Archives, Part Last (October 17, 2009 to November 2, 2009)

Guess What? I'm in Vermont. (October 17, 2009) 

In case none of you were aware, this weekend Wizard is hosting the Big Apple Comic Con in New York City. Supposedly, advanced tickets have been selling quite well despite an increased price ($35-$40 each compared to only about $12 in previous years [or free earlier in the year!]). Based on my past experiences with the Con... it's really not worth that much. It's far smaller than New York Comic Con and, honestly, just not nearly as enjoyable. I suppose this is what happens when NYCC is still a whole year away (!).

If you are going, though, be sure to drop by Terminal Press' booth (#418) and give them some business. The guys are cool as Hell and their books are just fun.

But, as I wrote in this entry's title, I'm in Vermont, so it all doesn't matter for me. Instead of comics, I'm looking at changing leaves and hiking on trails. Instead of smelling sweaty fat men dressed as Harry Potter, I'm breathing clean, fresh mountain air. And instead of bumping elbows and dodging crowds of fans, I'm driving along fairly deserted highways with my fiance in my new car.

It's definitely a trade up.

We're doing some fun things, too (though there's nothing like the feeling of picking up a stack of comics and slashing them from my list). After driving up here today, taking our sweet time to look over the mountains and valleys, we took a tour of Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory and partook in some free samples. If you've never taken a tour of the facilities (or even had a B&J!), I highly recommend it as the half hour journey through the bowels of the factory is both informative and fun and, at $3 for adults, a fair bargain considering the ample sample at the end.

We then travelled down to our present location, Killington, a small ski-town seemingly abandoned in the off-season months. No cars travel down two-lane highways. The tourist traps are all closed. A wall of menus in our hotel isn't applicable as only three are actually open. The ski slopes are smooth, the gondolas silent. It's rather romantic, actually, and more great times are ahead as the weekend continues (Keene Pumpkin Fest tomorrow!).

Yet all through driving to B&J, stopping by Long Trail Brewing Co. for a sampler, watching the Phillies/Dodgers game while munching at a Pulled Pork Sub, and dodging moose for 15 mile stretches, the idea of actually living in a place like this never really entered my mind. I just honestly don't think I could do it. Having lived in Storrs, CT for four years, a location just 30 minutes from a relatively large shopping area, and absolutely hating every minute I had to drive, the concept of living miles and miles and miles away from what I consider civilization is simply not appealing.

I need the city. I need New York. I need a subway station, drunken and smelly vagrants, buildings reaching for the sky, trees surrounded by fences within a park, dogs on leashes, groceries from a super store. How could I live without a massive bookstore, a Post Road, a pick of restaurants respresenting every corner of the world, department stores, and let's not even forget the natural wonder of wonders... the OCEAN! Yes, there are mountains aplenty, snow every which way you look, and some lovely mountain trails. But this isn't me. I want to sit in the back of gypsy cabs, wind my way through traffic, eat a greasy hot dog boiled in sewar water, and bask in the sun on a sandy beach.

You know... this is probably why all but two of my currently planned books will be based in New York City....

Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (6.7/10) (October 21, 2009) 

I may have previously alluded to only purchasing a handful of books for the remainder of the year. Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol was one of those (as was Stephen King's Under the Dome, which just got its price slashed across the board--very beautiful). After finishing the book today, I honestly wish I hadn't bothered with it.

The hotly anticipated books premise is a relatively simple one: Robert Langdon, protagonist of the infamous The Da Vinci Code, is back and this time he's in D.C. to look for another (surprise!) hidden artifact. Along the way, there are freaky male antagonists (this one has tattoos on top of being pale and hairless), some kind of love interest (sadly, not a descendant of Jesus this time around), a friend to lend a hand (pun intended for those who've read the book), and a handful of CIA agents and the like. Yes, this is all quite simple, but unfortunately, it also reads rather simple.

I'm not sure whether or not Da Vinci Code utilized the same tactic, as I haven't read it in some time, but each chapter of Lost Symbol ends on a what seems like a cliffhanger. This happens regardless of whether the section is three or ten pages long. This technique is usually meant to drive tension and build suspense, yet as I read, the cliffhangers only served to annoy me. Compounding this annoyance was the overuse of not revealing integral parts of the story to readers despite characters reacting to said event. Too many times, I was confronted with Langdon performing a double take or sighing in exclamation at a new development, yet I would have to wait multiple chapters to understand. This didn't occur with just the mysterious side of the book, either. In fact, one of the final chapters has Brown exclude Langdon asking another character to visit the hospital... a point revealed just a page later.

