29 July 2008

Earthquake in SENSURROUND!

Yes, we did indeed experience a 5.8 earthquake in Los Angeles this morning. I was at work when it happened, but it didn't feel very rough here in the Westside, and there are no reports of damage. People wandered outside and stared up at the sky for a bit (this is standard earthquake activity, and no one fully understands it). I ducked under my desk because I have this Pavlovian response wired into my brain from elementary school drills. The rolling sensation was gradual, but it lasted for long enough to make everyone nervous. Afterwards, it was an excuse not to get work done for about half an hour.

28 July 2008

iPod Ten strikes back!

I was listening to my new soundtrack albums for The Dark Knight and WALL·E, so far the two best movies of the year, and decided that I should crank another of my iPod Ten lists, where I randomly shuffle up ten tracks from my iPod’s ludicrously overstuffed library and blather about them.

Akira Ifukube: “Junior’s First Crisis” from Godzilla vs. Destorayah
My last iPod Ten list had a track from this album, which lasted a whopping fifteen seconds. This one at least goes for a minute, and features a strange and warbling rendition of the tender theme for Junior Godzilla. Yes, I use the word “tender” sometimes when talking about giant Japanese monsters.

Howard Shore: “Caras Galadhon” from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings—The Complete Recordings
I’ve never seen so complete a set of soundtrack recordings as the CD boxes containing the full recordings of the Lord of the Rings films. The Valar answered my prayers! I remember the first time I heard the “Lothlórien” theme that appears here, and it struck me that it has an almost Indic tinge to it, but this ideally suits the removed and distant elves of Lothlórien.

Bruce Broughton: “Goodbye, Cobb” from Silverado
I personally prefer Broughton’s score to Tombstone, but his robustness and debt to the Russian composers who so influenced the music of Westerns is pleasant to hear no matter the film.

Jimme Lunceford: “Rock It for Me”
Out of the soundtracks and into the swing! Lunceford headed up a band with a great musical sense of humor. This piece of has a good spark but a smooth sense of swing. An excellent dance piece. “Ain’t no shame to keep your body swinging/Beat it out in a minor key/Oh, rock it for me!”

Dusty Springfield: “The Look of Love” from Casino Royale (1967)
I have almost nothing positive to say about the multi-car pile-up fiasco of the 1967 spy “comedy” Casino Royale, which carried around the title of Ian Fleming’s first novel and besmirched it until the 2006 movie restored its dignity. But this unwatchable film does have a hip score from Burt Bacarach, and this smooth and sexy jazz ballad is one of the only things in the movie that feels like it might have come from a genuine 007 movie.

Joe Jackson: “You Run Your Mouth (And I’ll Run My Business)” from Jumpin’ Jive
People usually date the swing revival to the mid-‘90s, but there was a short retro-swing hit in the early ‘80s from Joe Jackson, who put together a great album of Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway pieces. The ‘90s swing revival used arrangements very similar to what Jackson does here. This album is still one of the best collections of covers of classic swing. Jackson does right by his sources.

John Williams: “Trouble in Town” from Rosewood
Williams is thought of as the “epic” film composer, but he can do remarkable work with intimate settings. For this period drama about racism in Florida, Williams created some intense music using ‘bayou’ sounds, gospel melodies, and folk tunes. This piece uses heavy guitar and a sinister harmonica.

Shirley Walker: “The Birth of Batman” from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Right on! A Batman piece! The makers of the animated DC televisions series only got to release one of their movies theatrically (they’ve done brisk business in the straight-to-video market), but it was a good one. Shirley Walker provided awesome orchestral scope to Batman: The Animated Series, and brought those same themes to the movie, along with a chorus to give it gothic depth.

Jerry Goldsmith: “Rollo Tomasi” from L.A. Confidential
Jerry Goldsmith lives! How could I have an iPod Ten list without Jerry? In four lists he has shown up six times. He accounts for 10% of the pieces on my iPod (1,565 out 15,519), so odds of him showing up on each of these lists is pretty good.

Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”
I don’t know if I’m up to the long explanation this piece requires. To make it short, I’ll like the Hulk explain: This not real Casa Loma Orchestra. Casa Loma Orchestra in name only. Gathered for recording purposes in 1950s. People say want stereo recordings. Old Casa Loma punny frontman get new band together. New band record exact copies of old swing standards. Sound good. But no surprise Hulk. Never much liked this song. So Hulk smash!

