Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

May 26th, 2015

This was on Graham Norton last week and I found it so incredibly funny I must have watched it a good ten times right there. It’s one of those “it could only happen in a romantic comedy” things but it really happened!

I’m not sure how much coordination Graham’s show runners had with Thomas or if he’s just a hopeless romantic and went to the show hoping.

May 24th, 2015

I went to a party last night in Chicago. The hostess mentioned in the invite “I still have my old school apples to apples which I’m sure makes me very uncool, so if anyone wants to try playing games other than ‘keep Louie [her cat] off the buffet’ by all means please bring something.” I decided to bring one game and quickly narrowed my choices to King of Tokyo or Tokaido with King of Tokyo winning out for two reasons: rule simplicity and replacability. (King of Tokyo is even available at Target.) While Tokaido is a magical game, it is slightly more complex, has a few too many pieces to survive a drinking party well and is often hard to find, even at gaming stores.

Having my house for 3 years now, at some point I realized I didn’t have a lot of games so I started to buy some: Risk, Munchkin, Uno, Bananagrams and some puzzles. Things I had played before that were tried and true. Then came Kickstarter.

I backed a game called Shadows of Brimstone. Until then all my Kickstarters had been comic (or beef jerky — luv my jerky!) related. Shadows of Brimstone is a grand miniatures game, not on the level of Warhammer 40K but bigger than most I was used to. That and Flying Frog had a good reputation for games got me to back it. Having had it for a while I can say Shadows of Brimstone is not a great game but it’s good. There’s a bit too much dice rolling (and that may be the kind way of saying it,) it has a little too much focus on RPG-style character growth over the course of a campaign and the miniatures were a hassle to put together. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have supported it but I wasn’t sure what I was looking for then. Even with that I grew fascinated with miniatures and for the past year I’ve been purchasing games and backing gaming projects. Some mini, some not.

After a year, I think I’ve got it mostly out of my system. When all those projects finally arrive, I will be swamped with miniatures for the rest of my life and will not want for games. I’m not going to go into detail but of the approximately 15 outstanding board game projects, half of them are mini based and the others are card games or more traditional board games. Of those outstanding games there are two I’m really interested in and both are card games: RESISTOR_ and Project Dreamscape. RESISTOR_ is a card game that simulates two devices trying to hack each other. It’s simple but very strategic. Project Dreamscape just looks magical and fun.

Recently I’ve tried to understand the current board gaming craze that may be really just starting. More and more people are playing board games. I read an article about how several of the Green Bay Packers get together and play Settlers of Catan, a very old school board game. That, Pandemic and Ticket to Ride seem to be the common gateway board games. My guess is mini games will never be all that big due the miniature themselves. The care and effort required to assemble, paint, store and travel with them will be too much to really catch on. All of this has been in effort to find some wonderful games everyone does not know about. I would have thought King of Tokyo was like that but… available at Target. Still, only one person at a party of Ren-Fairers* knew it.

The end of the story I started at the beginning is we did not end up playing King of Tokyo but the one person who knew of the game was impressed the hostess had a copy to which she gave me credit. I was the only person who brought a game but I only stayed 4 hours. I was on call and did get called which seemed my cue to not push my luck by staying longer in Chicago.

BTW: There is nothing wrong with Apples to Apples. I have two copies — a standard and a Disney version.

*The party hostess and most of her friends work at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. They are a nerdy bunch. One was concerned for what she may have perceived as fear brought about by their weirdness. (It was just my own introvertedness and being out while on call.) I merely had to explain that I am a comic nerd and she understood. Upon reflection she must have thought I was just anti-social.

May 16th, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2
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So I didn’t want this movie to be made. Pitch Perfect was wonderful and it would be hard to duplicate the magic of that first movie. Most of it was because as an audience we watched the introverted Beca (Anna Kendrick) grow to accept and be accepted by a social group. A second movie couldn’t duplicate that. Beca couldn’t grow again. Or could she?

