The end of October

Covering the past few weeks, even though that’s the last thing I want to do right now.

Friday the 15th we headed into DC for dinner at Westend Bistro for a good meal before heading over to see the folks from MST3K riff on cast will riff on War of the Insects at Lisner. Very funny, would do that again.

Cinematic Titanic

Sunday the 17th we were back in DC, this time further north. We parked at the 9:30 and walked south to Little Ethiopia. It was our first time, so we went pretty basic, lamb for me and beef for Jill. Very good, just weirded out by the texture of the injera. We skipped the opening band for ice cream (carrot cake, yum) at U Scream and wine cocktails at Dickson’s, great stuff. Of course we were there right on time for the indie-pop perfection of The New Pornographers. Happy that Neko was with them, I’ve got it hard for Crash Years right now.

New Pornographers

The next Friday was my 40th birthday. We stayed in, Jill even tried to make me cook dinner (but brought home carrot cake cheesecake). But that was ok, as the next morning we took a trip where I didn’t know the destination. First stop was Wayside Takeout in Charlottesville for fast fried chicken that was hot, juicy, crispy and perfectly seasoned. What KFC wishes it could be.

Next up we went to Starr Hill Brewery for a beer tasting and purchase of a growler of The Gift, their fabulous new winter lager. Finally we checked into the cabin at the Middleton Inn in Little Washington, and relaxed on the porch before an epic meal at the Inn at Little Washington. A fabulous meal with awesome cocktails – the Carpaccio of Herb Crusted Baby Lamb with Caesar Salad Ice Cream was superbly inventive.


The final stop of the weekend: Mom had us and Dad over for dinner, roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding and homemade carrot cake. Plus some very nice gifts – Rush Blu-Rays!

I worked some long hours to get Friday the 29th off, and we made the most of it. We flew to Madison, WI from National in the morning (only direct flight), rented a car, and stopped for a nice lunch at Smoky Jon’s #1 BBQ. We drove out to Spring Green, checked in at the House On The Rock Resort and relaxed for a bit.

Dinner was at the The Bank, where we had a really tasty meal. A lot of great cheeses, including a mac and cheese that could hold its own against the Inn at Little Washington’s. Then it was out to the House On The Rock where we entered a big tent for the Neil Gaiman reading, where he read the passage from American Gods where the characters visit the house. Here’s a good account of the reason for the weekend – I was a little bummed to miss the Stewart/Colbert rally, but you can’t beat 2nd row at a reading.


The next morning we had breakfast at the resort buffet. It was a little odd to see Neil sitting at the table next to us. We went off and toured The House On The Rock. It was a lot more fun than I was expecting, but I’m not sure if I need to go to any more attractions ever (it was like attending all of them at once). We had lunch at the only restaurant designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center (food was ok) then hot tubbed.


We went back to the House for the costume contest and party. I was The Second Coming (used during a eulogy) and Jill was one of seven Easters (that I saw). But she looked good, enough to make the semifinals.


After the contest, we went back in the house where they had food and music (both meh). But we visited tarot readers and had fun wandering around at night (apparently the first time they’d ever had such an event). The weekend was capped off by a signing by Neil Sunday morning, and he told us a story about buying a copy of his first book (since I’d brought one to sign). An easy flight back, and that was it – until our next epic trip…

Watchmen Roundup

The movie opens tomorrow, as you’d know if you’d been around a TV in the last couple weeks. Looks like I’m going solo to this one, as it’s apparently really violent, not something Jill likes. I just reread the graphic novel it’s based on, as well as a book detailing how it was created. It’s been a while since I’ve read it (I first read it in 1986 as the 12 issues came out), and the new oversized edition is just a joy to read. The other book on the creation is a wonderful companion piece – Dave Gibbons (the artist) saved every scrap related to the project and they’re lovingly reproduced here (including a piece of Neil Gaiman art).

Here’s a roundup of links – first, the book:

Next, the movie:

And finally, What if Watchmen was a Saturday morning cartoon?

Top Ten Books of 2008

1. The Graveyard Book
Writer: Neil Gaiman

2. Odd and the Frost Giants
Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: Mark Buckingham

3. Crooked Little Vein
Writer: Warren Ellis

4. The Thief Of Always
Writer: Clive Barker Artist: Clive Barker

5. America’s Best Comics Primer
Writers: Alan Moore and Steve Moore Artists: Gene Ha/Zander Cannon, J.H. Williams III, Chris Sprouse, Jaime Hernandez, Melinda Gebbie, Jim Baikie, Kevin Nowlan and Rick Veitch.

6. The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect
Writer: Peter David Artist: George Pérez

7. Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, Vol. 5

8. The Dangerous Alphabet
Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: Gris Grimly

9. Shadow Star (Chronicles of the Shadow War, Book 3)

10. Coraline (graphic novel)
Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: P. Craig Russell

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.

Books I’ve read, week forty-nine

73. Coraline (graphic novel)
Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: P. Craig Russell
A bit hard getting into initially, as I’m familiar with the title character as originally envisioned by Dave McKean (which is also the way the movie will portray her), and this version with her as a normal character was quite different. Still, the story is the same, and all the characters are nicely rendered. B+

BTW, the first time I listened to it on audio in the car. The phrase “a spider the size of a small cat” still gives Jill the shivers.

Books I’ve read, week forty-seven

71. America’s Best Comics Primer
Writers: Alan Moore and Steve Moore Artists: Gene Ha/Zander Cannon, J.H. Williams III, Chris Sprouse, Jaime Hernandez, Melinda Gebbie, Jim Baikie, Kevin Nowlan and Rick Veitch.
A collection of most of the first issues of Alan Moore’s series for America’s Best Comics (not including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). The series I followed were Promethea and Top 10, but now I think I should pick up Tom Strong as well. A