Diego Party Machine

It’s the Diego Party Machine!

Last night was the best night I’ve had at the Derby since Memorial Day weekend. Having just become an uncle does help with your party attitude, I’ve found. Also, if you bring a photo of your new nephew with you and show it off to people at the least provocation, they want to buy you a drink! Wooo! But I had to drive home and go to work the next day, so I turned most of the drink offers down. Booo! I’ll make up for it when I go to Germany in September to see Diego. Wooo! (Or whatever it is Germans scream to indicate willingness to party ridiculously.)

27 July 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Ron Perelman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor

If you haven’t seen Hellboy, don’t hesitate to leap into Hellboy II: The Golden Army. You’ll be able to follow it with minimum fuss without the first movie. A quick prologue at the opening will get you oriented to the adventures of the BPRD, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. If you’re still curious, go rent the first movie after you finish seeing the second. It’s an enjoyable film, although not a great one.

The second movie most definitely is a great film, and the third movie this summer to which I’ll bestow that honorific. (The other two are WALL·E and The Dark Knight.) It’s a movie for people who read both Lord Dunsany and comic books, love Michael Moorcock and Raymond Chandler. Guillermo del Toro is my kind of filmmaker; I’ll bet he and I would have days and days worth of geek-joy to discuss.

I’ve been riding the Guillermo del Toro train for a while now; I jumped on when Blade II shocked me with its quality. Pan’s Labyrinth made me certain of the man’s ascendancy. Now he’s set up to direct The Hobbit. I have enormous love for Señor del Toro. There was a push for him to direct one of the Harry Potter films, but I’m glad he ended up in the J. R. R. Tolkien camp.

Have you ever wanted to see a scene where a beefy horned red devil and a lovelorn fishman drink Tecate Beer and sing along to Barry Manilow’s “I Can’t Smile without You”? Me too! And that’s exactly what Hellboy II delivers.

It would a great film just because of that one scene, but what about the rest of the flick? The first Hellboy dealt with Nazis and H. P. Lovecraft-esque beasties, but this one turns toward the realm of faerie and dark fantasy. An elven prince breaks the long truce between the realm of fearie and the human realm to take revenge on the mortal world’s encroachments. He plans to unleash magical automatons upon the world, the Golden Army of the title, if he can gather the three keys. However, his sister rebels against him and turns to the BPRD—and the love-smitten Abe Sapien—to save the human race from her brother’s magical wrath.

Del Toro adores monsters (another way that he and I are muy simpático) and his sympathies often lie with the beasts, even when they’re trying to wipe out the whole human race. Hellboy confronts a rampaging nature god, which is as beautiful as it is lethal, and its destruction is a moment of bizarre tenderness that you wouldn’t expect from this sort of summer entertainment. The film is filled with these unexpected moments of pathos.

Perlman again is dead-on as our title character. For an actor usually playing supporting parts, Perlman goes full-throttle with his lead role. But the performance on which I really want to shine a light is Doug Jones’s. All hail Doug! The suit actor who has turned into del Toro’s Robert DeNiro (he played both the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth) finally gets to add his voice to one of his characters. In the first Hellboy, David Hyde-Pierce provided his voice to Jones’s portrayal of the amphibious Abe Sapien (and refused credit because he saw how much the character belonged to Jones), but now Jones gets to control the complete character of the intellectual Abe. Jones isn’t just a great suit actor, he’s a great actor, and people should recognize him as such after what he delivers here.

Now, on to Guillermo del Toro’s Hobbit!

First photo of Diego

Here is the first picture I have of my nephew, Diego Martin. He’s one hour and fifteen minutes old in this photo.
He’s blonde! Whadda shock.

26 July 2008

No baby photo yet, but Ecce NEO!

I don't have any photos of my nephew Diego Martin yet, but I will definitely post them here the moment I get any.

For the time being, please enjoy I photo a took posing with my new friend and writing partner, the AlphaSmart NEO, which has brought you most of my recent posts:

Commemoration Via Alligator

Alligator (1980)
Directed by Lewis Teague. Starring Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Dean Jagger, Henry Silva.

Because I found out that my nephew Diego Martin was born while I was watching a DVD of the 1980 monster film Alligator, I’ll make some comments on the movie as a bizarre way of recording the moment. It’s very appropriate that I found out I had become an uncle during a monster movie, since it’s one of my favorite genres; this bodes well for my nephew.

