Tuesday, July 31, 2007


George R.R. Martin, my favorite fantasy writer and fellow football fanatic, has written a very nice short piece about the passing of Bill Walsh on his blog. Bill Walsh, as some of you may recall, coached the San Francisco 49ers during their late '80s heyday, and is also the creator of the West Coast offense.

Also, Roger Ebert wrote an excellent eulogy for film director Ingmar Bergman, whose work inspired filmakers from Woody Allen to David Mamet. If you haven't seen them already you owe it to yourself to check out Persona, The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander. I don't always agree with Mr. Ebert's reviews, but I always read his first because his writing is so good. This piece on Bergman is no exception.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'm gonna talk about this book now, and I'm gonna mention stuff that happened in it. Per my own rules, I will now give everyone who has not yet read it time to leave the room.

Are they gone?


Ho. Ly. Crap. I finished it last night at about 1:30. My mind is still blown. I don't remember the last time I felt such satisfaction at the conclusion of an epic series like this. Probably not since Return of the Jedi have I come away from something with the profound sense that I had an Experience with a Capital "E." Reading this book, I was part of something bigger than myself.

Speaking of Star Wars, Voldemort is a villain on par with Empire Strikes Back-era Darth Vader. I dare you to come up with a fantasy villain who managed to be as terrifying. It's such a popular conceit in current fiction to have the villain be a master manipulator/man-behind-the-curtain type of character, who, once his facade is discovered, reveals himself to be a sniveling weakling. But with Voldemort, like Vader before him, I felt a genuine concern for the safety of any character that shared scene-time with him — even the other bad guys. When Harry, Ron and Hermione escaped from the Malfoys' house, I actually winced at the thought of what would happen to Bellatrix and the others. I mean, this is Bellatrix we're talking about here. If she'd gotten hit by a bus I'd have cheered, but I cringed at the thought of what the Big V would do when he found out she'd lost his prize.

And speaking of Bellatrix, how cool was that throw-down at the end with Molly Weasley? Ol' Molly went all Sigourney Weaver at then end of Aliens on her ass! The nerd in me thoroughly enjoyed all of the major players having their own special moments toward the end. Neville Longbottom killing Nagini? Too awesome.

I'm proud to say that I totally called it about how Snape's actions were all part of Dumbledore's greater scheme, but the chapter in which Harry observed his memories through the Pensieve still rocked my world. The story of Severus and Lily, even told in the short movie-trailer-style snippets, was about the saddest thing ever. Someday soon I'm going to sit down and re-read the whole series from the beginning, and I think that Snape will be the character most altered by my knowledge of what happens next.

One has to admire, I think, the finality that death has in this series. Even in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf comes back. He couldn't go half a book without coming back to life. In the Star Wars series Obi Wan Kenobi kept showing up, glowing in the dark. But here, the dead stay dead. Even at the end, when Harry used the Resurrection Stone, the figures who appeared barely even said anything. Besides, they weren't there to keep him company; they were their to make his journey to their side of the veil a little easier. And Harry had to die himself (or close to it) for that last conversation with Dumbledore. I had assumed, going in, that when Harry got stuck he'd just find a way to talk to Dumbledore's portrait, and it would be like the old man had never left. But Rowling avoided that route, I think wisely. It made the characters' sacrifices that much more significant.

Also, if nothing else about the series marked it as British, having the nebulous space between Life and Death represented by the train station at King's Cross pretty much settles it.

Scenes I cannot wait to see in the movie: The Death Eaters ambushing the Order of the Phoenix in the air as they try to sneak Harry to a safe house; the duel between Professor McGonagall and Snape; Nagini jumping out of Bathilda Bagshot's body (if they do it right, the MPAA is gonna shit themselves); and pretty much the whole Battle of Hogwarts.

And as much as I enjoyed all the action sequences, I still had room to love the warm and fuzzy bits too. I didn't really know what to make of Harry and Ginny Weasley's relationship after reading Half-Blood Prince, but there was no denying their connection this time around. And while everyone was hoping Ron and Hermione would hook up, or at least saw it coming from three or four books back, when she finally jumps him in the Room of Requirement I had to give a little cheer, followed by a good laugh at Harry's reaction. And seriously, if Snape's story doesn't bring a little tear to your eye then you are underdeveloped in the soul area.