These may seem enough to annoy any reader, but Brown took it even further by overlaying the text with extensive expository paragraphs that serve only to slow the pace of this "thriller." I won't spoil any particular point, but Brown does this in nearly every chapter, and clutters the story's climax with lengthy dialogue that supposedly serves to explain the book's "mystery" (not entirely mysterious, nor exciting, actually). Even before this climax, the expository paragraphs served to spoil the final "twist" hundreds of pages before it occurred, though none of the characters seemed to figure it out and are somehow shocked at title's conclusion.

All of this occurs in a book with the absolutely dullest characters. Langdon is a walking encyclopedia with faulty eidetic memory (he can remember every phone number he's ever dialed but not a grid of characters seen just a few minutes earlier?) that is either shocked or disbelieving of every fact thrown is way. The antagonist wants to screw everyone over for seemingly no reason (even given his eventual reason, his actions still seem a bit... extreme). Love interest Katherine could be interesting, but is too one-note to be anything worthwhile. The only sympathetic character is Langdon's friend Peter, who barely appears at all. Even the other supporting characters barely bring anything more to the table but more misdirection and/or explanations.

It all boils down to a paint-by-numbers thriller lacking anything remotely resembling a thrill. Several times throughout the book, I simply wanted to put it down and read something better, but after spending my money, I simply couldn't do it. I wanted, hoped, it would turn around and be worthwhile. It wasn't. And I'll never get those days back. But I did learn to avoid any Dan Brown titles in the future (not like it matters; the man never has to work another day in his life, does he?).

Down with the Sickness (October 24, 2009) 

The last time I was truly sick, to the point of having to stay isolated to a couch for a whole day, I was ten. It was a Saturday, my brother was in the backyard, and I was pinned under a blanket within running distance of the toilet. A black and white monster movie marathon was playing on the Sci-Fi channel. As I drifted in and out of a dazed stupor, I watched, lazily casting a glance at giant squids, fungal blobs, and growling yetis toppling landmarks. After a while, I noticed the commercials began to repeat themselves. Once, twice, three times. In the end, I wasted my day away tallying monster movie commercials on a checklist and sucking down popsicles. Not a very productive day, but certainly rather enjoyable.

Not so much this time. Though I haven't been throwing up and, in fact, feel rather well today, being sick as an adult is not as much of a picnic as it was while being a child. Having contracted this illness somewhere either Monday or Tuesday, my sickness boiled to a head Wednesday night and led to a "randomly hit by a truck in the middle of the night" feeling Thursday morning. I e-mailed out (sure beats calling when your throat is throbbing), went back to sleep, and eventually scheduled a doctor's appointment. Not much more needs to be said, but let's just say I got a nice dose of anitbiotics and directions to not go into work for 24 hours.

Well then.

Any hopes of making good use of my time certainly went out the window, as Thursday was bascially spent in a pseudo-daze between random Facebook postings and channel changing. Concentration was certainly out of the question as, trying to do something useful by reading a book, I became dizzy from the printed page. That's not to say I didn't try. And I kept at it. By late Thursday night, I had stacked up some good time for my Creativity Chart. Today got even better as, though I was apparently rather contagious, and aside from still feeling like someone had beaten me with a baseball bat, I was fully able to concentrate.

After a late sleep, a tasty breakfast, and a beautifully hot shower, I sat down and wrote for well over an hour. I then moved on to something else and edited for another good deal of time. In all, before even sitting down to write this wonderful piece of blogging literature (modest, ain't I?), I managed to squirm in my computer chair for 134 minutes. Not too bad, I'd say.

The problem, however, is that these past two weeks have not been nearly as successful. You may have noticed my lack of a Creativity Chart update as well as there not being an excerpt to share this week. Well, it's not that I've been busy really. I've just had difficulty forcing myself to sit down and type away. Not entirely certain why. Of course, the sickness didn't help from this Tuesday onward, but there really was no excuse for last week.

I wish I were being paid for this, it'd make doing it so much easier.

See for yourself just how badly I've performed:

October 11, 200900
October 12, 20095555
October 13, 20094040
October 14, 200988
October 15, 200900
October 16, 20094545
October 17, 200900
Week Total:148
October 18, 200900
October 19, 200900
October 20, 20096363
October 21, 200900
October 22, 20098282
October 23, 2009134134
October 24, 20090
Week Total (to date):279

Would you just look at all of those zeroes? I don't know how I'll ever expect to become a published author with those types of figures. But I suppose there are on times and there are off times, and lately has most certainly been off. Here's hoping I can improve and actually put the idea swimming endlessly through my mind down so they can just stay the Hell out.