Alligator belongs to the slew of Jaws-inspired (or Jaws-ripped-off, depending on your opinion of the film in question) movies of the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Let’s glance over a few of the similarities between the two:
  • A rampaging, ginormous version of a dangerous animal goes on an unnatural foray on delicious human pink meat. The creature is pursued by...
  • A cop with a problematic past who at first has to convince skeptics that they are indeed dealing with a major danger. He teams up with...
  • A scientist who is an expert on the animal type. But they must cope with...
  • A crazy hunter who ends up getting fed feet-first to the beast. Furthermore, they must deal with...
  • The local mayor, who is hampering the investigation to cover his own butt.
Yep, no links to Jaws at all.

Diego Kai Martin is here

I just got the call from my father that my sister has had her baby, a boy named Diego Kai Martin. The baby was delivered through a c-section at 1:45 p.m. Los Angeles time, which is I-don't-know-what-but-I'll-look-it-up Munich time. Diego weigh something a bit under 7 lbs., but those crazy Europeans quoted something in kilos, and I don't speak kilos. The baby is healthy, the mother is healthy, and I am an uncle! Woooo! Party!

This means that the baby was born while I was sitting in the food court at the Century City Mall using my NEO to writing an essay about how incredibly expensive parking is at Universal Citywalk. I got the call from the father while watching the movie Alligator on DVD. Trivial details, but certainly things I'll remember in the future and tell Diego until he tells uncle Ryan to shut up about that. But I think he'll like the movie Alligator. All young boys like giant monsters, and this shares by bloodline so of course he will like giant monsters. I'll also tease him about the poll I ran for his name, and how "Dean" beat out Diego, and "Cthulhu" was close behind. And nobody went for "Horst," which was my suggestion.

Here's a few details he will want to remember about this day when he is older.
  • It was a warm 85° and sunny in Los Angeles. He wasn't born here, but most of us live here, so that's important.
  • The most popular movie in the U.S. is the ass-kicking The Dark Knight.
  • The major movies released this weekend were Step Brothers and X-Files: I Want to Believe. Neither will be remembered by the time Diego is two.
  • The U.S. President was… look, everybody will have purposely forgotten him by the time Diego is two.
  • The headline news events are: 17 blasts kill at least 29 people in India; Barack Obama meets with British PM Gordon Brown; Iran announces it will hang 30 convicts on Sunday; Gas prices dip below $4 (uh, I guess that's good news); A police detective says the mayor of Detroit shoved and swore at him. The top goofy but real headline: "Man Shoots His Lawnmower, Police Say."
  • The headline for The Onion: "Mob Not Angry at Monster, Just Disappointed."
  • Diego shares his birthday with Jason Robards, Vivian Vance, Gracie Allen, Kevin Spacey, Blake Edwards, Aldous Huxley, Kate Beckinsale, Dorothy Hamill, Roger Taylor, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Piven, Peter Hyams, Sandra Bullock, Olivia Williams… and Erskine Hawkins, Mick Jagger, Carl Jung, George Bernard Shaw, and Stanley Kubrick! All right, go Diego!

25 July 2008

Bat-villain speculation (no, it's not too early)

It's never too early for Batman III speculation. Hell, I've been speculating about it for at least the last year. Now that The Dark Knight is in theaters and stealing money faster than the Joker strung out on ten cans of Red Bull, I can start slinging my unfounded theories about the next film—which I hope will be called The Dark Knight Returns, even if it doesn't directly relate to the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name. Specifically, I'm going speculate wildly about possible villains, 'cuz that's where the fun is.

Everything I am about to say here comes from my own diseased brain, and not from any substantial rumors. At this point, nothing about the third movie is certain; it's all rumor. I know that Goyer and the Nolans have some ideas, but I can't read their minds and they certainly aren't saying anything at this point. If I could read their minds, I'd be the next Bat-villain.

Running through the rogues gallery, here are my musings on the possibilities of them appearing in Batman III and what might be done with them. First, the villains who have already appeared (and there will be some big spoilers here about TDK:

The Joker: No. Not happening. Dealing with Heath Ledger's legacy isn't something any filmmaker would want to tackle. Leave the Joker alone.

Two-Face: Is Harvey Dent dead? The ending of The Dark Knight leaves the issue ambiguous, with Jett at Batman-on-Film certain that Two-Face has landed tails-up permanently, but most everyone else believing that the ambiguity denotes that he's still alive. Two-Face's legacy must be dealt with, however, regardless of whether he survived. It seems that the character's arc is complete, so he wouldn't need to physically return, but I would like to see him again, and the Brothers Nolan and Goyer could find more for him to do. It's no longer necessary however.