I have one minor complaint, and that was with the resolution of the Malfoys' plotline. I have no problem with Lucius and Narcissa choosing their son over their allegiance to Voldemort. However Rowling gave the moment to Narcissa, when she whispers to Harry and then announces that he is dead when she knows he is not. It should have been Lucius. He was the one we met first, and the one whose arc we wanted to follow.

I hope there are no more novels about Harry Potter. Twenty years from now, if she really, really wants to, I suppose J.K. could crank out a story about those kids we met in the epilogue. Or better yet, their grandkids. But preferably not. That said, I do think there is room for other stories told in the Harry Potter universe. On Rowling's website one of the FAQs involves the lack of American characters in her stories. Her response basically said go ahead and write our own. I find myself wondering whether or not there is an American equivalent to the Ministry of Magic, or where American wizards learn their craft. There's a really great opportunity here, and Rowling practically dared is to take advantage of it.

The last seven-book arc I completed was Stephen King's Dark Tower series. The last chapter of that story was one of the biggest letdowns in my reading history. J.K. Rowling, however, stepped up and showed everyone how it should be done. Some might complain that everything wrapped up a little too neatly in the end, but frankly that's how I want my Harry Potter. Gift-wrapped.

Next, we'll have to see how George R.R. Martin does with his A Song of Ice and Fire series, also slated for seven books. If he can keep his conclusion as murky and open-ended as Rowling's was neat and clean, then all will be right with the world.

Oh, and that epilogue. I freakin' loved it. I wanna give Albus Severus noogies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

A book hits the shelves at 12:01 tonight. It's about a boy who goes to school to become a wizard. I'm told it's the seventh, and last, in a series of books that have been rather popular among the clannish sort that read such things. Perhaps you've heard of it.

I'm not going to have the cash to procure my own copy for another week and a half, and so I have to wait while certain people around me ravage through it this weekend and then dance around me like they have to pee because they WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK SO BAD, but they CAN'T, because I haven't read it. This is an imposition that I have pressed upon them.

I am reminded of a story my friend Shane shared once, about two guys he knew. Guy A made some reference to the movie The Sixth Sense, revealing the big twist at the end. Guy B got all bent out of shape because he had not yet seen the movie. At first Guy A was contrite, because that sucks, but then he reconsidered. "Dude," Guy A said to Guy B, "that movie came out five years ago." Actually, it came out in 1999, so let's just assume this conversation took place in '04 or somewhere around there. Anyway, Guy A's point was that the statute of limitation on spoilers had run out for that film.

It got me thinking, there really should be a statute of limitations on spoilers. If someone doesn't have the common decency to know, at this point, that Verbal Kint is Keyser Sose, or that Dil is a man, or that Soylent Green is people, then no one else can be held accountable if they reveal that information. It's been out there long enough that if you don't know about it, even if you haven't actually seen the movie, read the book, whatever, then you just haven't been paying attention.

Here is what I propose:

1) For films, the statute of limitations on spoilers is six months from the release date, unless the DVD is released LESS THAN six months after the original release. In that case, the limit is three months from the DVD release date. Films made for television have a statute of limitations of one month from the broadcast date, although who the hell even watches those anymore?

2) For books, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of publication, UNLESS that book reaches the Top 10 in sales on either Amazon or the New York Times bestsellers list, in which case the limit is three months.

3) For episodic television, the statute of limitations on any given episode runs out when the next episode airs, unless the episode is the last episode before a hiatus, in which case the limit is two weeks. Which means that I can tell all y'all that Jack and Kate will eventually get off the island.

4) In situations where more than one limit applies, such as a film version of a book, the limit runs out on the EARLIEST possible date. Which means that even though the movie version of the new Harry Potter book won't be out for a few more years, the time limit on spoilers still runs out three months from tomorrow.

