When Neil Gaiman announced that he was doing his last-ever US book tour, I decided I should probably go to a reading before my chance to do so went away forever. Not that I really think it will - he'll do something that's not called a book tour, I'm sure. But hey, I had time, there was a tour stop that was relatively close (it was Michigan or... Louisville? Lexington? something in Kentucky), and it all seemed like a good idea at the time.
I decided, since everyone always says Ann Arbor is such a fantastic city, to go a day early, spend Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning wandering town, go to the reading Sunday night, and drive home Monday morning. Except... when I bought the ticket and booked the hotel room, it was April or so. By the time the weekend rolled around, it was most definitely summer. And hot. And humid. And really no fun to be outside.
But hey, it's not like I had anything better to do. So I saw most of downtown Ann Arbor, which is very cute when it's not boiling hot outside, with art galleries and little shops and way too much football gear for sale (not that I get to say anything, I live in Columbus). After dinner, I decided I'd had enough weather for the day, and went to the movies :-) White House Down is exactly what you expect: Channing Tatum's audition to be the next John McClane. Which would probably be more fun than the last Die Hard movie... anyways.
Despite wanting to sleep in on Sunday, I didn't... wide awake at 6:30. So I got up, had breakfast at Zingerman's (delicious), and sort of wandered between the hotel and downtown for the day. Have breakfast, go back to hotel for a bit. Have lunch downtown at Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, go back to the hotel and watch HBO. Finally go downtown for real, find Dawn Treader Books, spend an hour browsing old sci-fi novels. That bookstore is amazing. If you're ever in Ann Arbor, you should go. It's basically across the street from the Michigan Theater.
Early dinner and a quick coffee, and it was time to find out if they'd let us into the theater yet for the reading. They were indeed doing so, and I picked up my copy of the book that came with the ticket (The Ocean at the End of the Lane), and found my seat. I'd felt all smart about getting a balcony seat with a good view, which was great for the reading... not so great for later in the night. But we'll get to that.
Of course, being in your seat on time is problematic when the guest of honor has been stuck at the San Francisco airport because of the Asiana crash the day before. Thanks to Twitter, we were of course all aware of that - as the guy running the theater said "you probably already know this, but... he's still on the plane." Props to the staff at the Michigan Theater though - they entertained us with old interview recordings and readings (I forgot how much I love "Chivalry"), and after all, we'd all been given a book to read already :-)
I think it was 7ish or so by the time Neil got to Ann Arbor. The reading was of course lovely, even if I'd already heard some audiobook samples from the same chapters - he's seriously good at reading stories. The Q&A was highly entertaining - usually the questions get selected before he comes on stage, but, well, no time for that. So he had a stack of cards with questions submitted by attendees, and just picked some as he came across them. ("I sort of like this terrifying randomness!") It was fantastic. We also got to hear him read a bit from Fortunately, the Milk, the new kids' book coming out in September. Favorite line: "Sir... you're a stegosaurus." So much fun.
And then, the signing. Keep in mind... there were probably 2000 people in the theater. So, they dismissed people in sections. And this is when my seat selection became an obvious mistake. I was going to be there for a while.
A while... became getting in line at 1:30am. Yes, 6.5 hours after Neil came on stage, 7.5 hours after the event was supposed to have started. Good lord... this is the first time I've done that math. Neil Gaiman has some dedicated fans.