Scarecrow: Let's have him appear in every Batman movie!

Ra's al-Ghul: Another ambiguous death. Is Ra's al-Ghul immortal? Are his methods supernatural? The League of Shadows is too large and multifarious to go down after one failure, and it would be simple to return them to manipulating the tragedies of Gotham city. I even wondered during The Dark Knight if Ra's was actually behind the Joker's madness. The Joker is the sort of villain that Ra's al-Ghul would think Gotham deserved.

Onto the newcomers:

The Penguin: Please! I want me some Penguin! He's one of my favorite characters! Done as a stylish English gangster, he could work. I hear people calling for Bob Hoskins, but my pick is either Philip Seymour Hoffman or Andy Serkis. Please, Christopher Nolan, give me the Penguin! You can make him work! "Quack, quack, quack..."

The Riddler: The buzz among most Batman bloggers is that the Riddler is the #1 choice. Many have postulated that the character of Coleman Reese in The Dark Knight is a set-up for the Riddler, but I don't see this happening. However, the Riddler would make an excellent follow-up for the Joker, and he would adapt easily to the new setting. My pick for the actor is Guy Pearce, who has previously worked with Nolan in Memento.

Catwoman: Another hot rumor. Batman's love-interest file is now wide open, so I think Catwoman has a good shot. The feminine appeal would be a great hook for a next film, makes for great billboard material, and would sit well with another villain. She wouldn't be too much of a stretch in the realistic Nolan-verse. But... there is that Halle Barre thing, that black stain on all DC films. Can Catwoman be rehabilitated? Does Warner Bros. even want to risk it?

The Ventriloquist and Scarface: Here's a villain who strikes a balance between silliness and possibility. I can envision an insane but meek man using a ventriloquist dummy as his outlet for his violence and criminal brilliance. On screen, would this just end up hilarious? The animated Bat series both used versions of the Ventriloquist effectively, on live action is a different affair.

Mister Freeze: Fans have screamed for a while for Patrick Stewart to play Victor Frieze. His tragic nature and his superb rendering on Batman: The Animated Series make his one of the strongest characters for the new franchise. The problem? He's too science-fiction for the realistic Nolan-verse. Could the filmmakers overcome this? As with the Penguin, I'd love them to try. Stewart is the right choice, by the way.

Bane: Of all the villains to appear in the earlier Burton-Schumacher films, Bane got the worst deal. He needs rehabilitation, and he will fit well with the gritty setting. Make him a criminal schemer hopped up on super-steroids with an obsession about beating the bat. A semi-adaptation of Knightfall would make a killer film, although perhaps this should be the fourth movie instead of the third.

Killer Croc: I would normally say that Killer Croc was too outrageous for the realistic Nolan-verse, but the anime film Batman: Gotham Knight managed to make a believable version. Since he's had a semi-official introduction into current continuity, tied into Scarecrow, I think he might make a good supporting, plug-ugly villain combined with someone like Penguin or Riddler. Mad Hatter could slap K-Croc with a mind-control device, and away we go.

Harley Quinn: Too closely connected to the Joker. Pass.

Black Mask: This villain, who has a skull mask permanently attached to his head, is perhaps the easiest fit into Christopher Nolan's Gotham city, since he's essentially a psychotic gangster. He isn't well-known among the general public, but Bat-fans often mention him as strong possibility. The Nolans and Goyer could fit him into Batman III without even breaking a sweat. My only hesitancy is that he's the most obscure with laymen among the main contenders for head villain.

Poison Ivy: No. Just... no.

Mad Hatter: Bit too colorful, although his violent psychosis would adapt to this Batman's world. The mind-control angle would make it easy to bring in some thuggish villains.

Man-Bat and Clayface: Great characters. But too fantastical. Trying to make them more mundane would end up ruining their appeal.

Firefly: A lesser character, but a cinch for the realistic setting. As a supporting villain, I think this pyromaniacal nut would ideally suit any situation.

The Clock King: I'm getting obscure now, but I love what Batman: The Animated Series did with him, and it wouldn't be hard to put him into the Nolan-verse. It won't happen, but someone has to kick it out there, and I shall be that one.