5) And this is an important one: Revealing spoiler information before the limit has expired is punishable by death. And that's if it's an inadvertent slip. If you're a dick about it, you will be strapped to a chair and forced to watch consecutive episodes of The Simple Life until your eyes melt out of your head.

I guess the point is, DO NOT TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEW HARRY POTTER NOVEL. But if I still haven't read it in three months, go ahead and tell me because I obviously don't care that much.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Progress Report

I am halfway through Week 3 of "pre-training," as outlined in this book. I have not yet reached the point where I actually start, you know, running. There's still a couple of weeks to go before then. For now it's just walking, a little faster each week. Not as easy as it sounds when you are as out of shape as myself. That said, the last time I stuck with an exercise plan for longer than two weeks was in the spring of 2001, when I had to get in shape to play Macbeth at Columbia College. That was the best shape I'd been in since high school. Unfortunately I was also on the Atkins diet at the time, which did help me drop about forty pounds, but also gave me a kidney stone for my troubles.

As for measurable results, as of this morning my weight had dropped below 290 for the first time in about a year. So that's something. When I get below 280 I'll call it progress. I've recently discovered that I actually like tofu (at least some of the time), and that should help, I think. I'm still working out the whole diet thing.

If I get really ambitious, maybe one of these days I'll try giving up soda again. But let's not get too crazy, right?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pardon Our Dust

How do you like the (slightly) new look?

I decided, after four months of paying twenty bucks a month for web hosting of which I used less than one tenth of a percent, that I could accomplish the same thing by just transferring my custom domain name here for free. Hence the updated digs. You will notice a flurry of new posts as well; these are bits of content from my old website that I wanted to maintain over here instead. Overall not much is changing. It's just a little more compact, and, well cheaper. Which suits me perfect.

And, as I am hoping to use this site as a calling card, I needed to finally update the title so that everyone knows it's all about boring old me.

Also, for those of you who link to this blog or my old website, both addresses (nerdfest.blogspot.com and www.christophermwalsh.com) now come here.

Comments? Suggestions? Bags of cash? All welcome here, as always.


If You Really Want to Hear About It . . .

I was born in 1974, in Quincy, Illinois. When I was very young my family spent a year in Memphis, Tennessee. My one memory of that time involves my mother asking me what color crayon I was using, and I answered, "Brown." This caused some sort of an uproar that included my father saying, "It's time to move." I realize now that I must have spoken in a Southern dialect. My parents deny any memory of this episode, but I believe it to be the real reason we eventually relocated to the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Baseball, GI Joe, Legos and Star Wars dominated my grade school years. I attended Orchard Hill Farm School, which was unique in that it was actually located on a small farm. It even boasted a handful of horses and sheep. Much of my time at Orchard Hill was spent convincing my teacher not to bust me too hard for not doing my homework. I was awarded "Most Likely to Become a Swamp Salesman." Not kidding.

Orchard Hill also saw my first foray into the theater arts. When I was ten years old I wrote, directed and starred in a stage adaptation of Voltron. Yeah, the cartoon. Again, not kidding. It was a huge hit.

My parents divorced when I was nine years old. When I was ten, my dad remarried and moved the family to Muskegon, Michigan. I entered the Mona Shores public school system, where my swamp-selling skills did not serve me nearly as well as they once had. But I did get to play football, which helped. During my first few years in Muskegon I also began a life-long relationship with authors like JRR Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, and (my personal hero) Stephen King. Later, in high school, my interest in performing reappeared when I enrolled in the school choir.

At best you might say I was an indifferent student in high school. I was uncomfortable and awkward around people my own age, preferring instead to stay in my room reading with the stereo cranked. The big threat was always, "If you don't get your grades up, you won't be able to go to college." As far as I could tell, "college" just meant more school, which was the last thing I wanted. My parents grounded me regularly as well, but since I mostly wanted to stay in my room and read anyway it made for an ineffective deterrent. Don't feel bad for me; I got over it eventually.

