A Little Holiday Spirit

The Spirit Comic book adaptation wherein a dead man fights crime and woos the ladies.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza (Greenbelt)
Noise Level: Too Loud
The Skinny: To quote from the movie, "Is it just me, or is that weird?" Yeah, it was weird, but I liked it, odd anachronisms and all.

Last Ride of the Year for Real I Mean It This Time

Also the last Rorschach of the year.


I swear that the hill in Greenbelt National Park is getting harder, not easier. I'd like to blame it on the wind or the cold, but it was a stinkin' hot 45°F today. It's supposed to hit 50°F tomorrow. This is just so dang wrong. So dang wrong.

So, the hill is bad, but it's awfully pleasant to have a nice car-free road to ride through the trees on the other side. The cars were out in force on Good Luck Road, though, and the construction at Paint Branch Parkway makes for some skinny roadway for FUVs to share with little ole me, so I was glad to hit the NE Branch Trail and watch an airplane take off from the world's oldest continuously operated airport.

All-in-all a tiring short ride to finish out the year much later than I'm used to finishing out the year.

Because Circumferential Highway Mall Just Doesn't Have the Same (ahem) Ring

Beltway Plaza Sign

This is the sign outside our local mall, Beltway Plaza. It is named for that hot new bit of construction we lovingly call the Capital Beltway, completed in 1964. I'm not sure when the mall itself came into existence, though it couldn't have started later than the 70s with a name like that (and a logo to boot).

I stopped by today and took this picture of one of the holiday displays.

Creepy Ants

Ignore the creepy elves for a moment and tell me why there are so many ants painted all over the place. Are ants on snowmen a traditional image I have missed somehow?

At any rate, I doubted the veracity of the sign (in the top of the picture) that claims the mall has over a hundred other stores. I doubted that they had even a hundred including those stores on the sign. Here is what I found:

Stores at Beltway Plaza Mall

  1. Beltway blossom shop
  2. Nail art
  3. Gallery art
  4. Subway
  5. Heaven's bakery
  6. Kay jewelers
  7. Atlantic wireless
  8. Visual eyes
  9. Beltway barbers
  10. African braids
  11. Gnc
  12. Ny buffet
  13. Kb toys (going out of business)
  14. Planet fun
  15. Gold king jewelry
  16. Bun cafe
  17. El taco rico
  18. Kingsway cafe
  19. Gold's gym
  20. Ezotic furniture
  21. Kids foot locker
  22. Anna's linens
  23. C collection
  24. Empty kiosk
  25. Creature Zone
  26. Ken's photo imaging kiosk
  27. Diamond jewelers kiosk
  28. World watches kiosk
  29. Alpha formal wear
  30. Msp
  31. Wings to go
  32. Gallo
  33. The sports zone
  34. Mcdonalds
  35. Payless
  36. Perfume center kiosk
  37. Rainbow
  38. Giant
  39. American hair
  40. Lana's bridal
  41. Foot locker
  42. Baskin robbins
  43. Bank of America
  44. Greenbelt liquors
  45. Quiznos
  46. Cleaners
  47. Sears home appliance showroom (coming soon)
  48. Party city
  49. Mattress discounters
  50. Fedex kinko's
  51. Silver diner
  52. Game stop
  53. Boston market
  54. Popeyes
  55. Chevy chase bank
  56. Bennigans (closed)
  57. Wendy's
  58. Radio shack
  59. Hardware
  60. Empty shop
  61. Advanced health
  62. Dollar city & more
  63. Last stop
  64. Rave
  65. Usa Jewelry kiosk
  66. Gold-n-diamonds
  67. Home pretzel
  68. Fabulous fries
  69. Import cottage
  70. Law office of Douglas I Malcolm
  71. Like on tv
  72. Fun center
  73. Id communications
  74. Silver variety (closed)
  75. Academy 8stadium theatres
  76. Luggage &er; things
  77. Bling kiosk
  78. Fye
  79. Conywa
  80. Athlete's foot
  81. Leather man
  82. Dynamix
  83. Empty store
  84. Three brothers
  85. Hollywood digital
  86. Fashion bug
  87. Perfumery
  88. Ashley Stewart
  89. Lucaya
  90. Pia
  91. Dip-n-depot kiosk
  92. Books-a-million
  93. The beauty center
  94. Kurly's
  95. Luv'n time
  96. Gold plaza
  97. Jo-ann fabric
  98. Burlington coat factory
  99. Value city (closed)
  100. Target
  101. Marshalls
  102. Royal jewelry
  103. Popcorn kiosk
  104. Gift world
  105. Watches
  106. Beltway trophy
  107. Ties shirts &er; more
  108. Mode tailors
  109. Bang's watch repair
  110. Gallo