I Break for Living Dead (November 2, 2009) 

Because of a terrible Internet connection, I just finished a weekend-long bout of Halo 3's Living Dead ranked playlist (okay, it wasn't the whole weekend, but it might as well have been). There's still a couple hours left, so if you have the game (you really should), I'd suggest you get some time in as it won't be around again 'til next year.

Blog/other stuff will be coming tomorrow.

A Whole Life of Halloweens (November 2, 2009) 

As I wrote last entry, I enjoyed myself several hours of Halo 3 rank Living Dead madness over the weekend, sucking all the life from my free time and leading to a very bored fiance. For those of you who haven't played Living Dead... what the Hell is wrong with you? It's not only the best gametype found within the FPS, but it's only ranked 3 days of the year. That's right, only Halloween weekend. Sadly, I again missed grabbing a 50 (the highest) due to playing far less than I did last year, though I did manage a respectable 41 for my time. Maybe next year....

But this isn't about Halo 3. Or zombies. Well, maybe a little of the latter. You see, as I already mentioned, this past weekend was Halloween. Halloween! A night of ghouls and goblins and... uh... oh yeah, ghosts (a whole other meaning to "3G" huh?). Those of you who celebrate Halloween likely do it in many different ways. Hell, I even know a girl who has a birthday party that day. Certainly we can't all go out and expect to get candy from strangers... unless it's "candy" instead, which, you know, could mean oh so many wondrous things.

Yet I think that if you DO celebrate (there are far too many who DON'T) Halloween, there are certain ways to do it, almost all of which correspond to age. Let's see if we can break this down a bit.

Ages 1-2ish: You probably can't walk yet, let alone suck on some candy, so unless you've got some older siblings, you're probably not going out beyond your house. Doesn't mean you aren't dressing up, though. You might go out in this (ain't that friggin adorable? My God).

Ages 2ish-maybe 12: Now it's candy time. "Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!" Butterfingers, Skittles, Almond Joys, Reese's, Krackle, Hershey's, etc. and so forth all get lobbed into a random plastic bucket to be enjoyed either later that night or for the next few months. Some parents like to stiff their kids though when they check them for razors; always be wary of that. Oh, there's also dressing up. That's pretty fun, too. I think the Power Rangers and TMNT were the big ones growing up for me... don't rightly remember what I wore now, though.

Ages 13-17: Ah, high school stupidity. Not content to go around at night only anymore, we now rock the halls in our outfits and later do one of three things: go scare kids or generally mess with people; go to a party and maybe get drunk; or go home and do nothing. Maybe a combination of the three. 'Course, if you've got younger siblings at this point, it's a completely different bag o' tricks.

Ages 18-21: College stupidity now! Dressing up in slutty or stupid outfits never gets better than it does now, and with all the booze flying around campus this weekend, what better way to say "Hi" to the pretty chick than to drunkenly compliment her on her barely-there witches costume. Conversely, it's a good time to see just how creative your man is, or just how far he'll go to look like the biggest douche in the land.

Ages 22-28: This frame varies on a number of things, especially if you're going to grad school and if you manage to land a job. You might be doing just what you did during college or you might not be doing anything at all. Then again, maybe you're carving pumpkins with the person you loved or watching scary movie marathons. Whatever you choose, if you're even remotely showing some kind of maturity, celebrating Halloween is starting to get a little... tiring.

Ages 29-40: Now it gets interesting. If you have kids, you're starting the whole cycle over again, dressing them up in cute Superman costumes (cause, really, it never gets old) and getting candy out for other children. If you don't have any, chances are you're now going to "adult" costume parties, places with spiked (and non-) apple cider, background music instead of noise you can barely talk over, and people you actually wouldn't mind seeing instead of the random slut in her latest "Feels like I'm wearing nothing at all!" costume.

Ages 41-60: Maybe you take the kids out for Halloween, dragging them down city streets with a flashlight to make sure Michael Jackson look-a-likes don't snatch them when you aren't looking, or maybe you're sitting at home, carving your pumpkin and giving out candy to whomever comes knocking. It's enjoyable. Relaxing. And you remember why Halloween was fun in the first place as you realize you're not getting any younger.

Ages 61+: At this point, you're probably not going to the costume parties anymore, what with that sore leg, and your ex always showing up with his/her new beau. The kids are busy doing their own thing now, so you've got to fend for yourself. Maybe you have a drink. Maybe you just do whatever you do every other night. At this point, it's either special or it isn't. And, once you hit the end, just knowing you're alive and able to chomp down a Milky Way should you feel like it is enough to keep you feeling rather chipper.