30 December 2009

Don't Rain on My Parade

It has been an interesting day here. Well, for me anyways. As my cold winds down -just a lot of snot coming out of my nose, it amazes me how much I can produce - work drama (for lack of a better word) continues. Will be GM-less again as 2010 begins.

Yep, in four years that this store has been open, we've had four GM's. Well, three, with one GM coming back. Actually, I'm not shocked or surprised by it. She had left Borders 9 months earlier due to the DM Nazi that took over the SolCal area. She found a great job working at San Bernardino College Bookstore (or something like that). When Patricia bowed out in early November, Lyly returned to take over.

I love Lyly, but why she wanted to return to Borders (yeah, I love it too, but things are going down hill for this company) is beyond me. She had a job she loved, 9-5 with weekends off (plus school holidays). Still, in the few short weeks she has been back, she got our store back in shape. But she had to put in 80 plus hours a week to do it, which is pretty sucky.

Anyways, she got an offer she could not refuse, and took it. Whether she knows something or not about what will happen with Borders as early as February, I cannot say. I'm happy for her, and wish her all the best. She is damn good at what she does and deserves more respect than Borders was showing her.

In the meantime, my planned vacation begins the moment I leave on Friday, January 1. I hope to be productive and find out how I too can get out of Borders before (what I think is the logical step for them) they file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Anyone need a great customer service agent with 2 decades of experience behind him and can pay me a decent, livable wage, send me a message.

Oh, and it was rainy and cold here all day. And when I mean rain, I mean it mostly sprinkled. It caused puddles, and drivers here to suddenly for get how to drive when the pavement gets wet, but nothing to write home about. The Rose Parade people here in Pasadena are bit worried, but the weather is suppose to clear for tomorrow and Friday. They’re saying, actually, Friday will be the nicest day of week. So, while it’ll start chilly (probably in the low 40s) on New Years, the sun should rise to give a fairly spectacular start to 2010.

29 December 2009

Books I read in 2009

01. Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
02. The Appeal - John Grisham
03. Captain Freedom by G. Xavier Robillard
04. Fool by Christopher Moore
05. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
06. Deflowerd: My Life in Pansy Division by Jon Ginoli
07. Shadowplay by Tad Williams
08. Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
09. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon by Gideon DeFoe
10. The Terror by Dan Simmons
11. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
12. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Seas Monsters by Rick Riordan
13. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
14. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
15. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
16. NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley
17. Retail Hell: Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall
18. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
19. Star Trek: Assignment: Eternity by Greg Cox
20. Under the Dome by Stephen King
21. Huge by James. W. Fuerst
22. Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
23. How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

Books: How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely (2009)

Pete Tarslaw has had it rough, or so he thinks. Stuck in a dead-end job writing college essay’s for spoiled rich kids so they can get into those prestigious colleges, he is surprised one day to get a mass email from an ex-girlfriend who is getting married. Soon after this surprise, Pete’s employer folds, laying him off. Depressed even more, he then sees an interview with popular best selling author Preston Brooks, who writes books that everyone seems to like (his current one is called Kindness to Birds, described in a faux New York Times Book Review as a story about “a downsized factory worker named Gabriel touches the lives of several people wounded by life.”)

After seeing this, Pete decides he can write a novel, that he can have the fame and respect of people like Brooks, can have the same financial freedom to do anything he chooses (boating, skeet shooting). That he can have a mansion by the ocean (or a scenic lake), but mostly, just to humiliate his ex-girlfriend at her wedding.

From there, author Steve Hely (who wrote for David Letterman and the TV series American Dad) takes us on a wicked satire of the publishing industry and its insatiable desire to find and produce the same winning formula over and over again (James Patterson, anyone? Hello, Nicholas Sparks). I mean, take a stroll through the fiction area of your local Borders if you think Mr. Hely is making any of this stuff up as he sets the rules up for how to write a popular book. Hely also pokes fun at the readers who buy this stuff, but also airs a cautious argument between what is literature and popular fiction.

The book, however, runs out of air towards the end. In the final pages he torpedoes Pete’s cynicism in ways that will disappoint anyone who was enjoying the jaded humor. Still, Mr. Hely deftly clobbers the popular-book business. By taking aim at lucrative “tidy candy-packaged novels you wrapped up and gave as presents,” the kinds of books that go “from store shelves to home shelves to used-book sales unread,” his complaints about such books hit home and are very funny. They’d be even funnier if they weren’t true.

27 December 2009

Doctor Who: 4.17: The End of Time (Part 1)

There is not much positive things to say about The End of Time, Part 1. First, it makes little sense, even though RTD does sort of explain the Immortality Gate (which is just a lame bone thrown to spin-off Torchwood). But like most two-part episodes of TV series these days, its all a set-up for next weeks conclusion.

In some ways I’m happy to see the RTD era end, as show was taking on way too much baggage -four seasons of episodes that seemed to have a high bit of coincidences and too many robots - and was starting to resemble the later years of John Nathan-Turner.