Induction begins

The doctors have started to induce labor with my sister, who has gone quite a bit over her due date. (My sister can't turn anything in on time, sheesh!) The process can be slow, but at the moment my mother thinks we can expect delivery sometime on Saturday. Labor induction is apparently a slow process. And I thought it was some doctor standing at the foot of the bed, waving a loaded pistol, and shouting, "Give birth, or tomorrow the mayor of Gotham City will die! I'm an OBGYN of my word. Hahahahahahahahahaha!"

23 July 2008

More lame excuses

"Okay, Ryan, where are the comments about Hellboy II and The Dark Knight?" you may be asking. "And what about your sister having a baby? What's going on with that?"

Right of you to ask. I've been a touch busy since getting back from the Land of the Children of the Corn, mostly getting set in my new position at my job (which is working out much better than I expected). I thought by this point I would have a nephew/niece to report about, but my sister is a bit overdue on this. Always the one to hand in the assignment late. According to the doctors, there's nothing wrong. The baby is just taking its time. I was holding back on writing up more blog entries about there not being a baby, but at the risk of getting a bit "Francisco Franco is still dead" on everybody, I held off. But that of course means that I was holding off on any blog post. And trying to sort out what I would say about both Hellboy II and Miles Obscurus (to give the Batman film its proper Latin name) made me realize it would be a time-consuming task.

However, it's easy to write this space-wasting post that hasn't told you anything because I'm writing it on my new AlphaSmart NEO word-processing device, which I've eagerly awaited for two weeks. Now I have no excuse not to do writing anywhere I go. I've only had the machine for two hours and I'm already abusing it. So far I've used up one hour of the seven hundred available on the three AA batteries that power it. I'm so prodigal.

I've made some serious lo-tech strides in writing this year, using both this NEO device, which feels like something invented in 1983, and WriteRoom, a distraction-free writing environment that gives me the sense I'm typing on a Commodore Pet. I still break out the bells n' whistle Microsoft Word when I need to edit, but for draft purposes, I'm now attached to using the clean, all-consuming beauty of WriteRoom. And now the AlphaSmart NEO will give me even greater draft writing latitude.

All right, go back about your meaningful business. There really was nothing to see here.

18 July 2008

Dean leads the pack

With two more days of voting to go for the baby's name, Dean currently leads with 41% of the vote, but Diego, my sister's top choice, is in second. For some reason Cthulhu is in third, beating Steve, Rheinhardt, and the so far no-votes of Ludwig and Horst.

By the way, still no baby. Everything is fine with the pregnancy, according to the doctors, no need to induce labor, etc. Just—still no baby.

And I'm getting out of Iowa today.

Tomorrow, I've got IMAX tickets for a little something called The Dark Knight...

12 July 2008

So, This Gaul place . . . How Is It Divided?

Here are some quick facts about Western Europe, from our old buddy C. Jules Kaiser in his book Comments On Butt-Kicking in Gaul:


I have to hand it to the ancient Romans: all caps, no punctuation, no separation of sentences, no letter ‘u’, not even spaces between the words! When I first studied Latin and I found out that this was the way the Romans actually wrote, and not the gentle, Anglicized versions in our text books (Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam . . .) complete with very helpful macrons (I left those out because they are time-consuming to create and not all fonts support them), I was stunned. How in the world was I going to read this endless stream of letters?

But you know what? It’s kind of fun. Like a crossword puzzle. How often to do you get to a crossword puzzle written by Julius Caesar? (Wait, I mean IVLIVSCÆSAR.)

10 July 2008

Name the baby!

I have place a poll at the top of my blog to choose a name for my sister's soon-to-be-born baby. If the baby is a boy, what should they name it? Their top choice is "Diego." I've included a few others.

Keep in mind that the baby's last name will be "Martin."

Now, go vote!

Future nephew (maybe niece)

Here comes a quick personal update. I don’t drop too much information about my family life here, which I know a few of them occasionally resent (“Why didn’t write anything about so-and-so’s anniversary on your blog?”). That isn’t the purpose I envisioned for this blog when I started it. I had no wish to make it a daily-diary recounting of events for a small audience. I still have a small audience, but I hope that most of what I write will also interest people who have no idea who I am.

When I do drop in data my personal life, it usually concerns the more “impersonal-personal” events, such as sights and events on a trip, or a dancing performance, those types of things.

But… well, I’m about to become an uncle for the first time, so you will excuse me if I crow about that a bit.

