A Coen Retrospective at the Atlantic

2341029497_e278404330_z[1]

Over at the Atlantic, Christopher Orr has been celebrating 30 years of Coen Brothers movies by revisiting one Coen film per day. I don’t have much to add here, I just want to recommend that you go read it, because it’s great. And thorough.

As big a Coen fan as I am, I realize I’ve only seen about half of their movies. I may be having a little Coen film fest of my own in the near future. This will not stand.

Photo from Flickr user Tom Francis, used under Creative Commons license

How to be a Good Hotel on a Marathon Weekend

Marathon runners
It’s marathon season
, which means time for runners to book hotels. Actually, it’s late September, which means marathon accommodations will be hard to find in many cities. If you’re running and haven’t booked your stay yet, get on that.

Over the years I’ve noticed varying levels of preparedness among hotel staff on marathon weekends. Some hotels cater to a marathoner’s every need, while others seem surprised to learn there is a marathon in town–especially surprising when 2/3 of the guests are probably there to run.

In the interest of improving accommodations for marathoners everywhere, and to help you hoteliers satisfy your customers and make more money, I’ve put together a quick list of ways you can better serve your marathon guests, in order of descending importance.

  • Rule 1: Offer an extended check-out. Marathons generally start around 7 or 8 AM and take 3-6 hours, depending on a runner’s ability level. With wave starts, slower runners start later than faster runners–sometimes, as at the New York City Marathon, hours later. Bad weather can occasionally delay a start, and blisters and minor injuries can slow a runner’s time. Factor in time to travel from the finish back to your hotel and grab a quick shower before leaving, and your 11 AM checkout isn’t going to cut it. I’ve seen hotels offer extended checkout as late as 3 PM, but even just extending until 1:00 will accommodate most runners. On the other hand I’ve encountered hotel managers who refuse to extend checkout, which is a quick way to piss off marathoners and ensure they’ll never come back.

[Read more...]

Ten Books that Influenced Me

Every now and then, I appreciate a good Internet meme. My friend and former boss tagged me to name ten books that have had a meaningful influence on me. I’ve presented my ten below, in no particular order. I have a terrible memory for exercises like this one, and I’m certain I’ve forgotten some very important or influential books. I’m also a little ashamed that my list is so damn white and so damn male. Out of ten authors, nine are white dudes. Poor Cacilda Jetha is the only one to check any boxes on the diversity chart. I even managed to work in an outspoken homophobe. Jeez.

Partly I can blame that on the fact that many of these come from my childhood or adolescence, when women and writers of color received less prominence, but mostly it’s a reflection on my reading habits.

I was tempted to massage this list a little bit, dropping in One Hundred Years of Solitude or Wild Seed to make myself look more inclusive, but decided to go with the ugly truth. I never finished the Marquez in its entirety, and while Octavia Butler is a genius and her book was terrific, it just doesn’t have the same long-standing influence on me that these ten do. The ugly truth is that, while I join the calls for more diversity in fiction, the books that shaped me most were by white dudes. But I’m working on changing that.

1. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton 1990

This book will always be dear to me, because it’s the book that made me want to write novels. It came to our house via book club, and sat on the shelf for a few weeks before that Tyrannosaurus silhouette wooed me into opening the pages. If you’ve only seen the film and never read the book, you’re missing out on the complex, nuanced plot that first inspired me to try it myself.

2. Small Pig, Arnold Lobell 1969

The book that taught me to read. I made my parents read it to me over and over again, even after I’d memorized it all so I could recite it along with them. To this day, mentioning “Small Pig” will get an eye roll from Mom and Dad. [Read more...]