Books I’ve read, week fifty-two

76. V: To Conquer the Throne
Writer: Tim Sullivan
When I put this back on the shelf, I had to go back and look at the other two V books he wrote, to reassure myself that they were not of the same level of writing as this one. This was the worst kind of fan fiction, puerile wish fulfillment stuff. F

77. Neil Gaiman: Prince of Stories
Writers: Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette
An interesting mixture of biography, bibliography and review, not to mention several pieces of Neil’s collected here for the first time. Some of it is slow going, but there are priceless insights, I assume helped along by Bissette who’s been one of Neil’s artists (Swamp Thing) and a publisher (Sweeney Todd). B

78. V: The Oregon Invasion
Writer: Jayne Tannehill
A refreshing change after the last one, with a new takes on religion and interspecies relationships. B

79. The Greatest Music Never Sold
Writer: Dan LeRoy
A collection of essays on albums that were never released. Nothing here was essential to me, but the stories are intriguing. You can go here for a playlist that doesn’t exist, and here for a couple of the Juliana Hatfield tracks. The Chicago album has subsequently been released. B

80. V: Below The Threshold
Writer: Allen Wold
A kidnapping mystery – did the aliens do it, or was it the mob? Props for a very different take, although the ending feels chopped off. C+

I started the last V book, but put it down a couple pages in when I realized it was set after some of the TV episodes I haven’t watched yet – I’ll finish it next year.

White Christmas

Christmas Eve morn, I left early to catch a bus near our house, having dropped Illa at Club Pet the day before. I then took another bus to the Metro, and then a MARC train to BWI. I could’ve driven, but that would’ve meant Jill would have to drop me at BWI on the way back and drive on the Beltway again, neither of which she wanted to do (and not having to go that way worked in our favor). I got to the airport with plenty of time and a delayed flight, so I had a nice crab lunch at Phillips (cream of crab and crab poppers), plus some on tap muscle relaxers. I called Jill when we actually left, and she was in Hartford with her sister, Robin, when I arrived. The snow was thick on the ground (Jill had shoveled for hours the prior weekend), ensuring us a White Christmas. Their uncle was hosting a Christmas Eve party, and we headed over there with their grandmother in tow. It was a good night, their uncle was a good cook and the night was highlighted by an actual visit from Santa, who apparently is done with chimneys and now just rings the doorbell (to the delight of the kids present).

Christmas morning was the first Christmas I’d spent at Jill’s mom’s house (they’d been here and we’d been to her sister’s in Ireland) and I was awakened early for the family gift exchange. I got a number of nice things off my Amazon wishlist (the book were devoured soon after) and an experience from Jill we’d do later that night. Afterwards we had to change and get breakfast ready, as later in the morning the hordes of relatives descended upon us. Jill had made an excellent stuffed French Toast casserole, and her mom had plenty of other breakfast classics to go along. After we ate, the big gift exchange happened, which I was only vaguely aware of. I never went to bed the night before I left – I was trying to finish a project that was to be a gift, but I just couldn’t finish in time, although I tried to the literal last minute. And I got a good night’s sleep the first night, but it just wasn’t enough, so I napped through the afternoon. I was up in time to enjoy a prime rib dinner with all the trimmings, then Jill’s mom chauffeured us to Jill’s big gift to me: a night of pleasure in Northampton. And it was perfect, an outdoor hot tub on a slightly chilly night, followed by massages for both of us.

On Boxing Day there was nothing planned until the evening, so we slept in, then had cereal and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. For lunch Jill had made her other grandmother’s meat pie (to her approval), and we had the second one. For the rest of the day, there was TV watching (Phineas and Ferb marathon) and much reading. At night, we took Jill’s mom and Dave over to the Iron Horse (which meant Northampton two nights in a row) to see Dar Williams. None of us had been to the Iron Horse, but it was like the Birchmere – if it was smaller, with a balcony, and the food was better and cheaper. Dar was performing solo, and she was charming as always, best when she brought her son out with her.

12/26 Dar Williams at the Iron Horse

Saturday I skipped breakfast as our friends Chris and Jess were out our way with their daughters visiting his dad, and we got to have lunch with them at Friendly’s. I hadn’t been to one in a while, and it was pretty good (burger for Jill, chicken sandwich for me), topped off with a sundae. And it was good to catch up with Chris and Jess – their youngest daughter’s growing up fast. In the afternoon I spent time with Jill’s grandmother, getting information on their family tree. We had more prime rib for dinner, then Jill’s mom had her sister and some friends over for a games night. We just played Apples To Apples and that was fun.

Today we got up and were on the road a little after 6AM. It was foggy in the early going, but pretty smooth. Delaware was a problem, as usual, but this time I had a plan. We jumped off 95 at the first exit, and made our way to 301 and 50, and took the Bay Bridge. Very smooth trip, and we were home early enough to pick up Illa. I got to watch the game live (oh well, 8-8 is not that bad, at least we’re better than Detroit), then I fashioned dinner out of leftovers (scallops, shrimp, and spinach artichoke dip), and now I’m surfing and finishing the project I couldn’t finish before I left.

Movies I’ve watched, week fifty-one

76. Amazon Women on the Moon
Been a while since I saw it, but I was in the mood for a comedy. Not as great as Kentucky Fried Movie, but still pretty good (and a decent cast). B-

77. The Darjeeling Limited
Another quirky dysfunctional family dramedy from Wes Anderson (I’ve started to wonder about him). Some of his regulars appear, but Jason Schwartzman comes back for the first time since Rushmore, and Adrien Brody is excellent. B+

Bachin’ it again

Illa and I were bachelors again, as Jill left for her mom’s on Thursday. We haven’t been too wild and crazy (at least I haven’t) – we didn’t leave the house all weekend, except for walks. It was mostly good, Operation Clean was started, way too much time was spent editing audio and video (6 hours straight Saturday night), papers read, movies and TV watched (the DVR is nearly empty), and leftovers consumed. Plus I wrapped my gifts and made a loaf of sourdough. Hopefully the rest will serve me good when I join Jill this week.

Bouncy cruise news

I don’t often receive emails that make me bounce in my chair, but today I got one. The lineup of the cruise was looking pretty good, although often they add smaller acts at the last minute. The act announced now is not small: Sarah McLachlan!

From the email: “Sarah will be performing three solo mainstage shows in the Stardust Theatre, an intimate venue seating less than 800 guests!” Which means we get into one, very cool news indeed. I’ve seen her three times (and all at Merriweather Post Pavilion) and always with a band, so being able to see her solo is a real treat, especially when it’s not going to cost us a penny extra.

New way to encourage me to watch TV

I was already thinking of watching TNT’s Leverage – good writing & producing pedigree, as well as Timothy Hutton and Christian Kane (ex-Angel). It’s an excellent time to start a show about crooks doing to companies what the companies have been doing to us for years (think Ocean’s 11 on a mini scale). And encouraging reviews didn’t hurt. But what made it stick in my head was being sent the first episode on a 1GB USB drive with the first ep like this guy. I didn’t watch it on my computer (umm – that’s what the HDTV is for), but I’ll never turn down storage, and it’s more eco-friendly than sending a DVD that gets tossed in the trash. Oh yeah, the show’s pretty good – sharp writing and good acting, recommended to fans of Burn Notice.