…and part 2:
Love the Sherlock scarf and Frodo’s hairy feet.
Also, when I got up for the marathon this morning, I found an incredibly nice and encouraging note from her.
And it came with a lucky mustache.
(Also, Jenn got me some cool shorts and a new swimsuit for an awesome family vacation that’s coming up. The excellence of the day will continue with vindaloo, which Jenn excels at making. The mustache: It is lucky!)
And finally, here’s a silly picture of me and my dad.
I just realized I never posted the totally-necessary (unlike, say, Godfather III) completion to our Paintings of George by Jim series.
I read 36 books in 2011, which is two fewer than my 2010 total, but a number which still pleasantly surprised me, given that I landed a full-time career-changing job in February.
Mostly fiction, by far. The eight non-fiction reads included two biographies, an essay collection, a book on gaming and society, and four pop culture niche explorations.
Nine books on the list are re-reads, although one of those was the extensively annotated Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition. If you want to get technical, it’s ten counting Pillars of Pentegarn although it’s been probably 25 years – at least – since I last read it.
Obsessive streak: I closed the year on a 10-day break from work, during which time I read volumes 2-7 of the Harry Potter series. (I had planned to read the entire set, but then realized I had already read Sorceror’s Stone over the summer.)
Shared joy: My daughter and I fell in love with the Scott Pilgrim series after I bought her the first volume and then went to the library within a day or two to check out the other five.
I have Adam to thank for two books on the list which were gifts: John Landis and Manhood for Amateurs. Excellent call on both.
I reviewed twelve of the books for GeekDad.
- Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World - Jane McGonigal
- John Landis – Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan
- The Star Wars Craft Book – Bonnie Burton
- Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi
- Geek Fantasy Novel - E. Archer
- Manhood for Amateurs - Michael Chabon
- Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale – Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon and Chris Samnee
- Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg
- Transformers Vault – Pablo Hidalgo
- The Snow Queen’s Shadow - Jim C. Hines
- Agent to the Stars - John Scalzi
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone – - J.K. Rowling
- Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
- Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness - Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together - Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe - Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (20th Anniversary Edition) – Timothy Zahn
- Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads – Kirk Demarais
- Prophets - S. Andrew Swann
- The Complete Vader - Ryder Windham and Peter Vilmur
- Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C. – Scott Campbell
- At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror - H.P. Lovecraft
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
- Kraken – China Mieville
- Cloak – James Gough
- Pillars of Pentegarn - Rose Estes
- Star Wars: Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual - Ryder Windham, Chris Reiff, Chris Trevas
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
And first on the list for 2012:
Ganymede by Cherie Priest
In addition to the reviews and interviews I did for GeekDad this year, I also wrote a half-dozen posts about things like discovering the TV show Eureka, spooky Ray Bradbury stories, and attending the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 with my daughter. I loved writing these.
Harry Potter and the Nostalgic GeekDad (Probably my favorite GeekDad contribution this year.)
GeekDad also featured my Delving Into Dungeons & Dragons As A Family post – originally from summer 2010 – as a “wayback machine” post this July. Since this is one of my other favorites, I was glad to see it up there again.
On my way into work yesterday morning, coming off about three hours’ sleep following the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and hopped up on caffeine and sugar, I got to thinking about the books and movies and what they’ve meant to me as a geek and – more importantly – as a dad over the past 12 years. I turned those reflections into a piece which is posted (appropriately enough) over at Wired – Harry Potter and the Nostalgic GeekDad:
I really enjoyed writing this one, and hope you enjoy reading it.
When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.
So, here’s what I read in 2010:
The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.
Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.
Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend
Mainspring – Jay Lake
Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II
The Sagan Diary - John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.
Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.
The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010′s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.
FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend
Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines
Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.
Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix
Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.
Dreadnought – Cherie Priest
The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.
Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen
A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.
Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley
Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.
Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.
I was reading to my daughter Kelsey since before she was born. We’ve covered a lot of ground together, from the neighborhoods of Richard Scarry’s busy world to the road that passes through a Phantom Tollbooth. Been beneath the Misty Mountains with a certain Hobbit and ridden the train to Hogwarts over and over again.
As she grew into an independent reader, I loved suggesting books to her like Donuthead, Whales on Stilts and Zoe’s Tale. Of course, she also found a ton of stuff on her own, and has shelves full of books in which I have no interest at all – and that’s more than OK. The fact that she’s piling them up at all is fantastic.