A prime example is the whole Master resurrection scene. My biggest issue with it was how the followers of the Master knew of him, as the Doctor explained to the Ood, only Lucy should remember him (and then there’s the convoluted scene where this liquid Lucy comes by to stop the resurrection and how she got it to begin with). And what is with the whole the legend of the blue box and the Sainted Physician at the Church? I found that out of place and probably completely unnecessary.

Ironically, The End of Time moves at a snail’s pace, setting too many things up that had no pay-off. Even a two-part episode should have some pay-off. It should solve something. But no, everything will be shoved to next weeks conclusion and that can’t be good. If only because character moments will set aside for a grand finale.

Perhaps the best part of the episode is the café sequence where the Doctor and Wilf talk about Donna while ruminating on death and loss. The rest of it is just padding, including (a RTD trademark) a lot of running around -which just seems to indicate that to maintain a certain length, they just insert more running instead of actually writing something.

And while I was never certain about RTD’s killing off the Time Lords, as the series progressed I found the idea certainly appealing -at least it kept the Doctor a more dedicated hero, thus adding an element of drama and sadness. However, like the Daleks, he has decided to bring them back. And based on Timothy Dalton’s brief appearance at the end (in a shot stolen whole heartedly from The Phantom Menace senate scene), these may not be the stodgy old Time Lords seen in the original series. Still, in a post credit opening clip of next weeks provided on the Doctor Who BBC web site shows Dalton and his fellow Time Lords discussing the Time War. It’s filled with annoying prophetess and an over-acting Dalton. So it looks like part-two does not start promising.

Maybe, with what photos that have been released, Steven Moffat’s take on Doctor Who is a more return to the classic series, with less emphasis on running around and robots.

17 December 2009

Success of Pride and Predjudice and Zombies spawns more mash-ups

While the mash-up's are not new, the success of last summer's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seems to be giving publishers an excuse to give the public more. With Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a moderate success, and with author Seth Graham-Smith's P&P&Z follow-up, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter due this coming Summer, look for more to come.

Like the above, due in late January.

14 December 2009

Books: Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

Back in September of 2008, I read Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine. I liked the book, mostly because I’m a sucker for time-travel stories. Less I’m a fan of is the so called hard-core science fiction of say Arthur C. Clark or Isaac Asimov and others. It wasn’t that I found these writers bad, I just got bored with all the techo jargon that comes with it: the mathematical equation the ship needs to get into orbit of a planet. I was brought up on Star Trek reruns where all of that was just magic, anyways.

Anyways, I enjoyed Haldeman’s style of writing, even if I could not figure out how he figured out how one could travel only forward in time and not back.

Now, what will probably be my last book of the year, I took on Marsbound, an entertaining and often humorous tale where conflict and mystery await on the planet of Mars. Set in an unnamed future time -I’m guessing somewhere around the end of the 21st Century - we meet 18 year-old Carmen Dula and her family, who’ve won a lottery and are bound for the first Mars colony. While not sure she wants to do this - after a trip on a space elevator to space station, there is another six month journey to that red planet. But while her doubts begin to creep in, she eventually finds some comfort in the arms of Paul, the pilot of the John Carter Goes to Mars.

But the daily grind soon sets in, and she also manages to make an enemy of the general administrator of Mars named Dargo Solingen. After a flare up between them, Carmen ventures out onto the Mars surface for a walk. But a slip up and trip down a hole propels Carmen into an adventure she never thought possible. There is intelligent life on Mars and they’ve been watching.

As typical it seems of Haldeman, his detail is good, but never gets in the way of the story. And the fact that it’s told from the 1st person point of view gives the reader a chance to discover everything just as Carmen is. And while this is, at its base, a standard sci fi plot idea -first contact - Haldeman balances with some great action, a huge dose of humor and with an easily described world that makes you focus more on the characters than the whole science of what could be a boring story about space travel to Mars.

08 December 2009

Winter arrives in the Southland

On a very brisk morning -38 degrees - a day after a blustery winter storm blew through the foothills were dusted with snow. It was very pretty, and the closet to snow I want to get these days.

06 December 2009

Rain and cold in California

Rain and snow is due tonight into tomorrow. Then more rain due later in the week.

The local networks are going into overdrive, all being on Storm Watch.

While its serious, I still snicker at how they act as if the end of the world is coming to SoCal.

Oh, well.

We'll see how much rain comes and how much snow falls in the foothills around the area.

04 December 2009

02 December 2009

Pee Wee Herman's Christmas Special

Aired in 1988, and broadcast just once, Pee Wee Herman's Christmas Special is perhaps one of the most silliest and truly oddest TV specials dealing with the holiday. This prime time show, based on his then Saturday morning show, has Pee Wee preparing for Santa and everything that goes with the annual holiday. But it becomes ridiculous from the start and you really don't have time to think as cameos from the likes of Magic Johnson, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Little Richard, Oprah Winfrey, Diana Shore, Whoopi Goldberg play along with regular Playhouse cast, including future stars Laurence Fishburne and S. Epatha Merkerson. Then add Joan Rivers, Charo, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, The Del Rubio Triplets, and Zsa Zsa Gabor and you got one of the gayest, campest and most brillaint holiday special ever.

I love this special and watch it every year.