I did manage to graduate high school and spent the next few years floating around Muskegon, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I wrote fiction off and on, but lacked the discipline to really get serious about it. I attended the local community college with disastrous results. The one bright spot was the local theater scene. For a small blue-collar town where the most popular hobbies all involve shooting things, Muskegon has a surprisingly large theater community. At the time the town boasted a civic theater company, an independent non-profit theater company, a professional summer-stock company, and a fine arts camp. Also, the community college's productions opened their auditions to the public. There was plenty of stuff to do. Very little of it paid anything, but it was a lot of fun. Also, it gave me a direction to explore career-wise. In 1994 I bit the bullet and moved to Chicago with the intention of pursuing a career in theater.

It didn't take long for me to realize I had no idea what I was doing. I decided to give school one more try, enrolling at Columbia College Chicago where, aside from a decent education in the craft and business of theater and a few enlightening classes in fiction writing, I met Mandy, my future wife. After dating for eight years, off and on, we tied the knot in the fall of 2004.

My theater career remained stagnant until about 2004, when I declared that I was no longer pursuing acting as a career but instead relegated it to "hobby" level. Then I got cast in a production of A Clockwork Orange, which I almost turned down but cause it ran until the week before my wedding. Mandy told me to go for it, though, and I've been pretty busy ever since. I average four or five shows on stage per year, and another two or three behind the scenes providing stage combat choreography.

I do still write, although that comes and goes. There is a Gloria Steinem quote that defines me: "I hate writing, but I love having written." Every once in a while I do manage to crank something out, though. I sold my first short story, Highway Robbery, to Allegory e-zine (formerly Peridot Books) in 2001, and I am a two-time winner of National Novel Writing Month.

I stand 6'1" and am very overweight, although I'm working on that. I've got blue eyes, and brown hair with hints of red (and also a little gray) that I've been told is my best feature. I'm a rabid Chicago Bears fan. I love movies, and have a pretty extensive DVD collection. I don't read comic books very much, although I am really into anything Batman-related. And few things make me happier than loud, heavy, aggressive music.

I have two sisters, a half-sister, a half-brother and two step-brothers. I'm older than all of them. We're spread out all over the country, from Michigan to Indiana, to Arizona and Washington state. At home there's me and the wife, and our two cats, Zoe and Smogs.

That pretty much covers it. If anything major occurs I'll update this page. Otherwise, my regular blog entries should keep you up to date. Let me know if you have any questions.

See ya!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A blog that I read frequently, PZ Myers' Pharyngula, posted this link, and I liked it enough that I thought I'd post it here too.

For your reading enjoyment, I present to you the 20 Blogging Commandments.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Jesus Year

I turned thirty-three on Sunday. I feel it is probably about time I start figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. To that end, my lovely wife has supplied me with a gift certificate for a sci-fi/fantasy writing class I want to take in the fall. We also had the first read-through for Hound of the Baskervilles over the weekend, and to top things off I just bought a brand new pair of running shoes, which I hope to wear out by actually, you know, running in them. I even went to a fancy running shoe store where they measure your feet every which way and make you run up and down the street in each pair you try on and tell you why you shouldn't run in cotton socks because they store sweat and chafe and holy crap.

I'm not saying I want to be a runner when I grow up. I'm just trying to be proactive. This guy turned me on to this book, although he doesn't know it, and now I've got myself thinking that I could actually make this work for me.

Mandy and I were in Muskegon the weekend before last. It was the first time in a long time (and also probably the last for a long time) that the whole family (or at least that side of it) was together. Always chaotic, always fun. My mom looks strangely bad-ass with her shaved head, but more importantly she is as energetic and enthusiastic as ever. We ate a lot, and swam a lot. And had a lot of ice cream. And Mandy and I took a canoe out on Black Lake with my friend Eric. I haven't been in a canoe since Boy Scouts, and I had forgotten how much I loved it. I gotta get me one of those.

Also, I participated in a round-robin interview for an article about stage combat that might get published some time in the late summer or early fall. I'll let you know if I hear more about it.

There may be one or two other projects brewing, but I don't want to jinx them by revealing the details too soon.

Happy July 4th, everybody!

ADDENDUM: To avoid any more confusion, you can find a definition of "Jesus Year" right here.