Pitch Perfect 2 begins with the Barden Bellas performing for President Obama’s birthday when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction and ends up flashing the president and the world. The Bellas, now a national disgrace, are banned from all nataional a capella competitions and can’t even defend their title. Their championship tour has now been taken over by European aca-champions, Das Sound Machine. The Bellas only hope is to win the world championships where no American team has ever won. If they win Worlds they’ll be reinstated.

But it’s been three years and Beca has finally gotten an internship at a music production company. Beca is still queen of the mash-up but as the head of the company says “any kid with some talent and a computer can do that.” Does Beca have more in her than singing covers in an acapella group? She needs to prove that she does and is not able to devote as much time to the Bellas set list for Worlds. Beca is uncertain about proving herself after school and she is still able to grow.

There are more than enough silly moments: the Green Bay Packers, Beca’s strange attraction for the DSM female lead — Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen,) Bumper (Adam DeVine) and Fat Amy’s on again and off again romance. Speaking of romance, Jesse (Skylar Astin) is still there and still dating Beca and he and Benji (Ben Platt) are still part of the Trebletones. Even Benji has a love interest in new Bella, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld). And of course the songs. There is even more singing in this version and I found it welcome. It has it’s share of awkward moments. The first movie concentrated too much on Aubrey’s (Anna Camp) puking and some awkward jokes between aca-announcers John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (new aca-director, Elizabeth Banks). This one doesn’t have the puking but the banter between the John and Gail is even more awkward this time around.
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I haven’t mentioned the other Bellas because apart from Chloe (Brittany Snow) none of them have any real development apart from some fun character moments. But they’re not supposed to, this is Beca’s movie and it survives on her character arc and it survives. On a weekend where I saw Mad Max first, Pitch Perfect 2 made me forget that movie for a few hours.

There is a wonderful stinger after the curtain call well worth staying for.

Mad Max: Fury Road
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I’m not even sure how to talk about this movie. I spent most of my time with my jaw dropped or giggling at the sheer insanity of this film. Fury Road is easily one of the best things I’ve seen in years.

Occasionally you get a movie so simple and well done, you cannot help but love it. Dredd, The Raid: Redemption and John Wick are examples of this. John Wick just wanted revenge on the guys who killed his dog. But the world they created, a world of assassins, was a fascinating if slightly alternate reality from what we know.

The world of Fury Road is a drastic, dystopian world, far different from our own. Created by George Miller who wrote and directed not only the other 3 Mad Max films but also Babe: Pig in the City (he only wrote Babe) as well as the Happy Feet movies. I freely admit I find Pig in the City to be one of the most surreal, horrific films I’ve ever seen because of the world building Miller did in creating the City. There is a moment when driving through the salt marshes where we see people crawling on stilts and I just shuddered at how creepy the imagery was.

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Mad Max is not really about Max (Tom Hardy.) He, like Clint Eastwood in the Stranger with No Name films, is just there. It’s someone else’s story and he, however pivotal, is just along for the ride. We don’t even learn Max’s name until the very end. This story’s about Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). She’s a driver for Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne,) a cruel despot, who rules a large population by controlling the water. Joe and all of his people are, genetically, a mess with deformities and disease. He has a harem of wives and Furiousa is part of a plot to rescue them. What does this have to do with Max? Well, he was captured by Joe’s forces and is being used as a living blood bank. When Joe discovers Furiosa’s treachery he leads a force after her and Max is brought along to provide blood to Nux (Nicholas Hoult,) one of Joe’s warrior drivers. Max escapes and commandeers Furiosa’s truck but takes them with — the two hardened individuals eventually respecting and trusting each other.

I started by talking about simplicity. None of that sounds all that simple, and it isn’t. But the story, the real story is just driving to escape Joe. All the other parts just add to that story. Max and Furiosa don’t say much, they don’t need to — they understand what needs to be done and with a glance they understand if the other does as well and then they do it. The movie is just about driving and surviving. When I saw Hobbit 3 I felt worn down by the endless action. Avengers 2 had this to a lesser degree but Fury Road has no such issues. It was nearly endless action and none of it was boring.