Well, check that out. I was wrong. I can admit it. Mistakes were made. You go Beltway Plaza with your more than 100 stores, you.

The Chances are 14 to 1

We popped over to Monticello while we were in the Charlottesville area. This was the home of Thomas Jefferson. I didn't remember that the building was made of brick. I guess I expected it to be constructed from nickel.

I also didn't remember it being so crooked!

The people running this place are real control freaks. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house. We could not lean in the doorways or on the walls. We were told to remove our gum and throw it away before entering the house. We were even told to turn off our mobile phones before going in. "Only 19th century sounds inside the house, please."

They locked up the smokehouse so that you wouldn't go into the empty room and stand in it or something.

(We could take pictures in the basement and the slave areas.)

Even the signs were controlling.

But the view from the grounds was lovely, even in winter.

Confused by the title?

Greetings From Charlottesville

A town in Virginia that so believes in the 1st Amendment, it put this installation up for people to express themselves however they want with chalk. 1st Amendment Wall Which probably explains their willingness to name a restaurant this: Spudnuts But best of all are the book stores. We're here for a wedding and will be back in town tomorrow. The weather is horrendous: mid-60s and sunny.

Where is OUR Snow?

It seems that it snows everywhere except where I live.

The Year in Books

I expect this week is going to be slow readership wise, so here's a list for those of you who bothered to drop in: Some of my choices for "bests". Keep in mind that these are books I read this year, so many of them were released before this year began.

One thing about this year is that I've spent a lot more time working from home, which is great for the environment and for treating my road rage, but it has really cut back on my book tales. Long bus and train rides are much more conducive to the short tale than walking down the steps.

All that is to say that this year I've read more books than I got around to writing about.

The Best Book I Read This Year: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson

I believe that this book is filed under YA, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. It is a searing story set in New England during the opening of the Revolutionary War. A boy grows up among very strange experimentalists and slowly learns the reality of his own part in the goings-on. It's even deeper than that: it's a look at different attitudes and activities of bystanders and instigators leading up to the the first skirmishes of the war. It's a horrible book in the sense that it contains horrible acts and activities, but it is a fascinating and revealing novel that should not be missed. This is Book Thief territory.

The Most Fun Book I Read This Year: Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon

Jewish adventurers, who knew? This is a fun and light book about a couple of vagabond thieves who get caught up in a young person's royal intrigues. Sort of a Hope and Crosby kind of book. Short and sweet.

The Best Weird Book I Read This Year: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow

I'd like to say that City of Saints and Madmen was the best, but this one has more narrative flow, which is an important quality for me. It's the story of the son of a mountain and a washing machine as he battles to have a normal life while worrying about his responsibility for his brothers: a range of misfits including a set of three stacking brothers who can only eat when stacked together. Weird, but fun.

The Best Western Book I Read This Year: Territory, Emma Bull

I don't read a lot of westerns, but this one is also lightly a fantasy novel, so it slipped under the radar. Plus, I had a good enough experience with So Brave, Young and Handsome that it seemed safe to pick up. I'm glad I did. There is a sequel in the works, but this book takes us up to events before the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt and his pals are here, along with a spunky newspaper reporter and a mysterious drifter. A little magic, a little romance, and a little magic. Nicely done.

I could pick the worst book I've read but it would involve a possible relative, so we'll pass on that! Plus, it's not so festive, eh? What are some of the best books you've read this year?

Here's to a literate new year.