All this is part of the reason why writing my latest GeekDad post brought me a really special kind of joy, not because it’s about a couple books I really enjoyed, but because this time around, the books were Kelsey’s discovery, and it was my turn to say, “Hm. Okay,” and then, later, “Wow! Thanks!!!”
They get some prime real estate on the memory shelf.
So Kelsey and I are officially part of the largest midnight movie opening ever, with our $17.50 in ticket money having just pushed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince past the $22-million mark for Wednesday’s overnight opening.
It was a fun night, especially since neither of us had been to a midnight premiere before. We stopped at the grocery store on the way and bought a bag of gummi bears apiece, tucking them in our sweatshirt pockets. Picked up our internet-purchased tickets at the theatre kiosk and got in line at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Lots of lightning bolts drawn on foreheads. Lots of striped ties and prep school outfits and robes. (PotterMania: Helping Parents Recycle Graduation Gowns Since 1997!) Even a couple Dobbys and a surprisingly good Professor Lupin.
I figured on a decent tween crowd, but was surprised at how many high-schoolers there were, until I gave it some thought and realized that they’ve really grown up on these books and movies, and then it seemed pretty cool.
We filed into the theatre at about 11:20 and got a couple good seats about halfway to the top and on the end of the center section so Kels could have an aisle seat. I bought us a Coke to keep the sugar and caffeine levels up.
After the previews, the curtains flanking the screen pulled fully open, the lights dimmed completely, and Kelsey and I shared a “This-is-awesome” grin and settled into our seats. I hope someday she looks back and remembers that anticipation and the fun that came with it.
So, thoughts on the movie:
Having read the first four Potter books before the first movie in the series came out, my own mental construct of Rowling’s wizarding world and its characters has stayed pretty much intact as the books themselves have been adapted into movies. Basically, this means that I’ve been able to kind of treat the movie series as a totally different kind of experience than the books, even though I obviously know where the overall story is going.
The Half-Blood Prince has very different feel to it – the book did, too, but not quite as drastically – than the others in the series, and I think it’s because so much of the various storylines were trimmed to make them all fit into a watchable movie. There’s not a real overarching sense of growing dread or a constantly building feeling of impending doom, or a neatly-interlocking pattern of clues and discovery. Consequently there’s a lot less action in this one, though there’s no loss of drama. It’s more of a series of smaller mysteries and stories that run their own parallel courses, knocking together and eventually braiding into the larger tale.
There’s much less of Voldemort’s back-story, which I figured would be cut, but I missed it anyway, because the creeping growth of his evil throughout his childhood and younger years is a great and chilling portion of the book. The overall darkness gathering thorughout the wizarding world and spilling into the muggle community is similarly shortchanged. In both cases, though, the movie uses well-crafted scenes as snapshots hinting at the big picture, even adding in a couple new scenes to keep things moving.
(Aside: I’ve had a quiet crush on Helena Bonham Carter since my friend Jen showed me A Room with A View during our freshman year of college. Because of this, I find Ms. Crazypants Cackling Murderer who’s got Really Bad Teeth and Kooky Hair Bellatrix Lestrange inescapably hot.)
On its own merits, I enjoyed Half-Blood Prince easily as much as any of the other Harry Potter movies. (Honestly, I have trouble ranking them, although I think as a whole the first one is the weakest, since it spends sooooo muuuuuuch camera time lingering on the sets and visual effects.) But the newest one gets serious bonus points because it will always conjure up excitement and gummi bears and a memorable night with my daughter.
A few weeks back, I had to log off the computer and go downstairs to deliver some news to my daughter.
“Well,” I said, “I tried to get us tickets to the 12:01 a.m. showing of Half-Blood Prince – and it was sold out.”
I couldn’t bear to let the look of disappointment and shock sit on her face too long before adding “So I got us tickets to the 12:02.”
So, ten-odd hours from now, we’ll be gearing up for the midnight(ish) premiere of the sixth Harry Potter movie. I’m excited, but even though I love the movies, the anticpation is more about the opening night experience. I realized over the weekend that while I’ve seen my share of opening night movies – seeing Return of the Jedi (archived on an old Field’s Edge page) the day it was released remains my all-time favorite cinematic memory – I don’t think I’ve ever gone to one of these overnight shows, so it will be a first for both of us.
Double-checking the ticket confirmation online yesterday, I noticed there are now five just-after-midnight showings at the theatre we’re visiting, and they’re all sold out, which should make for a pretty buzzy atmosphere.