger directed at Mary. And I am wondering if Mary was based on someone that Austen hated, because wow, the shots keep coming as I chortle merrily away. (“Mary had neither genius nor taste…” “Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family…”) I also picked up a copy of Wuthering Heights so I’ve got all sorts of classics of literature just waiting to be read.

Good times, good times.

Almost Back Up to Speed

Well, happily, it seemed that a second good night’s sleep was what I needed more than anything else. I went to bed really early last night, and today I had enough energy for an abbreviated version of my normal Monday gym visit. (30 min on rowing machine, and 15 min on the elliptical (instead of 30).) So far, so good.

As an added bonus, NPR’s All Things Considered is offering up one of Liz Phair’s recent concerts (where she plays all of Exile in Guyville) on their website so I’ve been listening to that for the last hour or so. She’s on the final song of her encore (“Polyester Bride”) and it’s making me appreciate her that much more.

Per usual, now that I am a little more lucid/rational I am kicking myself for having barely talked to so many different people at SPX—it’s amazing how quickly two days can whip by. (And no, I am not pushing for a three-day show so that I can chat with everyone a lot more.) And there’s always at least one or two artists whom I manage to miss entirely. How does that happen? This time Kate Beaton and Paul Hornschemeier somehow fell to the wayside. Darn it.

And of course, I have a wealth of new books. Well, not that many. Normally I just buy mini-comics, and occasionally other things pressed into my hands. I mostly stuck with that, although I did make an exception and bought a bonanza of books from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, because Diamond (the main distributor to comic book stores) seems to forever be out of stock of their catalog. Amusingly almost everything I bought was by (or co-authored by) Jiro Taniguchi: The Quest for the Missing Girl, all three volumes of The Times of Botchan (can’t get enough of that Meija Era Japan, it seems), and a replacement copy of The Walking Man. (Plus Hideo Azuma’s Disappearance Diary, the non-fiction account of Azuma’s two sojourns as a homeless person, plus a trip to rehab.) Plus, a birthday present and a Christmas present were procured, so it’s nice to check those off the list now.

Now if I could just finish getting rid of the excess junk that has built up in my home over the last month, I’d be set. If nothing else I finally need to mail Dave those promised statues, which will not only get those out of the house but also the packing peanuts that I’ve been saving for that very thing. Little by little…

Best of all, Charlie is now home from the Portland Marathon, where he rocked out a new personal record: 3:58:57. Wow. How fantastic is that? I’m so proud of him.

A New Look for Me

Steampunk Greg

…well, perhaps not.

Anyway, SPX was a lot of fun. It was also extremely exhausting, to put it mildly. And sure enough, all day I’ve felt like I’ve been run over by a mack truck, and my throat is raspy and all yucky. (And that’s with having skipped the gym this morning and sleeping in two more hours.) Hopefully tomorrow will bring back more strength.

And I have promised (promised!) people that soon I will start back up Wine-Book Wednesdays. Honest. But yeah, it was a good time even if it involved running myself ragged. This was also the first time since 2003 (the last year I was Executive Director) that I stayed at the hotel during SPX. It felt a little odd to do so after all this time. But somehow right. So there we go.