All The Books I've Read This Year

Without Book Tales
(In No Particular Order, links go to LibraryThing)

  1. So Brave, Young and Handsome, Leif Enger
    Western. Bored author goes on road with desperado. Entertaining.
  2. The Invention of Everything Else, Samantha Hunt
    Literary (Possible Science Fiction). A sort of romance, science thing. Sweet.
  3. Idoru, William Gibson
    Science Fiction/Teen. Rock band angst in the net world. Not up to his best.
  4. City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff Vandermeer
    Weird. Collected information stories about the city of Ambergris, a place of mushroom men and weird monsters.
  5. Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow
    Weird. See above.
  6. Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon
    Historical Fiction/Adventure. See above.
  7. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.
    Apocalyptic Science Fiction. A collection of novellas about monks protecting written scientific works without understanding them as the world grows out of its own destruction. Good old fashioned SF.
  8. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, Sasa Stanisic
    Fiction. Recent history about life during the upheavals in Eastern Europe. Disjointed.
  9. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
    Historical Fiction. A soldier's experience during the First World War. Grim but interesting, esp. about the differences between the fighting and the home front.
  10. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire
    Fantasy. A retelling of Cinderella from a different point of view. Grew bored after a while.
  11. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson
    Historical Fiction. See above.
  12. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
    Travel Narrative. Beatnik wanders around. My parents' generation loved this book? I'm sorry, this book was terrible. Just listen to the 10,000 Maniacs song; it's better.
  13. Naked, David Sedaris
    Essays. Funny stuff about life in the South East US.
  14. The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl
    Mystery/Historical Fiction. While working to make the first English translation of Dante, Longfellow and friends track down a serial killer basing his murders on the poem. I just didn't care about any of these people.
  15. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
    Historical Fiction. Rich sisters are torn to shreds by their men. Not literally.
  16. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    Fantasy. A humorous look at the end times. A demon and angel royally screw up the Second Coming. Funny, but not up to Gaiman's usual work.
  17. The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
    Historical Fiction. A master builder tries to build a cathedral in 12th century England while the people around him almost ruin his dreams with their political machinations. Too many character switches. Blah. He is horrible to the women in this book.
  18. The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor
    Fantasy. A retelling of the Alice In Wonderland story with mechanical magic. Too many gizmos, not enough heart.
  19. Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Mystery, Jasper Fforde
    Fantasy/Mystery. Another story about the famous literary detective who can cross the borders into books and affect the plots. Fforde is mighty smart, but after a while it all starts to sound the same. Definitely read the first one, but no need to go further.
  20. The Garden Plot, J. S. Borthwick
    Mystery. A busybody goes on a garden tour of Europe with her aunt. They solve a mystery. Boring.

With Book Tales
(In Order of Appearance, links go to my Book Tales)

  1. Ten Little Indians, Sherman Alexie
  2. The Resurrectionist, Jack O'Connell
  3. Amsterdam, Ian McEwan
  4. Un Lun Dun, China Miéville
  5. Possession, AS Byatt
  6. The Tower Treasure, Franklin W. Dixon
  7. Blindness, José Saramago
  8. Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
  9. Territory, Emma Bull
  10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer
  11. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  12. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  13. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (soon)
  14. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome (soon)

Guessing Game

This is one of my favorite pictures from this year. Can you guess what they're doing?

I'll provide the answer in the comments.

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming

Here is a nice picture book for the holidays for you:

Click on the eyes to go to the LookyBooks site and see it a bit bigger. A nice format for viewing picture books on-line before buying.

Something new for the vampires in the neighborhood?

I saw these while we were out and about today.

Bone Meal and Dried Blood for Sale

Available at Behnke's.

I almost was able to contribute to the production of this stuff this afternoon. As we were driving south on the Baltimore Washington Parkway, a police car entered from MD-197 and swerved into our lane, nearly running us off the road. A quick look at the driver explained everything: the stupid cop was talking on his cell phone.

The police car number was 4548. The incident occurred around 2:30 pm. The county web site is down today, so I can't see how to report this idiot.

City of the Dead

Since I just finished reading The Graveyard Book, I thought I'd share some pictures of what I was imagining as the setting while reading it. These are from the necropolis in Glasgow: