kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Some updates on stuff going on!

The A/V receiver seems to be on its way--matter of fact, FedEx reported it arrived in Orlando this morning, though it's not scheduled to be delivered until tomorrow. That was a little bit of an ordeal. I ordered it last Tuesday, and had heard nothing, so I e-mailed the retailer on Monday asking for an update. It's shipped, came the response, and I'll get an e-mail once the carrier scans it in. A bit light on details, frankly, so I kinda looked at it as a delaying tactic. But I still wanted the thing, and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I waited. Wednesday rolled around with no shipping notification, though. So I wrote again and said look, I need a valid tracking number by the end of the day or I'm canceling the order and reversing the charge. That seemed to do the trick--they passed me on to a guy who both e-mailed and left a voicemail, promising a tracking number, and sure enough I got a FedEx notification not too long after that. It could be a box with 22 pounds of rocks in it, I suppose, but at least SOMETHING is on the way. I'll believe it when I see it, of course.

I'd also ordered a new basketball post and hoop/backboard from Amazon, and they'd been dragging their feet on shipping too, until today. It did say the thing was out of stock with more on the way, and it's Amazon so I wasn't worried. But that finally shipped today, which is nice. Not set to arrive until Tuesday, for some reason. I'm hoping it gets here over the weekend, I could knock out that installation.

I finally almost finished the book I've been reading forever! Sheesh. I say almost because there are some appendices and footnotes I want to look through. Weird, though--usually if I have trouble getting through a book I just ditch it and move on to something else. Life's too short to slog through a book, you know? But this one.. it wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, or even that the writing style wasn't good. It's just.. the author liked to take 4 pages to say what he could have done in 1, which made 800+ pages out of what should have been 300 or so. Fascinating book nonetheless, though--it's They All Love Jack by Bruce Robinson, about Jack the Ripper. The guy took like 12 years to research and write the book, so it's definitely thorough. His premise is that there was never really any mystery about the identity of the Ripper, or at least there shouldn't have been. But because the Ripper was a Freemason like much of the establishment of Victorian England, the police effectively looked the other way and buried evidence to keep him from being caught. He also identifies--convincingly, I would add--his candidate for Jack the Ripper, which (spoiler?) was a man named Michael Maybrick, who was a musical star of his day. He can't prove it conclusively at this far remove, especially since much of the evidence has been lost or--oddly--remains under official seal even 125+ years later. But he certainly makes a good case for it. Interesting stuff if you're of a mind--just be prepared for a long read, with lots of rage against the Ripper himself as well as the men who conspired to see him go uncaught and unpunished.

Man, I am just incapable of making a short post, even when that was my intention. But oh well, most of you have been around long enough to expect that, right? Anyway, have a great weekend. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My back is sore. I took the day off yesterday, and spent a decent chunk of it pressure-washing the pool deck. Which involves stooping over slightly most of the time, and I am feeling it today. Hell, I was feeling it while I was doing it! I really need to work out more. I'd started running around the block a couple times a week, but I've fallen off that wagon. Need to get back to it, it really did make me feel like it was tightening up my core and back muscles.

Anyway, I decided to take the day because I really haven't used much time yet this year (thanks to cancelled NYC trips and such), and we're already rounding the corner into June. Sheesh, the year is flying!

I also got the WiiU hacked so it can play Wii games from an external hard drive, so that's nice. Seems to work fine so far, though there's another step or two to get there, and an annoying prompt to format the hard drive every time I power up the system. I think there's a way to fix that, though, gonna try it tonight, maybe.

We also went to a cool book sale. I guess for a week or two every year, the Scholastic Books warehouse around here opens up for a public sale. Most of the books are a simple 50% off the cover price, but they also have books down to 50 cents or so, and one area where you can fill a box with books for $25. We had no trouble finding plenty of books, mostly for the girls but a couple things I'd wanted as well. The only downside was that it's in their warehouse, which is not air-conditioned, so it was toasty in there. They did have big fans, at least! As my wife said, it was probably good because we might have spent more time and money there if it hadn't been uncomfortable!

Back to work today, seems like a pretty relaxed day. I have a meeting in a few minutes, but then my afternoon is mostly clear. Might run out and shop for some screen to fix our pool enclosure. And maybe do some ore of this silly series of online training modules I have to do for work. Security of credit card and personal information, none of which I actually deal with in my job. But oh well.

I hope everyone is having a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So my reading material lately has been Raymond Chandler novels. I'm a big fan of noir in literature and film, and especially private detective stuff. I read pretty much all of Dashiell Hammett's novels and stories (Sam Spade and the Continental Op were his main characters--The Maltese Falcon was his, and if you've ever seen the Coen brothers' flick Miller's Crossing it was essentially a synthesis of Hammett stories). So I moved on to Chandler, and oh man. I thought Hammett was good, and still do, but Chandler just nails the vibe so damn well. And his descriptions.. just amazing. Have you ever been reading something, and it just whacks you over the head with how GOOD it is, how special it is? That was chapter 13 of Chandler's The Little Sister for me. Thankfully someone else typed it up so I don't have to. Read it if you have a few minutes, I promise you won't be disappointed.