The funny thing was... nobody complained. I mean, there was some grumbling and friendly mocking every time they announced that Neil had pre-signed some books, if people had to leave but at least wanted a signed copy (at first, people actually seemed to take them up on that offer, but by the time 11pm rolled around, I don't think anyone was willing to give up anymore). We all started laughing hysterically when the house lights came on completely and somebody started vacuuming the floor around midnight. But really, we just hung out with people we'd never met before, some people would offer to run out and get water and snacks for the group around them, people ordered pizza... it was a bit like a very tired party. And the mood kept staying level, and excited, and friendly, and patient... it was fantastic to see, and some of the staff actually commented on how well-behaved everyone was. I guess this is what you get when you get dedicated fannish book nerds all crammed into one building :-)
Like I said, I finally got in line at 1:30am, and my book signed at just about 2am. The cool thing about Neil Gaiman (and a lot of people have said this already) is that even when he has to be dead tired and wanting to do nothing more than go home and sleep, he'll make sure each and every person at that signing table feels like they're the most important person in the world for those 30 seconds. You get eye contact, if you're me and totally suck at making conversation, he'll compliment your t-shirt (Yes, I wore a Doctor Who shirt. Most compliments I've ever gotten on an outfit.), and you'll never feel rushed to let him get to the next person. It's really impressive, and I think a big part of why people feel so connected to his work. I know I went home wanting to buy all of the stuff I don't already own (and still might - I do have an Amazon gift card to burn).
And then I drove back to the hotel (never have I been happier to spend money on a hotel room) and crashed... until I woke up at 6:30am and couldn't get back to sleep. Obviously my body clock hates me. I swear the only reasons I made it home without dying were sugar, caffeine, and pure stubbornness. That drive was awful. But it was ok, because I met Neil Gaiman, and it was totally worth it :-)
The Eleventh Doctor has been chosen, and I think I'm ok with it :) Waiting for the first episode, but so far I don't hate Team Cardiff.
And in the words of Neil Gaiman: "I'm a teeny bit disappointed about Paterson Joseph. But still, now it means if I ever wrote a story where the Marquis de Carabas met the Doctor... no. That way lies madness."
Walk slowly but confidently towards the madness, Neil. I'll be right behind you :)
Free Stuff: read/download Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, for absolutely free, from this website. I own this book in three versions (paperback, audiobook, BBC miniseries), and absolutely completely love it. If you download the pdf file, it expires 30 days after the download date (just goes *poof* back into the ether), and the whole thing goes away September 23. Check it out, especially if you've never read Gaiman before... it's so worth it. Also, if you have issues with the file, here are a couple of instructions about the download... hopefully Harper Collins will fix that, but at least there's help with the download for now.
Cool Stuff: I've been reading about this computer game called Spore for a couple of days now (yes, I know I'm late to the game), and I totally want it :) You start with little single-celled organisms, and you can add bits and pieces by eating other organisms' DNA, and eventually you can decide to go from ocean to land. It's totally unrealistic, but sounds awesome! If anyone has it, let me know how you like it... I am tempted to find it on sale somewhere after Christmas at least.
I signed up for the Ravelympics (the knitting version of the Olympics) and actually got some of my projects done! I didn't overcommit myself, but had a couple of setbacks that kept me from finishing everything - mostly a lack of the right needles and a general dislike of the project I had picked as my third. I decided enjoying knitting was more important than finishing, so I got two projects done instead of three. But both fit, and look cute, and are wearable!
Ballet Camisole in Knitpicks Shine Sport in Aquamarine
It's a little wide, but I know how to fix it. I just want to run it through the washer and dryer first to see how it shrinks and reshapes. I already wore it to Sheanna's wedding shower and liked it, so I'm very happy with it! Aaaand I got a medal :)
Askew Top in Noro Silk Garden color 10 (I think)
This is more of a sweatervest, mostly because I don't want the yarn next to my skin. Pretty though, and it fits well :) It'll be nice in the fall and winter with a button front shirt or a long-sleeve t-shirt.
I saw Hellboy 2: The Golden Army with Howard and Suzanne last weekend, mostly because I liked the first one and I'm a sucker for fantasy action movies. Also, Neil Gaiman must have been on set at some point, based on the photos he posted a while ago, so I was hoping the awesomeness rubbed off on the movie. And it pretty much did, I had a blast :) This one was funnier than the last one, probably because they didn't have to set up too many of the characters - more time for witty dialogue and fight scene choreography. The environmental message was a bit heavyhanded at times (if you've seen it, you know which part I mean), but it didn't take away too much from it being just a fun summer blockbuster. Doug Jones actually got to play a main character this time around, and he's a good actor after all, even though they mess with his voice so much that he might as well be miming with someone else's dubbing. Critics had complained about Luke Goss playing the Wraith prince (yeah, some serious makeup stealage from Stargate: Atlantis going on there), but I liked the way he did it. I had more issues with the princess - not the actress, she did well with what she had, but with the complete lack of helpfulness. I mean, she couldn't even keep her brother from kidnapping her when he's standing there soliloquizing about how his world is falling apart? Come on lady, do something! But I guess if stereotypical elvish princesses are my worst issue with the movie, it was all good :) This one was also more Pan's Labyrinth than Hellboy 1, which made for some amazing visuals. Guillermo Del Toro has a twisted twisted mind, but I like it - looking forward to what he does with The Hobbit :)
I also saw The Dark Knight this past Friday, and let me tell you, that was one weird, dark, awesome movie. I miss Heath Ledger now... anyone who can act like that should not just randomly die of an accidental overdose, that's just wrong. The Joker was extremely creepy, and the writing for the character really gave me shivers. And say what you want about Christian Bale having two default expressions in acting (stoic and psychopathic), he's a good Batman. Way better than Kilmer and Clooney at least (sorry George), and while I don't want to insult the original Batman, Bale is quickly surpassing Michael Keaton too. I like this new idea about Batman: dark, slightly disturbed, not really the superhero he's made out to be. Ok, so some of that isn't really new, but before Batman Begins, it's what I got out of the Batman movies. They were doing reruns this weekend, so I know :) The only sort of sad part was Two-Face - Aaron Eckhart deserved more than being the backup bad guy to the Joker. Also, bringing Cillian Murphy back for a 30-second cameo seemed like a bit of a waste, but at least you got the tie to the last movie. Again, if those two things are my only complaint... film on, Christopher Nolan, film on :)
In actual news, the police released autopsy results on the two kids that died in my apartment building a few weeks ago. Apparently it was suicide in both cases, with tox results ranging from heroine and marijuana to tranquilizers and alcohol. How they decided getting in a full bathtub was a good idea is beyond me, but at least now the "no foul play" theory is confirmed. That poor mother though... imagine visiting your kid for Parents' Weekend and finding him and his girlfriend dead in the bathtub. Ugh.
On that note... ok, I have to come up with something happy now. Uhm... oh, September! Fun month, September :) Going to visit Sara's parents in Erie for Labor Day (they have a house on the lake), going on vacation with mum for a week after that (Boston, Acadia National Park, Niagara, etc), going to a fiber festival in Yellow Springs with the twins the weekend after that, and going to the New Albany Classic (likely with Sara) the weekend after that. And then it'll be October, and I'll probably be broke, but very happy nonetheless :) How's that for a better ending?
I just got back from seeing Stardust... and I absolutely loved it! Very fun, amazing images (Scotland and Iceland apparently), and very Neil Gaiman even without following the book to the letter. Speaking of book: I distinctly remember reading Stardust as a book, not a graphic novel. Why does everyone keep saying that the movie is based on the graphic novel? Did I miss something? Laura/Carrie?
But on to the spoiler special!
Overall it was a beautiful movie, definitely worthy of being associated with the book, and I don't mind the Princess Bride associations all the critics seem to want to make. I only have one question:
A credit song by Take That? Seriously, Neil? What were you thinking? Are they even still alive? And singing? Together? I'm having flashbacks to junior high now. You had to have them write the ending song? Now it's stuck in my head, dammit! Not nice. Seriously, not nice at all.
Oh, and I totally want to see Beowulf. Screenplay by Neil Gaiman (and some other guy), Angelina Jolie, and swords - what's not to like?