Good Memories of 2011, Day 2: Brandi Carlile

A lot of folks don’t know Brandi Carlile, which is a shame. I’ve been listening to her for a few years now, featuring her music here several times. She’s a wonderful talent. This year, no other artist was there for me as much as she was, in good times and in bad.

Early in the year, her live cover of The Beatles’ “I Just Saw A Face” perfectly captured the wonder and joy I felt when I looked at the woman I loved… Continue reading

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Good Memories of 2010, Day 6: Red Dead Redemption

My son asks me periodically what my favorite videogame of all time is. In the past, Halo and God of War (both as trilogies) and Batman: Arkham Asylum have occupied the top spot, depending on my mood when he asked me. But the last time he asked, I said Red Dead Redemption.

RDR is ostensibly a distant sequel to Red Dead Revolver, which I reviewed a long time ago here, but it’s really a sequel only in titular branding. The earlier game was an arcadish shooter in a small world, with a whisper-thin story (and hideous voice acting). The new game is so much more. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 5: 1978

In 2009, my ex and I established a Christmas tradition of sharing music from our youths with my son by giving him a representative sampling from the year we were his current age.

This year, he’s fourteen, and since I was fourteen in 1978, I went on a sonic archaeological dig of that year to decide what to share.

I had this on my wall in 1978

My approach is to buy him two albums from the time, and to burn a collection of various hits as well. The two CDs I chose were Van Halen’s Van Halen (their hellaciously strong debut with a bunch of classics like “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”) and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell (“Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses…?”). Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 4: MR. SHIVERS

By the time the number nineteen crossed the Missouri state line the sun had crawled low in the sky and afternoon was fading into evening. The train had built up a wild head of steam over the last few miles. As Tennessee fell behind it began picking up speed, the wheels chanting and chuckling, the fields blurring into jaundice-yellow streaks by the track. A fresh gout of black smoke unfurled from the train’s crown and folded back to clutch the cars like a great black cloak.

I met Robert Jackson Bennett briefly at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) in September 2009. When I did my signing for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, he was signing at the next table, and we chatted briefly (I recall telling him his title was cool) and exchanged inscribed copies of our books.

Here’s his inscription:

Know what? When I finally picked the book up months later, I did enjoy it. A hell of a lot. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 3: The Black Widow

Fifteen or more years back, some friends and I were talking and the question arose, “If you could write and direct a movie about any Marvel Comics character, who would it be?”

I didn’t even think about it. “The Black Widow.”

It wasn’t an answer I’d have predicted. I wasn’t an enormous Black Widow fan, and hadn’t really given her much consideration in any way when I wasn’t reading about her or admiring some George Perez portraiture. But when the question appeared, my mind was on the case, and the sultry sexiness, mystery, and espionage background of the heroine offered up exactly the sort of cool superheroic options I was in the mood for.

And there’s just never enough hot femme fatales in catsuits on the screen. Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 2: The Freak Bitch

Lady Gaga is a monster.

And I mean that in the very best way.

Early last year, I actually had the impulse to tweet “I have no idea who Lady Gaga is, and I’m glad.” Rarely listening to the radio, and never watching celebrity-fetish TV, I’d absorbed her name only through some collective unconscious osmosis, and I literally had no idea who she was other than the latest outré pop diva. Which made me reflexively dismiss her as just another turd floating in the bowl of MTV/Perez Hilton culture.

But I didn’t make the tweet, because I don’t like commenting on things I don’t actually know about, and because I didn’t want to be unfair to Gaga, whoever she was. I’m quirkily integrous like that.

Having resisted the impulse to blindly besmirch her, I found my curiosity roused. Did she deserve my scorn or not? I sat down with my good friend YouTube to find out.

She most definitely did not.

Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 1: My New Phone

My relationship with my phone is traditionally contentious at best.

I hate talking on the phone. I hate when the phone rings. I often ignore it, I rarely check messages, and I’m a pain in the ass to get in touch with.

But I love my new iPhone 4.

I still hate talking on it, and its ring still makes my soul bristle. But oh the things I can do with this little gadget…

I’ve watched movies and TV shows on its gorgeous, high rez screen, streaming from Netflix. I’ve watched many a clip on YouTube. I’ve absorbed some great TED conference presentations via their dedicated app.

I’ve read several novels, and been amazed at what a pleasant experience it is. The screen is sharp, the text clear (and resizeable). It automatically saves my place. I can lay on my side in bed and hold it in my palm, tapping the screen with my thumb to flip pages. And I always have a library in my pocket, ever ready for reading emergencies.

I listen to a lot more music. I have an 80 GB iPod with over 9,000 songs on it, but rarely carried it anywhere. My iPhone has only 16 GB, so I can’t get all my music on it, but I can get a hell of a lot, and since it’s my phone, I always have it with me. I also listen to Pandora, discovering new music, and there are other great music apps like Bing’s (which lets you listen to the top 100 songs of any year back to 1947) or Wolfgang’s Vault, a treasure trove of live concert recordings.

If I want to identify a song I’m hearing, I can let the SoundHound app listen a few moments, then it’ll not only ID it but give me lyrics, links to YouTube vids of the song, and buying info.

I can plan workouts and keep track of my progress at the gym.

I can keep up with my peeps on Facebook and Twitter, check email, do on the spot research, identify constellations, get directions and maps (including topo maps of wilderness areas), explore with Google Earth, track the weather, make notes, shop, and of course take pictures and videos. Which I can instantly upload to share if I want.

All with this little wafer of tech.