It’s one of the few recent movies I really wanted to see again and I almost snuck in after Pitch 2 but wasn’t sure I had properly digested what I had seen. I plan to see it again. This viewing was in 3D just due to how things fell. I sat in the front of the stadium seating (not in the pit.) The movie mostly day, desert scenes were so bright, the added darkness of 3D was mostly not noticeable.

I saw the following trailers before Fury Road: Dope, The Gift, Sinister 2, Entourage, Fant4stic, Jurassic World, The Walk. I was really surprised because I had no idea at all of the first two and Dope (also staring Zoe Kravitz who was in Fury Road) looked like a lot of fun.

A few weeks back I also saw Rifftrax: The Room and it was hilarious.

May 1st, 2015

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Let’s get to the most important part. There is only one stinger and it’s early in the credits! You can leave! You don’t have to wait until the end and see something completely irrelevant and makes you angry you waited that long or even worse, include something that should have been in the movie.

Avengers:Age of Ultron is good. It lives up to the first film but doesn’t come close to surpassing it. A lot of the reviews claim of bloat created for future film entries and while that is present, I didn’t find it all that painful — though it was a little blatant. The movie loses itself in that it has too many characters and writer/director Joss Whedon does his best to service all of them. Now characterization is one of Joss’s strong points and he does not fail. The character bits are the best part of the movie. Seeing CG robots fight CG heroes is fun, and the Hulk vs Hulkbuster Iron Man ended up being far more fun that I expected, but a film’s success lies with how you care about the characters and Joss does the most with the very little amount of screentime he has for them.

Of the big three, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) gets the most character development as he creates Ultron in hopes of having better first line of defense for the team, while Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) don’t really get story arcs, just moments to show who they are. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has a strong character arc involving her past and along with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) potential romance. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has far more this time around (from nothing last time) though I thought his story felt tacked on but still worked to service the overall story.

And then there are the newbies. Ultron (James Spader,) subtitular baddie, who is a literal product of Stark’s fears and ego. Spader plays Ultron very Raymond Reddington (Spader’s character from The Blacklist) which is nothing like how I ever envisioned the robot but found the portrayal entertaining. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are twins from a war torn slavic country where Stark Industries weaponry killed their parents and became a focus for their revenge. They’re very one note but some of their personalities shine through. And then there’s the Vision (Paul Bettany.) He could easily have been left out except presumably he’s part of the next wave of films. So he gets his introduction.

That’s a lot and I haven’t really gotten to the story! And I’m not going to. Even if we hadn’t had the exceptional Avengers and Winter Soldier films preceding Age of Ultron, this would still only be a good film. I think the strength of those predecessors emphasizes the flaws of this one. But overall it does what it needs to do and more as a summer, action blockbuster.

FYI — The Scarlet Witch is one of my favorite characters though that may have something to do with her costume. One can only dream.

April 26th, 2015

Strangely (for you) I have no pictures to accompany an entry about cosplay. On Friday I went to C2E2 as Russell from the Pixar film Up. The costume is pretty good but not perfect. Now Russell, for those who don’t know, is a boy scout (wilderness scout) of Asian descent. I, being asian, have a limited amount of Asian characters I can choose from. I’ve been Lo Pan, Mr. Sulu and Bolin (from Legend of Korra). These characters are commonly cosplayed but it’s rare I see a Russell. And it apparently was rare for the C2E2 attendees as well. I got a lot of picture requests. And not just from girls. There were a lot of guys too. I discovered whenever I stopped, that’s when I got mobbed with picture requests. If I kept moving, I still got requests but they were spread out.

The most interesting one was a Disney fanatic (you know the type) who came up to me and explained how when she was at Disney their Russell wasn’t available and she wasn’t able to get a picture with him or (and I am not exaggerating) his autograph. Fortunately she brought her autograph book and began rummaging through her large bag, searching for her Disney autograph book. While she searched, because I was stopped, two other sets of people requested pictures. When she couldn’t find the book, her husband/boyfriend eventually just made her take the picture. Perhaps he saw the concern on my face (let’s be real, it was fear.) I promised to be around for all of Friday if she found it. I actually did stay til 7 mostly because I knew traffic would suck until then.