I drove east on Sunset but I didn't go home. )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Watched/read a few things lately that I wanted to note and review, but maybe not so in-depth. So:

Leon: The Professional
This has been on my to-watch list for ages--actually I'm sort of amazed I never watched it since it dates back to 1994! It's a Luc Besson film about Leon, a somewhat enigmatic and solitary hitman in New York City. He finds himself suddenly drawn together with Mathilda, Leon's precocious 12-year-old neighbor whose family is slaughtered as a result of a drug deal gone bad. In search of revenge for her family, Mathilda enlists Leon's help as they become fascinated by and attached to each other. It's a violent film for its day, but the violence is almost incidental to the story, which is by turns touching and disturbing--but mostly touching, as Mathilda and Leon alike struggle with their unfamiliar emotions. It's not a happy film, ultimately, but it's a darn good one. Jean Reno is very solid as Leon and Gary Oldman gives a stunning turn as the psychopathic DEA agent Stansfield, but there are almost no words to describe Natalie Portman's performance as Mathilda, especially considering her tender age of 12 at the time (part of her audition is here. Absolutely amazing.
Verdict: 58 on my 64-point scale.

I was actually turned on to this film by reading a Reddit AMA with its star, Will Forte, who seemed like a good guy. The film is a major spoof on the militarized one-man-army/unlikely-buddies types of action film, with a nod in substance and title to 80s tv show MacGyver. MacGruber is a highly-decorated, almost legandary special operative who has been in retirement and seclusion since the love of his life was brutally murdered at their wedding. He returns to action when his arch-nemesis, Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer in a fun role) pops back up bent on destroying DC with a nuke. There are laughs aplenty, but most of them rely on sheer ridiculousness and/or that old standby of toilet humor. Think Hot Shots!, but not as subtle. Ha! Go into this with an open mind and low expectations and you'll probably enjoy it if your tolerance for crudity is high. If not, give it a miss. :)
Verdict: 37 on my 64-point scale.

Horns by Joe Hill
I think I mentioned I was reading this one--Joe Hill is one of Stephen King's sons who is forging his own reputation as an author of horror, and I'd wanted to check him out, so when I saw this book on sale at the Dollar Tree I snapped up a copy. Horns is the story of Ig, a young man who wakes up one morning having sprouted a set of devil-like horns. He discovers as he interacts with people that the horns compel them to confess their deepest sins and darkest desires, and can even influence their behavior. With the help and curse of the horns, Ig finds himself unravelling the murder of his girlfriend Merrin, an unsolved crime for which Ig himself received the circumstantial blame. The story starts strong with Ig discovering the horns and their terrible power, and from there Hill does a fine job interweaving the story with flashbacks of Ig as he meets Merrin and befriends a boy named Lee. Twists and turns ensue, and even once the truth becomes known to Ig the resolution remains unclear until it arrives. Overall a good read, and I'm definitely interested in reading Hill's other novels. Sidenote: Horns is in production as a feature film starring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe as Ig.
Verdict: 48 on my 64-point scale.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I never think to post about what I'm reading, but now and then I see posts of what people have read in the past year, and I think how cool it would be to do that. So I'm going to start keeping track of that, I think. Maybe movies, too. To go along with this plan, I am totally and unashamedly ripping off [livejournal.com profile] goblue and instituting a new 64-point rating system. :)

I'd say my reading career has come in distinct phases. When I was a kid I read fairly voraciously, thanks in no small part to living in the boonies without much else to do. I was big on Reader's Digest magazines, Encyclopedia Brown books, Choose Your Own Adventure, that sort of thing. After a while a friend and I discovered the Dragonlance series of books, which were pretty awesome. And then somehow I got into Stephen King, and read all his stuff up through probably the early 1990s. I'm sure there was lots of other stuff thrown in, of course, but that was the bulk of it, and that took me through high school and into college.

In my college years I somehow became convinced that intellectual types (as I fancied myself, natch) didn't waste time on fiction, so I turned to nonfiction, mostly philosophy and poetry and crap like that. Okay, okay, I denigrate it now, but I don't mean that, and I'm glad for the phase because I don't doubt it added a great many facets to my character. Some good, some probably not so good, but still--it gave me a bit of form where before I had none.

From there, I feel like I didn't spend much time reading for a number of years. Probably because that's when the Internet really came of age and I wasted too much time online doing whatever I was doing.

These days reading every day is part of our daily routine--specifically, after we put the older girls to bed we watch a bit of tv or part of a movie (and hopefully get Amy to pass out as well), and then go upstairs to read in bed for a half hour or so. It's not a lot, and I really feel like I should supplement with some additional reading time during the day, like on the lunch break that I rarely actually take here in the office (most days I bring something to eat in my office and either keep working or surf the evil Net).

Anyway, in terms of reading material, I think I've sort of come full-circle. I've abandoned intellectual snobbery and am happy--happiest, even--to read fiction these days, though I also try to throw in a little nonfiction as well, though usually along the lines of history or humor/social commentary these days. I discovered the hard-boiled crime and detective genre, which I dig for some reason. The Parker books--source of the current movie of that name--by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark) are particular favorites, and I enjoyed the classic detective stuff by Hammett and Chandler as well. I've even come full-circle to Stephen King, and have re-read some of my old favorites and am slowly catching up on the stuff he's done since I stopped reading him years ago. Presently I'm in the middle of the Dark Tower cycle--there were only two when I abandoned fiction, so I had to re-read those and am now up to the 5th volume. Pretty good stuff, especially #4 (and 5 so far is pretty good too). But after a few months going through those books, I welcomed the release of the new Robert Crais novel to break it up and switch to something different. But once I'm done with that one--and it's going fast--back to the Calla I shall go. :)

So given that background, any recommendations? King fans, any of his books of the past 15 years or so that you'd particularly recommend? I've read one or two Pahlaniuk books (yet not Fight Club, yet) and plan to read more of his.. anything else I should add to my list to check out?

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