My younger sister Colleen Martin (I’m still not used to that new last name) and her husband Armin are due to become parents this week. My sister’s due-date is the fourteenth, so we are currently in the any-time-soon mode. My sister lives in Munich, so I’m a long way from the event, but my mother flew out there on Saturday to be with her when the Big ‘Un comes. My mother is a childbirth educator with decades of experience, so I couldn’t imagine a better support for my sister. I know she’s thrilled to have Mom around. Mom hsd been sending out daily e-mails to everyone she knows about their progress, but you can feel the tension beneath it all—would it please just happen already!

It’s strange for me, thousands of miles away, across the ocean, in the New World where we don’t expect to see grown men wearing Bavarian lederhosen while riding public transportation, to have to wait to become an uncle. There’s a distance and unreality to the event that I had not expected. I’ve lived close to my sister for most of my life, and now that the biggest moment in her life is here, we are nowhere near each other. It almost feels as if it isn’t happening. I’ve only seen my sister twice since she announced her pregnancy, and the first time she wasn’t even showing. I’ll have few memories of her during her pregnancy, so it will seem as if this baby will appear from nowhere. I won’t even get to see my niece/nephew until September, and I won’t be around much for the formative growing years, only for holidays.

If you think this bothers me, think of how my mother feels about it. Getting grandkids is a major focus of her life, and now that the first is arriving, she won’t get to be around him/her that much. At least she’ll be there for the birth, which isn’t something that I, my brother, or my father will be able to say.

By the way, although I’ve hedged on the baby’s gender in my above description, I think it’s a boy. This comes from some subtle indications from Colleen and Armin that they know more than they let on. They wanted to keep the baby’s gender a surprise from the beginning, but apparently one of their doctors let something slip. So I’m expecting a boy. They have the name “Diego” in mind, but I suggested an outrageous Germanic name, like “Rheinhardt” or “Horst.” I’ve been referring to the baby-to-be as “Horst” for the last few months, just in case Colleen and Armin want to take up that challenge. I originally suggested they name the baby “Dean” in honor of my father, but really because I couldn’t imagine passing up a chance to have a nephew named “Dean Martin.” They turned me down, so I suggested “Steve” and Colleen had to punch me.

Final note, and then I’ll go back to impersonality: When I have a child, I will want to know its gender before it is born. I don’t like the idea that my doctor knows something important but hides it from me. If you know a key biological fact about my progeny, you are damn well going to tell it to me!

07 July 2008

Upcoming trips

I’ll be leaving Los Angeles a few times in the upcoming months; this is probably the most traveling I’ve done in any single year since I was in college.

I’m a bit “Angelopolis-bound” when it comes to my life; I enjoy taking trips but I find that most of the time I would rather enjoy my city and my friends and activities here. I love my personal space, I’m attached to the idea of “home.” I’ll never be one of those types who tosses a few things in storage and starts wandering around the world. I need a “home,” I need a base. I need to have it there for me after a short jaunt to the other regions of the planet. As our late, great comedian George Carlin said, “I need a place for my stuff.” And when I get a bigger place, I’m going to get more stuff!

Nevertheless, I’ve two upcoming jaunts. One is actually a—gasp—business trip. I haven’t made one of those since I was teaching reading programs in other cities back in 2001–2. It’s the first time that the current company I work for—and have worked for since October 2002, has sent me on any kind of trip at all. Unfortunately, it’s to Cedar Falls, Iowa. Not the height of exotic destinations, but I get a lot of writing work done in quiet hotel rooms. The trip is for a week, and I’m leaving this Sunday.

The next trip after that is the “big one.” My sister is about to have her baby (it could be any day now, since her official due date is the 14th), so I’ve arranged to go visit her and my new niece/nephew in early September. In Munich. After spending a few days with her and her husband in Bavaria, I’m flying down to Zagreb in Croatia to meet my friend Maja. Maja is celebrating her birthday in her home country of Solvenia, which is adjacent to Croatia (it’s much easier to fly into Zagreb than the Solvene capital of Ljubljana). I never thought I would see Croatia or Slovenia, or any part of the former Yugoslavia, but I’m thrilled to get to see an unusual part of the world that many people would never get an opportunity to see… and with a native for a guide. (That’s good, because my Slovenian is a bit rusty.)

Two weeks after getting back from Germany-Croatia-Slovenia, it’s off to Vegas again for the second time this year. Another delirious Lindy exchange is coming up!