I did not dress up on Sunday.

C2E2 Money Pit Listing:
Friday
McCormick Parking $21
Strawberry Churro $3
Jenny Frison Sketchbook 6 $20
Jill Thompson 9×12 print $20
Nei Ruffino Sketchbook $40
Clayton Henry Sketchbooks $40
Naruto figurine $12
Delia Jean zines $10
Adult Swim figurines $10
Blade of the Immortal 24 $10
Blade of the Immortal 25 $10
Blade of the Immortal 26 $10
Blade of the Immortal 27 $10
King Conan 1 $8
King Conan 2 $8
Bat Manga $7
Sloth 8
Astonishing Thor HC $4
Claws 2 HC $4
Saga of the Swamp Thing 6 $7
Submariner: The Depths $5
Fantastic Four (Robinson/Kirk) 1 $4
Fantastic Four (Robinson/Kirk) 2 $4
Mighty Avengers (Ewing/Land) 2 $4
Mighty Avengers (Ewing/Land) 3 $4
Savage Wolverine 2 $4
Nova 1 $4
Powerpuff Girls Vol 1 (Second Chances) $4
Mister X vol 2 (Eviction) $4
Chinatown:
Hing Kee (Shao Lom Bau x2 and Scallion Pancakes) $25

Sunday
Parking $21
Strawberry Churro $3
Tokaido $35
Rain POP! Vinyl $10
Lighting POP! Vinyl $10
Thunder POP! Vinyl $10
Gracie Law POP! Vinyl $10
Manolo (dead) POP! Vinyl $10
Ray Fawkes Sketchbook $10
New Mutants Classic 6 $15
Asylum (John Carpenter/Manco) $20
All-New Invaders 1 $4
All-New Doop $4
First X-Men $4
Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu $4
City of Silence (Ellis/Erskine) $4
Executive Assistant Iris 2 $4
Drain $4
Artifacts 6 $4
Axe Cop 1 $4
The Occultist 2 $4

Chinatown
Sweet Station (Beef Chiang Fun, Shu Mai, Ha-gow) $22
Great Wall (Chinese style BBQ pork) $17

April 25th, 2015

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Caleb (Domhnal Gleeson) is a high-level programmer who is selected to visit his reclusive, genius boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac,) for a week. It’s a great prize that everyone in his company, Bluebook — a tech giant bigger than google, wants. Once sequestered away to Nathan’s remote compound Caleb discoveres he’s there to evaluate how real an Artificial Intelligence that Nathan has created is. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is clearly mechanical but has a human face and seemingly human emotions. Caleb has sessions with the very likable and sympathetic Ava and spends the rest of his time with the very brusk and unlikable Nathan. The movie rests solely on the interactions of these three and does so very well.

Caleb falls in love with Ava who fears Nathan and wants to escape the compound. She enlists Caleb’s assistance during power outages that occur regularly but for unknown reasons where the two cannot be recorded. The music cues in these scenes become quite ominous as you’re never really certain of Nathan or Ava’s agendas. I found this on IMDB: “Caleb alludes to the fact that only Gods can create new life. The three main characters all have appropriate biblical names. Ava is a form of Eve, the first woman, Nathan was a prophet in the court of David, and Caleb was a spy sent into a new land by Moses.” I thought it was an interesting take but overall Ex Machina is a modern retelling of Frankenstein. Even the ending.

I found the movie to be a clever… thriller is not really the right word. Maybe psychological drama. Simple and well done, most should find it satisfying unless you’re looking for lots of action. The R rating comes from female nudity. No full monty’s.

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Ava drew a picture of Caleb in the movie. Do you want Ava to draw you? Visit the ava-sessions.
It’s pretty cool.

[As it was my birthday this week, AMC offered a free large drink which allowed me to again use the Coke Freestyle machine. Fanta Zero Peach was amazing and Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke was good but too similar to it's Dr. Pepper equivalent for me to repeat.]

April 4th, 2015

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So I was never a big Fast and Furious fan until Fast Five. When they dragged that safe through the streets of Rio(? some Brazilian city) and did it straight faced, I was hooked. Six was even more wonderful and over the top but that was Justin Lin’s swan song, having directed parts three through six. Enter James Wan director of Insidious and The Conjuring and writer/director of the first Saw. Wan picked up where Lin left off and ran with it. Furious Seven is as over the top and crazy as the previous two combined. And it did feel more of a cap to a five, six and seven trilogy with them sending Paul Walker off with some heartwarming class. I won’t go into how ridiculous everything was, though I felt Dwayne was a bit too hammy in his delivery and Wan’s overall treatment of the Hobbs character, but if you enjoyed the last two you won’t be disappointed.

I hadn’t kept up with any news about 7 and was surprised to see not only Ronda Rousey but also Tony Jaa. Both were villains and villains never win in these movies but neither martial artist had their crazy, immense skills looked down upon. Especially Jaa. He did everything Jackie Chan style — if someone was climbing stairs he found some other clever way to flip, jump and climb there. Again, as a villain. While I would have liked a Roman/Han vs. Joe Taslim style beat down from six where they just had no chance against him, Paul Walker got to hold his own (sorta) against Jaa.

March 28th, 2015

So last Tuesday at book club Steve just had lasik and now had 20/20 vision. (We’re a blind group with everyone in attendance wearing glasses or contacts. It must be something about so much reading under poor light conditions.) We teased him for now having perfect vision and he was commenting on how his sight wasn’t that great when Rachel said “if you’re not six to ten inches from my face then I can’t see you!” This is how I often describe my range of clear vision so I did the old “let’s trade glasses” deal. I put hers on and her prescription was weaker than mine and she apologized for them not being clean. Mine were less than a week old so I had kept them relatively clean.

A quick aside. Most nearsighted people never keep their glasses clean. We can’t see how dirty they are until someone does something like wanting to wear them and we then inspect the glasses as we’re removing them — when they’re in that short range of clear vision and we’re thinking about them. This is usually accompanied by an internal “oh dear” as we hand them over, surprised at how much dust and grease are on the lenses and wondering what could have turned green on the edges of the frames, promising to thoroughly clean them once we get home. When your vision’s really bad, you never notice the dirt on lenses because even dirty lenses improve your vision so much that it’s not something you think about.

When Rachel put mine on, her face lit up like one of those underprivileged or third world kids who get glasses for the first time. She literally squealed with joy and cheerfully exclaimed “this has never happened before! I can see! All those little headlights outside are so clear!” I have a big head and she is a tiny little thing so my glasses kept sliding down her nose and she continually pushed them up to regain optimal vision. There aren’t many people whose vision is comparable to mine. I’m in the -7.5 range so it’s cool when I swap glasses and people don’t get a headache but I’ve never had someone actually thrilled to realize they just needed their prescription updated.

Don’t worry the Japan Nite post is coming up. It was great! Verrry long, but great.

BTW-We read Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui but I just watched the Satoshi Kon anime adaptation. Tsutsui also wrote The Girl Who Leapt Through Time which was adapted into one of my favorite anime. The Paprika anime was so intriguing and comparing it to what was said in club I really want to read it now. It’s been a slow year with me really only reading Preston and Child’s Blue Labyrinth (Pendergast 14 –Fourteen!?! Really?) and only partially reading our other two club choices this year: Bonk and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Maybe my new bifocal glasses will get me back on track. The old non-bifocal ones were not conducive to reading and neither were contacts — bifocal or regular with reading glasses. That and we’re reading Jasper Fforde of whom I’ve read most of his body of work but not his Nursery Crimes series.

February 14th, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service
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This was fun. Violent, over-the-top fun as one would expect from the writer and director of Kick-Ass but still fun. It is very much a tongue-in-cheek, extreme version of James Bond and spy films in the same way Kick-Ass was for comic books.

The movie follows the plot (if not the specifics) of the comic fairly well, though I would have preferred Mark Hamill be Mark Hamill as he was in the comic. Several minor things were changed, the most notable being the villain going from a white nerd to Samuel L. Jackson and his henchman changing from a large black man with springy, knife feet to Sofia Boutella with springy, knife feet and Lea Michelle bangs.

Most of the movie is spent following Eggsy (Taron Egerton) as he trains to be a Kingsman. His dad was a Kingsman, trained by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) codename: Galahad and he saved Harry’s life by sacrificing his own so Harry feels he owe’s Eggsy. Eggsy’s a tough, streetwise kid and all the other Kingsmen trainees are upper-class snobs. But he understands the world instead of being distanced from it. Strangely this never really gets paid off in the film.

The main plot of the film is about a fiendish scheme by Valentine (Jackson) who is a tech mogul concerned about overpopulation and doing something about it. The Kingsmen slowly discover his plans and attempt to stop him but of course it all falls to Eggsy to save the day in the end. Kingsman is very much style over substance and is all about over-the-top extremes and coolness. And on that level it works very well. The story, like most spy thrillers, is overly complex but nothing special. We never get emotionally attached to anyone to care (Eggsy’s dog was probably the most sympathetic) and that lessens some of the impact mostly because we know how it will end. How these films always end.

Still, fun and worth seeing.

Seventh Son
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So I got out at 12:38 and there, on the way out, was a Seventh Son saying it would start at 12:40! I had just refilled my drink with 32 oz of mellow yellow zero grape (the best of the Coke Freestyle Machine’s 146+ flavors) so I thought “Why not? How bad can it be?” and snuck in.

Man was I wrong. Not even Julianne Moore, looking goth-amazing, made the movie any better. I’d easily pledge my soul to darkness for her and she actually did a fair job but she had limited screen time. Everyone else was horrible and it was a star studded cast! Djimon Hounsou, Olivia Williams and of course the Dude, Jeff Bridges, who played his role as a drunken, crotchety, Dumbledore played by a mumbly Jeff Bridges.

The plot has something to do with Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) the seventh son of a seventh son who ends up being apprenticed to Master Gregory (Bridges). Gregory and Mother Malkin (Moore) used to have thing but she went evil on him but he couldn’t bring himself to kill her so he imprisoned her. She escaped and want’s revenge. Tom has a thing for Alice (Alicia Vikander) who is the daughter of Malkin’s sister and also a witch like her mother and aunt. That summary was more interesting than the film and all I’m going to supply. Don’t go see it. It’s 47 Ronin, Colin Farrel Total Recall or Sucker Punch bad.

January 23rd, 2015

Back in 2009 I flirted with doing a sketch-of-the-day. The majority of drawings I did were portraits drawn from images of famous people in magazines or the internet. Usually of attractive, famous women. I eventually ended up doing most of them on toned paper with purple and white pencil. They’re all on my Deviant Art page. Anyway I’m doing it again and I’ve made it a week. (I tend to get bored quickly so a week is slightly significant.)

They’re far from perfect. (Sooo far.) It’s mostly a warm-up-ish exercise. Which means yes, I am drawing other things. Apart from the first two, which were very rusty/labor intensive, I haven’t spent more than an hour on each and I’m hoping to get down to about a half hour. They’re also up on Deviant Art. Take a look. This is today’s.

Sketch of the Day January 23, 2015

Anne Hathaway – Sketch of the Day January 23, 2015

In other things, I saw Hobbit 3 last weekend. I’m on call this week. The Royal Rumble is on Sunday as is the SAG Awards, Miss Universe and the Pro Bowl for football. Snow is also expected. On Monday I’m hosting book club (Bonk by Mary Roach) and the week after authors Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) will make their way to various Anderson’s Events.